Chapter 1 : Intro
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It was raining the first day I ever saw him.
He was standing on the corner, his bright red hair plastered to his forehead and a filthy jacket around his shoulders. He looked confused. They always do when they first arrive. One of the kitchen boys ran out to grab him and pull him inside.
His eyes were wild, and he was clinging to the wall like he could be a part of it. He was pale, and he kept looking over his shoulder like at any second someone was going to jump at him.
He looked at the kitchen boy; I think his name was Matthew.
“Sir what’s your name?”
The tall red head merely stared at Matthew for a long moment before releasing a sob that rocked his body forward
“I don’t know” he said “I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know!”
He fell to the ground and brought his knees up to his chest. The tears flowed down his face in a steady stream and he hardly seemed to care. This was my queue.
“Hey, hey now” I said soothingly, dropping to eye level. His watery blue eyes looked up and stared into mine “it’s alright to not know, it’s normal, come on big red, and let’s get you something dry to wear”
Reluctantly he stood up and followed me. We walked down a long corridor where the walls were glass panes. The rain spattered against the windows and I looked back at the red head, he was watching the rain drip down the glass with a vacant expression.
“Its rain, do you remember rain?” I asked softly
He shrugged and looked at me “I suppose I do”
I smiled and kept walking. My heart felt tight with sadness for the red. Like many and mostly all the people that show up at Fall Creek.
Fall creek is a tiny town of about five hundred people. It’s nestled in the valley at the base of a mountain. No one can say for certain where it is located, what continent it resides in, or even if its part of this world. It’s surrounded by large green fields and pastures, acres and acres of beautiful land. But on the outskirts of all that, lays a forest, dense and so dark that even on the brightest days no sun light shows through the tree tops. They say that the forest is the full of dark things and beasts. Not a child in fall creek grew up without hearing the warnings and myths of the forest from parents who heard the same stories when they were children. On the north side of town, by the base of the mountain is where the light forest sits. Its trees are old but almost inviting and warm, their branches seem to reach out and hint they want to embrace you. The sun filters through the tops and a creek runs through the middle down. This is where the name comes from.
No one knows for sure where the creek ends, but if you follow it up far enough you come to a large water hole. And from a ledge and cave within the mountain a waterfall gushes through with considerable force. The water is neither cold nor hot and the legend of the town is that the water has healing powers. On the full moon every month many people take a trip to the falls, and they pray to the magical water spirit that they believe keeps the town alive.
Magical water spirit I highly doubt. But magical forces are at work in the town I don’t deny.
This is how we come to have people like the red show up.
Our town is a mysterious little place where people who died get a second chance at life. Everyone knows the way of the town and no one questions it. The ordinary town folk do shy away from the top of misty hill though; being near the people who pop up out of nowhere is a frightening experience for those who haven’t been around it their entire life like I have.
Misty Hill, a large village in itself, just a mile or so west of the Falls, is where people get their second chance. They pop up and are always confused. Not knowing who they are, where they’ve been or how they came to be here. Scared and alone, damaged and sometimes severely broken, and almost always mentally unhinged. They come as they were when they passed. No one knows exactly how it happens; no one knows where they show up from. The more morbid people try and remember if they’d been buried and simply dug themselves out of the graves; though I more like to think that they simply appear and have never been buried. It is more likely, since the families are made aware that they will be getting their loved one back. After they have fully been rehabilitated of course.
And when that day comes, the said loved one is escorted back to wherever it is that they come from and that is the end of that. Not another thought or word is given to that person. It is forbidden.
Our job on misty hill is to bring the person back to full potential. We guide, coach and re-teach until he or she is able to fully remember who they are, where they lived and how their life is meant to be. Of course no one will ever be truly the same after something like dying. But they can regain a sort of normalcy that will help them on their way. That is the only job that we do, getting personally attached to these people is highly forbidden.
There was a scandalous case where one of our workers had fallen in love with one of the re-lifers. Such a stupid thing to do in my opinion, I don’t believe in love. Being orphaned, abandoned and having to make it on my own, even in a small nice town like Fall Creek, it changes a girl. I’ve seen them silly girls from town swooning after the boys, and I’ve seen many a heart break with the games that have been played. Only fools fall in love. And even bigger fools fall in love with re-lifers.
When a re-lifer is ready to go back to their world, that is the end of it. They disappear with a small group of misty hills top workers and only the workers return. From there we have no communication, no way to know where, how and what the re-lifer is doing. And it is expected that we shouldn’t care to know. That we should forget that they ever stood on our ground, they never existed. And that was the way it was for years until that scandal. A higher up worker had a re-lifer assigned to her, she coached him, guided him, learned about him and fell in love. Then came the return day, the dreaded return day. Return days aren’t scheduled. When the council deems someone fit to return home, without warning they are gathered up and ushered without another word, back to their old life. Basically all of the re-life people don’t have any ill feeling about the day. Most look forward to returning to how their life was and don’t think to look back. Of course there are some cases where friends are made and it leaves a gloom on the hill for a few days before the workers finally accept the fact and move on like the rest of us. It’s unknown whether or not the re-lifers remember life on the hill after they return home, one older worker told me once that they wipe their memories before sending them off. But I highly doubt that to be true, where would we get that kind of power? I often wonder if they miss this life. But then I move on like the rest.
For this woman the return day was the end of her world. Literally. They say that when the re-lifers are taken back to their lives, the dark forest is the way they take. I don’t know much about the forest, but I do know that nothing good comes from within. Maybe it’s the old silly superstitions of the older town folk, but it’s the only myth that I take seriously. Maybe it’s the way the shadows seem to be alive within the darkness that keeps me far away from the forest. Either way, you just don’t go into the forest, because chances are you won’t come back.
The woman, on the day of her lovers return, ran into the woods and was never seen again. They say on windy nights if you listen hard, you can hear the screams of the woman.
Again. Love is for fools.
My name is Claire Rixen, and this is my story.
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