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The ground steadies itself, the shaking finally stops. You unclench your fists and take a deep breath, and do a quick walk through your home, making sure that [[nothing is broken]] or out of place, not that it ever is.
These tremors started wreaking havoc in your lazy and peaceful village a few months back. Nobody has been seriously harmed and no property has taken any serious damage that you know of, but it has [[shaken your village in other respects that can't be measured.]]
With plenty of sunlight left in the day, now would be a good time to tend to the garden. You picked up gardening only after the tremors began. There's something relaxing about being alone with the plants and seeing them grow each day. Before you can get your tools ready, you hear a [[knock at the door.]]A familiar voice calls out at the door. It's your best friend. Without any hesitation, you put down what you're holding and immediately go to open the door. It's been a week or two since you've last seen her.
Those familiar eyes lock with yours as you open the door. The shine in them is faint, nearly gone. There's a slight frown on her face, something that you swear you've never seen before. [[Is she sad?]]
"Come on in," you extend an arm with a smile.
She shakes her head. "Not right now. Can you come out?"
[["What's wrong?"]] you ask. Something is up for sure if she's denying your invitation.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.
"There's... There's someone that wants to meet you." She says.
This raises an eyebrow. "Meet me?"
"Yes, it's important that you meet them. You're all they talk about."
Well this is unexpected. After the tremors started, many people stuck to socializing in their little circles and became less active overall. Less singing in the streets, less parties held out in the open, less festivities all around. [[Not that many of those celebrations concerned you in the first place.]]
"Can you come out?" She asks, wrestling you free from your thoughts.
Your curiosity is pretty high. You want to meet this person and see what it is that they're saying about you. More than anything though, you just want to hang out with your friend. If you're not up to spending time with this mystery person, you can probably just persuade her to do something else with you.
[["Sure, let's go."|you hope]] Gardening can wait.Gardening can [[wait|"What's wrong?"]].As you two walk through the village, you pass by the usual sights. Cheerful children play and chase each other around. Housewives chat away with one another. Stalls with vendors beckoning you over to buy meats, freshly baked breads, or produce that they've grown themselves. You avoid chickens that frantically run around, cattle that is being herded in the middle of traffic, horses that both standby idly and are taking their riders elsewhere. Even the tremors haven't been able to slow business in your little village. With it being so isolated and distant from any other village or town, everyone has had to learn to be self-sustaining. Luckily, the area the village is situated in is more than enough to provide everything the people would need and you've never run into any hardship for as long as you've been alive here.
"So," you break the silence between the two of you, "who is this person you want me to meet?"
[["Oh-"]] She's interrupted before she can Tell you anything.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]].You two stop just before you penetrate the lind of trees, the border separating village and outside. No one that you know of lives out this far. There's no need for it. You hear the songs of birds from inside. Luckily, there aren't any truly dangerous animals outside of the village that you know of, either. The real danger is in getting lost.
"This person lives out in the forest?" You ask.
"Yes." She continues to stare ahead as she answers you.
"Who would live out this far? Who is this person?"
Your friend looks at you this time. It's the first time you've noticed the bags under her eyes. "It's a surprise. They told me to keep it a secret until you meet them. They made me swear."
"Who..." You search deep into the archives of your mind, drawing from all information to try and formulate some sort of answer as to who this person could be. You think long and hard, but you can't think of anyone in particular. You just don't know anyone that well, aside from your friend.
"They don't want to wait for too long. They've been looking forward to today." Your friend walks ahead before you can ask anything else. You hesitate, but you decide [[to follow|onwards]] on along.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. For some strange reason, this all feels familiar to you. You've never been out this far from the village before, and yet, you //feel// like you should know where you both are headed. You feel like an imaginary rope is pulling you ever so slightly along the path you and your friend are walking.
You watch your friend as she weaves her way around roots and rocks without changing her pace at all. Clearly acquainted with the lay of the land and where she's headed.
"Can you give me a hint?" You ask.
"Sorry." She keeps walking without looking at you.
"Is this a trick? Are you planning something?"
"A trick? Me? You think I would try to trick you?" She's right. You know that she wouldn't make you come out this far just to pull a joke on you. But this only leaves you bubbling over with more questions.
