Зак не может найти ни одного аргумента против неопровержимого факта: его прошибает от одной близости Аарона Мёрфи.
Факт: его кроет, когда чужие руки оказываются по бокам от него, чужие плечи - выше него.
Когда поднимает взгляд и смотрит на чужие губы так близко снизу вверх - тоже.
Аарон еще не сделал ни-че-го, Зак уже готов на в с ё... читать далее
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Вы здесь » SACRAMENTO » Альтернативная реальность » the woods are lovely

the woods are lovely

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Frederick "Freddie" Priest & Vyacheslav Veniaminovich Elisarov
https://i.imgur.com/8AaeQpo.gif https://i.imgur.com/F4Mxtmi.gif

the woods are lovely
dark and  d e e p



Freddie looked up at the gloomy sky, the clouds messed up in dark shades of grey and purple like huge bloody bruises, like someone beat it up until you couldn't recognize it anymore, couldn't see a single glimpse of sunshine through what was supposed to be nice autumn clouds. Nothing in Possum Springs was nice; even the weather was shitty. Freddie sighed and inhaled the tobacco smoke; the smoke went up, mixing with the sky in colour and texture. The possum teen was holding in his hot pink little fingers a snowball cigarette, enjoying the feeling of something warm against his cold hands. The weather was shitty indeed with the wind blowing strong and cruel, and if it starts raining... well, he's pretty much fucked. He never carried an umbrella with him, and he had to kill the time somehow while skipping school. Sitting like this at the town outskirts was Freddie's favourite pastime, as he couldn't invent anything better. Being still slightly underage, Freddie tried to avoid public places when he was skipping school; in a town that tiny everyone knew each other, and he didn't want someone to see him and get the word to his mom. Of course, she would find out eventually, one way or another, but Freddie would rather prefer she found out later than sooner. His mom was a good woman, a devoted Christian lady working at the local library, who somehow gave birth to a horrible son that proved to be a disappointment in every single thing, but she never told him that; however, some things don't have to be said to be obvious. All more reasons to grow the fuck up and get the fuck away from that shithole of a place.
Freddie kept smoking, watching the world with indifferent gaze. His days were mundane and boring, alike like cloned copies, alike so much that he had to wonder sometimes whether he was actually alive, whether his life was going on or he was simply stuck in a time loop of the same day repeating itself until he gives up and hangs himself on a street lamp. Every morning he woke up, had breakfast in silence with his mom, changed for school, left home, came to school to mark himself present at least on the first lesson, climbed out of the school bathroom window and came here, the end of the highway, leaving the town's busy streets and office buildings and shops behind. Here you could see a few street lamps guiding the way, a bench Freddie was occupying, and a small half-deserted fast-food restaurant which always lacked visitors. No one bothered to come here. The highway lead beyond Possum Spring's premises, slipping away somewhere Freddie hoped to go one day, far-far away. He didn't even care where. He didn't have a specific plan for future because, apparently, he had no future, but maybe he could jump into a passing by car one day and leave the town forever. If he actually doesn't hang himself first, that is.
The cigarette was almost over, burning Freddie's fingers, but he let it burn a bit longer before finally carelessly throwing it on the ground. The woods were nearby, deep and dark, but not too close to catch fire or something; he saw the trees outlines, but had to walk a good distance to reach the woods. They seemed endless, these woods, gloomy like the never-ending doom, but somehow Freddie liked it. They didn't look threatening to him, more like... welcoming, comforting. No one disturbed him here; he could spend the entire day like this, smoking cigarettes, writing or drawing in his diary, and no one called him names, no one tried to talk to him about "common sense" or "the importance of studying" or whatever.
Freddie's eyes caught the new car he'd never seen before; a truck, really, and it parked at the spot that used to be vacant anytime as it belonged to the woods, or rather to the people who had some business there, like forest rangers and biologists who came to revive mother nature. To be honest, the woods didn't look like they needed reviving, therefore such weird specialists stopped coming here a few years ago, when Freddie was just a baby possum. Now he was a teenage possum, and he couldn't remember the last time he saw this parking lot occupied.
That intrigued his mind. When the car door opened and the animal behind the wheel climbed out of the vehicle, Freddie's interest grew deeper; it was a male cat, weird one, though, as this guy didn't look like any cats around here. He was rather short but heavily-built, the kind of guy you naturally expect to be physically strong, and his fur was thick, though not very long. Most cats around here were very basic cats, through Freddie remembered they had an actual tiger some years ago when he was younger, an old Bengali tiger who came to the States from India and earned a living here by selling Indian street food, which was actually good and loved by the whole population of Possum Springs, and the tiger himself was very friendly and cheerful one until he died of old age, and since he didn't have any family his business died together with him - too bad, as the Indian street food was enjoyable.
The stranger wore something resembling forest uniform - huge boots reaching his knees, camouflage pants and shirt, a thick coat he didn't care to zip; Freddie wondered if he even needed a coat, having fur that thick. It was a completely fresh new face, and a new face wasn't something you could expect to see in Possum Springs.
Freddie watched the stranger for a while, who started unloading the car by taking out big bags. They didn't look heavy, so Freddie didn't offer help straight away; instead he took out a pencil and drew a quick sketch of the stranger cat, before curiously asking:
- Sorry, sir, are you new to the town? I haven't seen you around. In fact, I haven't seen your species before. I mean it as a compliment, sir. You're a peculiar cat. It's hard to be peculiar in a shithole like Possum Springs.
Finally, Freddie put his diary back into his school backpack and gestured at the bags:
- Do you, uh, need a hand with those?

[nick]Frederick Priest[/nick][status]depressed awesome possum[/status][icon]https://i.imgur.com/571FZY5.png[/icon][sign]https://i.imgur.com/wmMZVFf.gif[/sign][lz1]FREDERICK PRIEST, 16 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> depressed teenage possum; high school student<br><b>intrigued by:</b> some Russian cat[/lz1]

Отредактировано Anthony MacIntyre (2022-10-04 21:17:07)



"Possum Springs
You are not lost - you are here."

