In their last story, Karen, Griffin, and their new friends traveled into the heart of the Daintree Rainforest in search of a rare plant, the Aurorafolia Dracaena. By some miracle, the group not only found the plant but also survived the monstrous lizard that was guarding it. However, this rare plant is shrouded in more mystery than they had fathomed. Will they be able to survive the secret cult hell-bent on protecting the knowledge of this mysterious plant?
Their story continues…
Tossing and turning
Karen crawled onto her cot, her eyes heavy with exhaustion. But even as she closed them, strange dreams began to seep into her mind.
She saw the black birds circling around a smoky fire, their piercing eyes fixed on her. She felt a sense of dread and impending doom as if something terrible was to happen.
Then, the scene shifted, and she found herself floating in endless emptiness, weightless and adrift. She couldn’t see anything around her, but she felt a sense of openness as if something was being pulled out of her and replaced with something else.
And then, the final image flashed before her eyes – the silhouettes of a couple on a balcony, their faces shrouded in shadow. She couldn’t make out any details, but she felt a sense of familiarity and longing as if she was somehow connected to them.
Karen tossed and turned, her mind consumed by these strange dreams. Suddenly jumping up in a cold sweat, her heart pounding in her chest, gasping anxious breaths. She rubbed her eyes and sat up, taking deep breaths to calm herself. The dream had felt so real, and the images were burnt into her mind like a cosmic branding.
She glanced around the dimly lit cottage room, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. Griffin was fast asleep, his rhythmic breathing and soft snoring blending with the sounds of the night. She didn’t want to wake him so she quietly slipped off her cot and made her way to the entrance of the cottage.
Outside, the air was cool and crisp, the moon casting a silvery glow on the surrounding trees. Karen sat down on a fallen log laying just outside, trying her best to clear her mind of the remnants from the dream. She had never experienced anything like that before, the dream was so vividly real. It was as though she was watching parts of her life from behind a veil, feeling everything as it happened but unable to make anything out. It left her feeling disoriented and anxious, her thoughts racing in an attempt to make sense of it.
What did they mean? Who were the couple on the balcony? Why were the black birds circling the fire? She felt like she was missing some crucial piece of information, and it was driving her insane.
As she sat there at the side of the cottage, wrapped in the blanket she took with her, shuffling through thoughts like cards in her mind. Maybe, just maybe, she would find the answers to what this all meant, and what mystery the Aurorafolia dracaena was connected to.
As though exhausted from Jumping from thought to thought, she finally closed her eyes and was lulled to sleep by the sounds of the nearby forest, propped up against the lodge.
Good morning nature
Griffin stumbled out of the cottage, rubbing his eyes and trying to shake off the grogginess of sleep. But as he stepped outside, he saw Karen sitting on a fallen log, staring off into the distance. He couldn’t help but smirk at her.
“Well, well, well,” he teased. “Look who’s decided to brave the wilds of the jungle. Not quite the suburbs you’re used to, huh? You do know you could have been dragged away by a tiger or swallowed by an anaconda. Haven’t you seen the movie?”
Karen rolled her eyes, not in the mood for his teasing. “Yeah, well, I could have, but I wasn’t. You can’t get rid of me that easily, Griffin.”
Griffin laughed. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Karen. Who else would keep me on my toes the way that you do?”
Karen couldn’t help but smile at his words. As much as she hated to admit it, Griffin had a way of getting under her skin in the best possible way. “Just don’t expect me to go on any more wild adventures with you after this one,” she joked.
Griffin chuckled. “Oh, come on, Karen. You know you love it. Admit it, you’re having the time of your life out here in the dangerous outback.”
Karen raised an eyebrow. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Griffin. I’m anxious to get out of here. But I will admit, it’s been an adventure unlike any other.”
The two of them sat in companionable silence for a few moments, enjoying the peacefulness of the jungle and its morning sounds.
[A gust of wind blows across the cottage, gently ruffling the leaves of the nearby trees]
Suddenly, they heard rustling in the nearby bushes. They both jumped up, on high alert, thinking it might be a wild animal. But instead, they saw a group of people dressed in black wearing hoodies, hiding behind the trees. Before they could react, the strangers darted out and grabbed them, dragging them into the jungle.
Karen and Griffin struggled to break free, but it was no use, they were outnumbered and at their captors’ mercy. They were thrown into the back of a jeep with their hands tied. The last thing they saw before losing consciousness was the cottage through the trees getting smaller and smaller as they drove away.[Hours later]
After what seemed like days, Karen and Griffin came to and found themselves in an unfamiliar location, tied up and surrounded by their captors. They could tell they were back deep in the jungle but had no idea where or why they were taken.
