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I'm a security guard hired to protect an estate, the Forest Has Eyes [Entries 9 to 12]

[Entry 9]

Just like the old days.

I remember drowsily pulling the SUV back onto the main road, the morning sun was just barely coming over the trees. My head ached, feeling as heavy as a rock, and I was slamming a red bull original to wake up whatever brain cells I had left. The metal can dropped back into the cup holder. Yep. the good old days. We decided to crash in the car after I pulled into the parking lot the previous night, cause I think if I did decide to haul ass down the interstate at 60mph, I was gonna pass out and then this whole little misadventure would end when I anticlimactically crashed into a rock. Regardless, I didn’t need much sleep, the electronic clock on the car’s screen red 05:51am. Rosanne was laid out across the back sleep, still passed out. Isaac, however, was wide awake, and judging by the four empty coffee cups at his feet- I had a pretty sound hypothesis as to why he was so wide awake. “You know we could probably just burn the forest down…” Isaac broke the silence, his voice sped up, probably from the amount of pure, unadulterated caffeine he’d been drinking. I broke from my tired, angry haze “what?”. Isaac nodded, “Yeah, you know- all we need is several thousand gallons of gasoline, spread over an area of dry terrain, then statistically it should spread to the nearest fauna at a rate of one square kilometer per half hour-”. I’m not gonna lie, that was what I’ve been able to ad lib, and I’m pretty sure whatever rocket science he spoke, I didn’t hear, and I didn’t care enough to listen. My eyes burned into the road, it only took five minutes for me to get back into the head space of the previous night. Cold air, anger and anxiety shocking my nervous system, my muscles clenching as I unloaded twelve rounds into- Yep. Just like the good old days. My rifle said muzzle down between my legs, maybe it was back to being my good old self, or that I had just about ran out of singular fucks after last night. But I turned hard into the road leading to the estate, and stepped on the gas. The road was gravely, causing the car to bounce, and a poorly timed pothole caused Rosanne to almost bounce off the seat. “W-what?” I saw her drowsily sit up in the rear view mirror, looking about as half dead as I felt. She let out a long yawn, “Nolan?”. Isaac turned in his seat, “Mornin’ sunshine?”. I heard her sigh and slump back on the seat, “Oh god, it wasn’t a nightmare…. Dammit”. The morning light allowed me to easily see what was around the path, and boy, something was off. I guess the autumn was rolling in hard, much of the green fauna and vines that created an emerald haze, blocking my view into the forest, was now dying off. I could see the trees, the spaces between them, the orange and yellow leaves on the ground…. And all the dead space in between them. All of it. I don’t know what was worse, not being able to see past nature’s homemade garden wall, or seeing the amount of emptiness that currently surrounded us. The Shadows dancing at the edges of my mind, knowing that despite all that clear space and visibility- they were sitting there, just out of sight. Watching, waiting. We approached the final hundred meter stretch to the front gate of the house- what was in front magnetically pulled my foot to the brake with the force of a running bull. Rosanne nearly rolled off the seat, and Isaac braced himself on the front dashboard, thankfully, stopping his mathematical rant on how to burn the forest down. “Jesus cowboy…” Rosanne squeezed in between the front seats, “still feeling jumpy from last night?”. She squinted as she looked through the front windshield, through the compensation from the fog, she saw it. The large, red painted metal sliding gate of the compound, was surrounded by a sea of autumn leaves. I remember it had a pretty consistent color, reds, oranges, yellows, the light brown bark of the now leafless trees. In any other circumstances, it created a very picture perfect scene…. Guess that’s why all the shit strewn out in front of it stood out so much. I flicked the wipers, sadly the car’s defrosters weren’t working, but after a single swipe, I saw all I needed to. A bright blue pull bag, torn wide open, and hanging from the line of C wire on top of the gate. Another swipe, various articles of clothing, a pair of shoes, a laptop- an I pad with a set of white earbuds. A jacket, a hoodie, black, with some blue stripes. Same jacket John walked up those steps a few days ago with. With the click of a button, the gate slowly opened, one hand on the steering wheel, the other held the pistol grip of my rifle close. Isaac was leaning in close to the windshield, wiping away some fog from the glass. “Fuck man…. Those motherfuckers…” His voice sounded like it was sobering up from the caffeine, this place always had that kind of effect. “Is that….” Rosanne went silent, “We should check it out, maybe there’s some clues…”. Just as she opened her door, I slammed the pedal, both of them flew back into their seats as I drove the vic straight over whatever the fuck kind of bait they had set. It was getting old, it was all getting- real fuckin' old. I pulled right up to the front of the house, turning left just before driving the vehicle onto the front steps. Parked, pulled the keys out, grabbed my rifle, the autumn air hitting my face as I stepped out. The gate was still open, I held my 15 at the high ready, scanning the entrance way. They never did act on it, it was all mental, it was all mind fuck - fuck games. God, dammit. “Dwight, we should still look at it, what if there’s some DNA, or some evidence, or-” I remember unclipping that gate remote from my belt tossing it over my shoulder to her. “You want to go indulge those bastards, fine. Isaac keep watch just incase they try to kidnap her”. I walked up to the front doors, and before I even knew it, the key was out of my pocket, and the door unlocked. “Aight… but where’ll you be?”. I don’t think I gave him a verbal answer, I just shoved my way through the door. The house was quiet, dark…. There was a chilly room temp breeze in the air coming from one of the vents. Here I was, back on home turf. What was my first place? Then, it hit me? Time to search for some fuckin’ clues. Theodore’s office was locked, damn bastard was always paranoid, I should have expected that switch up months ago. I was just too god damn dumb- no, complacent. Complacent, complacent, complacent, complacent. I could hear my old team leader mocking me as I threw my shoulder into the wooden double doors. I backed off, putting a hard foot to the crack in the middle. Guess I wasn’t losing my touch, as they flew right open. Cheap home depot locks. I’m sure many of you can probably give me a thousand ways to sterilize and strip that office for information. A methodical, white gloved examination, starting from his numerous filing cabinets, the his desk, then searching for compartments everywhere and- I’ll cut to the chase, I just started ripping open drawers. And god fucking dammit. It was already sterilized. His varnished oak wooden desk had a computer desk top system on top, on each side, it had six locked wooden drawers. After aggressively pulling them from their roller catches, nothing. Empty drawers. I broke open the sides, looking for files he might have hidden. Nothing. Then, the filing cabinets. Not a god damn thing. Every letter, from A to N, M to Z, all letters, all numbers, cryptic categories…. Empty folders, and dust. The computer system had been bricked, I unplugged it, re plugged, restarted…. blue screen. Then, it was actually bricked when I tossed one of the filing cabinets at it. The office was a mess of toppled metal cabinets, broken drawers, smashed wood, and now circuit boards…. The bastard really did cut and run. The tower’s fans were still running, even when it was literally broken in half, the wizz of the small fans, the hum of the house’s heating vents…. It was white noise. I could hear him, laughing, cackling with his sick, twisted grin and pointing a finger at me. I was a scapegoat, the security guard who abandoned his post, lost the kid, shot a man in a backyard. And nothing, not a god, damn thing to show for it. God I was really fucked…. I looked over the room again. Grey metal filing cabinets, smashed drawers, the desk which had every single compartment stripped and searched, the broken tower computer, the paperless drawers, the white dress at the doorway, the CPU blinking on the ground- My mind caught it, my hands snapped to my side, raising my rifle to the doorway. Nothing. I gazed just over my optic, at this range, you don’t really have to worry about accuracy when across a 6 meter long room. Still…. Nothing. Just the dark halls of the house. I lowered my rifle, letting a blast of hot, tense air release from my lungs…. I was fucking losing it. Between my rage running rampant, and my mind playing tricks. “Yo so apparently Rosie found some shit on the…..comput….er…”. Isaac had walked into the room, he shoved his hands into his pockets, whistling, his Italian made death cannon slung to his back. “Well…. Hell yeah…. I mean, hell no cause I’mma guess we didn’t get anything, but this is a helluva step of from that night we tried to chew his ass out after that storm….”. It had only been a few months. Cryptically, I was standing in front of the desk, right where I had been, drenched in rain water and sweat, coughing up pieces of my lung after a multi-mile hell run. Isaac was just in front of the door. ”Hey….. What did your boss say?”. Crap, I never did tell them, either of them. It had been a busy 20 hours since Rosanne first piled into our SUV. “I’ll explain downstairs…. “ As I walked out, I remember the CPU of the computer popping underneath my boot. Take that, Theo. We were downstairs, my rifle, his shotgun, our plate carriers, Rosanne’s bag, all piled messily onto a lounge chair in the far side of the living room, as Isaac put it a “gigantic pile of monster killing supplies”. Our banter aside, I told them everything. The phone call, Theodore’s tone, how he knew what we’d been doing even halfway across the country, and of course-... “Company backup…” Isaac said slowly, the meaning of it sank in. “Oh boy…. Lemme guess, a van full of armed goons that are gonna drag us off, never to be seen again”. I slammed my third redbull of the morning, the caffeine hit me hard. “Ah….. yeah”. Right around this point, I stopped to update my draft of this entry. Then I proceeded to get right into weapon's cleaning. Don't know what it was about high caffeinated energy drinks heightening my OCD, but I had my '15 disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled in about 3 minutes flat. I started to CLP my glock, Isaac was pacing back and forth, in and out of my peripheral vision. He was taking this news worse than I was. “So…. what, is he gonna come here and kill us?”. I shook my head, I could feel the grim reality of the situation slowly leaking out through my attempted drowsy stoicism. I’ll admit, there are a lot of cards stacked in my favor, then, and now. I reassembled my weapon, letting the handgun’s slide slam forward, “Just me…”, “What do you mean, just you?”. There was an offended tone, no, not really offended, more so shocked tone in Isaac’s voice. “Isaac, look…. Theodore never mentioned you, or Rose. This is my mess, I dragged you’se into this, I created the mess. If things do go south, you two will cut and run, and I’ll face Theodore and his corporate goons….” even as I crossed my arms, leaning up against the counter like some Billy badass, I could tell Isaac didn’t buy it. I’ll admit, a few months ago I didn’t trust Isaac, but his actions thus far earned it from me, and his response really sold me on his character. “No- No no, listen…. Dwight… I agreed to pitch a tent literally office and stay here to help, and now that we’ve got ghouls at the gate, ghosts in the cellar, and a kid is missing….. Dude listen… kid’s and people go missing all the time, but I know this one…. And I can’t just, run away knowing I coulda helped save him….”. Isaac stuck out his hand. “If you get kidnapped, I get kidnapped…. Simple as that…”. We are nearing the ending stretch of this road. I wanna say in my tired stupor, I said the “hour glass is ticking”- a bit over dramatic, but I meant it. I shook Isaac's and, a silent nod between the two of us. If I was going in, at least I wasn't going in alone. “Hey, Dwight…” the accent of a brit echoed from the living room, Rosanne. She sat cross legged on the couch, facing the table. She had gutted the laptop John had in his computer, and as I walked out, I saw an all to familiar black gunk on the motherboards and circuits. “What’s up?”. She held an emerald green computer chip, thankfully, using gloves to touch whatever black satanic afterbirth was marinating on the edge of those things. “You still got that bag of black stuff?”. I felt around, I remembered it was in my jacket, that was in the good old control room. “Be right back…”. I popped my key into the lock on the door. Don't know if I mentioned this, I may have, but the walls of the room were made from raw pine, so when I walked it in smelt like a box of damn car air fresheners. In one corner of the room, was the tent Isaac had set up. Gotta admit, it had some charm but I would still prefer he move into one of the seven bedrooms of this place. In the far corner of the room, the wall of monitors connected to a computer table was positioned against the wall to the outside. I walked over to the chair, digging through my pockets, and that bag felt strange. You know one of those things you made in middle school science class? the Newtonian compound or whatever it's called. The goo that constantly shifts from liquid, to solid, back to liquid. It felt like that. It felt wet, but also dry and solid. Strangely I let it rest in my hand, and I felt it didn't need any interaction from me to do so. Like it was moving on it's own. Thank god I double bagged it. I handed off the bag to Rosanne, and pulled all my gear back into my security room. And like that, here I am, a few days later, back in the same exact place. Isaac's milling about in his tent, I think he's playing some game on his phone.... and I started my next update on this. Strangely.... the light's aren't flickering. I mean, I dunno if it's because there's a high amount of people, but then again, the power turned off when there were four of us here; Me, Isaac, Theodore- john. I haven't forgotten about him, but Rosanne was right, we're out of leads, though she says she's gonna see if working with the goo can yield any results Where ever he is, he probably can't read this. But if he somehow does, I want him to know. We're coming to get you kid, I promise. .... Shit. Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit. Alright, Shit hit the fan. God fucking dammit. I passed out for a nap in my chair. Yeah, I know, "But Dwight you were supposed to be the guardian of the estate and you fell asleep", well the state is currently under martial law, and it was broad daylight, so I didn't think It needed a constant security element right now. Anyways, I woke up when the microphone that hooked up to the front gate "Hot Mic'ed". It means a huge amount of feedback comes through- though it only happens when someone on the other end is trying to talk. It awoke me from my slumber, I scrambled in my seat, nearly sliding out of the rolling chair. I looked around. Isaac was still in his tent, I could tell by his muttering through the tent. I checked the montiros, [CAM_5-Living Room] showed Rosanne, still sitting on the couch, tinkering with the different items she found in front of the gate. My mind raced, heart beating off a back drop of silence, the small hum of the heater in the room lulling me back down. -That's when another burst of feedback through the microphone caught my attention. I looked over at the microphone, a small stand up unit, with a simple on and off switch, and key in button hooked up to the system. I keyed in a few times, cutting off the static. I gaze at the monitor. Nothing. The eerily empty, brown horizon of the forest showed, trees waving in the wind orange leaves covered the ground, and yet, no one was in front of it. Maybe, someone was hiding underneath? It wasn't unheard of, had a few incidents with a house back in Kansas City where known burglars got in with that method. No, why would the demonic shit around here even need to hide? Regardless, I keyed in and spoke, ["Hello? Who's out there?"]. I hung the earpiece of the headset around my neck- smart choice because another hot mic came in. ["Listen, this is private property..."] my usual response got caught up in my throat. I know how this would go; you know what? screw that. They wanna get all fuck-fuck, fine, I was getting bored anyways. I keyed back in. ["Okay- I get it. You're fucking with me...-"], a loud burst of static cut me off, and proceeded to piss me off. ["Fuck it, you know what? I'll just unplug the damn headset, shut off the receiver because no one is ever visiting this godless house"]. Another burst of static, ["Then I'm gonna find where you are, I'm gonna torch your forest, shove dragons breath so far up your ghoul asses you won't be able to feel cold again, and I'm gonna get that damn kid back...."]. I let go of the button, expecting another blast of static. except, nothing. I actually raised my eyebrow in surprise. Though I leaned back in, when a much lower, subdued hum of static came through the headset. ["Where is John?"] I growled, so much so I don't know if anyone would even be able to make out what I was saying through the scratchy, outdated radio system. I was wrong. "With us now...." the voice mad my hairs stand on edge. It was melodic, gentle, a lot more peaceful than what I was expecting. I stood there, eyes dancing to every single monitor, making sure there wasn't some smiling mongoloid staring back inches from the camera. I looked back to the front gate, empty. ["Who is this?"]. For a few moments, nothing. Then, "You should have left my house". ["Wha-"]. The monitor projecting the front gate nearly sparked as it snapped off, this thing was probably a 200 dollar flat screen, and it just buzzed and sparked off like it was a box TV. Isaac even jolted in his tent, the sound bounced around the tiny security room. "Da' hell was that?!". I sat back in my chair, and one by one, the security cameras started to spark, before all that I could see was a wall of dark, yet still glowing monitors, staring back at me. I swallowed hard, my eyes shot over to Isaac's tent flap, as it slowly unzipped. He poked his head out, turning towards me. "Everything alright captain?-". That's when he saw it, "Uh..... what the hell". A large crash coming from just beyond the door to the hallway caught out attention. It was an empty hallway, too thin to have any furniture, and yet it sounded like a damn wardrobe came rolling down. I spun around in my chair, my hand pulled my glock from my holster. "ROSANNE?!" I shouted, the sound dulled by the thick wooden walls of the security room. A set of foosteps came from beyond the metal door, and a few knocks. "Dwight?" She struggled with the door, odd, because it was supposed to be unlocked. Isaac got up and opened it- or at least, tried to. "Jesus... Dwight how' I open this thing?", just then, a flicker of white caught my attention on the screens. Isaac looked back, yanking on the door, one foot pressing against the wall. "Hey- Dwight?!". "It's supposed to be...." my voice trailed off as it started to type on the screen. A single sentence, in white, pixilated text, on the center monitor that read: [CAM_09- Generator] -You should have just left. The text then backspaced itself, and began to type out more words. -You had to be a hero and drag others into this. It didn't need to be anything. The next sentence began to type out, I reached down, and yanked the keyboard's cord from the USB port. -You have a choice to ju- the line flickered on and off the black screen. Then, it backspaced. -Fine. When they're all gone, this is all on you. Another loud crash came from far down the hall, to the right of our side of the door. Rosanne began frantically knocking. "DWIGHT?!?! DWIGHT!!!!!". I bolted over kicking the lock beneath the doorknob and pulling with my free hand. Isaac had grabbed a shovel, and began to try and pry it open. A series of loud crashes worked their way down the hall, towards the door. I slammed my fist on the cold metal, "ROSANNE?! ROSANNE!!! GET AWAY FROM THE DOOR!!!". She just kept beating on the door, "ROSANNE!!! THERE'S A GUN UNDER THE TV!!!! GO GET IT!!!". The lights began to flicker , the shitty, long ass LEDs hanging in the security room began to swing and flicker. Isaac gave up prying it open, and just resorted to try and spear it through the door. And then- the lights went out when the crashing reached the door. All light, all sound, vanished. For a moment, I thought the world had ended. All ambient light was gone, and I was left standing there. Hot breath leaving my lips, looking around, hand on the cold door.... wait, cold door. The damn heater has been on the entire time we've been here. Isaac turned on his phone light, and I did the same. "Dwight, what the hell's going on?!". I just shook my head, trying to go over what had happened. My choice, My fault- It's house. I tossed Isaac the keys to the tough box in the corner of the security room. I'm going back to basics on this ine: ALAMO plan is in effect, the building has been breached by a hostile force. I've got two bars, it's been a pain to load anything, never the less call anyone. Writing this down, because If we have been invaded... well, Let the record show Isaac and I are gearing up to face them head on. Not exactly the way I expected this to go, maybe I expected hostility to arrive a few hours sooner. FUBAR. It’s a term my old bitter squad leader told me when we were pinned down on a thin road back in Kandahar. This was when I was just a private, barely my first chevron, crouched behind an armored vehicle as my team leader laid between us with a Tourniquet strapped to his arm. “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition Nolan...”. You know, I’ve hit a lot of situations so far that can be classified like that. Here, mostly, in this, semi southern woodland town, having taken a contract in the hopes of seeing some work. Guess I never expected my blood to be pumping it’s highest in my mid thirties- and at a time when the bullets stopped flying past my head. I remember nearly falling back over my computer chair when the lights went out, bathing us in darkness. Now, normally, your eyes have a natural ‘cat eye’ ability to them, where they’ll adjust to darkness, usually helped by ambient light. It’s how after a black out, you’re able to quickly get a sense of where you are. But considering I stood there, gazing around, not even able to find my own damn hand. There was no light, not anymore. FUBAR. This wasn’t the time to panic, not now, we were in an ALAMO situation; The compound has been severely breached, and whatever the hell could be classified as an enemy combatant, was now probably within the walls… lurking. Hunting. I opened the middle drawer, right side, it had matches, lithium batteries, double As, triple As,- and a headlamp. Can't see, can't fight. I flicked it onto the white light setting and glanced around, the pit in my stomach started to decrease a bit, at least now we had light- “OH SHIT!!!-”, Isaac’s words bounced off the walls of the small room, as he stumbled and fell onto his tent inside of the office quickly reminded me that we still weren't, a fully professional fighting force. Isaac threw the plastic lining off him as I scanned behind me, and I breathed a sign of relief; my plate carrier and ‘15 were still here, propped up against the wall. I slipped the lamp onto my head, pulling the vest over my head and strapping it onto myself. Isaac grumbled as he stood up. “This is bad man-”, yeah, it was. I felt around the backside of my jeans, feeling a small ring of keyes i’d kept S clipped onto a belt loop, pulling off a small master lock key. “Isaac… pop open that crate….” I tossed him the key, I was referring to one of the tough boxes propped up just beside where his tent once stood. I saw him hold it in his hand, feeling it with his finger tips, “busting out the big guns, sarge?”. “Something like that”. It’s a good thing that Isaac spent all seventeen thousand dollars on pure, unadulterated american firepower that day, oh so many weeks ago. Right now we were trapped in a small security room, while god knows what could have already secured most of the compound, let alone the dark, close quarters building we were in. We had a term back on small J - Camps, I already mentioned it: ‘ALAMO’. In the event of a breach of compound, we retreat back to the deepest, most secure part of our fortifications, load up, and hold out. That’s probably what they wanted, us to stay here, wait out the storm, while they gathered strength outside, waiting to drown Isaac and I in whatever darkness they currently had Rosanne in… No, not today. We had come too far, fought too hard, for it to end like that... I filled whatever magazines we hadn’t with all of the surplus 5.56, shoving them into pouches on my kit, in my pockets, hell, I even went old school and clipped on a condor gun belt. Isaac’s carrier was outside on the couch in the living room, along with his Benelli deathcannon…. In another time, I probably would’ve given him all kinds of hell for leaving his weapon, but that’s when I was a pitbull, about ten years younger, and hadn't worn down my temper like I had my knees. This also wasn’t a trained american soldier we were talking about. Although, that just sounds rude. Isaac might not be trained, he might not even know how to fight well- but god damn if he hasn’t stood by my side and fought with me so far… “Whatchyah got for me?” Isaac asked giddly as he pulled on a gunbelt of his own, it was lined with pouches upon pouches of 12 gauge. Buckshot, Slugs, with an additional pouch strapped to the very back, marked in red and black. I tossed him a short barrelled member of the shotgun family, the Mossberg 590. It was stocky, to the point, might not’ve had range… but I kept it here with the express purpose of being able to fight in the tight corridors of the house. And by god, if it wasn’t needed now more than ever. I slung to my front, as Isaac loaded a handful of slugs into the mossberg, and tried for the door. Locked. I tried it from our side, but it wasn’t budging. No good. I backed up, taking aim at the door. “You ready?” I asked Isaac, he nodded. I tapped the upside of my fist against my head, to Isaac’s confusion. “Uh, you got a headache?”