Chapter 47: Preparations

(Saturday Afternoon, Monty's House)

"Monty, here's another nail!" Sayori called out and handed a nail to me. Taking it I place it firmly against the wood while holding a hammer in my good hand.
"Thanks Sayo." With a few hard taps I set the nail in before beginning to hammer it down, securing the board further.

"Natsuki, do we have enough food to feed us all?" Yuri asked. Natsuki checked the pantries and everything before frowning.
"It looks like we have enough for the day, but it's pretty empty. Can we ask Mizu maybe to code some stuff in?"
"Sorry, I didn't go shopping yet since we were planning to go on the trip. And no they need to focus. I can make a run for stuff if it isn't too terrible out yet." I answer.

"Monty, Yuri. I... I see a few of them out there."
"Are they coming this way?"
"Not yet, they seem to be randomly moving or attacking things near them... one just struck a mailbox it bumped into."
"Well thank god they aren't as smart as Mizu was."

Over the course of the morning we had worked hard to prepare the house for the chance of an attack. By breaking down larger pieces of furniture and then cutting the boards with a saw provided to us by Mizu we were able to quickly board up most of the windows. The front door posed more of an issue though since we couldn't just wall them off either in case we needed to enter/exit the house or head out for supplies. In order to solve that problem we kept a large bookshelf near the front; if we get attacked all we need to do is push the bookcase down to block the door and reinforce it from there.

There was also a back door too but we boarded that one up entirely and moved a small dresser full of clothes from the master bedroom in front of it. While the thought of escape crossed our minds in reality there was nowhere else to escape but to my bedroom with the computer so we decided to just seal that entrance for good. As I finished boarding one of the guest bedroom I wipe the sweat from my brow and head out to double-check everything. The windows and entries are now all secured, only room untouched being my room but Monika and Mizu should have the barrier going up soon so it should be going fine.

As for the world outside... things weren't as good.

Monika had implemented the protections on the time crunch we had so for now the world was more or less stable. However the NPC file was the most corrupted and the glitched ones were beginning to run amok. I could hear the occasional distance scream and I could see smoke from fires deeper into the town; it was like an apocalypse out there.

But then again it really was an apocalypse. Even with the protections the core is eroding, and this whole world will become corrupted and broken in less than a weeks time.

And that's why this was so important. We had to protect ourselves, protect those two or else everything was lost.

"Alright, last window boarded. Ugh, what time is it?" I wipe a bead of sweat off and glance towards the others.
"About 4:38 P.M. Night will be coming soon, which brings us to the problem of securing food for everyone for the next few days." Yuri says as I sit.
"Well... we could try and make a run while there aren't many people out yet. It'd be easier to ask Monika or Mizu but they are busy right now." Sayori suggests and I nod.

"Yeah. The problem is though that we don't know how many people changed and if people are panicking yet. If they are panicking they may try and rush to grab whatever they can in a normal crisis situation like this, or they'd try to leave. But since NPC's can change in the middle of whatever they were doing it makes things a bit harder. If people are rushing to stock up then most general stores and gas stations will be completely looted or ransacked so we might not get much at all." I reason to which Sayori's frown drops.

"Well... it is still worth a shot. And worst comes to worst we do need to ask Monika or Mizu to help.. I'm sure they could spare a bit of time but if possible I'd like for them to get this done as soon as they are able and we make our escape."

'If it is possible at all.' I heard my inner thoughts whisper and I frown before nodding at the suggestion.
"... I really don't like it but we don't have much of a choice. Alright... I feel like the more numbers we have the greater the risk, so a team of two or three would be ideal. Also the team has to be quick enough to get in and out; the longer we stay the worse off we are." Yuri suggests. It's a fair assessment and I nod in agreement once again.
"... I'll go. I'm fairly quick, or the quickest out of everyone here besides Monika." Sayori offers. I turn my eyes to her a bit in concern.

"... Are you sure?" She gives me a look that silences my doubts and I nod.
"Alright... then I'll go too. I can carry more and I'm fairly fast when the need arises. Plus with both of us we could maybe see about grabbing stuff like first-aid since our coders are indisposed."
"I suppose better being safe than sorry is true here... alright. You two get ready and if you see anything or it is too risky immediately come back, understand?" Yuri asked.
"I'd even say return at the latest an hour from now. If you find nothing then we'll just have to ask Monika or Mizu for help, worst comes to worst." Natsuki added.

