Black Smoke

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~ Chapter Five ~

Black smoke

Why were they going to Silent Hill? That was the question, literally. Each of them offered the other an explanation, a reason, but at the end of it all she concluded that the reasons did not seem enough to have landed them in the situation they were in now. Nothing that either Claire or Harper said seemed a big enough motivator for this.

In fact, in his own explanation, she’d never heard him say so much all at once, and he wasn’t entirely comfortable with that at first, at least his body language and facial expressions gave that much away. Finally, when he did offer his explanation, it wasn’t anything spectacular or out of the ordinary. He, well she assumed he was just a regular guy trying to carve out a quiet life for himself. Nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with that at all. At least he hadn’t come to this place blindly based on something as stupid as a letter telling her to do it and a letter from a stranger no less.

He had nodded when she explained why her behavior had been so erratic and although she’d felt incredibly stupid once the explanation was out of her mouth, he had only nodded, and somehow she was okay with that. He didn’t laugh at her in disbelief or scorn, but a simple nod as if he actually did believe.

She closed her eyes and struggled to recall anything that would make her remember any damn reason at all for her being here apart from some stupid letter from somebody who she didn’t know telling her to come here. What had she been thinking? The truth was, there was nothing, trying to pull memories was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It was like her memory was a huge black hole and peering into it was like looking down into a dark well.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve this, “she bit her lip in an effort to hold back the tears that were welling in her eyes. She would not cry in front of him, she couldn’t. She squeezed her eyes closed and it came, not much, but something.

The man pressed the leather binder into her hands, speaking hurriedly. “Your apartment, the one that we are standing in front of right now has been taken care of. You won’t have to worry about it for a while. Once inside you are to read everything in here and familiarize yourself with your new identity and history, do you understand?”

She nodded, but then shook her head quickly. Yes she understood what she was being told, but she had a dozen more questions, ones which she knew she wouldn’t get, not at this moment. He was in a hurry to leave, and she was in a hurry to get indoors. The feeling of being watched was far too real.

“Alright good. Also, you will find a bank account, under your new name, with a ten thousand dollar balance. Use it, you won’t need to work. All you need to do is go to school, keep to yourself and wait.”

“For what?”

“When it is time, we will let you know, and you will follow instructions. Do you understand?”

Dumbly, she nodded.

She opened her eyes, and Harper looked at her then, his expression severe, and spoke in a tone that matched that.

“This is a test. Of ourselves, of our strength, of our will and right to live.”

Those words stuck out more than the others and she shook her head, her teeth still pressing down firmly on her bottom lip.

“What if I’m not strong enough?”

She glanced back at the mirror then, and she saw the other face again, only this time she didn’t scream when the voice spoke to her.

You are strong and you will remember, Claire. That’s why you are here. You’re home.

Even if she was going to panic again about the reflection in the mirror that didn’t belong to her again, any thought or further action was interrupted by the sounds of screaming and shouting from outside where some of the others still were. The pair shot each other a quick concerned glance before Harper cracked the bathroom door open, just poking his head out to try and get a look at what was going on.

What Claire heard outside was enough for her blood to run cold.

“ … is that thing?”

“We’re all going to die!”

She closed any gap between her and the much older man and pressed herself up against his side, trying to peer over his shoulder, her hand gripping his upper arm.

“What is it?” She whispered.

“I can’t tell, “he replied, squinting his eyes and craning his neck to try and get a better look out the door without leaving the safety of the bathroom yet. Suddenly, he shut the door again with a bang, startling her and she looked up at him with wide eyes as he turned his head and looked at her, his face pale and concerned.

“What is it?” she asked again, a little louder and more insistent, her voice rising an octave as panic began to set in. She did not like the look on his face, at all, it only made her anxiety worsen. He looked around the bathroom almost frantically as if looking for another way out and then groaned.

“Oh Gods, it’s in here too.”

“What’s in … ?”

He cut her off mid sentence and grabbed her hand in a vice like grip so hard and tugged her towards the door and she only had a couple of seconds to follow his eyes before he flung the door open and she saw what he had. Black smoke was seeping in through the windows at the far end of the bathroom but it didn’t look like ordinary smoke, it appeared to have substance and it wasn’t just coming through the cracks in the old windows, it seemed to be oozing through.

“We have to go.”

Editing fun times

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I’ve been chipping away at the next chapter for Gravity this last week and a half and it’s a tough one.  I wanted to get an update out every week but this piece has a mind of it’s own.  It reminds me every day when I sit down in front of it to edit and rewrite additional pieces that it will be ready on it’s own time, not mine.  Although, that said, it should be up in the next few days.

This story is problematic in it’s own unique ways apart from any other story I’ve posted before.  I am aware that there are what appear to be plot holes in places and that any other characters who have been mentioned aside from Claire and Harper seem to have been put aside or forgotten so far.  Even to me, when I read these chapters myself, the other ‘group’ members are like cardboard cutouts almost.  Most of them have names, a couple of which have been mentioned so far, but they haven’t been talked about or interacted with yet, they’re just … there.

