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The ground steadies itself, the shaking stops. You inspect your home to make sure that nothing is out of order. All clear. Your house is as neat as you always keep it.
For the past few months or so, tremors have been causing unrest in your peaceful little village. On the map, you guys are isolated and very far from the nearest village. Rarely does anyone visit, aside from the occasional traveling merchant or messenger bringing important news. For the most part, your village also keeps to itself, no one really leaves as there is no purpose. For all you know, you could be the only ones experiencing these tremors. No one has dared attempting to leave the village after these strange occurrences began.
After checking your home for a second time, you go to head outside to tend to your small garden. Your best friend recommended it as a means of forgetting about the tremors and it's helped a little. Before you can get your things ready, you hear a [[knock at the door.]]As if she was summoned by your thoughts, the best friend in question is the one behind the door when you answer. She greets you with that same disarming smile that makes everyone around her calmer. Gardening can wait. You haven't seen her for a while.
You invite her to come in, but she refuses. You notice [[an expression on her face]] that you can't remember ever having seen before. This raises a red flag in your mind.
[["What's wrong?"]] you ask.She looks left and right, presumably searching for anybody walking by that could listen in. Since the village is so small and uneventful, any bit of gossip makes waves among the people. If it's a matter she wants to keep private, you wonder why she can't just come in and talk about it?
"I can explain at my house," she says. [["Are you busy?"]]
Now that you think of it, you haven't visited her place in a while. The tremors had occupied most of [[your thoughts]] after they started happening, making you forget about most things outside of immediate needs that needed to be tended to.
"Oh, uh, no. I'm ready to go now."
You feel excited to visit her place after who knows how long. Whatever is bothering her, it can't be something that can't easily be resolved. After that, you two can spend some time together, [[you hope]].Gardening can [[wait|"What's wrong?"]].Your thoughts and the thoughts of others. Some people have began suffering from insomnia, paranoia, anxiety, depression, and a multitude of other issues after the tremors started shaking the land. Some have handled the situation better than others. You're lucky to be one of the few people that is steadily finding ways to [[cope with it]].
Now it seems as though the situation has flipped for the first time ever, and you're the one that's going to have to be a pillar of support for [[your friend|"What's wrong?"]].You have your friend to thank for this. She's offered her ear and ideas to you. Even in the face of such a bizarre and bleak situation, she's one of the few that's come out seemingly unscathed by the tremors. You don't know what you (and plenty of other people that's she's helped) would do [[without her|your thoughts]].As you two are walking to your destination, you take in the sights of the village.
No buildings that you see appear to have sustained any damage at all. Children are playing, small animals run around, men and women are conversing, traders and merchants are selling various goods, everything is as it always is. The tremors are never strong enough to cause any actual destruction, but they have left cracks in the psychological foundations of this [[lazy little village]].
You and a few others that you both pass by [[attempt to make conversation with your friend]]. Otherwise, the walk is silent.
You both walk past all civilization and reach the outskirts of the village, far enough that there won't be any eyes on you. You've reached [[the forest]]. You've never known war, drought, starvation, or plague. The struggles before the tremors have always been manageable and trivial by most accounts. Your village is self-sustaining, leaving very little to be desired on the outside, save for the most ambitious of people.
You love the innocence of the people and how unaffected your home is by the dealings of everyone outside of it. These tremors are testing you and your people, but you're certain that the tight-knit community you have will be able to overcome it, just as it's overcome any other [[little obstacle before|you hope]].Strange.
You know the way to your friend's house and you both would've passed it a ways back. What could your friend possibly need out this far from the village? Nobody lives out in the forest, as far as you know.
"We're almost there," she informs you. She walks through the line of trees, the border between your village and the wilderness. You push [[onwards]].With a little over two weeks since you'd both seen each other, you try to catch up with her. Plenty of other people see you both walking together and try to strike up conversation, though most of the attention is directed toward your friend.
Your friend is quite popular in the community, an amiable and outgoing person that many confide in. You, however, are a bit more on the reserved side and talk to very few people outside of family and your friend.
Your friend simply smiles and gives a short greeting before continuing to walk on, gracefully cutting short any outside conversations.
Anytime you try making small talk, all you get is "hmms", "huhs", "ohs", and the likes. Mere affirmations that your friend acknowledges you speaking to her, rather than her actually listening or responding to what you're saying. This is out of character for her, and your curiosity is growing with [[each step you take|you hope]].You look [[left|forest description]] and [[right|forest description]] as you follow closely behind your friend. You can't remember if you've ever walked out this far from the village. Luckily, from what has been recorded about the wilderness surrounding the village, there isn't much danger out here. The worst that could happen is that you both get lost, but your friend isn't as irresponsible as to embark on a path she doesn't know. But it's exactly this knowledge that raise [[some questions]].
