I’ve been walking down this dusty road in the middle of the forest for what feels like entirely too damn long. When I left Thump Dump, I figured that I would trek due west. Unfortunately a massive purple cloud that surely would have choked the life out of me, or worse, turned me into one of those “Chosen” freaks, stood in my way. So I turned south, and decided to make my way around the thing.
So here I am, two hours behind my self-imposed schedule, humping it along this long-abandoned dirty road that puts me only yards away from the wall. In times like this, the very best of us in the field of journalism would gather our wits and carry on. To hell with that, I tell myself. I’m scared out of my wits.
At this distance from the wall you begin to see and hear strange things. Audible whispers assault my senses from every conceivable direction, and the silhouettes of the trees caught just inside the wall twist and turn. On this side of the wall the wind is oppressive. The branches of the nearby trees bend sharply away from the wall, while plumes of dust and leaves are kicked up, dancing wildly around me. Then there is the wind, which roars with such a furious intensity that it’s hard to even hear myself think, let alone listen for anything around me. Not that any of this mattered – after all, I’m not about to turn around at this point. There’s an Accord outpost near the coast, and I’ll be damned if I don’t intend to pay it a visit. So I march on.
I push my way further down the road, wind burning at my eyes as I strain to keep them centered on the road ahead of me. It’s tough, but I manage to continue forward. I notice a clearing to my right as walk, and see brief flashes of orange against the rocks. A transformer must have blown, I think to myself. It takes another moment before I realize the absurdity of that statement since anything like that would have surely succumbed to these conditions long before now.
These are not the conditions to let myself humor my curiosity. I can barely stand, let alone see, in this wind. I’m only a few feet from the wall, and I am utterly alone. I do not need to be pursuing this.
I make my way up the hillside to my left and brace myself against a nearby rock. In front of me, obstructed by some trees and foliage, is a sizeable tent with a couple of supply crates stacked near it. Ever one to completely ignore reason and rationality I make my way further into this “camp,” and quickly I find myself surprised by the condition of it. These tents are all but untouched, save for some minor weathering.
Which makes that damned orange flashing all the more curious.
From the rock I push off and walk to the crates next to the nearby tent. As I peer around the side of the crate, I quickly discover what the source of the flashing is – rifles. Chosen rifles, to be specific. A squad of Chosen is no more than fifteen meters in front of me searching for something, though I couldn’t tell you what.
One of these Chosen stood out from the others, however. This one didn’t carry a rifle, or lumber around in cumbersome armor. I swear, the more that I look at this thing, the more I’m convinced that it was pulled from my worst nightmares. Massive claws grip a cargo crate some twenty meters in front of me, lifting it with ease to look underneath, and then dropping it unceremoniously back to the ground. As it turns what I can only assume is its head I notice the long, fluorescent tentacles stretching outward from its head, moving smoothly like wisps in the wind. As it turns its head, I make out the two sets of eyes staring back at me.
Staring back at… oh, damn.
The thing takes a predatory stance, letting out what I would assume would be a blood-curdling growl if not for this damned wind drowning everything out. I take a step back, wasting little time in turning around and bolting like a bat out of hell. That gargantuan freak of nature gives chase, with heavy footsteps making the earth beneath my feet vibrate. I make a hard right, nearly falling on my ass from the wind punching me in the face. The beast behind me, while big, isn’t impervious to the howling gusts and stumbles back. I don’t hear it fall, but I certainly feel it in the ground as I struggle back to my feet.
I take off down the dirt road, seeing a bridge not too far away. If I make it to that bridge, I have a chance at getting away from this thing – so I book it. Even though I’m running as hard as I possibly can, the wind makes me feel like I’m moving at a crawl.
And that angry mutant sonofabitch is closing in fast.
A few more steps and I can hear it behind me now, growling and hissing in heavy breaths. I want to turn back, to see what the hell is back there, but I know that if I stop I’ll be dead. So I push.
I’m only a few feet away from the bridge when I feel something brush along my back. That thing is right behind me now, ready to pounce. I’m out of options. There’s only one thing I can do.
Instead of turning right and bolting across the bridge I keep moving forward, past the bridge and towards the embankment. I see the edge, and with a leap of faith I leave my feet and hope for the best.
I land with a thud against the bottom of the flowing “river,” a little stream of water no more than a few inches deep. But the mud is slick, and I had momentum on my side. I slide down the side of the hill, rolling and sliding and bouncing off the smooth rocks. They’re still rocks. It still hurts. As I roll down the hill I notice the water getting deeper – a few moments later I’m being swept by the current. Any hope of stopping on my own is quickly washed away by the waters.
But I see that brazen beasty standing on the bridge, staring at me as I float away. I indulge myself with a hand gesture towards it – the thing surely has no clue what it means, but it makes me feel good.
The satisfaction is short-lived.
I turn myself around just in time to smack my gut against a large rock. The force of the momentum and the continuous push of the water send my legs out from underneath me, and this rock becomes a pivot to flip me up and over.
And down the waterfall…