Those characters were written by other people and players in the RPG from which they came, so it would feel wrong to exclude them from the scene completely but to write them in any more depth is just simply not my job, or my right.  They don’t belong to me, and so they are just props for now, in a way.  Because this entire story from start to finish was inspired by these other players and their characters, I feel an obligation to leave the characters be.  They are part of the world that was created, so they must remain.  We’ll just have to see how it plays out a little further on.

Editing and rewriting my own turn posts is challenging because of the large gaps that remain where the other character stories were removed, so I am doing the best I can with what I have.  I still and always have loved the story that I played out in A New Nightmare and I would like to see it through to the end so that hopefully others can get some enjoyment out of reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Meanwhile, please bear with me.  There is a plan!  A loose one, if nothing else.

Chosen

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It was his self righteous laughter that was her breaking point.

The anger filled her entire being with such ferocity that it almost burned, physically. The rage was a force of it’s own, flooding her chest and running it’s course down her arms to fill her fingertips. She clenched her fists and flew forward in one movement, covering the distance between herself and her target with such swiftness that when her fingers closed around the man’s throat it finally an elicited the reaction she had craved.

A smile curled the corners of her lips, and her hold tightened so that he started to struggle for air. Her strength swelled and he was rendered powerless. Her body pinning his against the wall allowed her to feel every labored breath and it filled her belly with a warmth that was quite unlike any sensation that had come before it. It marked the certainty of her ability and indeed intention to end his life here in a matter of moments, and he knew it. He was afraid now, something that had been lacking before and it was this fear that consumed all her senses. It pleased her.

“Do what you will, Rheyne, but it will not alter a thing. You were not chosen.”

His last words.

“If I have learned nothing else, it is that one does not need to be chosen to achieve what is rightfully theirs, what they were born to do, what they deserve. Lesser than you have been chosen before and after this moment. I will succeed where you have already failed.”

The sharp crack of his neck snapping followed by the thud of his lifeless body hitting the floor was the last sound the man would ever make and Rheyne Varik looked down on him, folding her arms across her chest, eyes narrowed.

“You just chose your own death, brother.”

Little Blue Mailbox

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I fumble with the paper, see the words you wrote are already fading.
I’ve been waiting all this time for a letter.
My insides shaking, will this feeling last forever?
I’ve been waiting.

This video appeared this morning on one of my social media news feeds and it brought back  things.  It’s one of my favorite songs but I haven’t listened to it in a long time for a lot of reasons.

It’s been one year and three months, and in fact about three days since I thought of you last.  It’s not every day anymore, but damn near close.  When the memories surface they’re just as fresh as they were back then.  I didn’t think I’d get through it and honestly?  I’m lost without you.

I even stopped writing because I was afraid that if I started to write about you I would never stop.

You were unique and irreplaceable.  I love you, always.

 

White Noise

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~ Chapter Four ~

White Noise

 

Nobody appeared to be forthcoming with a response that made any sense. What had happened down the ladder on the first floor was some kind of explosion; they had all heard that, the ones that weren’t inside the store or on their way out at the time, but beyond that none of the group had offered any kind of explanation as to why it happened. Claire supposed that she should be – and in fact they all should – thankful that they all appeared to be unharmed, mostly. Unharmed physically if nothing else, because she herself was shaken, her heart racing from the upward scramble to the second floor and the shock from the explosion itself. Her whole body was trembling and she hugged her arms around her upper body to try to calm herself.

It was the youngest of the group, Darren, who finally asked, “Did anyone happen to find any ammo back at the shop? I’ll try to find a first aid kit to help anyone who might have one to spare. Sayuki? Maria? Beth?” His voice sounded as shaky as she felt and she wondered for a moment what his story was, why he was on the bus and where he’d been going. Casting her eyes around the group she wondered where all of them had come from and what their reasons were for being on that ill fated bus.

She shook the thoughts aside for the time being, pushing her hand inside her pocket to produce a single bullet. She held it out in front of her in her palm.

“I … I found this earlier, and held onto it.” And then remembering the cigar box from earlier she added, “I have some painkillers too, just aspirin or something. Found them downstairs, if anyone needs something.”

Her legs suddenly felt unsteady and without warning she crumpled to the floor, tucking her legs up close to her body and holding her head in her hands then, allowing herself to be completely emotionally weak and tuning out her surroundings and company for a moment. As selfish as it was, if she didn’t just shut down right then, even temporarily, she was afraid that she was going to lose her mind, quite literally.

She squeezed her eyes shut and started humming a lullaby, one that she wasn’t consciously aware of ever hearing, but that seemed to naturally come from her memory. Memory of what? The talking of the others nearby was distracting and she hummed louder, closing her hands over her ears. She didn’t want to hear or see anything just then. She didn’t want to face the reality of the situation she had found herself in. She wasn’t sure how long she sat there that way, in her own little world, but apart from the sound of her own humming, she saw and heard nothing in her minds eye aside from the fog and the sound of the creatures that resided in it. Both of which she had a feeling would haunt her forever.

