A Town Where Strange Things Happen

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Estimated reading time β€” 7 minutes

Every year since my son Lucas turned 10, he, my wife Jennet, and I have taken a week-long vacation in Vermont. Years ago, my wife’s father left her a small cottage by a lake I had never heard of, in a town I had also never heard of up to that point; a perfect get away spot, tucked away from civilization. We ventured out every July; the night before spent excitedly packing suitcases full of clothes, coolers with snacks and drinks, and affixing our modest rowboat to its rickety old trailer. Dinner on these nights was always the best. My wife spared no expense, spending hours whipping up meals that could make even royalty jealous.

We always awoke the following morning at the crack of dawn, hopped into the car, and had breakfast at a nearby diner called Cleo’s in preparation for the trip to come. From there we would begin our eight-hour drive to Vermont. After the first year, my wife and I had mapped out every gas station stop and rest area for fuel-up’s and restroom breaks. It became a sort of ritual the way we went about it. For years, everything on our drive went according to plan, save for this last one. Last year, the highway that covered the last sixty miles of our trek was undergoing road work and was completely closed down. We had no choice but to take the designated detour through backroads.

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It had begun to rain pretty heavily before we reached the turn-off for the detour, and we almost immediately became lost. Signs became to difficult to see, and, as to not slide off the road, we were moving nearly fifteen miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit. After an hour or so, we wound up in a small, run-down village called Orion’s Crest, according to our map. It was nearly impossible to make out any distinct observations about the town as we drove through the narrow, single-lane streets, only ever catching quick glimpses of lanterns above sidewalks or hanging from store fronts.

My wife and I decided that the weather was making things far too difficult. We decided to pull in to the first parking lot we saw to wait the storm out. Upon doing so, I turned off the car, closed my eyes, laid my head back against the rest, and listened to the rain. My wife was quite frustrated. There had been no notice of rain on her weather app, and she desperately wanted to know how much longer this storm would last. By now, we could have been enjoying our vacation, but instead, we were stuck in some backwater town, trapped by the cruel forces of mother nature.

I hadn’t realized it when we initially pulled in, but we sat in the parking lot of a diner. From what I could make out, it looked very similar to Chloe’, back home. As if my mental note on the subject turned on an invisible switch, the lights for the diner flickered to life. In big, familiar, neon pink letters; Chloe’s. As soon as the sign came on, the rain stopped. The sky was still nearly black with clouds and thunder could still be heard off in the distance. I nudged my wife and indicated towards the sign.

“Huh,” She uttered. “Didn’t realize they were a chain.”

“They aren’t.” I added.

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I craned my neck to check on Lucas. He had fallen asleep.

I can’t say why, but I felt a sudden need to take a closer look at the diner. From the parking lot, it looked exactly like the one back home. As if it had been copied and pasted, or even picked up and moved to our location. Something about it just struck me as odd.

“Hey,” I half whispered to Jennet. “I’ll be right back.”

Without taking my eyes off the neon sign, I stepped out of the car. My wife was asking me something, but I was too focused to notice. For some reason, the diner had my complete attention. I walked towards the establishment, occasionally looking around the lot for any signs of life. We were alone. I made my way up to the window by the entry and peaked inside. Nothing unusual. Then, the car alarm went off. I turned to see my wife leaning over the driver side trying to switch it off. My son was now stepping out of the car, his hands over his ears. The alarm chimed off as my son approached.

“Dad, where are we?”

“We just stopped to let the rain pass. C’mon, bud. Let’s get going.”

We hopped back in and started off down the road. Further into town, we came across another unusual sight. Police cars blocked the road, along with sawhorses; the word CAUTION painted on them. An officer stepped out of one of the vehicles and held his hand up, signaling me to stop. He came over and tapped on my window.

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“Good evening, folks.” The officer’s voice was deep and scratchy. “You’ll have to turn around. Been a real bad accident up ahead.”

“What happened?” My wife asked, leaning over to see the officer better. The officer looked into the back seat at Lucas.

“Probably best the young one doesn’t hear the details, ma’am.”

I nodded and thanked him for sparing us the info.

“What brings you three to Orion’s Crest, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“We’re on a trip to Vermont. We own a cabin up there. Detour took us off our path. Any way we can get around the accident?”

The officer then gave us directions that would take us down a few lesser used streets, leading us to another highway. We thanked him and turned around; a difficult task with a trailer on such a small road. By now, the clouds had mostly dissipated, and evening light filled the sky with dim oranges and blues. We were two hours behind schedule, and Lucas was getting restless from being in the car so long.

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Fifteen minutes later, we were met with another road block, similar to the first. There were police cruisers and more sawhorses with CAUTION painted on them. Another cop approached our car after having us stop. I nearly burst out laughing with anger. It was the same officer as before.

