A/N: I’m back with the next chapter of Endless Summer! Last time, Jasmine saw a mysterious creature in the woods. Now, while still being haunted by the silhouette, she learns of a shelter where the other residents may be hiding. Can Jasmine and the other contest winners find this shelter?
For a while, it was just darkness, cold, quiet, still, and then… something stirred, moving towards me. After that, I woke up in my room, panting and covered in sweat. The memory of that… thing… still haunting me. I asked aloud what that even was.
It took me awhile to recuperate but, eventually, I got dressed and headed down to the resort’s restaurant to find a chaotic scene. Sean told Raj that, when he said that he was going to cook breakfast, Sean figured that it would be pancakes and bacon not… whatever Raj cooked. Raj said that it was the Raj Hangover Special 9000 and called it a perfect scramble of eggs, potatoes, oysters, and bananas topped off with pickle juice! Oh dear god, just thinking about it is making me want to throw up! Raj claimed that it would cure our hangovers before we can say “this tastes gross and weird,” and insisted that we try it. Jake immediately pointed out that this tastes gross and weird, getting a giggle from me. Zahra said that she didn’t want this in this place, she didn’t want this in her face. That just turned my giggles into laughing. Craig told us that we’re missing out because, according to him, this shizz is “delicious.” Yeah, I’ll be the judge of that one, Craig. Michelle told Craig that she once saw him eat a rock. So, apparently, Craig has no standards. Craig insisted that it was a dare and he won ten bucks. As soon as I stepped into the room, the noise died down as everyone turned to stare at me. You wouldn’t believe this, but Jake had the nerve to call me The Girl Who Cried Monster! Then Raj teased that I shut down the party faster than the cops back home! Estela asked Raj if that was seriously what he cared about. At least somebody’s on my side. I told everyone that I’m sure that they all probably think I’m crazy or whatever, but I know I’m not! I insisted that I saw something out there and I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t! I said that they can keep partying or whatever the h*ll they want, but there is something going on here and we need to figure out what it is. Raj said that he was just trying to lighten the mood and everyone else seemed annoyed, but there was one person who looked at me with admiration. That person was Estela. After that, Diego siddled over to me, holding a plate loaded with Raj’s sizzling dish which I refuse to touch unless I haven’t eaten in days and that was the only food left. Then Diego asked me if I was doing okay. I told him that I’m fine, it was just a rough night. Diego said that he’d hate to give me a middle school flashback, but he asked me what table we should sit at. Yep, I remember those days. The days when my half-sister, Tanya, was in the popular crowd and she went out of her way to make sure no table wanted to sit with me. This time, she wasn’t here and I could sit at any table I want! So I looked around for empty seats. Raj, Craig and Michelle sat at one table. Michelle asked the other two if either of them knew how to get to the resort gym. Meanwhile, Aleister, Grace, and Zahra sat at another. Grace said that she noticed something quite peculiar on the beach this morning. While I would love to find out how to get to the resort gym, I’d have to sit with Michelle to do it and I’d rather not put up with someone who hates me. So I picked Grace, Aleister and Zahra. Diego and I pulled up two seats at the table. Grace greeted us and said that she was just about to tell Zahra and Aleister about something really interesting she’s discovered. Zahra called Grace a nerdette and told her that she’s got sixty seconds until Zahra dies of boredom. Then she asked Grace what her big find was. Grace told us that she was walking down by the beach and she saw some shells that she’d never seen before. I said that I think I might’ve seen them too. Grace said that she saw spirally sharp ones that kind of look like little pinecones, and asked if those were the ones I saw. Then she told us that she went back to her room and looked them up in her marine biology textbook… and there was nothing! She couldn’t find a single shell in there that’s even close! Zahra told Grace to back up and asked if she really brought her textbooks on vacation! Sorry, Zahra, we can’t all have stealing wine as our hobby! Grace felt a little embarrassed and gave an insecure maybe. Zahra told Grace that she was officially the dorkiest person she ever met! I was about to defend Grace until Aleister beat me to it! He said that it was a sad world we live in when seeking to be informed is deemed “dorky.” Then Aleister insisted that he, for one, found Grace bringing her books commendable. Grace asked Aleister if he really meant it. It was Aleister’s turn to freeze as he said all flustered that he means… Needless to say, I was giggling and giving Aleister a knowing look. Unfortunately, what Aleister meant we never found out as the door to the restaurant swung open and Lila came in. She greeted us with a good morning and said that she hoped we were all enjoying a lovely breakfast in their five-star restaurant, but she might have found what happened to all the guests. Jake told Lila to spit it out and called her dimples. Lila explained that she went into the staff office to look for information. Then said that one of the computers in there, the one