My Hometown is Missing

My Hometown is Missing

my hometown is missing by firstbreath1

Chapter One

I have spent the last hour Googling the name of my hometown. Nothing is there. All of the local schools. All of the local restaurants. Gone. Even my social media is messed up. I can’t find any of my friends online. I can’t find anybody. I’m actually kind of freaking out about it. Has anybody ever experienced anything like this before?

Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.

“Follaton City High”?

Gone.

“Follaton Middle”? Gone. “Follaton Elementary school?” Gone. “Follaton City College?” Gone. That fucking preschool behind the tire place and next to that McDonalds which my mom took us to growing up? You get the idea. All gone. Thousands of people. Dozens of places. I can’t find information for anybody. It’s like we disappeared. I can’t even reach the cops.

I wish that were the only problem.

My family and I woke up this morning to a total blackout. Every single house on the block lost power. That does tend to happen out here in the valley, often enough that my older brother Mark rigged his computer to get a connection via satellite. The two of us are currently crouched beside the generator, desperately trying to get a handle on the past few hours. My parents are panicking. They won’t say anything. They won’t say why. But we have our suspicions.

I saw something in the woods last night.

Right before the power went out, when it was still dark outside, Mark woke me up and pulled me over to his bedside window. He pointed frantically into the trees behind our house. It was raining. The mist made it difficult for my eyes to adjust. But after a moment, something big (we only agree on “something big”) darted towards the neighbor’s back porch. A thick branch fell in its wake.

Then somebody screamed.

My parents rushed into the room right at that moment. I guess they heard the commotion and freaked. Mom beckoned for us to get away from the window. I gave in right away, because my parents can be scary when we don’t listen, but Mark lingered there a little while longer. I didn’t see what he saw.

Mark whispered that he saw somebody running. He said it looked like they were running away from something. My father turned off the lights (I found that odd) and pushed my brother aside. He squinted out the window in silence. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he concluded nothing was there, just wind in the trees.

Then the power went out.

My parents have been acting very weird ever since.

During the day, my mom tried to keep us in the kitchen. She made breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the fireplace. She even broke out a board game in the afternoon and we played for a couple hours. She kept asking about schoolwork, or football, or baseball, or anything but the odd situation we were in. We tried to change the subject, tried to ask her what was happening outside, but it was no use, she ignored our questions.

My father had a wild look in his eyes. Mark and I can’t recall anything like it. He kept rushing to check the window every few minutes. Then he would sit down to check his cell phone. Then back to the window. Then back to his phone. Like clockwork. Each rotation left him more agitated than the last.

The cable didn’t work. The Internet had been spotty. There was really nothing to do but read a book or play a game. Mark asked to go for a walk before dinner. I thought Mom might pop the temple out of her forehead.

“Nobody goes outside,” she snapped. “There could be livewires on the ground.”

Mark snorted.

“Watch your attitude,” she barked. “And keep the windows closed.”

I asked why, and she just stared at me, with these deadly fearful eyes that made me really uncomfortable. She looked like she wanted to tell me something. But my father answered instead. I didn’t even realize he was listening.

“Nobody goes outside.”

I returned to my book without argument. I found one of my Mom’s old Stephen King collections and stumbled onto a story about rats in a basement bigger than a man. Time moved a little faster while I read. The walls of my house started to evaporate. It didn’t take long for my imagination to disappear down the stairwell in the story, plunging further into the darkness with each step, listening to untold things move around me perilously through the blackness.

Somebody knocked on the door around ten PM.

After an entire day of endless boredom, I thought this might be salvation. Thank fuck. Maybe a maintenance worker. Maybe a neighbor. Maybe my friend from down the block finally convinced his mother to traverse the minefield of imaginary live wire.

I got up from my chair to answer the door.

My father sprinted across the room to block me.

I don’t think I had ever seen him run before. He put his hand over my mouth. I tried to protest. He squeezed my arm. He didn’t look angry. He looked scared. His eyes were on fire.

It grew quiet outside. Like somebody was listening.