A woman’s voice broke through her self-imposed shutdown, and for a second, it sounded so far away, so she took her hands off her ears and inclined her head sideways, listening to see if she would hear it again.

“Claire?” Sure enough, there it was again, and it was coming from the bag on her hip. Her hands trembling, she opened the canvas flap and peered inside, the light on the LCD of her mobile phone was lit up at the bottom of the bag and the voice seemed to be coming from it. She looked around at the others but either nobody else had heard it or they simply didn’t care. She waited another half a minute or so to be sure that she wasn’t hearing things but sure enough the third time she heard her name coming from that phone – the phone with no service, she reminded herself – she ripped it out of the bag and pressed it to her ear.

“Hello? Who is this?” She whispered, almost as if she was afraid that someone would reply. It was irrational, but so was the phone talking to her to begin with.

No service, Claire. The phone has NO service.

But all she heard in return was static, like the sound a radio makes when it is bumped off it’s broadcasting channel, or the television when it was accidentally switched to an untuned channel.

White noise.

She sat there with the phone pressed up to her ear for a minute or two, she wasn’t sure how long and then just as it crossed her mind to put the thing back in the bag where it had come from the static gave way for just a moment and the voice came through again.

“You made it, Claire. You came, now you must –“

White noise.

She dropped the phone back into the bag as if the thing were burning hot. Her head was spinning, she could feel the color drain from her face and her mouth went dry all at once. If she hadn’t been well enough scared before, she was now. What the hell was going on, and whose was that voice? She was aware then of Harper’s presence right beside her and she glanced at him as he stared at her, his brow furrowed with concern. He wasn’t the only one. A couple of the others were now staring at her too as if she had grown an extra head. Normally she would have been upset or offended by the way they were looking at her; at least a couple of them talking to each other in hushed tones between themselves about what they had just seen and heard as she stood there talking to the phone with no service but the wave of nausea that washed over her made her unable to focus on anything else. She stumbled to her feet and looked around frantically for a rest room sign and clutched the bag on her hip so tightly her knuckles turned white.

“I think I’m going to be sick…” she managed to mumble to Harper before she rushed forwards along the tiled floor in the direction of the ladies bathroom.

Bent over the toilet bowl, Claire finally stopped retching once her stomach had been emptied, but replacing the nausea now was a pounding headache and she felt dizzy. She leant her forehead on the cold porcelain of the bowl and forced herself to gain some control over her breathing, that would help, wouldn’t it? In through the nose, out through the mouth. Slowly, the dizziness subsided, and she moved away from the toilet and sat back, leaning her head against the wall of the stall, still concentrating on her breathing.

The guilt then began to seep in, and embarrassment. What an idiot she must have looked back there, when people were actually hurt, in shock and in need of help, and what had she done? Cracked up, had a meltdown in front of a group full of strangers, all of whom were as scared, confused and in shock as she was no doubt, but none of them had lost the plot. She wanted to smack herself in the forehead with the heel of her hand.

“Idiot!” She mumbled out loud, and then started slowly back to her feet. When she felt steady enough to move, she fished around in her bag, she and retrieved her phone, checking the call log for actual evidence that she’d received a call, but it showed nothing new. The last incoming call had been from a friend back home.

One she’d probably never see again…

She shook her head, cutting that thought off before it could go any further. She was going to get out of this.

Still, she had spoken to someone, and the voice had been familiar, although she couldn’t place it. Stuffing the phone back inside her bag, she pushed the door of the stall open and moved back into the bathroom.

It occurred to her suddenly that while she’d been having a mild mental breakdown in here, that she had no idea where everybody had gone, if they’d moved on or if they were still outside where she had left them. But she was hyper aware of how alone she was in that bathroom. It was too quiet. She couldn’t hear any movements or voices outside anymore and the only sound that issued from inside the bathroom was her own breathing.

Suddenly, all that Claire wanted was to see another familiar face or heard a familiar voice – one that wasn’t coming from the other end of a phone with no service at least. She frowned.

Harper. Admit it sweetheart, you want Harper.

Her head snapped around at the voice, it was her voice again, the woman on the phone. But the bathroom was still empty. Great, first she had started hearing voices on her phone and now she was hearing things in her head too?

“Big picture, Claire. There is a big picture here, and you’re not seeing it. The world doesn’t revolve around you, at least, not to these people.”

“Fuck… “she squeezed her hands to the sides of her head again, “I’m going crazy, I’m actually going crazy.”

Laughter then.

“Get a grip, Claire!” the voice was louder now, and more firm. “Look at yourself and get a grip.”

She turned towards where she’d manage to pinpoint the voice coming from, the mirror, and what she saw caused her mouth to drop open and the screaming to start. She didn’t know whether it was shock or fear or even confusion but in any case, it wasn’t her face she was looking at, and once she’d started screaming she couldn’t stop.