used for island-wide broadcasts, was still running! Maybe I could get the wi-fi up and actually post to my blog! Anyway, Lila found out that it turned out exactly two days ago, at 3:45 PM, someone used the emergency broadcast system to trigger a full evacuation of the hotel. I asked Lila what she meant by evacuation. Lila explained that it’s a standard procedure at all Rourke International Resorts. In the event of a natural disaster, the guests vacate the premises and head to a secure shelter. I asked Lila if, by natural disaster she meant a volcanic eruption. Lila smiled and said that it was exactly what she meant. Then explained that the Celestial’s evacuation procedures were designed specifically to cover the event of Mount Atropo erupting! Zahra asked Lila why she sounded so happy about that. Jake said that he’s no geologist, but he’s pretty sure that volcano didn’t go off two days ago. Sean asked why else they would trigger the evacuation procedure. Quinn said that it might have been a false alarm but, if that was the case, why hadn’t anyone come back? Estela suggested that everyone could still be there. Then asked Lila exactly where this shelter was. Lila admitted that she didn’t entirely know since she’s never actually been there, but the signs on the trail say we’ll find it if we hike north for a few miles. Jake said that he was in. Lila acted like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing and asked Jake what he said. Jake asked Lila if she was going to look for it. Then told her that he’s coming with her. Jake said that the rest of us kids are having fun playing Home Alone 2: Island Boogaloo, but he was supposed to be in Cancun a day ago. Jake insisted that he was losing cash every second he wastes here. Aleister volunteered to go with him, saying that he’d like to get the lay of the land around here. Quinn also volunteered, saying that she’d love to help out and see some of the sights. Then Jake asked me if I was coming. My mind flashed back to last night, to the shadow looming toward me in the rainforest. Jake seemed to sense my fear and told me not to worry about it. Then said that, if I’m scared, I’m scared and I can just stay back here with the rest of the Goof Troop! After that remark I had to volunteer. Diego asked me why and I told him that it’s because I want to see what’s going on. Then asked Diego if he wasn’t at least a little curious why everyone went to the shelter. Diego admitted that he was curious but he’s also seen horror movies. Then he mimicked a horror movie character by saying “Hey guys! Let’s go check out the mysterious shelter on the deserted island! How could this possibly go wrong!” Then remarked that, next thing we know, blam, we’re zombie chow. I laughed and told Diego that I think I’ll take my chances. Diego finally caved and said that he’ll go with me, but only so he can say “I told you so” when something horrible attacks us. I told Diego that that was the spirit. Lila smiled and told everyone to head out.
A little while later, me and Diego followed Lila along a winding trail through the island’s dense jungle. Jake and Aleister lagged behind while Quinn marveled at the glowing flowers. She said that it was unbelievable that the colors and textures of the flowers were like something out of a dream. I took a closer look and saw glowing purple petals flicker and pulse with an impossible light! I told Quinn that I’d never seen anything like it! Okay, other than the flying seahorse we saw at the beach, I’ve never seen anything like it. Lila said it was beautiful and that, due to its geographic isolation, La Huerta has one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet, boasting flora and fauna not found anywhere else! Jake called Lila Minnie Mouse and sarcastically told her to keep spewing that Rourke International propaganda, but he ain’t buying it. Aleister wanted to know what that was supposed to mean. Jake explained that all the brochures go on about how this place is some sorta Disney paradise, but drink in the right dive bars, and you’ll start to hear rumors about what really goes on here, criminal plots, illegal experiments, folks going missing, all kinds of crazy. Quinn asked if Jake was really going to spout conspiracy theories. Jake told Quinn, calling her Pippi Longstocking (whoever she is) that, while she was busy tweeting about her pumpkin spice latte, he was flying covert missions over Kandahor. Jake said that, once you’ve peeked behind that curtain, which he summed up as saying that there’s some things out there that would blow her mind. Then Jake insisted that those pretty flowers Quinn’s ooh-ing and ahh-ing about might just be sizzling with radiation. Aleister insisted that was preposterous. Jake then turned to me, asking what I think. If I trust this place. After what I saw last night, I’d say no. So I stepped away from the flowers. Jake smiled and said that he knew he could count on me. Aleister said to tell me I don’t believe his conspiracy theory prattle. I insisted that, after what I saw last night, I’d rather not take any chances. Then added that, unique ecosystem or not, flowers should NOT glow like that. Quinn told me that she still thinks they’re beautiful and she’s not going to let some conspiracy theory keep her from appreciating that. Ahead of us, Lila stopped and looked around, confused. She claimed that this doesn’t make any sense. I asked Lila what was wrong. Lila explained that the signpost said that the shelter should be right here. Aleister remarked that even the tour guide’s lost and