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Ascend: Book 1: The Shattering

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-She awoke floating aimlessly in infinite darkness. She didn't feel the need to look around since she somehow already knew that the darkness is truly infinite, she couldn't feel anything.-

"Hello, human. Its rather unfortunate that you ended up ... here."

-A mass of of black flame with a feint white outline was suddenly and unexpectedly hovering next to her. She tried to speak but nothing came out.-

"Don't bother speaking, you can't, but even without voice, I feel your discomfort."

-She felt as if the flame is staring at her despite it lacking eyes.-

"I know how you feel. I reside here as well ... in a way. My living situation is complicated but that matters not to you, does it?"

-The flame floats around for a bit, a trail of faded white light trailing behind it with each movement-

"What is the last thing you remember? Your childhood, talking with friends? ... Being consumed, perhaps."

-She felt as if she should be frighted but she felt no emotion besides a hint of curiosity-

"Do you know how you ended up here ... human?"

-She felt the flame stare at her once more-

"You don't know. Or maybe you wish not to remember. -sighs- Such is the narcissism of humans."

-She felt the flame's 'gaze' become more intense-

"Human, I will tell you something about all of soul-kind."

-The faded white outline of the flame expands, enveloping her in an projected illusion. Within the illusion she saw silhouettes of life flourish on an unknown planet. She could no longer see the flame-

"Every organism is told to be made of light, love, kindness and all that is inherently ... good. Were you told that as a child, by your parents, by your teacher's, by your ... television, I believe its called. Did you understand it? More importantly, did you believe it? You probably did, that's not your fault, you didn't know any better, not one of you really did. You are merely human after all."

-She saw humans begin to come into existence though various means. Some rise from the ground, others crawl from the sea, some emerge from fire while other emerge mysteriously from forests. They all shield their eyes from the sun-

"Every living being has a soul, those beings are refereed to collectively as soul-kind. You and I, human, are apart of soul-kind along with the birds and the whales and the deer and the flies. Some souls are more complex than others, where you're from, you creatures are the most complex. In turn you dominate your world and all within it with little resistance. But does complexity make you any better than the creatures you dominate?"

-She watched a newly birthed human make a spear out of a branch then brutally attack and kill a deer who had watched the human create the spear-

"By nature this question doesn't make any sense considering every being with the burden of a soul is equally complex in nature's many eyes. So I'll ask you another, more properly worded question, human."

-The flame suddenly appears inches away from her face. She swore she could feel it breathing and that's there is something on her no longer existing abdomen-

"Does superiority of complexity make you better well off than the deer?"

-...-

"You have no answer, so I will enlighten you."

-The flame rescinds and stares at her-

"It makes you no better off than the deer. You and all other humans are disillusioned to your superiority and complexity. You may have the potential to develop the intelligence beyond that of a mouse but the simple mouse has senses and abilities a simple human does not."

-She saw various animals, their flesh, musculature, blood and nervous systems. She saw the entire being of thousands of animals, some you haven't seen before, right down to their very individualized soul. A ball of colored flame with a slightly transparent nucleus enclosing a symbol that is unique to each individual, whether it be in size, color, or the symbol itself no soul is exactly the same.-

"No matter how complex, no matter how unique, no matter how disillusioned all will meet the same end. Death. However, the end has different roads from there, and you happened to come here."

-The illusion vanishes in the blink of an eye and you are once again floating aimlessly in the sea of darkness-

"I can tell just by looking at you that you lived a pitiful and sad existence."

-The soul circles around her as if it's examining her for something. She noticed that the flame seemed slightly different now. It moved for freely and haphazardly and along with the white outline the flame had white flames running within it as well. It was a curiosity indeed but she was too tired to wonder about it for too long-

"You had the strength to still cling to your current existence."

-The ball of flame stops in front of her face.-

"From the very second you arrived here you struck my curiosity, human. Your life, your story, your soul, your ... brokenness... I've tried to lay your soul to rest but it is restless you see. A painful hot fire burns within you, one that not even I cannot lay to rest."

-The flame melts into the darkness-

"Your perfect."  a voice echoes loudly, but she felt no pain.

There she floated, for how long she couldn't tell, it could have been a few minutes, maybe hours, maybe years? There was no way to tell, there was no night or day, no internal clock, there was just the darkness. 

As she continued to float she grew tired, so she slept, and as she slept, she dreamt.

 

Chapter Text

She woke up on the floor of seemingly endless darkness. She pushed herself off of the ground and onto her feet immediately doing a 360 looking all around her. The only thing of note within the dark was a single black dresser that somehow seemed to be darker than the darkness. Blacker than black. As she stared at the dresser in confusion a realization hit her deep within her head. She recognized this dresser. It appeared to be the same dresser, or at least a very similar one, that was in her bedroom. She swore she could even see the feint outlines of the jewelry box she never actually put jewelry in, her purple candle in the shape of a skull, her digital clock and the old clay box that she made in high school. Was ... was she in her bedroom, her safe haven? No, it couldn't possibly be. Sure, she liked to keep her room dark but never this dark; she couldn't see more and an arms length away for fucks sake! Also, the rest of her furniture was fucking missing! As she got a bit closer however she realized that it was all a rouse, the dresser lay empty. But that didn't mean nothing as there at all. She was overcome with the all too familiar feeling that she was being watched. She looked behind her but was only met with darkness, same story with the left and right of her as well. When she turned back to the dresser, however, she noticed that her reflection was not normal. It was vaguely around her height and vaguely human shaped but instead of a proper reflection what the mirror showed back to her was a shadow that appeared to be made out of static or millions of ants or maybe even wool? Either way it made her skin crawl as it messed her mind. It was so close to looking like a proper human figure, but not quite. It was ... off putting. Yet oddly enough, she felt drawn to the shadow, compelled to get closer to it, she needed to get closer.

