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Silent Hill — Guest post by Sairento Hiru

Originally published November 15, 2016 on

(This post contains massive spoilers for Silent Hill.)

Flashback, 1999: I was working as an assistant manager at Blockbuster, diligently prepping new games for rental, when bright red lettering caught my eye on one of the cases.  “SILENT HILL” was written above a gray and white picture of a man staring to the left with a concerned look on his face while a little girl walked away.  I flipped the game over and read the back cover:

“Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl are driving to their favorite vacation spot.  Late that night, a figure suddenly appears from out of the darkness.  Harry turns the wheel in panic, and the car careens off the road, knocking Harry unconscious.  Awakening sometime later, he realizes that Cheryl is missing.  Stumbling out of the wreckage, he heads towards the small town of Silent Hill.”

Well, color me intrigued!

I…well, this is embarrassing to admit, but the statute of limitations has long since passed and Blockbuster Video has gone the way of the Betamax, so I’ll just confess.  We weren’t allowed to check out new items for free on our employee accounts, and I was pretty sure I wanted to take my time with it, so I, uh, marked it as used and sold it to myself for $20.  (I wouldn’t ordinarily do something like that, but I had recently worked a 16-hour shift because the closing manager never showed up and then I had to open the store the next morning on all of 5 hours’ sleep, so let’s just say I was feeling a little bitter, and getting a brand-new game for half price did quite a bit to salve that emotional wound.)

Fortunately, I had the next day off work, so when I got home that evening, I took my prize down to the basement.  At the time, I was living with my dad, and I had turned a section of the basement into my own little corner of paradise: TV, VCR, huge stack of constantly replenished anime fansubs, Playstation, and a beanbag chair.  There was a bathroom about 10 feet away, a futon for 15 minute power naps to recharge my batteries during particularly long play sessions, and a mini-fridge stocked with Coke and bottled water.  Aside from being (COUGH) years old, still living with my father, and working at Blockbuster, I was living the dream!

I started up the game and flopped into the beanbag chair.  The words “The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh” popped up on the screen, and even though I had no clue (and still don’t) what that meant, it sent a delicious little shiver up my spine.  I thought I knew what to expect because I had logged so many hours playing Resident Evil, but I had no idea what was waiting for me.  If Resident Evil’s fun house scares are Friday the 13th, Silent Hill is more akin to Jacob’s Ladder.

The opening cinema, set to absolutely haunting music by composer Akira Yamaoka, is made up of several scenes, most of which don’t make any sense until after the game is completed:  a couple finding a baby in a graveyard, a nurse crawling on the ground, an old woman chewing gum in a church, a female cop wearing a uniform straight out of a stripper’s supply catalog.  Then the car crash referenced on the back cover occurred, the title screen popped up, and my heart swelled up in anticipation.

When the game begins, our protagonist Harry Mason has just woken up in his crashed car, but the passenger side door is open and his young daughter Cheryl is missing.  Harry gets out of the car and sees Cheryl standing there, but when he goes after her, she runs away.  Eventually he winds up in an alley, where he finds a mutilated corpse chained up to a fence.  A group of skinless, knife-wielding children attacks Harry, and…he dies.

Yes, you read that right.  He dies.

Of course, my initial reaction was that I had done something wrong.  Had I taken a wrong turn somewhere?  No, that couldn’t be it; up until that point, the game had basically held my hand and shown me exactly where to go.  Did I miss a weapon?

Oops, no, it was a dream or a hallucination.  Harry wakes up with a gasp in a diner with Stripper Cop staring at him.  She introduces herself as Cybil Bennett, and she’s from the next town over.  She acknowledges that some weird shit is going down in Silent Hill, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it.  She tells Harry to stay in the diner while she gets backup, but he wants to look for Cheryl, so Cybil gives him a gun (because, you know, it’s standard operating procedure for cops to give a weapon to a civilian) and tells him to be careful before she heads out.

To detail the plot of the entire game would be lengthy, so I’ll be skipping to the highlights from here on, starting with Harry’s trip to Midwich Elementary.  This school was named after John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos, which was the basis for the movie The Village of the Damned, and guess what’s stalking around the school?  Why, it’s the skinless knife-wielding children from the beginning of the game.  I’ve played dozens of horror games in the 17 years since Silent Hill’s release, and I can honestly tell you that Midwich Elementary remains the most terrifying area in any of them.  The children grab at Harry and moan while stabbing him, and there are also creatures called “larval stalkers” that are translucent.  They do not harm you, but the first time you see one, you will empty your clip into it out of sheer panic and it will squeak and disappear.  (Fun fact: the skinless children were deemed too controversial to be included in Silent Hill’s Japanese and European versions, and were replaced by monsters with a much less childlike appearance.)

