Word Count: 1,223
A sun set on a small town. Not the sun, a sun.
The people in this town did not speak unless spoken to. Instead, they smiled. They always smiled. Things went on behind close doors which no one shall speak of. A policeman passed a woman in the street. He smiled. She smiled back. Nothing strange here.
Until Flipton arrived. Edward J. Flipton. Quite the interesting man, Flipton was. He was a quirky man with brown hair that stuck up in places it wasn’t supposed to. He had big, thick-rimmed glasses that sat on his nose. He was a journalist, he would travel from place to place looking for stories. Stories that people wanted to read. With him traveled his soft-spoken husband, Howard Flipton. Howard was quite small man and rather weak. He was pale and had very light blonde hair. He liked traveling but couldn’t go quite as far as Edward could. Usually, Edward would go gather stories in strange and possibly dangerous areas outside of the town they stayed in and Howard would stay and talk to the local folk about the area to gather a bit more information. They made a good team.
But, when the two of them came to this town – a nice town, a small town – they were in for quite a surprise. This town was quite strange and normal at the same time. Everyone was friendly if you talked to them. If you didn’t talk to them, they most certainly wouldn’t talk to you. They didn’t like to talk to people. When Edward and Howard came to the inn where they would stay, Edward went up to the man at the desk and rang the small, round bell on the counter. The man smiled.
Edward looked confused and then asked, “Hello, sir…would you happen to have any space left for two travelers?” Edward put his arm around Howard, looking nervously at the man’s big smile.
“‘Ello, gents!” the man replied, without moving his mouth. Edward detected a thick cockney accent but this wasn’t England so it didn’t make that much sense. Nothing in this town made sense. Everyone dressed like it was the 1800s. The cars were strange and seemed very dangerous.
But, Edward was determined to get the bottom of this! He smiled at the man, still holding Howard close to him. “Would you happen to have a room left for us to stay in?” Edward asked.
“We do!” the man replied. “But it’ll cost you some.”
“That’s quite alright, sir.” Edward smiled.
“I’ll trade you folk the room for a cow.” the man told Edward.
“What?” Howard squeaked, nervously. “W-well, we don’t have a cow…we do happen to be travelers. Any chance you’d take this instead?” Edward handed the man a shiny dollar coin.
“That’ll do, thank you, sir.” the man replied, without taking the coin.
Edward looked confused and then, after a few minutes, asked, “S-Sir, aren’t you going to take…take that coin I gave you?”
“You two can have room 108. Down the hall to the right.” A key dropped at Edward and Howard’s feet. Howard picked it up. It was rusted as if it had been in water for quite a long time. Howard looked at Edward, nervously. “Well, um…alright then, I guess we’ll go to our room. Th-thank you.” Edward told the man behind the counter. Then, he took Howard’s hand and walked quickly to their room.
Howard fit the key in the keyhole and turned the knob. The door opened on a rustic room. The carpet was a beige color and there was a queen bed with a blue blanket on it. Next to the door there was a wooden dresser. The room smelled of pine. It was small and rustic but it would work. Edward decided right then that the two of them would leave the next day. The drive there was long and they were both quite tired. They walked inside and Edward closed the door.
“This town is so strange, Edward.” Howard told his husband.
“I know, Howie, we’ll leave tomorrow, we just have to make it through tonight, alright?” Edward replied.
Howard and Edward changed into their pajamas and went to bed. Just one night and then they’d leave. Howard fell asleep quite easily but Edward couldn’t go to sleep. He sat on the bed, his hand clutching Howard’s. One night. Just one night. That’s all the time they had to stay here and then they could leave.
A skeletal head looked through the wall. “Hello, boys. Having fun?”
Edward’s eyes widened, he tried desperately to scream but it was as if water had filled his lungs. And then his eyes opened. He was in the room but there was no skeletal head. A dream… he guessed.
“Edward…” Howard coughed. Edward looked at his husband. Howard’s face was red and he was coughing. He looked to be ill.
“Howard, are you alright?” Edward cradled his husband’s head in his hands. He knew what this meant. Howard was ill and he had to go get medicine. Well, there had to be a convenience store somewhere near the inn that sold some sort of cough medicine. Edward pulled the blanket up to Howard’s neck. “I’ll be right back, ok?”
He kissed Howard’s cheek and then put his shoes on and walked out of the room, locking the door behind him. He felt someone, or something, touch his back and looked behind him. Nothing there. He clutched the rusty key, nervously walking back to the room where the front desk was. A skeleton sat in the place where the man had been before. Edward looked at the skeleton, nervously, his eyes widening. He walked out the door. It was dark but manageable.
He tried desperately to find a convenience store but there was nothing. He stepped on something with a strange texture. He looked down and examined the ground. He had stepped on the ribcage of a skeleton. Looking more closely now, he could see skeletons everywhere. Lying on the ground. Sitting on benches. In cars. The houses and buildings were in ruins. It didn’t look like this when they got here.
A newspaper lay on the ground and Edward picked it up. The headline read, “Entire town wiped out by nuclear explosion.” Below showed a picture of the exact town that was here when Edward and Howard first arrived.
Edward’s eyes widened, a shiver going down his back. The sun rose in the distance as skin and hair wrapped itself around the skeletons. They stood up and smiled. The houses put themselves back together and everything looked almost right again. Almost normal.
Edward ran back to the inn and to the room where Howard was. He grabbed his and Howard’s bags and then picked his husband up, one arm under his legs, the other arm under his back. Edward then went back to their car and lay Howard in the backseat, strapping him in and putting their bags at his feet. Then, he got in the front seat and drove away from that town as fast as possible.
But that town remains there. Forever dead. Forever alive. Forever Evergreen.