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' ' As I look at the grave, broken, a billion words cross my mind, a thousand reach the tip of my mouth, only three come out. I'm so sorry. ' ' 

((some description of graphic violence and harsh language follow, also the pronoun I is used a million times, so bear with me))

 

These handwritten journals were recovered from his coat. Please, please don't leak that shit online, the Great Bear situation has already caused enough grief. Three families would be devastated if they read this.  Not even the cops can know. Understand?

- - - - -

November 9th, 07:38 pm

Jen and I had just moved in late summer, working at the Thomson's Crossing market. Just enough to make ends meet, but sustainable until next spring, maybe even summer. She is very kind and helpful to all the decrepit old people here, those rightfully forgotten by civilization. I help her out every chance I get only so that I can look at those beautiful eyes again. We grow closer every day, so much so that we'll be more than friends soon. Fingers crossed.

November 13th, 12:54 pm

Her fucking ex Brian shows up, "to help with woodcutting for the winter ahead" he says. Jesus Christ, can't a guy catch a break? Bastard moved to Vancouver after he cheated on her, he shouldn't even be here. Jen assures me she's done with him, but I know different. She's an angel, but she also can be pretty blind sometimes. He will take her from me, and she will suffer again. No, I don't think so. I watch him unload his luggage as Jen finishes talking to me, and then I feel it. A cold blast from the north, the early sign of deep winter, knocks down one of our stands. I am forced to kneel to pick up the fruit off the broken stand on the ground as he passes by. He smirks at me when she responds to his greeting. Jen notices.

December 20th, 08:23 am

I woke up early today, eager to get some cooking done at the Community Hall. Jen always was better at the farming than the cooking part, so she was tending to the greenhouse. We worked together great that way. Father Thomas had come over to clean some cutlery over the sink, making small talk as he says the weather is about to get even more "pleasant". My first instinct was to reply "Why don't you ask your totally not fake god to help you stay warm?" but I kept silent. Jen likes it here, and I don't want to push her to leave until she's ready. This place was hardly our first choice in employment, I remembered. I went out the back to throw away yesterday's trash when I saw him, chopping some wood. Asshole keeps in shape, gotta hand him that. Brian calls my name as I turn to go back inside. I pretend to listen as he tells me he wants to come clean, that he isn't interested in Jen, that all three of us can be friends and push through what he hears will be the coldest winter in decades. I agree, only to get closer and work out what he really wants. I can expose him, then Brian will go away and Jen will be grateful for all I've done. We will be together, at last.

January 16th or 18th or 23rd or 29th, around 11 am or noon or 1pm or 3 pm

How could it get so much worse? I remember the sky, the lights, the thunderous crash in the mountains above. We had to run, I told her. Everyone was going crazy just minutes after the heaters were fried. Not enough wood for everyone's stoves, someone said. Even if there was, a crappy stove or fireplace is little comfort to the unnatural cold the aurora accompanied. Father Thomas called to all of us to remain calm and stay together at the Community Hall, but there was no chance in hell I would let Jen stay here to freeze in the cold. We had to reach the highway, seek help. Brian had an idea instead of going through a dangerous mine, we could reach Mystery Lake through the old Carter Dam, and then find our way to the Coastal Highway through the Ravine. He insisted we stuck together, since his "Forest talker buddies" told him where to go in case of an emergency. Naturally, son of a bitch couldn't just tell us. We had to stay together. I thought to myself there's no other way, for now. I take a few seconds more than usual preparing my pack as I take a quick trip to the Community Hall before moving out. Others started running in all directions along with us but I doubt they made it. So chaotic were their movements, so rushed was their inventory management. Some were old residents, or "mainlanders" like us. Pet animals had better instinct, if you asked me. While in the Dam, I found just what I needed  in a flower pot. If it comes to it, that is. We made the journey over the course of a few days, narrowly avoiding wildlife and the cold. Without weapons of any sort, it was truly harrowing. When we reached the Coastal Highway, we went for the island to the east. The other one seems to have a ton of rabbits around, but not as big a  dwelling as far as we can see. Not to mention that the west end of the highway is collapsed. This complicates things, with the weather getting worse and all. The house seems well stocked with supplies.We might be stuck here for a while, so that's helpful. I check the porch outside for any signs or personal items of the owner as Jen and Brian walk in. Nothing but creaky, worn down floorboards covered in snow.