As she took slow, shaky steps towards the mirror a small voice in her gut began to scream, "don't go!" it hollered "it will d...". But it was muffled by the soothing static that the shadow made. It was like a mother humming a lullaby to a baby and it was putting her fears at ease. At least it was until she swore she heard something, she quickly looked behind her only to see nothing but pitch black. She then turned back to the mirror only to jump back when she saw the shadow had now taken on more of a human shape, her shape, down to the curls of her thick black hair. The only parts that weren't black were the gray part of her fringe and the 2 large red X's where the shadows eyes should be.

She watched with curious eyes as it formed a very jagged and side ways rudimentary mouth. Only problem was that it was on its forehead. It formed another, on the left arm, then another on the right cheek, then another and another and another till about 60% of its upper body what covered with jagged mouths. They were all different in some way, some had lipstick, although most of them were gray, they were different sizes too, with the smallest ones being on the cheeks and the biggest one being on the left side of the chest, where the heart should be. For a few minutes they just stood there, mindlessly staring at one another with the only noises being her breathing and the shadow calming static.

She swayed thoughtlessly from side to side, allowing the ambient static and whispering lull her into a - wait, whispering?

She looked around yet again but still she was only met with darkness, so she looked back at the mirror and noticed the the mouth on its forehead was moving, whispering. She tired to understand what it was saying but then the whispering got slightly louder yet significantly more garbled. She looked over the shadow and saw that the mouth on the right shoulder began to whisper as well, then the one on the forehead began whispering, then the one on the chin, then the left fore arm until all of them began to whisper, then talk, then yell, and before she knew they were all screaming.

The screaming vibrated within her, down to her very core. It felt like an earthquake had gone off within her and was jostling around all of her organs. Oddly enough she wasn't in any pain, it was more like intense discomfort and the feeling of something being pressed down on her. She doubled over and dry heaved as the violent vibrations where starting to make her feel ill. She squeezed her hands tightly against her ears in an attempt to drown out the noise "SHUT UP" she yelled, but nothing came out, or maybe it did and the vibrations were just fucking with her sense of self. Either way she wouldn't be able to take much more of this. She could feel her very eyeballs begin to vibrate as her vision became unstable and blurry. Her heart as well began to vibrate causing it to beat erratically. Even her breathing was vibrating, it felt as though she was taking in a thousand tiny breaths at once second rather than one long one.

She was going insane. She was going to die.

She looked back up at the mirror. She's gonna have to break it. Even though she hates the sight and sound of broken glass she has no choice. She stumbled towards the mirror and grabbed the edge of the dresser for leverage. As soon as she did however the screams only louder the subsequent vibrations causing her to fall to her hands and knees. She dry heaved once again but the only thing that came out was drool and tears, as well as blood from her nose. She attempted to push herself off the ground the vibrations forced her even further onto the ground. Now on her elbows and knees, stomach practically touching the ground, she was growing frustrated and desperate. As she laid there, trying not to suffocate, she made out some the things being screamed at her.

"I WANT TO DIE"
"WORTHLESS"
"I WANNA DIE"
"KILL ME"
"HELP ME"
"I JUST WANNA BE ALONE"
"PIECE OF SHIT"
"YOU'LL DIE ALONE"

Were among some of things she could make out.

Why did they sound so familiar?

She shook her head simultaneously getting an awful headache. "No, that didn't matter now, what mattered was shattering that fucking mirror into tiny bits!" she thought. Straining for air, she struggled to push herself off her elbows and onto her hands. "If only they'd shut up for. One. Fucking. Second." she thought as her eardrums began to vibrate making everything sound even more distorted and causing her to feeling even sicker. "Shu- Shut up!" she yelled through her sickness "Shut UP!" she yelled once again, she noticed that the screaming lowered in volume slightly. "SHUT. UP!"

she yelled as loud and as deep as she could, briefly sounding like a grown man. The screaming stopped all at once with the room being nearly dead silent it it weren't for her frantic gasps for air and the quiet whisper of one of the mouths.

She took a few minutes to catch her breath the pushed herself off of the floor. She then looked over the shadow once more in search of the whispering mouth. She wouldn't have to look for long, since it turns out the biggest mouth on the the shadow was the one doing the talking. "I thought i told you to shut it" she thought still being too out of breath and tired to speak. She stepped closer to the dresser trying to get a better ear on what it was saying, when she still couldn't make it out she stepped closer and closer until she had her ear pressed up against the mirror. Only then could she understand.

"I love you, I hate you, I want to die, I want to live, I need you, leave me alone, kill me, spare me, love me, go away." it then repeat it self, over and over again until it began to sound like it was crying. "I'm sorry." it said before the mirror shattered and a pair of huge black jaws with pearly white teeth lunged at her. She didn't even have a chance to step back.

