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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]].
You watch your friend as she waeves her way around roots and rocks without changing her pace at all. Clearly acquainted with the lay of the land.
[["Are we almost there?"]] You ask.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."We're here," your friend announces.
You see a small dilapidated shack come into view. It's made completely of wood which is rotted in various locations. A door is situated in the middle, with one window that is just to the right of the door. Too small to live in comfortably even for one person.
You two stop a few yards away from the shack. [[Your friend turns and meets your gaze for the first time since your house.]]The mood from your friend feels different now. Instead of just walking around with a shell of her's, it's actually her staring at you now.
"Are you tired? How are you feeling?" She asks you.
You tell her that you're okay. Even when something is clearly wrong with her she's still looking out for others.
"Are we going in there?" You ask. Your skin crawls just looking at the shack. Nothing in the village has ever come close to looking as creepy as this.
"There aren't any bugs, no rats, no little monsters running around in there," your friend jokes. You know that she knows that you won't go in there if she makes you anymore uncomfortable. "We'll be in and out quick. I can explain everything once we're inside."
You and her walk until you're both just [[in front of the shack.]]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 death count 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.”
[[(Go back to the beginning)|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 down 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 out 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 more than unsettled and still have a desire to turn back, but you can't find it in you to do so. You feel a curiosity now that you've made it this far, but you feel something else as well. You feel as if some higher power is beckoning for you to continue. 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 turns to you.
“Listen to me.” She grabs both of your shoulders. "You're going to see something that I can't describe, but it's told me that it isn't here to hurt anybody. I'm here with you. Don't leave my side."
You would turn back now if you weren't too terrified to walk down the corridor alone. You feel light-headed from the anticipation. You're rooted to where you stand. It's like imaginary strings are bound to you, preventing you from doing anything other than experiencing what is to come next.
[[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, similar to the 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.
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]].Right as your friend is about to open the door, you feel that familiar tingling under your feet. You've felt this a million times before, and though you've come a long way, you'd be lying to yourself if you said you were used to it. You put your hand on your friend's shoulder.
"You feel that too, right?" You manage to shakily spit out. "A tremor. We need to head back-"
Suddenly, your friend takes a hold of your hand, clenching it tightly.
"Wait," she says.
You're confused and feeling that same anxiousness creep up in you again, but you listen to her. A few seconds turn into a few minutes and you realize that the tremor isn't picking up at all. It remains at a small tingle, a low hum beneath your feet.
[["What?"]] You blurt out."You'll be alright," you're friend tells you. She still hasn't let go of your hand. Instead, she leads you, taking a few steps away from the shack.
"The rumbling... It's gone?" You're confused.
She leads you closer to the shack than when you first felt the tremor. It's subtle, but you can feel the tingling again. It's ever so slightly more noticeable as you step closer.
"Is it..." You piece it together. "No. It's //in// there?"
"Yes." Your friend let's go your hand. It feels a bit sore, you didn't expect that kind of strength from her.
[[It just now hits you.]]"I-I'm not sure we should go in there." You take a step back to where you can't feel the tremor. You take a step forward to where you can. You're not imagining it.
"Listen, I know it's scary, but I need you to trust me." Your friend steps closer to you, cupping your face in her hands. "I've been here a lot. You know that I would never hurt you. Please trust me."
You see a glimmer in her eyes. Is she going to cry? You also just now notice bags under her eyes. You know that you can trust her. As far as you can remember, she's never even raised her voice at you once. But this is different. The more you think about what could be inside of the shack, the more your heart rate starts to pick up.
You peer into the window, but you're only met with absolute darkness. You couldn't make anything out even if you wanted to hallucinate something up.
You stare into the darkness long and hard, your mouth going as dry as cotton.
[[Disagree?]]Your chest rises and falls as you let out long and uneven breaths. Your friend wraps her arms around you, she stains the shoulder of your shirt in her tears. She's just as shaken as you are, if not more.
