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Angelina stood at the crater’s edge and looked down. It looked nothing like she had expected.

It looked so different up close than it had from far away. Viewed from the top of the first stairs, the crater had been a dark, yawning void. Angelina had always pictured the crater as lifeless and barren, a bleak fallout zone where nothing would grow.

The inside of the crater was teeming with life, covered with bushes, grasses, and even a few saplings. It was almost normal, with only a few ruined pipes visible under the green. It was nearly impossible to see the ghost of the town that had once stood there.

She sat on the edge of the crater and pushed off against a tree, sliding down into the crater, bumping into a few rocks and bushes on the way down. She skidded to a stop and stood up, brushing grass and dirt off the seat of her pants.

While the crater had seemed surprisingly normal when she’d been standing on the ledge looking down, it was stranger from inside. While most of the ground resembled a lush meadow, the crater was riddled with shallow, irregularly shaped holes with sparse vegetation. Even stranger were the sounds; amidst the singing birds and crashing ocean waves were other noises, like little pieces of cloth tearing all around her.

She removed her camera from her bag and took a picture of one of the shallow holes.

A seagull landed on a nearby rock and squawked, looking up at her imploringly.

“Hi,” she said. “What’s up?”

The seagull cawed again.

“There used to be tons of people here. And I bet some of them gave you snacks.”

She fished in her bag for her opened snack cake and found that it had fallen out of the wrapper and crumbled into the front pocket of the bag. She grabbed a handful of the crumbs and tossed them to the seagull. It hopped off the rock and began to peck happily at the crumbs.

“There you go, I bet you were hungry–“

With a loud tearing sound, the seagull vanished mid-peck. A few lazy feathers floated to the ground.

Angelina stared at where the bird had stood just moments ago.

“Okay. That’s super weird,” she said.

She walked onward farther into the crater, thinking out loud as she went.

“Okay, um, disappearing seagull. What’s up with that?”

She licked snack cake frosting off her hand.

“That sound it made, I’m hearing that sound like, everywhere. Um. That means maybe more stuff is disappearing. But if more stuff is disappearing, why don’t I see it? Wait.”

She looked around at the light morning haze over the crater. Sections of it were periodically disappearing, as though some great monster was taking bites from it.

“Whoa. Freaky. Okay.”

She took a photo of the haze.

Two more gulls landed beside her, and she turned to address them.

“Oh, hi guys! Be careful, okay? Your friend just disappeared back there.”

She continued voicing her thought process, this time speaking to the seagulls.

“So, stuff disappears here. The town… the town disappeared…”

She trailed off as the reality of where she was hit her without warning. The verdant meadow around her had made it so easy to forget. The town she’d once visited was gone, all the houses and shops and streets, all the people. Only a few traces of the underground infrastructure remained, bones of a dead town buried by grass and grapevines.

When she found her words again, her voice was uncharacteristically quiet.

“The town disappeared. They said it blew up, but… why didn’t it touch any of the forest around it?

She turned to the seagulls, who eyed her warily.

“I don’t think there was an explosion, do you?

The gulls didn’t answer.

“You don’t think anything, because you’re seagulls. But do you want to know what I think?”

One of the seagulls fluffed out its feathers.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. So when Falcon told me about the space between realities and CPSI, I got an idea about this place. I think the whole town fell into the–“

A crash interrupted Angelina and startled the two seagulls away. She turned around to see a broken table lamp lying behind her.

“Okay. Um. That definitely wasn’t there before.”

She took a photo of the lamp, then walked over to examine it. It was an ordinary lamp, shattered on a rock on the ground.

The two seagulls landed nearby again, cawing expectantly, hoping she would throw them scraps of food.

“It’s broken like it fell on that rock. Like it appeared in midair. So stuff doesn’t just disappear, it appears too. Let’s see…”

She looked around. She hadn’t noticed them before, but there were a few objects scattered through the grass, most of them small. She headed toward the nearest one, a rectangular piece of paper caught in the branches of a tiny tree.

It was an envelope, she realized as she got closer. She picked it up and read the address.

Via Roma 13
19039 Borgo San Severino SP

“If this had been here since… since it happened, it would have rotted or something, but it looks like new. This just appeared here, which means…”

She shoved the letter into her bag.

“The town didn’t disappear. It went somewhere, and pieces of it are coming back. It’s, eh, it’s the thin floor of reality, like Falcon was talking about!”

The seagulls took off, startled by something, and for a moment, Angelina thought she had startled them. Then, she noticed the shadow that had fallen over her, eclipsing the sun.

“What do we have here?”

A monstrous voice spoke in English behind her, discordant, echoing, and inhuman.

She turned, finding herself face to face with the thing behind her and a piercing scream escaped her lungs.

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