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The metal hunk left lots of traces: broken plants, deep gouges, dead others. It was easy to follow. Until the road. The woods didn’t extend forever. A strip of black asphalt cut through it. On the other side, there were more woods. Which way did the prey go? They could be anywhere. Bits of dirt veered off to the left. I followed it but couldn’t find any more traces. Troublesome. But on the way, dozens of others appeared, coming towards the sound. Constantly banging the metal rods draws all of them nearby. They come from the woods at regular intervals. I know not to go where they came from. If they came from there, then there’s no prey in that direction. But for a long while, no others have been coming from the right. Does that mean there’s prey?

Maybe. Maybe there’s prey killing all the others. Maybe there were never any prey in the first place to turn into others. The first marrow supply from the store rotted. The second marrow supply might rot soon. Do I continue down the road, trying to find the metal hunk? Or do I enter this area with no others? There’s something in the sky above the trees but below the clouds: gray plumes. How ominous. I want to know what it is. But if I don’t find prey soon, the hunger will consume me. For now, I can stave it off, but not for long. The sun is still up. By the time it rises again, the marrow I have will rot. I don’t want to die. I can’t die yet. I still haven’t found God. Why is God so elusive?

One of the others stumbled and groaned. Instead of walking to me, it peeled away from the group, heading into the woods. Odd. Does that mean there’s prey? Not following the sound, but something else. I’ll follow it. Others showed me how to eat marrow. Maybe they can show me something new again. Even if they’re dumb.

The other stumbled ahead, increasing in pace. What’s that smell? It smells like blood. Prey? No, it doesn’t smell like prey. Something similar. Can I eat it? The others have noticed. They’re not following the sound anymore, rushing ahead of me. Maybe it can be eaten. The other that was in the lead paused and sniffed the air. It took a step forward and … disappeared? There was a strange sound, and the ground slipped away, revealing a hole. The others shambled forward and fell into the hole. What was down there? I let the others go first. After five others fell in, no more could fit. The rest of the others stood around. I pushed them aside, arriving at the edge. It was hard to see because of the others’ bodies, but there was something at the bottom. Not a prey, not an other. A strange creature with four legs and no arms. A dog? Is that what it is? Coming out of it were three spikes. Wooden. Dried blood coated them. There were spikes all over the bottom of the hole. The first other couldn’t move, its legs impaled. The second other was dead, a spike running through its head. The third other was crouched on top of the second, eating the dog. The fourth was next to the third, and the fifth was on top of the fourth, its head and shoulders still above ground.

What is this? Some sort of film. It’s covered in leaves. It hid the hole, made it seem like the ground was solid. A deception. A trap. Set up by whom? Prey? Most likely. Others are too dumb. Interesting. The spikes are made of wood. I thought they couldn’t pierce. Is it because these are thicker? Thicker is stronger. The wood I tried earlier was too thin. It makes sense. Then, are bones weaker than thick wood? How thick does wood have to be to be stronger? There’s lots of tests I can do, but time’s ticking. I have to find prey. This prey may be tricky to catch. It’s smart, killing others before we see them.

Let’s go. I banged on the rods, but the others didn’t move, distracted by the smell. They’re ruled by their hunger. I can’t blame them, but it’s frustrating. They’re so dumb. I raised my metal rod and swung. Two swings, three swings. The fifth other’s head burst, and green and black juices leaked out. It dribbled down, oozing onto the rest of the others below, masking the smell of prey. I banged on the rods again, and the others groaned, stumbling towards me. Much better.

There are still dozens of others even after losing five. But there might be more traps ahead. If I’m not careful, I can lose all the others. No wonder why none of them came out of this side. It’s dangerous. Should I go back? But I might starve. It’s certain there’s prey here. Why would they place traps to defend an empty place? Prey make sense. They wouldn’t do something dumb like that. But how did the prey make these holes? They’re very deep. If the prey dug that deep, they must’ve climbed out after. Rope. If they tie a rope to a tree, they can pull themselves out. If others fall, I can pull them out. Maybe. Others are heavy. I’m weak. But there’s a way. I can have the others help. But that’s for later, if there are more holes.

For now, I’ll walk slowly. If the ground is suspicious, I’ll stop and observe. Others are dumb, very dumb. But they won’t walk into an open hole. If I pull away the film, the hole will be revealed. But the smell of blood from the dogs will lure them in. I can block the smell. But I’ll lose others that way. What do I do? Maybe, I can block the others from smelling? Yes, that can work. I went back to the hole with the fifth other. Its brains were still exposed, leaking green juices down its face. I crouched down and sniffed. Disgusting. But perfect. Rotting brains can block out every smell. If this is stuffed into an other’s nose, they won’t smell prey for a long time. And stuffing it up the others’ noses is easy. Just disgusting. Rotting brains are mushy and slimy. My fingers are going to stink forever.

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Virlyce

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