"How far are we walking? How many times have you come out here? Who-"
A [[dilapidated shack]] emerges from between the trees, a small distance away from you and your friend.
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, providing occassional warmth as you walk through it. Beautiful sights and sounds, but [[nothing worth noting.|onwards]]The grass and plant life surrounding it is overgrown and wild, clearly untended for.It's made completely of a dark type 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 and in too poor a condition to comfortably live in, even for one person. The sensation of //déjà vu// still hasn't left you, even though you swear you've never seen this building before, much less known of it's existence.
"Someone lives here?" You scrunch your nose up at the thought of what could be inside.
Your friend makes eye contact with you for the first time since you've walked into the forest. Her disposition has changed, you can tell. There's still that blankness in her eyes, as if she's not there, but somewhere else.
"They don't live in there. They're staying there for a bit."
"Why? Why don't they just use one of the houses on the outskirts? There's plenty of them." You just can't imagine anybody wanting to live out here. Not even a drunkard would stop to take a nap in a shack like this.
[["You can ask them once you talk to them."]] Your friend makes her way to the door. You follow her.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.
"Fine..." You murmur.
"Thank you so, so much." You can see the tension in your friend melt away, her shoulders sag and a look of relief spreads across her face and body.
Your 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 this fragility before. She's always has an answer for everything, a cure for all her problems.
"Please, I really need you to do this." 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 to go in?]]
[[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. A single tear trails down her cheek. Before you turn to head back to the village, you beg for her to go back with you, too.
"I can't..." Your friend murmurs, before stepping inside the dilapidated shack by herself, leaving you to journey back alone.
As you retrace the path to the village, you can hear a high pitched ringing in your ears that grow louder and louder. You feel a force, an impulse, trying to make you turn and go back, but you fight against it until the ringing ceases and you can't feel the urge anymore. For the remainder of the walk, you feel a headache instead. This headache coupled with the emotional strain of having to turn your back on your friend 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 balance. 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 quickly inspect your home. Somehow, everything is in order. You wonder how it's possible that everything is fine, but don't contemplate 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 is any other home that is in a flawless condition that matches your own. There's also a lack of anyone else, human or animal, out on the street beside you. How long have you slept? It might be afternoon, but even then you should've seen someone by now. You feel a sense of dread, though you're not sure why. You continue walking until you reach the town center. After you handle your errands, you'll go to your friend's house.
You reach the town center and noticem mangled and bloodied body upon mangled and bloodied body being grouped up and piled together, forming a mountain of deceased men, women, and children. Some people carry the bodies on shoulders, adding them to the pile of casualities. You look around and notice that bodies are being dragged out from under the debris and rubble, no doubt crushed to death by the collapsing of the buildings. 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. Hope is dead.”
[[(Go back to the beginning)|Start]]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 can't shake this feeling of Déjà vu, and now you feel an obligation to see this through, even if you're terrified. 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 invisible 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. You and your people 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 if the village can feel it as intensely as you can.
Why has she been hiding this from everybody?
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]]."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?"
She leads you closer to the shack than when you first felt the tingling. It's subtle, but you can feel the tingling again. It's grows more noticeable as you step closer.
"Is it..." You piece it together. "No. It's //in// there?"
"Yes." Your friend lets 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. This is real.
"Nothing bad will happen, I promise. I've been here multiple times and I'm fine. Right?"
This other realization is even more horrifying to you. She's been coming to this place, what you're sure is the epicenter of these tremors and she hasn't told anyone? She hasn't told you? How could she keep this a secret from everyone? You can feel your legs shaking as your brain struggles to process everything.
"No... No, we should go back to the village."
"Please. The thing in there said that you can help stop the tremors. No one else, just you. Please trust me. You know I've never hurt you before." Her voice wavers as she begs you. You clench your jaw tightly. You try to look through the window, but you're met with pure darnkess. You can't make anything out inside of the shack.
[[Agree to go in?]]
[[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 want to get angry with her, but you just can't. Even now you can't bring yourself to reprimand her.
"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. They don't tickle like normal fingers do, instead they feel like ice being dragged against your skin. 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 either way.
[[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 fingers touching you. 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 creep through every every inch of your head, making you shiver.
