It's the dead of night and I'm in my cabin, which, at the moment, is essentially just a box. But I have plans for expansion. Big plans! Like adding a second box. Next to the main box. So it'll be two boxes. Anyway, I'm crafting with the spoils of my daytime scavenging and hunting. I've got ore simmering in the furnace, food cooking in the campfire, and I'm banging together some new building materials at my workbench. That's when I hear footsteps outside. They approach slowly, crunching through the grass, until they're right outside my cabin wall. Then they stop. Then... nothing.
Having a house in the Early Access crafting survival game Rust comes with a few benefits. Drop a sleeping bag, and now you have a place to respawn. Build a workbench and a forge, and now you have a place to craft. Build a storage box, and now you have a place to store your materials. There's a downside, however. Once you've got a home, you've got neighbors. And neighbors love to drop by.
Take this current visitor, who has walked up to my cabin and is apparently standing just outside. I hold my breath, straining to listen. I'm nervous. I mean, I know my door can't be opened by anyone but me, and my tiny cabin is almost certainly too small for someone to bother wasting explosives trying to get in. But still... there's someone— some other human person —standing right outside my walls in the middle of the night. I extinguish my forge and campfire, plunging my cabin into darkness. I hold my breath. There's some shuffling outside. I can barely see a human figure crouching in the moonlight. He's peering through the narrow gaps in my walls. He's a virtual foot away from me and we're staring at each other through a crack in the wall. It's... unsettling .
I fire a shotgun blast at the wall, knowing I can't hurt him from in here, but mostly to let him know I actually do have a gun and I'm not AFK. He crouches there a moment longer, then I hear him walk away.
The next night, again, I hear footsteps approach. This time, they stop right outside my door.
"Hello," says a hollow, monotone voice. "Hello. I'm friendly. You can open your door." Somehow I'm not convinced. He circles my house a couple times, reassuring me in his odd, flat voice that it's OK to let him in. I sit inside, eyes wide, until the footsteps recede.
The next day I build another room onto my house, and put in some exposed stairs leading to what I plan to be the second floor. Around dawn, I have another visitor. I douse my flames and listen while the footsteps go from the grass outside to the boulder next to my house. Then there's a clunk as he jumps onto my roof. Whoever he is, he's walking around directly above me.
"Anybody home?" a voice asks, knowing full well that somebody is home. "Anybody? If nobody's home, then... I'll just tear down these stairs."
There's a splintering noise as he starts smashing my new staircase. I have no idea if he can actually ruin my stairs or not, but I'd prefer he didn't. I go outside.
"What's going on?" I ask him. He walks off my roof and lands in the grass. He's wearing only pants, and holding a rock.
"Come here, and I'll show you."
I walk over, because in general I choose to be trusting. Also: I am extremely stupid. He immediately begins trying to smash me with his rock. I pull out my pipe shotgun and fire. Naturally, I miss.
We have a merry little chase. Him, trying to bash me with a rock while hopping around like a kangaroo, me backpedaling, firing wildly, missing, and trying to reload my one-shot boomstick. Finally, I make a buttonhook around my house, slither up the boulder, and slide down the other side to the grass. He follows but makes the mistake of leaping off the boulder.
He lands with a crunch and drops to the ground, where his prone body appears to suddenly be sleeping. I assume he's dead, but just to be safe I shoot him at point blank range. His body vanishes in a spray of blood and is replaced by a backpack. He's carrying nothing but starter gear: torches and two bandages. And his rock.
So, it seems I've been welcomed to the neighborhood, Rust-style! It's not all bad though. The kind benefactor from my first diary entry lives a short distance away, and drops by every so often to see how I'm doing, to give me the local news, and to brutally kill any interlopers he spots. When I tell him about the guy who tried bashing my head in, and how long it took me to kill him, he says, "Yeah, when someone comes at you with a rock like that... it's hard to kill a naked jumping man."
I'm also starting to be recognized in the valley. Not all strangers slink around my house in the middle of the night: many come over and introduce themselves. My friend has friends, soon I learn their names and get comfortable having them around. We share resources if someone has a project going. We swap news, stories, and advice. If someone accidentally gets shot (which happens), apologies are made. If someone accidentally gets shot and killed (which also happens), gear is politely returned. It really feels like a little neighborhood. A weird, violent little neighborhood filled with irradiated bears and mostly-naked men.
Speaking of the neighborhood, it's sprouted some new buildings. The next time I log in, someone has built a wide three story building with barred windows and a series of ramps leading up one side of it. I'm impressed: it's taken me days to build a tiny three-story, and someone arrived and threw this together alone in a few hours.
However, as you can sort of see in the screenshot, our new neighbor left out an important detail: one ceiling section. Word around the valley is, as soon as he logged off, everyone in our 'hood climbed the side of his house, jumped through the roof, and looted his storage crates. I have a look inside myself: the place has been entirely cleaned out. He hasn't been back. I guess it pays to get friendly with the locals before building a condo on their block.
Speaking of friendly locals, it's now been days since I've had anyone creep around or try to kill me, which makes me think that perhaps I'm leading a too-sheltered life. I've got my cozy corner of the server, and it's great, but maybe it's time I left it for a bit, to get a true taste of the outside world. Maybe it's time I went walkabout!
I should point out, I don't make this decision. It's sort of made for me. After a day of hunting, I've run back to the cliff where my house is located, but when I get there my house is missing. It's because I've run to the wrong cliff. I run to another distant cliff, but it's the wrong one as well. Two things occur to me: I'm completely and utterly lost, and the sun has gone down.
You know how Bilbo Baggins went There and Back Again? Next week, I try to do the same.