After searching the school and solving classic survival horror puzzles (figure out a riddle, play a piano, get medallions and put them into a pillar), Harry finds himself in the alternate version of the school.  This is, of course, Silent Hill’s trademark: an area suddenly becomes rusty, bloodstained, and even more dangerous.  The demon babies are out in full force, cockroaches have joined the party, Harry opens a locker to find a cat (who escapes into the hall and is killed, thankfully off screen, by a monster), and Harry gets a phone call from Cheryl, who understandably sounds terrified, but the call is cut off.  Harry eventually faces his first boss, an enormous lizard.  After defeating the lizard, Harry blacks out and wakes up in the school, which is back to normal…well, at least there are no creatures roaming around.  Harry hears church bells in the distance, so he decides to make his way there, and this is where we first meet Dahlia Gillespie, the gum chomping old woman from the opening cinema.  She spouts off a bunch of mumbo jumbo, and Harry is frustrated, but she seems to know a lot about Cheryl, so he indulges her.  She tells him about an object called the Flauros, which will stop the supernatural events happening in Silent Hill, and tells him to go to the hospital.  With no other leads to go on, Harry takes the Flauros and heads out.

When Harry gets to Alchemilla Hospital, he meets a man named Dr. Michael Kaufmann.  (Another fun fact: he’s named after cult movie producers Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufmann of Troma Studios.  Toxie would certainly be busy cleaning up in Silent Hill!)  Dr. Kaufmann is holding a gun but doesn’t seem interested in using it on Harry, or for that matter, interested in Harry’s predicament, so he takes off.

After doing some exploring, Harry gets into the elevator and goes to the second floor, but he can’t exit.  The same thing happens with the third floor, but then a button for the fourth floor mysteriously appears, and that’s where Harry is able to get off.  If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you know that hospitals typically don’t have a fourth floor because the word for four, shi, sounds like the word for death.  It’s another big red flag for our hero, but Harry has no choice, and he steps off the elevator to find the alternate version of the hospital, populated with scalpel-wielding doctors and nurses with strange wriggling humps on their backs.  He makes his way down to the sub-basement and finds a room with a framed picture of a girl with the name Alessa written underneath.  When he leaves the room, he meets a nurse named Lisa Garland, who has no idea what’s going on and says she hasn’t seen Cheryl.  Harry blacks out and wakes up with the hospital back to normal.  Dahlia Gillespie decides to pop in for a visit, and she explains that the strange mark Harry has been seeing everywhere is the Mark of Samael.  She thoughtfully leaves a key for Harry and he heads back out onto the streets of Silent Hill.

Oh look, it’s our friend the stripper cop!  How does Cybil fight crime in those pants, I wonder?  Anyway, Cybil tells Harry that she tried to get out of town but wasn’t able to leave.  She mentions that she saw a young girl walking through town, but the girl disappeared before Cybil could reach her.  Harry winds up back in the hospital with Nurse Lisa, who finally comes through with some important information.  She tells Harry that Dahlia Gillespie’s daughter died in a fire, and ever since then, Dahlia has not been all there.  Lisa thinks Dahlia might be involved in a cult that’s trying to invoke a god, and Harry blacks out.

When Harry comes to again, he’s in an antique shop, and Silent Hill has gone evil again…well, MORE evil.  He leaves the antique shop and eventually enters a mall, where he finds a hunting rifle.  Of course, anyone familiar with video games knows this means a Big Bad is on its way, and this time around, it’s basically a Dune sandworm that spews toxic gas at Harry and knocks him over.  Once the creature is defeated, Harry backtracks to the hospital, where Lisa is waiting for him.  He wants to get to the lake, but Bachman Road is blocked off.  Lisa tells him that he can get there by going through the sewers, but she doesn’t want to be alone and she doesn’t want to come with him, either.  Harry shrugs off her concerns and takes off.

