One Spark, Four Flames
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Canon Hub » S & C Plastics Hub » One Spark, Four Flames
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rating: +19+x

One Spark, Four Flames


2015


23rd of October

Baby Bone Wood: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


"It's a deer god."

"What?"

"The thing we're after. It's a deer god."

Sighing profusely — which was somewhat of a habit of his — Dr. Daniel Asheworth kneeled, taking some of the ash from the freshly burned ground into the palm of his gloved hand. With the oranges and reds of the late afternoon sun setting upon him, he sniffed the dust, simultaneously closing his eyes and inhaling sharply.

"Yep. Definitely a deer god."

"I… yeah, possible, but look," Dr. Katherine Sinclair said, joining the other on the withered litter of the forest. Looking at the hoofprints left in the ash, she came a little closer. "It looks like it's wounded — might just as well be one of the normal ones just running away from the forest fire."

"No no no no no, see?" he said, pointing towards and then touching the slightly twisted deformations. "Only asshole deers walk like that, all mighty and proud. And the only asshole deers that exist are deer gods. Which we for some reason have plenty of."

"Oh dear god, so it's another one? That's at least three now in the last decade alone."

He groaned at the joke. "Three? I know of the Saturn one and that triangle-headed one, but three?"

"There's a reason Cernunnos is an Object Class, let's say that much."

Throwing off the burnt leaves and needles of the local flora from his jeans, Asheworth stood up from the ground, straightening his back. Sighing — again — he proceeded to walk down the trail the deer left, grabbing his chin with his hand.

"If it's something of that magnitude, could we not lure it with a ritual of sorts?" Sinclair said, looking at what Asheworth was inspecting. "I mean, together, we could practically do anyth—"

"Shh," he shushed the red-haired woman, pointing towards some point between the gigantic trees in the distance. "It can see us."

Looking at whatever he was pointing at, Sinclair noticed something. She didn't know what it was, not at first; it seemed to blend with the forest like it was a part of it, but at the same time it felt… almost alien. It felt deeply wrong, moving with its long antlers and burning eyes sitting atop a face that didn't feel human nor animal, like it dragged behind its body, being a part of it, but just barely. It looked with a curious expression at Sinclair, like it was trying to study her. Seconds later, it disappeared into the darkening horizon as a chill went down her spine.

"What… what was that?"

"The deer. That's what the farmers saw," he replied, blinking twice with a grimacing expression. "The thing that destroyed half of their farm. And the thing we're after."

"I… I don't think it's anything native to the Nexus," she said, massaging her eyes with her fingers. "We need to deal with this, and we need to do it fast. But… I'm not qualified for this — this isn't even remotely close to anything I've ever seen."

"Neither am I," he said, pausing for a second. "And that's why we're going to need help."


SC.png

23rd of October

Site-43: Lambton County, Ontario, Canada


Dr. Brenda Corbin's office at Site-43 wasn't exactly tidy — but even then, everything was where it should be, at least in her view. Piles upon piles of paperwork, documents, and mission reports describing months of her theological work sitting all around the small space occupied mainly by a large desk, a couple of chairs, and a Foundation terminal. It wasn't perfect, definitely not — but it was good enough.

As she opened the Foundation file editor, her phone suddenly rang with the familiar tunes of The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine." Clearing her throat, she picked it up, noticing the big, red title of "Dr. Michael D. Nass" that notified her of who was calling her. Nervously clicking the "pick up" button, she put the receiver near her ear.

"Yes."

"Yes, definitely."

"I… I'm most likely going to be free, yes."

"Sloth's Pit? No, never been there."

"Oh. Uhm, yes, I'm fairly certain I can manage that. Been a while since we caught a god, hah."

"Sinc— oh yeah, Katherine Sinclair, know her. Great person. Nothing against working with her."

"Uhm, yeah? Never been a fan of working in large groups, but I'm sure I can manage. Who's that person exactly?"

"…"

"You have got to be fucking kidding me."


SC.png

23rd of October

Jonas' Diners: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


"Iw've chwanged mwy mwind abwout Amewica," Asheworth said, taking another bite off of the pile of waffles smeared with as much cream and maple syrup as was probably possible. "You'we stwill a bunch of cultuwr-wess bawstards, but the fwood's gwood. At weast hewe, I mwean."

Sinclair didn't reply, instead taking a sip of the winter tea she got at the diner. It was getting cold this time of the year — especially on evenings such as this — and it was better to drink safe than to be later sorry.

"So whike," he tried to say, gesticulating heavily with his fork. "The cwountwy stwill swucks — ow at weast mwost of — but the wawwfwes are wowrth it!"

Katherine didn't listen anymore. Looking into the background of the forest scenery where the building of Site-87 — or, rather, the building of its cover-up company, S&C Plastics — was located, she took another sip as she looked at the fireflies dancing near the edge of the woods.

Moving in truly weird patterns, they illuminated the area, accompanied by the forever-repeating song of local crickets going along with the local chatter of other guests. The diner's small garden was truly beautiful, filled with old, red wooden tables and some comfy bushes and bright-burning lampions hanging around the vine-covered half-transparent roof standing near the main building of said diner, it almost felt like home. For a moment, life was good.

Of course, that moment didn't last forever — not like anything good ever did; even if it felt like hours, it was quickly stopped by the whirling sounds of rotor blades rotating in the background. Looking for its source, Sinclair noticed a large helicopter landing atop 87's roof, with two men and a lab-coated woman walking out of it. Thinking such trips didn't happen often and for no reason, she deduced it was most likely whoever was supposed to help them.

"So," Asheworth stopped the awkward silence that lasted eight minutes at this point, breaking her chain of thought as he cleaned his mouth with a napkin. "What do we now? The deer is really worrying, I won't lie, and I really don't want to be here more than I need to."

Katherine took another sip, pointing with her head towards the landing location. "It looks like our help's arrived."

The thaumaturge turned around, starting to stare the almost-unnoticeable figure of the scientist walking towards them. He nervously looked back at Sinclair and then again at the woman, repeating the process three times.

"Is that…?"

"I've not a single clue who that is," she replied, finally finishing the drink. "Guess we'll have to wait." She shrugged.

As each step revealed more and more of the newcomer, Asheworth got more and more stressed, until it was clear he was rather nervous. With long, curly blonde hair, a pair of rectangular glasses, a dissatisfied face, and a long lab coat reaching her knees, the newcomer walked right past Asheworth, ignoring him completely. As the thaumaturge widely opened his eyes in both terror and disbelief, she extended her arm towards Sinclair.

