simplesabley, The Journeyman Scrivener
Ciara's life has never been anything worth cherishing, until she participates in a game that changes everything.
Special thanks to Corgi for beta testing, you're the best!
Update 12/26/18:Changed good ending perameters so that the requirements make more sense.
Update 6/25/19:Fixed a script error where the judge did not properly acknowledge a player's choice.
P.S. There is more than one ending. If you haven't found more than one, then you have not tried "literally" everything.
When a young family moves into the sleepy little town of Daphne, they find themselves in a virtual utopia. The small cottage they move into is lovely, but not so old that it has problems. The people are all friendly, a close knit town with a population of only 300. Both of the family's daughters begin to make friends in their new school and the husband and wife find themselves entranced with the romantic scenery.
But, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
BerkaZerka & Aman
For their invaluable feedback and help in the making of this game.
Fixed minor script issues
Fixed minor spelling/grammar errors
Articles WrittenOvercoming the Fear of Criticism
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Hanna stared down into the bowl of stew. Usually, meals were graced with conversation and laughter in their family, but tonight was different. Her father was gone searching in the darkened woods and her mother sat sullenly staring at the hearth fire. It was not unusual for Hanna or one of her siblings to venture out into the woods during the day, but they always returned before dark. The sun had fallen behind the mountains some time ago now and her younger brother had not yet been found.
No one broke the silence, though Elva saw fit to distract herself by brushing her long golden hair and plaiting it carefully. Hanna's elder sister had always been vain, but to be so unbothered by the situation at hand... Hanna clenched her fist and set her bowl of food aside uneaten. It was quite late now, usually, all would be asleep at this hour of the night. Rest seemed wrong though and Hanna found herself peeking out of the door. The moon cast her cold light down around the small abode, the shadows of the trees seemed longer than normal and the wind wailed as it passed through the barren branches. The chill in the air suggested snow, a bad sign for children lost in the woods at night.
Her mother started to her feet when Hanna's father opened the door, but slumped back into her seat when she realized he was alone. Even Elva seemed disturbed by the news. None of them had dared to think Mikkel wouldn't be found after all.
Sleep did not come easily and Hanna found herself staring up at the roof long after her mother's sobs had ceased. Elva rose from her bed in the darkness, her feet barely making a sound on the dirt floor. She stole across the house to the door, slipping outside quietly. It wasn't all that strange for someone to go out in the night to relieve themselves, but Elva did not return until the morning. Her elder sister had no more snuck back into her bed than Hanna's parents began to wake.
Her father went to search again and her mother started the fire in the hearth. Hanna chose to go about her usual chores, gathering eggs, and feeding animals. It felt meaningless, but it passed the time. Next, she ventured into the woods to gather kindling, careful not to wander too far. The air was cold, but the snow had not yet dusted the ground thankfully. There were plenty of dry twigs and sticks for her to gather. As she gathered them into a bundle beneath one arm, Hanna caught a glimpse of movement in the trees.
Elva moved through the trees with a soft smile on her pretty face, sometimes glancing over her shoulder. Hanna frowned and trailed after her, staying behind the trees until Elva came to a small clearing sheltered by an ancient tree. She watched from behind a fallen log as her sister preened herself, tucking wisps of fallen hair behind her ears and pinching her cheeks to make them rosy pink. Rolling her eyes, Hanna realized her sister was probably meeting the neighbor boy again. How she could do so at a time like this was beyond Hanna's realm of thinking, but her sister had always been selfish.
She was about to sneak away when a man came around the old tree's trunk, this was not the neighbor boy. He was taller than their father, but his face was fairly youthful. His hair was long and black as the night with dark brown eyes set deeply into his skull. He was handsome, but Hanna's skin prickled at the sight of him. This felt wrong.
