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Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape

New York, Central Park


a part of Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape, by birthstone_spirits.

The story begins here.

birthstone_spirits holds sovereignty over New York, Central Park, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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One of America's most famous parks.
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New York, Central Park

The story begins here.


New York, Central Park is a part of Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape.

1 Characters Here

Liv Davidsen [0] Winter can be unforgiving, December the most.

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Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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Tallyho gripped the handles of her wicker basket.

Its craftsmanship was pretty sloppy, really. Loose straws pricked the wrinkles of her palms like the hay brush from a wild, frayed broom. The apples inside rolled along the bottom of the basket— turned their green underbellies to the sun in hopes of being burnt red. Dry dust clung to the soles of her bare feet just as white powder clung to the faces of ancient, eastern queens.
She was the queen of apples in her own, pauper-like way. But how many apples were left at the bottom of her basket? Seven? Seemed like the queen was going bankrupt, and her country (her stomach) was about to be seized by the lord of hunger—consumed by his gluttonous taxes.

She acquired her basket from a street vendor who, in turn, asked the girl to tend to his fruit stand for an hour. Instead of receiving money, she was awarded a basket filled to the brim by a village of shiny red apples. And what joy she felt when she was given this gift. She thought that she would be content for the rest of her life, fed forever on crunchy red sustenance. But there she was a few days later, stumbling about town with seven softening survivors, bitter spoils of war.

She stood at the entrance gate of the Tabbard bazaar shifting her weight eagerly, and pausing in the middle of awkward contrappostos. She was the dead-eyed deer girl—a pair of weak and sleepy eyes placed into a slender body so exhausted it was ready to combust with energy if promised food. She wanted more work that day, more apples, more something.
Tallyho bumped the basket up against her chest with her knee and took a deep breath. She threw her head back, exposed her long white neck to the sun, and shook her head until she was sure that every free lock had fallen against her blazing back.

The bazaar was busy—but it usually was. At every booth there were at least three people gathering around the goods and making messy lines before its vendor. The foot traffic was distracting and colorful—a man barreled through the crowd on his bicycle with two gruff hens stuffed in its front basket, and a slab of raw meat strapped across his back with a rope. He plowed past the girl at least three times, heading in a different direction with each passing.

When she finally decided to approach a booth, she found that it didn’t sell food at all, but rather, an assortment of intricately decorated hair combs.

“You, girl, come here,” the woman on the other side of the booth barked. She was a stout, round woman. The fat of her chin lolled over her short neck as she spoke. “Let me see your hair,” she said, “I have the perfect comb for you.”
Tallyho took a closer look. The woman wore a coarse brown dress with a red embroidered detail along the collar. Her breasts curved over her protruding stomach as if she were melting, and her calves ran into her ankles seamlessly, diluting her legs’ definition like sugar in boiling water. Without asking, she took a fistful of Tallyho’s hair and pinned it up with one of her combs.
“Look at this,” the woman said as she held a mirror up to the young woman’s face. The shiny black comb cradled her locks just above the nape her neck, gold paint danced around the teeth and the wings of the accessory with lyrical swirls and dots. Before the girl could finish admiring the comb, it was painlessly swiped from her hair by the old woman. Tallyho watched her in dismay as she felt her blonde strands sink down her back.

“Give me twenty coins for it,” the woman said as she held the comb above the mouth of its satin drawstring bag.

“I don’t have that much,” the blonde said. Her green eyes traced the path of the comb as it plopped down into the bottom of the bag.

“No money and you won’t get anywhere in this world,” the vendor huffed.

Tallyho stepped away as the woman attempted to sell a similar comb to another girl.
Despite her hunger pains and the scent of a few rotting apples, she forgot what she came to the market for. She made her way towards the exit.

But the comb was on her mind, a comb that was cheap but not cheap enough for her to buy. She felt like she was worth something when she wore it. The act of pinning up her hair was like lifting an unknown weight off of her shoulders. Or perhaps it could have just been the fact that the accessory made her feel richer and lovelier.
She took a bite out of one of the few good apples she had left. She wasn’t sure where she was going, but she kept walking even when she felt like she was nearing the edge of nowhere. Her rotting apples wobbled at the bottom of the basket as she meandered down a grassy hill. Finding no further use for it, she dropped it on the ground sloppily. It landed in front of her, and without being conscious of her footing, she stepped on the toppled basket, bending her ankle at an odd angle, before tumbling down the slope of green. As the hill steepened, her fall hardened. Then the sky and hills went black.

She hung from the fork of a tree—leaves tickled her arms and cheeks until she woke up red-faced and displaced. The sky was blue again, but the ground was not green. Below her the grass was scarce, only eerie splotches of dying kelly green and browns indicative of winter suffocation. She felt the chill overtake her bare arms and legs—the cotton of her summer dress rippled in fall breezes. She knew it was fall—because she found it in the leaves, and in the crunch she heard when she pressed her weight against and the many orange and brown splotches littered on the bark.

She tried to comprehend her situation—she wasn’t in a lush valley anymore, but wedged in the fork of a tree, trusting a branch to hold her like a nature god. Her feet dangled high above an odd stone lane only wide enough for a pair to walk. How high above the ground was she? Eight feet? Ten? Maybe a lot more. But surely too high for her to simply jump down.

She touched her cheek. The texture of the bark left an imprint on her face, worked its way down from brow to jaw, and she wondered how long she had been asleep. She massaged the imprint from her flesh as she scanned her surroundings again.

It was an odd spread of land. Stony forms—fountains and benches disturbed the grass to no end. She looked out towards the horizon only to find wider stone roads where odd contraptions in varying colors bumbled behind each other, honking and roaring. Then there were the buildings—large towers that stretched high above her like deities and kings, the refection of the sky prominent on the black glass fortresses.

Tallyho placed her hand on her collar bone to see if her necklace was still there, and it was, though hot to the touch. Brows furrowed— she replaced her cheek against the bark and began to contemplate a way down. Once she was confident enough, she sat up to survey the branches around her. But not overcoming her initial bewilderment, she found herself drawn to the new, strange visuals instead. She felt mystified and a little faint. Her spine began to relax, her straight back curled and wavered, and soon she was falling again.

“It happened so quickly,” she thought, scattered amongst the fallen leaves.