Said the sign at the entrance to the town. What does this sign think it knows, eh?

Well, since this place didn’t look like anyone would willingly come here, the phrase seemed too odd for Vyacheslav. He certainly didn’t want to come here - to a town across the ocean, out in the middle of nowhere, and all for what? Something odd about the local forest? Something so odd that no one could really explain it? Don’t these folks have their own forestry service to take care of such stupid things?
Of course, they had, but it was what they called «cultural exchange» - a phrase, which always brought a sour smile to Slava’s face and a strong feeling to run away, run far, far away. He didn’t want no exchange of anything; he just wanted to be left alone with his favorite thing in the world - the forest.

He loved it ever since he was a tiny kitten, unable to take care of himself. His grandfather would take little Slava into the forest to search for edible plants and mushrooms, to look at how the forest lived and how different that life was compared to life in the city. Every little thing there made sense, every little creature had its place and its role. Of course, the forest was sometimes dangerous, and cruel to the outsiders, especially inexperienced, but once you got to know it a bit better, it began to show its majestic side, its power, and its beauty. Truly the most wonderful thing in the world.

That’s why Slava decided to become a forester - he loved being a part of this cycle, loved every part of it, and enjoyed every single day of his work. Being assigned to one of the big reserves outside his native Omsk meant that he had a very large area to keep an eye on, but it wasn’t an issue. Only after a few short weeks, Slava was able to navigate his section of the reserve without any issues, which impressed many of his fellow foresters, almost all of them much older than Slava, some of whom decided to take a young cat under their wing. Quite literal wing sometimes, since some of Slava’s colleagues were of the avian variety.

And now most of them thought that it would be a great learning experience to send their young student across the ocean to help out with a peculiar issue. Slava tried his best to get out of this trip, gave every excuse possible, but everything was in vain. Well, at least he was being sent to Possum Springs to do what he loved, and that was a small consolation prize, too.

After a short meeting with the locals, Slava decided to head straight towards the forest. The thing was, no one could really explain what was wrong with it. At first Slava thought that it was just an odd way to keep up the mystery, but then discovered that it was quite literal - local forest service guys knew that something was wrong, but had to way to explaining it. They were small things, really. Some differences in the growth speed of certain plants, some odd patterns of migration for certain wild animals, but nothing concrete. Also, nobody kept any good track of this forest, one of the guys telling Slava that the last time any of them actually went there for longer than five minutes was years ago. Thus, the forester was left with a bunch of unverified information and without any clues about where to start. Was there anything wrong at all here, or were all of these odd discrepancies just a result of errors made along the way by those who didn’t care enough to even visit the place on the regular basis?

Slava parked the car that the local forest service provided him with, and looked out of the window, getting ready to head into the forest. He could survive in there on his own for days, weeks even, so he didn’t have much equipment with him. Still, there were a couple of bags, which he unloaded from the car, debating if he should take them with him right away. Maybe it was a good idea to just do a short walk-around first, just to confirm that there was something in fact off about this place.

But before Slava was able to decide, he heard a voice from behind.

- What? - the guy was talking to him as if they knew each other. - And you’re a peculiar rat, - Slava, of course, knew that it was an opossum, though it was the first time he saw one in person, since they were not native to his beloved taiga. - You know what cats do to rats? - his accent was strong, not trying to hide both his origin as well as his annoyance. - No, I don’t need a hand, - he pushed one bag back into the car, shut the trunk loudly enough to indicate that he didn’t want to continue this conversation, and, pulling the other bag onto his shoulders, headed towards the forest without saying anything else.

Something inside told Slava that this guy wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and as if to confirm his guess, the forester heard footsteps behind himself.

[nick]Vyacheslav Elisarov[/nick][icon]https://i.imgur.com/lri6Eck.jpg[/icon][lz1]VYACHESLAV VENIAMINOVICH ELISAROV, 28 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> forester, angry russian<br><b>headache:</b> <a href="https://sacramentolife.ru/viewtopic.php?id=45175#p4447141">sabertooth trash mouse</a>[/lz1]



