Chapter 2:

Groupthink

The Beast Inside: Immersion


Silence.

The announcement has made everyone inside the facility completely incredulous of the situation. A voice speaking from within their minds. A mission to find and kill criminals. No place to go, but a Forest drenched in pitch darkness. With the door open, the temperature drops as quickly as the heartbeats rise. Observing far from the rest, Xess has no words to share with Eva, who just expressed a cryptic message to him.

Xess: *Confused* …

Eva resumes her walk away from Xess.

Xess: ((I have to calm myself… There is no telling how everyone would react if they’d see me smiling, they’d think I’m in on all of this))… Hey, wait just a second.

Xess quickly gets up to follow her. As he trots towards her, he feels a vibration coming from his right wrist.

Xess: *Irritated* What now…?

When Xess looks towards his wrist, images and letters start popping up on his eyes.

Xess: Wha-… Is this thing… projecting on to my eyes? The hell…

Xess moves his eyes away as if to confirm his theory.

Xess: Well, this is something. ((It only works when I am looking straight at it.))

Xess glances at the group. Just as he has thought, everyone felt it.

Xess: ((It seems I was right. The images only show when my eyes look straight to it. This means that only I can see what this thing is showing… and that must be true for everyone.)) Let’s see what all this is…

Xess scans the projection.

Xess: ‘Hunt #1, Cluster 10 out of 17. Remaining time 07 hours 59 minutes 13 seconds.’

The number “13” turns to “12” as he continues to read the message.

Xess: ‘Number of Prey available… 3’ ((Three? Just three…?)). ‘Important: Prey are those individuals who have this same device but on their left wrist.’ Left wrist, huh? Is this all? How do I even know who are on the same cluster as me? Do I yell “TEN!” like a madman? There has to be some-

Suddenly, the message scrolls down within its on virtual surface.

Xess: ((How did I…? Wait… What if…))

The message scrolls back up.

Xess: *Faint Smile* Son of a bitch… I can control how this thing moves with my own thinking. ((So, let’s try…))

Although Xess has not laid his eyes off the device, the image disappears.

Xess: … And that’s how you hide it. *Serious* ((Not bad, whatever this is it has a ton of resources behind it… I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.))

Xess turns the image back on and scrolls down to read the entire message.

Xess: ‘Below, the faces and names of those with the same cluster number as you:’ ((Alright, let’s see what we have to work with.)) ‘Alexandra, Kane, Timo, Vanessa.’

Xess looks over at the pictures shown for each Cluster 10 member. Once he memorizes them, he hides the projection and proceeds to walk around the facility in search for them. Nevertheless, the environment is not optimal for this current situation. Unlike Xess, others are not taking the recent turn of events with any sort of calm whatsoever.

‘THIS IS SOME KIND SICK JOKE’

‘We should just escape through the forest. There has to be a way out!’

‘This shit is crazy how are they even talking to us like this.’

‘GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE NOW!!!!!!!!’

Xess: ((As expected, this place is an emotional mess. I hope my group is more stable.)) Hmm…? Is that?

Xess spots someone sitting down with their knees touching their chest.

Xess: That’s… Timo! Great let- !!!

On closer look, Xess notices Timo’s hollow expression. He hesitates to approach him

Timo: ……………………………………………………………………….

Xess: *Serious* Damn…

Xess turns around to find the rest of the team. However, it becomes increasingly difficult with the number of people around. Silos have been formed, as there are some who are yet to even figure out how the device on the wrist works.

Xess: *Serious* This is worse than I thought. ((If we do not move this along, the risk of being on the losing end increases.))

Xess turns to the door leading to the Forest as he continues his sentence.

Xess: *Serious* ((If even one team manages to get it together and take the lives of those three…))

Worried, the voice echoes within him.

‘In this scenario, the clusters with the lowest number of prey hunted would have to choose one member amongst themselves… and kill them as penalty.’

Xess: *Serious* …!?

