Thursday, April 28, 2011

The end.

Here's a quick description of what happened:

I went down the hallway and saw my cousin Vanessa Clement, Aunt Dot's daughter. She smiled at me, but it wasn't a friendly smile. She reminded me that she told me I could leave. When I asked her about my parents, she told me they were in the pile of bodies behind her. I told her I didn't believe her and she said I could look for myself. Instead, I made a move for the basement door. That's when she attacked me.

Thank goodness for this dagger. It may be a throwing knife, but we were in hand-to-hand. I managed to get her arm, then I got her with the blunt of the dagger right in the temple. She crumpled to the ground and I made a break for the basement door. I called the police immediately after I got the door unlocked. It was a good thing I did. It saved my life.

I got the door open and ran down to the basement to find both my parents, and the entire Five Petals, tied up. I used the dagger to cut them free and we had a brief, but happy, reunion. While we got the others free, they told me about what had happened.

It seems the Five Petals are a much different organisation than I always thought.

They said that when the "secret history" comes out of secrecy, those who know about it must be removed of that knowledge "by whatever means necessary". I took this to mean that people are killed, and it would also explain the mountain of bodies inside the hall. Mom told me that no one ever thought it would happen, but some were so zealous about the organisation and the cause that they really took it to heart. Vanessa was one of those people. I guess the Piers family holds the secret, too, and when one of their family members is harmed, they tell the history to the world. The whole town was set to be "cleansed". The rest of the Five Petals told Vanessa to stop, and that times had changed. It was no longer necessary to keep the history a secret. She disagreed. To prevent the history from being spread, she locked everyone who was in the Five Petals away until they "saw the light" (her own words). Everyone else was killed.

But then, I got in the way.

Vanessa had every intent of killing me, but she wanted to match wits with me instead. Not a good idea for her. Aunt Dot is an absolute mess; she never intended for her daughter to be so fanatical.

All of the Five Petals are now saying that the group should be re-evaluated. None of them ever intended any of the cleansings to happen. Now I understand a little better why I was sent to live with my aunt, and why she was so rarely spoken of.

After they had described this to me, and everyone was free, we set out to leave. And then, Vanessa shot me in the leg. She had woken up and was disoriented, but that didn't stop her.

"A Dahlia for betrayal!" she screamed at me. "We all should have known she would betray us and the Sisters one day!" Then, she turned the gun toward my mother. "You! This is your fault!" she screamed. "You're all traitors!"

That was when the police arrived.

I'm in the hospital now, recovering both physically and mentally. Vanessa is in custody, and Aunt Dot is being treated for PTSD. Everyone else was kept overnight for questioning and treatment for minor injuries, malnutrition, and dehydration, but they were all free to go this morning.

Vanessa is going to be tried for mass first degree murder. I can't believe she was capable of all that, but she wasn't alone. Her brother, Nicholas, helped her as well. After a search of the town, the police found him tied up in the back office of the Five Petals building. They're questioning him now.

I guess this is where this log ends. I'm going to focus on recovery now. With hope, Vanessa will be locked away for life.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

not much time

bodies evryehere that smell was decay and blood

my cousin vanesaa tried to kill me

i have to hurry
When I entered the HQ, I already knew what I had to do. The "DRINK ME" key held fast in my grip, I made my way toward the door that was previously forbidden to me. I inserted the key into the hole and, unsurprisingly, the tumbler turned, and the door unlocked. My palms sweaty and hands shaking, I pushed the door open.

The first thing that hit me was the overwhelming, ever-present stench. I can't place what it is but it can't be good. A red carpet stretches down in front of me, leading down a long, narrow hallway lined with bookshelves. I'm actually stopping to look at some of them now.

Most of the books appear to be written by "the Culling sisters", which I find confusing. I thought the Cullings were brothers? The statues at the gardens seemed to suggest as much. I grabbed a book off the shelf at random--this one is called "The Book of the Order" by the Culling sisters. The inside cover says "Lettie and Rose Culling". I'm flipping through the pages now and I found something interesting:


A daffodil for truth
A pansy for remembrance
An amaryllis for success
A hydrangea for perseverance
A dahlia for betrayal.

