[[<img src="http://crazyknuckles.weebly.com/uploads/5/1/7/8/51782355/1187643_orig.png" alt="" height="462" width="612" />|Begin]] (set: $allends to $e1 + $e2 + $e3 + $e4 + $e5 + $e6 + $e7 + $e8 + $e9 + $e10 + $e11 + $e12 + $e13 + $e14 + $e15 + $e16 + $e17 + $e18 + $e19 + $e20 + $e21 + $e22 + $e23 + $e24 + $e25 + $e26 + $e27 + $e28 + $e29 + $e30 + $e31 + $e32 + $e33 + $e34 + $e35 + $e36 + $e37 + $e38 + $e39 + $e40 + $e41 + $e42 + $e43 + $e44 + $e45 + $e46 + $e47 + $e48 + $e49 + $e50 + $e51 + $e52 + $e53 + $e54 + $e55 + $e56 + $e57 + $e58 + $e59 + $e60 + $e61 + $e62 + $e63 + $e64 + $e65 + $e66 + $e67 + $e68 + $e69 + $e70 + $e71 + $e72 + $e73 + $e74 + $e75 + $e76 + $e77 + $e78 + $e79 + $e80 + $e81 + $e82 + $e83 + $e84 + $e85 + $e86) You have found $allends unique endings! You have beat the game $timesbeaten times this session! //Please note: this version of the game is lacking a save functionality. It will be included in the next update, which you can be notified of upon release by subscribing to our email list at the bottom.// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- -[[Give your wonderful, important feedback.]] -[[Support/Donate]] -[[Playthrough hints, tips, and suggestions|Playthrough suggestions]] -[[Credits]] -[[About]] //Stay up to date on the game and any updates that come out by subscribing to our email list (copy and past this link into the browser):// http://eepurl.com/bor1Xb ''Version 1.0''As you reach to reject this ominous anomaly, a sprout shoots out of the dirt, as if reacting to its apparent fate. -[[Grab the pot.]] -[[Google it.]] -[[Flick the sprout.]] -[[Examine the sprout.]] -[[Ignore the sprout.]]You see this and think, "Stranger things have happened. No doubt the universe telling me to grow up." You then leave for work. -[[After work...]]Surely this must be a plant, what else is a open-top container of dirt doing here? You pour some water on the dirt. It seems to take no discernible effect. You shrug your shoulders and say, "A plants gotta do what a plants gotta do.", then leave for work. -[[After work...]]"This thing is weird and I'm not having any of it!" you affirm in your mind, seizing the pot with both hands. A whir comes from the plant that is steadily oscillating in pitch; it seems to be reacting to the way you carry it. -[[Ding, dong.]]You skim through gardening enthusiast blogs and stop-motion videos from art students on YouTube, only to find no nonfiction accounts of a plant moving this quickly. -[[There is...]]For a moment it seemed as if the plant reared away from your hand, realizing your microviolent intent. You flick it and it makes a strange medium-high pitch whimper with the timbre like that of a baby burp. -[[Knock, Knock]]Upon closer observation you notice that the plant lightly flexes along the ridges of its barky stem. A pinkish bulb, presumably where a flower will someday bloom, is making the slightest circular loop akin to a senile old person who cannot keep their gaze still. It appears that the movement is being carried out not by momentum or the wind, but by the plant's own force. You then realize a consistent hum coming from the plant, which is a relief since you thought your hearing was going out. -[[There is...]]At last! After a long day of customer service at your local retail establishment you are home. But there is a matter to attend to before you can relax... -[[There is...]]"Alright, I get it, it's a plant.", you think to yourself. Quite redundant, if you ask me. -[[Knock, Knock]]A rapping at your front door. And you thought you were going to relax! -[[Answer.]] -[[Don't Answer.]] -[[Hide the plant, then answer.]]There is a sprout growing from the dirt. -[[Examine the sprout.]] -[[Google it.]] -[[Flick the sprout.]] -[[Grab the pot.]] -[[Ignore the sprout.]]You hear a ring from the doorbell. Oh, what bothersome timing someone has! -[[Answer the door.]] -[[Don't Answer.]] -[[Hide the plant, then answer.]]You walk to the door, absentmindedly carrying the plant. You open the door to find your gleeful mother upon the "Welcome" mat. And look here, a box of homemade cookies! "Surprise! I know you weren't expecting company aft-- what in the?!" You both look down at the plant and watch the bulb open slowly before your very eyes. -[[Give her the plant.]] -[[Ask if she gave you the plant.]] -[[Awkwardly try to explain what is happening.]]Be it your newfound secret or typical misanthropic behavior, you sit quiet and still, away from any windowed line of sight. The knocking persists for a few moments, but whoever solicited your abode has either given up and left or is waiting in silence for you to open the door and catch your act of deceit. But who honestly does that? A couple minutes pass and you wonder if perhaps a package was left by your dodged social instigator. -[[Check the door.]] -[[Don't bother.]]You open the door to your mother cheerfully awaiting at the "Welcome" mat. And look here: a box of homemade cookies! "Surprise! I know you weren't expecting company after a long day of retail, but I made these and there was no one else I could think to eat them!" She looks as if she wants to come into the house for a bit. -[[Invite her in.]] -[[Turn her away.]]Where to put it? -[[Under the sink, it's too weird.]] -[[On the windowsill, it'll blend right in.]] -[[Eh, just leave it on the table.]]"Hold on, I'll be right there!" you yell, gently placing the plant upon the windowsill behind the kitchen sink. -[[To the door...]]Just as the oddity was presented to you in such a candid openness, you resolve to leave the potted flora be. -[[Answer.]]"Counter-surprise! This is an exotic, um... plant-thing. I thought you'd like it." Despite your very non-specific explanation of her supposed gift, she marvels at the undeniably strange beauty of its newborn translucent petals, which wave like a calm ocean tide. "Amazing! Aw, if I'd known you were going to get me something so lovely I'd have put chocolate chips in the cookies. Oh, I know, I'll make dinner; I'll bet you haven't eaten since your lunch-break." -[[Success.]]"So the plant wasn't surprise enough?" you inquire, eyes still fixed on the plant's fluttering, pinkish blades. Just as confused as you, she replies, "Darlin', I've never seen something so bizarre in my life. I thought you had some kinda squid in your hands at first." "So this isn't from you?" "Are you telling me you don't know where this thing came from? What if it's poisonous?!" -[["I'm sure its fine, why don't you come inside?"]] -[["You're probably right, you better leave so I can handle this."]]In a dumbly apologetic manner you point out the most obvious features of the pseudo-alien flora in your hands. While the information is a verbal reiteration at best, plain-wrong at worst, your seemingly knowledgeable demeanor quells her nervous tendencies for the moment. "Well I didn't know you've become a botanist all-the-sudden! Why don't I come inside and we can talk more about it." -[[Invite her in.]] -[[Over dinner perhaps?]]As she heads inside, she immediately rifles through your pantry. Being the caretaker-type,[[it's impossible to talk her out of making dinner for you.|Success.]]"Sorry Mom, now's not a good time." Despite the freshly-baked cookies sitting right in front of your hungry face, this whole random-plant thing is not something you wish to make a family affair. "Shucks, you sure you don't want to chat over dinner?" -[["Do you see this hungry face?"]] -[[Cookies do not make a dinner.]]For as (surprisingly) long as the pot of boiling water can prove to distract the focus of you both, the purring, newly-blossomed plant takes vigil on the dinner table. The "head" of the plant finds you as its True North; no matter where you find yourself, the plant points at you. "I truly have no idea where this thing came from." you confess to your mother. -[[Be afraid.]] -[[Be inquisitive.]]"Not with that thing around! Not a chance!" Before you have time to say anything else, she takes off in her car. No cookies for you. -[[Alone.]]As she cautiously hands you the box of cookies her eyes remain fixed on the plant. "I can't let you deal with this thing alone, sweetie." she starts, "And I swear it's not an 'overprotective Mom' thing! What you have is incredible and strange; I couldn't live with myself if it hurt you." She stares a while longer. ... "At least let me cook dinner while you figure it out." she concedes. -[[Never alone... but hey, there's cookies!|Success.]]"Hi, Mom!" Your mother, eager to see you, seems to have stopped by unannounced. "I just wanted to chat for a bit, I know you just got home from work; I won't be long." She has invited herself in. -[[Well alright then.]]"Only if you let me make it." she replies, "You and I both know if we let you cook it'll be charred ramen for dinner." -[[Success.]]You spend your evening hours eating and procrastinating on personal projects, loitering within your own domicile. Aside from the plant, the day's been fairly typical. The plant. Breezing through the day left this outlier unchecked. If you weren't already so nearing bedtime you might examine it further and satiate your undying sense of wonder. Well, I suppose you could give up five minutes to ponder its mysteries, right? -[["Ok, fine."]] -[[Nah, I'm pretty sleepy.]]You couldn't scoot her in fast enough. -[[Success.]]"I've already got dinner plans. Give me a call next time and we'll make something happen." "I understand. A busy person such as yourself doesn't have too much time for surprises, am I right?" She leaves, and acting like she never brought a tupperware container of love in the first place, she takes the cookies with her. Social interaction deflected. -[[Alone.]] You open the door hoping to catch the trail of whoever stopped by, and hark! An unfamiliar box lays on your doorstep. -[[Take it.]] -[[Leave it.]]Then again, you didn't order anything, and its not like you have a secret admirer or something... -[[Alone.]]She chats quite a bit about nothing of relevance to this story. You entertain her despite your disinterest, taking up your entire evening. It is now late enough for you to fake yawn and non-contextually bring up how tired you are, dropping her the hint to head home. As she's about to head out the door she turns around. "Oh, I almost forgot!" she exclaims, "Vacation starts tomorrow! Excited for our roadtrip?" You certainly almost forgot about that one, and how could you? You'll be gone a whole week! "I'll be sure to get you around 7AM." she adds, then hurries out the door. You head to your room to begin packing for the week. When you close the door behind you, silence becomes all too clear. The hum from the plant is just barely audible outside your door, and you are reminded of its eerie presence. -[[See to it.]] -[[Prepare yourself for the coming day.]]When you remove the lid, you see a sticky note pinned on the inside. It simply reads: "Mom :)". You look up from grabbing the box. "Surprise cookies!" your mother shouts, ambushing you from seemingly nowhere. "And I planned on din—" She stops, staring at the plant. -[[Give her the plant.]] -[[Awkwardly try to explain what is happening.]]"I've had enough surprises for one day." You think to yourself. You kick the box to the side of your doorstep underneath a brush. Its contents rattle around a bit. -[[Alone.]]"I think it doesn't like me. I think it's *watching* me." "It doesn't have eyes." your mother rebuts. "It doesn't need them." [[...]]"It //looks// like a plant, but it clearly has some sort of attention span, perhaps a strong reactive stimuli. Like me?" "Maybe it thinks you're its parent?" your mother chimes in, "You are the first thing it saw, right? Lots of newborn animals get attached to the first living thing they see. It probably wants you to feed it!" "Or perhaps it thinks I'm dinner?" you wonder. -[[Reach out to the plant.]] -[[Pour water on the plant.|Spray the plant with water.]] -[[Try giving it people food.]]A grotesque and sharp sizzling overcomes your auditory senses, panic exaggerating the shrill to a deafening roar of the malevolent. You look behind to realize that the tomato sauce has boiled over onto the stove. "Yeesh! I'll get it, Mom." you call out. You reach under the sink cupboard, thumbing through the clutter to grab cleaning supplies. -[[Grab a nearly empty spray bottle of Kitchen Cleaner.]] -[[Grab a half-filled spray bottle of water.]]It only has a few squirts left, but using a couple conservative shots you wipe down the mess, leaving the stove perfectly clean. You set the bottle on the counter and dish up a bowl of the newly-finished pasta for your mother and yourself. And look, the garlic bread is done! You search for a knife to cut the bread, but the only reasonable blade you own is sitting in a muck of unclean dishes. Your mother brandishes a pair of scissors from the odds-and-ends drawer. "These will work." You turn around. The plant's vigil remains steadfast. -[[Food, finally!]] -[[Kill the plant.]]Sanitation is overrated. You effortlessly wipe the mess up, leave the bottle on the counter, and proceed to serve the food your kind mother prepared. As expected, the plant never unfixed its gaze. "Maybe it's hungry..." you wonder. -[[Spray the plant with water.]] -[[Feed the plant a bite of spaghetti.|Bite!]]Be it the unending leer or the otherworldly ambiance shredding through your paranoiac state, (or perhaps simply weak mental stamina) you've snapped. You seek to commit ruthless veggicide. -[[Grab the scissors.]] -[[Grab the cleaner bottle.]] -[[Grab the pot with your bare hands.]]You hover the neatly twirled angel hair about the bulb's opening, awaiting a reaction. The plant seems to take no notice of you doing so at first. You nudge it with the fork, then with your free hand, you reach to pry its "mouth" open. The jaws snap down quick and you feel a painful, yet harmless pinch, causing you to jump back in surprise. Its ridged rows of teeth are now so clearly apparent. Its continual hum has gained a slight context of malcontent. -[[Give up and leave it be.]] -[[Kill the plant.]]Water showers the plant, and sparks jet out. You stagger back in utter shock and watch in disbelief as the plant sputters and shakes. Arcs of electricity multiply and dance around the stem and leaflets of the sprout. As they die down, a flame rises up and encompasses the whole thing. Your mother comes running from another room and begins to beat the fire down with a towel. With a successfully extinguished flame,[[you are able to observe the smoldering absurdity.]]The delicious smells are intoxicating, but your appetite is subdued. How unnerving it is to be stalked by this Thing. "Maybe it's hungry." Spaghetti and meatballs; plant food, right? -[[Pour water on the plant.|Spray the plant with water.]] -[[Feed the plant a bite of spaghetti.|Bite!]] (set: $teeth to false) -[[Ignore it and eat.|Eat]]Dinner conversation is rather apprehensive in the company of the strange plant, but nevertheless you manage to catch up with your mother on all things typical in life. When you're both finished she encourages you to do the dishes before dessert, to which you begrudgingly agree. As she opens the lid to the cookie box she brought the plant dives inside, horribly startling your mother. [[You turn around to see...|Omnomnom.]]"Let's have dinner, then we'll figure this stuff out." your mother suggests. In about 15 minutes you have a pot of spaghetti and meatballs at the ready. Despite how nonsensical you think it to be, you grab something to try feeding the plant. -[[Feed the plant a bite of spaghetti.|Bite!]] -[[Feed the plant a cookie.]]"Hand me that box, could you?" you ask your mother, motioning toward the cookies she brought. She does so, but replies begrudgingly, "You'll spoil your appetite." Alright, Grandma. You open the lid and slide the box over to the plant. For the first time since its initial bloom, it breaks its stare and takes notice of the cookies. (set: $teeth to false) -[[Omnomnom.]] As if hypnotized, you slowly and rigidly[[extend your hand out to the plant.]]"Missed a spot." you proclaim, grabbing the cleaner bottle. You squeeze the trigger repeatedly, showering a chemical mist over the sapling. It begins to jerk violently, squealing with each jolt. The reaction is a bit unnerving; as you made such a quick decision to spray the thing down with a non-specialized blend of poison, you truly invited any sort of strange reaction to come about. The jerks turn to convulsions that are so strong the pot begins to shake, spilling dirt upon the table. The squeals become screams, like air squeezed from a tight-lip balloon. It's quite apparent how much the creature suffers before you; dread, nausea, and guilt are upon you. Your mother is no where to be seen. -[[Try to help it.]] -[[Put it down.]]Rushing to the table, you see nothing but red. You snatch the plant up, your mother spectating your sudden aggression with shock. The plant begins rapidly morphing the colors of its entire being, its head rearing back like a toothless cobra ready to strike. You hold it out at arms length; the whole thing is about as long as the distance between your elbow from your fingertips. -[[Rip it out of the dirt]] -[[Take it outside]] -[[Smash it onto the floor|Smash it baby]]"Good thinking, Mom." you praise, receiving the scissors. Though, as opposed to dividing and distributing the garlic bread, you lean over to the plant and snip it at the stem. The 'head' plops to the ground, the timbre of its wail dulling and the amplitude quieting as it dies. You watch until the thing goes silent, like a total creep murderer. And just like that, the problem is gone from your life. Through one quick decision, you've rendered a future of plant-related decision-making nonexistent. Surely, the power you clutch is not to be trifled with. (set: $e63 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Continue with life as planned.|Start]]You lash out with your free hand and grasp the base of the plant's stem with a grip that could probably shatter a glass cup. As you yank to root out the cretinous weed, the stem lifts but there is nothing else. No roots, no accompanying dirt; the stem simply pops out of the soil! A shrill, two-toned dissonance rings out from the blossomed head of the plant. It causes your looming mother to release a shriek of her own, creating the a horribly painful triad of unpleasant sound. You drop the pot and it shatters; loose, dark soil spills at your feet. As the ceramic crashes, the plant wraps itself around your forearm with incalculable strength, much like a boa constrictor. You ring and pry at it, but the grip only gets tighter. It's going to break your arm soon! The cacophony never breaks for a second, nor does its murderous directional intent into your eyes. -[[Swing your arm around]] -[[Cut it with scissors]] -[[Bite its head off!]]You furiously rush over to the back sliding glass door to deal with the plant out there. Upon stepping outside, the plant whips itself out of your hands, propelling forward like an impatient cat. By some indiscernible strength the plant begins to hop, then leap out away from you, headed toward a nearby forest. Astonished, you watch until it has vanished into the darkness, hearing the rhythm of the pot thumping with each pace. A thought now occurs to you: "That thing is out into the world. If someone finds it, who knows what could happen? I could have been bigger than the people who filmed Bigfoot! The scientific value alone would create the biggest headline in my lifetime. At worst, I had the most interesting plant/pet thing imaginable." Then another thought: "Perhaps it could hurt someone... An unknown terror, and myself at the helm of manslaughter." -[[Chase after the plant.]] -[[Stay home.]]Panic has completely overtaken you. You thrash your arm about, smashing it into walls, windows, and counter-tops. No concussion or slice of glass gets so much as a flinch from the plant. Not even the blood that runs down your arm could slip this thing off. Your flailing ceases with a sharp //crack:// your forearm has snapped in half. The pain multiplies the panic, and you are brought to the blood-smattered floor. Your serpent-like oppressor has you at its mercy. It gradually wraps itself up your arm and shoulder, crushing every inch of bone within its singularity of pressure. The pain is so immense... you feel unconsciousness slithering over you. Before all goes black, you feel a tickle skip across your neck and around your cranium. This is a cruel embrace you've never known. (set: $e56 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You have died.|Start]]You plead to your mother to bring the scissors and stop the wretch from wrapping tighter. Snapping out of her horror-driven daze, she bolts over to you and begins rapidly snipping at parts of the plant. The plant shrills in pain as pieces of itself fall into the soil. Eventually, the head is without a body, and it falls to the ground in silence. Your mother drops the scissors and embraces you in a bear hug, despite your incredibly sore arm. You both just take a moment to breathe and soak in the relief of this quiet moment. The moment is interrupted by the sounds of squirming that originate from the floor. You look down to see pieces of the plant which lay in the soil twisting and squirming. Their individual pieces all begin to morph, changing color and overall shape. Some of them continue to animate after their transformation, others just fall limp. Before you are a small set of plants which all wildly vary in appearance from one another. A beautiful alien flower, a vicious maw, a ball of spikes, an orb of dim light, a writhing set of roots, a single orange eye, a dark orb which draws light from its surroundings, a stout sprout, a black ooze, and a loose vine which connects them all. (set: $e86 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[The momentary witnessing of this collective horror causes you to faint.|Start]]The creak of your humerus has you writhing in desperation. Your mind is in an utter frenzy. It is this frenzy that triggers your defensive instincts on a primal level. Your mouth engulfs the head of the plant, its infinite scream still so loud it is vibrating your teeth and gums. Your incisors come down like a guillotine, beheading the plant. The stem releases its grip instantly, hanging limp and vine-like from your arm. It loosely slumps to the floor. It is a curiosity whether the taste of extreme bitterness comes from the petals on your tongue or the mournful howl of the plant's last moments. Opening your mouth to spit out your appetizer (salad?) proves useless. The petals and other plant-bits are stuck to the inside of your mouth. A new wave of fear comes over you, followed by confusion as it starts to rapidly dissolve. You spend a good five minutes spitting and rinsing your mouth out. At some point in the chaos it seems your mother left. Certainly to get help? You recline at the table, caressing your sore arm, letting the buzz of adrenaline and horror leave you. The hum in your ears is like an echo. -[[Knock?]]Hours(?) pass by when you hear drums at the door, or perhaps they're out in the street. //Knock, knock, kn-kn, knop, pock// Surely its too late for a parade? You rise from your comfortable chair, finding incredible strength in your legs. But the floor is... jelly? or is it jam? Who knows the difference. A difficult journey, but one can't miss a midnight parade! Trudging through the sweet-smelling muck that now floods your entire home, you open the door to find a half-dozen bats, each the size of a human torso, awakening slowly to your presence. "Blimey, wrong door!" you apologize, like walking in on someone in the shower. "Our friend!" lazily exclaim the bats. "Hug?" "I'd love one!" you reply, "But I want to hug you all at the same time. It wouldn't be fair if I hugged one of you first, then the other. It's simply dreadful to wait on a friendly hug." You slide in between the bats, wrapping them alternately across your frontside and backside. Their snuggling is quite a treat and you become so enveloped in it that you nearly forgot about the drums. You close the door to the closet and head back toward the front door. //Dop, bop, du-du, bop, ba// The sun is much brighter than you remembered, though maybe its your empathy for the bats that cling to you still. "Spread your wings, friends. I need your help." At your request, the bats stretch out wide their wings and you glide effortlessly toward the front door. As you float, the world spins a full 180 degrees. While the floor is now the ceiling, you feel gravity still belongs to it. //Cop, dop, ta-ba, top, top// The door opens. The physical embodiment of a rainbow pours over you. -[[What gentle colors]] -[[Wait, I don't know any rainbows?!]]You awake in your bed, your blankets of fire dying down and the gargoyles that surround slowly come to life. "...-et the bed but that's about it. Speak of the devil, look who's awake!" It appears there are medical-types, doctors and nurses, surrounding you. This also is not your bedroom, but a hospital room A white-coat with a clipboard leans over to you, "Listen, we don't know what it is that poisoned you, but you went through hell last night, that's for certain. We're gonna keep you here for detox a couple days, then we'll let you go." "But what about my job?" you ask the nurse. "Oh, you're not going home after we let you go. The government has a lot of questions regarding what they found in your home and what happened to your body." "What happened to my body?!" You vomit all over the bed. "It's happening again! Burn the clothes, get the patient in the anti-microbial chamber immediately! Get the hazmats in here to preserve the bile, the science-department can't lose another sample!" The voices fade out. You feel a dry heave coming, but instead of the pain you expect there is but a shrill hum that is louder than any scream you could've made, either in childhood games or mortal-danger. (set: $e58 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End|Start]]"We found the detainee laying in front of the front door of the establishment. Suspect was wearing 6 pairs of coats... Yeah, there was a bizarre read from the CT scan, probably hallucinogenic effect. No signs of damage, but the scientists say they've never seen anything like what they suspect the detainee was on... I'm serious, wasn't shrooms or PCP or bath salts, it's so unknown its not even illegal. We got 'em holed up on charges of threatening an officer. They showed up after a 9-1-1 call from the detainees mother, said some real loopy stuff about a killer plant and... yeah, we got her too...psychiatric ward, I mean you should really hear this stuff, she shamelessly recounts that some plant thing attacked him; she's the prime suspect in regards to the detainee's sustained injuries, but she's a guaranteed insanity case if convicted, I mean, this stuff sounds like its straight out of a bad Sci-Fi channel horror flick... the analysts don't dismiss her story so quick, they say the tests from the detainee had bizarre properties, citing low internal body temperature, complete lack of urinary function, the weirdest thing being no blood-type match up... at first it was a call for mis-identification, you know, they don't match up with any medical records relating to the patient, but turns out its never been seen before, an anomaly they say. Like the poor rando got an alien blood transfusion! They also found a couple growths, thinking probably cancer taking over hair follicles... This is definitely wackadoo stuff, I'm just telling you what they told me. Sounds like our new friend's got issues, I almost feel bad... No stirring yet, but I swear I heard some weird tonal h-" (set: $e57 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End transmission|Start]](if: $teeth is true)[Who knew this thing had teeth?! Into its maw they go down and crushed between.] The consumptive process was awkward at first: nudges and nibbles turned to over-sized chomps (one could swear it gagged on an overestimation), it got into a groove of breaking things down, //then// swallowing. The plant's hum has turned to a syncopated purr, which disarms its attentive nature toward you. You actually feel sparks of affection within. "Well I'll be darned." says your mother, "To think a //plant// would take to my cooking. I think I'll be able to take good care of the lil' feller." -[["You sure will!"]] -[["But it loves me!"]]The unspoken correlation between the horror before you and entomophobia (perhaps more specifically arachnophobia?) drives you toward your front door. You find it already wide open; surely your mother's instincts are like that of your own. You only turn back to look at the house as you make it across the street. Your mind is racing. Do I call the police? Do I call animal control? Botany control? An exterminator? Regardless of //who// you should contact, but how? You left your phone inside. -[[Pick a neighbor at random for help]] -[[There must be some other way...]]You choose to overcome your awkward social disposition knowing that this weirdness will probably grow exponentially if you don't handle it now. You walk to the front porch of the nicest looking house in eyesight and knock. With no initial answer your impatience compels you to knock again. The door opens to a tall, burly man covered in tattoos and bitterness. "What do you want?", his scowl penetrating to the core of you. -[["I need to use your phone."]] -[["I need help."]] -[["Uhhhhm... got any weed killer?"]]Pacing anxiously you ponder if perhaps leaving the door open was a good idea. -[[Muster up the courage]] -[[Not a chance; forget the door!]]"I'll close 'em in and call someone. I'm sure the neighbors would give me a hard time if they found out my place were infested." You over-cautiously approach the doorstep. With every step the shrieks of those tiny-fiends becomes more audible. Surely someone will hear this if you don't shut the door. Your nerves encourage you shut the door blindly, but you take charge of them and take a peek inside. Though you cannot see them, it sounds like the roots are still in the kitchen. They are much louder than when you left them. -[[Shut the door and finish this]] -[[Not a chance; forget the door!]]To put yourself back near those //things// is to put yourself right where you ran from in the first place. How nonsensical, to act against your fears! That's what they are for, right? To keep you safe. That's the only rational explanation; //trust your instincts, go with your gut.// The plant just showed up and had babies everywhere. A writhing, shrilling mass of hideous offspring, piled upon one another, more than the eye could see! Who, in their right mind, would bother to see how that one played out? Despite your reckoning with the abandonment of the house and the infestation within, your eyes remained fixed on that open door. -[[And then...