. I sighed, though I really shouldn’t have, should of known better. “Breach-”, “What?” “It means, breach “With what?”, “The 12 gauge boomstick in your hand, now put it against the lock and blow it”. All of the action movies he must’ve seen probably came flooding back, because Isaac ran forward, shoving the muzzle of the gun against the door. With an explosion of sparks, and wooden fragments, I saw the brass cover of the door’s knob and lock fall off. Thankfully this time, I put on a pair of electronic ear protectors. Three times the charm. Isaac pulled the door open, and I went charging forwards. The hallway opened into a T, so I’d go and cover the living room while Isaac…. Wait. This wasn’t the hallway. My headlamp saw that the area really opened up into…. Something that made me groan with pure dread. It was a library, the library Isaac and I had stumbled into on our last adventure into this haunted fucking house. Same rectangular design, same old, dim orange candelabras lining each of the corners…. Same dusty filled air that hung, like a light snowfall. As I dropped my muzzle, Isaac came rushing in behind me, shaking the carpet so wildly It telegraphed everyone of his steps. “ALRIGHT LETS-..... Oh now, THIS AGAIN?!”. Took the words right out of my mouth. I reached up and pulled my left muff off my ear ever slightly, allowing me to hear the natural sounds around us. Isaac and I were staring down either end of one of the isles alongside the library’s longer side… and I don’t know whether it was the walls, or the dust, but all sound seemed… muffled. Like, there was no ambient noise, just a pure void, where either Isaac’s or my own shuffling and breathing broke it. “I don’t think we solved our basement problem Dwight…”. “You think?! Now the whole damn house is gone…”. My left hand shot back to the fore grip on my rifle, as I scanned in front of me. Normally, with a proper team, I’d have this entire room cleared by now. But we weren’t a proper team, it was just us, and we stood there. Complacent, waiting, stood still like two fucking goats waiting to get cut down. “What’s the play?” Isaac asked, he now backed up, pressing up to the back of my kit. what was the play? I thought about it, my cheek welded to the butt stock. No sounds, meaning we were alone, but were we? Did the ghouls and creatures hunting us create sound here? Was the sound just high blood pressure fucking with our eardrums? Was it at all detrimental that in a combat situation, my mind rushed to menial fucking questions? No, yes. I mean, Yes, but no, not unnatural… Then, that’s when we heard it. From the isle to my right, just behind the bookcase, I could hear a set of heavy, and fast footsteps, cutting the trail from Isaac’s end to mine. I didn’t know what it was, who it was, it could have been Rosanne, but all I know is, it was coming towards the opening near me. Fast- One flick downwards, Semi. With quick and calculated precision I took aim for a spot on the bookcase I knew it was at- and I slammed down on the trigger. All of the training I had acquired suddenly flooded back as I fired into the bookcase in large, fast groups, tearing up the novels and dictionaries and whatever else on the shelf. Isaac joined in, spinning around he fired off a slug that cut right through a wooden divider, causing the entire shelf to sag in the middle. Then, silence. I peered over my holographic sight, peering into the now settling fall of torn up paper and wooden shards. Through my right ear, I could hear Isaac breathing heavily, a metallic klink told me he’d slam fired all his ammo- and the clicking afterwards told me he was reloading… My left ear…. Was ringing. I guess I had forgotten to put that muff back over my ear before I decided to light up the shelf like it was a Tango at 3’oclock. I mean, in this circumstance, I guess it was, regardless. Isaac slammed his shotgun's fore-end home, scanning the shelf up and down. "Think we got it?". "If we didn't Isaac, we've got bigger fucking problems. Cover me" I “pied” the corner of the shelf as I approached, using whatever was left of the end of it to provide a slow, but steady cover point that I was able to clear it from. My mind raced as to what might greet me? The creature from the backyard, back to seek it’s revenge? John? Rosanne?.... As I rounded the corner, quickly clearing all openings, the ball in my throat cleared.“Dwight?! What is it? See anything?” my throat cleared with a frustrated sigh, “No, nothing…-”. Another set of footsteps, this time, on Isaac’s side, running along the short side of the rectangle. Isaac was the first to fire, through the dim light of the library I could see an explosion, and a slug rip through two shelves as it hit the far wall. As paper and leatherback covers of books flew across the room, I squinted to see what it was… I saw…. Something? Someone? A humanoid, small, running…. It was too dark, the air was too polluted, I couldn’t see who…. But I saw something that gave me enough reason to pick up and run to the far end to beat it. I remember trying to yell at it, as if whatever was in the woods gave a rats ass about my word or wants, “Stop!!”. As I hit the far isle, I pivoted on my right foot and raised my rifle…. Only to be staring down at Isaac, who held the mossberg at his hips…. Isaac dipped his gun back, holding the barrel in the air. What the hell was going on? I scanned both sides of the isle, and that’s when I saw it. Embedded in a spot where another bookcase should be, was a wooden door. Plywood, with old yellow paint peeling off at it’s edges. I pied the three inch indent it made, as if something were to be hiding there waiting to kill me- probably just nerves. Isaac shook his head. “I guess there’s no hope of seeing any of the regular house now?”, I shook my head, reaching in with my off hand, “Not unless we keep going, I guess that’s the play”. Was what I was saying even making sense? Did any of this make sense? Shit was spiraling out of control, was what we were seeing, shooting, running through- even real? I tried to believe it was, if anything, just to keep myself grounded. Locked. I backed off, shouldering my rifle. I tapped the front side of my head, and Isaac came in close with his shotgun. Another explosion of wood and metal shards, and the door shook wildly. This time, I didn’t wait for him to pull it open, I charged forward, raising my boot, and kicking the door in. Isaac followed close behind- and both him and I nearly tripped over a small, long, pink piece of furniture that laid across just before the door. A bed, a child’s bed. Age, like the chipped walls where it seemed like blue and white wallpaper once was plastered across, had sunk in. A white and pink quilt was now old, torn up, and rotted. The room was almost as small as the security room, maybe a couple of meters long, a few across. I pulled my rifle up against me, backing up to gain space, that’s when my back hit a wall, the wall. The door we came into was no longer there, just more peeling wallpaper with chipped wood furnishings… No going back. I instead brought my left foot to the edge of the bed, feeling the frame, and kicked it against the wall to my left, out of the way. The bed must've collided with some sort of dresser, because I noticed a wave of papers flew off into the center of the room. Out of my peripherals, I noticed they were drawings, colorful ones. I walked up to the far side of the room, a window. Turning off my headlamp to avoid any glare or reflection, I gazed out. It was, darkness, the void. Maybe one or two inches of space, and then it seemed like it hid a sea of literal, physical darkness. No trees, lights, ghouls, monsters, people…. Just, darkness. The sounds of objects falling onto the wooden floor caused me to spin around, and I saw it was just Isaac… but, something was off. “Isaac…. You alright?”. He stood there, shaking his head, and had this glassy filter over his eye. “Yeah…. Yeah man just….” His right hand holding his gun, dropped, as his left hand pinched his temple. “It’s gotta be all this stuff in the air…. I just…. I think it’s giving me a headache….”. He took a few steps forward, nearly slipping on one of the papers on the floor, causing him to brace against the wall. “Jesus! What the hell’s with all this stuff anyways….”. Something also clicked in my head, a few seconds ago one of the drawings fell right across the light of my headlamp, it was colorful, fresh, new, like someone had just went to down on a stack of sheets. unlike all of the walls and furniture where the colors were faded and old, and looked like they'd been put through the dark age. I pulled my rifle into it’s “work space”, close to my shoulder with the muzzle in the air, and grabbed one of the drawings…. It was off, strange, surreal, I guess. A small girl in a white and pink dress was in a field, surrounded by trees. A blue sky messily colored in above, with flowers on the ground. Although, it seemed intentional, the edge of the trees were curved- a clearing? And a house stood tall in the background. Several pointed edges of it’s rooftops…. I tossed it aside, and picked up another, This time, a much darker version of the forest. Bodies of tries, devoid of leaves with gray bark filled the area. In the distance, bathed in light, was the cazamoth estate. I knew it was because, it was a splitting image of it. A grey concrete wall with curled barbed wire, and a large brown wooden building in the middle. Though, at the edges of the trees, in the dark patches…. Eyes watched. Not cartoonishly red or evil eyes. Plaine, white eyes, with no irises, surrounded by dark patches of dead skin, staring down from all angles… the eyes I knew, I had seen in the storm. Whatever drew these knew what was going on, and wanted me to see them… I felt a drop of sweat run down the side of my head as a chill shot up my spine. Was it probably from all the running and gunning? Probably, yes, but…. I have to admit, this was all getting under my skin… The sweat on my hand sunk into the paper as I turned over another… It was…. Us, the gang, the small trio I had assembled, in the parking lot just before we pulled out this morning. Last morning- was it even the same day? Forget about it. Rosanne sat inside, while I leaned on the front bumper, smoking a cigarette…. And Isaac sat up against the rear bumper, head down. They were exact portraits of us, albeit, drawn in crayon. Me, beard, black hair, leather jacket, jeans. Rosanne, purple beanie, white coat, green hardback journal. Isaac, truckers flex cap, hawaiian shirt, cargo pants, and…. No. Some sort of dark strand coming out of his back, the black crayola line edged deep into the paper, intently, as it lead back to the woods. I dropped the paper and stood up, flipping on my headlamp, as I gazed at Isaac. His head was hung low, his breathing, heavy. Slight shivers in his shoulders as he leaned up against a shelf, his right hand barely hanging onto the pistol grip of the mossberg. “Isaac….”. No response. “Isaac!!”, My voice shook a bit, my thumb plastered against the selector switch, as I waited, praying what my gut told me was going on, wasn’t going on. “Isaac you better come clean right now, if that ain’t just a headache or flu….”. A series of heavy pants and coughs came from him, his head still hung low, obscuring his eyes. I took a step forward, KRACK- A large impact into the window behind me caused me to spin around, Something had hit the window, from within that dark void, and had caused a large break in the glass to form. I aimed my rifle at the window, now there was two threats; One external, one internal. God don’t let the internal be true. Another thud from an unseeable force caused the glass to crack, the spiderwebbing break widened even more. “ISAAC WE NEED TO GO!!”. He instead just stood there, now shivering. Great, just fucking great Dwight. I gazed around, the door we had entered from was gone, the window was now becoming a breach point for something else…. The back left corner. A door, that, for some reason, I didn’t see in my initial sweep of the room, had appeared. A large toy box lid infront, with a chair propped up beside it, in an attempt to hide it. I let my rifle drop, slung to my front, as I grabbed the box, and heaved it to the other side of the room. KRACK- I tried the handle, locked, god damn it. I raced over to Isaac, reaching for his shotgun. Except, his previously limp, sweaty fingers now clung onto the trigger well like it was a pot of fucking gold. He stood there still, head down, sickly, but wouldn’t let go. I cursed under my breath, and reached for a drop holster on my right leg. My Glock 19 wasn’t a preferable breaching tool- KRACK- But under current circumstances, it would have to do. I shoved the barrely nearly down the damn keyhole before yanking on that trigger more times than I can count. The door shuddered and shook, but after enough shots and yanking on the handle…. The bolt inside broke, and I pushed it open. KRACK- Another impact, followed by the sound of glass falling onto the wooden floor caused my hairs to stand up at fucking attention. I grabbed Isaac by his shoulder and pulled him after me.“Isaac! We- Are- LEAVING!!!”. As I shoved him into the hall, and reached the door. The sound of the glass shattering, following by a horrifying growl and roar, caused me to kick the damn door back into place. Isaac began to mutter at this point, hysterically, as I nearly pulled a muscle shoving a gigantic cabinet in front of the door. Just as it eclipsed the door to the bedroom- it shook violently. More growls and roars like before emanated from within. This wasn’t the Cazamoth estate, we weren’t the protectors, this wasn’t our home, we were being hunted. I pulled Isaac along with my free arm, as he now began to sound like a fucking asylum patient. The hallway was old, weathered, like a victorian style house had been put through seventy years and two hurricanes. Rugs and floor boards torn up, plaster littering the floor… and all of the fucking doors locked. Except for one. “INFIRMARY”. I shoved Isaac inside as I swung the door closed. It had six damn locks, why do you even need to many? For an aid room? Well, not any infirmary I’d ever seen. I turned back to the room in front of me, it was probably seven meters across, foot long. Just big enough for some cabinets, a sink, counters… and a metal operating table along the far wall. Important to note was the room was split, the bottom half, along with the entirety of the floor, was littered with old, cracked tiles you’d find in a shower. The top was white paint that had seen better days. I looked around for Isaac, who now sat in one of the back corners, hands grabbing his face, sobbing hysterically. Something, deep down inside, sunk seeing this. For a person who had been so chipper, so positive throughout all of this, especially after that pep talk we had in the kitchen…. Crumbling to this…. I smothered it, He’d be fine, if- he was even fine with to begin with. I went through my basic checks. All my mags and gear was still on me, the door was secure…. The loud, drumming sounds of the bedroom door down the hallway told me something was still trying to get in. isaac was possible a threat, and I don’t know how much ammo I had wasted. I quickly loaded a fresh mag into my glock, shoving it back into it’s holster. The one I had loaded into my rifle was windowed and showed 11 round left. Yeah, I guess we were taking the suppressive part of suppressive fire very literally. I slapped a fresh mag into the rifle, and thought to myself. ‘Alright, green on ammo, next-’. “D-d-D-Dwiht…” Isaac mumbled, for the first time in what seemed like forever, he spoke. I gazed up, my right hand tight on the rifle’s grip as I looked him over. He sat knees in arms, eyes buried into his kneecaps, with his left arm extended, pointing at the operating table. “Isaac what’s wrong?”, He said nothing, just his shaky finger pointing at the operating table. The booming sounds of whatever was trying to enter the hall continued as I glanced across it. It’s chrome finish was still surprisingly intact and reflective, albeit with several spots showing age and rust. A black cushion on top, with straps for…. I don’t want to think about it. And on top laid, another paper, drawing side up. I walked over, my boots squeaking and crunching off the tile floor as I approached the table. It was a picture of this room, at a different time, in a different place, facing from the back wall outwards, towards the door. The girl was strapped into the operating table, crying, with cuts and stitches all over her face. In the back corner of the room, there was a figure…. The way it was drawn… it looked like TV static, but, not, at the same time. Blurry, but I could make out it was a man, and it just stood there, in the far corner, facing her. I ran my thumb along the corner of the paper, and I realized, through my light bleeding through it, there was another drawing on the other side. Me. I stood there, facing the now empty, torn up operating table, my rifle crudely drawn across my chest, headlamp illuminating the area around me in a triangle. I could see Isaac in the fetal position, like he was, in one of the corners…. And that staticy, smeared, blurry man peering just over my shoulder. I then realized…. The banging on the door in the hallway had stopped. Before my synapses could even comprehend, the drawing was dropped, my selector switch was on semi, and I had spun around to see….. Her. Although this time, it wasn’t out of the corner of my eye in the basement, she stood there. Dress now a dirty white and torn, staring me down. A smile was pulled across her dread, cracked lips, as she raised her head to look at me, with white, beady eyes surrounded by black sunken rings. The last words I remember as my headlamp flickered off. “Gotchyah…”. …. I awoke to a cool breeze across my face, my head was pounding as I pulled a black fleece beanie from in front of my eyes. “Hey, Sarn’t Noles…. Sarn’t…”. I rubbed my eyes, black, oil and dirty coated mechanix gloves that I’d worn for probably my entire tenure gripped the steering wheel of the truck I was in. I looked out the windshield, we were inside the wire of a large camp, and around the truck. Why we were here, started to leak back in from a long forgotten memory. A near 500 mile patrol, that had taken almost two days across the province. We were low on everything, from rounds, to fuel, to water, to MRES… so we were bedded down in the motorpool of our “halfway point” compound for the night. But ... that was almost a decade ago, why was I here? “Sarn’t?”, My eyes shot to just outside of the door, a kid in grey digital camo gear, with a worn shemagh scarf wrapped around his neck, stood there. I remember this kid, five foot five, stocky, my bravo team leader had a sick sense of humor and made him a SAW gunner. “What is it Daveys?”. “Sarn’t Walker wanted to speak with you, he’s by the tower”. Sergeant First Class Nicholas Walker… my old Platoon Sergeant. “Alright…. Go get some sleep”. He shuffled back to his ruck and woobie, and was passed out before I had grabbed my M16 and dropped out of the truck. Around us, beige armored vehicles laid silent, and still, and the entire area was coated in a thick layer of frost, not unusual to afghanistan, if I was right, it was the middle of winter. Sergeant Walker was up on a catwalk, positioned by a cylinder guard tower on the northern side of the compound. The entire area was maybe 100 x 100 meters, tucked on the edge of a mountain, made a great target for snipers and RPGs…. Which showed the size of Walker’s brass balls, I guess. When he was just standing there, M16 slung to his front, staring off into the distant mountains with a pair of Binoculars. He barely gave me any word as I stomped up the metal stairs, and stood alongside him. “Sergeant….”, “Nolan…. Mornin’ “ He had a thick ‘Geojan’ accent, from the deep south. Man was taller than men, built like a brick shit house. The kind of man you needed to lead a group of soldiers in a warzone. A puff of hot air escaped my lips as I exhaled, gazing out at the dark horizon. “Playing chicken with the snipers again, Sergeant?”. A small huff, a chuckle, very rare from him. “We been’ doin’ that for months now Nolan…. It catches us all”. I looked at my watch, 0135 | 22DEC10 | Seven Months into my fourth deployment, Three months after… “You wanted to see me?”. I watched as hot air seemed to spew from beneath Sergeant Walker’s kevlar like smoke coming from a dragon’s nostrils. “We nearly got hit on that bend coming in…. Second Squad alright?”. I scratched the back of my neck, between my helmet straps. “Yeah… I sent the guys to bed early, did all the SI and vehicle checks myself…”. We stood in silence for minutes, but it felt like hours, just staring out, watching the mountains. Walker sighed, shaking his head, and looked back into the Binos. “I’m sorry about Clancy….”. I raised an eyebrow, this wasn’t something he usually talked about. Straight to the point, no dillydallying about past losses or events… “No rest for the wicked” as he said, but- “We’ve been losing guys, and it’s not our fault. Just a bad hand Nolan…. First they won’t give us the Rhino to protect against forward IEDS…. Then it's bad intel leading us into fucking contact after contact….”. Walker shook his head, “But Clancy was on me…. I should’ve done better scanning after we got hit…. I know I don’t usually talk like this but, that’s been burning in my mind for months now….”. I buried my hands in my pockets, an act, vilified in garrison, but out here, not so much. “Like you said Sergeant… Bad Hand…”. A bad hand. A platoon fed into a meat grinder for months on end, with the seeming intent to get us all killed. “Bad Hand, yeah. Gotta make do with what you got. Maybe when this is all over, we can move on, hopefully. But right now…. You need play your hand and wake up Dwight”. Dwight. He’s never called me by my first name before. “What did you say, Sergeant?”. Walker dropped his binoculars, his hazel eyes staring me down as he let them hang around his neck. “Dwight, Wake up…”. ….. The past faded away, as I woke up face first on a metal floor, my head pounding. The area around me had a sort of orange glow, as I opened my eyes, I noticed strange, ornate candelabras standing in rows against the far metal walls . The ground tasted like dirt and iron, from the red rust covering it…. At least, I hope to got it was red rust. “Dwight!!~” Rosanne’s voice, distance, and wavey, shouted from behind me. “DWIGHT!!!~”. I drove my right hand into the ground, pushing myself onto a knee. My rifle laid on the ground in front of me, and my kid hung, ragged and disheveled, as if something tried to pull it off. Rosanne stood there, with her. The girl with sunken eyes, held an iron grip, so tight, that Rosanne, a fully grown woman, much taller than her, struggled to get out of her grip. “DWIGHT!!!~” Rosanne shouted, waving at me with her free hand. I gritted my teeth, raising my right hand, as my left hand grasped my temple, trying to ease the pain. Rosanne waved her hand, and pointed behind her. “THE EFFIGEY!!!~ SHOOT IT!~”. I blinked my eyes, trying to focus on what laid behind her. The operating table from before, but now, at the back of a wide room, the size of a small gymnasium. Where we were? I don’t know, but I could see it had some sort of object, on it. Made of twigs, twine, and her own ripped up, and bloodied pink and white dress wrapped around it. I haven't asked Rosanne, but I wondered, still wonder, what kind of voodoo shit is this? Paganism, something from the middle east? Witchcraft? My soldier calculus didn't ask this though, it just knew what it had to do... “SHOOT IT DWIGHT!!!!~~”. Shoot. Somewhere deep down, I laughed, hearing how she needed my way of doing things. But laughing would have to wait, My right hand shot to my thigh, pulling out my glock, and I took aim. Three shots, aimed with precision at the operating table that was maybe twenty meters away- barely got ten meters as they hit some sort of invisible field, crushing as if they’d hit an abrams head on, and fell straight down against the floor. The barrier now rippled like the surface of a lake, but even through the murky, wavy field, I could see her. Smiling, laughing. Gripping Rosanne’s hand tight, knowing we’ve been duped. I fired again, the slide shot back, a 9mm round shot out- and was crushed against the barrier. Rounds couldn’t get through, so, what could? I gazed around, looking for something, anything- That’s when a set of footsteps running at me, caused me to turn. It was Isaac, up until now, I hadn’t thought about where he’d been, but there he was. Running full force at me, armed outstretched…. Eyes sunken, white, and beady. His growl was inhuman and rabid as he rammed into me, still on a knee, and feeling, I barely knew what was happening. But he still managed to force me, a man who had not only size, but probably weight, and fighting skill on him, into the barrier, And god, did it sting. It felt like touching the surface of a grill, but instead of only just the metal bars, it was an entire flat surface, burning through my skin, my clothes, my hair. I yelled out, for the first time in a long time, out of instinct, “Isaac”, or whatever had taken hold, now digging his heels to shove me into it. My mind raced, under siege by pain, by anxiety, by fear, by anger, by adrenaline, searching for an order, for a goal. My mind raced. 