Before she was devoured.

Chapter Text

She cracked an eye open. Bright. This place was much brighter than the last.

She felt nauseous and her head hurt, no, everything hurt. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to think and it especially hurt to move. Despite that she mustered up enough strength to look around a bit. She was in a flat partially flooded gray land dotted with twisted black trees with sharp looking branches. She turned to look at the tree the was right next to her to get a better look at its details. They looked as though they had been burned then morphed into what they are now, they looked to her like the physical embodiment of agony. It hurt her even more just looking at them.

She squeezed her eyes shut and with a grunt and a groan she rolled over onto her back, using up nearly all of her energy in the process. Slowly opening her eyes back open she stared at the slightly lighter gray sky and the white wispy clouds that looked like paint strokes. It was a simple but nice sky, she thought. As she stared at the sky the painted clouds began to spin and warp before her eyes, causing her nausea to intensify and her throat to burn as her stomach contents began to be pushed upwards. She reflexively rolled onto her side and vomited, as she did what felt like every single muscle and nerve in her body began to ache and burn. It felt as though every bit of pain she should have felt before was finally kicking in at that very moment, all at the same time.

It was awful, almost the worst pain she's ever experienced.

She growled through gritted teeth as rolled over on her other side. She curled into herself and began to shake slightly. "Fuck..." she hissed as her skin started to burn as well "Why...? What ... is this? It ... hurts..." were the last things she said before she passed out from the pain.

----

She didn't know how long she was unconscious for before she was awoken by what sounded like an animal licking or eating the slimy insides of a fresh kill. At first she just ignored it, or rather she was to tired and ill to get up and move. A part of her didn't even cared if whatever creature was behind her would kill and eat her next, however the other half of her brain was in full panic mode. "What if it really did try to eat me, how would I even be able to defend myself, I don't even have clothes better yet a weapon of any kind!" her thoughts raced as she was brought closer and closer to panic. "Why would a wild animal even eat so close to a human being anyway? Wasn't the old saying was 'its more scared of you than you are of it'? Well that turned out to be bullshit didn't it!" she complained. After a few minutes, although it felt like hours, of silently panicking a theory came to her mind "Maybe ... maybe it thinks I'm already dead. Yeah ... that would actually makes some sense. Something that's dead can't fight back. So that means I can possibly..." She had a plan.

She continued to lay there as she mustered up all of the strength and courage she had to carry out her plan. It was a risky one but it was the only one she had. "Okay ..." she thought "On 3, I'm doing this thing." She took in a deep yet quite breath "1 ... 2 ... 3!" She let her instincts take over for just a moment as her eyes snapped open and she leaped off of the ground screaming as though she had finally lost her mind. She then quickly turned around and charged at the beast only to be stopped after a couple of steps as her blood ran cold and violently snapping back to reality, making her nauseous once again.

She was not met with a beast as she expected to be. Instead she was met with a giant elongated, blood red tongue that was licking up the last black bits of its meal which just so happened to be the exact same spot where she vomited. "Did ... did it eat- Why was it blac-" She dry heaved and coughed at the idea before she ended up vomiting once again; she honestly didn't think she had anything left from the last time.  Clutching her stomach and drooling she dropped to her knees as her legs failed to hold her any longer. As she stared at the ground she couldn't help but to notice how strange her vomit was. It was completely black, say from the fragments of what appeared to be purple crystals within that shined brightly.

Her head tilted slightly upwards when she heard and felt the water around her move. Her body went cold as she saw that the tongue was coming straight for her, slithering like a hungry snake stalking its next prey. In shock and weakened she didn't move even though both sides of her consciousness and her body were screaming at her to do so. She was afraid. Yet oddly intrigued.

She watched as the tongue snaked towards her, but stopped only a few inches away. She followed the tongue and saw that it emerged from the agony tree she had been sleeping by, but now it had a large ovular dent in it where the tongue emerged from. A low growl and a hiss as well and the slamming down of a massive 4 fingers claw snapped her out of her shock and she rapidly crab walk backwards out of fear; a small part of her wondered about how silly she looked. She shook her head then looked back at the tree, the tongue had finally reached its 'prize' and staring at her through the dent were 2 large red X's. She let out a quiet whimper then began screaming as she scrambled to her feet and began running as fast as she could through the murky water.

" What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck! " she repeated in her head as she tore through the water, the occasionally agony tree becoming nothing more than blurs as she ran for her life.

"You can only run for so long".

She let out a shriek and covered her ears as the voice molested her ears and mind. She didn't necessarily shriek out of fear but out of anger. She had been beaten down both in life and now she's going to be beaten down in ... wherever the hell this was and there was nothing she could do about it! That thing had eaten her once already so it probably had no hesitation to do it again and if or when it does who KNOWS what new hell awaited her. She didn't want to find out, so she had no choice but to run.

Tears began to well up in her eyes and she began to run out of breath and her chest was on fire. She couldn't tell if it was because was exhausted or out of shape but either way she couldn't run anymore. She collapse behind one of the few agony trees in the area, even though she knew the possible dangers, and tried to catch her breath as fast as she could, then again its not like that would matter anyway. She was so tired and weak that her legs and arms felt like heavy gelatin. She didn't think she could run even if whatever the hell that was had its mouth wide open ready to chow down. She was done for. She had no way to escape, no way to fight and no control over her own body, so what was the point in trying to run.