"Dr. Katherine Sinclair, I assume?" she said as the other accepted the handshake. "Dr. Brenda Corbin. Site-43's Assistant Chair of Theology and Teleology. A pleasure to meet you again."

"Have we… met before?" Katherine said, rising one of her eyebrows. "Sorry, been really busy recently, so my memory's not exactly the best." She chuckled silently.

"Gulf of Mexico, 2007? The joint Foundation-wide operation?"

"Ohh. I was nothing more than a Junior Researcher during that time," she said, vaguely remembering the event almost through mist. "What a change in style, eh? Never would've recogni—"

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME," Asheworth almost shouted at the theologist, standing up from his seat and looking directly at her face. "WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY THINKING, SENDING BRENDA GODDAMNED CORBIN TO HELP ME CAPTURE A GOD?!"

Corbin turned her hand in a slow manner, half-closing her visibly tired eyes. "Can you… not, please," sighing, she hard blinked. "Not today, I'm not happy to be here either. Let me eat something and sleep in peace, and tomorrow you can raise hell if you want whilst we catch that goddamned monster. Just… not today."

She sat down with a loud thump as she picked up the menu laying in front of the still-surprised man. She read a couple of options and proceeded to call the nearest waiter, ordering something to eat and drink shortly after.

"So… are we going to ignore that—" Sinclair tried to say, only for the two to simultaneously answer.

"Yes."

"NO."

They angrily looked at each other, then quickly turned against each other and crossed their arms angrily.

"What the hell happened…?"

"Winter of 2008 is what happened!" Asheworth shouted, giving her another angry look. "Mrs. 'Let me do things alone' happened! This is—"

"If you want to raise a tantrum like the mental twelve-year-old that you are, then sure, please, go ahead, and embarrass yourself even in front of her." she paused, only to continue a second later. "But for god's sake, make me not a part of it, for fucking once."

The waiter put a plate of hot soup in front of the newcomer. For the remainder of that evening, no one spoke a single word.


SC.png

24th of October

Site-87: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


He didn't sleep well that night.

As Daniel Asheworth stood up from the stone-hard bed located in one of the spare "guest rooms" 87 had to offer, he tried to stretch, reeling from the pain of a full night's sleep outside his home — the couch located in his office back at 120. Which, now that he thought it of, wasn't that much better anyways.

He took a moment to wash off the remaining sleepiness within his body in the room's bathroom, and, moments later, he was ready to go. Putting the relatively tight labcoat and the characteristic gloves onto himself, he walked down the stairs into the Site's cafeteria where he imagined Sinclair would most likely be.

One ordered breakfast and walk around the place later, he found the small table near which she was sitting, promptly joining her in the activity.

"I retract what I said earlier," he began, taking a bite off the half-burnt toast he had on his plate. "The food still sucks, it's just good sometimes—"

"Daniel, I'm sorry, but as much as you know I would love to work with you, I really would be more interested in, you know, actually working with you rather than listening to your food opinions," Sinclair said with a tired voice, as if she too didn't sleep well. "You live in Poland — I could give you literal dirt on a plate and you would consider it delicious."

She took a sip of coffee, blinking twice to make the sleepiness go away. Half of the cup drank later, she continued.

"We have more reports of the attacks. It's mainly farms located just outside the burned areas, but even then it's just more pumpkin patches destroyed or something. Maybe Corbin will make something out of this. At least more than us, I mean."

The mention of the theologist visibly made the other less energetic. He didn't reply, instead biting another large chunk of his meal.

"Speaking of her, what the hell actually happened? What makes someone anger Daniel Asheworth so much he'll hate you seven years later?"

He sighed, biting his lip and looking away from the table for a second.

"Killing most of the squad by being wrong, only to later prove that you were right." He paused, taking a long breath. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Fine, I'm not pushing you. Just… can you ignore it for as long as this mission will go? I really don't want for the bullshit between you two to get in its way, alright?"

He didn't answer.

The awkward silence didn't go on for long, at least — as Brenda Corbin joined the duo at the table with a tray of her own, she yawned, scratching her now-bundled hair with her left hand. Though the meal continued in the weird lack of talking, after everyone was done, the theologist broke it, looking directly at Sinclair.

"So," she started, correcting her glasses. "Where do we begin?"

"I trust you've been briefed on what we did so far?" Asheworth said, avoiding eye contact as best as he possibly could.

"Yes, I'm aware of your mission so far. That also means I know what you didn't do too," she snarkily replied, looking at the thaumaturge. "But that also also means I know what to do to correct these mistakes. What I'm trying to say is I'd ideally want to visit where you were tomorrow, this time making sure we don't miss anything."

He sighed. "Back to the farm it is, then."


SC.png

24th of October

Outside of The Woods: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


"Whatever did this, it's definitely not a normal deer," Brenda said, examining the half-rotten pumpkins filled with gray goo. She shook it out of her fingers with an expression of pure disgust, but continued to try to see what was inside of them.

"Deer god. It's a deer god. We established that yesterday," Asheworth replied, knocking one of the vegetables into the ash decorating the freshly burned dirt around it. "And, I swear," he said, looking directly at Sinclair, who immediately put an innocent expression on, chuckling silently. "If I hear another dear god/deer god pun, the thing we're after won't be the only thing flinging flames around here."

"Alright, alright, Mr. Edgy. No need to get heated up," the theologist replied, standing up from the ground. She slowly inhaled the surrounding air, grimacing quickly after. "I… I can smell Akiva. Haven't felt that sour in a while. This thing's been here, and it's been here recently."

"Akiva is supposed to… have a smell?"

Starting to walk towards the small, wooden hut located at the end of the long, burned vegetable field, the theologist beckoned both of the remaining team members to come with her using her head.

As they continued their slow march towards the building, it became more and more clear the gray goo previously visible only within the half-eaten plants was also located all around the hut. Covering most of its roof and the barricaded windows and doors, it camouflaged itself quite well when they were standing far away, but as they came closer, it became more and more visible.

"What the…?" Corbin said, walking towards the tightly closed and locked doors leading into the house. "Hello?" She energetically knocked on them, trying to get inside.

As no one replied, she kneeled on the ground surrounding the porch they were standing on. Aside from dirty shoe marks most likely left by the owner of the building, it felt like the ground was stained by the presence of something — something none of them really knew, nor understood.

"Guess he's not here," Asheworth shrugged, joining her in her kneeling. "He probably went to report this to the local pol—"

"No. He didn't," she replied, pointing towards a set of widely distributed footsteps leading from the porch towards the nearest part of the forest. "He ran away from something."

She paused, looking at the gray matter all around the building.

"And whatever the hell that something of a deer was, it also made this," she pointed towards an opening in the forest trees, into which the footprints disappeared. "Whyever he left, that's where he went."

"And where the hell does that lead…?"

"Guess we'll have to find out too."


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24th of October

Site-120: Częstochowa, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland


Jessie Rivera was a busy woman; but, to be fair, who at the Foundation wasn't. As one of the five Site Directors of Site-120, she had almost no time to fully call her own these days. But even then, she got a free moment from time to time — and this was one of these moments. She was glad she at least wasn't one of RAISA's essentials; she couldn't imagine how little reprieve these poor bastards got, but she doubted that number was even close to one full day.

Logging into her SCiPNET account on her Foundation phone, she sat down in Site-120's recreational room located at its first level. The room wasn't exactly crowded, but it did have quite a few people playing pool or whatever else the room offered. If she was honest, she wasn't even sure what attractions they had nowadays — ever since she got the job in the summer of 1985, she hadn't taken enough time off to properly know what was there. What she did know however was that the fluffy couch she sat on was very comfortable. She'd go read in the Grand Library, but somehow today was the day Vemhoff and his team did large renovations in the place. She wasn't happy about it, but this place had to be enough.

However, the moment she took Frank Herbert's Children of Dune out of her labcoat's pocket to finally give a read, she heard the most awful sound she could possibly hear at that moment — the sound of her phone notifying her of a pending report log. An urgent report log.

She sighed, putting the book back where she took it out from and opening the notification up.

From: Ra.aic

Topic: URGENT

Even if the bright, capitalized red topic didn't tell her that, she knew it was something she'd better pay attention to; Ra wasn't a person that would use the direct messaging line if it wasn't something dead serious (even if Ra wasn't a person at all).

Accessing the file, she opened her eyes a little wider in horror, reading as much as she could.

"Oh, oh no," she silently said, scrolling down to the bottom of the message, making sure she got everything right. A mistake could cost her his life, and she definitely did not want that. Not after all they'd been through.

Clicking on the big, green "call" button located near Asheworth's contact, she put the phone near her ear, nervously tapping the floor with her shoe and curling her hair a little. When no one answered, she chose the number again, this time even more worried than before.

She called him twice. She called him thrice. She called him seven times. But every time, the same mechanical response was given.

"THIS NUMBER IS CURRENTLY OUT OF SERVICE DUE TO BEING OUT OF SIGNAL. PLEASE, LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR WHEN IT BECOMES ONLINE."


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24th of October

Baby Bone Wood: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


"Should it be… getting dark… already?" Asheworth said, trying to not trip on the ever-present branches again. "I could swear it was morning ten minutes ago."

Maneuvering between the dense foliage overlapping the gravel path near a small river bridge, the thaumaturge made double sure he wasn't stepping on any thorned vines. If entering this forest again taught him anything, it was definitely to look where you're walking. At least if you don't want to get stabbed in your knee by a plant, that was.

"It's probably just the forest," Corbin dismissed it. "The foliage is very dense here, you know."

Even if the forest was almost identical to every single forest Asheworth had ever seen in his rather long life — large, green, and filled with foliage as far as the eye could see — it felt… weird. He didn't know what caused this feeling, really — maybe it was the everpresent silence. Maybe it was the fact they seemed to be walking for longer than they logically should. Maybe it was the previously mentioned dimness and cold. He wasn't sure.

"I… I mean, it can also be the Nexus. Sudden separation from everyone in a 'creepy' place like this is a standard horror trope—"

"That's stupid," Asheworth cut her off, chuckling nervously. "It's just a cold forest. What could possibly go—"

"Shut up!" Sinclair nearly shouted, remembering she probably shouldn't be shouting in a place like this. Not with their mission, at least.

"What the hell? Why?"

"Why do you think?!" She was visibly angered. "Why do you think saying what you wanted to say in a place that's ruled by narrative tropes is a bad idea?!"

"Shh!" Corbin scolded both of them. She was kneeling on the ground, touching something on it with her hands. "It's been there."

The two thaumaturges came closer, giving what she was pointing at a look. Though still relatively normal, the ground was visibly more… gray. Gray and sticky. And filled with unnatural hoofprints — though they looked normal, they were located in a truly peculiar manner. Like the thing that left them wasn't four-legged.

"Ew," Asheworth exclaimed, taking a bunch of the ground into his gloved hands. He invoked a relatively small flame, and seconds later, the goo-filled dirt was nothing more than ash. "What the hell even is this?"

"How would I know, Einstein?" the theologist replied, continuing to walk down the set of prints. She took a small sample of the ground, smelling it. "God, what a unique composition. I… I've never felt anything like this, it's—"

"Okay, okay, we get it! Don't excite yourself too much over the thing that caused like five forest fires in the last week!"

"—it's truly… out there." Ignoring him, she felt almost… happy to find such a peculiar thing in the wild. She gently touched it with her finger again. "It's nothing this Earth knows. It's from somewhere else."

"…What the hell do you mean 'somewhere else?'" Sinclair joined in the discussion, coming closer to the two.

"I don't know," Brenda paused for a second. "All I know this is nothing I've ever countered. Not since 2008, at least." She gave Asheworth a heavy look.

"This is literally nothing like the Beast from 2008. What the hell do you mean—"

"What the hell even happened then?!" Sinclair shouted, frustrated at the two of them.

"Nothing!" Both of them replied simultaneously, turning their heads towards the resident of Sloth's Pit. "Nothing you should worry about, at least." Asheworth finished.

Though the silence that followed wasn't long, it very much felt long.

"Look," Corbin said, reluctantly turning her eyes towards Asheworth. "I'm sorry. I'm not happy to be here either, okay? Let's just… ignore what happened there, for—"

"You can't ignore what happened there!"

"—for the sake of this mission, alright? Let's catch the deer like two people that have never met each other and let's pretend for the rest of our lives that we, in fact, never met each other."

He sighed. "Look. I… alright. I will try to."

"Thank you."

"Umm, guys?" Sinclair said from behind them in an unsure voice. "I… I think I might've found something."


