The Welcoming

by Emily Ericson 2 years ago in fiction

A Wrong Sidetrack

The Welcoming

"One tree, two tree, three tree, four. Five tree, six tree, seven tree more," sang Ashley as she sat in the passenger seat, watching trees pass by her window. Her husband, Brad, drove the car down the long, country road. He leaned his head on his fist and used one hand on the steering wheel. Ashley's feet were propped up on the dashboard as she sang her tune.

"Having fun there?" he asked.

"There are so many trees!" she exclaimed. "We'll never reach the town. It's getting dark and we're low on gas."

"Grab the map real quick, would ya?" asked Brad.

Ashley reached into the back seat and pulled out a wrinkled up map. She flattened it out on the dashboard, sliding her hands across it from the center to the sides.

"The town we are trying to reach is Honiton. Is there anything before that?" asked Brad.

She studied the map. "Mhmm, mhmm, okay."

"Well?"

"Which road are we on again?"

Brad sighed, "Oh my gosh! A303, is what we are on?"

"I don't see an A303."

"Find Andover and Honiton. Whatever road that's between those two is this road."

Ashley traced her finger on the map, searching for the road. She stopped her finger. "Found it."

"Okay, is there another town before Honiton?"

"There are two," she answered. "One is Ilchester and the other Martock. This country has funny town names."

"So we've been driving for 30 miles," Brad muttered to himself, "so that means we have about 60 miles left until Honiton." Brad turned to Ashley. "We should be alright. Those towns shouldn't be too far."

Ashley folded up the map and tossed it into the back seat. "What's in Honiton again?"

"It's where we will be meeting up with Josh and Rachel. He's visiting his relatives there. I've told you this like three times."

"Well, I forgot. I wanted to stay in London longer. We're still going to Edinburgh, right?"

Brad rubbed his eyes. "Yes. We will go to Edinburgh once we meet up with Josh and Rachel."

"Gotcha." She returned to staring out the window.

Brad muttered under his breath, "I doubt it."

As they drove along and time passed, the trees grew thicker and the sky was a mixture of orange, blue, and black as the sun was setting. No other cars appeared on the road. Brad had both hands on the steering wheel. He looked over and saw that Ashley was falling asleep as she curled up in her seat. As he turned his head to face forward, a town sign appeared. He slowed down the car, passing the sign, which read 'Marwolaeth'. Brad mouthed the town. "Ashley." Brad nudged her. "Ashley, wake up."

"What?" Her eyes were half opened.

"What was the next town on the road?"

She groaned, "I don't know... Ilchester I think."

"You didn't see a town called Marwolaeth?"

"Marwo what?"

"Mar-wo-la-eth," said Brad.

"No, why?" Ashley sat up and rubbed her face.

"Because I just passed a sign that said we entered the town Marwolaeth."

"That's weird." