Home Is Where The Dark Lives

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Some secrets are best left buried. Some towns die slowly in the agony of broken dreams. Henry feels the pull of the home he left behind and the presence that still haunts its walls, but he has to return. Will the price be too high or will he find the answers he desperately needs? Or will he lose the last connection to past and family?

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Chapter One

Jolene refused to speak to me as we flew down westbound I 80 and left Colorado for a small town in eastern Utah. She wouldn’t look at me, even when I reached over and shoved one finger into her side, as I had when we were kids. Jolene stared out the window at a landscape both familiar and strange at the same time. I don’t know why she doesn’t understand that I have to do this. Too many years and too many nightmares force me to go back. I have to confront the ghosts, once and for all.

“I don’t understand why you’re doing this.” Jolene finally said.

I wish she’d stayed quiet. She’d said the same thing at least once in every conversation for the last month.

“Henry,” Jolene reached over and smacked me on the shoulder.

“Hit me again, and I’ll pull over and leave you on the side of the road.”

“Stop channeling our Dad. We’re not on one of his endless Sunday drives.”

“You’re the one that started it, just like when we were kids.”

“No, I didn’t,” Jolene scoffed. “Stop trying to distract me.”

“If you’re so against it, why are you here, Jolie?”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Why not? You liked it when you were fifteen?”

She flipped me the bird. Her favorite silver ring, shaped like a coiling snake, irritated me more than her attitude. “Bitch,” I sneered.

“Fuck you, Henry!”

Another ten miles had passed before Jolene spoke again. “Why do you have to be such a complete jackass?”

I kept my eyes on the road by sheer force of will. “I can’t stand the dreams anymore. Why can’t you understand?”

“I do comprehend, brother, but what I don’t get is why we’re driving back to the hell that is our hometown. You want me to leave you there. Alone. Why?

“Because I don’t want you going back in that house.”

“Why? Don’t you think I can handle it?”

“That’s not what I said. Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“Why not? You won’t talk to me. You expect me to leave you in that place, and for what? A chance to confront your demons.”

“Yes,” I yelled and sighed when tears filled Jolene’s eyes. “I’m sorry, but I can’t sleep anymore because of the nightmares. They’re driving me insane.”

“Don’t say that, Henry. You’re not crazy.”

I watched her eyes. The tears shimmered, but she held them back with a stubbornness I’d always admired.

“You’re more like dad,” I said.

“And you’re not like mom, no matter what you think. Dad doesn’t care about you or me. If he did, he wouldn’t have left us.”

“Do you blame him? Mom chased him away with her psychotic jealousy and religious mania. She was certifiable, and you know it, Jolene.”

“She’s dead, Henry. She can’t hurt us anymore.”

“I wish I could believe it.”

“You can!”

“I don’t want to discuss it, Jolene.”

“Go ahead, Henry, lay down the law. It’s what you’re best at.”

I responded to this by ignoring her for another mile. When we arrived after twenty minutes of bickering and sullen silences, I didn’t expect the utter desolation of the place. Mists that hung around the buildings and drifted down deserted streets were as white as snow and just as forbidding. As soon as I stepped from the car, I began to cough. All I could smell was smoke and something that reminded me of garbage marinated in harsh sunlight for too long.

It was all ash and gray skies in the burnt-out town. The buildings were falling apart, and the streets were returning to sagebrush and grass. No one comes here anymore, except for those looking for something they can’t find in their hearts—someone like me.

“We’re here,” Jolene stated the obvious. “Are you happy?”

“No, as a matter of fact, I’m not, but I have to see it through.”

I saw a tear roll down Jolene’s cheek when I got out of the car. She slammed out and ran around to hug me. “I can’t believe I’m letting you go back there alone. I must be out of my mind.”

“You’re not. Please don’t follow me.”

She wiped away more tears and got into the car. The door clunked shut with a thud that echoed in the smoky streets. I wished for one human face or a human voice, but nothing emerged in the mist-laden landscape or emerged from the smoke that seemed to blend in with ease.

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