Founders Valley Pt 2

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KARRIN CURTIS

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A Backrooms Story
⤷ Massacre in the Founders Valley, pt. 2

"Well, I am going to go explore."

Karrin's sister Naomi had been sitting cross-legged on the carpet, knees bouncing in place, for the better half of an hour. Her antsiness was winning the battle. What frustration! They had been walking for months, and now that they had finally arrived at the founder's valley, they had to sit and wait in an empty settlement muttering amongst each other and waiting for… waiting for what, even?

Tonton and Mama were quietly arguing with each other a room over, leaving the caravan of pilgrims to rest in a knot of anxious lounging and thumb-twiddling. There was murmuring and confusion among them, they quietly sat in small groups of stress wondering what the plan was. The Porters instructed them not to move until they had made a decision.

Naomi was tired of waiting and hopped up to her feet, annoyed by her own pensiveness. "Yep." She declared. "I'm gonna go walk around."

Karrin shot her a grim look, the type only an older sibling about to chastize can make. "You most certainly are not." Karrin had been sitting just as anxiously, just as equally frustrated by the delay. In her mind, however, Karrin held a deeper context to the danger they were in than her naive and excitable younger sister. "You are gonna sit in the smoke and stay put like everyone else."

White, lazy incense smoke wafted up around them through the muted yellow fluorescent lighting. Accompanying the smoke was sound: the haunting tones of singing bowls,1 their eerie notes drifted in the air like sonic phantoms. The pilgrims tended the burning sticks and rang the metal bowls with soft mallets as they sat.

Surrounding yourself in cleansing smoke and sound was a porter survivalist trick passed on for generations. The two combined elements protect from a large variety of foul entities that stalk the halls. Creatures of the backrooms work in strange ways — often able to pick up on a person's anxiety or stress, somehow only ever nearby when you're afraid, but otherwise never to be encountered. As if the loneliness of The Halls were alive but cruel and hostile to your emotions.

The stink of your body is masked by smoke, hiding you from the apparitions who smell out your sweat and fear. And when your worries are soothed by the trancelike tones of meditation bowls, so too are the apparitions disrupted and quieted. Though despite this all a fearful question rippled through the caravan: "Why is no one here?"

They were sat waiting in the ruins of an abandoned settlement that should have been bustling and full of life. This was the founder's valley, in a suburb of the largest city of the halls, and yet the only hint that anyone had lived here was in the aftermath of some manner of violence. There was broken furniture strewn around upturned tables, scrunched bedrolls and roughly sewn clothes tossed all about the place, garnished with subtle splatters of dry rusty blood across the walls and carpet.

The pilgrims were already unadjusted to travel across limspace and were fearful of every noise, jumping at every shadow. This quiet atmosphere of lingering violence was almost enough to nudge them over the edge. Murmurs picked up in intensity the longer they waited in place: "Was it entities?"

Naomi was simply disappointed, too young to deeply understand the unsettling horror they all pensively sat in. Her concepts of entities were not yet set in reality, only in the stories that Mama and Tonton would boast from their countless years of survival. To Naomi, danger was nothing but the exciting part of a bedtime tale.

Karrin had witnessed otherwise. And worse, she had witnessed the one thing even more fearful than the monsters of the Backrooms. As Karrin stared at her sister with tightly clenched little fists her mind stressfully shouted a question no one else was thinking. "What if it wasn't."

Karrin glared. "You stay put. Tonton told us all to stay put."

Naomi felt the fine edge of her sister's voice. She pointed at Karrin and whispered. "You're scared."

"Not at all." Karrin snapped back, hushed and dejected. "These guys are scared. I'm a sentinel." It was a word that Master Antonio had used once in passing, maybe two circuitions ago when staying awake on night watch. Karrin absorbed the term like a thirsty sponge: sentinel, one who watches fearlessly. One who never falters. One who protects. Antonio never realized how deeply a stray word would go to define his little girl, unaware that Karrins drive to make him proud crystalized into piercing clarity in that single tranquil moment. Karrin had been looking at Naomi with green eyes alight with fire. The fire of a loving protector.

Naomi stared back puzzlingly, and perhaps she wordlessly recognized it wasn't fear. Something else she couldn't quite understand burned in Karrin's eyes, and at that moment Naomi became a little dizzy. She grabbed at some of her long hair and tugged it to try and find her balance, stepping in little circles. "But…" and she looked back at Karrin. "Peasants just sit around. We're Porters. We walk!" And she lunged upwards with a fist. "Let's look around in the smoke at least. Please?"

Karrin muttered, "No. I already… I already saw something. Something bad."

And she fought against her own impatience. It was what Antonio would do. He would think, and wait. He would do the thing that kept them alive. “We need to wait for Tonton and Mama. We’ve never been here, but they’ll know what to do.”

Naomi blinked. And it may have sunk into her mind that this was not an ordinary stop. Her legs bent and she crouched on two feet, making herself look very small, arms wrapped around her knees. “You really are scared, aren’t you.”

Karrin said nothing, but her face hardened into a cold gaze ahead, staring blankly.

Naomi continued. “You’re scared for me.”

“Yes. Everyone here is dead. I’m going to keep you safe.”

Around them the incense smoke swirled and lazily hung in the still air. It hid from view the stains of blood on the walls and covered up the smell of rotting corpses. The pilgrims sat nervously in the middle of it all, muttering. Wondering if they, too, were about to join the choir of eternal silence.

Naomi shivered at a phantom chill. Things felt weird. Different. What was this? Perhaps for the first time she felt the anxious cold grip of real fear tug at the back of her neck. Karrin held the handle of her walking stick tightly.

They just had to wait.

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