If the ship was slowly sinking, we couldn’t stay there for long. I hefted a still unconscious Ree onto my back and started walking again with the remaining children. We walked carefully, looking out for traps. When we ran into another wall, we returned to the stairwell. As we descended deeper into the ship, the lighting got dimmer, and the hallways looked more rundown. The sound of water was getting louder and louder.
“He said it was locked from the outside,” murmured Yang, as if talking to himself.
Walking beside him, I nodded. “Yeah. And that a ghost did it.”
“What could he have meant by that?”
Yang continued, “All of the traps we’ve found were triggered automatically. But this time was different. There’s someone else here besides us, hiding on board this ship so he can hunt us down. That’s the only possibility I can think of.”
We kept on walking through the hallway, but it was so dark that we could barely see what was in front of us. No one said a word. The only sound we heard was our own footsteps.
Then I heard Ree moan behind me.
“Ree? Are you awake?”
Grimacing in pain, she opened her eyes. Then she looked at me and smiled weakly in thanks.
For the next few minutes, Ree lay silently against my back. But suddenly, she yelped, and started to struggle.
I quickly lowered her to the floor. “What’s wrong?”
With a frenzied look in her eyes, she pointed at her throat.
Her pendant was gone.
Her pink, heart-shaped enamel pendant—Ree’s beloved amulet.
Yang was watching us, and he said dismissively, “This isn’t the time for that. You can just buy another one later. If we can survive this, then you can do whatever you want after you go back home. Try to be strong.”
Ree shook her head over and over again, her jet-black eyes filling with tears.
Yang looked away from her face, and instead took off his own shirt to staunch the bleeding from her wound on her side, which had opened up again slightly.
It looked like we would have to wait there for a few minutes. As I waited, I suddenly remembered how Ree fussed over me and smiled at me so gently when I first woke up on the ship. When I thought of how I had awakened to find this girl at my side, worried for my sake, trying to encourage me with her precious heart-shaped pendant, my heart ached.
And now here she was, deathly pale, enduring her pain in silence.
I jumped up. Yang looked up at me curiously. “What’s wrong, Alex?”
“I’m, uh, going to go … get something.”
“Her pendant. She probably dropped it where Huey collapsed. After they started fighting over the knife, I think I remember that she wasn’t wearing it anymore.”
“Alex!” Yang hissed warningly. “It’s dangerous. Stay here. Don’t separate from the group.”
The other children also tried to stop me.
“He’s right. She can just buy another pendant!” said the American boy.
The French girl added, “It’s dangerous. We should stay together.”
“Don’t waste time on a little thing like that!”
I looked down at Ree’s wan face. I couldn’t be sure whether she had enough strength to last until this was all over. All I wanted was to find her pendant and give it to her. There was no other way for me to communicate with her. My gratitude wasn’t something I could convey with words.
“I just have to go back to the landing, so it shouldn’t take long. I’ll be back soon,” I declared forcefully, then took off running.
The voices of Yang and the other children echoed after me.
I climbed the dark staircase. Lighting up the area at my feet with the flashlight that Yang had taken from the elevator, I carefully climbed step by step, trying not to stumble into any traps.
The white-tiled floor gleamed coldly, illuminated by the circle of light from the flashlight. Uneasiness surged through me. Now that we were separated, would I ever be able to see the others again? Would I end up being left to wander this ship all by myself? Assailed by second thoughts, I felt tears rise unbidden in the corners of my eyes. I kept on climbing, one step at a time, trying to chase away these dark mental images.
Right when I thought I had reached the spot where Huey had collapsed, I nearly tripped over something round and rubbery. Fearing I had stepped into a trap, chills ran through my body. I quickly pointed the flashlight at my feet, and saw that it was no trap, but a small ball—a tennis ball.
I picked it up, mystified. Why would it be on the floor in a place like this? I wondered to myself.
I returned to climbing the stairs.
And then I gasped.
The body was gone.
The spot where Huey’s body should have been was now empty. There was nothing left to indicate that that a corpse had been there. It had vanished without a trace.
I sank down to the floor, dumbfounded.
With the movement of my body, the flashlight’s aim turned to shine on a different spot by my feet. There on the floor I spotted a shiny pink heart-shaped enamel pendant—Ree’s precious pendant that she had been looking for. Once I sighted it, for a moment it felt like my heart was connected with hers. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I picked it up and squeezed it in my hand. Tears overflowed from my eyes. I didn’t even know why.
Where was the body?
Why had someone hidden it?
Who else was on the ship?