A small town is overrun by an unknown cause
It was a brisk autumn morning—only a mild breeze was blowing from the west—when I stepped out of my door and walked to the street to check my mail. After glancing at a water bill, a letter from my oldest daughter, and some grocery ads, I started back to my house. I was almost to the porch when the breeze suddenly picked up.
And that was when I noticed it: the leaves that my twenty foot elm tree was rapidly shedding were blue.
I looked around at my neighbor’s trees, only to discover that they were also blue.
That was September 3rd, and for this small town, things have only gone downhill in the last two weeks.
Springville, Oregon has just over one thousand residents, and the majority of the working class are employed at the water bottling plant on the edge of town. Ten years prior, when the bottled water fad was just taking off, Springville decided to jump on the bandwagon and began marketing its own water from its own stream, which flows down all year long from the glaciers of nearby Mt. Braxton.
But something’s happened to the water, or perhaps to the bottling plant, either of which might account for the blue leaves.
And now something has happened to the people.
For the first few days the local paper and TV stations ran a few stories speculating on the cause of the leave’s discoloration, everything from chemicals possibly getting into the stream from the bottling plant, to someone intentionally poisoning our water supply, even to global warming. But no answers were found, and for some reason the stories suddenly stopped.
Three days after I checked my mail my neighbor came over to my house to discuss the situation. After five minutes of trading ideas, Lenny asked me to look at something on his arm. He unbuttoned his sleeve and pulled it over his elbow.
“What the hell…” I said, half jerking my head away. Our eyes met, and I saw a frightened look in Lenny’s eyes that I hadn’t seen before.
“They look like scales, don’t they?” Lenny asked me, brushing his fingers across the three inch by four inch mark on his forearm. “They even feel like scales.”
“You think the water did that?”
Lenny shook his head. “I don’t know, but what else could it be?”
“You need to go see a doctor,” I told him.
“I’ve got an appointment in three days. That’s the earliest they can get me in. Doc Simpson’s nurse said they’re getting a lot of people coming in.”
That was the last time I saw Lenny Olson.
I’m retired, having worked my entire life in the lumber mill that closed a few years before the bottling plant came around. When the mill went down, Springville almost became a ghost town, and if it weren’t for the bottling plant starting up, it probably would have.
I know a few younger people who work at the bottling plant, and after having them do a little research for me, we all came to the conclusion that the plant most likely wasn’t responsible.
So was it the water?
I called the local, state, and federal officials to see if they were looking into this, and each one said they were.
But things were only getting worse (and stranger) for the residents of my town. For one thing, traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, seemed to be slowly disappearing. Not completely, but there weren’t as many kids playing in the park across the street from my house as there normally was, nor were there as many cars travelling up and down my road.
Eight days after checking my mail on that Tuesday, September 3rd, I was filling up my car at the gas station when I saw something I hardly believed. I went in to the pay the attendant, a young woman by the name of Claire who I’ve known for years. I handed her a twenty; she took it with her right hand. And when she handed my change back with her left, I noticed that her entire arm was covered in those same scales that Lenny had—from the tips of her fingers to where her arm disappeared into the short sleeve of her uniform.
“Here’ssssssss your change, Sssssssssteve.”
That was six days ago. I haven’t left my house yet.
I’ve tried to call some of my friends, but when most of them pick up they don’t say anything, or they make sounds like a heavy breather, sometimes punctuated with a hissing noise. On the rare occasions when somebody does talk, they say they’ve also seen the scales. Two of them said they tried to leave town, only to find the roads blocked by armed guards.
Another tried to sneak out by foot, only to find the same thing.
Springville is completely surrounded.
I haven’t told them about the things I’ve seen when I peek out of my curtains: ‘people’ completely covered in scales walking up and down the street. Their clothes, if they’re still wearing any, are shredded, and their gait is hampered by a severe limp.
The power is out. There is no newspaper.
I think something happened up on the mountain, but I just don’t know. Is this a government cover-up?
Some environmental disaster?
And why didn’t this happen to all of us?
All I do know is that I’m scared.
Today is September 18th. I woke up this morning to scratching noises at my door. It’s noon right now, and I’m sitting here nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels with my shotgun on my lap, but I only have six shells. The scratching is getting louder, and it’s not just at my front door anymore. It’s all around; on the windows, the walls, and I think I can hear something on my roof.
Now it’s just a matter of time, because they’re coming.
Good Lord, they’re coming.