She leaned against the tree still desperately trying to catch her breath, there may not be much a point in running but she sure as hell wasn't gonna stop, at least not yet. At long as she had the strength to fight she would. Determined but still in shock and panic her desperate breathing devolved into hyperventilation. Not realizing she wasn't properly taking in air she quickly passed out.

----

A familiar scent woke her up yet she refused to move. It wasn't until there was a slight movement of the water that she shot up from her position and looked around here, paying particular attention to the agony trees making sure she didn't see any tongues or claws with the last tree she examined was the one she had passed out against. When she determined that the area was clear she closed her eyes breathed a sigh of relief and slumped against the tree. She took in a deep breathe then exhaled slowly as she attempted to relax her racing mind "Rain is coming" she whispered to herself as she opened her eyes. Sure enough the first few droplets began to hit both the water and her naked body. She slowly closed her eyes again as she let the sound of the rain sooth her, inevitably she fell into thought.

"What the hell happened? What is this place?" she wondered. She rubbed her temples trying to keep her building stress at ease. "The last thing I remember was being eaten by ... some dog thing, then falling down into the water and being knocked out. But before that ... I fell asleep. didn't I?" Her eyes shot open and she stared blankly across the gray land at the realization "Yeah ... yeah I did, didn't I!" she said aloud "So that means all of this bullshit," she motioned "its a dream! Ha ha! Of course! Its all one fucked up dream! Why is it so weird though, am I sick or something in the real world?" she looked up to the light gray sky. "Then again, I've have had much MUCH weirder dreams, ... I suppose" she blushed slightly.

She heard the whimpering of a voice within her head. That little voice she assumed everyone had at least one point in their lives. That little voice that's constantly expecting the worse, constantly anxious, always ruining everything and for her constantly talking. There are times where she can ignore it but as she grew older those times became fewer and further between until eventually it eclipsed a majority of her sane thinking at times and sent her into panic attacks. "What ... what if we can't get out" she thought. "That's nonsense, it just a dream, we'll - I'll wake up eventually. Hell, I'll wake myself up right now!" She brought her wrist in her line of sight and stared at it hesitantly "The anticipation of pain can bring yourself from a dream, right? It always did when I had nightmares." She brought her wrist it closer to her mouth. She hesitated before she clenched her eyes shut then bit down into her own flesh. It hurt like hell but she only bit down harder, only when she tasted blood is when she released her helpless arm.

She hesitantly opened her eyes looked around but she was still in the same place she was before. She stared back into the nothingness then wrapped her arms around herself  "But ... what if I don't." she stared into nothingness for awhile then shook her head "No! No. I will wake up, its fine!"

"But what if its not"

She clutched her head "Oh God but what if its not. I-I can't even remember what happened before I fell asleep, what if I'm in a coma or something! What ... what if I'm dead." if felt as though everything within her went dark as she went into a blind panic "Oh God, oh GOD! What if i had a heart attack or a brain hemorrhage in my sleep and I just fucking died in my bed!" her nails were starting to dig into her flesh but she didn't notice.

"At least you died peacefully." her more optimistic sanity spoke from the darkness only to be drowned again by her ever growing panic.

"NO! That doesn't fucking matter, I'm DEAD. I'll never be able to ..."

"To do what? Your life was meaningless, remember?"

She shook her head again bringing on a dull headache or maybe it was the flashback of memories of her childhood that began to burn themselves in her very mind that was giving her the headache. Memories that she wished she could forget. "No, I-I wanted to draw, I wanted to create, I wanted to take care of animals, I wanted to be that crazy cat lady down the block of some quiet neighborhood. I-"

"That's all you had to live for? Pathetic.

"It ... I-"

"It doesn't matter. You didn't matter. You had no friends, no life and no future."

She dug her jagged nails further into her head, subconsciously trying to silence the voice. "I ... I just wanted ...  I just wanted to-" she choked and began to cry, then wail in grief and agony as flashbacks of her past life flickered through her head. All those good times she'll never be able to relive them ever again.

"Your fate was inevitable."

The blood from her self-inflicted wounds ran along her body then dripped down into the water causing a dark red pigment to spread from its origin across into the horizon. The whole land was tainted with the overwhelming scent of dried blood. She released the death grip from her head and stared blankly at her dark red reflection "My ... fate...?" she whispered to herself.

Suddenly she was hoisted up into the air and slammed back first into the agony tree, hitting her head and nearly knocking her out on impact. Reflexively she tried to gasp for air but to her horror she realized that it was quickly becoming more and more difficult to breathe. She looked down as best she could and weakly grabbed and attempted to pull away the thing that was strangling her. It was dull whitish-yellow in color, cold, lumpy and hard, and they looked like ... were these ... bones?

"Its useless."

That damn voice spoke again, squeezing slightly tighter. No, it sounded like multiple voices stitched together with an eerie and low breathy voice being at the forefront.