Another boss fight!  This time around it’s Mothra.  I don’t know if this enormous moth is the mother of the sandworm that Harry killed in the mall, but either way, she ain’t happy.  A few shots from the boomstick and a WHOLE lot of dodging, and Harry defeats the beast and goes to the sewers.

Oh my god, the EFFING SEWERS.  They are very confusing and filled with reptilian critters.  At one point, something crashes down and I just about leaped out of my skin.  I was glad to get out of there, but not too thrilled to wind up on a houseboat talking to Cybil and getting interrupted by Dahlia, who’s rambling about the darkness and that the only way to stop it is to use the Flauros, the pyramid-shaped object that she gave to Harry earlier.  Cybil heads to the amusement park, and Harry takes a scenic detour to the lighthouse and then heads to the amusement park via the sewers.  God, not the effing sewers again!  They’re just as confusing as before, and now they’re infested with monsters that look like Gloomy Bear, only not as amusing as that sounds.

You’d think that emerging from a monster-filled (and no doubt odoriferous) sewer into an amusement park would be a welcome reprieve; you’d be wrong, because Harry finds Cybil at the merry-go-round, and she’s been possessed by a demon.  Harry has to fight her, and the first time I played, I wound up killing her, which certainly didn’t sit right with me.  It turned out that earlier in the hospital, when you see a puddle of dark liquid on the floor, you’re supposed to scoop some up and then toss it on Cybil during this scene, which saves her.  Yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t make that more obvious either.

Assuming Harry saves Cybil, she asks him if he knows why Silent Hill wants his daughter.  He tells her that Cheryl isn’t actually his biological daughter; he and his late wife found her on the side of the road near Silent Hill and kept her in flagrant violation of about a thousand different laws.   Harry thinks Cheryl must have some deep connection to Silent Hill.  Alessa, the young woman who stepped in front of Harry’s car and causes the accident, appears, and Harry demands that she return Cheryl to him.  Alessa ain’t having it, and she telekinetically pushes him away.  But hark!  A wild Flauros appears!  It rises from his hand and causes Alessa to fall to the ground.  Dahlia, who seems to have some sort of magical teleporting abilities, shows up and tells Alessa that it’s time to go home.  They disappear, and Harry blacks out yet again.

When Harry wakes up, he’s in an area called Nowhere, and even though it’s relatively safe, it’s one of the creepiest areas in the game, made up of rooms from all of the different areas he’s already visited.  One room has rusty metal grating on the floor and the sound of breaking glass; another has an empty birdcage in the middle and the sound of an unseen bird frantically fluttering around.  Harry eventually runs into Lisa again, and she’s had a horrifying revelation: she is “the same as them”, a monster created by Silent Hill.  She begins bleeding profusely, and Harry backs away from her in horror and runs out of the room, barricading the door with his body as Lisa cries.  It’s one of the saddest scenes in the series (and trust me, there is some serious competition), and I generally liked Harry as a protagonist but I thought that was a real dick move on his part to let Lisa die alone and in pain.  When the noises finally stop, he goes back inside and there’s no sign of her, aside from a diary she left on the ground.  It turns out that Lisa was Alessa’s nurse, and she begged to be relieved of her duties caring for Alessa because she was frightened of the fact that Alessa was so badly injured but couldn’t die.  Lisa was addicted to a drug called PTV (a nod to noise band Psychic TV, perhaps?), and withdrawal was causing hallucinations of insects and a faucet running with blood and pus, so she was forced to stay at the hospital in order to gain access to PTV.

As Harry continues through Nowhere, he sees a flashback of people huddled over Alessa’s hospital bed.  It turns out that Alessa was ritually sacrificed by the cult in order to bring forth a god.  The trauma of being burned alive caused Alessa’s soul to split into two, part of which was reincarnated into a baby…the same baby Harry and his wife found on the side of the road, Cheryl.  Cheryl has been irresistibly drawn back to Silent Hill in hopes of completing the ritual once and for all.

And now it’s time to face the final boss: Alessa.  There are four endings, not including the joke ending, depending on whether certain conditions were met throughout the game.  As it turns out, Dr. Kaufmann was in cahoots with the cult all along, and he wants the deity resurrected once and for all.  He throws aglaophotis, the magical liquid that can also be used to save Cybil, at Alessa, which forces the demon Samael out of her body.  Once Samael has been defeated, Alessa reappears, manifests a new baby (a combination of both herself and Cheryl), and gives it to Harry.  Lisa emerges to drag Dr. Kaufmann to the hell he so richly deserves, and Harry and Cybil escape with the baby and, hopefully, to a happier life.