3 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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#, as written by rikura
After one month, Jason still couldn't get use to being in New York. Man, and he thought Nashville was confusing. He didn't see how the people here in New York could actually find their way around. He always got lost. Always! Almost every time he left his aunt's place, after about ten minutes of walking, he'd have to stop someone for directions. Sure, the majority of them were usually helpful and nice about it, but it was annoying how those few would smirk and then make some stupid joke or comment. Kind of like the guy he just talked to. I mean, seriously, he hardly even had an accent, and saying "y'all" isn't something that makes you super country... not that he had an actual problem with people thinking that. That guy was just really, really annoying. But, eh, it wasn't like he'd see that guy again.

He ran a hand through his hair as he stopped walking. 'So, where am I again?' he thought. He looked around, doing a full 360 before slouching and sighing in defeat. At least it was obvious he was near Central Park. I mean, it is pretty obvious with all of the trees and stuff...

He shrugged and gave a little half smile, putting both hands into the pockets of his dark denim jeans, thinking, 'Hey. What the heck? Not like it'll hurt to take a little detour before pick'n up the food for Aunt June anyways.' And with that he found himself walking aimlessly around Central Park.

He liked seeing all of the fall colors, and as he kept hearing his feet crunch fallen leaves, he grinned and looked at the path in front of him. He started jumping and maneuvering around the path, trying not to step on any leaves. After a few minutes of success he stopped, smirked and said, "Oh, yeah, I'm a ninja," then he took one step back and heard a crunch. "... Crud."

"Tch! Oh well, it was a stupid game anyways," he said, sounding a little like a kid whining after losing.

"Ooookay, anyways," he straightened his black and green, long sleeved flannel that he was wearing (unbuttoned) over a fitted black t-shirt. "I should probably get moving." He turned around, started walking, and then paused with a blink. "Wait... which way did I come from? Uh..." He blushed, as he realized he was lost... again. Well, he was just glad, no one was around. He laughed out loud, "That would be embarrassing." He took in a deep breath before releasing it and said "Alright, I'll goooooo," he spun around, and stopped randomly, pointing in front of him, "this way!"

Just about that time, he heard a thump, and someone walking through the leaves by all the apparent crunching he heard, which in turn made him jump. He put a hand on his chest and sighed, "Dang, that scared me..." He turned his head, curious to see what had made the sounds, and started to walk in the direction he thought he heard it from, rubbing the ring he wore on the middle finger of his left hand with his thumb. Soon he saw a guy standing about a yard away from a girl lying on the ground.

'What the heck is she doing here?' He thought, and as he got closer, 'And wearing... that?' 'Whoever she is, she's crazy.'

It didn't look like the other guy was gonna step any closer, so he hurried up and crouched down beside her. "Hey. Hey, uh, person, you alright?" He waved his left hand in front of her face, "Ya still with us?" Then he noticed her ankle at a weird angle and pulled his hand back. "Okay, not good..."

4 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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#, as written by Linnea
The candles flickered uncertainly as the room filled with heat. The flames danced for an instant in the gentle flow of air, threatening to turn the room pitch black with their death. Fearless, the silent guardians remained at their post. It was their sacred duty; one they would not easily falter. Proud and tall, they stood, unaware of their impending demise at the hands of their master. They could not possibly understand that the one they were meant to guard would be the one to put an end to their brief lives. Even if they were to know, how could they possibly fight back? Their entire existence was to serve. To deny this was to invite death. They were trapped, oblivious to the fact that they had only one purpose, unaware that their lives would always be at the hand of their master. So they continued on, lighting the room with their warm glow, blissfully unaware of what was to come.

As the room warmed, their master smiled. She payed little attention to her guardians, for it was her tools that garnered the most interest. Her slender fingers gently flipped over the first card. A young man stood, clutching one of nine long wands. Weary, he leaned on the one in his hands in hopes that it would provide some support. The young girl didn’t need to ponder the meaning of this. After all, it was the past. She had already lived through this part. Overcoming obstacles and continuing with tenacity was something not easily forgotten.

The second card featured yet another man with wands. He clutched one of the three with certainty. This was the card of the present, telling of the young girl’s travels to this city. It was, unfortunately, not for leisure. Rather, it was for business. Of course, the girl had foreseen this weeks ago. With these cards, she had seen many things. Her eyes, pale blue like glimmering starlight, had scanned the intricate pictures for years. Oh, the things that had come to pass.

Her hand hovered over that last card for a moment as she prepared herself. Whatever that card showed, she would have to be ready for it. Who was to say what would happen in the future? Love? Fame? Perhaps an untimely demise. She bit her lip as she grabbed the edge of the card. Flipping it, she gasped in fright.

“Autumn, I’m heading out! I might stop by a restraint. Want me to get you anything?” The lights were turned on and the door opened, rendering the candles useless. The woman behind the intrusion fiddled with her earrings, trying to put them in place.
Autumn let out a ragged breath, looking at her mother with a mixture of surprise and disdain. “Mom! You scared me!”
“Oops! Sorry, Hun! Really though, you shouldn’t be in the dark all the time. It’ll ruin your eyes.” The woman let out a satisfied hum as her earrings fit in place.

“No it won’t. That’s just urban myth.” Autumn retorted, blinking to adjust her vision.

“Alright. I still don’t know why you insist on using those candles, though. Wouldn’t it be easier to use the lamp next to you? Or the ceiling lights?”

“It’s called ambiance.” Autumn said with a playful smugness.

“Whatever you say.” The woman checked her watch. “Oh! Is that really the time? I have to go. Love you!” She walked out of the room hurriedly, her heels clacking against the floor.

“Get me a burger!” Autumn called out. She could only hope her mother heard her.

Well, she might as well flip the last card. The mood may have been ruined, but she still wanted to know what to expect.
She frowned. This didn’t make much sense. What sort of message was this supposed to be? As far as she knew, she wasn’t going to travel any time soon. Aside from going home, of course. That, however, was no earth shattering adventure.
More travel to unexpected lands seemed like a rather odd future. It had just happened after all. Perhaps she had read it wrong. Either way she had to try again later, or risk another misreading. Travel huh… Well, if it was travel that the cards had predicted then travel is what she would have. Maybe a walk through the park? She had heard it was rather beautiful. Besides, her mother’s meeting would take a few hours and some fresh air would do some good.

