Naomi and Mahender walked a little ways behind Falcon and his brothers. It felt like they had been walking for a long time. Naomi wondered if they were getting close to the town. It was hard to see anything in front of them with the largest of Falcon’s brother’s blocking the way.
“So,” said Naomi, “what kind of music do you like?”
She felt stupid and awkward trying to make idle conversation, but she had to distract herself somehow. If she was silent for too long, she’d have to think about just how stuck she was.
Mahender and his aunt hadn’t found their way out after years of being in the Pit. What hope was there for Naomi and her friends?
“I don’t know.” Mahender shrugged. “A bit of everything.”
“Have you ever heard of The Goldfish Technique?”
Naomi didn’t usually bring up her favorite band around strangers because almost no one had heard of them. Mahender was from Australia, though, so maybe he would have. Besides, talking about something familiar might make her feel better.
“I can’t say that I have,” he said. “I’ll have to give them a listen. If I ever make it out of here, that is.”
And just like that, the conversation had come back to how hopeless things were. So much for taking her mind off things.
Mahender must have noticed some change in her expression, because he added “It’s not so bad here, though. Not really. It’s scary at first, but it gets better.”
The attempt to comfort her only made the dread in her chest swell larger, until she was surprised by its size and strength. His words felt like a nail in a coffin, reinforcing the idea that there was no way out.
Would she grow old in here, alone and forgotten? Or would something kill her before she had the chance?
“I know you’re trying to make me feel better, and I appreciate it, but it’s not working,” said Naomi.
Her tone came out more harshly than she’d intended.
“Ah, right, fair enough. Sorry.”
Mahender was silent for a moment. Then he spoke again.
“The town’s not very big,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll find your friends in no time.”
Another attempt to make her feel better. At least this one was actually a little bit effective.
“Thanks,” said Naomi. “I really hope you’re right.”
Mahender opened his mouth like he was going to say something, then stopped.
“Were you going to say something?” said Naomi.
Mahender sighed, then his face tightened in a wince.
“My aunt is living in the town,” he said. “She might have seen your friends.”
“Okay, great,” said Naomi. “Let’s go talk to her.”
Mahender sighed again.
“It’s like I said before,” he said. “She can be… difficult.”
Naomi fixed him with a look.
“My friends are in danger,” she said. “If your aunt might be able to help me find them, I don’t care how difficult she is. Take me to her. Now.”