Chapter One: A Strange and Stressful Beginning

My mind was in a blur as I stumbled through the woods. I think George lied to me about not putting anything in the punch otherwise I wouldn’t feel like s***. I should have not come to this party, but no I just had to cave to the speckled-eyed bastard.

 Now I’m wandering in the middle of the woods during the middle of the night most likely bordering on pass-out drunk, with no phone and no sense of direction of how to get back to the party. Not that would likely be missed, you see I’m not exactly what you consider unpopular but I’m not Mr. Varsity either. With how I looked one might think I play sports with my stocky frame and my squarish jaw, but I prefer to read or go hunting.

I weaved my way throughout the oak forest hoping to at least get back to the main road and call someone to drive me back to campus, and I know for sure it is not going to be George.

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The whole forest seemed to blur together as time went by; I kept walking, almost stumbling over a tree root, then something caught my eye, a clear patch of the forest! I felt myself lurch forward as the dizziness in my head got more intense, but out of desperation, I went a little bit faster, and then I saw light at the end of the clearing.

“Hey! Anybody out there!” I slurred whilst raising my hands above my head to show I meant no harm.

No one responded so I approached carefully trying to say I needed directions to the main road, but because my head was so muddled it came out as incoherent gibberish. ‘Man I don’t feel so good’ ran through my head before I leaned on something and threw up in it, I shook my head and realized it was one of those old-fashioned hand-cranked wells.

Before I could process this the decaying clay brick crumbled underneath my weight and I tumbled headfirst into the well, then everything went black.

Then everything hit me all at once I couldn’t breathe and I was soaked flailing around as I rapidly opened my eyes. Panic surged throughout my body as I saw distorted light above my head momentarily when my head peaked out of the water, the current dragged me back under as I gasped for air.

Water filled my lungs as I struggled toward the surface screaming at the top of my lungs, “ HELP!” I once again was dragged underneath by the current until I flipped around some more and slammed back into something hard. I let out a pained grunt as I latched onto whatever I hit, pulling myself up through the adrenaline rush crawling up on what felt like a small cliffside.

To round off my amazing display of athleticism I proceeded to throw up river water. As I came to my senses I looked around and saw I was in a cave of some sort that had crystal clear water flowing out of it that led to… somewhere. Speaking of crystals I was surrounded by them whether it was from the walls or the ceiling and some even spirated up from the floor. Oh and they glowed like fireflies, yep I am convinced that I am hallucinating, after all, what type of well leads to a cave.

I looked at the cliffside I was laying on, it was about as wide as a school bus was long and was man-made with how smooth the ground was excluding a strange number of deep grooves that lined the cave wall and floor. The path seemed to follow the river as well. I looked down at the rapidly moving water that almost killed me with the crystal’s light flashing. It looked like a ten-foot drop from where I now stood, guess adrenaline is one hell of a drug, huh.

I got close to the end of the wall part of the cliffside as I walked toward where the river followed, taking in the strange beauty of the cave. It didn’t take me long to reach the cave mouth and I reached outside to see dawn barely peeking out from a heavy cloud cover and to see the once-mighty river become something more of creak as it split into multiple parts cutting through a forest, I then gazed into the forest to see if there were any other options besides going into the forest.

Nope of course not why would there be, this is just great. I proceeded into the forest just to realize how bad I was shivering the farther I got away from the cave and how soaked my clothes were. I need to get out of this forest and find out where I am, preferably a place with warmth so I don’t catch hypothermia. Thank God it looks like the sun will fully rise in about an hour.

After I trudged through the forest for about half an hour I heard something behind me as nearby bushes were rustling, probably just a deer or something… I just had to think that I didn’t. Nope, what rose out from those bushes was a goddamn bear. It towered over me on its haunches, virtually most likely about no more than three yards away standing about eight feet tall. It glared at me so I raised my hands backing away from the grizzly to make it seem I was a bigger threat than I was and kept on backing up from the thing. 

. The bear got on all fours and made a grunting noise as it started to pick up speed toward me. I started to run as I felt like the bear was not going back down.  It was a spur of the moment decision that seemed correct during the time, but it caught up and smacked me to the ground with a swipe of its paw knocking all of the air out of me as its head hovered over my face about to clamp down on my throat until something flashed above my head and then suddenly a foot and half spine — like from a porcupine — was lodged into the bear skull as it toppled onto me. 

I squirmed my way out from underneath the bear corpse as I ran in the opposite direction from the thing that might have done it and my spine quivered as its victory cry echoed from behind like a horrid mixture between a lion roar and an eagle screech.

