"It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them."

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The Black Road

After received my assignment I prepared my gear which contained: one sub machine gun, a knife, two-week supply of food and a radio. Disguised as a stalker I should head deeper into the Zone, certainty does not belong there, anything could lie in the path ahead and my equipment was not making me feel reassured, because of the nature of my mission bringing anything else would be suspicious my disguise would be discovered.

Moving slowly and steady, watching every angle which could lead me into a trap I was able to get to the first location alive, but there was much ground to cover ahead, east trough the forest and then north to edge of the exclusion zone - my entrance should be unnoticeable after that.- One week later had almost crossed the entire forest, it was getting late so I set up a cold camp which did not take much of my time but I had protection from rain and wind, felt safe and tired and that combination should provide a good night of sleep. Watching the moon I closed my eyes and dreamed about my daughter, she passed away long ago and after that the marriage did not last, maybe it was me or the way I became, always dreaming and remembering about her, while my wife wanted to forget, maybe she was right in trying to move on. All those thoughts made me unaware of something lurking in the dark, moving like a shadow but with a light touch on the ground, maybe it was the wind, I thought trying to not let the fear take a hold on me. Laying down I grabbed my gear and started to move toward a hill, back turned against the wall and my eyes all around was able to maintain a safer perimeter.

In a blink of an eye I was lifted out of balance, breathing death it took my strength, felt powerless unable to do anything but to accept my fate. But I was always stubborn and this time was no different, grasping for air missing couple of seconds to pass out, got a good grip on my knife and stabbed the air, a movement that made no sense but nevertheless It did let me go. Could not talk or think so the only choice I had was to grab my rifle and shoot, using bursts and fast movement was able to pinpoint the mutant, at least that was the best I could call it based on intel I had, it did not took long until the weapon was empty, behind a tree reloading the weapon and checking for movement found only that I had a hole on my backpack, lost the food, radio and everything else. Two days later and I am near my last mark before heading into the Zone, starving and dehydrated I decided to look for supplies in a building that caught my eyes from the distance. It was empty looking from the outside, promises of danger inside but had no choice but to go on. The Geiger counter was not happy and neither was I, each step made it got louder and riskier, but not long enough silence I was inside. After scavenging for hours I could not find anything edible besides paper, but I was very lucky because now;
- Hello there friend, we know you are in there so come on out and let's talk. If you are to decline our cordial request we are going to simple kill you. Now, I do not think a gentleman like yourself would like that to happen would you? Come on now and be smart little piggy, your brothers are not here to help you and we are so many, so many, bad wolfes. - The end of the sentence was followed with laughter, it was vicious making anyone else feel sick.

I was in no mood for talking or dying, quickly ran to the back of the building and set up a defense line. The first one was looking to the left of the entrance, behind him there was another one, counting my shots I had half a magazine and with that two of them were gone. Moving forward with the intend to loot anything useful I found a can of beans in one of their bags, just after taking the can, more of them appeared. Spreading fire all over the room heard an awful sound it was the sound of my empty gun, some of them were injured and started retreating, but still they wanted me dead, from around a corner a project almost hit me, without any wait the guy moved toward me with all the anger and hate he could possibly have. I moved outside and just before he got out a giant thing jumped from the thin air and ripped him off in a split of second, after that shots and more shots, they were fighting the beast inside and that was my chance to get out, grabbed another can by the door and ran as fast as I could but not long enough I was out of air, breathing was not easy because of dehydration.

Caught up my breath but when I look forward the beast was there coming slowly in my direction, flavoring the moment as it already knew I was dead. In a single jump it got on top of me, my vision was blurred and could not feel my arm anymore, - senses got back,- that is when saw the thing chewing my weapon instead of my arm. Knife was in reach and with one short movement it bounced of my hand, the beast fell to the left crawling and trying to regain it's foot. Grabbed the knife and went to face my death. When I decided to open my eyes I saw the monster's eyes losing all the light it had, although it wanted to take my life I felt emptiness and regret. Putting that place behind me could see the horizon, Noticed that was not where I was supposed to be, there was a path ahead a very dark road with trees blocking the light that could come from inside and out. Forgetting about my earlier thoughts it felt right moving forward, feeling safe I could think clear again. Eating and drinking from the canned goods brought back my strength, I was back on my feet. The air was chilly but it felt good, crossing my arms covered my chest and continued moving to the darkness ahead.