When Freddie heard the stranger talking, he almost fell from his bench, so strong was his surprise and enthusiasm! The cat definitely didn't sound like it was local, in fact, he didn't even sound American at all. Was he German? German language did sound harsh and brutal. Or maybe Russian? Russian accent was always a great joke for Hollywood movies. And though the stranger spoke in rather rude words and manner, Freddie wasn't offended; his father spoke to him exactly the same, also adding nicknames like "piece of shit" or "little dumbass". Freddie was used to violent language and couldn't be intimidated by it that easily. However, the cat managed to hurt him deeper than any swear word ever would.
- Hey! I'm not a rat! You rat! - Freddie flushed with anger and resentment. - I'm a possum! I'm NOTHING close to a rat! Doesn't the town name ring any bells to you? It's Possum Springs, yo! We're in West Virginia, not wherever you're from! Possums are very common here!
He choked on his own burning frustration and coughed; or maybe he'd just had too many cigarettes for today.
- Yeah-yeah, whatever, - he muttered, clearly still annoyed and offended, watching the new town guest - the first they've had in many years - fidgeting with his bags, - you're lucky you made this mistake with me, cause I don't really care. You just wait till you call local townsfolk rats, then you'll have your head chopped off.
And though Freddie felt indeed insulted to the very core, as any possum would (anyone knows that the worst you can say to a possum is to degrade them down to a sewer/trash rat level), he didn't like carrying negative feelings inside his heart for too long, as there was naturally more than enough. He might've been upset, but waved it off, excusing the stranger's barbaric ignorance by his ethnic background - who knows, maybe he comes from a place where only cats exist? Besides, he could've stayed here all day, smoking, writing, drawing, thinking, thinking, thinking, drowning himself in an endless chain of thoughts, one darker than the former... or he could screw the boredom and follow the stranger, because what the hell, nothing ever happens in Possum Springs, people here just rot to death! He can't miss such a spectacular sight as the weirdo cat!
- Hold on! - Freddie finally jumped from the bench and followed the cat, trying to catch up. - So, what are you doing here? You gonna work here, right? In the woods?
Quite an obvious guess, considering the cat already turned in the direction of the woods. Freddie obediently followed. He didn't try to come too close, didn't want to anger the stranger more than he had to, but he never stopped moving. If they couldn't have a civilized conversation - fine, but he couldn't stop Freddie from walking wherever he wanted, it was a public area, after all. Letting the cat walk in a short distance ahead, Freddie kept watching him closely until they both entered the woods.
The woods of Possum Springs were a tricky thing. No one bothered - or dared - to come here, because what the hell would they do here? The woods didn't produce any eatable mushrooms or berries, so using it for picking treats was out of option. It wasn't very cozy either; though it seemed welcoming and comforting from outside, inside was a different picture. The trees reached up, touching each other's tops, as if they were trying to shadow the sky, and the density of the woods made it hard to enjoy the walk. You had to be on guard all the time, dodging sharp branches and watching your step to avoid tripping over some roots. Freddie's pace slowed down considerably, as he wasn't used to getting through thick bushes; unlike the cat, Freddie had short and delicate fur that made his skin vulnerable, though his legs and arms were covered by his jeans and coat, his hands still suffered somewhat, and his long pink tail kept getting caught up by branches. At some point he missed one of the trees, and a long solid branch hit him straight on the cheek, missing the eye by pure miracle.
- Fuck! - Freddie growled, pushing the branch away from his face. - What the hell... how do you even get through this shit?!
Once he turned to search for the familiar gray tail glimpsing somewhere between the trees ahead, Freddie quickly realized he lost the cat's track. He froze, turning his head in panic, but no sight of the stranger. He was lost.
Lost in the fucking woods. Alone.
- As if my life couldn't get any worse, - Freddie let out a groan and abandoned the idea of chasing the cat. His primary task now was to get back to the path they initially walked along and get the hell outta here. Not that he was afraid of the dark, of course not; Freddie was not a baby anymore, but... there was something menacing in the air. Something almost malevolent. Watching. Waiting.
- Okay, okay... - Freddie talked to himself because he felt way better listening to the sounds of a voice, even if the voice belonged to himself. - Fuck, okay... I just gotta, I gotta...
He heard a cracking sound, sound tree branches usually make when they get snapped. Freddie felt his heart beating faster.
- Uh, sir? Is that you?
Something was telling him it was not the cat, it was something much more sinister, and Freddie didn't push his luck; he prepared to run, but before he could do so, he heard a roar, turned around and noticed a couple of round eyes staring at him from afar. Eyes that couldn't possibly belong to any animal known to him.
Freddie panicked, and there it happened: his limbs went stiff as iron, he lost his balance and hit the ground, eyes wide open, gaze unfocused, like two black balls of glass, his lips parted and the entire face froze in a mask of death. Like any other possum, Freddie couldn't control it; it happened naturally, like losing consciousness, and he couldn't fight it, he couldn't even be aware of it happening, like his mind together with his body randomly shut down completely. He just lay there, oblivious to the world, unconscious, not moving, the only sign of life was his very quiet, very hidden breath.

[nick]Frederick Priest[/nick][status]depressed awesome possum[/status][icon]https://i.imgur.com/571FZY5.png[/icon][sign]https://i.imgur.com/wmMZVFf.gif[/sign][lz1]FREDERICK PRIEST, 16 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> depressed teenage possum; high school student<br><b>intrigued by:</b> some Russian cat[/lz1]



As soon as Slava stepped into the woods, everything in him changed. He was in his element now, a place that felt like home to him, like it was always happy to see him, like it didn’t care about anything that had happened to him on the outside. The forester breathed in deeply, enjoying the freshness of the air, letting it soak through his lungs tired of breathing in the horrible car fumes the locals called air. There was some odd scent there too, something that Slava couldn’t quite place. It smelled like some old, wet moss - maybe a natural scent, but definitely not pleasant. Old, musty, almost… Decaying? Was it the smell of something native to this forest? Some rate plant, maybe? 

To Slava’s immense disappointment and frustration, that guy from the parking lot decided to follow him into the forest as well, not caring for the fact that the forester clearly didn’t look for any company. This wasn’t a great thing, since the only thing this opossum could bring was trouble, and Slava really didn’t want to have to deal with it. The only thing he wanted was to spend some time in the woods, get whatever data that he needed, and then try to get onto the flight back home in a few days. The last thing Slava wanted was to be stuck in this town for a while. 

Slava could hear the guy’s voice behind him, and it was clear that he wasn’t someone used to being in the forest. The forester kept quiet in hopes that if he just ignored the guy, he might decide that this «weird cat» was too boring for his liking, and head home to do whatever it is that the local teenagers did. 

Going deeper into the forest, Slava was forced to admit to himself that there was indeed something strange here, something that he, just as his colleagues, couldn’t quite place or give a name to. It was colder here, colder than it should be, with trees letting it enough sunlight to warm up the place. It was also quieter, with very little noise. No bird calls, no insects flying around, trying to get into your eyes - it was surprising how little life there was in these woods. 

Also, it was somewhat creepy. Slava was used to the forests he worked at being lush, happy and full of life, so seeing something so empty, so desolate, was beyond odd for the forester. Even the colors were somehow off here, with the green not quite the same shade as everywhere else.

Suddenly, Slava realized that the guy who decided to follow him, finally managed to shut up, but when he looked over his shoulder, the forester saw that he was gone. Only a few moments later, Slava heard a noise similar to a roar, and then there was a sound of a bit of a commotion somewhere behind him. 

- Да чтоб меня, - breathed out Slava in his native language, noticing, that even his voice sounded weird in his forest, muffled and flat.  