In her peripheral vision she was aware of someone else now in the bathroom with her and er eyes widened in surprise at the appearance of the man beside her – Harper – and clapped both hands over her mouth, attempting to stifle the noise she now realized she was making. Her surprise at seeing him and having something to distract her from the face in the mirror was quickly replaced with relief.

“Look!” she pointed at the dirty glass on the wall, her outstretched arm trembling,”do you see her?”

Not alone anymore, it’s going to be alright, not alone anymore. She repeats the mantra in her head, and looked at him expectantly. He didn’t say anything for a moment, and she blinked rapidly before looking at her reflection again. It was just her. Claire. No raven haired stranger with the piercing eyes of green. Just Claire and her mane of red hair a disheveled and unsightly mess, her eyes wide but now confused instead of frightened.

“You saw her right? Harper?”

He didn’t respond right away and she wished that a hole would just open up beneath her feet and swallow her whole. He glanced between her and her own reflection in the mirror and then slowly shook his head.

“No. I didn’t see a thing, I don’t see a thing except you.”

She covered her face with both hands and a small muffled sob issued from her and she felt his hand on her arm, gripping firmly but gently. His voice held a slightly softer tone when he spoke again.

“What happened in here? Don’t worry, I’ll believe you. Whatever it was … or is.”

That was all she needed to hear. She trusted him.

Too damn trusting, Claire, that was always your problem.

She shook her head trying to get rid of the voice, her voice again. She was calm now, seconds earlier she’d been screaming hysterically. Back outside in the hall she’d been rocking herself and humming lullabies but now, now she was just too exhausted to do anything but just accept that whatever was happening, she had to play along, because really, what other choice did she have?

“There was a woman in the mirror, but … but it wasn’t me. She had black hair, green eyes. And back in the hall, she spoke to me on my phone too. I can still hear her voice, in my head. She won’t go away.”

Silence.

He thinks you’re crazy, Claire. One hundred percent bat shit crazy.

“I’m not crazy, “she whispered.

She allowed her hands to drop from her face and looked up at him with big eyes still glistening with tears as she brushed her hair back from her face.

“Why were you going to Silent Hill, Harper? You were going to Silent Hill … weren’t you?”

Hole in the wall

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~ Chapter Three ~

Hole in the wall

Limping faster on the way back out to where the bus had crashed, she went back to the others, and stood nearest the man, Harper. Why him? She had no idea, he wasn’t the friendliest, but being the first person she’d spoken to he was already familiar to her, and familiar was safe. She looked around at the group, the sounds outside louder than they had been.

“What are we going to do now?”

It was rhetorical really. It was a question that she doubted anybody had the answer to.

The group was dispersing in different directions, the boy called Darren the last to move away from the hole in the wall, leaving Harper alone. As he passed her, Claire gave him a polite smile and headed back towards the older man. She realized that she had absolutely no idea what to do next and so she just stood there sort of turning her head slowly surveying the damage where the mall entrance had once been.

Maybe the way she was standing or the lost expression on her face prompted it, but the man suddenly asked, “Where were you heading?” and when she shifted her eyes to look at him he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, his own eyes on her but his face giving nothing away in it’s expression.

She fought back the urge to laugh inappropriately at the question as in her mind the answer went something like “Oh you know, just figured I’d hang out in this mall for a while, go shopping, buy some food, y’know, just generally like, hang out…”

Seriously, where was she supposed to head? She was just a 22 year old college student stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she had no idea. Not really. She’d received that damn letter and then on a whim decided to just get on a bus and go to a place she’d never been before because some unknown stranger had told her to. Really, those sorts of scenarios never ended well, did they? She’d seen stories on the television not dissimilar to her own on shows like America’s Most Wanted. What had she been thinking?

She finally shrugged and then without answering his question replied,

“I don’t know, I don’t know what to do…”

She looked down quickly, focusing on a crack in one of the floor tiles near her feet, anything to focus on but his face. She felt embarrassed. Her plan had been set when she’d gotten on that bus. Granted, it was a negligent careless plan, but a plan nonetheless; but now, well now it was upside down and there was no plan anymore. She was not a spontaneous person at all and finding herself in a situation she hadn’t planned was so far out of her comfort zone that she had temporarily (at least she hoped it was temporary) lost her ability to think of a solution or next step.

He didn’t say anything in response and the sudden conversation silence that she felt that she had caused was awkward so she carried on, her voice a little shaky.
“I was just … I was just on my way to some place and now we’re stuck here and I don’t even know where I was going to start with, not really. I wish I’d never got on that damn bus to start with.”

She added in a hushed tone,

“Do you think we’re going to get out of here? You know… alive?”

His brow creased then and his stare became more intense. She let out a breath she didn’t realize that she had been holding when he finally asked her,

“What makes you think that we won’t?”

And as if on cue there was a screaming sound outside, somewhere out there, the same sound that she’d heard before the bus driver was plucked from the ground in front of her eyes and she jumped, startled, shifting close to him and clutching his arm, her eyes wide.