Four days later, around dusk

Jen and I have gotten closer. Soon after settling in, I showed her the MRE I found back in the dam and gave it to her as a present. I also gave her the spare key to my backpack lock and invited her to take anything else she wants, seeing as we have to stick together to make it. I also like Brian more. He seems like a decent, remorseful man after all. I listened to Jen whispering to him that he was treading on thin ice (funny) peeking through the bathroom door as she changed. I'm hurt, but I have to believe he accidentally walked in on her. He exclaimed as much, and he's not his old self, so I believe him.

Two days later, around 10pm? or midnight?

I can't stay here anymore. Mere minutes ago, I caught them together in her bed. Brian and I were sleeping on the couches downstairs, Jen had the bed on the floor above. I woke up dehydrated, but it seems the need for a glass of water was trivial now. I saw she was pushing him away, while he was naked, trying to lift the blanket she had for the night. As I quietly prepared my backpack to leave, I heard him plead, saying how sorry he was to her, that it was a moment of weakness after drinking dry that old whiskey bottle he found. She was furious at him, shouting he should never have come close to Thomson's Crossing to begin with. Then she turns to me, warns me that she knows. Asking her to clarify, she only says "You wanted to get rid of him since day one, at any cost." No matter how she knows, I hope she also knows that wasn't the case anymore. Whatever he's done, I am done being angry. I hold back my urge to run away into the cold until there's enough light to see.

Next morning, just after dawn

They both exited the house as I did, looking to explore the other island, finally. Jen was angry at him, but was willing to stay with Brian only until "that house is searched for anything that can be useful until help comes. I'm done with Brian after that, and on my own." I only wish I had told her how I felt earlier, how much I loved her. I respond when she asks where I will go, "Home, I guess". With tears in my eyes, I watch them from the porch as they go scavenging. I take a minute to check I have everything and begin walking, too. Back to Pleasant Valley, where it all started. As I near the highway to make my way to the Raven Falls Trestle, I hear two loud bangs. Gunshots? In the fog, I can barely see where they are, but the sounds came from near where we parted ways. The other island, maybe? An angry occupant who didn't like two strangers approaching their property, like that woman in the Pleasant Valley Farmhouse that has a custom to fire broadhead arrows at visitors? No matter what, I ran away. I was heartbroken, and I couldn't ever go back.

One day later, at sunset

I was crossing the bridge between the Farmhouse and the huge Barn, back in "Pleasant" Valley. Making my way back to Thomson's Crossing, I was unsure of what to do next. The region changed, so quiet and alien now. Whatever happened that night wasn't temporary like we thought. Is the world itself changing? There's no way to know, no way to contact anyone to confirm or deny it. My thoughts are interrupted by Brian, fucking Brian, shouting at me with Jen right next to him. His left thigh is bandaged, and he can hardly support his weight on his other leg. He says I shot at them both, he calls me a psychopath. She says I have to stop what I'm doing, that I need help. I tell her, stressing every word, I have no idea who the shooter was. Why would I shoot at her, too? The asshole says I missed intentionally, to take him out and scare her into coming back to me. As I try to explain that's not true, he punches me in the face. I stumble with over 90 pounds (40 kg) of supplies pulling me down. I try to steady myself at the side of the bridge, but he wastes no time as he keeps kicking and punching, even as I am dangerously close to falling over. Jen tries to stop him, but he won't have it. Brian hits her with his elbow, and she falls to the ground. My anger is raging, but I have no time to respond. He holds my neck over the edge with his injured leg, trying to pin me down  in a position I can't get up from. Half my body is over the edge, too, and my eyes can't meet his, with his boot in my face. I don't even see the surprise on his when I kick him in the other knee, but I know it hurt a lot. He screams in pain, whimpering that he wouldn't kill me, that he was trying to scare me into admission, and Jen comes to help him up. Even now, she refuses to pick a side. I pushed myself slightly backwards when I kicked him in the kneecap, and now I realize what happens next. Jen and I have a brief moment, I wish it could last forever. I can only say "I would never hurt anyone to be with you" before the fall. The snowbank doesn't make it a straight drop, but an uneven block of ice in the frozen river below stops my tumble abruptly, enough to black out. The last words I hear are Brian's: "Jen, the trapper, near the lake". As I drift away, I think I'm actually dying.