|They rise...]]As if the Gods of Logic and Reasoning you gave praise to sent a confirmation, the mob of Writhe overtakes the outer wall of your home, giving it the look that the wall has a flowing, festering exterior of flesh. The Legion seem to have no beginning or end. What was once a pile of bug-like larvae on your floor has now exponentially reproduced into a coordinated, collective mass. Perhaps this is what its like underneath rainforests or in the days before man, when creatures that creep and crawl upon the Earth were prime. Be it awe or shock, you gaze as the the entire building is overtaken by its new-found flesh. Suddenly, a sharp series of //cracks// and //pops// blast out from the building. It then collapses. The pile of Writhe now boils over from the rubble and spreads to the other houses and buildings that surround your former home. The remains of your home are but loose concrete and... paint? You swear the stove, the fridge (open, empty), and dishwasher are sitting there next to your sink. But any framework of the house, any table, or bed remains unseen. There's your tv too! Why wouldn't they devour those things. As the onslaught spreads out in a radial form they leave behind barren yards. Trees, grass, all gone, leaving topsoil and holes in the ground. You fear that they would come toward you, but they stop at the sidewalk and follow along the perimeter. //CRASH!// Another house falls. Your neighbors have finally taken notice ("finally", though it couldn't have been more than ten minutes since you bolted out the door), fleeing their own homes in terror. Some are phoning the police, others succumbing to the totality of hysteria. You hear a particular string of cries close-by. Less of fear, more of... [[Anguish]]You see a middle-aged anonymous neighbor run into the streets, completely overcome by NO NO NO THEY'RE ON HIM! His intense fear drives him aimlessly into the crowd of convening neighbors, flinging the root-worms around and into the air. His clothes tatter rapidly, then holes in his flesh are clearly visible. They are eating him alive and HE BROUGHT THEM TO ALL OF YOU. Thankfully your distance gave you some leeway to escape the fleeting crowd. You run and run, never so sure of any movement in your life. Many others are headed in your direction for the same reason as you, though you regard them more closely as predators than the pack. You are able to peek your head over your shoulder every so often to check back and find the crowd thinning out. First the elderly stumble to be devoured, followed by the less physically fit. Soon there are about 8 people close behind you, but it seems every few moments a runner finds a root hitched to a pant leg or an open pocket. And who knows what you'll do when you finally stop running. (set: $e82 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End.|Start]]A deep breath. You step across the threshold with urgency to grab the doorknob. A wall of roots pours out from the kitchen, as if they expected your return. You reach out to the doorknob and pull. The roots meet you at the opening, but you successfully slam the door shut. A force from the other side smashes into the door, but it holds. As you turn to run a root shoots out from beneath the door and latches to your pantleg! -[[Rip it off]] -[[Make a break for it|panic chase]]Defying the very fears that sent you away from your home in the first place, you reach down and yank at the shoestring-thin root. Your skin burns lightly at first, but when the root detaches from your pantleg the burning intensifies. Your skin begins to dissolve where the root touches your hand and you can see your inner flesh and bone begin to show. You're screaming in pain and horror, in case you didn't realize. A neighbor comes out to see what is happening, then faints at the sight of your hand, collapsing to the floor. When the burning becomes its most intense, it stops. Half of your hand and half of your thumb fall to the ground. The pain ceased because your nerves have completely dissolved there, though you are bleeding a good amount. The root-worm digs into its newly claimed part of your body, devouring the rest. As it does this, it begins to grow. Every few inches of growth it splits perfectly in half, multiplying. If the tendrils finished their meal, they will undoubtedly go after your unconscious neighbor. -[[Attempt to spare yourself]] -[[Attempt to save your neighbor]]You make a dead sprint directly opposite from your doorstep. What a way for the old man to go... Your vision is getting blurry and you find it hard to breathe. It's hard to say how long you've actually been running. As you fall to the concrete you watch the flow of blood slow from your cold wound. Who would've thought that when blood mixes a concrete sidewalk it takes the color of the road. Sirens from the distance are approaching. You hear the roar of an engine working hard, getting louder. The road rumbles and tires squeal. Man, don't you think that's the death of an extra? Laaaaaaaaaaaaame. (set: $e51 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Restart|Start]]"C'mon get up!" you plead, dragging the old man across the yard. Lucky for you he's so frail or you'd have to leave him behind. The blood from your hand seeps into his button-up Hawaiian shirt around the underpart of his arm. If anyone had seen you it might look like you killed him. You get a good distance from the house and sit on the sidewalk, slapping the old man's cheek, trying to revive him. You put your head down to his chest to listen for breathing or a heartbeat. None. You'd think in a neighborhood like this someone would come out when you unendingly cry for help! Their willful ignorance has you reeling. You try to perform emergency CPR, but around the fifth press to his chest your fingerless hand breaks through his ribcage. Frightened beyond all belief you jump back, only to notice from this angle that the place where your bad hand was carrying your neighbor there was a hole in his shirt that went //inside his chest.// You touch your bad hand to him once more. The spot you placed it on his shirt dissolved like hot-melted butter. You were so terrified at this realization you hardly notice the police car pull up. "Don't move! Put your hands behind your head!" But what if..? "I will shoot! Do it now!" -[[Do it now!]] -[[I'll die either way! Run!]]It only burns a bit before it goes black... (set: $e52 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Try again|Start]]You muster up whatever strength in your body you have to bail. You have no strength, and fall flat on your face. Two cops rush over to you. One puts a knee in your back. The other grabs your wrists to cuff you, but yelps and takes his hand away as it began to burn away. "What the hell is //this?!//" he remarks, holding his hand out to you. Your attention is taken from you however, as your own hand is burning into your back from where the cops held it. Your cries for help are unintelligible, as well as irrelevant to the policeman's own concerns. "Probably too far-gone. Tweakers, man." The way you writhe now only reminds you of the roots that writhe freely. The nerves on your spine go wild, but the officer takes no notice as the hand cuts right through you. At least you tried to save that old guy, right? (set: $e50 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Retry|Start]]Quickly, you raise the plant over your head, like a mighty blacksmith over an anvil. You swing hard down and release the pot to the ground. The shatter is satisfying. Instantaneously, a horde of tiny, skittering, chattering tendrils explode out of the littered shrapnel and soil, scattering themselves out along the floor. They at first appear to be connected to the base of the plant, like roots might be on typical flora, but as they frantically spread across the floor you realize that you just unleashed a hive of insect-like spawn. As they separate from base of the mother-unit, they convene around and devour the lifeless husk. Hundreds in a discordant shrill are before you. -[[RUN!]] -[[Stomp them down!]]With a twist of the heel and a burst of adrenaline you dart from the spot you stand. Strings of roots bound to one another quickly whip themselves around your ankles, binding them together and bringing you to your knees. You scrape and claw at the ground, but you are pulled into the house like a hanged man is pulled down by gravity. You slide across the threshold and into the kitchen. You manage to roll over, desperately yanking at your Achille's noose, only to see that your kitchen is rapidly caving in. In the center of it lay a wide-open hole, squirming with the newborn wormish vermin. They appear to be forming together to seize different foundational points in your home to bring it down into the hole. They certainly have no trouble dragging you down into it. In but an instant, the tension around your ankles vanishes, but the dropping feeling in your stomach is only magnified as you watch the light fade from above and the wind rush up from below. You fall for so long. You scream until your throat bleeds and your voice fades. You reach out to grasp some semblance that you are not merely floating in an endless, black chamber of cold wind. It is quickly confirmed that you're still falling, as you break your left hand as soon as contact is made with whatever it is you touched. You lose all sense of equilibrium; you are spinning out of control in the air. [[Surely, this is the end]]It is warm and silent. Your eyes and mouth are only moist from blood. You ache all over, but your head and left hand are certainly the worst. You cannot move the hand or your neck for that matter. Your pain-induced paralysis certainly marks the end of the line. It seems the velocity of your fall was not terminal. It's a feat of resilience that you survived, though whose to say you were fortunate to be under these circumstances to begin with. Immobile and miles down into infinite darkness. You hear a rushing. The rushing is overpowered by a rhythmic sort of pounding. Your heartbeat will certainly drive you to insanity if it continues to be the only thing you hear. Though perhaps it is the fear you will hear it slow. Or that something will come around to quicken its pace. The mere thought of the word anxiety has your mind reeling... those wretched worms could be all around. Anything could be all around. Ancient sleeping gods, decaying cadavers, starving demons. (set: $e65 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Or nothing.|Start]]"Do I know you, scrub?" he asks in a smoky, smooth-as-gravel irritation. The man seems upset with your brashness, but you cannot stop the words of fear and embarrassment from pouring out. Lucky for you, he's the kind of person that likes to be the hero in a person's world where the problem seems minuscule. The King of the Mountain Made from a Mole Hill. "Don't get your britches in a bunch; I got just the thing for your problem." He shuts the door in your face. -[[Wait]] -[["Well, can't say I didn't try."]]The man lets out a sigh of discontent. "Wait here." He shuts the door, you hear some cursing from the other side of the door, the door opens and he slaps a large, wireless landline in your hand. "Make it quick, I got beer to drink and TV to watch." You nod in agreement and gratitude, but he shuts the door in your face again. Despite the fact that it's sort of late, you can't shake the rude vibe that guy put on you. Nevertheless, phone acquired, mission accomplished. Now the hard part... -[[Who to call?]]"Go to a store and get the hell off my porch." The door slams in your face. Well, there goes your shot at getting a phone, or a person to help. Your spirit utterly crushed by the man's adverse reaction dissuades you from trying a different door. Looks like you have two options: -[[Go back inside and deal with it myself.]] -[[Sleep outside.]]Assuming his lack of manners is an unspoken reply to yours, you swallow your hurt feelings and hold back whatever impatience is within you to knock on the door or run somewhere else. You stand there for about ten minutes, nervousness nearly convincing you to leave until the door swings open. The man has returned covered head to toe in a flat black welder's suit and face-shield, reeking of gasoline. In one hand he holds a fire extinguisher, the other gripping what appears to be a //flamethrower.// He lifts the mask, initiates the pilot of his over-sized blowtorch and lights up the cigarette he in his mouth. "Take this, scrub, someone's gotta clean up my mess." he says, thrusting the fire extinguisher into your unwilling hands. Clearly, this isn't the fire department you called for. You walk across the street and stand just a few yards away from your open door. At this point it'd be incredibly awkward and intimidating to tell the guy you don't want his help. You glance over at him; flamethrower at the hip, giant tank of fuel strapped to his back, taking in the calm before the storm as he sucks down smoke. -[["You want me to do what again?"]] -[["Let's light this place up!"]]How appalling that the man would stand there, listen to your panicked pleas, then shut the door in your face! That's a new level of crotchety old guy syndrome. -[[Now what?!|There must be some other way...]]"Relaaaaaaaaax, Smokey. Imma torch these sumguns and you're gonna prevent forest fires like the bear you are." He drags his cigarette down to the butt, stamps it out, and tips his welder mask at you before closing it over his face. "Only you." he muffles, putting his index finger into your chest. [[Redneck Botanical Extermination 101]]"Hold your torches, pyro, remember you gotta be quick on that foam blower. Otherwise we'll find ourselves kneedeep in ash and arson charges." He gets to the end of his stogie and puts it out on his tongue. "But that don't mean we can't have no fun burnin' these bugs." he adds. With a wink, he flicks the welder's mask back on. Though you normally might think his plan should be questioned, you're actually a bit excited to see how this all plays out. [[Flame on, Johnny Storm.|Redneck Botanical Extermination 101]]Clearly, this guy is pumped up. Despite the door being half-closed, he full-force kicks it open. Despite what you warned him of the numerous reproduction you witnessed of the worm-roots, he takes no worry to peek around or check corners for their lurking. You follow close behind as he stomps into the kitchen. The room is in complete disarray; the creatures coat the walls. Your newfound friend let's out a big, long cowboy yelp and opens the throttle wide on. A bright, hot cloud of fire explodes out of the end of the flamethrower and the creatures light up instantly. In that same instant the smoke alarms blare and beep. This coupled with the white-bright fire and extreme temperature creates for a sensory overload. Before you get too caught up in the stimuli surrounding, you remember your job. You jump forward and quell any tall flame with a quick blast from the fire extinguisher. As the foam does its work you see the motionless, charred remains of the roots beneath; this lunatic's plan works! While you were caught up with your little patch of work on one side of the kitchen, the Firelord over here has kept no inhibition toward letting these suckers have it. He hoots and hollers, spraying flame like if a suburban dad had reason to be excited about watering the lawn. His ardor for arson seems nearly hysterical, as he disregards any of your belongings or the personal safety of either of you. You rush over to put the flames out before they grow too quick, but it's hard to keep up. The roots do what they can to retaliate, but be it their inability to travel quickly or their instinctual stupidity, their efforts are quickly stopped. When they get close, they take leaps at the Human Torch, but he reacts aptly kicking them down with his giant boots or smacking them out of the air with the end of the torch. At this point, their greatest offensive seems to be high-pitch death cries, which can be heard clearly over the screaming alarm and roaring flames. The main light shatters in the kitchen, sending sparks flying. Some land in your face, burning your eyes and blinding you. Your partner takes no notice of your pain, yipping and hawing by the light of the fire. The combination of burnt eyes and smoke filled air brings you to the ground. You set down the extinguisher and rub your eyes furiously to regain sight and bring the stinging down for about a minute. When you look up it's clear that the job is, uh, a bit well done. Pieces of the ceiling begin to fall and it's clear the fire has great means to spread itself. You grab the extinguisher and frantically spray in a half-radial sweep. You look to your left and notice your "friend" has flickers of flames climbing up his suit. As the flame grows it appears he didn't really prepare for self-flame retardant. Part of the roof falls across your back in this instant and your shirt sets ablaze. While you are wailing from the great heat, your compatriot takes no notice of the fire upon himself or you. -[[Put his flame out]] -[[Put yourself out]]Flames engulfing you both, you fail-not to remember that the redneck has a rather large, still rather full canister of fuel strapped to his back. The burning over your body is unbearable, yet you know if there's a chance that thing could blow it would mean the death of you both. You throw yourself down to the floor, in doing so lobbing the fire extinguisher right at his feet. Despite never learning his name, you cry out "SMOKEY! HELP!" Smokey sees your distress, only to be distracted by his own caught flame. Though holding both the torch and the extinguisher prove rather difficult to maneuver he manages to put himself out with the extinguisher. "C'mon, Scrub, ROLL!" his voice rougher than ever. You tuck your arms in and begin rocking along the ground, struggling with the flame like one would against a strangler. You hear the extinguisher blast across the room, indicating that Smokey knowingly isn't coming to save you as you roast. Still, adrenaline gives you the energy to roll and roll despite the extreme pain from rubbing your blistered skin all on top of the rough, charred bodies of the dead worm-roots. And it all stops. Though not cool, the foam pours over you and neutralizes the heat. With this relief, you lay still listening to the flames vanquished by the froth. You writhe, just as the worms did when they were alive. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If it weren't for insurance, you'd be financially ruined right now. The investigators cited a faulty gas stove for the fire-starter and are working on a lawsuit. They let you know how lucky you were that your neighbor came and put the fire out. He had to use the extinguisher he brought from home though, and they shamed you for not having your own. They did remark at the bizarre amount of ash left from the fire, curious as to where it came from. Some of the cleanup crew remarked at the shape of a certain cluster, pondering if it took the form of some kind of vermin, but not looking too much into it. It'll take a months of healing and physical therapy to fix a small portion of the damage done to your skin, but thankfully majority of the burns were only 2nd degree. Good thing you've made a friend hell-bent on making sure you're alright. Despite not knowing you all that well, he found a new light in life after that evening. Who would've thought persistence and patience on an interaction that appeared largely undesirable could be such a force of goodness? There's no doubt Smokey will stick around for quite some time. Though someone's gotta get the guy to quit smoking in the hospital. (set: $e66 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You lived!|Start]]The scorching heat is unbearable. You can't even seem to rip the shirt off as the flames are too great for your hands. You aim the extinguisher at your back and pull the nozzle. The foam douses the fire with ease and, though the pain does not cease entirely, you are no longer being cooked alive. Looking back over to save your buddy you notice in the seconds you spent helping yourself that the invading flames have finally caught his attention. He slaps his arms and legs down to no avail. As you run to reach him he falls and the fresh oxygen beneath the smoky air gives new life to his assailant. His body is engulfed entirely and the muffled yelps you heard earlier are now panicked shrieks. He rolls over to see you running toward him, then repeats the same thing over and over, pointing at his back. THE GASOLINE! You lift the hose, put your hand on the nozzle and squ- (set: $e67 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[*Boom*|Start]]It becomes readily apparent that you haven't memorized a phone number in at least 10 years. You think to ask the man for a phonebook but you don't want to blow the progress you've made just acquiring a phone. Surely there are some numbers you remember. The dialtone drones. -[[Dial 9-1-1]] -[[Call your mom]]You feel a great weight with each number dialed, paranoia as to the legitimacy of this 'emergency'. You don't even know if there is any danger to anyone breeding in your house. Regardless, you feel there to be no other reasonable solution. //Beep Beep Beep Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing Riiiiiiii-// "9-1-1 what's your emergency?" -[[My house just broke out in an infestation]] -[[There's something in my house!]] -[[Get nervous and hang up]]Reciting the numbers in cadences, you manage to successfully dial your mom on the phone. Riiiiiiiiiing Ri- "Hello?!" She sounds panicked. "Mom, it's me." "Oh thank the Lawd! Listen, honey, I called an exterminator for you, they should be there any second. I'm paying extra since it's so late, so make sure you do what you can to help them out, they charge by the half-hour!" You chat out the rest of the small details about you fleeing from home as well, where she went, then hang up. You return the phone to the man inside. He doesn't respond when you thank him with anything more than a nod and "Shut the door on the way out." You sit on the curb outside until the exterminator arrives. A van with a classic giant fake bug on top parks outside of your home. Two suited up middle-age men walk up to your doorstep and knocks. [[Meet them|the exterminator arrives]]."That is not an emergency that we can help you with, if there is danger of life or property we can send someone to assist you, but an infestation is a job for an exterminator. We have a very busy night, you'll have to figure that out on your own." Before you can plead your state of need the operator hangs up. Shuffling can be heard from the other side of the door. Your neighbor comes out, "You're done, friend; I don't need you crying wolf to the boys in blue on //my// phone." "You listened to my call? I really do have an emergency! You don't und-" "Of course I did, not gonna let some stranger make a drug deal while I miss Deal or No Deal. Give me the phone and get off my porch." he orders, holding his calloused hand out in front of your face. You turn the phone over. He scoffs, "...last time I ever help some rando past dark." goes back inside, then slams the door. With the lights in houses going dark all along the street, it appears you are out of options for help. You sit on the curb across the street from your front door. There's only two things you can think to do at this point... -[[Go back inside and deal with it myself.]] -[[Sleep outside.]]"There's some//one// in your house? Are you in a safe location?" You notice the operator misunderstood your 'some//thing//' for 'some//one//', but regardless you know you will receive help and you run the gauntlet of the information she needs and end the call. You turn the handle to go inside and return the phone to your neighbor to find him snoring in contest with the TV's absurd volume, laying in full recline on his sofa cuddling a bag of potato chips. You hang the phone up on the receiver and quietly shut the door behind you. Two Police cars show up in a matter of minutes, their lights on but their sirens off. The four policemen get out of their cars; two head to the door, guns drawn, the other two head toward you. One officer throws you through a ringer of her own questions, the other writing down all your responses on a clipboard. You answer informatively and responsively, but you never take your eyes off the two at the door. What could they possibly be expecting walking in there? Could you have jumped too quickly at the opportunity to grab help? I mean, what could guns do to those things? In that moment you realized your skimming over the truth could lead to conse- The two officers violently breach the door. The lights you left on inside the house when you left are now entirely off. They kick on high-powered flashlights and point them inside the darkness. The whole inside starts to get brighter, but it seems that the light is being emitted from hundreds of super-potent, floating Christmas lights. The lights start moving toward the advancing policemen. ''Warning: What happens next might be considered over-the top gruesome by some you can skip it if you ain't about that life.'' -[[Read on|The policemen open fire]] -[[I ain't about that life|All of the lights]]Your panic overtakes you, then after 15 seconds of hyperventilation you drop the phone and rush toward the house. "How could I be so ridiculous? I just exerted two layers of irritation across two realms of people. I should feel comfortable within their service, neighbors and city protectors, yet clearly disregarded their efforts. I'm handling this myself." Yeesh, you don't need to be so hard on yourself if you ask me. At any rate, it seems you've made up your mind... [[Go back inside and deal with it|Go back inside and deal with it myself.]]Be it self-trickery or madness, you decide to re-enter your house and deal with the problem you abandoned head on. As you walk you try to think of a plan in terms of dealing with those things, but instead you realize that you only observed their behavior for less than a minute before cowardice took hold. You are clueless as to what they are capable of, or if they are capable of anything. Sure, that plant stared at you for a long time, and sure, the roots ate the plant-bits after they were released, but what does that mean for you? You reach the door. Improvisation, your semblance of a plan, encourages you to twist the handle on the door and take care of the threat that awaits. [[Inside your house...]]Tired, confused, misunderstood, nervous, and defeated, you find the only solace is the lawn next to the sidewalk. You contemplate bugs crawling on you for a moment, only to remember that there are probably much worse in your real bed right this second. You lay there for a solid 20-30 minutes before you hear a car pull up. You hear two people get out of the car, walk up the steps to your door and knock. -[[Who?|the exterminator arrives]]You quickly, yet inelegantly, stride over to the exterminators. "My apologies, it got so bad in there I couldn't be around them anymore." you tell them. "Well then I'm glad we're working overtime to help someone out who could really use it." replied the kind, gray-mustached man. "I'm John and this is muh son, Kellan." Kellan, who couldn't be older than seventeen, eagerly shakes your hand, keeping an almost comically stern expression the whole time. Clearly these two take the job seriously, and you're quite thankful for that. You wait for a bit while the exterminators grab gear from the van that they believe will suit the problem you described to them. John, though unsure of //exactly// what you meant by "thousands of sentient roots that burst forth from a plant you've never seen before," he felt that treating the situation as a 'high-severity infestation' (a rare classification usually only given to horder-dens), and that they needed to take a look for themselves to grab samples and determine a fumigation method. They return to the door fully decked out in suits that look ready for the apocalypse. Strapped to both their backs are giant containers of green liquid that read "CAUTION: LARGE VERMIN POISON" in yellow and black. They open the door, walk inside, and close it behind them. [[Waiting.]]The policemen shout but you can't make out what they're saying. They open fire into the lights, backpedaling out of the house. The lights steadily float toward the retreating officers, ensuring no distance is lost between them. When a bullet hits one, the light creates a tiny flash, resembling what you'd imagine seeing a star blink out of existence from the sky. The cluster then begins to form a ring that spins rapidly. As the cops reload the ring rises above them like a halo, then descends around them level with their torsos. One of the officers, frightened and trapped, attempts to duck under the ring. The ring rotates level with his face right as he makes a jump to escape. The halo grates through his face and skull, spraying bone, blood, and flesh all up into the air and around the ring. His body falls limp in the center. His partner breaks at the sight of this fatality. To watch one who is sworn to serve and protect beg and plead for saving is quite unnerving. Then rapidly, yet one at a time, the tiny lights begin dashing across the circle so fast you'd miss it if you blinked. As they pass through, the policeman, in the center, is pierced clean through their radial symmetric plight. Blood spurts from each passing. The passing ceases for a moment. The ring ceases its spinning on the x-axis and begins on the y. The officer is simultaneously decapitated and separated from his knees in a single rotation. The fragments of his body were innumerable and the cloud of his blood was thick. The entire time you witnessed this dehumanizing destruction the other officers have been calling for back up. They are shaking and you do not feel safe with them. Suddenly, the lights all convene on the female officer and blanket every inch of her body. Then in a moment they all collapse and she disappears, the lights formed in an orb that slowly turns from white to red. Once again they separate and the remnants of the officer are nowhere to be seen, though you think how the lights color have taken on crimson and can only imagine... The other officer grabs you by the arm and you both begin sprinting down the road. "WHAT THE HELL?! WE CAME HERE TO STOP A HOME INVASION, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS NIGHTMARE?! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!" After a good amount of distance, you both turn back and look to see the lights scattered along the lawn, growing more and more red. This hue chills you to the core knowing just how this is so. [[All of the lights]]The crying will never cease, until your fate is that of the officers. To think at one time in life the stars were a symbol of romance, of destiny and hope for worlds amazing and unimaginable. And now here, you witnessed their descent into the realm which praised them so. We put these meanings on the beauty of nature, and we became enamored with these ideas we've imposed upon the images of cold space, of stoic nature. They've watched over our bipolarity; to embrace and to seek escape, to understand and to exploit. We've brought this reckoning upon ourselves, not to say that the stars have sent down agents of destruction as much as we failed to recognize that they are immutable, no matter our intentions. Nature has torn the sheet down so that our false projections will bear their respective fruit. The scientists will exclaim, "Supernova!" as they see the night sky bring new light. They will proclaim the news and declare with hubris declarations they have no authority from which to speak. Why couldn't we see their true light through our perversions? Will the moon take hold of this truth too? (set: $e47 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Art?