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24th of October

Esterberg's Market District: Częstochowa, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland


As the regular sounds of raindrops continued tapping over the roof windows of the small medieval tower apartment for the seventh hour of the day, Olivié Gwyneth sighed in frustration, turning over the next page of the almost ancient promotion records. She knew finding information about the grandson of the Grand Archivist of Esterberg's Town Hall in the 18th Century wouldn't be easy, but she didn't expect it to take more than two days. And she definitely didn't expect it would take a whole week.

Deciding a small walk around the highest floor of her circular home — located adjacent to the roof of her mother's inn in the Living District — would do her well. She took a quick sip of her gigantic tea mug from her filled-with-papers desk and shook her head stood up from the desk and decided — no more work today.

Just two minutes later, she was sitting in a comfy chair near the numerous bookcases the top floor of her house offered. She stretched her limbs and took a big sip from her mug. Just as the sound of thunder coming from the outside of the building filled her ears, she decided she needed to rest. Thankfully neither the temperature of the room nor the thought someone would want to disturb her sleep were an issue here — mainly due to the calmly dancing fires of the fireplace near her and the fact she had said she was doing paperwork prior to climbing to her kingdom. With a smile on her face, she closed her eyes, ready to fall asleep.

…and that was when she heard it.

Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.

A horrible, horrible sound of her phone buzzing from across the room on her desk. She already hated her phone enough to put it on constantly muted — she could never just read when one of them was around — but even then the unfortunate reality of needing one to exist in the modern world still bothered her. She couldn't just not answer a call from Rivera, though. Best friends didn't do that.

With a sigh and a grimace on her face, she stood up, and picked up the device.

"Hello?"

"I'm… free, yes. Why?"

As asked by her friend, she looked out of the window, blinking twice in the process. From within the dark and rainy shadows of the night, four rotating blades of a helicopter revealed themselves, cutting through the wet sky like scissors through paper, shedding the droplets all around itself. The machine wasn't the biggest, but it was unmistakably a Foundation vehicle.

"Phew. I… I guess I can?"

She scratched her long, chestnut-colored hair, yawning in the process. Looking around the room, she tried to remember which of the numerous books in the little library of her contained any information regarding what Rivera wanted.

"I… no, I don't think I've ever— no, oh Jesus. Oh, that's not good. It-it was supposed to be dead."

She walked quickly towards the bookcase, grabbing the only title she thought would help here — Of Beasts From Beyond the Stars: A Chronicle by the Tenth Archivist of Mab. Freeing her two hands by putting her phone to her shoulder, she started browsing through the millennia-old pages. She carefully navigatted towards the chapter she wanted to find, begging for the page to be still there.

"I got it. I… give me two minutes, and I'll be downstairs."

She took the gigantic tome in her two weak arms and carried it towards the spiral staircase leading to the first floor where her friend was waiting. She sighed, realizing she'd forgotten to mark the page she opened.

It was going to be a long night.


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24th of October

Baby Bone Wood: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


"I do not like this. I do not like this at all."

"Are you… sure this isn't anything of your Nexus being weird again?" she said, giving Sinclair a look.

The opening didn't feel right. It definitely didn't feel safe, either. Where the forest opened to reveal an extremely large glade, the gravel path suddenly ended near the entrance to it, seemingly bleeding with the surrounding grass. Though she was sure it wasn't cobweb, almost all the local flora was covered in a weird web-like material — something Corbin could not explain rationally. If she hadn't known spiders as big as what would be required to create such a thing couldn't possibly live here, she would have assumed it was cobweb.

"Look, I'm tired of you always blaming things not going our way on Slo—" Sinclair tried to say as she turned her head towards the opening within the forest. She shivered slightly, noticing the all-around darkness within the area. With her eyes wider than normal, she put her hands together and blew some air into them. She closed her eyes and moved her hands in an expression as if she was molding something within, with one of the numerous medallions on her moving like it was alive. She carefully opened them, revealing a small fire within, dancing one centimeter above the palm of her hand as a wind quicker than normal moved her long, red hair. Corbin took out her gun, nervously aiming at the treeline around them.

"Here," Sinclair replied, moving her hand towards Asheworth, whose glove runes started burning with a bright red. As he tried extracting the flame from within her hands, all of them felt something — something like a move between the trees around themselves. He moved nervously backward, trying to catch the little spark within his hands.

"What was that?" he nearly shouted, nervously moving his hand with the now all-out burning flame around them. They were now standing backs next to each other. "What was that?!"

"Guess we'll have to find out," Sinclair said, taking a step towards the treeline. She and Asheworth exchanged quick looks, and the trio walked towards the trees, still closely together, with two of its members holding hot, burning flames as both flashlights and potential weaponry.

Asheworth came as close to the treeline as he could, and revealed the branches of the closest tree with a slightly trembling hand — the one unoccupied with the flame, that was.

"What the…" He lost his words halfway through the sentence.

Before them laid a small hare — or, rather, something that used to be a hare. It laid covered in what looked like cobweb, with its eyes moving rapidly in a panicked manner. It lacked skin on certain parts of its body, cut not deeply, but in just such a symmetrical and precise manner that it could not be natural. Just as Asheworth moved his flame a little closer to the animal to inspect it, he accidentally lit the material on fire, getting some of it on his hands in the process.

The moment it was free, the animal ran. It ran as quickly as it could, with its paws finally not trapped, like it had been in for the last days. Moments later, it disappeared in the treeline.

"It… what the hell was that," he shouted a little too loudly, wiping the material from his hands onto his jacket. "I—"

"A-Asheworth?" Sinclair said with a trembling voice as she pointed towards something vaguely animal-shaped located in the distance. "I…" Her voice went weak as she stopped thinking while an emotion she couldn't explain filled her entire body.

"Wh—" he said, turning around. Moments later, he was similarly paralyzed, looking at a thing he could not mistake for anything else. Corbin hid behind the tree they were looking at just moments ago, reloading her gun in a panic.

And even though she tried moving from behind the plant to try to shoot it — to try to do anything — she couldn't. She didn't move, no matter how hard she tried. But neither did the Deer, forever curiously observing the bark of the pine tree she'd found as her hiding spot.


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24rd of October

Somewhere Near: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


"Are you absolutely sure the thing is… that?" Olivié Gwyneth said, correcting her reading glasses for what felt like the tenth time this minute. Her face never really fit any glasses it was given, and the regular and quick movements of the helicopter they were on definitely didn't help. "Because it has a lot of implications if it is, and—"

"Yes, I'm sure. I'm as sure as I possibly can," Rivera answered from the seat next to her. She quickly came closer to the pilot of the machine, asking him something — presumably how long was left until they could land — and continued to read the material within the book Gwyneth provided as quickly as possible. "What's currently going on matches perfectly with 2008," she again looked at the pilot. "We need to get there quicker."