At then end of the road there was a fence, after the fence there was a mill and in this mill there were humans or what they used to be, I knew where I was but had no idea how I got there, when I look behind me I notice that the road is not there anymore, not sure what to make sense of it I tried to focus on what to do next, but it was not needed because the sky got so bright that it could turn the night into day, thunders teared through the air and with that sound I knew trouble had gotten to me again. Running with nothing to lose I got inside a house, tremors knocking everything to the ground, something fell onto my head and just then the tremors stopped. There was only silence, I felt peace and fear, the end of the world. Opening the bottom of my knife took a small pill into my hands and ate it, unsure if it was going to work I lay into a corner and closed my eyes. After regained conscience I could not have a sense of time anymore, only saw darkness. My flashlight was working and my knife was sharpened, I was stranded in the middle of mindless mournings, but I am stubborn and my mission just begin.



Desolation

I saw two kids running into Iron Forest, could not believe my eyes. What were they doing there or how they even got here? Questions that at the time I could not answer, I did not have time or courage to satiate the thirst that I was feeling. That place gives me chills, I would not dare even go near it but those boys were braver than me, if they even knew what they were getting into. Without knowing what would be my next step I kept moving towards the Forest, I could not understand why I wanted to really go there. Was it to save those kids, or there was something leading me there, maybe my past. They remember me of my two sons, but I know it could not be them, there is no way it could be them. Every step is even harder to make, the air is getting colder, can't breath, saw them again and now they went inside the building, came all this way so I need to keep moving. I reloaded my rifle with the last ammunition that I had with me, turned on the flashlight and ran as fast as I could and just as reckless as well. Checked every room but there was nothing there, no one alive in that place but me, everything was wrong and I knew it right away that whatever that it was, it wanted me dead.

I heard something above me, I ready my old rifle and start to move step by step checking every corner, searching for anything that could linger in the dark. Before I could think I was already discharging my weapon against something that I can not describe with my own words, it was big and stank all the place, I could barely open my eyes because of the horrible putrid smell. It made grunt noises and I could not know wich part of that thing was worst. My rifle was empty and had with me only my old knife, I was cornered like a helpless pray. It charged into knife with such anger that broke into half in it's skull, could not believe what was going on and the only feeling that I had was sadness and regret. I dragged myself to a corner, I was wounded very badly, my leg was broken and I felt like a bear had his pawn on my chest, couldn't do much if not write this last words. If someone finds this, please warn the others to stay away from this place, I know that it would never happen but if you are reading this please tell my wife Anna that I regret leaving her and the boys. My curiosity brought me to this place and also has taken my life, I just wish I could see them for one last time.

Mykhail,

- Hello mam my name is Demyan, I am very thirst would you mind to bring me a glass of water?
- No, wait here I will be back in a moment. - Demyan was shaking and could barely move his lips, had a grim expression all over his face.
- Here you go. Are you from town?
- No mam I came from very far. I am sorry to ask but is your name Anna?
- Yes it is how did you know? - He fell into tears and could not bring himself to do anything. Anna puts her hand in his shoulder and says that whatever was happening to him she would try to help the best way she could.
- It is okay, everything is going to be fine please come inside and sit.
- Mam your husband is dead, I found his journal I am very sorry. I am so sorry. - He dropped the journal on the ground and ran before his strength was gone.

After 2 weeks from the incident Demyan had tracked down his friend Mykhail, he found his journal and that changed him in ways he could not bring himself to forget. He had promised to carry the message to it's destination, after he completed the task he went back and set an outpost near the Iron Forest, he tried to warn people about the dangers of that place, but greed and curiosity always made them to ignore his warnings. Many went and few came back, the ones alive suffered from terrors that some say would be creations from their own imaginations. Years passed and then people started to talk about Demyan, some said he was a hero and had saved many stalkers, others say he was a crazy person that liked to spook travelers. The truth is that nobody had seen him since so long that they forgot how he looked like, a stalker wearing a coat made from chimera's hide had saved a bunch of boys from a pack of mutants not long ago, that was believed to be Demyan or what he used to be.

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