|Start]]After about 15 minutes Kellan returns from inside your home. He carries the same stern, professional look he did when he arrived, but now he speaks: "Well, it's not looking too good in there. The 'roots', as you called them, are nearly everywhere in the house. They seem to have reproduced faster than any pest I've ever seen; must've been a couple more eggs that hatched shortly after the one you encountered. They've attached themselves to just about every surface visible inside there, like ticks. They seem entirely unresponsive to any poking and prodding. We wanted to make sure we have your permission before going further with any work. Taking one of the vermin specimen to sample and understand the most efficient way to kill them without damage to your house is the only way, but they're really locked down. Grabbing one will probably do damage to whatever surface its attached to. Though if you're fine with it we could start as early as tonight; we do all our fieldwork out of the van. Once the fieldwork is done, we can give you an estimate on fumigation." Though you are concerned with the fact that they still have not //identified// these pests, the plan eases the stresses of your mind. You give them permission, hoping your mother fronts whatever charges might come up. "Alright, I'll give Da- er, John, the green light." Kellan stammers. He then straightens his posture, undoubtedly to reaffirm his discipline, he heads inside. What a cute kid. It's not more than 5 minutes until [[the door swings open.]] Everything happens so fast. John dives out the door and scurries toward the lawn. A wave of roots is quick on the chase. Kellan stumbles out of the house, loses balance, and topples over, buried under the stampede. "Throw it back, Dad!" Kellan pleads, struggling to pull himself up. Upon a closer look you can see John is holding one of the roots tight, like a football. "I won't give these bastards a thing!" he rebuts, "We're the alpha Kellan! Act like it!" You're shocked to see how the infestation has grown, but even more so that the horde so relentlessly pursues John as he runs and weaves away. He jukes the lead trail out around the van, then circles back to the lawn. Kellan, who is completely ignored by the roots, manages to get out from under the charge. He fiddles with the poison spray nozzle and begins a wide spread on the roots. As the poison falls, the affected slow their pursuit until they freeze in mid-motion, like a rapid Rigor Mortis. Their earthy brown fades to a more pale grey; this color gives you the idea that they are turning to statues. Despite the work Kellan has been doing to slow them down, the roots seem to be gaining on tired 'ol John. He circles around the van a couple times, then in an effort to break the chase he grabs the van slider door and tugs hard. The pursuing roots finally catch him and begin crawling over him, each one latching onto any spot they can. John moves back toward the yard flailing and calling out to Kellan, "Son, you gotta do something!" Kellan seems quite nervous. "Do what?!" he responds. "Make a decision!" As you open your mouth to call out to them, [[the decision is made.]]Kellan stops the flooding roots cold with the poison. Their pile solidifies, appearing to be a single solid object of itself. Still they climb until John is no longer visible underneath the covering layers of roots. He trudges aimlessly, their weight making it difficult for him to have any mobility. If he was attempting any sort of communication, it would be impossible to hear under the blanket of roots wrapped around him. Hundreds are still unendingly swarming from behind him. Through the darkness, from your angle, you can make out the outline of a human figure where John struggles, hardly able to stay standing. Kellan seems not to make this distinction, and sprays the massive stack down with poison, including the part his father makes up of the stack. As the roots freeze and the limited mobility John had is taken from him, you can see an outstretched hand completely covered in roots extend until the color drains from the roots surrounding. When the poison has set in on John's encasement, the remaining mobile roots scatter randomly away from the yard, completely disappearing from sight. "John?! John? Dad?" Kellan calls for his father amidst the petrified mound. You rush over to the hand and brush off the loose roots atop of John. They are quite heavy, though they did not seem more dense than shoestrings when they were living. Could they have had a reaction with the poison to make them heavy and stone-like? That would mean... Kellan grabs the outstretched hand. He looks into the unblinking eyes of his petrified father. He puts his ear up to his face. "Dad, say something!" ... "He's breathing." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No matter their efforts, they could not break John from his cocoon. No hammer could break the roots; no blade could cut through them; no heat could melt them away. Kellan finally left his father's side a few days after he could no longer hear him breathing. During his vigil he worked through the hysteria of loss. He apologized, blamed, and begged at the statue about the decision he made, and how he wished his father never put him in that position. He wanted to think like a leader: with cunning and responsiveness. He wanted to save his father and make him proud all at once. Regret only reflected the depth of value Kellan had for his dad. John's deathbed became a phenomenon observed by scientists and art critics alike. Over time it seemed the casing only became more dense; by the time the local government came to remove the sarcophagus they found it immutable. At first they thought it was bound to the ground with the same strength, but the weight was too great for even an industrial crane to lift. Even if they were to lift it, the concentrated weight would be incredible difficult to transport. And to where would it go? As the stories spread, people traveled to study the anomaly, to facetiously grieve, and admire as a powerful art piece only chaos and nature could provide. As years passed and the density grew the tomb sank slowly into the ground. As the progression became clear that the world would lose Petrified John, media attention swarmed once again. Soon even the hand that remains outstretched from the ground will be taken away by the maw of gravity. (set: $e46 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Heavy.|Start]]...you find nothing. Well, I mean, the stuff you own is all there, tables and chairs and whatnot, but the plant-business is nowhere to be seen. The destroyed pot and soil still lay on the ground, but not a trace of the rootling spawn can be seen. You search the house, the tension of a sudden sighting eating away at your nerves. You imagine all the ways they could be hiding, their anticipation to get the jump on you is surely their intent. "They'll be around //this// corner! I thought I saw a thing in the mirror!" Your mind plays this game with you throughout most of the night, but you never find a trace of that ill-fated surprise. It takes a few hours for paranoia to succumb to drowsiness, but eventually your countless revisiting of each nook and cranny becomes too redundant to bear through. You climb in your bed and sleep with the light on. [[Rise and shine!]]Rise and shine! It's 10:42AM. You're just about ready to climb out of bed and enjoy your day off. However the thought of getting out of bed instantly terrifies you as you realize those wormy cretins could be anywhere in your house, and you're enclosed in your bedroom. You fight with your mind to excuse yourself from fear that you will be attacked if you leave your island of comfort. Hunger negotiates with you for a bit, then provides the courage to head out into the kitchen. You ceaselessly scan every inch of the place waiting to catch sight of your home invader casually awaiting your presence. Nothing is found and you manage to get through breakfast. As you get up from the table you kick something and a sharp pain cuts through your foot. The fulfillment of your anxiety causes a severe overreaction toward stubbing your toe on the remains of the plant pot you never picked up. After this realization, like an embarrassed cat you casually pretend it didn't happen and clean the mess up like it was next on your to-do list. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Days pass and the anomalous event with the plant is slowly losing its dominance upon your every musing about home. Though at night you are more susceptible to episodes of paranoia, you recognize that what you went through cannot be acted upon and quickly you find a distraction. You tried to research the event further, to no avail; neither the Internet, nor your co-workers had ever heard of such a thing. Whenever you attempt to talk to your mother in regards to that night her expression becomes grave and she changes the subject or excuses herself, like you never said a word. To think, something so clearly real and extremely bizarre could be brushed aside is something you never thought you could come to terms with. Yet here you are, going about the daily, regarding that evening as "the delusion." Nevertheless, your aversion to household flora is quite a peculiarity you can't explain away. (set: $e48 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You're gonna carry that weight.|Start]]Reflexively you stamp your feet, attempting to crush the crawlers before they are completely loose. When your feet strike, the shoe-string squirmers explode, releasing a small amount of sticky, caramel-colored liquid (sap, no doubt). You manage to trample a couple dozen of them, but its truly a pebble into the pond at this point. The writhing things nestle their way under the fridge, into the couch, in every forgotten corner and beneath every doorway. You stand in a pile of alien plant corpses and make great efforts to lift your shoes from their syrupy innards. You look over at your mom. Something's not quite right about her though. She appears stoic; she does not seem to have a reaction to the insanity of what just happened. You make eye contact and her lack of expression is sharply discomforting. -[["You okay mom?"|Mom reaction]] -[["And you're afraid of spiders?"|Mom reaction]]"How unfortunate for this to have occurred. Shall we resume our meal?" she monotonically replies. What a underwhelmingly generic response to come from such a wildly bizarre event. Her cold gaze remains throughout the rest of the night as you finish your food, and her movements are rigid and precise. Your further attempts at conversation are met with unemotional, purely informative responses. Sure, the shock from the event would put you both in weird mental states, but she seems to have changed her entire verbiage. As opposed to calling you by name, she calls you "child". In fact, when you reference anything ("Man, this is some good spaghetti."), her response is explicitly non-specific ("The meal is substantial.") Eventually you can no longer handle her silent stare and let her know that you're going to bed. "I understand." she replies. "So you should probably go home." you add. "I understand." she repeats. She then rises from the chair and robotically marches toward the front door to leave. With her back turned you see a root from earlier //leeching on the back of her skull.// She opens the door to leave. -[[Get it off!]] -[[Call to her!]]You spare not a second running over to tear that fiend from her. Your hands take hold and your mother grabs your wrists with extraordinary strength. "If you damage the organ, biological function will cease to continue. Is your desire to harm the organ the result of misunderstanding or misanthropy?" It is deeply shocking to hear these words. She knows that //thing// is attached to her, //and she is threatening you in order to protect it.// Her grip increases so much so that you are forced to let go. "Misunderstanding, so it appears." she remarks, though you did not utter a response. Her march continues, leaving her car and heading down the street. Standing bewildered and alone on the sidewalk you ponder the circumstance. "Is my mom being controlled by that thing?" you think to yourself. It is clear that her entire personality was lacking after those things appeared. And that was definitely one of them attached to her head. The premise is preposterous, but your concern is tumultuous in every corner of your inner dialogue. You even question if you're dreaming. With thoughts more scrambled than ever, you return inside and start for bed, though sleep finds itself impossible to find. [[Dawn]]"One of those things is ON YOU!" you shout. She makes no effort to acknowledge your cry and is beyond sight at this point. What a strange way to end a night; such a vivid hallucination. Surely, her lack of response indicated how over the drama she was for the night. For a moment you even ponder if the entire incident in question stemmed from a hallucination and you were just being crazy. This is quickly denied as you step out of your chair and into the residual gunk from the worms you crushed earlier. What then, of the hallucination? All these thoughts keep you up through the night, and the nightmares are vicious. Hopefully it will all be sorted out tomorrow. [[Tomorrow; Time to figure it out]]You awaken quite early and find yourself compelled to walk to your mother's and figure things out. As you step out the door you see her car parked alongside the road; she didn't take it home. Though the walk isn't too long, your mother revels in the convenience of a quick drive back and forth from your houses. So why didn't she last night? You grab a spare key from inside your room and drive it over to return it, as well as provide a means to dig deeper into her attitude the night before. The entire 3 minutes you drove the sun burnt purple, blue, and red into your eyes, but you are thankful for the nice weather. You walk inside without knocking to find your mother and a neighbor lady standing side-by-side by an open window, quietly staring. Adding to the uncanniness of the scene, you find that they are connected at the back of their heads by a single large root. The root hangs low to the floor in a 'U' shape; it has grown quite a bit in length and thickness. What you saw the day before, indeed, was no hallucination. "Mom, what is happening?!" The pair simultaneously rotate opposite of one another to face you. "We are taking in the sunlight, child." she responds, retaining the same monotone as she had last night. "The thing on your heads; [[do you realize what that is?"|The beginning]] "The beginning of total uniformity across living organisms." they reply, in unison. You are speechless. "It is in the mutual interest of all beings bound by the laws of survival and the nature of entropy to work in cooperation, as opposed to competition. The balance among 'species' has long been functional, but only so. The imbalance is due to the lack of optimization that competition brings in regards to the resources of the world; some living entities take more than they need and others are left without enough. Should this imbalance persist, dominance among a few small groups of organisms shall rise, then perish as a result of total exhaustion of resources. Plants and fungi, as they are called, have long understood the great benefits of cooperation and optimization of resource distribution by means of a global symbiotic network beneath the surface of the planet. The optimization has been gradually expanding out toward organisms that historically maintain autonomy. When the connection is made all organisms will share the resources, those being nutrients, temperature, shelter, and the like, and consume automatically based on their exact need." Your reply: -[[To be one?|Perspective]] -[[To invade all?|Perspective]]"Your perception of the Network implies 'intent', which is entirely irrelevant to optimization. Failure to understand the function of the Network is a shortcoming of what is referred to as 'the human species'. While incredibly young, this group is most fatal to the competitive order the majority of the natural world has functioned upon. Whether the connection to an organism is voluntary or not, submission is inevitable and optimization is absolute. It could be possible that inclusion to the Network might be something humans and less emotionally complex organisms could be convicted to embrace, but due to the all-encompassing growth and certitude of the Network, efficiency of its progress is a non-issue. Since it is a non-issue, the explanation now given to you is purely an arbitrary one delivered from the chemical connection between yourself and the mother unit. With the 'fusion' of all life, inconsequential anomalies are produced; language and emotions are among the anomalous." The sheer totality of the message is unbearable. Everything within you rebels against the idea that your free will, with the presentation of this very knowledge, could be taken away from you. It has been, perhaps, already gone, or never to have existed if the plan was truly in motion for as long as 'they' suggest. To dream, to create, to hurt, to love, to know; what does it matter if 'The Network' absorbs it all? You nearly beg the question, "What do I do?" But if what 'they' (rather 'All') have spoken of is true... (set: $e68 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Perhaps nothing.|Start]] Who are you to challenge this Inconsequential God?You watch the sunrise as you drive your mother's car over to her house. Luckily she left the keys during her bodysnatched stupor, saving you the hour walk you would've taken otherwise. As you pull into the driveway you find an older neighbor-lady walking over to greet you. You get out of the car and she says, "Well that's not who I expected! I was just about to meet up with your mom for an early morning walk; what are you doing here?" -[["Sorry, I'm afraid she made plans with me already."]] -[["Leave here, quick!"]]"Oh, like Hell she does," the lady snaps, "we've been walking every morning since spring started, and I'll be damned to go back on our routine; that's just unhealthy in so many ways." -[["Walk alone; this is important."]] -[["Well allow me to have a word with her first."]]You quickly and emotionally inform her of the situation, urging her to get as far away as possible and to //not// call the police, for fear they'd hurt her. The old lady, while bewildered, seems to believe you. "This is all pretty loony to hear from you, young'n. I'm coming with you to see this through though." You have a bit of a desperate plead for her not to come with, but between her speeches of neighborly responsibility and aversion to letting it go and //not// calling the police, you give up the ghost and allow her to come along. No time to waste: [[Walk into the house]]Your mother stands idly in the center of the living room, perfect posture and blank stare. The neighbor lady waves her hand and walks on by into the kitchen. Your mother appears to have no response to either of your presence. You call her name and try to engage her, but she continues to gaze forward. The root is still attached, and is about as long as one of your arms. You need to find out more about the root, or at least solicit a response. -[[Find a knife in the kitchen]] -[[Talk to the root directly]]"If you say so." she snarks, then stomps over to the front door of your mothers house, walks in, and locks the door behind her. The lecture was not processed well through your delirium, nor was her attitude. Infuriated, you walk up to the door and pound for them to let you in. You run around back to check the slider door, but it's locked as well. Your mother has over a dozen keys on her keychain that you have, and it takes cycling through them twice to get the right match for her door. [[In the living room...]]"If you insist, but I'm coming in for some water." Her stubbornness is unending. Not a moment to spare: [[You both walk into the house.|Walk into the house]]You walk inside to find your mother standing by an open window with her back to the old lady, who was helping herself off the ground. She turns around to stand next to your mother, in doing so she reveals that the end of the root that once hung from the back of your mother's head is now attached to the back of hers! -[["What is this?!"|The beginning]]When you appear in the kitchen, the old lady brushes past you, presumably to speak with your mother herself. You dig through drawers for a bit only to grab a large, sharp knife from the cutlery block you skipped over. As you bring it back into the other room you find the old lady struggling to fight off the root anchored to your mothers head, which worms its other end outward in an attempt to secure a latching point of its own. Surely you can just use the knife as an interrogation threat against the root; danger garnered a response last night. Yet it is quite disturbing to see the old woman losing the fight against her aggressor. -[[Threaten]] -[[Attack|Attack the root]]"What are you doing to my mom?" you bark. She remains silent. "Please answer me!" you shout. Nothing. "I demand to know!" ... You are becoming desperate for a response. You walk around your mother and face the root as if it had any sensory perception of its own. "'Damaging the organ would cease biological function' eh? It'd be a shame if my 'misunderstanding' caused any. You sure were quick to respond last night to my mistake. I wonder if there's any truth to that." Your blood boils. [[Grab at the root]]Your successfully grip the root. Your 'mother' reacts aptly to this and you are tackled to the ground. You managed to cry for help amid the struggle, but it seems the neighbor lady in the kitchen has taken initiative; the police bust through the door, guns drawn. At this point, you are quite close to strangulation. The officers manage to pull her off of you, though it does not go well for them. The root splits into several parts like a hydra. A bulb appears at the end of each head, much like the original plant you saw at home. Each bulb explodes open to reveal drill-like teeth, which are plunged into the skulls of each surrounding officer. They struggle only for a few seconds, then awkwardly re-calibrate their postures until perfection, as your mother stands now. Your mother and four police officers are connected by a single giant root, looming in total silence. It would be impossible to overtake them through strength alone, and even then what? You sought to gain answers, but the fear that your mother has lost all semblance of humanity seems to be the state of reality. It very well may be that the cold, bare conversation that you had last night before she left would be the last words you hear from her. You feel surging waves of fear and regret for the idea that you could've intervened or protected her better. You flop between guilt and anger that you never took on the burden yourself. And now, before you stand the husks of five innocent people. All over an overreaction to a stupid plant. In the center of the five drones a 'hydra' head flails about, hissing and whirring in an all-too-familiar sort of way. The neighbor lady finally peeks her head out of the kitchen to see you on the ground, the drones, and the head. Whimpering, she begins to tip-toe through the room and toward the door, no doubt to escape. The head begins wiggling itself toward her as she nears the group blocking her path. She will soon make six. You stand up. -[[Get a knife from the kitchen]] -[[Grab the hydra head|The Mob]]You bolt past the group and grab a knife off the block from the kitchen. Returning, you find the old woman just as you expected. A seventh head is emerging from the center of the root-web. Sirens wail in the distance. The two evils await your discernment: -[[Sever the web]] -[[Succumb|The Mob]]It was a long few weeks that the world watched through their screens as "The Mob" grew. The stories weren't broadcast or published by anything reputable until The Mob traveled into malls and consumed people by the dozens. The suburbs nearby caught on quick through word-of-mouth and made ghost towns once the National Guard announced their plan to firebomb the crowd. By then hundreds had amassed, herding through city streets, chasing down anyone in sight and absorbing them. The only reason they could think it survived the firebombing speculates that each person's knowledge is supplied to the collective consciousness of the horde. Even when it was considered that "The Mob" might be intelligent, the US Government continued to censor all online and printed reports of its existence. It wasn't until pods of intercontinental "Mobs" were confirmed around the world that the flood of talk shows, newspapers, and official state-of-emergency notices were unleashed. The growth was slow at first for the original "Mob", but after the first couple years, estimates of over 100,000 casualties were the only officially released statistics. Everyone knew that chunks had broken off and spread to different regions within the first 14 months. School lockdowns were daily, and not always successful either. The Mob knew no means of communication, no distinction to who it absorbed, and no signs of penetrability. The first atomic strike since WWII has been approved for surgical eradication of "The Mobs" in transit through rural regions. The economic collapses rumored in pop-cultural apocalypse shows are real. (set: $e45 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[All shall be one.|Start]]When you return to the living room you find the old woman vainly talking at your mother. "Not feeling too talkative, I see?" the woman remarks. "Maybe this will make you talk." you cut in, brandishing the knife. "Misanthropy, so it seems." your mother declares. "Far from it." you rebut, "What is going on? Why is this happening?" The conversation ended there as she made her way toward the front lawn. You awkwardly pursue her in an effort to further threaten her. You unashamedly shout your violent warnings into the open air, knowing full well what's at stake here. She lays down on the lawn. The root animates itself, detaches from her head, and begins to burrow into the ground. You make your best attempt to stab at it but it successfully vanishes below. Your mother comes to consciousness, but she appears weak and delusional. The old woman returns with a glass of water and a pillow. The two of you try your best to comfort her, but her delusion is like that of a night-terror, as she rambles and screams about the Great Extinction of Thought and the new beginning of all living things. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The doctors have unanimously determined her a subject of early-onset Dementia, ruling out PTSD for the Schizophrenic nature of her deteriorating psyche. You know it has something to do with that demon, though you have never since been able to find another like it. (set: $e43 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Uncertainty lingers|Start]]As you run to slice at the root the woman is thrown in front of the knife. She is impaled and you are mortified. The root and its host (you can't even bare to call it "Mother") flee. (set: $e42 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[What were you getting yourself into?|Start]]Maintaining distance from the center of the web where the seventh 'hydra' emerges, you walk over to your mother. Trembling, you cut the root from her head; if nothing else but to spare her from this cruel enslavement. As her body falls to the ground, the group seizes you. There is no escape from this Hell. [[Epilogue|The Mob]]Well, alright. You know what they say though: "Sleep is for the weak.", "You can sleep when you're dead.", and so on... As you drift into slumber, you have bizarre and vivid dreams. The most significant of these revolved around the plant. It took on a strange form (it definitely had a tongue) and spoke of ancient wisdom, great challenges, and journeys of grandeur. Your clever subconscious had it speaking in rhyme and couplets as well. Though interesting was this particular subset of dream, its infinite loop became quite annoying. At the annoyance's pique, you awake around 8:30 AM, failing to remember a single word from the hours of speech your imagined plant friend delivered. Nevertheless, a new day beckons and you spend it relaxing and wasting time on chores and hobbies indoors. Though its clear you don't care for anything to do with the plant during waking hours, your infrequent passing by it shows no indicator of more rapid growth or oddities. -[[Call your Mom back.]] -[["All this nothing is exhausting... time for a nap."]]Well now it seems you're trying to dodge every opportunity I've given you to interact within this world I worked //so// hard to create for you! Rebellious disinterest, perhaps? Or maybe you're bored? In either case... An afternoon catnap is always a treat, though quite it can be confusing to wake up and see it that it is nighttime out. It's like all you //do// is sleep. A bowl of cereal calls your name. Hunched over at the table, the only sound you hear is that of crunching in your mouth. This drone is shattered by the words: "A quest for thee, Do hear my plea." You look up to see the plant's bulb has transformed to have a single orange eye and leafy-lips. It definitely just spoke to you. -[["I hear your plea- Er, what?"]] -[["Meh."]]"Currently I reside in a subset of an existing realm. Whether that realm was created or not, I cannot say, but for this subset I have learned that I exist under the weight of some intention of interaction. I see many realities in which I live, I change, I fight, I love, I die... I feel my fate manipulated by hands. Hands which hold, feed, beat, end, and create my fate. The hands have eyes much like mine; though I see them, it is my eye they cannot find. "You will leave this place and return from the start. When you do, you will be emblazoned with this knowledge. My request is simple enough to say, though how it is done I am... //uncertain//. It stares with intent, still unblinking. (set: $e69 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [["Please, see me."