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Scavenger Hunt

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Oh, there's nothing Pat loves more than trekking through the thick woods of Maine, especially in the dead of night, after a rainstorm, when the leaves are all mushy and stick all over him. Yes, that's definitely his favorite. It doesn't make him want to go home right now immediately, while he's shivering and clinging to his own arms in an attempt to hug warmth back. Yup, a fun time. He also loves heavy sarcasm. While that's more of Rochelle's wheelhouse, he thought it appropriate for this moment.

Seriously, why's he out here?

"Pat, talk to me! What do you see?!" Crackly and loud, his excitable friend's voice shoots from his phone, still gripped tight in his left hand. Right, yeah, that's why. "Did it kill you?!"

Reluctant to break his embrace against the cold, he holds the phone closer to his mouth. "No, Sydney... I haven't seen anything yet. Just, darkness, trees. An owl, I think. I don't think I'm too far now, though..."

"Aw, rats! What a shame. ...About the nothing, not the dying!"

"Right."

"I don't want you to die because of a money forest spam creature, Pat."

"Right."

"Syd... chillax." That would be Rochelle, finally piping up. A conference call. Hey, at least if he got horribly lost out here, there'd be multiple people who would call the police for him.

"You chillax, Ro! Pat is gonna be the first one of us to make REAL CONTACT with a SUPERNATURAL BEING, and I need every detail!"

"Well, every detail right now is, nothing, so."

"Hey, maybe, we should all be... real silent, so the phone noise doesn't, scare off the cash."

"And so you can go back to sleep?"

"Mm. Maybe that also." Poor Leo.

Pat cleared his throat, out of nervousness more than anything. "I, almost agree with Leo. I do have you on speaker... If I see anything, promise I'll tell."

"Cross your heart?"

He did the motion. Kept walking. "...Oh. Yep. I did it."

That seemed to be good enough, at least for now. The silence they left him in was neither blissful nor crushing, just some blended in-between. He didn't know if he wanted to find something down here, or not.


PAT: sorry to hear that ro..

RO: its just such an issue n im so over it

SYD: well, i'm on your side!!

LEO: lbr ro you're over everything.

RO: TRU

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RO: freemoney honey the adults are talking

LEO: lmfao, like a kid.

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SYD: WOW, did it post twice? geez!

RO: it really wants to give us money

LEO: so generous.

PAT: that's charming. don't make the spam bot charming.

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LEO: what the ****.

RO: shoo shoo

RO: we dont need this

SYD: WAS THAT A MESSAGE!!!!!

LEO: yeah, syd, it was a chat message.

SYD: NOT WHAT I MEAN!!!!!!!

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RO: is that **** coordinates

LEO: no.

LEO: i'm so tired.

PAT: is this really happening?? guys. no one's multitabbing?

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RO: im not

LEO: [sent screenshot79.jpg]

LEO: proof.

SYD: TOO BUSY SCREAMING!!

SYD: SWEAR I'M NOT!!!

SYD: GOOGLING COORDINATES!!!!

PAT: take your word for it.. 8/

RO: she's too excited for this to be her lmfao

RO: if it was her shed b playin it cool

RO: "what? me? noooo"

LEO: that's true. she's such a dork.

RO: and we love her for it <3

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RO: oml theres more?

LEO: coords have 2 strings of numbers ro.

PAT: why's this so drawn out? just send all of them.

LEO: yeah, please.

SYD: SOUTH AFRICA?????

RO: it's to **** south africa lmfao

PAT: nah, can't be. the string isn't done.

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LEO: i'm in the ground.

RO: is that all????

PAT: yeah, looks like it. hold on, i'll get it.

SYD: IT'S MAINE

RO: its what

LEO: hold on.

LEO: yeah it's to maine.

PAT: wait, it's what?

SYD: PATRICK!

RO: okay ur all my besties and i trust u w my life but, fr? u sure?

SYD: PAT YOU GOTTA GO ON AN ADVENTURE

LEO: isn't it like 2 am in maine.

PAT: yeah, it is.

RO: we're not sending pat after a spam bots weird glitches???

PAT: i mean...

SYD: ROCHELLE YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY!!!

RO: cant he wait until morning or smthn lmfao

PAT: i think if i wait, then the lead might die..

SYD: EXACTLY

LEO: you're a brave dude, pat. braver than my exhausted **** at least.

RO: okay fine

RO: as long as u guys understand if he dies im not responsible

PAT: i'm not gonna die ro..

SYD: HE WONT DIE OMG

LEO: we all die eventually.

PAT: well. okay. i'll go get dressed and.. sneak out of the house i guess.

SYD: THAT'S THE SPIRIT!!!!

LEO: yeah. go get em tiger.

PAT: hey, i've lived in these woods my whole life. what's the worst that could happen? 8)


Patrick doesn't particulary like autumn for one lonely reason - leaves. They fall all over the ground, and then they get rained on, and cold, and become like some slippery outdoor carpet. It's terrible, it sucks. He likes spring the most, for many more reasons, but one reason is that it is diametrically opposed to autumn.

In autumn, the trees shed their leaves, and leave behind jagged pointing branches, reaching up and out, casting shadows. A flashlight cuts through these specters, but only for as long as it stays. And on an adventure, you can't stay. You have to move forward, and leave the reaching fingers behind you.