Xess spots someone he recognizes standing alone outside the door at the edge of the Forest. He wastes no time to approach. When he reaches the outside, he asks.

Xess: *Serious* Kane… right!?

The person does not turn to Xess, as he still stares at forest. Instead of answering, he asks Xess a question back.

????: Do you think this is all our responsibility?

Xess: … What is?

????: The fact we’re all here, disconnected from the rest of the world.

Xess: That depends. Do you remember how you got here?

????: *Faint Smiles* It seems I am not the only one…

Xess: You too, huh?

He raises his arm and points straight to the full moon shining on top of the very cold and windy night. Xess approaches slowly.

????: How many of us will survive thanks to other’s strength and devotion?

Xess: ((I’m starting to think there was a good reason for these people to get locked up in here. Well, that must mean I am crazy, as well…))

????: *Faint Smiles* I know…

The person turns to Xess and continues his thought.

????: *Faint Smiles* It’s a rather odd question to ask someone you just met.

Xess: …

????: Kane, nice to meet you, Xess.

Xess: You seem to be somehow stable considering the situation.

Kane: Yeah, well, unlike what we were told, it’s not like we have much choice. Although I do think they are overestimating our resolve. Who the fuck do they think we are?

Kane glances at inside the facility. Some fighting has broken out while other groups look like they try to support one another. Fear. Sadness. Hopelessness. Sorrow. Rage. All of these are palpable among the crowd inside. Only a few seem to be able to keep it together. Kane continues as he stares at the harrowing environment.

Kane: Who would even do such a thing? To what end?

There, Xess answers his question, although it is clear it was not meant for him.

Xess: *Serious* Survive.

Kane glances back at Xess. He notices Xess’s very determined expression.

Xess: *Serious* If you really want to know… Like I do… then survive.

Kane: …

Xess: *Serious* Whoever placed us in here, they must believe that somehow… someway… we can survive this. Think about it; this is clearly well thought out. I am not saying all of us will make it… but you and I… we’ve got as good as a chance as any of them. And you said it yourself...

Kane: …

Xess approaches Kane, who edges Xess a few inches in height.

Xess: *Serious* What choice do you have?

Kane: …

Xess: *Serious* So I ask you, Kane. If anyone is going to survive… why not us?

Kane: …

Before Kane can even respond, an unrecognizable female voice is heard coming from the door.

????: I guess I won’t have to worry about you too, then.

Xess: …!

Kane: …!

Both turn to see three people standing. Among them is Timo, who still has a hollow expression. The other two are females.

????: Don’t you think you should wait for the rest of the team before you hold inspirational speeches, “boss”?

Xess: Alexandra, I take it?

Alexandra: I brought the luggage, too. You should all know by now, but, for the sake of some formality, this one here is Vanessa. She’s shy, but she’ll manage for now. This other one on the other hand…

Alexandra refers to Timo while she holds his hand. The boy stares at the floor with no motion whatsoever.

Alexandra: It’s not like this is only our problem. Almost all the groups have someone in the same situation, so it’s not like we can complain.

Vanessa: *Low Toned* I-I saw someone getting beat up by their own cluster. I’m guessing… because they wouldn’t cooperate.

Xess: At this rate we’re going to have to leave him. This is the first one so the risk of running into something we cannot predict is the highest. Things can get very ugly very fast for someone in his state… and for all of us if we don’t even get a single kill.

As soon as Xess mentions the word “kill”, Timo gets on his knees and vomits uncontrollably. Alexandra gets down and tries to comfort him somewhat. As she does, she answers to Xess.

Alexandra: That’s not a bad idea, I can see others doing that as well. Right now, the only thing that matters is to make sure you get at least one.

Kane: Can you do it?

Alexandra: Do what?

Kane: Take someone’s life from them.

Alexandra: …

Alexandra glances back at Kane who returns the glance. She waits for a few seconds before turning her attention on Timo once again.

Alexandra: *Faint smiles* Are you serious…?

Xess: *Serious* …

Kane: *Serious* …

Alexandra: *Faint smiles*… *Serious* There is no way I can answer that question, you moron.