Karen and Griffin exchanged anxious whispers as they tried to make sense of their situation.
“What do they want from us?” Karen asked in a hushed tone. “And why did they bring us here?”
“I don’t know,” Griffin replied, his voice low and tense. “But we need to stay calm and figure out a way to get out of here.”
Karen nodded in agreement. “Do you think they’re going to hurt us?”
Griffin shook his head. “I don’t know, but we need to be prepared for anything.”
As they spoke, one of the captors approached them, removing the black hood to reveal a pale attractive young woman.
“I know this must be confusing and frightening for you,” she said, her voice soft. “But I will explain what is going on.”
Karen and Griffin exchanged a wary glance, unsure of what to expect. “What is going on?” Karen asked impatiently, “And who are you people?”
The woman took a deep breath and chuckled. “You don’t remember me, do you Karen”
“Remember you? I don’t think we’ve ever met.” Replied Karen with a perplexed look on her face, looking the woman up and down from head to toe.
The woman had a pale soft complexion with long deep brown hair that cascaded down her back, falling in loose waves that framed her heart-shaped face.
“Oh my God! Raven, is that you?” Karen said, her eyes wide in astonishment.
“So you do remember me after all.” Raven responded, flashing a familiar smile at Karen.
“I’m at a loss for words. I haven’t seen you in over 15 years. What’s going on, why are we here?” Karen said, in a calm curious tone. “Most importantly, how in the world do you still look like you’re 20 years old?”
Raven smirked with a look of pride on her face. “This is not the reunion I would have planned for us, Karen, but I will explain everything to you both.” Raven replied reassuringly, gesturing to another member of the group to untie them.
What in the black magic…
“Listen closely,” Raven began, her tone low and ominous, commanding Griffin and Karen’s full attention.
“The Aurorafolia Dracaena plant is not just any flower. It’s the key to a sacred ritual, one that has been shrouded in secrecy for centuries by our group.”
Griffin’s eyes widened with curiosity. “What kind of ritual?” he asked, unable to believe what he was hearing.
Raven’s lips twitched in hesitation, and her eyes flickered with uncertainty. “It’s a ritual that gives all who complete both steps the ability to live forever,” she revealed, her voice dropping to a hushed whisper. “But there is a price you will have to pay.”
Karen and Griffin’s hearts pounded with anticipation as they waited for Raven to reveal the gruesome details. “What are the steps, and what is the price?” Karen asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Raven’s gaze locked onto theirs, her expression grave. “The price is a sacrifice,” she said. “A sacrifice of someone you love.”
Karen and Griffin recoiled in horror, their minds struggling to comprehend what she was saying. “You mean we have to kill someone?” Karen’s voice shook with fear.
“This is not something you hear every day, so I can just imagine what may be going through your heads.” Raven said empathetically like a saleswoman overcoming an objection.
“Our secret society is very protective of the knowledge of this plant. The truth is, the only reason you’re still alive is because I recognized you and was able to convince them that you would be more valuable alive, as a member of our group.”
A grim realization set in as Raven disclosed the unsettling truth to Griffin and Karen: the secret group had marked them for death. They were lucky to still be alive. Yet, even as the danger momentarily subsided, the looming shadow of the group’s ominous intentions left them in an unnervingly fragile state, with no discernible escape from their precarious predicament.
Griffin and Karen exchanged a wary glance, unsure of what to make of Raven’s revelation. The idea of sacrificing someone in exchange for eternal life was abhorrent to them, and they couldn’t fathom how they would justify such a trade-off.
Raven sensed their hesitation and placed a reassuring hand on Karen’s shoulder. “I know this sounds difficult, but you have to trust me. Once you’ve completed the first step of the ritual, maybe then this will become easier
“I’m not sure how easier this will become. This morning I didn’t even believe in Santa Claus, and now you’re telling us that we could live forever but we have to sacrifice someone for that.” Griffin said, his voice heavy with uncertainty.
“If I were hearing this for the first time, I would be just as shocked. But you should be a bit more receptive to this, Karen. This is all we used to talk about back when we were at uni.” Raven said reminiscently. “That must be how you learned about the plant.”
Karen closed her eyes in a sudden moment of enlightenment realizing Raven was right. She had heard about the plant back when she was in school. But there was no mention of a secret society.
“You’re right, Raven. That is how I knew about the plant. But I thought it was just a rare flower that we could use in our experiments, not one that was guarded by a secret cult.”
