Author's note: This is an entry for RuckusQuantum's mystery contest.

I was born and grew up in a desert town in Southern California known as Delarena Springs, which is where everything happened. It started with the Delarena dozen.

The Delarena dozen were a group of twelve students who disappeared on a field trip that spring. Delarena Springs is a small town so when these students disappeared, the news took the town by storm. Parents started walking or driving their kids to and from school and the sheriff's department issued a curfew on the town as they searched for the missing students.

Personally I hadn't been close to any of the missing kids. They were around my age, we attended the same high school but that was it. Yet I was enticed by the story. For as long as I could remember I had always been drawn to the bizarre and paranormal.

Now you're probably thinking, a group of kids going missing is strange and tragic but not bizarre.

The destination of the field trip was the Petalstep Institute located on 12039 Azure Drive. The first thing the sheriff's department did was track the kids down to that location. What they found, is what makes this whole story so bizarre. They found a lot of nothing but rubble and trash in the middle of the desert. The building that had once stood there had burned down years ago and there was no sign of anyone having been there since, except for the school bus that had brought the dozen sitting in front of the lot.

They inspected the bus and to their horror they found the bus driver, or what was left of him. A skeletal mummified body sitting in the driver's seat. It looked like it had been there for years yet it had only been a couple of days.

They searched the whole area rummaging and digging through the rubble and didn't find a thing. Not a single fucking thing. No DNA, no tracks, no bodies (aside from the driver's), no signs of a struggle or signs of anything in general.

Aside from the highway, the service road, and the abandoned bus there was nothing but a torn down building, miles and miles of desert, and the mountains.

For some reason they called the search off after that. You know how gossip is in a small town, the reason varies from person to person, but apparently many in the search party reported feeling some sort of weird buzzing or vibration through the air that made them feel nauseous and uncomfortable.

After that the trail went cold and the case was closed due to lack of evidence. The town was outraged but had no choice but to bite the bullet. The sheriff's department refused to share any more information. That's how I got involved.

Joey Fernandez's best friend was Lewis Laevior, he was one of the students missing. They were like brothers. Before that Joey and I were best friends, we grew up together since kindergarten. However when we started middle school we saw less and less of each other. By high school we were practically strangers. So imagine how surprised I was when he ran after me that Thursday afternoon as I was walking home with my friends.

He caught up to me and explained that he was organizing a posse to go out to the lot to investigate themselves and then asked me to join them which I did.

The sun was setting as we drove down the highway, then lights appeared on the hills and mountains in the distance. We all took note of how beautiful they looked though we had no idea what they were. Some of the others said they looked yellow-orangish, I thought they looked brilliant gold. We were captivated in the radiance as they constantly blinked and flashed.

Suddenly we heard a police siren, blue and red flashed from behind us as someone told us over a megaphone to pull over.

Aaron Connely, a sheriff's deputy pulled us over and attempted to scold us, but before he had a chance some of the kids started angrily confronting and interrogating him about what had happened out in the desert and why the case had been closed. They argued for about thirty minutes before Aaron finally gave in. He confessed that they had found cellar doors still intact beneath the building's rubble. Upon opening it they found a tunnel which seemed to go on for miles towards the direction of the mountains where the lights had appeared. According to Aaron that's where the vibration in the air was the strongest.

"When the chief looked inside he turned pale as a ghost," he said.

"Was something inside the tunnel?" someone asked.

"Naw, it's like, just the fact that the tunnel was there freaked him out. That's when he called off the search. Just like that, he ordered us all to leave. When we got back to the station the chief told us these weird-ass stories about those lights that appear after sunset."

Aaron went on to tell us the chief's stories. It starts with the lights which first appeared in the early fifties. They became a tourist attraction and an obsession of the town. Supposedly staring at them gave you a sort of high. It became a sort of trend in Delarena Springs, and for a while things were pretty peaceful.

In the late fifties, a couple and their four year old son were traveling through the highway that ran through the desert when their car broke down around sunset. Miles away from the last rest stop and from the next town (which was Delarena Springs), they decided to walk it. That's when they saw the lights, having never heard of them, the couple figured that they were lights from a radio tower or some sort of outpost, so they headed towards them, leading them right into the desert.