asked Lila what they pay her for, again. Jake said that it was Tactical Scouting 101, calling us kids. He claimed that we had to get to high ground and pointed toward the rocky cliff, saying that he was checking it out. Quinn asked if we heard anything and said that it sounded like there was a waterfall nearby. She suggested that the shelter might be near that. Diego jokingly accused Quinn of wanting to check out the waterfall. Quinn only smiled and said, “Maybe.” Lila insisted that we stick to the trail, claiming that the shelter might just be further ahead. So I suggested that we all split up. Diego said that he’ll stick to the trail with Lila. Aleister said that he’s waiting right here as he sees no reason to traipse around on some “fool’s errand.” Then Jake asked me if I wanted to keep him company. So I decided to check out the cliff with Jake. We split off from the group, pushing through the undergrowth towards the hilltop. Jake deftly hopped a log and slid under a low-hanging branch. I admitted that it was impressive and asked Jake if he did that a lot. Jake asked me if I meant getting stranded on mysterious islands with a group of plucky college kids, claiming that it was a first. I clarified that I meant go hiking, walk through jungles, that kind of thing. I told Jake that he seems pretty confident outdoors. Jake explained that he grew up in a Louisiana town so rural, it wasn’t even on the map. Jake said that, when it comes down to it, the swamp and the jungle ain’t so different. I joked that there’s probably not as many gators out here though. Jake remarked that there were less gators and more jaguars, so he’d call it even. Then Jake asked me if this was my kind of scene. I admitted that I’m actually more of a suburban girl, love of the outdoors with a nice house for comfort. Jake said that it sounds like the best of both worlds. I told Jake that I guess he could say that, not wanting to go into any detail about my family life. Then admitted that at least I didn’t run into scary creatures like that… whatever I saw last night but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the outdoors anymore than I did back home. Jake cocked an eyebrow at me, curious. He asked me if that was why I came along with him, for a nature hike. I felt my face turn a bit red and admitted that it was because I wanted to spend some time with him. This actually shocked Jake and all he could say was, “…Oh?” I told Jake that he’s not like the other people here, he’s confident and capable and he seems to know what he’s doing. I admitted that I don’t know what it is but… I want to be near him and I actually feel safe near him. Then I asked Jake if that was weird. Jake told me that it wasn’t weird, just dorky and a little on-the-nose and claimed that it was classic Princess. I asked Jake if he was ever going to call me by my real name. Jake said he’d call me by my real name when I’ve earned it.
Jake and I cleared away some bushes and found ourselves at the foot of a sharp, jagged cliff face. Jake said that, if we could just get up that, we’d have a clear view. Then he asked me how my rock climbing was. I told him that last time I rock climbed was at the mall when I was a kid. Jake said that was good enough for him. He crouched down and gave me a boost, hoisting me up to a low ledge. Together, we climbed the rocky cliffside, grabbing handholds and using cracks to stabilize ourselves. Which, honestly, was a bit of a challenge for me. Jake told me that it was just a little more. He crested the top. I was about to follow him when the chunk of rock I was holding snapped off in my hand, causing me to scream! My hand shot out and I grabbed the ledge, deftly pulling myself up! As soon as I was on the ground, I gave a sigh of relief. Jake smiled and said that I had nice moves, something I thanked him for. The two of us stood on the cliff and gazed out across the island. I told Jake that I’ve gotta hand it to this place, it never stops taking my breath away. Jake said that it was the radiation. Though he admitted that it was one hell of a sight. I even pointed out that there were no weird lights in the sky either. Jake said that it was true for now. Then he asked me what something was. Jake bent down and brushed some dirt away from the ground. Underneath, embedded into the stone was a steel sign with a strange symbol on it… the symbol of a wolf. Then I asked Jake what that was. Jake admitted that he didn’t know since there was no writing or anything. He said what I was thinking, that it looked like some kind of wolf. I asked Jake if he thought it was part of the resort, like something the corporation put here. Jake said that might be true and then asked what the h*ll it even meant. I took out my phone to snap a photo of it, seeing that the wireless still wasn’t working, then turned back to the view. I told Jake to look down by that river over there, the gray building. I said that it sure looked a lot like- Jake finished for me and said that it looked like a shelter, telling me that I had good eyes. I admitted that I couldn’t have got here without him. The two of us looked at each other for one long, silent moment, lost in each other’s eyes. Jake broke the silence, saying that we should probably head back, find the others and tell them where to go. I agreed that we should, definitely. Jake took a step toward the edge and then looked back. He said that this was actually kind of fun and suggested that, before he flies back, we can go on another climb together. I smiled and told Jake that I’d like that.