I couldn’t stop as my legs refused to stop as a primal sort of fear powered me back to the mouth of the cave I came out from which looked like a haven from whatever that thing behind me was. I wouldn’t even stop as I went past those strange markings again as I continued to haul it to a large opening in the wall and decide to hide in there.

As I caught my breath I realized how large the area was; it was slightly bigger than a football stadium with a small oval-shaped rock peeking out of the middle of the area, with the illuminating crystals surrounding the cave made the rock seem like some sort of centerpiece.

 I walked over to it and sat against it and breathed deeply trying to catch my bearings, then a ludicrous idea came to my head. It sort of made sense. At least it would have to, otherwise, I’m crazy. So the conclusion I came to is that I have been isekai-ed.

It sounds so stupid but there is no rational way I can explain it even if I exclude the whole falling into a well and ending up in a river that runs through a cave. I’m pretty sure that grizzly bears do not live in the Midwest of The United States and I’m certain that whatever killed the bear is not something from planet earth. My hair stood on end as I realized I would need to try it at least once to see if it happened. So I stood up and held out my right arm with my palm facing outward and said, “ Status!” Nothing happened except for my voice echoing across the cave. Welp that was dumb, luckily nobody saw that.

Means that I don’t have an ungodly cheat that kick-starts an adventure that makes my character seem bland and one-dimensional like every generic isekai protagonist. I was pretty certain I also wasn’t summoned by some sort of kingdom or theocracy to slay *insert generic demon lord name here*.

I leaned back against the rock and calmed myself down, and then it hit me. If I’ve been sent to another world does that mean I’ll never go back? My mom and dad might get worried and I might never get to see them again. My chest suddenly felt very tight and yet very empty all of the sudden in a way that was hard to explain. I felt so many things at once like guilt, sadness, anger, and frustration. All of these things hit and my head felt dizzy.

I think I need to get some fresh air, so I took a step outside the cavern and out of the cave; knelt by the creek and scooped up some water, and washed the grime off my face. I took a deep breath and noticed that the cloud cover was gone and the sun was finally high enough in the sky where I could sit in the sunshine and get warm, so I took off my shoes, shirt, and socks to let them dry off.

The silence was deafening as I sat by the cave opening, besides the gentle breeze on my skin and the trickling of the streams beside me there was no other noise. I sighed and realized there is no point in throwing a pity party for myself right now. I need food and shelter. I would like to boil the water that flows in the river to get rid of possible parasites but I don’t have the tools needed for a fire or a way to hold the water. I went into the cave to see if there were any supplies. I know it is a long shot but I need to try and I am not heading back into where that thing that killed the bear was. So I put my shoes, shirt, and socks back on and got to walking back.

As I walked up the pathway I went back to the cavern in the cave that had the rock sticking out of the middle. I paced around the perimeter where the light of the crystals didn’t reach and as I almost made a full circle my foot knocked into something and then a person fell on top of me. I yelled and pushed the person off of me and placed my foot behind me and raised my fists getting ready to defend myself from the unknown threat.

But what showed up the pulsating crystal light was more terrifying than an intruder, a skeleton laid at my feet covered with a steel helmet with a nose guard, a chainmail hauberk, and leather bracers over his hand-woven clothes that were no more than discolored rags now. His shoes — if you could even call them that — were poorly made and looked like they were leather scraps that were put together in a haste. But I found out why he died. A steel dagger was shoved deeply through his orbital socket, so deep in fact that the dagger was shoved to the crossguard. I looked near to where the skeleton was and found a short spear and an enormous burlap backpack. I looked over at the skeleton with pity, “ Sorry, buddy I need these more than you.” I hesitantly take the armor off gently to not scratch it and wiggle the dagger out of the skull. The backpack had a small set of utensils for cooking hanging off the sides of the pack, a moth-eaten sleeping bag, and a fire starter. Along with the sheath that goes to the steel dagger, whoever stabbed this skeleton probably knew him well enough to get his dagger.

After putting on the armor I decided to take off and find some food nearby the creek. After all, where there is water, animals are guaranteed to show up. Before I left I went over to the rock and knelt and rubbed the top of it; for some reason, it feels like it’s kinda warm and when I look at it; it feels like I have a sense of comfort toward it.

Well, I can worry about the rock later, running for your life works up an appetite so I need to fix that. I walked out of the cave, spear in hand with the knife now strapped to my belt, no point in bringing anything else that might give away my position or slow me down.

