She flapped them once, and they created a gust so strong it knocked Gemma down. She crawled back on the floor toward the wall, and stared up at Penn as the transformation went from bad to horrid.
Penn’s face was still shifting. Her eyes first, from their usual black to the golden yellow of an eagle. Her full mouth lengthened and stretched out, so her lips were pulled back, like a bloodred line around her teeth. Her teeth not only grew but multiplied, going from a single row of flat teeth to row after row of razor-sharp daggers, so her mouth resembled that of an anglerfish.
Her skull seemed to expand, growing larger. The silken black hair remained, billowing out from her head like a dark halo, but it appeared thinner and stringier, since her scalp had gotten bigger.
The only thing about her that remained mostly unchanged was her torso. It lengthened and thinned out, becoming more skeletal, so her ribs and spine protruded grotesquely. But her human breasts remained the same, the bikini top barely concealing them, since the growth of her body had stretched out the fabric.
With the transformation apparently complete, Penn stepped closer to Gemma. She tilted her head back and forth, looking like some sort of human-sparrow hybrid, and blinked at Gemma.
“Now,” Penn said, her voice a distorted version of her normal one. “The real lesson begins.”
While Daniel untied the boat, Harper stood at the bow, staring in the direction where the song was coming from. She kept her hands pressed to her ears, afraid of what would happen to her if she listened to the song.
Her hands weren’t completely soundproof, though, and some of the music still got in. It would be impossible for her to ever explain the way it made her feel, but the easiest way was that it dulled her senses.
Her panic over Gemma’s disappearance or even Alex diving into the choppy water almost completely stopped when she listened to the music. If Daniel hadn’t been there, trying to talk sense into her, she might have stayed in the cove forever, or at least as long as the song kept going.
“Oh, shit,” Daniel said, loud enough that Harper could hear him clearly, and she turned back to face him. He stood in front of the wheel, his expression grim. “No, come on, baby, please don’t do this.”
“Daniel?” Harper went closer to the cabin and stared up at him. “What’s wrong?”
“The boat.” He grimaced. “She won’t start.”
“What do you mean, she won’t start?” Harper asked, her voice getting shrill. “Why did you even turn it off?”
“To conserve gas, but she’ll start. She just needs a little loving.”
Daniel hopped down and went around the back of the boat. Harper followed him, wondering if she should just dive in the water like Alex had. He flipped open the hatch over the engine, and while she didn’t understand what he was doing, she heard a few loud bangs as he attempted to fix something. Based on the expletives he shouted, she didn’t think it was going well.
“Daniel!” Harper shouted, her ears still plugged. “I think I should go in after Alex. I can’t wait here like this. Gemma needs me.”
“Harper!” Daniel stopped what he was doing and looked around.
“No, I need to—”
“No, Harper, listen!” He held up his hand, which was covered with black grease from the engine. “The song stopped.”
“It did?” She lowered her hands, and all she could hear was the ocean around her. No more music. “Why? Do you think Alex did something?”
“I don’t know.” Daniel shut the hatch and stood up. “But hopefully I fixed the problem.”
Wiping his hands on his jeans, he ran around to the front of the boat. He climbed up to the captain’s seat, and Harper followed right behind. When he turned the ignition, it made the same chugging noise it’d made back at the dock, but it didn’t start.
“Daniel—” Harper began, but he held up his hand to silence her.
“Come on,” Daniel muttered to the boat. “Just start up one more time. For me.” The boat made a loud clanking sound, followed by the engine roaring to life. “Yes!” As they pulled away from the cove, he glanced down at Harper. “I told you she would start.”
“I never doubted you for a second,” Harper lied.
“Where are we going?” Daniel asked. He steered them in the direction Alex had gone, but that was all he had.
“I don’t know.” Harper shook her head, straining her eyes to see anything out on the horizon. “The only thing that’s out here is Mr. McAllister’s place.”
“You mean Bernie’s Island?” Daniel asked, pointing at the dark shape of the island a ways in front of them.
“Yeah.” She nodded. “The song sounded like it was coming from that direction, didn’t it?”
“I think so.”
“Let’s head there, then.” She crossed her arms and stared straight ahead. “How come that song didn’t make you crazy like it did me and Alex?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head and glanced down at her. “How come it made you crazy? It was like it hypnotized you or something.”
“I don’t know.” She let out a deep breath. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen again.”
When they got closer to the island, Daniel turned off the spotlight at Harper’s suggestion. They had no idea what was going on there, but they both agreed that having the element of surprise would probably work in their favor.
He pulled The Dirty Gull up next to the dock, and before it had even come to a complete stop, Harper tried to jump over the railing. Before she could make it onto the dock, Daniel grabbed her arm.
“No,” he whispered, his voice low so no one could overhear them. “I’m not letting you go there alone.”
“But—” Harper tried to argue with him, but he just shook his head.
Probably knowing she wouldn’t give him enough time to tie up the boat, he just tossed the anchor over. Daniel climbed onto the dock first, then helped Harper down.
Her feet had barely touched the planks when she heard Gemma yelling. She couldn’t understand completely what she was saying, but it sounded like she was shouting for Alex. Harper wanted to run up to the cabin, but Daniel took her hand, keeping her from running into a dangerous situation like a crazed idiot.
They still hurried along the dock, nearly running, but they slowed when they started up the trail. All the lights in the cabin were on, and they could hear Penn and Gemma talking. The wind blowing through the trees tried to carry their voices away, so they couldn’t understand them.