"Alright." We agree and with that we break, getting prepped for the trip. Emptying my backpack out to make room I slip the empty pack on before grabbing my baseball bat. I also grab the baton as Sayori approaches and hand it to her.
"It's not as long as the broom you used but this should at least keep them off of you. Better than nothing, right?" I smile a bit at her and she takes the baton. Feeling it in her hand she collapses the baton and stores it on the belt loop of a set of jeans she had brought for the camping trip.

With everything ready we walk to the door and open it, glancing one last time back at Yuri and Natsuki before heading out the door and closing it shut behind us.

It was quiet when we stepped out; no cars seemed to be running down this or the neighboring streets and in the distance I could see plumes of smoke rising up into the sky from the city. Probably car accidents and destruction from when people glitched out and such. The quietness made me uneasy though as with a nod to Sayori we began to jog towards the nearest convenience store.

(Monty/MC's House)

It had been a few minutes since Monty and Sayori had left, the house drenched in silence after all of the work was finished. Sunlight filtered through the small cracks and gaps between the boarded up windows, and some had small holes intentionally made so as to provide a look to the outside. So far nothing had really shown up in their sights however. It felt... unnerving.

Like the calm before the storm. It left Natsuki feeling uneasy as she double-checked their defenses. Everything was secure but now they needed some weapons. It would have been nice to have Monika or Mizu to spawn in some guns or something... come to think of it why didn't Monty ask for a gun? Maybe he wasn't sure of his shooting or never used a gun? Something Natsuki could question later; she didn't have much training herself in weapons so for now she had to find something she could use.

After a bit of looking around the pink-haired girl found a long wooden rod; it was a few feet long and weighed nicely in her hand. Must have been from one of the chairs or beds they took apart; they had left the mattresses on the floor for the hopefully short duration they had left here.

"Are you even sure you'll get out of here? This is all purely based on the chance that somehow we can get out of this place through Monty's computer."

Natsuki shook her head of those thoughts and glared. No time for her to be afraid... she had done enough of that for a lifetime. No, she was going to live! They all would!

"Natsuki, could I get your help please?" Yuri called from another room and Natsuki got up and headed out.
"Coming!" She called back and soon enough found Yuri in the living room, focused on some sort of wooden contraption. She turned to Natsuki and smiled a bit.
"Ah good, could you help me with this? I need an extra pair of hands to hold this in place while I secure it." She gestured to the wooden object and guided Natsuki's hands.
"Hold it here, and let me just secure it with some tape and a bit of glue..." Yuri hummed in thought. As she held it Natsuki eyed the purple-haired girl.

"So... what are you making?" Natsuki asked and Yuri glanced up.
"Oh, nothing much. I just wanted to see if I could make some traps or devices to help... I didn't want to stay idle." She said as she finished securing the wooden pieces. However as she stared at this jumbled hunk of wood she sighed.

"... It isn't coming out like I had hoped though. I find this more difficult than I would have liked." Yuri rubbed her arm slowly at this to which Natsuki noticed. The pinkette frowned before moving over to Yuri's side and awkwardly hugging her.
"Hey... it's okay. If that isn't working out maybe try to focus on something different? I found this long rod and I thought that maybe you could make it into a spear or something?" She suggested. Yuri sighed before nodding.
"Well... I suppose I could take a shot at it.I think to secure it best we'd have to almost wedge the handle into the wood and then screw and tape it from there. But I don't mind using a knife for this. Perhaps we could even take the handle off and use the raw metal of it instead..." Yuri hummed, already fixated on this new project as Natsuki brought the wooden rod she found over. Yuri looked through her knives and grabbed out a few, quietly comparing them to the rod and focusing. Natsuki watched her quietly for a bit as she felt a question come to mind.

"... Do you think we will get out of here, honestly?" Her voice was quiet but Yuri clearly heard it as she stopped working for a moment. Her purple gaze lifted up and looked at Natsuki.
"... Monika and Mizu are both competent, and they said they have found traces of something. Perhaps... perhaps it is a stretch but it is something we can hold on to." Yuri answered.

"... I hope you are right, Yuri."