He knew that this possum was probably going to get into trouble without him, and, of course, Slava would end up being the one to blame for it. Thus, he decided to save himself future trouble and go find the guy now, before it was too late. He didn’t want to do it, of course, since he was not his babysitter, not his friend and most certainly not his guardian, but the fact that he didn’t like something wouldn’t matter much if the guy got himself hurt in the forest. 

- Hey, possum guy? Where are you? - Slava turned around and walked back in the same direction he came from. 

He could see his own tracks pretty well, so backtracking wasn’t a challenge. After a few moments, he noticed where another track that had separated from his own, so followed it further, until he discovered the guy he was looking for on the ground. 

- Едрить твою, - Slava rolled his eyes, realizing what had happened. Even though opossums were not native to his own woods, the forester still had a pretty good idea about the reaction they normally had whenever they got spooked. - Can you at least hear me when you are like this? - Slava lowed himself down to the ground next to the guy and looked him over. Everything seemed fine except for the fact that he was frozen solid in his petrified state, his eyes staring into nothingness, making him look really creepy. - For god’s sake, how am I supposed to carry you out of here? - Slava made an attempted to pick up the possum, but because of how stiff his whole body was, it was like trying to move a corpse, which already had some time to solidify. - What the hell even scared you this much, eh? Nothing scary in these woods. 

Slava turned his backpack around and placed it on his chest, which finally allowed him to heave the possum onto his back, trying to hold his body that was refusing to cooperate in any way, shape or form. At least, the guy wasn’t heavy, which was pretty obvious from just looking at him, so the forester just headed back towards the edge of the forest.

Slava set the guy down onto the ground right at the wood’s edge. Just a few short steps - and your feet would touch the rough concrete of the parking lot. The forester could feel that the possum’s body was slowly relaxing and becoming less rigid, so he knew that it was only a question of time before he got back to normal. Slava sat down onto the trunk of the fallen tree and just waited, watching the slow transition happening. 

- What's your name? - he asked, hoping that some simple questions might help the guy’s brain to recover faster. - Why did you follow me? 

[nick]Vyacheslav Elisarov[/nick][icon]https://i.imgur.com/lri6Eck.jpg[/icon][lz1]VYACHESLAV VENIAMINOVICH ELISAROV, 28 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> forester, angry russian<br><b>headache:</b> <a href="https://sacramentolife.ru/viewtopic.php?id=45175#p4447141">sabertooth trash mouse</a>[/lz1]



A lot of people had a lot of misconceptions about possums' ability to what they called "play dead". It wasn't just an act; Freddie didn't voluntarily collapse and pretend (to be honest, you have to be a really good actor to pretend like this on purpose), he literally had no control on this instinctive reaction. It just happened, like coughing when choking. You don't choose to cough, it's your body spotting the danger and going into survival mode, prompting you to cough and save yourself from the danger of suffocation. Same here: you don't choose to drop down, you just do to avoid the danger. Yeah, maybe this instinct got old-fashioned and very impractical in city surroundings, but what can you do? Your ancestors evolved this way, so just deal with it. Not all products of evolution are equally enjoyable.
Freddie certainly found nothing enjoyable in entering full lockdown paralysis which took ages to recover. It wasn't the same as going to sleep, for example, when you close your eyes and open them in the morning feeling fine and refreshed (questionable, but still). It felt rather like waking up from deep anesthesia, when you can't move at first, then you slowly regain sensation in your limbs and clearness in your mind, and finally it takes a few more minutes to properly come around.
So the first noticeable change in Freddie's state was his breath, which became steadier and deeper. Then he jerked his head, blinked, and his gaze became focused; he didn't resemble a corpse staring into mysterious eternity anymore. His face looked confused, however, when the first thing he saw was not the last thing he remembered seeing. The trees were gone, now patiently standing aside in a short distance, and the parking lot with only one car left by the stranger cat was visible quite well. And the cat himself was there, too, finally talking, and Freddie couldn't say which of these factors confused him the most.
- I... what... - his mouth felt dry, and he licked his lips. His arms and legs relaxed, muscles soft enough to let the limbs move from awkward angles and positions to natural ones. - What the hell...
Freddie carefully bend his knees, placed palms of the still wonky hands on the ground and pushed himself up, sitting upright, his poor tail caught up between the ground and his skinny ass he was sitting on, but still a bit too numb to actually hurt. His head was spinning, diziness and slight nausea accompanying the uncomfortable feeling, so he didn't try to stand up too soon - he knew by personal experience it would be a big mistake.
- What the hell happened? - he frantically stared at the cat's face. - No, I mean, what the fuck was there? Did you see it?
Freddie recalled the moments before his collapse: a loud roar and eyes, the eyes! Two huge spheras watching him, looking right back! The fear rushed back, but this time it was somewhat of a good thing because the adrenaline made his blood circulation faster, which helped the body restore its functions.
- There was something, I swear! The eyes, I saw someone watching me! But no one lives in these woods, they're, like, forsaken, no one even goes there!
He gasped for air and managed to calm down enough for a proper conversation.
- Okay, shit, uh, name's Frederick, and I followed you - I don't know, because I could! Because what else am I supposed to do? I'm bored to death, man!
He looked at the forest suspiciously.
- No wonder people say these woods are cursed or enchanted or whatever, maybe haunted even. I'm not setting my foot there again, fuck no!
He turned back to the cat, now looking curious rather than scared.
- And I wouldn't advise you to go back there. Why do you need the woods anyway? What's your business?
Thinking the cat was going to walk away now when Freddie was obviously alright, he quickly jumped up with clear intentions to follow the poor stranger anywhere, despite swearing to never go back in the woods a few seconds ago.
- Are you, like, Russian mafia? Do you hide your drug stocks in there? Smart move! I promise not to tell. Wait, are you actually Russian? What's your name?
Freddie could tell the cat wasn't an eager conversationalist and his friendliness and eloquence left much to be desired, but Freddie didn't mind. The guy was a walking stereotype on Russians, big, strong and grumpy.
- No, for real, what is your name? Come on, you have to tell me! I need to refer to you somehow!
The cat said his name, and Freddie's eyes opened wide like grotesque goggles.
- What? That's, like, totally unpronounceable! - he thought for a moment. - Fine, I'll just call you Iwan. I think it's the only Russian name that's possible to memorize. But really though, why come here all the way from Russia? Don't you guys have enough woods to take care of? Or do you want a special one? Cursed and haunted? Do you get a career promotion for risking your life or something?
Freddie didn't bother worrying about the woods before; he never went there, so the stories of people disappearing there and whatnot seemed to him like a typical creepypasta from the Internet. Now, though, after what he had just experienced, he wasn't completely sure.