Now in later years the government would send scientists, archeologists, and investigators to study this phenomena, the lights appeared on the mountainside so that's where the investigators went but apparently when they got there, to the location where the source of the lights should have been... they found nothing, nothing but dirt and rocks. Aaron said one of the investigators claimed that it was like a mirage; only visible at a distance, but once you got to it, nothing. No lights, no source, no explanation, just that godawful vibration.

The couple and their child got lost in the desert following the lights. After weeks of no contact from them, the couple's relatives and family members alerted the authorities, who organized a search for the family. They found their car abandoned by the road within only a couple of days. The search then extended to the desert. After almost a month of searching, they found them alive to everyone's relief. Unfortunately they had become feral and animal-like, crawling or scurrying on all fours. Their skin pink and red from burns from the sun, their hair long, matted, and like their skin, covered in grime and dirt. Their nails had grown to resemble claws. They forgot how to speak and only growled. The only words they seemed to still be able to pronounce were; lord, savior, lights, great, and merciful.

They were taken into a hospital where doctors and mainly psychiatrists and speech therapists tried to rehabilitate them. Upon close study, investigators came to the conclusion that the couple and their child survived through hunting down and devouring small rodents and drinking their blood to stay hydrated. They began worshipping the lights as their provider and God.

It took years but thankfully the child was rehabilitated, learned how to speak and fully function as a civilized person and lived a long and peaceful life. The parents weren't so lucky and remained feral till the day they died. Everyone considered it an isolated incident.

The next incident happened around the sixties during the hippie movement. A group of about eight or nine hippies camped out in the desert, told the townsfolk they had heard of the lights and the high it gave to those who stared at them long enough. This group wanted to find enlightenment and inner peace and thought they could do so by staring at the light as much as they could. For twenty days they stared at the lights every day after sunset.

On the twenty-third day, half of the hippies came back to the town hysterical. They were freaking out about hearing some kind of enormous voice in their heads. They claimed the voice had started speaking to them around the fifteenth day. It started off as a small unintelligible whisper, and every day it got louder and clearer. They said the voice kept telling them horrible things in grotesque detail. The voice demanded they act upon cruel and inhumane acts. Eventually four of the hippies began bleeding from their noses, ears, and eyes. They complained of having excruciating headaches which throbbed every time the voice spoke to them. Then ones who were bleeding started losing consciousness. That's when the rest ran into town.

A few hours later the ones who lost consciousness arrived and began to terrorize the town. They were psychotic and indomitable, the sheriff and his posse must've shot each one of them eight times before they finally dropped dead. They seemed to have developed some kind of superhuman resilience. The remaining hippies who were still plagued by the voice were taken into an asylum and studied by the government.

About a year later the government sent a team to investigate the anomaly of the lights. They eventually found a small opening on the mountainside which led into a forgotten and abandoned mine within the mountains and they deduced that the source of the lights came from within and somehow just after sunset the lights were visible through the mountain's surface.

The team traveled inside to explore, within a couple of days, they returned unscathed at least physically. A couple that were injured, but that was it. If they found something they did not speak of it. They came back with no notes, no samples, no pictures. Nothing. No data or evidence of anything in the slightest. If anything, they had left things. They returned with less than half of the equipment they had gone in with.

The townsfolk of Delarena Springs had been very interested in the progress of the team, so the day they came out of the mines. The townsfolk were waiting attentively to hear about what the team had found.

The members of the team were grave and somber. Some were weeping. One of which was the head of the investigation. A decorated archeologist. A man who had seen and done so much, weeping. Without hesitation he ordered that the entrance be sealed off using a detonation of dynamite.

No matter how much the townsfolk would press him and the others for answers they would not respond. They packed their remaining equipment and just before leaving, the head of the investigation finally spoke.