He winced as her hands grabbed onto his arm and she loosened her grip, looking up at him with concern. He shook his head quickly.

“It wasn’t you. I was thrown into the wall just there when the bus crashed through. Banged my arm up pretty good.”

She frowned and he added quickly,

“It’s alright. I don’t think anything’s broken, just bruised up.”

She started fishing around in her bag while he talked, her hand closing around a small cigar box. The one useful thing that she had actually found over at the tobacco stand. It had long been emptied of the cigars it originally held however. She’d found it under the cash register in an open plastic container and had some generic pain medication in it.

“Here, “she offered, holding out the box to him, “I found these. They might help with the pain.”

“…Nnn, no thanks.” He shook his head, rolling his jaw. “You should hang on to those. Might need ’em later.” He gave a shrug, moving his wounded arm slightly. “The pain’s good, for now. Keeps me alert.”

“Okaaay, if you prefer pain,” she murmured but slipped the little box back into her bag. She could see his point. Maybe they would do more than just simply dull the pain, they could dull his mind too, and right now that would not be very productive, or safe.

She shrugged and then looked around again. Most of the others had gone off in different directions in search of something she’d only been somewhat paying attention to. She wasn’t sure where it was exactly but she’d heard a couple of the others talking about a door, or something similar that was locked but appeared to be a way out of the mall they were now stuck in thanks to the bus wedged in the entrance where the doors had been.

“Harper.”

He looked at her, brows raised.

“If … if you don’t want anything for the pain, at least we could try and get that arm wrapped up or something. Make some kind of bandage or sling, take the pressure off. Just in case…” her voice trailed off for a moment and she glanced around before nodding towards the opposite end of the malls first floor.

“I saw a sports clothing store down that end just to the right, “she continued before he had a chance to protest, “maybe we can find something in there.” She paused for just a moment, her eyes flicking up to his face, that stern unwavering expression still fixed on his face, but finally he nodded.

“Actually…” He murmured as he abruptly turned and headed in the direction she’d nodded in, “maybe it is a good idea. We can help search while we’re there. This doesn’t seem too bad, if I’m careful with it.” He turned to Claire, giving her an affirmative nod, “Shouldn’t waste time. Let’s go.”

The sound of their footsteps across the tiled floor was the only sounds that Claire was aware of until her hand curled around the door handle of the clothing store and the man’s voice stopped her in her tracks for a moment.

“Claire, where do you think we are? If you know how close the bus got to where you were heading, we might be able to figure out what this place actually is.”

“I don’t think anybody knows where we are, yet. I can tell you where I was headed though…”

The pair were silent for a short time as they searched through the racks of clothing, most of which were oddly empty, as if another group or groups of people had been here before theirs and cleaned the place out. Was it possible that they weren’t alone in the town? It had appeared to be eerily empty so far. The only useful she found among the rows upon rows of empty racks covered in dust was an old wire coathanger. Not exactly what she’d been hoping to find but maybe it would be useful for something later on. Picking a lock maybe.

Or poking something’s eyes out.

Hey, so … I’d be happy to hear it, if you’ll tell me, ” Harper’s voice broke the silence in side the store as the two searched independent of each other and Claire jumped a little, “you know, where you were headed before … this.”

“Silent Hill.”

She looked at him for a reaction, and bit her bottom lip thinking about whether to share more. After all, she didn’t know this man before she’d fallen into him on the bus. She knew none of these people. What if..? And then the thought occurred to her; what if there was a reason that they were all on this bus together. What if the bus had been meant to crash, what if they were already in the town Silent Hill? She frowned and shook her head, too many what ifs in any situation would drive you crazy, let alone here.

Making her decision, she reached inside her jeans pocket and held out the carefully folded sheet of paper she’d been carrying on her person ever since she’d received it.

“I got a letter…”

The conversation with Harper was brought to an abrupt end with the sudden noises nearby, in one of the other stores. People were shouting, things were crashing around. She could hear more of those sounds, sounds like the ones that they’d heard outside the hole in the wall when they’d first crash landed in the mall.

“Looks like we’re going to have to finish this later, “She stuffed the letter back into her pocket, “I promise I will explain. ”

Flying out the door as fast as she could manage with her aching knee, all she could see was smoke as the group who’d gone inside the gun shop stumbled out the door, coughing and spluttering. She heard somebody manage to say, “Run, “and she didn’t hesitate, turning for only a second to grab her companions hand first. There would be time for questions later. She followed the group towards a ladder that led up to the second floor moving as fast as she could despite the pain from her injury. She pulled herself up and over the last rung and rolled on her side gripping her knee with both hands, her eyes squeezed closed.

Catching her own breath, she glanced around at the now disheveled looking group who looked every bit as shaken and confused as she felt. It was Harper who spoke first.

“What in the hell happened down there?”

There was a road here, it’s gone now

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~ Chapter Two ~

There was a road here, it’s gone now.