When the ending credits began to roll, I flopped back against my beanbag, exhausted in the best possible ways.  I knew I had just played something that would stick with me for a long time.  I have a shirt with the iconic “The fear of blood…” quote on the front, as well as one that says “Harry & James & Heather & Henry & Alex”.  When I decided to get a tattoo, I strongly considered getting one based on Silent Hill.  My Twitter name is an homage to the series.  And I even have a framed picture of Alessa in my bedroom, the same one you find at the side of her hospital bed.  I know it must sound strange to have a picture of Silent Hill’s antagonist in my home, but in some ways I consider Alessa a patron saint of the abused and bullied, because she took the pain inflicted upon her and grew to be far more powerful than her oppressors.

Is Silent Hill my favorite game of the series?  Not by a long shot; that would be Silent Hill 2, which is also my favorite video game of all time.  Its graphics were nothing to write home about even when it was first released, and it looks downright primitive now.  But its masterful soundtrack, alternately horrifying and heartbreaking story, and visceral chills remain unblemished by the march of time.  It got under my skin the first time I played, and it has never left.

Sairentohiru is an OG horror fan who still has fond memories of perusing the over sized VHS boxes in the horror section of her hometown video store. She’s a big fan of all aspects of the horror genre, but especially video games. She evens out the macabre aspects of her personality with an intense love of cats and candy. You can find her on Twitter here 

Archives Articles Guest Articles Women in Horror Month

Guest Article – Why I Love Horror by Rebekah Ross

I’m walking in the woods. There’s no one around, and it’s 2005 so I don’t have a cellphone. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot him – Edgar Allan Poe. To his left a raven flaps its wings and quoths its lore of some sad sorrow nevermore. To his right, the ghost of Annabel Lee floats eerily far from her graveside by the sea. This horror drew me in with a sort of inevitable curiosity to look at the things I was told didn’t exist. It reaches out to the misshapen in all of us: the still-bleeding wounds, the aching scars, the hidden traumas. The monstrous side of us refuses to be shut out from our lives, and it’s only by embracing it that we find our humanity.

I was instantly fascinated by the dissonance inherent between the melodiousness of Poe’s language and the brokenness of his characters. Call me a sucker, but any fool with a thesaurus and a solid grasp of assonance can lure me into their wine cellar for a good time. The beauty of it beats like a still thumping heart under your floorboards. Poe’s characters all had some idée fixee that we do not understand and perhaps do not entirely wish to understand, and it drove them further and further into the territory of the morbidly inexplicable and societally incorrect. Nevertheless, the horror is real whether or not we want it to be real and whether or not we can believe it to be real. The story is right there on the page, solid in black and white. It cannot be untold.

It’s 2010. I’m walking through a foggy town. The cars lining the sidewalks are empty and still, and the houses lining the streets are dark and void. I shiver. Before me looms the brick-and-mortar school where my dad works. It was built in the 30s, and hasn’t been renovated in at least twenty years. As I enter, I can almost hear the shriek of mouldering monsters behind me, lonesome forgotten things that have never seen sunlight. Each step of the old wooden staircase creaks with age and memory, the ghosts of schoolchildren that have long since grown and gone. It isn’t Silent Hill, but it could be.

That could-be is enough to make me quicken my walk and rush to the safety of electric light where nothing can lurk in the corners unseen. There isn’t anything out there, of course; but the thought that there could be makes me more careful in places where I’m at my most vulnerable. I think twice. I watch where I’m going. The memory and resonance of horror keeps me safe, because it keeps my eyes open and my feet fast.

It also raises questions. Silent Hill has two states of being: the Otherworld, and the real world. The real world is an abandoned small town, foggy and isolated; the Otherworld is a rusty distortion of that same place, bleeding and populated. The one place can rapidly shift into its double with little to no warning. The monsters themselves are psychological amalgamations of the protagonist’s fears and leftovers from previous games – but it’s never entirely clear if they’re humans you see as monsters, or delusions of your drugged imagination. In the same way, it’s rarely clear whether or not the protagonist is as much of a monster as the ones they fight. The question raised is this: what makes a monster?