Suddenly, a tendril made 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 tendril stops you, filling your mouth. You can't taste anything, but you feel your body being filled with a coldness as the tendril continues invading you. Four more tendrils shoot out from the cage and fill your eyes and ears, blinding and deafening you until you can't hear or see anything anymore. This continues for what feels like an eternity, until you're enveloped in a void of absolute darkness.
You can't feel yourself standing anymore. You can't feel your body anymore, either. You just feel yourself floating along in darkness. It reminds you of tales you'd heard about the sea, where at night, when you could barely even make out your own hand in front of your face, the surface of the water revealed nothing. Whatever could be lying underneath the dark cloak of water was invisible.
Before too long, 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 absolutely 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. 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 falls upon you and 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.]]
Your modest home is minimalistic in decor. A few lanterns and candles are dispersed here and there atop a few nightstands and small tables you have draped with white cloths. Everything in your home is white, there's just something pleasant about the color to you.
You're not the greatest patron of art either, but you do have a portrait that is on proud display in the middle of your living area of you and your best friend. A crack has formed down the middle of you two down half of the paining, but you can't be sure if that was there before the [[tremors|Start]] or after.The village's sunflower with anything but a smile on her face. Your whole life you've never seen her look anything other than happy. Plenty of other people in the village always speak so fondly of her, too, and you've never heard of her getting into trouble or being down on her luck. [[What could be causing this?|knock at the door.]]After the tremors started, you became even more reserved and distant from the rest of the village. But even before the tremors, you had very few acquaintances and friends to speak of. You haven't even visited your family in who knows how long. You wouldn't say that you're an outcast, but more of a fly on the wall. An observer, passively watching everything that happens in front of you. Any desire to fit in better or to meet new people has been stifled by these tremors. [[Or so you thought.|"What's wrong?"]]"When are you going to visit again? My little ones love when you come to sing your songs to them!" A woman you've seen before but aren't really familiar with steps in front of your friend, making both of you stop.
"Oh, soon." You friend gives her a smile, but it's one that lacks it's usual luster. "Tell them I'll visit soon. Sorry, but I've got somewhere to be..."
"What's wrong?" The lady prevents either of you from passing. She places a hand on your friends cheek, inspecting her face.
"Is something bothering you?" The lady shoots you a suspicious look with squinted eyes. "Is //someone// bothering you?"
Your friend pulls away from the lady's touch and steps between you and her gaze. "I'm fine, really. Thanks for the concern. Tell them I'll be sure to visit soon and to be good little boys. Have a nice day!"
You're pulled away by the arm and away from what would've been an awkward situation. A sigh escapes from your lips. [[You stare at the ground as you walk.]] Your friend notices this immediately and does what she does best.
"Hey, don't let that get to you," She gently rubs your back as you continue walking. "She's a nice person, she's just a little cold towards those she doesn't know that well."
Your friend is just making excuses, but she has an aura to her that comforts you. You forget about that whole ordeal in no time.
You two walk past the largest well in the village and the [[realization]] hits you.
A reaction like this isn't unusual. They don't all look like this, but a lot of the villagers have made you out to be this troublesome individual, or someone that's not to be trusted. If they're not actively distrusting of you, they barely acknowledge that you exist. You love the village and deep in your heart, you think of this place as your one and only home, but your not sure that it's so receptive to you. With how the majority of the village perceives you, you're surprised that your friend still bothers to spend time with you.
Then again, that's just how selfless and kind she is as a person. If she weren't here, [[you don't know what you'd do.|"Oh-"]]"Where are we going?" You ask her. You stare at the line of trees, the unmarked wilderness outside of the village.
You look at your friend who hasn't answered your question. She's staring absentmindedly into the forest. Her face is completely blank, as if her spirit has left her body and a husk is what's walking beside you.
"Huh?" She comes back to life. "Oh, we're almost there. Just a little bit farther."
You both are rapidly reaching the outskirts of the village, and this area is more sparsely populated. Everything you need is in the center. Most people go out this far for some privacy or to get away for a little while. Whoever lives out this far would either want to stay away from a lot of eyes or isn't comfortable around people.
"They live in the forest."