For a moment, she almost walked out of the door in her pajamas. Autumn rushed over to her luggage, pulling out a black pea coat and dark jeans. Now this would work just fine. Putting the cards in her purse, along with her makeup and phone, she left the room and set out for the park.

Needless to say, Autumn was a dreamy sort. She thoroughly believed in the paranormal. There were a few times that she had even decided to go on investigations of paranormal hot spots. Nothing really happened, but that didn't matter to her. She was sure that the spirits were just tired or something. Or perhaps her good luck charm had kept her from being attacked by something sinister.

Her “charm” was a necklace. A tear shaped topaz that hung from a golden chain. Autumn had bought it at a flea market and never stopped wearing it since. It was just too pretty to take off. Besides, it looked good on her.

Leaves crunched under her black flats as she walked through the park. Fall really was a beautiful time of year. Back where she lived the trees didn't change color. They didn't change much at all actually. Palm trees sort of stayed the way they were. But New York, as opposed to California, had seasons that obviously changed. It was actually rather nice.

She brushed a loose strand of her light blonde hair out of her face, huffing when some got in her mouth. Really, long hair was such a hassle. Still, she would never dream of cutting it short. Short hair simply wouldn't look good on her.
Autumn gleefully studied her surroundings. It was so very beautiful. She didn't really have another chance to see a sight like this again. That is, not to her knowledge. Perhaps tomorrow she would ask the cards if she would ever see this again. But for the time being, she was content just to sit down on a bench and watch the leaves fall. No, this certainly wasn't a grand adventure. And there certainly wasn't any danger nearby. It was peaceful. Just the way she liked it. That is, until her eyes caught a rather odd sight. A girl in a tree. Now what in the world was she doing up there?

Autumn winced as she felt a cold shiver run up her spine. Curiously enough, it was her neck that was the coldest. Upon further inspection, it was the necklace itself that created the chill. It felt like it was as cold as death itself. No matter. The girl that had fallen out of the tree was more important than the chills. There were already a few people there. Autumn walked over, curiosity taking hold. “You… um. You alright?” The girl seemed fine. Nothing broken or bruised. “Do you need any help?”

5 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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Tallyho let out a rather unattractive groan; she pulled her brows into a tight furrow before relaxing her face, and opening her eyes only to see a gaggle of people who, in her option, were excessively frightening. The first person she took notice of was a pale, dark haired boy, whose voice was about as dead as the eye of a shark. She began to wonder if the chilly weather was just a result of empty air clawing out of the crevices of his soul. The next was a young man whose speech was drawn out and rather slow. She made an attempt to identify his accent—to figure out what part of Aires he was from—but because of her flustered state and the crowd of people hovering above her, she simply decided that his speech was too slow for comfort, and therefore pretty annoying in this particular moment. She grunted as his palm swept over her face and she turned away, claustrophobic and put off by his close contact. As an approaching blonde joined in on the “are you alright” chant, a loudmouthed man began to yodel something about an ambulance which, at this point, Tallyho hoped was a type of pastry chef because she was pretty pissed.

“I’m fine,” she grunted, voice soft but groggy. She tried to swat the slow speaking boy off of her as she sat up, though with her concussion, her gesture was probably likened to slapping him in the face with a wet noodle. After struggling to her feet, she took a long, hard look at each of the characters surrounding her. Well at least she thought she was staring them down. For all she knew, her eyes could have been zipping about from her dizzy spell.

Cold, hungry, angry, and with a concussion, Tallyho struggled to offer a thanks for their concerns, but managed to get it done through broken, slurred speech.

“Now where am I?” she asked, attempting to sound as polite as possible despite her discomfort.

5 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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#, as written by rikura
Jason's shoulders stiffened as he heard a familiar and annoying voice. The same voice of the annoying guy who he got directions from earlier. Seriously!? Seriously? After the guy stopped talking, Jason started to turn his head to give a smart reply, when he heard "I'm fine" and felt a full-handed sort of tap on his cheek. He blinked, looked back down at the girl, 'guess she is still with us, huh?' and then stood up and stepped back, giving her some room.

He watched as she pushed herself up shakily. 'Yeah, you sure look fine, sweetheart,' he thought sarcastically to himself as he started twisting the silver scorpion ring on his finger. He paused, raising an eyebrow as she tried to look intimidating... at least he thought she was trying to look intimidating. After hearing the slurs she gave, he really wondered if she was just some weird drunk, and when she asked "Now where am I?" he nodded to himself. 'Yeah, that's it... or she really hit her head.'

"You're in Central Park.... Do you remember how ya got here?" Though with how she was acting, he didn't think she remembered anything, and an earlier thought came back to him. 'Yeah, she's probably crazy...'

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson
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It’d taken almost two months, but Skylar was finally starting to feel like she belonged in New York City.

Well. Almost.

Swearing under her breath, she furiously swiped her subway card at the turnstile only to get the endlessly frustrating “Please try again!” screen over and over again. To any seasoned New Yorker she was an obvious outsider, and no amount of fake confidence could keep her face from flushing a deep red as she struggled with the machine.

“Miss, do you need any help?”

Skylar whipped around to find an older gentleman looking at her, an expression that seemed to be a mixture of pity and annoyance pulling at his features as he observed her failed attempts to get through.

“Oh, um. I’m fine, thank you.” She replied hurriedly, suddenly feeling even more flustered. She didn’t like seeming vulnerable or asking for help, the dumb machine testing her pride as she struggled to retain her last shred of dignity.

It was at that moment that her card decided to finally work, the turnstile dinging and letting her through. With a sigh of relief she hurried through, quickly glancing up at the map on the wall before heading to the train she was supposed to take.

Much to her surprise the subways were fairly empty, giving her a moment to pause and gather her thoughts. Her next class wasn’t for another two hours, maybe she’d sit in Central Park and get a head start on some of her reading. After all, it was gorgeous out, and while New York’s version of autumn was incredibly different than the weather in Florida she found herself enjoying the newfound crisp briskness in the air.

That and the fact that it gave her an excuse the wear the cute charcoal colored cardigan her best friend had given her. Normally clothes weren’t that important to her, but she was a new person now. Long gone were here brothers’ hand-me-downs (aside from a few pairs of basketball shorts and flannel shirts- some habits were harder to get rid of than others), replaced with clothes deemed “New York City appropriate” by Kyra. No longer was she “just another Grayson kid,” she was finally on her own and out of her siblings’ shadows- and according to Kyra, she had to look the part as well if she was going to be “the new and improved Skylar Grayson.” Regardless, Skylar was just happy to be somewhere where teachers wouldn’t mistakenly call her by her brothers’ names.

