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G112 Haruka Watanabe - Debut!

“OOH! Jesushell.”

Haruka’s fingertips dug into the long handle of her oar and she jumped backwards by surprise. In the thick, cold darkness beneath the mountains, she had heard whispers and distant echoes. The obscure ones had sent shivers down her spine and made her ever more scared than she had been before, the fears of suffocation, isolation, getting lost and being crushed under falling rocks.

The louder ones had caused her knees to knock together and her hands to clamp down on the oar until her knuckles turned paper white. Frozen stiff in the darkness, too afraid to venture onwards or run back the way she had came, she stood there a pathetic statue, waiting for her worries and fear to diminish. Eventually, she’d move on, following the pale circle of light dancing over the damp, stone floor. She kept her grip on the flashlight firm, in case it slipped from her jittery hand and broke on the floor.

I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die! Haruka thought, slowly inching her thumb up the shaft of the flashlight before pressing down on the switch. She was bathed in the thick darkness, hidden amongst clouds anxiety and unease. She wrenched her eyes shut, shielding them from the darkness that was sure to only worry her further. Her petite frame trembled skittishly, glued to the spot.

A varnish of cold sweat and grime coated her clammy face, however her cheeks were partly clear due to the consistent flow of tears. It would be an unknown length of time before Haruka opened her eyes again and worked up the courage to move on. She didn’t know whether the pause was several minutes or just over an hour. She did however, recap in her head everything that had happened so far.

She remembered the trip, waiting to check out the scenery and maybe take some pictures. Even though she was shy, she was looking forwards to some nostalgia fuelled interaction with her peers. The idea that maybe, if this was one of the last times they’d all be together, she wouldn’t be too shy to join in with the fun, and maybe make some more friends. And then of course, the sleep.

She didn’t know why, but felt very sleepy, and soon went under. It was like the time she fainted, only worse. Her head hurt and everything was warped and distorted when she woke up, as if her retinas had been spritzed with a drug. A collar. A bag. An oar. All alone in the middle of these overgrown grounds and she eventually came to realise she was on Survival of the Fittest.

It wasn’t long before the big open space and the sense of exposure had caused her to retreat under ground like some cowardly bumbling insect. And then that was where she had remained, hidden from her peers, cutting herself off again like she always had done in Bayview.

Minutes and hours had melted away at unknown intervals, and eventually as was coated in dust and began to find it harder to breath, she wished for nothing more than to return to the surface. She felt trapped and confined, like she had willingly wandered into her own tomb and had gone so far in, she had forgotten the way out.

Fear and paranoia had set it. Something was sniffing her out. There were eyes watching in the dark. The whispers. The echoes. Everything following her, the tunnels waiting to swallow her in like a pitiful fly who made the foolish mistake of descending into a hungry pitcher plant. Waiting to be dissolved in the acids dripping from the walls…

Time had a strange flow in tunnels, what could be vast amounts of time wasted on something that seemed so hurried could also play as seconds passing sluggishly as you tried to navigate your way through the darkness. Eventually the rapid beating of her heart slowed down to a steady pace and the shivers died down until she was reasonably calm.

She opened her eyes, and after several minutes of squinting in the darkness, she could make out a faint, dim green glow coming from up ahead. She knew right there and then that she wanted to turn on her heel and sneak her way, but something within her drew her towards the glimmer.

Perhaps it was a mix of curiosity and the bitter loneliness she had endured for the past day.

It could have also been her desperate crave for fresh air and to see the sky one last time.

She took another gentle step forwards, gently tucking the flashlight into her bag. Her free hand then reinforced her grip on the oar, her one defence against attack. Go away! Leave it! Turn back! Please! Her mind begged her to turn back and escape from whatever lay ahead whilst she had the chance, but that feeling of curiosity and desire of freedom in her gut drew her closer and closer. As she made her way further towards the glow, she became aware of a bend in the tunnels.

She crept towards the wall, and used one hand to guide her way along the dark corridor. The oar began to shake slightly in her grip which had began trembling again. Her lip began quivering and her stomach tied itself in a knot. Go! Please! Stay away! Haruka wouldn’t listen, she had come too far to simply turn and scamper off like a frightened rabbit. She shut her eyes as her fingers met the supporting beam, and slowly poked her head around the corner.
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