"Mankind, what cocky arrogant creatures we are. We think the universe is our playground, we are so eager to become familiar with every single undiscovered inch of it, but some things aren't meant to be discovered. Some things are just too much for our tiny and mundane comprehension. You have no idea how small and insignificant we all are in the real scheme of things... stay away from these mountains, and ignore those damned lights as much as you can. Those are my only warnings, my colleagues and I have now washed our hands of all this. If you're stupid enough to get curious, know that whatever happens next is of your own doing." And with that, they left.

In the next decade, the two incidents prior and the infamous investigation had become mere legends, ghost stories told around campfires to spook people out.

The last incident occurred during the mid-seventies. An entrepreneur arrived intent on building the Petalstep institute, when asked what it was, he would respond in cryptic and ambiguous answers like "Helping further humanity on its journey to perfection." No one knew what it meant exactly. In about a year his team of architects and construction workers finished a building out in the outskirts of the desert, but they continued working for about two more years.

After that, the guy finally pronounced the building finished. He then started looking through the town for people he could recruit for a secret experiment.

He then revealed why the work on the building had taken so long. They had built an underground tunnel which led from the Petalstep institute to the mountains. The experiment was simple, he simply wanted ten subjects to camp within the mines. He successfully recruited ten and the day of the experiment they all met at the institute.

When the time came, six ended up backing out after learning what they were required to do, only four went in.

The six waited in the building until one of the four ran back hysterical. Apparently he had changed his mind and began to travel back. The three left carried on with a team of scientists. It was about twenty minutes later when the ground seemed to shake. Then he began to hear whispers of some unknown language coming from everywhere, followed by echoed screams coming from deeper within the mines. A few scientists came running towards him, one bumped into him knocking him to the side. Suddenly two blue blurs zoomed past and tackled the scientists. They seemed to be people. It was two of the volunteers that had continued into the mines. They were different. Their skin was pale blue, and the color of their irises were blood red.

They began eating the scientists. The volunteer took this opportunity to sneak away and when he thought he was far away enough he ran for it.

After hearing his story, the seven of them ran into town to get help. The townsfolk then remembered the warning given to them by an investigation team years ago.

They gathered buckets of gas, glass bottles rags and matches then quickly made their way to the institute.

When they got there they coated every inch of the lobby in gas and tossed a lit Molotov cocktail inside before leaving and barricading the doors.

As they watched the building begin to burn, voices began coming from inside the building. Pleading at first, but then aggressive and demanding.

Then blood-curdling screams. Screams that seemed like the howls of hungry desperate animals. They watched as the building collapsed in on itself and continued to burn as the screams eventually died down.

When the building had burned down completely, they found many mutilated and severed body parts that had been charred, and three intact corpses. The volunteers. Eventually the government showed up confiscated all the remains and left once again without divulging any information whatsoever.

The townsfolk decided never to speak of what occurred. They made up their minds that it would be in everyone's best interest if the lights and the three incidents were forgotten.

Aaron sent us home after that. We were all in a daze from the stories. We were slowly digesting what we had heard. On the drive home a couple snapped out of it and began calling bullshit on what Aaron had told us, but there was a somber lull over everyone. I think, as crazy as some of the stories were, we all somehow felt they were true for some reason and that scared us.

"You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" Joey finally asked when there were only a few other kids left to drop off.

"Maybe," I said, my head relaying Aaron's stories over and over.

"We need a distraction. A riot in the town square might hold their attention long enough for us to get some answers."


"That's not what you were thinking?"

"Of course not. I was thinking about what Aaron said. I was thinking, what if the disappearances of Lewis and the others has to do with something involving the lights?"

"You actually bought that shit?" he scoffed. "Geez Jake, growing up I knew you were gullible, but this is ridiculous."

"At least hear me out."


"What if someone else tried to finish what the guy in the last story tried to do. What if the lights did something to someone, changed them. The way they changed those volunteers from the last story?"

He was silent for a long time.

"No, it... it can't be true," he assured, although I felt he trying was speaking more to himself than he was me.

For a couple of days nothing happened. Then the first body appeared. A couple days after that another, and then another. All in the desert, each in the middle of a large cryptic circle with strange signs on it.