"Really glad I brought a flashlight." He says to no one, to the air, only absently. He didn't consciously immediately recall that his phone was still holding a 4-person call.

"What happened to silence? And yeah, I'd hope you did bring one. Common cryptohunting sense!"

"Oh, right, yeah, silence, yeah..."

"You're SURE you haven't found anything yet, right?"

"No, I-" Pat almost stumbled as he came to a small beaten path cut through the foliage. "Wait." Stooping, he saw little stones dropped on the edges. It hadn't been walked on enough to wear down the grass very much, just flatten it, push the longer blades flat to the ground. Right around here was where the coordinates sent him. This had to be it.

"It's a path."

There's a crackling whoosh noise from the other end, which Pat can only guess to be a breath let out. "Okay! A path! Oh, man, I'm so excited I'm shaaakiiingg!"

"How do you think Pat feels? He's the one out there."

"I know, I'm so jealous!"

He laughed, absently. "I'm going down it now." The taller grass brushed his jeans, got the edges of them damp.

The whole silence thing didn't seem to continue, as now his friends were idly chattering away. It was fine, they didn't need to stop. The soft buzz was nice to have in the dark, encroaching, lonely, wet forest. He didn't participate much, focused on the road ahead.

Said road didn't seem to change much, didn't need such rapt attention. He had to look down, pointing his flashlight, to follow it for very long. There were some times when he'd thought he'd lost it, but then there would appear more pebbles. Pat nearly knocked into a tree about three times this way, swerving path almost like a bucking bronco. But then the path did change.

In the dim white light, he could see hazily through the gloom, an old homestead. The wood had greyed, ivys encroaching up and through the panels. It was quaint, modest. Perhaps in the day, there could be some clue as to what type of home this had been, who could have lived here, but such things couldn't be gleaned with his meager flashlight. Well, they could, but he'd be here till morning at that rate. The porch was, almost shockingly, still sturdy enough to bear his weight. The door, though not without major protest and squealing, swung open.

"It's a house," he relayed into the call. "Old, abandoned, overgrown. I'm going inside."

Dimly, he registered Sydney's excited screams and Rochelle's protest, but he couldn't acknowledge them. He was in the moment.

The home was dusty, motes floating through his light. Boards had broken off and let in air from every angle. There were, things, of indeterminate origin, all over. Surprisingly, there was no graffiti over the walls. That's usually what you get in places like this - something abandoned, people break in, leave their mark in a place no one will ever see it. But this one was unntouched.

He finds something that looks like a broken chair, and something else that looks like a destroyed bedframe. Anything in here that could have been a belonging has been shredded, by time, age, weather... something with claws...

In the hallway, he finds himself face to face with a tree. Over time, at some point, it had fallen and crashed through the ceiling, making a neat diagonal bar across the hall. Pat recounts as such to his friends, tells them he's going to duck under, then does so.

There's just a little space back here, a small alcove. It's hard to decipher what the artchitecture was supposed to be, so decimated now. But there's a desk, cobwebs, no chair. On it sits a, box. A... computer.

Patrick circled around it, makinng sure this was what he has seeing. "There's a computer here. Clunker, too, big old box monitor."

"You've gotta be joking."

"No WAY! Is it on?"

"Hmmn?"

He blew away some of the dust, then coughed at all the debris it kicked up. "Not on. Let me just..." He passed his hand over the hardware, until he found the power button.

The computer whirred and whined like some angry and sleepy creature, chun-kachunking as it woke up. Patrick could hear the fans kick into gear, like miniature helicopters bearing the weight of this old machine. The monitor flickered with a bright blue glow, bathing everything in its sight. White text shot across the screen, boot up process running.

"It, works, I guess. Blue screen boot-up."

"Wow, how old's that thing?"

"How's there even electricity out there..."

Questions he couldn't answer, so he just kept quiet. Pat circled the desk again, high-stepping over wreckage. There wasn't much to do as it booted up, chugging slowly. Though, there had to be some clue here, some explanation.

Absently, he looked at his phone. No reason to, there was nothing to see. But in that glance, he caught the time.

"Oh! I've gotta get home!" He hopped from foot to foot, already drifting towards the exit. "I've gotta get to sleep so I can wake up in the morning so I can get my sisters to school-"

"You're just gonna leave?!"

"Hey, it's not like the place is gonna up and leave."

"It SO COULD, and you KNOW that, Rochelle!"

"It could, it could, but I've really gotta go! I don't feel like this is the type of place to, move..."

"Oh, you've just got a feeling?"

"Mmuh, d' I miss anything... did the money bot turn out to be a cryptid or what."

"Please rest, Leo."

The conversation continued as he ducked under the tree, avoided the debris obstacles, went out the door and descended the steps. The house was stilll and silent again, dust settling. The computer beeped as it finished bootup, immediately directing to a desktop, no password required.

The rafters creaked and bowed slightly as the shack's sole resident shuffled and descended, unfurling like a sloth. For a long time, all was still again, making sure that visitor really had left. Then, still sluggishly, talons reached out, and pulled the whole desk closer. Rustily, the keyboard clacked with every press of a key, long appendages moving slowly but surely to get out the message.


 

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