It’s 2013, and my first year away from home for college. I’m alone and don’t know anyone in the area yet. I do the research; I learn the risks; I calculate the odds. One out of 8 women get sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, and it’s rarely the stranger they have to worry about; it’s the people they already know. The Gift of Fear teaches me how to watch out for myself and for others, how to trust my instincts, and how to see boundary-crossing for the dangerous thing it is. I learned how not to excuse the inexcusable, even if making excuses is easier. I know what things go bump in the night, and I bump back.

It’s 2014. I’m looking for fun things to do on the internet, and I find Fallen London – a Victorian Gothic interactive fictional take on history, if history had included London being stolen from the Surface to far below the earth’s crust. The overriding theme of Fallen London is complicity. What are the things you’ll say yes to and the things you’ll say no to? You start the game dropped in prison and have to fight your way out into the city. Any purity you could lay claim to is vanished. As soon as you escape, you’re plunged into a world of hanged men’s clothes and whispered secrets. While the status quo may level out to an ersatz normal at first, the things beneath the normalcy are far stranger and mysterious than could possibly be imagined.

Small horrors grow in the gaps between larger ones, and they all become commonplace through exposure. It just stops being weird to have primordial shrieks and stolen correspondences in your inventory. Scams become organized crime, and a cut-throat becomes a policeman. Jack-of-Smiles could possess any passerby in a murdering frenzy, and no one would blink. You simply get up, heal your capacious wounds, and go on with your day. Your Cheerful Goldfish can become a Haunted Goldfish without very much effort on your part.

It takes all your wits to survive. Devils want to purchase your soul – after all, it’s not as if you’re using it, dear. Something eternally hungry walks of nights and calls you delicious friend. Rubbery Men, weird tentacled things, slosh the streets in ill-fitting human suits of clothing. Clay Men speak little and do much. And the rumors about the Royal Family are scarcely to be believed! You can’t thrive in Fallen London if you don’t compromise on something, somewhere. It’s a world where there are no good choices and the line between human and other is continually contorted.

In a place of such fluid moral ambiguity, monstrosity is a matter of definition. Anything can become normal; anything can become horrific. Your choices drive your failures as much as your successes.  For me, this was a liberating narrative. In Fallen London, you are free to do as you will, with all the consequences that result from such agency. The only thing you have to carry is the memory of the things you’ve done. The monster at the end of the book, so to speak, is you – even in a darkness of larger ones with sharper teeth and stranger skins. They’re coming to eat you, if you don’t eat them first.

It’s 2018. Because of horror, there’s now more monsters in my closet than clothes. Flannery O’Connor’s short stories whisper strange truths to me about the toxic tincture of violence and love: how violence can warp and mold a person, how love can be selfish and self-sacrificing all at once. Frankenstein’s monster is still sitting on an iceberg, having isolated itself from the world it wanted so much to know – forever rejected and three times a murderer. The Phantom of the Opera is here, inside my mind.

I admit some slight hyperbole, but that illusion of closeness matters. That these things can wind themselves into our imaginations and haunt our nightmares – it makes a difference. You don’t get that kind of impact without some sort of connection. The horror is in our relation to these creations of our unthinkable uglinesses. They are us, at our most socially unacceptable. They are us, when we look into the mirror in the middle of the night. They are us, when we don’t want to be ourselves.

So what does it mean, really, to look at the horrific and see humanity? The monster in the closet is yourself; or a reflection of yourself you’d rather not look at; or worse yet a reflection of other people through the filter of your imagination. They are a transgression. You can run and never truly escape from the fear that pursues you, or you can choose to reach out and touch the thing that scares you. Choosing to embrace these things is the way I find I have to approach horror. It’s a place of empathy – of looking at the ugliness and refusing to look away – and it has defined so much of my approach to life that I could never be ungrateful.

Archives Articles Guest Articles

International Women’s Day – Silvia Brown

Before I was aware of International Women’s Day and the women’s rights movement, the 8th of March meant only one thing to me. My gran’s birthday.

Grandma Montse was the matriarch of our family and the reason I became a horror writer. She never learnt to read nor write but was a gifted storyteller that spooked young and old with creepy stories passed down through generations. Given the opportunity, I believe she’d have been a reader and a writer.

Grandma passed away when I was 12 years-old. I watched it all happened from my hiding spot under the living room table as my family set up her death bed in the same room she used to tell me stories.

