Awhile back I entered a national writing contest. I didn’t win, but I wanted to post the story I submitted. I hope you like it.
Chapter One: Feeding Ground
The air was warm as Dan and Molly Murphy packed their little red Honda Accord with luggage. Molly didn’t feel warm; she felt cold and empty inside. The old Molly would have been excited, camera round her neck instead of packed; she would have been eager to take pictures all along their trip. This new Molly had a permanent frown line etched between her eyebrows. It had only been a few months since she had miscarried their child. At the hospital, they hadn’t let her see the baby, so she would never know if it would have inherited her red hair, or Dan’s dark brown hair. That kind nurse had told her it had been a little girl.
After it happened Molly lay in bed for two weeks recovering.They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. ‘I didn’t ask to be stronger’ she thought bitterly. When she found out she was pregnant; she put her plans to enroll in law school on hold. Since the miscarriage, she had no interest in going back to school.
“I’m so glad you are going with me, Molly.” Dan told her, smiling.
Molly got in the passenger seat without responding to him. A cold gust of wind swept by at that moment and caused her to shiver. She still wasn’t that excited about it, but she knew this was important to him.
Dan had grown up in the small town of Marion in Upstate New York. In the last two months, several people had gone missing from there. Dan’s best friend Pete had abruptly stopped contacting him, which made Dan concerned. The police had not been able to do much–they were understaffed and underfunded out there.
Crime was nonexistent in Marion and the town didn’t even have a police presence–the nearest police department was ten miles away in the next town. Dan had decided to drive there from the East Village, where he and Molly lived with her parents. He wanted to check on Pete and put his journalism degree to good use. He had not been assigned a really good story in a long time, so he was eager to tackle this one on his own time. Also, he was looking forward to a road trip with Molly and some much needed alone time.
The trip took a little over five hours. After driving for about two hours they stopped at Flash Mart gas station. Dan pumped gas while Molly went in and bought a Coke.
Dan glanced her way as she was walking back and was pleasantly surprised to see her smiling. It was a genuine smile that made her beautiful green eyes light up. Before he met Molly he never went for redheads but she wasn’t a typical one. No freckles for one thing–and her eyes tilted up slightly at the corners, giving her an exotic look.
“I asked the guy behind the counter where to find a good restaurant and he said Darby’s Celtic Pub was a good place to eat.”
“Oh, yeah? Celtic food… that’s perfect! I know you like all things Celtic. You can let me know what’s good on the menu. Where is this place?”
Molly handed him a folded map “I bought this while I was in the store, but I’m not good at reading them so I’m going to leave that to you.”
Dan laughed. “Alright then… let’s see…” He climbed in and spread the map out over the steering wheel. “I found it.. it’s not far from here. Ready?”
“Yes” she said as she climbed back in.
It is late afternoon when they get to Darby’s. It is dim inside with dark wood paneling on the walls. Dan noticed a dance floor on the second floor. “Hey look” he pointed it out to Molly. “We need to check this place at night… out on the way back maybe.”
The bartender welcomes them. There are not many people so Dan and Molly have their pick of tables. They choose one of the few booths at the back, so can look around the whole pub. A tall and buxom red haired waitress brings them menus. “Hello, ” she says with a slight Irish brogue. “My name is Mae. Would you like pints of Guinness?”
“Tempting,” Dan replies, glancing at Molly and then turning back to Mae. “We have a lot of driving ahead of us, so we’ll pass.”
“Oh? Where are you headed?”
“To Marion, I grew up there.”
“Marion…. I have heard tha’ name recently…oh! Is that the town where those people went missing? Why are you going there?”
“I’m a journalist and I’m going to investigate for a story I’m writing. And my best buddy might be missing–he still lives there.”
Mae nods sympathetically. “Weel, I hope you find him”
“Ooh, lets try the Irish stew with lamb, potatoes and veggies. They have brown bread to go with it.”
“Ok. By the way, we say it with a hard T at the end of the word fillet, not like French.” Mae smiles in a friendly way as she says this so it doesn’t sound like criticism.
Dan orders the same thing. After Mae collects the menus and bustles away.
Dan suggests getting a hotel room so they can come back to Darby’s later and dance and enjoy Binghamton’s night life.
They checked into the Double Tree on Water Street. After resting a bit they went back to Darby’s for a couple hours. This time they enjoyed pints of Guinness because they planned to take a taxi back to their hotel.
The next day they continued their trip, it was mostly highways without much to see from the car.
They got on Route 31 till it took them through Palmyra, and then they turned onto Route 21. It wasn’t long before they were on the outskirts of Marion. While they drove, Daniel talked about the area; Molly listened while she looked out the window. It sure was country, way out here. This was where the term “in the sticks” must have been invented. She liked it though. Very quiet. There was a lot of farmland. And apples.They had passed about a dozen apple orchards. Molly commented on this. “I always thought Empire State referred to the Empire State Building, now I think it might refer to Empire apples.””It sure does!’ Dan winked at her.
Soon they were turning off onto Main St in Marion. They drove past the elementary school, and Daniel had an idea. He pulled into a parking space in front of the school.
“I need to stretch my
legs, let’s walk around for a bit.” He pointed out the playground at the back of the school. “When I went here, I always stayed after school and played there for awhile, with my friends.”
Molly got out and walked to his side. “This seems like a great place to raise a family,” she said quietly. Dan turned and looked at her. “Better than the East Village?”
“Maybe.” “We could try again” he offered, tensing up right after he said it, not knowing how she would react. “Maybe.” she said again. Dan looked at his watch, wanting to change the subject, “it’s not even 3 yet, on a Friday….kinda odd that there are no kids on the playground. Maybe they have started going straight home after school, because of the disappearances.”
They got back in the car and started driving through town. The leaves were beginning to turn brilliant colors: crimons and orange and yellow carpeted the yards they passed. No one was out in their yard raking. They passed empty yard after empty yard. No one was out sitting on their porch. There were no cars parked at the Agriculture Supply store. None at the laundromat. They turned and looked at each other.
“That’s a little strange, even with the disappearances, strange for people to not want to be outdoors in broad daylight.” Molly said.
Curious, they drove down one side street after another. They didn’t see a soul. They looked at each other. Molly voiced what they were both thinking: “This town looks empty–not just a few disappearances–it looks like everyone is gone.”