We kept quiet as we walked down the streets and alleys, Sayori and I moving in tandem. We made sure to walk as quietly as possible so we didn't attract attention; as far as we knew the thing reacted to Natsuki making noise, but then again they might be able to see and we would still be in trouble. That said the less noise the less attention to ourselves and the less attention the better. We walked for a few minutes as we took an alleyway and began heading down it; the convenience store wasn't far from there.

"Hey Monty?" Sayori quietly asked as I glanced back at her.
"What is it Sayo?"
"Well... why did you take a bat? Why didn't you ask Monika or Mizu for a gun or something? It'd make this a little less scary at the least, ehehe.." She chuckled nervously as she looked behind us to cover our backs.
"Well... a gun would probably take a bit more time to code considering you need bullets for one. Sure I could have asked for a shotgun but the second reason is noise. These things... I don't want to grab their attention at all. I want to keep us safe and quiet for the next few days; a bat may make clearing a lot of them out harder, but it is quieter so hopefully we don't need to worry about large crowds. And the third reason is I am not good with guns. I've fired guns all of once in my life and I'm not a good shot. I don't want to risk missing a critical shot and causing problems, you know?"

Sayori nodded as we made it to the other end of the alley; our goal was just ahead on the left. The convenience store didn't have many cars in front of it but it seems one car in particular had smashed into the side of the wall. I didn't see blood or a driver so they had either escaped or deleted upon death. I shuddered and tightened the grip on my bat as I nodded to her.
"Let's go."

Quickly we cross the street and move to the front of the convenience store which Sayori quietly opens; the soft 'ding of the electronic bell makes us pause before we slip in and gently close the door. Bat ready I take in the surroundings of the store. There is some snacks and stuff littering the floor, presumably from the car hitting the wall. The wall itself was holding but clear cracks could be seen so anything heavier probably would have busted them then and there. However for the most part everything was still here and untouched.


The two of us freeze and I turn to the right. A figure stumbles out from the back of the store into our line of sight, their face a glitching, static mess. I swallow and raise my bat as the Glitched stumbles aimlessly around.
"Sayori... go to the next isle, grab simple canned goods to eat and stuff. Ramen would be fine too. I'll keep watch on him." I whisper to Sayori who is pale but she nods. With trembling steps she skirted the dropped goods and moved into one of the aisles to gather food. She carefully took her backpack off and grabbed one can at a time. The Glitched meanwhile seemed to be preoccupied with the sounds it had created and was looking around for the source. I felt a chill running through me and my hands trembled as I recalled the last time I had faced off against a glitching monstrosity.

But it was okay. It was alright. I could do this. We could do this.

The next minute went by so slowly, but when it was finally done Sayori zipped her bag up and nodded to me. I nod back and smile softly. Since all we needed was food to get us through we should be covered now, all that was left was to return home.


I freeze along with Sayori and look to my left. My bat had brushed a rack without my notice as I had turned, and sent everything tumbling to the floor. The Glitched froze in place before turning and bolting for me.
"MONTY!" Sayori screamed, but I steadied my bat. I had survived and come through so much for this... I was ready.

As the glitching man got close I readied my bat and swung with both hands. The wood of the bat collided and I felt something crunch as I smashed the things torso and sent it flying backwards onto the ground. Pain shot through my arms and the trembled from the force as I ran up before the Glitched could stand and swung my bat down on their skull. Bits of technicolor blood shot out from the impact as the body twitched and writhed before going limp. I let out a sigh of relief, pulling the bat up before bringing it down one more time to be extra safe.

"M-Monty? Are you okay?" Sayori spoke and I look back before nodding.
"Yeah... yeah. I'm okay. But let's grab a few snacks and a couple drinks, just to be safe okay? End of the world, might as well live a little."

After five minutes and with our bags stuffed full of food, snacks and some bottled drinks we headed out the door, booking it back towards the house. A few more Glitched roamed the streets but they were either preoccupied with something else or too far away to pay us much attention which I was thankful for. My arms still stung from swinging the bat that hard and I didn't want to try and push our luck any time soon. As we made it back to the house I raptly knocked on the door, hearing movement behind it the door opened and we rushed inside before closing the door again. I double-checked the windows and looked for any Glitched.

We were in the clear. Sighing to myself I turn to see Yuri and Natsuki doting over Sayori who nodded and assured them she was fine as we went to the kitchen with our spoils.