"You..." Your eyes go wide. "You've been meeting up with this... this..."
She lifts her head from you shoulder and silently shakes her head. You gently pull away from her and step toward the cage.
"What... What are you?" You ask. You get no response. As you stare into the cage, you notice that it's empty now, as if nothing was ever in there to begin with. You stare at the dirt wall on the other side of the bars. There's no way you imagined any of that, and yet you can't convince yourself that it was real.
[["What is it?"]] You ask your friend, who's been watching you the entire time."I don't know..." She stares at the ground. Tears are still flowing from her eyes as she speaks. "All I remember is that on the first day I saw it, I woke up in this room without remembering ever having walked here before. I saw the shadows and the two white orbs and tried to run, but I couldn't... Something was stopping me. It told me to come visit every once in a while, that it had "an important task for me". That I could help stop what was going to happen. After it said that, the first tremor started."
Your head snaps back to the cage again. Nothing. You still can't shake the feeling of that thing still being in the room, but the cage is most definitely empty.
"Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell the village?" You feel horrified that she's been witholding this information since the first tremor happened.
"I-I couldn't. It wouldn't let me. It told me the time wasn't right. Even when I tried to say anything, something would stop me. It's like //something// is controlling me whenever I try to go against what this thing says."
You want to ask her more, to explain more, but not here. Not in the presence of this thing.
[["Let's leave."]] You tell her.You two leave the shack and make it back to the village. When you both had left, it was still early in the day, the sun hanging high in the sky. But now, the moon has taken its place and all the villagers have retreated to their homes. You could've sworn that you hadn't been in the shack for more than an hour.
You both agree to sleep together at her house and find yourselves both laying in the same bed, despite there being an empty guest room that you could take. After what you both saw, you can't bring yourselves to sleep alone. Before you can get to ask anymore questions, you feel sleepiness weighing heavy on your eyes, and you [[pass out]] next to your friend.You wake with a start. It's completely dark. You extend your arm to the side, brushing against your friend. She's still asleep. You can feel the ground shaking and hear some of the furniture in her house moving, but for some reason, you don't feel the movement of the tremor like you usually do.
This time, you feel as if millions of fingers are brushing against your back, arms, legs, and head as you lay in the bed. Along with this new sensation, you can hear barely audible disembodied whispers speaking in some sort of foreign tongue. You strain to hear what they're saying, and you can swear that you can almost understand them, but you're just shy of breaking the barrier.
"Wake up." You urgently shake your friend. She stays asleep. Is she not feeling this too? If she could, you can't imagine that she would be able to sleep through it.
Just as you grow desperate enough to scream, you hear one whisper rise above the rest.
[["Go."]]You take your hand off your friend at hearing this one word. You know exactly what it's instructing you to do. You lay your head back down on the pillow for a minute, staring into the darkness as you ponder on that one word.
The two white orbs from earlier seep back into your mind, the power and mysteriousness behind them still fresh. You have so many unanswered questions. Even though you're terrified of whatever that thing is, you're fully aware of the fact that you can't avoid it now. You'd have to go back eventually, whether by your own volition or not.
You pinch the bridge of your nose and let a frustrated and exhausted sigh hiss through your teeth. You dispel the white orbs from your imagination. You don't know if you could go back to sleep with the whispering and tremor going on.
[[Go back to the shack alone?]]
[[Wait for your friend to wake up?]]You decide that you can't take another minute of sitting by idly after hearing the whisper. Getting up as silently as you can, you put your shoes on and head out into the night.
The moment you reached the forest, the whispering subsided, as did the invisible fingers brushing against you. And as if a map was branded into your memory, you navigate your way to the shack with no issue. It feels as though you've made this trip millions of times with how quickly you make it back. You notice that there is no tremor, however, as you make it to the front of the door.
You hesitate as you reach out for the handle. That same peculiar sensation of something tugging at you to go in has returned. You start to wonder if you're doing everything of your own free will.