One finger over his lips told me to shut the fuck up. I looked over to my mom and saw her doing the same thing to my brother. He looked like he wanted to cry. The knocking resumed. The pace was pleasant, at first, your typical formal but friendly rat-tap-tap.

Then a pause.

Then rat-tap-tap.

I was confused. Why were they scared? Why would a burglar knock? I thought that this could be somebody who could tell us what was going on, and it annoyed me that my parents were paranoid, so I got the idea to try saying something anyway. Not my best thought.

“He-..”

My father grabbed me by the throat and pushed me up against the wall. His sweaty palm slipped against my mouth. He raised one finger to his lips and held it there.

Rat-tap-TAP.

Rat-tap-TAP.

Rat-TAP-TAP.

Rat-TAP-TAP.

RATTAPTAPRATTAPTAPRATTAPTAP.

RATTAPTAPRATTAPTAPRATTAPTAP.

My brother whimpered in the corner. The door hinges whined from the pressure of the knocks. My father reached into his pocket with the hand that was formerly placed around my neck. I knew he had a knife in there.

Rat-tap-TAP.

Rat-tap-TAP.

Rat-tap-tap.

Rat-tap-tap.

And just as soon as it started, the knocking stopped.

The house got quiet again.

My father let go of me.

It’s been hours since the knocker left. My parents still won’t talk to us. My mom is sleeping on the couch. My dad is sitting in front of the door with a gun across his lap.

Can someone, anyone please tell us what the fuck is happening in Follaton City? I still can’t find anything online. We are available through message and comment as long as our connection holds.

I don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight. It’s too quiet.

Chapter Two

Do you know what happens when you search online for “Follaton City” now? This post comes up. I’m not quite sure how to describe that feeling. We are a community of hundreds, if not thousands of people, each with countless stories and worries of our own. You are only hearing one of them now. I cannot understand how our digital footprint could disappear overnight, but here we are, day two in a missing city.

I didn’t get much sleep last night.

Mark spent most of it glued to our bedroom window. He woke me and called me over every now and again. Sometimes he saw flashes of light in the distance. Sometimes he saw movement in the trees. Mostly we saw fog. Thick blankets of it descended on our house like a comforter. It also never stopped raining. Big gusts of wind thumped the house hard enough to make us jump. But the most uncomfortable parts of the previous night were the periods of complete and total silence.

Something about that quiet can really make you crazy.

In any given suburb, there are a million background noises at once, even in a storm, even at night. Birds should be chirping. Insects should be buzzing. Car engines or motorcycles or air conditioners should all be gently humming in unison, but we didn’t hear any of it, not a single sound but our own.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the neighborhood dogs. Shouldn’t they be barking? There was one in particular, a yappy little thing named Cesar, which never passed up a good opportunity to wake you up in favor of a scrambling squirrel or rabbit. Did our neighbors have time to get them inside? Did something else happen to them? What the fuck happened to Cesar?

Mark woke me up for the final time around five. I tried and failed to shrug him off.

“I heard something in the street,” he whispered. “Let’s go.”

I asked him what he heard.

“Clicking.”

He got up and walked towards the living room without another word. I didn’t want to go. I was freaked out enough. I didn’t and still don’t need to add another fucked up layer to this situation. Blissful ignorance is sometimes the best approach. But I got a gut feeling that this wasn’t something that should be missed, and I didn’t want Mark to be there alone for it, so I followed him.

The hallway that leads to the living room passes by my parents’ bedroom. We could hear my mother snoring softly on the other side. A baseball bat was propped up by her nightstand. Her cell phone was at the ready right beside it. We tiptoed past the creaking wood floor and arrived at the entrance to the kitchen. The clicking became clearer by that point. Mark pointed over to an alcove by the couch. I followed him to the corner.

Then he stopped dead in his tracks.

My father was sleeping with the gun in his hand. There was a window behind him that looked out into our entire living room. Staring through the other side was a giant black eyeball.

We froze.

The eye darted back and forth across the room. We were in plain sight, just standing there in the kitchen like a couple of jackasses, but for some reason, the eye didn’t seem to notice us. It passed by a couple times to focus on the toaster or something else. My father must have subconsciously read the tension in the air. He stirred and moved to roll over. When he did, thankfully, we locked eyes.