It’s hard to lose someone so important so early in life. Gran was the one person that accepted me for who I was and encouraged me to keep doing what I loved: Reading and writing. Grandma Montse would have been 85 years old today. She taught me to be brave and to embrace the darkness in my soul.

A darkness I share with my peer women horror writers. Emerging and established writers from all over the world thriving and leaving a path for the rest
of us to follow. Grandma would be proud I look up to such strong women. Today may be International Women’s Day and last month may have been Women in Horror Month, but to me, you ladies should be celebrated every day.


-Silvia Brown


Silvia is a member of the Australasian Horror Writers Association. You can find her on twitter here and on her personal website here

Short Stories

The Woman On the Yellow Bicycle by Augie Peterson

With reluctance, I walked into the stuffy classroom. Hugging my arms close to my chest, I watched my feet walk across the tile floor. A dark haired woman stopped me before I could make my way to the seat I had eyed at the back of the classroom. She smiled, then rested her hands on my shoulders as the last few students hurried into the classroom. “Good morning class” the teacher spoke, massaging my shoulders. “This is Sandy, it’s her first day here. Why don’t you tell the class something about yourself, Sandy?”
“Well…” I began, not looking up from my still-new Mary Janes.
“Um…I’ve moved over 12 times in my whole life” I mumbled. The teacher smiled wider and bent down to meet my eyes. “Oh wow, that’s impressive! Is your daddy in the army?” Her condescending tone and toothy smile was enough to make my stomach churn. I replied “no, may I sit down now?” Her face fell and she squeezed my shoulders yet again before letting me go. I sought out the desk closest to the rear of the classroom and rested my head on my crossed arms. I did what I could not to cry from embarrassment.
Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. A boy with short curly hair was smiling at me. His face was round and freckles were scattered over his cheeks beneath round glasses.
“Mrs. Connors did that to me a few months ago and I threw up” he said. I giggled a bit, using my sleeve to stop a tear from falling.
“That sucks” I replied. “I’ve done this so many times, you’d think I’d be better at it.”
“Well, now it’s all over and you can start making friends; I’m Brian.” He held out his hand and I shook it. “It’s nice to meet you.”
At lunch I sat with Brian and his small group of friends. I was introduced to Liam, a skinny red headed boy who wore a shirt that was clearly two sizes too big. I also met Katy, she was a brunette with long straight hair and small facial features. The conversation passed from subject to subject until something came up that piqued my interest.
“I swear I saw her myself the other day” Katy said, taking a bite out of a candy bar.
“No way” Brian sneered. “You can’t see something that doesn’t exist.”
“Well if you believe it exists, you can” Katy shot back, flipping her hair behind her shoulder.
“What are you guys talking about?” I chimed in.
“The woman on the yellow bicycle” said Liam, rolling his eyes at the other two. “She’s the town ghost.”
I put down my sandwich and immediately rifled through my backpack for a tattered red and black composition notebook. I grabbed a pen and asked  “what do you know about her?” At this point in my moving journey, I had grown accustomed to the strange stares my notebook elicited whenever local lore came up in a conversation. These stares I ignored and implored Liam to tell me more. He shook himself out of confusion and started telling me the story.
“About 30 years ago, when my parents were our age, there was this woman that rode around town on a yellow bicycle. She was in her 60’s and would be seen around the same route at the same time every day. Her bike was this banana colored yellow, a really nice Schwinn model that was obviously well taken care ofSome folks thought she was a bit insane though, she always wore a pair of sunglasses, no matter the weather, and she had a basket and streamers on her bike.”
“Some kids started telling stories that she was a witch” Brian interjected. “They also said she might be blind or missing an eye because of her sunglasses. No one knew who she was. She lived alone and would never wave or talk to anyone as she rode through town.”
“She chained her bike up outside of her house that was surrounded by a ten foot wrought iron fence after her daily ride” Liam continued. I was in awe of his story and wrote down notes with as much speed and accuracy my excited hands could muster. Liam then leaned into the circle of friends and spoke in a hushed voice. “One day, these brothers, Ben and Rich Georgiano, who were known as local troublemakers decided to try and steal her bike. They followed her along her route and waited. The moment she got off of her seat to roll it onto her property, the kids tried to grab it.” Liam then grew silent, as if that was all there was to the story.
“Well? What happened next!?” I nearly screamed.