Claire slung her bag over her own head in a similar fashion and gave the man as warm a smile as she could muster while trying to maintain her composure and at least a modicum of her dignity. Her knee was screaming and it was all she could do to hold back from hopping around on her good leg and howling about the pain. The warm smile she tried to convey probably looked more like a grimace but if it did he did not give anything away in his own expression that he had either noticed, or cared.

Putting her weight on her leg slowly to test out she winced as she took a step forward, but it held. Just a bruise, that was all, nothing serious. At least, she hoped it was nothing serious. Sporting injuries in the past had proven that swelling could be a serious bitch and she sincerely hoped that this would not be the case today; especially given the fact that they she didn’t know what was down at the bottom of that cliff where the road had once been and how much walking she was going to have to do.

“There was a road here,” she thought, miserably, “how does a road just disappear?”

She glanced around at the others, the ones that were now off the bus as well. The girl with the dark hair was still standing at the edge of the chasm.

Somebody was nearby, speaking in another language she couldn’t understand, and the others were milling around talking amongst themselves, or to themselves. The fog was still as thick as ever, and somehow she just knew that it wasn’t going to clear. It was unnatural. There was an air of urgency now that the rock face was beginning to crumble and whilst everyone was talking hurriedly, they seemed to be speaking in almost hushed tones, as if they spoke too loud the whole thing would just come crashing down from the volume of their voices alone.

Suddenly she was glad that she wasn’t going first; the unkempt bearded man was standing in front, closest to the lip of the chasm. He didn’t look to be the leader type but yet there he was, alternating between looking down and chewing on his lip. He seemed completely unaware of the rising voices of the others behind him. If Claire had to warrant a guess, she would say that he was taking a minute or two to gather up the nerve to actually climb over the edge.

“Before we do this, what’s your name?” He asked, and it took her a moment to realize that he had been speaking to her. Her gaze and attention had been at the fog down below. If it was even possible to look thicker than it did up here where they were standing, it did down there, and dark. As if the thickness of the mist was blocking out the very daylight itself.

“Claire, “she answered, finally.

He nodded stiffly in acknowledgment, his stoic expression unwavering and then turned back toward the chasm.

“I’ll see you at the bottom, Claire.”

And then he was gone, climbing over the edge before she even had a chance to respond. Her stomach churned as she was struck by fear at what she knew she had to do next. It wasn’t so much that she feared climbing down as it was a fear of the unknown. What was down there? What if more of those creatures came before they could safely reach the bottom. What if…?

Stop, you don’t have time for what ifs.

All that Claire was aware of once the downhill slide from hell was over aside from the now constant throbbing in her knee were the sounds. Those noises, what the hell was out there? She looked up at everyone from the ground, pushed her long hair out of her face and looked behind her. She couldn’t see anything, of course, the fog down here in this town did appear to be thicker than back where the bus had been.

Where were they? Had they actually reached Silent Hill?

Suddenly, the combination of her throbbing knee, the feeling of being lost and the thick fog filling her with increasing unease, Claire began to feel the first pangs of what would have almost certainly evolved into a full blown panic attack had some else not spoken at just that moment, giving her something else to focus on.

“Does… Does anyone here have a plan on what we should do? I don’t know what to do, but… I need to find a phone. I, I got to call my parents and let them know I’m okay. My name is Darren by the way. Who are all of you?”

She fished around in her bag and found her phone. There were several spidery cracks through the screen, but she could still make out the lettering at the top of the screen naming her mobile provider and showing her the reception bars, but there were none. In there place were two words that caused her to sigh, a defeated sort of sound. She shouldn’t have been surprised. ‘No service.’

She looked up at Darren right at the moment his face brightened, an expression of relief crossing his features when he saw the phone in her hand, but just as soon as he looked hopeful she shook her head and his face visibly fell.

“No service. I’m sorry.”

Sighing, she pushed herself up off the ground, putting most of her weight on her left leg and began to limp slowly across the grass in the direction of what appeared to be a mall just up ahead. It looked to be about the size of a mall anyway, it was hard to tell exactly what the building was from back here with the fog being so thick.

“We need to get inside, “she stated, and as she spoke the sounds in the fog got louder. What had flown out of the fog and taken the bus driver was bad enough. She didn’t want to stick around and find out was was lurking around at ground level, and by the sounds, it wasn’t just one creature, but several.

On entering the mall, what caught Claire’s attention right away was that it was quiet, far too quiet. The doors to the place had been open, no force was used to get inside which would indicate that it hadn’t been closed but there was not a single other soul to be seen other than the people she’d walked in with. Glancing down at her watch she frowned when she saw that the second hand on the clock face wasn’t moving. The time appeared to be frozen at around 3.33pm. Just like the mobile phone earlier.

No service.

She wondered when it had stopped. Maybe around the time the bus had broken down and the road had disappeared.

A tobacco stand on her left nearest the far left end of the main floor caught her eye and she headed that way to go and see what she could find. A quick glance around the floor showed that her fellow passengers had the same idea and they were all beginning to disperse in different directions.

“Hey, wait…” Harper’s voice called behind her.