“We prefer society or group. Those are more socially acceptable terms.” replied Raven facetiously.
“Whatever the reason, you two are here now and my group requires an answer. Will you join us?”
Griffin and Karen took one last look at each other, the seconds passing by like hours, neither having the answer of how to escape their current bind. And as if arriving at the same thought simultaneously, answered Ravens’ question together.
“Yes, we will join you.”
A Taste of Immortality
Raven and her group led Griffin and Karen deeper into the forest, their footsteps echoing against the trees. The air was thick with the scent of damp earth and decaying leaves, and the sound of chirping crickets filled their ears. Finally, they came to a clearing at the top of a short hill, and Raven motioned for them to stand in the center.
The towering flames of the bonfire roared and crackled, sending a shower of sparks and smoke swirling up toward the velvet-black sky. As the heat licked at their skin, a row of figures garbed in ominous black robes slowly rose and formed a formidable ring around the startled duo.
With each step they took, the ground seemed to tremble under their feet, sending ripples of dread through the air. They were like dark apparitions, evoked from the shadows of the night, moving with an eerie grace that belied an underlying menacing intent.
As they completed the circle, the fire leapt and danced in wild abandon, casting a flickering glow over their faces and casting the pair in an eerie, otherworldly light. As Karen looked around, a sudden sense of familiarity swept over her, like a wave of deja vu crashing into her consciousness.[Thuds of large footsteps approached. Griffin and Karen turned to see what was making them.]
“Holy shit.” Griffin said under his breath
“OH MY GOD!” Karen yelped softly.
“That is the plant’s Guardian. Much like us, there is only one way that he can ever die. Falling will not kill him. But don’t worry, he is trained to listen to us.” Raven calmly explained.
A couple of feet back, outside the group of secret society members, who now completely encircled Griffin and Karen, was the monstrous lizard that chased Jack and fell off the cliff when they first came in search of the plant. It was alive and laying harmlessly next to one of the members’ feet like a giant scaly 30-foot German Shepard.
“Step one of the ritual is to connect with the flower’s essence.” Raven said, producing a small vial of liquid from her pocket. “This is a potion made from the petals of the Aurorafolia Dracaena. You must drink it and meditate until you feel a connection with the plant’s life force.”
Griffin and Karen looked at each other nervously as Raven handed them each a vial of the potion. After a slight pause, they downed the liquid, their throats burning as it went down.
The moment the liquid cascaded down their throats and into their stomachs, an electric rush of vitality surged through their bodies. Their skin was awash with a tantalizing tingling sensation, their senses coming alive as if something just unlocked a cellar door in their soul.
They closed their eyes as instructed by Raven as she sprinkled fresh ash gathered from the fire, while the group encircling them began reciting a strange incantation. Griffin and Karen could feel something being pried open deep inside of them, it was like nothing they had ever experienced before. They felt connected to something much larger than themselves as if something was seeping out and being mixed with something else that was seeping into them.
Under the cover of darkness following the ritual, Raven and a few members of the group silently accompanied Griffin and Raven back to the cottage grounds, following the ritual. Just before leaving, Raven spoke to them one last time, explaining what to expect next.
“Over the next few days, the essence of the plant will infuse into your very being and become one with you. At that moment, it will be time for the next stage of the ritual. You are now partially connected to us. We will feel you anywhere that you are, even if you are on the other side of the world.” Raven explicated.
“How will we know when it’s time?” Queried Karen.
“When the time comes you will feel it, and then we will find you”.
After explaining what to expect, but giving them no certain details on when to expect it, Raven and her mysterious companions drove off, disappearing into the obsidian night.
Griffin and Karen walked deeper into the compound. As they approached their cottage, they could see through the window Bruce walking back and forth, with his mates sitting around the single table in the center of the room.
As they entered, Bruce jumped around, the look of relief apparent on his face. He was elated to see the two alive.
“Bloody hell, mate, we had no idea where you two had gone off to,” he said, hugging them both tightly. “We were about to call the police.”
Karen was still a little anxious from the ordeal but managed a weak smile. “Thank you, Bruce. We are relieved to know that someone was concerned about us.”
“We were worried shitless! After what we went through yesterday, we had no idea what to think.”
“Yeah, we…” Karen paused, looking off into the distance as if slipping into a trance.
“We were just enjoying the morning, sitting outside the cottage,” Griffin began, telling the harrowing experience. “Suddenly, out of nowhere, a group dressed in all black appeared and grabbed us. We didn’t even see them coming. The next thing we knew, we were drugged and unconscious. And when we finally came to, we found ourselves trapped in a dark room, deep in the forest.
