Ţ̶͎̼̥̪̦̤̭̟̜͈͈̤̂H̴̛͈͔̩̑͂͂̌͘͠E̴̫͚̟̠̠̭͕̟͙͎̾̈́͛̎́͗͊̈̈́̒̾̓͘͠͠ͅ ̶̺̯̫̰̜̾̌̉̈́̋̽́̆̐̚͘B̴̡͇̭̻̰̗̻͕̝̣̯̫̻̲̓͛̾͋̀̽͗͑̕Ā̷̢̧̻̬̯̼͕̳̮͙͎̪̦͍̒͗̈̂̽̀͛̀̎̏̕͘͝L̵͉̜̼̬̠̬̟̟̪̜̋ͅĻ̶̳̦̙̫̰̳̝̓̈́͆̊͌͐́̕͠ ̴̡̨͇̮͖͔̮̤͍̼̺̐͑̾̓̾̓̆̈́Ţ̴̩̱̩̼͚͎̲͙̗͈̣͇̆́̄͒͊͠Ḭ̶̩̳̖̱̃͆̽̊̈͋̀̎̆̄Ċ̴͕̞̠̖̹̺͓̞̪͖̉͒̀͒̎͊̃̀̀́̐̐̚͜͜͜͝K̴̨̞̣̣͚̼̠̼̯̯̬̋̀̒͒ͅĻ̸̡̩͚̦̖͚̮̳̫͚͚̗̋E̴̬̦̘͕̍̂̑́̐̇͂̊̍̍͌R̴̛̦̮̳̼͗͘

      The demon we do not speak of is an evil being. Do not disturb or attempt to summon the demon we do not speak of. It is very dangerous. You need to leave this area now. You shouldn't of come here.

        The dawn of 2020 was heralded as a new era, a time of innovation and connection. For me, it became an odyssey into a realm I hadn't anticipated. My gaming adventures had spanned countless worlds, but VRChat was different. It was more than a game; it was a universe unto itself. Within this digital cosmos, I found Helping Hands, a sign language group that offered daily classes. The allure of mastering a new language in such a unique environment was irresistible, and I soon became a fixture in the virtual classroom.


    Among the motley crew of attendees was Jeremy. His avatar, a small black cat with a captivating rainbow outline, stood out in its simplicity. While most of us communicated through signs, Jeremy's voice would occasionally break the silence, marking the passage of time with statements like, "Today is Tuesday," or "Today is Thursday." It was a peculiar habit, but it added a touch of predictability to the otherwise chaotic world of VRChat. But then there was TBT.

   There was nothing overtly menacing about him, but something in his demeanor was off. His interactions, especially with Jeremy, were laced with subtle hints of something deeper, something darker. Instead of the straightforward questions most of us posed, TBT's inquiries were layered, almost philosophical. "Do you ever wonder, Jeremy, if our existence here is just a fleeting moment in a grander design?" or "Isn't it curious how we're all made of the same stuff, yet so different? Pixels, thoughts, dreams... where do they begin and end?"


    Initially, I dismissed TBT as an eccentric, someone who enjoyed dabbling in deep thoughts and abstract concepts. But as the classes progressed, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to his interactions with Jeremy. Each conversation seemed to be leading Jeremy down a path, one that was shrouded in ambiguity. The themes of life, death, and the very fabric of our digital existence were always present, lurking just beneath the surface of TBT's words. The rest of the class seemed unperturbed, engrossed in their lessons and interactions. But for me, TBT's insidious hints became a fixation. Every nuance, every veiled reference, felt like a piece of a puzzle I was desperate yet fearful to complete. And as the lines between the virtual and the real began to blur, I found myself ensnared in a web of intrigue that transcended the confines of VRChat.


     The weeks went by, and the atmosphere in the Helping Hands classes grew increasingly tense, at least for me. While others laughed, practiced, and shared stories, I became more and more attuned to the undercurrents between Jeremy and TBT. Jeremy's routine remained unchanged, his voice echoing the days of the week in its usual cadence. But TBT's comments grew more intricate, weaving a tapestry of insinuations that seemed to challenge the very nature of our existence. "Isn't it fascinating, Jeremy, how we can feel so alive in this space, yet it's all just data and light?" or "Have you ever pondered if, when we log off, we're truly waking up or just entering another dream?" The questions were never direct, but the implications were clear: What is real? What is illusion? And where do we fit in this vast digital cosmos?


    My obsession with TBT's intentions began to seep into my daily life. I'd find myself lost in thought  while eating, driving, or even during conversations with friends. I'd replay their interactions in my mind, trying to decipher the hidden meanings, the veiled threats, or the promises that seemed to lurk in TBT's words. Sleep became elusive as my dreams were invaded by pixelated landscapes where TBT's shadowy figure loomed large, always just out of reach, always whispering riddles that I couldn't quite grasp.


  I began to research, diving deep online, searching for any mention of TBT or any hint of his true identity. It was during one of these late-night sessions that I stumbled upon an obscure reference to Balls Gate, a religion I'd never heard of. Buried within its doctrines was a fleeting mention of a demon, The Balls Tickler. The details were scant, but a chill ran down my spine. The parallels were too close to be mere coincidence.


