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Naomi and Jen sat cross-legged on couch cushions on the living room floor, sipping coffee from mugs. Naomi’s laptop was open in front of them, with Dominic on a video call.

Behind them, Sarah swept broken glass into a dustpan.

Naomi shifted, self-conscious about how she looked on the screen. She knew it was shallow to focus on her appearance at a time like this, but she didn’t like her appearance to begin with, and the camera angle made her face look even weirder than usual. She hoped Dominic didn’t notice. Even with his hair and clothes unkempt, he was still handsome.

“Mel or Jess would probably tell you not to go back in there,” said Dominic.

“I’m still not sure who all these people are,” said Jen, “but what about you, cute-accent-guy? What would you tell us?”

Cute-accent-guy? Naomi felt her face flush with secondhand embarrassment. Jen was almost as bad as Angelina.

“Cute accent guy?” Dominic raised an eyebrow. “I can’t say I’ve heard that one before.”

Naomi’s face grew hotter.

“So, yeah, what would you suggest, Dominic?” Naomi said before Jen could say anything that would embarrass her even more.

Dominic let out a heavy sigh.

“I’d rather not suggest anything, if that’s alright with you,” he said.

“Oh, right, of… of course,” said Naomi. “Of course, yeah. that’s fine.”

She could hear her voice rise nervously in pitch as she spoke. Ugh, stupid. She was acting like like some idiot teeniebopper, getting giddy about talking to Dominic Davies while two of her friends were in danger. Apparently, Jen wasn’t the only one channeling Angelina today. Naomi hoped if Dominic noticed, he would chalk it up to her being stressed about the current situation.

“The last bright fuckin’ idea I came up with, well… you know how that went.”

Dominic laughed without a trace of humor.

“Yeah, no, of course,” said Naomi. “I understand completely.”

“I don’t,” said Jen. “I’m totally confused.”

“Oh, he sent his fake boyfriend to another continent to protect him from CPSI, and basically ended up sending him right to the company headquarters,” said Sarah. “It was hilarious.”

Dominic’s jaw clenched.

“There’s nothing funny about any of this.”

Sarah paused her sweeping to smile in Naomi and Jen’s direction.

“Maybe not to y’all.”

“You said you wanted to prove you were on our side,” said Naomi. “This? Right now? Is not endearing you to us at all.”

Sarah shrugged and continued sweeping.

“I’m so sorry about her,” said Naomi. “I didn’t want to work with her, but I don’t feel like I have a lot of choice.”

“Hey,” said Sarah. “Excuse you. I’m standing right here.”

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for. Falcon always made it sound like getting sent to the Pit was a one-way trip,” said Dominic. “I reckon there’s no way out of there without a device like the one she has.”

“So you think we should work with her?” said Naomi.

“I’m not saying you should do anything,” said Dominic. “I’m telling you what I know so you can decide for yourselves.”

“Right now, I feel like working with her is our only chance of getting Chelsea and Lachlan out of there.”

“And maybe my–” Jen started.

“And maybe her boyfriend,” Naomi finished.

“It seems that way,” said Dominic. “Fuck, I wish you didn’t have to do this. This is my mess, and it’s not fair you have to put yourselves at risk like this.”

“It’s not your fault,” said Naomi. “You were protecting Falcon. You couldn’t have known this would happened.”

Dominic shook his head.

“I still fucked up. I fucked up, and I put people in danger. I put both of you in danger. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m still not sure what’s going on,” said Jen, “but… apology accepted?”

“Part of me wants to talk you out of going back into the Pit, but something tells me you’d go no matter what I said,” said Dominic.

“My friends are trapped in there,” said Naomi. “I can’t just leave them.”

“Do me a favor, then? Be safe. I couldn’t live with myself if anyone else got hurt because of me.”

“Don’t worry!” said Sarah. “They’ll be right here under my loving care and protection.”

Somehow, Naomi was pretty sure no one found that reassuring.



Angelina felt a surge of triumph as she reached the top of the first stone staircase. The stairs, which had been uneven and treacherous even in the trail’s prime, marked the end of the Sentiero Angelica’s first leg and had been the turning around point for less-serious hikers unwilling to hike up the cliffs to the town. The hike would only get more arduous from here on, and the weather was already starting to warm up.

She sat down on the top step. She still had three quarters of the hike left, but she had earned a rest. Besides, she wasn’t quite ready to face the view behind her yet.

The trails had once led hikers through vineyards and olive groves, but since the accident, all of them lay abandoned, leaving overgrown grapevines free to snake through the wilderness. One of the vines wound up the stairs’ rusted railing, dangling bunches of small, green grapes beside her. She picked one and popped it into her mouth. It tasted terrible, all thick skin and bitter seed.

“Blegh,” she said.

She removed the snack cake from her bag, unwrapped it, and took a bite. Much better.

She took a few more bites of her sponge cake, then folded the wrapper around it and stuffed it back into her bag. She licked the chocolate from her hands, then wiped them on her jeans.

Alright, she’d had her break.

Now it was time to stand up and turn around.

She reached for her locket, then stopped. She needed to hold onto it for moral support, but she didn’t want to touch something so precious with sticky snack cake hands. She compromised, bending her wrist at an awkward angle so the back of her hand touched the locket pendant. With her other hand, she grasped the railing and pulled herself to her feet. Rust and chips of paint clung to her hand, and she brushed them off onto her jeans.

She’d probably need to wash these jeans when she got home.

She squeezed her eyes shut, holding the back of her hand close to her locket.

“I’ll turn around in three, two, one…”

Years ago, the view from the top of the first staircase had been one of the most picturesque in the world. Angelina had seen photos of the view on postcards–cliffs rising from the brilliant blue sea like the walls of some great fairy-tale castle, the town a festive splash of pastel confetti between them.

She turned around, opening one eye first, then the other.

The sea and mountains were as beautiful as ever, but now, a massive gaping scar disfigured their majesty. Where the town had once stood, a vast, jagged crater yawned between the cliffs, swallowing the sea beneath it.

Seeing the crater on the news hadn’t prepared her for seeing it in real life, such a vast, immense, darkness in a place that had been full of so much life and color.

Something shadowy shifted in the dark crater. She dug through her bag for the binoculars and squinted through them. She moved the binoculars around until she found the shape again.

She couldn’t see anything clearly–the binoculars were a cheap, flimsy toy left over from her childhood–but she could see the dark, blurry shape as it writhed toward the crater’s edge.

“What are you?” she whispered to it.

For a moment, she considered turning around and going home. What if that thing was dangerous? What if she ended up like those poor, thrill-seeking kids?

No. Turning around wasn’t an option. Going home would mean sitting around, doing nothing while Chelsea was in danger. Oh, and Lachlan too, she guessed.

For some reason, people never seemed to take her seriously. Whether it was Naomi and Lachlan, her classmates, or even people she’d just met, no one ever seemed to listen to or believe her. She wasn’t sure why people brushed her off–because she looked young, maybe?–but she’d learned how to work around it. The only way to get people to listen to her was to find hard evidence and present them with it before they had a chance to dismiss her.

She wasn’t sure what kind of evidence she was hoping to find out here, but there had to be something. For years, no one had been able to figure out what had happened to Borgo San Severino, but after Falcon had filled her in on the details about what happened with Naomi and Sarah, she’d come up with a theory.

The back of her hand still resting against her locket pendant, she spun purposefully on her heels and started down the path.

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