16 years of fighting, of combat, of being a soldier, then a soldier for hire, then a civil servant. All coming to an end…. Here? Overwhelmed by darkness, failing to protect those I signed and swore to, allowing the darkness to overtake an entire family, dragging friends down with me… I searched for my name. Dwight Nolan, former US Army Staff Sergeant, Four tours in the middle east, having seen more of Afghanistan than my own home…. No, No, No. I was not going down like this. Too many battles, too much fighting, to succumb to this. “Dwight!!~~ FIGHT BACK!!!~~” Rosanne’s voice bellowed from beyond the barrier. All the training, all the animalistic instinct to fight the evils of my country, now to fight the evils of fucking existence itself, came rushing to the surface. I roared, meeting Isaac’s own rabid state of mind with that of my own will to not fucking die. I grappled, scrambled, shoving his arms from my shoulders, and slamming my goddamn head into his, forcing him back. My hand reached for my glock- it wasn’t there. It was on the floor, a quick dive, two shots right to his- No, I stopped myself... Isaac is my goddamn friend, He's been with me for this entire ordeal... I'm not gonna stab him in the back, leave him to this, no matter how fucked up this was getting. No time for sentiment as Isaac came lunging in again, if he was gonna go high, fine. I ducked down and grabbed Isaac around his waist, picking him up, and Matt Hughes style running, and slamming him into the ground. Forcing him on his back, I gazed into his eyes. Wide, full of rage, of a rabid frenzy, his mouth foamed, and black ooze leaked from beneath his makeshift eyepatch. “KHhh- KILL YOU!!!!” Isaac roared as he clawed at my face, his fingers digging into the scar on my right cheek. Anger rose to the surface as my fist balled up, and slammed right into his nose. His head bounced off the floor, but whatever possessed him obviously gave two single fucks about concussions, as he just sat up again. Our scrap continued as Isaac forced us both back to his feet, now trying to bite down onto my shoulder, I shoved him off, kicking out one of his legs, and seeing we were now nearing one of the walls, I ran in, and this time, tackled Isaac into the steel surface. Our probably collective 350+lbs caused the metal in whatever labyrinth we were in to groan as we connected. I kicked out one of Isaac’s legs, and shoved him into a row of the Candelabras. Oil and wax splashed out as they dominoed down with him, towards the barrier, I backed off, shielding my face. Then, I saw it. As the fiery oil splashed out, it passed right through the barrier, seemingly untouched. Rounds couldn’t go through, but, fire did? Was that it? Fucking fire? I stood there, baffled, not even caring about Isaac as he riffed. But how was I gonna use fire… I looked down at Isaac, and then, it hit me. On his gunbelt, aside from all the pouches of slugs and buckshot… the one on the back, marked in red and black. “KKKh-KILL YOU!!!!” Isaac scrambled to his feet, stumbling over candelabra stands as he lunged at me. I underhooker him, an inhuman level of strength allowed Isaac to battle me, but I had a few tricks up my sleeve that his feral mind didn’t. Slipping around to his back, I kicked out one of his knees, and wrapped my left arm around his neck, allowing me to control him- for now. We were now both on our knees. I quickly looked him up and down, thank god, his mossberg was on it’s sling- The size of the horseshoe up my ass I must’ve had, to not have it go off in the scuffle. I pulled it off, and slipped it between the bent part of my right leg, a tactic used to reload rifles, but I think I could be forgiven for this makeshift use of the tactic given the circumstances. My right hand fumbled with the clip on the molle pouch, Isaac’s hand dug into my arm, with just a T shirt on, he scratched at the skin. I bit down the pain, Anxiety and the will to push on. I opened the pouch, and dug out a very specific shotgun slug. A golden brass top with a bright orange body, DANG-INC 12 GAUGE “Dragon’s Breath”. Isaac growls and screamed through his foamed over mouth, as I fumbled with the mossberg. With all of Isaac’s thrashing, simply shoving it into the weapon was a thousand times harder. Once it clicked in, In pulled the gun up by it’s fore-end, and shook it up and down, racking the slug. Holding Isaac close in that hold, I raised the shotgun up with my right hand, feeling like a bad action hero, but hell, given the circumstances, the laws of conventional tactics are now out the window. I took aim. I guesstimated 20 meters, Dragon’s Breath should have a minimum range of thirty. Let’s hope I was right. I pulled the trigger, even if it has no real recoil, a pillar of fire and sparks spewed from the muzzle of the shotgun. The entire center of the back wall, where the operating table was, became engulfed in hellfire unlike anything these demons had probably ever seen. The Mossberg dropped from my right hand as I underhooked Isaac’s right arm, and gazed over at Rosanne at the girl. Rosanne had successfully escaped her grasp, mostly because, she had let go. She stared at the operating table, and then back at me in horror. Her sunken, lifeless, evil eyes now showing a very lively, very fearful stare. Fear, on the face of those that are supposed to go bump in the night. The creatures that have plagued this place for a while. This was more definitive than the backyard, it felt right, pure, like an actual victory. The Effigy began to hiss and spark, and as I held onto Isaac, all I could mouth to the entity, the girl, was one word. “Gotchyah”. …. As quick as I blinked my eyes, I found myself seated in the rolling chair in my security room. Immediately, I jumped up, and looked around. Everything was just as it had been. My leather jacket over the back of the chair, rifle and plate carrier against the wall. All the monitors showing their proper views. I swung open the door, this time, no power outages or mysterious fucking libraries barring me. “ISAAC!! ROSANNE!!! JOHN?!”. I looked around, Isaac was passed out on the couch, hat over his face. Rosanne turned in her chair towards me, a confused expression on her face. “Dwight?.... Are you alright?”. I was speechless, I looked up, the afternoon sunlight was pouring through the windows, heavy snow built up at the edges. Something in me finally clicked I stormed over to the couch, Knocking Isaac’s cap off with my left hand, it then slapped him across the face as my right hand gripped my glock. “W-Wha- Dwight?!” Isaac asked confused, rubbing his face. He let out a dry burp as he stood up, and I backed off. “You possessed?” I asked, though my words seem to not click with him. “What?”. I stared down at him with a vengeance. “Are. You. Possessed?”. Isaac noticed my hand on my gun, and held his hands up in surrender. “Jesus man I know I might have demons, you know, alcoholism and shit, but they ain’t gonna kill you? Although some liquid courage might ease your nerves….”. A hand on my left shoulder caused me to jump, backing up against the stairwell bannister. Rosanne, held her hands up, “Dwight. It’s over, alright…”. However, I'm sad to say, it’s not. We regrouped, reassessed, went over what the hell happened. About 23 hours have passed, and while Rosanne and I know what happened, Isaac barely does. No burn marks on my back, none on Isaac.... John, however, is still gone. I searched every god damn nook and cranny, but the kid is gone. However, Rosanne says she might have a solution, after spending time with, that thing, wherever we were for those short 23 hours. She’s gone outside, says she needs to be in tune with the earth. I guess that explains her fucking conservatory level of plants in her house. We’ve been gone for a few days so, I hope she fed and watered them in advance. Isaac says he doesn’t know what happened, but I’m not gonna be so quick to let him off the hook. Whether intentional or not, I don’t know the full extent of what happened. I’ve barely had an hour or so to process everything. From those weird ass rooms, to the things to…. The dream. Barely enough time to really get a grasp- It doesn’t look like it will be getting it anytime soon either, a van just pulled up to the gate. And a very familiar, stocky european man waddled out of the snow up to the intercom. “Uh- Helo? Is ‘vis Cazamoth Estate? We got order for you, you order small armory!! Come!! Let us in!!”. I’ve got to go…. Sort out however much gulf war lend lease Isaac purchased from these guys. Afterwards, we need to regroup with Rosanne and decide what to do next. John is still missing, and he’s out there, with whatever the source. It’s time to end this. This is Dwight Nolan, signing off. We'll be back.

[Entry 10]

This is it. I guess I should have known when I stepped out onto the porch after that, surreal experience, inside of the Cazamoth house. Snow’s been setting in now, the fall’s gone, I knew that the second I had to push hard on the front door to get it open. Rosanne took the lead, and broke off for the perimeter wall, said she’d needed to “Convene”. Whatever that meant. Isaac and I approached the Europeans as they drove their van through the gate. Swerving and parking it not far from the porch, right side towards us. We must’ve looked like a bunch of crazy militiamen, what with Isaac’s one eyed bearded grizzly Adams look, and my walking with body armor and an AR strapped to my chest. The stocky eastern european man dropping out from the van caught me by surprise, “Isac’!! Comrade!! We’ve brought you supply!!”. Guess we didn’t shake them none. Thankfully, using the emergency credit card that Theodore keeps inside of a false red brick, right side, third up to on the second row, Gareth and Merkel were able to bring use a whole god damn van full of, reassurance. Theo did say that this was only to be used under extreme circumstances. After the past few months I’d say we’re well past extreme circumstances. Gareth opened the back of the trunk as Merkel proudly presented us with the goods. Boxes on boxes on fucking boxes of surplus 5.56, many of which were already pre-loaded into metal magazines. Cost a bit, but it would save us the hours it would take to hand load them all. On top of that, we’ve got road flares, smoke grenades, canisters specifically marked with an orange diamond. If my munitions knowledge isn’t out of date, best to not play those too close to your literal chest. Shotgun shells of all kinds, and a few new toys. One of which was a slick pistol i’d seen plenty of Special Weapons guys back in Chicago use. An FN 5.7, chambered in, well, 5.7mm. Might not be as powerful as a desert eagle, but it’s accuracy, and the fact that it can carry 31 damn rounds made me jump at the chance to carry it as a second. Well, technically, a third now. It was when I was inspecting it, Merkel chimed in while showing Isaac some shells. “So… you two are, working out here, correct?”. Isaac looked over his shoulder at me, I stayed quiet, he was the one with the rapport with these two. Right on queue he cleared his throat, “Something like that, you know. Running, gunning, driving a senile witch lady around, shooting creatures in backyards, fighting demons in basements…-”, he then crossed his arms, feeling oh so pleased with himself. “It’s been an eventful tenure up here at Cazamoth Exterminators Incorporated…”. Is that the name we’re going for now? I guess it is. “Shooting….” Merkel, stockier, short one pondered. Gareth spoke, “So… You say you shot these, creatures…”. Isaac nodded, “Not at like, a distant silhouette like the rest of the town’s folk, like, actually seen what lurks in zeh woods?”. “What do they look like? How many rounds do zeh' take? Are zhere multiple species? Is it-”. Isaac held his hands up, “Listen, fellers… I said we shot at some, I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the fucks going on with this place, even months on, but I know one thing, they took the kid. And we’ve gotta load up and shoot em all to get him back, you feel me?”. A dark look seemed to grow in their eyes, Gareth looked off, scratching his neck, Merkel crossed his arms. “A child…. Yes, they seem to like to disappear…. How long ago?”. Isaac scratched the back of his head, I gazed at my watch, “Less than a few days…”. “A…. few days?”. Merkel buried his bearded lips in his palm, probably thinking about something. By now I’d gathered a bunch of items in a tough box, dragging it out of the back and heaving it up. “Look, gentlemen, it’s always a pleasure receiving absurd amounts of firepower but…. We have a job to do”. I gave a nod to Isaac and carried it in, as I did, I noticed Rosanne over by the wall, she seemed to be, kneeling. I knew well enough by now to let her do whatever she needed. God knows what would happen if I disturbed her. Probably would be trapped inside a rock for the rest of my life. Or a tree. Probably a tree. Now or never. Been awhile since I did a full load up on supply, like, a mission style load up. Despite all of the youtube videos and operator channel’s recommendations, I’d be carrying 9 magazines, with a tenth loaded in my 15’. 6 on my gut, 3 on my belt. My glock was moved to my left side, as a back up for my back up, incase I found myself really in the shit, which, considering past situations, was likely. The 5.7 was my new sidearm, Strapped to my thigh on a drop holster. It was around this time I checked the weather, and boy oh boy, it was getting cold. Like, Georgia cold. Hate your life cold. Despite how much I loved it, I ditched my leather jacket, instead sporting a black soft shell, and a beanie. A pair of clear oakleys because, last thing I need is to repeat Isaac’s accident out here. No offense, brother. Stuffing the rest of the magazines, along with a shit ton of smokes for concealment, flares, and incendiaries into my pack, I heaved one strap over my shoulder and headed out. It was by this time, I saw that... 1.) the Europeans were still here, Isaac sat on the bed of their van talking to him, though it seemed by the amount of shotgun shell bandoleers he had, he’d done his own kitting out. And 2.) Rosanne was still over by the wall praying. Was it praying? Meditating? Demon Whispering? I’ll have to ask her. I waltzed over, dropping my assault pack by the back tire of their van. Isaac whistled, “Dayum Sarge, this how you rolled back in the day?”. “Not exactly….” It was only mid day, but by now I could see my breath in the icy air. “Then again we aren’t limited by regulations, so, fuck it….”. I eyed Merkel and Gareth, Taking off my oakleys and clipping them to my plate carrier. “What’re you two still here for? Sun’s gonna be getting low, and you probably know what happens when that happens….”. Gareth walked to the side of the van facing away, and I could hear one of the side doors slide open. Merkel cracked his neck, “Gareth and I were…. Talking…. From what it sounds like, you two, or, tree…” Merkel looked over at Rosanne, his eyes told me he feld, uneasy, near her, “Have faced best chance again these things… an’, from what it sounds like, you kill some of them, yes?”. I nodded, “I have sold many guns to many people, not only in this town still, but outsiders, neighbors… family…. Ones who go into these woods, and never come back. Now you said your child has gone and disappeared”. He waved a hand horizontally, “Nyet… Me and Gareth will help you…”. “Help us?”, Gareth walked from behind the van, now presenting what he was searching for. He held a large elephant gun, bulky body with a gigantic barrel attached to it. With his other hand, he handed an engraved double barrel shotgun to his partner in soviet crime. “Yes, help you. Zeh way of my ancestors and your old comrades…”. I knew what he was saying, I nodded, brothers in arms we were then- “Dwight!”. A voice from behind me so close I could basically feel her on the back of my neck, its then I remembered, brothers and sister in arms… I don’t know how no one saw her approach, since we were in an open lot, midday, and the crunch of the snow would be loud as hell, but Rosanne appeared right at the edge of our semi circle. “Gentlemen... Isaac, After a bit of convening with almost seven deities, I believe I have an educated guess of our next move". “Educated?”, “Surely you picked up on my, relationship with the earth….”. It did make sense now that I thought about it, all of the planets, her obsession to stay on shore near the grass, how she always sat near that fake as hell plastic tree in the living room…. “There is a lot wrong with this area… this place, but, whatever we’re currently against, isn’t native”. Isaac racked his Benelli back, starting to load shells, “Native? Like, Indians?”. Rosanne shook her hand, squeezing her temple. “No, Isaac- I mean, natural….”. That didn’t make sense to me, “Are you saying a crab walking naked man, or fucking Tim, is natural?”. Rosanne shrugged, “I don’t know everything, but what I do know is, it’s poisoning this area like a virus…. The ground, the soul of this place, works against it… and to our benefit, it also gives off the direction of it’s source”. “It’s source?” I asked, now getting the idea. “Yes… I can guide us, although generally, and if we use the heel - toe express, we might be able to get there in time to save John…. If not, we’ll at least be able to stop this-”, “We’re saving John, Rosanne”, “I know you want to Dwight, I’m just saying if things turn out dirty….”. “Wait, witch-” Gareth perked up, and her ire turned from me, to him. “Rosanne”, “Rosanne…. You v’want us to, what? Walk through zeh damn woods that kidnap people, turn zeir guts into spaghetti, and stop zhis?”. Rosanne crossed her arms, staring the lanky german down, “You said, you wanted to help. This is what needs to be done. If you’re so scared about walking through the woods, how about you ask my friend over there how he camped in the woods for the last few months….”. She pointed at Isaac, both looked surprised, “Listen, I know it’s not a good option, but it’s the only one. Dwight….”. I looked around at the motley crew, a retired staff sergeant, a one eyed trucker, a fortune teller, and two european arms dealers. It would have to do. We would need to take take the trail, not only to save time, but since Rosanne’s trail lead north, it’d be a good start. I took the lead, the rest followed in a staggered column type formation. Rosanne was up next to me, pointing out the different shifts and changes in the aura. We saw all types of tracks, deer, foxes… human, what looked like oversized bird marks… We were nearing tracker 1 when Merkel asked, “So, Soldier, you never told me how tough zhey, are?”. I cracked my neck, my right thumb rubbing the texture of the pistol grip. “What do you mean?”, “How do I….. How many bulletz do zhey take? ”. My mind raced back to the night in the trail, we were near the spot where I was running, rifle in one hand, glock in the other, one of the creatures walked onto the trail, and in my haste, I trigger fingered an entire damn magazine into it, before colliding with it shoulder first… The fall, the mud, my rifle going off and taking a chunk out of a tree. As I ran my hand along the impact mark on that tree while walking, I shrugged, “Depends… although I do know they don’t really like to get shot by anything bigger than nine mil….”. The two europeans cackled from the back, “Oh don’t worry friend…. We have plenty of that to go around…”. The walk went on for hours, and for the most part, it was uneventful. Maybe it was what transpired in that house, or maybe it was the excessive amount of ordnance dangling off us that caused it, but, the woods stayed quiet. Not a bird, nor a deer…. Nor a hobgoblin jumping out to eat our faces off, just, silence. Rosanne lead us all the way to the northern pass, where she lead Isaac and the europeans down a light slope. I turned around checking down both pathways, and before we knew it, we were off. Walking into the pure, absolute, unknown. Night time found us quickly, very quickly. Rosanne and I lead the group through the woods, she felt trees as they went by. Running her hands over the bark, the dying leaves of trees and bushes, the sharp pines…. Like every since point of contact spoke to her…. I’m not a religious man, but I'm now a superstitious one- especially after all this shit. One thing is for certain, whatever she was harnessing to lead us, it was real, definitely real. The winter months were showing their presence loud and clear, by 5pm it was getting dark, the sun was fading away into an orange hue, and we needed to bed down. We found a nice clearing right in the middle of our path, around a 100 meter radius of the woodline, with a slight hill giving us a point to retreat up if we took contact… 5 straight hours of walking through the snow, piss break, more walking, Isaac eating shit in the snow and his shotgun going off gutting a small tree, me yelling at him, Gareth and Merkel laughing, more walking, Gareth claiming to see a man of vines following us, Merkel claiming he sees a native american… It was, eventful. Isaac and the europeans were building a fire in the middle of the clearing, our packs all lined around it. I decided to walk over to the woodline to relieve myself, I saw Rosanne had walked over to a far off oak tree to reach out her palm, and I guess, “convene” with it? I could hear those tree messing around behind me… “Ya’ll got any matches?”, “Nyet”, “Nein”,“Nine? Well shit give some here…”, “No you fool, nein, as in no…”, “Nein is no? So what? Yes-five, two-tomorrow, three-retake the rhineland, Four-The Volka Rive-”, Merkel chimed in, “How about we use flare…”,“Well, I mean shit we dumped a bunch of kerosene so maybe not-”. I was zipping up my pants when a flare of purple light came from behind, I turned around on a dime, hell I even saw Rosanne break her gaze to look. All three dove behind their packs as the flare and lighter fluid erupted into a large ball. She shook her head as I could hear all three of them whooping and hollering as they tossed wood to burn on it, and somehow, strangely, there was a sense of security and joy, in seeing such a large symbol of light in the middle of this….. Place. I soon walked back to the semi circle, Isaac, Merkel, and Gareth were bullshitting, as usual, and I took up a watch positon. Nothing too high speed, just scanning the woodline for figures, making sure Rosanne hadn’t been dragged off… simple. You could write a book about these three. “So, Isaac, v’here are you from?” Gareth asked as he leaned back on his green canvas bag. Isaac took a moment to think, “Idaho, I think?”. “Idaho?” Merkel asked confused, I laughed, “Yeah, you would be from Idaho”. Gareth spoke next, “You said, I zhink, you not sure?”. “Listen…. It’s all kind of a haze ever since I was 8, right. To be honest I’m not sure how I started to be a trucker, just that one day I was waiting to get it repaired, I heard this harmonic singing in the woods, and well, I got lost….”. “Singing? In woods? Vhat the hell is up with Idaho….”, “Okay no, that was in Texas, I think, was it?” Isaac scratched his scruffy chin. “I think it was, maybe….”. Merkel laughed, slapping his knee, “You are crazy guy Isaac, Crazy guy, we survive this, I want you to work with us….”. Between all the scruffy hair and his battered eye, Isaac smiled. “You know what Marker”, “Merkel”, “Mackerel … I think you got yourself a deal…”. It was around this time I stood up to check on Rosanne, she’d been sitting away from the fire. She was probably alright, but I knew well enough that lying in the snow, you could literally be frozen in your spot. My advance wasn’t quiet, and a small turn from her head showed she wasn’t unaware. “Hello Dwight”,“Rosanne…. You doing alright?” she nodded. “It’s close, still so far, but also, very close… what’s the saying? So close, yet, so far…”. I scanned the dark woodline ahead of her before looking down, she’d been in that position for nearly an hour. On her knees, head down, arm on the tree. “How did you get into all of this?”, she raised an eyebrow, “All of, what?”. I gestured around to the woods, for some reason, even though her eyes were clearly shut. I let my rifle drop as I crossed my arms, “This…. Water demons, spirits, house calls for exorcisms ….”. There was a moment of quiet, then, she shrugged, “Someone had to do it…. You grow up in a town so full of, unnatural things, and no one trying to be some sort of expert or a medium? Someone’s gotta try and figure out what it all means…”. I guess it did make sense, her nonchalant way of dealing with the goings on. She wasn’t really an expert, just the best the town had. “Just a woman, obsessed with ghosts, living in a greenhouse, huh?”. This actually got a laugh out of her, the first i’d seen so far. “Tell me Rosanne… what do you think all of this means?”. She thought for a minute, her hand still gripping the bark, before she could speak. “Well-”, “MEOW!”. A voice called out loudly from the woodline, my hands shot to my rifle, shouldering it as I scanned the dark trees. Rosanne didn’t move, I don’t know if she even could, but I stood right behind her, scanning around. “RIBBIT”. Part of me felt like I’d been here before, and I had a strange feeling of, not Dejavu, but…. This was familiar. “Dwight…. It’s not a threat”. I raised an eyebrow, “It?”. A branch snapping infront of us caused me to turn on the tac light on my rifle, illuminating the man behind the tree. The naked…. Nearly faceless…. Crab Walking man. Oh... God dammit. “Woof”. It’s beady eyes and line mouth stared back in defiance, if it had any muscles in it’s face, I would have guessed it’d be laughing at me; Like “Ha! Ha! Scared you a second time, asshole!”. I let my rifle drop as I stood up. I looked down at Rosanne who was now smirking, her eyes still closed. “Something funny young lady?”. “WOOF” the naked crab walking man said. I shook my head, running my hand from my beanie down to my chin. “Alright, alright, you got me…” I held my hands out, “Now get out….”. And just like before, it turned to one side, and shuffled away, at nearly 60 miles an hours into the darkness. “Is that what you call, Natural, to these woods Rosanne?”