Enter Stage Left

I’ve just moved into a town that would be the perfect setting for a Stephen King novel. I kid you not. I’ve lived in a lot of small towns in my day, but none so eerie and inexplicably spine-tingling as this one. There’s nothing outright weird about this town, nothing visibly sinister. But with each person you meet, each establishment you enter, each street you drive down, comes the slightest of disconcerting vibes. People rarely acknowledge you unless they’re staring unblinkingly as you pass. If they acknowledge you, it’s a glinty-eyed bore into your soul. Maybe even past your soul. On the rare occasion that someone speaks to you, it’s rushed and faked, as if they’re worried they’ll be caught fraternizing with an intruder.

The houses are old and dingy, falling apart and sagging unabashedly. The roads crumble and drop away into strange twists and turns that bring you back to where you were a moment before, or don’t bring you back at all. At night, voices can be heard from copses of trees pitch black despite the nearby streetlights. I haven’t seen any children yet. Not even one. The adults don’t seem to have a lot to do as they wander the streets aimlessly during working hours.

Of course, as would be the case in this ‘hypothetical’ horror story, my cell gets no reception anywhere. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. I’m hundreds of miles from where I belong, and my car is on it’s last leg, and I’ve no reception. So typical. So cliche. Speaking of cars, in the two weeks I’ve been here the gas prices haven’t deviated even a penny, not even once. If nothing else, that should tell you that there’s something fishy about this town. What kind of place is this anyway?

Everything closes down around 7pm, except the gas stations which close at 9. Nobody is out and about at that time. It’s like the whole town has got a set bedtime, and yet you know they aren’t sleeping. If you ask anybody for directions, or about upcoming town events, they again stare at you blankly until you mumble a hurried ‘never mind’ and depart as quickly as you came.

I’ve never really been afraid of the dark, or even of those things which lurk there. But in this quiet little half horse town, I hesitate to go out at night, even just out to my car. The moment you step from the light of your doorway into the outdoors, it swallows you in silence and uneasiness. While you hurry to retrieve from your car whatever you’d foolishly forgotten earlier, the only thought in your head is to get inside in one piece and without being whisked off into the unknown by the hidden assailants just out of sight in the trees. Of course, no porch lights work, so even the minute and a half of fumbling in the dark for the right apartment key seems to go on forever. Once inside you rest your head against the door, and plead with your heart to slow its pounding, only to hear a creak on the stairs behind you and to spin around to see …nothing. Even in the confines of your own apartment, which you left only minutes before and which was locked during your absence, you check each room and behind the shower curtain before convincing yourself that you are as alone as you were before.

This solitude is at once comforting and terrifying. You are of course glad to find no intruders, but a hole finds itself in the pit of your stomach as you consider the fact that you know nobody and nobody knows you: that even if something happened and you screamed for all you were worth, no one would hear you, no one would help you.

This is my new home.

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