The Fae historian opened her notebook, starting to draw something. Seconds later, that drawing took the form of something akin to a starmap, connected with Earth and two distinct locations — one of Sloth's Pit, the other of Syberia. Above these two locations, two dots were located.

"Somehow, it got away back then. They thought they killed it," Rivera said, curiously looking at the other's paper. "They didn't. It escaped. Corbin's squad died for nothing."

"So they… don't know?"

"No. I… I don't think so," she paused for a second. "All I hope for is they recognize what the thing is before they go all-out on hunting it." She put her face in her hands, sighing tiredly. "It was supposed to just be a deer-hunting mission."

"What?"

"That's what they told him in the e-mail. He was supposed to hunt a magical deer with that red-haired mage from 87. One day mission, that's what they said."

"You seem to care about him a lot."

"He saved my life a couple of times. We've been friends for more than forty years at this point, of course I care about him," she shrugged.

The historian raised her eyebrow, but didn't say anything. Instead, in a couple of moves of her hand, she finished the sketch.

"So, if I understand correctly," she said, pointing to the Syberia dot with her pencil. "That's where it initially landed?"

"Yes."

"It was presumably killed by both of them — or, rather, them and their squads — and was accounted for as dead."

Rivera nodded.

"But it somehow survived, despite all RAISA records and autopsy logs visibly showing it's been long-dead. And then made its way to Wisconsin, out of all places."

She threw her hands in the air.

"It doesn't make any sense, Jessie. They killed it. You've seen those records too."

"They… they did. Yes, they did. But it has to be it. I mean, unless it somehow— oh. Oh."

"W-What?"

"The deer didn't survive 2008, that's true. But whatever was inside it, did."


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24th of October

Baby Bone Wood: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


With a heart beating as quickly as the engine of a car and an equally racing mind, Brenda Corbin sat on the ground, her gun ready in her hands. Slowly but surely making her way across the bark of the tree — which was the only thing between her and most likely death — she put down the weapon on the ground.

Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ—

She grabbed her face in her right hand, stopping the nonsensical panic.

Think, Brenda. She reprimanded herself, frantically reloading her pistol. There were exactly seven bullets within it.

She looked around herself, trying to find anything she could use as a weapon or a way out. Though not big, the opening she sat in was realistically just big enough for her to be able to move deeper into the forest, but small enough that she could do so without catching the Deer's attention. If she did it well, that was.

Realizing she has no other way out, Corbin slowly started to crawl to the distant treeline, one motion at a time. Though the branches and bushes scratched and tickled wherever they possibly could, she didn't utter a single complaint — she didn't want it to know where she was.

Just as she was about to move behind a bush, she suddenly felt an irresistible urge to look to where the Deer had been standing when she left. Though she kept going forward, trying to do whatever she could to not turn her head around, after what felt like literal millennia she gave up. Tears going down her face, she turned her eyes to look at the plain before the tree.

There was nothing there.

With a feeling of relief she couldn't describe with words, she realized nothing was standing where she was looking. Even if just moments before, both the entity and the two thaumaturgists were standing there like pillars within a temple, they were gone. Where, she couldn't tell.

Trying to slowly stand up from the forest ground, she touched the ground with both her hands to support her weight as best as possible. The moment she did, though, was the moment she realized the ground was slippery and weirdly thin. Too slippery and thin.

With a silent scream and a hurting back, she realized she's no longer within the clearing. Rather, she was sitting within what looked like a cave, with a visible hole in its ceiling — it was almost entirely covered in roots, leaving just enough space to have light flow down from it — and, of course, for Brenda to fall down it.

The cavern was a rather clean place before whatever happened here turned it into a place entirely filled with the same weird cobweb-like material the three encountered aboveground. This time it was much denser, with what felt like the gray goo from before filling the spaces between the white strings of the web.

As Corbin looked around herself, she noticed a cocoon similar to the one in which the hare was located before she fell down here. And then she looked around some more.

The entire place was filled with similar structures.

Bursting from the ground and walls, seemingly blending into them, they were all around it — each filled with creatures of different sizes and shapes. She noticed some of them were visibly larger than others. With a pounding heart and holding her breath, she came closer to one of the bigger ones, touching it with her hand. And that's when she noticed it contained a human.

What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck

Backing off in a state of near panic, she tightly grabbed her gun and looked around herself. She started to notice more unnatural things about the things in the cocoons — most of them lacked some parts of them. Cut almost surgically and with skill, they weren't just ripped off — they were carefully removed, like they were being studied. Noticing a light in the distance of one of the tunnels the cavern was made of, she rushed towards it, trying to make as little sound as possible.

Tripping on one of the branches sticking out of the ground, she grunted as she fell down the rocky floor. She stood up, starting to run towards the exit as fast as she could — this time making sure she wouldn't trip again. And that's when she noticed it.

With the corner of her eye, she saw two cocoons, standing tall near the exit of the cave — they were the farthest in the cavern. Within them, a woman and a man were wrapped in the silk-like material, their eyes slowly following her around. The gray eyes older than their body and the green eyes burning with a heat of passion were unmistakable for any two other pairs.

Just as she was about to come near them, from behind her, a quick and loud crawling sound could be heard; like something was climbing and walking down the walls of the cave at the same time, repeated over and over again. She slowly turned back to see what it was. She wished she hadn't.

Atop the ceiling of the cavern, she saw the Deer — or, rather, something that used to be the Deer. From within its body, numerous leg-like appendages could be seen, rapturing through its half-rotten skin like parasites, with disgusting pores excreting gray goo located on each of the fleshy structures, somehow holding off to the rocky texture of the ceiling. At the end of them, things similar to human arms could be seen — they looked as if they were stitched to the body, but weirdly felt natural in their joining. Their fingers were moving like centipede legs, allowing for the being to move.

This disgusting structure ended in what looked like a bee abdomen, filled with small holes too many to count. From within them, the cobweb-like structure was flowing like water, joining with the goo with each step of the creature to create the weird she met before. Even if all of it didn't feel like it could possibly fit within the body, it still somehow used it as its cover. Why, she didn't know.

Where its face should be from within its mouth, something similar to a long neck was sitting. With two extremely curious and red little eyes the structure ended, looking directly at Brenda. It moved two of its little arms, ending with two knife-like structures, located on the Deer's neck towards her, trying to reach her. It skewed its head and hissed, starting to walk quickly towards the paralyzed theologist.