I put one finger to my lips.

A sober understanding dawned on his face.

He took the safety off his gun.

The eye responded to the movement of the gun, and in one swift jolt, disappeared from behind the window, leaving a wake of leaves and scattered footsteps behind it. The air left my lungs. Something big ascended the wood steps to our porch. My dad turned to aim the gun.

Rat-TAP-TAP

This time we didn’t need anyone to tell us.

We all stayed quiet.

We sat in still silence for the better part of the early morning. My mother awoke some hours later and got prepared to make breakfast, and only then did it feel safe enough to move around the house. Nobody told her what happened. I didn’t think we needed to. My father certainly wasn’t going to. I got the feeling from the look on his face that he would prefer not to talk at all for as long as he could.

Mark returned to his spot by the window. Dad disappeared downstairs to get another box of ammo for his gun. I helped Mom cook over the fire and we all went about our tasks in complete and total silence. Nobody tried to fake conversation anymore. There wasn’t any point in arguing about what was out there. We had enough food. We had enough water. Nobody was going anywhere.

A knock came at the door just after noon.

Each of us instantly stopped what we were doing.

A sigh of relief echoed through the room when the familiar voice of our neighbor Mr. Hallow followed.

“Richardsens! You in there?”

The door pounded harder.

“No time to explain, please,” he shouted. “Can you let us in?”

My father walked in and stood awkwardly between my mother and the door. I could tell that he would prefer to ignore it, but she would never let him live it down, the true married man’s dilemma.

“Please, folks, if you’re in there… open up. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Mark shook his head.

“Please…” he begged. “Jean is hurt.”

My mom bit her nails. Dad gave in and reluctantly looked through the peephole. Satisfied with his view of the other side, he slid the pistol into his back pocket, unlatched the lock, and opened the door.

“Thank you!”

Mr. Hallow is a big, burly guy. He took my father into his arms and slapped his back so hard the sound echoed down the hall. He moved over to chase my mother down for a kiss on the cheek as his wife and daughter trailed meekly behind.

“Thank you,” he bellowed. “Thank you, thank you. We didn’t know if we’d see anybody else.”

My dad nodded awkwardly.

My mom stepped up and hugged Mrs. Hallow tight. A quiet, pitiful moan escaped her lips as she did. The two of them were usually thick as thieves. My neighbor was a nice lady, the type that usually never shuts up, but now she couldn’t get a word out. A thin line of blood trickled behind her foot. It didn’t take long to notice the source. Her slacks were cut from the ankle to the knee.

My dad slammed the door.

“Come on Jeanie,” my mother cooed. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

The two of them walked hand in hand to the kitchen. Mr. Hallow sat down on our couch and wiped the sweat from his forehead and t-shirt. His daughter, Alice, perched herself neatly on the arm beside him.

“Like I said,” he said while catching his breath. “Lucky we found somebody.”

My father nodded again.

“Did you see it?” Mark asked. “Whatever’s out there, I mean.”

Mr. Hallow stared back at him. He took a second before he spoke, like he wanted to pick his words, which didn’t quite fit for a guy like him.

“One of them got in the house,” he said definitively. “An open window, downstairs, we… we trapped it in the basement.”

My father held up his hand.

“…Didn’t feel safe staying there, though…”

My father interrupted.

“Enough,” he whispered, “Take a break, Mike, let’s talk.”

Mr. Hallow nodded in bewilderment. He got up and shuffled after my father towards the dining room, leaving Mark and I, uncomfortably, with Alice.

Alice Hallow is around my age. She’s short, with dark hair, and dark eyes. She has this awkwardly adorable round head that she covers up with a bow, or pin, or some other new accessory every other day. I’ve had a crush on her since grade school. I know that’s probably not relevant. But I just want to point out what may later become obvious.

Mark elbowed me in the ribs. I ignored it.

“So did you see anything?” I asked. “Like… did you see anybody out there?”

She paused and then shook her head.

“Well what does it look like outside?” Mark asked.

