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The traps were easy to avoid. There weren’t many, only seven. Maybe more in the surroundings. I didn’t check. The gray plumes are larger, closer. The trees block the view, but they’re easy to see. I wonder why. If prey created it, wouldn’t others notice? Maybe not. The others are going this way because of me. Others are too dumb to realize. But I noticed, that means other prey notice too. Is it a way to signal each other? To tell where they’re living without sound or smell? How creative. It makes sense. The prey are outnumbered, they have to be smart to survive. What else can I learn from them? I’m excited.

There’s another trap ahead. It was obvious, not hidden. Three others were in the pit, dead. Or dying. One seemed to be alive, but its arms and legs were impaled. I wonder. Are spikes or metal rods better for hunting prey? What about a spiked metal rod? But I don’t know how to create spikes. It looks easy, sharpen the tip. But with what? Rope? Metal rods? My teeth? Maybe teeth could work. But not on metal. Metal is harder than bone, and teeth are made of bone. I think. Do teeth have marrow? I’ll check the next prey’s.

The plumes are even closer now, just ahead of these trees. They’re coming from there, beyond those walls. Interesting. Ahead is a wall as tall as a convenience store. But there’s no ceiling. It’s not a wall. It’s a fence. A poorly made, wooden fence. But it’s long, hard to see where it starts and where it ends through the gap between the trees. Prey must live inside. Did they hear me coming? I stopped banging my rods earlier. The others follow me after the first couple of hits; I don’t have to constantly make noise. Not when it’s light. Maybe when it’s dark, when the others can’t see.

Beyond the fence, there are tents. Lots of tents. And a few wooden structures. Houses? Not large enough, more like cabins. The gray plumes are coming from somewhere behind them. What do I do? Invade? But before that, there’s more ropes, more suspended cans. For now, I’ll remove these. I can’t alert the prey. Traps, suspended cans, cabins. These prey are prepared. Smart. If I approach this poorly, I could die. What do I do?

Test the waters. Let an other go ahead first. See how the prey reacts. I took off the cans and finished untying the rope in front. Then I pushed an other towards the fence. It stumbled and didn’t move, but with another push, it shambled forward. The others moved to follow, but a tug on their arms stopped them. There weren’t any traps between the trees and the fence. The other quickened, sensing something. Was it smell? No, the brains stuffed up its nose prevents that. Then sound, maybe. It must’ve heard or saw prey. It went right up to the fence and walked into it. The fence had lots of gaps, enough for its arms to go through. Like multiple ladders lined up side by side. It kept walking into the fence. So dumb. At least climb it. But it can’t. Because it’s dumb. How frustrating.

A few moments passed. Then, two prey appeared from a tent. They walked up to the other, both holding spikes. They lifted their arms, and the spikes went into the other’s head. It didn’t come out the other side. Maybe it can’t pierce bone? The eyes are soft, easy enough to stab. But the other died. It slumped, held up only by its arms which were stuck in the fence. The two prey stood still and looked around. I don’t think they can see me. There’s lots of leaves in the way. But I crouched anyway. It was annoying to peer through the gaps, but still doable. After looking around for a while, the two prey looked at each other. One prey fiddled with something behind the fence while the other prey pushed the dead other’s arms out. The first prey lifted something up. A beam? And the second prey grabbed the fence and pulled. It swung open. The prey stepped outside to the dead other and grabbed its arms. Then it pulled the corpse inside. The first prey shut the fence and lowered the beam. I see.

If others walk into the fence, the fence can fall from the pressing. To support the fence, the prey brace it with a beam, one end on the fence, the other end on the ground. But in that case, won’t pulling the fence break it? It’s only supported for pushing. Even if pulling doesn’t break it, I know how to open it now. Remove the beam and pull. But what are they doing to the other? They’re touching it. Removing its clothes. Only the outer layers. Why not the inner ones too? What are clothes for? I’m wearing some, but I don’t know why. I never thought about it.

Now, they’re breaking the other apart. The black liquid is oozing out. Their hands are covered in it. What are they doing? Are they going to eat it? Do prey eat others? Have I been mistaken? Am I the prey? Are those actually prey? I can’t smell them, can’t hear them. What if they’re smart others? Like me? No, that doesn’t make sense. Others don’t eat others. We taste bad. The prey are rubbing the black liquid on the fence. That’s why it looked poorly made. The black stains left behind are uneven. But I think I know their purpose. It’s to mask the prey’s smell. Like I stuffed brains up the others’ noses. The prey spread the rot on the fence to deter others. But it won’t deter me. The prey might have killed an other in front of me, but they don’t seem dangerous. Without the fence, the other wouldn’t have died so pointlessly. If I remove the fence, what would the prey do? I’ll find out soon.

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Virlyce

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