A dahlia for betrayal? Could that same dahlia be my namesake?

I've just heard a noise down the hallway and suddenly I'm terrified.
I fell asleep on the couch last night. It didn't happen right away, though; I was having some trouble sleeping and couldn't stop thinking about that exchange on the phone. I decided to get up and look around the house a bit, at least until I felt tired. I got up and did some distracted browsing.

Upstairs, in the master bedroom, I found a cell phone and a charger. I couldn't believe my luck! The cell phone's battery seemed dead, but I plugged it in to let it charge. Not long after that, I tried sleeping again and finally succeeded.

I awoke at about 8, and the storm was finally over. The sun was bright and warm, like late April should be, and the snow was already starting to melt. I stepped outside, though, and noticed that despite the rapidly melting snow, there were some fresh footprints leading away from the house. I felt sick but I couldn't withhold my curiousity. I followed the footprints.

Have you ever seen a sight so surreal that even though you knew what it was, your mind denied it was real? That happened to me. The footprints stopped a good ten metres or so away, where a pool of blood-soaked snow was melting steadily. In the middle of this pool lay a body. At first I stared, not fully believing the horror before me to be real. But when I saw the words "GO AWAY" carved into his chest...

I don't know who he was, but he was wearing flannel and the shirt was ripped open to reveal the message the killer left me. Go away. They want me gone. Suits me.

Walking away from the scene, trying to keep my stomach in check, I noticed something on the ground. It was small and metallic.

A key. A key that read "DRINK ME".

It's too late to turn back now. Time to face the consequences.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I went straight to the headquarters. I need answers.

Oddly enough, the door opened easily. It was unlocked. It led to a reception area--a small office with a desk and phone, and a mural of the Five Petals symbol on the back wall. The room was fairly nondescript, with the exception of a line of five chairs against the wall and a door by the desk.

I remember working in that room when I was younger. Sometimes, they would let me take calls, but I mostly did volunteer work around the office, helping organize folders and the like. They never let me past the door, though, and I think I'm starting to understand why. I want so badly for this to be a big misunderstanding, but the farther things go, the clearer they get. I mustered up my courage, and went to the door, but nothing I did could get it open. Resigned, I went to look around the office, but I didn't find much. An appointment book with, of course, an appointment with the mayor.

I was about to leave when the phone rang. That's weird, as all the other phones seemed to be down. I wasn't going to answer at first, but it was persistent. I wish I could have recorded the conversation, but it went something like this:

ME: Hello?
?: Give it up, little flower. It's time for you to mind your own business and go home.
ME: Who are you?!
?: If you stay, you accept the consequences of your actions. I think you'll find that your car is more than able to move now.

She hung up. Something about her voice seemed familiar. Then, I realised that it was the same person who left the message I found on the phone of Dot's house. She had that same crazed, breathless tone to her voice as before. I picked up the phone again, but it was dead.

I panicked then, and I ran out of the building. Someone's following me, watching me. It's probably the girl on the phone.

I was set to leave. I started walking out the door just as a fierce snowstorm kicked up. This couldn't have been planned better--in the favor of whoever called, of course. Now I have to stay and, apparently, accept the consequences that come from staying. The snowstorm was coming too quickly and was far too strong for me to drive anywhere in it. Even walking, I had a hard time seeing beyond my nose.

Now, I'm warming up in the closest house I could find. It's late and the storm isn't showing any signs of relenting, so I'm going to sit here and try to get some sleep.

The Five Petals...

I don't know where to begin. This has gone from a sort of weird, cartoon-like mystery to an all-out nightmare. I don't know where to turn. I can't even leave now. What I do know is that now I'm in way, way too far over my head.

I guess I'd better continue from where I left off...

As I was typing that last bit on my phone, I discovered something in the tree nearby.

A dead body, to be precise.

I let out a scream that surprised me even as I was doing it. I went to turn and run, but something caught my eye first. I grabbed it--it was a set of keys. I pocketed it, and then I ran. As I ran, my phone died. Great. And I was planning on calling the cops.

