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76 Grizzly Scene

    In front of me sits a cage that looks to have been made by squishing thousands of individually chewed pieces of bubblegum together. It is lopsided with bars missing, and the eighth-inch-thick plates are between a sixteenth-inch and a half-inch.

    "Eira, I'm going to pass out," Eden states.

    "I feel light-headed, Eira. Can we stop?" Aponi asks.

    "I-I really don't feel well," Jimmy stutters.

    "Waht bucnh of wooosies!" Sam yells.

    "..." Kardama doesn't speak because he is incapable.

    "Hmm, Kardama really shouldn't have joined us for this; he's not blood race after all. Maybe, I should have told him that." I chuckle.

    Turning to look outside, I can see the is about an hour from setting.

    "Alright, well you guys stop for the day. You can all work on it more tomorrow, so for now, take a break we'll be going out in say... three hours?"

    """ugggghh""" the three mentally conscious people groan.

    Moving behind the desk, where no one can see, I turn the flower into the top hat removing several blood bags. Then from the storage ring, I remove a bowl of ramen.

    'Hmm, probably shouldn't have taken everything out at once... Well, whatever, only chumps do two trips!'

    Tossing a few of the blood bag onto my head and one into my mouth, I grab the rest with one hand and the ramen with the other.

    "...Eira."

    "Hmm."

    "That's really cute," Eden replies.

    Dropping the bag from my mouth, I grin, "Aren't I always? Anyway, just eat to replenish your energy, I don't know how tonight is going to go, so make sure you're ready."

    ...

    ...

    ...

    Six hours later, we are finally about to leave.

    "T-This soup! It's so good! So good!" Kardama shouts with tears in his eyes.

    "It's called ramen, and it would have been better if you had eaten it hours ago when I gave it to you."

    Kardama doesn't answer; he's too busy inhaling the ramen.

    Sighing, I continue staring out the windows for a bit, "I suppose, it was my fault for pushing them to use so much blood. Oh, well, better late than never."

    Kardama walks up behind me and looks around in confusion, "Where'd you put that cage thing you made?" Kardama asks.

    "Don't worry about it; it'll show up when we need it."

    Kardama points to the corner of the room, "Well, what about the one we made?"

    Glancing back at the one they made as a group, one of the bars falls from the cage striking the ground and splattering on impact.

    "For obvious reasons, I'm not taking it."

    "Oh... Yeah. That's fair. Say, are we really going to go out there and try to find and fight those things?"

    "Of course, it's decent essence, and like I've already said, I want to investigate what was done to them, thus the cage I went through the trouble of making."

    "Well, collar or not, don't think I'm just going to jump in to help if things start going to **. Actually, I might even try to put you in a dangerous situation on purpose, y'know?" Kardama remarks with a sneer.

    Eden enters the room and glares at Kardama, but I wave my hand, dismissively, "Whatever, that's fine, but something tells me you're more interested in us than you're letting on. Otherwise, you would have resisted more."

    A moment later, Aponi, Sam, and Terry arrive brandishing their rifles.

    Looking at the three, "Be careful about using those rifles until the time is right. If you fire a bullet at the wrong time, you might attract Crawlers and put us in a bad spot."

    The three nod.

    "We aren't going to be doing the same thing we did last time, are we, Eira?" Eden asks.

    "You mean when we pulled all those Crawlers into one building? I wasn't planning on it, because I want you all to get more practical experience. So basically, we're going to try to only attract a few at a time. If things start going south, we'll retreat, and if anyone gets separated, hide somewhere until morning and then meet back here. We've only got around five or six hours of darkness left, so it won't be a long night... probably."

    Aponi frowns, "Why do you always do that? Add probably to the end of some of your sentences?"

    "Well, because sometimes things just don't happen like you hope, especially when it comes to things like this."

    "Yeah... But can't you just like, lie to us or something?"

    I chuckle, "Me lie? I would never lie about anything, so no, sorry."

    Opening the door of the trampoline park the freezing cold air burns my face.

    Jimmy stops and looks at the frozen parking lot, hesitantly, "Damn, it's cold. Maybe, that's what happened to the Crawlers? It just got too cold for them."

    I think for a moment, "Eh, not a bad theory, but I doubt it. I guess it's not impossible either, though."

    'Afterall, they died so fast in the past that they have a few unknowns like their weather temperament. Still, they shouldn't be so weak to die to a little cold so quickly.'

    "Anyway, put on your masks; at the very least, it'll protect your face from the wind."

    After this, everyone stops talking, partially because of the cold and partially to not unintentionally attract the attention of any Crawlers early. Although the snow itself is not falling as heavy as it was early in the day, the wind has picked up to such a degree that it is blowing some of the fresher snow back into the air, obstructing our vision. We spend a few hours going around to the stores near the trampoline part, but find most of them undamaged.

    'Hmm, I guess since it was midnight when the cruise ship crashed, most of these stores wouldn't have been touched? Well, unless someone was looting. Perhaps, we should try somewhere that people would have been at night?'

    Glancing around and noticing a hotel across the street I motion to everyone to follow.

