It amazes me how many of these streets I’ve never taken, despite living in this city all these years. I’ve taken to exploring, drawing off the usual course and studying the various cul de sacs and vacant lots harboring former businesses and industries. I imagine the vacant homes with their families to keep them warm and I wonder where they went and what made them leave. I wonder what made these streets feel so empty, what drove away the businesses and pulled this town into a black hole, spitting it out in this future.
One thing I’ve noticed in walking down lesser-traversed avenues is that there’s much in this city that I don’t know. I cannot tell you where the people or the businesses went, but I can tell you what remains. The remains are that, just remains, hollowed husks of lives left behind for something better, hopefully, like the vast emptiness that waits in the afterlife. All we can know, without knowing these former people and places is that they’re empty now and we’re left alone.
The less you know about these happenings the more your mind speculates, following insanity until it reaches a discernible point of madness, from which there is no return. Walking down one of the backroads on the south side of the city, you come to a dead end. Houses line the street, until you reach the end of the road. A three foot long stone is implanted in the ground at the end of the road, demarking the crossing point between our city and the woods beyond. The woods protect us, with their ancestral spirit, from the encroachment of forces beyond our control. If we lose its favor, nothing will sustain us and we will be consumed by those greater predators that wait on the precipice.
Along these borders reality and fiction meet. Nightmares seep steadily into our city, tearing into the fabric of reality ever-so slightly, severing our delicate flesh, to leave enough of a wound that it might infect us. The nightmare wishes to make us unclean, as is the nature of its vile spirit. The voices beyond the rift have several names, as there are a myriad of vulgar souls eager to break into our world. Remembering the names or even hearing them is abhorred, as their names are unfit for the civilized tongue. Nevertheless, they remain waiting in the void for those that hear.
Along the edge of this buffer is a home that looks no different than any other, except the original inhabitants are dead. One of the creatures from the void killed them, yet no one has done anything about it. Most people are afraid to acknowledge the treacherous spirit that killed this family and it’s that fear that makes us ignore. There’s no stopping it. The vile figure tore his way into our world and there seems no way to force him back. All we could do is move on. That’s what everyone did.
The Hendricks family went out into the woods in their backyards on that fateful day and never returned. Well, in truth, they came back, but not the same as they’d gone out. Nobody knows what drew them out into those woods. Some neighbors claim that a bright light pulled them out of their homes and made them run towards it. Several reports of the phenomenon have been examined, although no one has come to any discernible conclusions. Some report seeing the four members of the family being dragged back to the house, either unconscious or dead, with the same man pulling them by a rope tied to each of their left feet. Skeptics doubt the claim, as it seems unlikely one man would be able to pull two grown adults and two children along at the same time.
No matter what happened, it doesnt change the fact that the family is gone and now, sitting and brooding on their front porch, is an ornery old man. He sits out on a swing perched in front of a wooden railing, staring at nothing. If you walk too close to his house, he turns on you. He’ll stare, saying nothing. If you try to walk towards his home, he’ll pull out a long hunting knife with a black wooden hilt. He never seems to leave that porch. He never seems to do much of anything. He doesn’t seem to see the world, at least not as we do. He’s a stranger in our world, establishing a new barrier, where the undeniable chaos impedes from the woods and will not be pushed back.