Immediately, Kane answers with a loud noise.

Kane: *Serious* WELL I CAN’T!!!

Xess: *Serious* …

Alexandra: *Serious* …

The wind picks up speed, as this momentary silence is decorated with the fall of green leaves and the sound of moving trees. The temperature has dropped a few degrees.

Kane: *Serious* Unless I have gone mad, you two seem to believe that we can just go around a fucking forest and start killing people!! And I don’t see how I would even start to even consider doing it...!!

Alexandra gets up and approaches Kane and looks straight at him. He has lost his temper, yet, Alexandra looks straight into his eyes. She can feel Kane’s breathing on her face, as she seems to be examining carefully. Finally, she responds.

Alexandra: *Serious* Then stay here with Timo, and place your life on a trio you just met.

Kane seems to not be able to answer back. Xess watches silently as he analyzes Alexandra’s personality.

Xess: *Serious* ((I like her. That’s the fucking attitude we need right now.))

Xess steps in.

Xess: Kane…? It’s now or never, man. What’s it going to be?

Kane and Alexandra eyes are locked.

Kane: *Serious* …

Alexandra: *Serious* …

Kane: *Serious* I’ll go.

As soon as Kane says these words, a faint smile can be seen on Alexandra’s face before she answers back.

Alexandra: *Faint Smiles* This is the first and last time you get to be this close to me without proper work, you hear?

Alexandra steps away from Kane, who seems to be trying to contain his emotions.

Xess: *Serious* It’s settled then. We should come up with-

Then, it is in this moment when they hear them.

Xess: *Serious* …!!!

Alexandra: *Serious* …!!!

Kane: *Serious* …!!!

Vanessa: *Serious* …!!!

What it seems to be a cluster is seen running down towards the forest.

Xess: *Shocked* ((Fuck!! I didn’t expect one to be ready this fast!))

The cluster disappears into the forest. Xess shakes his initial shock and immediately turns back to his cluster. Before he could say anything, though, Alexandra speaks.

Alexandra: *Serious* I hope your plan is concise, “boss”.

Xess: *Serious* Vanessa, you should stay here with Timo.

Vanessa: *Confused* …?

Alexandra: *Serious* …!

Kane: *Serious* …!

Both Kane and Alexandra seem to react to Xess’s suggestion. Xess approaches Vanessa and speaks something to her ear so that only she could hear. Vanessa reacts to his comments with a shocked face. Before separating from her, he grabs her by the shoulder as if showing support.

Vanessa: *Shocked* ………………………………………………………………………………..

Alexandra: Hey! What was that about?

Kane: Vanessa, what did he say?

Xess shares a glare with Vanessa, who looks back as if thinking about what she was told.

Alexandra: Uhm, hello?

Vanessa: *Shocked* ………………*Low Toned* I’ll do it. I’ll stay behind with Timo.

Alexandra: Wait, no, what the hell? Vanessa, we need as many as we can we are searching for three people in a giant forest here! Didn’t you just see me provoke him?

Alexandra points to Kane as she says these words.

Vanessa: *Low Toned* No. I’ll stay. It would be best if it’s just you three.

Alexandra: *Surprised* Well… I’ll be damned… Where was that resolve minutes ago, honey?

Kane: *Serious* …

Looking rather confused, Kane approaches Xess.

Kane: *Serious* Xess, things like these don’t generate trust among the group.

Unshaken, Xess answers.

Xess: *Serious* I know. Believe me I do. Still, things need to be fair. I am just making sure everything works out as best as they possibly can.

Kane: …?

Xess glances back a Kane with a determined look to his face. Kane notices this and decides to let it go. As far as Alexandra goes, she seems impressed with how Vanessa responded.

Alexandra: I guess if you’re staying, I can’t say anything if the big man decides to stay as well.

Kane: *Serious* Like I said… I will go.

Xess: Vanessa, you know how to use this thing right?