. She didn’t respond. I’d walked back to the semicircle, Rosanne still on the edge. Isaac traded spots on watch with me and I passed out on my bag, not letting sleep take me, just a nap to help me make it through the rest of the night. I passed out around 6:23pm. It was at 6:25pm I awoke to the sounds of the europeans running around, “V’WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!”. I jolted up, Isaac was already aiming his shotgun at something behind me. I fell asleep facing the woodline Rosanne was at, who was still there, unphased. I staggered to my feet, to see all three of them aiming at something. It stood just infront of the tree line, the light created a small void where the shadows covered it. It stood there, unafraid, unphased, a humanoid. Gareth was in the prone, aiming his Elephant gun at it, Merkel was trying to use his hands as binoculars, and Isaac was trying to unjam all of the rounds he tried to slam load into it. Yep, we were going to die out here. “Should I shoot at it?” Gareth asked, “V’hat if it’s a person?” Merkel asked, “Do you really think any sane person’s gonna be out here?! At this time of night, ruskie?” Isaac asked. I jogged up to their side of the campfire, and knelt down, aiming my rifle at it. “Isaac, keep eyes on Rosanne, this might be a distraction to snatch her up”. Isaac nodded, turning and running over to where she was camped out. I rested my hand on Gareth’s right shoulder, he seemed to be a left handed one. “You got a shot, take it….” A small chuckle came from the german as he slowed his breathing. One breath, in, and out. Second breath, in, and out, Third breath, In, and- The barrel of the elephant gun erupted as a red hot round shot out. The muzzle blast so loud even my electrical headphones crackled trying to block it. The round went soaring, and soaring… and just missed the figure. The pine tree behind it shook and shuddered as the round hit it head on. The figure, however, never moved an inch. Instead, remained there. We were less than a hundred meters from it, and yet, it never made a move to attack. Instead, it said one simple word back- “HEY!!!!!!!!”. Gotta admit, even in the dire endgame we are, I laughed. “Gareth, stand down” The german looked confused at my request, but didn’t argue when I picked up, and jogged over. Gotta admit, it was a short run, but in the heavy ass snow with all my gear… I was giving off a damn cloud of steam when I approached, that damn skeleton. “Timothy….” I said, probably looking like an actual crackhead while talking to this thing. Tim was dead still... no pun intended. Also, I don’t think I saw a drop of snow on him at all. His stand was shinier than ever, and I think I remember him swearing a small scarf around his neck. Did skeletons even need scarfs? Guess their bones get cold, but, was Tim even a real- I’m asking questions that will never be answered. “NARC!!!” For once, Tim said, not waiting til I was looking away to talk. “Long way from home Tim…. why you out here?”. Silence emerged as a cold wind blew past, moving Tim’s scarf, but not rattling his bones at all. “They’re here, NARC….”. A chill went down my damn spine as he said that. “They…”. As in, them? The Silver monsters who’d kidnapped John, or, the unknowns, out there, watching us from the trees. “They are angry, NARC… They are hungry". Tim’s high pitched voice echoed through the seemingly empty forest around, to the uninitiated, at least, it seemed empty. I knew it was really full of things, being, watching us, staying just out of the light of the fire, waiting to make their move. “Careful, Narc….”. I turned and looked back at the campfire, Gareth still aimed down his rifle as Merkel stood up, holding out his arms as if to ask, “Well?”, I shrugged, looking back at Tim…. Who was no longer there. Oh Tim, how ever would I have gotten here without you. And to think just two months ago I smashed the stock of a .308 into your mouth. Sorry for that, by the way…. I walked back over to the camp, by now, the rest of the group was gathering. Rosanne sat crossed legged by her bag, Isaac and the europeans started to continue their legendary talks once more, and I, sat there. Legs out stretched, rifle resting across my thighs. I knew this couldn’t last, the calm, the quiet before the storm. But, it felt good. Too good, it wouldn’t last. Rosanne pulled her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. “Dwight, get some sleep?”. I raised an eyebrow, up until now, she’d said nothing. “You’re gonna need it, trust me. As long as the fire burns they’ll stay away…. Get some sleep”. I didn’t have anything to say in response, truth be told, I was getting tired. Very tired. I awoke to a blast of cold air and snowflakes hitting my face. The wind weaving around my eyepro and piercing my eyes. I stood up, noticing the fire was duller, but still burning bright. Isaac helped pull me to my feet. “What’s going on?!” I asked, Isaac shrugged, “Dunno, storm rolled in just a few moments ago, Rosanne’s trying to get some wood and stuff with the russians to burn!!”. Even though I could tell he was yelling, I still struggled to hear him. However, I noticed the usually quiet forest around us was lively. Trees cracked and groaned, the wind howled, hissed, and roared… and from the woods around us, the laughing started up. The same laughing I heard when the power first went out, the voices I heard while trapped in that storm running…. They’re here, Narc. Gareth and Merkel carried two large piles of firewood and dropped it into the firepit, Merkel poured a load of fluid onto the tinder, and Rosanne popped a flare. The fire battled the winter air as it fought for supremacy of the area. Gareth took up his elephant gun, and began to scan the area with Isaac, and Merkel. Rosanne grabbed onto the front of my plate carrier, pulling me close. “We’re surrounded…. If this goes out, we’re all screwed!!”. Didn’t need to tell me twice. I reached down to my left side, pulling out my glock. “Here!!”, Rosanne took a step back, looking nervous at the weapon. “You might not have used it, or like it, but you’re gonna need it!!”. She looked up at me, then down at the handgun, and with a nod she grabbed hold. I passed her the four pistol mags I had for the glock, as she shoved them into the pockets of her bomber jacket. I turned on my rifle’s tac light, pointing it outwards as we scanned. “LOOK OUT!!!” Isaac yelled, and I saw it. It looked like a comet coming right for us, but that was an exaggeration. What wasn’t an exaggeration, was the fact that an engine sized rock was coming right for us. Everyone scattered, in all directions, and I charged out, covering my face. The boulder, as it correctly was, smashed right into the fire, sending burning tinder, and lighter fluid covered flaming branches soaring around in all directions. But more importantly, killing the majority of our light. The laughter was now joined by howls and cheers, as well as roars as I reached for my gun belt. I popped off a red flare, around I could see the rest of the group lighting up ones as well, as a series of colorful pyros surrounded our former campfire. I ran over to my assault pack, heaving it into my back as I aimed for the woodline. This was it, the calm before the storm. I looked to my left, Isaac have me a nod, and racked his fore-end forward, chambering a familiar, dark orange shell, I looked to my right, Rosanne gripped her pistol nervously. “Which direction are we heading?!” I called out in the wind. Rosanne pointed to the north. Or course, it was always the north, even if we took deviations to the left or right, it lead one direction. I rolled up a sleeve on my fleece, one piece of gear I forgot to mention wasn’t from Gareth or Merkel, but from the army. It was an electronic watch, usually used by pointmen to track which degree on the map they were heading to. Now, sure, you could use a compass, but in this weather, under this light, I’ll take the watch’s electronic glow over a busted standard issue compass any day. I input the azimuth, and shouldered my rifle. Even with my fancy ass watch, Rosanne was our lifeline to the source. She had little to no combat experience, and the way she held that glock made me realize she probably never learned how. And now here we are, waiting for someone, something to take the first shot. I cursed under my breath for not trying to teach her how when I had the chance, but then, my eyes caught sight of a dark figure bolting from the woods, right towards us. Isaac shot up to his feet, and aimed his shotgun, “HELLO FROM IDAHO, YOU MOTHER-” An explosion of fire escaped from his barrel, extending outwards in a huge pillar. It was so bright, especially to the dark area around, that I squinted just trying to see. That was it, the shot that ended this entire charade. Gareth and Merkel joined Isaac as they lobbed hate at the woodline. A series of oranges, yellows, whites, and reds tore through the trees, causing some far off pines to shake, others to fall, and the woods to roar back with pained moans and unearthly voices. Normally, I would try to assign rates of fire, but that would take a whole lot of time to teach them, and I could tell since they were all picking up and assaulting forward, that we had no intention of staying. “COME ON!!!” I called out to Rosanne, I moved forward, she stayed right to my right side. As we pushed up, I could see several figures in front. I dropped to a knee, so did Rosanne, and we both fired at the figures. Semi. A series of controlled bursts from my rifle caused some of them to bounce back, and even then, all I knew was I was shooting a fucking silhouettes. Rosanne’s rounds were more of a deterrent, but they helped back up my line of fire. I fired, then she did, back in the army we called this "talking guns". We picked up and moved forward, pushing into the woodline. It was a fucking mess. Tracers and shots meant to take down fucking rhinos tore through branches above, causing us to duck and take cover behind trees and fallen logs. They stayed just out of sight, my rifle’s light trying to spot them, but just as I zeroed in in them, they were gone. Rosanne called out ones around us, all the while, grabbing onto my arm and dragging me in the direction we needed to go. In the distance, I could hear Isaac cheering, and Merkel and Gareth shouting old war cries befitting of an old battlefield. It wasn’t until the snow was coming down hard, that I realized me and Rosanne hadn’t stopped running for a good while. We only did when a large pine tree came right down square in our path. Hitting the ground just before a slope downwards, Rosanne stopped just before it, but with all my gear, and the weight of my pack, I nearly toppled over. “DWIGHT!!” Rosanne yelled through the wind, I braced my off hand on the log, trying to push myself over. That’s when, I heard Rosanne open up on something with her glock, I turned around, only to catch a silver hand out of the corner of my eye- shoving me over the log. and I went tumbling down the slope. My pack, my vest, my rifle, all worked to my disadvantage as the weight through me around so much, I hit the ground, my mind blended. I spit up dirt and iced over grass, a haunting memory of weeks prior. Then, I heard it, something taking off towards me, both feet, if it only had two feet, running at full force. Forcing myself up onto my feet I flicked my rifle onto kill and fired a burst into the forest. Guess I was already standing on uneasy feet, because whatever silver skinned beast hit me, sent me flying back into a small ditch as it drove it’s shoulder into me. I scrambled to my feet again, at the mouth of the ditch stood a small tree. I too up cover, “C - gripping” my rifle to the side of the tree, then quickly switching to cover the other side. A set of footsteps came charging from the right side, I aimed to the right, a series of rounds sent whatever beast was about to emerge back into the darkness. Then from the left, I gripped onto the tree, and another series of rounds sent the beast back into the shadows. From the left again, I aimed down and- The click of the rifle, empty. Like clockwork, my right hand flew down to my thigh, and pulled the 5.7 from it's hoslter. rounds cracked off, and I swear I could make out a set of teeth in the dark, an angry scowl, right before they ducked back into the shadows. I slapped the gun back into it's holster, and tossed the empty mag out. In other circumstances, I would have liked to keep the mag, but I could care less, all I cared about was the relief I got when I slapped the fresh 30 round metal mag in, and slapped the bolt release home. Again, they started to come close, from the left, from the right, then the front, All the while, I switched from possible target, to possible target, all possibles because I never saw them fucking clearly, never seeing them fucking clearly, they never showed their faces, they never came out, and all the while I wondered- Where was Rosanne? Isaac? I looked around trying to find them- A roar from my eight o’clock snapped me back to reality, and I swung around. My mind was battling itself, fear for my friends, and the military calculus I had burned into my dna fighting, one trying to help, the other keeping me alive. Another magazine empty, I was running thin. It was my second one, I barely had just enough time, backpedaling further and further into the ditch, to chamber the round, and release onto the unseen foe in the dark. I scanned again, 12, 10, 2, 3, 9... my rear, I hadn't checked my back, what if I was snuck up on.... I turned around, seeing another figure in my peripheral, I zeroed in on it and...- It wasn’t a creature, it was him. I barely recognized him since it had been so long, but there he was. Tan skin, maroon, white, and red paint, with a feathered headgear on. Standing underdressed for the winter, but I don’t think it mattered to him. The native. My barrel lowered as we both stared each other in the eye. My oakleys were nearly fogged up from all the steam, and I could feel myself breathing as heavy as I did after my first gunfight. What did he see me as, why was he following me? Was he here to finish me off- why would he? He had the chance, everytime he appeared right as they were about to overwhelm me, and everytime…. A set of heavy footfalls from behind me, I turned, and yanked on that trigger hard. A set of silver hands with black nails were just a meter from my face, before I sent them back into the darkness. Empty, again. I threw the empty mag from my rifle, loading another one in. I was burning through ammo like no one’s fucking uncle. I turned back around, and he was…. Gone. In his place, where he stood, was the moonlight. It shined through two tall oak trees, just 50 meters from me…. A clearing. I bolted for it, knowing that was probably my only hope right now for not getting swarmed. Wretched screams and hands were outstretched, as I fired into the woods around me. The carry handle of my bag got caught on a branch, but I powered forward, snapping the branch, and causing me to stumble, nearly fall into the snow as I broke out into the clearing. I whipped around, and there I saw them. Five, ten, maybe a fucking dozen, dozens?! They all stood just behind the tree line, but I could finally see them. Some of them, the silver skinned monsters from the trail, but others…. Elongated, strange creatures, with reflective black skin, others, animals oversized, and shaped like humanoids… All of them stopped at the edge of the woods. I still had my rifle shouldered, as I stared out. My lips frozen, quivering. The silence, as they just stared, some of them beginning to back off. “COME ON!!!” I roared, firing off a series of rounds. Tracers broke the air, as some hit the trees, others the rocks, but some still hit them. Causing them to jolt and stumble, but never causing them to charge. Instead, they just backed off into the darkness of the woods. I stood there, confused… then I took a look around at the clearing. It was, from the drawing. Half sunken into a huge duvet into the ground, possible the work of a sinkhole…. A large house, bigger than the Cazamoth house, angled and pointed rooftops stood in defiance to the ground that tried to swallow it. What the hell was this? Hallowed ground? Was this too much for them to…. It hit me, I looked down at my watch, the arrow pointed dead towards the house, towards north…. Towards, the source. This was it. I had reached it, and judging by the cold, harsh winds, no longer broken by distant gunfire. I had reached the end. And I was alone. …. I don’t know how in the hell I’ve still got service, I’ve got only two, maybe one bars, but I guess I’m still within range of towers. I’m typing this, my fucking hands nearly freezing up, lips barely able to make coherent sentences, about an hour of waiting. I’ve lit flares, I’ve called out, hell I’ve fired about a full mag into the air trying to signal the others. Nothing. I’ve consolidated my ammunition. About 14 Magazines, the ones on my vest, and the ones in my pack. Around 4 5.7 pistol magazines, a phone on 18%, and only one entrance into the house. An upper floor level window I’ve managed to break open, looks like a bedroom. I…. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s gonna come after this. I know, I might have said that before, but for real this time, for real, real. If this does get posted, and makes it online, this might be one of my last posts. Isaac, Rosanne, Gareth, and Merkel aren’t coming. I’m heading into this alone, and I don’t know if I will make it out of this. No. John’s still down there, hundreds of people have gone missing. I don’t know if I can beat the odds, but I have to fucking try. This is Dwight Nolan. Last member of the Cazamoth Extermination Team left standing. I will be back.

[Entry 11]

Should I have stayed in? Should I have taken other contracts or openings that, weren’t, in the most haunted fucking sector of mid america’s woodlands? Should I go in? I asked myself a lot of questions as I took a drag of my cigarette. For reference, I never smoke, barely, really. Lung cancer, coughing to death, it’s a bad ride, but I needed something to clear my head, and, well, better now than never. The nicotine buzz helped me think clearly; Someone suggested I could just wait it out ‘til sunrise, go back to the estate and regroup, but, with who? God knows where the others are, I’ve tried signaling them, shooting in the air, flares, nothing. Someone also suggested I just burn this sunken occult piece of shit home… but, this is where the trail leads. Whatever’s the source of all of this, where ever John is…. It’s down there. What is it with this forest and possessing structures in the boonies? Sorry, off track, nicotine’s made me a bit antsy. But, also… No. This is it, no turning back, no retreating. There is no other option. I took stock of my supplies. Running through the woods like I was- being chased by a pack of fucking demons- I hit a lot of trees, took a lot of falls. What I’m getting at is, I lost a few mags and some necessary things. As a result, I’m at 8 magazines for the ‘15, 2 for the 5.7, some flares, and one Incendiary. It is going to be a long night. The only entrance I was able to make out is a broken upstairs window. You know, triangle rooftop bit, rectangular window with three parts, kind of jutted out. The glass was cracked, the wood was moldy- I don’t know how long it’s been here, but this house has seen better days. The element of surprise was gone, they know I’m here, they know I’m coming. I cracked a green chem light, it’s the military’s version of the glowstick, except it lasts for twelve hours, and is super fucking bright. I dropped it by the window sil, if Isaac and Rosanne are coming, at least they’ll have a guide. I turned my rifle’s taclight on, taking a few steps inside, stepping off a small seat type ledge by the window. I scanned the room, left, right, then down the center. It was small, kind of squareish, with… wait a second. Blue walls, chipped paint, pink bedspread and quilt… I knew this room, I looked for the far end, even the grains in the wooden boards on the far wall were the same. It was the kid’s room Isaac and I had entered after the library, the one with the drawings. I raised my rifle and shined the light at where I knew the door was. It was broken down, the rusted brass hinges ripped right out of the walls. My mind thought back to the voice at the gate, “-My house…”. Whether it was mind games or not, I didn’t care, I didn’t have time to. I stepped over broken holes in the floor, and approached the door. A crushed cabinet we used to barricade it back in…. Whatever Isaac and I found ourselves in caused the door to be jammed at a sort of diagonal angle. This meant, my two hundred and ten something ass, with at least 30 pounds of gear, had to squeeze up and over the gap. When I stumbled into the hall, I shined my light down the hall. It was the exact same thing. Same age, same brownish grey color. Doors were staggered on either side, with one on the right side wide open, white tiles visible from my end. The infirmary. So, I did what every good infantryman would do- I kicked down every fucking door on my way there. First one was an empty room, a single wooden chair in the middle, a single shackle bolted to the wall. Next was, a broken down rec room, rotted pool table, collapsed in bartop, tables with a demolished old TV. -Basically, for the next four rooms, nothing of note. Not a sound, not a whisper, not a cackle. Nothing. Just the sound of my own heartbeat, my boots hitting the floor, and the sound of wood cracking as I cleared each and every room. I reached the Infirmary, “pieing” the corner, I charged inside, clearing all the dead space, or, more like where I knew there should be dead space. The metal operating table, the counters, cabinets, filing cabinets. Gone. Just rotted tiles on the walls and old boards… I was taken a back, only slightly. Then, I noticed where the table had been. A large scorch mark, ash and burns had blackened the tiles around it, along with an outline of it’s wheels and frame on the floor and back wall. I stopped trying to figure out what the fuck this all meant, that cost precious time, and right now, I was walking cleanly into the heart of enemy territory, without opposition. Something caught my eye though in the ash, it was…. A piece of paper. Anything caught in the cone of Dragon’s Breath should have been incinerated, destroyed, but, there it was. Some ash fell off it as I reached down and picked it up, but, it was mostly untouched. This time there wasn’t any drawing, just a single message written in red crayon. “Thank You”. A laugh then came from behind me, it was deep, like you turned the pitch all the way down. I felt it’s cold, malice filled breath hit the back of my neck so close, it passed right over the collar of my jacket. I wasn't out of the (literal) woods yet. I spun around, hearing the sounds of bare feet slapping against tile, and fired off several shots. I could hear the gunshots bouncing off the tile walls as the rounds tore through the wooden wall of the hallway- whatever had targeted me, was a shadow just barely turning the corner. I chased after it, my rifle shot up as I turned the corner. Nothing. I walked the halls more carefully this time, but I knew they could see me, feel me. Low chuckles and giggles came from beneath the floor boards, distant footsteps sounding like they were just beyond the floor and ceiling…. My light cut through the black void of the house like a hot knife, I didn’t pry it from the hall. Suddenly, from my right, a set of fast footsteps sounding like they were coming from inside the wall charged by me. I fired off two rounds, then, to my left, again, two more rounds. There you go with that trigger finger Dwight, they’re trying to waste my Ammo. I was playing into their game. From behind me, a thunderous set of steps shook the fucking floor, I dropped to a knee as I turned, and fired three rounds at- nothing. I saw my 5.56 tear up the wood of the distant door and cabinet. “DWIGHT!” John’s voice snapped me from my nicotine and sleep deprived buzz. “JOHN?!”. “DWIGHT!” it sounded like he was nearby, but I heard the stories, how some things could imitate voices, hide inside people’s skins. I had to be careful, if Rosanne’s hunch was right, he was here. I needed to keep my trigger finger on a tight fucking leash. I followed the cries for help to a door not far, on the left side. I tried the handle, locked. “John! Get away from the door!!”