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After Uncle Jeb explained how he found this place, it was time for the leader of the other group, James, to tell the story of how they escaped. He did it differently than Uncle Jeb did. He took questions.
"Where do you live?" asked Ian.
"We live about twenty miles south of here. We found an old mine that we live in. The souls shut it down right when they took it over and we decided that it would be a perfect place to hide out. It took a hell of a lot of work, though," said James. "We have more stairs than you can shake a stick at! Don't fall while you're walking, it's a long way to the bottom."
"How do you survive?" asked Kyle. He had Sunny clutched to his side. She was still unable to find Jodi, but I was beginning to think Kyle didn't mind as much as he used to. He liked feeling macho, and that was something Sunny definitely made him feel.
"We go out and raid, of course. We live a lot like you do. I'm shocked we didn't know about each other sooner. We never came this way before. All the important stuff was the other way," James answered. He was a tall man. He had black hair, but it was going gray at the temples.
"How did your souls find you?" asked Sunny. Speaking up was something she rarely ever did.
"Well, Burns was hiking. He didn't feel very... accepted in his town. People tended to avoid him because he was from the Fire Planet," said James.
"It's a fine place!" called Burns from the crowd. "I don't know why so many people get their panties in a bunch," he said a little quieter. I had a feeling I was going to like Burns.
"He liked the way the humans treated him better, I suppose. Even though we did put him through hell and back to see if he was leading a bunch of seekers to us," continued James. "And Rose, well, that's a funny story, that one. Her host didn't go away at first. It convinced her that the humans were better than the souls. Rose didn't believe her, but after being bombarded with memories, she was led to our little hide out."
I looked at Wanda and Melanie. Both of their mouth's hung right open. "What happened to her host?" asked Mel quietly.
"She disappeared," answered James simply.
After about an hour of questioning, Jeb announced that he was calling it quits. When Jeb called it quits, everyone called it quits. Our guests were staying in the game room, on all the spare bedding we had. A few of us were staying with them in there. Just because they were human didn't mean we had to trust them completely.
I walked back to the sleeping wing of the caves with Mel and Wanda. Jared and Ian were part of the group that stayed behind. Mel convinced them that the three of us would be okay if we spent one night without them. I didn't even sleep with them anymore, so I didn't know what they were worrying about. I was going to stay with Mel and Wanda in Mel's room tonight, though.
Mel took one of my hands, Wanda took the other.
"That wasn't a very nice joke you played on my earlier," squeaked Wanda. Her new body made me laugh. She was so shy sometimes!
"We weren't doing it to be mean," I assured her, squeezing her hand. "I don't think Rose could be mean if she wanted to. She's a soul."
Mel looked at me. "I think it's time for a haircut," she said, totally changing the subject. Melanie was good at saying totally random things at totally random times.
I frowned. "I like my hair like this."
She shrugged. "It's your head. I just think you're more handsome with it cut shorter."
I laughed. "Since there are so many people I have to be handsome for," I replied. Melanie shrugged again.
When we got to Mel's room, we all but collapsed onto the bed. I loved meeting new people, but after a hard day's work, it was hard to even keep my eyes open.
"That's crazy about Rose," sighed Mel.
"I know. It was so strange to hear that the same thing happened to her. And I thought I was the only one," replied Wanda. "I am so glad you didn't disappear."
"Me too," I interjected.
"Me three," laughed Mel.
It was quiet then, and we were all asleep within minutes.
I was jolted into alertness when I felt something heavy, really heavy, land on my stomach.
"Wake up!" said Ian. He had jumped across the bed, landing on Wanda, Mel, and I.
"Oof," groaned Wanda. She was smiling, though.
"I'm sorry, doll!" exclaimed Ian. He shifted off of us and scooped Wanda into his arms. He looked so worried. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
She giggled. "It didn't hurt that bad!"
Mel rolled onto her side. "Five more minutes," she sighed.
Wanda, Ian, and I left the room, leaving Mel to her sleep. She had become quite the night owl lately. The only person who could get her up too early was Jared.
"Guess what's for breakfast," said Ian. We were walking towards the kitchen. The caves seemed particularly hot today. I could feel myself being steamed like a piece of broccoli.
"Smells like... bacon!" I exclaimed. I ran to the kitchen, leaving Wanda and Ian to get there at their own slow pace. Bacon was a rare treat, and I wanted to eat it as soon as possible. I piled a heaping plate full and took a seat.
I was right in the middle of shoveling a big heap of pig into my mouth when I heard someone talking to me.
"Good morning, Jamie," said Rose. She leaned on my table. Her hair was down, and I saw that it was very long. It stopped somewhere around her lower back.
I had to wait a second before responding. My mouth was full of bacony deliciousness, and I couldn't talk around it. "Morning, Rose," I finally replied. "Have a seat."
"Thanks," she said, heeding my request.
"Have you eaten yet?" I asked. I saw Ian and Wanda come in, but they looked at me and quickly averted their eyes. I saw Wanda whisper something to Ian. I had a feeling I knew what they were talking about.
"Yep! It took me forever to find this place. The only thing that kept my mind at ease was the smell of the yummy food," she said, smiling.
"Oh, nobody showed you where to go?" I asked.
"I was up earlier than the others were. I didn't want to wake them up," she said.
"I could show you around," I offered.
"That would be fantastic!"
There was something about Rose that I couldn't put my finger on. It was something that I needed to figure out soon.