I'm so stupid. I should have done that to begin with. I thought it would be great if I could figure it out on my own, though, of course. Stupid...

I went to get my car to try and leave, because I just can't do this anymore. I figured I'd go to a payphone and call the cops from there. I took the can of gas I had and put it in the car, figuring it could get me a little ways down the road at least. I went to start the car, though, and it wouldn't even turn over.

When I lifted the hood to look, I noticed the engine had been removed. And someone left a dead squirrel in its stead.

I'm obviously being followed.

Under the windshield wiper, I found a folded up piece of paper. I grabbed it and unfolded it to read:
"Don't worry little flower, you can figure this all out. Give it a little time, all hope is not lost.....yet."

And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?! They're mocking me! The handwriting looks somehow familiar, but it's no one I immediately can think of. I rolled my eyes and stuffed it in my pocket. Frustrated, I moved directly to the payphone booth at the corner of the gas station. I went to pick up the phone, but the cord came with it. Severed.

I took this brief opportunity to kick something.

...An hour later, I think it's time for me to move on and continue.

I already know who the body was. It must have been Edgar Piers. It fit his build perfectly and I'm sure he was the last person to enter the gardens. I'm worried it was one of the Five Petals who did it. My parents are Five Petals. Are they murderers?

And if he was dead, then what happened to everyone else in town?

My next destination is the Five Petals HQ. I need answers.

The mayor.

I cued up the footage and fast-forwarded for several minutes until I found the figure of the mayor entering the building. He seemed to be moving at a brisk pace. I watched as he disappeared from that camera and showed up in another one, navigating the pathway and crossing a little bridge to get over the river. The camera switched again to show him walking into the hedge maze.

He seemed to navigate the maze with ease. The tape didn't show his end destination, just that he disappeared into one of the hedges--it looked to me like he opened a door. I rewound the tape a few times and made note of the directions he went, and then I set off to look, myself. I'm sure it's been long since he was there, but he must have gone there for a reason. He looked in such a hurry...

It took me awhile, but I navigated through the hedge maze and found the middle. I checked my watch and it was a half hour later. Piers made it look so easy, but he also looked like he had done this hundreds of times. As I had suspected, there was a door hidden in one of the hedges. It was concealed by a curtain of ivy, but it moved easily.

The center garden was really quite pretty. There were flowers and hedges everywhere, of course, but there was also a statue in the middle. Right next to the statue was a round, flat white table, and some elegant white metal chairs that went with it. I moved over to examine the statue a little bit closer. It was a statue featuring two men, their arms linked and their smiles both jovial but somehow underhanded. Their likenesses seemed to me to reflect brothers, so I looked down to the plaque. Sure enough, the names underneath revealed my suspicions to be correct.

"Teddy and Peter Culling, founders of Cullingville", the plaque read.

It was at that moment that I realised I didn't know those names. We had never learned about our hometown at school. My parents didn't even tell me, if they knew. It was one of those things that no one ever thought of, so I didn't think to ask, and I doubt anyone else did, either. I thought of all the times in the past that I had been to these historical gardens, and realised that it wasn't mentioned anywhere else, either. Why would it be mentioned here, out of the public eye, of all places? You'd think that something like that would be important enough for everyone to see.

After a cursory look around the garden, I found a second plaque in among some flowers. I'll transcribe it.

"It must be noted that the Piers will say that a plague overtook the town in 1921, and though this is incorrect, it is our duty as Five Petals to uphold this and safeguard the information."

Seems odd, and not very descriptive. I never heard anything like this from my parebt



I did, indeed, decide to take a hint from the paintings in chosing my next direction. The only logical place to go seemed to be the town hall, really, so I headed directly there.

I walked past the Pickled Patriarch pub and a little strip mall, but by now I'm pretty conditioned not to expect anyone. I turned left onto Piers Street, which makes for a dead end. At the very end is a large parking lot, which connects to a roundabout right in front of the semi-circular city hall. From my map, actually, the hall looks like a big slice of cantaloupe, as far as shape goes.

