Jack Boucher’s feet had been hurting since about an hour. The ache climbed up in painful stabs towards his calves and then his knees. His brow was sweating despite the iciness in the air, yet his body was cold. It had been hours since he had seen another living being, leave alone a fellow man. The heavy fog handicapped his vision considerably, and tiny droplets kept clinging to the lenses of his spectacles. After the first few cycles of tiredly removing them and wiping them on the edge of his shirt to be rewarded by a minute of fading visibility, he decided to stow away the aid for the time being. His naked eye was myopic, but at least it didn’t require continuous maintenance. It was right about this time that he was starting to look back at his sickening enthusiasm for taking up this case with a stinging sense of remorse. Nevertheless, he clutched his trench coat closer to his chest and kept marching over the slick asphalt.
Quiet Haven was a strange town, and its strangeness was implicit. The Devil, as they say, is in the details. The remoteness and lack of communication from the desolate town drew very few eyes from the juxtaposed urban settlements. However, in the times we live in now, it is not natural for a town to be as disparaged as Quiet Haven was.
The reluctance of Jack’s peers to report on the curious development of affairs that had rendered the authorities to recall the proposed merging of constituencies under the district of Brahms had seemed foolish and unfounded. Sure, there was some folklore surrounding the semi-rural town lying on the edge of the State border, but according to Jack Boucher, 22, reporting for the Brahms Periodical, those stories of hitchhikers gone missing and children abducted were nothing more than old wives’ tales and baseless superstition. Thus, he decided that as a courageous and reasonable man, he would volunteer to reveal to the public what exactly the government auditors meant by ‘cultural differences’ between the newly flourishing metropolis of Brahms and the sleepy town of Quiet Haven that owed its existence to a mining settlement in the early 20th century. The handsome remuneration being offered by the publication house in dearth of willing persons to cover the story was just extra incentive for Jack to seize this opportunity. Now, after a long bus ride that took him only three quarters of the way, and hitchhiking the rest of the way wearily, he was debating if the cash had been worth it. The last person he had heard speaking was the trucker who had left him on the exit of the state expressway heading into town. Most of the people he had asked along the way had never even heard of the outlying town. Strangely enough, the ones who did have some familiarity avoided any discussion about it whatsoever. Dusk was tainting the blue sky into navy by the time he crossed the ill kept municipal board that declared that he was entering Quiet Haven.
The Roman Catholic Chapter: Quiet Haven welcomes you.
Still stuck in the middle ages, I see, Jack thought haughtily.
Pulling out his cell phone, Jack discovered for the fortieth time that no radio signals touched this place.
The road ascended up a slope with a steep drop on the right side. So deep was the fall and so thick was the fog that the bottom couldn’t be seen. Jack cautiously walked in the opposite side. The upward incline was slight, but the road was long and the climate unforgiving.
Mercifully, he found the slight outline of a building of some sort against the darkening sky.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, we have civilization. Jack grinned despite his irritability. He picked up his pace, limbs invigorated.
When he had expressed his acceptance to the job of covering Quiet Haven, and rather eagerly at that, there had been a few looks shot his way from his colleagues. One of them, the only one Jack bothered to know, a middle-aged assistant editor named Duncan, came over to his tiny cubicle after lunch.
“Hey, uh, how’s it goin’, Jackie boy?” He inquired, his expression giving away his concern for something greater than Jack’s current state.
“Same old story, Duncan.” Jack replied nonchalantly. His eyes were glued to his notepad, upon which he was planning out his itinerary for the upcoming trip.
“What you got over there?” Duncan pestered on, peering at Jack’s scribbling.
Jack looked up, “Jotting down the route to the town.”
Duncan seemed to avoid eye contact with him. “Yeah, about that,” he shuffled his legs, “you really think this is worth your while, Jack?” He was clearly uncomfortable with the assignment, Jack could tell.
“For an extra two hundred bucks over my regular weekly, you better believe it’s worth my while Dunk,” Jack said, grinning.
Duncan pulled over a chair and sat hunched beside Jack, “Money aside, I really don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go there all alone.” He pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed his balding head.
Jack looked at him. The old guy seemed genuinely concerned about the town. He tossed his pen and pad on his desk and turned his chair to face him. “Why’s that?”
Duncan looked around them to make sure nobody was listening, and then leaned in a bit closer to Jack, “The town,” he half-whispered, “it’s not a good place.”
Jack rolled his eyes inwardly, “C’mon, Duncan, don’t tell me you believe in those silly stories too.”