     As the days turned into weeks, Jeremy's presence in the class began to wane. He'd log in late, his avatar's movements seemed sluggish, and sometimes he'd just stand in a corner, silent, not even uttering his usual day-of-the-week mantra. TBT, on the other hand, seemed more animated, more present. He'd often stand close to Jeremy, their avatars almost merging, as if he was absorbing Jeremy's essence. The rest of the class seemed oblivious to this dance of dominance, but to me, it was as clear as day. TBT was winning, whatever game he was playing.


    Then, one fateful day, neither of them logged in. The class felt empty, devoid of the electric tension that had become the norm. I tried to focus on the lesson, to engage with the other attendees, but my gaze kept drifting to the spots where Jeremy and TBT usually stood. As the session drew to a close and users began to log off, I lingered, lost in thought. Just as I was about to exit, a flicker in the periphery of my vision caught my attention. In a dim corner of the virtual room stood a figure, darker and more menacing than any avatar I'd seen before. It was TBT, or at least, some twisted version of him. I felt paralyzed, unable to look away. The whispers returned, louder and more insistent, a cacophony of voices that seemed to be both inside and outside my head, I managed to log off, but the feeling of dread, the weight of unseen eyes watching, remained.


    The days that followed were a blur of anxiety and paranoia. Every shadow in my room, every unexpected noise, seemed to be a manifestation of TBT's malevolent presence. I tried to distract myself, to immerse in other activities, but the pull of VRChat, the need to know what had happened to Jeremy and to confront TBT, was overpowering. I decided to log back in, but as I put on my VR headset, I noticed a tiny dead pixel in the center of my vision. It was a minuscule imperfection, but in the immersive world of VR, it felt like a gaping void.


     Fixing a dead pixel wasn't a straightforward task. I scoured Reddit for solutions, each more convoluted than the last. From software remedies that involved flashing bright colors to stimulate the pixel back to life, to more physical methods like gently massaging the screen. Hours turned into days as I tried one method after another, but the stubborn pixel remained, a constant. The more I focused on it, the more it seemed to grow, not in size, but in significance. My mind raced with possibilities, each more disturbing than the last.


    With the dead pixel unresolved, I hesitated to re-enter VRChat. But the need for answers, the compulsion to understand what had transpired between Jeremy and TBT, was too strong. I logged in, the black spot a constant distraction, skewing my perception, making the virtual world seem even more distorted and surreal. The Helping Hands classroom was different. The usual attendees were there, but there was a palpable tension, an unspoken acknowledgment that something had shifted. I tried to engage, to participate in the lessons, but the weight of the dead pixel, combined with the absence of Jeremy and TBT, made it impossible to focus.


    Days turned into weeks, and the line between the virtual and the real continued to blur. The dead pixel in my VR headset seemed to have a counterpart in my daily life. I'd see it everywhere, a tiny black spot that would momentarily obscure my vision, a constant reminder of the digital realm. My sleep was plagued with nightmares, visions of TBT's shadowy figure merging with Jeremy's rainbow-outlined cat, the two becoming one, a monstrous entity that pursued me through pixelated landscapes. The whispers grew louder, more insistent, a constant drone that seemed to be pushing me towards some unknown, terrifying destiny. What once was a haven of learning and connection, had become a labyrinth of fear, and I was trapped at its center, with no way out.


    My daily life became a series of routines designed to keep my mind off VRChat and the haunting presence of TBT. I took up new hobbies, tried to reconnect with old friends, and even considered seeking professional help. But every night, I'd find myself drawn back to the headset, the dead pixel serving as a grim reminder of the events that had transpired.


    One evening, as I hesitated to log back into VRChat, a message notification popped up on my computer screen. It was from an unknown user, but the content sent shivers down my spine: "Do you ever feel it beckoning?" I immediately recognized the insidious undertone, the philosophical probing that was TBT's signature. Was he reaching out to me outside of VRChat? How did he find me? The boundaries between the game and reality seemed to dissolve further.


    With a mix of dread and determination, I logged back into VRChat. The Helping Hands classroom was eerily empty. No users, no avatars, just an endless void. As I navigated through the desolate space, the dead pixel began to pulsate, growing larger and more vibrant. Drawn to it, I approached, and as I did, the pixel expanded, revealing itself as a portal. Hesitating only for a moment, I stepped through.


    I found myself in a distorted version of the classroom. The laws of physics seemed skewed, with gravity pulling in multiple directions. In the center stood two figures: Jeremy's rainbow-outlined cat and TBT's shadowy avatar. But they weren't separate; they were intertwined, a swirling mix of colors and darkness. They turned to face me, and in unison, spoke, "Every reality has its gatekeeper. Will you join us?"


     Before I could respond, the world around me began to disintegrate, pixels detaching and floating away like dust in the wind. The voices of TBT and Jeremy echoed, fading into the distance, "Behind every shadow I cast, lies the truth."