who fucking cares anymore

It took me a few hours or days or whatever to get up. I feared hypothermia was about to set in, but got lucky with a small barn just a short distance before I crossed the bridge. It was time to end this. I rested for a while and headed towards the path we took the first time, through the other side of the dam. My condition worsened every minute, but I had to get to her, those perfect eyes being a constant reminder of the love and warmth that she projects. Maybe she will see what he did to me and realize how much I care. She will, she will. I found the lake, the nearby Camp Office and the map of the region pinned to a notification board within. I could see only one point a trapper could be as far away from people as possible but as close to animals as possible. I made my way there, and what is there to greet me but..not just footsteps, but also blood. A lot of it sprayed around, two trails leading to the lone cabin ahead. I fear for Jen's safety, in Brian's company even more so. I run through the snow as much as my body can through broken ribs, the frozen air punishing my lungs for trying. My strained heart pounds in my head, but I have no more time left, I have to hurry. I finally make it and see one body, one body that belongs to the filthiest fuck that's ever lived. He is lying just a few feet away from the cabin, on his back, looking up at the sky as a blizzard is about to sweep through. The first few snowflakes begin to fall. I yell at him, barely keeping my words coherent. I want to know where she is, but all he says is the trapper is away hunting, so all their cries for help went unanswered. He is bloody all over, body parts bitten left and right, and there's shock in his eyes. I press on the shot leg to wake him up, and repeat the question: "Where is she?". He cries in pain as I hear another voice to the right that tells me to stop. Jen, my poor Jen, hidden under snow and even more badly mauled. With a weakness in her voice, she explains how a huge bear with arrows sticking out its back attacked them both, ambushed them just as they got close to the cabin. Brian whimpers through a sentence, telling me how he wishes he could've helped her if he wasn't shot.The fucking asshole pretends he knows how important and precious she is. I look at her again. Only now I notice one of her eyes is not in its socket anymore. "You fucking selfish coward. I won't let you get away with this. I WON'T!" Before I know it, the revolver is in my hand, pointing at his head. Jen must be mortified, but I can't check right now. I  talk as fast as I can, because he doesn't have long and I want to see the fear in his eyes. I explain that I found it in Carter Hydro Dam next to an MRE, how I hid it under a board in the crappy porch, how I realized Jen was reading my journal with that backpack key I gave her. I knew she kept Brian up to date, afraid of what I would do. I didn't intend for her to read it, so I had to write bullshit about how he was a better guy, so he wouldn't anticipate it. Even lying about the gunshots as insurance, in case she read my journal in the future. In fact, I planned to end him the minute the lights in the sky fried everything. This gift from the stars, the unnatural aurora borealis, gave me all the cover I needed. I could have Jen and send his abusive ass to hell, without anyone knowing. I would just shoot him under cover of fog, fire a warning shot at Jen and she would run to where I told her I would be. We would have made it, I shout at him, if I was a better shot, if I hadn't missed his fucking head. I'm no sharpshooter, so I guess less than two feet (half a meter) will do. I see Jen just as frightened as he now is, and my heart sinks. I sit down near her, my revolver still pointed at him, and I'm begging her to understand. She's barely audible now, swearing she would never make a choice, no matter what he or I did, good or bad. I assure her that when he's gone, she won't have to. I struggle to stand back up, and get ready to take the shot. I close my eyes for a second to concentrate, and even though I imagined him trying to get up and stop me, he only says "If you had given her that gun, she would be safe. From the bear, and from y- -            The revolver kicks back in my hand. I know I didn't miss, because his pathetic crying has stopped. Jen looks at me like I'm a monster. I try to prove to her I am anything but, showing her the adrenaline stim I took from the Community hall before we left. What does it matter to those lost souls anyway? Hardly any of them could have survived by now, what is one stim missing when the only person who needs it is here? I am about to administer it when two bloody hands hold me back. "This will help you! Buy you time until I get you some help!"."Get..away...from...me!", a ghost with Jen's voice talks back. She's so frail now, there's no time! She's only confused, I assure myself. But those weak, precious arms don't want to move. By the time I make them move, another sentence makes me freeze in place. "I wish...I wish I...". Then nothing. I realize why her hands no longer hold mine away. There is nothing now in her eye. It's frozen in place, looking at ever increasing amounts of snow as it falls. I hold back a bitter scream, refusing to mourn until I make it right. My poor, sweet Jen. If I hadn't fucked up, I would've been here instead of him. You'd be safe. I dig through the snow whatever way I can: hands, revolver, hands again. I feel my breath weaken further as I finish digging the second hole. One because it's evidence, the other because I can't let my sweet Jen be defiled further. I will finish this, even though it's the last thing I can do. The stim is in my hand, but I rest it on her chest before I push snow and rocks over it. There's no reason for me to use it. Standing up feels like an impossible feat now. I take one last look at her grave, complete with a crudely made cross. As I look at the grave, broken, a billion words cross my mind, a thousand reach the tip of my mouth, only three come out. "I'm so sorry". I tell her, as if she's still here: "I wish I was with you sooner, too". I walk away with new strength, a new goal, certain I can keep going to get back to the camp office, maybe find a way to start a fire, burn this last journal entry, and come to rest back here, with her. I think of how much stronger she makes me, as I fall face down a hill away from the Trapper's Cabin, under a featureless, small tree. I don't think I can make any body part stand again, but I feel sleepy and the blizzard is beginning to cover me up in snow, so it's OK. Change of plan, I guess. As much as I hated everyone, as much as you stupidly pulled away from me, as much as I should have forced you to see itI love you, Jen.

