If they can survive.
Updating Mondays at 9:00 PM CST.
Cover Layout: Alex Davidson
Cover Photo: wintersixfour, Morguefile
Cover Font: Onryou Japanese horror font Show Less
Standing across the courtyard and staring at her was a man, maybe thirty years old, wearing a fedora and a black trench coat, holding a briefcase at his side. She thought he was kinda hot, and he seemed like a rich business man, but she didn't want to get up and walk over to him. There was a sort of eeriness in him, like he was watching a lab rat in a maze, looking for the cheese, and she hated it.
Finally, after being too creeped out to ignore it, Rose took out her cell phone and, pretending to selfie, zoomed in and snapped several pictures of the man in the black coat. She planned on giving them to the police and say he was stalking her. She was still duck-facing when Johnathon walked up, and gave her a look.
“Hey,” he said. “I've never seen you take a selfie before. Usually, it's a picture of your dinner.”
“I'm trying something else out,” Rose said, smiling and throwing her long, brown hair over her shoulder. “Don't most writers try to experiment with different forms of expression or some shit?”
“That's painters,” he said. “And anyway, you've already found something that works, haven't you? I mean, you're making enough money to live.”
“Well,” she said, “I'm an artist. I'm not in it for the money, something a college student going into business wouldn't understand.”
“I'm older than you,” he said. “I'm twenty-one. You're nineteen. And anyway, I'm going into business journalism. Completely different.”
“I made more money this month than you have in the past year,” she said. “Your skill is more marketable than mine, and I still win.”
Rose smiled proudly, and Johnathon smiled back. She stood up, and the two began walking. The park had four sidewalks going around the outside of the square park, with two diagonal sidewalks cutting through the middle and passing through each other in the center. There were trees everywhere, and in the north side of the park, there was a children's' playground. It was a nice park for a small town of just 1,800 people, and it was a popular hangout spot for teenagers. Of course, most of them were smoking weed when they went there, but that didn't change the fact that there were people there.
“So, how's the new book going?” Johnathon said. “Have you finished it yet?”
“Yeah,” Rose said. “I actually just signed the contract yesterday. With the advance I'm getting, I might actually be able to move out of Salworth.”
“You couldn't do that before?” he said.
“I could,” she replied. “But I didn't, because I thought there was still something here for me. It's been a year since I sold my first book, though, and that's been enough time for me to realize that I honestly don't give a shit about this town, or anybody here.”
“What about me?” he said, feigning hurt feelings. “I thought we were friends.”
“Except for you,” she said, rolling her eyes.
By now, they were crossing the street and heading towards the pizza place in the center of town, their normal haunt. It was a miracle that it was still open at this point, as everything in the town seemed to be dying. It was a bit sad, but then again, that's just what happens to small towns.
“Oh, you wanna know what I was taking a picture of?” Rose asked when they were far enough away that they wouldn't be overheard.
“Sure,” Johnathon said. “Who were you stalking?”
“It wasn't me,” she said. “There was a guy in a fedora and a black trench coat that stared at me for, like, ten minutes. It was fucking weird. So I pretended like I was taking selfies, and snapped some pictures of him. I'll show you.”
Rose pulled out her phone, opened her photo album, and found one of the man. She handed the phone to Johnathon, and he stopped to look at it. As they stood on the sidewalk, a man that looked like the one in the park walked by, and Rose felt a chill. Finally, after almost a full minute, Johnathon looked up.
“There are a lot of those people walking around,” he said. “You know, I have to write an article for my journalism class. I'll look into it, see what they're doing here.”
“Yeah, 'cause that's an amazing idea,” Rose said sarcastically. “Looking into people's personal lives has never backfired on somebody.”
“Shut up,” Johnathon said. “Let's go eat.”
That night, Rose was browsing the Internet when she got a phone call from Johnathon.
“Hello?” she said as she pressed it to her ear.
“Hey, Rose, I need you to meet me tomorrow at my school,” he said.
“No,” Rose replied. “I can't be seen at a community college. It would look really bad.”
“No, it would be fine,” he said. “Seriously, I need you to come talk to me.”
“Whatever,” she said. “I'll be there. Where at?”
“The fountain by the front,” he said. “Lunchtime.”
She hung up, and went back to what she was looking at. Then, an amazing idea for a new novel struck her and she opened up a word processor and began writing. The book was about a boy who discovers he has amazing powers, but he can't use them, as it would cause a rift in the space-time continuum, and so he has to watch the world get destroyed by all of the evil in the world without the ability to do anything.
She wrote for twelve straight hours, and when she was done, she had a quarter of the book written. She was ashamed of the work, and deleted it all.
Johnathon was waiting at the fountain for Rose. He was slightly pissed; he had been sitting there for almost an hour, and she hadn't shown. Unable to stand it any longer, he stood and began to walk away. Then, he saw one of the men in the black coats, identical to the one in Rose's picture right down to the briefcase, and watched as the man walked from the parking lot of the college to the library, and go in. There wasn't a new car in the lot, Johnathon was sure of that, so how had the man gotten there?
“Hey, Johnathon,” Rose said as she approached. “I got caught up writing. So what's new that couldn't wait? I hope it's something awesome, like you saw a weird shape in your ice cream.”
“It's not a joke,” he said as he pulled out his laptop and sat down on the fountain. “I did some research for my article last night, and look at what I found.”
Saved to his favorites was a list of websites about men who wore black coats and fedoras. They all said pretty much the same thing: several men wearing hats and coats went to small towns and wandered around for exactly one week, after which they left. Every night, a person disappeared forever, with no trace of their body. According to the articles, it had been happening for almost two thousand years, albeit, with their attire changing over time (for example, the earliest recorded sighting was in 100 AD, and the men were wearing black robes and no headwear). Of course, Rose didn't believe a word of it, since the websites were the same sort of thing you would find Bigfoot sightings on. Obviously, it had to be fake.
“Please tell me you don't believe this shit,” Rose said. “It's fucking ridiculous.”
“I've cross-checked the information with reputable sources,” he said. “I know it sounds fake, but according to them, there were disappearances in each instance, and each one said a man wearing a black trench coat and fedora was seen in the area before the disappearance. Look, I know it's crazy, but please just listen to me. I don't know why, but I feel like something bad is going to happen.”
“It will be fine,” Rose said, making fun of him. “They're more afraid of you than you are of them.”
Johnathon just stared at her, anger prevalent in his eyes. Then, without a word, he stood up and walked away.
Rose walked back to her car, climbed in, and drove away. She drove around for a few minutes before stopping and calling Alison, a friend from high school.
“Hello?” Mrs. Jennings, Alison's mother, said.
“Hey, it's Rose,” Rose said. “Is Alison there? We haven't talked in a while.”
“No, sorry,” Mrs. Jennings said. “She never came home last night.”
“Oh, okay,” Rose said. “She's probably just out partying or something. You know how college kids are. Well, if I see her, I'll call her.”
“Okay, thanks,” Mrs. Jennings said. “I'll call you when she gets home. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Rose said, and pressed the end button.
“It's not possible,” Rose thought. “Did she actually disappear? That couldn't happen. Johnathon is just crazy...right?”
At this point, Rose had no idea what to think. It was quite possible that he was right. However, it was also possible that she had simply passed out on someone's couch after a night of partying.
Yeah, that's what happened: Alison was simply crashing on someone's couch somewhere. She would be fine. Just fine.
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