She didn’t respond and carried on walking as if she hadn’t heard him; if he’d been calling in her direction, she planned on coming back anyways. She just needed a minute to herself. A minute to breathe, to try to think straight.

After helping herself to a couple of packs of cigarettes from the tobacco stand and stuffing them inside her bag, she found a bench to sit on, retied her long hair back fixing it at the base of her neck away from her face and straightened her right leg out slowly as she unfolded the letter she had tucked away in the pocket of her jeans and read it again. She’d read this over and over already, but still no answers were forthcoming, not in her mind anyway. The paper it was written on was that faded yellow color, the color of age, and the writing itself even looked old and unsteady. The words were written in ink in script. As aged as the paper looked she’d only received it two days earlier, inside a thick cream colored envelope sealed at the back with a wax stamp bearing some odd looking star shaped symbol that she didn’t recognize. The front of the envelope bore her name, but no address.

I got a letter

She frowned as she folded it up and pushed it back into the pocket it had come from. Silent Hill? She’d never heard of it before, and if she was honest with herself there wasn’t even anything contained in that letter that should have compelled her to even do what it asked. The writer was anonymous, she’d never heard of the place she’d been told to go, but something else had pushed her to do it. It was almost as if she’d gone along with it on instinct alone. It was something she needed to do, and that was all that she was sure of right now.

Of course, she wasn’t in Silent Hill now was she? The bus hadn’t made it that far… had it? Outwardly, she sighed. She needed to go back to the company of the others, because wherever they had ended up she didn’t want to be alone. Safety in numbers, there had to be safety in numbers.

Turning back with the intention of heading back towards the door from which they’d entered the building any further thought was abruptly halted as there came a crashing sound from far off in the distance. She froze where she stood and listened as she heard the sound of metal screaming along concrete and breaking glass. The next thing that she was aware of was an almighty BOOM sound and more breaking glass as the entire building jolted and then shook and she was thrown to the ground face first. Covering her head with her hands, Claire squeezed her eyes closed and hoped for the best. Some moments later the building stopped shaking around the same time as she heard the voices of the others shouting. One of the other women was crying and she dared to open her eyes then to see what the cause of the mayhem had been.

Her mouth dropped open when she saw the gaping great hole where the front entrance doors had been, replaced by the front of the bus. Their bus.

Do birds scream?

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Gravity

A/N:

Back in 2005/2006 I took part in my first forum based RPG run by a group of amazing and very talented people on a Silent Hill board of around 10,000 members strong. It no longer exists, but my love for psychological horror, roleplay and the Silent Hill series remains. What began then continued in a new reunion style RPG of the original players of that first game around three years ago.

Gravity is my part and my characters extended story of what happened in Silent Hill on our last visit, but more importantly what happened before. That was the story that was not told in it’s entirety. I barely even brushed the surface. What was intended to be a straight forward game resulted in a documents folder on my computer of around 80,000 words. This story is not over for me. Although it reached completion in the structured game setting at the time, I have unfinished business with it. A lot of unfinished business.

Feedback is more than welcome, by the way. It feeds my motivation!

~ Chapter One ~

Do birds scream?

Claire hadn’t even noticed the fog until the bus crawled to a stand still and her eyes flickered open from the nap she’d figured on taking on her way to where she was going.  It hadn’t been any kind of quality sleep, that was for sure.  This was no quality ride.  You got what you paid for, and ‘economy’ in this case had meant a musty smelling old bus with tattered and stained seating and anything but a smooth ride. Her only goal had been and still was to just get to the destination as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Comfort hadn’t factored into the equation when she’d purchased the Greyline bus ticket, although she was regretting that oversight right about now as her back and neck ached.

If it had been a familiar bus route, it wouldn’t have been such a long, tedious jouney. There would have been familiar landmarks to make it at least feel as if the ride was getting shorter.  But this trip, well, it was one she had never taken before, and it was all unknown, or at least most of it was.  The first couple of hours in was familiar territory and landscapes, but everything after was all new, as the bus turned and took a direction that she’d never been before.  And it all looked the same.  Seemingly endless rolling stark hills, thirsty for rain and in between, flat lands, equally as dry and barren.  It had crossed her mind once or twice before she felt her eyes grow heavy that it would be really bad if they were to break down unprepared somewhere on that never ending stretch of road.

She pulled her forehead off the window and pushed a stray strand of unruly red hair from her forehead behind her ear and sat up taller in her seat trying to see why the vehicle had come to a stop. Looking out the window she felt uneasy. Gone were the plains and hills, now replaced by dense fog.  She shuddered as she had the odd notion for a moment that if she was to put her hand out the window now that she would almost be able to curl her hand around it and hold it as if it had actual substance.  Strange.  Very strange.

People were starting to talk now, some amongst themselves and some at the driver. She was only two seats back from where the driver sat but she said nothing, only listening for a short time to the questions issuing forth from passengers who were tired, impatient and some of them a little afraid.

“Wasn’t the weather supposed to be fine?”