Getting off at her stop, Skylar pulled her messenger bag a little closer to her side as she hurried up the concrete steps and in the direction of Central Park. The streets were much busier than the subway had been, groups of lost tourists clogging up the sidewalks while street vendors tried to make a quick buck off of knock-off designer purses. It had definitely taken some getting used to but she found herself loving the city more and more every day. In a way it reminded her of home- after all, living with eight other people was a whole new kind of chaos in itself. Skylar loved her family, she really did, but sometimes she felt like nobody ever listened to her. She could have committed murder and gotten away with it, her parents were so preoccupied with her genius older brother’s latest accomplishments or the macaroni crafts her younger sisters had brought home. It was one of the reasons why she’d decided to go away for college (well, that and the killer scholarship she’d received). She needed time to be herself and not so-and-so’s baby sister, time to let her voice finally be heard and not overshadowed. And sure, maybe a city so big wasn’t exactly the most ideal place to be noticed, but it was a start. Besides, anything was better than being the lonely middle child.

Central Park seemed to be the happy medium between the subway and the streets, busy without being too overbearingly loud. Smiling to herself, Skylar walked along for a bit before deciding on a spot to sit. A group of teenagers stood huddled nearby the bench she’d chosen, and she figured that at least she would have something to distract her when her philosophy textbook got too boring. Tucking a loose strand of dark hair behind her ear, she pulled out her book and began to read.

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Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts
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A well-muscled blond teen with a faded blue baseball cap pulled low over his face, plodded along the sidewalk rolling a paper covered in small, neat script between his hands over and over again, while talking to himself. If any passers-by noticed him they might think he was crazy, but one of the things about New York City is most people just wanted to get on with their own business, and were often blind to anyone else. He hunched up his shoulders to remain temporarily invisible and saw only the grey sneakers on his feet. This boy also wished to just get on with business for now.

Raising his head and dropping his shoulders, he paused at a subway station. He needed to take the subway to return to the little rowhome in the Bronx where he lived most of his life, but his feet remained on the street, stuck like glue. "I can't face Dad right now," he whispered in a strained voice and turned away even though he knew his dad would worry about him. It seemed his dad was perpetually worried about him, not that the boy didn't give reason for worry. Proof was there in his hands and on his face; a split lip and black eye definitely don't mean everything is a-ok. With an angry grunt, the teen shoved that paper back in his muddy backpack and started running. Running felt good, but was unfortunately something that drew people's attention. People on the street started shouting at him and he heard sirens.They better not be for me, he thought and kept running.

Since he wasn't watching where he was going, he ended up running into someone significantly taller than him with black hair. "oof!" he grunted and fell back, but the shorter blond didn't stay down long enough to feel pain. He dropped his backpack and jumped back up in a defensive position, since he didn't know what to expect from this person.

7 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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Harper snorted when the southerner got slapped...or the SoHo chick. "See, that's what happens when we crowd people," Harper tutted, turning away to make his call, "Ya hear?"

He himself didn't hear the girl's questions or the tourist's response. Nor did he see the blond guy barrel into the tall and, now that he thought about it, somewhat intimidating yet familiar face that belonged to the dark haired dude. As he lifted his phone to his ear (he had decided to call the Central Park Medical Unit, since the bohemian girl didn't seem to be in too much of an emergency), he did notice the girl on a bench not too far away, a textbook on her lap. She was kind of cute...He gave a short wave to her, smiling widely, but he wasn't completely sure she had seen.

"Central Park Medical Unit. What's your emergency?"

"Uh, yeah, there's this girl who looks like she fell out of a tree," Harper explained, "Yeah, I think she maybe hit her head too hard." he turned back to glance at her before reaffirming, "Yeah, probably hit her head too hard. Oh and her ankle didn't look that hot either." He provided the coordinates of where exactly they were in the park and answered a couple other questions before hanging up.

"Good news, chica," he hollered to the injured girl, waving his phone, "Your ambulance is on its way! So just sit tight for like ten or fifteen or twenty minutes." He honestly didn't know how long it would take them...a girl who was still functioning after falling out of a tree probably didn't beat out a possible bicycle accident or an injured puppy or a cat or frisbee or kite stuck in a tree.

3 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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Tallyho stared in mild horror as the loud one began to speak to himself with his hand cupped onto his ear. It was when she heard the words, Central Park from the slow speaker that she attempted to place the location within a country. Such a place was not on Solace and besides, there was absolutely no way that she could be there with breezes so cold.

She began to think that she had been shipped to the R.K. Of course, it all made sense. She fell down the hill, a bunch of hermits took her to the piers, then shipped her off to the R.K where a tag team of disgruntled shipmen put her in a tree so that she could wake up and start her new life as a…

No. Maybe not.

“Thanks anyway,” the blonde mumbled, “I don’t need your am-bull-lances.”

Whatever those were.

With that, she began to make her way down the stony path. Her ankle was a little sprained, but it certainly wasn’t broken. As she moved away, she made a half-hearted attempt to clean herself up—to comb autumn leaves from her hair and shake dead grass from the frills of her dress. Though it would be her luck that in the middle of a mildly dignifying exit, she stepped on a stray pinecone, which, to be frank, hurt like hell. Holding in her outcry, she glanced back at the others to see if they noticed.

But what did it matter if they did? It wasn’t like they were particularly nonchalant when she fell out of the tree. Tallyho already looked (and felt) like a crazy fool. She was scruffy from a long, foodless journey in the Airian summer. Her face, though still fair, was lightly tinted with nature’s bronzer, applied through strong winds that sent loose dirt that dwindling in the air from erosion. Her locks were frizzy curls that expanded in the sun, dulled in the fall chills, and as ridden with small twigs.

She was capable of looking a little nicer, but since she was at her very worst, she really had nothing to lose. In an attempt to put herself out of her own, socially-awkward misery, she picked up her pace, avoiding maleficent pinecones as she went.

But something made her stop in her tracks. It wasn’t the searing heat from her amethyst or her desire to figure out what an am-bull-lance was, but rather the unsettling sound quaking from the tree she fell from. She eyed the trunk, watched as it tipped in slight movements that could only be noted if one paid special attention.