But before you can ask anything, [[something strange happens]].Trees, grass, some plants you've seen before (but can't identify), and some rocks. The singing and screeching of birds above your head, the skittering of squirrels around you. The sunlight bleeds down at random from the canopy. Beautiful sights and sounds, but nothing worth noting.Where are you both headed? Just how much farther do you both have to walk? What are you going to do once you get there? How long has your friend been going out here? Oh yeah, and what was it that your friend had to tell you? Just walking out here is a bit mystifying, it almost made you forget why you even came out here in the first place.
All of these questions keep piling up and making new ones, as you continue following your friend deeper into the forest.You couldn't be sure if it was just you at first, but now you're certain it isn't just you. You can feel a tremor happening right now as you both continue to walk deeper into the forest. At first, it was nearly unnoticeable, just a low hum beneath your feet, but as you continue walking down this path, you can clearly feel the ground vibrating. It's as if the ground is breathing.
That same anxiety you felt after you experienced the first tremor starts to creep back into you. Getting used to isolated situations is a different thing. Here, you're possibly //walking// towards the source.
Just as you're getting ready to voice your concerns, you see a dilapidated shack come into view.
[["We're here,"]] your friend announces.You both stop a few feet away from the dilapidated shack. It's an odd looking building, with one door right in the middle and one small window just to the right of the door. It's fairly small, with the wood it's made of rotting in certain areas. The materials are either cheap and not built for longevity, or this shack has been out here for a while. You don't remember anyone ever mentioning this place.
There's also no doubt that the rumbling is coming from this area.
Your anxiety has transformed into fear now, as this is an unnatural thing and unlike anything you've ever encountered before. [[Your friend turns to you now]]."Are we really going in there?" you ask before she gets the chance to say anything.
She nods. "I promise you nothing bad will happen."
You try to stare through the window from where you're standing, but can't make anything out. Pitch black, the inside looks consumed by darkness from where you're standing.
Your friend can tell that you're having your doubts. "I wouldn't make you do anything that would hurt you."
You know that this is true, but you can't shake the ominous atomsphere that the shack is giving you. Your mouth goes dry and you hesitate.
[[Disagree?]]You just can't bring yourself to turn your back on your closest friend. After a few more moments of hesitation, you let out a big sigh and reluctantly agree to follow her in. You can see the tension in your friend melt away and a look of relief spreads across her face and posture. You're heart is pounding so hard it feels as if it could burst out of your chest any moment. You follow your friend [[into the shack]].
"I-I don't think this is a good idea..." you shake your head. You can't hide the worry in your voice.
Your friend looks you in the eyes. You can see a sense of desperation in them now. You've never seen your friend show these emotions before. She's always has an answer for everything.
"Please, I really need you." She's practically begging you at this point and you feel guilty for even putting her in this scenario.
In this desperate image you can see yourself. All those times that you were the one on the other end using her as your means of support through times of uncertainty and darkness. She waits for your response, her eyes fixed on you. You look into the window again, searching for an answer.
[[Change your mind?|Agree?]]
[[Refuse and go home?]]"I'm sorry..."
You feel guilty for turning your back on your best friend, but your gut tells you that you shouldn’t enter the shack at all costs. Your friend looks hurt and dazed as you refuse her once again. Before you turn to head back to the village, you beg for her to go back with you, too. Your friend murmurs that she can’t, before stepping inside the dilapidated shack by herself, leaving you to journey back alone. All this emotional strain has you feeling drained and ready to fall into [[a deep slumber]] the second you get home.
You awake the next morning to the most intense tremor you’ve felt to date. You have no idea how long it’s been going or if it’s the reason you woke up then and there, but you can tell that this one is different from the other tremors. This one is dangerous. You lay in bed, afraid of getting up and losing your footing. The ceiling looks as though it could collapse any minute.
After what feels like an eternity, the tremors eventually settle down. You get up shakily, still in a state of shock from the intensity of what just happened. You get dressed and inspect your home. Somehow, everything is in order. You wonder how it's possible, but don't ponder on it for too long. You want to get what just happened out of your head.
You get ready and head out for the day. You have some [[errands that need to be completed]].Stepping outside, you see that some homes and buildings have taken damage to varying degrees. Some are completely toppled over and completely destroyed and some will be fine after some minor repairs. What you don't notice is any other home that is in an untouched condition like your own.