Elva wrapped herself about him like a vine and though his hands stroked her hair, his expression was that of boredom. He was not any neighbor of theirs, Hanna knew the other family's in the area. He must be from the town or perhaps just a wanderer. She froze when he looked at her, those piercing brown eyes of his suddenly flashing with amusement as a twisted smile tugged at the corner of his lip. Elva was too enthralled with him to realize his attention had turned elsewhere, but Hanna wished her sister would notice. She felt fear building in her chest as he held her gaze, licked his lips, and continued to run his fingers down the small of Elva's back.
It felt as if she was being held in place, gaze locked with that of the stranger. Her heartbeat frantically in her chest as she struggled to move. Finally, she broke free and ran for home. Elva's startled gasp caused her to look over her shoulder, seeing her sister's angry expression as the stranger watched with the same vile smirk on his face. Turning away, she kept running until she reached the edge of the woods and the house came into view.
Hanna stopped short as she was about to go inside, looking across at the small barn when movement caught her eye. A large bird sat perched upon the thatch roof, a creature she had never seen before. It looked very much like a raven but was far too large. It was as big as an eagle, looking down at her with an intent stare. It opened up its great wings, beating them hard as it took to the air, clutching what looked like a dead animal in its large talons. The mangled corpse was hard to identify as the bird took flight over the house and went out of sight. Hanna was about to dismiss it as an ugly type of eagle until she heard the loud thud from behind the house.
Running around the side of the house, Hanna hurried toward the source of the noise. She found her mother standing there amongst the remains of their summer garden. Her stance was rigid as she stared down at something laying at her feet. Slowly, Hanna approached her mother and peered around her skirts to see what the bird had dropped.
It wasn't an animal.
Mikkel's face was nearly torn away from his skull, exposing the muscles that still clung to the bones. His lower half was completely missing, one arm had been gnawed down to tendon and bone, while his abdomen had burst open when the bird dropped him from the sky. Claw and tooth marks covered what was left of his skin. No bird did this, but what beast would? The bears were all asleep for the winter and wolves would not have left so many scraps. He did not smell of rot and his remaining limbs were not stiff. Tears stung her eyes as the shock of what she was seeing began to wear off.
"Go inside, Hanna." Her mother's voice was hoarse, but she obeyed.
Elva sat upon her bed when Hanna entered through the door. She ran a brush through her long golden hair, humming pleasantly to herself. It made Hanna's stomach turn sour, how could she have been so calm with Mikkel missing? And now he is dead out in the garden while Elva brushes her hair and hums like a lovestruck fool. The thought of the man her sister had been with made Hanna's skin break out in chills.
"Mikkel is dead," Hanna said from across the room.
Elva paused, glancing sideways at her younger sister. "Is he?"
"Do you even care?"
Elva said nothing and continued to brush her hair, but she no longer hummed the happy tune from before. Anger replaced the sick feeling the pit of Hanna's stomach. How could Elva care so little? Was it really just because she was dumbstruck by a man?
"Who was that man?" Hanna asked quietly, clenching her fists as her sister continued to brush her hair and ignored her.
The night didn't come soon enough. Hanna's father returned home to the news. He buried Mikkel in the waning sunlight and her mother refused to leave her bed from grief. Elva barely seemed to care, but Hanna didn't want to think about her sister anymore. They all went to bed for lack of knowing what else to do that night.
Hanna awoke to a heavy weight on her chest. Blinking in the darkness, she struggled to move. Words died in her throat as she tried to cry out. Movement in the darkness caught her attention as she struggled, Elva sneaking back out again. Hanna felt the weight lift from her chest shortly after the door closed, gasping for air as she managed to call out for her parents at last.
Her father came, eyes bleary from fitful sleep and sorrow. Lighting a candle he cast the light around Hanna's bed before doing the same for Elva, only to notice her missing.
"She's been sneaking out," Hanna admitted as her father turned back around before continuing. "There's a strange man I saw her with in the woods today."
He stood quietly for a moment before turning and headed for the door without a word. Elva would be angry, but the fool should know better with such a beast about that could tear a boy apart like it had their brother. If it had even been a beast in the first place. He left the candle burning on the hearth, taking the lantern instead. The light was a relief from the darkness before as Hanna tried to calm her racing heart.