“Normal,” she answered. “Quiet.”

“And you really didn’t see anything?” I asked again. “When it started, I mean.”

She looked at me and shook her head, paused, then relented.

“We were all inside sleeping, like you probably were, it was late,” she started. “Or early. I don’t know. My dad was upstairs. I was upstairs. My mom doesn’t sleep much so she was doing some laundry in the basement.”

She hesitated.

“I don’t know what woke me up first, her screaming, or the power going out. They both seemed to happen at the same time. My Dad started shouting her name… you know, ‘Jeanie! Jeanie!’, and my mom was just wailing from the basement. We both got to the kitchen and we could see her running up the steps. She was screaming at my dad… you know, ‘Close the door! Close the door!’. But my Dad couldn’t stop looking at whatever was behind her. He just froze.”

“Right,” Mark whispered. “Can’t blame him.”

“So I reach out and slam the door, just as my mom makes it through, and something wedges itself in the doorway.”

“Holy shit,” I murmured. “What was it?”

“I don’t know. Something thick and sharp. Like a claw, I guess? It was wet, too, it left a stain. Anyway, I couldn’t get the door shut because of it. I was panicking. I kicked my dad in the shin and he threw his body weight against the frame. The lock finally clicked and we heard whatever it was fall down the stairs on the other side.”

She paused.

“It didn’t come up again.”

My father re-emerged from the dining room some moments after our awkward silence. Mr. Hallow trailed sheepishly behind.

“Who’s ready to eat?”

We ate our fire-cooked meal in relative silence. All four parents made it abundantly clear through menacing stairs that the topic of the shitshow outside would not be discussed with “children” present. Mark again asked if he could go for a walk. Nobody dignified him with a response.

After our dishes were done and disposed of, we retreated into various alcoves of our suddenly cramped three bedroom. Mark and I went back to our room. Alice set up shop in the office with her mom. My mother retired to bed early and both dads stood (sat) guard in the living room.

The house grew quiet again. The wind and rain finally seemed to slow down. My Stephen King novella kept me company. I couldn’t help but empathize with the main character. Somewhere in between tales of rats in armor, bat rats, and albino rats who never saw the sun, sleep came easily and comfortably under my familiar warm sheets.

I woke up to a rude shaking.

Alice was standing over me.

She didn’t say anything. I guess she didn’t have to. Mark and I rubbed the last remaining ounce of sleep out of our eyes and followed her wordlessly into the office. Two cots were set up in the room, one looked disheveled, the other was still made.

Alice pointed to the open window.

Her mother was gone.

Chapter Three

My hometown is dying and I don’t want to die with it.

I know it sounds ridiculous to be lamenting on an Internet forum while the world is melting around me. At the moment it definitely feels ridiculous. But you have to understand, if we don’t survive, which we almost certainly fucking won’t, this story will be my town’s last living record. That’s important to me. That’s important to them. I have to let someone know what happened here. Even if it’s only you.

The truth is obvious now. We are being exterminated. This town and its people are being erased. Follaton City is all but wiped from the collective subconscious already. All that’s remaining are the survivors, the creatures, and this story. I’ll keep it going as long as they let me.

I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t particularly care. Not anymore. I just want to get out of here.

This will be my last post from inside my childhood home, the only home I’ve ever known. My brother and I have decided that we won’t die here. Mark packed a couple essentials in our school backpack. The only thing that’s remaining is this laptop and a frank conversation with my parents. I know they’re scared. We’re all scared. But we have to do something.

Mrs. Hallow didn’t come back last night.

Alice only stopped crying long enough to tell the adults what she knew, which wasn’t much. She fell asleep sometime around midnight. Her mother was in the room at the time.

“She was acting strange, though, you know?” she sobbed. “She just kept repeating the same things over and over. And her face was white. Like really, really white. I thought it was just shock over what happened, the scratch, the attack, you know? I didn’t know, I didn’t know…”

Mr. Hallow was inconsolable.

