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ENTRY 32:

I’ve been having a hard time trying to wrap my head around Kagenori’s words. It… it couldn’t be, right? I mean, how the fuck could the world have come to this?

Well, I didn’t need to wait much longer for further explanations. Kagenori woke a few hours later. After devouring some forest-creature meat, he finally told me and Lauren how the hell he ended up here.

As it turns out, he went into hiding in Paradise X after our initial break-in. But since the whole city was kind of a mess to begin with, he was never actually caught. He tried staying hidden on the streets for a few days before he started going delirious from the lack of food in his system. Eventually, somebody stumbled upon him singing to himself in an alleyway. The guy took him into his apartment and fed him some energy bars.

“Those things were fucking vile” he told me. “But you gotta eat something.”

The guy – named Ace, was nice enough to let him stay. But from the way that he described it… the place sounded like absolute hell. While there was running water, it always scalding for some reason. In addition, AC wasn’t really a feasible amenity, so they were sweating buckets in there. But the worst part was the “neighbor”. Ace explained that he didn’t exactly know what it was in the room next to them, but that they weren’t supposed to risk “letting it out.” That meant at night, they were forced to listen to something stomp around next to them while letting out a ghoulish wail. And for whatever reason, it only moved around at night.

Eventually, Kagenori started working at a food production factory, in order to help with the rent. It was the same one Ace was employed at. It was easy for him to land the job because the staff turnover was staggeringly high. I almost gagged when he told me what those bars were actually made out of.

Anyways, a few weeks pass and he finds himself walking home alone at night. But even though the place was lawless, crime surprisingly wasn’t a huge problem. However, I guess it made sense. Everybody in that place was essentially a walking shell. Just a ghost wandering around in hell. Nobody would really bother trying to rob anybody else. It just wasn't worth it.

As he’s about halfway back to the apartment, he spots somebody up ahead. In any other instance he wouldn't have cared, but this person seemed familiar. It was Rust. He caught up to him and they started talking. They were both about as equally surprised to see each other. When he asked Rust how he’d gotten here, his demeanor soured. Apparently, the settlement that we’d first stumbled upon years ago was decimated by the Paradise X soldiers. The reason was unclear, but it probably had something to do with our break-in. He said that he’d seen innocent children get slaughtered in front of his very eyes. This… was not pleasant for me to hear, of course. I felt that I already had too much blood on my hands. Fucking hell… Anyways, as it was about to be his turn, he tried reasoning his way out of death. He claimed that he had skills that could be useful to them. This was true, of course. The guy had three engineering degrees. After an extensive period of pleading, they decided to give him a chance. There was a helicopter that needed work, and nobody over there had the technical skill to do it. If he could fix it within a month, then he’d be spared. If not… well, you get the picture. It took him 29 days, but he finally did it.

After that, he was essentially employed as a mechanical engineer. However… he wasn’t planning on staying. He told Kagenori that "he had something big in mind.” What that was exactly, Kagenori would just have to find out. Rust instructed him to survive for two more weeks before meeting him at his place.

“That was all that he told me” Kagenori stated. “I just trusted him. There was nothing else I could do, you know?”

He waited, just trudging along for the next couple weeks before knocking on Rust’s door. He didn’t say much when he opened up. Just told Kagenori to follow him. That the plan was “already in action”. He led him to the factory where he’d apparently been working at. The soldiers guarding it asked Rust who the hell Kagenori was. In response, he pulled out a nail gun and shot them both in the head. And since all that they had were batons, they couldn’t do anything about it. Reeling in shock, Kagenori asked him what the hell he was doing. Rust just told him not to worry. That this was the only way out. They walked into the place and started heading towards the back. Once there, Rust swung open a metal door and they found themselves in a tight maze of corridors. This is when Rust told him to run. They maneuvered around the claustrophobic space, taking out more guards that were scattered throughout. After a while, they started hearing distant yelling and footsteps behind them. Kagenori yelled at Rust to let him know what the fuck was going on, but he was just told to be patient. He soon realized why. About twenty seconds later, a thundering explosion could be heard from outside. As Rust would tell him later, he'd been spending his free time working on crude explosives with materials he’d stolen from the factory. He’d been discretely setting them up near the barrier walls, day by day, until it seemed enough to create a considerable entrance hole. A hole big enough for the creatures to get in.

Eventually, they found themselves in a control room with a ladder leading upwards. There were two more guards in there, which Rust also took out. It was perfect because after that, he’d run out of ammo. They hurried up the ladder, sealing the entryway with scrap metal, as they climbed onto a rooftop. There was a helicopter sitting there, about ten meters away. This was the one that Rust had been commissioned to fix.

You see, he’d been planning ahead for a while. Even though he’d essentially fully fixed it within the first few days he was here, he pretended like he hadn’t. He did this in order to have more time to tamper with the controls, as well as asking around and trying to get a sense of what each button and lever did. In the back of his mind, he knew that flying away was the only way off the island.

Eventually - on the 29th day, he’d figured it out completely. That’s when he started planting the bombs. The thing is, even though he’d fixed the engine, it still took an exorbitant amount of time to power up. About an hour and change. That’s why he needed a distraction. If he just sat in the aircraft waiting, the guards would’ve easily gotten to the rooftop in time and smoked him. But thanks to the explosion, now they were forced to deal with the horrors outside the walls.

As Rust started up the helicopter, Kagenori looked down at the chaos that had plagued the city. Monstrous abominations were rampaging the place, killing everything in sight. The guards tried quelling the ungodly assault, but to no avail. At one point, a large crocodile-looking thing started climbing up the walls to the roof, towards them. It took Kagenori about 22 swings with a baton before it eventually decided to crawl back down.

About an hour passes before they start to hear banging coming from the rooftop entrance. It sounded like somebody was using a battering ram. Fortunately, the helicopter had taken off before they had to deal with it. As they ascended into the murky sky, Kagenori looked back down at scene below. As it turns out, Rust underestimated how strong his explosives were. A huge chunk of the wall and the surrounding areas had been decimated. There wasn’t even much movement on the ground anymore. Everybody was either dead or in hiding. That’s when it dawned on him… Rust had just inadvertently killed a lot of people. A lot of innocents, in fact. He was about to say something when Rust seemed to read his mind and stopped him.

“Those people down there… they didn’t have lives worth living” He told him. “I just put ‘em out of their misery”

Kagenori didn’t try and argue with him. Deep down, he agreed with him. He just didn't want to admit it. They flew around for a few hours before he finally asked Rust where they were going. In response, he just sighed and said he didn’t know. But that anywhere would be better than Dusk Blue.

Eventually, they spotted an island and decided to descend. The engine needed to cool down anyways, so Rust thought this was a better time than ever.

The island itself was insane. Just off the flat shore stood mountains that apparently put Everest to shame. The whole place was full of them. At the base of the monumental Alps were what appeared to be vast, open cave systems. They explored the place cautiously, not wanting to draw any attention to themselves. However… it seemed that there was nothing on the island at all. Just them.

Rust told Kagenori to stay back and watch the helicopter while he explored the caves. While he initially objected to this, he figured that it’d be safer on the shore than in the darkness of the caverns. Rust put together a make-shift torch with some scrap wood and disappeared into the entrance.

Kagenori said that he waited there for what felt like hours. He was starting to get worried. Eventually, Rust finally surfaced from dark. He seemed unharmed, but his expression told a different story. He looked horrified. He was also holding a small book. Kagenori asked him what had happened before Rust just handed it over. It was old and the cover was peeling off, but there was no denying what it was.

A Bible.

Kagenori had been protestant for the longest time, so he’d essentially memorized the first few pages by heart. He read it over and it lined up perfectly. Rust explained that he found it sitting in the middle of a crudely drawn symbol, like it was part of some kind of botched ritual or something. They just sat there for a while after that. None of them had any words to say. This was a troubling revelation, after all. Rust broke the silence a while later.

“That wasn’t it.”

Apparently, he’d also seen cave paintings in there, along with pieces of what looked like torn manuscripts. He pulled them out of his bag, but they were all in Latin. Fortunately, Rust knew the language. From what he’d pieced together, something happened in 2026 that sent the world spiraling into what we were in now. It was unclear what this event exactly was, however. The writings were all vague, with words like “Corrupted” and “Reborn” popping up a lot. However… that wasn’t even the most interesting part. The year 2014 also seemed to be significant. Rust’s conjecture was that somebody had done something back then that took 12 years to fully manifest. Again, what really happened remained a mystery. All he had was the dates.

There was one last significant thing that he saw in there - a painting of a map on one of the cave walls. It seemed to be an outline of the new world. Apparently, the only thing that Rust could somewhat recognize was North America and East Asia. The other continents were torn into pieces. However, there was one small island that seemed to worth noting. It looked to be on the equator line, around where South America should have been. There was an arrow pointing to it, connected to a single word:

“Liberatio” – Latin for deliverance.

“That’s where we’re headed” Rust exclaimed. "Maybe we'll find answers". Kagenori asked him how the hell they were going to get there. “I’ll figure out a way” was Rust's only response. Right after he said that, the ground beneath them started rumbling. They soon figured out why there was nothing else on the island.

They looked over at the mountains behind them. They were shaking, but it didn’t look like an earthquake. There was a pattern to it. Almost as if they were being caused by footsteps. Eventually, they saw something moving in the distance. Something colossal. They didn’t waste any more time, hopping into the helicopter and getting the hell out of there. As they left they island behind, Kagenori watched as a creature around double the size of the mountains made its way onto the shore. Since it was obscured by some kind of mist, he couldn’t quite make out the details. But it was humanoid, for sure. What disturbed him the most was the bellowing laugh that it let out afterwards. The voice was deep and guttural, sending ripples through the sea below. It was also sinister in tone. Like it knew what they had just discovered.

After that, they flew around for a few more hours before Rust admitted that there was a problem. He didn’t know how to get to the island depicted on the cave painting. He suggested that they scavenge another island, in order to find materials for a compass. However, there didn’t seem to be one in sight. They weren’t low on fuel just yet, but that could change quickly.

The situation got even worse when they flew into a brutal storm. Kagenori claimed that it happened so suddenly. One second the skies were dry, the next, they were filled with heavy winds, rain and lightning. It was inexplicable. But then again… in this world, that seemed to be the norm.

It got so bad that Rust told him to put on one of the parachutes, “just in case”. There were no doors on the aircraft, after all. As it turns out, that was a good call. As a particularly strong burst of wind titled the helicopter to the side, Kagenori’s fingers slipped from a railing he was holding onto and he fell out.

