Nothing Ever Happens in Anywhere
The first thing any visitors to Anywhere will see when entering the town is the log cabin-inspired strip mall, right off the main road to the left (if you’re coming from the same direction as the Paiges). It consists exclusively of Baby Jim’s Grocer, Any-Wares, and Maveline’s Diner: respectively, the only place in Anywhere to get gas and groceries; tools, clothing, and furniture; and a hot meal that you didn’t make yourself. Across the street from that is the Anywhere Inn, where a traveler can rest their feet for a suspiciously low price after a long day of driving. Part of the mystery is gone when boarders realize that, aside from a sprinkler system to meet fire codes, the inn uses no electricity, but rather candles and wood burning stoves to provide the most basic of comforts to its guests.
Up the road a bit, past a few of the local residents’ cabins, down a long, dirt driveway leading into the middle of the woods, is the sheriff’s house. Anywhere only has one police officer—a sheriff—named Bet Miller. She’s been the town’s only official law enforcement officer for over ten years now, and has lived alone (with one dog or another) out in that old house for twice as long. Things stay pretty quiet in town, and the rangers take care of things at the park, so she mostly ever only concerns herself with speeding tourists. As Kate mentioned, most people communicate by radio, due to the poor cell phone reception that lingers over the whole area. Sheriff Miller is on Channel 5.
After that, again off to the left, comes the closest thing Anywhere has to a downtown/business district, which is just another unpaved road with a few commercial buildings on it, leading off into the residential subdivisions. There’s the Anywhere Video video store, the manager of which has a mother, who operates the local hair salon out of the back room with just a pair of scissors, a comb, and her self-taught skill. Directly across from the video store is Big Jim’s Auto and ATV, not to be confused with Baby Jim’s Grocer. You see, there are three Jims living in Anywhere, all of whom are directly related through the same mother and father, meaning they are all brothers. Big Jim is the oldest, and thus was the first of the bunch to be named Jim. Baby Jim is the youngest, and thus the last to be named Jim. Like his siblings, Brother Jim, the middle child, also runs a business in Anywhere, selling animal furs and meat at his brother’s grocery store, which he prepares at his trapper cabin just outside of town. None of these are to be confused with Jim, the father of the bunch, who, because he was the original, does not need a prefix with his name to distinguish him from the others.
Continuing through the business district, you’ll see the town library off to your right. There’s nothing special about it, it’s just a library, just as there is nothing of particular interest with the post office across the street (except that it’s also a bar). A bit farther, though, you’ll find the Anywhere History Museum. It’s not a museum about Anywhere’s history, although there is some of that in there as well, but a general world history museum. The collection is incredibly impressive, considering nobody goes to Anywhere for the museum, and was made possible by the very rich and eccentric man who owns and curates it: Arch Winthrow. Rumor has it he puts almost all of his money into the museum, but nobody knows where his money comes from, exactly.
Back on the main road—just on the edge of town—is Drained Lake. A half-mile long and a hundred feet deep, this blue body of water is a favorite fishing destination for the locals, and a fun-in-the-sun day for tourists looking to escape the summer swelter. Motorboats are not allowed on the lake, but rather many residents of Anywhere have early morning outings in their canoes and paddle-boats, trying to get a relaxing start to an otherwise disquieting day of annoying park visitors. Luckily, most visitors choose to camp, rather than stay in town, so the rush to the lake usually doesn’t start until afternoon.
Finally, taking the main highway all the way around the lake, you’ll find another dirt road, leading to another patch in the middle of nowhere, whereon sits the final destination of our four travelers: the Paige residence. All in all, the road to the Paiges’ from town was about two miles, and from there to the ranger station—Kate’s place of work—would be a further one and a half miles. Like most country folks, Kate and Mark were happy to have a good amount of space between them and everyone else; it just meant more open air and more freedom. The perfect place to make a new home.
But home is really where the heart is—as they say—and by the time the car got past all the boring old buildings, around the boring old lake, and up the boring old driveway, the kids’ hearts really weren’t in it for the boring old new house. The “definitely just a bear” sighting was pretty interesting, but otherwise Jules and Elliot were firmly held in their beliefs—just from one look around town—that undoubtedly it was never going to get more exciting than that. That was most likely the highlight of their new lives, and they hadn’t even gotten a very good look at it. The town motto was technically true, in that anything could potentially happen in Anywhere; where it was a bit misleading, was in not recognizing that nothing ever does happen. Or such was the conclusion the kids quickly jumped to.
What they didn’t know (for reasons related to the apparent linearity of time) was that in fact quite a lot went on in Anywhere—all over, all the time—but only when no one was looking. Out of the corner of your eye, in the shadows in the night, underneath the bed, and wherever lacks in light, that’s when things around Anywhere got interesting, and that’s where the Paige kids would soon start to uncover the dark secrets that plagued their innocent-looking town. They were in for one of the strangest adventures of their lives, some of the most heart-pounding thrills of their lives, and some of the most perilous horrors of their lives, after which they could never look at the sleepy country village the same way again…But not yet. First, they had to finish unpacking; destiny could always wait till later.
