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As Joe and Thomas made their way back to the high school hostel in Shenzhen after dinner, they were feeling tired but determined to make it to their destination before dawn. They had been studying hard for weeks and were looking forward to a good night’s sleep. However, as they walked along the deserted road, they heard strange noises coming from behind them.

Suddenly, Joe felt something grab his shoulder from behind. He turned around to see an old man with a long white beard and piercing blue eyes staring back at him. The man’s voice was gruff and raspy, like that of an old man who had not spoken in years.

“Who are you?” asked Joe, trembling with fear.

The old man replied, “I am the guardian of this road.” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small wooden box, which he placed on the ground next to them. The box glowed with an eerie light as if it was alive.

“What is in this box?” asked Thomas, his voice trembling with fear.

The old man smiled, revealing crooked teeth that seemed to be missing several molars. “This road leads to a place where the dead rest,” he said. “You must not take this road.”

Joe and Thomas were both surprised by what they had heard. They had never heard of such a thing before. The old man continued, “But if you do, you will be cursed for eternity.”

The two students looked at each other in disbelief. Suddenly, the box glowed with an intense light, and the old man disappeared into thin air. Joe and Thomas stumbled backwards as the road ahead of them was consumed by a swirling vortex of darkness. When they opened their eyes again, they found themselves back on the deserted road, but something had changed. The tree that they had examined earlier seemed to be moving, swaying back and forth in a macabre dance.

Joe and Thomas tried to run away, but their legs felt heavy as if they were glued to the ground. They watched in horror as the tree grew taller and its branches began to spread out like arms reaching for them. The tree’s trunk seemed to be moving towards them with an unstoppable force.

Just then, a voice called out from behind them, “You have been warned.” Joe and Thomas turned around to see a young woman standing before them. She was wearing a black dress and had long curly hair that flowed down her back like water. Her eyes were piercing and filled with an evil glow.

The young woman said, “I am the guardian of this road as well. You must not take it.”

Joe and Thomas looked at each other in fear as they realized who they had encountered. They knew that their lives would never be the same again.

Note – This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.