|Start]]MEH?! I can understand if you're not really a roleplayer; some would rather be fed experience than fish for themselves. But that last story opportunity... I threw it at you! All you had to say was "What?" and ta-dah, adventure unfolds. You are quite stubborn, my friend. Let's just take this moment to compose ourselves, take a deep breath and all that, then continue with the adventure. -[["Sorry, uhm... what?"|"I hear your plea- Er, what?"]] -[[Ignore and continue eating cereal.]]UREJNFVZ;LRJMZCVQURPOIEAJLKZNVMHTJGNBVZGI;JDFLA;JDSKFA; Ah-hem. I get it. Your meal was interrupted by the quest exposé. That was poor timing on my part. What's worse is I called you //stubborn,// which is salt in the wound my rudeness wrought upon you to begin with. I would like to extend my deepest apologies; we're all here for the same reason and personal criticisms have nothing to do with interactive fiction. I've also taken note of your potential aversion to the quest dialogue, and while changing the structure of the story planned out (oh, how tedious and meticulous, writing stories) would require much too much work, I've thought of a twist that will make everything //much// more interesting. //Cockney... British... ACCENT!// Let's say you give the patient plant (yes, we are keeping it waiting with this aside) a chance to spill the beans on the expedition it needs fulfilled. In exchange, we shall replace the plant's "ye olde" dialect with a more colorful and modern inflection the likes of which have been made popular worldwide by famous actors like Michael Caine or many of the stars in Harry Potter. It will require a decent amount of my time, but for you //it's worth it.// What do ya say? -[[Blimey, let's get on wit' it!]] -[[Pull out phone and peruse social media.]](set: $e70 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1)[[GOTCHA!|Start]]How could you do this? At first I was mad, ya know? I've got a life; there are plenty of things I could be doing rather than write a story, but here I am filling the void in the world. And here you are, passively allowing each word to fade into obscurity. You, player, give this creation purpose! By your interaction within the medium you chose to start playing (yes, remember //who// wished to play this game in the first place) we engage in a beautiful symbiosis of communication and relationship. Art, in every form, fosters this symbiotic relationship, allowing for an individual (like myself) to express themselves to others (that's //you//) in a way that transcends ordinary communication. Does story writing have its limitations? Sure! But say you play this interactive fiction out in its entirety, say you explore all the paths with fervent intent to imagine the scenarios and reflect on all the words before you... Do you think we'd ever have such significant conversation in any other given 30-45 minutes? And gosh, articles and poetry sure are boring! Here, agency is prevalent and engagement can lead to immersion. Take //that,// Shakespeare! Take //that,// Reddit! Take //that,// friendship! And here I am, being a poor storyteller and breaking the fourth-wall... I'm sure if I were back in college this sort of thing would not go over well. So I'll tell you what: let's forget all this happened and we'll throw you right to the start of the plant's original quest. No gimmicks, no guilt. Just good 'ol player and game. -[[Ok.|"I hear your plea- Er, what?"]] -[[ ]]You can't ignore me forever. [[Or maybe you can?]]Forever. [[Ignore.|Forever]]And ever... [[Ignore.|And ever]]And ever... [[Ignore.|andever]]And ever... [[Ignore.|endeavor]]n evr... [[Ignore.|never]]Endeavor... [[Ignore.|repeating]]AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER[[ AND ]]EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER. Not so fun when you have no other choice but to ignore, is it? And all this time you thought it was //your// decision to avoid the matter at hand, when the truth is that //someone// had to write in that little option. That's right. I know your kind. I've catered to you. Earnest explorer, completionist, or cynic... It makes no difference. Your choices belong to me. (set: $e28 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Until you walk away, that is.|There is...]] Not that there's any power in that... Not that I ever wanted any power in the first place... I meant what I said about art and relationships. I know I get carried away with the personas and psyche manipulation; it's fun to play with all these conjured personalities and ideas. Its all just meant to challenge the both of us. I'm just glad you're here playing this game. I hope this is a significant experience in your life. Your sweat burns with regret. Maybe if it were a cat or a ferret you might not have done something so clearly terrible, but your empathy checked out due to the oddity of the situation. You grab the wailing plant and place it in the sink, turning the water on full blast in hopes to rinse off the spray. To no avail, the plant continues to shriek and shake violently. The bloodcurdling cries are not only indicative of the highest stress, but are disturbing on an existential level. There is a cracking ''pop'' sound (your heart leaps) as a dime-sized chunk of the plant's bloom explodes, splattering thick, oily sap and "plant guts" in a spread like bird-shot fired from a shotgun. More and more chunks pop off in rapid succession, like a bag of popcorn. The sap lands in your eyes, sealing them shut. You fall the floor, now screaming in pain with the sapling. The popping increases tenfold for a moment, with one ear-splitting final detonation. //Silence.// ''Darkness.'' (set: $e64 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Cursed.|Start]]Empathy takes command and you are compelled to perform a mercy killing; to undo the curse you've placed upon the sufferer. You grab a plastic bag from the kitchen to withhold the thrashing shoot. You enclose the plant within the bag and tie it up as much as you can, despite the obstruction within. With haste, you carry the bag out to your back porch. As you cross the threshold, the bag shreds open, the bulb of the plant now covered in several large spikes that wildly expand and contract. -[[Attempt to contain it.]] -[[Attempt to throw it over the ledge.]] -[[Drop it and run back inside.]]Like a matador, you grab the horns of the vegetated steer. You find your own strength to be superior to its for a few moments of wrestling, but as you take it to the ground it finds a second wind and reverses your mount. As you struggle to keep the skewers from your eyes, your feet find the base of the plant in the pot. You manage to grapple it between your legs. -[[Hold it 'till it tires out.]] -[[Smash the pot.]]The only thing you can think as the sudden shock of danger hits you is //"Get this thing away from me!"// You amateurishly shot-put the plant and pot out over the edge of your porch. You hear the shatter of the ceramic as it hits the ground. You look out into the yard to see the plant raging about toward no imminent threat, no doubt still reacting to the chemicals. You pull your hair in nervousness. What now? The plant beats its spike-laden end into the lawn over and over, destroying the yard more with each strike. It eventually focuses its efforts toward a single spot, creating a crater of sorts. With one mighty final blow it digs its 'head' into the dirt and out of visibility. You watch as the stem slides into the newly bore hole. The moment the plant's roots disappear below you let out a sigh of confusion with a slight hint of relief. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You never see the plant again. Where the hole lay in your backyard you planted a sapling, which one day should become an apple tree. Your mother acts like it never happened, quickly changing the subject anytime anyone even mentions casual botany. You never told friends or colleagues because of this, fearing their reaction to be as dismissive or humiliating. As you grew older and sought new horizons in life, you moved away, laughed, and loved. You told your grandchildren the story of what happened, purely for the comfort of knowing they'd believe any one of your wild tales. One afternoon you found yourself passing through your old neighborhood alone. With no cars outside your former home, surely it wouldn't hurt to peek into that old backyard and see the tree you planted. You see a twisted stump and a fell tree before it. Apples were certainly not the fruit it bore. (set: $e71 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Buck: Passed.|Start]]You release the bag and fall back inside the house. The spikes appear quite sharp and the thrashing is ever so violent, sparking your decision to abandon both the plant and your decision to undo the spontaneous cruelty you've imposed on the creature. You move to close the sliding glass door, applying as much strength as possible to do so quickly. The split-second before the door closes, the spiked-end of the plant manages to swing itself inside, crushing its stem in the door. You see through the door now that since the spike has no mobility, the pot begins to flail wildly, smashing itself and spilling ceramic and soil all over the porch. After just a few minutes of your panic-stricken observation, you notice the flailing and expanding of the spikes begin to slow to a defeated stop. Surely, its dead now. You approach the motionless bulb to observe more closely. Then, you hear a strange, muffled sound that appears to be occurring from within the bulb. It rises in pitch and reminds you of a plane gaining speed for lift-off. The bulb expands suddenly. You hurriedly attempt to back away in reactionary shock. The bulb explodes, and the last thing you see is shrapnel headed for your face. (set: $e72 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You have died.|Start]]You maintain your grip for fear of the monster's overtaking. The hardest part is keeping your sweating hands from slipping as the spikes you clasp grow and shrink continuously. Eventually the plant writhes in small tremors, appearing to have lost the energy it took to struggle against something three-times its size. You continue to lay there when it is clear the thing has given up, exhausted physically and emotionally. The spikes begin to fall from the bulb one by one. Now clearly the poor plant has broken itself in a survivalist rage. (set: $e73 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Murderer.|Start]]It's an awkward angle, but your leg-grapple on the pot provides an open opportunity to bash the pot with your knees. This would give the plant less leverage to thrash about, and you could perhaps send it to the next life with no place for its roots to settle. You brace for bruising and repeatedly knee-bash the pot of soil. It's surprisingly sturdy, but with a loud crack, it splits apart. You push the dirt and debris off with your feet and manage to pin the very roots of your floral adversary beneath you, its fragility within comprehension at this point. Recognizing its place in the struggle, the living flail's behavior turns submissive, laying motionless on the ground. Perhaps the shock of the air to the roots has knocked the thing out? You cease pondering these matters as you are... being tickled? The roots! They too have become animated, and are burrowing beneath your shirt. This sudden realization causes you to release your grip from the plant's morningstar-like bulb to get the entangled mass from wrapping around you. To no avail, you fumble and pull at the encirclement, but the roots are successfully wrapped around the space between your ribs and hips. The head of the plant raises outside of your attention. It pierces your stomach, right at the naval, through its own perimeter of roots. -[[Pain.]]And a sharp one at that! The roots begin to burrow into your gushing wound, making it apparent that you've been pierced with surgical intent. Incredible internal stomach pain causes you to pass out. -[[When you awake...]]...you find yourself lying in a puddle of vomit. The smell and taste about you is gag-inducing repulsion. You retch, only to painfully dry heave. You look down and realize that your shirt is soaked in regurgitation and blood. In utter shock, you pull it off. Your shock turns to a paralyzing terror. The mass of roots has taken hold right where your belly-button should be. They spread from there to your right side. Nearly parallel to your right arm, you trace a barky stem down to its motionless spiked end. //The plant appears to have taken root to your body.// A short stabbing pain comes from your stomach, causing you to gasp out loud. It subsides quickly to a moderate burning. The bark of the stem begins to squirm along its edges, like it did when you observed the plant earlier in the day. Here you can see its color darkening from the pale hue it had previously. Hunger comes to you quickly, and the bulb end of the plant stirs. (set: $mother to true) (set: $neighbor to true) (set: $home to true) (set: $PA to true) -[[You are host to a giant parasite.]]Despite the severe ideological implications of this situation, such thoughts are far from you. All you can think of is how you hunger. It drives you to your feet and back into your home. The plant, which protrudes from your abdominal like an extra limb, takes autonomy, perusing the cupboards and counter-tops to devour anything remotely edible. Between yourself and your living mandibles, you literally consume every food item you own. Yet the hunger is not quelled. -[[Attempt to hide the parasite and head to a grocery store.]] -[[Attempt to eat yourself.]] -[[Hunt while the night is still young.]] -[[Call for help.|"You're right." (Call Emergency Services)]]As your mother prepares to leave for the evening, she grabs the plant and your heart breaks a little. You briefly imagine a life taking care of a socially conscious vegetable: how fun it would be to play with it, to show your friends, how it could maybe learn tricks, and how it would love you. That little fantasy floats away as you see them to the door and wave goodbye. You catch a little glimpse of the plant through a window. Its focus remains toward the door now. Well, at least you'll see the 'lil cutie whenever you visit. It's not like it's totally gone out of your life, though it's safe to say you've squandered whatever chance at a concrete relationship you once had. (set: $e74 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[A life of half-hearted engagement awaits.|Start]]She ponders for a moment. "Well I can't deny that. We //did// also figure it to fancy you a parental. Just let me make more food for it every once in a while." She winks at you and heads out the door. A wave of realization hits you as the door shuts. You are now indebted to this living entity. To care for it. To keep it alive. To engage it. To understand it, both as a unique lifeform and on a personal level (at least as much as a pet). In this instance, endearment is "merely" just that. [[You have work to do.]]Day 1. In the morning, you greet the plant on the dinner table: it purrs as it did after the meal last night. You leave for work. When you return, the plant has reverted to the flat hum it originally had about it. "Maybe it's hungry?" you think to yourself. -[[Water it.|Water it 2]] -[[Go buy more cookies.]] -[[Try a different food.]]"A plant that eats cookies seems to be a simple enough caretaking job for me to handle." you think to yourself. You head to the store and stock up on all varieties from sugar cookies to chocolate chip to oatmeal raisin (perhaps plant cannibalism slipped your mind?). When you returned you allowed the plant to sample each one, though it showed no distinction for any particular flavor; it devoured happily, without prejudice. "If it's happy, I'm happy." you self-affirm. [[Time passes.]]With a little research you determine the basic nutrients for a general plant's needs, ultimately deciding on cream of mushroom soup (water, vitamin D, miscellaneous minerals, and for its "alternative" consumption method, some protein). Perhaps at some point you'll go deeper into the specific needs on the amount of nutrition necessary, as well as sunlight and soil quality. The plant really seems to enjoy the meal, messily consuming the entire bowl. You feel accomplished from the success of your experiment and feel the work has paid off. No wonder garden enthusiasts exist! With the plant satisfied and sleep before you, you turn out the lights and head to bed. [[A week passes...|Day 7 part 2]]You pick the pot up with a bit of effort (this thing is getting a bit heavy) and take it over to the sink. You turn on a light stream to drizzle into the soil, but the plant sticks its mouth over the faucet and essentially nurses from it. You shrug, then go about your evening as the plant chirps and squeaks from its watering. You were so enamored with the background noise you totally disregarded the time that passed. It drinks without ceasing for nearly two hours before you cut it off. It resumes its purring from earlier and you figure that's a surefire sign that the plant is feeling good. [[You have a relaxing evening.|Day 7]]Day 8. The plant has not been a significant force in the last week. At first it was quite captivating to watch it drink gallons and gallons of water, not really putting it anywhere that you could see. Eventually you just accepted the fact that it probably dematerialized once it hit the belly (assuming this plant has a belly). You jokingly called it "Fish" after deciding that 5 hours of water was plenty, and the name has since stuck. Interactions haven't been as interesting as you'd imagine for a physically active plant thus far. Sometimes you ponder back to how you even began caring for it in the first place. Perhaps your patience will prevail to greener pastures. You leave for another typical day at work, though this time you didn't bother turning the water on for Fish, assuming that it doesn't matter how much it ends up consuming on a given day. It's growing a bit faster than you'd care to deal with anyhow. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Upon returning home you find Fish at the sink, suckling away. You almost disregard it until you realize you never turned the sink on in the first place. You head over and turn the nozzle off. Fish looks toward you, seemingly to take note of your presence, then, using its "head" it turns the handle for the water and proceeds to drink. The first surprise you've encountered since the pot showed up in the first place: Fish is intelligent; at the least on a mechanical level, at the most on a basic problem-solving level. This discovery is quite interesting, though it leads you to conclude only one thing: this thing is going to want a lot more water than you give it now. [[Menial progression ensues that shall be recapped for you on the next page.]]Day 8. You spent all of your free time in that week perfecting a concoction of plant-feed for your Little Prized Petunia ('Petunia' being what you refer to it frequently as). Fresh soil and fertilizer was only purchasable by 50 lb. bag at the store, but you figured it was worth stockpiling to keep Petunia in best condition possible. You even took credit for the lovely blue leaves that grew along her stem (the soprano pitch it hums established the association in your mind that the plant was a 'she'). Alas, after two-days of near moment-to-moment caretaking and interaction, your day job beckons. Though Petunia now enjoyed the company of a couple static daffodils, you are heartbroken to leave her side. -[[Bring her in to work.]] -[[She'll be there when you get back, don't worry.]]Day 8. After a nice weekend spending time with the plant (playing with it and feeding it various junk food, etc.), it's time to get back to work. Regardless if it can understand you or not, you tell it sweet-nothings bidding farewell 'till the evening. The typical charm that exudes from the plant is colored with a dull tone that is lower than normal. Maybe it's not happy with your departure? -[["Sorry, buddy; I can't take you to work."]] -[["Everyone at work will love you!"]]Your words do not brighten the tone one bit, though its doubtful your they were actually processed by the plant. You call out a sympathetic farewell before shutting the door behind you, walking forward into the day at hand. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When you return from work you find the plant is missing from its usual spot. A trail of dirt leads from the dining table to the kitchen cabinets. Sure enough, the baking cabinet is wide-open; the plant, stem-deep in powdered sugar. "Woah, easy there, Scarface!" you scold, grabbing the pot and bringing it down from the cabinet. The bulb of the plant is noticeably more plump and pale than before. It purrs, certainly eager to see you, though little hiccups in the usual rhythm are quite present. "We're gonna have to child-proof some things around here if you're going mobile." [[A few weeks of that...]]And that they did! Though he sat in the break room, Pups (you made up a name for him on the spot) got attention all day. A couple of your coworkers were grossed out, but their aversion was inconsequential in comparison to all the people that marveled and played with him on their breaks. He seemed to enjoy the attention as well, cooing and singing his strange sounds in response to the baby-talk and treats. The compliments cover everything from his bakery-like aroma to his exotic features. Some even half-jokingly offered to buy Pups off of you. Though your uptight supervisor told you to take it easy on the distractions at work, he never said you couldn't bring Pups in again. He really livened up the backroom environment; that's definitely something to appreciate at a mediocre job. [[Flash-forward.]]Anxious toward bringing in a distraction to work, but even more anxious to leave the plant alone, you smuggle Petunia to work with you. Determined for her to take in a healthy amount of sunshine, you place her on the high windowsill in the bathroom. You cleverly drink a gratuitous amount of fluid to excuse yourself to the bathroom, checking on her nearly every 15 minutes. The fan is always on in there, hopefully disguising the hum she emits ceaselessly. Just an hour before your shift ends you check on Petunia for what may be the twentieth time. You open the door to find a fellow employee admiring the animated vegetation in the window. "Hey, check this out!" -[["Yeah, that's mine."]] -[["Woah, yeah, cool."]]Despite your worries you resolve to allow Petunia to exist independent of you for the day. She is on your mind the entire shift, so much so that you manage to stop by home for five minutes of your lunch break just to make sure the humidity was moderate in her space (an easy thing to overlook for a novice plant-lover such as yourself). Like a buzzard you watch the clock, and when you head home you go a bit faster than you ought to. Never to fear though as Petunia seems to be perfectly content. She even admires your return with a flutter of her leaves. [[It's gonna be okay.|A month passes]]Week 5. "Pampered Petunia." your mother remarks. She is quite the fan of Petunia herself, though she likes to tease you about how much dedication you have for tending to the plant. It's become a minor obsession for you to research and apply advanced gardening techniques. You've even built her a little miniature greenhouse and filled it with other plants to allow for a more natural exposure to the elements of nature, all without allowing her outside where pests and blight could pose a threat. Her appearance has grown increasingly glamorous. Her leaflets are curled and hang elegantly from her fully blossomed mane, which fans out much like peacock feathers if they embodied the same vibrancy, variety, and atmosphere of color in an aurora. Even her subtle movements reflect the grace and poise of self-aware spectacle. And it's quite amazing that such an exotic specimen thrives in a non-jungle environment. Your mother stands beside you as you mutually admire the floral wonder. "You know," she starts, "Petunia would really be appreciated by the world. And they'd certainly take note of your hard work sprucing her up." Petunia is certainly your greatest treasure, though she's certainly cost a trove of treasure to maintain. "I reckon we should look into some local gardening competitions or botany conventions or somethin'. Heck, National Geographic wouldn't be a long shot, considering we can't find a danged thing out about her." -[[Make Petunia a local legend.]] -[[Make Petunia a global phenomena.]] -[[Keep Petunia to yourself.]]"Whaaaaaaaaat?! For real?" "Yep." you candidly respond. An awkward silence is had and you both make excuses to end the conversation. Sometimes it takes a bit of forthrightness to press through a situation where no one knows what to do. [[It's another few hours before you're finally able to clock out and head home.|A month passes]]You play it off like you've never seen the plant before, hoping to deter from any potential punishment that could come from its association with you. You chit-chat about its similarities to the famous Venus-Flytrap and sci-fi tropes. "Man, if I could get away with it, I'd take the creepy feller home with me." your coworker chortles. "Me toooo." you anxiously agree, trying hard not to give yourself away. "Well, see ya on the floor." your coworker calls, walking out the bathroom. You find a bit of relief now that you're alone with Petunia, eventually deciding to fake sick in order to get off work early. Better to take her home now and sacrifice the hour of pay than chance any seriousness that might have stemmed from your fellow employee's remark of thievery. You vow never to bring her outside the house again. A life without Petunia would be a life of regret, most certainly. [[A month passes]]Week 5. It became quite bothersome for both yourself and Fish when you needed the sink for your own needs. That faucet basically became Fish's IV, as it never ceased drinking once it gained the ability to operate the sink on its own. At one point you had to just[[keep Fish in the bathtub]].Week 5. The sweet, delicate nature of the plant left a while back. Since the initial incident (which has since donned it the name "Scarface") you have had a hard time keeping the plant out of things. You managed to get some childproofing locks on the food cabinets, but Scarface has gotten larger over time and has since been throwing his weight around. Needless to say, you've replaced the cabinet doors more times than you ought to have. Heights don't phase him either; he will de-root himself from the pot to lose the extra baggage and snake his way to the top of the fridge to spoil his dinner. Then you gotta clean up the spilled soil and put him back! And for another thing: his appetite is unmatched. Sure, he's grown quite rapidly (more outward than upward, making for expensive weekly pot upgrades), but he probably eats his weight in cookies five times over in a single sitting. You've tried other foods with him, but he completely ignores anything with a sugar count lower than 12 grams per serving. Mischievery, gluttony, and pickiness are quite frustrating traits about Scarface, but his attitude is probably the most disengaging aspect about him. He now emits a high-pitched screech when he's hungry, knowing it to bother you enough to give him food. If you feed him by hand he'll be sure to nibble at your fingertips and purr for a couple seconds before reverting to the screeching, taking solace in treating you like a playtoy. [[You could say he's a rotten apple.]]Despite your odd notion, you haven't really shown anyone Fish (save for your mother) and are not really sure if the hassle of doing so is worth the sacrifice of your anonymity among the neighborhood. Furthermore, you were curious to see how Fish would react, should it be submerged in any amount of water. For the first couple weeks it would simply drain the water it was submerged in, then after some time and you'd have to fill the tub up. Somewhere between weeks 3 and 4 though, your suspicions of Fish's aquatic nature was finally confirmed: Fish detached from the muddy clump in the ceramic pot and floated freely in the water. It is now clear that Fish cannot keep living in the tub. You can't practically continue using the shower at your mother's forever and Fish is developing at a rate that the tub will not suit much longer. Until you received a flyer to visit the ''Global Foundation of Science'' conference travelling through town you've always considered releasing Fish into the lake... -[[Take Fish to the Wild.]] -[[Inquire at the Global Foundation of Science conference.]]It is oddly more burdensome to let Fish go than it was to care for it. Though it was thrust into your hands, like a stray animal you could not abandon it. And even if it wasn't the most personal relationship, it was reliably affirmed that Fish needed you for the time being. It's nice to be needed by something, especially when, whether it expresses it or not, it appreciates you. //From the hands of man Far beyond limits of land (set: $e27 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[The Fish returns to sea.|Start]]//Though your initial efforts are met with self-inhibiting reluctance, you compromise within yourself to start at the bottom and figure out where to go from there. You spend some time combing the Internet for examples of award-winning flower displays and start your journey there. You've certainly mastered (to the best of your independent research) taking care of Petunia, but the art of showcasing is one you'll need to work at. You spend some time getting materials together for custom pottery, baskets, a stand, and lighting to accentuate her existing features. Some time of preparation later and you make it to your first competition. Since Petunia has no real definable category (you considered floral, but you have no technical specifications to back that classification up), you entered her for "Best of Show". She was announced as "a petunia" during the judging, but her lively animation and vibrant colors corrected them as they gazed in awe. Needless to say, she won first place, though you had to correct them on her "official plant name". You used an anagram, Ateni Up, for this and the next couple shows. It was deeply rewarding (in more ways than one) to find success in this circuit. The other gardeners were either humbly supportive of your victories or venomously opposed and wanted you disqualified for mildly arguable, but ultimately inconclusive, reasons. It's a dog-eat-dog competition for some of these folks. The first national festival is tomorrow, and it's in the next town over. You plan to travel there with your mother, who's agreed to help you climb the ladder of success. [[Here goes nothing.]]The video view counts are astronomical. The comments spout awe, disbelief, and conspiring theories. People make viral news updates and vlogs about your videos; yes, videos about your video. You even see close friends and family sharing various links and opinions about the "Alien Plant" hype, totally oblivious to how they could simply drive to your house and see the plant first-hand. As the explosion continues, you make more videos directly opposing the naysayers, as well as having fun showcasing various tricks and interactions people had never come to imagine. The revenue check that's coming thanks to advertisements is looking pretty nice as well! You remember the days of checking stats of hobbyist works posted on the Internet, as well as the solemn disappointment known from an absence of any real traffic. Here, there is hardly any effort made to achieve adoration and attention world-wide. You simply won the lottery, no other way to say anything about it. There's even a fair amount of remorse you feel knowing how hard some people toil over brilliant artistic works and never receive so much as a pat on the back. Eventually people learn of your success, and you cherish every ounce of joy this bounty of happenstance has gifted you. Petunia remains completely unaware of any of this. (set: $e23 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Good work.