About a half hour had gone by, and footsteps thumped down the stairs. Alyssa figured out that Mathias had returned via his flying tube since Isabelle had said that he owned one too. Alyssa turned to the staircase and watched him carry a small cage with about six or seven mice. They had white fur with patches of green, purple, red, and blue. Mathias also carried a bag of silver, gold, copper, metallic green, red, and blue fronds.
He entered the living room and sat on one of the couch chairs. He placed the cage on the carpet. But Isabelle bent her eyebrows. “Mathias, don’t put them on the carpet. They’re going to—”
“Isabelle, it’s okay. They’re in a cage.”
“Still, they’re filthy wild animals, and they could get my clean carpet dirty.”
“Oh, Isabelle, stop being such a neat freak,” said Mathias.
“No.” Isabelle turned to Simon, who sat on the other couch chair and listened to his WiPod. “Simon, can you track the snake, please?”
Simon took out his earbuds. “What did you want me track? I didn’t get that.”
Isabelle repeated herself, and Simon made his tablet appear. Alyssa watched him press it; he probably programmed a way to track the snake.
“Simon, how far away is the snake?” asked Alyssa.
“Erm . . . about a hundred feet away,” he replied.
“Oh my god,” moaned Alyssa.
“Let’s go,” said Isabelle.
Alyssa’s stomach hardened as she walked up the stairs. She could even feel her heart throb through her throat. She hurried her breathing and followed everyone else out of the tent.
Alyssa stepped onto the sand and saw something move. She gasped, her muscles constricting to her bones. Her hands shook and cooled down despite the burning sun. Tingles spread through her toes and fingers and expanded to the rest of her body. She whined through her contracted throat. She wished that what she saw was just a mirage. But the smell of the ash hanging in the air revealed to her that she didn’t just see things—the snake drew nearer.
It opened its jaw, exhaling light gray ash. It stuck out its pointy black tongue and pushed its head toward Alyssa, and she coughed. But it sped up its slithering. Alyssa screamed and spun around. She dashed along the beach, and her feet sped up, thus kicking the backs of her legs.
“Alyssa, get back here!” yelled Mathias. “I can’t disappear holding the cage or mice! It’s impossible doing both!”
But Alyssa continued to sprint across the beach. Sand streamed into her sneakers. Sweat even trickled into the neckline of her shirt and her legs.
Something scaly slapped her legs. She flew into the air and screamed. Her body fought against the direction of the breeze, and she landed on her butt.
She moaned and quickened up breaths through her gritted teeth. The snake continued to slither and release ash. Shrieking, Alyssa bolted up and turned around. She headed into the rainforest.
Facing vines, twigs, trees, bushes, and fronds, Alyssa found her way around them. Her legs ached from all the different movements she made. She ran sideways from a tree, jumped over a couple of twigs and vines, and zigzagged around trees and bushes. A trail even lay in front of her.
Alyssa’s thin legs and body kept her energy going, but her legs felt like they’d been clogged with broken cobblestones. The snake kept chasing her, though.