As he made his harsh descent, he tried to gauge what he was heading into. However, the rain had gotten so bad that he could barely open his eyes. He made a swift judgement, waiting 10 seconds before ultimately opening the parachute. As he felt himself floating downwards, he started feeling the rain subside. He opened his eyes, being both surprised and relieved to find land waiting for him below. There seemed to be people on it as well. But as he got closer, he came to a horrifying realization. Those weren’t people. Or at least… not anymore. He’d made it to dead man’s land. After landing, he freaked out and started running away from the horde of zombies that had now focused their collective attentions on him. Eventually, he’d come across the settlement that we were in now.

He’d been here ever since, going on regular hunting trips and establishing himself as part of the community. But about a year ago, he’d been captured by the psychos we encountered yesterday. As it turns out, they were bat-shit crazy. They took turns torturing/toying around with him, as well as the others that he was with for pure entertainment. At one point, they were driving out, planning on tying him to a tree and letting the zombies swarm him. Fortunately, that was also we crossed paths with them ans saved him. He seemed to be getting light-headed as he finished telling me this. The nurse told me that he needed more rest, so I let him be. However, he let me know one more thing before slipping out of consciousness again:

“I don’t know if Rust is still alive. I don’t know where he is... I don’t know…”

I’m sitting here now, pondering the implications of Rust’s discovery. If this really is the future… then what the fuck happened in 2026? How could that have led to this? What was on that island Rust was trying to get to? Were we ever getting the out of here? But like Kagenori... I guess I just don’t know.

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ENTRY 33:

I woke up this morning to heavy commotion. Everybody seemed scared of something. I asked around, eventually finding out that some kind of machine had been shot down over the island just a few minutes ago. I walked over to where they were keeping it. Smoker was already there, holding it in his hands. It was small and compact, looking extremely futuristic, which made sense now. I asked him what the hell it was. He stared at me, eyes wide:

“Neo-Civitus” he uttered out “This is a scout drone. They always send these before they’re about to invade.”

Confused and shocked, I took a closer look at it. In big bold letters was the phrase “NC military” written right on top of it.

Fucking hell. Not sure what’s going to happen next. But based off of everything that’s happened so far… it’s gonna be one hell of a time, for better or for worse.

---

Credits


ENTRY 27:

It feels like the days are getting shorter here. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The place looks nice at night. It almost feels surreal at times. A small, peaceful civilization that’s just 50 meters up from absolute hell on land. I can hear the zombies moving around at night. You’d might think that it would make it impossible to sleep, but the sounds of distant footsteps touching the soil is actually somewhat ambient. And after all the shit that I’ve been through… it's a welcome change.

You’ll rarely hear about a dispute around here. Everybody has job, and they don’t mind doing it. Hell, there really aren’t many options. People need to eat and shooting down birds doesn’t seem sustainable. That’s why twice a week, they’ll send out a hunting team of 5-7 in order to scavenge animals and plants. Remember those forest creatures I was talking about? Well apparently they’re like a delicacy here. I almost spat out the meat when somebody showed me what I was actually eating. Still… they aren’t bad, I suppose.

Other than that though… not much to do around here. I’ve gone on about two of those hunting trips myself and they’ve been easy enough. I didn’t really notice when we first landed on the island, but the zombies are real slow. If you keep a moderate pace, they won’t touch you. As long as you tread quietly, they won’t swarm you. That’s why we’re advised to only use crossbows. Guns only in absolute emergency. We’ve encountered a few stranger creatures here and there. These include, but are not limited to: a tall, thin humanoid nearly resembling a stick figure and this three legged thing with what I can only describe as a rotating head. Yeah, that one was a bit freaky to look at.

I tend to pass the time playing cards with Brax and Smoker. I taught ‘em blackjack. Didn’t realize it was that hard of a game to understand. They seem to forget the rules every third time we play. Well… if anything happens guess I’ll write again. Dunno when that’s gonna be, though.

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ENTRY 28:

I should mention that I’m not really keeping track of how many days have passed. I just don’t see a point in that anymore, you know? But it’s been a while. I met a local girl recently. I’d just come back from a hunting trip, during which I'd saved one of the guys from getting his leg bitten off by a large crocodile-looking thing. Apparently, this dude was the girl’s brother. When he told her what had happened, she ran up and asked if she could hug me, which I thought was the cutest damn thing ever. She also doesn’t speak English, so I got Brax to translate for me. But I have been spending a lot of time teaching her. In return, she teaches me her own language. It’s one that I’ve never heard before and rather tough to learn, but the way that she speaks makes me want to keep going. Maybe I just like listening to her talk. She looks to be in her mid-twenties and has this dirty blonde hair and these light pink eyes that look absolutely stunning. She’s… great, to say the least. I don’t know how else to describe it. Oh, her names Jolan by the way. Pretty similar to Jolene.

From what I’ve gathered, she was actually born on the island, in a small village up in the mountains somewhere. One day, while she was still a little girl, her village was overrun, and her father tried to get her and her brother out of there. Eventually, he was killed by a swarm of zombies in an attempt to sacrifice himself so that they could get away. Her brother protected her the rest of the way, until they stumbled upon this place. She actually started crying while telling this story. I have to say… it feels nice comforting someone instead of killing things for once. It’s funny. I didn’t come here looking for love. In fact… now that I really think about it… I’m not really sure why I came here in the first place. Adventure, was it? Or was it just fear of living an ordinary life? Well… I can safely say that I don’t have to worry about that anymore. You know, I wasn’t planning on staying here forever when I first arrived, but Jolan’s making a good case for it. Even though we can barely communicate with each other, I’ve never felt such a connection. Such warmth. In fact, I don’t really like thinking about leaving her. Besides, I don’t really see a way outta here anyways. But like I’ve said before… let’s just see what happens.

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ENTRY 29:

Last night was… interesting. To be honest, it might have been the freakiest thing I’ve experienced while I’ve been here. And that’s saying a lot. I was having a nightmare… a nasty one. I was being chased through the forest by a naked woman with grey skin. And her face… It was just three large gaping holes where the eyes and mouth were supposed to be. It ran in this erratic, jerking motion that felt so unnatural I wanted to puke. And the fucking sound it made… It was almost like a low-pitched shrieking. Nearly croaking, if you will. I remember finding myself standing up when I was awoken, being restrained by Brax. He was whispering at me to stop what I was doing. When I saw what he was referring to, I nearly had a heart attack. I was about to fall over the edge. I looked around and realized that it was too late for a few others. But the strange thing is… nobody was making a sound. They looked like they were trying to sleep, but couldn’t, just laying with their eyes open. As I asked Brax what the hell was going on, he simply shushed me. That’s when I realized that, even though I was awake, the shrieking was still there. It seemed to be coming from the forest’s edge, so I looked over. What I saw probably won’t ever leave me. It was the woman from my dream.

She was standing, in some kind of obscure, crouched position, screaming like hell. When Brax saw me looking at her, he pulled me away and quietly told me to just go back to bed until it was over. I complied. I remember laying there, for what seemed like hours. In reality, it was only around twenty minutes. I started counting the time again, in an attempt to minimize thinking about that demonic noise. When it finally stopped, everybody still stayed down. I didn’t really want to get up either, so I did the same. It was only when sunlight finally seeped in through the thick clouds where anybody moved. What I didn’t notice during the night was that there were no zombies in our vicinity. In the vicinity of the woman. I’m guessing those two were correlated. Well, they were back now, feasting on the bodies of the people who sleepwalked themselves to death. There were some tears around the settlement that night.

I met up with Smoker later that day and asked him about it. He was paler than I’d ever seen him before. He usually had a stoic demeanor, but… not right then. He looked terrified. When I mentioned the woman, he just held up his hand and told me that the other guards had told him not to talk about it. That if we ever saw her again, to just avoid looking at her and act like we didn’t know that she was even there. I made eye contact with Kunz and Lauren as well, but their expressions told me that they also didn’t want to be reminded of it. Couldn’t blame them, to be honest. But for some reason, I still had to know. I went up to Brax and demanded that he tell what the hell that thing was. Hesitantly, this is what he told me:

That thing… the woman, if you could call it that, they referred to as a “Colorless spirit” here. Now, nobody knows what it is at all. They just know that you need to ignore it. You see, the first time that the settlement had encountered her was a long while ago. And they learned their lesson. When she came out of the forest and started shrieking that insanity-inducing sound, some of the guards started yelling at her, while others prevented the people from walking off the towers. Eventually, one of them ended up just shooting at her. That’s when all hell break loose. The arrow pierced her shoulder and she went silent. A few seconds later, she was joined by hundreds other that looked exactly like her. They ran towards the settlement, scaling the towers at a disturbingly fast rate. Nobody could do anything about it. About half the people there died that day. It would’ve been more, but they were saved by daylight. As the dim light bled in from the sky above, the Colorless spirits started running back into the woods. From that day on, they realized that the best strategy for dealing with these was to simply ignore them. However, it hadn’t happened in so long that Brax had forgotten to tell us anything about it. But now we knew. This was… a bad experience, to say the least. As I write this Jolan lies, sniffling quietly in my lap. Everybody seems a bit more reserved now. More afraid to go onto the ground. But… I suppose that this’ll change. We can’t linger on this forever.

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ENTRY 30:

It’s been a while since my last entry. Hard to pinpoint an exact time period, but I’m thinking months. Anyhow, it took a while, but things are finally back to normal around here. In fact, we’ve actually constructed some new buildings, specifically a bathhouse and a theater. It’s been a good time. Me and Jolan write our own plays and put them on for the children. They seem to like it. A lot more fun than throwing around balls, I suppose. We also reenacted Forrest Gump and even got Kunz and Lauren to take part in it. They loved that one. I guess cinema really is an inter-dimensional language. Speaking of Jolan, her English has gotten a lot better. So has my Dicere (The language that she speaks). Besides that, I don’t know what else to say. Everybody seems happier. I’m getting there as well. However… Smoker seems to be the exception here. Whenever I try talking to him these days, he just seems irritable and jaded. I kept pushing for him to tell me what the hell was going on, but he always said it was nothing. That was until yesterday.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep that night. With Jolan curled up by my side, I slowly inched my way out of the bed. As I got up to take a stroll around the towers, I spotted Smoker on the other side, puffing a dart. I realized that I hadn’t seen him doing that since we left the prison. I walked over to him and asked him how he still had the cigs. Apparently, he’d stolen a bunch of them from the Warden’s office and stuffed them into a bag. He’d been smoking only at night ever since. “Don’t really want to share them.” He told me. “Rather keep it under wraps.”