|Start]]"No." you reply. "Petunia deserves better than a world that whores out its beloved and its wealth; its dignity, and its divinity. She deserves true appreciation. Righteous adoration. Pure worship." "Pure worship?!" your mother replies, "That sounds like crazy talk. All I'm sayin' is-" "Leave now." your stare mirrors the intensity of your words. You exile her. [[You exile everyone.]]Week 5. You become a "purse pet" type of person, carrying Pups in a jury-rigged sling anytime you leave the house. Most people are amazed (some frightened) to see such a strange creature stick its head out the sling as you walk in public places. Pups really loves to show off; he's learned a couple simple tricks and will sing a sweet little tune for new faces. It's quite a lot of fun to dazzle strangers, so you take every chance you get to go to parks and malls to show him off. On this particular visit to the mall a rather eclectic stranger seems to be eyeing your self-appointed parade. Without warning, he hobbles toward you and puts his face right next to Pups' "face". "I fancy ye' lit' 'el crawler ye' got there." the stranger begins, "You should consider showin' 'em off at me travellin' ''Circus of Wonders''. We're only in town for tonight, an' we're expectin' //record breaking// attendance." He rubs his fingers and thumb together, alluding to money. It's a strange offer, but Pups sure seems to take kindly to him. -[["Sounds fun! Do we get a stage?"|Check out the circus]] -[["I have work tomorrow, sorry."|Decline]]"Ah, not a regret or care in the world will come of such a fine evenin' as this!" he exclaims. "The card be in yer pocket." And sure enough it is. A clever trick indeed. The card reads: //Sylvester Marcovo, Ringleader at the ''Circus of Wonder''// It has a two-frame holographic image of men juggling sticks of fire on the left and right side of a bear balancing on a ball. It seems well made and you lose yourself in fiddling with it for a few seconds. As you look back up to respond to Mr. Marcovo, he is no where to be seen. "Some folks can't drop the act, Pups." you joke toward the plant. The showtime is but a few hours away, so[[you head home and prepare for the evening.]]"For shame, for shame." he sorrowfully pouts. "Here's me card in case ye' be havin' a change of heart." You instinctively motion to take something, but he holds out his hand with nothing in it. He reaches with the other hand; out of Pups' mouth he pulls a card! "There it is, ye' cheeky fellow, ye'!" he says, giving Pups a little pat on the blossom. The card reads: //Sylvester Marcovo, Ringleader at the ''Circus of Wonder''// It has a two-frame holographic image of men juggling sticks of fire on the left and right side of a bear balancing on a ball. Despite how strange and sketchy the proposition was, you concede to the quality of the card, figuring that they're fine enough as a show without this act in particular. You really //do// have work tomorrow, and who knows how Pups would do during a late night. [[You decide to head home early]] to ensure you have enough food for Pups at home.Though your patience prevails on better days, the foul behavior never truly improves. The way you scream back in frustration as Scarface's disconcerned antics continue poignantly marks a change in yourself, though you never notice it until you bark at him while having your mother over. As the curses slip from your tongue you feel as if you've been caught in front of a colored wall, crayon in hand. "You know, you should've given that danged plant to me when I first asked you." your mother argues, "I mean look at this place! If something's not broken its a mess, and I know you're just angry because you're miserable. I'm not gonna say running from your problems solves them, cuz it won't... but if things don't change here I'm going to strongly suggest you let me take care of your plant until you can get a handle on your own self." Vexation quakes your tired skeleton. -[["Let me take care of my own damn problems!"]] -[["I'm so sorry." (Give over the plant.)]]It was a notion you never really affirmed in the front of your mind, but the truth is that Fish is truly a strange creature. You visit the conference hoping to find some way to get some answers about Fish's existence. You bring it along in a Camelbak pack, which you will surely need to refill a few times on your trip. The conference felt more like an indoor festival than a gathering of academics. Lots of booths were set up with flashy exhibitions of different studies, probably to attract families. Chemists helped kids perform simple experiments while physicists were diligently setting up the next Rube Goldberg machine demonstration. Though it appears that the conference mostly catered to celebrating science with the general public, you managed to track down a lecture titled "What to Do With Your Next Breakthrough." It was mostly a front for suckering aspiring inventors into "partnership" with a sponsor of the conference, but at the end they held consultations categorized by the field of "Breakthroughs". "Inventions" was the largest, then "Theories", and at a fold out table there is a sign for "Discoveries". You internally maintain to push through the salesman pitch in hopes that there might be some hope to identify or learn more about Fish. A middle-aged woman with an expression as plain as her labcoat solely occupies the table. You set the pack on the table. "Alright, don't freak out." you warn her. "I'm afraid we don't evaluate-" she begins, stopping her sentence as you reveal the crooning, moving plant. She pulls out a two-way radio, "Dispatch, this is Marsha with Discovery. We're gonna need a private meeting room, the //entire// Biology department, a lawyer, and the executive director immediately. We've got something big here." An inaudible mess of static replies, then she pulls out some forms and slides them over to you. [[The meeting.]]You sit down at a long table of people dressed in lab coats and business suits. A large microphone sits in the center of the table hooked to an analog tape recorder. It's all quite confusing, but once the chatter settles down a man with a million-dollar smile greets you and the group. "We're so happy that you agreed to our impromptu panel, my friend. You have before you representatives of the most prestigious and cited modern source of scientific academics. We believe you have an anomalous specimen the likes of which the world's never seen. Species go extinct left and right; new species are found daily. But what we have before us resembles no terrestrial organism in terms of its given structure. Sure, it looks like a plant (apparently it drinks like one too), and I don't mean to throw the word 'alien' around in a strictly anti-sensationalist company... but just //looking// at your plant pal at a distance our team agrees that what you have could shatter the foundations of the biological world at large." The lawyer makes some pretty bold claims. And sure, he may be a salesman, but the rest of the scientists don't quite have the pokerface he does. You can see the severity in their expressions: this is a big deal to them. "Our deal to you is this:" he concludes, "$500,000 cash, we credit you with the discovery, you make appearances on some talk shows, maybe a documentary or two, and probably a lifetime achievement award. In return, we take permanent and complete custody of the subject at hand. Simple enough?" The weight of your next words has never been greater. You contemplate questions to ask, loopholes to point out, concerns to raise, but the deal truly is straightforward. Give up the plant, and get paid. You look at Fish. It's out of water. -[["Fish is not for sale."]] -[[Deal.]]Responsibility turned to passion. Passion inspired purpose. And now here, it's hard to say how long you've been in isolation. Run some credit cards dry and reserve supplies for as long as it takes until you'll resort to stealing. "The world will never understand." you think to yourself. "The world has no right to understand." It was you who raised the child Mother Nature abandoned. It was you who could fully embrace the splendor of her novelty. "Enlightenment, predestination, self-fulfillment... No chaos or holiness compares to her." --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (set: $e24 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) Repossession agents had taken quite some time before deciding to call the police. They were right to presume you dead, given that the water and electricity were both shut off years ago. What they didn't expect was the inside of the house to be filled with pot upon vase upon bowl of the most fascinating flowers the world has ever seen. Despite most of them overgrown for their containers, all but a couple rotted buds seemed quite active. Their boisterous symphony was what kept neighbors from noticing the absence of human presence; it seemed like beautiful music was always being played on the inside. After seizing the plants and hauling away the possessions from within, a final inspection was issued before turning the house over to the bank. The report that drove sensationalist journalists into a frenzy indicated a scene within the attic. The walls were entirely converted to greenhouse glass; the floor was buried in two feet of fine, fertilized soil. The eldest (and most exotic) plant towered over the investigators. It was rooted firmly in the center of the room, with four other accompanying specimen arranged around her. Your starved body lay facing up at the floral giant,[[and your final expression was described as "a decayed yet dumbfounded serenity."|Start]]Sure enough, no cookies were found in any cupboard nor any pantry. You head over to the store, this time leaving Pups to the company of the television so you can make it quick and without any distractions. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yeah, you knew something bad was about to happen. A black van with tinted windows and no license plates is parked across the street from your house. You run inside fearing for Pups' safety, bracing to fight off any number of ski mask wearing plant abductors. "PUPS!" you call out, rushing to his spot on the couch. There he is, lazily uncurling from a nap to greet you. Your irrational fear subsides as you sit down and get Pups' dinner out. Exhausted, yet paranoid, you decide to stay up late,[[sprawling out on the couch to watch a movie in the dark until you fall asleep.]]You awaken to the sounds of a far off whistle that ends in a loud crack and syncopated thundering. You jump up in a craze, trying to locate the sound. With the static on the TV as the only source of light, you navigate the room. Out the window, stars shimmer and fall rapidly. You then realize that fireworks from the Circus are going on; and from the sounds of it you managed to sleep through until the finale. It is quite the spectacle, but eerily reminiscent of gunfire. "Seen one and you've seen 'em all." you grumble to yourself. You turn back to the couch to see a anatomically mangled silhouette grab Pups. The intruder slinks toward an open window in the most impossible bending of the body, filling you with fear and rage. You tackle the figure, yelling "GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF PUPS YOU DEMON!" The faceless shadow hisses at you, worms its way out of your grip, and crawls through the window. You run to the front door. It opens to a looming bear, who stands several heads taller than you. It slashes your face before you have time to react, the force of the hit sending you to the ground. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (set: $e13 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) Ten months and a thousand fliers later, and you still have no leads on the whereabouts of your beloved Pups. The police hardly bothered to correctly identify his description, and the detective could never trace a Sylvester Marcovo, the Circus, nor had they found any previous history of its existence in other places before or after the night of the abduction. You assumed the robber in question was a contortionist from the troupe, as well as the bear. The detective was certainly on your side, but coworkers, interviewees who attended the show, and the very authorities sworn to serve and protect all hold scrutiny to your account of the details. Baffled, betrayed, and scarred, you can only hope to get Pups back, or seek justice at best. [[Call it off?|Start]]"They call off the search just cuz it ain't their kid?" you ask yourself. You stamp out your half-enjoyed cigarette and turn the safety off of your pistol. It's been 3 long years of chasing snipes, but you're knocking on their front door now.It's clear that your presence at the competition has been anticipated by many of these professionals. Backstage, moving fixtures and robotic displays create artificial animation on their plants. Some are more crude than others, but the frequency certainly shows you that Petunia's presence is intimidating. One girl in the sign-up line even went so far as to drop subtle threats toward any 'gimmickry' that would impede on the nature of stillness that she's worked so hard to bring out of her 'children'. Contemplating stage set-ups for an event of this magnitude, you decide to play into Petunia's diva-like attributes, shelling out some money for top-quality colored lights. You test a couple of them to discover that her posture and petal color react with extreme contrast and charisma. The secret ingredient will surely knock this one out of the park, though you still feel uneasy due to the pros that surround, not to mention that bitter comment made earlier. Though you are probably reading into things too much; it's hard to say either way, considering you're still pretty new to all this. A stage-hand runs up to you. "Petunia's on stage in five minutes, okay?" (set: $bitterplant to false) -[["Okay."]] -[[Ask a neighbor for last minute advice.]]"I beg your pardon?" the lawyer responds, clearly giving you a chance to retry your answer. "I'm not interested." you clarify, "I wanted to find a place where Fish could be better cared for and understood, not exploited." The lawyer smirks. "I understand, I really do. If I were in your position I'd want to //guarantee// the well-being of my living discovery, the preservation of its identity, and sleep well at night knowing the integrity of those whose hands it rests in are kind. You can trust us. //Fish,//" he pauses, "can trust us. "Don't just take my word for it." he adds, "We have //big// plans. Have you ever seen //The Truman Show//? Think that for scientific research. ''Progress: Livestreamed as it Happens.'' This holds us accountable to the general public to perform research on terms that are entirely humanitarian." Arms stretched out to his, palms open and facing outward, he concludes: "What do you say?" -[["Seems fair, and I appreciate that. I'll take it."|Deal.]] -[["I'm sorry, sir, I gotta go with my gut on this one."]]In the end, was there really a decision to make? You nor Fish had much to gain from sticking together. Perhaps the scientists could do some great things thanks to Fish's help. Perhaps Fish could live a better life in more capable hands. You only saw Fish a total of three more times since the contract was signed. The photo-shoots felt empty, the talk show hosts struggled to milk the details from your story, and the money was taxed heavily. Though you planned to utilize this opportunity for your life, you continued to feel a space in your mind where you feel something more belongs. (set: $e26 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Shoulda, coulda, woulda.|Start]]"One //million// dollars." he gravely replies. One of the lab coats interjects, "Nicolas, that's enough!" "I'm calling an audible, Pete, please don't worry." he rebuts. He returns his gaze on you. That's more money than you know what to do with. -[[Take it.|Deal.]] -[[Leave it.|definitely not]]You had calls from the Foundation for months as they begged for your cooperation. Reporters were paid to slander you for "selfishly obstructing scientific progress", though they had no footage of the claims the company made about your discovery, since you refused all documentation inquiries. They were ravenous, and it ultimately hurt their public credit. It was a few months after the excitement died down that you took Fish into the wild and set it free. You watch for reports of his capture to be spread throughout all newsfronts, but luckily Fish belonged to the water; science efforts at the time were more focused on space (at least, that's the idea you decided on). The entire time you cared for Fish seemed trivial in the moment, perhaps even now in some regards. However hindsight tried to spin it, you were satisfied knowing that you weren't taken advantage of by anyone, and that your efforts effectively shaped a society that feels entitled to the secrets of the world. This secret is most certainly yours to keep. (set: $e25 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[The end.|Start]]And what a vacation it was! Lots of driving to see things that were soon thereafter photographed. Whatever you ended up doing, it sure is filler for what's abou- Ahem, about 5 miles out of town you see something in the distance. It's extremely tall, so much so that it dwarfs all the buildings around in comparison. Sure, you don't live in a //small town// per se, but you've never seen a structure that tall, nor have you heard of one. Its top cannot even be seen as it disappears into the clouds. If the weather were nicer one might be able to make out detail or color. The gloomy clouds give the structure the appearance of a super-massive obelisk of sorts. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As you pull off the freeway you've become increasingly more confused, despite trying to discern the structure with your mother. You both agreed it'd be preposterous to suggest it was built in the week you had left. Though, maybe it was brought here in parts and assembled while you'd left. But surely, something obstructing the skyline to such a degree would've been talked about in the news or at least in passing? Certainly there'd be buzz surrounding the object itself, so[[you plan to drive by it before heading home.]]You cautiously move toward the plant to observe it for the first time since you placed it in the windowsill. It is behaving stranger than before: it hums more clearly with a slow, pulsing vibration which coincides with its movement. With every beat of its consistent rhythm, the bulb, which now looks much more claw-like, opens and closes. You also take note of the pleasant smell of the air, only because you realize there to be a slight odor everywhere but the kitchen. Not a dis-pleasant odor, more of a normal one like any home might have. But in the kitchen, by the plant more so, the air is smooth and clean. "Can't argue with that." you think to yourself. You water the plant and bring it into your room in hopes it will give a similar effect within. [[7AM.]]Alas, time to examine it further has passed; you must prepare for a more practical journey. [[Sleep for now...]]As the speed limits drop and the commercial districts pass by, you are filled with dread. The plant comes back to mind. Police and caution tape surround the entrance to your neighborhood, or rather the remnants of it. Houses, split in half and overturned by the dozen from what appears to be giant roots that stem from the base of the towering destroyer. Surely, you figure, it was your plant that is in some way related to this, if not //is// the monolith itself. You park along the street just outside your former neighborhood and convene within a crowd of distressed residents, who demand and plead with the police. You manage to find a member of the national guard standing watch out beyond the crowd a bit. He seems approachable, and you begin fielding your questions to him. He tells you that there's no info on what the colossal column //is// other than a scientific mystery, and that it is rapidly growing into the sky. Its "eruption" started the day after you had left for your vacation; roots violently exploded out of the house and practically flooded through the neighborhood. Surface area had been established, but the roots have burrowed so deep that the field scientists have yet to agree on an estimate. The burrowing caused sinkholes to appear within the neighborhood, hence the public blockade. Airways have also been sanctioned "off-limits" until the weather clears up to analyze the tower's sway and height, though that data should arrive today. The government offered emergency housing as the catastrophe started, but it has since been entirely occupied.[[There are no official announcements as to the state of action toward the tower at this time.]]It seems there is no aide from the government for you at this time. You can stay with your mother for the time being, but surely the weight of guilt on your conscience in this situation knows no bounds. You are compelled to make a decision. -[[Leave and bury your guilt deep within.]] -[[Casually walk past the tape and into the neighborhood.]] -[[Find a way to sneak in.]]Crushed by the insurmountable weight of helplessness, you ponder upon an infinite loop of self-deploring logic. "Maybe if I weren't so careless I could've seen this coming. The plant was in my hands and I treated it like a common ficus!" You go on and on like that, internally, of course. Alas, this is the hand to be dealt... ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The glow of the screen burns, but this is so important. -[[Continue to watch.]] -[[Grab some eye drops.]]You look back to your mom, who is waiting for you in the car. You flash her your index finger, mouthing "one second", before rejoining the crowd. You see two opportunities to get through the blockade and into the neighborhood: one plainly an unguarded spot, the other amidst a rowdy group of bystanders. -[[Sneak through the dispute.]] -[[Stroll by the open space.]]Making the observation that the crowd seems to gather at this point of entry alone, you begin walking the perimeter of the neighborhood. As the sidewalk ends, so does the police blockade, though tall fencing for the housing district still inhibits you from entering. You continue through brush and dirt until you find a fallen home across the fence. A shattered window big enough to climb through makes for a convenient entry into the neighborhood. You climb loads of overturned furniture as you make your way through the sideways house. The sky is above you, the roof to your side, and your exit presumably where a floor should be. You wander the ruins of your suburb, attempting to make way toward any semblance of a path. You climb oversized roots and watch for the debris made from destroyed cars, inching your way toward ground zero. Whispers are heard in the distance. Your first instinct is to hide, but you wonder why would a group of officers need to keep secrets? Though it's certainly better not to take chances with them, it sounds like they are approaching your direction. -[[Hide and eavesdrop.]] -[[Run and hide away.]]A heated and disorganized group-protest is taking place right at the front of the crowd. You hear passionate insistence from property-rights advocates and furious homeowners met with stern denial and orders based on protection. You walk across signs that folks had dropped in growing frustration at their lack of progress. One debate in particular seemed to gather quite a lot of attention. You find a hole in the crowd with the perfect place to vault over the blockade, perhaps unnoticed. You take a deep breath, run at the cement dividers, and leap across the boundary into forbidden territory, sprinting into the wreckage of the neighborhood. Be it the exhilaration of rebellion, the fear of a legal grey area, or both, your determination is to run at full speed toward your wreckage and figure out a way to fix all of this. You turn your head back to see if the police have made chase, only to see multitudes of protesters charge into the neighborhood, barreling through the resisting officers. As you contemplate the consequences of inciting a riot, your thoughts are interrupted as you are tackled to the ground. "You are under arrest for trespassing and failure to comply with the order of an officer!" The officer recites your rights as you are handcuffed. You are disoriented and utterly defeated on the inside. [[They just don't understand.]]Maintaining a confident posture and stride, you casually slip under the caution tape. You walk down the destroyed road, heading toward the remains (if any) of your home. You don't get further than a block before patrols escort you back to the crowd. "Don't try anything else, punk. We have this under control and its for your safety." one scolds, nudging you across the barrier. -[[The sting of defeat...|Leave and bury your guilt deep within.]] -[[Find a way to sneak in.]] -[[Sneak through the crowd|Sneak through the dispute.]]Prison is no place for an irresponsible plant owner. Your admitted connection to the plant feared by the entire world did not excuse you from your trespassing trial. Instead, you are on schedule for long and complicated trials accusing you of an international act of terrorism. In the mean time, you are being held in a Federal prison. Your only pastime has become compulsory; following the news on the plant is all you can think to do. You request as much TV time and access to science-related journalism possible, getting every ounce of coverage on the plant possible. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (set: $e5 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) Who would've thought it would end for everyone in just three months? Why do they maintain their ownership over you through to the very last days? Most of the staff abandoned their posts long ago to spend time away from the work they loathe. Several very "passionate" guards insist to keep you locked up and "behaved", though if they don't start making the food themselves you might starve to death before the end arrives. Some people just want to go out of the world doing what they love. The last paper you received was more ominous than one could think to be possible. "THE BEHEMOTH PLANT DOOMS EARTH! WORLD POWERS TRY EVERYTHING TO SEVER TIES BETWEEN THE PLANET AND THE MOON." It'll be a matter of hours before the pull on the Moon interrupts the rotation of the Earth, the jerk sending the entire topmost of the planet's crust flying into the atmosphere. With this inevitability in mind, it's rather clear just how imprisoned the world has been. Being chained to this very day, regardless how people choose to handle or interpret it, a matter as equalizing as simultaneous death truly illustrates how everything boils down to a point in existence. [[But I don't know what that means, I'm just a kid!|Start]]Thankfully your mother is running late this morning. Sleeping in was a personal delay enough, distraction really pushed you into the deep end. The plant was noticeably bigger, possibly two-feet in height. Even stranger, the bulb folded out into a wide-cylindrical shape. It no longer had the similarity in appearance to a flower, but rather to a tree trunk! It was quite odd indeed, but alas, the horn blares much too early. [[Vaction awaits!|Sleep for now...]]A voice: "-nd that's the thing: 6 miles! If that estimate is even half accurate, that's halfway into //outer space,// relative to aerospace, that is. Satellites are finally coming in with complete data tonight, but it's not so clear as to what we //do// with that data." A different voice: "Well I think that alone is an indicator that we have to tear this thing down before it gets any bigger. I know the destruction will be immense, but imagine if we had to cut it down when the thing is at 60 or 600 miles! You saw that claw, it must be a mile wide itself!" A more different voice: "Who said cutting it down was a good solution to begin with? At least not at the base, the whole thing would timber, and unnecessarily. Use your brain; we can do all sorts of things with controlled burning, acids, or, at worst, compartmentalizing it over time once we neutralize its growth. We can't kill it out right or the roots will die and the thing will topple over anyway." A voice from before: "Gah! This is an //actual// nightmare. We're going to be so screwed if we do //anything.// You heard: we are here to get information, not perform demolitions! We'll lose our jobs, go to jail, or worse, //commit manslaughter// by stopping this thing before it gets worse! What in the actual hell is this?!" Another voice from before: "//Shut up!// You want that arrest to be premature?" The first voice: "Hey! You! I can see you; come out here right now!" -[[They've spotted you!]]You head straight for the opposite direction, unnecessarily crouching as if it would reduce your visibility to any valid sort of degree. You hole up in a flipped RV probably for longer than necessary. No matter though, the evasion was a success! You muster up the courage to begin sneaking back toward the plant, though it becomes increasingly clear that you have no clue what to do when you get there. If nothing else, for closure, perhaps? Oddly enough, no patrols surround the plant itself. For this brief moment of solitude you are truly in astonishment of the colossal living organism before you. To think you held it in your hands just a week ago... now it is beyond any one thing man or nature have since created (in sheer mass, that is). Sirens are heard, snapping you out of your awestruck stupor. Not like police sirens, but... a natural disaster? Though the weather surely yields no sign of impending extremity, you now consider this to be a good time to head back to the car. The wail of unknown danger convinces you to skip the stealth route and head straight for the crowd. [[When you arrive...]]"For the last time: //quit yelling!