The first thing that came into focus was Briana's silhouette, bathed in a weird greenish light. He looked around. They were inside a cave. He could vaguely make out stalactites that grew downward from the ceiling, and there were a lot of dripping sounds. The green light seemed to be coming from somewhere behind her. He could also hear the trickling and murmuring of running water, like a creek.
“Where are we?”
“I think we’re under the cliffs.”
“Under the cliffs?” he repeated, partly to stall for more time.
She pulled him through the water against his will. His feet brushed some slimy-feeling rocks. “Be careful,” she said. “It’s slick.”
She climbed out of the water onto a rock ledge, then helped Kyle onto it. He was amazed to see that the plastic water bottle she had taken from the boat was still in her left hand.
She took his wrist and led him along the rocks. Kyle shivered – the temperature couldn’t have been more than 50 degrees.
“It’s a lot warmer in there,” she said.
“In where?” Kyle asked weakly.
She didn’t answer. She led him up a huge, sloping boulder about the size of a tractor-trailer rig, then down the other side of it. They walked across some dry, flat rocks and stopped at an arch-like opening, flanked by a series of green and yellow stalactites and stalagmites, some of which had joined together. The green light was coming from whatever was on the other side of the opening. The sound of the murmuring water was louder now.
She stepped over to the archway and waited for him. He just stood there.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, Kyle.”
He watched her for a few seconds, then reluctantly made his way across the rocks and joined her. She took him by the hand, smiling, and led him through the archway.
They entered another larger, open space. In the center was a shimmering green pool that was fed by a stream. Kyle let out a hushed, awe-struck gasp. The pool was surrounded by gigantic, exotic-looking plants—orange and black flowers, similar to tulips, yet two or three feet in diameter; huge vines that looked something like morning glories, except the petals glowed an eerie effervescent green; a tree with electric blue leaves the size of elephant ears.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she said, leading him through the plants and over to the pool.
Kyle was so overwhelmed by what his eyes were taking in he could hardly speak. “How did you find this place?”
“That’s the weirdest part, Kyle. I don’t know, exactly. When the boat hit me, I blacked out. When I woke up I was halfway to the bottom of the lake. I just started swimming in this direction, like I already knew it was here.” She paused. “Don’t you feel it?”
“Feel what?” Kyle said, though he thought he knew what she was talking about. There was a strange magnetism to it all, some kind of pull or attraction. He suddenly had the urge to jump into the pool and dance in it, drink the green water, cry out with joy.
“You don’t feel it?” she said, looking disappointed. “The power of it?”
Kyle didn’t answer. He had just realized that the strange green light was coming from within the water itself. The plants sucked it up and it made them glow, too. He remembered the green tint that he had seen in Briana’s eyes. He looked back at her, but she started climbing through the plants before he could look into her eyes again.
“What are you doing?” he whispered.
“Follow me,” she said, wading into the pool of glowing water. “It feels absolutely incredible!” She squatted into the effervescent liquid and started splashing it all over her body, her eyes closed, as if in ecstasy. Then she fell to her knees and cupped a handful of water to her lips.
“I don’t think you should—” Kyle began, but she paid no attention. She thirstily lapped it up, one scoop after the other. His throat began to feel parched. He took a step towards her, but hesitated.
Don’t do it, Kyle. Don’t drink one drop of that stuff. And don’t let it touch you!
Briana looked up at him, the glowing water running down her chin like lime Gatorade. “Come on, Kyle. You have to try it! It’ll make you feel like you can do anything!”
“I don’t want to try it,” he said.
“Come on, Kyle. It’ll make you feel fantastic.”
Kyle said nothing, feeling like a coward. But he wasn’t about to touch the stuff, let alone drink it.
Briana sighed. “Once a major snooze, always a major snooze.” She lapped up some more of it.
He picked his way through the thick vegetation and stood at the edge of the pool, careful not to let even a toe make contact with the eerie-looking water, or whatever the substance was. He watched her for a moment, then said, “You’re crazy to drink that, Brie.”
“You don’t know what’s in it.”
“I know that it saved my life.” She stood up and waded towards him until she was only knee-deep in the water. “Watch this.” She started scooping it up and splashing it on the gash in the back of her thigh. The wound didn’t look as bad as it had earlier. He wondered if it was just the dim green light. But after a few seconds, he could see that it had actually begun to close. He blinked, almost unable to believe his eyes—it was like one of those time-lapsed films of a blooming flower. She kept scooping the water up, running her hand over the wound, stroking it. With each pass, it looked a little better. But it wasn’t just closing, it was healing, right before his eyes, going through a process which would normally have taken months. After a couple of minutes, it had been reduced to nothing more than a white scar, like the one on her stomach.
Kyle was speechless.
She looked up at him and smiled, that unsettling green light in her eyes. “I think the scar will go away completely if I keep washing it.” She began to work with the scar on her stomach, smoothing the water over it the way one might sand a piece of furniture. Little pieces of skin rolled off and fell away like a peeling sunburn. The scar faded until it was almost invisible.
“Isn’t it awesome?” she said.
Kyle was awed, bewildered, and very afraid. “I think we should leave.”
She watched him patiently, still washing the water over herself. “You don’t know what you’re missing, Kyle. This is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“Brie, I’m...I’m glad you’re okay. That’s all that matters to me. Now can we go? Please?”
She sighed and gazed dreamily at the pool, as if it were heaven itself. “All right. But you really should drink some of this. If you don’t, you’ll have to hold your breath again.”
Kyle didn’t immediately understand, but then he realized what she meant. “You mean you can—”
“—breathe under water, just like a fish,” she finished. “I know it’s hard to believe. But watch.” She dove headlong into the water. A few seconds later she surfaced, expelling a gush of the green water from her lungs like a whale clearing its blowhole.
Kyle was speechless.
She laughed and waded back over to the side of the pool. She picked up the plastic bottle and filled it with the water. The bottle glowed green, like everything else around them. She waded back out, the strange green hue now very bright in her eyes, and kissed him on the shoulder.
“Come on, Major,” she said, and she led him back the way they had come.