3 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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Skylar had been lying to herself when she’d thought she’d be able to get a head start on her reading. She loved college, loved the independence it gave her and how she had the freedom to choose what classes she took, but these general education requirements would be the death of her. Who needed philosophy anyway?

Dragging her highlighter across the page in order to make it look like she was at least putting in somewhat of an effort, she let herself look up and take in everything that was going on.

An elderly couple slowly strolled down the path, arms looped together. A young mother wearing neon sneakers and leggings pushed a baby carriage with one hand and held the end of a dog’s leash in the other. And one of the teenagers from the group she’d noticed earlier was waving to her.

Skylar paused for a moment, glancing over her shoulder to see if there was anyone else the boy could have been waving to. No, he was definitely waving at her. Biting down on her lip, she waved back, not sure if she should do anything else.

Shortly after the cute boy waving incident (as she’d dubbed it in her mind), she was joined by another boy who gave her a short polite nod as he sat down. He too had a dog, and Skylar felt her smile widen at the sight. She debated on saying anything to him, after all he hadn’t said anything and he looked like he might have been resting, she didn’t want to bother him.

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields
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Slightly startled at the sound of someone talking to her, Skylar whipped her head around in the direction of the new voice. Her light eyes widened at the sight of the boy who'd waved to her earlier, lips involuntarily curling into a smile.

Get a grip, Grayson, she thought to herself, slightly embarrassed at how pathetic she was being. He's just being friendly, stop acting like him waving and asking you a question means that he's going to whisk you off into the sunset on his white horse.

Still, it was nice to be getting attention for once.

"Oh, definitely not," She replied with a laugh, closing the book after she'd decided that she was too distracted at this point to be productive. "It's a required course for my general education requirements, to be honest I usually like reading this before bed because it puts me to sleep. I'm actually a communications major."

She paused, mind suddenly drawing a blank as to what to say next. She wanted to keep the conversation going but she didn't want to come off sounding dumb. Too bad Kyra wasn't here, she was a pro at talking to boys.

"What about you? Are you a student?"

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Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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Well, she hadn't told him to back off yet. That was a plus.

The student question had him stumped for a little bit. She was a stranger....he could really tell her anything. It was unlikely he'd see her again anytime soon. Then again, he had thought the same the last time he had lied about going to college, and it had cost him his relationship six months afterwards.

"Nah," he finally answered, leaning slightly against the arm rest of the park bench, hands still in his pockets, "College wasn't really my scene, ya know? I tried one semester at City College for engineering, but the structure was too suffocating," a little embellishment of the truth...he was accepted into City College on a swimming scholarship, but he never actually went.

"So, communications," he said, changing the subject back to her, "What's, how we talk and body language and cell phones and things like that? Do you end up graduating as like a master communicator or something?" he laughed at his own joke and would have continued if he didn't hear a sudden yelp.

Turning, he saw the southerner jumping up and down, waving his hand. Leaning towards the girl, he whispered out the side of his mouth, "Do you suppose that's a form of communication? What do you think it means?"

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Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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The ominous tree creaking grew louder. It was rather unsettling to see a large oak leaning forward as if to tell a secret.
“I think it’s going to fall,” the blonde muttered under her breath, though not too loudly. Who was she to warn them? In their eyes she found uneasy sentiments towards her, though she couldn’t distinguish their fear from their confusion. This park of what seemed to be overly-sheltered Airians wasn’t the place for her. In fact, she considered a select few to be a little loony. So without much commotion, she continued her walk in the opposite direction of the tree’s path.
But, no, she felt bad. They could have thought she was a crazy dirt bag, but even those judgments weren’t harmful enough to make Tallyho content with watching them get injured by a reasonably large tree. With a decent amount of time in her favor, she posed her first warning.

“I would move if I were you,” she called as she pivoted into a turn and began to walk back towards them, “the tree is falling.”

She only hoped that they respected her enough as a human to take her advice. The tree continued tipping—roots ripped from the soil—until it barreled to the ground. Tallyho, eager to see the damage, made her way over to the plot in which the tree had once been planted.

“Such sloppy city planning,” she hummed as she stood over the plot with her delicate finger tapping against her chin. She took a single step back, turned her head, and offered an even gaze to the others. Long waves of leaf-laden locks swept and looped across her neck, her eyes seemed livelier when paired with the slight smirk that beckoned for some sort of concurrence—for someone to second her comment. It was clear that she thought she was being a little clever but, of course, what little mirth she had died when she figured that none of them would give her conversation the time of day. Instead, they’d call am-bull-lances and perform facial exercises to perfect their “judgmental” expressions.
Unamused, she looked to the plot again.

Then her eyes re-widened, brow furrowed, soft pink lips pursed into a frown.

As she watched a skeletal hand emerge from the plot, she let out a dissatisfied grunt. Really? How could a city be so sheltered when they couldn’t even spare the time to purify the area? She began to surf through vaguely memorized school lessons.
“How do you deal with this again?” she thought to herself as she took a few small steps back—putting some distance between her and the plot. She made sure not to move too far though—if those people couldn’t handle someone falling out of a tree, they definitely couldn’t handle that issue.
Was she supposed to go for the head? No, groin—throat—heart? Wait.
She never had to deal with this hands-on before. She witnessed tavern brawlers do it a few times, but it was always in the dead of night, and all of them were drunk so they threw their fists and knives at whatever living (or nonliving) thing sat in front of them which was, in a lot cases, each other.

She had to think faster. The hand—the thin, black, reptilian hand, twisted its way to the surface—rose with an ominous consistency—it’s darkness overshadowed the blackest of soils. She began to pat herself down in search of a knife.
And, of course she didn’t have one, but it was worth a try. Unsure of what to do next, Tallyho served her final warning.

“If I were you, I’d just go away now,” she said. She really hated herself right now; she could have just fled when she first noticed that something was wrong. Those people seemed smart enough to run away on their own terms, but something in her gut told her to stay.

6 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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#, as written by Linnea
Autumn frowned. This girl had fallen out of a tree and didn't want an ambulance? What was she, a druggie? Alcoholics she could handle. Drugs she could not. How would she even help someone who was stoned? She imagined it wouldn't be like bringing Emily to bed with a glass of water after she hit the booze.

