35: The Descent

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                                                                                                Part 35: The Descent


         "Down climbs Jack, and after him climbed the ogre." (Jack and the Beanstalk, Joseph Jacobs)


        "Jackroy?" I repeat the boy's name in a cracking voice. My tongue feels dry and foreign in my mouth. A dizzy spell settles over me and my head sways around a bit. I steady it with my hand. The heavy footsteps of the Giant pound against the floor as he makes his way into another room of the spacious castle. The door, which I worked so hard to get open, has been closed again.

        "Are you okay?" the boy named Jackroy asks once the Giant is no longer in sight. His stringy brown hair falls over his forehead as he stoops down and sets the golden goose aside. His lean arms go around me and he pulls me to my feet. I keep my hand to my forehead but brush his arms away from me with my free hand.

        "Pl-Please don't touch me," I tell him. I try to sound angry, but truthfully, I'm just feeling sorrowful. Someone's been killed again and I have a sickening feeling that it's all my fault, not this boy's.

        Jackroy withdraws from me, a look of fear in his wide, gray eyes. "I-I'm really sorry, ma'am," he apologizes, "but you were going to give away my hiding place if you started screaming. That poor bloke had it coming, I'm afraid."

        Something inside of me snaps. I spin around and face the boy. The angry look on my face must have scared him because his lips begin to tremble.

        "Burne didn't deserve to be eaten!" I cry. "He saved my life! If anything, that should have been me getting chewed up!" Realizing that I'm being too loud, I clasp my hands over my mouth and lower my eyes to the ground. The golden goose stares up at me. It flaps its feathery wings a few times before it gives a series of loud honks.

        "Would you be quiet, ya dumb animal?" Jackroy cries. He grabs up the squawking animal and shuts its bill with one of his hands. The animal doesn't bother fighting. It slumps in his arms and falls silent.

        Jackroy sighs with relief. His nervous eyes come back to meet mine. "Sorry," he apologizes again. "Nobody deserves that. Not me, not your friend, and not you." He pauses to scold the goose again, which has begun flapping wildly. After it settles down, he glances at me. "You came up the beanstalk, too, huh?"

        I'm confused at first, until I realize that the Giant mentioned the beanstalk earlier as well. "Yes," I say with a tight nod. "Burne and I.... We were running from some other monsters and we were chased up here."

        Jackroy huffs. "Just to meet a monster who is even worse, right?"

        I cringe, recalling the loud, crunching noises that came from Burne's body being crushed by teeth. My body shivers, dispelling the painful memory. "Yes," I agree. "Even worse."

        Jackroy is silent for a few moments. He clears his throat and releases the goose's bill to scratch at his greasy hair. "You know," he begins hesitantly. "I was the one who grew that beanstalk."

       My eyes snap upwards to meet his. "What?" I cry. I take a few steps towards him, causing him to stumble back. My eager hands reach towards him. "Are you a magic user?"

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