At first, I found nothing. The door was locked and the windows all tightly shut. I walked all the way around the building but every door and window I found was firmly locked. I was about to give up when my foot nudged against something small. I bent down to pick it up, discovering it to be a little black meeting book. A cursory flip through the pages told me that it belonged to Edgar Piers... the current mayor! How careless he had been to drop it. I took it over to a picnic table (complete with a bucket for cigarette butts--charming!) and sat down to leaf through it.

I wasn't sure what I was expecting to find, but it wasn't this. The 23rd--three days ago--was circled, and filled in with "3 PM: Meet w/ 5 Petals @ Gardens". I already knew that Edgar must have been referring to the Cullingville Historical Gardens, which are just up the road from City Hall, and I had to stop myself from running off.

The Historical Gardens are a common haunt of the Five Petals. They double as a museum and botanical garden. I've never seen the Five Petals there, but I know that they have always spent a lot of time there. Interestingly, the Gardens have information about Nova Scotia and the surrounding area, as well as historical information about our neighboring community, Timothy's Settlement. It has no history about Cullingville.

I arrived at the Gardens not long after I left. Despite my best efforts, I actually had broken into a run. Things are getting weird. I went through the entry, which still had functioning motion detector doors, and picked up a garden map on the way in. A portrait hung over the front entry, showing the owner and maintainer of the gardens: Irving Piers. He's owned the gardens for as long as I can remember. He's looking a bit grey in the picture. Must be recent.

I decided to take a run into the security room. That's where I'm sitting right now, in fact, though to get here I had to snoop around in the "authorised personnel" room to find the applicable keycard. I'm about to queue up the security footage for April 23rd. We'll see what I find.

Further down the rabbit-hole

I woke up fairly early to what I thought was the sound of talking outside. I got up and raced downstairs and out the door. I listened for what felt like hours, but I found that all I could hear was my own heart pounding in my ears. I went back inside and had a little breakfast.

I read the daily planner last night, but there wasn't much that interested me. Mostly, Aunt Dot had written due dates for homework, and days to have tests and quizzes prepared by. I did see that there was a meeting scheduled weekly for the Five Petals, though, and it was on every Sunday at 5 PM. I realised that this has never changed--Mom and Dad had always gone to Five Petals meetings at that time every week, too.

I also noticed that one of the meetings, particularly the meeting of April 17th, was circled, and that there was no meeting scheduled for the 24th. For a moment, this struck me as odd, but then I realised that the 24th was the day before yesterday, and the 17th was the week before. I leafed through the months to come and saw that nothing was filled in at all. That sent up a warning flag, but I tucked it in the back of my mind for now.

After my meager breakfast this morning (dry cereal and an egg), I searched the house.

I went up to my aunt and uncle's master bedroom first. I didn't want to snoop too much, but being that it's the place they go to sleep at night, I thought I might find something interesting. At first, I didn't. The bedroom boasted a nicely-made bed and a bouquet of wilting Easter lilies in the window, but was fairly minimalistic aside from that. The writing desk at the wall didn't yield any interesting papers, either. I was about to give up, but I decided to check the closet before moving on. Painted on the wall in there was the Five Petals symbol, but it was different. Instead of the middle of the flower, there was an eye. Right in the pupil of the eye was a small hook, just big enough to hold a key. In fact, there was a key dangling from it then. I snatched it up and took a close look at it, and, noting the "basement" tag that was attached, made my way to the basement to see what was hidden there.

I've never seen a Five Petals symbol like that before. I've grown up in this community, surrounded by Five Petals members and seeing the symbol everywhere, but never that version. The eye was unsettling. Though all it held was a hook with a key, I still had the distinct feeling that it was watching me. Maybe that was the point.

I made my way downstairs but, looking at the basement door lock compared to the key, I noted it didn't fit. The door swung open easily, though, so I decided to look around nonetheless. I pocketed the key, just in case.

Years of being away from home and away from my family have led me to forget just how big my aunt and uncle's basement is. It takes up a full bottom storey and is sectioned off into three rooms, one of them very large. I left that one for the last.