"What? [[The forest?]]"As you two draw closer to the shack, you notice something strange. Underfoot, you can feel a slight tingling. You feel your skin go cold and you take ahold of your friend's hand.
"We have to go back to the village. I can feel a tremor starting."
You clench her hand and make to turn back, but she stays anchored to where she stands, stopping you from moving.
"What are you doing?" You look at her, wide-eyed.
You tug on her arm, but she doesn't give. Instead, she locks your hand into a vice-like grip, giving you no choice but to stand there. You wait for the tremor to pick up, the inevitable anxiety and hyperventilating that will ensue. A minute that feels like an eternity passes, but you only continue to feel the slight tingling.
[["What?"]]People have developed a lot of new issues after the tremors started. People are more irritable now, more anxious. People lost sleep. When it first started, people would argue with one another over whether they should evacuate the village and start anew elsewhere. But the people living in this village have had generations reside here. Abandoning everything was not an option.
So with time, some grew more accustomed to the new way of living, others continue to live in fear. You fall somewhere in the middle, still anxious, a little depressed from time to time, and you definitely don't sleep as well as you used to. Luckily, you've found things that help you get your mind off of the circumstances, and with the support of your best friend, you're almost certain that you can [[overcome the tremor's grasp on you.|Start]]As you fall and everything fades to darkness, you notice that you can't feel your arms, legs, hands, feet, or face. It's as if you're shedding your skin and turning into nothing but a ghost.
You stop suddenly, suspended somewhere in that absolute darkness. In the distance of that dark void, you see the two white orbs slowly making their way toward you. You dread the sight of them, but there's nothing you can do to get away. You have no body. The orbs stop a small distance away from you.
"You have failed your mission. The punishment for insubordination is that you will be forced to wander this planet without the comfort of any humans around you. If our master feels generous, he may yet come back to reclaim you at some point in the future. Until then, what is to be made of your fate is a good a guess as mine."
The two orbs fade out into the darkness, leaving you alone. What does he mean? You can only wonder before you feel yourself being lifted back out of the darkness and accelerated towards [[a medley of blurry colors.]]You make an attempt to answer, but with no mouth to speak of, you can't. Instead, you continue to observe the two orbs, unsure if it's even your eyes that are witnessing whatever this is.
"Good." The voice sounds pleased. You wonder how it knows what you would've said.
"I can read your mind," the two orbs spin around in a small circle as it explains, "Whatever you are wondering or seek answers for, I shall provide answers, so long as it is within my reach to provide them."
What would you like to ask?
[[Who are you?]]
[[Where am I?]]
[[What am I doing here?]]"Who am I?" The two orbs spin at a dizzying speed and then stop quickly.
"I am the cause for the tremors. These signal the approach of change, as earthquakes are known to alter the lands of this planet. I am a messenger. I am a servant to a higher being. A being that is not of this realm, not of the same existence as you in your current form and I. I have been tasked with observing you, with observing humanity, with observing this planet. And after my master - my apologies, our master - deemed it appropriate to do so, I am to bring you here and have you make the final decision, the decision that will determine everything."
The two orbs move closer until it is more than unbearably uncomfortable. They stop in front of you, to where if you still had a body, you'd imagine that there would be less than an inch of space between the two of you.
"Now as for what am I? I do not know. All I know is what I am supposed to do."
The two orbs move back to a space that makes provides a miniscule amount of relief.
[["Would you like to know anything else?"|"Are you ready to remember who you are?"]]"You are in a space inaccessible to humans. A space catered to provide privacy for you and I, courtesy of my master. Our master. Free of any interruptions - aside from your own thoughts, of course - from the planet you have been living on for these few short years, living amongst the humans to gather information for our master. This is a space to allow you to think over everything and make your final decision, the decision that shall decide everything."
The two orbs vibrate for a moment and then stop.
[["Would you like to know anything else?|"Are you ready to remember who you are?"]]"The most important question of them all. You, similar to myself, are here under the orders of our master. Where we differ is in that you are offered limited free will to make a decision. Your opinion holds weight over our master's next course of action. I am not blessed like you. Enviable, if I am being honest that you area regarded in such esteem by our master."
The two orbs vanish into darkness, but become visible after less than a second.