Even if she was absolutely terrified, she still found it to be something… weirdly interesting. With a heart beating quicker than ever in her life, she fired shots too many to count at its head, trying to hit as many vital points — if the being had vital points — as she could, wondering what could possibly spawn such a creature. The bullets hit it and sank into it, but did nothing, only scaring the entity for a bit. It started to violently thrash, and eventually ran away through the hole in the ceiling Corbin had fallen through.

She didn't wait. Immediately rushing towards the cocoons, she grabbed the closer one — that being Asheworth's — and put it on her back, trying to carry it towards the exit. She tried to grab the second one, but realized it was too heavy to do it in one go.

She looked at Sinclair with a broken expression. "I'm sorry. I swear I'll come back for you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." She didn't look back at the thaumaturgist, but if she did, she'd find an expression of acceptance within her eyes.

Carrying what felt like literal tons on her back, she left the cavern and threw the cocoon on the ground. Quickly grabbing a knife from her belt, she cut the thing open, freeing Asheworth's hands. Not two seconds later, the thing suddenly exploded with fire. Seconds later, he was free from his prison, coughing blood and panting with fury. He threw the cobweb into one of the bushes, trying to get as much as he could off of him.

"No! Stop!" Brenda said, grabbing him by the shoulder in an attempt to stop him from going back to the cave. "We need to have a plan."

With eyes as red as the fire that started to consume more and more behind him, he looked her exactly in the eyes.

"We need to get her out, do you understand?!"

"We won't be able to do it now, you cretin!"

He looked around them, trying to find a path that would allow running away from there whilst still not being burnt by the raging fire around them. Finally finding one, he grabbed her by the shoulder and started to run, as fast as he possibly could.

"But… but, it— we can't just run away — Sinclair's still there!" Corbin said, looking at the fire burning more and more of the plant life in the distance. "What the hell do we do?!"

"What have we always done when a monster attacks us?" With a pounding heart and a trembling voice, the thaumaturgist answered his own question. "We kill it."


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23rd of October

Site-87: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


Even if Jessie Rivera had never been to Sloth's Pit before, she knew the sky wasn't that red normally anywhere in the world, anomalous or not. And that could only mean one thing.

"Fuck," she said, taking the first step of the helicopter onto the landing pad. The glow and smell of the burning wildlife in the distance was noticable even here.

"It's… it's not pretty." Gwyneth said with a weak voice, joining her friend.

Rivera nodded slowly in agreement. "We need to hurry."

The Site wasn't as big as she'd thought it would be — or, rather, this part definitely didn't feel equal to the number of stories she'd heard of the place. Sloth's Pit was one of those places you always heard a thing or two about after you worked for the Foundation for more than a while. Tons of bizarre stories focused around weird things you'd never expect to happen anywhere, ever — but, from what she's been told, the place operated on stories. So it wasn't that much of a weird thing after all, she thought.

"Where are they?" she asked as they barged into the office declared to be Sinclair's by the placard on its door. The place wasn't big, but it was filled with tons of flasks, amulets, herbs, old tomes, and weird apparatus she didn't even begin to recognize. Asheworth would definitely know what it is, she thought.

"I wish I knew," a tall man with long black hair, standing in the middle of the room, answered. "She got a tracker on her, so we know the approximate location." He looked out of the window into the burning forest, sighing in the process. "And it's exactly in the middle of that damned fire."

When the newcomer raised her eyebrow, he apparently realized he hadn't introduced himself. "Montgomery Reynolds. Sinclair's research partner." He extended his arm.

"Jessie Rivera." She accepted the handshake. "Asheworth's friend."

Even if the silence that filled the room afterward was rather awkward, it thankfully didn't last long. As the Fae historian opened the door with the gigantic tome in her hands, she put it on the nearest table, throwing nonexistent sweat off her forehead.

"Olivié Gwyneth," she quickly exclaimed as she met the eyes of Reynolds looking at her closely. She looked at the tome and Rivera again, putting her hands together. "So, what do we do now?"

Rivera glanced at an amulet located around the man's neck, crossing her arms.

"I take it you're one of the thaumaturgy people too?"

"Indeed I am," he answered, opening the book on the marked page. He exhaled air upon seeing the title. "Well… I didn't expect to hear this name again ever."

"Neither did we, but we have to hurry. As I understand, all the things needed for the ritual are ready?"

He quietly read a part of the script on the page provided, and turned his eyes towards her. "They are… or, rather, the part I expected to be necessary anyways is." He tapped the book. "Thanks to this thing, I know exactly what I need now. So I'll need to make some adjustments. Because I definitely would not want Sinclair to have to work with uncertainties."

He walked away from the booktone of the large cabinets located in the room. With a quick swing and a hand wave showing both of the newcomers to come closer, he opened it. Inside, there were things Rivera couldn't even describe, even if she tried — tons upon tons of things she always saw Asheworth meddle with whenever he had some free time on his hands. She exhaled, and noticed a large, runic, glowing dagger sitting atop one of the shelves within the furniture.

"Oh, this is going to be fun."


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24th of October

Baby Bone Wood: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


The Deer was fast. But Brenda Corbin was faster.

Navigating through the scorching woods, she ran as fast as she could, trying her very best not to trip on whichever part of the everpresent burning trees would decide to fall near her. She also tried to not scream in terror at the fact she was being chased by something she'd otherwise only have ever met in nightmares.

As the clicking sound of the entity moving behind her got quicker and quicker with the desperation of chasing down its escaped source of information, so did her movement. She was never the best runner nor was she in great condition, but the thought of having to execute their plan perfectly and letting Asheworth do the rest of the job was enough to keep her on her legs for as long as she could manage.

Turn right, turn left, keep running forward. Past that weird tree, dodge the roots — don't trip on them because you'll fucking die — dodge the everpresent fire, and you should be fine. That was the plan. A plan which she really tried sticking to, but really couldn't — and not because of her being a stubborn person, but because literally everything around her was on fire.

With a jump over the hole she was supposed to jump over, she suddenly stopped running, having found herself in the large clearing she was meant to stop in. Falling into the hole, the entity made a screeching sound, which she met with a grimace. The creature started to climb out, only to realize something was wrong. But it realized it a little too late.

Thwomp.