You reach the town center and notice bodies upon bodies being grouped up and piled together, forming a mountain of men, women, and children. There had never been a death that you knew of caused by any tremor until today. There had never been such a large number of simultaneous deaths that you’ve seen until today, either.
As you take in the shock of the carnage that has unfolded in your peaceful little village, you feel a deep voice fill your entire head.
[[“You. You could have prevented this.”|Start]]
She's nervous. Anxious? She's always been the most laid-back and calm person you've ever known. But her slightly disheveled hair and the crease running along her forehead tell you something is wrong. [[What could be bad enough that it could shake the pillar of support of many lives?|knock at the door.]]You’re greeted with absolute darkness. The only thing you can make out is the dust being illuminated from the sunlight that pours in from the window. You hear your friend shuffle a bit and illuminate a lantern that hangs on the wall between the window and the door. The entire room is bare, but you see a set of stairs leading underground that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise in the dark. Your friend walks down them, gesturing with her hand for you to follow. You take a peek down the stairs. They stretch for even longer than the height of the shack. At the bottom, you spot [[a small glimmer]].Once you reach the bottom, any doubt you might have had is entirely dispelled now. It feels like you walked into a living, beating heart. While this tremor is still gentle compared to the random ones you feel in the village, it’s still a feeling that you’re not accustomed to. The air down here is dry, the atmosphere feels heavy, weighing down on you. A narrow stone corridor stretches ahead of you, with lanterns hanging on either side at random intervals. You don’t know how to describe it, but you can //feel// the presence of something else somewhere in that space down there with you and your friend. Your friend, her back to you, takes a deep breath and continues on into the veil of darkness. You feel unsettled and still have a desire to turn back, but your curiosity is stronger at this point. You push onward, following [[the flickering figure of your friend]].
You come to the end of the corridor, a large hollowed out hole in the dirt. It looks incomplete, as if whoever was in charge of construction just walked off in the middle of the job. The light from the lanterns in the corridor provide little vision, and darkness swallows the other half of the room. Your friend reaches for an unlit lantern hanging on the wall next to you. Before she lights it, she warns you:
“What you’re about to see is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Stay calm. You're safe, I promise.”
Despite her continued reassurances that you’ll be fine, you feel a knot form in your throat. [[She lights the lantern]].A cage made of rows of metal bars crossing over one another takes up the entirety of the other side of the room. From the thickness of the bars to the pristine condition that the metal has been kept in, it’s obvious that this is meant to trap something of incredible strength. But on first glance, the prison is empty, nothing inside. You shoot an inquisitive glance at your friend, but all she does is point inside the cage. Looking back again, you notice that the empty space in it is actually being filled by a large and formless silhouette. A mass which is composed of what can only be described as a physical form of shadows put into the body of... a creature? You aren't certain of what to label this being in the cage.
In the body made of darkness, two glimmering white orbs appear, appearing gradually akin to a manner in which eyes slowly open. These orbs lack pupils or irises. There’s no way of being certain, and yet you’re sure that it's //staring// right at [[you]]. “You,” a voice deeper than any you’ve ever heard before addresses you.
It’s coming from this thing inside of the cage. Your friend slips her fingers into the emptiness of your own and she stares at you with the soothing glance that she always gives you before you unpack all your troubles onto her. Suddenly, the low rumbling that you had nearly forgotten about picks up in intensity, slowly and gradually. It climbs to a magnitude that leaves the two white orbs behind the bars vibrating violently. You have a hard time catching your breath and tears flood your eyes, spilling out uninhibited. [[Several thoughts invade your mind throughout the duration of this tremor]].
“You,” the voice speaks again. There is no mouth that the voice comes from, but you can be sure that it’s coming from the body of darkness. The rumbling slowly returns to its subdued form.
“You’ve done your world a great service by coming here. Your people and you shall be rewarded for this act of courage.”
Without elaborating on what any of it means, the two white orbs slowly vanish. The body stays there, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist anymore, but it might as well be an empty space without the two orbs to let you know the creature is there. You’re left speechless, constricting your friend’s hand after the events that have unfolded fully register in [[your mind|Start]].
You wonder if the village can feel this tremor.
You wonder about how long your friend has been hiding this from everybody.
Why has she been hiding this from everybody?
You feel pity, knowing now that this is why your friend has been so withdrawn.
You feel angry towards her, towards this //thing//, towards yourself for feeling so powerless.
More than anything, you feel afraid. You clench your friend's hand, waiting for [[the end|you]].