CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT – Into the Darkness

We soon arrived at this station and as we came to the surface, this enormous wall confronted us. The tallest wall I have ever seen. The light from the reactor that heats the Liberty was weak over here and it was cold. There were a few tall buildings around but they all looked abandoned and had tree’s growing through them. The road we began walking on was crumbling and disused. Very different from the wall, which seemed almost new.

“Ahh, the great wall!” A Tuhingan with a pink scarf said while looking at the wall. “The thing that separates us and horrors from The Liberties past!”

“Why would that little girl come this way?” Caroline inquired.

“She was an explorer, she wanted to prove to her mother she was ready to go out and be a scavenger. So what better place than the dark side of The Liberty.” Adventum explained.

“How old is this little girl?” I asked.

“Ahh, teenager, about eleven!” Adventum responded.

It surprised me to hear her age and considered being a teenager. There was a door that set into the wall and the group headed for it.

“Ooh, this wall always gives me the creeps every time I see it,” said Adventum. “There are monsters in there and who knows what else.”

Tu gave out a great cackling laugh which echoed in this spooky abandoned town. “I enjoy this wall, it excites me. I often come out here to hunt!”

“You are mad to hunt in there!” Adventum responded.

“It is not a challenge if you don’t face the unknown!”

“What is in there?” I asked, not wanting it to be the unknown.

“The deformed!” Tu said in a creepy, dark manner. 

Adventum just looked at him like he just said something idiotic. “Nothing of the sort. There are people that were experimented on, and genetic clones. But nothing would survive if it was deformed! There are also the odd dangerous pets that were banned and so instead of Annihilating them, often owners would hide them in here and they would disappear. Some of them bred and populated the forest. Then there are the rumours of the lost tribes.”

“Who?” Caroline asked.

“Lost Tuhingans that survived in the forest before we had all the fancy technology we have now. They created tribes and hide in the woodlands, often attacking drones that are just surveying the area. It has made it hard to know what is in there.” Adventum continued.

“How big is this forest?” I asked, wondering how they could fit all of this onto the ship. I looked around and could see it stretched as far as the eye can see. I was even looking up at the opposite side of the cylinder.

“Well, there were six fusion reactors throughout the ship when it was first built. Now we don’t use any fusion and replaced only one of them with an EMC machine. One of the old dead fusion reactors is above our heads.” He pointed up. We all looked up to see a large dark object in the sky. It looked like a half moon suspended by cables. You could see some technological forms on the surface of it. “The one we have lit is around fifty kilometres from the end of The Centrifuge and the distance between these two have to be one hundred kilometres. The Centrifuge is six hundred kilometres long, so the dark forest has to be around four hundred and fifty kilometres long. Since the circumference of the inside of The Centrifuge is three hundred and fifteen kilometres, it has to be three hundred and fifteen kilometres wide. Which means the forest’s size is one hundred forty-one thousand seven hundred and fifty kilometres squared.”

Caroline stared at Adventum for a short while after he spoke, “Let’s not ask Adventum questions from now on!”

There was a cackling coming from Tu just before he said, “Good idea!” 

“I still want to know what’s on the other side of that wall!” My statement fell on deaf ears as everyone seemed to refuse to answer me. I looked at Adventum, who looked ashamed and kept silent from that moment until we got to the door in the great wall.

Looking up, this wall towered over us. It looked as tall as a tower block, standing over us at around one hundred metres. It was made of grey Tuhingan concrete and circled The Centrifuge. You could almost make out the wall on the other side when looking straight up. It felt intimidating to look at and it made me question why they would have built the wall so large.

The door was so small in comparison. It looked like metal stable doors, shut with a bar across them. As we approached, the door mechanism moved. The bar turned into two as it split down the length and then the two halves came out from the holders and became vertical on each door. We didn’t stop walking. As we approached the two enormous steel doors opened for us and lights came on as we entered the tunnel.

We approached another door in the tunnel that looked to be the same design. It opened in the same way, allowing us through. Lights coming on, on the other side of the door. Looking behind me, I could see that the previous door was closing on us. Its smooth reflective surface reflecting the light against the concrete walls as it moved. 

It felt cold in that tunnel and it appeared to keep going, door after door. We must have passed through around six doors before we came out at the other side. Once we went through, it shocked me to come out through the last door straight onto dirt. Our companions turned on lights they attached to their heads and one of the Tuhingan’s sent out many small flying drones into the surrounding bushes.

In this dark place, we were surrounded by large alien trees, towering over us at what must have been fifty metres. Bushes spread out across the forest floor. They didn’t have leaves rather they had hairs that came out from the branches. There was dust in the air that reflected the light as we shone our lights onto it and seemed to have a glow when we didn’t. It appeared the dust was being collected by the hairs on the trees.

“This is remarkable!” Adventum said. “You can read about it as much as you like, but to see it is amazing!”

“What are they?” I asked as Caroline and Tu were exploring the bushes with the rest of them.