. A kick didn’t do it this time, and I had to fire off yet another set of rounds. Half stumbling in, I saw I was in a laundry room. With no one around. I looked everywhere, inside a small closet, inside some of the machines- then, a knocking came, from inside of a chute. It was a metal pull chute, used to drop laundry from above to the floors below. Or, it should have, but, this was the laundry room, why was this here? Where did this go? Questions for another time as my off hand grasped the thing metal handle. I aimed my barrel inside as I pointed, distant laughs still muffled through the floorboard. Nothing. I squinted as I stared down, for reference, I’m a big guy, long reach, my actual head was several feet from the chute. -So when a giant fucking silver hand, with blackened nails, shot out, and grabbed the front of my plate carrier. I was a little surprised. My nose and face smashed into the metal outline of the chute, as I scrambled for my rifle. The thing was trying hard to pull me in, and I could feel my damn spine strain as it did. My rifle was caught, crushed between me, and the wall. My hand dropped to my thigh, the drop holster, and pulled out my 5.7. I stuck the barrel of the handcannon in and let her rip, I couldn’t see much, what with my damn body being stuck to the wall as a fucking ghoul tried to pull me down the literal rabbit hole, but I could hear the distorted, human like screams from it as it finally let go. I stumbled back, fumbling as I threw my pistol back into it’s holster, and fired off a few rounds into the wall. The voices were up in arms now, giggles turned to belly laughs, distant footsteps now stomps, all sounding like they were just outside of the floorboards. I charged out of the room, and continued down the hallway. I eyed it’s end, finally. A wooden door, moderately intact, just a few meters down. Get through the door, continue down, complete the mission. Or, at least that was the plan, my foot going right through one of the boards threw a wrench into it however. I tried to pull my foot out, but as the laughs heightened, I heard the house around me groan, as the rest of the floor gave way. It could have been the work of whatever targeted me, or, it could also be the fact that I was stomping through an old, collapsing house made of wood, like it was a semi stable structure. It wasn’t. I slipped and my torso slammed into the floorboard in front of me, and as I scrambled to grab onto something, my gloves prevented my fingers from digging in. I went into free fall, a semi lit hall turned to darkness, and I wondered, for a second, where up even was, before I could even think about bracing myself. Whatever wooden surface slammed into my left side told me I had turned mid flight. My left arm took the brunt of the fall, and pain shot throughout my shoulder. The weight of my pack shifted, and pulled me off yet again. I fell face first this time, onto an old, matted, moldy carpet. I fought through the pain to stand up, and as I got a hold of my rifle, I was able to see again. Though, there was ambient light, a strange, orange like hue. I recognized it. The green carpet only backed up my, albeit, slightly disoriented theory, as I scanned the area above. The wooden surface I had fallen onto, was in fact a bookshelf. I had fallen into the library. Although, it was a bit bigger, a bit more upscale, however the design of the bookshelves, color of the floor and lights, all the same. Before I could start piecing things together, a crash came from behind me. I aimed my rifle at a spot on the bookshelf wall, several novels falling off, as a set of silver fingers were poking through a protruding spot in it. Then, another crash caused the boards to push more and more forward, and more books shook and fell off. Something was trying to break through. Through the continued laughs and giggles, I fired off several rounds into the wall. Instead of a roar, or a yell, I was answered with a sentence- “DWIIIIGHT!” Unlike the deep, low pitched yells and tones of the others, this one was strained, melodic, echoy. I saw it look at me through the sizable hole it made in the wall. It’s skin was a deeper grey rather than silver, and it’s eye was completely white, save for one black pupil. “HELLO DWIGHT!” it shouted, and another punch nearly caved in the wall as it struck again. I fired off more rounds, but as my finger pulled the trigger for a fourth time- click. The boards on the wall started to give way, as it’s arms extended through, ripping away pieces of it as it climbed through. I dropped the magazine, dragging a heavy metal mag from one of my belt’s pouches. I slammed it in, and released the bolt, only to come face to face with the goliath that it was. It was bigger than me, much bigger. Maybe nearly seven feet in height, and it’s roided up, bulging muscles looked like it was tearing it’s skin apart in some places. “STOP FIGHTING DWIGHT!!” It’s hulkish appearance didn’t take away from the way it perfectly articulated my fucking name. My teeth gritted as I fired off another burst of rounds, but, it just closed the distance. Pushing my barrel to the side, it instead grabbed my shoulders, and picked me up. It held me so close, it’s stench was almost unbearable. It was the smell of rotting, waterlogged death. It through me into what I found out was a door. My pack was in the way, bracing my impact. Before I could even zero in, a large copy of War and Peace struck my nose. I cringed, between all the abuse to my face so far, I could smell the irony scent of my own blood pouring out of my nose. I think I was doubled over, because it was able to reach over and grab my pack, using it to swing me, and send me flying through the door, right into a bannister. The bannister hit my rifle, which pushed into my front plate, which pushed into my chest, knocking my breath out of me. While I wheezed, I looked around. It was, a shockingly similar layout to the front of the Cazamoth house. Staircase leading around the right side of the room, old rotted couches and furniture below, with a set of double doors pushed open by tons of dirt and roots… “ITS ALMOST OVER DWIGHT!!” The voice reminded me of the hear and now as I spun around, leaning back against the bannister, and aimed my rifle- only to get a taste of my own assault pack as it was thrown, and bounced off my god damn head. My oakley’s were crooked, splattered in my own spit and blood as I blinked to regain my vision. I raised my rifle again, only to have that grey muscular hand push it to the side, and for a giant, bare foot, to go square into my chest- pushing me through the bannister, and sailing into the floor below. The next thing I remember was eating old couch fabric as I dove face first into the couch, completely collapsing it inwards. I rolled over once, onto my back, before stopping. My head was spinning, a migraine was forming, feeling like I had just gotten hit by a sack of bricks, one at a time. To be honest, I kind of did. The thing laughed, my left hand wiped across my face, tossing away my now broken eyepro as I saw it stare at me from the bannister. Probably because it was confident, or because it knew my rifle had been doing jack shit, it took the stairs down. My ‘15 had gotten caught underneath me on the fall, and I strained to pull it up and over. I aimed my optic on the thing, and pulled the trigger. Several rounds exploded from the muzzle break as it simply held up an arm, shielding it’s grotesque, bald head as it walked down the stairs. Two round, then four, then three, then- click. I was out? Already? I had barely- no, I jammed. I nearly pissed myself as I dropped the mag, and pulled the charging handle back. Double feed, and boy oh fucking boy was it one hell of a double feed. As I fingerfucked the gun, trying to get the rounds out of the starchamber, the thing must’ve knew I was in trouble. It laughed as it vaulted the final stairway bannister, power walking towards me. I dropped my rifle and sat up. It was down, and it was just meters away, I wasn’t getting up, I wasn’t unjamming it, I was fucked. I pulled my pistol from it’s holster, and aimed for it’s neck, hoping a jugular shot would halt it. My left arm still ached, making control of my 5.7 hard, and I fired off shot after shot. The thing stared at me, hairless head, wide eyes, open mouth as it reached for me- This was it. Or, at least, it would have been. If I didn’t make some friends along the way. A set of plaid sleeved arms wrapped around the beast’s head as it’s look of victory turned into one of surprises, I lowered my gun in confusion. Then, I saw who it was. “THIS IS FOR MY EYE!!! YOU SONS OF GUNS!!!” Isaac yelled, his shotgun was slung to his back as he pulled out his small 5 shot, and stuck it into the thing’s eye. Three rounds exploded into it’s right eye as it cried out in agony, a splash of black ooze splattered across it’s face. This was the time I needed, I turned over, and both hands quickly grab hold of my rifle. I reached in, unjamming that sucker faster than I had ever done, and worked that charging handle just to make sure. I slammed the magazine back in, and racked a round, sending her home. I was on spaghetti legs as stood up, but adrenaline surged back through my body after it’s long hiatus. I squared up with the beast as it thrashed and swung, trying to grab Isaac. “ISAAC!!! GET DOWN!!!” I yelled, as he looked over at me. The beast then charged backwards, slamming into the wall, and causing Isaac to fall off onto a slamm end table. It scratched at it’s eye as it looked down at Isaac, and then, back at me-. I flipped the selector switch, Semi. Then, I thought for a moment. Screw it. Auto. A fast burst of rounds peppered the thing’s chest, my injured offhand battled to keep the weapon stable. It was woozy, like I had finally made a dent in it, it shook it’s head, I fired again. Another set of rounds tore up it’s chest, black ooze now starting to spill out as I advanced, wobbly, but confident. The script was flipped now. Another burst, then another. My Magazine finally ran dry, and I dropped it, slamming in another mag, and releasing the bolt with an oh so fucking satisfying kachink. I saw Isaac get up as well, he dropped his 5 shot and raised his boomstick. We were now laying into it now. Full auto burst, then a blast of buckshot, then another burst, then a slung tore into it’s chest. We were battering it, again, and again, and again, and again, and fucking again. And finally, after the thing was covered with it’s own ooze, and slid down the wall, painting it in it’s putrid blood…. It’s head tried to laugh one more time, before…. It went limp. There was a moment of silence, and I mean, actual silent. The muffled laughing was now quiet, the footsteps were gone, all that I could hear was my rifle dropping down as I let go, the floorboards creaking beneath my feet, and the heavy breathing of me, and of course- “Isaac!!” I said, spitting blood from my lips as I hobbled over. Guess Isaac had seen too many action movies too, because we, what is called? “Broshaked?”, "Powerhugged?". “Holy shit Sarge, you’re looking a little…. Uh…”. “Fucked?”. “Well I mean I didn’t wanna say anything, but you’re beard’s covered in your own blood”. “Isaac- where were you, how the fuck-”, He took off his trucker cap, running his fingers through his long, oily hair, and scratched his scalp. “After the fuckin’ boogaloo kicked off? man I’ll be honest I tried to keep up with you and Rosanne, but I lost ya’ll as soon as we hit the trees. Then I lost the two austrians-”. “-Germans”.“-Russians? Anyways, I didn’t know how long it had been, but after awhile, I stopped and suddenly, felt like I knew where to go. Then, I found your little breadcrumb…”. I cocked an eyebrow as Isaac pulled a green chemlight from his pocket. “You were in the woods, and you felt like, you knew where to go?”. Isaac shrugged, he tossed the chemlight behind him, into the small open kitchen area. He then squatted down, collecting his pistol as he wiped black ooze from it’s barrel and cylinder. What I felt next, was, strange. It wasn’t out loud, I knew because only I reacted to it, and Isaac didn’t. It was the melodic voice from the microphone, from earlier when the Cazamoth house had been breached, except, it was more supportive. Is supportive the right word? Well, it didn’t sound like it wanted me dead, it just wanted my attention. “Dwight” as it spoke, my Migraine slowly faded, I rubbed my forehead with my offhand, blinking my eyes. As I did, I noticed- it couldn’t have been, but I saw it. It wasn’t as torn up and messy, it was more pink and quilted. The edge of a dress out of the corner of my left eye. My hands shot to my rifle, and I zeroed in on where it should have been. Like always, it was gone, but, instead, I saw an exact replica of where the hallway with the security room was. The security room wasn’t there, but, there was another doorway. The basement doorway. Isaac bolted to his feet, aiming his shotgun in one hand, and his pistol in the other. “What’s up chief, you see something?”. I lowered my barrel as I knew the pathway ahead. The house was sunken into the ground, all the voices came from below. We had to go down. Isaac pressed the barrel of his benelli up to the doorknob and let loose. Wood and bits of brass shot out from the inside as I kicked in the door. We were greeted not by a staircase leading to the basement we knew, but to a small elevator shaft. It was like those small cage ones used for mineshafts, grey concrete walls lined the outsides of it, as a lone flickering light illuminated the area. We didn’t make a snappy quip or a funny moment of banter this time. Isaac and I climbed in, and threw the gate door shut. We saw only one option on the metal button pad, [DOWN]. The thing was rocky, it shook and shuddered, and I honestly thought it would give out at any moment and sent us plummeting to our doom. You couldn’t pay me enough to stare down through the cage floor. Fuck that, there’s a reason I never went to airborne school. I just stared forward, rifle at the low ready, staring as the concrete walls passed us on the way down. The silence was broken by Isaac, “So…. what’d’you thinks at the bottom, Dwight?”. I now realize it’s been a fat minute since he’s referred to me as anything other than “Sarge”, “Commander”, or “Boss”. He continued, “I bet there’s an ancient eldritch horror at the bottom. A Shogoth maybe?”. I sighed and squeezed the bridge of my nose, even with the migraine gone, Isaac never failed to one up it. He shook his head, running his hand through his beard, “Actually…. No, Shoggoth’s don’t really have minions. But it’s gotta be something really demonic. I mean, did you see that roided son of a gun up there?". “Why don’t we just skip a tier of command and just say it’s cuthulu, Isaac?”. He actually took my suggestion serious, tisking as he shook his head. “No, then why wouldn’t he go after a more costal area…. We’re in the middle of North America. Damn this whole thing really is a puzzle, what do you think”. I told him, honestly, the only thing I could think of. “I think whatever is causing all of this, is going to die, by a lot of bullets, and a lot of fire”. Isaac cackled, and then, the elevator finally reached… “Down”. My rifle shot up as Isaac pulled the cage door open. Ahead was, an operating room, or, like, a mass surgical room, an ER? More white, cracked, and smeared tiles lined the walls and floors as several dividing curtains created different sections. Through the flickering lights above, we could see IVs, beds, and different metal tables and cabinets, in each of the sections. We could also hear, footsteps. A flash of silver shot across the center isle, as muffled laughing could be heard from another section just meters ahead of us. What sounded like someone was crawling on all fours could be heard…. It wasn’t an ER, it was a chop shop. I pondered our options. Close quarters, what looks like a singular exit at the far end, easily bypassable walls made out of tarp, and several hostiles crawling around. “Isaac…”, “Yeah boss?”, “Follow my lead”. He probably expected me to creep through or to start clearing it section by section, but I knew when we were outnumbered, and I knew that far exit was probably our only safe way forward. So I flicked my rifle to Auto and started to unleash hell into the room. My rounds tore through the tarps, throwing around old papers, knocking over small rolling cards, and Isaac joined in, shooting across, and creating havoc of his own. An intersecting X of death. I pulled my rifle back into a high ready, “LET’S GO!!!”. We moved through the center isle, and whatever lurked within these bloodied, rusted tables and tarps, were pissed. Hissing, and human like yells came from within. I targeted one with a burst of automatic fire, to our front right, then our front left. Isaac weaved throughout many now torn up tarps and knocked over tables, firing off slugs left and right, behind, across. It was a strange approach, controlled chaotic violence, even as they sounded like they were leaping, a blast of automatic fire, and a wave of buckshot sent their devilish eyes and silver skin bolting back into cover. I kicked open the far door and dropped a magazine, slamming another one in. I was down to 5, or maybe it was 4, I wasn’t really counting. Isaac backed his way in, and after a series of triumphant blasts from the Benelli, he slammed the door shut, locking several mechanisms as slams and bangs from the outside started up. He started to reload his weapon as I scanned again, and holy shit, winding metal hallways, with bolted metal walls, grated floors, and dim, yellow LED lights that hung above. Some halls went left, some right, some went off in diagonals… it was a fucking maze. Isaac stepped forward, turning left and gazing down one of the halls. I looked down at my azimuth watch. It pointed forward, then backward, then left, then right, then, flickered to each at once, then clockwise. No help there. The voice returned, “Dwight….”. I looked forward, nothing, then to a hallway leading off on a diagonal left path, nothing. It returned, sounding rightwards “Dwight”. I turned spotting the pink and white frilled dress, but, instead of nothing, she… was there. Actually there. And, looking… healthy. Her hazel eyes stared back through black bangs, she had a much cleaner complexion, and her white dress was brand new. We maintained a tense stare down for what felt like hours, until I realized, she… was no threat. She would have done something by now, attacked in some way. Instead, she just pointed down the hall. To the left side, was a hallway breaking off, and leading in another direction. I looked back at her, she just turned back, locking eyes with me- “You alright, Dwight?” Isaac said, stepping forward alongside me. “I know where to go” I said bluntly as I raced forward, Isaac lagged behind, probably looking dumbfounded from how he spoke, “Uh…. what? How?”. “No time, too long, too fucking complicated, just trust me…”. I turned the corner, heading left, and saw her, 10 meters down, pointing to a hallway that lead to the right. A right turn, and I saw her again, pointing to another left turn. On the way, I saw signs above doors and halls: “Botany plant”, “Incinerator”, all different facilities you’d find in a compound. Finally, I took a final left turn, and, instead, saw her point to a small staircase leading down. Isaac caught up, sounding kind of out of breath. A sign just like the others hung above the staircase, “Incubation”. Isaac wheezed and shook his head as he stood up straight, “You know…. Anyone ever tell you, you walk faster than normal people run?”. His voice echoed through the empty halls, and that’s when we heard it:“Isaac?!”. John. Hopefully for real, this time. Isaac and I called out as we stormed down the staircase, the sounds of heavy footsteps shaking and banging against the metal steps. We reached the bottom the incubation lab, and found a series of vats, if that’s what you can call them. Gigantic plexiglass cylinders jutting up from the floors to metal caps connected to the ceiling, scattered across the room. All of them covered with moss and grass, and black ooze. I gazed left, then right, “JOHN!!!!”. A moment of silence before we heard a series of bang against one of the tubes, near the back right of the lab. My hand gripped the trigger well as we approached, praying it was him, and that I didn’t jump the gun and shoot him. But if it wasn’t…. I kept my rifle up. We both went around opposites sides of a group of the vats, and, thats when I think I saw him- saw it. I could barely focus on it, just looking at it mad my eyes water and shut with pain. Like looking into a wall of moss and static, and yet, I knew what it was…. A man, or at least shaped like a man. I backed off, and hugged one of the vats, Isaac pressed on- “What the?!” followed by a loud blast of his shotgun. My eyes widened, “JOHN!!!”. I turned the corner, Isaac missed the vat where I heard banging come from, but the man was gone. I saw him rubbing his eye, and where it stood…. A large patch of turf with vibrant weeds and ferns, poked through the grated floor below us. Grass. I searched the sides of the vat, and saw a small handle and latch on the side. I looked back to Isaac, who held his shotgun up, giving me a slow nod. I flipped the latch up, and pulled it open, and backed away. I gritted my teeth, prying my finger away from the trigger, saying damn it fucking all to the consequences. John stumbled forward from the moss covered vat, his hands green with grass stain, and coughing up black ooze. “Kid?!” Isaac dropped his shotgun and got down on a knee. I let my rifle drop as well, he was alright, although, it looked like the fucking forest was trying to grow over him, and subsequently, inside of him. However, apart from some dehydration and illness…. He was fine, alive. “You two…” he hacked up black ooze, I patted his back like he was one of my joes trying to get over a three day weekend. “You guys…. Came”. Isaac laughed as he shook his head, “Hell yeah kid, we ain’t gonna let you bite it!!”. John looked up to me, “Where’s dad?”. I stared at him, silently, thinking of everything Theodore and I had said to each other up until this point. Where was he? “Your dad’s fine, don’t worry about him right now…” I scanned the room, spotting an entrance leading out to the back left. No going back up with all those things up there. “John, can you walk?”, the kid’s subsequent hacking and wheezing caused Isaac to just pick him up and carry him in his arms. I took the lead, scanning the hallway and leading the way. Or, more correctly, she lead the way. A few more corners and halls, and we reached a room titled “Industrial Lifts”. It was a rectangle room, with two large elevators. Isaac approached one as I did the other. I scanned mine, it was old, rusted, with a button pad mounted on the wall. “Hey, Dwight!! This one leads up!!” I backed off and walked over as he beckoned me. It had several white elevator buttons, each with a different description; “Labs”, “Storage”, “Basement”, “House”. “We can take this sucker back to the house, then just kick all the doors we need to get back to above ground!!”. Isaac turned back to John as the kicked coughed up more ooze. I breathed a sigh of relief, I should feel… calm, finally. We found John, and we now have a way out, but something was still resting in the pit of my stomach… “Dwight”. I turned to my left, and saw her pointing to the other elevator. I walked over, barely hearing Isaac call out, “Dwight?”. The other Elevator had a simple keypad, with one button. “Sub level”. Isaac exited the elevator, walking over to me, I must’ve looked like a zombie. Staring at the keypad. “What’s up? We gotta get going man, whatever the hell was back there, it’ll be here soon….”. I shook my head, “Take the elevator up to the surface Isaac” he shook his head in disbelief, “Oh you have gotta be kidding me, Dwight I know you might’ve gotten thrown around by that big guy, you must be concussed!!”. I exhaled, He wasn’t going to leave quietly. “Isaac whatever was back there wasn’t the source, the origin behind all these things, everything happening here….” he grew quiet as I crossed my arms and turned to him. “We saved John, yeah, but these things are just gonna come for him again, come for more people…..”. He tried to speak, then just laughed out of his own disbelief. “Dwight you can’t be serious, this is some class A horror movie bullshit, let’s go!!”. “Isaac, listen to me!” He was going to speak, but silenced himself yet again. “We leave here, we go try to get the national guard, the police…. Who knows if this house will even still be here? You said it yourself, Eldritch monsters, horror movie bullshit…. We’re neck deep in whatever this is, and we have a chance to end it…. Whatever is at the bottom, is the cause ….”. There was a tense silence between us, He stared at me out of anger, I stared back, pleading for him to listen. I know how crazy I sounded, how I still sound, but it’s true. “You get John, you get out of here, you go make sure he, Rosanne, and the others are okay, and you go tell the whole fuckin world what happened here….”. “And tell me Dwight… where do you factor into this little…. Plan?” I looked back to the elevator, the lone button, the light long burnt out, but something told me it was more than working. “It knows me, that thing said my name again, and again, not yours…. I started this, it said it itself. I poked at it, dragged everyone in…. And now, I’m gonna end this, just me”. Isaac shook his head, “I’m not letting you go down there alone”. I nodded, “I know, but if you go with me, who’s going to get John out of here?”. He bit his lower lip, looking behind him back to the elevator. As he turned back around, I held my hand out. “You’ve been a good friend Isaac, I’ve known you for only a couple of months and you’re as close to a brother of arms that I’ve had since I got out...". Isaac grabbed my hand, looking me in the eyes, I saw a mixture of despair and anger, but also courage. “Go get them, Sergeant”. I gave Isaac my 5.7, along with the last pistol magazine, and some flares. We held a tense stare as his elevator made it’s climb up, until they were gone. And I was standing there, alone. My breath was shaky, the easy way out, the easy choice, was gone. Is gone. And now, here I am. I stepped into the elevator, haven’t pressed the button to go down yet. No, I sat down along the left side wall. My last entry, at least, I think it’ll be the last. I don’t know. Whatever’s causing all of this, the cryptic source. It’s down there, waiting for me. No more vanguard roided up beasts, no more creatures in the dark. Just a man, sitting in an elevator, typing the last of this on one bar of wifi. It’s 4am, We’ve been out here awhile, but I think it’s about to come to a close. Maybe Isaac will make an update, maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. I don’t know what comes next, but what I do know, is that it's about to all come to an end. The forest is a mysterious place, and despite how much the world wants to deny it, dark, sinister shit lurks within it. Don’t let Theodore Cazamoth cover up what’s happening here, don’t let this all be buried. If I don’t stop what’s been happening here, Theodore won’t. I’m rambling, sorry, a lot less funny this time, but not at all less important. Should this be the end or not, it’s been an honor fighting with you Rosanne, Isaac, Gareth, Markel. And for you, reading this, don’t forget what happened here. Don’t let everything we’ve done be for nothing. Should I finish this, or not, the truth can’t be buried. This is Dwight Nolan, sole member of the Cazamoth Security Team, signing off. I hope I’ll be back.