Well... that's one less thing to worry about. But I still felt something in the pit of my stomach; a gut feeling of dread. I could feel my thoughts whispering doubts into my mind but I refused to hear them.

I wouldn't let anything wrong come to pass. We would get out of here.


The day had turned to night and while Monty and the three Doki's worked, ate and huddled together, Mizu and Monika continued forwards. Their eyes were set on their screens as they worked almost silently.

"... Mizu, anything on your end?"
"More bits of code. I'm compiling it all and sending it over to you now."

Monika sighs and leans back in her chair.

"... I knew this wouldn't be easy when we first came up with it, but there is just so much code to decipher and piece together. I'm more worried about the time constraints now than I was before." Mizu cast a glance at her as he sent the file, taking the short break to summon a couple cans of tea for them both. Monika took hers and nodded in thanks as she sipped it.

"... Monika, I've been meaning to ask. What will you do if we fai-" He begins to say but Monika turns her head to look at him. Her green eyes burn with a mix of emotions as well as a raw determination.
"We won't fail. I won't let us fail." She turned back to continue working on the code as Mizu watched her with a soft frown.

"... I made a mess of their lives. I nearly killed them. We both did. Every night these past few nights I've... I've recalled it. No matter what Monty or the girls say, I can't... I just can't move on. I harmed them Mizu. Just like you did. But unlike you I..."

Monika stops herself to take a deep breath.

"I don't care about failure or probability. I'll take any hope, any chance we have left to save them. I owe them all that much."

The soft tapping of the keys is heard, and Mizu sips his green tea quietly.

"... Well, it's a good thing they have a friend like you around."
"I'd say the same thing about you."

The two return to work as their brief intermission ends. Monika's green eyes scan the screen as she continues on, taking the pieces Mizu sent and compiling them into the main file where they were recreating this code. To think, with just this they could escape.

Her dreams would become a reality.

"But do you deserve it, honestly?"

She heard a voice speak from behind her and she flicked around, but there was nothing. Only Mizu intently focused on his files. Monika took a moment longer before returning to her own work.

(Teusday Morning, Monty/MC's House)

It was like watching the apocalypse slowly approaching. Sunday and Monday had gone by slowly with each minute we didn't work or move feeling like hours. The Glitched had come to our house a little more frequently so the four of us tried to deal with them quickly and efficiently. I had swung the bat enough to be more comfortable with the force and strength I used, not that the mastery made me feel any comfort. We were still trapped here and we still had nowhere to go.

It was late Sunday when things picked up a bit however; as we watched the news and shows the cable suddenly cut off. After double-checking the power and seeing it wasn't damaged or anything Yuri noticed it first.

"E-Everyone." She paled and pointed to the sky towards the city. And as we turned our attention to it I felt my heart sink like a stone.

Above part of the city the sky had fallen away to reveal the static void behind it. We could see bits and pieces falling from the fracture and as it did the area where the void resided above seemed to be breaking down slowly into glitching particles, rising up and disappearing.

"... T-That's where the cable station was." Yuri finishes. Sayori nervously looks at us as Natsuki stiffens a bit.
"... Let's get back inside. It... It looks like it isn't spreading rapidly yet and Monika said that they have the corruption slowed down. We... we have time." I told them.

With that the four of us went back inside, spending the rest of Sunday and all of Monday in unease. Monika and Mizu barely left the room as they were focused entirely on their work to save us while we continued to survive and defend the house. It was uneventful and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

The alarm went off on my phone and I cracked an eye open, sitting up and yawning. I had slept on the couch these last few days to give Mizu and Monika their privacy but it had been cold. I missed Monika's warmth. Sighing I got up and dressed as the other girls slept in the others rooms or in Sayori's case the reclining chair nearby. She stirred but didn't awaken as I finished changing and went around checking the boards. Everything looked proper as I approached the front door, spotting a Glitched aimlessly wandering in front of the house. Quietly grabbing my bat and opening the door I looked out.

The crack in the sky had formed a spiderweb over the last two days and now more pieces of it had been revealed. The town and the world itself were breaking apart bit by bit. The spiderweb had stretched over the horizon and out of view.

'Truly terrifying, isn't it? The literal abyss is opening in the sky above you. Seems like something straight out of the end times, or an Cthulhu Mythos book.'

As I closed the door I heard his voice whisper and I frown.
"You aren't real, and it doesn't matter. We'll be getting out of here soon enough."