There was a crack and then a deep pop. For a moment she had feared that whatever this thing was had broken her neck but she could still see the land before her through her blurry vision so she knew wasn't dead. At least not yet. She heard another loud crack, then a loud splash followed by a series of smaller splashes. She looked over to her left and saw the beast begin to emerge from the tree. First came two long and slender legs ending in 4 sharp and long digits and bits of pitch black flame coming from its heel and rising to the sky, unaffected by the water, then its elongated muzzle along with the rest of of its head and long blinding white horns that caused her to squint her eyes. Through the pain and the black flames that partially made up its body she could tell it was some kind of dog or maybe fox-like creature. The creature sharply turned its head and stared right at her or rather through her. She felt as though it was examining her, looking for something, with those large, red X's for eyes. She felt exposed. She felt vulnerable...

The creature pulled the rest of its long, black, sickly body from the tree she could finally see the entire creature for the monstrosity that it was. Its neck, part of its back and ribs had exposed bone, just like its tail and pearly white teeth.

The at least 7ft tall beast began to slowly walk in a half circle around her making sure that its tail didn't lose even a fraction of grip. She could feel it boring a hole through the center of her burning chest. With each step the creature took the more intense the burning got, until she could feel her entire body turn bright red. She fought to resist the urge to pass out, if she was going die she was at least going to see it through till the end.

It paced around her a few times before finally stopping directly across from her.

"Human," it spoke "You are fractured, and I am here to make you whole."

"Fff ... fuck ... you..." She hissed, the creature tightened its grip in response.

"Oh, I appear to have given you the illusion of choice. We will become whole," it took a step closer "and you will be CONSUMED!"  it screamed a ghostly, threatening scream.

It took a step and a half back before lunging forward, its jaws wide open, more that wide enough to devour her in one gulp. Everything seemed to slow down as the beast pounced towards her, its elongated neck extend as far as it could go, the ringing in her ears, her whole body being on fire, she noticed every single detail there was to notice. Is this what its like to be face to face with doom? To be face to face with a soulless creature that breathes in strength and bravery and expels fear and hate? Was this finally it...?  

She flinched and braced for death, quickly shutting her eyes, noticing a flash of green before she could fully shut them.

But it didn't come.

She felt sudden warm pressure all around her, gently squeezing her, like a sympathetic hug. There was screaming, then a pop, then a series of splashes. She fell to the ground below but she was in too much shock to get up and run, instead she shakily curled up in a ball and covered her head, her eyes still shut tight, the beast still screaming in the background. She felt a burning pressure build up in her chest, it felt as though someone was filling a balloon with hot gas. She grit her teeth when the pressure began to intensify, she arched her back when the pressure spread to her arms and neck, she dug her fingers into the earth when the pressure spread to her legs. Finally her eyes shot open when  the pressure reached her head.

As she slowly rose to her feet she couldn't help but to notice that she felt ... strange. She felt like as though the atmosphere itself was slowly crushing her, its was painful, it was ... invigorating.

Finally on her feet she realized what the beast was screaming and hollering about. Laying in the water to the right of her was about 7 vertebra of the beast's tail. Had she done that? How? When? She slapped the sides of her face bringing herself back to reality, she would have to worry about that later, right now she had to survive the beast. She reached down to grab the tail "This is a better weapon than no weapon at all." she thought. As soon as she touched it the creature paused its screaming and stared at her and she felt something leave her body. She felt lightweight and bloodthirsty, it felt as though all her anxiety, all her fear had been expelled her very soul with one single push, now all she felt was hunger and emptiness; she felt only a fraction of the creature's ravenous and lonely essence.

The creature hissed, screeched and began to charge at her.

She was more than ready to fight.

She swung the tail back as far as she could and waited for the right moment to strike. She held her stance as the creature got closer and closer, then steepened when the creature was 10 feet away. 9. 7. 5. 3 ... poof. "What...?"

Right before her eyes the creature melted and sank into a black hole. She looked around frantically and hungrily. "Where did it go? How did it...? Wh-" Suddenly she had knocked out of her from behind. She was sent flying dozens if not hundreds of feet through the water, losing her only weapon in the process.  As soon as that tail left her hand she felt all of the anxiety and fear rushed back into her her body but the anger and blood lust stayed.

She was tired, sick, angry and afraid.  The creature pulled the rest of its body from an agony tree, shook off the tree dust then charged again at her with a loud hiss, mouth wide open, ready to consume. She quickly got back up on her feet and stared down the beast. Still afraid but determined to fight she let out a blood curtailing scream and charged. She may have been out-strength and out-sized but there was no way in hell she was out-stubborn, and out-scared, and she knew from experience that human beings do a lot of crazy things when they're afraid.

Screaming and screeching the two charged at each other, one wanting to be whole, the other wanting to stay whole.

Her instincts began to take over as time began to slow once again. The pressure that built up in her body focused itself to her arms and legs making her feel faster, stronger, more ... primal. Her pupils enlarged and her upper body felt nearly totally relaxed while her legs rapidly carried her to her target. With flickers of neon blue flame emanating from her digits she jumped high into the air, higher than she ever though capable for her. The creature came to a screeching halt following its now falling prey that was going to land right on top of it. The creature balanced itself on its hind legs and took in a deep inhale before it expel a cone of black fire. Its target partially curled in on herself and shielded herself with her arms making a X formation.