"You are to decide the fate of humanity, of this planet as a whole. Our master has taken interest in the fragile and rather dull species that resides on this planet, but our master is not so cruel as to annihilate these people without assessing them first. You, being one of our master's many children scattered across the universe, were created in the likeness of humans, to live alongside them and decide if you think that they are worth sparing."
[[Who is this "master"?]]
[[Why can't I remember any of this?]]
[[Why me?]]"Your father, of course. As well as mine, though you are much closer in resembling him than I. As for what he is, I have no answer for that. It is outside my realm of comprehension. Should you choose to go back and ask, I am sure that he would be more than willing to answer that question. [[Would you like to know anything else?|What am I doing here?]]""In order to make sure that these answers came from your own desires, you were stripped of any recollection of your life before this. You were placed in this small village, one that is safe from war and suffering, but one that can still show how cruel humans can be to one another, as experienced by this outsider role that you have been forced to embrace. These memories you have of growing from infant to where you are now are all forged. Those parents that you believed raised you never existed. You were artificially inserted into this small community, believing that you've always been a part of it. The people around you, because most of them know in a sense that you are not one of them, but know not for certain of the fact that you are not truly one of them, bear a sort of subconcious indifference or hatred toward you for encroaching upon their space. This has something to do with humans and their irrational tendency to draw territorial lines and shun those that they see as different. They are not far off for suspecting you to not be who you try to make yourself out to be, but this is of course no fault of your own. That one girl that you have struck up a friendship with, is genuine in how she values you, even though her memories of you are also artificial."
This thing is right. How long have you been living here? You can vaguely make out memories of being a child, playing in a field of flowers, but it comes out blurry. You try to remember when you first met your best friend, the most important person in your life, what you were doing, how you both crossed paths, but you can't. You two being close has always just been. Whenever you try to make out a face for your parents, it just isn't possible. A man and woman's body form in your mind, but their faces are blurry, nonexistent. You're not sure what to make of this. Everything around you is a lie.
[["Would you like to know anything else?"|What am I doing here?]]"For as powerful as our master is, our master is a very busy being. Our master has much to handle, so our master allows the children to handle these decisions. You are one of these children, tasked with handling Earth. You are an extension of our master's will, and whatever you decide to do now will be accepted by our master. If you decide to destroy Earth, you will return to our master and be elevated to a higher rank of existence, with more power than your human body could imagine. You would not have to worry about trying to conform to a society that shuns you and refuses to even offer you the lowest amount of respect. You could spare Earth, but you would have to remain here, as a sign that you consider these people worth sparing and to be your equal. The time to answer is now."
You wonder what you're even supposed to say to this. Too many things cross your mind for you to be able to focus on one thing. Why does Earth have to worry about being destroyed in the first place? What could they have done to upset a being that can apparently destroy Earth without even being present? What is going to happen to you after you make the decision? Is this all just a dream?
Under the pressure of everything, you wish that you could cry, to express your distress at the situation you find yourself in, but you're not afforded that privilege without a body. You wait to see if the being before you answers any of your questions, but it only has one thing to say.
"This is not a dream. I have said everything that is necessary for you to know. It is time for you to make your choice."
You remember your best friend. Is she awake now? She would probably be heading to the shack now if she wasn't there by now to search for you. She'd be the only one to miss you. The only one concerned with what might've happened to you. Even if you were to return now, you wouldn't have much to return to. Is this even a place for you to call your home? Can you truly go back to your old life after having all of this revealed to you?
Several more minutes of silence pass, and you realize that the two orbs are watching you, waiting for your answer.
[[Destroy it?]]"So you think that these people are worth sparing? These insignificant creatures in the larger frame of existence? Very well. But upon our master's orders, I must ask you once more..."
A small flame manifests between you and the orbs. You're not sure why you know, but it's your friend's life that this flame is supposed to represent. The flame slowly flickers out, until nothing but smoke is left between the two of you.
"Do you still choose to spare Earth? Even after the one life that you hold dear has been extinguished? Do you still choose to return to your old life?"
Even with a lack of a body, you feel like somehow you've lost more of yourself. The only person that embraced you, that loved you is now gone. You truly have nothing to return to now.