The deep voice breaks you free of your thoughts. Your legs tremble at hearing the booming voice echo inside your head. You muster all your courage to go in, fearing more what would happen if you tried to deny [[its request.]]You decide that it would be better to return to the shack with numbers. Your friend is more familiar with the creature than you are, there has to be more that she can share with you before you inevitably return. You sit up in the bed and recline against the bed and stare out into the darkness, trying your hardest to ignore the whispers and the invisible fingers.
Over the course of the night, you continue to hear that one word repeated, drilling itself into your psyche. You feel your sanity tested with each second that passes, waiting for day to break and [[your friend to wake.]] Without lighting the lantern at the door, you quickly make your way down the steps and through the corridor. Your instincts are telling you that it's imperative that you get down there as quickly as possible, though you're not sure why.
As you step into the prison room, you notice that there's still a lack of any tremor, whisper, or phantom contact. You stare into the darkness of the other half of the room. Your stomach turns, as you imagine those two white orbs staring at you from the darkness, with you incapable of staring back until you light the lantern.
Several minutes pass as you push your hand forward and retract it over the lantern. Your fear and your instincts are waging war with one another inside you. You break free of any inhibition and rapidly light the lantern, [[revealing what waits for you in the darkness.]]For one moment you spot the two white orbs staring at you, which makes you jump. The silhouetted creature was watching you struggle the entire time to come face to face with it. You stand there, petrified as you come face to face with the terror again, but this doesn't last for long. As if operating on a mind of their own, your feet drag you towards the cage against your better judgment.
"Good." You hear the voice fill every inch of your head, making you shiver.
Suddenly, a stream of shadow shoots out from the body of the creature and through the bars straight to you. You open your mouth to scream, but the stream stops you, filling your mouth. You can't taste anything, but you feel your body being filled with an unnatural coldness as the stream continues invading you. Four more streams shoot out from the cage and fill your eyes and ears, blinding and deafening you until you're not even sure where you are anymore. This continues for what feels like an eternity, until you're enveloped in a void of absolute darkness.
You can't feel the sensation of standing anymore, nor the rest of your body for that matter. You just feel yourself floating in nothingness. You spot out the two orbs somewhere in that distant darkness, slowly making their way to you. They stop before your bodiless conciousness.
"Are you ready to remember who you are?"You wake up for the second time. This time, there are no whispers, fingers, or tremors to accompany you. You rub at the back of your neck, sore from falling asleep sitting up. The sun is shining through the crack in the curtains to the window. You look to your side, but your friend isn't there.
You yawn and head out of the room to search for her. You check the kitchen, bathroom, guest room, but you can't find her.
"Hello?" You call out, growing concerned.
Soon enough, you head outside and see nobody else outside. On such a sunny and beautiful day, it'd be more unlikely to not see everyone out and about. Your heart flutters and you begin to panic as the silence of the village weighs down on you.
Without taking another moment to think, [[you head out into the forest.]]Not a single bird, rodent, or insect can be heard as you navigate past the trees. You feel as if you're the only soul left in the world. This sensation of being alone pushes every other thought out of your mind, and you break out into a full sprint to the shack. She has to be there.
You sprint through the door, down the stairs, through the corridor, and into the room.
"Where is everyone?" You ask with a panicked tone. Your friend isn't in the room.
You get no response. You hesitate to light the lantern that would reveal the prison on the other side of the room. You don't know if you have the strength or courage to face that thing alone.
"Hello?" You pathetically call out. Still silence.
With your heart pounding violently, you turn and reach out to the lantern. Just as you're about to light it, the lantern falls from the wall and shatters on the ground. Behind you, you can hear the rest of the lanters that line the corridor walls fall too. Darkness swallows you up.
"Have you forgotten your mission?" The deep voice roars inside of your head.
You fall over, recoiling from the sheer loudness of the roar. But instead of hitting the ground, you find yourself in a free fall, descending into darkness.