He flicked it away and I watched as it cascaded down, right onto a zombies head. It just grunted in confusion. Smoker followed up by sighing before looking me in the eyes. “You like it here?” He asked. “I mean, I know you got your girl and all but… you really want to stay here forever?” I thought about it for a while. To be honest, I really wasn’t sure. I mean, this wasn’t really an ideal place to settle down or anything, but there didn’t seem to be any way out. So that’s what I told him. He just nodded. I asked him the same question after:

“What about you? This where you see yourself staying?”

However… I already knew the answer to that. He chuckled softly. “Fuck no. You know what I want, kid?” It’s funny. Even though I was in my early twenties, he still called me that. I guess it had to do with him being nearly half a foot taller. He paused before continuing: “I’ve had my share of this place. This entire world, to be frank. And… I don’t wanna be part of it anymore. I just want peace, you know? I want to be in Neo-Civitus”. At this point, I'd been hearing about the place so damn much, I decided to finally figure out what it even was. So I asked him about it.

“It’s a bright place in a dark world.” He told me. “With all this hell around us, it’s one of the only places where somebody can expect a semblance of normalcy. I mean, sure this place is civilized, but look down.” I did so, watching as the zombies meandered around. “It's still fucked. In fact, I don’t think any place isn't… other than Neo-Civitus.”

He followed up by telling me about what it looked like. It was an apparent paradise. Miles upon miles of glistening skyscrapers that lit up the dark skies at night. It sounded to me like a peek back into the old world I had come from. Problem is… it was damn near impossible to gain entry if you weren’t already born there. Some time ago, an outsider could’ve gained entry through military recruitment stations set up across various islands in a northern ocean. As it turns out… Smoker had tried enlisting in their infantry when he was younger. He’d made the long and perilous trek to a smaller, very dangerous peninsula where one of those building was set up. Despite all his effort however… he barely failed the physical tests. The thing is, he would’ve been allowed to apply again a year later, but the government over there inexplicably barred any more potential outsider recruits just 3 months after. There were still a few other ways you could become a citizen, but Smoker claimed that those were not feasible for him.

Him telling me all of this reminded me of my times back at Dusk Blue. What if it was all a ruse like Paradise X was? What if Neo-Civitus really wasn’t all that great? He just chuckled when I brought this up.

“I understand your concerns”, he responded. “But I’ve seen it. Inside the recruitment station, they had monitors set up, displaying the daily lives of citizens over there. It may have been propaganda, but it was beautiful. And it looked impossible to fake.”

He put his head down and sighed. It’s as if this whole conversation reminded him of lost dreams. “Whatever…” I heard him mumble. “We’ll see what happens.” After that, he just laid down. Guess there really wasn’t much else to say. I followed suit, going back to lying back down next to Jolan on my own bed. I didn’t really get much sleep that night. It got me thinking… is this really where I wanted to end up? Was Neo-Civitus a possibility? Could I bring Jolan with me? Did I even want to do that? I don’t know. It feels like I really don't know anything anymore.

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ENTRY 31:

You know what's fucking hilarious? It seems as if months will go by where nothing substantial happens at all, only for shit to get really interesting really quick. Some time ago, I started hearing talks around the settlement, about a hunting group that went missing sometime back. Not even too long ago. Maybe about a week before we arrived. That’s why these guys were so willing to take us in. Apparently this was pretty rare, but not unheard of. When they did go missing, another team would usually find their dead bodies sooner or later. But not in this case. Either they went real far, or they were captured by something.

Anyhow, when I first heard about this, I didn’t think about it too much. I mean, it wouldn’t really affect me, right? All that I learned was that I should be careful out there. However… things got real crazy yesterday.

It was my turn again to go out and scavenge for food and resources. This time, I was assigned to a team with Kunz. Along the way however, we ran into a bit of trouble. We ran into a swarm of those forest creatures again. I guess our subsequent shouting attracted a bunch of zombies, so they started chasing us too. We were in deep shit. We ran through the forest for a while, actually losing two of our guys before Kunz spotted an opening up ahead. We crashed through it, coming into a rather large clearing. At this point, we’d pretty much shaken off the creatures, but the zombies were still after us. We laid low for a while, not making any sound in an attempt to throw them off. Eventually, we did and they moved straight past the clearing.

When we’d gotten our bearings together, we realized that we were in uncharted territory. Now, it’s not like we’ve never covered new ground before, but this time it was different. When we really looked around and evaluated the area we were in, it became rather apparent that this clearing could not have formed naturally. There were flattened trees everywhere and what almost looked like tire tracks on the ground, leading to a man-made trail. It was peculiar, for sure. We decided to follow the tracks. I guess that we thought it meant civilization. People out there who were no different than us, just trying to survive in this crazy world.

As we walked along, we started noticing other… interesting things. Shit like sharp wires tied to trees, blocking the path, and what looked like improvised bear traps. It got really fucked up when wooden pikes with zombie as well as other creature’s heads started appearing alongside us. We’d started to realize that continuing on probably wouldn’t lead us anywhere good. We were about to head back when a member of our group pointed out a head that was different than the rest. It was human. And apparently one that he recognized. Brax inspected it closer and confirmed that it did indeed belong to one of the hunters that had gone missing before we came.

Now came time for a decision. We could keep going and find out what happened to them… and if there were any survivors. Or, we could still turn back. It was a tough one, for sure. As the leader, Brax couldn’t just abandon this discovery, but it was also highly unlikely that pursuing this would lead to any favorable outcomes. There were only five of us, after all. Eventually, we’d settled on going back and gathering more people, in order to give us a better fighting chance against whatever the hell this was.

However, as soon as we turned around, we heard the distant sounds of an engine behind us. And it was coming up fast. We knew that outrunning it wasn’t a possibility, so in a split second decision, we backed up into the dark woods and waited for what was coming. Not long after, a beaten down vehicle came into our sights. I couldn’t really describe what kind of car it most closely resembled. All I can say is that it looked… rough. Like the type of thing you wouldn’t want to see if you were by yourself on a desolate back road. As it got even closer, we could make out more pikes with zombie heads attached to the roof of the thing. Safe to say, this didn’t mean anything good. It stopped about twenty feet from where we were hiding. Two men got out, talking loudly to each other, like they didn’t even care about attracting shit from the woods. As I got a closer look at them, it appeared as if they were wearing ripped plaid shirts with dirty jeans. Now, this was surprising for a lot of obvious reasons. They also spoke with a heavy unidentifiable accent, and their voices sounded coarse as hell. And like the car, they also looked rough. We watched, not really knowing what to do, as they picked up old traps and started setting up new ones.

At one point, one of the men picked up a small rabbit-like creature that had been caught and start howling in hysterical laughter. I didn’t see what was so funny about it, but the other one joined in as well. At this point, Brax nudged me in the sides. He pointed to the vehicle and whispered “We’re taking it”. But before I could even react, he jumped out onto the trail and raised his rifle at them. We followed after him, ultimately doing the same.

Now, we expected these guys to show at least some indication of surprise or fear or… something. But no. They just stared at us for a second before starting to laugh again.

“What are you folks doing out here?” I remember one of them saying in a stupidly obnoxious tone. “It ain’t safe, did you know that? For anyone.” As soon as he finished his sentence, he slipped a small knife out of his sleeve and tossed it at Kunz in one swift motion. It stuck him in the shoulder before Brax subsequently shot them down. Kunz cried out in agony as he removed the weapon. Now, it didn’t go too deep, but the tip of the blade seemed to be covered in a sticky green substance. Kunz sighed when he saw this.

“Oh fuck…”

Brax took out a bottle of water and poured it onto the wound, but Kunz winced like hell and said that it burnt. It was obvious that we had to do something, but the problem was that we didn’t know what. To make matters infinitely worse, we started hearing more engines coming from farther down the trail. We piled into the vehicle, but by that time it was already too late. As Brax tried to figure out how to turn on the ignition, I turned around and saw the other cars approaching fast. And they weren’t stopping. My head slammed into the windshield as we were rear-ended hard. As my vision went blurry, I heard gunfire being exchanged before feeling myself get pulled out of the car and dragged on the ground. As I started coming back to my sense, the sounds of hooting and hollering filled the air around me. I looked around me, seeing dead bodies on both sides before looking up at the person dragging me. He hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t unconscious yet, so I took out my spare knife and slit his wrists.

While he cried out in pain, I lunged at him, sticking the blade right into the stomach area. As he fell limp, I realized that the two remaining people he came with were still engaged in a firefight with Kunz. Brax had been shot dead. He was the only one left. While they were still somewhat distracted, I tried sneaking up behind and taking them out that way. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. They'd noticed and I was shot once in the foot and another bullet grazed my hips. The good news was that Kunz managed to take them both out while they were dealing with me.

We both realized that there was no time to recover right then. As I walked over to him, I saw that he had two more knife wounds on his neck and thigh. They were also covered in the green stuff. But before I could say anything, he just shook his head:

“Don’t worry about it. Nothing you can do.”

I could tell that he was going pale, but ultimately he was right. There was nothing I could do. As we were about to hop into the vehicle again, I heard something a sound coming from the car that had rear-ended us. Almost like a muffled cry or something. I told Kunz to try and start the engine while I went to go check it out.

As I got closer, I could tell that it was coming from the trunk. Cautious as hell, I opened it. And I can’t think of anything that I could’ve found that would’ve been more surprising. It was Kagenori. I'd genuinely thought he'd died back in Paradise X. He was bound and gagged, looking beat up as hell. He was also missing an eye. He was stuffed in between two other limp bodies, but I could tell that he was still certainly alive. The look in his last remaining eye sent a shiver down my spine. He’d been through a lot.

I got him out of the trunk and untied him. We had no time to talk as the sound of engines in the distance started up again. As we stumbled over to the vehicle we were going to use, Kunz finally got it going. As we went in, Kunz looked at Kagenori and turned to me.

“Who the hell is this guy?”

In between breaths, I just told him to go. I could see a large shadow moving around in the woods beside us and the cars behind us were getting louder. He didn’t need to be told twice. It’s a good thing that Kunz has a pretty decent memory, because we made it back to the settlement without problems and without being followed.

After I explained what the hell had happened to everybody, I brought them to the infirmary. I only needed a few bandages. Here’s the crazy part, though… everybody seemed to recognize Kagenori. Said he was one of the hunters that had went missing. But before I could get an explanation out of him, he went unconscious. However, he’s stable. Just malnourished. They’re tending to him right now. Kunz on the other hand… well he’s not looking so good. His skin’s nearly gone translucent and all of his veins have become varicose. Nobody knows how to treat him. Everybody’s also in dismay at the loss of Brax and the state of Kagenori. I guess that it became evident to everyone that we didn’t have only monsters to fear… our fellow man wasn’t so safe either. The only thing really keeping me sane right now is the company of Jolan. If she wasn’t here, I think I might have lost it at this point.

