• Ch. 1
    A cool draft was flowing under the glass double-doors that stood guard to Julian’s office. It was already half past nine and everybody else had left the building. Even the company janitor had put aside his mop for the night and ventured home. The overhead lamps, which illuminated the sterile, grey, carpeted hallways of the office, had all been turned off and the only light remaining emitted from the random computer screen savers that lifelessly bounced from one side of the screen to the other. The only sounds to be heard were the ticking of the giant wall clock above the third floor’s cherry oak front desk and the occasional whir of the air conditioning system. The office had gone to sleep for the night. Every fax machine was turned off and every phone silenced. No papers ruffling and no “ding” from the elevator. All was at rest. All except for Julian. Typing away on his laptop and not paying any attention to the fact that he should have left work almost three hours ago, he became sleepy and decided to rest his eyes for a while.
    The weather was relatively normal outside. The air, dry and still, much like city it inhabited. Very few cars roamed the streets at this time of night. Everybody was inside their houses, watching television and getting ready for bed. Home was a safe haven for the citizens of Whispering Hill, especially after sundown. Located on top of a heavily wooded mountain, it was a town full of secrets and mystery, despite its small size. The population was only about seven-hundred during the summer season and four-hundred in the heart of winter. Under its cobblestone streets and old-world buildings lay a dark and unsightly history, that which many townspeople chose to lay to rest and never speak of. Some residents told stories of a group of reclusive men called The Malthus Brotherhood, that inhabited the surrounding woods and were later cast out of the town on suspicion of practicing witchcraft and other various pagan rituals. Although there was never any hard evidence that could rightfully convict these men for physically harming anybody, fear still managed to work its deceitful ways into the malleable minds of the villagers and their tiny children. In one particularly disturbing account, Samantha, the precocious, seven year old daughter of Samuel Hampton, the town tailor, wandered into the woods, trying to recover her puppy she had lost earlier that morning. After hours of searching, she became weary and cold. Night began to fall over the town and seldom did the moon ever unmask its gleaming face, leaving Whispering Hill shrouded in an eerie darkness that even the bravest of men would not dare encounter.
    Samantha was becoming weak and hungry, while thoughts and feelings riddled with fear and anxiety were rapidly consuming all remaining traces of faith and courage that lived within her. A thin blanket of fog had crept into the forest. She began to walk faster and faster, hugging herself tightly to keep warm. The unpleasant crunching of soggy leaves and twigs beneath her bare feet was the only sound that could be heard. Samantha stopped dead in her tracks! In front of her, like a looming, black wall cloaked in mist and darkness, stood a makeshift cabin. Samantha slowly moved closer to the front steps, which weren’t much at all. The outside of the house was filthy and cluttered. Random objects thrown carelessly aside, planks of rotting wood lying on the ground. She put her foot onto the first step of the porch, shivering as she moved closer to the front door. The rotted wood creaked under her tender feet. She could hear the faint voices of people calling out her name, far off in the distance but paid no attention to them. She entered the cabin quietly. The door shut behind her with a dull thump. It was musty, dark and cold inside. A pungent, rotting odor lingered in the first room, which appeared to be a very cluttered kitchen space. Samantha cautiously moved around the various obstacles which lay in front of her, being careful not to make a single sound. As she moved toward the threshold to the next room, the vile stench grew stronger. Breaking the piercing silence, a low, disgruntled moan emitted from the back of the cabin. Samantha dropped to her knees and covered her mouth. A rush of horror and extreme fear had made the tiny hairs on her arms stand up and her body physically unable to move. She shut her eyes tightly and remained silent. A loud thud, as if some heavy object fell onto a hollow surface, caused the fear-stricken child to rapidly dash across the threshold and under the kitchen table for shelter. Following the abrupt noise was a metallic, dragging sound. The echoes of the unknown terror begin moving closer and closer to the edge of the dark hallway. Tucked tightly away behind a pile of clutter in the kitchen, she hid, silently praying that nothing would happen to her. She had begun to realize the error of her ways. If she had have been more responsible and watched her dog more carefully, it would not have run away into the woods. If it had not ran away, she would have not gone into the forest to find it. If she had not gone into the forest, she would have not entered the dark cabin for shelter. If she had not entered that cabin, she would have not died.
    Most of the townspeople believed this to be the doing of the Malthus brotherhood. As time went on, the town’s wounds healed, but its dismal reputation did not. Samuel Hampton was eventually convicted for the murder of his daughter and upon further investigation, was also found to be an active member of the Malthus group. In order to win back a positive public image, the elders of the town decided that the most appropriate punishment for Samuel’s act of ruthless hatred would be death. They torched him in flames and buried his body deep under a giant boulder on the far edge of the town.
    Whispering Hill never again mentioned his name or what had occurred on that unfortunate night.
    The city today was still as sleepy and quiet as the day it was founded, over ninety five years ago. While very self-efficient when it came to maintaining itself in a prosperous aspect, Whispering Hill was still a place that held purpose. People didn’t just move here for any old reason. People moved here because they needed to get off the map and stay off of it without any interference.