The group grew silent, staring at Griffin and Karen in shock. “What do you mean grabbed you?” Bruce asked, his voice low and serious.
Griffin recounted the whole story, from the masked men to the van to the remote location to the ritual. The group listened intently, their expressions growing more and more concerned.
“We need to report this to the authorities,” one of the men said, his voice firm.
“And we need to get you two some medical attention,” Bruce added, looking at Griffin and Karen with concern.
“We wouldn’t know where to begin explaining to the police what happened to us. We just need to get out of here and head back home to the states.” Griffin explained to the group, looking over at Karen who was still blankly staring out the window.
“We just need some help getting to the airport, Bruce. I need to get her home.”
“Of course, mate, I’ll take you. The Cairns airport is about two hours away. We’ll leave as soon as you two are ready.”
Grabbing just a few things and throwing them into a small backpack he grabbed off the bed, Griffin gestured to Bruce that they were ready to go.
Bruce drove the car towards Cairns airport, the hum of the engine filling the silence in the car. Griffin sat in the backseat, his eyes locked and focused as he wrote in a small notepad he had in his hand, while Karen stared blankly out of the window, lost in thought.
Bruce could sense that Karen was still grappling with the trauma of their experience. He wanted to say something, offer some comfort or reassurance, but he didn’t know what to say.
As they pulled up to the airport terminal, Griffin looked up from his notepad and turned to Karen. “We made it, Karen,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “We’re going home now.”
Karen nodded slowly, her eyes fixed on the entrance to the airport. As they said their goodbyes, Griffin hugged Bruce tightly. “Thank you, Bruce,” he said. “We couldn’t have made it without you.”
Bruce smiled warmly. “It was no problem, mate. Take care of yourself and Karen, and let me know when you get home safely.”
Griffin nodded, then turned to Karen. “Come on, Karen. We’ve got a long flight ahead of us.”
Karen followed him slowly, her eyes still distant and unfocused. Bruce watched as they disappeared into the airport, a sense of relief washing over him knowing that they were, at least at the moment, out of danger’s reach.
Griffin and Karen stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac at JFK airport. The cool New York air greeted them, but it did little to ease the heaviness in their hearts. The weight of what they had been through and the uncertainty of what was still to come occupied their minds.
As they made their way through the terminal, Griffin couldn’t help but steal glances at Karen. She looked so small and fragile, lost in her own world. She had been like this since being released by Raven and her black-robed guild, a shell of the woman he knew and loved.
Griffin tried to make small talk, asking her about her favorite places in New York, but her responses were robotic like she was simply going through the motions. It was clear that Karen was still in shock from what had happened to them.
They arrived at their apartment building, and Griffin led Karen to their front door. He fumbled with the keys, finally managing to get the door open. As they stepped inside, Griffin couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness. This was supposed to be their sanctuary, their safe place, but now it felt tainted by the memories they brought back with them from their experience in Australia.
Karen made her way to the living room, and Griffin watched as she sat down on the couch, staring off into space. He sat down next to her, unsure of what to do. He wanted to hold her, comfort her, but he didn’t want to make things worse.
The apartment was quiet, the only sound coming from the occasional car horn outside. Griffin sat in silence, lost in his thoughts. He couldn’t help but feel like they had lost something on their journey, something they could never get back.
He looked at Karen, her eyes glazed over as she stared at the wall. He tried to engage her in conversation, but her responses were limited to monosyllabic words, spoken in a dull, monotone voice. It was as though she was trapped in a world of her own that she had cut off all access to. Griffin felt helpless, unsure of how to bring her back to reality so that they could begin figuring their way out of this predicament.
He wanted to be empathetic and patient as she resolved in her mind the situation they were now in. But he couldn’t wait for long. The delicate scale of their existence hung precariously in the balance, teetering on the edge of a great unknown abyss. The ominous silence that enveloped their world offered no clues as to when fate would finally decide to cast its decisive hand.
But there was something that was still transforming within them, he could feel it growing with each moment that passed by. Although Karen remained unresponsive, not giving any clues as to what was happening in her head, there was a new connection being created between them that was syncing their senses. He wasn’t completely sure, but it was as though he was beginning to feel some of what she was.