A green flame flickered to life in the center of her chest right as the fire was parted by a flickering green force. As the creature continued to breathe its fire her hands began to cramp and seize, she looked over at her right hand and saw that her nails were not only growing at a rapid speed into sharp claws but that they were also growing neon blue. "Oh, the damage I can do with this" she growled as a wicked hungry smile spread across her face, her fear completely melting away as she gave into her reinvigorated primal desires.

Waves rolled as she crashed to earth, the creature avoiding her swipes and clawing whilst she simultaneously ducked and dodged from the creatures bites and swipes.

A missed swiped sent neon blue arcs slicing through the air and actually managing to hit the creature, slicing off the tip of one of its ears and part of its muzzle causing the beast to scream and bleed a thick black blood.

As they fought they cut into each other with their claws and mysterious abilities, as they cut into each other they bled. As their blood fell into the water and their movements mixed the concoction together causing bits of life to spring forth.

First it was small blades of grass that were quickly destroyed by the fighting, however, for every blade that was trampled, cut or eviscerated several more would take its place until eventually the entire land had been nearly sucked dry of all its water by the newly formed deep green grasses. The water that was left flowed up into the remaining agony trees and transformed them into beautiful willows, cherry blossoms, and great oaks with the largest tree being a giant willow with glowing blue and pink leaves atop a hill that was created when the creatures black fire and several of the woman's bright neon blue arcs collided with each other, ripping up the ground and forming the hill, whilst the after shock formed smaller hills and even a mountain in the distance.

The creature, weakened and battered charged one final time sending her flying to the top of the hill and crashing into the giant willow. Falling to the ground she forced herself to stay conscious as the creature hobbled its way up the hill. She quickly tried to get up but the creature managed to pin her to the great willow by stabbing through the right side of her chest with its cold horns. She grabbed the creatures horn and kicked at it, however she was just out of reach of its face, then again even if she was within reach she didn't have the strength to do any significant damage. Her lung punctured she struggled to breathe as she weakly pounded on its horn, she would continue to fight even until the very end.

She felt the creature shift and released her from the tree, coughing up blood as she fell back to the earth. Weakened, battered and bloody there wasn't much more she could do. She could barely breath and she was too tired to feel any sort of blood lust or rage, she had lost too much blood to feel much of anything.

She was done.

With heavy, labored breaths she stared at the creature, it stared back panting and sulking somewhat but still able to kill her it it wanted to.

She had lost.

She chuckled, then coughed up more blood which splattered all over her and the long grass. The grass shifted slightly and the blood sank into the earth and gave rise to yellow and blue lilies. Surprised she stared at the lilies along with the creature. They had been so focused during their battle that they had not noticed the life that had sprung forth from their blood and violence. She looked around for a bit taking in the serene beauty of the great willow and its warm glow before she noticed that the creature had its head tilted upwards, taking in the beauty of the great willow. Feeling a sudden burst of energy and excitement she gathered the strength to slowly crawl beneath it as it was distracted. She head it whisper something but she couldn't make it what it was. With the last of her strength she cocked her arm back as far as it could go considering her position and then!

She blacked out. 

Chapter Text

Whispers.

She could hear whispers. She couldn't make out where they were coming from or what they were saying she could definitely hear them.

Had she died? Was she dreaming? Maybe she was hallucinating?

Either way she couldn't help but to think that the whispers where talking about her. Making fun of her. Laughing at her.

Just like everyone did.

Just like that beast did.

She strained her ears to try and hear what the whispers where saying about her but there were too many of them and too quiet to make out anything. So, she opted to try and tune them out and just let her consciousness float aimlessly in the darkness.

Then, suddenly, her whole body felt as if it was depressurizing as she began to fall rapidly.

It was a strange feeling, her body screaming at her that she were falling, her intestines feeling as though they were being pushed into her spine, her eyes saying that she were standing still but her brain being too tired to do fuck all about it; it all made her head spin. So she just let herself fall, she didn't know when she would hit the bottom, hell, she didn't know if there even was a bottom. Either way she was torn between the half of her that didn't care if she were trapped in this black hell for all of eternity whilst the other have wanted to get out as soon as possible and hunt down the black beast.

That damned beast.

She started to side with the latter as her anger and hatred for the beast began to build. It mocked her dreams, threw her around like a rag doll and nearly broke her hardened spirit. She wanted revenge.

A strange and twisted look began to emerge onto her face as thoughts of what she should do to the beast when she saw it danced in her mind. "Should I kill it or torture it? Nah, I'll torture it like it tortured me. Yeah … I’ll chop the rest of of its fucking face off and make it choke on it." she began to quiver with renewed bloodlust.

"But then what?" a thought spoke.

"Then what, what?" asked herself"

"If we were able to to get out and kill the beast, then what?"

She stared into nothingness and thought about it for a moment.

"I ... don't know...? Maybe i'll wake up from this weird ass dream? How long have I been asleep for anyway?" She thought before something caught her eye.

It was blurry yellow light that was partially faded into the darkness. When she laid eyes upon it her mind was submerged into a haze. Bloodlust, fear, pain and tiredness swirled in her mind and her thoughts became murky as she and the light drifted closer to one another. She subconsciously reached her hand out towards it and in return the light reached a tendril out towards her, wrapping it around her wrist before giving her a gentle squeeze. As it squeezed her arm she felt something pulse though her, as if, for a moment, her entire body had become a giant heart.

