Red pools at night,
Red pools at morning,
Travelers take warning.
Incident 053/682/1129/354 - 1:
On 12/9/20██, at 21:07 hours, escaped anomalies SCP-053, SCP-682, and SCP-1129 arrived at Area-354 and breached containment of SCP-354. Escaped anomalies proceeded to enter SCP-354. Combined exposure to SCP-053 and SCP-1129 caused widespread panic among the staff of Area-354.
Quarseta began to relax for the long trip as she felt the form of Atanti below her, stretching out to form a long neck and streamlined fins, and protected above by tsa-Fanu's twinkling lights. She still wasn't quite sure how Atanti had found this place, but she could still remember the joy on his face a few days back when he burst into the cavern they had turned into a house, saying something about singing with a star and having possibly found a way home. Whether or not they were headed home, the place below all this redness had a definite sense of unearthliness, even from this far off.
Once they arrived, the first thing that Quarseta noticed were the differences. The sun here was huge and bright red, as if someone had set the pool they were standing in on fire and spread it across half of the sky. The land around her seemed perfectly flat, but the horizon still seemed too close. There was so little wind that she almost wondered if there was any air at all. The landscape wasn't the only thing that had changed; Quarseta herself felt like a child again, fragile and naïve. Tsa-Fanu seemed closer together, like someone wearing elaborate robes rather than a twirling cloud. Atanti, giant as he was, seemed dwarfed by the vastness of this place.
Quarseta climbed on Atanti's back as their group waded onto the green padded shore. After traveling for a few hours, they left the mossy ground behind and began walking on a rocky area, followed shortly by a large plain of short grass. Quarseta tried to hop off and walk while the lush, cool grass was underfoot, but hopped back on Atanti very quickly after the grass began to cut through her shoes and feet. The scratches healed quickly, but they stung just the same.
After a few more hours of traveling, they stopped to rest near a grove of what looked like trees where the grass was drier and not as sharp. Quarseta drifted off quickly in the shade while tsa-Fanu kept watch. It took Atanti a bit longer to drift off. A mixture of hope and doubt swirled through his mind, crowding out thoughts of sleep. Everything about this place seemed like something that would fit perfectly in the home that he new, yet he didn't recognize any of it. The land and sky around him seemed like that had come straight out of one of the tales that his elders used to tell, just impossible enough to maintain wonder, yet familiar enough to be relatable. These thoughts continued to twirl and flow until they became faint and murky in the depths of the behemoth's sleep.
Quarseta was awoken by a small object bumping into her leg over and over again. She groggily opened an eye and looked down to see a fuzzy green ball about the size of a baseball. After a few more tries at rolling over her leg, the ball seemed to give up, just before unrolling itself. The resulting creature looked like an odd combination of weasel, armadillo, and pillbug. Having a small, alien creature climb on your lap is almost as good as coffee, and Quarseta woke the rest of the way up very quickly. Looking around, she saw that there were a few dozen of the creatures all around them. A few were curiously observing the three intruders, but most of them were crawling around, stripping the ground of the dead grass. Wherever they crawled, they left lines of exposed red earth with little bits of green just beginning to poke out. Unfortunately, they didn't get to enjoy the creatures' company for more than a few minutes. A loud, metallic roar echoed across the area from no particular direction, sending the pillweaseldillos rolling into the woods, and at least one scampering into her pack.
"That didn't sound familiar," said Atanti, trying to mask the worry on his snout. "We'd better be on our way again."
They traveled few days, slowly working through the supply of rabbits and water that they had packed. Quarseta had found that she was unable to coax out the creature from her pack when they were ready to depart, and ultimately decided to dub it "Tooki" and bring it along. In an effort to combat the stillness and silence that surrounded them, the travelers constantly swapped stories and riddles. Every now and then, the silence would win out, for stories could only last for so long, and time seemed longer than it should have been in that place.
Eventually, they reached what appeared to be a giant, iron wall. While Atanti and tsa-Fanu could have broken through it with only a bit of work, the group decided to explore down the wall a bit and see if they couldn't find an outpost or guard of some sort. While they never were able to find what they were looking for, they were able to find a rather large hole in the wall. The grass still grew on the other side, but it was all a glossy black color. The most interesting thing, however, was a large triangle of greenish fabric, with what looked and felt like a papery wasps' nest plastered on one side. Atanti identified it as a kind of journal, and promised Quarseta that he would show her how to read it as soon as they reached a town or city.
The travelers began to advance at record speed. Atanti seemed to have been reinvigorated by the scrap of familiarity, speeding the group past rocky towers and strange places where the world seemed to tip upside down. After about a week, they reached a second wall. This wall stood in stark contrast to the previous one; while the iron wall had seemed plain, practical, and foreboding, this wall sparkled in shades of emerald, and was covered in beautiful intricate carvings. This wall even had small tunnels moving through it so that you could reach the opposite side with only a bit of work.