With a sound as loud as the screams of the entity that followed, the gigantic tree next to the hole fell down on the thing that was once the Deer, smashing its horrid body into even more mangled versions of itself. It tried to escape, but the weight of five hundred kilograms of wood blocking its movement was too much for it. At least for now, that was. She knew it wouldn't be there long; they had to hurry.

From behind a bush as close to the previously-standing pine tree as possible came Asheworth, scratching his left arm vigorously. Though she wasn't sure, she could swear she saw a glimpse of a blueish sign tattooed over his forearms before it disappeared seconds later. His entire hand was visibly drained of energy, with him trying his best not to show it. She'd ask what happened, but: 1. they had no time; 2. even if he explained his magic bullshit to her, she wouldn't remember.

With a tired expression badly hidden behind a large grin, he moved towards her and nodded, signaling the plan had gone perfectly. She knew a god of this temperament couldn't possibly stop itself from chasing a victim that previously hurt its pride — especially if arranged it in a way she did — and he knew how to make sure a goliath of a tree would fall down without the physical strength normally required to perform such a task. She didn't know anything about magic — but neither did he about theology. But each was lucky that the other one did, and that the other one knew it well.

Nodding, he moved away from her, pulling out something similar to chalk from his pocket — the item was small, but looked… weird. It might have been the fact that it glowed with a purple-ish light or the fact it looked almost mesmerizing, but something about it felt weird. He began to draw something akin to a circle around the pit with the trapped monster, praying silently the entity wouldn't escape until the ritual was done.

Corbin shook her head, realizing she should be going. She left the ritual site to him, starting to sprint towards the cave within which she previously found Asheworth — or, rather, the cocoon which contained him. With a couple of quick steps she found herself near it again. She entered, trying to adjust her eyes to the everpresent half-darkness and to finally find Sinclair again.

Though it took more than she thought it would, seconds later, she was outside of the cave again, this time with the thaumaturge free from her trap, running towards the ritual site. Trying their best to navigate around the falling parts of burning flora, Corbin filled Sinclair in on the plan. Sinclair shook the remaining parts of the weird cobweb from her hair that remained after the freeing and took something similar to a glass bottle out of her pocket. Drinking the liquid quickly, she grabbed one of the amulets hanging around her neck, and, for a moment, Corbin could swear her eyes started to dimly glow orange.

Entering the glade in which Asheworth was still drawing something on the ground, he noticed both of them entering, and started walking towards them. Walking into hearing range, he suddenly snapped the chalk in his hand into two pieces, and threw one of them to the shocked Sinclair. He pointed with his head towards the circle, and she nodded in understanding. Seconds later, she was on the other side of the pit, completing the complicated circle-like pattern around the pit with the other.

Corbin stood there for a minute that felt like ages, nervously looking at the pit with the entity and then at the two thaumaturgists, only to repeat this process again. She could swear they wouldn't make it in time, but she was glad she was wrong — just seconds later, the structure was complete, and the two mages stood on opposite sides of the ritual site, looking at each other in anticipation. Moments later, one of them nodded, and the two touched the ground, closing their eyes.

What proceeded were three things: the entity finally moving the thing that kept it in check, screaming with a feeling of being free and starting to climb out of the hole, the ritual being finished, resulting in the circle, as well as both casters, starting to glow as bright as the sun itself, and the Deer screaming with a sound that definitely did not originate from this reality.

Even if Corbin tried looking away, seconds later almost the entire landscape around her joined the unbearable glowing — it was something akin to a corruption, a disease, taking over everything in sight with its purple light, burning so bright it no longer resembled the color purple. The color was no longer everpresent. Instead, it focused entirely on the entity, this time hovering in the air just slightly above the ground. It screamed like nothing she had ever heard of, moving its every otherworldy appendage in a dance of cosmic horror, trying to get away as best as it could, only to fail every time.

Neither of the mages spoke a word nor moved a limb, standing still with their faces full of focus. Though every now and then, one of them would grimace almost unnoticeably, they stood as best as they could, bearing the force of both their magic and the deity trying to withstand it.

And that's when it happened.

With an end as quick as its beginning, the ritual suddenly stopped as the entity screamed again, this time louder than before. The purple that previously incapacitated it disappeared, leaving it to fall on the ground it was levitating near just seconds ago. Both Asheworth and Sinclair suddenly regained their senses, running away from the ritual site which the Deer was trying to climb out of like it was on fire (which a large part of it was), coming near Brenda.

"Why didn't it work?!" Sinclair shouted, wiping a small line of blood coming from her nose.

"I… I don't know, it should—" Asheworth took a deep breath. "It should have worked! Everything was perfectly measured — the, the energy flow, everything!"

He tried continuing his monologue, only to be cut off by Brenda grabbing him by his shoulder in an attempt to move him away from a falling tree, finally breaking upon the everpresent fire. He dodged another branch in panic as he looked at the entity in the distance, moving from the pit towards them.

"Run!"

And so they ran. They ran as the clicking sound of the entity's legs moved behind them, trying their best not to look back and not to fall down, as either would most likely mean their death. Navigating through the forest was getting harder and harder — or, rather navigating and not encountering either a dead end or a cutoff due to the fire was getting harder and harder. And, after a while, it got impossible; they realized they were trapped.

"It's… a dead end," Asheworth sighed.

"No, no no no no no, no. I am not going to die like this," Sinclair replied, grabbing her phone and trying to type something. Realizing there was no connection, she grabbed it harder, with an angry expression manifesting on her face.

"I… I don't understand," Corbin said, sitting on the ground. The entity could now be seen in the distance, walking to them slowly but surely. Large parts of its body were now visibly damaged due to everpresent burns, but it still marched on, getting closer and closer to the glade they sat in with each step. "It should have worked, minor local deities shouldn't be able to resist this for so long, I—"

Asheworth sighed. After everything he'd been through, he couldn't believe this was how he was about to go. "Be-before we die, can I—"

He was cut off by the entity suddenly coming into the clearing they were in, screeching with sounds not similar even to those made by animals. It was visibly angry, with its small, glowing eyes no longer being curious — they were furious.

Just as it was about to reach for one of them, a series of bullets stopped it, making it retreat into its deer shell. They weren't fired by any of them, instead coming from the sky above. Seconds later, the trees near them were greeted with the regular and quick rotations of a helicopter's blades.

"Looks like we came just in time," a loud voice screamed from within the machine, descending downwards onto them. "I'd ask you to hop in, but we sadly have to deal with that… thing." Reynolds said, stepping out of the machine onto the ground. He was holding a gigantic tome and other materials Asheworth couldn't recognize from the distance, with Rivera standing near him. He could swear there was a third head looking out of the windows of the machine, but it vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

"Now, let's deal with it properly, shall we?"