[nick]Frederick Priest[/nick][status]depressed awesome possum[/status][icon]https://i.imgur.com/571FZY5.png[/icon][sign]https://i.imgur.com/wmMZVFf.gif[/sign][lz1]FREDERICK PRIEST, 16 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> depressed teenage possum; high school student<br><b>intrigued by:</b> some Russian cat[/lz1]

Отредактировано Anthony MacIntyre (2022-10-18 22:48:31)



Slava waited patiently, watching the possums transition with a spark of curiosity in his amber eyes. It was true what they said about cats - they were one of the most curious creatures in this world, and Slava was no exception. Maybe that’s why he was a good forester. He was always ready to wait for results, ready to spend time gathering any information he needed to satisfy his curiosity. Also, he had never seen a possum before, since they were not native to Siberia, so being able to see his change firsthand was a unique experience that the forester didn’t want to miss. 

Slava tried not to stare though, pretending that it was the forest, the surrounding woods that were of interest to him, rather than the guy’s slow process of coming back to life. For a moment the forester thought that the possum reminded him of the ground, frozen solid by the harsh Siberian winters, slowly thawing at the first sign of spring’s warmth and sunshine. Either way, it was a fascinating sight. At least some reward for his trouble. 

The possum stared talking after a bit, which was a good sign. It meant that Slava could go back to his work soon enough, as soon as the possum was ready to leave the forest on his own. Slava couldn’t wait to be left alone. He really should have known better, though, since as soon as the guy regained his ability to speak, words spilled out of him like water from an overflowing river. 

- You saw something? - Slava’s ears twitched as if trying to catch that sound. - It was probably the wind and lights playing tricks on you. The forest can be very hostile towards those who doesn’t know it well. 

Slava could remember being a small kid and being scared, as well, whenever his grandfather took him into the woods. Everything looked so big, so dangerous to a small cat that Slava was back then. It all looked like it wanted to hurt him too. He was so scared that he once even tried to pretend to be sick to get out of another trip to the forest. It didn’t help, of course, because his grandfather had a very keen eye for any sort of lies, and as a punishment, Slava was made to spend twice longer in the forest that day. It was a slow process of learning to understand it. Only after that, Slava could say that his fear was finally gone. 

- Okay, Frederick, - nodded Slava, repeating the possum’s name to make sure he remembered it correctly. - What do you American’s always say?.. Ah, chill, right? You need to chill. And these woods are not cursed, - he disagreed. - Just a little odd. Nothing scary. 

The fact that Freddie said he didn’t want to go back was just the phrase that Slava was looking for. Great - his job here was done. Now he can send the teen home and get back to going his own thing in peace and quiet. Slava wasn’t a loner per se, just preferred woods to most of the other living creatures. 

- What? Mafia? - Slava looked displeased when he heard that part, and had to stifle a groan. Of course, this idiot believed some crazy tales about others from across the ocean. - What, are you five years old? Do you believe in these fairy tales? Or is your head just full of fluff and dust, like all other Americans? No wonder your forest is like this, - Slava hated the assumption he came across whenever he traveled, and that’s why he preferred staying home rather than going on these stupid cultural exchanges. - My name is Vyacheslav Veniaminovich Elisarov, but you can call me Vyacheslav Veniaminovich. It is polite to use someone’s full name in our country. And I’m a forester, - as soon as Slava said it, he realized that Frederick was probably not going to remember it all. Even for some people back home, the cat’s full name was a bit tricky to pronounce, that’s why most of his colleagues called him Slava. He was just about to take mercy on the possum and offer this nickname to him as well, when Freddie decided to call him the most stereotypical Russian name instead. - What? My name is not Iwan. It’s true what they say about you… 

Slava got to his feet, preparing to send Freddie on his way and leave, but it seemed that the guy wasn’t finished talking just yet. It was a shock to the forester just how much this possum talked. 

- If you keep running your mouth like that, whatever scared you will hear you and come back to finish you, - sneered Slava with a sour smile. - Maybe I will even help it, - something told him that he wasn’t going to get this lucky and get rid of this guy that easy. - Yes, I did come all the way from Russia. Omsk, specifically, but, of course, you don't know where it is. And yes, we have enough of our own forest, trust me, it wasn’t my decision to come here, - Slava had to stop himself from rolling his eyes after these words. - Anyway, enough talk, chatterbox, you look like you’ll be able to get yourself home now, so go, - Slava picked up his backpack and looked into the direction of the forest. - I don’t want you following me and I don’t want to have to carry you out again, - placing his backpack on his shoulders, the forester looked ready to go back into the woods. - Go and do whatever it is that you locals do. And don’t follow me anymore. I carried you out, waited for you to get better - and that’s my part done. 

With these worlds, Slava tuned away and walked into the woods. 

But, of course, his suspicions were correct - Frederick wasn’t going to just let it go, even if he said that he didn’t want to go back into the forest earlier. 

- What it is so hard to understand? - the forester tuned around at the sound of footsteps following him. - You don’t have anything better to do with your time, chatterbox? 