The two smaller rooms were immediately to my right, separated inwardly by a wall. The first contained a variety of tools, particularly for downstairs use, and a workbench. I also spied the hedge trimmer--they must have brought it in for the winter so it wouldn't rust. The salt in the air from the nearby deposits can be harmful to machinery, after all. Right next to the hedge trimmer I spied a red plastic can. A gas can! I picked it up to find it heavy with gas. What luck! I took it and moved on to the next room.

The second small room had a number of labeled boxes. Christmas decorations, ornaments, and some Halloween things as well. There was sure to be nothing of interest there, so I moved on.

The large room was dedicated to my Uncle Eric's hobby fighting dojo. He has always been interested in weapons and various martial arts, and he used to hire private tutors to come down and teach him things. It dawned on me that I will probably need a weapon of some kind. I don't have any other way of defending myself, currently. I browsed through the stores to find all kinds of flashy weapons, probably intended for different arts. Then, I saw a few daggers on a block. Facing directly across was a target shaped like a person, made out of old plywood. It was peppered with knife nicks and marks, telling any onlooker that Uncle Eric used this quite often. The more recent notches seem to have hit vital area on the target's body, hinting that Eric has probably improved significantly.

I grabbed one of the knives and examined it. Interestingly, the hilt had a fairly ornate carving of the Five Petals symbol in it. I've never seen anything like this, either. As far as I knew, weapons weren't anything at all to do with the Five Petals' edict. Regardless, the familiarity of the symbol (and, perhaps, the lack of the eye in the center) gave me some comfort. I took it, and tried throwing it a few times. I wasn't very good, though it's nothing I've tried before. Instead, I thought to hide it somewhere I could access it easily, in case I need it for hand-to-hand combat. Hopefully I never have to use it, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

I left the basement and went back upstairs, slightly defeated. I was hoping to find more here, but nothing came to me. Instead, I got some gas and a weapon. At least now I'm armed, and I can drive again. I went to leave, but I took another glance in the living room to notice that the light on the answering machine was blinking. They still have an old fashioned machine. I went over and pushed the button.

"One unheard message," came the mechanical female voice from the other end. The message played.

"You need to listen to me, and I will call a dozen more times if I have to," came a breathless, crazed voice from the other end. I couldn't place it, but she sounded familiar. "You need to come see me, now. No one can find out about this. Everyone else has grown too wild to be trusted with it, not that they would understand anyway. They're like outsiders in our own families! Imagine what the mothers would think!"

For some reason, the message gave me an uneasy feeling right in the pit of my stomach. I was suddenly aware that I wasn't in a good location now, and I had to leave. So I did.

I walked down Cue and turned back onto Academy, heading for Garden Street. Right at the bottom of the street, I found the Lotus Blossom Cafe and Craft Shop. I almost didn't bother trying the front door--it would have been better not to, because it was locked. I went around back to find that door locked, too, but the window was open. I pushed it the rest of the way open and slipped in.

The smell of coffee still lingered, even though it probably hadn't been brewed for days. Cafes like this always seem to have that scent imbued in them. I love coffee, so the smell was comforting. In fact, I decided to make myself some, and in payment to the absent owner I left a five dollar bill on the counter.

I needed to take some time to compose my thoughts, so I sat down for a minute to think. Some paintings of the town hang from the wall above me, so right now I'm gazing at them as I write. My coffee's almost gone so I'll have to leave soon. Maybe I should take a hint from the paintings about where to go next...?

Monday, April 25, 2011

An in-depth search of Cullingville...?

I left the house and remembered that my aunt Dot's place was just down the road. I turned left from home and walked a block until I saw the turnoff for Cue Street, then walked up to the end of the street, where Aunt Dot's house sits on a little hill. Her house is the nicest in the neighborhood, in prime location, with a long, paved drive. Aunt Dot has a daughter named Vanessa, and she's my age. I don't want to say we never got along, but we certainly were never close, and we don't know each other well. She has a little sister, Amaryllis, and an older brother named Nicholas. I was sure I wouldn't be seeing them. Amaryllis had moved away long ago, but for whatever reason, Nicholas and Vanessa remained living with their parents.

