Monday, April 4, 2016

Ghost Town, Joe Persch

Exploration
By Joe Persch

John saw his destination from quite a distance. It wasn’t hard in this environment. Flat, dusty, and dry. The book he was writing was coming along nicely, but it didn’t have that one place that would make it stand out. He hoped this would be that place.
There was something unusual about the way this particular town was viewed. All Ghost Towns have their myths and legends about them. There are stories of shoot outs, gold mines, bandits, indians (actually native americans. He hated that name, “Indians”), and even demons from time to time. But this town had none of that. No gold stories, no train hijackings or bank robberies. Not even any origin on why the town was founded. This one, above all the others, bore looking into.
It took him the rest of the day to get to the town, and when he did, he saw the sign bore the name he was expecting. Holden. It was an odd name for a town. So often, the names made sense. There were all the famous ones such as Dodge City and Tombstone (both known for their association with Wyatt Earp). Then there were obvious ones such as Silver City in New Mexico (three guesses as to what they’re famous for and the first two don’t count).
No matter the name, no one seemed to know anything about that town other than two facts. Its name and the fact that no one would go there. If they did, they didn’t come back. No one even really knew the exact location. There was a general consensus as to where it was and John had been able to get a pretty good idea based on the information he had gathered.
As he rode into town on his dune buggy, he stopped shortly after passing the town sign. Something was definitely wrong here. Well, not wrong, he amended to himself. More like strange. He couldn’t even pinpoint what was going on here. He walked around, leaving his pack on the vehicle for the time being. The buildings looked like those he had seen before. They even had a saloon and a small bank. The main difference was that these buildings did not look old and weather beaten. They looked maintained. But no one was in the town. There weren’t even any footprints in the dust.
John went back and grabbed his pack and his camera. He wanted to document this. This could be his ace in the hole that made his book sizzle. He moved along the main street, taking snapshots of the facade of each building. He paused when he got to the Saloon. He thought he saw something move inside. Glancing at the sign, he saw it was called the “Greased Pig”. Interesting name, but not altogether inappropriate for a town like this.
He moved carefully as he entered. The batwing doors didn’t even make a squeak as he entered. They were certainly well maintained. Looking around, he saw that the entirety of the place was clean. Not a speck of dust was to be found. John walked back past the bar and into the kitchen area. It looked like what he expected. Wooden counter tops ready for food preparation. Barrels were sitting in the far corner looking ready to be tapped. Even kitchenware was still in place.
Wait. He looked to the corner again. Barrels ready to be tapped? That wasn’t right. If this town was abandoned, why would there be barrels left? John felt suddenly VERY uneasy. He moved back out into the common area and out into the street where the sun was still shining. He suddenly didn’t like this. He started moving back to his buggy to get away from the town when he tripped on something. Picking himself up and dusting himself off, he checked behind him to see what he had tripped on.
It was large, shiny, and stuck. He pulled out a small spade and began digging out around it. Then he realized...it was gold. Straining, he pulled it out of the ground. It looked like a reptile scale but it was the size of a dinner plate. Nothing was making any sense. How could it be a reptile scale? There were no reptiles that big anywhere in the world, not even in Australia.
He pulled it up, but it was so heavy he almost dropped it. Moving back to his dune buggy, he loaded it onto the back and tied it on. He was about to climb on when he looked back at the town. Something was in the street. It looked like a cat. And it was looking right at him. It was a fairly large tom cat. For some reason he couldn’t look away. And then it moved it’s head as if to say, “Come back here. I’ve got something to show you.” But that would be crazy...right?
Still, John could not look away. The cat made the same motion with its head and moved into the “Greased Pig”. Going against his better nature, he went back into town and moved inside the Saloon.
There he saw the cat sitting atop one of the tables in the common room, watching him. John looked around, but saw nothing else of note. He looked back at the cat and the cat looked back at him. This cat was larger than any domesticated cat he had ever seen. Even feral cats in cities didn’t get this big. It seemed like he was getting more pieces to this puzzle, but each piece only seemed to increase the size of the puzzle and the number of pieces needed.
On a whim, John picked up his camera and aimed at the cat. It didn’t move. In fact, it seemed curious (more so than cats usually do...which is saying something). He took the photo, the flash going off due to the low light, and heard an ear piercing howl from the cat. It leapt back to another table and arched its back, hissing at him.
This was to be expected, but what he didn’t expect was what he saw when he looked at the digital display of the picture. There was no cat in the picture. Instead, it was a massive glowing form, leisurely leaning back while sitting on the table. It might have looked a bit humanoid, but it was difficult to tell.
John lowered the camera and stared open-mouthed at the cat. “What are you?” He whispered.
The cat seemed to relax and leapt back onto the closer table then sat down. “Oh, finally found your tongue and your manners? Honestly, if you’re going to blind someone, give them a bit of warning first?”
Ok, this was insane. He had been out in the sun too long. The cat could NOT have just spoken to him.
“I see,” the cat sighed, “it’s always like this. We’ve really got to make a note to investigate this world. I’m sorry, but this is going to hurt you a LOT more than it does me. But we need your help and time is running out.”
Before he could move, something struck John in the back of his head and he had the sensation of falling forward. He felt himself hit the floor and his vision began to go black. Just before he did, he heard a second voice. It sounded much older and female.
“Are you sure about this? He didn’t even sense me coming.”
“I’m sure,” the cat’s voice responded. “And even if I wasn’t, we’re out of time. We need his help.”

What the hell had he gotten himself into?

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