[nick]Vyacheslav Elisarov[/nick][icon]https://i.imgur.com/lri6Eck.jpg[/icon][lz1]VYACHESLAV VENIAMINOVICH ELISAROV, 28 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> forester, angry russian<br><b>headache:</b> <a href="https://sacramentolife.ru/viewtopic.php?id=45175#p4447141">sabertooth trash mouse</a>[/lz1]



Freddie really wasn't a fan of the idea of going back into the woods, but what was the alternative? Sit on the same bench all day? Roam the streets, freezing to the bones? Go to that fucked up school? Go home and face father? Hell no, he'd rather be actually eaten alive by whatever he saw. Maybe he wouldn't even feel anything. Maybe it would be over soon, a clutch of sharp teeth - and that's it, no pain, no struggle, no more fights, no more problems, just... eternal peace. Forever.
- You don’t have anything better to do with your time, chatterbox? - asked Iwan, and Freddie genuinely said:
- No, - because it was the truth. - What else would I do? There is nothing to do. I spend all my time sitting on that fucking bench, day after day, over and over, until I go nuts! Maybe I already have. I've been told so. 
He looked around, anxiously turning his head and ears to watch and listen. Collapsing again would not be perfect, and he wanted to avoid that situation, so he had to be prepared for whatever could frighten him.
- And these were no lights, by the way. What I saw. - Freddie was stubborn, which the poor cat must've already realised, but Freddie had snother problem, too. Like any other teenager he hated it when adults didn't take him seriously. He hated it when his words were treated as silly stories or tricks. Basically, he hated being treated like a child when it suited adults and then being blamed for everything and judged like an adult when it suited them, too. It simply wasn't fair. - I know what I saw, and they were the eyes. I'm not that crazy.
As they went on, Freddie noticed an odd thing and hurried to voice out his suspicions:
- Hey, Iwan the Forest Master, tell me something: are the woods supposed to be that quiet? I mean, isn't it weird that... I dunno... there is nothing to hear? Like, no birds chirping, nothing? - the silence was damning. It was like eternal doom, maybe kind of like hell if you believe in Christian version of the world order. Doom and menace.
Freddie suddenly remembered a story.
- You know, six years ago when I was little, one of my classmates went missing near the woods. Maybe in the woods even. The theory is he ventured into the woods and got lost, but somehow he was never found, I mean... if he, you know... if something happened, he would still be there physically present in some state, dead or alive, right? Only he wasn't. But then I think our police didn't do a very good job with the search. They never do. His name was Evan and he was kinda nice... at least to me. Yeah, he was always nice to me, one of the few... I was actually sad when it all happened. I wonder what happened to him, though. Obviously nothing good, but... hopefully he didn't suffer much.
Evan's disappearance made headlines, of course, as Possum Springs was that typical town where nothing happened, and child's disappearance was a massive cause for activity. Police searched the forest, but their efforts brought no results. Missing posters with Evan's smile face were everywhere, glued to walls, notice boards and street lamps, the young raccoon seemed so cheerful on them, oblivious to the fate he was going to meet and become its victim. Maybe he didn't tease Freddie because he understood him, sort of, being a raccoon, a fellow animal associated with trash. The only difference between them was that Evan was also very social, easy-going and friendly, so he could've made friends with the entire school while being any animal at all, even an actual trash rat, people would still love him. Freddie was different - awkward, quiet and insecure, especially as a little child who was bossed around by parents and therefore had no skills of speaking for himself.
- Do you have many friends? - he suddenly asked Iwan, making sure this time he follows his involuntary forest guide closely. - Someone in Russia, in your Om... Omsk, right? You said you didn't want to come here. Why are you here then? Do they force you to do such things in Omsk? Leave what you love behind, go somewhere far-far away and... what? Sounds cruel to me.
And there came another roar, sudden and loud, with no warning beforehand - no trees scratching, no branches crunching, nothing. Complete silence interrupted by the passengers' heavy breathing and Freddie's voice, and then it came like a thunder.
Freddie jumped in fright, shrieked and froze, but he didn't collapse because he didn't see the animal (what kind of animal would make that type of noise?), so his mind didn't count it as direct danger, meaning there was no reason for emergency lockdown for now. And Freddie didn't want to enter this mode, so he closed his eyes and pressed his hands to his ears, blocking the sound the best he could, until his own claws, thin but sharp, left minor bloody cuts on his skin.
- What is... fuck, what's going on?! - he cried, not daring to open his eyes to look for Iwan, because he was too afraid to see whatever he could see. His heart was racing like mad and he started almost hyperventilating, and...
...the silence crashed down on them like before. Complete and perfect. No sounds at all. Blackout, like space vacuum.
- Is it gone? Is it, is it gone? - Freddie frantically repeated, finally opening his eyes, wide with terror. He stared at Iwan, trying to make his brain work, trying to think. - Is there, uh, is there something like a house? Foresters live in the woods, right? The must be some cabin? Should we hide?

[nick]Frederick Priest[/nick][status]depressed awesome possum[/status][icon]https://i.imgur.com/571FZY5.png[/icon][sign]https://i.imgur.com/wmMZVFf.gif[/sign][lz1]FREDERICK PRIEST, 16 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> depressed teenage possum; high school student<br><b>intrigued by:</b> some Russian cat[/lz1]



As luck would have it, the chatterbox didn’t have anything better to do with his time. How on earth did it manage to become Slava’s problem was beyond him though. Maybe it was just his own rotten luck, which always had a surprise in store for him. Slava didn’t want to surrender to his fate of being a tour guide for a bored teenager, but he also couldn’t see any way out of it. Anyone could go into the woods, they were not off-limits to the locals. Thus, Freddie had every right to be here, even if it meant that the forester had to put up with his company. His last hope was the fact that Slava wasn’t a very entertaining cat to be around. He was quiet, he was grumpy, he lacked almost all of the basic facets of politeness and decorum, he didn’t like to talk and surely didn’t like to listen to others - not the most fun company, and if Slava knew anything about teenagers, it was the fact that they liked to have fun. Therefore, he decided to just wait it out and let this possum tire himself out. Even with all of his bad sides, Slava had one very important good one - he was patient.