“Well we have to find her, Jack,” he bellowed. “Me, you, and the boys. Alice can come too if she’s up to it. We’ve got weapons, don’t we? You’ve got a small arsenal here, Richardsen, they’re big but the damn things are stupid enough…”

My father just shook his head and pursed his lips.

“Nobody is going out there.”

“The hell they’re not.”

“I won’t risk my family’s safety,” Dad insisted. “Especially not at night.”

Mr. Hallow’s already red face turned a particular shade of scarlet. He looked like he might blow a gasket. Then he calmed himself and delivered the next bit like a sermon.

“Fine,” he spit. “Stay inside and cower. Lie to your kids. Keep ‘em underneath the covers long enough and maybe they won’t think there’s monsters outside. You raise your family how you want, asshole, but don’t you dare tell me how to take care of mine.”

Mark looked down at his feet. I avoided my father’s glance.

“Alice, let’s go,” Mr. Hallow beckoned. “Get what you got.”

“Please,” my father interrupted. “Just wait a minute.”

“We’re not staying,” Mr. Hallow finished. “You’re not convincing me to abandon my wife out there. You know me better than that, Jack.”

My father reached out and handed him a gun.

“We have extra,” he paused. “You’ll need it more.”

Mr. Hallow nodded awkwardly. He took the pistol and stuffed it into an oversized coat pocket before turning and heading for the door. My mom met him there with some bread and other things stuffed into a plastic bag. There wasn’t much, but I think she felt like she had to do something, and she looked like she wanted to say more.

But she didn’t.

Alice reached out and gave me a warm hug. She held on longer than expected. Right around that time I really wished she would stay. Not because of my feelings for her… but because a piece of each of us knew what would happen next. It all just happened so fast.

“Thank you for the hospitality.”

Mr. Hallow shook each of our hands one last time. My father opened the door for him. Without another word, the pair descended the front porch into a thick evening fog. Alice turned back to wave. Then she turned around and they were gone.

My father shut the door.

Dad shuffled back to the couch and collapsed. Mom waited at the door like they might change their minds. Mark perched at the window. He looked over and shook his head at me, as if to say,

“Not good,”

Just as an all too familiar clicking echoed down the block. I could feel my body instinctively tensing. I had no true preparation for what came next. The sound started quietly before it seemed to fill the air. Soon it was as if a thousand crickets suddenly invaded Follaton and all decided to chirp at the same time. The ringing, awful cacophony of it was deafening.

Somebody outside screamed.

I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman. The chirping erupted even louder and seemed to devour their voice. My father held his head in his hands. He motioned for us to block our ears. My mother started to cry. Underneath the clicking, underneath the screams, one word became clearer as it repeated over and over again in the distance.

“Jeanie! Jeanie! JEANIE!”

The gun went off soon after.

JEANIE!

One shot at first, then two, three, four in quick succession. Somebody else started screaming. I knew that had to be Alice. The pain behind that scream made my stomach turn. The gun went off one more time.

JEANIE!!

The clicking dissipated. The screams stopped.

And then it was quiet again.

My father got up and quietly led my brother away from the window. Mom fell to a heap in front of the couch. I could fear the tears forming in the corner of my eyes and desperately fought them back.

“You knew that would happen,” I accused my dad. “Why did you let her go?”

He stared back at me. His eyes were cold.

“You knew they would die and you sent them out anyway.”

Heavy footsteps echoed on the porch.

Rat-tap-TAP.

My mother couldn’t control her sobs. My father dropped onto the floor to silence her. It was no use. The two of them ended up in this awkward wrestling embrace. The pounding outside continued.

Rat-TAP-TAP

“We killed them,” Mark whimpered. “And now they’re going to kill us.”

Rat-TAP-TAP

RATTAPTAP

RATTAPTAP.RATTAPTAP.RATTAPTAP.

The footsteps left the porch and circled the house. We heard a knocking from my bedroom window.

Rat-TAP-TAP.

Then the office window.

Rat-TAP-TAP

“They’re checking for weaknesses,” Mark whispered. “Trying to find a way in.”

The sound ascended to the roof. Heavy footsteps paced back and forth above us. The chimney kicked back smoke.