I kept close to the main part of the creek to make sure I didn’t lose my way back and to ensure my way back to the cave as fast as possible. After all, if there are bears out here and things that can kill them I doubt that I could escape an encounter without injury.

As I journeyed by the riverbed I noticed something, it was a brown rabbit about the size of a small dog drinking by the river. Before it could react I threw the spear nailing it in the back of the head killing it instantly. I dashed over, not even bothering to remove the rabbit from the spear, and immediately took off towards the cave again, there is no way in hell I am going to stay around to find out what other nasties might be lurking in this forest.

Of course, nothing is easy and I felt like something was watching me and I was not going to turn to see what it was. I reached the mouth of the cave and dashed inside and sat down on the rabbit carcass beside the oval-shaped rock and once I felt safe I went to the edge of the woods picking up some branches that littered the forest floor.

After coming back with the branches I set up a makeshift campfire and made some rabbit stew and boiled some water to drink. It didn’t matter that there were no spices. I was hungry and trust me the stew was delicious.

“Now what?” I questioned myself, there is nothing really to keep myself safe besides hide myself in this cave and hope nothing comes and kills me in my sleep tonight. It is not like I can blockade the mouth of the cave or even the cavern I’m currently in, I don’t have the correct materials or tools.

I feel sort of helpless and it pisses me off…huh. I slump against the rock and exhaustion seems to take over my body after I realize how much I have been doing today and then I feel it again, the heat pulsating from it.

 A comfortable feeling washes over me like everything was going to be fine and I am not sure why but I believed it. Whatever ‘it’ was, I was so drowsy after all the action today.

Yeah, sleep sounds good and for all, I know this rock is evil as sin and is probably pulling some One Ring b******* on me right now but I am way too tired to care, and being a dark lord sounds a lot better than sitting in a cave in the middle of nowhere with no sense of security outside of sleep.

My body slid across the cool smooth stone using the backpack as a pillow, leaving the sleeping bag aside because I was too tired to care about slipping into it or even taking off the armor, so my consciousness left me.

My eyes were blurred as I woke up and something felt off, my bed was unnaturally hard and low to the ground. I sat up and rubbed my eyes realizing I did not in fact dream about what happened before I went to sleep. Well, there goes the sliver of hope that I was mentally ill and not in mortal danger.

I got up to check on how far the sun was down to make sure I didn’t just sleep away precious daylight. “Wait, that can’t be right.” I looked up at the sun’s position, based on where it currently sits in the sky. It should be about 7:00 A.M.

Did I just fall asleep the entire day!? I took a nap around 3:00 in the afternoon, meaning I have been asleep for sixteen hours!? I have never slept that much in my life even when I trained to run a marathon. I clutched my face with self-loathing, congrats James you could have just screwed yourself in so many ways it’s not even funny.

Well look, let’s try to figure out the positives of this like even though I slept for more than half a day I am not dead so there is one. Also even though night fell and this cave is enormous I have yet to see one creature beside me in there; this means there could be a force coming from inside the cave that marks it as a no-go zone for animals and even monsters like that thing that killed that bear.

I grabbed some supplies to make some traps for rabbits and other small creatures and I went once more in the forest leaving carved markers on trees to find my way back to the river. After I set up the traps it was time to play the waiting game so I thought ‘hey might as well try to figure out what is wrong with that rock’. I went over and hesitantly prodded the rock with the shaft of the spear because I was actually alert now and not extremely high on adrenaline and worrying about my imminent death from outside sources and not a warm rock that make you feel like your soul getting covered up with a blanket that came just out of the dryer… no focus!

The comforting effect was too strong already! I originally needed to make direct contact with the thing to feel its warmth but now I was standing about eight feet away. I can still feel it, and for some reason it made me notice things about it that I didn’t notice before. Like how the rock’s height went up barely past my abdomen and I stood about six foot three inches; the rock was probably a little more than three and a half feet around. The color of it also didn’t match up with the surrounding slate gray rock that made up most of the entire cave or the pulsating yellow crystals that gave off light.

It was a deep grayish-purple that almost perfectly blended in with the surrounding rock due to the relatively poor lighting in here. After prodding it a few more times I went over and poked it with my hand despite the alarms going off in my stupid ape brain not to touch it. But out of curiosity, I poked it, and… nothing happened besides the warm feeling washing over me even more intensely. Well, that was anticlimactic for all I knew; this is just something that just occurs naturally in these caves.

So I started my way out once more to go check if any of the traps caught anything because I was impatient. Or at least until I turned my head around in horror barely making it toward the exit of the pocket of the cave after hearing the stone crack.

Is it too late to start running?


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