'Sure sure, but what then? What will you do with six mouths to feed? You don't have enough to support them, you'll all die and starve out there. That is... if you really can escape this place. Otherwise even that is a fantasy.'

I grit my teeth.
"Shut up. We will figure a way out, we've come this far."

'Heh, if you say so. But a word of advice, from me to you... you are still unprepared. And you will die if you aren't careful. So make sure not to screw up, okay?'

I turn to look back but any signs of him were gone; my thoughts are my own, always have been. And yet the surreal feeling when I converse with Other Monty lingers along with his parting words. I look to the sleeping Sayori and towards the hall where the others rest.

... How would we keep ourselves fed? Sure Monika could code in clothes and stuff but food is our biggest concern. She could maybe code in cash but serial numbers and all that are difficult to do and if she accidentally makes a duplicate the police could find out and we'd be in trouble. Maybe a credit card? But loading that with money might take time too, plus it'd have to be with a real-world bank and I don't know if she has the time to set it up here.

... Wait. A bank.

I go quiet and think for a moment, running the pros and cons through my head before taking a deep breath.

... This is necessary, and it might be risky but without it... it wouldn't matter if we got out or not. Grabbing my bat and an empty backpack, I make my way back to my room and open the door. Mizu and Monika are awake and focused on their screens as I take a deep breath before gently knocking on the door. This breaks their gaze to notice me as Monika smiles.

"Hey hun, what's up?" I smile back softly before walking in, bat in hand and backpack on.

"... I've been thinking. We have you guys making papers, documents but... we also need money when we get out. I mean... this is five extra mouths to feed, plus we may need a home or homes for you guys down the road. And I don't have anything like that back home personally... but we have a chance here. I want to rob a bank."

For a solid minute both at them stared at me like I was going to explode or something.
"... Come again?" Mizu asked flatly.

"... Well, I figure that the banks closest to us... they have to have cash, or gold or valuables in them still. They shouldn't be in the zone where things are corrupting too badly... if I can fill one, maybe two backpacks up with that stuff, perhaps we could bring it with us? That way we can have the cash to at least keep us afloat for a while, probably get a larger residence to house six bodies until we have you guys all sorted out. The only problem is opening the vault... I may need help on that. But I feel like it'd be easier than having one of you try to code in money and worrying about the serial numbers, or trying to accurately created a loaded credit card if that makes sense. That might take too much time setting up and we don't have much time as is."

Monika and Mizu looked at me and then to one another, a silent conversation going between them before Monika sighs.

"You... aren't wrong. We will need cash plain and simple when we get out of here. But we could take a safer route, do something like the card or spawning in gold bars-" Monika says but I shake my head slowly.

"I... I know. It would be safer. But I'm worried about the time constraints... the world is falling apart. We need to give you two every second we can. So please... let me do this. Overall this is the safest move we can make that won't jeopardize your work."

Monika goes quiet again, before Mizu stands.

"... Monika, I agree. It would be the best option. But I want Yuri or myself to go with you if you are doing this. Sayori and Natsuki don't have combat experience and from what I can tell the bank is fairly far if you are walking. You are definitely going to get into at least a few fights."

I look at Mizu for a moment before I nod.

"... I'll take Yuri. You need to focus on the coding at least until we get to the bank." Mizu nods and sits.

"Yuri has a command prompt in case you can't reach us by phone. Otherwise call and we'll see what we can do from our end... or I can at least. And if it's too dangerous pull out; we can always figure out something else."
"Of course. We'll get going then."

With that I left the room, closing the door behind me and taking a deep breath

"... Alright. Let's get this done." I whisper, going to the room Yuri is in and knock on it.

(Morning, Outside)

It didn't take long to get Yuri awake and on board with the mission with the two of us departing the house. We wanted to get this done quickly and quietly so we left before Natsuki or Sayori woke. Mizu and Monika had the door monitored anyways, if they had to they could barricade it before we returned but I doubt anything was going to attack them so long as they didn't make noise. The cracked sky still loomed over us as we walked forwards down the street.

"Shouldn't be much farther, I think I see it up ahead." I say and point to a bank sign up ahead. Yuri nods and looks at me as we walk.
"... Are you sure about this? This is risky." She asks but I nod.