“Is this type of fog normal around these parts?”

“When do you think it will clear?”

All questions she would like the answer to also, but the driver just shook his head, finally banging his fist down on the steering wheel in frustration as the passengers’ voices started to rise to an uncomfortable volume.

She understood his frustration.  After all, he wasn’t a weather man, was he?  Just a bus driver. A bus driver in an increasingly unfortunate situation.

She watched as he shut the engine off and took the keys out of the ignition, sliding them into his pocket. He pushed a button on his dash to open the doors and stood up to move down the steps going outside. She peered around the edge of her seat watching him go.  Obviously, he wanted a closer look at the road ahead.

Somebody, a loud, obnoxious sounding man who had moved forward to stand at the vehicles open passenger door called out.

“What do you see, driver?”

When the bus driver turned around slowly, it was the expression on his face that struck a chord of fear in the pit of her stomach right away.  He shook his head once, twice and then again before he turned back towards where she assumed the road was and leaned forward for a closer look.

“There’s no road…”

“The road is gone!”

People started to shout again and Claire’s head began to spin. And then, it all happened so fast, almost too fast to actually register what was happening.

The sound rang out at the same time she heard the wings flapping. A screaming sound. It felt like it reverberated in her brain, making her feel ill, weak, disoriented even. It was too loud, far far too loud to be a normal creature, she knew that much.  Startled, she looked out the front window just in time to see a bird, or what she could only describe as a bird even though it looked more like a pterodactyl or something that wasn’t even possible, swoop down and pick up the driver in it’s huge talons and fly back into the fog.

It screamed.

It screamed.

Do birds scream?

A laugh escaped her, so loud and out of place that folk immediately turned to stare as if she were insane.  But she wasn’t crazy.  She’d fallen asleep and she was still asleep. This was a bad dream, that was all; it was the only explanation.

This isn’t real.  This isn’t happening. 

A woman further towards the back of the bus started to scream and that was all it took to make Claire start moving. She wouldn’t stay in here with that noise. The driver was gone, and she wasn’t going to sit here and wait for that thing to come back.

That screaming bird thing.

Birds don’t scream!

She looked forward to the now empty driver’s seat and wondered if the man had left anything behind that she could use. Some kind of weapon, cash?  Maybe even a map.  It suddenly occurred to the young woman that she didn’t even know where she was.  Where had the bus broken down?  How far from or close to their destination had they travelled?

A crumbling sound outside the door startled her for a moment and some rocks rolled down the cliff face.  Jesus, what next? The bus was going to be buried under an avalanche of dirt and debris? There was only one possible way to go. Forward. The wall to the left was crumbling and to the right was only a sheer cliff face going who knew how far down.  It wasn’t as if she could tell through the fog.

She noticed a small dark haired girl walking in the same direction. Claire stood at the edge of the chasm for a moment and glanced over at her. She looked scared. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that others had started to gather now too, probably considering the same thing she was.

“I don’t know about all you people, but I’m not staying here to wait for that thing to come back,” she muttered, as she readied herself to moved forward.

“Oh shit, my bag!“  She mumbled it more to herself than to anybody else and turned to get back onto the bus.  She’d stowed a small canvas shoulder bag in the overhead compartment where she’d been sitting, and in the excitement had forgotten to get it out. She pushed quickly through the gathering crowd and stumbled up the bus steps in her hurry to get back to her seat, crashing down on the top step, smashing her knee into the front facing of the metal step.  She cried out and threw herself down into a sitting position cradling her knee, groaning in pain.

What an idiot.  Good job, Claire, she berated herself.  She looked around for help, and saw a man straighten up, seeming to have just been rifling through the glove compartment up front.  He was unkempt looking and wearing a pair of those round glasses that everyone had gone crazy over in the 70’s.  Come to think of it, he looked as if he might just have stepped straight from the era with his long hair and overgrown beard, trench coat and general appearance.  She found that amusing for a moment, despite the situation.

“Excuse me, Sir?” She smiled weakly, even though her knee still throbbed. “I wonder if you’d be kind enough to throw me down my bag from that overhead?”

“Hurry we don’t know how much longer this rock face is going to stay in one piece!”

Claire heard the dark haired girl say and she nodded in her direction right before the other man spoke, catching her attention.

“The driver is gone.”

State the obvious. Actually she didn’t think badly of him for saying it at all, verbalizing the words seemed to make it all the more real and reminded her that she needed to be moving faster. The scared girl outside was right. The rock face was starting to shower the gathered crowd below it now with debri.

He reached up to the overhead a few moments later as she’d asked him to, although he delayed momentarily as if he were confused she had asked for his help, giving her an odd look. While he retrieved her bag, she tugged at the tight jeans and managed to roll the denim up over her knee to get a closer look. There was already a nasty dark bruise forming.  She would pay for that later, she was sure of it.  Inwardly she groaned and tugged the leg down again, rubbing on the swollen joint gingerly before she stood up, hand outstretched to take the bag from the older man.

“Thank you.”

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