As the girl stepped on a pine cone, Autumn winced. Yeah, she was definitely stoned. The situation was starting to make Autumn a bit uncomfortable. Sure, she had been to parties with alcohol. Drugs, however, were never present. Just the thought of them freaked her out. What if the girl started yelling at traffic or worse, attacking others? Autumn wasn't quite sure of the effect drugs had on people, but she was certain they weren't good.

Honestly, this whole day was just weird. A girl falling out of a tree, a young man bumping into another and presumably ready to start a fight, it was all just too much. Autumn backed away, not willing to deal with whatever nonsense was going on. Maybe this was the norm for New York, but not for her. She pondered going back to the hotel. Though, she could get some shopping done.

The other blonde gazed at a tree, leaving Autumn feeling more uncomfortable with each passing second. She bit her lip, hand covering her purse. She felt a little bad for fearing for her safety, but one could never be too careful.

She turned, noticing a girl who had fallen to her knees. "Hey, are you okay?" She asked, feeling a slight sense of deja vu. Oh yeah, she had asked that earlier to the tree girl. Great, now this girl was looking at the tree, too. Autumn gave it a glance, just to see if there really was anything going on there. As far as she could see, there was nothing there. What was this, a mass hallucination? Though, if only two people saw it one could hardly call it mass.

The blonde extended her hand to help the girl up. She could only hope that this one wasn't on anything. From the looks of it, she seemed safe. "Here, let me help you up." The act was short lived, however, as she heard a creaking sound from nearby. She turned her head, eyes widening as the tree leaned forward with an unsettling groan. Quickly, she tried to find an explanation. Root rot maybe? That sounded plausible. She gulped, forgetting about the girl on the ground for a moment.

Autumn was well aware that the tree was falling. She didn't need anyone to tell her that it was. This didn't mean she didn't appreciate someone telling her, though. She glanced back at the fallen girl. "Come on, grab my hand." The roots flung upwards, reaching towards the sky. Not waiting to hear the girl's response, she made a grab at her and tried to get them both out of harms way. She herself was fine, but she wasn't sure if the girl she had tried to help had made it. She could only hope.

Her fearful eyes locked with the other blonde's for a moment. Was she enjoying this? She looked away, back to the fallen tree. This was crazy. This was just too crazy. Autumn shook her head, ready to just leave. She would much rather be at the hotel than in this mess. It was the hand that stopped her from walking away. She felt her heart sink. Trembling, she stood in place. Try as she might, she just couldn't will her legs to move. They twitched occasionally, as if they were teasing her. She heard the tree girl speak, though her voice seemed much farther away than it actually was. "I'm trying to run." Autumn squeaked out a reply. "I really am. I just can't seem to move." With all her willpower, she managed to step back by about two feet.

4 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Cyclopean Character Portrait: Yuki Ryouta
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And just as quickly as he’d appeared, the boy Skylar had been talking to was gone, not even bothering to make sure that she was alright. Jerk.

She frowned, brows furrowed in frustration. She was mad not just at him but at herself for enjoying the attention so much.
Skylar was snapped out of her thoughts by another new voice, this one belonging to an Asian with a camera. What was with all these people talking to her today?

“What’s it to you?!” She snapped back in response, not in the mood to be interrogated about the freaky tree incident. “Not so close, buddy.”

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Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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The much taller black-haired person, a young man actually, glared at him and Kyle responded by bearing down in his defensive stance. Yes, this guy was nearly a foot taller than him, but Kyle wouldn't back down. He was never intimidated by folks being taller than him. The guy didn't hit him yet, but he was talking in a tone, the blond didn't like and then frammit! The bigger guy tackled him suddenly. Kyle punched out at the guy's face and shoulder. He didn't want to kill anyone, but he wanted this guy off! If his hand connected at the face, the other guy would probably have a bloody nose.

Because he was so much shorter, he didn't see what was happening behind the black-haired fellow, but he heard a lot of unpleasant noise. Creaking and shouting and UGH! an absolutely horrid screech! "Get off me!" he protested to the guy pinning him down and opened his fists to push that weight off. To top off this horrible scene, there was sudden pain in his right ear that doubled the headache from that awful screeching.

5 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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An unearthly shriek interrupted Harper's heated argument, and as he turned back to see, a blur of white flashed a few yards in front of him, followed closely by a larger blur of black. He thought he heard a question thrown into the air, but the next sound he could comprehend was a metallic clang. Blinking, he saw that the giant...thing...had lodged itself into one of the park benches. But not for long, it didn't seem...

A girl suddenly ran up and hit the thing with a branch. The monster squealed in response, thrashing to be rid of the park bench.

"I think she's got the right idea," Harper heard one of the frisbee players say.

"She's just making it madder," Harper retorted. Suddenly he felt a slight gust brush past his ear, and a blur of orange whizzed through the air. It took Harper a couple seconds to register that one of the other two had thrown the frisbee, which now smacked the beast on the side of its throat before bouncing off. A loud screech was the end result, followed by even more thrashing and pulling against the weight of the bolted down park bench.

"Why the hell did you do that??" Harper shouted at the guy who had thrown the disc, "This thing looks like it came out of Alien! What makes you think a frisbee--"

"Well, I just thought--"

A dry grating sound prevented from Harper hearing what the stupid guy thought, and a glance showed that the thing had freed itself, and its head turned towards them.

"RUN!" all three of them screamed, but Harper realized quickly from the earthshaking stomps that the beast was following after them.

"Split up!" Harper shouted at the other two, hoping at least one of them would distract the monster from him. They must have been thinking the same (at least for themselves), and they both veered off in opposite directions. Harper himself stayed straight, heading for the road.

His luck didn't hold, as the heavy footsteps kept following after him. "Shit," he muttered to himself breathlessly. The monster sounded closer...he could hear its breathing. If he reached the road, a car could hit the creature, but that was only if he reached it...a probability that was quickly dwindling.

Changing gears, Harper turned sharply to his left, towards the lake. Sprinting as hard as he could manage, he charged towards the water front. Only a few seconds away he pulled off his jacket (a bitch to swim in) and flung it behind him, willing to risk its sentimental value if it distracted the stupid...whateveritwas, and launched himself off the gravel, shallow-diving into the frigid water. Years of swimming in the Boston Harbor, even in the winter, had given him somewhat of an immunity to the shock of cold water, and he desperately pulled himself underwater away from the shore, sticking to the bottom of the lake for as long as his lungs could hold.