I walked up the paved drive and noticed that their car was still there, too. I knocked on the door and rang the bell, then called up to the house and waited a moment. Nothing. I tried the knob, but unsurprisingly, the door was locked. I wondered if maybe Aunt Dot had hidden a spare key, much like my mother had, but a brief search of the front area showed nothing. I decided I was out of options and headed someplace else.

Walking to the bottom of Cue Street, a "school crossing - next 1 km" sign reminded me that the school was nearby, and I thought that might be a good place to look. I turned left and headed down the tree-lined road which led me right to the school itself.

The school was deserted, which was to be understood, as it was an evening. I marched right up to the entrance, though, and tried the door.

To my surprise, it opened easily. The door was unlocked.

I walked into the school and breathed in the heavy smell of old books and dust. It had that spooky, frozen-in-time look that a school tends to have when no one has been there for a few days. The unlocked door led me to believe that maybe someone had been in there recently, though. In fact, maybe someone was there right then. The thought made my skin crawl.

"Hello?" I called, then listened carefully. I heard nothing, so I continued on.

I turned the lights on and wandered down the corridor. The sun was beginning to set outside, giving all the rooms an eerie, orange glow. I wandered from classroom to classroom, seeing nothing of particular interest.

Except when I got to Aunt Dot's classroom.

My Aunt Dot is a teacher. The name "Mrs. Clement" was mounted above the door with a black plaque, indicating that it was her home room. I walked in to find little of note... at first. Then I took a look at the blackboard and noticed that the Five Petals symbol was doodled on there in chalk.

I snapped this photo with my phone and looked around the classroom. Tucked into the desk was a pair of hall passes and Aunt Dot's teacher ID card. I grabbed the card, thinking it might come in handy, and continued to explore the school.

Odd memories filled me as I looked. Once upon a time, this was my school. I distinctly remember taking a history class from Aunt Dot back in grade nine and thinking how strange it was that we learned nothing of our town's history. No one ever asked about it, so it was really only in the back of everyone's minds.

My wandering brought me to the teacher's lounge. The sign on the door indicated that no students should pass from that point forward, but I tried the door nevertheless. It didn't open, but the card slot beside the door's handle was tell-tale. I took Aunt Dot's ID and slid it into the slot, causing the little green light above the slot to illuminate, and the tumbler to click. The door was now unlocked. I opened up and went inside.

I wasn't phased by the empty room. I had even grown to expect it, by now. I searched the place thoroughly and found cubbies marked with each teacher's name. It seems odd the school board wouldn't give teachers their own lockers with an actual lock, but I guess they don't want them to be hiding anything. Thought police.

I felt a singular moment of triumph when I found Aunt Dot's spare house keys sitting on a hook in the cubby. What luck! Also sitting there was her daily planner. I grabbed it, too; maybe I would find something interesting in there. A folder filled with homework to be corrected also sat in the cubby, but I decided I would be best to leave that behind. I left the school and headed back to my aunt's house. Just as the sun touched the horizon, I got inside.

Right now I'm making myself comfortable. I think I'm going to do a thorough search of the place tomorrow morning, but for now, I'm going to leaf through my aunt's planner, and then it's time for bed. What a strange day it's been...
I started my search in the living room. The first thing I found was a map of Cullingville, so I grabbed that and took it with me. Here's a picture of it:

Other than the map, I didn't find anything of interest in the living room.

I took a brief glimpse in my parents' room but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. A cursory glance told me that all of their clothes were there, so I left it alone and went to other areas of the house. Clearly they hadn't gone on vacation.

I decided to check out my room. I hadn't been there in awhile. I started at the closet and worked my way over to the bookshelf. Interestingly, I found my diary. When I was a teenager, I wrote in it religiously. I opened it up and read for a little while, reminiscing in the memories, until I got near the end of it.

January 24
Mom told me today that I'm going to go live with my Aunt Karen in Sackville for a little while, probably until university. I got a bit upset. I mean, who could blame me? I'm supposed to graduate in the next couple of years, plus I was going to be inducted into the Five Petals next year! I tried to argue and say that all of my friends were here but Mom was having none of it. When I brought up the Five Petals, she acted really weird and looked away.