[Entry 12]

There’s a weird finality to this. Not knowing what’s ahead, not knowing if anyone will ever see the words I’m typing into the now way over bloated notes doc on my phone- Not knowing if John and Isaac made it out… Guess as cheesy as it sounds, this is where “Faith” comes in. To me it’s not really faith in god, it’s more… Faith in… self? I’m scattered brained, sorry. What I’m trying to say is, this elevator has been going down for awhile. Dropped my kit to the side of me, along with my rifle, and I’ve kind of just been sitting back against the wall of the elevator. I don’t know how long it’s been, the clock on my phone’s been stuck at midnight. On the dot, never changing, midnight. I’ve taken to consolidating what’s left, after that bum rush through the woods, the house, the chop shop- I’ve got 3 magazines of 5.56 (90 Rounds) inside some good old ASC magazines, the metal ones you see mercenaries using in C list action movies. A single road flare, and one single incendiary grenade. I am officially up shit's creek with a fucking spork. A bit of irony I realized is that regardless of all the 16 dollar a piece windowed mags I bought, I ended up just hammering the trigger, and full auto blasting my way into the depths of the house. You can try and make what you think is the most foolproof plan, but in the end, once adrenaline kicks you in the teeth you’re going for a ride…. Adrenaline, yeah I’m starting to feel it wear off now. Blood in my hands is starting to slow down so they’re getting a bad case of the pins and needles, exhaustion is setting in…. Strangely though, I’m getting warmer. I thought it was just all the running but I realized that, before when I was running through the house above, I could see my breath in the cold air. Now, not so much. Whether this means that either, this endless fucking elevator is about to drop right into the magma layer of the earth, or if we’re entering some area several thousand feet under the surface with air conditioned heating….. I don’t know…. She’s also been here the entire time, sitting against the left side wall just out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know if she’ll disappear if I try to talk to her, so I’ve just let her be. As much as she’s helped me, I still don’t know where she sits in all of this. This is her house, she told me that, but what’s it mean? Was she kidnapped? Is she one of these things, just in disguise? Is she tricking me? I mean, no, probably not, she could have easily lead me to a room full of those fucking ghouls when we were back topside- semi topside…. She’s led me the right way so far, guess I’ve got to have faith in my new found ally….. Exhaustion was setting in again, I rubbed my eyes, my corneas feeling like they just went 10 rounds with a golden glove, the headache stopped but I still felt completely fried. It a haze, an infinitely traveling industrial elevator, the groaning of the gears, the cries as the probably decades old cable struggled to lower it without dropping and killing me… I needed to stay awake throughout it all, I couldn’t stop yet, I wasn’t done. Not yet, but almost. Then, through all the theorization, thoughts of finality, prepping my gear. I heard the winch get….. Slower. It started to groan as the decades old brake pads screeched in an attempt to slow the elevator so it’s poor, stupid, former-yet-still-somehow-just-as-jarhead inhabitant didn’t meet an anticlimactic end VIA dead drop. “We’re heeeeere….” She sung in a low, melodic voice. Correction, new found still just as creepy ally. I pulled my kit over my t shirt, leaving my softshell jacket, slipping my head through and strapping it tight around my waist. I locked my weapon’s bolt to the rear, slapping one of my final three magazines in and slapping the release home. As I squared up with the mouth of the elevator, watching the rocky yet strangely metallic surface outside pass by slower and slower, I watched her come up to my left side out of the corner of my eye. And to think not long ago she was trying to get my redneck friend to kill me. Guess the saying is true, "the enemy of my enemy will help me salt and fucking burn them". The elevator shook as we reached our final destination, with an electronic buzz the cage doors of the elevator were pulled open to reveal… it. The yellow, dying overhead lights of the elevator did little to help illuminate the area. I was able to see about 10 meters out into the area, and I could make out a few details. Firstly, the floor was made of a dark metal square tile pattern, that seemed to stretch off well past the black void that bathed the area. Secondly, the black void itself. That’s exactly what it was. An Impermeable, impenetrable wall of fucking absolute black that shrouded the area as far as I could see, as far as however big this fucking chasm stretched, and no matter how many minutes I stood there for, remember the natural cateye I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well, my eyes never seemed to adjust to it…. And lastly… I think it was a chasm at least, the echo of our elevator dead stopping and shaking seemed to echo out for….. Awhile. Hell even as I finished pondering this shit, I could still here the metal shake of it continuing to bounce off however far the walls went. I’ll bet you five bucks if this isn’t hell, it sure as shit looks reeeal fucking similar…. I was gonna need some light, I tried to turn on the surefire light I had attached to my rifle’s rail- nothing. Guess all the getting thrown into a wall, through the wall, and off a fucking balcony by a god damn ogre must’ve shortened the warranted lifetime on it. Regardless I still had one more source of light. I slung my rifle to my front as I reached to my back pocket, and pulled out the road flare twisting the cap off, it hissed as a burst of bright red light came from the top. Voices in the darkness hissed and roared out, sounding like they were at first just at the edge of the fucking black veil, immediately starting to back up with slapping, bare feet. Holding the grip of my rifle in my right hand, I held the road flare high with my left hand, and proceeded forwards. The room was as I described, gigantic, truth be told I still don’t know how high it was. I got about twenty meters into the area before I was greeted with several large, cage like walls. Locked and bolted into the floor, they shot upwards to a ceiling that was too far for even the flare to illuminate. They were metal, with small slits, big enough to fit some fingers or part of a hand through, the kind of caging you’d use on cattle cars. One segment shot leftwards, another, rightwards, both met in the middle where they created about a ten meter wide path, leading forwards. I gazed at the floor, in worn yellow lettering it read; “ADMINISTRATION”, a yellow line at the mouth of the path was drawn just above it. I stepped past the line, and immediately I heard the voices, not laughing or mocking this time, but roaring in anger and spite. A set of footsteps to might right came barreling towards me, and Immediately I pivoted. The cage wall shook as, in between the narrow slits, I could see a large figure, slimey, silver body, shoving it’s bloated hand through in a vain attempt to get to me. It didn’t work. It just grabbed onto the cage, and shook it, roaring into the air. My instincts caused me to pivot towards the thing, aiming my rifle, yet the voice in the back of my mind reminded me that I only had 90 rounds. So I’ll admit, I stood there, flare in one hand, rifle aimed, and- I laughed. “Well….. Sucks to fuckin’ suck….”, ala’ ol' Sergeant Walker. This must have angered the creature, because all it did was shake the cage violently. Then, another one from the left side crashed into it’s cage wall, and began shaking it, then, another one on the right side. The shaking of metal was so loud, I started to become unable to hear myself think, as a chorus of malicious voices and steel came raining down- “Dwight…” the girl’s mind reached through that sea of laughs and cackles and pulled me back to the surface. I gazed down the walkway where she stood. She turned to her right and pointed down the path into the darkness. “Keep going…” She was right, at least for now, they weren’t gonna be hurting anybody. For now. I continued down the path, and more and more of then continued to jump on the cage walls. The darkness became thinner and thinner as I walked down it, and all the while, they yelled their evil fucking threats at me. “WE WILL WEAR YOUR SKIN!!!”, The further I went, the more I could see the end of the path. The red flickering light of the road flare revealed a set of metal double doors built into a metal wall looking just like the floor. Albeit, looking much more aged with the reflective surface worn and aged.“DO NOT HURT US!!!”, No windows on the doors, a simple knob on each of them, “ADMINISTRATION” written across both in faded yellow paint. “DD-WIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!”, “NOLANNOLANNOLAOLANOLAN!!!!!” I was getting really fucking tired of them saying my name. “WE WILL MAKE IT LONG AND AGONIZING!!!”. And then, when I was barely feet from the door. They stopped. I honestly paused because I believed all of the years of combat had finally caught up to me and made me go death. It was at this point I realized I was still wearing my walker headphones. I pulled one muff off and gazed around. They were still there, their beady eyes staring daggers into me, but they stopped attacking the cage wall. They instead back off slowly, and quietly. I looked back to the door. Months of fighting, searching, investigating, hundreds of rounds expended…. And, here it was. “ADMINISTRATION”. I placed my bets now on whether or not Isaac was right on it being an eldritch horror. I did NOT want to have to pay him 25 bucks if I somehow made it out of this. Keeping the flare still held tight, I broke off a few fingers to reach for the nob-“STOP!!!!” her voice echoed as she jumped in front of the door, causing me to back off a few paces as she stood there. I was more surprised by how fast she moved, or more likely, appeared, her voice was still echoing- Wait. She only talks to me directly to my head. She never says anything out loud. “Do not look upon it…” she said, pressing her back to the door. Now I’m fairly confident she’s some sort of paranormal being, whether it be a ghost, demon, or…. Something else. So, it made me pause for a second and realize she was saying this with very real fear in her voice. We stared at each other, she continued to block the way defiantly, as my mouth paused, waiting for my mind to come up with a response. “Why?”. She withdrew one of her arms to point at me- no, behind me. I slowly turned around, fully expecting this to be the moment where she double crossed me, and a demon from the depths of whatever magma layer hell we were in would jump out and end me. Instead, I saw them again. The eyes. The sea of eyes all staring through the gaps in the cage wall, white with beady pupils. The eyes that had been watching me for a while now, all the way up to this. I looked back to her, she continued to point, refusing to tell me what the hell she was trying to say, and I looked back, the eyes continued to stare. “What?-” I yelled, looking back to her, “They’re staring, so what?”. Again, she refused to answer me, instead pulling her arm back to block the door. I continued to stand there, dumbfounded. So what? They were staring, with those beady eyes, unnatural…. Twisted, deformed, changed.... eyes..... They stared upon it. They all did. The cogs finally started to work in my head again as I put the pieces together. The house, the lab, the fucking chop shop. The thing that changed them, cut them up, forced them to be these disgusting, evil things, and locked them down here to throw them at whoever it wanted next. They knew they weren’t going to get out of the cage, they didn't want to. They were trying to scare me away. What’s that saying? Gaze long enough into the abyss, and the abyss gaze back. stare at the dense of the forest long enough, and it will fucking take you. I tossed the flare behind me, bouncing and sputtering as it hit the floor. I turned back to the door, and like always, she was gone. I gripped the doorknob, my heart rate skyrocketed as my left hand shook. “Don’t look upon it” I thought...... so.. what? Close my eyes? Fuckin’ yeah sure, great idea, charge into the belly of the beast with my eyes closed and three mags. She was probably leading me into a trap, but she did warn me, but, maybe it was just all bullshit to get me to go running at it with my eyes actually fucking closed like a god damn mongoloid. Or maybe it wasn’t. She’s led me right this far.....I gotta have faith in her, I guess..... I slowed my breathing, shaking my head as I turned the knob, and kicked open the door with my eyes closed. My hand shot to the angled grip on my rifle, clenching it through the gloves and pulling it tight into the pocket on my shoulder. It was dark, I could see the red light of the flare illuminating the back edges of my eyelids for a few seconds. Then getting dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer- then, disappearing as I heard the double doors close. It was quiet. Not silent, but quiet. With my vision now more or less gone, my other senses started to come into play. First, hearing. I could hear the ambient noises of what I think were, hospital monitors. A low, but steady beep of a heart monitor and others were several meters in front of me, the small echoing of it bounced off the walls, kind of giving me an idea of how big the room was. It wasn’t as big as the outside, but it wasn’t a fucking closet either. Maybe 30 meters by 30, give or take. Next, smell. I’ve had the privilege of being able to bitch about smelling a lot of shit in my life. Literal shit, metaphorical shit, ethical shit.... Burning rubber, burning human waste, burning flesh, the kind of stuff to cut up the inside of your nostrils and send your mind reeling from the stench. This was worse. Way fucking worse. I physically cringed as I breathed a bit in, like an ancient fucking corpse was dug out of a mass grave, shit on, and set on fire with no kerosene. I felt like I was inhaling several tons of fiber glass, and the iron-y taste that followed told me it had made my nose bleed. And yet, despite whatever my other senses told me about this place. Nothing responded to my loud entrance into the room. I stood there, holding my current position as I wasn’t being physically attacked. Yet. And too afraid to move forward for fear of whatever it was that was just paces ahead of me, would chew me up, spit me out, and possess my corpse. Like it had done to all the others, everyone who looked at it, met its eyes in the forest, in this house, in this metal tomb. Everyone it had taken from their families, killed, kidnapped- worse. "Don't open your fucking eyes Dwight" I repeated in my head. And it just stood there, eyeing me. I could tell it was watching me. I knew it was. It had to be. My face was twitching with anger, with anticipation, I pulled the stock of my rifle so tight into my shoulder I think I could have popped it out of its socket. This was a standstill, a stand off, both sides waiting for one to make the move. All the emotion, all the anger finally boiled over as I opened my mouth, trying to get the words out- “COME ON OUT!!!!”. A rushed, aggressive response, but under the circumstances I think I could be excused for not being my usual cruse-word-smithy self. It bounced off the walls as my mind quickly rushed to see what It could make of the echolocation. Nothing. No words, no response, no army of demons rushing out to tear me apart. Just the long, drawn out beeping. I just my rifle at the darkness in front of me, unable to see if there was a smiling cheshire creature in front of me, or absolutely nothing, and again, I spoke; “I’m RIGHT HERE!!!! ”. Nothing. As a gesture to show I was serious, I flicked my selector switch to semi. The click, to me, was instinctually burned into my mind to tell me “It’s about to go down”. The small click, the mechanical safeguard taken off the weapon meant that 3lbs of force was all it needed to go off. What I’m getting at is, it’s the international sign for “I’m about to shoot your fucking head off”. And, still, nothing. I stood there, finger hovering over the trigger well, knowing I had 90 rounds. 90 shots to make count, no resupply, no armored car to go grab a can of loose rounds from. Nothing. Three mags, one rifle, and a historically aggressive trigger fingerer behind it all. “I’M RIGHT HERE!!!!! STOP HIDING!!!!!.....” Nothing “I’m gonna burn your god damn haunted forest and haunted fucking house to ASH!!!” Nothing. “come the FUCK!! OU-”. “Dwight Anthony Nolan”. The voice was off, like most shit here, but it was a different kind of off. It sounded male, and female, and young, and old at the same time. Like, multiple people were speaking in unison, but not as a group, just- merged together…. Then, it spoke again. It broke up its sentences as different voices spoke different parts. An Old man would say one portion, a young female would say another. All of which sounded all too calm, angelically so. “Former United States- ᴀʀᴍʏ ꜱᴛᴀꜰꜰ ꜱᴇʀɢᴇᴀɴᴛ. 𝖇𝖔𝖗𝖓 𝖎𝖓, ChiCaGo- served ten years before- CalLinG It QuItS. 𝕊𝕚𝕘𝕟𝕖𝕕 a several ThoUsAnd DoLlaR- fixed rate contract to Cazamoth Industries in an attempt to- ᴊᴜᴍᴘ ꜱᴛᴀʀᴛ ʜɪꜱ ᴅʏɪɴɢ ᴄᴀʀᴇᴇʀ ᴀꜱ ᴀ ᴡᴀꜱʜᴇᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴍᴇʀᴄᴇɴᴀʀʏ”. it sounded like different opinions of me all mashed together, some praising me, others mocking me, but everything they said....was true. How the fuck did they know my middle name? My fucking payrate? “Awarded the 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐛𝐚𝐭 𝐈𝐧𝐟𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐁𝐚𝐝𝐠𝐞, 𝑀𝒶𝓇𝒸𝒽 𝟤𝟢𝟣1-", How the fuck? "-for ʳᵉᵃᶜᵗⁱⁿᵍ ᵗᵒ ᵉⁿᵉᵐʸ ᶜᵒⁿᵗᵃᶜᵗ ᵒⁿ ᵗʰᵉ K̸̟̺̹̥̖̟̭̋̔̌̽͜a̴̛͍̗̦̠̯̼̘̤͒̏̉̃̐̀͛̉̂ͅn̴̢̦̺̽̎͌͠ͅd̶̲̻̣̣͙͙́͂̽̃́̐̕͝ͅą̵̡̡̤̮̖̟̓̐́̈́̈́̓̈́͒͐h̵̯́͝a̸̗͖͎̱͇̤̋̀̔̑̇r̷̬̭͓͓͇̟̺̱̿ͅͅ ̴̗̦̣̜͔̝̎͘͠Ḅ̷̧̳̺̞̤̳̠̲͇̓͐́͠o̴͈̹͉̙͍̣͐͛͆͆́̚͝Ŕ̷̡̨̟̘͚̻̲̥̹͆͘͘͝d̴̨̜̭̭͇̜̭͍͙̓̾̃͌͋̑ͅĖ̶̢̝̬̤̄r̷͙̻̫̐͌͜͝, and ʎɔuɐlƆ ʇuɐǝɓɹǝS ǝʌɐs oʇ ɓuılıɐℲ. Offered a spot at the United States Army Ranger-...-”. "-Alright I fucking get it”. The sudden interruption silenced them, and we stood there. They were coming from my immediate front, maybe 10 meters away, maybe twenty, with the amount of echo in the air, it was hard to tell. My eyes were closed, but I could feel whatever it was staring back. “Does it- 𝐵𝑜𝒯𝒽𝐸𝓇 𝒴𝑜𝒰, Dwight, knowing you could not- S̷a̷v̷e̷ ̷t̷h̷e̷m̷, a̴n̴y̴ ̴o̴f̴ ̴t̴h̴e̴m̴-”. The question was piercing, meant to rile me up, but I could feel it wasn’t about the people in my unit that were killed, but- the people in the forest. Fine, you want to throw shots, ‘two to tango. “Does it excite you every time you take one of them from their families? Every single time someone gets ripped out of their homes and turned into whatever the fuck is in that formerly human cattle pen outside, does it get you off?.....”. Silence. Well?....”. More fucking silence,“Say something, God DAMMIT!!!”. “....No”. I still don't know if it was answering my question, or being snide. It spoke in the voice of Merkel, from the gun store in town; “‘zhe fores’ iz a dangerous place, ‘Dwight”. Then, the voice of the old woman from the manor, Candice, “Hundreds of Thousands of people go missing every year, sweetie. Many of these are taken by the old and hungry forces that lay within-”. Then, in John’s voice, “Call me calculating, call me-”, then in Theodore’s voice, “Eccentric. But I knew that when my wife went missing, I needed to do something…”. “..... Theodore?”. Then, in the voice of one of the southern sheriffs from the town, “Not quite. Your boss, Theodore, he knows, exactly, what to expect when he arrived here. He has known for awhile. He knew about all the workers he was sending to their deaths trying to build that-”, Then in Isaac’s voice, “Overblown log cabin right in the middle of witches alley. He also knew exactly what he was doing throwing you into the woods with a-”. Then, Gareth’s voice, “.308 bolt action and a shitty four wheeler”. Then, in Rosanne’s voice, “We feel bad for you Dwight, hun. we really do. However, I know you’ve saw the missin' on that board. You know full bloody well that many more people are lost to this-”. Then, in the voice of the mother from the bar, Danny’s Mother, Misses Hothfield, “I tried to scare you off, show you that what’s happening here is bigger than you, but you wouldn’t listen. The forest is a sea of forces, you can’t stop, you can’t battle, you can only hope to control..”. Then, back to Theodore’s voice, “Theodore said I was crazy. I told him I could do it, but he said I was on a fools errand. It cost me everything, my mind, my spirit, my body- my Daughter…”. The last comment confused me, up until I felt the girl wrap her arm around my left leg. It was starting to make sense. Her House. This was getting long winded, it was getting clearer, yet confusing at the same time. Some things made sense, some didn’t, some still don’t. “A sea of forces”, yeah there’s a lot of weird shit in the woods, but to do this, do what it had done to those people in that cage back there.... What did it mean by, “Control” ?. “Just- Stop. Fucking rambling, stop trying to spout some exposition or spin a narrative. You lost someone, I’ve lost someone, everyone has here. Yes people go missing every god damn day, but to do….-” I knifehanded back towards the doors, “THAT- to people? To do ALL OF THIS?!”. “It’s a…. necessity-”,“It’s fucking inexcusable, you son of a bitch!!”. The voices began to change to those I didn’t know, every other word now. “𝚆𝚛𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎, 𝔀𝓻𝓸𝓷𝓰 𝓽𝓲𝓶𝓮, bad hand, Bad Luck, 𝕯𝖜𝖎𝖌𝖍𝖙….. It’s an evil that must be done, that 𝓂𝓊𝓈𝓉 be kept beneath the surface, lest hungry men like 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕠𝕕𝕠𝕣𝕖 𝕥𝕣𝕪 𝕥𝕠 𝕦𝕟𝕔𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕦𝕤𝕖 𝕚𝕥….”. “Well I guess you've fucking failed, haven't you? All it took was a washed up staff sergeant, a redneck, and a british paranormalist a couple of months to figure you out”. “You’re- 𝓬𝓸𝓶𝓶𝓲𝓽𝓽𝓮𝓭, Motivated-ʜᴜɴɢʀʏ. You didn’t get, scared- 𝒮𝐻𝒪𝒪𝒦, You- ᵖᵉʳˢᵉᵛᵉʳᵉᵈ. Yₒᵤ'ᵣₑ DᵢFfₑᵣₑₙₜ. You act like a ΉΣЯӨ. the type of man to, 𝑔𝑒𝓉 𝓉𝑜 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒷𝑜𝓉𝓉𝑜𝓂, of all of, 𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓼….." "It’s the same reason, ¥ðµ mµ§† rêålïzê, I-𝓒𝓐𝓝'𝓣, let. ʏᴏᴜ. l̸̛̝̝̖̹̲͎͐̉̆̽͌͠e̴̬͆́̒͛̀͐͘̚͝a̵͚̪̠̬̪̘̞͑̉v̶̛̺̈́̿̔͗̄̓̆ͅȇ̸̢͕̤̼͈̻̰̖”. My throat ran dry making it hard to swallow after it said that. My hands started to sweat inside the mechanix gloves as I continued to try to zero in with closed eyes on it. You said it yourself-”, it fucked changed to my god damn voice, “This is it. This is the end. I hope I’ll be back”. How did it know? Did it surf the fucking web? Had it heard everything I said? how…. “𝓷𝓸 𝓸𝓷𝓮 𝔀𝓲𝓵𝓵 𝓯𝓲𝓷𝓭 𝔂𝓸𝓾, no one will- 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚎, what’s out really here. Theodore will never, find the 𝒯𝑅𝒰𝒯𝐻!!! 