Part I: The Welcoming-Chapter 1
Had Jodie still been around, she could drive…
“Stop it,” I scolded myself under my breath. Not thinking about Jodie was going to be the best thing for me. I had just started to come to terms with her passing. The thought of her being able to take the driver’s seat for a while seemed nice…heavenly even. And to watch her hair whipping in the wind, a complacent smile on her pretty face.
At this point, I am more than ready to call this trip quits.
But with the situation at hand I couldn’t give up. This trip was essential. I looked back over my shoulder at my seven-year old daughter Cheryl. She shifted involuntarily in her sleep, her sketchbook tucked firmly under her arms. I gazed at her crooked smile as she slept, her jet black hair hanging in front of her eyes. Her simple pale-blue checkered sundress fanned out from under her in her seat. I smiled, feeling one of those strong, mixed emotions well up inside me. It was the relief of a parent who had a love of their child so deep it was uncanny.
For the first time in six months, Cheryl was sleeping comfortably.
Cheryl had been having nightmares every night for the past six months, with no reasonable explanation in sight. I didn’t think it was strange at first, considering children’s usual fears of monsters and other make-believes. Yet, somehow, this situation was different. The frequency and intensity of them caught my attention, I couldn’t explain in mere words, but perhaps it was the depth of Cheryl’s despair over her dreams that made it different. I couldn’t help but feel as if…she was being haunted.
It felt odd to use that word, but no other word could quite fit.
Since the dreams, Cheryl not only was tired most of the time; she had become more quiet and withdrawn. It wasn’t like her at all. Sometimes when I talked to her, I felt as if I was speaking to an entirely different person. She became more temperamental as well, her emotions going up and down over the smallest inconsistencies. This was to be expected of children but…it was very unlike her happy-go-lucky nature. Even despite her mother’s death Cheryl had coped very well and kept surprisingly positive. Children can be so much more resilient than we give them credit for.
“All of these things are just a way of coping,” the psychologist had said. “It’s just like when adults begin to eat more, or have a lack of physical activity. She’s just experiencing a manifestation of stress through her dreams. Sometimes, children don’t cope with the stress outwardly and internalize it, and that changes from case to case.” I regarded the psychologist’s theory as total crock, knowing how good Cheryl had been doing before, yet still a part of me wanted to believe him.
To say that my daughter was experiencing emotional trauma from her mother’s death seemed (in a morbid way) more cheery than being haunted by some unseen force. Yet, there had to be something more. Even as a journalist who relied on facts, I never ignored my intuition.
To hopefully gain some clue of my daughter’s dreams, I began to observe her. It seemed strange, but I was running out of options. There was a problem, and I was going to fix it. Sure, I could pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for Cheryl to go to a sleep-study, but I didn’t want her to feel like there was something wrong with her. I also didn’t like the idea of her being hooked up with wires or electrodes. It seemed simpler to just record her myself, and see if she said anything in her sleep. Loss of sleep for me was the least of my worries.
After observing her for over a week, I began to understand a little. In many of her nightmares, she would murmur undecipherable words. At first, I just dismissed them as nonsense words, or sleep-gibberish. Yet, there was a certain clarity that begged me to listen even closer.
I swear I could feel an ominous presence when she talked. Her voice seemed to even change a bit at times, but never overtly. It seemed like she was saying the same thing over and over like a strange mantra of some kind. This took up most of my video footage, and I became more frustrated.
I almost felt like giving up, until I noticed that she was actually saying something intelligible while reviewing a tape. I plugged my headphones in and cranked it to full capacity. After listening over and over, she was apparently saying “Silent Hill.” The more and more I listened, I noticed this is mostly what she uttered as she tossed and shifted uncomfortably in her sleep. I was unsure at first, but it sounded more and more finite the more I listened. Kind of like that lyric that you can’t understand, but makes perfect sense after you read the lyrics.
The name sounded vaguely familiar, yet did not strike any particular chord with me. This was perhaps some source of her dream. What was this a real place, and what connection did it have with Cheryl’s nightmares?
I would often ask Cheryl what her dreams were about. She would never have a memory of her dreams, which was not uncommon. I tried specifically asking her if the dream was about a place called Silent Hill. Still no recollection. I began to believe that it was perhaps a nickname for some nightmarish place that she visited in her dreams.
That theory didn’t last for very long.
After doing some research, I found that it was indeed a real town. It was in upstate Virginia, located in a valley just north of a small town called Brahms. Using some of my sources, I found that it was a quaint resort town known for its beautiful Taluca Lake. It was a popular vacation spot, but there was more than met the eye.
After digging a bit deeper, I found various newspaper clippings that showed scrutiny for various cultist activities that went unregulated. Yet, no confirmed cultist groups or sects were ever confirmed or brought to light. It was simple whispers and rumors, definitely not uncommon for a small town.
Seven years ago, there was a terrible house fire which spread throughout the town. Due to the town’s drought that year, they didn't have enough water needed to control the fire and it consumed nearly half the town. The community of Silent Hill was devastated, leaving only a smoking ruin of the affected area.
Over time, the town slowly but surely rebuilt itself and the surviving residents picked back up where they left off. Yet, many of the townspeople believed that the cultist activities continued. They also believed that the cult was involved in the fire, most likely some sort of sacrificial burning. To this day, no one has ever found out the true source of the fire.
I felt the hairs stand on the back of m neck while reading the articles. How could Cheryl have known about this town? I had to dig deeper into records just to find it myself. Did she somehow stumble upon pictures and information on the town, which resulted in the nightmares now plaguing her? It just simply didn’t add up.
After extensive contemplation and conversation--some with Cheryl’s psychologist and some with my family--I decided that it was time for Cheryl and I to take a trip to this mysterious town, and see what connection there was between this and my daughter. As odd as the idea seemed, it was the only idea I had left to help Cheryl. She was my only daughter, and I had to do something.
So as not to let Cheryl in on the seriousness of the trip, I told her that we were taking a vacation. This was something to get her excited, and perhaps we could relax in the process. It would even be our first big outing together ever since….
I shuddered, pushing the oncoming emotions from welling up as the face of my wife Jodie materialized in my mind again. My wife Jodie had died three years earlier of an undiagnosed sickness, making life very difficult for the both of us. My love for her made it all the more painful to see her go through that kind of pain. The constant fevers and headaches. The regret she had for not seeing Cheryl growing up, determined that she wasn’t going to make it through. Even though Cheryl wasn’t our biological daughter, she always felt like one of us.
Cheryl had been found on the side of the road on a vacation Jodie and I took seven years ago. It was a miracle that we had found her, considering it was in the middle of nowhere. Jodie had gotten carsick and when she stepped out of the car she heard the faint sound of crying. She looked over at a nearby grassy field and saw a white bundle laying there. Her motion sickness forgotten, she ran over and picked up the baby. No one was around, except this precious little child. How someone could have left her was way beyond me.
We checked with any and all records nearby to see if there was anyone who had a child missing or any correlation to Cheryl’s appearance. Strangely there was none, but we gladly took her into our home. Jodie and I couldn’t have kids of our own and this seemed like a blessing. God seemed to smile upon us.
I contemplated back on everything, the memories and times we had. As I drove on, becoming lost in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what answer awaited me in Silent Hill…