As you can tell, a lot shit just happened… and I don’t really like any of it. Especially with what Kagenori whispered to me just before he passed out:

“Rust found something… something fucked up. We were wrong about this place. It isn’t an alternate reality… it’s our own.”

---

Credits


ENTRY 26:

I’ve never really liked the ocean. The vast, empty nothingness that just spans out into an apparent infinity. It’s one of the few concepts that’s really bothered over the years. But I’ve never known how bad it could really be. Until now, that is.

The serenity of the calm sea didn’t last too long. As Desh - the ship pilot, carried us along the black waters, I started feeling a sense of urgency in the air. I couldn’t explain it, but I could tell that everybody else felt the same way. They all looked uneasy for some reason. I soon realized why.

Not too far up ahead, there was an area in the water that was just a bit darker than the rest. It also seemed to be moving. We all just eyed it with caution, not entirely sure of what the hell it was. I don’t think any of us expected what happened next, though. Something started rising out of the water. It was a ship. Almost looked like a submarine of sorts. But it looked old and rusty. Hard to understand how it was still even functional. As it bobbed in our path, Desh started steering away from it. At this point, our weapon selection was dwindling. We had about eight rifles, three pistols, bunch of knives and limited ammo. Smoker still had the armor, but it was damaged to hell. There was a large cannon mounted to the bow of the ship, but there didn’t seem to be any ammo for it. Safe to say, we weren’t very prepared for an assault.

The top of the ship soon opened, with a gloved hand bursting out. We trained the few weapons that we had on it. What I assumed was a man then propped himself up, onto the surface of the ship. He was wearing what appeared to be a military diving suit. It got a bit stranger upon closer inspection, however. The suit looked to be… decaying. It was old and tattered. I could see erratic eyes moving behind the cracked glass of the goggles. More of them started climbing up, until there was nearly no room for them to stand on. That’s when I noticed that they were all carrying weapons. Most had rusty iron bars while others had what looked like axes attached to chains.

None of us flinched as we made our way past them. We weren’t really sure what to do, in all honesty. As we moved parallel to their ship, they dived into the water and started swimming towards us. We shot at them… but the bullets didn’t seem to slow them down, even though I could see them penetrate their suits, releasing bursts of black liquid into the ocean. We soon lost sight of them, as they swam underneath us. It only took me a second to realize what was going to happen next. I cut myself with a shard as I began to hear the sounds of something scaling the sides of the ship. Gunshots and screams soon filled the air. These things had made their way onto the deck. I watched as people threw everything they had at these marine nightmares. They shot, stabbed and kicked at these things to no avail. I turned around upon seeing an axe bounce off of my arm. I took a knife and stabbed my assailant up and through the chin. That’s when I looked into its eyes. They were a deep blue and didn’t look any less human than mine. But I know that they weren’t. At least not anymore.

I pulled the blade out as it kept stumbling forwards, advancing towards me. That’s when I decided to take drastic measures. I tackled it to the ground and plunged the knife into its neck. I felt the revolting texture of soft, decaying flesh as I cut my way around, eventually decapitating it. The body went limp but the head was still twitching. As I picked up the head in preparation to toss it overboard, I saw the eyes blink at me. I would have felt something… if they weren’t so cold, lifeless… devoid of any soul. I turned my attention back to the rest of the action. Even though there were about 7 lifeless human bodies on the ground, the assault had pretty much been quelled. I watched as Kunz took the blunt end of a rifle and smashed it onto one of those creatures’ faces, pummeling it into an unrecognizable pile of glass and black, rotten flesh. Eventually, we’d incapacitated and threw them all overboard. Again, we all just remained silent for a while. That shit was horrifying. The silence was soon broken by Desh letting out an anguished cry. He was holding his forearm, which was cut open. But here’s the bad news:

A bit of the black blood that came from those things had seeped into it. Now, he was the only one that new how to steer this ship, so this was not good. We rushed him inside and quickly located what looked like an aid kit. Kunz took out a bottle of clear liquid and gave it a whiff before dumping it onto the cut. Desh cried out again. That’s when Smoker stepped in. “No. I know what these things are." He vocalized with a horrified expression on his face, "We need to cut if off before it spreads.” We hesitated. Desh’s eyes widened in intense fear. Smoker just looked at him:

“Trust me.”

Desh sighed loudly. “Fuck it.” As we made the amputation, I was starting to get afraid of Desh’s screams attracting other things out in the ocean. We sterilized the severed limb before cauterizing it with a blowtorch. After about an hour, Desh claimed that he was ready to go again. He fished a flask out of his jacket pocket and took several large swigs. “Took it from the warden’s office.” He said. “Was gonna share, but fuck it.”

After that, we sailed for some more hours on end. At one point, a heavy fog started materializing around us. As we got ready for another assault, we started hearing whispers coming from nowhere in particular. Dark, anguished whispers, saying things that I could’ve gone infinite lifetimes without hearing. Luckily, nothing attacked us. There was also an instance where we thought that we could see an island in the distance. As we tried heading for it, it started moving. An ungodly moan echoed towards us as it suddenly submerged itself into the water. Safe to say, this ocean was a peculiar place. Not somewhere you'd want to be... but interesting nonetheless.

About a few more hours pass and we’re getting worried. We only had about 5 of those prison energy bars left for the 13 of us. We also had no drinkable water. To make matter worse, Desh’s veins had started turning black, and they were protruding violently out of his skin. He was also sick, nearly slipping in his own puke every minute or so. From what I could tell, there were small worms writhing around in the vomit. “If I turn into something, shoot me on the spot.” He said to us, in a hoarse voice that was much deeper than his natural tone. “In the meantime, I’ll get us as far as I can.” I felt sorry for him, of course. But there was no time for sympathy. We needed to get onto land.

A few more hours pass and Desh is barely alive. His skin was bulging in and out and he seemed to be having trouble standing up. But just up ahead… we saw land. It sat there, just waiting for us. Then out of nowhere, Desh fell to his knees, projectile vomiting everywhere. I stepped back, away from the squirming creatures now slithering towards us in the revolting liquid.

“Sh…shoot me.” Desh uttered out.

We thanked him before fulfilling his request. One bullet and his suffering was ended. We watched as his body twitched a bit before ultimately going limp. The ship eventually drifted onto the shore, where we hopped off. As we wandered around the sandy surface, we were hit with a metallic tinge lingering in the air. Obviously, this didn’t mean anything good. Other than that, the island seemed pretty typical. Actually... from the all the places that I’ve been while here, this resembled Earth the most. Before hitting land, we’d rationed out the remaining shards amongst us. Everybody got two, except for smoker, who got three. Fair enough, I suppose.

As we headed into the forest, we started seeing animal carcasses everywhere. Even ones the size of elephants. Their guts had been gouged out and left to the flies. The smell was horrific. After seeing that, we were on high alert. At one point, we’d come across a large tiger-looking thing and were prepared for an attack. However, it seemed more scared of us if anything. About a few minutes later, we realized what it was actually scared of. We stumbled into a clearing and I could hear the sounds of something wet near us. It was quiet, but I strained my ears to make it out. It almost resembled somebody pigging out at a buffet. Then a few seconds later, I heard somebody call out behind me and suggest that we take a break. They said it in a rather loud voice. As soon as he did so, all other sounds stopped. I noticed it. So did Smoker. Everybody else seemed oblivious. The foliage around us started rattling. Then all hell broke loose. These… things burst from the woods and lurched themselves towards us. They were about three and a half feet tall and seemed to alternate between crawling on all fours and stumbling upright. Their pale skin had a reddish glow to it and their ear-piercing shrieks made me want to deafen myself. They had a multitude of pure red eyes covering their face and large mouths full of razor-like teeth. But as horrific as they looked… they weren’t so strong.

As one tried to jump on me, I reflexively batted it away with my rifle. Even though I only used about half of my strength, the blow sent it flying into a tree. It let out a shrill cry before trying to limp back towards me. However, they weren’t so easy to deal with in groups. I observed as they overwhelmed the other prisoners, tearing them apart with their teeth and claws. There were too many of them. I looked around and locked eyes with Kunz, Smoker, Laruen as well as a few others. We were getting the hell out of there. In the moment, I'd forgotten about the shards completely and didn't bother using them. We started running, with twigs and branches hitting us in the face every now and then. I took a quick glance back at one point. The creatures were barely keeping pace with us. Looked like they weren’t so fast either. However, that didn’t fix the fact that they kept jumping out from the woods on either side of us. I felt some of their claws dig into my skin as I flung them off.

Eventually, we lost those things and broke out of the forest. However… that didn’t mean we were safe. We found ourselves on another beach, filled with people this time. Or at least, that’s what I thought they were at first. They were walking slowly, seemingly moving without any purpose. And then one of them turned around. There was only one word that I needed to describe them: Zombies. With grayish decaying skin, rotten teeth and sunken eyes, I wouldn’t know what else to call them. It started limping towards us, with the rest following soon after. At this point, we were all already tired as hell. But we had no options. We were surrounded in front and had the forest behind us. We were about to take our chances back in the woods when Lauren pointed something out in the distance. It looked like a cluster of watchtowers.

That seemed like a better option, so we went for it. However, we knew that the shards wouldn't actually close up our already existing wounds inflicted by the forest creatures. That meant we couldn't get too close to the zombies. We all saw what happened to Desh. However, we also knew that we were running low on ammo... so the shots had to be precise. Every missed bullet was an inch closer to a horrible death. Eventually, we ran out and were forced to use the rifles as blunt weapons, which was dangerous as all hell. Nevertheless, we were getting close. I was starting to make out guards sitting on top of the towers, and they seemed to be helping us by shooting at the zombies. Half of them had firearms while the rest were using what looked like crossbows. I saw them throw down some thick ropes that I assumed were for us to climb on. As I got closer and closer to the tower, I could tell that it was fortified with metal. I watched as Smoker and the rest of them jumped onto the various ropes of the surrounding towers, simultaneously climbing while being pulled up by the guards. I did the same.

As I pulled myself up onto the tower platform, the guards instantly pointed their weapons at me. To be honest, nothing surprised me at this point, so I just put my hands up. What I assumed to be their leader quickly told them to back down. I’d later learn that his name was “Brax”.

“We don’t know if he’s one of them or not” another guard argued, still pointing the crossbow right at my forehead. Brax just scoffed. “Is that a joke? Look at him. Look at his weapon.” I asked him what the hell he was talking about. What was I supposedly “one of”?

