Previously I wrote about some of my social anxieties. Beyond that I’ve also written about my own depression and some of my upbringing that probably hints at some potential surface reasons related to root problems. Also genetically wasn’t dealt the best hand as both of my parents have suffered from mental health issues. My mother has dealt with depression most of her life and still does. My father had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and what then was known as manic depression (which today we refer to as bipolar disorder) during his life on top of his own social anxiety issues. As an adult now I realize this probably fueled his alcoholism, unable to cope with the stress created internally from a general sense of hopelessness. I get that now because as an adult dealing with my own depression I’ve hit those points of despair. The points where if you had the heart to care about the void that is your life you’d be willing to do just about anything to not be you. Seeing the effect of alcohol on his life firsthand has discouraged me from ever having an interest in where he ran to instead of finding a healthier solution. I’m left to figure out some other (better) way to overcome my own depression. I know the cards have been stacked against me historically between my family life and inherited health conditions but I’ve tried to just rise above it… It’s not exactly that easy, ya know? It just isn’t doting upon yourself or catching a movie and suddenly you’re right as rain. I wish that was the case.

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It seemed like forever, but it’s been just barely an hour since Zotti-12 and her Ghost went through the Vex portal buried beneath the European Dead Zone. Expecting to come out in the same tunnels in another time after hearing tales from the Guardians back at The Tower, that wasn’t the case for Zotti. An open night sky awaited her on the other side. Aside from the gate they came from all the horizon contained was flat lands of rock. Judging by the stars they were still on Earth, yet something was off.

“Well we’ve navigated through the stars before, humans have done it for centuries before the Traveler’s arrival. I’ve not done it myself yet it seems like there’s a definite change in the patterns.” Zotti nodded towards the Ghost in agreement. It confirmed her thoughts. Worse though was the matter that she knew why they were off.

“It’s not now anymore… We’ve skipped ahead in time. Why aren’t we in the tunnels that we left in though? This… all of this is wrong. I say we make towards the outpost to see if it’s still there. Maybe we can reach out to someone in this time to see where… and when we are. If there’s anyone else out here even.”

Zotti glanced down at her mechanical hands. Exos willingly transferred their life into a new body to enhance their abilities. Built to withstand more damage, stronger than flesh, exhaustion comes less, and the need for nourishment dwindles to a few ounces of consumables a week. Yet what if this was the end of humanity’s natural form? What if the end conclusion was just a step towards making themselves obsolete? She’d never been one for the company of others, but the barren world she left behind felt more alive than the plains she was crossing now. What if she was the last person on Earth in this time?

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“Just breathe…” Zotti-12 repeated inside her head as she tried to regain her calm. Her mission lead her to roaming caves below the European Dead Zone. ‘Reconnaissance into the wild’ was an open objective often assigned to her. Seek out anything of note and report back to the tower. She’d been sent on these kinds of hunts a thousand times over it felt like. Nothing ever came of it. Nothing great ever came from her actions. This time felt different though. The darkness was thick here and whenever there seemed to finally be a dead end, another path would show itself. It was clear to her that panic was starting to creep in as the realization of the danger she might be in this time.

“You’re fine, don’t start doing that thing you do again” called out a voice from a few meters ahead. Her Ghost always managed to chime in when she began retreating inside. “It’ll be fine. We’ll just push forward a bit more and come out back into the wilds on the other side. You’ll see.” Zotti-12 hoped this was the case, but the sense of dread still loomed inside her mind.

“We’ve been at this for days. I wasn’t rebuilt for this level of endurance. The darkness presence here is beyond anything the tower’s documented on Earth before. Something isn’t right about this…” Continuing on by the light of her Ghost, they kept pushing forward with casual conversation directed by her Ghost. Zotti couldn’t shake the feeling that it knew something was wrong and it was just trying to keep it out of mind. Its times like this she missed working with other guardians. Sure they could be obnoxious or might constantly be second-guessing her methods… but the security from a fireteam was unbeatable. The light of her Ghost being the only illumination below the surface was a chilling reminder that it’s only them and her guns down here to keep her safe though.

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