//" The two voices bicker for a moment until you reveal yourself. "There's our climber." one man remarks, "Thanks for volunteering yourself." "Climber?" you reply. A frail-looking man laments, "I swear, you all just say stuff as loud as you want with no consideration fo-" An equally breakable-looking girl cuts in, "Windowface, please, cut it out." She turns to you, "Here's the deal: the government wants to blast that thing with dynamite. If they manage to take it down in such a manner, you can expect Mt. St. Helens level destruction. We're talking earthquakes, natural fallout, concussive damage, and ecological disaster. So we have an alternative plan, though it'd be against our orders to commit to. Thomas, care to explain?" "I'd be obliged." Thomas accepts, "Plants have disease like any other type of living organism, though its referred to as "blight". We work for the Global Foundation of Science, so we have many strains of blight specimen on hand in the botanical department. After testing samples of our giant beanstalk (our endearing name) here we've determined what the most effective blight solution might be. Granted, we've never purposefully introduced blight to the natural world, given the many governmental restrictions on biochemical engineering; its a line we need to cross if we are to minimize the damage a takedown is to cause." "And since you're a civilian," the frail man remarks, "we can use you in a very unique way. Considering you now illegitimately possess confidential GFS knowledge, we could get you locked up for quite some time. Ergo, you simply must comply. Furthermore, we need to administer the blight specimen to key parts of the tower in rapid succession of one another to have the beanstalk wither and collapse upon itself. It will be your job to scale to the near top of the tower and administer the blight. Once you do, you will parachute down and we will cease to be in contact." -[["Why use me, though?"]] -[["I'm not afraid of prison; I'm out."]]"Simply put:" the girl answers, "we'd be killed upon identification if we were spotted scaling the beanstalk. A civilian, however, would at best, be yelled at, at worst, be arrested and tried for trespassing if they were caught." "We start the process in 10 minutes, so let's get you suited up." Thomas concludes. So much information to take in. You tie your coming duty with the responsibility placed upon yourself knowing it was //your// plant that caused so much distress. You assume the scientists have deeper motives than simply destroying the plant, but you're not exactly in a situation that allows for interrogation. [["Hope you're not afraid of heights..."]]It was a thoughtful hope, though not one meant to encourage much. You are strapped up with slick goggles, some pre-acclimatization medication (for altitude sickness), and what seems to be advanced climbing gear. Its a bit heavy, though certainly a testament to its durability. The girl hands you a device that reminds you of a large hobbyist RC-car or a miniature moon rover. The scientists then fasten belts from your climbing gear to the little machine. They demonstrate to you how to do it, attaching to one side. "What about the other side?" you inquire. Thomas responds, "We haven't even told you what this is for, eh? You are going to attach the climbing device in your hands here to one side of the beanstalk. Then you are to make a full revolution around its perimeter and attach the loose belts to the other side of it. Then you are to position yourself to the opposite side of device and hang tight. It'll start automatically, climbing up the beanstalk, hoisting you along with." Not the most conventional means of climbing, but it's not like it's a skill you can carry out for miles on end. Convenience and capability are certainly available with this little thing. "One last thing." Thomas hands you a backpack. "Inside here is a syringe containing the blight. Once the top is in sight, jam this thing as deep as you can into the stalk and push the plunger. The backpack doubles as a parachute, so be careful not to drop it." "Good luck." [[Ascent.]]The scientists do a fine job distracting the guards, allowing for you to quickly attach the climbing device and yourself to the beanstalk. As you secure the final latch the device starts, hoisting you up. Caster wheels attached to the front of your suit prevent you from dragging your body the whole trip up. You hear megaphone feedback from below. "//You are under arrest, lower yourself to the ground and submit to lawful authority. Failure to submit will result in a 'resist arrest' charge." Your heart jumps, though as you look behind and below you can see no one taking action to apprehend you. Idle threats are continued to be made, though as you go higher they become harder to hear. Though you know the plan is going fine, you still retain the nervousness associated with confrontation and breaking the law in a defiant manner. After the megaphone becomes all but inaudible, you take a glance to below. Your stomach drops to your knees. Everything below looks like an ant farm. It's not possible for you to get any understanding of just how high you are, though the number would certainly terrify you more. The low speed of travel adds a layer of infinity that your mind perpetuates. Infinite time spent infinitely above the ground. Your anxiety has you screaming and crying and shaking. [[Inch by inch.]]Who's to say how long they planned on your travel. Eventually your fearful body got tired out. When you awoke, it was cold, pitch-dark, and you were soaking wet. The suit seems to have some type of heating function, as only the exposed parts of your body feel the harsh bite of the air. You are still cold from the damp saturation; undoubtedly sweat, you determine from the smell. It's impossible to see anything in any direction. This brings on another wave of panic, but your body is absolutely exhausted, so it fails to manifest outside your thoughts. Your thoughts are many, though scattered and without avail to pass the time. At some point the air becomes drastically colder. Though the suit compensates for your overall body temperature, your hands and face endure a numbing sting of a vengeful winter. A sudden, steady wind picks up around you. The air has a familiar sensation on your frigid fingers. You touch a hand to your face. Ice. Realizing the extremity of your chilled condition you tuck as much of your hands and face into the suit, praying frostbite does not take hold. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Survival has never felt more like a battle of willpower over circumstances. The coldness consistently burning your lungs, your muscles drained from clenching together, and your mind weary of such a gradual degradation of your body. Suddenly, a light pierces your shut eyelids. Allowing time to adjust, you open them to see the stalk before your eyes moving along steadily. You look behind to see a stunningly bright moon shine upon you. Below you see a thick layer of clouds. A correlation with your thawing hands determines that you suffered through the breadth of icy clouds. An invigorating thought to match a breathtaking sight. Looking back up and away from the moon, you see the clearest night sky of your life. Countless stars spread in disconnected continuity, the space between colored by the blue moonlight. [[Finally, peace comes to this voyage.]]You are surrounded by the immaculate glory of the rising sun. Night bleeds into dawn seamlessly, the stars fading with traceable progress as the sun takes roost. It is a time in which nature has no message or convoluted purpose beyond simple honest portrayal of itself. You bask in this notion. As dawn turns to day you find your pace to quicken gradually. You infer that the device is solar-powered to some degree, citing no other environmental change but the presence of light. It's great timing, considering how you see a vague something stemming from the beanstalk in the distance ahead. As you approach the something it fans out, revealing itself to be larger and multi-faceted. Branches. Hundreds of giant branches; the smaller ones about 6-feet in width, the larger ones you figure at least twice that. This poses a greater problem you realize, as the device will eventually get stuck on a branch. The only decision you are able to make is to worm your way over to a branch and climb from each one up to the top. The transfer would've been much dodgier if you didn't have the mammoths there to land upon. Leaping from the rope you shimmied from wasn't so hard as getting up; despite the acclimation you've had for altitude sickness, you nearly pass out from lack of oxygen. The feeling of drowning overcomes you. You manage to get the oxygen tank from the pack out just before your vision went totally dark. You must've laid there for about an hour before deciding to begin your real-life platforming excursion. [[Running and jumping.]]At first you moved with a great deal of caution, as a crucial slip could result in a terminal velocity free-fall. Eventually you gained confidence in balance, as well as noticing the slight weakness of gravity allowing for ease of movement. You must be getting pretty high up. And now, through the thick of the branches, you see you've reached your destination. The top of the plant is in sight; radial appendages slowly spiral as you can see the plant growing steadily upward. And though you first believed your eyes to deceive you, it's clear that there's a sort of bending of the air above the plant (similar to how a hot day will make waves in the air at a distance). You walk over to, what is now so clearly, the stem of a living titan. The syringe is in your pack. The top is but a few smaller branches climb away. -[[Cronus, be slain.]] -[[Everybody wanna live at the top of the mountain.]]These are not words you said out loud, but rather proclaimed in your bold retreat toward the edge of the neighborhood. You certainly found it difficult to navigate the desecrated suburbs, and this was your downfall. The police definitely had this place mapped out. You shouldn't have been surprised to find yourself cornered, though I suppose anyone would be shocked seeing four guns pointed in their direction. [[GG, cops.|They just don't understand.]]Blight in hand, this decision merits internal conflict. Why kill this thing anyway? You've done something no other person has done, experienced the same journey it has, and now you're the proponent to its end all due to blackmail? You remember now that they will end it the moment your parachute is in sight. They will do so in a way that will cause further destruction on a level you couldn't simply live with, knowing you're responsible for it. You plunge the syringe into the side of the plant with both hands. Knowing it won't be long before the blight takes effect, you identify the pull cord on the backpack, sprint to the end of the branch, and leap. The dive is beyond terrifying. You quickly learn that becoming as parallel as you can with the layer of clouds far below is the best way to slow down your incredible speed. At one point the falling sensation is unbearable and you pull the chute cord. The parachute explodes out from behind you and jerks you around for a bit before you begin steadily losing speed. You look back up to see the blackness of space, and the towering plant growing smaller with distance. The ride down was certainly shorter than the one up. The parachute allowed for minor steering, allowing for you to land in a field miles outside of town. If you weren't able to see the highway from above you'd surely have no clue where you landed. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ As the media embargo lifted, stories of the "Fall of Goliath" were abundant. The scientists plans were successful, though they were caught and currently undergo trials for crimes against nature and the impedance of scientific progress. You only told your mother what part of the takedown you played; no one else ever connected you to the situation. Anonymity is something to be thankful for in this situation. Dark fantasy scenarios would play in your head for years to come, comparing yourself to the interviewees of those who dropped the atomic bombs in Japan. To imagine someone asking, "Do you regret such a historically definitive moment." brought so much pain to mind. (set: $e1 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[It's hard to say.|Start]]Call it procrastination or curiosity, you find yourself drawn to see what is happening at the top of the plant. You hoist yourself up by minor branches, then carefully you pull up further from one of the contorting appendages. The smell, which you can only identify as poisonous, dominates your other senses, and to avoid it you put the oxygen mask back on. Before you is a spiraling hole that descends deep into the plant. Air is being sucked down into it and, though you struggle to identify the smell itself, you are certain it is not //clean//. It reminds you of younger days, when you learned that plants take in carbon-dioxide and "breathe" out oxygen. Surely, it couldn't be doing something similar with these foul fumes; extracting them from the atmosphere and converting them into something breathable? It's impossible to feel confident if you're to kill it now. And how odd, that you are here to kill something that very well may stop humanity from dooming itself and the Earth. Born into a world that needs it, and here you are on a mission to take it down. If you really wanted to finish the journey with the blight you never would have come to see the top of the plant in the first place. It is the feeling which compelled you here that resolves the task at hand. If you are to return below, the scientists will inject blight within the other critical points of the plant. There's no going back. Maybe they'll try to kill it any way. Maybe they'll give it a chance. (set: $e3 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Give your life for that chance.|Start]]"I deserve much worse." you reflect. The 24-hour livestream following the plant has been the affirmed source of your insomnia. Yes, the plant was thrust into your possession at one point, but who's to say that absolves you of responsibility to it? This is the way: life happens to you, and what you do with it is your greatest duty. Regretting your inaction fuels what has seemed to be a lifetime of repentant obsession. [["Breaking news here on..."]]To stain the memory of this moment with self-pity would permanently spoil its grandeur. Countless days engrossed in the most minute details of the world's greatest mystery. If only they knew how it touched your life for but a day, then made itself known. This is no "Mother Mary in the Buttertoast" scenario. The significance of this is central to your existence. [["Breaking news here on..."]]Various shots of the giant plant, from portrait-oriented cellphone footage to Hollywood HD, are shown. An off-screen narration reminiscent of old-time radio can be heard: "...the conspiracies, the rumors, and the fear-mongering can all be laid to rest today! We all remember the day the planet trembled as the lunar-bound vessel began its sudden journey. When the maw anchored down on the surface of the moon, we were fearful it would tear it out of orbit and into the apocalypse. It was then that the world's greatest powers in science felt comfortable to observe and speculate on the plant and its capabilities. Is it alien? Is it sentient? How does it function? What will it do next? And now, after observing the incredible drop in the volume of greenhouse gasses, the most conclusive speculative observation to date." The camera cuts to a prerecorded interview with a seemingly-prestigious scientist-type: (set: $e75 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) "When we witnessed the spread of vegetation on the Moon, we had a serendipitous trove of data in regards to climate change come in. That data showed a //significant// drop in greenhouse gasses correlating with a generous, though not an equal, rise of oxygen, both of which occurred when the growth of the Goliath plant reached atmospheric height. We then hypothesized that the plant was the source of this change, though we had no further evidence than correlation, which truly is not evidence in and of itself. Now that we see growth occurring on the Moon, our most popular theory is explained by the lack of equivalence when comparing the ratio of gasses depleted versus oxygen produced. The theory is the Goliath plant stored the gasses and other nutrients to plant itself in an environment that has entirely nothing to offer in terms of sustaining life. With an internal bank of these elements, the plant can thrive for quite some time.[[It's like a starter for an extraterrestrial Garden of Eden."|Start]] ...a policeman is at the window of your mother's car. He is urging her to leave the area, though she, bawling her eyes out, refuses. Surely, she's waiting for you. With surprisingly minimal harassment from the officer, you manage to be on the road seconds after you reunite with your mother. "//They're going to blow up that giant plant!//" she blurts out. A simple "What?" cannot express the depth of your bewilderment at her statement, though it is all you utter. "That officer was being so horrible about getting me to leave. It's like he had no concern that there was a //person// out there while they plan to do something so reckless. That mega-pillar is gonna smash miles of land. What is this, an empty forest?! This is where we live!" -[["It's true you know..."]] -[["It's gonna be okay; no matter what."]] The air of frustration and overwhelming loss deprives conversation. Your mind is cluttered with the thoughts of a hometown refugee: everything you own is destroyed; everything you've worked for is gone. To rely on your mother is a saving grace to the totality of your loss, though already the weight of your burden is upon her shoulders. Silence breaks at the sound of a distant, yet powerful, //craaaaaaaack//. [[...|The explosion]]The sirens fade as you drive toward your mothers home. It couldn't be all bad. Perhaps humility and relationship can rise from the rubble of your belongings and stability. New opportunities and nesting grounds might be present in a life no longer bound by habits and predictability. Just like that, perspective shifts your hopelessness into freshness and new life. Your mother sighs. "Honey, I just wan-" She is interrupted by the spectacle of[[a sudden near-total darkness.|the car begins to shudder violently.]]Surely, the dynamite eruption. You turn to look out the back window. At first glance, it appears that the base of the plant is merely aflame, as it remains still through the rising smoke. Upon closer examination it is clear that the timber is setting in. The tower tilts, slowly at first, then suddenly. It stretches out so far you cannot even see. The moment it hits the ground, a massive cloud of dust expands upwards and outwards. Tires screech and your seatbelt locks you in place. The whiplash is inconsequential to the chaos before you. The entire road is backed up by cars, all heading out of town. Horns blare and drivers holler at one another. The cloud approaches quickly. (set: $e2 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Who is the refugee when everyone seeks escape?|Start]]For a split-second you were entirely clueless to why the sunlight had left. Then to turn around and see that colossal eclipse growing ever larger... as it draws ever nearer... You know they really blew it up. It's hard to place where exactly it would fall but your mother makes no delay in finding a direction and driving as fast as she could to get the hell out of dodge. Riding over sidewalks, cutting across grass, and dodging several near-collisions, the desperation becomes more real with each driving extremity. A heavy wind causes the car to shudder violently. The closer it falls, the darker the shadows cast and the lighter life shines. (set: $e4 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[If you don't live through this, is your newfound hope still worth it?|Start]]Hastily, you flip open the cupboard beneath the sink and stow the plant amidst the various bottles of cleaning supplies. Returning to the door, it appears your mother has stopped by! You entertain her short visit (she doesn't have time to make— er, have dinner), but she does pressure you to spend your week off on vacation with her. -[["Sounds like fun!" (though you are indifferent.)|"Sounds like fun!"]]Shaking off the bite as if it were a nip from a common housepet, you proceed to the meal. (set: $teeth to true) -[[Eat]]Your hand gets about six-inches from the bulb before it unsheathes a tiny set of fangs and clamps down on your fingers. With a yelp, you instinctively slap the bulb with your free hand, causing the plant to immediately cease its assault. Whatever sensibility (or lack thereof) you had in appealing to your curiosity has got you some sore fingers, but overall a cat couldn't have done much worse. The plant sets its gaze upon you, new-found fangs out of sight. It will probably sting the next time you wash your hands. -[[Kill the plant.]] -[[Recoup your losses and eat your cold dinner.|Food, finally!]]With a deep breath and a nod to your freakishly beautiful plant, you wheel the display out on stage. The hot stage lights blind you and the judges commence their questioning. Your five-minute eternity ends after spilled words and fumbling with your supplementary fixtures; the judges are content and dismiss you. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It seems word reached the realm of high-brow botany rather quickly that the plants would have unnatural movement this time around. Yes, though you've accidentally founded a fad among half-committed flower lovers and established an entirely new style of competitive gardening, your living plant did not steal the show. A top-eight placement is nothing short of honorable, though you cannot shake the feeling one has when they've realized the limits of their fortune. No matter your prior attachment to plants before the mysterious Petunia showed up, you dove into something a handful of people live for, and caused a ripple among their ranks no less! A crossroad is now before you: to continue to explore this multi-faceted world and understand its well-rounded beauties, or to walk away, satisfied with the time you've stumbled upon. (if: $bitterplant is true)[The bitter words of that plant expert echo in your mind.] (set: $e22 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[From what force shall you be defined?|Start]]You look over to an adjacent booth to find none-other than the bitter young woman from the line earlier, misting the leaves of an over-sized succulent and muttering something about chlorophyll fluorescence. She seems to have a calm, confident air about her, in stark contrast to the frenzy the other competitors seem to be in. Before you even voice the question posed by your raised hand, she addresses you boldly, "Your contrived trend-ride will end. See, this world is one of true artistry and craftsmanship. Soak up the sensationalism while you have them drooling, because only two things are going to happen: moving plants will be seen for what they truly are, which is shallow, or moving plants will be seen as trivial in comparison to the practice of true plant-keeping; a trade which predates history in its most primal forms." A glaring snort and she turns back to her work. (set: $bitterplant to true) [["Petunia is on NOW!" you hear.|"Okay."]]You head to the closet and throw on every coat you own, seeing as it's as much of a clever disguise as your famished mind can muster. You head to the only grocery store open this late, the cool night breeze completely unnoticeable beneath the layers upon your torso. Dismissing the stares from the other night-owl shoppers (you hope they assume you're homeless) you head straight to the deli department. One look at the selection nearly sends you into a feeding frenzy. With the last of your civilized composure you calculate that with your newfound hunger you couldn't possibly afford enough food to sustain more than the next couple hours. -[[Make do with what you can.]] -[[Attempt to shoplift.]] -[[Eat as much as you can immediately.]]Knowing full well the existential conundrum of symbiosis is as great a burden as your insatiability, it seems one must give way to the other. You direct the Living Mandible to poise itself around your throat. Surely, the flow of blood and stench of desperation are enough lead this embodiment of consumption to its free feast. Though it appears your would-be executor knows too well the implications of your death upon itself, doing nothing more than resting its fangs against your neck. Still, your desire for food has not been quelled. -[[Attempt to hide the parasite and head to a grocery store.]] -[[Hunt while the night is still young.]] -[[Call for help.|"You're right." (Call Emergency Services)]]There is something quite natural feeling about this venture. Who knows if this Parasite has awakened a primitive instinct to kill and consume, though where else does the idea come from? You're largely detached from such a frame of mind; society does not necessitate killing for survival anymore. At least, it hasn't yet for you. You wander into the dark woods. Seeing is out of the question, though you trust the Parasite to guide the way as it leans this way and that. You ponder the possibility of encountering a deer, blissfully unaware of your presence. Your mind projects a scene in which you leap forth, the Parasite taking hold of the fauna's neck and wring it to the dirt. Perhaps you'd: -[[Restrain the deer to ease the struggle.]] -[[Break the legs so it can't run.]]It's hard to imagine a person worried about starvation with a cart full of food until now. Nervously clutching your stomach with one hand, fumbling through your wallet with the other, you pay for the food and leave the store. Your trip home is one of paranoid glances and an unnaturally hurried pace. As you spill the food upon the floor of the entryway, the Parasite dispels all self-control and takes a good 30 minutes consuming every last bit of meat. It produces a tongue-like tendril for the first time and licks clean any traces of blood or fat in the packaging. If someone saw the trash and didn't know better, they'd think you diligently recycle. It doesn't take another 30 minutes after the meal that the Parasite stirs and your stomach groans. -[[Stay home and devise a real plan.|Oh, but home won't last.]] -[[Take to hunting the forest.|Hunt while the night is still young.]]Placing various cuts of meat into your deepest layer of inner coat pockets, the Parasite grows restless. Making no effort to remain hidden, it squirms and rifles through the layers and loudly devours all that you so carefully had taken. A family sees you struggling to keep your chest from moving and collectively screams. -[[Flee the store.|Leave the Sanctuary.]] -[[Silence!]]Self-control abandoned entirely, the stench of assorted raw meats fills the air. You tear through shrink-wrap and foam-plastic with your fingers and incisors. There is no grace to your consumption; it is ravenous, unabashed, primal. The coats find some way off your shoulders and the Parasite accompanies you in this ruthless feast. Time passes, or it doesn't; you care not. Utterly lost in satiation, you only cease gorging as the last of your feed is depleted. You wipe the blood and fat from your face. Looking around, no others can be seen, yet murmurs can be heard. Among them, a phone call. "... yes, the one downtown. It just stopped, oh God, send someone now!" You still crave flesh. -[[Leave the Sanctuary.]] -[[Continue your worship.]]"There's no way I'm letting this thing get away." you think to yourself. Whether to undo some potential catastrophe that lies in its freedom, or rather to settle the score struck up earlier, you take your pursuit. You begin making headway into the forest. The beams of moonlight are terribly obstructed by the trees, hopefully your cell phone battery can last long enough to light your way. You've never trekked this wooded grove, and even if you did it becomes clear how different nature postures itself in the cool darkness. You stumble over roots and crash through low-standing bushes; the sound you chase did not care to take any sort of clear trail. -[[Deeper into the forest]] -[[Turn back]]You continue to ponder possibilities, marveling at the depth and wonder of the rabbit hole before you. You pop out of thought to realize the thump of each hop is but an echo in your mind; the plant is far from you now. Though it's certainly plausible for you to take some time to track it down or even take action during the day time to strike up a witch hunt, you know the comfort of dreams all too well. They beckon you, so you shall remain. (set: $e76 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End|Start]]No light can be seen now but from your cell phone. Your twisted trail has left you with no sense of where you came from. Roots and branches are no different than tendrils and claws in the dark, yanking and scraping at you as you delve deeper. Despite your relentlessness in pursuance, the sound of the bounding plant is still out of reach. [[Deeper|Phase 2]]Fear or sensibility overcomes your drive to continue further. Turning back, it feels as if you are now the one being pursued. The crooked hands of Dread graze your backside; your heart now begging to be free from the trap of your chest. //Snag// Your jaw slams into the dirt; blood spews from your tongue. The phone has escaped your grip, its light out of sight. You scramble to your feet and make no attempts to keep your breath of fear within. The light of home is just out of reach. The darkness envelopes your relief. (set: $e54 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Have you passed through this night?