[[Spare Earth and return to it?]]
[[Destroy it and return to your master?]]Even with the kindness of your friend, you're not so sure that this place is worth suffering through anymore. Just as the people here have always regarded you as an outsider, you've always felt that your place wasn't on this cruel planet. It's time to move on. To embrace who you truly are.
"As you wish." The two orbs say.
You and the two orbs shoot upwards at impossibly fast speeds, escaping the darkness of that space. As you move up, you can see stars and other planets coming into view. You're going home. You look forward and see yourself rapidly approaching a blinding, overwhelming light.
"We are home." The two orbs announce.Your friend's example remains with you. Even with her gone, you choose to live by the ideals that she shared with you. In everything and everyone, there is something to be loved. There is kindness to be spared. If you try hard enough, you can learn to be someone that the village can accept. You can continue her acts of selflessness and be someone that touches the lives of others. You can't leave Earth now. This place has always been your home. You will stay.
"Your persistence is admirable."
The flame is reignited and you can sense your friend revived from the dead.
"This is the last time you will be asked to make a choice. Our master, your parent, values you very dearly. Our master would be loathe to lose a child, so our master extends the opportunity for you to return with your friend, her living alongside you as an immortal. You would never have to worry about her meeting harm or dying again. However, you can still choose to remain on Earth, should you choose. What is your final decision?"
[[Return to Earth with your friend.]]
[[Ascend with your friend.]]A new biterness fills you. You remember the lady from the day before and how her actions reflect how everyone else besides your friend has treated you your whole existence on this pitiful planet. Someone as great as you doesn't have to take being looked down upon and despised for no real reason. Now with your friend gone, this place is irredeemable. There is no purpose in allowing it to continue on existing.
"Let's leave this forsaken place."
"As you wish." The creature says.
You and the two orbs shoot upwards at impossibly fast speeds, escaping the darkness of that space. As you move up, you can see stars and other planets coming into view. You're going home. You look forward and see yourself rapidly approaching a blinding, overwhelming light.
"We are home." The two orbs announce."Very well."
The two orbs fade out of sight and you can no longer sense the creature's presence any longer.
In an instant, a blur of blinding bright colors appear before you, stretching and expanding out until they form into the prison room in the dilapidated shack.
You're back in your body, and you're currently sitting reclined against the cool, dirt wall. On your lap, your friend lays her head, asleep. She's unaware of everything that's just transpired. You stare at the ceiling, letting out a deep breath.
The deep voice infiltrates your mind for the last time.
"Farewell."The shock of having lost the one person that meant anything to you was too much for you to bear. You have no interest in destroying Earth, nor remaining on it any longer. Your friend is too good to return to those shallow people that don't know how good they had it with her around.
An outline of an arm forms in front of you. Its your arm. With it, you clasp the small flame and bring it closely to you, hugging it tight.
"Let's go." You order the creature.
"As you wish."
You, the flame, and the two orbs shoot upwards at impossibly fast speeds, escaping the darkness of that space. As you move up, you can see stars and other planets coming into view. You're going home. You extend your arm and hand out to behold the flame, but as you open your palm, you notice that the warmth of the flame is growing dim. It flickers left and right, growing faint. In your mind you hear a bloodcurdling shriek. The shriek dies out after a few seconds, and the flame ceases to exist as well.
You look forward and see yourself rapidly approaching a blinding, overwhelming light.
"We are home." The two orbs announce.You find yourself in the middle of the village, but again, without a soul in sight. You take a step forward and indeed move forward, but not with the use of your legs. You look down and notice that you still don't have your body. Feeling uncomfortable by your lack of a tangible state, you sit in place, waiting for your body.
Moments pass, but you're still left bodiless. You want to scream and panic, but you don't have the voice or heart or brain to express these sensations. Instead, these ideas are stuck to remaining as mere concepts.
You spend the entire day moving between homes, passing through the walls and doors to find them all devoid of any life. The fear slowly descends upon you as you realize that what the creature was saying was true. You're alone here and you don't know how long you'll be forced to be a ghost, wandering this lonely planet.
With no body to act out your despair and nobody to find comfort in, you just continue to move forward.
[[(Return to the beginning)|Start]]