(NOTE: In context, this is a newspaper article clipping from the Canaan Courier.)
A Village Asunder: The Terrified Town of Emon-Tertius.
By Rotherd Gambly.
A quiet village seven miles southwest of New Colprite with a population of only one hundred and three people, Emon-Tertius is a quiet settlement like any other in the Sumettran Expanse - modest sand-plaster houses sprinkled haphazardly on both sides of a country road fed by the odd greenhouse and water well, lit only by the lamps in their interiors and the phosphorescent holosigns of a pitstop or rest stop; shining jewels adorning plaster crowns in a barren land.
What sets Emon-Tertius apart from its neighbors of Saram and Brokkus, however, are stories darker than the desert nights they take place in.
The town sits and sleeps in the shadows of Caesar's Fortress, a massive abandoned citadel predating the tumultuous Unification Wars that ended more than two-hundred years ago. During the war, the fortress was subjected to a fifty-day siege from all-sides by the Canaan Independence Front in their campaign of resistance against Kemono Union rule. After it became clear that there was no end in sight to the bloodshed when it began to devolve into grinding attrition, the CIF surrendered and submitted to the Union following a seven-hour peace conference. Once the war had ended, Caesar's Fortress was no longer a strategically-important asset and was left at the mercy of scavengers and local wildlife.
But its story does not end here.
What neither the KU or CIF knew however, was that the citadel was built over a mile-wide underground cavern. With only one-hundred feet of sandstone separating the surface from the ceiling, and the combination of time, neglect, the building's sheer weight and the relentless barrage of artillery fire broke open a deep chasm right in the center of Caesar's Fortress, where it is still being slowly swallowed up by the planet, one slab at a time. If that wasn't enough, the fort's aging nuclear reactor had begun to drip radioactive sludge into the cave below, risking massive contamination of the nearby settlements despite being far from all known wellsprings and aquifers.
Now is the scary part: in the years following the slow sinking of Caesar's Fortress, locals claim to have witnessed disturbing sights in the area. Ghoulish revenants casting shadows against its walls, their claw-fingered silhouettes fertilizing nightmares as they clumsily skulk around its crenellated battlements. Faint, flickering lights glow a sickly chartreuse, peering past crumbling walls with a almost voyeuristic intent. But the most frequent and arguably the most frightening happenings of all are the sounds; bestial cries and the baleful, distorted howls of unknown beasts soar through the humid desert nights, frightening livestock and scaring infants out of slumber. There are many theories surrounding these activities, each one a spot on the spectrum from logical to ludicrous.
While the general consensus in the surrounding villages is that these are creatures and even people mutated by radiation, some insist that they are scavengers and prospectors foolish enough to ignore the quarantine signs around the fortress, succumbing to radiation poisoning and that the howls come from those foolish enough to venture inside, screaming as they fall through unstable ground. Superstitious patriots claim that these revenants are the souls of soldiers that have deserted the Kemono Union Armed Forces, damned by God to wander the battlefield for their treason. And then there are some who say that they are just local kids and teens dressed in costumes making horrid noises to scare people for a cheap laugh. There are many more explanations, but to list them all would turn this article into a book.
In conclusion, ask yourself this: are there truly monsters that prowl the deserts at night, cautionary tales by our mothers and fathers made flesh? Tales that tell of monsters spiriting mischievous children away at night for disobeying their parents or staying out past curfew, dismissed as legend, only to turn out to be true? Or are these what they truly seem to be - ghost stories to entertain the boring lives of people living forty miles away from the nearest cinema in the middle of a northern desert? Though it is up to the reader to decide fact from fiction, I will tell you this:
Lock your doors, close your window shutters, keep the porch light on and be careful out there.