So it looks like I'm going to Sackville for awhile. I guess I should be happy. I'm not. She said I could finish this school year before I go, at least.

I flipped a few pages down. The next interesting thing was in July.

July 2
I'm moving to Sackville tomorrow. I visited Aunt Karen there last week and she seems happy to have me here. I think it's going to be ok after all.

I'm going to get a summer job scooping ice cream for Aunt Karen's boyfriend, Rick. He runs a convenience store and he said he's looking for help.

I haven't made any friends yet but it looks pretty out there and it's a little bit... cooler than Cullingville. I'll miss my friends but Aunt Karen said I could use her computer to e-mail them.

I vaguely remember that time of my life. I ended up enjoying high school in Sackville far more than I did in Cullingville! I left the diary behind and went downstairs. I remember that I started a brand new one when I moved to Sackville.

I got to thinking about the Five Petals. Both of my parents have been members since before I was born, and they had always had high hopes of me joining, as well. I don't know much about the group--it seems no one in the town really did--but they always did fund raisers for the school and for some charities. I don't know why I was so excited to join, though. I guess because it was a family tradition.

I went down to the basement and started snooping there. I found nothing tell-tale. I really don't know where my parents went. I did find a flashlight, however, and an old oil lantern, so I took them with me. The flashlight works fine and the batteries seem in tact, so I brought it with me.

Now, though, I'm truly stumped. There's still some food in the kitchen, so I'm going to grab a quick meal and go out into the town and see if I can find anyone there. I'll grab a bit of food to take with me, too... I doubt Mom and Dad will mind.

Abandon All Hope

I was feeling a bit bored and stir-crazy today. Early spring always does this to me--I seem to find the need to constantly be out and about. The day was sunny and moderately warm for this time of year, so I got behind the wheel and weighed my options. I took a few vacation days to enjoy the coming spring.

Why not go home, I thought, and visit Mom and Dad? Wouldn't they be surprised? I'm usually too busy to visit. Besides, Cullingville is only a two-hour drive, and I was craving some adventure.

I got adventure. I got a little more than what I bargained for.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. So, I drove for awhile, and that was uneventful. The snow is starting to melt substantially, only really lingering in the big piles snow plows make. Really, everything up to my arrival in Cullingville was pretty normal. I noticed I was starting to get low on gas at about the same time I arrived at the Cullingville exit, so I decided to stop at Greenfields General Store to fill up.

The place was deserted! I know we're in a small community, but closing in the middle of the day with no notice or warning? Not acceptable! I knocked on the window a few times, and called out, but no one came by. There were no cars parked nearby, either; just an RV. I went over to the RV and knocked, too. Nothing.

Home was only about a ten minute walk from there, at least, so I took my bags out of the car and decided to set out on foot. Maybe Dad has a spare gas can in the garage. I passed the post office on the way by and noticed that it, too, was closed, with the empty mail delivery truck sitting in the driveway. I went to peek in the post office, but saw nothing. I tried the door. Locked. I stopped and backed up a few steps, then hollered up to the sky.

"Hello!" I shouted. "Hello, is anyone here?"

Only the crows responded with a dull, faint cawing. Panicking, I turned and ran down Academy Avenue, toward home. I passed nothing but empty houses and silence as I ran. Our rusty old mailbox with "THE HENRY FAMILY" painted in lopsided lettering waited at the bottom of our long drive, and I turned the corner to run up. Panting, I got to the top of the driveway, dropped my bags, and went to open the door.

It was locked. Of course it was. Both Mom's and Dad's cars were parked in the driveway.

Nonetheless, I remembered where the spare key was. Mom always left our spare key in the hanging hydrangea planter by the door. I successfully found it, pried it out, and unlocked the door.

"Hello?" I called. "Mom? Dad?" Nothing. Still nothing. I picked up the phone to see if there were any messages on the answering machine, but I was only greeted by silence on the other end.

Tonight I'm going to search the house to see if maybe Mom and Dad decided to go on vacation or something.

And if they took the entire town with them.