She looked at the light and she somehow felt it was looking back at her.

Among the whispers she could hear and feel a deeper voice resonate through the tendril and into her body. It made her head stop spinning but now her entire body felt as if it was vibrating. It startled her, snapping out of her haze and causing her to reflexively pull away but the tendril squeezed tighter, not tight enough to hurt but tight enough to redirect her attention back to the light. She heard a muffled shout among the whispers bounce around her head like a ball.

Starting to go into a panic she looked all around her but there was only darkness Her body was also starting to feel strange, well, stranger.

There had been an ever growing pressure building as she had been falling, as if she was rapidly being dragged beneath the ocean. Was she drowning? The thought of drowning sent her over the edge and she started to scream but nothing came out, which sent her into even more of a panic. She was so distressed that she didn’t even notice the tendril squeezing harder and harder on her arm, it wasn’t until the squeezing was starting the bend her arm awkwardly that she remembered that it even existed.

“...up!” she heard a deep voice shout deep within the whispers, with vibrations traveling through then tendril and into her body once again. She felt her eyebrow and eye twitch before she was sent into a full blown anxiety attack silently screaming and flailing her free arm about, desperate to get the strange talking light off of her. But the light held on tight and even sent out another tendril towards her free arm, managing to grab it despite her panicked flailing and holding it tight before slowly bringing her arms downwards and holding them there. The ends of the tendrils gently rubbing small circles into her shaking arms, weirding her out but calming her down somewhat as the tendrils effectively gained her curiosity, she also noticed that their free fall had slowed somewhat.

“‘s okay. Won’t … you…” she managed to make out as the voice became more discernible from the endless amount of whispers, it sounded monotone.

Thanks to her anxiety attack her senses had all been amplified, making everything she saw, heard, felt and taste way more intense than it ought to be. All she wanted was for the whispers to stop, for the vibrations to stop, for this weird gooey light thing to stop touching her. She tried to tug her arms away from the light but her arms didn’t move, the light had them rooted to one spot and it was not going to let her go. Still panicking slightly and growing angry she brought her knees up towards her chest and kicked at the light. However with every kick she launched her foot went right through it with slight resistance. She only ceased her attack when all of the panic had been kicked out of her but she was still quite angry and still willing to fight.

“Please …” the voice spoke again.

“Please, what!? Let me go!”she attempted to shout, still nothing came out.

“... help you.” it replied anyway.

“You can ‘help’ me by letting me the fuck go!” she kicked one final time at it, still her foot went through it.

“You … up.” the voice shouted over the whispers.

“What the fuck are you saying?”

“Up.”

The pressure on her body was becoming unbearable at the point, she felt as if she was being squeezed like a mostly empty toothpaste tube, especially around her neck. She found it increasingly difficult to breathe, each breath being harder to intake than the last. She was losing consciousness.

“...Up. W … Up! Please.”

Her eyes rolled to the back of her head as her conscious began to slip away.

"WAKE UP."

Gasping for air she instinctively pushed off the force that was holding her to the soft ground, rolled onto her stomach and crawled away from the potential threat. She rapidly crawled from the base of the hill to the top, practically slamming herself into the great willow that adorned that very top of the hill. Clutching the tree as if her very life depended on it her eyes darted around 

She felt her heart drop into her feet when she swore she saw a blur dash into the bushes. 

She dug her newly formed claw-like nails into the bark of the tree her eyes darted around as she watched the bushes rustle about as it moved through the bushes. She was frozen in fear as she watched the creature move further away, deeper into the green unknown. She watched until she could no longer see or hear the bushes move before her shaking legs finally gave out collapsing onto her side. 

She began to weep and shake uncontrollably as the the new unknown world felt both too big as well as uncomfortably small, triggering her claustrophobia. She clutched her head and, in an attempt to stop her head from spinning, and clutched her burning chest with the other. She tried to speak but the only thing that came out were hyperventilated breathes. 

She felt as though she was going to die and the only thing she could do was tremble in a fetal position on the ground and let it happen.

She woke up again, not remembering passing out in the first place.

She was horribly weak, nauseous, dizzy and dehydrated, but she was alive at least. 

She shakily pushed herself off the ground, leaned against the great willow and looked up to the sky. The setting sun orange-yellow rays sneaking their way between the leaves and branches, showering her cold, sweaty and naked body with warmth.

She felt so empty, emotionally and physically. She didn't know if this feeling was from the panic attack or if something else was wrong with her but she felt as though something came and ripped out her very soul. 

She blinked slowly as a thought slowly rose to the surface of her broken mind.

"Where am I?" she asked blankly to no one.

She weakly surveyed her surroundings, taking in the lush, green scenery; it was beautiful but she knew it could be potentially dangerous. Who knows what could been in this green hell. Tigers? Wolves? SNAKES!? The mere thought of seeing a python or any snake for that matter made her bring her legs up to her chest and curl in on herself. 

She wanted to wanted to scream, she wanted to call out for her mother but she knew that no one would come.

She was all alone. Defenseless and weak.