𝔬𝔯 𝔢𝔩𝔰𝔢- he will- 𝔥𝔞𝔯𝔫𝔢𝔰𝔰 it. The Cabin, will- B̷̛͖̮̀͌̐̌̇͝͠͠É̵̜̕ ̴̡̧̝̲̦̼͇͎͒͌̀̀̋B̷͔̖͕̖̒̅̄̀̇͂͋͗͝U̵̢͉̰̱͔͎̒̆Ŗ̵̧̛͓̱͍͖͕̟̘̬̋̍̂͊̍́̄̕͝Ṅ̴̪̗͉͚́̕͘͠Ê̸̻͉͎̜̱̒̆Ḍ̴̜͆̎͗̒̑͋͠!!! Your, 𝐹𝓇𝐼𝑒𝒩𝒟𝓈, will be, ᗡɘVɒꙄ, and- nobody will ᵉᵛᵉʳ find out what happened to- ᴛʜᴇ ꜱᴇᴄᴜʀɪᴛʏ ɢᴜᴀʀᴅ ʜɪʀᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴘʀᴏᴛᴇᴄᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴇꜱᴛᴀᴛᴇ”. Then, a sound that felt a lot more nerve wracking this time sent a chill up my spin, as from beyond the double doors, the things began to attack the cage wall again. Except this time, not in a smothered, reeled in attempt to scare me away. -But in an intentional way, jumping at it, pulling and shaking at it, throwing their heavy bodies against the cage walls in an attempt to break them down…. And get to me. The chorus of screams and noises were muffled behind the door, but they wouldn’t be for much longer. I didn’t know where the fuck it was, how far it was, but I knew that if it was infront of me. The echoing, the sounds, all came, as directly in front as I could make out. A while ago I said, while waiting for Rosanne and Isaac in that up armored battle wagon, that I feared of becoming another casualty. Another name on the memorial wall, another missing sign up on that cork board. Taken, killed, gone missing, turned inside out, cut up, thrown into the high branches of a tree, into a canyon, found in pieces, not found at all. Disposed, forgotten, erased. All of the work we had done to get here, all of the fighting to get to the bottom of this, a pointless waste as an army of demons now fought to get out of their cage to tear me limb from limb, and a horror at the center of it all, that I couldn’t even gaze eyes upon it. This entire thing was just a bad hand, but I’ve been playing it ever since the start. I wasn’t gonna let the story end like this, this wasn’t gonna be where the road ends. 65 names alone on that missing persons board, some dating back years, others just days ago, let alone the thousands that go missing every fucking day, all because of some…. Fight, struggle, some sad little game we’re stuck in the middle of.. …. Fuck. That. For what I hoped wasn’t the last time, Auto. A burst of 5.56 shot out from my barrel, the muzzle flash could be seen even with my eyes closed, giving me some sense of positioning. The horde behind me continued to try and break through, as the voices in front simply continued to scold me. “It’s ᵘˢᵉˡᵉˢˢ- ѕтσρ ƒιgнтιηg!!!! I know you, 𝙬𝙖𝙣𝙩 𝙖- ᖇEᔕT". I adjusted my stance, trying to make sure I wasted as little rounds as possible. I raised my weapon again. This time, I held down on the trigger, and rode the fucking lightning. My poor fucking ‘15, god knows how much carbon and gunk had built up inside of it firing mag after mag, but it pulled through. KLINK- My bolt locked to the rear after the last round, I dropped the mag hearing the empty piece of metal bounce off the floor, and slapped a now one in and sent the bolt home. “Şt໐p!!!! You- C̳a̳N̳'̳T̳ ̳W̳i̳N̳!̳!̳!̳!̳”. The voices continued to yell as defiantly as ever, but a little birdie reassured me…. “They’re scared- Keep going, Hurry!!!!”. Another burst of automatic fire as my rifle spewed 30 all american demon killing tungsten 5.56 rounds into whatever laid beyond. The mashing and groaning of metal from beyond the doors had increased, and gotten louder, as dozens, hundreds, thousands of them now tried to escape…. The bolt locked to the back, again- but, there was still light coming from beyond my eyelid. My muzzle wasn’t firing…. It was coming from beyond. “ꜱᴛᴏᴘ!!!!! DWIGHT!!!!- ʂTOP!!!!!”. Whatever I was firing at, I was hurting it, burning whatever was around it. I hoped to whatever god existed as I slapped my last mag in, and hit the bolt release. By now, the things outside of the room had gotten louder, more violent, enraged. I could hear the cage walls groaning and bending even inside of the thick double doors. The voices cried out, “YoU Don’t- ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ'ʀᴇ- D̶O̶I̶N̶G̶!!!”. The girl cheered me on, “We’re almost there, Hurry!!!”. Last magazine, Last burst of full auto, last try. I shouldered my rifle, and held my breath. My rifle’s muzzle was now smoking as I could smell the scent of gunpowder and smoke coming off my weapon. I pulled the trigger and began to dump my last 30 rounds into the demon that laid beyond my eyelids- As whatever I had done to it caused the fire infront to get louder, and louder, as the breaking off glass, crashing of equipment could be heard- KLINK- Empty. I stood there, breathing heavily as I continued to be squared up with my empty, now useless, rifle. Then, the voices.....began to laugh, I- I fucked up? I failed? 90 rounds at 900 shots per minute to make count, full auto into whatever was ahead of me, and I.... didn’t have enough to put it away. One rifle, one shot at stopping this, gone. Zip, done. As the dread of it all set in, the voices outside grew louder as the breaking of bolts, and the crashing of metal could be heard. They were nearly there…… This was it, I had failed. So much preparation, so much attempts, all boiled down to nothing. No more rounds, no more guns, no more…. Wait, I had one last thing. One last ace up my sleeve. I dropped my rifle hearing the 6ishlbs of weaponry hit the floor, I slid my right hand to my back right side of my kit, and pulled out a container. A cylinder. Running my hands over the orange diamond on the front of it, I knew what it was. AN - M14. A fucking incendiary grenade. Filled with phosphorus, benzene, and a whole lot of hate…. We used to torch equipment, down vehicles, not meant to explode, just heat up and cause enough fire to burn through fucking anything, even able to burn under-fucking-water. It was my last shot…. I don’t know what laid ahead, but from the burning I saw underneath my lids, I knew this would do something. Put it away, even if it meant the ghouls behind me would lay waste to my ass afterwards. John would be safe, Isaac would keep him safe, Rosanne would tell the world of the fucking truth. The sounds of the cage wall segments falling to the floor, followed by the manic screams of it, awoke me from my pondering. With one last determined exhale, I gripped the spoon tight, and pulled the pin. “DWᵢGₕₜ!!!!!-ᵈʷⁱᵍʰᵗ, Dwight- STOP!!!!!!”. I don’t know how high the room was, but I could tell from it hitting whatever ceiling was above, I had thrown it far enough, hopefully The sound of the cylinder bouncing off the metal roof, then the floor, and then floor again, until- The hissing. The phosphorus, whether white or red, I didn’t check, I didn’t care- both would work. I could see the flare from the top of the grenade, it made contact with whatever laid beyond, and I heard their screams. Young, old, adult, child, male, female- it cycled through all the people it had taken, some I knew, many I didn’t. Growing louder than the screams behind me, as they began to pound on the door. The fire ahead grew larger, and larger, the orange hue beyond my eyelids flashed purple, then orange, then fucking green. “You- 𝐹𝒰𝒞𝒦𝐸𝒟 ᴇᴠᴇʀʏᴛʜɪɴɢ UP!!!!”. “They’ll- 𝒯𝐻𝐸𝒴'𝐿𝐿... y̾o̾u̾ ̾k̾i̾l̾l̾e̾d̾ ̾t̾h̾e̾m̾ ̾a̾l̾l̾”. The voices began to melt into the sea of screams, as the sounds of the crackling got louder. The footsteps behind me grew louder, and and for a moment. The sound seemed to pause. Before an explosion, a climax, the pressure of the moment implodes and builds up. Oxygen is sucked in and, for a moment, there’s a pause. Right before the grenade goes off.... the trigger is pulled before a shot.... before the fighting truly begins or ends, there’s a moment of clarity. It reached out to me, trying in one last vain attempt, in the voice of Sergeant Clancy. "D҉W҉I҉G҉H҉T҉!҉!҉!҉!҉!҉!҉" In that moment, that at the time seemed like forever. Letting myself be taken, preparing for the end, looking into the void that had taken control of my life for so many months, caused so much death, so much pain..... I answered back to it’s pleas with one, single, phrase. “Gotchyah”. And then, I was blown back. Whether all of the equipment I had heard from the beeping had erupted, whether or not it was the smell in the air mixing with the phosphorus, I- a 200lb man, felt myself thrown back by the sheer force of it all. On a convoy through the box, one of our vics was hit, and the gunner was thrown out after his harness link had broken. He survived, a bit banged up, but he described the descent as a rollercoaster without the safety. My back slammed into the double doors, my back plate slammed into me, and the bolt and knobs were probably blasted off as I found myself flying backwards. I landed square on my shoulders, flipping over and rolling- I don’t know, it could have been a few feet, it could have been a mile.... My eyes remained shut, whether or not I wanted them open. And then. Silence. No beeping, no laughing, no voices, no giggling, no haunted reminders of my past, no demonic shape shifting vocal cords from the darkness beyond. Just, silence. My body ached as consciousness returned to me. I cringed, the headache from earlier returned, this time it had gotten promoted to a fucking migraine. My back screamed, my legs felt heavy, and it took all of the force I had to try and push myself to my feet- but my body gave out. I collapsed right back down onto my god damn face, got a healthy serving of whatever fucking disease infected shit was on that floor too..... There was a small orange hue beyond my closed eyes at the edges, and I could hear the growing sound of crackling flames. The smell had gone, the things had gone. It was just me, laying face down, front plate now digging into my ribcage and throat, blowing out spit and blood from my mouth as I laid face down….. “Thank you….”. There she was. Whether a figment of my concussed imagination, or here in the ethereal flesh…. I wasn’t alone, not yet. “They’re gone…. My house is empty. Thank you….”. Her slow, melodic voice helped to ease the battle of adrenaline and pain currently slugging it out in a painful bare knuckle match inside my body. Using my right hand I forced myself to flip over, coughing up various substances as I breathed easier with my lungs no longer being crushed. My eyes were still closed, my hand rubbed the crusted blood and spittle off them, as I remained hesitant to open them. Was this a trick? Had it survived and used her voice to lure me. Had I really won? “You can rest now…. It’s okay…..”. I gritted my teeth as I attempted to sit up. Instead my abs just screamed out in pain as I fought to get up. I had to get up, I had to get out.... I had to….. Ah screw it. The KLANG of my backplate hitting the floor with all of me behind it echoed throughout the area. I lifted my head up slightly to spit a hard looge, clearing my mouth, as I finally laid right back down, my right hand now holding my chest as I stayed there…. All of the fighting, all of the pain, all of the runs to town, all of the gunshots, all of the scares, sightings in the woods, hours of lost sleep, redbulls, weeks spent on investigation….. Done. Gone. Finished. All of the fighting to stay awake ended as, it was done. 34 years of age was finally catching up to me.... Exhaustion, weariness... My mind panicked at first... Was this it? Was I going to die? Go into a coma and then die? What was going to happen? I couldn't move, I couldn't get up, I.... I finally just, let myself go. Guess I could rest now. Isaac was safe, John was safe, All of them…. And then, as the crackling of fire began to sound out in the distance, I let the darkness take me..... “Nolan-”. I jolted awake in my plane seat, knocking off my old grey digi-camo(UCP/ACU) patrol cap onto the floor in front of me. I rubbed my eyes with the meat of my palm as I looked around. What....had happened? Just a few minutes ago I was on death’s door, sucking up and blowing out blood, with most of my body so shot to hell I could barely breathe without feeling like one of my own ribs was prison shanking me… And now, here I was. Isle side seat of the middle section of a large delta airliner, near the very back of the plane. Wearing now out of service ACUs, a light buzz, and…. An M16 in between my legs. Hold on…. I surveyed the plane around me, it was nearly empty, most of the personnel who’d been riding had taken their things and left. Flight Attendants were now cleaning up between the isles as the last few officers made their way out of the side exit at the far end of the plane... Leaving just me, and the one and only. Sergeant Walker. “Started tah’ think you were a corpse, heh….. Jeysus’ box really did a number on you didn’t it? Well? Get yer’ shit we’ve got to get off…” Walker heaved a large assault packed stuff with different equipment, snacks, and things he’d taken on with him, a spare barrel bag and M4 strapped to the side MOLLE. He didn’t look older than when I last saw him, well over 10 years ago. His deep, gravely “geojan” accented still sounded in it’s prime too…. I quickly scrambled for my PC, slapping it on my head as I pulled my carry on from the top compartment and pulled it on, “Yeah gotcha, Roger Sergeant”. Walker scoffed. “What you actin’ all weird on me now? Heh, you wanna be all robot how about you shave your fuckin face!!” Walker crudely quipped as I slung my M16. I fired back, “Technically we aren’t back in the states yet Sergeant-”. “The Fuck, How so?!”. Technically this airliner counts as international airspace, so until we’re boots down outside of the plane….”. Technically I should smack your smart ass mouth, Heh. Come on, lets get the fuck outta this hotbox…”. We squeezed past stragglers and flight staff as we made our way down the plane, and god, it was like 2011 was just yesterday. The plane was stuffy after transporting well over 200 disgruntled, frustrated, burnt out american warriors back across the atlantic, it smelled of sweat, pain, and nicotine that technically wasn’t allowed on the flight…. What was this? Whether I refused to think about it, or couldn’t…. I kept playing along. “God I am fuckin’ hungry” Walker cackled. “Tellin’ me? God I want a fuckin’ steak right now…. Medium Rare- nah yah know what? Rare, so bloody it’s still fuckin’ live ”. I raised an eyebrow, “Trying to get food poisoning Sarn’t? ”. “Listen after all of the bullets whizzing, motar ducking, ten minutes of sleep, eating 5 year old skittles because the army couldn’t send us better supplies, digging ranger graves only to move 20 meters to the left anyways- fuckery….. If a steak kills me Nolan, feel free to write ‘Fuckhead’ on my gravestone. Nah better yet, just dump me in a Koi pond…”. “-Don’t forget almost overturning a Maxxpro because we let a technically legally blind person drive it?-”. Walker stopped dead in his tracks and jutted a finger at me. “That was the fuckin’ PL’s idea, not mine.S What happens when you give fuckin’ military command to a drop out with an associates….”. As much as he reamed and shit talked our valiant 1st Lieutenant, he still showed the sir nothing but respect, and both of them worked cohesively.... when they were't bickering like a married couple. We dodged an attendant beginning to vacuum the floor as one of the pilots tipped his hat, shaking hands with us before we proceeded to the door. “You gonna quit drinkin’ yet, Dwight?” I couldn’t smother the wheeze that came afterwards, “Sergeant I said I was sorry for your truck…”. Turns out he didn’t forget about our last platoon barbecue.“Sorry doesn’t clean the inside of a door, Staff Sergeant… Come on, let’s get this welcome home shit done and eat”. I pulled my assault pack up a bit as we rounded the corner, the bright sunlight blinding me so much I had to shield my eyes. “So, no Battalion ball then?”. “Fuck no, we’re takin’ the kids ta’ ‘steakhouse ”. Didn’t have a comeback because the light from the outside was brighter than I originally thought, way brighter. So much so I had to start blinking to adjust my eyes, and yet, my memory didn’t proceed how I remembered. Instead of a crowd of families greeting their soldiers, husbands and wives, fathers, mothers, and their kids, or even the humming of the plane’s engines as they cooled down…. I heard birds…. and the wind? This was odd because I remember the Family Readiness Group was playing some stock patriotic music on a loud speaker, so loud I could barely hear Walker…. And why would there be birds in the middle of a busy airport? My eyes finally obeyed me as I commanded them to open, yet, instead of a new york airport, surrounded by our fellow americans welcoming us home…. I was in a shack. At least, I thought it was a shack. The sunlight was coming from several broken and cracked windows to my right, the walls and ceiling were made of chipped planks that had hints of old blue and pink paint on them… hold up… This wasn’t the shack, it was a house. The house. My body was suddenly flushed with adrenaline as I shot up, albeit at the speed of a Parkinson's patient, and still sore. I was back in the small kids room of the very upstairs opening of the sunken house, everything is as I last seen it. Items knocked to the side as I rushed into the house, the bed I was laying on was aimed crooked because of so…. The pack of cigarettes I left on the window sill was still there, albeit frosted over from spending the night out there... was it even only a night? I scanned the room, and saw a few things; The doorway I used to get into the deeper reaches of the house had now completely collapsed in on itself. Guess the house’s structural integrity started to come apart with all the door kicking, floor breaking running and gunning from last night. Regardless, I wasn’t in the mood to go back down there. Not anymore… Don’t know how long I was out for, still don’t. My phone read 11:37am, but I felt way too fresh and healed to have been just ten hours after. My face still bore some scars of the previous night, blood all across my face, with my shoulders aching from that fall in the library and shouldering my ‘15, but apart from that…. I was able to walk. My rifle, kit, assault pack, hell even my fucking jacket and now broken oakleys were laying neatly placed on the bed. Pulling myself to my feet, and slipping my gear on, I scanned the room again, failing to see her if she even was here. Before I left I kicked the bed back to how it was originally placed, and took one last, longing stare into the house before I made my way out…. The deep snow of the outside had begun to thaw and melt as I breathed in the cold, yet crisp and clean air of the forest. It still felt ominous, even with the midday sun beating down, I still as if behind every tree, every rock, and every seemingly empty part of it laid an assailant ready to pounce on me. Not like I could do anything though…. No more magazines, no more rounds…. Just an empty rifle and a broken ass body that should have stopped doing this shit years ago… Surprisingly my azimuth watch still worked, though it took a bit of caveman slapping and swearing to get it to turn back on. I flipped through the one preset cords I had, pointing back south in the direction of the Cazamoth Estate. And, after one last stare into the silent, ominous clearing….. I limped back home. The walk was slow, agonizing, yet at the same time calming, and fulfilling. My mind went over the past few months. All the firefights, all the mock exorcisms…. Then, last night. What it had said. Can’t beat the woods, only control it. You can mag dump into the darkness as much as you want but you’ll never kill it. You can’t kill what can’t be touched, but it sure as shit can touch and kill you. Kidnap you, drag you away to an underground lair for the sake of the greater good and saving people….. And Theodore knew it. All of it. Theodore called it crazy…. Guess we can agree on something there, but he knew something. He knew, he fucking knew, he avoided saying it in the house, he basically admitted it in the car…. but, it also said he didn't know 'The truth'? I must’ve looked like a crackhead walking through those woods. Spitting, muttering, shaking my head and talking to myself as I walked and looked around out of sheer paranoia.... I was so concerned with Theodore, I barely noticed my old pathfinder friend as I rounded a tree corner….. The same man who had given me needed guidance when the chips were down, now squared up to me, meeting my tired, beaten up gaze with his own. The Native. It was around this time, I realized we were about the same size, albeit he looked much more in shape than I did. I didn’t take the time to ask him his exact height measurements though as we engaged in what was the most tense ten minutes of my life. He held something between a scowl and a grimace, the war paint reflecting the sun off his skin. Had he come to finish me off? Was he expecting something from me? I wouldn’t be able to defend myself, I was at maybe 5% and had an unloaded rifle….. He simply looked me in my eyes, saying so much without ever moving his mouth.... and after what felt like hours, he nodded. Without ever having spoken to him, knowing jack shit about him, I knew what it meant. I nodded back, a mutual “Thank you”. And like that, for the first time, he turned and walked off. Not vanishing into midair or melting into the wind, but, melting into the forest. The dark, cracked wood of the trees and old leaves hanging desperately onto their branches, covered by frost and snow, seemed to merge with his back as he faded into the horizon….. The sound of footsteps crunching towards me broke me from my trance, and I found myself looking into the barrel of a gun. Specifically, the Glock 17 I had loaned Rosanne the night before. Now staring back at me…. Does this fall under the Irony category or?.... “Don’t you fucking move…” She muttered, standing on top of a small mound of dirt, she had the high ground and the superior firepower advantage. How the tables have turned, Dwight. I exhaled a puff of hot air as my left hand rubbed my temples with my hand, dropping it to my side. “So….. you gonna shoot me for being a chronic asshole, or?-” Rosanne cut me off. “You were down there, for twelve hours. Twelve, Dwight…. So give me a sign that it’s you before I use your way of dealing what could be another shapeshifter, or a fucking- demon, or a fucking possession of your corpse or- ANYTHING!!". I’m not gonna lie, I was internally torn between wanting to slap the shit out of Rosanne, and sighing because she had a point. I mean, a fucking cockamania one since, if I was a creep from the woods I would have probably pounced her... but, a point. “Do fleshgaits retain memories?”. Rosanne shook her head... Alright, here it goes….. “My name’s Dwight Anthony Nolan, I’m a former 11bravo Direct Fire Infantryman, formerly stationed at the ice cold field problem death pit that was Fort Drum, I’m a self diagnosed alcoholic, certified range supervisor, I’ve spent the last several months under contract with Cazamoth Industries, I’ve enlisted your help under what I’m gonna guesstimate was a week and a half ago because time here is as convoluted as my last few remaining brain cells… Isaac is missing an eye, you’re a British commonwealth immigrant judging by your dialect, you helped me exorcise, among other things, a fucking river, werewolves are real, the Giant of Kandahar was a Nephilim, and I also know that despite all those runic drawings in your journal you keep a way too detailed graphic image of a-”. “Okay!! Okay!!.....” Rosanne backed off a few steps, holding up her hand as she lowered the pistol. Rosanne chuckled, “You sly son of a gun, I knew you looked in my journal!! I Knew it!!”. I shrugged, “You take a lot of naps…”. “Only cause I work hard, Dwight…. You look worse for wear, what happened?”. My stare was deadpan and involved one long blink. "Did you hit your fucking head?", "I mean down there, jackass". I gazed back to where the native had walked, he was long gone, and then, back down the slope towards the sunken house, before pivoting back to my locally hired witch. “Long story, I’ll tell you back at the estate, just know…. It’s over…”. “Over?”, I nodded. Rosanne breathed a sigh of relief as she looked around, “Come on, home’s this way…”. I waited a few seconds before following. “How the fuck do you know?-”, We were walking for about an hour before we had reached the perimeter path of the Cazamoth Estate, much to my hysterical joy freaking out Rosanne. Following it back around the eastern side, we reached the front gate of the Cazamoth estate. I noticed along the way, while we were gone they really did a number on the place. Trees were gutted and torn down, C-wire was ripped off the top of the concrete wall and strung around like, as Rosanne put it; “Iraq War Christmas Trees-”. However, regardless of how the mice had played while the cats were away. In this case, the mice being demonic ghouls that could chuck grown men several feet, and the mice being a group of misfits armed with the finest in operator gear they could buy from a small town gun store. Albeit, a very well armed gun store armed by two Belorussians- Armenians?- Germans- Europeans. Great, thanks Isaac now I've got them fucking mixed up. Rambling, sorry- I'm fucking drunk, It'll become clear later.... regardless of the show of force, the gate still held, surprisingly well. Rosanne scanned her eyes across the large metal gate as I approached keypad. “Hello?! Anyone there?!” I pressed the button and shouted. Yes I shouted into the intercom, I know full well how fucky those headphones are because Theodore either bought the equipment especially high end or at fucking walmart. And for a moment, nothing came through, causing Rosanne to shrug as me and her locked eyes. That was, until- “Well HO-LY-SHIT!! Frank Castle returns from the grave, Marco owes me 20 bucks…”. I stared at the camera slightly stunned, “You placed bets on whether or not I was gonna make it out alive?”