“Neo-Civitus” was his response. Jackman had also mentioned them while I was in the prison. However, I didn’t really feel like asking questions, so I didn’t pursue it. Still haven't, actually. After that, I looked down at the ground. The zombies were all gathered around at the bottom of the tower, making futile attempts to climb it. As I turned back around, Brax tossed me a padded vest and some forearm guards. “You want to stay here, you gotta work.” He gave me a toothy grin. “Welcome to Dead man’s land.” That was the official name of the island. I looked around the tower that I was in, seeing beds and a water basin set up. And then I looked over at the other towers. Kunz waved at me from one of them. That’s when I really got a sense of the scope of this place. All of them were connected by narrow bridges that the guards used to get around and communicate with each other. And there were a lot more than I’d originally made out. There weren’t only towers, either. I also saw moderate sized buildings and small houses propped upwards by metal support beams as well. Again, they were all connected. It was like a town, elevated away from the horrors on the ground.

But… that’s all I’m going to write for now. Today’s been a shitshow. Brax told me that I’m on guard duty tomorrow and that's in about four hours. I need some rest.

---

Credits


Hey guys, sorry for the long wait. The job's been pretty unforgivable lately. Really had to focus on it this past week. However... it's been hard to do that. Especially after reading the next few entries of Clint's journal. This shit just keeps getting crazier.

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ENTRY 19:

It’s been one month and I'm already sick of this fucking place. It’s hard to find motivation to even write. Thought I’d give it a chance today. I gotta hold on to some semblance of sanity somehow. The rules here are fucked. If the guards catch you sitting down more than once while you’re mining in the hole, you get pistol-whipped. If you can’t physically work anymore, you get dragged away and dropped down a shaft. It doesn’t even look like they want to do it… I think they’re scared of something. Scared of the warden. Following the days where we make slow progress, we’ll usually be met with a new set of guards. Who the hell knows what happens to the old ones. Well… I have an idea but… whatever. The new ones are always harsher. But it’s hard to blame them. I guess they have to be. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. People drop like fucking flies here. I haven’t had an opportunity to formulate an escape plan. Hell, I’ve got nobody to talk to other than Buck and Lauren. We don’t get leisure breaks. We stay in our cell for about ten hours before being herded to the mine. This is bad. But… we’ll see what happens.


--
ENTRY 20:

It’s been around seven months now. I’m not counting… Buck is. Says that’s his hobby. I mean, I guess there’s nothing else to do. I’m pretty much sleeping whenever I’m not working. At least they’re not starving us. The energy bars aren’t bad, actually. I’d rather not think about what they’re made out of, though. But still… nothing’s fucking changed. I… I don’t know what to do. It seems like the last revolution’s made everybody complacent. Nobody’s willing to take a chance anymore. Well… almost nobody. Two new guys were assigned to our section of the hole today. I eavesdropped on a conversation the guards were having about why they were here. I heard the word “genocide” drop a couple of times. Yeah, they were crazy fuckers. As soon as they stepped foot into the working grounds, they went after the guards. Using only their pickaxes, they managed to massacre most of them before finally being shot down. This was an opportunity, obviously. But nobody took it. I guess everybody thought there was no chance of getting out, even if we managed to take out all the guards. To be honest, I’m starting to understand them. I don’t want to think about it but… if my plan is to come to fruition, then we’re going to need to face the Warden at some point or another. And based off of the stories, that sounds like a fucking nightmare.

--
ENTRY 21:

It’s been about two years since that last entry. I have to say, it’s been pretty rough. I’ve had no motivation to fucking write anything down. I’ve teetered between bouts of depression and unresolved motivation. I don’t think Lauren’s said anything in months. She just kind of just sits around now with a glazed look in her eyes. Just a corporal shell. I mean, I can’t do anything about it. Buck’s the same. Although, I’m really starting to question his own sanity. There were a couple more work incidents. Just a few guards and prisoners killing each other here and there. In spite of that, more and more prisoners seem to keep piling in. The mine's starting to get crowded. A lot of the newbies complain claim they didn’t even do anything. That the whole system's corrupt. I mean… I believe them. Morality seems to go out the window here. But… something happened recently. One of the guys who worked near me – Jackman found something. And apparently, it’s what we’ve been digging for this whole time. You see, one of the few rules here is that if we find something that isn’t pure rock, we were supposed to hand it over to the guards. Usually, there would be no way around this. They checked all of our pockets before we were done our shifts. However, it’s pretty obvious that the guards themselves don’t really want to be here either. In fact, a lot of them are forced into it, mere prisoners themselves. Smoker was one of them. Not his real name, but you’d rarely see him without a dart dangling from his mouth. It was one of the few guard privileges. The name kind of caught on.

Anyways... years ago he and Jackman came to a secret agreement. If Jackman ever found anything, he would be the first one to “search” him. You see, Smoker had inside knowledge, being here for decades. He knows what we’re digging for… why the hell this prison even exists, all that shit. And he doesn't want any part of it anymore. But he can't leave.

I started talking to Jackman a few weeks ago. We worked so close to each other that we’d sneak in conversations whenever the guards were out of earshot. Eventually, we both came to the conclusion that we were after the same thing. Freedom. Albeit, Jackman’s been here much longer than I have. He’s a bit hungrier. Also unafraid of death. He was getting out of here no matter what. He told me about his alliance with Smoker and what the hell we were actually looking for. They were called imperium shards – small, dense, white crystals that upon cutting yourself with, would make you invincible for around 15 minutes. Keep in mind – they don’t make you stronger. Just impossible to kill. Enough of these could turn a mediocre standing army into an empire. And that was what the Warden was after. He wasn’t planning on running this prison forever. No, he wanted more. That’s why he forced all of us to dig for 14 hours a day. But here’s the thing... the Warden only knows the general location of where clusters of these crystals are supposed to naturally occur. Jackman actually knows how to find them. Before he’d been locked up, he was an excavation leader on a mineral-rich island. That was before something called "Neo-Civitus" came and ruined his whole operation, sending him here. “They killed my whole team.” He told me. “But instead of taking me with them, they sent me here - as a fuck you to anybody trying to take the resources that they think belong to them. And that’s all of it” He was nearly foaming at the mouth as he said this. “Yeah… well I’ll show those fuckers. I’ll make them wish they killed me.”

Jackman knew how to mine. Probably more than anybody else in the entire prison. That was how he caught the eye of Smoker. He wasn’t digging at random like everybody else. He actually had a strategy. And a few days ago… he struck gold. He’d found a few crystals. After the shift ended, Smoker pretended to search him. After that, he went to his cell, where he started a stockpile. He was in one of the older, single capacity ones, so he didn’t have to worry about people snooping around. He hid them in a discrete hole in the wall. We’ve been finding more and more every day. I’ve been storing some in my cell as well. I don’t see Buck or Lauren selling me out. And the other guy’s insane, so whatever. I was a bit skeptical, though. Crystals that made you invincible does seem like an outlandish idea. In retrospect though… I guess nothing’s too strange for this world. I tried it out on myself. I made a small cut on my shoulder and waited a few minutes. After that, I tried stabbing my hand with a pencil. Safe to say… it works. Jackman told me to start recruiting anybody that I really trusted. A revolution was brewing. I’ve informed Buck and Lauren about this. They seem optimistic. The other guy in our cell’s still insane, so I didn’t bother. But… it seems like something's changed. And I can’t fucking wait.

--
ENTRY 22:

It’s been about another six months. Our little group’s grown to about eighty. Most of the guards in our section are even in on it, through Smoker’s persuasion. In addition, we’ve mined more of those crystals than we know what to do with. It’s just a matter of time now.

--
ENTRY 23:

It’s been three more months. We’ve got 600 in on this now. We’ve pretty much convinced everybody in our mining section, and they’ve gone and convinced their cell mates. All the guards are now part of it as well. There were some Warden loyalists, of course. All we had to do is get rid of them until we’ve found suitable replacements. However… we’re going to need to act quickly. The original plan was to get 1000+ people from all around the prison, but we seem to be drawing in a lot of suspicion. We can’t just kill all the guards who are here voluntarily and hold allegiance to the Warden. There’s too many of them. And they’re getting antsy. Some cells have already been searched. They haven’t found any of the smuggled shards yet, but there’s no way in hell that I can hide all the ones that I have if they search mine. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.


---
ENTRY 24:

A few more weeks have passed, but we can’t afford to keep going. Jackman got searched yesterday. Of course, there was no way he was hiding all the shards, so he just killed the two guards and stuffed them under his bed. We had to create a quick plan. At this point, we’ve gotten at least 800 people ready for this. We had to create an impromptu plan. It's happening tomorrow. Once the guards come around, unlock our cells and start leading us to the hole, we strike. If they’re loyalists, we kill them. If they also want out… well, the more the merrier. After that, we’ll start making our way towards the surface. The elevators will probably get shut down, as they did during the last revolution. We’ll have to use the stairs. I estimate that there’s about thirty floors above ours. Shouldn’t be a problem, though. According to the guards, there’s a bunch of planes and boats on the surface of the main entrance that we can use to get the hell out of here. Where we’re going next… I don’t know. Baby steps, huh? As for the Warden… he can’t take all of us, especially if we have these shards. The last revolution was also considerably smaller than this one. But… maybe I’m being optimistic. Guess we’ll find out soon. Even if I don’t make it out alive, at least I wouldn’t have died complacent, rotting away in this shithole. At least I’ll have done something interesting.



--
ENTRY 25:

Well… that was fucked. If I sound a bit discombobulated, it’s because my whole body hurts right now. I can barely fucking move. Anyhow, the plan didn’t really go the way that we expected it to. Let me explain:

It all started during the middle of the night. I woke up in the dark to gunshots being fired off somewhere near us. That’s when I heard our lock being opened. As it turns out, the suspicion had reached a boiling point. They decided to do a thorough search on all rooms. I scrambled towards my shard stash, managing to slash my wrist just as a guard started pulling me away. He took the butt end of the rifle and slammed into my chest. However… I felt nothing. From the solitary, dim, flickering light bulb above, I could make out his face. One of pure shock. He shot at me a couple of times before I managed to disarm him. The other guard just ran away. I looked back to see Buck and Lauren waking up from the commotion. It was now or never.

We filled our pockets to the brink with the shards before heading out. As soon as we did, the lights came on. The war had officially started. I watched as guards got tossed around and executed by the now invulnerable prisoners. I started running along the corridors while getting shot at from all angles, with Buck and Lauren close behind. We scrambled up the stairs, getting closer and closer to the top. It was apparent that the more and more we made it up, the more and more guards were being sent down. That’s when I realized something... we could handle groups of three or four of them… but not an entire army. We’d get overwhelmed eventually. I picked up a rifle just in case. I think we made it up about twenty sets of stairs before we were met with the fucking cavalry. The corridor was congested with about six of those armored guards me and Lauren saw when we first landed on Ghost Hazard. “Fucking hell.” I remember Buck saying. “What are they supposed to be?” A bunch of them started trudging forwards, lugging along massive Gatling guns. I pricked myself with a shard again in anticipation.

