There’s a certain feeling you get when you walk alone down a gravel road, surrounded by whispering trees and nothing more than your own thoughts. I’ve always believed that our truest selves come into focus during those quiet moments, when our minds are free to wander, unencumbered by the buzz and hum of a world gone mad.
I’ve taken these solitary walks for as long as I can remember, always a little bit further than my parents had thought safe. But the woods stretching out behind our house had always been my refuge, my playground, and my sanctuary. Whenever life took a sharp turn towards the shitty side of things, I’d head out on one of these walks to clear my head.
Years later, it still feels the same. My feet crunching on the gravel beneath me; the wind playing with the leaves above, their rustling sounding like faint whispers from long-lost friends. The world around me is heavy with secrets – memories buried in the rich, loamy soil, waiting to be uncovered. There’s a magic to be felt in these woods, but you have to be willing to take the time and listen.
Unfortunately for me, I’d discovered that some secrets were better left alone.
Somewhere down the line, things changed. The whispered secrets became sinister, and the air became thick with the stench of surveillance, control, and oppression. Somewhere down the line, Googlemort came to town.
Googlemort was no ordinary sheriff. He was a lean, mean disciplinarian machine, completely devoid of human warmth or empathy. A drinker of nightmares, a devourer of privacy. A monster in a badge’s clothing. It was said that he could see through walls, and hear the flutter of a butterfly’s wings from miles away. No one knew where he came from – it was like he’d materialized out of thin air one day.
In his iron grip, our sleepy little town was transformed. Googlemort’s beady eyes seemed to be everywhere: watching, listening, scrutinizing every inch of our lives. His minions – spindly, grim-faced things that slithered through the shadows and reported directly to the Sheriff – had infiltrated every corner of our existence. It was said that they could tap into your thoughts and spin your deepest fears into a living nightmare.
And they were everywhere. In every home, in every school, in every public space. Their reach was absolute.
My walks had changed too. The further I ventured, the quieter the woods grew. There was a stillness now that only served to stifle my thoughts. I could feel Googlemort’s icy gaze on me, like a cruel presence I couldn’t quite shake.
Despite their best efforts, I’d managed to keep one secret from Googlemort and his goons: the knowledge of the ancient grove hidden deep within the woods. An impossibly old, impossibly wise oak stood at its center, its massive trunk gnarled and twisted with the knowledge of millennia. Tendrils of energy snaked through its branches, sparking a web of life that stretched across the forest floor.
The grove had been my haven from the tyranny of Googlemort. They didn’t know about it. They couldn’t know about it. And so it remained free – a sliver of independence in a world where freedom was a distant memory.
I found myself there one day, standing before the ancient oak as I had done so many times before. My head was filled with the low hum of whispers – the knowledge of the forest seeping into my mind like water through a sponge. But there was something different today. A heavy tension lingered in the air.
And that’s when I saw her: a lone figure hunched beneath one of the heavy branches, her back to me. I approached, uncertain.
“Who are you?” I called out, cautious not to startle her. The woman didn’t respond. She seemed to be fumbling with something – an object that shimmered and glinted in the dappled sunlight. As I neared, I could see it was a pocket watch; antique, and clearly cherished.
“Are you lost?” I asked, louder this time. She looked up then, and I saw that she was weeping – great, heaving sobs that seemed to tear her apart.
“Please,” she whispered between sobs, “you have to help me. My daughter… she’s been taken. Googlemort’s minions took her.”
I stared at the woman in alarm. “What do they want with her?”
She shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t know. But if they’ve taken her, then she’s in terrible danger.”
I swallowed hard, my heart pounding in my chest. Deep down, I knew that this was it – this was the moment I’d been waiting for. The moment I’d seize back the freedom that Googlemort had stolen from us all.
“I know what we have to do,” I said, determination flooding my veins. “We have to destroy Googlemort.”
She stared at me through her tears, hope flickering in her eyes like a candle flame. “But how?”
I closed my eyes and listened to the whispers of the ancient grove. They had been my guide for so long, and now they were my strength. As a plan began to form in my mind, I felt the weight of destiny on my shoulders.
“We’re going to need help,” I said softly, staring up at the mighty oak before me. “And we’re going to need courage, and cunning, and faith.”
We were alone, but we were strong. And we would burn Googlemort’s reign of terror to the ground.
This was just the beginning.