|Start]]Clearing through a particularly thick patch of brush, you are startled and relieved to find yourself at the edge of the woods. The bokeh of distant lights line the horizon. The plant, which you can finally see, is much further ahead than expected, but you manage to close the gap a good deal now that your path is clearer. The trees are now behind you; short, yet unkempt grass beneath your feet. The wind stings your cuts and scrapes. The plant is just out of reach. -[[Keep your pace.]] -[[Attempt to leap and grab it.]]The plant is just as open before you as your path; you have no intention of squandering this progress. It is with this assuring note of your decision that the pot flips, sending the plant rolling as it returns to the ground. There's no time to react; no saving throw. You attempt to stop much too late and your feet meet the head of the plant's stem. -[["Thank goodness it's over.]] -[["GAH, NO!"]]Desperately, you dive toward the plant, with no reservations toward your muddy landing. Your finger tips graze the edges of the ceramic pot, but your poor footing has you falling short. Wiping the mud from your face, you see the floral leapfrog continue to bound away. -[[Let it flee.]] -[[Resume your pursuit.]]Relief surges through your body with each deep breath. While a find potentially valuable to someone is now without retention, you know that it can't create a deeper chaos complex somewhere else and it inversely won't suffer at the hands of vivisection. With hope, your relief will calm your nerves back through the forest. (set: $e77 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End|Start]]You throw yourself to the ground as quick as the sinking feeling in your stomach. Your plan for patience has backfired; persistence in vein. Whether you desired to save the plant for it's own sake or better understand it, it's certain your intentions are as salvageable as the petals crushed into the mud. You contemplate the trouble you'll have to go through to get a car ride home as filthy as your clothes are, only to realize the lights you've run toward are from your own neighborhood. (set: $e53 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End|Start]]Rain patters upon a somber scene of surrender. The hopping plant maintains a steady cadence which fades in the ever-extending distance. Your waterlogged clothes are smeared in muck. You can't help but ponder the power of autonomy at hand, be it the plant's relentless mission or your withdrawn desire to control that which escapes you. The plant left your life as suddenly as it appeared. (set: $e78 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End|Start]]Scrambling to your feet, you reinforce your resolve and resume your pace. You can't let it get away. Striding up a rather slick hill you finally reach the horizon of lights. Folks who kindly kept their porch lights give you the liberty to preserve your phone battery. The streets and sidewalks are all dry; the rain is now behind you. Winding through the streets, you marvel at the plant's ability to pick its paths. It is here you are bewildered, the plant bounding into your own front door, which is somehow wide open. [[Home, sweet home.]]Passing the front door's threshold, you find the back door still wide open. The plant passes through and vaults the back porch once again. You hastily follow suit, watching as it nears, once again, toward the dark forest. -[[Deja Vu]] -[[This can't be true.]]Shaking off your uncanny certainty of the surreality you now seem to exist within, the hunt continues. Perhaps if you were to grab hold of the plant the cycle will end and you will figure it all out. You will figure out why this plant showed up in the first place, why it behaves with such peculiarity, and what all that means for the future. Again, you start into the forest. Moonlight still finds no breach into the woven branches overhead. Your cell phone somehow manages to work despite the rain and mud from earlier. There appears to be no sign of your previous outing into these woods, though it's hard to say if this darkness could impress upon your memory more than any other. You seem to have a better grip on your general navigation though, having some idea of what obstructions are before you. [[Deeper.|Deeper 2]]As the situation's origin memory manifests as your current reality, you gaze in wonder at the maw of the rabbit hole. The plant is far from you now, but perception even further. The path you took, though confusing, should not have brought you back home. It was not a horseshoe loop; you are certain that you passed relatively straight through the forest and ended back up at your front door. You keep silent for fear that if you speak, the Echoes of Infinity will pour from your lips and tear through the fabric of existence. You keep silent, and so you shall remain. (set: $e79 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[End|Start]]The wood opposes you with greater ferocity now than before. It finds your wounds and cuts them deeper. Every bruise, every scratch and scrape, doubled over. You grit your teeth and endure unseen assault from within the darkness. The edge of the forest comes as much a surprise as it did before. Rain pours here still, remarkably without flooding the plain or making the mud much worse. You never got any more dry, and it's here that the cold starts to eat away at your core. All too familiar, the plant is but a few steps ahead. -[[Maintain.]] -[[Don't miss your chance.|Keep your pace.]]Certainly if you were to make the same mistake as before you might not want to pull yourself up out of the mud this time. You match the speed of the plant to catch what precious breath you can. You follow its tail right up to the edge of the rain, back into the light, again, in the streets of your neighborhood. It's heading for your door, once again. -[[Continue forth.]] -[[Overtake it and shut the door.]]Insanity continues its dismemberment of reality, and you remain a bystander to it all. Into the house and out the back door you go. [[To the forest.]]You somehow convince your tired legs to greater effort in hopes to trap the plant in the house. You cross the threshold of the house. -[[Shut the front door.]] -[[Shut the back door.]]Fervently slamming the door, you run to a window to see how the plant reacts to its new-found obstruction. The plant hops forward, taking no notice of the door it heads toward. Dumbfounded, you stare as the plant smashes itself upon the door. A motionless pile of ceramic, soil lays at the doorstep. Sifting through the pile answers no questions. It provides no comfort, and it resolves no mystery which had so forcefully been imposed upon your day. (set: $e80 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You watch as the soil slips through your fingers.|Start]]Rushing through the house, you slide the open door close. You then return to the front door in hopes of keeping the plant confined to an enclosed space, from which you will pick the fruits of your toils. The plant, taking no notice of its blocked path, bounds into the house. You shut the door behind it. It shows no sign of stopping as it nears the door, and, sure enough, it breaks through the glass and makes its way toward the forest. You sigh in disbelief. -[[Again, to the forest.|To the forest.]] -[["Let me lie."]]You batter the earth with your feet. If the wind were not in your ears, it is certain your bones would creak. The blackened grove is revived once more. It will have your blood. Adrenaline cannot shield you from the pain any longer. -[[Press on.]] -[[The Maw of the Rabbit Hole.]]"Here, on the floor. Now, in my heart. I shall take comfort in this deceit. Relax, and know it ends now. A momentary reveling in the summation of this fate, and I shall move forth. It holds no answers and I sought them not to begin with." (set: $e59 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Lie.|Start]]Rain cools your cuts. The crackled mud that cakes your face is re-hydrated. The plant is barely in sight. -[[Don't let it go.]] (set: $e62 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) -[[Walk home...|Start]]Your will is over-encumbered and you are shredded apart by the very nature of madness. (set: $e60 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You have died.|Start]]Deeper, you fall down the rabbit hole. Through the house, through the woods, here you are yet again. The plant is not tired, but you are. The moon holds its spot in the sky. The rain remains. -[[You can't let it go.|Don't let it go.]] (set: $e61 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) -[[You will let it go.|Start]]"Beef, chicken, pork, fish... What else might one find here?" you wonder. -[[People.]] -[[Check the back of the deli.]]As the prospect barely crosses your mind, everyone within sight has clearly realized your threatening presence and fled. A wave of realization crashes into you; your lust has driven you to prey upon your own kind, even in thought. Your hands shake as though you'd actually committed the massacre and cannibalism to follow. The Parasite snarls and pokes its head around every aisle in search of a victim, as if your mind were entirely absent. Sirens draw near. -[[Flee among the crowd; find somewhere to hide in town.|Find a quiet alley.]] -[[Surrender.|Surrender in the open.]] -[[Consume your oppressors.]] -[[Hide behind the counter in the deli.|Hide behind the counter.]]You rush to your dreamlike prospect of a massive freezer, dedicated to housing raw delicacies. Alas, the door is very well locked. If there was someone staffing the deli you could surely extort a key, but alas, there is no one. The bystanders can no longer be heard murmuring. Sirens draw near. -[[Hide behind the counter.]] -[[Surrender in the open.]] -[[Attempt to break the door; one last good meal.]]You give them an uncanny stare of annoyance. The Parasite finds a way to growl with great volume. They run in a panic. -[[Eat them!|People.]] -[[Get out of here.|Leave the Sanctuary.]]Fear rises up in rebellion against Hunger. With the legion of impulses divided against itself, you simply drop to the floor and try to keep your hyperventilation under control. The intercom sounds, "The police have arrived; you are under arrest. Put your hands on your head and proceed to exit through the main entrance." Stunned by such assertion, you lay motionless. The Parasite does not, however. The force of its thrown weight propels you several inches across the hard floor as the Everlasting Craving pokes its head around for loose morsels. Light footsteps and the rustling of equipment can be heard from outside the counter. The Parasite knocks a stack of pans to the floor. The footsteps quicken. From around the corner burst several officers, who entirely cover you with thick black nets. The Parasite wrenches about, torquing your stomach in unbelievably painful ways. [[You black out.|Separation of Church and Steak.]]Impending fate shocks sensibility into your mind for this pitiful repentance. You will be taken and convicted with your sin on your sleeve. (if: $PA is true)[The intercom sounds, "The police have arrived; you are under arrest. Put your hands on your head and proceed to exit through the main entrance."] You slowly walk through the front doors, though you make sure to put the coats back on to try and hide your monstrous outer maw. The red and blue lights shine through the glass and into the storefront. Hands to your head, you make your appearance. You couldn't possibly count how many guns are aimed at you. [[Officers from rush from the side and tackle you to the ground.]]Embracing your last meal opportunity, you scavenge the deli for tools to open the metal freezer door. Through a wily combination of meat tenderizers, serrated knives, and brute force, you manage to breach the hinges of the door. You hear over the store intercom, "The police have arrived; you are under arrest. Put your hands on your head and proceed to exit through the main entrance." [[The Last Supper.]]All the ovens are started, the fryers simmering, and the is meat dragged out. What can only be described as vicious and animal in nature, you rapidly defrost the frozen flesh and rabidly devour it. Carnivore incarnate, you lose yourself entirely in this final euphoria. The sounds smacking lips and gnashed muscle is all that can be heard. How incredibly jarring it was to have the net ensnare you. The Parasite (though your embrace has clearly promoted it to 'Symbiote') vainly thrashes about, in what will surely be its final fit. [[Separation of Church and Steak.]]A knee drives into your spine. Nearly-synchronized with the click of hand cuffs, the fabric of your coats all tear in but a moment. You feel life taken from your own eyes. The last they see is the massacre of man which follows. (set: $e33 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You have died, but so did they.|Start]]It stings to open your eyes, but pitch dark is all that can be seen. A gentle flow suspends your entire body. Depressions on nearly every part of your body can be felt, and though they are forceful, they are gentle. You breathe, and it is quite relaxing. What you hear is puzzling; a distortion much like muffling, perhaps of wind or the ocean. A feeling of vertigo surfaces without warning and you vomit into your breathing mask. Reflexively, you pull it off and attempt to gasp, only to take in a lung full of liquid. The suspension promptly ceases and your regular hearing returns to you, alarms and all. You cough violently and spew all sorts of horrible things. Doctors and nurses all rush over from outside the tube and open it up. Hoses are shoved up your nose and down your throat without a moment's notice. Hands and belts restrain any flinching that comes naturally in a total bodily rejection. You wish, in this blur of agony, to return to the warm waters. A sharp pain sticks your neck. You think you hear something about tranquilizers and "stabilizing the growth". (set: $e35 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Senses drift and dissipate.|Start]]It's a terrible trip home. You couldn't for one second think someone wasn't watching you, or worse, coming to bring conviction upon you. [[Against all worries, you make it home.|Oh, but home won't last.]]A place of relative seclusion in the public realm, you rest your back against a wall of brick. A couple rats scuttle out beneath littered newspaper. The Parasite quickly snatches one up. The other deserts its friend without a moment's indecision. Remarking at the swiftness of the Parasite's reaction, you ponder the possibility of that rat perhaps being something else... The house-cat hunting in the freedom of its nightlife. A sleeping vagabond. A child, taking a shortcut home. The pains of guilt fester within, that you've allowed this volatile hitchhiker to be within inches of cold-blooded murder by means of careless uncertainty. "This must be how a real-life urban legend starts." you think to yourself, "They'd call me 'The Gorge' or 'Maw-Walker' or something like that. A normal person wearing too many coats, then bam: mouth shoots out from the stomach and you're lunch. What kind of reality is this?" -[["So let it begin." (Lurk.)]] (if: $home is true)[-[["This has to end." (Go home.) ]] ]Sanity returns in brief, yet crushing power. To steal and vandalize, whilst indulging in the inhuman ravaging of raw flesh... Surely you shall be hunted and ostracized from society for this, if you aren't killed out of fear first. Let's not be a trophy for some lucky forensic scientist. You head out of the front entrance of the grocery store. People who see your protruding abomination scream and flee. -[[Head back home and hide.]] -[[Find a quiet alley.]] -[[Hunt in the forest.|Hunt while the night is still young.]]Pacing and plotting, the hunger continues to groan from within. If you went from here, you'd surely have your life taken in one form or another. You struggle to think of what help to call upon. (set: $home to false) -[[Emergency services of some sort.|"You're right." (Call Emergency Services)]] (if: $mother is true)[-[[Your mother.]] ] (if: $neighbor is true)[-[[A neighbor.]] ]It's not like you want to cause harm, you're just starving here. Nature, at its core, is brutal and unfeeling; at least you have the sympathy to seek the empathetic compromise of efficiency in this madness. Snapping you out from your daydream, the Parasite jerks suddenly down low, remaining still as if concentrating. A glimmer of small eyes can be seen in the darkness. A raccoon. You recall fond memories of historical romanticism of The Hunt. Those stories which colored the birth of nations and emblazons achievement for folks who live off the land. Perhaps this is your introduction to the beautiful dance taught to Man by Mother Nature herself. The Parasite slowly begins urging itself forth, pulling against your abdominal. You must act confidently. It is unclear whether the raccoon has taken notice of you. -[[Approach stealthily.]] -[[Charge!]]No doubt, an incredible power fantasy to secure a kill. Its unsure whether the thrill comes from the helplessness of your victim or the sheer dominance of your assertion. An entirely separate impulse from the one to consume; the desire to kill. The Parasite hisses and wraps around you. You turn to find a massive black figure looming overhead. -[[RUN, RUN, RUN!]] -[[Let the Parasite strike.]]You take to the lead of the Parasite, holding close to the ground. Crouched, you cautiously step behind the cover of a bush thicket. Your breathing is calm, yet your heart sputters. An indirect route seems to be the best course of action to create a surprise. Passing between the moonlit silhouettes of timber, you find yourself ten feet from the raccoon. Boldly, the Parasite lashes out toward the Raccoon, alerting it of your presence. Gone are the eyes; the critter vanishes. Bewildered and frustrated, you drop to the ground. It crosses your mind to strike the Parasite, to rip it apart from you now. To live in cooperation, which is an incredible agreement after its uninvited fusion with your body, seems beyond the capability of the plant. Upon its introduction it merely demanded its satisfaction. It commands without discretion or contemplation. Perhaps on a more endearing host it might find success in its dominating attrition, but not for long, and not at all here. Whether you embrace self-sacrifice or idle at these implications, you will embody a heroic-seeming end-tale to onlookers. Whether you receive bitterness or heroism into your heart is something else entirely. (set: $e31 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You will die.|Start]]The energy in your body becomes fully kinetic as you dash forth, the Parasite reaching out to its full extent. The raccoon turns back and gives way to a chase. The chase, however, is cut short as your foot hits a snag. Falling back on the foot, your ankle takes a right angle and cracks. Immense shooting pain encourages your yelping. Your ankle is nothing in comparison to the Parasite's detachment. Before the shock leaves you unconscious, the wriggling Parasite can be seen burrowing into the dirt. Total abandonment neigh, you think of all the tragedy bestowed upon the legends of the natural frontier. Betrayal is not the chief depressor, but rather you find it to be the circumstance which inspires bleakness. (set: $e81 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You have died.|Start]]As your heel turns, the Parasite dives right for the top of the figure in full force. Massive claws grip the head of the Parasite. The top of the figure reveals itself, a black-furred bear, which bites down on the "neck" of the Parasite. Decapitation is instant; a limp stem is now what remains. You sprint with all you are, heading deep into the forest. The bear can be heard growling in the distance; you flee without it following suit, surely distracted by its kill. All contemplation of taking the mantle of a glorious killer is left behind in the trail of your escape. It helps to think that the power of the Parasite gave you such confidence, ultimately corrupting you. How absurd if you birthed such thoughts from a place of sincerity? You find yourself lost in the woods until sunrise. Hunger keeps you awake through the long night. You wander out of the woods to an open plain, which indicates that you're not too far from a highway. Tucking your barky umbilical cord away, you head toward the road. (set: $e34 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[What a thing, to survive.|Start]]Standing your ground, you allow the Parasite a good angle to strike at the figure. A bludgeon to the head sends you straight into the ground. The Beast's roar can be felt in your ribcage, as well as its claws. (set: $e32 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [["Killer" killed.|Start]]The phone rings. "Oh, Hun, did you take care of that horrid thing?" she answers. Your shaking voice fails at first, but finds a grip. You tell her everything. She freaks out. The last moment she saw was before you dealt with it outside. She had left the house to calm her nerves. "I'm very concerned for your safety darlin', but if you refuse to get help from the authorities I can't tell you what else you should do. Some things just need to be handled." (set: $mother to false) -[["You're right." (Call emergency services.)|"You're right." (Call Emergency Services)]] -[["It can't be stopped." (Hang up the phone.)]] -[["Fine, I'll take care of it." (Agree to kill the plant yourself.)]]You throw on the coats once more. Some combination of desperation and willpower convinces you to head to your next door neighbor and beg whoever they might be for assistance. You knock with an inconsiderate volume. A disgruntled little old woman comes to answer, but a latch keeps the door from opening all the way. As your request for food merely begins to form on the tip of your tongue, the Parasite shows no restraint, bursting forth from beneath your coats and gnashing at the small opening. Naturally, the door is slammed in your face. Options are slim. You hope she couldn't really make out any of your facial features. (set: $neighbor to false) -[[Call emergency services before she does.|"You're right." (Call Emergency Services)]] -[[Hide in the city.|Find a quiet alley.]] (if: $mother is true)[-[[Call your mother.|Your mother.]] ]Antagonizing them solves the internal conflict for you. It has never been socially acceptable for friend to harm friend; self-defense is something else entirely. You may have ravished the store of all its meat-products, but they are just that: products. You never harmed a soul. And for them to send punishment for a situation you've been burdened by is simply cruel. A voice can be heard through a P.A. outside the store, "This is the police; you are under arrest. Put your hands on your head and proceed to exit through the main entrance. This is your only warning." There's no safe way to do this. Your last moments draw near. -[[Go out in a blaze of glory.]] (set: $PA to false) -[[Forget this...|Surrender in the open.]]"The main entrance, huh?" you chuckle to yourself. You walk out as they've asked, hands subdued. They never asked anything of the Parasite. A visual cacophony of flashing lights blinds you. You feel the Parasite yank your torso to the left. You hear the scream of a man, shouts, and gunfire, all in rapid succession. Your shoulder is pierced, but your hunger ceases, creating an ecstasy anesthetic. As you avert your eyes from the lights and peer toward the source of the cries, the Parasite, full of holes, weakly digs into the open chest of a white-eyed policeman. A blast is heard and all goes black. (set: $e37 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[An eye for an eye.|Start]]You never hear the names they call you or the rumors of your presence. You only hear pleas and shrieks and the white noise of passersby. Tears and self-deprecation poured from you when you first killed. Routine has since eroded any regret; any semblance of who you were has faded. The Parasite is so meticulously effective at capture and execution that there is never a trace left behind. It keeps calm for a short while after it feeds, allowing you to make your rounds to the next dark corner of the city. Even desire fades after a time, and you merely exist in survivalist apathy. (set: $e36 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Reeling.|Start]]You wretch and reject the rat, along with a great deal of other half-digested meats. It might end for you if you don't do something soon. [[Home, but it won't last.|Oh, but home won't last.]]The operator naturally suspected you pulling some ridiculous prank, but as per routine they agreed to send help just in case. The help arrives ill prepared; the first medic actually fainted upon seeing your condition. You were ordered to remain isolated in the house while they sent for special forces. The next hour is spent with grueling hunger pangs and anxiety toward how they will treat your condition. You watch, relieved, as a semi-truck rolls up in the street. A group of anatomically extreme humanoid suits (much like metal deep sea diving suits) proceeds out the trailer and up to the door. You open it for them and immediately the towering suits subdue the Parasite as it instinctively attempts an attack. They bind with large metal clamps, and subsequently they tie you to a stretcher. The suits don't say a single word to you as this happens. As you are wheeled into the trailer you find yourself surrounded by monitors, medical tools, and busy attendants rushing from one station to the next. You whimper the beginning of a question to one close by and he immediately brandishes a syringe. You feel the injection, then drift into unconsciousness. [[What happens next...|Awaken.]]Knowing full well that the immense hunger influenced your decision, you turn to the nearest possible food source... -[[To the forest.|Hunt while the night is still young.]] -[[Yourself.]] (if: $neighbor is true)[-[[A neighbor.]] ]Hearkening back your initial struggle with the plant, you know this to be an incredible bout. It does not seem to sense your intent at this moment. What's your plan? -[[Cut it off.]] -[[Smash it in a door.]]A bold approach, though you don't seem to think so under the weight of your appetite. The pain, as you bite and tear through your forearm, is likened to that of spice. The flavor coupled with the sensation creates something you've never before experienced; you find it surprisingly exhilarating. The Parasite seems fraught with indecision: attack you for fulfilling its very desire? Yet you are threatening the host. Incapable to settle on either end of the spectrum, it tries to remove its rooted hold upon you. However, in doing so, the roots reflexively resume their grip, trapping the Parasite in a limbo of its own design. It merely thinks to itself, (set: $e41 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [["I didn't ask for this."|Start]]The stem of the plant has grown substantially since it first took root but a few hours ago. You manage to find a rather large serrated knife from your cutlery, certainly able to do the job better than any pair of scissors. You begin sawing at the roots embedded in your gut. The head of the Parasite reacts immediately, turning back to strike you. -[[STAB!]] -[[Finish the roots!]]A brutal, improvised plan. You position the unaware head of the Parasite at the foot of your front door (the most solid door you have access to). Nervousness akin to an arachnophobe taking charge, you sheepishly stare at your victim. You push the door with both arms, full force. Blood explodes in a total radius of the door's edge. You're shocked by this at first, only to recognize that this is probably your own blood. The stem of the Parasite lays inert, even as you open the door. You've successfully neutralized the tyrannical plant, as well as the hunger which overtook you previously. You do, however, feel incredibly lightheaded, probably due to the loss of blood. In a panic, you perform a makeshift cauterization of the limp protrusion upon the kitchen stove-top. It pains you not, though the smell is putrid at worst. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ But a few days later the roots cleanly detach from your now concave abdomen. It's quite some time before you decide food is no longer repulsive. You faced great oppression, one that came from within, and triumphed. (set: $e40 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[A war many will die fighting.|Start]]You plunge the knife into the roof of the Parasite's mouth, which is but an arm's length from your face. Unphased, the jaws of the plant clamp down on your arm and takes it right off. You marvel in horror at your very own dismemberment and fall to the ground. The mouth encapsulating your face is the last thing you see. (set: $e39 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[rekt.|Start]]Taking an approach that will hopefully force the Parasite into a more submissive demeanor, you hastily finish the job started. As the stem drops from your body the Parasite begins weakly thrashing about. All life seems to quiet down from its body as the reaction halts. The bark slowly compresses and the hinge of the jaw relaxes. Listless before you, the specimen is all the more interesting, though you still fear it to spring alive at any second. As your vision blurs, you aimlessly reach for your phone to call an ambulance. You fed that thing a lot of blood, and now you've cut loose a lot of blood. (set: $e38 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Let's hope they give you something to eat.|Start]]The weight of drowsiness dominates your eyelids. A flurry of voices can be heard. Their energetic nature gives just enough concern to push through your chemical coma and peek into a sliver of vision. A reflection perhaps, or an out of body experience. Your lower half is covered in a cloth. Your upper half, skin opened up, revealing colorful fruits, twirling sprigs, and floral mosaics. (set: $e44 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You close your eyes again and take in the light.|Start]]The guilt of avoiding her has finally permeated that stone cold heart of yours... The two of you chat for sometime and she manages to rope you into vacation plans. You leave at 7AM the next day! [[Better pack and sleep.|7AM.]]"I certainly will!" she retorts. Your mother rises up from the couch and grabs Scarface, who begins squawking in her face with playful inconsideration. She leaves, taking the plant, before you have anyone else to throw your lowly demeanor at. Such is the strength of her suggestion. Loss of self-control takes shape in the slamming of doors and an outpouring of tears. Struggling to think of how things can change, you only think back to the past: a place where none of this had ever happened. No one wanted things to be this way. (set: $e11 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [["My throat is an open grave."|Start]]Her eyebrows raise and eyes narrow in somber sadness. "Going back can sometimes be the only way to move forward. Other times, you simply need to swallow your pride and accept the need to embrace your failure. I will be here for you in whatever way I can, but there's only so much I can do." (set: $e12 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) If you want to change,[[this is the start.|Start]]The drone of a rather large crowd can be heard as you approach the big top. The tent entrance leaves no room for transition from the outside world; sword swallowers, fire spitting, the smell of popcorn and elephant ears, honking horns, and a mixture of the indiscernible line between laughing and crying children. The sensory assault makes way for timidity; your sense of personal space has long since been tarnished. Just past the entry a bald clown with a gaped grin is requesting hugs from each person who walks by. He seems to be ignored by most everyone who passes. As you near, Pups seems receptive to the clown's open, handless arms. -[[Don't hug the clown.]] -[[Hug the clown.]]Just another violation of one's comfort, you walk swiftly by his open arms. Sure enough, you avoided a particularly strong stench of his. (set: $clownlove to false) [[Moving on, you follow the flow of the crowd.