Xess points to his right wrist as he mentions this. Vanessa confirms with her head.

Xess: Good. Make sure you pay attention to it, I’m sure they will update us on the situation as things progress. Stay focused and don’t lose sight of Timo.

Vanessa: Sure. You can count on it.

Vanesa picks up the soulless-looking Timo and takes him inside the Facility. Meanwhile, Xess, Alexandra and Kane prepare to leave.

Alexandra: You are going to fill us in on all of this, you know that right?

Xess: I won’t have to. You too will most likely figure it out, anyway.

Kane: Then why not tell us?

Xess: Well… let’s just say I am also curious as to how you two think.

Alexandra and Kane are not convinced by Xess’s explanation. Yet, they also believe him to be speaking the truth, so they decide to stop asking about it.

Xess: *Serious* Let’s go!!!

Following the route the first cluster used, Xess, Alexandra and Kane start running towards the forest. Without any sort of plan of how they would react in the event they do find any of the targets, they run without hesitation. Knowing full well what they have to do in order to survive. As they leave the facility behind, their wrists vibrate once again. They all silently check the information.

Xess: ((A map…))

Understanding how to work the device, the map presented the layout of the forest. Location of rivers, ponds, hills, as well as the facility are all there for them to browse. Their own personal location is given on real time as a white dot. Green dots show the rest of the members of their cluster. Still, Vanessa’s and Timo’s dots are not shown, as they had not entered the forest.

Alexandra: What is that red line on the map? Everything afterwards looks highlighted in red.

Kane: What line?

Alexandra: Scroll up and you’ll see it.

Kane: Oh…

Alexandra: It looks like some sort of…

Kane: Limit zone. What the hell?

Xess: It figures.

Kane: What do you mean?

Xess: If you think about it, it makes sense for it to be one.

Both Alexandra and Kane think about what Xess just said. Then, Alexandra answers.

Alexandra: Cunning bastards.

Xess: Yeah…

Kane: …?

Alexandra explains.

Alexandra: This is not the only Hunt we will have. They expect some of us to survive and continue along. This all situation is fucked, but even they realize we are rookies in what they are asking us to do.

Kane: You mean… the area not covered in red is…

Xess: The area where we should look for the targets, yes. By excluding most of the forest, it basically makes our job a lot easier.

Kane: “Easier”… And how difficult would you rate the next part after that, huh?

Xess: ….

Xess does not answer the question, and the conversation ends immediately after. Moving more into the forest, the light coming from the facility begins to disappear and the full moon remains as the only source of light. As the trio finds itself looking for the targets, they wonder what awaits them in this vast forest. As time passes, they could faintly hear other clusters around as it is clear that most of them had moved in as well. Nevertheless, the silence surrounding the forest was harrowing. This environment makes the trio progress with extreme care, sometimes forcing them to avoid some areas that do not seem to be easily traversable. As they move around with the outmost care, Xess wonders on what to do if they find someone. He looks at his right wrist and the message still says ‘Number of Prey available: 3’. No target has been killed off yet with almost 6 hours left.

Xess: ((How are we supposed to do anything when we find them? What kind of people are they? If they are murderers, won’t that mean that they can just simply kill us off? How can us three really do anything?))

Xess continues along with Kane and Alexandra as they traverse the forest with extreme caution. Xess believes his cluster partners might have the same questions he does, but the fact that they must at least fin one target has pushed them to think about that when the time comes. A time that seems to have arrived faster than what they expected.

Kane: Xess, Alexandra… you see that?

Xess: What?

Kane: Look, behind those bushes over there. Those must be other clusters, right?

Alexandra: Why are they all standing there?

Xess: Let’s go find out.

As the trio reach the crowd, they find that most of the clusters are gathered in a large circle, leaving a space at the center. Xess approaches a black-haired girl in the crowd to ask.

Xess: Hey, what’s going on? What are you guys doing here?

????: Find out for yourself.

Xess: …

Alexandra: Aren’t you the cutest?