We ducked into a nearby cell, just as the shells started flying. My hand touched something soft and squishy as I stumbled backwards into a wall. It was a prisoners spilled guts. I had to shudder at that. My heart dropped when I checked my pockets. I guess most of my shards had fallen out at one point or another. Luckily, Lauren's were still mostly there. We sat for a while, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to move forwards, given the constant stream of bullets. It lasted longer than I’d expected. Eventually, Buck had enough. “Fuck it” He said. “They can’t do this shit forever” He stabbed himself with a shard before walking out, hands up high. I heard him say “Come on, you cunts” before being drowned out by the gunfire. I watched as he was slowly pushed backwards by the force. After a while, the stream of ammunition stopped. We rushed out of the cell just as Buck was slowly getting up. His clothes had pretty much been shredded away by bullets at this point. It was a strange sight, for sure.

However, we realized that a new problem was right there in front of us. Although the guards couldn’t hurt us, we sure as hell weren’t going to make a dent on them. And they also outnumbered us. I looked around to see the other prisoners being tossed down by them, into the void. Their echoed screams signified potential doom for us. I looked back in front of me to see the guards approaching. If they got a hold on me, they’d have no problem just throwing me over the rails. And I don’t think the shards would’ve helped with whatever the hell was down there. I guess Buck and Lauren also realized this, because they’d already started running the other way. However, their paths were quickly blocked by a couple more armored guards that had jumped down from a higher level. To be honest with you… I thought we were goners right there and then. I didn’t see any way out of it. We backed into another cell right as the guards closed in on us. I was considering slitting my throat, just to avoid whatever the hell was down in that pit when I realized that I couldn’t. I’d cut myself with a shard mere moments ago. I just closed my eyes in preparation. I felt myself move forward a bit before being shoved to the ground. I opened them in confusion. One of the other guards had dragged the one that was pulling me and pushed him over the rails. I watched as he went after the others. It was a guard-on-guard fight. I didn’t move for a while. I was just too stunned.

Eventually, one of the guards stumbled back into the cell we were in. He looked up at us, panting heavily. It was Smoker. There was blood running down his face. “Shard ran out. This ain’t gonna work.” He uttered out. “We gotta get the hell out of here.” At that, I snapped out of my trance. All of us got up and started booking it down the corridor. I took a quick glance behind to see two armored guards sprinting right at us, gaining ground every second. We reached the stairs sometime later, scrambling up to the next floor. We were nearly there when Lauren was dragged back down by her foot. I watched in horror as she was lifted up, ready to be tossed at any second. That’s when I heard a voice coming from above us. “Get out of the way!” I looked up. Kunz was standing right there. He looked half dead, with bloody wounds covering a good portion of his exposed skin. Despite that, he was holding what looked like a large fucking rocket launcher. I did what he said, moving out of his shooting path. He fired it, stumbling back as he did. The rocket made direct contact with the guard, who flew backwards from the explosion, right over the rails. The other one was close behind, meeting a similar consequence. Lauren went airborne, barely managing to catch onto a rail as she made her descent. She pulled herself up before screaming out in exasperation “What the fuck!” She took some deep breaths before composing herself. We looked back up at Kunz. He just gave us a bloody smile. “You got any more of those crystals? I could sure use one right now.”

We continued making our way up the floors. At this point it was me, Buck, Lauren, Kunz and Smoker – who was still in the armor. As it turns out, he and a bunch of other prisoners had managed to overpower one of armored guards when they were still being sent down as singles. Unfortunately, Jackman died in the process . As for Kunz, one of his cell mates had told him about the shards and gave him some weeks before the revolution. However, he quickly lost all of them when he was tackled by a mound of guards. Eventually, he fought them off, grabbing the launcher in the process. I looked upwards. There were only about four floors to the surface. But... it was still pretty much war. We sure as hell weren’t in the clear. Luckily for us, the amount of armored guards had drastically thinned down. With Smoker paving a way for us, we kept running. At this point, we were running dangerously low on shards. But... it was the home stretch. We were almost out. However, I had this creeping feeling that wouldn’t go away. This thing that just kept nagging at me. Deep down, I knew what it was. I looked at Smoker. There was definitely a look of frightened anticipation on his face. That’s when it happened.

A BOOMING crash from the other side of the prison. It was The Warden. Everybody had stopped to take in the massacre that was occurring some distance away from us. He was far enough away that I had to squint. But I could make out what he looked like. He towered over the regular prisoners. I think 8’5 might have been an underestimate. His skin was pale white and he had long, slicked back silver hair. His trench coat was bloody, sweeping along the floor as he moved. That was another thing. He was fast. I observed as he sliced through multiple prisoners simultaneously. He was wielding an extremely large sword that nearly resembled a butcher knife. Whatever prisoners that were invulnerable to the knife, he simply tossed into the blackness below. I snapped back to reality when the ground started shaking. I heard a deep, guttural roar coming from the chasm below. I guess whatever the hell was down there had been disturbed by the amount of bodies coming its way. At this point, the Warden had completely finished off the prisoners around him. A stampede of people had started running our way. Running from the Warden. He looked in our direction. That’s when I joined the herd.

I made a beeline for the next stairway, pushing others out of the way as I did. As I started making my way up, I heard another loud CRASH and the subsequent sounds of slaughter that were too close for comfort. I took a quick glance back. The warden was maybe ten meters away from me. He was probably twenty times that distance just seconds ago. That’s when I got a good look at his eyes. You see… they weren’t pure black like everybody said they were. They were dark, for sure. But there was also something else. When I caught his glare, I didn’t feel like I was looking at one man. No. I felt the anguished eyes of thousands staring back. That’s the best way I can explain it. Before I could realize what was happening, he charged at me. I think he tried grabbing me, but it didn’t quite work out. Instead, I was flung onto the top floor. I was met with sharp, unexpected pain. My shard had ran out. Still reeling from the sting, I looked around and located the exit. It was surrounded by dead guards and had prisoners pouring out of it at a torrid rate. My skin prickled as I felt a warm breeze for the first time in years. I ran for it, faster than I had ever done so before, ignoring the intense aches in my legs every time I took a stride. As I was nearing freedom, I heard another crash some distance behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know what it was. The Warden was on the top floor.

I stepped out onto what looked like a combination between an aircraft carrier and an industrial dock. I watched as planes and helicopters soared away. There were no more aircrafts on the ground, only ships docked at the edge. Amidst the crowd of people, I spotted Smoker and the rest of them. I called out to him. He turned to face me and gestured for me to follow him. We started running towards what looked like a smaller sized cargo ship. Eventually, we made it on. There were roughly twenty other people waiting for us, including Kunz, Buck and Lauren. One of them called out: “That’s enough. We gotta leave now!”

“No! We can’t yet!” Smoker barked back at him. He turned to me and asked if the Warden was still coming after us. I nodded. “Fuck!” He shouted. He followed up by telling us that since we were in a ship, we wouldn’t be able to evade him if he ever reached the surface. “He will destroy each and every last ship that tries leaving this place.” He said with a tone of desperation. I asked him what the hell we were supposed to do, then. He sighed before speaking. Apparently, there was an absurd amount of explosives attached underneath the carrier. This was essentially a fail-safe in case of major disaster, like what was happening right now. However, since the guards were pretty much dead, nobody had detonated them yet. “If we can trigger it… that would probably take care of the Warden.” Smoker said hesitantly. I asked him how we were supposed to do that. He pointed to a large bag of small objects resembling futuristic grenades. “That should do the trick. All it takes is one person.”

At that moment, the Warden burst out, onto the strip. All the prisoners that were still alive had pretty much escaped at this point, so he instantly turned his attention to us. “Fuck me.” Smoker said under his breath. “Well… I guess this is it.” He reached back for the bag of explosives, but they were gone.

“It’s all right, mate.”

We all turned to look at Buck. He had the bag slung over his shoulders and was holding a pistol. “I was never much back on Earth, you know?” He grinned at us. “Least I’ll go out with a bang.” He hopped off the ship. “You guys better get going, yeah? No need to thank me.” Those were the last words he said to us before walking casually towards the advancing Warden. None of us knew what to say. We just knew that we had to get out of there. And that’s what we did. We left without Buck. We watched as he held the bag of explosives up, almost tauntingly. The Warden stopped in his tracks. He started backing up. The ship also started picking up speed. By the time we were a good distance away, we saw the explosion. It was a nasty one. A wave of heat hit us as we moved across the water.

It’s been a few hours now and nobody’s said anything. Guess there isn’t a lot to say. Or... they could just be enjoying the peace. It’s quiet out here. Tranquil. I almost feel at ease. Almost. Where we’ll end up next… who knows. But I don't have high expectations. And Buck, I know you told me not to do this but… thanks.

---

Credits


ENTRY 17:

I don’t know what the hell Kunz is trying to do right now. He seems to be trying to unshackle himself. I asked him what his plan was supposed to be, given the fact that we were probably over an ocean right now. He just stared at me with a demented look in his eye. “Fuck if I know. Can’t get locked up there, though.” He sputtered. “I’ve heard the stories... makes Paradise X sound like an actual paradise” Admittedly, those words disturbed me. I hadn’t really thought about where we were going. If civilization was so bad here, I can’t fathom what the prisons were like.


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ENTRY 18:

Fuck me, somebody just came in. He’s tossing everybody parachutes. What the hell is happening?


--
ENTRY 19:

This shit... it just keeps escalating. After the guard tossed us the parachutes, he opened the plane doors. A gust of wind hit me in the face as I stared out into the black sky. Kunz asked him what the hell was going on. “Low on fuel” the guard gave him a twisted smirk. “Can’t drop you off. You’ll have to make your own way there.” As he started unshackling everybody, two other guards soon materialized, rifles trained on us. One of the prisoners tried attacking the guard upon being freed, but was shot quickly. He was barely acknowledged beyond that. “If you jump out in the next thirty seconds, you should hit land.” The guard said. “And I know what you’re thinking. You could escape, huh? Well, there’s nobody stopping you. But… it’s a small island. And you don’t want to find out what’s on it. You got a better shot at survival in the rift. Slightly, though.” I’d later learn that “The rift” was the unofficial name of the prison. The guard shot me one last smug grin before walking up and unceremoniously pushing me out. I’d gotten my parachute on just in time. He didn’t give much warning. As I looked up, I saw the other prisoners coming down, one by one.