6 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Cyclopean Character Portrait: Yuki Ryouta
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Yuki was thrown aback by the audacity of the girl. He had to shift focus on his camera back a bit before her sassy face took up the whole screen.

"Oh excuse me if you don't enjoy the limelight!" Yuki yelled back. “Or maybe you don’t like being in Sci-fi! Maybe you like being in pornos with random guys on the street! Well I ain’t making that kind of stuff so forget you girl!”

Rather than deal with someone that doesn’t want him filming at the moment, Yuki would rather use his camera to film something that wouldn’t care less about whether he’s watching them or not. After "flirt who can possibly star in the girl's porno" bumped him and ran off somewhere, some strange creature clawed out of the ground. That crazy no shoes girl was back and Yuki was catching her every move. She was hiding behind a tree with something in her dress, eyeing the monster carefully and making shooing gestures at anyone that was standing near the area.

Yuki caught the whole scene in his camera: the petrifying screech of the monster, the pinecone throwing, the chase, and the bench warming—or rather bench smashing—by the monster and its victim. He had to run here and there to keep up and take a good shot without attracting the monster. The blonde victim rolled onto the grass but the monster was lodged into the bench, with the metal screeching and the wood creaking as the monster struggled for a way out of its prison. Suddenly a girl charged toward the monster, branch in hand, and wacked the monster with as much force as she could!

“Damn girl!” Yuki shouted amazed by the girl’s bravery. “You stupid if you think a branch is gonna kill that thang!” Still he had to admit it was some stupid courage the girl had. He was the one just filming the whole thing as if he was the newscaster for Central Park. Suddenly, that thought gave him an idea. THIS would be the project! It was something unnatural! Aliens? Or something else. But whatever! This might be his ticket to his Journalism study abroad! Yuki had to get more information about what was going on, but in order to do that, he had to figure out what that thing was and well…it probably has to die first of all. Then it occurred to him. That blonde chick that was playing the victim was calling out to it…calling it something. Cyclopathia? Cyclops? Cyclosomething? That chick has the answers!

Suddenly a disk came flying toward the monster's throat! Yuki looked in the direction it came from and sighed in disbelief. "Okay I thought the girl was stupid...but she's smarter than those guys who think they can kill it with that weak flying saucer." He had to turn his camera when the monster started chasing the guys, causing one of them to take off his jacket and dive into the lake. "*insert screaming girls because some dude took off his jacket and ran off to the lake.* Okay this is getting stupid. I better get to that chick.."

Yuki hurried over to the blonde girl catching her breath with the camera focused on her. He was wondering whether he should take out his notepad, but he’d rather film the girl if he was going to get some proof of witness.

“Hey you, I know you got something to do with this. What’d you call that thing? Cyclopath or something? You better start explainin!" Yuki asserted, camera all focused on the girl ignoring the fact that she might have been injured.

6 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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Gwen had never experienced a hallucination before. How was it that saying went? You're not crazy if you think you might be. While Gwen certainly categorized the events unfolding before her eyes as unreal, she was slightly put off by how realistic it seemed. Was it possible that one could be conscious of their insanity and yet be unable to control their distorted perception of reality? What was happening? The shudder of the earth as the tree hit the ground, the hideous sight that emerged from the dead space beneath, and the unearthly sounds that rang through the air; she didn't know how to make sense of it. If it was a hallucination and she acted, would she end up being one of those schizophrenic murderers, doomed to spend her life institutionalized and drugged? Or would failure to act result in her getting hurt?

What were the others doing around her? Erupting into chaos, apparently. Falling, running, descending into a mess of noise and movement impossible to follow. How could everyone react so confidently? That is, assuming that these people were actually there and not delusions. Though, they all had the right idea. Running was the most logical course of action, especially in Gwen's situation. She wouldn't put anyone in danger by doing so. It seemed, however, that not everyone had the same idea.

Gwen watched as the creature chased a thin, barefoot woman in roughly Gwen's direction. She and the others on a nearby bench scattered; Gwen herself dove out of the way as the creature impacted with the previously occupied bench. Even through the pain of hitting the ground and the sound of twisting metal from the collision, Gwen imagined herself, a lonely, broken body throwing itself to the ground in the middle of a quiet scene in Central Park. She should run--or at least walk away quickly. It was time to leave.

She stood just in time to see some kid throw a Frisbee at the creature. Really, again? This wasn't a movie. Life didn't work like a story. Heroics weren't always all they were chalked up to be. Heroics didn't make you a hero; they got you killed. She watched as the Frisbee thrower immediately regretted his decision and ran away in a panic, which in Gwen's mind was the appropriate reaction. But her stomach immediately dropped as the three in the vicinity of the Frisbee thrower split up, and the creature began to chase the wrong person. This was what was wrong with heroics. It wasn't even that it killed the wannabe "hero;" others suffered for the stupidity of their actions, and to Gwen there was no worse offense. She had to help that kid.

She wasn't as fast as either the monster or the young man it chased. The distance between her and the two seemed to close at an unbearably slow rate, as though the world was in slow motion. And yet, it seemed to take no time at all until she was dangerously close. She slid to a stop as the creature splashed in the shallow water, apparently confused if its body language was at all similar to the animals she knew. She didn't get any closer; she didn't need to be that near.

She reached her right hand into the neckline of her sweater and down to her left shoulder. It clasped metal, and she withdrew a small dagger, only a few inches in length. Both she and her weapon were enormously outsized by their opponent, yet before she knew it her arm was drawing back and preparing to throw. Remember what you were taught. The thought flashed briefly through her mind, but she couldn't think, there was no time. Driven by muscle memory alone, the small piece of metal flashed through the air and toward the monster.

It hit the creature directly in the back of its deformed skull. Gwen experienced a moment of victory as she witnessed its trajectory playing out exactly where she aimed it. She was treated to an unpleasant surprise when it merely bounced off the skull and flew directly into the lake. She took a step back. Shit. Who was the idiot now? Another step. The creature turned slightly. Fuck. What was it she had just been thinking about heroics? Gwen turned and ran, more or less back in the direction she came. Better late than never. Actually that wasn't true. Late was getting her killed. She heard the heavy footfalls now gaining on her. She had a head start, but as she had already discovered, she was no match for the monster's speed. And Gwen had no escape plan.