????: …

The girl seems to not want to interact at all. Xess ignores her and proceeds to focus on what was inside the circle. Just then, he hears Alexandra speak.

Alexandra: *Shocked* Hey, he has it!!!!

Kane: *Shocked* You mean the device on the left wrist!?

Xess: *Shocked* ((So we’ve all found one!!?))

The trio moves into the inner part of the circle to get a clear view of the target. Everyone else was standing, not moving whatsoever. However strange that feels, their focus was on getting a good assessment on the target. Has he hurt anyone? Has another cluster attacked him already? What is the current situation? Xess’s heart rate increases as he gets closer. In the few seconds that take Xess, Alexandra and Kane to reach the inner part of the circle, these questions run through their heads. Finally, they reach it.

Xess: …!

Alexandra: …!

Kane: …!

The target is an adult male. Probably in his 40s. He wears a dirty white shirt and holds a knife on his left hand. He sits on the floor with a desperate look to his face.

Target 1: *Desperate* Please!! Please, listen to me!! We don’t have to do this! I don’t want to die and I don’t want to kill anybody, much less children!!

Xess: *Confused* ((What is this? What the hell is he saying?))

‘You think we are just going to take what you say at face value?’

‘Throw the knife away!!’

‘You- You’re a- a criminal, right? That’s why you are here.’

Target 1: *Desperate* Yes! Yes! I-I tried to steal some things… I… I made mistakes, yes. But that doesn’t mean I have to die.

Xess stares at the man as the rest do. They all seem to be frozen as none seem too eager to approach the target.

Target 1: *Desperate* This is just insane… Look at me, a knife so I can protect myself from what? Kids!? Is this really the price I have to pay for my freedom! This is bullshit!!

The target starts hitting the ground with both hands in a sign of rage. However, he seems to start crying as he does this.

Target 1: *Desperate* Why can’t I be judged fairly, damnit!! I did not kill anybody, nor will I ever do it!!

Suddenly, the man starts crying more noticeably. The clusters seem to have no idea what to do. Both Kane and Alexandra are in shock as they, too, seem to have lost their flare of determination. Xess does not move at all, uneasy about the knife held by the target.

Target 1: *Crying* Please… there has to be a way. Let me go! Please… I swear… I did not kill anybody. I… I… I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know any better. This is excessive… His rule… We can’t go on living like this, I won’t hurt anybody, please just let me go… please. My wife. I just want to see my family again. I won’t try and steal again, I swear. Please just let me go. Please.

Xess: …

All the clusters are frozen in place. After hearing the man speak, they all seem to have lost their will to act at all. The surrounded man sits on the floor, and although he still holds the knife, he does not show any sort of hostility.

Xess: *Shocked* …!

Someone from another cluster steps in and slowly approaches the target. Everyone else is surprised at this event, including Xess.

Xess: *Shocked* ((What!?))

Kane: Is he crazy? He’s going to get himself killed!!

As the boy approaches, he asks the target a question.

????: Tell us… Tell us your name?

Target 1: *Crying*-- “Reese”, my name is “Reese”.

????: Reese. My name… my name is “Cross”.

Cross carefully approaches Reese after identifying himself. He has both his hands up indicating he does not mean to attack Reese.

Cross: We understand. Believe me, we do understand.

Reese: *Crying* You can’t possibly…

Cross: It seems… like you feel trapped, am I right?

Reese: *Crying* …

Slowly, but surely, Cross approaches Reese who has not moved from the ground at all. With each passing step, the rest show more signs of uneasiness. However, Cross looks determined.

Cross: You feel like… the system has failed you. Like you are being a victim of power abuse… right?

As Cross finishes his sentences, he slowly gets to his knees and goes to the ground. This grabs Xess’s attention.

Xess: *Alerted* ((!))

Cross: Though you admit to have committed a crime, you feel like an even greater crime is being committed against you, right?

Reese: *Crying* Ye-Yeah, that’s right. I… I just… I don’t know what to do now.

Cross is now crawling towards Reese, as he gets even closer. It is in this moment when it happens.