The house was just like any of the other ones they’d seen in the area; not very conspicuous. It had two stories plus an attic, with a covered porch out front. The window to the attic was shattered, and currently boarded up—something which the parents had already known—and the doors to the storm cellar were locked—something they’d not expected, but could easily call a locksmith to deal with. Otherwise everything was in perfect working order. The lawn was relatively small compared to the amount of land that was actually theirs, and the woods encroached pretty close to the house—maybe 35 feet on all sides—but it was still a massive improvement over their half-acre house in the suburbs.
Mark unlocked the front door and everyone—including the kids, overwhelmed by a minor curiosity—peeked inside. To the right was the living room, with a door leading out to the side yard. Directly in front of them were the stairs, which led to a sort of open balcony overlooking the living room. To the left was the kitchen and dining room, and behind the staircase was one of the two bathrooms and a closet, separated from the kitchen by a hallway. To the right, past the living room, was the master bedroom, with a door leading to the backyard right next to it.
The moving guys had not arrived yet. Mark got a text that they’d be a few hours late, so for now there was only minimal furniture. The previous owner hadn’t left much behind, but what he did, the Paiges really wished he rather hadn’t. Along the balcony were mounted the heads of a boar, an elk, and a duck, and around the living room were hung several unnerving pictures. One was of a worn-out barn door, with nothing but the shadow of a person across it, titled The Man on the Mounted Night; another showed an animal skull covered in mud, surrounded by ferns, titled Never Again; a third showed a cave entrance, with all the plant life around it dead, titled The World in Review. The first order of business was to do away with all that.
Once that was done, they emptied out the car and picked their rooms. Kate and Mark laughed as they watched the kids fight over who could get through the door to the master bedroom first, but the fun quickly wore thin and they sent Jules and Elliot upstairs to pick again. There were three rooms upstairs; they chose the two that were farthest apart from each other. Then they locked everything back up, put the trailer in the shed, and jumped back into the car.
“Ready?” Kate asked, through the rearview mirror.
“Yeah,” said the kids, as their buckles clicked shut.
“Everything out of the car?”
“Alright. Do I know where I’m going?” she said, looking at Mark.
“Was I supposed to look up the directions?” he replied.
***Five minutes earlier***
“Marrrrk?” Kate called from the kitchen.
“Yup?” he replied, from the living room.
“Can you get out the GPS and look up the ranger station? I can’t remember if it’s off the main road or not.”
“Done and done.”
“Oh! And remind me we need to pick up some cat food at the store, too.”
***Five minutes later***
“Oh, yeah…Honey, we need to pick up some cat food at the store.”
“Oookay. Well, there’s really only one road anyway. It can’t be too hard to find, can it?”
No, not really. Less than four minutes (by car) from their house was the sign welcoming them to Silver Furrow National Park, the 1.2-million-acre plot of protected land where Kate had been newly employed as a park ranger. Established in 1904, Silver Furrow gets its name from the silver rush that occurred there in 1892, after the precious metal was discovered by a farmer tilling his field. The man later recounted that, “the furrows of the field were lined with silver,” and from thence came the inspiration when the park was formed twelve years later.
Silver Furrow is only half the size of, say, Yellowstone, and only draws a quarter of the attention, but lacks nothing in comparison of beauty. With swaying grasslands, an untouched river valley, peaceful mountain vistas, and a healthy, old-growth forest, the park has something for everyone seeking a breath of fresh air, which is what attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its borders every year. Anywhere is mostly just a waypoint for tourists coming up from the south, so they get a lot of passers-through, but the larger towns on the eastern and northern edge are the more popular destinations. One of the park’s campgrounds is very near the southern boundary, which is where Anywhere gets most of its actual business (and the swimmers), but otherwise the town is just another insignificant blip on the map.
If people knew the full history and danger of the seemingly unimportant little hovel, they’d outright avoid it all together, but they don’t know—they can’t—and so everything continues on as it always has. Nobody reads the signs, nobody sees the patterns, and nobody ever questions what’s going on. Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the park, but every year several scores—especially around Anywhere—never return home. Freak accidents and strange animal attacks are considered the norm, even to the people who are visiting for the first time. Unbelievable circumstances are never called into suspicion, outside authorities are never brought in to investigate, and almost all cases are closed on the spot. Silver Furrow may be a part of paradise, but there’s trouble in it. For almost four generations there’s been a great and powerful evil looming over the park, centered right on top of Anywhere, but neither the residents nor the visitors have ever paid it any thought. There’s something about the place that clouds their minds—keeps them oblivious. To save the town, and the park, it would take outsiders; strangers to the evil; minds that were not susceptible to its influence. It would take…a miracle, really.