She sat in her upright fetal position, clutching her head with one hand and biting the nails on the the other, crying all the while as the shock of her situation sunk in. She sat and bit until the noticed he faint songs of the crickets.

She looked up and was met with the blank face of a remorseless moon.

The forest was buzzing with all kinds of noises from God knows what kind of creatures. From buzzing, to croaking, groaning to chirping, she felt both totally alone and totally surrounded. 

She just wanted to lay down and die but there was still a small part of her that still wanted to fight, that wanted to live; that want to hunt down that beast. 

Her eyes slowly widened as she was images of their fight flashed through her head. Mumblings of the beast words drifted through her head. She began to cry tears mostly filled with fear as well as a tinge of anger and hate.

With tears streaming down her face she stopped biting her nails, removed her hand from her head and clenched them into tight fists.

"A weapon..." she thought to herself as she began to look around her immediate surroundings for the beasts tail bones but they were no where in sight. So she opted to make a wooden spear instead.

With the surrounding fireflies providing just barely enough light to see the ground she cautiously looked through the grasses for long sticks. They had to be just right, they had to be light enough that she to comfortably hold and throw them but heavy enough for then she did through them they would penetrate the target. 

"Too light ... too bendy ... a bit too heavy ..." she whispered to herself as she circled the tree looking to suitable sticks. After circling the tree a couple of times she ended up at the back of it with only one stick in her hand. She felt with was a bit too light but it was the best she could find at the moment. She made a mental note to keep an eye out for suitable sticks in the morning for she was too afraid to venture out in the dark where the fireflies grew sparse. 

Now she needed something to sharpen it with. For a split second she thought about using her nails but she felt that they weren't sharp enough or hard enough to shave the dense wood. So instead, she searched through the grasses once again this time searching for a rock or two with a rough surface. After a couple of minutes she found just that. 

Now the only thing she needed for the night was a place that would protect her not only from the elements but from potential predators, including the black beast itself. 

She thought about sleeping in the great willow tree itself, it would provide her with a high vantage point however the thought of falling out of it and breaking something made her nauseous with fear. Besides where would she put her spear? So, swallowing as much fear as she could she ventured out to the edge of the crest of the hill and looked into the surrounding darkness, the fireflies seemingly following her as she did so. As they banished some of the darkness she peered further down only to see a river partially wrapping around the hill. 

"Hmm." she hummed to herself as she stepped away from the edge. She looked back towards the tree, raising a brow when she noticed there appeared to be a large dent in the tree. Wondering how she missed it before she walked back over the the back of the tree, the fireflies parting as she walked through the light fog of insects.

Upon closer inspection the dent turned out to be a hollow section within the tree. With the help of the fireflies illumination she looked deeper inside the hole, checking it for insects, snakes, lizards, and other potential creepy crawlies. After pulling her head out she lightly patted the rim of the hole.

"Its a bit cramped, but its the best I've got." she whispered to herself before climbing in, setting her stick besides her. The fireflies dissipated making it completely pitch black besides the odd firefly gently floating past, the unusual clicks, whoops, and groans of the forest continuing to play its ghostly song, keeping her up. She couldn't help but to think as she sat in her upward fetal position. 

"Where could that beast be? Could it be resting? Did it even need to sleep?" she shook her head "No, no. Every living thing needs to sleep at least a little bit..." she sat in silence for a few moments, the imaginary voices starting to whisper and mumble as she grew tired.

"Was ... was that thing even alive though?" she thought back to their fight. The way the best spoke, the way it looked, the way it felt, its lack or presence...

"You are fractured, and I am here to make you whole."  Its voice spoke from her memory.

"Fractured?"

"We will become whole." 

"We...?" she thought as she subconsciously brought her hand to the center of her chest, her eyes growing heavy. "What does that even mean? Make me whole? I have all of me ... right here" she spoke quietly to herself through a yawn, her head bobbing slightly as she fought with her tiredness. "I'm ... right ... here..." she spoke before she dosed off.

----

There was a light, more specifically a small white ball of flame with a slightly brighter nucleus.

A fairly dim and cold flame shining as bright as it could through the darkness.

But despite the flames efforts the darkness began to attempt to consume it. Sending out small tendrils that wrapped around the flame and began to squeeze it until the flame shattered into dozens of glowing shards that varied in size. 

She a part of her twitch in reaction to the flames shattering; despite her not having a body. 

The darkness reached out a tendril managing to grab a single small piece before absorbing it.

There was a pulse of pressure then more tendrils appeared, this time with a feint white glowing outline, making it easier to see and keep track of them as they darted about attempting to chase down the racing shards.

Despite the tendrils brain numbing speed the shards were faster being nothing but faint streaks of light as they out ran the tendrils, dashing out what she assumed to be upwards and creating a flash of light.

She felt herself become empty as she effortlessly and unwillingly floated towards the light and was swallowed by it.

----

The brightness remained as she cracked open her eyes then proceeded to shield them from the sun rays shining through the hole. She groan and turned her back to the sun as she attempted to fall back asleep. She laid there for a few moments listening to the sounds of a newly awakened forest before a realization crossed her mind.

"I'm hungry...".

With that thought she begrudgingly crawled out of the hole and began to physically and mentally prepare for her first hunt.