As we descended, I tried to scope out the island, trying to form some expectations. He didn’t lie. It was small. About the size of a large shopping mall. There was only one compact concrete structure on the entire land mass. That couldn’t be the prison, right? I thought to myself. But, there wasn’t much time for that. I was coming down fast. I made a judgment and opened the parachute. I eventually landed in shallow water near the shore. I tried taking a second to compose myself, but that’s when I heard splashing behind me. I turned around, expecting another prisoner. Nope. Instead, I was met with a mass of large, dark tentacles that pierced the water surface, clambering towards me. As I scrambled onto the shore, one of the appendages slammed down just a few inches from me, cracking the land. I made a beeline for the brooding forest in front of me. I’d estimated that I was about a ten minute walk from the prison. I seriously considered just not going, but then I really thought about it. There was nowhere to fucking go. I jumped at every little sound as I made my way around the dense, black woods. At one point, I thought I could hear a baby crying. As I kept listening, the louder it got. The more guttural and demonic it got. I got the hell away from that. Later, I’d put my hand on a tree, while trying catching my breath. That’s when I felt it move. I pulled away just in time to see what I thought was just a hole materialize sharp, jagged teeth. About a second later, I looked behind me to see an abnormally large humanoid thing crawling towards me. Its three heads moved in a disturbingly erratic manner. Again, I bolted the fuck out of there.

Maybe about a minute later, I crashed into somebody. I freaked out at first, cause who knew what the fuck it was. But then I heard Lauren’s voice. She was hysterical. “What the fuck is this place?” She spoke softly, but frantically. Unfortunately, there was no time to talk. I could still hear that thing crawling towards us. I just pulled her up and told her to run. A while later, we stumbled into a clearing, where we started getting shot at. “Stop!” A booming voice echoed. I looked up to see people wearing some kind of uniforms staring at us in front of a building. This was it. A tall, threatening looking man wearing what looked like a suit of armor started thundering towards us. I braced myself for the worst, but he just moved past. I looked back to see him sprint up to the creature and start strangling it. A fucking horrific sight it was. During the struggle, he called out to the guards. “Prisoners, take ‘em in! You saw the plane! Lazy bastards…”

We were soon ushered into the dull structure. It looked like a shitty reception lobby. There were a few chairs and tables set up under flickering bulbs. More guards lined the perimeter of the place, with about one in five being armored. At the front, there was a small desk manned by some dude with one eye and no eye-patch. He sighed and started typing. What surprised me was how advanced the monitor looked. Given everything that’s happened thus far, I wasn’t expecting that. While he did this, the guards searched us for weapons. One of them inspected my journal for a bit, but eventually gave it back to me. They didn’t even give us uniforms or anything. After a while, the man behind the desk grunted and signaled towards an elevator to the side. There were about four in total. The guards pushed us in. There were too many buttons to count. They just pressed one near the top. The doors creaked shut and we began our descent. After what felt like ten minutes, the doors opened back up and we were blasted by a cacophony of harsh sounds. Before this, I’d never really thought about what hell would be like. This prison was probably a good enough representation.

The architecture was pretty similar to that of Alcatraz, if you’ve ever seen the interior. There were numerous row of cells stretching upwards. And then I looked down at what appeared to be a black, endless fissure. It seemed like the deeper it got, the less lights were present. The most horrific screams came from the cells way below us that were nearly submerged into the darkness. The guards led us down the raucous corridor. I could see how scared Lauren was. But… there really wasn’t anything I could do to comfort her. I took a look into the cells that I passed by. Most of the other prisoners looked human. Some… I couldn’t really tell. At one point, I saw Kunz being escorted from the opposite corridor. We made eye contact for a second. His demeanor was a mixture of pissed off and terrified. The guards eventually pushed us into a small room and closed the bars behind us. That’s when I took a look around.

There were two bunk beds, but the sheets looked dirty as hell and were stained crimson. So were the concrete floors. To be honest, I didn't expect much better. I have to say, I did breathe a sigh of relief when I saw a toilet and a small sink. There were two other people in there. Both men. I guess gender separation wasn’t really a thing here. But to be fair, I don’t really see how they could accomplish that in a place like this. One of the guys suddenly sat up in the bed. I didn’t know what to expect from the people here, so I was ready to take action if he tried to touch Lauren. But, he smiled at us. A big, toothy yellow grin. “Hey there. Name’s Buck Lane.” He had a comically stereotypical Australian accent. But… he did sound friendly. He walked towards us, arm outstretched. We both shook his hand somewhat hesitantly. I questioned how somebody could be in a place like this and still have any semblance of cheerfulness. And I asked him that. He gave off a dry chuckle. “Well it’s better not to think about it, yeah? Won’t do you any good. That’s how people go crazy. They think about things too much. I mean really, what the hell is consciousness even?” He laughed again. Then his expression went a bit more serious. “But… maybe I’m already there.” I didn’t really know how to respond to that, so I just nodded. I’d noticed that the other guy hadn’t even acknowledged us. I guess Buck noticed me staring, because he chimed in. “Oh, don’t worry bout him. He’s harmless. Gone far off the deep end, though. Look at the shit he writes on the walls.” I brought my gaze over to the wall near his bed. Sure enough, it was covered in writing. I saw a few lines like “CORRUPTION ENGAGED, THERE IS NO FUTURE” before looking away.

He did have a mound of pencils lying near his bed, though. Mine was taken away earlier. I asked him if I could take one but was met with no response. I took it as a yes. We talked to Buck some more. As it turns out, he was also from Earth. But… he didn’t seem so surprised when we told him that we were as well. “It’s more common than you may think.” He stated. “People go missing in planes all the time. Where’d you think they end up? Here. Whatever this place is.” Hearing that gave me chills. For some regular commercial airline passenger going on vacation, only to end up here… that must be terrifying. Apparently, Buck was the sole survivor of a crashed plane headed to Amsterdam. “Weed and hookers, mate” He said. “That’s where I thought I was headed.” His plane crash landed on what seemed to be a stone desert. He walked for days, eating peanuts before he finally stumbled upon a civilization. “They were some strange fuckers” he went on. “Looked like weird rock people. I can’t even describe it” He ended up flipping shit at the sight of them and ran away. Apparently, they took this as a threat for some reason, captured him, and put him into a small cage. He stayed there for days, eating strange bugs they served him before being loaded onto a plane and transported here. “If I went to jail on Earth, there’d usually be a reason. Not here, mate.”

After that, he told us more about the prison. From what he’d gathered, it was pretty much a “global” clusterfuck of an institution. Individuals were brought here from everywhere. This place was also absolutely massive. Ghost Hazard wasn’t the only entrance. There were others as well. Also, the more dangerous a prisoner is considered, the closer their cell was to the bottom. This is fucking insane. For food - twice a day, guards would bring around what Buck referred to as “Nutrition blocks.” I’m staring at one right now. It looks terribly similar to the energy bars Kunz was eating at Paradise X. Safe to say, I have no appetite. Another similarity to Paradise X stems from the fact that this place was also essentially lawless. As long as you didn’t attack the guards, steal food or resources, try to escape, or cause a general large-scale uprising, you had free reign. Nobody had any obligation to step into conflicts that didn’t directly affect them. However, this is the part that really fucking sucks:

A good portion of the day was to be spent on manual labor. It was a lot of general maintenance work, but most of it was supposed to be spent down in “The hole” – a large cave system that had been dug through and excavated by prisoners for years. Nobody really knew what the point of it was. A lot of people just assumed that it was for discipline, but there were other theories. “We’re digging for something, no doubt about it” Buck exclaimed. One theory was that The Warden – the individual who ran this place, was obsessed with finding something called the “Neo-Grail”. Supposedly, sometime during this timeline’s history, the original Holy Grail was corrupted by a powerful demonic entity during some kind of Armageddon. That was the reason why this world went to shit. However, the Warden believed that this wasn’t the end of it. He’d studied various ancient books and scriptures, and had come to the conclusion that there was another Grail hidden somewhere in the vicinity of the prison. That's why he went about building the place. When the Neo-Grail was finally uncovered by a holy man like himself, the world would revert back to peace. But… this was only one theory. Some think that the Warden has more sinister aspirations. That he’s actually trying to start Armageddon himself.

Speaking of the Warden, his history is shrouded in enigma. Nobody really knows where the hell he came from. He has a large office on the surface of one of the island entrances, but rarely comes down to the actual prison. There were a few alleged descriptions of his appearance, however. Not so long ago, there was a large insurgence around the lower levels. People were going insane down there. Eventually, a large enough group was formed to the extent where they decided they were a tangible enough threat to the guards. They started rioting, working up the levels, trying to get to the surface. Eventually, it was deemed enough of an emergency that the warden needed to be called. This was a big deal. As the story goes, he came down to the lower floors himself, completely unarmed and took out the insurgency single-handedly. According to the people that saw him, he was extremely tall, maybe around 8’5. He wore a large trench coat with religious symbols stitched all over it. Then there were his eyes… this was contested, but they were allegedly pitch black. Lifeless. Along with that, he looked young in appearance, despite the fact that he’d been around for a long fucking time. Also, nobody knew where the source of his strength came from. He could pick up a 200 lbs man with one arm and throw him aside with ease. Upon being stabbed, the metal of the blade would just break off of his skin. Some people thought he was the devil incarnate. After that, the theory about him being somebody trying to return peace to the world became a lot less popular. Especially after what happened next.

What lurked at the absolute bottom of the prison was a mystery, with there being no lights down there and all. However, the survivors of the uprising were given a chance to know. Instead of them all being executed, they were given a different punishment. They were lowered, by rope, into the dark crevasse. They screamed like hell and most of them tried committing suicide. They stayed down there for about a minute before being brought back up. Buck witnessed this first hand. He said that he could hear indescribable, animalistic sounds emanating from below. It was a horrific sight when they were brought back up. They were deformed, but not in the traditional sense. Some of them had strange-looking limbs growing out of their legs, some had sprouted eyes on their arms, and some had no semblance of human features at all. “I would try escaping” Buck told us. “But you can probably see why that’s not happening”. For the first time, his cheery expression dropped. It’s as if he just reminded himself of how bad this situation really was.

But… I had know one more thing. “How long are we here for?” I asked him. I was scared as hell for the response. None of the guards had even said a word to us about this. Buck just sighed. “I’ve never seen anybody leave, mate. Couldn’t tell you. But don’t worry about it. She’ll be right” There was no confidence in his voice. I know he doesn’t believe that. I can hear guards opening up the cell doors next to us. Buck said that it’s time to go into the hole. The work day was starting. But here’s the thing… there’s no way in hell that I’m staying in this place. I’ll find a fucking way out if it kills me.