Xess: We share your pain, Reese.

Cross: *Alerted* ((…!))

Xess steps in and slowly begins to approach Reese as well. Cross turns to look at Xess as this happens, completely perplexed about his actions. Xess seems to imitate Cross and gets to his knees. Once on the ground, he continues his sentence.

Xess: I am “Xess”, it is unfortunate to meet you under these circumstances. We can all agree on that. All of us have been forced to participate in whatever this is. Some of us have no idea how or when we got here.

Xess crawls towards Reese as well and quickly reaches the same relative distance Cross has with the target.

Xess: And, just like you, Reese, we don’t approve of our situation at all.

As Xess says these words, he raises his right hand showing him the device on his wrist.

Xess: We are just like you.

Reese: *Crying* Right…

Reese glances at the device on his left hand as he reacts to Xess’s comments.

Reese: *Crying* I guess we all have one of these “Tracers”.

Cross begins to move once again. Reese stops crying and focuses on both of them as he seems to feel more at ease with the conversation.

Cross: We should talk about this, Reese. We are not going anywhere if we don’t communicate.

Reese: Ye-Yes, exactly. We… I can’t just kill children. I can’t kill anybody, for that matter. But I was told what you were also being tasked to do. If… If you let me go…

Xess: Yes, it would be bad for all of us if you’d just leave… but…

Cross: But unless we calm ourselves and talk it out, we will never know all our options.

Reese: You’re right. They… they didn’t even give me a chance to explain myself. Why I’d steal…

It is in this moment when both Xess and Cross finally reach Reese. Xess could feel his heartrate rise to his peak. Yet, he still shows no signs of stepping back. Finally, both stop and simply listen to Reese, who stares directly at both.

Reese: *Sad* My daughter, Emilia, she was born sick.

Xess: …

Cross: …

Reese: *Sad* There was no cure to her decease. She was given an expiration date the very same day she was born. Do you know what that does to a father? No, you can’t possibly understand… you’re too young. I researched and researched and researched… but…

Cross: There was nothing you could do…

Reese: *Sad* I-I lied. I have no wife.

Xess: It seems the relationship was not able to survive Emilia’s situation…

An ironic, faint laugh is heard coming from Reese has he hears this.

Reese: *Sad* Are you sure you are all children? It feels like I am speaking to adults.

Cross: So, what happened? What did you try to steal?

Reese: *Sad* During my research, I found out the existence of a book… a very, very unique book… one that could give me knowledge that would surpass conventional wisdom. You see, I’m a doctor. It is my duty to save lives… not take them.

Cross: …

Xess: …

Reese: *Sad* Yet, my daughter… I simply did not know how to save her.

Cross: That’s when you decided to steal the book.

Reese: *Sad* I wasn’t thinking straight. The book… it simply was not accessible for people like me. Those who hold no power have no right to anything in this world.

Xess: …

Cross: …

The place falls silent. Not a single noise could be heard for a full minute. Then, Cross speaks again.

Cross: Reese, look around you.

Reese: *Sad*…?

Cross: If we want to get out of this situation, we need to be able to trust each other. Please…

Cross places his hand on Reese’s shoulder has he continues the sentence.

Cross: Let go of the knife… No one wants to get hurt here. I won’t take it from you.

Reese: *Sad*…

Then, Xess completes Cross’s idea, trying to convince Reese to let go of the knife.

Xess: In order for this to work, it has to come from you. Otherwise, those behind us won’t be able to trust you. Please, give us a chance to help one another.

Reese: *Sad*…

On the ground, with a terrible look to his face, Reese scans the dozens of boys and girls that surround him in silence. Among them Kane, Alexandra, and Eva, whom Xess met beforehand. Some look scared. Others look angry. It is a sight full of emotions. Staring at Cross, he speaks once more.

Reese: If you are the future…

Reese then proceeds to look at Xess as he finishes his sentence.

Reese: Then there is still hope for humanity…

Finally, he looks back at Cross, who returns a gentle smile to Reese.

