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Where the Path Ends

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In the tidewater forest of South Carolina, there is a path which leads away from a rural highway and through the trees. It appears to be a hiking trail, and at one point in the mid-1990s, it was. The U.S. Federal Government was planning to build a park here. Workers on the trail were forced to stop where the ground turned to saltwater marsh, and funding for the proposed park ran out soon after.

Walking this trail is a very poor decision, now that it has gone back to the forest. If you choose to go, then it is highly suggested that you do so during the day. The path is a high intensity trail, weaving through miles of stunted trees and shrubbery, and through swamps where alligators prowl. It is also unmaintained, and in places has deteriorated entirely into sand and grass.

At night, however, there are dangers which are not found on any normal trail.

If you decide to walk the lowland path at night, bring with you a flashlight, a machete, and a high-caliber rifle in case things go south (which they almost certainly will). You will want to start out shortly after sundown, because the trail is long, and you do not want to be lost on its winding ways when the dawn comes. For the first hundred feet or so, the path will seem just as it does during the day. Then, it will begin to change, slowly but surely. The trees will begin to grow closer together, and the ground will gradually turn from sand to black gravel. It is highly suggested that you not look back at this point, as those who do often panic, and that will be a cue for many of the predators who live in this forest to strike.

After walking for a few miles, you will be in a forest completely different from that normally found in the lowlands of South Carolina. You will be surrounded by strange plants, and gnarled trees with deadly, poisonous thorns. Patches of bioluminescence flash from the depths of the forest, coming from strange things you will hopefully never see. Insects like fireflies in blue, red, and yellow flash in strange patterns across the path, and if you look up, you will see strange stars in the sky high above. You should not look up for too long, however.

In some places, branches and vines will overgrow the path, and this is where your machete will come in handy. Don't hesitate for any reason, particularly if you hear screaming or if the vines seem to bleed.

Wandering through this forest, you will see countless wonders. There are rock formations here which look like the bones of great animals far larger than any dinosaur or whale, and perhaps that is what they are. However, you should never under any circumstances attempt to photograph them, or pause too long at any point. Remember your race against the sunrise, and remember as well that your time keeping devices may not be reliable here.

Where the path ends, you will come to a clearing in the forest. Walk to the center, because at this point, you will have to do so to go back. Ignore completely the large beast standing at the opposite side. It will do nothing to you if you do not respond to its presence. If you do, you will vanish into the forest, and your screams will tear the night.

Stand in the center of the clearing, and you will see the stars begin to fade. At this point, you must close your eyes, and say, "So sleep the souls of the forgotten ones". Do not try to understand this sentence. When you open your eyes, the clearing will be bathed in violet light, and will be extremely hot. The temperature of the clearing is well over two hundred degrees, but right now, you are being protected. Do not look up, regardless. In front of you will be a creature similar to a human being, but charred black, mummified, and desiccated. It will ask you three questions about the history of its world. If you answer these incorrectly, you will not be harmed, but the world will begin to dim again, and you must close your eyes and repeat the sentence you spoke to find your way here. Then, you will find yourself in the clearing again late at night. Make your way back along the path, without glancing back.

Again, be sure that you give yourself time to get back by morning.

If you answer these questions correctly, you will find yourself in the clearing again, only it will be broad daylight. You will no longer need protection from the heat or the radiation. Look up if you wish, into the heart of the minuscule white dwarf around which this world orbits. You may walk back along the path now, and reenter your own world. From this moment forward, you will never be susceptible to heat or cold, and you will be as immortal as the hills. However, no one will ever glance at your face again, and I would suggest that you follow their lead and not glance into a mirror if you want to hold onto your sanity.


-C.S.B.-

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