I was awoken in the morning by a loud knocking on the door. The soft patter of rain on the roof and windows. Rolling out of bed, I responded to the knocking.
“One minute!” I shouted, struggling to get some presentable clothes on before meeting this mysterious guest. I wondered quietly who it could possibly be. In this age of modern technology, people hardly ever came and talked face to face anymore. All I could do was quietly hope that it wasn’t some sort of taxes I forgot to pay, or some other sort of bad news.
Running down the stairs, I slid slightly on the hardwood floor as I moved towards the door. A second knock rang out as I gripped the door handle. Instead of shouting out again, I opened the door and looked over who was before me.
“Hello there,” The man said, a tall, dark man with the thick accent of a southern gentleman and a long, flowing coat. “I have important news regarding your Uncle, Craig Pickard. May I please come inside?” I took a step back. Uncle Craig hadn’t contacted anyone in the family for years. If this guy was here, it could only mean one thing.
“I... I suppose you could come in.” I open the door and allow him to enter. He ducks walking through the door, his tall hat barely missing the doorframe. “Would you like anything to drink?” I pointed him in the direction of the couch before heading towards the kitchen to get myself a glass of water.
“No, I think I’ll be alright.” He said, waiting for me to return to the chair positioned beside the couch.
“What’s going on with Uncle Craig, what happened?
Walking out of the house, the sheriff adjusted his hat before finally breaking the long silence that had followed us through my uncle’s home.
“Yer uncle, he was a... Craig was a great man, and his death has hit all of us rather hard. If y’all’d like to join us, the townsfolk an’ I would like to hold some sorta celebration ’n his mem’ry.” He took off his sheriff’s hat for a moment, scratching his balding scalp before continuing. “It would be an honor to have y’all come down and say something, partake in some drinks and maybe try to have a good time, like he woulda wanted.” I stood for a moment, considering my options. There had been some strange happenings, sure. Unusual stares, an unusual level of discomfort emanating from behind the derelict factories and abandoned strip malls, but I blamed it all to having never been this far south before.
“It might be good for me...” I paused, thinking again. Did I really want to stay here any longer than I had to? What if even worrying about that just childish? I looked up, meeting the sheriff’s icy blue eyes. “I think I will go, yeah. I’ll go for Uncle Craig.” The sheriff beamed a toothy grin, displaying several rotted out teeth and a few more which looked like they wouldn’t last much longer.
“Well that’s jus’ great! Where are y’all gonna stay the night, its gettin’ purty late, don’t wanna be out too long after dark...” He paused for a moment. “On accoun’ of the coyotes and such, ya’ know?” I rubbed my eyes.
“Yeah, you make a good point. I... I guess Uncle Craig had a guest room, I could stay in there for the night. I guess I'll come out and see town in the morning, maybe introduce myself a bit before everything later on.” The sheriff’s smile lost some intensity as he tipped his hat.
“I should be goin’; gotta town to protect an’ all that. Before I go..." He reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out a pen and pad of paper. He scribbled on it a moment, before ripping off a sheet and handing it to me. "Here's my personal phone. If anybody give you trouble, callin' me aught to solve it." He turned away from be for a moment, before looking back over his shoulder. "I’ll be seein’ you tomorrow then, in the town square?”
“I suppose you will, Sheriff.” I watched the sun begin to dip under the horizon, beginning to cast a fiery orange glow across the town. As the Sheriff’s patrol car kicked up dust travelling down the road, I turned back towards the house. The sunset cast a long shadow down the hillside, passing over the fence, through the basin, just barely touching the tips of the nearby factory, the only factory that seemed to still be operational in Bradbury Canyon. As the smoke stacks rose into the sky, I felt a heavy weight on my heart. I felt the regret of not staying in contact with Uncle Craig. I... I felt the regret of not bothering to come see him. I felt anger at my family, how could they just ignore him for all these years, never even bothering with a single phone call, email, or even a text message. What could Uncle Craig have ever done that made him so vilified, so universally disliked that the rest of my family refused to take in the man with the news of his death?
Maybe the house would have answers for me.
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