He half-listened to Freddie talk, half-ignored him, giving him an occasional sound of someone pretending to have a conversation, while being focused in the woods around him. There was this oddity again, the same weird feeling of not being able to quite put a thumb on it. Slava had a feeling of emptiness, like they were completely alone, but also a feeling of being watched, as if they were surrounded by something invisible at the same time. It made the fur at the back of his head stand up in anticipation. It wouldn’t be the first time he got in trouble in the forest, though he had never had to watch someone else’s back at the same time.

- Oh, are you asking me, chatterbox? - he shot Freddie a nasty look at being called by the wrong name again. - Maybe, if you want some answers, you can learn my name first, Frederick, - Slava punctuated his words with the possum’s name, showing him, that he was the only one around with a shitty memory for names. - And yes, usually the forest is a lot more active, loud even, - he nodded, finally answering the question. - There are a lot of reasons why it might be quiet, - after saying that, Slava went silent, not showing any indications of wanting to go into details about it. Again, he wasn’t much of a talker.

The possum went on to tell the forester a story about a missing kid, which wasn’t surprising to Slava, taking into account the fact that this forest was this close to the town. Honestly, he expected this place to have a lot more stories like that. Lots of folks underestimate how dangerous the wilderness can be. They look at the forest practically in their backyard and think, "What could possibly go wrong?». Lots—the answer is lots. It was a place with a different set of rules, with a different mindset, almost like a living creature on its own.

- I’m here because it’s my job, - Slava signed, not willing to talk about it with someone, who was basically a stranger. - Listen, if you are looking for some deep and meaningful conversations, I’m not your guy, okay?

Right at that moment, there was a roar.

It was loud, like an explosion. It came from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Slava quickly turned around to try to find the direction of this noise, but it was in vain - there was nothing else in the air, no other sound, no other movement. Just like that, the forest was still and silent once again.

- That… - Slava breathed out once he realised there was no imminent threat, - did not sound like an animal. Tell me, chatterbox, does anyone live in these woods? Any weirdos, who decided that our civilization is evil, and decided to break away from it? - Slava highly doubted that this would be the case, since his colleagues would have told him about it earlier today if it was a thing here. - Any communes of sunshine-and-flowers hippies, trying to connect to mother-nature?

Where Slava came from, there were people, who believed in the powers of nature. Not hippies, of course, but shamans and those, who believed that there were spirits all around them. In the forests, in the rivers, in the mountains, and in the valleys—they were an essential part of nature, of any place, like a soul.

Well, if this forest had a soul, there was clearly something wrong with it.

- There is a small ranger’s station not too far, which they share with the local forest service, - Slava nodded and looked at Freddie carefully, searching for any signs of him ready to collapse again. - I was going to head there later anyway, so let’s go, - it was only a partial lie, since Slava did need a place to stay overnight, because he didn’t want to have to go through the trouble of going all the way back to town at night. Though he planned to get a lot more done first, before heading there. - And stay close, can’t have you wandering off again.

This new development had Slava a bit worried - he didn’t know what that roar was, so he had no way to prepare for it too. It sounded like it was close to them, but whatever made the sound didn’t take the chance to attack them either. Was it waiting to attack while they were alone? Well, this can’t be the case either, since it would have attacked Freddie earlier, once he’d collapsed. Unless it was something that liked playing with its prey. A petrified opossum wasn’t much fun to play with.

- Here, - after about a fifteen-minute walk, during which Freddie didn’t shut up for a single second, they saw a small wooden cabin between tall trees. - No one’s here now, just us. It makes us an easy target, don’t you think? - he shot Freddie a glance and saw that his eyes were a size of the moon. - Damn, just joking. Relax. Also, aren’t you bored yet? Or scared?

Slava reached into a pocket of his backpack and got out the key to the cabin. It was a small one-floor house, probably only a few rooms inside. But also, it wasn’t built to be luxurious, only to provide some shelter to local rangers and foresters. The cabin was made of sturdy looking oak logs, rough and unvarnished. Slava could see splinters where the nails had been hammered in badly. 

- Now is your chance to turn around, - the forester continued, praying to all the gods he didn’t believe in for Freddie to finally get bored and head home. - Who knows what lurks in the shadows.

Almost as if it was staged, there was another roar right after Slava’s last words. This time, it was different though, as it was accompanied by the sound of branches breaking and something moving towards them. Without thinking about it too hard, the forester grabbed Freddie by the elbow and pulled him inside the cabin, barely managing to catch himself to stop both of them from falling on the floor. Even though the door was closed, they could still hear the racket outside.

- Yeah, now I see why these guys don’t like going in, - hissed Slava, thinking about his colleagues. - Слабаки и трусы, - he continued in his own language, before turning to the possum: - Alright, Freddie, now is your perfect opportunity for you to talk, - he caught the possum’s wrist before he managed to say a word, - but quietly, you hear that? Quietly. We don't want whatever is out there to hear us, got it? Now, you are local, right? Know all about this place, right? Are there more rumours about the forest? Any other people, who went missing here, has anyone ever seen something odd here? Was it always like this or did it just suddenly start out of nowhere?

[nick]Vyacheslav Elisarov[/nick][icon]https://i.imgur.com/lri6Eck.jpg[/icon][lz1]VYACHESLAV VENIAMINOVICH ELISAROV, 28 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> forester, angry russian<br><b>headache:</b> <a href="https://sacramentolife.ru/viewtopic.php?id=45175#p4447141">sabertooth trash mouse</a>[/lz1]



