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It was uncomfortable, hard. A little jagged. Shifting with his eyes closed against the pain in his back. When Anton finally managed to open them the sight he beheld was.... confusing. Above was a strange, dark purple sky with glowing red clouds occasionally spitting yellow lightning. Cracked pavement, that’s what he was laying on. Sitting up, it looked like some kind of public park. Well, their remains at least. Gnarled trees he didn’t recognize, a bike, rusted, strewn in the dirt. Missing its front wheel of course. Buildings in the distance, cracked, chunks gouged out of a few. Some covered in strange dark lichen that seemed to shimmer with a pulse. This whole thing gave him a bad vibe. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around, How’d he get here? What happened? He couldn’t remember anything.

Getting to his feet, it was hard not to notice the eerie stillness of the air. It all made the hairs on his neck stand up. The walking path he’d found himself on was edged by scraggly, vicious looking grass. Sparse and spiny, the dirt in between was sickly looking. Brown with black patches, or as far as he could tell in the odd light of this place. A little dim but not dark. Walking up to the bike he found a rusty stain on the ground beneath it, like a very old bloodstain. He didn’t doubt that’s what it was, There was something under the bike. Lifting it carefully a knife glinted as the metal squeaked badly, all the bearings shot. Equally old dried blood caked the blade. A short, stabbing thing with a peeling rubberized grip. Anton grabbed it, rolling it around to feel the weight and check for any major damage. In a place this creepy he’d probably need it. No sheath though.

He thought he heard something in the distance, barely audible, but he was sure it sounded like a scream. Mixed with something... else. It made him feel exposed, vulnerable. The few trees around barely had any leaves, and the ones they did were black and oily looking. Though he feared what might be lurking in those buildings, he headed towards them anyways. Houses from the looks of it, and an apartment building nearby. It bothered him that he might be heading towards that scream, though it was hard to tell.

He approached the first house, a sort of townhouse with stairs heading up to it’s front door. It’s walls attached to those beside it. Two stories tall, narrow. He ducked beside the stairs, at least it was some cover to let himself think about what to do. The windows were somewhat intact, though they had chips and cracks. It was strange, it’s like they were slowly falling apart. Dying. it didn’t make any sense but it’s the only way he could describe it. Like the buildings, the pavement, everything was slowly rotting away.

He decided he should at least try to check inside. Beige curtains blocked any view through the windows. The first step creaked miserably when he pressed on it, the others weren’t much different. The formerly cream door looked damaged, maybe he could open it? Twisting the handle, it was unlocked! Or couldn’t be locked anymore when he looked more closely. The splinters around the deadbolt and latch made it stick a little, crunching as he pushed it open as long shards of wood peeled back against the frame. So much noise, but... out here... it was like he could feel some hidden danger watching him. He couldn’t stop.

Inside was as dark as he would’ve guessed. Light filtered in through the curtains but only a bit. To his left was a family area with a couch, loveseat and chair. A long dead TV on a stand, some bare end tables and a coffee table. Behind that a short hallway with a door at the very end and what looked like a nook on the right. On the right wall was a place for your coat, following it forward there was an archway leading somewhere brighter with checkered linoleum. Flanked by a short wall where an empty picture frame hung. Following that around, stairs to the second floor. On the left at the top the railing overhung the small, nooked hallway.

It all showed the same strange rot as everything else.

A low rumble outside startled him. Frantically he closed the door and darted behind the couch. The darkness his security blanket. Another rumble, louder, closer, it vibrated the floor slightly before ebbing away. Another, closer still, footsteps!? Whatever it was sounded pretty big, even with the curtains pulled he didn’t feel hidden. The next rattled items on the walls, compelling him deeper into the house. Heading towards the stairs until the sudden darkness made him freeze in shock. The light filtering from some of the windows was cut out with a loud, muffled crunch. The house vibrated, that picture frame clattered on the floor.

The shuddering stopped for a few seconds before another, longer vibration echoed through the place. Anton ducked back behind the couch, pressing himself against it, not daring to expose himself to whatever beast was outside. Light painted the walls again, filtering through the local dust community. It hasn’t seen this much excitement in forever. Anton didn’t move, he could hear breathing. Soft, steady, but horrifically amplified by the titanic scale. Then another slow vibration removed the light again. He held his breath before a sudden shock pressed it out of him. Readying for death as the next... weaker...? It’s moving away! He tried to calm himself with slow, quiet breaths as the next bounce confirmed it. But stress and panic seemed to seep out of the air of this place.

He needed supplies.


Chapter End Notes:

This originally started off as Soul Food chapter 5, but it was so long and such a massive departure from Liara's playful Giga-Tera sadism and mind games that I decided to spin it off and expand it into it's own entire story.

I'm relatively happy with this chapter. I think I did the scene with the creature approaching the house pretty well and the "dust community" metaphor was pretty decent. If there's anything I don't like it's that I felt compelled to describe the house layout in one shot so the audience wouldn't feel like I was creating features for plot convenience later. At least it's just one paragraph of description but I'm sure there's a way to do it a little more organically.

It felt a little clunky given I ripped it out of part of SF-5 and had to rejigger it to be its own thing. So I feel the intro suffered a bit for it. I have to make it all fit with the stuff that happens later. Stuff that I hope you guys will really like but legitimately made me a little scared of my own home during the nights I was writing it. Never had that happen before.

Reviews are more than welcome, if there's anything you like and you want me to keep doing, tell me. If there's things you didn't like or mistakes, tell me.

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