A sound on the roof made her jump to her feet. A heavy thump that caused dust to fall from the ceiling. Her thoughts turned to the large bird from before, but a bird seen during the day rarely came out at night. Hanna's mother came out finally, her eyes red and swollen from her weeping. The sound came again from another place on the roof, stopping her in her tracks.
"Father's outside," Hanna said softly, hurrying to her mother's side.
Her mother said nothing as she took her into her arms. They both looked up at the roof, waiting for the sound to come again. The door burst open instead, causing them both to recoil. Elva was dragged in by the arm, their father's face was twisted in anger as he threw her to the floor. Hanna watched as her sister slowly got to her knees, looking up at them from the dirt. One of her eyes was starting to swell.
"Your brother's corpse is still warm and you're sneaking out to meet with strange men," their father spat the words out as he paced the floor.
Elva smiled to herself, wrapping her arms around her knees and rocking back and forth slowly. Her eyes roamed the room, but never focused on anything or anyone. Hanna felt her mother's fingers dug into her shoulders, nails biting into her skin. Elva was a lot of things, selfish and vain. But, she had not been herself lately. This delirious, smiling creature before them seemed more like someone else wearing Elva's skin. A person couldn't change that quickly, could they?
"Who have you gone to see?" their mother spoke finally, her voice hoard and cracking.
"Pretty bird," Elva muttered with a soft giggle, her head lolling back as she gazed up at the roof.
The strange bird from before crossed Hanna's mind. Large enough to carry the body of a young boy in flight, but nothing she could identify. A thump on the roof sounded again as if something large was hopping across it toward the door. Elva burst into a fit of laughter, still hugging her knees as she rocked herself. Her sister had surely gone mad.
A knock at the door gave them all a start, though Elva hardly noticed as she continued to mutter under her breath. Hanna watched as her father strode toward it, flinging the door open. The light from their home spilled out into the darkness of the night, an empty space where a stranger had been expected was all that they found. Her father stood there for a moment, staring out into the cold night before he closed the door.
Elva went quiet, cradling her hands in her lap, as their father walked back across the room to stand behind her. Hanna couldn't read his expression. The anger was gone from it, but that rage had been replaced by something else entirely. He crouched down on one knee next to Elva, placing a hand on her shoulder much more gently than he had handled her before. She looked at him for a moment, appearing clear of mind before she wrapped her arms around his neck and sobbed softly.
Hanna frowned as she watched the scene unfold. Elva had been in the midst of a seeming hysteria before, now reality must have finally come back to her mind. Her father's face was bewildered, but relieved. Until Elva clutched at him tighter and a wholly different expression took over his features as his face went pale. A gasp escaped his throat, wet and rasping as blood-spattered from his mouth. Elva's hand drew back, a dagger carved of bone clutched in her fingers before she drove it into his neck.
Hanna's mother screamed as she threw her aside, lunging for Elva all too late. Elva escaped out the door before she could be stopped, leaving Hanna to stare in shock as her father choked on his own lifeblood in her mother's arms. She didn't know what to do as she lay on the floor, watching him die. Her limbs would not listen to her as she thought to crawl towards her parents, leaving her frozen in place.
The door hung open, a cold wind causing it to creak slightly and the candle to falter. The flame went out with a particularly strong gust, leaving Hanna in darkness. The sounds of her father's breath gurgling and choking grew fainter and fainter. Soon all she could hear was her mother's weeping. Like a wounded animal, all of her sorrow coming out in great sobs and wailing.
Hanna almost missed the sound of wings on the wind for it.
A dark shadow flew across the room, up into the darkness of the roof beams. Its eyes reflected in the darkness, large and interested as it gazed down on her parents from above. Elva's laughter drifted in on the breeze from outside as Hanna tried to make her eyes adjust to the darkness. She could just make out the shapes of her parents in the room and of the large bird as it darted down from the beam down to a particularly dark corner of the room.