5 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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#, as written by Linnea
"Yeah... no problem." Somehow, Autumn managed to respond to the girl she had saved. This in itself was a great feat, considering she found it impossible to move. She was just fortunate that the beast wasn't facing her. Now was her chance. She could run. She could get out of here. If only her feet would cooperate.

Gathering courage, she managed to take a few more steps back. She slowly backed away, eyes locked on the monster. For a moment, she thought she would manage to escape. This thought was quickly dispelled as the beast screeched and slammed a fist against the ground, sending a shiver up Autumn's back.

Her entire body, save the skin where her ice cold necklace touched, felt numb. It was if she was weighed down, incapable of doing anything but stare and prepare herself for her death. Then came her savoir, the blonde from the tree. She lobbed pinecones at the monster fearlessly, taunting it and then picking up a branch. The girl seemed to know what she was doing, much to Autumn's relief. This was only momentary, however, as Autumn realized that the girl was tiring.

The beast flung itself into the metal bench, providing a moment for anyone to either run or attack. Autumn chose to run. At least, she would if her legs would listen to her.

Her chance was soon ruined as the beast freed itself. The Frisbee was a valiant effort, though proved fruitless. As did the dagger. At this point, Autumn was fairly sure she was going to die.

11 Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Cyclopean
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#, as written by Linnea
Black blood oozed from the beast like pus from an infected wound. It flowed to the ground, leaving its mark on the earth. Autumn blinked, not sure if she was grateful or disgusted. She let out a slow and tentative breath, as if to test if it was alright. So far, so good. If she could breathe, then perhaps she could walk. Her unsteady steps seemed less difficult than before as she slowly tried to make her way out of the park.

The beast shattered into onyx shards like glass falling from a broken window. It was a pitiful death to be sure. This terrifying creature was left as nothing but a pile of tiny black stones on dead leaves. Autumn didn’t even question how such a thing could happen. She could only think of how it sapped away her fear. There was nothing scary about tiny stones.

Her steps grew steadier as she tried to pass the scene. She was definitely going home. No need to stay around here. She stopped, however, as her necklace pressed harder against her skin. Underneath her coat and sweater, it was supposed to be warm. Instead, it felt like ice. The piercing cold dug into her like knives, forcing her to hug herself tightly to try to ease the pain. She let out a sharp gasp, doubling over as the unnatural chill tormented her. This deathly cold, it went straight to the bone. There was no shivering, only pain.

The world started to fade, white erasing the skyscrapers. Perhaps this was a side effect of the pain. Was she dying? Surely a cold necklace couldn’t kill someone. Through squinted eyes she surveyed her disappearing surroundings. The whiteness was closing in, engulfing the world in emptiness.

She closed her eyes, hoping it would go away. Maybe this was a dream. She would wake up at home in her nice bed, surrounded by stuffed animals and posters of her various interests. Her eyes would fall upon the picture of her and her friends and she would know she was safe. Oh, how she wished this was the case.

The pain left just as quickly as it had arrived, leaving her both relieved and confused. Cautiously, she opened her eyes and stood up. The world was black now, a more discomforting nothingness. Autumn bit her lip. Maybe this wasn’t a dream. Maybe she wasn’t dying. Maybe she was already dead and this was simply her journey.
She looked around. Most of the people from before seemed to be there.

Before her was a golden pillar of light. Heaven perhaps? Autumn had never really given Heaven much thought. She had always believed in regeneration. Would she get in even if she didn’t believe? Had she sinned too much? Was she hellbound? Trying to communicate with the dead wasn’t a sin, was it? She tried to think of the seven deadly sins. Which ones had she committed? Gluttony. That was for sure. She wasn’t a whale, but she was certainly chubby.

Before she could worry any more than that, a path revealed itself. Tiny dots of white light, stars of varying shapes, formed beneath her feet. Beneath them, an ocean in the middle of a storm. Autumn stared at it for a moment, entranced. Perhaps she wasn’t a sinner after all. This was too pretty to be hell. She almost wanted to touch them, just to see if they would respond. Above her, white birds flew in various directions. Her eyes followed one of them as it soared to the vortex behind her. Surely, that had to be hell.

The star path lit up brighter as a voice spoke. “Welcome to The Core.”

She sounded godlike, beautiful and wise. The feeling was inexplicable. It was as if her body simply wouldn’t let her feel anything but whatever this was. It wasn’t quite positive, yet it was nowhere near negative. One could describe it as neutral, but there was too much emotion there for it to be so. Warm perhaps? Trusting?

Autumn listened intently as the woman spoke. At least this wasn’t Heaven or Hell. Though this all sounded outlandish, she didn’t question it. Perhaps this was due to her wanting to believe in such things. Perhaps the voice was simply too convincing. Or, perhaps, she just liked being called special.

A demi god. It sounded nice. In fact, the whole story sounded nice. Gods, powers, stones. There was, of course, the fear of these “Cyclopeans”. But to be revered, to be a god, it sounded wonderful. Frightening, but wonderful. As the story continued, and Autumn finally caught on, she found it a little less positive. Her destiny was really to fight those creatures? How was she expected to fight them? She couldn’t even move when she saw one!

Still, there were people depending on her. If this was real, and she honestly couldn’t think of how anyone could fake this, then she would be dooming millions of people. It was a terrifying, and also a little flattering, thought. She gulped.

Her eyes looked upwards as she thought it over. Assuming this was real, there were two worlds at stake. Hers, and this “Aires”. If she were to go home, she would not only be keeping the rest of the group from fighting but she would also be allowing the worlds to fall to ruin. The Cyclopeans would invade and her world would die. Then again, the military would surely get involved. They would figure out how to kill those things soon enough. But would the war end? On the other hand, if she were to go to Aires, she would become a demi god. She would gain powers and be revered. Of course, she would have to fight the Cyclopeans. Still, superpowers. Finally, she decided to go to Aires. It was better than waiting for her world to burn.

Others started making their choices. The other blonde opted to go home, which appeared to be Aires. Well, that explained how she knew what the Cyclopean was. Others agreed to the terms, saying they would go to Aires. There was one, however, who chose to go home.

“Wait.” Autumn said, walking up to him. “You can’t leave now. You heard what she said, it’s all or nothing. If you go, then none of us can help either world.” She reached for his arm, trying to stop him. “What about the people back home? They’ll die without our help! Are you really willing to risk millions of lives just because you don’t want to do anything? Do you really have no one you want to protect?” She protested, though her voice remained steady.