. “Hey! HEY!!.... Mackerel was the one who said you probably wouldn’t, and I challenged him”, “You mean, Merkel”, Same shit…. Good to see you’re alright Dwight, I knew you’d make it. You see Tim out there by chance? John and I saw him on the way back and from the looks of it he stole my trucker hat and was wearing it so I wanted to get it bac-”. “Isaac open the fucking door”. “Alright!! Jesus!!! ‘Gotta be so mean…”. Rosanne and I had made our way back into the house, John was fast asleep on the couch, passed out with a blanket covering him, who Rosanne immediately checked on. Gareth and Merkel were busy cooking something in the kitchen, Isaac immediately came into the living room and said- “So, what was down there?” his question bounced around my head like a fucking pinball, and I still don’t know the answer. I pulled my kit off me, dropping it onto one of the lounge chairs where Isaac and the others had put theirs. Once again it had become a “Giant pile of monster killing supplies”. “I….. I’m not sure….”, Isaac raised an eyebrow, “It said several things…. That the woods can’t be stopped, that it tried to paint itself as a lesser evil compared to it…. That Theodore knew-”. Isaac jumped back and pointed at me, “HAH!!! I FUCKIN KNEW IT!!! THAT GOD DAMN SNAK-”. Rosanne quickly snapped at him, “Isaac!!!”. He looked confused as she gave a “Shush” gesture to him. Rosanne said he’ll be fine, as long as he gets plenty of sleep, and we don’t let him get kidnapped again. It would be easy since compared to the last few months, the proceeding week or so was a fucking pallet cleanser. Gareth and Merkel took off the next day after we arrived. Both the europeans loaded up their mass amounts of weapons and ordnance into the back of their van. Gareth himself said something to the effect of, “These woods will still be dangerous, but we did good work… you did good work. You and Isaac are friends, come anytime, oh and tell Isaac if he wants’ job besides being your cyclops….. He is welcome at Gareth’s arms…. Stay well, Sergeant Nolan”. I still remember the spartanesc grip he gave me even after him and Gareth drove off. Next was Rosanne, I asked her if she wanted to go back into town, what with the woods attacking John’s Friend’s house that one night. But being Rosanne, she protested… “Just because we solved one problem, doesn’t mean their ain’t a thousand bloody more takin’ it’s place!! Everyone in town needs somethin’, and this world’s only gonna get stranger after the power vacuuming’ of whatever you riddled down there….”. I nodded, sitting back on the hood of the old SUV driving my hands in my pockets. “You sure you don’t want a ride back to town?…. Like you said, woods are still haunted-”. Rosanne looked out towards the open gate, then brushing her hair before stuffing it under her beanie. She shook her head, “Nah…… I’ll be okay…. Oh and….” She dug into her bag, pulling out the glock and hanging it to me- I waved it off, much to her confusion. “I think we can both agree that the town witch who just helped take out an eldritch demon is gonna have a target on her back. Take it, consider it a form of payment since I’m no longer funded by my boss…”. Rosanne shoved it back into her bag as she slapped my shoulder, “Psh…. you think I get paid? Hah! Funny….. No I do it as a service….. Someone’s gotta…..”. She rested her hand back on my shoulder, staring into my eyes. “Remember….. That rich asshole’ gives you trouble, or you need my help….. Just call”. Despite my warning to Isaac that Theodore was gonna be back in less than a week, he vowed to stay as long as he could. “Not gonna just leave you high and dry, Cap’n!!! Let’s get this place locked down…”. I spun back around in the office chair of the security room, scanning all of the camera monitors as Isaac nervously scratched the back of his neck. “So…… Can I drive the ATV?”. I use this saying a lot- "Had it been X months ago", I would have kindly declined a one eyed, always buzzed redneck the opportunity to drive the ATV. However, considering the circumstances, and the fact that I was likely not gonna be employed next week….. I pulled open the key drawer and beckoned him. Like I said, the estate was a mess after the war of the fucking wendigos that took us near 15 klicks into the woods. Not much Isaac and I could do to remove the fallen trees, especially since both of us were less motivated to conduct high octane ATV landscaping for a man who literally chose to live in demon alley than we were our first few months here…. Rosanne was right however, the woods still are off. Though, the last few days I went on patrol on the ATV, scanning the perimeter path during both the day, and, finally, feeling safe enough to venture out at night. Anomalies still occur. An broken stone archway that appeared on the path caused me to detour around it, after I tossed a branch through and it came out not diced, but minced on the other side. I made the executive decision to not fuck with it after I tossed a rock through with the same result…. Other things still occur. Isaac said he saw things like the crabwalking man, who I’ve now ruled is more or less harmless, a fucking baby carriage, and a staircase. The third one was no longer there when I checked the area. I also get slight glimpses of the static looking, green figure from the chop shop of the house… out of the corner of my eye, each time seemingly closer and closer, but never too close….. And never in direct eyesight. It was a weird, nostalgic feeling? If you can call this fuckbin of a gig nostalgic in any sense. Just the good old Cazamoth Security Duo doing routine checks, John getting better and better with the help of chicken noodle soup and Tylenol, and patrolling the estate. I finally indulged in Isaac’s cultural past time a few days ago…. We were on the porch, the sun was setting providing a warm orange hue that bathed the two of us as we sat back in a couple of wicker chairs. Isaac had a glass of jack, I had corona, also known colloquially by me as hot urine. We must’ve sat there for hours, sitting back, legs crossed, my rifle resting across my lap just in case the woods wanted to go one last round that would never come, and despite our banterish history, it was silent. A feeling of calm acceptance and finality to this, a friendship that was literally built on two chatter mouths meeting on a forest path. That was- until Isaac started asking. "You owe me 25 bucks" I turned to him, confused. "How fucking so?", Isaac swallowed a big swig of Jack D before continuing. "Remember, we placed bets?". I scoffed, then laughed, "Listen... I don't really know what was down there, I never got a good look". "So?", "It's a draw Isaac", "There's no fucking draws in bets!!". The both of us share a fake!tense stare, before falling back into buzzed chuckles. I took one last sip of my beer, emptying it before tossing it into a bucket across the porch. "Gonna miss you brotha..." Isaac said, his one good eye was slightly glossed over, sitting back, his hands holding the bottle in his lap. I exhaled, sighing as I sat back. This really was, probably, our last time together. "Yeah...". "So what're you gonna do after this?" I shrugged in response, "Go home...", "Home?", "Chicago... probably buy some booze, write an autobiography like every G-WOT vet, and live off the royalties...". I turned to Isaac, "You?". "Stock market, I hear Dow Jones is doing good this time of year-", I shook my head in disbelief. "Bullfuckingshit", Isaac cackled and nodded. "Yeah, you're right.... probably just gonna take the latvian's offer and go work for them". The little camaraderie I had with my friend would soon come to an end, however. The very last day, the day before Theodore came back, Isaac finally left. He sported one of the assault packs I had given him, packing up his tent and strapping it to the top. Despite my offers to drive him back into town, Isaac argued- “If I can walk 700 miles across two damn states, I can make it to town….. Besides, you and the kid need to prepare yourselves for....him tomorrow….”. I nodded, kicking up a bit of the gravel as we both stared off into the evening sky, Isaac turned back “You sure you don’t want me here in the trenches with you when he comes?”. “No…. I’ve got a feeling Theodore’s gonna pull something tomorrow…. And I don’t want anyone caught up in it that doesn’t need to be… Besides, you paid enough on this little adventure…”. I tapped the bottom of my eye, referencing Isaac’s wound. Albeit, with some help from Rosanne, it looked a lot cleaner, with a proper eyepatch over the new bandages. “Hey…. I gave it back to the suckers…. Good Luck, Sergeant ....”. And like that, the Cazamoth Extermination Squad, the finest members of the paranormal hunting group I had assembled, fought with, and worked with for the last few months….. Was back down to me. The evening drive was probably one of the most isolating damn trips I ever took. The sky was a bluish purple as I drove the ATV down the trail, soaring over potholes and past fallen trees. I stopped at the northern bend, the halfway point- the spot where motion detector 6 was. I parked the ATV, leaving it running as I scanned the now low lit area. I saw the deep holes which the now destroyed ATV made trying to rev it’s wheels to get out, the tree I shot meters ahead attempting to shoot the creatures, gazing into the now clear path ahead…. My mind goes back to that night. Surrounded by dozens of them, all of them laughing, stalking me, that creature with it’s white and yellow eyes staring back into me in the rain. Now…. gone. I looked out to the north, over the slope that lead downwards to the woods. The ocean of trees that laid beyond. “Man…..” I sighed, “I need a vacation….”. “HEEEY!!!!!!”. Even after nearly half a year of this fuckery, my skeleton, ironically enough, nearly jumped out of my skin from the sudden greeting. I turned back to my left, to see none other than Tim. Turns out Isaac was indeed right, even if he was half blind. Tim, among other things, bore Isaac’s Texarkana trucker hat. I stared at Tim for a few minutes, had anyone seen me, not knowing about my time here, they would’ve thought I was fucking insane. To be fair, I still think I am. Lost in the insanity of this place, suffocated by trees, talking to fucking skeletons…. If this is insanity, I gotta say….. It’s at least entertaining. I turned on my engine to leave, but I stopped. Laughing as I shook my head from the idea. I reached into the back of the ATV’s container, and pulled out my electronic headphones. Walking over and placing them on Tim’s head over the Trucker hat, I stepped back. “A real fuckin’ operator….. Goodbye Tim”. Even with the loud roar of my ATV’s engine, and the sounds of the fleeting winter winds, I still hear one solitary word; “NAAARK!!!!”. The day had arrived, I woke up at 4am, got cleaned up and my gear consolidated at 5, and was at the monitor desk of the security room waiting with a fresh red bull in hand by 6. Theodore had arrived, in a black SUV nearly identical to the one parked just outside, along with several vans and a fucking truck of, judging by the Cazamoth Industries logo, the corporate back up old Theo talked about. So it was true, huh? I chuckled, sighing as I slid back out of the chair, clipping on my 5.7’s holster to my belt, I chugged my red bull as I headed outside. Even if it was his estate, his home, with his son in it…. I still felt like the old town sheriff walking out to meet the bandits that had just ridden into down, big iron literally on my hip. I lightly kicked open the front door as I called back into the house.“John!!! Your dad’s home”. It still took John nearly 20 minutes to join us outside, whether it was from still being ill, or not wanting to see his flee the coup papa…. I still don’t know. The empty can flattened out underneath my boot as I stepped off the porch, meeting a group of uninformed individuals, joined by none other than the long haired, sweater vest wearing millionaire- possibly billionaire….. Theodore Cazamoth. A long staredown ensued as he was backed by several guards, all in black crye tops and bottoms, belts, caps, and most importantly, armed. Their eyes shot to Theodore, then to me. My eyes stayed on Theodore, and my hands were shoved in my pocket- mostly because I really wish I brought 2 redbulls, heart attacks be damned. The silent staredown was broken up as Theodore’s son walked up alongside me, and the previously malice filled, stern look on his face was melted- more so forced back, as he walked over to hug his son. “Dwiiiiight- it’s so good to see you!!!” Theodore crossed his legs at his desk, mind you, the one that still had all of the broken pieces and holes in it from my little raid. I stood infront, arms crossed, as several C-Industries staff members worked to force the heavy filing cabinets back upright. Theodore maintained his grin however, and honestly, after all the other shit here, I wasn’t phased. “I see you’ve keep things under control….” I honestly had to work really fucking hard to not laugh at that. “Yeah, holdin’ the fort down without you here was an experience boss…. Was it productive?”. “Very….” the tone and smile that came after, however, did make me shiver a bit. “My shareholders and I have big plans for not just the estate Dwight, but the company, these woods, the town….. And more….. Big changes are coming, all for the better, I assure you….”. I gave a fake smirk and nodded, just as the employees were finished and walked out, Theodore’s smile disappeared along with mine. He slid his feet down, brushing against the broken section of the desk, which caused one of the upper corners to literally fall off. Theodore snapped to his feet, kicking it away, as brushed his forehead. “Oh Dwight, what am I gonna do with you?” he chuckled, the evil motherfucker from that talk in the car was back. “Zip tie me, bag me, drag me, shoot me and leave me in a shallow grave?”. Theodore shook his head, “No, no…. Contrary to what you might think….. I can’t just do that….”. Theodore held his hands behind him as he walked over to the large set of windows behind his desk, staring off into the woods, outside, dozens of workers began to install new security wire, along with lights, cameras, and set up new huts around the perimeter wall. “Your little blog series really saved you…. Had it not been for half of the fucking internet knowing about you, I really could have just zipped, bagged, and shot you….”. I chuckled out loud, earning a scowl that was so fucking satisfying from him. My mind thought back to that thing in the metal lair, how I knew too much, how I needed to be smothered…. I really wanted to ream him, to rip him apart, press his scrawny neck against the damn wall, and start interrogating him….. But then I did remember what that void also said. Theodore would “exploit” whatever was down there if he caught wind of what it really was, where it was, whatever Theodore already knew, and-..... What I’m saying is, better to not say anything, than allow the evil fucking corporate douchebag money man to catch whiff. “Well you’ll be happy to know that you’ll know longer have to bear the title of: Security officer hired to protect the forest estate, Dwight…” My arms dropped to my sides, as I pondered that that could mean. Theodore opened one of his drawers, pulling out a tablet with a very, very long form written on it. Without going into too many of the confidential financial details, Cazamoth Industries had decided that “Due to my dedicated service to the company and the estate, as well as the Cazamoth family, and after considering the consequences and benefits of my long term health….-” my contract was being bought out. Basically, I was fired, with the next what would have been five years worth of pay being wired to me, along with a bonus. It was money, a lot of money, deep six figures “I can finally fucking retire” kind of money. The kind of money they give you to shut the fuck up and go back to Chicago. It was the kind of situation where, I should fight it because they’re trying to cut me out. But, they did, and what was I gonna do? I was no longer legally allowed on the property, I was no longer a member of the company. You don't say no to a contract buy out, you can only nod your head and accept, it's out of your hands. I was no longer “Security Guard Dwight Nolan”, I was just…. Dwight Nolan. What I’m getting at is. Despite all the internal arguments I had, all the reservations I had for just leaving thing the way they were and allowing Theodore to do whatever the fuck he wanted….begrudgingly, whether I wanted it or not, Cazamoth industries sent me 401k++++, emphasis on multiple pluses, and I took my ball and went home. Not much I could do now….. I said goodbye to John, the kid gave me a final hug, I, in return, gave him my still intact pair of oakleys and parted ways- not before being escorted out by several cazamoth security officers as Theodore watched from the porch. By 10am, I was shoved out of the opening in the perimeter wall, onto the gravel path I had seen so many times.... And then, with a slow crawl, and a finally heavy metal thud.... The gate closed. And I was free. Unemployed, but free. I beat my self right the fuck up about it, I still am. I was a fucking coward, whether or not I braved the things under the house, I allowed Theodore to get exactly what he wanted, I just let them kick me out of the land I was warden of, and I went home. But, I had no choice.... did I? Yes- No. Sorry, Like I said earlier, drunk.... I took another hard shot of vodka in the pub on the edge of town, the same one I visited several months ago. The alcohol hit straight away, and as my head buzzed, I turned my head to the cork board. What was a board filled with 48 missing cases a few months ago, was now at 65. What was just locals now included hikers, tourists, truckers, cops, and more. I gritted my teeth and bit down the guilt, turning over my glass and overpaying the bartender. I was cut out, I couldn’t do anything, I repeated these words as I wandered out of the bar, and down the road. The town still seemed ominous, much like the woods, even after the ghouls were dealt with, there was still plenty of mysteries, and plenty of problems. However, I wouldn’t be around to deal with them, I couldn’t. But I wasn’t gonna let Theodore and whoever else just run wild on this place while I was gone. I opened the worn brass mail slot of Rosanne’s house, and slipped an overstuffed envelope through. It was late at night, the moon was up in force, and I wasn’t gonna wake her up to hand her what would be just as useful in the morning. What was in the envelope you may ask? Oh, you know, printed transcripts of the entire series, detailed logs from the estate house, scavenged files from the security room, and- despite how Theodore may have tried, an intact hard drive from that computer tower…. I don’t have all the answers, fuck, I have very few. I don’t know what was in that darkness of the house, I don’t know who the girl exactly was, I don’t know what Theodore’s gonna do, and I don’t know what the fuck was in that cellar door…. And if I’m not gonna be around to find out, then those who will, will, hopefully. Rosanne’s young, motivated, she’s hellbent on helping this town, and if Isaac and the soviet bloc lads are still around, and they will be, bet on it… they’ll be here to help her…. This is where I would say my goodbye. I walked back to the parking lot of the pub, gazing at the night sky as I called a taxi cab company. I was way too drunk to try and drive anything back to the nearest airport, and like hell I’m getting a hitchhike from a stranger…. “-It’ll be 37 minutes sir….”. Great, leave my drunk ass here for that fucking long? Good thing I don’t have any of my weapons. I started to type everything on this entry- from the elevator, to now, eating away at the minutes as I hoped each passing car was the cab to finally take me home, bobbing and weaving on my feet…. And yet, despite it being a clear parking lot, maybe it was my mild deafness, my buzz….. "Mr. Nolan….” The voice was cool, calm, smooth, calculated, with an accent I still can't really put my finger on. And yet, like I said maybe it was my mildly drunk state or my heightened sense of paranoia, but I hopped off the small concrete jersey barrier I was, turning to the man. He was older, possibly late 40s, mid 50s. He wore a dark blue pinstripe suit, with black detailing over it. I eyed him up and down as I ran my hands over my knuckles. "Alright, listen, who the fuck are you?!". “Easy now soldier... easy! I only want to talk!” He said laughing, my hands twitched as I eyed him up and down, then scanned the parking lot for what I was sure was an ambush. Yeahyeahyeah-yeah, everyone wants to talk nowadays, who the fuck are you?”. The man gave a small smile as he faked offense, giving a fake scoff as he put his hand over his heart. "No need for such hostility Dwight, I come not as an enemy, but a friend...". My head cocked out of confusion, "Friend- what? How the fuck do you know my name? And also, yeah, I ask again, who the fuck are you?". Stay safe guys, and see you around holding out his hand, “My name’s Xavier, Mr. Nolan…. Your actions in this town have not gone unnoticed...". I raised an eyebrow, “You’ve…. Been watching me?”. The man laughed, retracting his hand, "Many parties Mr. Dwight, many... I simply represent one that wants to extend a helping and cooperative hand to someone with your resume...". Oh boy. “So….. what do you want?”. The man straightened out his suit, cracking his neck. He stood just short of my height, maybe 5’11, 6’0. “You’ve built up quite the rap sheet; Four combat deployments, 10 years in the military, and now, first hand encounter with the unnatural….. I’m interested in your skills….”. This caused me to burst out laughing, oh I should have fucking known this was coming. “Yeah, look…. Xavier, I appreciate Blackwater having the courtesy to come knocking on my door but it’s 5 years too late, and I’ve finally got enough money to retire…”. This confused him, “Blackwater? Oh, you mistake me Dwight, I’m not with any private military companies, not at all. I represent an group backed by many world agencies with the trust and goal of aimed not at monetary gain, but of humanity's safety..". "So, what? Area 51 Kill Squad?" Xavier chuckled, resting one of his hands on a pocket inside of his jacket. "No, not exactly..... Like I said, we're not of any one goverment". I crossed my arms, "yeah well, look, Xavier?". The man nodded, "You know full well what's been going on, so I appreciate the offer, but I'm in no mood to just jump right back into chasing demons into dark forests...". Xavier held his nodded, showing he understood. "Understandable, really, I agree. Take all the R&R you need Mr Dwight, but, know this.... Dark times are coming Mr. Nolan, there are things like this happening all over the world, and whether you like it or not, your tenure at the Cazamoth estate has dragged you into something you might not so easily get out of..... When you make up your mind.... give me a call". That last part blanked my mind, and I felt my phone buzz in my back pocket. I pulled it out to see [New Contact Added: "Xavier" ]. This earn a look of shock from me, as I was at a loss for words. “How’d you….. Who the fuck are-”. As I turned to ask him the question, he was gone. Mind the fact that I looked away for only a few seconds and would have heard him run off- and the fact that he was in the middle of an open parking lot…. I wanted to pursue him, I wanted to ask him what the he meant. What was coming? What was happening? But before I could…. The horn of the taxi cab honked loudly as it pulled up to my side of the street. This probably isn’t the ending you wanted, and I’m sorry. I didn’t get all the answers, I got cut out of the mystery, and, honestly, even with Xavier’s offer, I still don’t know where I’m gonna go from here. All I have to say is..... 250,000 a year go missing, some with cases going cold, others, without a trace, sometimes turning up in unexplained ways, conditions, and others, not at all. There are powers that be that would like to see them forgotten, brushed under the rug, and never thought of again. It's our duty to remember who they are, and never stop looking for them. If you hadn't realized this already.... This is probably my last entry. I don't know if I'll be back, I don't know if I'll ever press "CALL" on xavier's contact. What I do know is, you've been with me for the long haul, and for that, I thank you. This has been Dwight Nolan, Former US Army Staff Sergeant, Formerly, the security hired to protect that damn forest estate Stay safe guys, and see you around.


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