The stranded teens’ terrifying brush with a gigantic mutant frog might be over, but despite the restoration of the deserted island’s natural ambiance in the wake of amphibian onslaught, roaring wind, and freezing cold, Imogen hardly felt at peace. She doubted she’d ever be fully at peace again, in fact. Where at first she’d kept herself more or less together with repeated self-assurances that all this could only be the product of a comatose fever-dream, that theory didn’t explain everything nearly as well as she would have liked. Still, she clung to that idea. It was all that separated her from disaster as the walls of her worldview, built brick by brick over the course of many years, came tumbling down by this deathblow to her definition of normalcy. The monster being done with wasn’t enough. Imogen needed all of this to be over, and as soon as possible.
Daniel’s question stirred her from her miserable reverie. She knew the answer, of course, but she hesitated to reply. If nothing was amiss with the ocean after all, then the girl plunged into its shallows would’ve already arisen from the surf, shell-shocked and soaked but otherwise alright. But she hadn’t. Sofia was gone. That realization weighed heavily enough on Imogen’s own mind, despite how little the girl meant to her personally. Who knew how it might affect the others here? That guy with dirty-blond hair looked like a week-old balloon, pitiful and deflated. The news that someone had disappeared might be all he needed to pop. “...I don’t know,” Imogen muttered. Wherever Sofia had fallen, she wasn’t here anymore.
Speaking of Franciszek, though, where was he going? The fallout from the froggy fiasco had leveled much of the island’s foliage, which made his delirious crawl toward what looked like a spring more public than he might have liked. Imogen watched in horror as he immersed himself in the freshwater pool, seemingly trying to drown himself. “H-hey! Stop!” She mustered just enough manic energy in her weary muscles to run over toward the spring in a futile attempt to drag him out of the water, but by the time Imogen arrived he hadn’t just submerged himself–he was gone. “...What!?”
Of course, Verity did the only sensible thing and followed suit, vanishing as suddenly as Sofia had. “Aaagh!” Imogen yelped. This spring clearly wasn’t natural, why were people so willing to hurl themselves into the unknown?
Then again…this purgatorial place had betrayed no signs of either entrance or exit until now. Imogen emphatically did not want to stay here. Any minute another malformed monstrosity might drag itself up from the depths. Verity probably took the plunge because the same thought occurred to her: no matter where this spring might take her, it had to be better than here. At worst, it might lead to a demise more merciful than slow, agonizing dehydration on a desert island, or digestion inside some primeval beast.
As if to lay her concerns to rest, Victor suddenly appeared. He informed them about the endpoint of the island’s spring-based transportation system, that being a random bathroom in the school the teens left behind. The news let the lingering fear that clouded her mind leave her in a rattled sigh of relief. He must’ve gotten dunked during all the chaos, then jumped into the ocean again to return here. “Weird,” Imogen almost laughed. “Really weird. But I’ll take it.”
Daniel couldn’t definitively answer Victor’s question, but Imogen backed up his hypothesis. “Yeah, in there, I think. Same as you,” she told him, letting the others assume that Sofia escaped through the spring as well. Still a little loopy from the series of incredible events, she almost burst out laughing when Daniel basically said I killed a frog…with my mind. I killed a freakin’ frog with my mind!
. God bless quippy dialog and its diffusion into pop culture. “I guess we should all get goin’,” she added. “Before any more monsters show up.”
Imogen went over and prepared to make her own jump, but stopped at the edge of the spring. Something was nagging at her. She turned around to see Maive, still unconscious and draped over the sand where Verity let her fall. Imogen furrowed her brow, but didn’t ultimately need to think twice about what to do next. A moment later she stooped over Maive, then worked to pull her up and support her with her shoulder. Thank goodness the other girl was small. “I’m gonna pay ya back,” Imogen grunted as she started to move, half-carrying and half-dragging her new acquaintance. “For forgivin’ me.”
Decrying any attempt by the others to relieve her responsibility, Imogen approached the spring and carefully inserted Maive feet-first. Doing that took some serious effort, but at least Maive was on the smaller and lighter side. After catching her breath Imogen jumped in herself.
In a blink, her surroundings changed. There was no fanfare, no magical interdimensional interlude, just a flash and then she and Maive were sitting in a girls’ restroom. To her displeasure Imogen quickly realized that, unlike her first strange journey, she was soaking wet and shivering from the air-conditioned chill. But she was back in the ordinary world, and that was a trade-off she was more than happy to take. Imogen nudged the body of the girl she’d brought with her. “Oi, you okay? Experience existential dread if you can hear me.” Hopefully the cold water had jolted Maive into wakefulness as well.
As Imogen prepared to leave, though, she became aware of another problem. It was late, it was cold, and she’d forgotten something important. Her beloved dark green overcoat still hung from a spar of driftwood on that phantasmagorical island. Given a little time she might’ve been able to dismiss this whole ordeal as a bizarre hallucination induced by the cafeteria food, but the loss of her coat smothered that coping mechanism in the crib. Without a coat, it would be a very brisk run back to the dorm indeed. “Ugh…crap.”