---

Credits





ENTRY 10:

Some interesting developments have just occurred. Whether they’re good or not is left to be decided. I guess my adrenaline was spiked the fuck up, because I decided to jump out of that dumpster, gun raised. As soon as I did, both cops rushed me. They saw that I was armed, for sure… but I guess they didn’t care. I shot the guy without the tattoo before being taken down by the other one. I took a couple of baton blows to the ribs before he was restrained by Christian. He groaned, shouting at me in short, guttural bursts. “Kill me you fuck! I don’t care!” I told him to calm the hell down. Then I laid it all out to him. I told him where we came from. That we were from Earth. His expression seemed to change drastically after that. He was listening intently. “What happened to you, huh? How’d you get here?” Christian eventually asked.

As it turns out, he was a German-American named Kunz Steiner. He used to be part of the 82nd airborne division of the US army. One day - on a mission to Iraq, some strange shit happened. The same shit that happened to us. “It was a cloudy day.” He explained. “One second, we were up in the air… you know the rest. Only five of us actually made it into the island. I was the only one who made it to this fucking place.” Apparently, he killed all of the guards who were outside the walls at that time. “I was running on fumes.” He said. “I didn’t even know what the hell I was doing. I guess my primal instincts just kicked in.” He had also realized that bullets didn’t do a whole lot against the jungle creatures, so he still had plenty of ammunition at that point. When the backup came, they wanted to just get rid of him. At first. But then they realized that he could be a valuable asset. “They just lost like 10 fucking guards.” He recalled. “I guess they thought taking me in and turning me into one of them wasn’t so bad of an idea. So that’s what they did. Been here ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about offing myself.” He continued. “Nobody should live in a place like this” His voice started quivering. “ But… I always knew something could happen. Now you guys are here.” I was a bit taken aback by this. I mean, what the hell was he expecting us to do? I asked him about it.

“Well, surely one of you knows how to pilot, right? Unfortunately, I don’t” I thought about it. Travis was still back at the settlement. I asked him how the hell that was gonna help, regardless. He looked around for a bit. That’s when we all heard the distant sound of boots stomping on concrete headed our way. “Look, come back to my place first. I’ll tell you about it there” So that’s where went. And that’s where I am right now. You’d think that somebody as important as law enforcement here would get better living conditions. This place was beyond a shithole. It’s on the fifth floor of some dilapidated building that feels like it’s going down any second. Apparently, Kunz only gets an hour of running water a day, and there’s no air conditioning. 90% of his meals consisted of these stiff, brown “energy bars”. He gave us some. I almost puked when I saw something blinking back at me after I’d taken a bite. But, this was his plan:

He’d sneak us out of this place and we’d go back to the settlement (Kunz knew how to get there) in order to pick up Travis, who would steer. Apparently, the controls were similar enough to that of Earth's. After that, we’d go back to Paradise X, break into one of the hangars where they stored the aircrafts, and fly out of there in search of the fog again. In search of the way back. Obviously, there was about a billion things that could go wrong with this. First of all, there were apparently only four small planes in that entire hangar, and it was heavily guarded. But he had a solution to that. He knew about 15 other guards who also wanted out of this place. “That should be enough to break into the hangar” Kunz stated. Over the years, he had told them about what Earth was like… and it fascinated them. Why they didn’t just disregard him as crazy was simple. They were desperate for something else. Anywhere else. Everybody thought about doing it before… but nobody knew how to fly. This would be a golden opportunity for them. I thought about the guards that we had encountered earlier. None of them did seem to care whether they died or not. But there was also Travis. There was no way in hell that he would come with us. He actually seemed to like it here. As crazy as it is, I can’t see him willingly going back.

And then there was the biggest problem. What if there was no fog to be found? Were we just going to drift around the sky until our fuel ran out? I ran this by Kunz. He sighed. “Honestly… anywhere is better than here. If we have to land somewhere else, then so be it. I’m not staying in whatever the fuck this place is anymore.” His tone was dead serious, expression unwavering. He was 100% committed to this. I told him we’d do it. Christian and Lauren didn’t have any objections. I guess I’d also had my fill of this island. However… I really don't think we're going to find the fog again. Deep down, I know Kunz doesn’t either. This is just a coping mechanism for him. This is all he’s got. It’s currently morning, but we’re going to leave at night. Easier to sneak out that way. I have to say… I’m still excited. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. We aren’t going back to Earth. There’s no way.

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ENTRY 11:

It’s finally dark out. We’re going for it. Kunz says that there’s a hidden tunnel that we can take that’ll lead us out. There’s also a vehicle waiting for us, which one of the other guards has set up.

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ENTRY 12:

We’re driving back to the settlement now. Fortunately for us, this vehicle has blinds on the passenger windows. I decided that this would be a good time to ask Kunz some more questions about Paradise X. As it turns out, the place is sort of a combination between a dictatorship and anarchy. There is technically somebody who runs and has power over everything – they call him the "Pioneer". It’s ironic because he had absolutely no contribution in discovering the place. Now, this guy… he can make any laws he wants. But he doesn’t. He just leaves the cesspool of a city to fester in its own waste. That’s right, there were no actual rules against murder, or anything for that matter. The only real laws were that you couldn’t attack the law enforcement, which was broken on an hourly basis, and that you couldn’t step foot on the Pioneer’s personal property, where he and the ones close to him lived in relative luxury. This was a big deal. The punishment was supposedly worse than death. The only reason he sent out police at all were to monitor for any creatures that leaked past the wall. This wasn't uncommon, apparently. If they saw any, the regular police would notify what was known as the “Command operatives” to come and get rid of them, which was mainly comprised of the enhanced guards.

After that, I asked about the copies. I could see him become visibly paler at the mention of them. He didn’t know too much about them either. He’d never even seen one. In fact, nobody around him had come to a consensus on what they really were. “Just don’t touch ‘em” He said. “Simple as that.” I asked him what would happen if you did. Maybe he’d have a better answer than Grillo. “Well, you know how they can take your form just by looking at you?” He responded. “The thing is, when it's just staring at you, it's merely a hollow shell of yourself. But once you’ve made contact with it, you’re essentially giving it permission to become you. And you know… two of the same person can’t exist at once. So after that, you’re gone.” I still didn’t understand what the hell that was supposed to mean. I pressed him for more answers, but he left it at that. Nobody seemed to want to talk about these things.

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ENTRY 13:

The rest of the drive was uneventful. But then we reached the settlement. It’s… really hard to say what happened. But a massacre obviously occurred. There were abnormally large claw marks scraped into the sides of the cabins and bodies were haphazardly scattered everywhere. I tried not to look because… there were kids. We searched the place for a while, but found no survivors. Eventually, Christian went back to praying and Lauren just started bawling. I was… horrifically transfixed by the whole scene. I don’t know what to think anymore. Eventually, we found Travis’s upper body. Safe to say, the plan wasn’t going to work. Kunz cursed loudly and started pacing. I heard him mumbling: “This can’t happen. I have to do this. Fuck… I can’t stay here.” At that point, I echoed his sentiments pretty closely. We really needed to get the hell off this island. But, I never found any trace of Rust. His body wasn’t among the dead. I did find his journal. Or what was left of it, anyways. Most pages were torn apart and the rest was simply indecipherable. I tried analyzing it, but it just read like ramblings from a madman. However, I did find something interesting during the last few entries. He’d scribbled “THIS IS A TERRIFYING DISCOVERY, WE-“before the page was ripped off. Shit. Wonder what the hell that’s about. “Let’s go” Kunz’s voice echoed across the destroyed civilization. I asked him what the plan was now. “I’ll pilot myself if I have to. I don’t give a fuck, we’re getting out of here.”

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ENTRY 14:

We’re driving back to Paradise X now. Christian and Lauren just look disaffected now. Empty. Kunz said that the plan was still on. “It can’t be that hard, right?” He said in regards to flying. “Yeah, probably not.” I responded. He was obviously delusional at this point, but he seemed unstable and I didn’t want to piss him off some more. I really don’t know where this is going.


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ENTRY 15:

It’s happening. Kunz has gone out and notified everybody who wants in. The number’s actually increased to 22 now, including some civilians. I asked him how the hell we were all supposed to fit. “We won’t” He responded. “Not all of us are going to make it. They’re all well aware of that.” Well, that’s nice to think about. I also asked him what he told them. About not having a pilot. He said that he didn’t say anything. They probably wouldn’t have wanted to help if they knew this. “Just say that you’re the pilot” He told me. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually do it if you don’t want to. I’ll figure it out.” He said this with such unwavering confidence. It was definitely just a fa├žade. I could tell that he had no hope this was going to work. But… fuck it. There’s always a chance. Besides, Dusk blue really isn’t worth staying on. “Make sure you use those bullets well.” He said. “Every shot needs to count now.”




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ENTRY 16:

Fuck me. So… this is what happened. We met up with the other 22 in some shitty warehouse. Kunz introduced me as the pilot. Or, the “savior” as he put it. It was really weird, honestly. They all cheered. Kunz gave a mini-motivational speech about leaving this place, and finding a “home worth living.” This got them all riled up. However, things were looking bleak from the get-go. Amongst us, we had about seven total bullets. Apparently, some cops liked to smuggle weapons. But not many. We started marching through the streets, towards the hangar. A bunch of civilians and other cops stared at us in melancholic curiosity as we did so.

The hangar soon appeared in front of us. The problem was… there were a lot more guards than we’d expected. I saw everybody’s collective faces drop. Afterwards, we learnt that somebody had sold us out in exchange for a week’s supply of meat. Yes, some fucking meat. What Kunz never told us was that the Hangar was directly on the Pioneer’s property. The next moments were a relative blur. The renegade cops charged the hangar with blatant disregard for their own lives. My vision was obstructed by red mist and bodies as I stumbled around. There was no way in hell that I was running into a sea of bullets, so I started scrambling out of there. At some point during the madness, I was clotheslined by some behemoth of a man. I blacked out soon after.

I woke up after god knows how much time. I can feel turbulence. Guess we’re on a plane. My chest hurts like fuck and my legs are shackled to a wall. My weapon is gone, but the journal’s still here. Great. I looked around the small space to find about six of the other cops/civilians who were there with us. Among them were Kunz and Lauren. I guess Christian didn’t make it. I called over to Kunz and asked him where the hell we were going. As it turns out, we were headed to some kind of prison located on an island called “Ghost Hazard”. He said it so solemnly. Everybody around here looks so defeated. I’m so tired.

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