“It’s too small,” my father murmured. “They can’t fit. Please, God, they can’t fit.”

My mother wrapped her arms around her head. The knocking surrounded us. There had to be a dozen of them, all checking various points of entry, all clicking their disturbingly loud song in unison. Staying quiet would be no use. They had to know we were inside.

Mark gestured for me to look through the peephole.

I squinted and noticed something in the distance. It was still dark, but the sun started to rise on the horizon, and with it came a few tentative beads of light which softly illuminated the neighborhood. I realized I was staring at the home of yappy Cesar. Standing in front of it was something I hope to never see again.

The creature stood at least two to three times the height of a man. It held itself up on two massive legs that bent wildly at the knee, almost like pincers, and behind it were smaller legs that trailed behind sort of uselessly. I thought at the time that they looked like fins.

One of the bent legs reached out to my neighbor’s glass.

Rat-tap-tap.

There was a moment’s pause. Their window opened. I had to fight my instincts as a woman leaned outside, as if to greet the creature, which gently took her into its hind legs and rambled down the hill.

The unrelenting clicking soon gave way to the scurrying of heavy footsteps.

A massive weight lifted itself off our roof.

The sun came up. We were alone again.

We have to leave today. We can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We have no choice. These things know we’re here. They will get inside tonight. If I don’t make it, you know what happened, but please wish me luck.

I feel better knowing that some trace of my town will live on this forum.

Signed, respectfully, (since some of you have been asking if we live in the U.K.!),

M___ ____

12 P___ Ct.

Follaton City, NJ

Chapter Four

I can hardly describe driving through the complete devastation of my hometown.

We passed dozens of familiar homes from over the years. Some of them had bullet holes. Some had bent frames or broken glass. Some had dead bodies in their front yards, and I tried not to look at those too long, because I knew the faces, but it’s hard to stop yourself from looking once you start, you know?

I saw Alice. I saw Mr. Hallow. I saw neighbors. I saw friends. Some of them died running. Some died fighting. But all of them seemed to end up the same way… in scattered bits and pieces, cast like trash, almost decorating their own immaculately made front lawns.

My father drove the car. Only one road led us out of town, but it passed through a few hiccups along the way. The supermarket on Grand Street sat behind two apartment complexes that tended to be crowded. The gas station on Main would allow us to fill up, but they didn’t call it Main for nothing, and more people would almost certainly lead to more problems.

All of these issues swirled around my head in unison with the backdrop of my entire town carved up like origamis right in front of my face.

And my dad didn’t even seem phased by it.

He actually hummed for the first ten minutes of the trip. My dad is not the type to hum. At first, I thought it might be a nervous thing, but then my mother started to join him.

“Guys?”

Mark glued himself to the car window. He wouldn’t look at me. Not even a shared glance of misery. I knew from his reaction that something bad was about to happen. I guess I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.

“Dad?”

My father slowed down around the grocery store. He pulled into the lot unceremoniously, as if it were any other Tuesday, while the corpses of our neighbors lined the streets among us, clearly baking in the heat of the rising sun. I actually thought we hit one of them.

“What are we doing?” I asked.

Nobody answered me.

“Hello?”

My father parked the car. He leaned over to give my Mom a peck on the forehead. She nodded and smiled back. After a moment of silence, he gingerly unclipped the seatbelt and moved to get out. Nobody bothered to stop him.

“Dad?” I shouted. “Wait, are you serious? You can’t go out there.”

He smiled at me one last time. Looking back… I like to think there was still some small part of my dad in that smile. He looked like a weight had just been lifted from his shoulders, like he got us this far, like his job was done. I didn’t understand it then. I do now.

I only saw the scratch when he got up. Right above the belt, hip to hip.

His shirt had always been tucked.

My mother took a deep breath.

“Mom?” I whimpered. “Mom, no, no, no, please…”

She looked back at me and grasped my hand. She was cold to the touch. Mark whimpered something small. I knew then that he knew all along.

“It happened the first night,” he whispered. “They can’t fight it anymore, Matty, it won’t let them.”

The car door opened.

“Mom, you can’t go out there,”

She pulled her hand away.