Soon, me and the others all arrived outside the enormous overgrown shelter. Lila congratulated me and Jake on finding it. Diego told us that he wouldn’t go popping champagne just yet and asked if anyone else was getting some 28 Days Later vibes off this place. Since I’ve never seen 28 Days Later, I have no clue what he was talking about. Quinn admitted that the shelter does look a little dilapidated and asked how old this place was. Lila insisted that this shelter was no older than the resort and that she’ll just have a stern word with the caretakers. Jake pointed out that the whole point of a shelter is keeping us safe inside, not looking good outside and told us to come on.
Lila pushed open the doors, revealing a long, worn-down hallway. Vines snaked along the floor, and sparks showered from the broken fixtures overhead. I pointed out that this place doesn’t look any safer on the inside than it did on the outside. Jake admitted that, on second thought, maybe Pop Culture Petey (Diego) was right. Then said that this shelter gave him the creeps. Diego complained about how he finally got a nickname and it’s “Pop Culture Petey,” claiming that everyone else got a cooler one. Quinn asked if anyone else wanted to go back to the pretty jungle with the magic flowers… anyone. Jake kneeled down and grazed the ground with his hand. He said that there were a lot of muddy shoeprints around and they seemed recent. I asked Jake if he meant that the guests were here. Jake only said that someone was. Just then, I heard a skittering sound from my left. I asked if anyone else heard that. I looked over to see a pitch-black hole where the concrete wall crumbled! Diego said that he thinks it came from there. Lila suggested that someone should take a look. That someone was me and I even said that there was something in the hole. Diego thanked me for stepping up and asked me what I saw. Something shifted in the darkness and I saw the glint of light reflected in a pair of eyes! I told everyone that there was something in there, something alive. Aleister insisted that it was just a rat, but he didn’t sound so sure. A strange clicking noise came from inside the hole, along with the sound of claws scraping on the stone! Jake said that it was no rat. Diego asked me if it was that thing, the thing I saw last night! I said that it was… The shape rushed toward me, its shadow huge, and pounced into the light… The thing turned out to be an adorable blue fox! Diego seemed just as shocked as I was! Quinn was amazed, giving an “Oh my god!” Aleister demanded to know what that was. Then Quinn said that it was literally the cutest thing she’d ever seen! Jake asked if we can all officially agree that is not a real animal. The poor little guy looked so sad. It retreated into the corner and trembled. Frost clung to the walls near him. Jake said that it looked scared. I asked Jake what it would be scared of, us? Just then, something right behind us let out a low, deep, blood-curling growl! I turned around to see a massive beast prowling towards us out of the shadows! Instantly, I recognized it from last night in the forest! The creature looked like a Sabretooth tiger! Aleister told us that the little fox was scared of that! Lila gave a sarcastic, “You think?!” The fox-like creature scurried behind me in terror, pressed against my legs! I asked Jake what we were supposed to do! Jake turned to me and, for the first time, he looked scared! He grabbed my hand and told me not to move! And just like that, my third chapter is officially over but I may continue writing another time. Assuming that I survive, of course!
A/N: Will this be the end of Jasmine or will she live to see another day? Find out next Tuesday on the same bat time, same bat channel! I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Also, I just want to let people know that I’ve read all three books of Endless Summer and am well aware of the protagonist’s origin story. The reason why it seems different is that I’m taking the opportunity to expand on it and you will see why at the end of Book 3.