"Better risk a little than risk a lot. I don't want to risk our lives for ease here, if that makes sense. Maybe it would have been better to bring Mizu along but... but if that time he was away from the keyboard was the cause for our failure I..."

I take a deep breath as I march onwards, the bank right across the road now.

"I couldn't bear the thought of being the reason we fail. I went through that once... never again. Never again."

Yuri moves up and places a hand on my shoulder as I look to her; she offers a soft smile.
"... I know how you feel. I... I really do. I still feel the... the guilt for what I did, no matter what the game made me do. I don't want to have my friends hurt any more either. I... I am not set on this course of action mind you, but I do understand why."
"I'm glad... it has to be you and me Yuri. Sayori and Natsuki can't do it, Mizu and Monika can't either. It's gotta be us." I reaffirm as we reach the entrance to the bank.

I go quiet as we slip into the bank from the front; a few Glitched walk around a messy floor but otherwise it doesn't seem too crowded. I look to Yuri for a second before I nod to the closest one and she points her knife at it. I don't like it but we will have to clear the room anyways. The two of us take steps towards the one which notices our presence, but before he can react I swing the bat and strike him in the legs. The Glitched topples and Yuri moves by stabbing him through the jaw and upwards into the skull; with a twist she withdraws it and the Glitched writhes before going limp.

The other Glitched begin to move towards the noise and I take a deep breath.

"Out of the night that covers me..." I repeat to myself that familiar line, charging in and smashing the bat against the next's one head. Yuri meanwhile runs and slices at another as we begin our systematic attack. The attack is efficient and quick; we down three and make sure to kill them in all under a few minutes.

I hear footsteps come around the corner and I swing my bat in that direction to catch an approaching Glitched in the side; it tumbles off onto the ground in a heap as I move to the head.

"... I am the captain of my soul." I whisper and smash its head in, finishing the job. Sighing and slightly out of breath I stand and turn to Yuri who has already dealt with her Glitched; overall she looks fine albeit a bit out of breath. She smiles at me as I nod to her and we continue on into the bank itself, all the while pulling out my phone and punching the number in.

"... You there I take it?" I hear Moni say and I smile.
"Yeah, we are. Can you get Mizu to open the bank vault up for us?"
"Hold on, he's working on it now." She answers as we continue on. The vault isn't too far back and as we approach the door glitches before spinning and opening before us.

"Thanks Moni. Tell him he has my thanks too. We'll be back soon."
"Alright. Be care hun. I don't want to lose you."
"I know hun... you won't. Love you." With that I hang up the phone and turn to the purple-haired girl beside me.

"... So, I won't lie... this is kind of cool." I grin.
"Well... it isn't every day you get to rob a bank, ufufu..." Yuri says and giggles a little, before the two of us walk into the vault. Opening our bags and inspecting the goods we begin to load up on bundles of cash, gold bars, the works. Thankfully everything was in U.S. dollars too... I recall noticing that back at the restaurant with Sayori and Monika, all those weeks ago. I'm so glad that the same thing applied to this money.

As I loaded some cash into my pack and closed it up I looked to Yuri who finished up herself. I smile.

"... One step closer, right?"
"Right. We did make some noise though so we should be careful when leaving. And Monty?"
"... I'm sorry. I... I know I've said it before but I really... really am sorry for what I did. And it... it has been wonderful, to be with you and the club."

I look back and smile at Yuri softly.

"Don't worry about it Yuri. And I'm happy to have spent time with you too. But don't talk like this is the end; we haven't come this far to give up now. So stay strong... we are almost through."
Yuri smiles a little and nods as we turn and leave the now-ransacked vault and head out of the bank towards the house.

"What's up?"
"You said you liked to read before, didn't you?"
"I... I don't know, probably. It's been quite a bit. But I do like to read yeah."
"Do you enjoy horror?"
"... Existential horror to some degree, like the Cthulhu Mythos and a bit of Stephen King."
"... When we get out of here, can you lend me those books? I'd like to read them."
"Sure Yuri. I could do that."

(Edge of Town)

The broken sky loomed ominously over the city as the world slowly corrupted and fell apart. Each broken piece was a reminder to what was on the line and the fate that awaited them if they failed. As Monty and the group huddled in for another night they continued to work towards their escape.

But not one of them was present to notice the sky beginning to crack further, reaching out faster. The defensive measures were beginning to fail.

It was coming apart.