~ 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.
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.
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.