“These are the tree’s of the dark forest. They don’t have leaves, the hairs gather the microorganisms which float through the air. We still don’t know where they come from or where they get their energy from. Many have tried and failed to figure it out. Some believe that it could be because of the heat being produced by the friction of a broken part of The Centrifuge.”

“Why wasn’t it repaired?” I asked.

“Hard to get to! All the tunnels have collapsed on this side through hundreds of years of disrepair. Even using the drones it’s impossible to dig our way through to the damaged area. The only way we could do it is to stop The Centrifuge from rotating. It’s an old ship, close to being abandoned. So they left it and everyone has just waited for the inevitable ever since.”

“What’s the inevitable?” 

“Something major will break and can never be repaired. Everyone would have to abandon ship. Everyone is expecting it, yet somehow this ship just keeps going.”

“Oh!” I said as I felt uncomfortable at the thought that this ship will fall apart at any moment. Still, I couldn’t help but continue to be mesmerised by this wonderful forest. It looked so magical as the glowing dust floated through the air. The trees themselves looked hard, but made of a different material from wood. They were purple and smooth to the touch. The bushes looked like smaller versions of the same thing. Except they were closer to the ground and hairier.

The other group began moving into the forest, then Caroline and Tu walked past us. “Come on, James, lets stay with the group!” I looked over at her and saw her disappear into the bushes as she followed behind the group. 

“We best keep moving!” Adventum told me as he picked up his rucksack and continued to follow Caroline. As I stood there alone for a moment, I noticed how dark this forest was. The quietness got to me and I found my ears became sensitive to every sound around me. There was something that moved the bushes and my BMI replayed the memory to me to be sure I heard the bushes move. 

I ran to where the group had left through. It was easy to get lost in this forest and I could already see the group quite far ahead of me. Luckily, their torch light was bright and the sound of voices echoed through to me. I pushed through these alien plants. Desperate not to be left behind. 

Suddenly I felt myself being pulled back by something with a powerful grip. I screamed out loud as I felt myself being lifted from the ground. I wish I could say it was a manly scream, however I would be lying. It was a terrifying experience as I dangled above the floor, seeing nothing but darkness. That is when I heard it, the sound of enjoyment. It was Tu.

He had grabbed me by my rucksack and was cackling his awful laugh. “I found him!”

“Good! It’s good you have your tracker on James!” Caroline said. “Wasn’t Adventum with you?” 

I dangled there for a minute and tried to twist myself around to look at Tu. “Tu, could you put me down?” I asked.

He dropped me and I fell to the ground in the most ungraceful way. “Where is Adventum little man?” he asked me. I looked up to see Tu’s enormous face looking down at me in an intimidating way.

“He went after you guys before me. He has to be around here somewhere!” I replied as I got myself up, brushing myself off. 

“He has his tracking turned off. I’ll call him!” Caroline said as she stared into space. He didn’t answer. 

The group was going further away from us, thinking that Adventum was with them. She called Nuntium. She had a brief conversation as she was speaking into thin air and then turned to us to tell us the news. “They haven’t seen him. But they will stop where they are and wait for us to catch up with them. He has to be around here somewhere.”

Tu came to me and attached a light onto my head with no support, then turned it on. “You look for him too! You lost him!” I looked back at him, a little scared of him and showing it on my face. Caroline was already searching the bushes and I ran to join her. Looking behind, I could see Tu beginning to look. 

“He is terrifying.” I said, referring to Tu.

“I like him! He’s really nice!” Caroline replied. One of the many small drones I had seen come from one of the Tuhingans backpack earlier flew over us. A small bright light lighting up the scene in front of us, showing us everything around us. 

We began searching the bushes for Adventum, shouting his name. We were doing this for a short while before Tu came over to us. “He’s dead!”

“What?” Caroline asked in surprise.

“I checked the death registry and his name has come up on it.”

“Oh!”

“What does that mean then?” I asked stupefied by the situation.

“It means we don’t need to search!” Caroline replied. 

“The registration had a location.” Tu said.

“Oh! Well, we could go to the…” Caroline seemed to get distracted before saying, “hey!” to a bush next to her. “Ah, we just found out ourselves.” There was a moment of silence. “Sure, we can come to you!” A further silence, “The drone found the body?” Another silence. “What!? Mutilated by some animal!? What could have done that?” Then another few seconds later. “We don’t have any weapons. We didn’t think to bring them!” Another pause. “Okay, we are coming to you now!”

Caroline looked at both of us with a worried look on her face. “We need to move and get back to the group! It’s not safe out here!” 

I nodded and Tu agreed. So we walked quickly back to the group. Eight drones joined us on our brief journey. All eight hovering in different locations around us to ensure maximum coverage. We could see very well as the bright lights lit the area. 

“Won’t these drones give away our position to whatever is in the bushes?” Tu remarked as we walked.

“Yes, but it will either fear them or attempt to attack the drones first before it sees us!” Caroline responded.

“I hope you’re right!” Tu replied, looking around. 

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