Freddie remembered the roar so well he could easily trigger it in his mind any moment - the sound so abnormal, so loud, so greedy... for what, though? Was it a predator looking for prey? But Iwan said it wasn't an animal. Couldn't be. And yes, the cat's name wasn't Iwan, but never in the world Freddie would learn his name, let alone pronounce it. His heart still racing, he doubted he could put anything else in his memory other than the creepy noise; it impressed him too much, literally scared him half to death. However bored the teen was, listening to that shit still wasn't his idea of fun.
Iwan, on the contrary, didn't seem scared, rather nervous, carefully watching the surroundings with his focused yellow eyes. Such a drastic contrast to Freddie, who was still shivering all over. Iwan even had enough nerves to ask questions; for a moment a freaky idea entered Freddie's mind, the idea that Iwan himself was behind the noise, some kind of smart move to get rid of the tiring passenger, scare the possum off. Realistically, though, it was unlikely, because how on earth would the cat make such a sound? Besides, they were right next to each other this time, and the roar eachoed throughout the woods. It didn't have a specific direction; it was just there, there and all over.
- Uh, what? - it took time for Freddie to fully understand the question and what kind of information Iwan was asking. - Well, no, I don't think so. There are lots of weirdos in Possum Springs, but none of them live in the woods, no one does. No one even goes there!
Freddie was relieved to hear there indeed was a building nearby they could use to hide. He nodded enthusiastically and hurried to follow Iwan, making sure not to stray. Adrenaline still pumping in his veins, Freddie naturally wanted a distraction, so he started talking again, saying gibberish, really, but the sound of his voice felt comforting and relaxing. Even if he was the only one talking.
- Seriously, no one goes in the woods, people just... like... avoid this place, I guess. Not that it's cursed or something, I mean, rationally speaking, you need a reason for a curse to be born, right? Like, in case of woods, forest fire, maybe? Or for someone to die here? Hung themselves on a tree, so their restless spirit can come back and haunt the hell out of visitors? But nothing like that was reported, it's just, like, woods... trees and shit... only, something DOES make these sounds here, and we don't know what! What the actual fuck...
He kept thinking (aloud, of course) until they finally came upon a wooden cabin, exactly the type you would expect to find in the woods. It didn't feel comportable or cozy, but it was a safe haven, a sanctuary, a place to get the fuck away from whatever was roaring. Freddie would gladly take the chance even if there was a prison cell block instead of a cabin, the wish to get inside was stronger than anything else. Except for curiosity, maybe... so while Iwan was working on the door, Freddie took a few steps back to properly look behind and around them.
And the roar came again, more menacing than ever.
Before Freddie could collapse, he felt firm grip of cat paws on his arm, strong fingers pulling him to safety. He screamed until the door closed behind them with a thud.
The force of him and Iwan bumping into each other was so fierce, that he, being smaller than the adult cat, lost his balance and had to lean on the wooden wall to keep himself from falling. The roar they'd heard before was nothing like whatever they experienced now.
So close. It was so freaking close.
Freddie's chest was moving quickly in time with his rapid breath.
- What the fuck? What the fuck, what the fuck, - he repeated, catching his breath. - Fuck, that-that thing... do you think it's a thing? It was going to get us! Fuck...
He let go of the wall and stared at Iwan, hoping he knew better what to do next. He was a forester, after all. Freddie doubted such batshit crazy shits occur in every forest, but since Iwan came from Russia, why the hell not, who knows what they're doing in their Siberian territories?
But Iwan started asking questions again, and Freddie forced himself to actually think hard this time. And keep his voice down.
- Well, I - I don't know, I don't really... like, a disappearance would be a very noticeable thing here, you know? Only... hm... There was a guy named Brian... another weirdo, but he was fun. Homeless, lived in a tent next to the woods. He wasn't that typical homeless psycho - he never whined, never begged for money or anything. Always friendly and smiling. Loved to talk about his past. Loved us kids. A good man, really. No one really cared about him, though. I mean, he had no friends in town, no job, nothing. So one day he was just... gone. We thought he decided to travel elsewhere, but he left his things behind, and homeless people don't do that, right? I heard adults talking he killed himself maybe, but the body was never found, it was just a suggestion. A sad one, but... not completely impossible. Other than that... - he shrugged. - I don't know. Nothing ever happens in Possum Springs.
He listened to the world outside their hiding spot.
- Do you think it's gone? I might have to go home at some point, - he sighed, clearly not happy about this idea, - don't want to make my mom worry too much. She's got enough on her plate.
The thought of going back in the woods and walking all the way to the town was terrifying, but it had to be done. Freddie was almost surprised no one tried to attack them, but the woods decided to spare them both this time. Both - because, of course, Iwan had to walk beside him, otherwise Freddie would get lost and trapped in the woods until the roaring thing finally gets hungry enough.
- Why do you think it was roaring? - he suddenly asked as they walked, frowning. - The thing. Like... I thought usually when predators are on a hunt, they keep quiet. So they don't warn the prey. Why roaring then? If that thing was after us... wouldn't it rather stay silent?
That was really odd.
- Or it was roaring so we know for sure it's there, - he went on, - but why? Was it defending its territory? Trying to scare us away? And what in the honest hell was it? It's kind of weird to think that something capable of making noises that loud has been living here for some time, and no one noticed anything, - he shivered uncomfortably. - A true mistery, man. Maybe I'll ask around at school. See if anyone knows something.
He had to show his face at school from time to time anyway.
- Uh, Iwan? - something just occured to Freddie. - The day after tomorrow is the Possum Springs day. Did you notice street decorations and stuff? Well, it's gonna be shitty as usual, but there will be celebration in town in the evening. They make great donuts there, I'll give them that. Come hang out, see what a shithole Possum Springs is for yourself, - he chuckled, - now a shithole with a fucked up monster in the woods. It gets better and better.
He glanced at the cat:
- Is Omsk any different? Tell me. Please, - he sounded serious, - I will even learn your name if you want. What was it, can you remind me, please? Vi... va... cha... sla...

[nick]Frederick Priest[/nick][status]depressed awesome possum[/status][icon]https://i.imgur.com/571FZY5.png[/icon][sign]https://i.imgur.com/wmMZVFf.gif[/sign][lz1]FREDERICK PRIEST, 16 <sup>y.o.</sup><br><b>profession:</b> depressed teenage possum; high school student<br><b>intrigued by:</b> some Russian cat[/lz1]

Отредактировано Anthony MacIntyre (2022-10-29 09:59:57)


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