Emerging on the other side, they were greeted by brilliant colors which cannot be found in our world. Reddish-greens and yellowish-blues and colors from light across the spectrum and other colors which didn't even really exist at all. Small plants which tried their hardest to transcend the duality of life and death, wide open meadows, towering palaces. The travelers couldn't help but look at the world around them in awe.
The entire illusion was shattered with a loud, metallic roar which echoed across the area from no particular direction
The group of the three travelers and Tooki turned tail and ran. They were pursued by some giant, grey thing on ten legs. Slithering around its feet were long chains of stone with snapping jaws. If they thought they had been moving quickly to reach the second wall, they now knew that they had been moving very slowly indeed. Yet, no matter how fast they ran, they never seemed to put any distance between themselves and the beasts. It was just before they reached the first wall that they caught them.
The grey beast lunged at Atanti, pinning him down and knocking Quarseta off of his back and into the sharp, ebony grass. While Atanti grappled with the beast, tsa-Fanu focussed on subduing two of the stone creatures, while a third lunged at Quarseta. It closed its jaws around her ankle, not realizing that it had signed its own death warrant by doing so. Something in the creature's mind shattered, and its life simply stopped. Though the stones were dead, Quarseta still screamed in pain, the crystals which were now forming in the wound refusing to heal.
A sharp shriek pierced the air, funneling into Atanti's ears.
Quarseta was hurt.
Quarseta needed him.
Atanti's tail whipped around one of the beast's legs and threw it into the distance. He turned his attention to his young friend, swung her onto his back, and began to run. Only one thought filled his mind: get her to safety.
He watched as the very world around him twisted, trying to end their lives and their search. He didn't care. The silence tried to slow them. His speed broke through it. The trip in had taken days. The trip out could only take a few hours.
The group reached the red pool just as the great red sun began to set. Tsa-Fanu helped to move Quarseta from Atanti's back. The pinpricks from her fall had healed, and the crystals on her leg no longer seemed to be growing, but she was drifting in and out of consciousness. The two elder travelers began to prepare to descend into the pool just as the grey beast crested the horizon, repeating once again its terrible roar. Atanti knew what that roar meant. It would not stop. It would follow them through the pool.
Atanti nodded at Edrisek-tsa-Fanu, who covered Quarseta's ears. Atanti then turned to face the beast. He had often wondered why the humans feared and imprisoned him. He knew that, to some degree, it was because of how alien their natures were to each other. But perhaps that was not all, perhaps they had another reason to fear him. He was powerful to them. To them, he was death. He was Atanti-ql-Paneu, the Deathless Traveler. And this place had injured his friend.
Incident 053/682/1129/354 - 2:
On 12/21/20██, at 03:29 hours, escaped anomalies SCP-053, SCP-682, and SCP-1129 emerged from SCP-354 and escaped Area-354. Combined exposure to SCP-053 and SCP-1129 caused widespread panic among the staff of Area-354. No further entities observed to emerge from SCP-354 as of this Incident.
The group's home-sweet-hole was very quiet the next few days, almost as if they had brought some of that place's silence back with them. Atanti stayed out hunting for most of the days, and only spoke at home when he needed to answer a question. Tsa-Fanu busied themself with small repairs around the cavern, and helped Quarseta with her reading in their spare time. Quarseta spent most of her time laying in bed with Tooki to keep her company, working through the journal that they had found. The crystals that had formed around the bite on her leg had stopped growing, but the wound was still taking a while to heal.
Atanti came in from hunting late one night with a solemn look about him.
"We're going to stop looking."
"We can't keep looking for the way back home. I made a single mistake in thinking that place was home, and look what happened. We can't afford to have something like this happen again, so we're stopping."
Quarseta let Atanti's declaration sink in for a moment.
"We can't stop Atanti. Look, this journal was written by someone called Tepur-zin-Umhed. She was just like us, a traveler trying to find her way home. She's already explored several ways that might get us home, which means that we wouldn't have to try those places. She also wrote about some other ways that she had found that might be able to get us home, and others like us that we might try talking to. It's all right here Atanti, everything that we need to know to get back home. You don't really want to give up, that's the worry speaking. But neither of us want to give up either. We need to keep trying."
Quarseta saw that he still hadn't forgiven himself, but her speech seemed to have gotten rid of a bit of his melancholy and self-doubt.
"Very well. But we won't start up again until that leg is fully healed, understand?"
Red day and night,
Travelers take flight.
Red pool behind,
Travelers' adventure to find.