    'With the abundance of hallways and rooms, it would be nice if there was some in the hotel as it would make it easier to separate them. If not we should head more into the city where Eden and I found the Crawlers previously or perhaps even a residential area.'

    While crossing the street, a hardware store becomes visible in the distance, and I can almost hear everyone groan with the realization they could have just built the cage out of normal materials.

    'I hope they realize the reason I made them build the cage wasn' because I actually have to have a second Crawler, but simply that I want them to practice their blood magic. Well, even if they do, they'd probably still be a little upset.'

    Approaching the hotel cars and jeeps can be seen outside with shattered windows, burnt to a crisp, or flipped on their sides. However, the interesting thing is that many of these vehicles seem to be military, particularly the jeeps. Signs of serious combat can be seen with bullet holes littering the cars, along with the face of the hotel. As for the hotel itself, most of the windows appear to be shattered, but just as many appear to be boarded up much like the hospital was.

    'Maybe, a platoon of soldiers made a temporary base here? Were they simply overwhelmed by a swarm of Crawlers? It seems like it was a pretty significant brawl.'

    Once at the sliding doors filing cabinets, computer chairs, and various other furniture blocks the door. The bottom floor windows, although shattered, are all boarded up, so we start walking around the building looking for another way in. Everyone steps quietly, doing their best to reduce the crunching sound of the undisturbed snow. Coming around the back of the hotel, we're surprised to find a large hole that was seemingly torn into the building by something.

    Suddenly, I hear someone use the rings communication, "Maybe, someone hit it with a truck?" Jimmy suggests.

    "Well, it definitely wasn't an explosion; there are no burn marks," Aponi adds.

    I motion for them to follow, "Either way, let's keep exploring."

    Continuing forward, pieces of glass crack beneath our as a familiar sweet smell fills my nostrils. Sniffing the hair, I realize the odor is coming from a room nearby, so stepping lightly, we eventually come across the hotel lobbies restrooms. A pool of blood can be seen flowing from beneath the door frame. Looking closely, it's possible to see little waves coming from the pool indicating something is disturbing it. The soldiers form up behind me, pointing their rifles at the door as Eden and Kardama ready their own weapons.

    Holding up my hand, I begin to count down, '1... 2... 3'

    **Bang!**

    I kick the door open as hard as I can, nearly sending it off its hinges. Something squeals in surprise, and three shadows run toward the back of the room in terror.

    "Wait! Don't hurt them!" Eden shouts before running toward the fleeing creatures.

    The creatures continue to squeal loudly, and I notice a large corpse where the three shadows ran.

    I tilt my head, "Is that a grizzly bear corpse?"

    The corpse is chewed to pieces with large bites missing from areas of its body. Moving closer, I discover the three squealing creatures are actually three grizzly cubs.

    "What the hell could take such big bites from a grizzly?" Sam asks.

    Shaking my head, anxiously, "Not a normal Crawler."

    Suddenly, I notice a bit of white dust fall in front of my eyes, and I raise an eyebrow.

    Glaring at Eden, who is trying to calm the cubs, "Shut those cubs up."

    "What? How? They're terrified."

    "Do it now, or I will."

    Eden glares back at me, "Fine." she rips the bottom of her shirt and grabs one of the cubs.

    Realizing what she's doing, Aponi runs over there and begins helping it. Together they tie the mouths of the three cubs closed, much faster than you'd think possible.

    "Get in the stalls and hold your feet up."

    Everyone seems confused but listens to Eden, and Aponi picks up one of the cubs, and I take the last. Quietly each person enters one of the stalls, and we all sit silently. I can hear everyone adjusting themselves silently as the cubs try to shout with a muffled cry and a drip of water from the sink that sounds as loud as an explosion.

    **Crunch**

    Something steps on glass crunching it beneath its feet as a small grumbling noise cause my body to vibrate. The sounds of something slapping its feet against the ground heavily echoes from the hall into the restroom. Turning my head to look between the restrooms door, I can see steam coming from the base of the door frame as if something is sniffing. I put my hand over the cub's snout and squeeze it tight to prevent it from making any noise. Either Aponi and Eden have done the same, or the cubs have simply instinctively stopped making noises as well.

    The door slowly opens with a creak, and the vision of a creature with pale green and blue skin meets my vision. An eye of black suddenly swings in my direction, and I straighten my back, making myself no longer capable of seeing the door. A low grumble comes from the creature as it takes a heavy step forwards, causing the door of the stall to knock against the locks. Suddenly, I hear something dragging and scraping across the floor, and the door again swings open as the creature exits.

    I hear someone sigh in relief, and through the ring, I yell at them to remain quiet. Immediately several tiles fall from the ceiling of the restroom, and long claw-like hands reach from each.

    'Crawlers... seemingly normal Crawlers. Were those Crawlers setting a trap for that thing? Is that why the cubs were left alive? Did they know that thing was nearby so that's why they didn't attack us?'

    Over a dozen of them quietly drags themselves from the ceiling and move slowly toward the door while squeaking at one another like they're communicating. Together the seven Crawlers exit the room seemingly following the creature. Waiting a while longer, I stand and push open the door, finding a trail of blood where the grizzly carcass was leading out the door.

    'Maybe, we should follow to see where this leads.'
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