“No one really knows. All we do know is that Ben showed up dead the next day, the bike is still chained up on the old woman’s property, and no one ever saw her again.” Liam sat back in his seat, finished with what he knew. My muscles relaxed and I scribbled down the last few details.
“Well, that’s not totally true” Katy chimed in. “Some, like me” she said, shooting a nasty look at Brian “have seen her. She just rides along parts of her usual route and disappears into a tree or something.”
“Well I think it’s a load of crap” said Brian.
“Then I guess you won’t mind taking me to see the house after school?” I smiled.
“Pfft, no problem” he responded, waving his hand in the air nonchalantly.
As the final bell of the day rang out, the hallways of Coalville High filled with students. I packed up my things and made my way over to Brian’s locker. “Ready to face your fears?” I asked. Brian stuck out his tongue in response and grabbed his backpack. Katy and Liam scurried over with excited smiles on their faces. “Do you guys mind if we come too?” Liam asked. I looked to Brian for an answer. He seemed a bit irked at the idea but said “sure” nonetheless.
Our group walked through the grey stone walkways of Coalville together, enjoying the change in the weather. The dead leaves crunched beneath our feet and a slight chill was in the air. The town itself seemed to be grey all over. The changing leaves were the only thing to brighten the darkened storefronts. I imagined the woman riding her bike through this grey town on a rainy day, the only spot of color for miles.
“So you said you’ve moved 12 times?” Katy asked, breaking the silence.
“Yeah” I replied. “My mom and dad got divorced so my mom and I have been moving around trying to find work for her. She’s a psychologist.”
“That sucks” Brian chimed in.
“Yeah, but it’s life. My mom and I have a great relationship now. We’re more like sisters.” I replied with a half-smile.
“My dad split before I was born” said Liam. “I know how that can be.”
There was an awkward silence for a few moments before Brian changed the subject. “So, you have a notebook full of ghost stories, huh?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Finding new stories about things beyond this world really helped me get through the divorce. Besides, there seemed to be a ghost story or some kind of lore in every town I’ve lived in.”
“Sweet. Any favorites?”
“Yeah, actually. My favorite was this girl I knew that had some kind of demon in her room that would give her hallucinations. She once saw a nest of spiders crawl out of a light only to move it and find nothing there.” Liam, Katy, and Brian listened with rapt attention as I told my stories.
We followed the sidewalk off of the main road down into a suburban cul-de-sac. It led us to a small ranch-style home behind a seven foot tall wrought iron gate. “Here it is” Liam said as we approached. I swallowed hard and began to quiver as I looked around the property. The grass was patchy, moss was growing on the roof, and the large tree that took up most of the front yard was split in half. The house itself was darkened and covered in vines and weeds.
Several of the windows were broken and it looked as if it hadn’t been touched in years. Down near the walkway that crept under the iron perimeter, the bike sat, chained to the fence in three places. The once bright yellow paint had nearly all chipped away and the tires were flat. The rims and spokes had rusted, there were only a few strands of plastic remaining in each of the streamers, and the basket had a bird’s nest in it.
“Wow” I said under my breath. I felt a certain sadness I couldn’t put my finger on. I reached through the small space between the posts of the fence and touched the dirt encrusted handlebar. It was like I could feel the woman’s pain, like her spirit hadn’t left the property and she was stuck, forced to watch the bike she loved so much wither away.
“As fun as this is, I’m going to be late for dinner if I don’t get home soon” Katy said. “I don’t have all day to stare at an old house.” Glancing at the time on my phone, I realized she was right and that the sun had already begun to set.
We all walked back towards the main road until Katy and Liam darted through the backyard’s of a few houses. While they took the shortcut to their apartment complex, Brian and I were left to walk in the same direction on our own. “Do you know where Fourth Street is from here, Brian?” I asked. He looked startled but smiled.
“Yeah, it’s not far.” He said.
“Want to walk me home?”
“Uh…yeah, sure” he replied, his voice cracking a bit.
“Thanks” I said, smiling sweetly in return.
Just before we turned the corner onto the main road, I looked back at the house one last time. The sadness I’d felt before returned and my heart hurt for the old woman. Suddenly, my jaw dropped and my eyes widened. The bike was gone.
“Everything okay, Sandy?” Brian asked, noting my nervousness.
“Yeah….yeah, I’m fine.”
This story originally appeared on Augie Peterson’s website. If you enjoyed this story, we encourage you all to pay her website a visit and check out more of her work.
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