Griffin caught a glimpse of something at the corner of his eye. It was the little baggy with the bud samples of the Aurorafolia Dracaena that they had originally gotten. Without thinking, he pulled one of the flower buds from the baggy out of the backpack’s pocket and held it to Karen’s nose. At first, she didn’t respond, but then, slowly, she took a deep breath and her eyes flickered with recognition. Griffin watched in amazement as color flooded back into her cheeks, and a veil of blank desolating fell away from her eyes.
“Griffin?” Karen said in a questioning tone, slowly returning from her state of catatonia. “How are we going to get out of this one?”
“We’ll figure it out, Karen. We always do”
The city was cloaked in darkness as night fell, casting an eerie glow over the bustling metropolis, the lights of the skyscrapers twinkling like stars on the city’s Stygian backdrop. The streets below were teeming with life and activity, but high above them, in their apartment, Griffin and Karen stood together in silence, staring out at the twinkling cityscape from their balcony.
“Karen, ever since we performed that ritual, I’ve been experiencing inexplicable sensations that seem to be growing stronger by the day. Today, it’s as if they’re on the verge of overflowing from my body entirely. Have you been experiencing anything similar?” Griffin asked, his voice tinged with both curiosity and concern.
Karen’s eyes widened, and she nodded slowly. “Yes, Griffin. I’ve been feeling the same way. It’s like I can sense the tremors of your heart beating through my own body, as though we’re connected in some profound way.” As she spoke, she placed a hand on his chest, feeling the steady thump of his heartbeat beneath her fingertips.
Their eyes locked as they were both overcome with a sense of anticipation and at that moment, they both knew that something had changed between them. Something powerful and otherworldly was at play, and they were both swept up in its all-encompassing embrace. They had been forced to perform a ritual that had transformed their bodies, and now they were experiencing a connection that they had never felt before.
Griffin wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close, softly whispering in her ear, “Let’s forget everything else tonight, Karen. Let’s pretend nothing else exists in this world but you and I, until the morning.”
Karen felt his breath on the back of her neck. She shuddered with desire as he ran his hands over her hips, pulling her body even closer to his.
Without another word, Griffin pushed Karen up against the railing, kissing her hungrily as he pressed his body against hers. Karen moaned softly as she wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss, running her fingers through his hair.
As they continued to kiss, they could feel their bodies changing, their senses becoming more acute. The sound of the city below was like music to their ears, and the cool night air felt electric against their skin.
They began to move together, as though their bodies were merging and becoming one. Griffin could feel every curve and contour of Karen’s body, and she could feel the strength and power of his. Their movements were synchronized, their breathing in perfect harmony.
Griffin lifted Karen off the ground and carried her to the cushioned chair that was situated on the balcony. He lowered her down onto the cushions, his eyes drinking in the sight of her as he slid his hand up the smooth skin of her thigh.
Karen arched her back, pressing her body against his as he trailed kisses down her neck, nipping at her earlobe as she moaned in pleasure. Karen arched her back, pressing her body against his as he trailed kisses down her neck, nipping at her earlobe as she moaned in pleasure. Griffin took his time, making a trail with his tongue down the center of her body, periodically stopping to appreciate its softness with a kiss as he moved further down.
The transformation was making them feel more alive than ever before, and they both knew that they wanted to experience every moment of it. As they moved in unison, they were increasingly conscious of the transformations occurring within their bodies. They felt as though they were two homogeneous liquids being poured from separate glasses into one, their minds and souls merging together as they reached new peaks of pleasure.
With each thrust, they felt a surge of energy coursing through their bodies, fueling their passion and desire. They were lost in the moment, lost in each other, and nothing else mattered.
As they reached the height of their passion, they both cried out, their voices mingling in the night air. They collapsed onto the balcony, their bodies intertwined, their hearts beating as one.
For a moment, they lay there, spent and exhausted, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. It was a wild and primal experience, one that left them both feeling raw and exposed. As they remained entwined on the balcony, watching the stars above, they knew that they had never felt more alive.
“That was incredible! I have never been that connected with anyone before. I could feel you feeling me. I felt you feeling me feeling you.” Karen said, still trying to slow her breathing. “Even as we lay here, I can feel the sweat drying from your skin and the air cooling it.”
“It is like every cell in our bodies were communicating with each other. Karen, you are officially the strongest drug I’ve ever taken.” Griffin admitted, taking a deep pleasurable sigh
They had connected in a way that they never could have imagined, and they both knew that they would never forget this night or the passion that they had shared. The ritual may have forced them to transform, but it was the intense love that they had for each other that allowed them to truly connect in every sense of the word.
Both new that come morning, they would have to face this bizarre situation that they were in. But for tonight, they would just lay here in each other’s arms and forget the world.”
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