“Mom, please.”

“It’s okay honey,” she murmured dreamily. “Okay honey? Okay honey.”

She got out of the car and sprinted after my father. I never saw my mother sprint before. She looked so strange doing it. I watched the two of them go towards the store. Hand in hand. In a moment they were there and the next they were gone.

“We have to follow them,” I begged. “Please.”

A soft boom sounded from somewhere inside.

“Okay,” he whispered hesitantly, “But be ready to run when I say run, deal?”

A second boom followed.

“Deal,” I muttered.

“I am the oldest,” he insisted. “We don’t know what we’re going to see inside there. You have to listen to me.”

“Shut up and let’s go.”

We hopped out of the car and ran across the empty lot. Rain and heavy wind swooped in with our arrival. Mark slipped and fell into a particularly nasty pool of blood. I raced back to help him. By the time we both made it inside…. our parents were gone.

We looked around for a minute. The store seemed to be shelled. Overturned shelves made it difficult to get around. Smeared floors made the entire place stink worse than a slaughterhouse. At the center of the store was a staircase that leads to the basement level. Normally larger items like water jugs are stored down there. We got the distinct feeling that we weren’t totally alone, because we could hear some kind of movement in that area, so we moved towards it. Mark found some cover behind a blown out register. We used it to peek down the staircase.

An enormous pit sat below us.

We couldn’t actually see where it ended. Mark picked up a can and dropped it. Ten to fifteen seconds later it made contact with the bottom. The closer we inched towards the center, the more that movement seemed rhythmic, almost pulsing, like a heartbeat.

We heard footsteps.

Mark ripped my collar and pulled me back. Approaching the center of the store were a man and woman who both looked familiar to me from different places. That was my first thought, you know, that they must be together without me realizing, and that it really is a small city after all.

The couple walked up casually to the edge of the pit. They looked at each other and smiled. Then they jumped, hand in hand, as if expecting to land in a ball pit.

The splat came after the boom.

The store grew quiet.

Something seemed to be slurping down below.

“What the fuck,” Mark whispered. “You don’t think…?”

“It drinks the blood.”

Suddenly the pulsing grew louder. Horrible scraping ripped somewhere below it. I can’t adequately describe this sound – almost like a giant moth breaking its way out of a cocoon. A familiar rhythm to the din took over.

Rat-tap-tap.

“Rat-tap-tap.*

“Checking for weaknesses,” Mark muttered. “Even at birth.”

RAT-TAP-TAP.

RATTAPTAPRATTAPRATTAPTAPTAP.

“Time to go,” Mark shouted.

“Definitely,” I answered.

Each of us put in our best track performances to date. The building gave way as if an earthquake were underneath it. We skidded out of the front entrance just as the overhang dipped down to smash the carousel door.

My brother got to the car before me. He jumped into the driver’s seat, and thank God, the keys were still in the ignition. He smashed the gas and all but left me with the passenger door popped open. I hopped in at the last possible moment.

The store collapsed behind me.

Mark doesn’t know shit about driving, and neither do I, but any idiot can hit the gas and steer away from the explosion. We picked up speed while debris rocked the car. Just as we got back on the road, Mark pointed into the rear view, and I wish he didn’t.

Standing in the wake of the grocery store was a creature three times its size.

I didn’t look at it twice.

We managed to drive to the gas station before nightfall. We found it pretty much untouched. I don’t think anybody else made it that far.

We took the mountain road into the next town and drove past sundown.

We are safe and sound now in a place called White Valley. The people here are friendly, but none of them, including the sheriff, can tell me a damn thing about Follaton or what happened to it the past few days.

Go figure.

I hope more than anything that my posts can help drive more survivors out of the woodwork. Please, please message me if you or someone you know lived through the attack on Follaton City. I can’t over-stress the importance of that plea. We cannot let our town be forgotten.

One day we will go back. I don’t care if it’s just Mark and me. I know we can find the entrance the same way we found the exit. We don’t expect to find anybody alive. That’s just hope that’s not worth having. But we all have a right to know what is living there instead.

Signing off for now,

Matt.