According to the Sheriff's Department the markings were words in latin. A message.

"In the name of sin, I, Pride, sacrifice this mortal, who in my eyes represents humility," is what it said on the first circle. The corpse placed in the center was Lewis's.

The next day a second corpse appeared.

"In the name of sin, I, Wrath, sacrifice this mortal, who in my eyes represents patience."

And for three more days a new corpse would appear in a circle of blood with a message similar to the first two in which the writer refers to himself as one of the seven sins and claims they sacrificed the victim who represented a virtue.

After the fifth corpse it stopped. Then they came.

A meeting was called at the town square and when everyone arrived we saw them. Seven of the Delarena dozen, pale blue skin and blood red eyes. They revealed they were the ones who had sacrificed the other five, but that was not enough, they needed two more.

A portion of the crowd broke off and ran to get the sheriff. Upon arriving to the station they came upon a horrifying scenery. Everyone in the station had been slaughtered, from the deputies to the chief himself. While there they got their guns.

We were on our own. The seven of the Delarena dozen gathered a small group of kids. Among them was Ariana, Joey's crush.

They demanded not to be followed and left for the mines, saying they needed to present the hostages to "him" to see who would make good sacrifices.

The townsfolk once again organized a posse and armed with the guns left behind at the station we made our way to the mines.

Once there we saw that like the family from the first story the seven worshipped the lights as a god and wanted to sacrifice seven people to appease it. They sacrificed one more and dragged his body to the desert making it six sacrifices. At the exact moment they chose Ariana for the last sacrifice we arrived and opened fire. The bullet punctured and ripped through their flesh and muscle but they still stood seemingly unfazed, they retaliated, cutting and slashing through us like a scythe cutting crops.

When the dust settled, most of us were dead and the few who weren't were now laying on the ground in a pool of our own blood. I was among these few.

A blue girl cornered Ariana.

"Wait! Wait! Before you kill me, just tell me, why?"

"To release our glorious God from his sparkly prison," she said with a giggle.

"Sparkly? What? What are you talking about?"

"The lights of course."

"I thought the lights were your God."

"No the lights are what's keeping him from entering our realm but to destroy the lights, the seven of us must represent a sin and sacrifice someone who represents a virtue."

Suddenly there was a purple flash and we all saw it. A black starless sky and a rocky dark-gray landscape and in the middle a gargantuan creature on all fours with sharp horns sticking out from its back and the back of its head curving upward. The near sight of it filled me with a deep inconsolable dread. The creature was in a sleeping position, as if sensing that it was being watched it stood up and the bared its long sharp rows of fang-like teeth.

Then we were all back in the chasm with the lights shining all over the interior of it. They looked weaker.

Ariana managed to slip away but the blue girl was right on her tail with the others following behind.

"Jake! Shoot me!" she screamed as she ran towards me. "She has to be the one to do it, no one else can kill me for the ritual to work. We can't let that thing into our world!"

I did have a gun in my hand.

"Do it! Please! If you kill me it will ruin it! Kill me!!"

I knew it was our only option, the lesser of two evils but how could I take someone else's life.

The blue girl tackled her. The sound of the gun crashed through the air. Ariana went limp. The blue girl's smile faded instantly and was replaced by a bratty frustration like that of a spoiled child.

I held the gun out in front of me shocked at what I had just done.

The others caught sight of what had occurred. Almost in unison they let out screams of protest. She was right.

Suddenly there was an impossibly loud groan-like sound and the chasm began to shake violently and then everything went dark.

I woke up in a different version of what seemed to be my room inside a different version of my house in a completely different city. I asked my family and friends who had no recollection of what had happened or even our hometown of Delarena Springs.

I searched it up in desperation. Delarena Springs doesn't exist, never has, there is no record of any place by that name. There is another difference, in this world the city of Las Almas has become Los Angeles. I have yet to find out what else has changed, but right now the most important question is how everything changed and why.

I also feel as if I'm starting to forget Delarena Springs and everything that happened in it. That's why I wrote this. Also to... to try and find someone else, anyone else who might remember of our original world or reality.

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