It’s been two days now, and I’m all out of food as the night creeps on. I’ve managed to hitchhike a bit, and I’m slightly ahead of schedule; I might be able to finish my journey in three more days rather than four.
Never mind that for now, though: I have to find something to eat. I’ve been going over my options since yesterday, and until I run out of money the easiest will obviously be to buy the food. I will eventually have to resort to theft, but not yet.
I don’t have to read the shadows to see that there are two gas stations, both appearing to have convenience stores, at an upcoming intersection; one’s on the same side of the road as me, so I choose it and quicken my pace. As I draw nearer I see that it’s thankfully open and I hurry inside.
I keep my hood and head down as I pick out a small assortment of junk food; I don’t know what measures my parents may have taken upon my disappearance, and I don’t want to risk being seen. The food itself isn’t nearly as healthy as the sandwiches I packed, but I doubt a few days of malnutrition will do me much harm.
The items I choose add up to just under ten dollars by no accident, and I let the cashier keep the change–a few cents aren’t likely to be worth anything useful, and I’d rather spend more time walking and less time around people, even if it’s only a few moments.
I’m all out of money with at least another day to go. I’m not hungry yet, but my watch tells me it’s 8:00 AM, which is probably the safest time for me to steal some food. I’ve found myself in a residential region, and it’s not long before I’m able to find a suitable house. Nobody’s at home here or in the surrounding houses, so I’ll hopefully be unseen.
I start by crouching behind a hedge near the front door so I’m hidden from any passerby’s view, and sending a few shadows through the crack between the door and the ground. Inside is gloomy and thus relatively easy to read, and after a few moments I can’t find anything that seems obvious as an alarm, so I stand up and check the door’s lock–a tumbler, as I suspected and hoped.
I gather a dense group of shadows and solidify them before cramming them into the lock; I tweak the pins up and down until, after a minute or two, the lock clicks open and I swiftly turn the knob and open the door.
I enter just as swiftly, closing the door softly behind me and making a beeline to my right, into the kitchen. The room’s single window is blocked by curtains, and since my eyes are unadjusted I use the shadows to locate the fridge. It’s then a simple matter to grab a few apples and a small bag of baby carrots before leaving the house, making sure to lock it behind me. With any luck, whoever lives in the house won’t even notice it had been broken into.
I’ve felt it for a few hours now; some bizarre presence miles ahead of me, alternatingly seeming to absorb and exude darkness and power. It must be my destination, and the road I’m following is headed right for it.
I can feel other presences, too: three figures, weaker than the one directly in front of me but with that same feeling to them. They’re on the move, too, and I suspect they’re just like me, for I can feel my own power fluctuating, growing and ebbing along with the strong presence.
It’s all very unsettling, but I ignore it, focusing on putting one aching foot in front of the other. My whole body is sore, for that matter; so much walking combined with sleeping on the ground hasn’t been easy for me. It doesn’t help that it’s day out, either, for the light gives me a headache.
But the light is dimming…
I look up: there are clouds in the sky, but not nearly enough to cause such an effect. Everything’s growing dark for no discernible reason aside from the presence. It must be very powerful to have such an effect.
I’m close now, and in the fading light and I can feel the weaker presences, two farther past the strong one and one to the right. I’m closer than them, and I slow my pace so that I arrive at the same time as them.
Now I’m there, the others as well; two male, one female. Without but a quick nod to each other we turn towards the presence, where the road turns off and…
There’s nothing. There’s just forest.