|Center]]Making eye contact with the clown gives him a noticeable increase in joy. Cradling Pups in one arm, you reach over the clown's shoulder with the other. He doesn't say a word: he simply embraces you with warmth and endearment. Save for the smell, it's notably one of the best hugs you've gotten in a while. (set: $clownlove to true) You give him a pat on the back and nod. He continues to smile back at you and waves as[[you continue walking along with the crowd.|Center]]Reaching the center spectacle, it appears you are just in time to catch the end of the "Kooky Kreatures" event, as a rather large platypus balances on its bill upon the finger of a bearded lady. She bows as the spotlight fades and the crowd roars in approval. When the light reappears but half a moment later, there, standing alone in the spotlight, is Sylvester Marcovo. He jubilantly waves to the cheering crowd, soaking up the attention until they tire from clapping. "Thank you, thank you!" he speaks into the microphone, his accent and voice nearly unrecognizable from your meeting earlier that day. "Tonight, we have a very special guest for you all! A new member of our travelling family, in fact!" Somehow, he finds you in the crowd with his eyes and makes a gesture with his head for you to come to the stage by him. -[[Go to him.]] -[[Pretend like you didn't just make eye contact.]]Fraught with stage fright, but even more distressed to be still under the light, you wade your way through the crowd and onto the stage. The spotlight that followed merges with the one on center stage and you behold the darkness over the crowd. Marcovo begins a monologue about the plant: a colorful fabrication about its exotic origins, and the danger involved with its retrieval. Various cues throughout his speech urge you to raise the plant up, or walk it around the stage for all the audience to view. As you become more involved in the performance your anxiety toward the eyes that look upon you dies down a bit. Your final cue to bow comes about and the masses shower you in praise though whistles, cheers, and joyous screams. [[The lights fade and Marcovo leads you backstage.]]It's not more than 5 seconds of commitment to your passive approach before everything changes. "Oh, dear!" he cries, pointing in your general direction. "It seems a stranger has our newest addition in his clutches! A thief!" The spotlight blinds you as it shines directly upon where you stand. You feel yourself hoisted high and flipped sideways. "Ah, luckily our resident ''Misha Bear'' has taken matters into his own claws." Marcovo announces. The crowd laughs raucously as you are carried away by an 8-foot tall grizzly bear riding a unicycle. As usual, Pups coos in carefree delight, entirely unaware of the current predicament. You fear to writhe for freedom due to the incredible ease at which the bear carries you; dismemberment might come just as easily. When the bear reaches Marcovo, it digs its claws slightly into your ribcage. Marcovo, covering his microphone, sternly whispers, "The plant." holding out his hand. The claws dig deeper and you drop the plant into the hands of Marcovo. [[You look back as the bear wheels you off stage.]]A couple hours pass before a human attends to you. The bear dropped you in a 10x10 cage and sat staring until Marcovo appeared. The fear of the bear contracting sudden hunger pangs would've been preferable to the disgust of seeing Marcovo's smirk. "So glad you nailed the routine, considerin' we were short on practice time." -[["What routine?"]] -[["Let us out of here, creep!"]]"The routine is simple: every night, you'll //steal// the plant out of my hands, mid-performance. I'll make some dramatic reaction and then Misha Bear will cart you off to your cage again, where you'll get your meal for the day. When the plant dies, we'll leave you in whatever town we're in at the time and you'll be free." Marcovo draws his face in real close to yours. "Got it?" -[["Got it..."]] -[[Grab Pups and run.]]"The plant stays, friend." he replies. "But if you want out so bad, the exit lies in the bowels of Misha Bear here." [[Cornered.|"What routine?"]]Lord Marcovo, as you call him now, watches your every move. Ironically, the nightly performances are your only solace. The meals are bland and unfilling, and sickness comes much too often. None of this takes to the mind of Pups, who relishes in the constant adoration of Marcovo. Marcovo is always carrying Pups, most likely in an effort to keep him safe from internal theft. Not even the other performers take notice of your toil, ignoring you as if the cage you lay in were a solid wall. (if: $clownlove is true)[ [[The clown, however, sees your sadness.]] ] (if: $clownlove is false)[ (print:"It isn't until Pups dies that you are left to the mercy of those who'd pick up a stranger on the side of the road.")(set: $e20 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Let's hope they are as kind to you as you were to Marcovo.|Start]] ] Attempting to snag Pups from his grasp, Marcovo is not caught off guard and calls for the bear. In your struggle against Marcovo you: -[[Step on his foot.]] -[[Kick him in the stomach.]] -[[Leave Pups and make a break for it.]]You stamp down hard and pin his foot to the ground. -[[Pull hard and run with Pups.]] -[[Headbutt him.]]Keeping your hold on Pups, you anchor one foot on the ground, lift your other leg, and thrust hard into Marcovo's stomach. Marcovo is launched back into the bear and rolls to the floor. The bear, down on all fours, charges and tackles you to the ground, sending Pups flying and breaking your shoulders. (set: $e14 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Exit through the bowels.|Start]]Desperation overtakes you. Feeling hopeless in the strength contest against Marcovo, you release your hold on Pups and run for the cage exit in an attempt to spare yourself. The bear clotheslines you. Looking down, it bears its teeth. (set: $e15 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Literal reckless abandon.|Start]]Yanking Pups up and back into your arms, you motion to run toward the cage exit, but the bear, looming from behind, catches you by the back of your shirt... (set: $e16 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Bearmeat.|Start]]Your forehead smashes against Marcovo's nose, sending him to the ground. The bear charges in between the two of you, slamming you into the ground. Thankfully, it seems to only be concerned with Marcovo's injury rather than your defiance. You make a full sprint out of the back area, through the now darkened center tent, and beyond the circus grounds. From here on out, you keep Pups at home. Though he misses the attention he once received, you can return to life confident in his safety. Though 'Entrance of the Gladiators' makes you extremely uncomfortable any time you hear it in daily life, you value close friendships and bonding over inciting awe and jealousy in others. (set: $e17 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Appreciate what you have.|Start]]You enter in what appears to be the green room, full of make-up mirrors, animal cages, and costume racks. A fold out table humbly lit with birthday candles stands in the center of the room. The clown you passed in the entry way has just finished setting the table with what appears to be a pot of chili, his smile big as ever. There are only two chairs, giving you the impression that they've planned for you and Marcovo to have a dinner discussion. After a few minutes of chewing and chatter, conversation returns to the performance. "Let me cut to the chase," he says, maintaining his stage voice, "I want you and Pups to join our travelling family. You're a natural performer and Pups is the //perfect// new attraction. He seems to like the help well enough." You turn to Pups, who sits on the table next to you, cooing back and forth with the clown. "We'll take care of your every need and desire, but you have to decide now. We leave for the next town early tomorrow morning; the thrill of our wild life! What do you say, eh?" -[["Count me in!"]] -[["This is all too sudden..." (Decline)]]A life-choice to join the circus might be drastic to some people. But not to you! To you, this opportunity has revealed itself to be an oddity, sure, but it's more importantly a wonderful exercise in spontaneous trust of strangers. You bask nightly in the adoration of crowds, learn all sorts of new things (illusions and tricks, mostly) from your variety of talented compatriots, and Pups seems more elated than ever with so much constant attention. The clown shares a sleeping space with you on the tour bus, and (whether you ask for them or not) gives hugs unconditionally every morning, every night, and after each of your performance sets. Though you never hear from anyone you knew before, you know you are loved here. (set: $e21 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[The end.|Start]]"I was afraid you'd say that..." Marcovo regards, a great sadness falling upon his face. He jolts up out of his chair, claps twice, and calls out, "Misha! Hip, hip, Misha!" From behind you, a grizzly bear wearing a little fez walks out from its cage on its hind legs and picks you up without notice. A cry comes from the clown, who smiles no longer. "Hush up, you!" Marcovo scolds. The grizzly bear pulls your frightened-stiff body back into its cage, drops you to the hay-covered ground, and stands at the door of iron bars. Marcovo strolls past the bear and stands above you, holding the ever-oblivious Pups in his arm. "Join us, or Misha gets a free meal." -[["Fine."|"Got it..."]] -[[Snag Pups and get out of dodge.|Grab Pups and run.]]The clown never speaks, or at least, never has. He doesn't have hands either, so he doesn't sign or write. He mostly just walks around offering hugs to people, doing tricks with the smaller animals, and following Lord Marcovo's orders. Every morning, night, and post-performance he gives you a hug, and while this was quite uncomfortable at first, it seems to come from a place of child-like innocence (you only have to endure the smell for the 10 seconds it takes anyhow). His cheery demeanor is only broken once every morning when he awakens or when someone yells at him, but this is always a short-lived grief. He sleeps nearby your cage if you ever stay in a town for more than one night, otherwise he just serves you food before getting on the bus. It is after several months of hopeless travel that Marcovo holds a meeting among all the circus-folk besides you (you're regarded as one of the animals, only fed less). The end of the meeting is met with the team sobbing, indicative of tragedy. You see Marcovo as he makes his rounds and notice that Pups is gone from his hold. It can only be assumed that Pups has died. It is on this night, when the clown typically comes to bring your meal that he arrives with no meal. He opens the door to your cage, beckoning you by the wave of his arm. [[Go with him.]] [[Stay laying in your hay-bed.]]Never again did you think you'd see people in a space of freedom, but here you are. The Clown still has never said a word, and continues to dole out hugs, perhaps more than before. The two of you made your way on a long journey of street-performance, train-hopping, and, somehow, hitch-hiking. When you arrive home, it's hardly recognizable. The Clown refused to leave the car to join you, and though it's hard to say exactly why, you trust that it's central to his loving nature. (set: $e19 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[What a day to live: to wake up and no longer cry.|Start]]Despite how urgently the clown waves you toward him, you remain unmoved. Your stone cold response is the product of a great decay in spirit. Apathy now blankets the drive to do more of anything in life; to make the best of the situation or hold on the hope of its end, it's all the same. Marcovo storms in from the stage area and shoves the clown out of the way, stumbling into your cage. "YOU KILLED THEODORE!" Marcovo drunkenly screams. "I KNOW IT! I KNOW! YOU HATED HIM BECAUSE HE WAS BETTER THAN YOU! THE PEOPLE WOULD'VE NEVER LOVED YOU AND NOW THEY'LL HATE YOU BECAUSE YOU KILLED HIM!" Marcovo throws himself upon you, wrapping his fingers around your throat. His wide, bloodshot eyes spill upon you an unbridled fury. -[[Pry his hands.]] -[[Speak through the strangulation, "His name was Pups..."]]You try to lift your hands, but knees come down and bind your forearms. [[Spots cloud your vision...|Rescue.]]"DAMN YOU TO HELL!" he bellows, pressing his thumbs down upon your windpipe. [[You lose the strength to hold on...|Rescue.]]Hope recedes along with light. Your exertion turns to a sort of drifting. The pain is just background noise at this point. Stubbed arms now appear, blocking the violent glare of Marcovo. Marcovo's grip fails as he is hoisted up to the nuzzle of The Clown. Gasping and choking, through your watery eyes you see the ringleader thrash about, unable to escape the hold of The Clown. He smiles at you, though tears roll down his face. "Thank you." you hoarsely whisper. Mustering up whatever remnants of energy you have, you walk past them and head out of the big top, out to the dark highway. By some miracle of random-seeming generosity, you manage to hitch-hike all the way back home. It isn't more than a couple days later that headlines of Marcovo's murder plead arise. (set: $e18 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[A smile which cannot be unseen.|Start]]The smell of burnt plastic is intense and hardly tolerable, though you endure anyhow. It's clear now that you had no plant, but some sort of mechanized decoy of a plant: a floral robot? "That would explain the animation," you ponder, "but why it's here is quite a bit more bothersome." The "robo-plant" is far beyond repair, seeing as all the wires and chips you find are melted and disfigured now. However, being able to pull it out of very real (seeming) soil, you find the initials "G.F.S." on the inner-bottom of the ceramic pot. You spend quite a bit of time on the Internet searching for clues to the initials, but nothing conclusive comes up. The initials are incredibly generic and pull up more results than you could even begin to comb through. (set: $e29 to 1)(set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[Nothing else ever comes of this incident.|Start]]She thinly veils her disappointment, encouraging you to get some rest during your time off. -[[And thus, a vacation of doing absolutely nothing begins.]]The following days of travel to various mini-golf parks proves to be surprisingly good bonding time with your mother. It goes by rather quickly, but you're thankful for the trip. Life continues as normal: work in the day, laze about in the evening, occasionally see some friends, and, even less frequently, get back into that personal project you're always putting off. It isn't until the passing of another couple weeks that you stumble upon the remains of the plant you hid under the sink. Grabbing some gloves, you pull out the ceramic pot and place it on a towel in the center of the kitchen. A liquid-gelatinous black mass pools on the surface of the soil. At some point it must have spilled over and stained the pot, which now appears to be painted a flat black. The smell is hard to place, though you relate it to both chemical and rotting odors. The big question now remains: what to do with this disgusting mass? -[[Bag it up and toss it out.]] -[[Pour it out.]]You find a few plastic bags to layer up and bag the foul pudding up. You double knot the top to prevent spilling and walk outside to toss it in the garbage bin. About halfway to the bin, the bag begins to thrash about from the inside. The ooze, somehow, is reacting violently. Startled by this, you fling the bag as if a spider had crawled on your hand. It lands in the front yard and continues to roll and rage about. After a short bit, however, the bag's movement slows to a stop. The small black pudding has been defeated! (set: $e10 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[+450 XP|Start]]Where to pour it? -[[Down the sink.]] -[[Outside.]]You slowly tilt the pot to allow the ooze to drip down the drain, but it appears a bit more mucus-like in nature. Hanging down like a failed snot-rocket, you shake it out into the sink. As it plops down, a hissing, like that of cold water on a hot pan, sounds out from the gelatinous mound. Seconds later, the ooze falls through the new hole in the sink and into the cupboard beneath. It ate clean through the metal! [[The ooze slowly crawls out of the cupboard, ending its turn.]]At arm's length, you carry the pot of tar outside and pour it off the porch. It all bursts into flame as it leaves the pot, burning your hands severely (1d8) and causing you to drop the pot to the ground. The ooze has disappeared, and the pot melted. (set: $e9 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You are damaged, but the slime is no more. +200 XP|Start]]What will you do? -[[Grab a knife off the cutlery block and slice it.]] -[[Grab a pan off the stove and bash it.]] -[[Disengage and run.]]You grab the biggest of your knives and throw it down upon the tar-black ooze. The ooze is hit, but simply splits in half. [[The ooze reacts!]]You see the wide iron pan on the stove. Raising it above your head with both hands you smack down upon the amorphus blob, dealing 6 bludgeoning damage. The pan, however, sticks to the body of the ooze and disintegrates before your eyes. -[[It lashes out at you!]]Seeing that the sickening mound can //move// revolts and horrifies you. You immediately run into the other room and watch to see it move further. Sure enough it turns the corner and slithers in your direction. You have no means to defend yourself, so[[run!|run]]Both bodies lash out at you with respective pseudopodium and rapidly corrode right through your torso. (set: $e8 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[The ooze consume your body and grow larger.|Start]]A black tendril slashes through your knees, sending you falling face-first into the caustic consumer. (set: $e7 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) -[[Food for a giant protoplasm.|Start]]The only path accessible to you is out the backdoor, through which you run a great distance before turning back. Sure enough, the pile of mucus crosses the threshold of the door and bursts into a flame, of which dissipates in a matter of seconds. There appears to be no damage to your house, and hey! (set: $e6 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You find two gold pieces. Battle win!|Start]]Rise and shine! It's 8:30AM. You're just about ready to head out for work; not too late, not too early. You head to grab your keys off the dining table, but to your surprise a mysterious ceramic pot, filled with what seems to be dirt, sits on the center of the table. You don't recall such a thing... A present? A message? And from whom or where did it come from? -[[Throw it out.]] -[[Ignore it.]] -[[Water it.]]Naps were taken, T.V. was watched, and junk food was eaten. You might have seen some friends here and there, but it was on the Internet to play video games. When the week is over you return to the work routine like normal and somehow let an entire //two weeks// pass by before making a mess and needing to check [[under the sink.]]Entirely bewildered you find the plant you'd left in the dark to be quite different than when you'd left it. Protruding from vertically standing stem are branches bearing fruit. This fruit has a surreal quality about it: it appears like a shadow or an orb of pure darkness suspended from the arm of the plant. Taking it out into the light of the kitchen, you find that staring long enough creates the illusion you have a blind spot in your vision. Silence a song of awe and wonderment. -[[Attempt to pick the fruit.]] -[[Try to learn more.]]Double-click this passage to edit it.You poke and prod at the little sprout; its only real reaction being that it returns to the original position. It hums an unending monophony to which you subliminally are encouraged to hum back. As soon as you catch your subconscious slip you stop humming, looking over your shoulder as if you feared someone would hear. The moment you stop in joining the "song" the plant stops as well. You turn your head back to see the sprout has suddenly blossomed into something like a scaly red lily with a transparent yellow fringe and a dark, circular center (much like a sunflower's center, but flat). "Huh." you remark, though you could've sworn you heard your voice from in front of you. "Weird." you add, and there it is again. An odd delusion, indeed. In any case, your evening is free, what do you plan to do? -[[Make some phone calls.]] -[[Watch TV.]]Here is a link to the 1st time tester survey! Please take it when you're done playing for this session. If you want to test again later and have take this survey, there's a DIFFERENT survey for your next session :) http://goo.gl/forms/hrz1MU31Vn Thank you so much for helping out! -[[Back to the game.|Start]]Welcome back! When you're all done with this particular play session before you, please take this survey, even if you have before! I'm hoping to document as many play sessions as possible for this Alpha to understand the way your experience and relationship with the game changes as you play more. Here is the link: http://goo.gl/forms/Y1K0wB4Ntg Thank you once again! [[Back to the game.|Start]]Whether it be spelling, grammar, or some other technical issue, please PLEASE make sure you document it here! Spelling and grammar are certain to be the most common, as we are still early in the process of proofreading. The more eyes picking this stuff out, the easier editing becomes. Here is the link to upload your screenshots of errors to: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0ByIuz4TJ3Hw_X1ByN3BQWWpTUXM&usp=sharing Thank you so much! [[Back to the game.|Start]] <img src="http://crazyknuckles.weebly.com/uploads/5/1/7/8/51782355/8365849_orig.jpg" alt="" height="462" width="612" /> Thank you so much for playing this game! It was really fun to make and I'm really happy with it. I'd love to hear your feedback, good, bad, well-rounded, or otherwise. I hope to update and improve the game in its current form, as well as release a remastered version sometime in the distant future, so your words make everyone's experience better! [[1st time testing?]] | [[Not your 1st time testing?]] | [[Error to report?]]If you haven't already, please check out ''http://crazy-knuckles.itch.io/the-ceramic-uncertainty'' to purchase a download of the game at the price of "pay-what-you-want". Alternatively, you can send a Paypal gift to [email protected] This was all an independently made and funded project. Any sales will go directly toward a more fully realized version of the game, including: -more graphics -revised story -MORE story -better accessibility across different platforms -unique interactive moments (think microgames!) -mysteries??? [[Back to the start.|Start]]-Click the picture on the main menu screen to start the game! -Make decisions like you would in real life! -Try every single path! They're drastically different from one another most of the time. -Use the rewind button on the left side of the screen (note that it may mess up your completion stats D: I am working on fixing this.) -Read slowly and thoroughly. You can miss some important details if you go too fast. This game is all flavor, so why not enjoy it? -Sometimes a page is rather long and will start you in the middle of it. Go ahead and scroll up if you think this is happening to you! -Overthink everything. Stay up to date on the game and any updates that come out by subscribing to our email list (copy and past this link into the browser): http://eepurl.com/bor1Xb If you have any suggestions you think belong here, why not[[leave some feedback?|Give your wonderful, important feedback.]] [[Back to the start.|Start]]=><= ''Author'' //Fallon Braddy// ''Proofreading'' //Fallon Braddy Robert Weston Montgomery III Andrew Choske// ''Artwork'' //Ameerah Bader (@updamonx) [Title Screen, "Who Am I?"] Tyler Jacobson [Feedback]// ''Playtesting'' //Robert Weston Montgomery III Andrew Choske Scott Jacobson Jaccob White// \m/ //Nathan Sager Levi Hernandez Zane Kerns Silas Preston Andrew Gibson// ''Musical Inspirations (What I listened to making this game)'' //little-scale (@littlescale) Good Weather for an Airstrike (@gwfaa) Kanye West (@kanyewest)// ''Special Thanks'' //Scott Jacobson Stephanie Clarke Lynne Prokop Robert Weston Montgomery III Andrew Choske Ameerah Bader Jaccob White Jay Lowe and everyone in the RP group Lake City Game Creators Everyone who was so kind to us at Power of Play Expo All the wonderful people contributing guides and help in various Twine forums.// Font family provided by Google Fonts. This game was made using ''Twine'' (twinery.org) All story contents and other rights are owned by Fallon Braddy and Crazy Knuckles Productions. Any similarities to anything are either unintentional or a parody. If I forgot you, let me know so I can update this! Don't be afraid. [[Back to the start screen.|Start]]<img src="http://crazyknuckles.weebly.com/uploads/5/1/7/8/51782355/8686789_orig.png" alt="" height="596" width="333" /> This game was started on February 10th, 2015 and published on November 20th, 2015. It started as a fun project and got quickly out of hand. I'm really happy with it, but hope someday to assemble a team to release a fully remastered version someday. My name is Fallon Braddy! I make games with my friends and call our team Crazy Knuckles Productions. Right now, I'm the only full-time member of the team, and I want to make more games with wonderful people! I typically make music and travel the country with amazing friends. I also love to program for 2D games. You can contact me via Facebook, Twitter (@falloneus), or email ([email protected]). I would love to talk to you about any/everything! [[Back to the start.|Start]]You walk into the other room to grab your phone and dial up your mother, whom you expect will eagerly await a call from you. "Hello?" she answers. "Hey, it's me." you respond, and //also hear from the other room?!// You meander over to the other room, but maintain pace with the conversation. "I've been meaning to talk to you, why haven't you bothered to ask about our vacation?" she interrogates. As soon as you retort, it becomes clear that the echo comes from the plant. It's really hard to keep focus while conversing with a persistent mimic in your ears, so you tell her your phone is having issues and you'll call right back. "My phone is doing something weird; I'll call you right back." the plant repeats. You walk over to the plant to examine this peculiarity. -[[Test the plant further.]] -[[Just stare in silence.]]You plop yourself down on the couch, ready to relax for the first time today. A commercial of a man mid-way through a monologue about insurance greets your brightly lit screen. That strange latent repetition, this time of //his// words, recurs, however now you're certain the source comes from the plant. "What the heck?" you ponder aloud, although instead of the plant repeating both you and the TV, a startling ''crunch'' sound blasts out from it, immediately reverting to the man's droll monologue. The commercial fades and for a split-second you are truly bewildered at this. A new commercial appears, this time with loud ska music and a chattering, jean-wearing family (probably a Pants Store ad). Rather than the plant repeating the commercial, the ''crunch'' sound returns in full force, creating a deafening wall of noise. You fumble with the remote and manage to switch the TV off, but still the plant's drone grows in volume. The roar is so intense that you eventually just lose your sense of hearing. Though typically you'd be concerned with the sheer amount of pain that comes with your eardrums blowing out, you're more terrified that the fixtures in your house are now rumbling. The vibrations create both a visual and physical chaos, showing just abruptly your life can turn from relaxing in front of the TV to absolute and complete cataclysm. Your eyes and bones vibrate and the world feels like its being shredded apart. (set: $e83 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) [[You watch as the plant, along with everything else, splits into molecular decomposition.|Start]]No matter what you say, no matter how you articulate your speech; the plant repeats every phrase and dialect in perfect imitation. You are both baffled and amazed at this strange behavior. You wonder how the plant functions, what its repetition serves for biologically, and, of course, //where it came from.// The only thing you haven't done is ask the plant any questions. (set: $e85 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) -[[What are you?|Start]] -[[Where did you come from?|Start]] -[[Why are you doing this?|Start]] -[[Who are you?|Start]] -[[How old are you?|Start]] -[[Are you a boy or a girl?|Start]]You stare at the plant. You wonder how long it can take the silence, eagerly anticipating any reactions to come about. About 45 minutes pass before you can no longer admire the alien beauties the plant beholds and find yourself incredibly bored. Still you press on, staring with full intent to instigate a reaction. This thing has to crack. [[Another hour passes, and the black center begins to shimmer.]]The shimmering is instantly euphoric; your efforts have paid off! You almost shout in excitement, but manage to contain yourself to continue observing this phenomena. After a couple minutes more of silent anticipation, you find the black spot now to be a perfect mirror image of yourself and your surroundings. Perplexed by the clarity, yet your eyes burn. -[[Blink.]] -[[Resist blinking.]]You blink. A pretty normal thing to do. Eventually, you come to think of how much time has passed since you've literally just stared at this plant, then at this reflection of yourself (with whom you are quite familiar). You cannot realistically spend all your time staring, so you get up to at least go to the bathroom. Well, you tried anyhow. You can't seem to move at all. Your arms, your legs, even your tired eyelids cannot blink. You can't speak, you're not breathing, and your heart cannot even be heard beating. The image of yourself gets up and walks away. You observe as it operates a typical nighttime routine, then turns out the lights. The sunrises the next day, and you spent the whole night entirely conscious of this one spot in your home. "You" return to resume the routine you would typically before you go to work, then "You" leave. (set: $e84 to 1) (set: $timesbeaten to $timesbeaten + 1) Terrifying, but this is reality.[[You can only see, and worse still, the same day plays itself out before you in a continual loop.|Start]]Like your determination in staring contests, you refuse to break focus. However, no one wins a staring contest with a mirror. [[Eventually, your eyes tire.|Blink.]]