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The entity was too shocked to react. Not until it was too late, at least.

Seconds later, all three thaumaturges were standing around it, again orchestrated in harmony. The newcomer now knew what they were dealing with, ready to take it down.

Putting his one hand on an amulet around his neck and another on the book he held, Reynolds started. "Hr'sthnpol, Beast From Beyond The Stars, Taker of Bodies, Absorber of Knowledge" he shouted to the heavens with a trembling voice. The creature was paralyzed, not understanding how someone was able to see behind its disguise and realize its true name. "How dare you refuse rituals? How dare you come into this world and think you're worth more than local gods, refusing to be banished?"

The entity didn't respond.

"For these crimes, we, Montgomery Reynolds, Katherine Sinclair, and Daniel Asheworth, hereby banish you again, this time for good." He kneeled and touched the ground, and so did everyone else. "Go, and never come back."

As he spoke the final words he looked at Sinclair. She touched the ground, and the sky trembled. Mere seconds later rain falling down from it greeted the burning forest. The entity screamed for the millionth time this evening, and, for a moment, it exploded with an energy similar to the purple from before, this time much more condensed. Like chains around it, the light bound the entity, slowly burning away each of its unnatural limbs — not like fire, but more like an acid, slowly but surely consuming every single wrong thing the entity dared to embody. It extended its little arm in anger, trying to reach for any of the invoking, but failed as the holy fire cleansed its sharp appendages too. It screamed again when the energy reached its face, and it screamed even more when it reached its eyes. It moved in the final convulsing move as the color grabbed it more tighly, seconds before it exploded.

All present closed their eyes, awaiting the impact.

Seconds later, it was over.


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The day was almost over, too.

With the now much slower rain falling down from the sky, the fire was almost gone, and everyone had left with the helicopter, ready to return to Sloth's Pit. Everyone except Asheworth and Corbin.

They sat alone in the half-darkness of the setting sun for a while. Neither of them spoke, not wanting to be the first one to extend their apology to the other.

Even if the scorched landscape was a truly horrifying sight, Corbin had to agree the reds of the sun in the distance contrasting with the still red forest were something truly unique.

"So…" Asheworth started carefully. "Is that… all?"

She inhaled slowly. "It… it does seem so, yeah."

"I mean, we also thought that in 2008," he chuckled nervously, without a sign of happiness in his voice. "And… we all know how that turned out."

"Y-yeah…"

He picked up the closest stick next to him, and started to gouge something in the ground. It didn't really matter what it was; it was merely a distraction from having to talk with someone he really should talk to, but just really didn't want to.

"I'm sorry."

"Hm?"

"I… I'm sorry. For everything. I shouldn't have—"

"It's fine. I'm sorry too."

She too picked up a stone from the ground, starting to play with it as another distraction. There was no running away from here until the talk was finished.

"I don't get one thing though."

"What is it?"

"Why Sloth's Pit? I mean, last time we met it, it made sense for it to be Siberia, but—"

"Probably randomly, I guess," she shrugged. "It's not like Russia and Wisconsin have anything in common."

The silence again filled the place they were sitting in.

"So… it was kinda… cliché overall, wasn't it?"

"What?"

"Our story here. It was kinda cliché horror. I mean, 'people wander into a forest only to accidentally end up in the monster's lair?' 'Two people that don't like each other are forced to work together again?' It seems like I've seen that story at least a thousand—"

"Wait, what was that?"

"I said I've read that story be—"

"No, not that. Cliché. Cliché…"

"What about it?"

"Oh, fuck." Corbin suddenly stood up, starting to quickly walk in the direction of the town in the distance. She indicated with her hand that he should follow, and so he did.

"What's the problem?" he said, quickly catching up.

"That fucker chose this place exactly because of that — of clichés, I mean. Sloth's Pit operates on stories, doesn't it?"

He nodded.

"So of course it went here. It knew it would be able to do enough harm to help itself grow and come close to death, but not fully die. Remember? There wasn't anything inside the deer's body. Horror stories always end that way, with infinite fucking sequel bait. It's somewhere out there, and we need to find it, fast." She was nearly running.

"W-What? What does that mean?

"It means only one thing — this isn't over. Not yet."





























































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???

Somewhere Near: Sloth's Pit, Wisconsin, United States of America


Somewhere, somewhen, there's a forest. A forest full of weirdness, even if weirdness doesn't mean a damned thing around it, a forest full of stories, and, most importantly, a forest full of darkness. Nobody really thinks about it when they are there; even if the place is built upon stories, most of them are not dark. But the darkness is still there nonetheless, staining the world around itself, like red wine on pure white clothes.

Within that darkness, there's an entity; an entity thought to be long-gone now, with nothing more than its charred body remaining. The burns created by the three humans almost killed it, they were close. It had to temporarily detach itself, finally giving the deer a moment to experience the horrors of everything the entity did with it, only to not feel the fire. If there was one thing the entity hated more than light, it was fire. No, it did not like fire.

It thought it came too close to being ended. It had never imagined something would again come so close to annihilating it, at least not after it nearly died in the winter of 2008. It swore to itself it would be careful after that, but it wasn't. And now it had to pay the price of once again having no host as a result. Yes, it was definitely too close this time.

It looked around itself, emerging from the deer it inhabited for the last couple of months. With its thin and numerous appendages, it unlocked itself from its spine, and chewing its way out, it emerged into the world around the long-dead deer.

The world was… hurtful, it thought. Even if it was almost nighttime, the light's beams illuminating the glade hurt its long and slimy body, burning its slippery skin not enough to cause any damage to its incomprehensible insides, but enough for it to hurt.

And, for a moment before it disappeared, the otherworldy parasite looked around itself. For a second, it was… angry. It never felt any emotions, aside from the thirst of knowledge, but this time, it knew it was angry. It was anger at the fact it had failed, despite outplaying both of the only people on the planet capable of taking it down.

It knew it had only one goal now — one goal to fulfill, until it could return and take over again. A goal so important to it — even if due to illogical reasons its mind didn't understand — that it had to do everything to achieve it, even more important than its goal to learn. That goal was to kill these three people, no matter what it might take.

Even if all this anger passed in the space of ten seconds, for the entity it felt like ages. And within the next second it interpreted as years, it disappeared into the darkness of the woods, with only one thought in its mind.

That thought was hatred.




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