A few of my precious StarHearts missed the Scavenger Hunt and therefore didn't get to read the excerpt. So by popular demand, I am re-posting. The following is the start of Chapter 2 where Helen meets a very important character. I'll give you a hint. His name is a constellation that most people recognize as 3 stars. (And yes, I did do that on purpose.) :)
Here it is.
Helen took tiny, gasping breaths. This was the fifth night in a row she’d descended into this same spot in the Underworld and she knew that the less she moved the slower she sank into the quicksand. Even breathing too deeply edged her further into the pit.
She was prolonging the torture, but she just couldn’t bear the thought of drowning in filth again. Quicksand isn’t clean. It’s stuffed with the dead and decaying bodies of all its former victims. Helen could feel the moldering corpses of all kinds of creatures bumping up against her as she was dragged farther and farther down. Last night her hand had skimmed across a face-- a human face-- somewhere under the tainted sand.
A pocket of gas bubbled to the surface, sending up a plume of stench. Helen vomited, unable to control herself. When she eventually drowned, the putrid dirt would rush into her nose, her eyes, and fill her mouth. Even though Helen was only up to her waist, she knew it was coming. She began to cry. She couldn’t take it anymore.
“What else can I do?” she screamed, and sank lower.
She knew thrashing didn’t work, but maybe this one time she would reach the dry reeds on the side of the pool and be able to grab them before the heavy muck swallowed her. She waded forward, but for every inch of progress she paid with an inch of depth. When she was up to her chest she had to stop moving. The weight of the quicksand was pressing the air out her, like a great weight settling on her chest-- like a giant knee was pressing down on her.
“I get it, okay?” she cried. “I put myself here by being upset when I fall asleep. But how am I supposed to change the way I feel?”
The quicksand was up to her neck. Helen tilted her head back and thrust up her chin, trying to will herself higher.
“I can’t do this alone anymore,” she said to the blank sky. “I need someone to help me.”
“Helen!” a deep, unfamiliar voice called out.
It was the first time Helen had heard another voice in the Underworld, and the sudden difference was so drastic that at first Helen assumed she was hallucinating. Her face was still tilted up, and she couldn’t move it to look or she’d be sucked under.
“Reach toward me, if you can,” the young man said in a strained voice, like he was struggling at the edge of the pit to get to her. “Come on, try, dammit! Give me your hand!”
At that moment her ears filled, and she could no longer hear what he shouted at her. All she could see was a flash of gold—a bright glimmer that pierced through the dull, defeated light of the Underworld like the life-saving beacon of a lighthouse. She caught the barest glimpse of an angular chin and a full, sculpted mouth at the very edge of her vision. Then, under the surface of the quicksand, Helen felt a warm, strong hand take hers and pull.
To be continued... ;)