Hanna watched as the darkness seemed to spread out from the corner like a dense fog, taking form slowly as a man rather than a bird. Even in what little moonlight coming through the door illuminated, Hanna recognized the man from before. His eyes reflected the moonlight like a beast's would as he loomed in the corner, watching. It felt ages passed by as Hanna lay on the floor, watching the man, if he even was a man, watching them on the floor.
Finally, her mother took notice of the stranger, scrambling away from her husband's body and fumbling about for the flint and steel. She must have found the candle as well, the sound of stone striking steel sounded in the room and sparks lit up her mother's panicked face intermittently. The man didn't seem disturbed by the light, he didn't react at all except for his eyes to slowly move from the corpse of Hanna's father to her mother trying to light the candle.
A spark caught on the wick, slowly building itself into a flame that weakly lit the room in a flickering light. The man stood in the corner, still somewhat in the shadows. An amused smile graced his face as Hanna's mother held the candle out with a shaking hand. Elva was still laughing outside, the sound coming sometimes from the door and other times through the walls from various sides of the house. The man's head cocked slightly to the side, waiting.
"Does the mother love her children?" Its voice was not that of a man's at all. It sounded strained and rough as if he had not had water in days and came out as a low hiss.
Hanna's heart began to race as she watched her mother, the candle wobbling dangerously in her shaking hands. Tears streamed down her face and there was terror in her wide, unblinking eyes.
"Does the mother have a favorite?" A wide smile spread across its face, too wide. "Does she want the dead one back?"
"The dead cannot be brought back," her mother said weakly.
The man's smile grew, showing his teeth. A mouth filled with sharpened teeth, yellowed and glistening with spit. "Can't they?"
Her mother paused at that, her eyes betraying that she dared to consider it. The man moved closer, gliding across the dirt more so than walking. He stopped before her father's corpse, looking down at it with disinterest before turning his gaze to Hanna.
"No, the dead should be allowed to rest," her mother spoke up from across the room, her hand holding the candle more steadily now.
The man, or thing, glanced at her then, still smiling that vile toothy grin. "Does the mother love her daughters?"
He stared at Hanna for a moment then, eyes piercing into her just as before freezing her in place. She couldn't even cry under its gaze, her lip barely quivered in response to the fear she felt as he moved toward her. A hand with fingers far longer than they should have been reached out toward her. The nails were long, yellow, and cracked as they scratched against her cheek, followed by the strangely warm touch of his skin.
"Pretty bird," Elva giggled from the doorway, catching Hanna's attention long enough to break the creature's spell over her.
She gazed on in shock at her sister's state. Elva had removed her clothing and torn out much of her own hair. Bite wounds covered her body in various states of healing, though some were festering and infected. Her lips were gone, revealing bare gums and clacking bloodied teeth. Their mother sobbed at the sight of her, the candle shaking in her hand once more.
"Which does the mother love more?"
Hanna recoiled at the question, looking back at the creature wearing the skin of a man. He was still looking at her, breath stinking of rot. Elva stumbled toward them, the knife still clutched in her hand. She mumbled and giggled to herself as she moved, the man letting go of Hanna and moving away to give Elva room.
Elva lurched forward, falling to the floor beside Hanna and struggling to slash the knife through the air. All Hanna could do was kick with her legs to propel herself backward and away from her sister. She screamed for her mother, anyone to help her. But, her sister kept coming, stabbing the knife at her feet and sinking the blade into one of her legs—
"Hanna!" Her mother sobbed out. "I love Hanna more."
Elva paused at that, but she didn't turn to look at their mother or show hurt. Instead, she turned to the creature as it loomed over her, still smiling. It reached out to cradle her face, almost lovingly. Caressing her cheek and drawing her close, she went like a lamb to the slaughter into its embrace. Even when it sank her teeth into her neck, she didn't struggle. She caressed the back of his black hair and smiled until she went limp.
Elva fell dead to the floor, the front of her throat torn away.
The creature turned back to look at Hanna. "Does the mother love herself?"
"No," her mother answered coldly and the creature smiled.
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