Reese: Let’s try and work it out then.

Cross: *Smiles*

Xess: …

Reese moves his left hand from the knife, leaving it on the ground. As Cross begins to stretch his hand for Reese to shake, it happens.

Xess: *Murderous* !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As if by pure instinct, Xess wastes no time to grab the knife and stab Reese on the side of the neck. Blood falls on top of Xess’s face, who seems like a completely different person. Reese screams in agony.

Reese: *Pain* AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Cross: *Shocked* !!!!!!!!!

Cross crawls back a few feet in complete shock. On the other hand, Xess gets on top of Reese who falls to his back. Xess continues to stab him as much as he can on the neck. With every stab, the blood splattered covers most of his face and clothes. Xess’s eyes have lost that empathy they showed minutes before and now looks like a killing machine. Everyone else watches in horror. Reese tries to cover his wound in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding, as he tries to get Xess away from him. Nevertheless, Xess is able to outpower him and prevents him from moving. He continues to stab with such violence that the blood splattered reaches Cross’s leg. 

Xess: *Murderous* !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eventually, Reese screams of agony and struggles disappear. Nevertheless, Xess still continues to stab him. This is when Cross notices the device lying next to Reese and Xess.

Cross: *Shocked* His… His device has… fallen…

Immediately, Xess stops. He moves his head slightly to confirm Cross’s comments and sees Reese’s device, whom he referred to these as “Tracer”, on the ground.

Cross: *Shocked* …………………………………….

Echoing the rest of the crowd, both Alexandra and Kane are speechless.

Alexandra: *Shocked* …………………………………….

Kane: *Shocked*……………………………………….

The moonlight shines strong on top of the scene. Xess has not moved an inch as he sits on top of Reese corpse. The silence is somehow deafening.

Xess: ……………………………………….

It is in this moment when all of their Tracers vibrate, signaling new information. A still shaken Cross proceeds to look at his Tracer while the rest follow suit. Xess does not check his Tracer. The moment the rest do, they witness a change in the information. ‘Number of Prey available… 2/3’.

Cross: *Alarmed* !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suddenly, chaos is unleashed among the group.

‘SHIT!!! WE NEED TO FIND THE OTHER TWO FAST!!!!!’

‘NO FUCKING WAY HOW MUCH TIME DO WE HAVE??? I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!!’

‘I CAN’T BELIEVE HE ACTUALLY KILLED HIM! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW????’

The second everyone understood the situation they were in; the circle disperses in all directions of the Forest. As everyone flees, Eva could be seen glancing back at Xess with no expression whatsoever.

Eva: …

After Eva also flees, Alexandra, Kane and Cross are left behind. Cross seems to be in a complete state of shock.

Cross: *Shocked* …………………………………….

Suddenly, what appears to be someone from Cross’s cluster comes back and picks him up.

‘Get the hell up you stupid fuck! We need to move, NOW!!!’

Cross seems to recover himself and approaches Xess, who has yet to move. Cross gets down and takes the knife away from him. As he does, he glances over at Xess as if trying to see his face.

Cross: *Alerted* ….

It was a single instant, but Cross could see, beneath the bloodbath, a face filled with raw emotion.

Xess: …………………………………….

Cross: *Alerted* …………………………………….

Not a single word is said, as Cross takes the knife and leaves along with his partner. Both Kane and Alexandra are frozen in place. They watch Xess from afar, who is still sitting on top of Reese’s body bathed in his blood. They are the only ones left at the scene.

Xess: …………………………………….

Finally, Xess slowly turns the bloodied hand he used to kill Reese and looks at the palm. He can clearly see the blood on his hands, as the full moonlight shines upon the chaotic scene. He speaks to himself.

Xess: I have survived...

Chapter 02 – Groupthink: END

to be continued…

Veekeeki
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𝐊𝐘𝐎𝐊𝐎/𝐒𝐇𝐈𝐍
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SonDavid
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swagmc
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