.

.

.

Jen's Diary , August 29th, 18:37

Warm day today. Pensive Pond is looking like a dream for picnics, butterflies floating and birds were chirping.... Uhhh...New at this journal thing, to be honest. Hell, I'm not even sure I'll remember to do it tomorrow. Anyway, I think this needs to be somewhere written down, so that I will remember, at least. There's something wrong with my taste in men, isn't there? Brian texted me , saying he wants a job at Great Bear, where I literally arrived yesterday. Must have seen my Instagram upload, that creep. I said no about ten times, but he swears he doesn't want me back, just that he needs someone to help with moving so far away from Vancouver. Whatever the case may be, I won't help at all. Of course he'll come, and I will remind myself of the day he left me the minute he tries anything again. No ifs or buts. To be honest, Brian's hardly any trouble compared to the man I'm here with. To be honest, Max is scaring me. He looks at my eyes, but somehow also through them. He...he examines my face, my hands, my legs, when I'm not looking right at him. Not even in a creepy "I don't wait for permission" way, just like...like I'm a porcelain doll and he rushes to make sure noone dropped me or cracked any pieces of me. I am genuinely terrified at times. What would he do to Brian, if he showed up? I wanted someone to talk to away from home, perhaps more than a friend, but this...No way. After next summer ends, I am so gone. Alone. He respects my wishes enough. I have to believe that he won't hurt me, even if...I told him I can hardly look at him? God, Max, I wish I never met you.

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Hey everyone. In case you stuck with this long story (or an attempt at one) and enjoyed it (partially at least?) I wanted to let you know there's a couple easter eggs: The misanthrope lives in Misanthrope's Homestead (duh) for a little while, also the bridge where the fight breaks out is Heartbreak Bridge in Pleasant Valley. Obviously there's a weird love triangle and heartbreak for the protagonist sets in fully after he falls off that bridge. Also his name is Max, and his last stand is just a short distance away from the trapper's cabin. Not to mention that him saying "I'm so sorry" in front of the grave cross is an homage to the very first gameplay footage from the Long Dark alpha. Max is a total creep by the way and he objectifies the woman he "loves", so that was weird for me to write. Maybe a bit too cringy, but I felt I wanted to tell that story about people deliberately hurting each other in the apocalypse. I will be sticking to shorter ones as per usual (the other three are shorter) because I imagine most people probably didn't read because they don't have all day 😆

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