“Good evening, Folks.” The officer said. “You’ll have to turn around. Been a real bad accident up ahead.”

Dumbfounded, I turned to my wife. Her expression was the same as mine. You don’t remember us, officer? We were just here a few minutes ago,” Said Jennet. The officer stood staring at us a moment. His face absent of any expression.

“Probably best the young one doesn’t hear the details, ma’am.”

“Are you alright, officer?” I asked, puzzled. Again, he just stared.

“What brings you three to Orion’s Crest, if you don’t mind my asking?”

What the fuck.

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I asked the officer if it would be alright for me to step out and talk with him.

“Sure thing, sir.”

I rolled up the windows and stepped out. The air was much cooler than it was back at the diner we stumbled upon.

“So, you don’t recall us pulling up a few minutes ago?”

“No sir,” he replied, sounding a bit peppy.

“I’m a little concerned that-”

“Would you like to see them?” He cut me off. Caught off guard by his question, I stared a moment.

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“What?”

“Would you like to see them?”

“See what?” I asked.

“Their bodies.”

At this point, I was pretty freaked.

“What do you mean the-”

The officer interjected.

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“Come!” He began walking to the cruisers. “Come see.”

I looked back at my wife through the window, motioning towards the officer in disbelief. She shrugged, but waved at me to join him. I obliged, just as curious as she was.

As the officer and I maneuvered past the blockade, he started humming to himself. I looked over at him, still confused, and he turned back to me. I quickly broke our gaze and surveyed the surrounding area to avoid awkward eye contact. The cruisers were empty. Up ahead, past the flashing lights, were what appeared to be two bodies in the road, covered by gray tarps. When we reached them, the officer stood between, pointing each of his hands at the deceased.

“Pick.” He said.

“What?”

“Pick which one you want to see first.”

“No.”

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“Fine.” He grinned. “At the same time then.”

He knelt down and peeled back the tarps, revealing the faces of the dead. In an instant, my knees gave out and I fell to the ground.

Not. Possible. Not real. It couldn’t be.

Beneath the tarps were the bloodied faces of Jennet and Lucas. Feeling a strong sensation of dizziness, I tried my best to stand upright. I began backing away from the scene before turning and running full sprint back towards my car. I stopped a few yards away. There in the car, my wife and son; alive, looking at me with confused expressions. I waved at them as if to say “I’m fine.” Jennet’s eyes then wandered to somewhere behind me. It looked as though she was screaming, wildly pointing in my direction. I didn’t even hear his footsteps, but now, the officer stood behind me, and a knife was plunged into my lower back. The pain was immense. I dropped to the ground again. The officer, kneeling in front of me now, grabbed me by the hair and yanked my head up to look at his.

“I love the faces. They’re the climax to their story. The final words expressed through a dead stare. It’s my favorite part.”

He stood and turned towards the car. I could now hear Lucas and Jennet screaming. My wife frantically tried to open her car door, to no avail.

“Pick.” He said calmly.

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“What?” I felt consciousness fading away; the desire to close my eyes strengthening with every breath. I couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. I was too tired to.

“Pick one.”

I was unable to even get a single word out. Talking was too difficult a task in my wounded state.

“Fine, both then.” He replied to himself.

He walked over to the car and hopped into the driver’s seat. My wife had climbed into the back to protect Lucas. The officer stared at me through the glass, smiling a malignant smile; his jaw unhinging like that of a snake. He then turned to look at my wife and son. The last thing I saw before blacking out was him inexplicably scarfing down my family.

When I came to, I was in a hospital bed. To my left, in another bed, was a young woman. Her arm was wrapped in a thick gauze. Blood soaked all the way through and dripped beside her. As I watched it drip, my pain returned, and with it, the memories of what happened. A nurse rushed in. I hadn’t even realized it, but I had begun to scream.

After settling down, numbness took over my mind and body. I was informed by a doctor that I had been asleep for six weeks. I didn’t know what to do. My family had been officially reported missing and an investigation was underway. I talked with shrinks and the authorities, telling them my whole story. None believed me, but they were at least able to rule out my involvement. My car had been spotted by a traffic camera a few days prior, being driven by an unidentified woman.

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After a couple more days in bed, I was allowed to get up and walk about. The hospital itself seemed normal, but something in particular caught my eye. I was returning from the cafeteria when I noticed the sign above the keycard-locked door to the ward I had been checked into.

The sign read: Curious Cases Ward. AUTHORIZED PERSSONEL ONLY.

WRITTEN BY: R.L. Rogers

(click HERE to join R.L. Rogers’ official subreddit)


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