Gone – Chapter Five

7,987 / 50,000 words. 16% done!


Jessica wasn’t sure what happened. One minute yet another Unicorn had been taking credit for yet another one of her ideas, the next she was on the floor, ruining her new denim mini-skirt. A burst of heat flew above the three of them and hit the back wall of Sweet Valley Mart, where it burst into flames.

She lay on the cold tile for a few precious seconds, trying to figure out what happened, before her survival instinct kicked in, she rolled to her side and pushed herself up.

The sight of the back wall engulfed in flames gave her a moment’s pause. She saw Janet and Ellen both passed out on the floor beside her and made a very quick decision. She could only save one. And nobody would ever miss Ellen Riteman. She would bet everything she owned that not a single person would care if, for example, Ellen didn’t go to Sweet Valley High.

She moved over to Janet’s side and gently shook her. She tried to say Janet’s name, but a fit of coughing hit her. The store was filling with smoke and the heat was getting unbearable.

She shook Janet several times, but there was no response. Jessica looked up towards the door. It wasn’t far, and if Janet was unconscious, she probably wouldn’t be able to tell Jessica off for dragging her along the dirty floor.

She knew that she had to keep low to avoid the worst of the smoke, so Jessica took both of Janet’s hands and crouch-walked backwards towards the entrance. Halfway down the aisle, she saw that Janet’s sneaker had fallen off and was halfway between the entrance and Ellen’s fallen body.

She considered going back for it, but—and this was something she would never admit out loud—Janet was heavier than she looked.


As she reached the doorway, she saw her sister and Amy standing there. She glanced around, and saw that a good amount of the middle school population had followed Elizabeth’s instructions to gather in front of town hall, though not a single one of them had gotten too close to the burning store.

“Is there anyone else in there?” Elizabeth asked.

“The Unicorns…” she said.

Elizabeth and Amy immediately moved towards the door.

On a further glance around, Jessica saw that actually they were already a safe distance away from the burning building. They must have seen the fireball and immediately fled out the exit. “Never mind, it’s just Ellen.” She paused and thought a moment. “But if you are going back in there, can you get Janet’s shoe?”

“Ellen?” Amy said in a quiet voice. Then she sprinted into the store at top speed.

Elizabeth took a step after her, but there was a crash from inside the store, and the flames burned higher.

“We need to do something!” Elizabeth cried passionately to the crowd.

The crowd collectively shrugged and stared at their shoes.

“I’ll call 911,” said Caroline Pearce.

“There’s no point,” said Elizabeth. “Everyone but us has gone!”

Caroline’s green eyes seemed to glitter intensely before she said to Lois, “Wow. She’s right. Everyone’s outside of the dome.”

“We need to do something!” Elizabeth said again. “We need buckets of water, maybe a hose…”

“What’s the point?” Jessica asked. “I know Sweet Valley Mart was the nearest store, but there are other places that sell chips and dips for the party.”

Elizabeth rounded on her furiously. “This isn’t about a party, this is about stopping the fire from spreading! Amy said that she read a book where a bunch of people were trapped in a dome and they nearly died in a meth fire! Do you want to die in a meth fire?”

Jessica was somewhat alarmed to see the intensity in her sister’s eyes, and glanced down at Janet again, ready to reassure her that she—Jessica, future Unicorn President—had saved her life, but Janet was not there.

“Amy’s going to die!” Elizabeth said with tears in her eyes. Though Jessica couldn’t help but notice that her sister wasn’t getting any closer to the door.

“It’ll probably burn itself out,” offered Jimmy Underwood, who was so small that most narratives completely forgot him.

“Elizabeth is right!” a voice said, and Todd Wilkins, Elizabeth’s sort-of boyfriend, stepped forward. “We need to put this fire out! We’re the adults now.”

Jessica glared at him. Everyone was just jumping on her theme, weren’t they?

“I’m not dying in a fire to save a store,” Lila said.

“Amy and Ellen are in there,” Elizabeth said.

“Well, the Boosters will miss them, but new blood could completely revitalize some of our cheers,” Lila replied with a philosophical shrug.

“We need to save them!” Elizabeth raged. She gestured at the blaze with both hands, and to everyone’s utter astonishment, two strong jets of water gushed from her palms.

Elizabeth looked startled for a moment, then proudly stepped into the store, directing the water towards the fire.

While Elizabeth fought the fire, she counted the pros and cons of being able to create water from her hands. The pros were quite obvious: she could put out a fire; she would be a hit at a pool party; her power would probably put her in charge of everyone without question; and she wasn’t sure if aliens had a tendency to turn people into fire hydrants, so Amy was probably wrong with her theory.

The con was very simply that she was terrified. It was completely life-changing to go about your day as normal and find out that you could send jets of water at things from the palms of your hands.

Inside the store, she could see Amy dragging Ellen along the aisle. As the flames raged, Elizabeth did her best to push them back and keep them away from her friend… and by extension, Ellen too.

The water was a constant pressure on her wrists that wasn’t pleasant, but she did enjoy the rush of satisfaction it gave her to extinguish the fire. As she doused the flames, she allowed herself a modest daydream about how the news stories would run. “Magic Girl Saves Entire Town!” the headlines would proclaim. She would do interviews with Dyan Sutton, where she would be brave, but humble. She would say things like, “I only did what anyone else would do,” knowing that nobody else could do what she did. She would be given the key to the city. International news would pick up the story (because everyone loves America!). She imagined a montage of other countries watching her translated interview (some very chic French people eating baguettes and wearing berets; a red-haired family wearing kilts, drinking tea and eating crumpets, watching in Wales—or was it Ireland?—somewhere in England, anyway) and discussing how brave this young—but mature—American girl was.

Perhaps she would even get invited to the White House! She wasn’t sure who was president (she was vaguely aware that the President might be named Bush or Reagan) but it would be so exciting! She would shake his hand and the camera would flash, and it would be a treasured memory, and people would clap and cheer and—

She blinked. She could actually hear clapping and cheering.

She realized that in her daydream daze, she had utterly decimated the fire in record time, and now her fellow classmates were giving her a standing ovation. Before she stepped back outside, she made sure her smile was humble—thank goodness she had practiced looking humble while daydreaming.

She stepped outside and beamed at the cheering students. Amy rushed to her side, quickly followed by Ellen—so that hero-worship was starting again, was it?—and put an arm around her.

“That was amazing,” Amy said.

“Not as amazing as you saving me,” Ellen said immediately, staring at Amy with adoration in her eyes. She briefly glanced in Elizabeth’s direction before returning her gaze to Amy. “No offense, Elizabeth, but Amy ran into a burning building without being a human hose. And she hit a kidnapper with a chair leg for me.”

Alarmingly, Amy beamed at Ellen and said in a soft voice, “I thought you’d forgotten about that…”

Ellen’s sickening smile grew even more nauseating. “I would never forget that.”

With rising irritation, Elizabeth cleared her throat pointedly.

Amy blinked and looked away from Ellen. “Elizabeth, you’re a hero! You saved the day.” Amy turned to the crowd of assembled students. “Isn’t she amazing?”

The crowd responded with whoops and cheers.

“I think you should lead us through this crisis, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth turned to the crowd—her subjects now!—and beamed.

Humbly, of course.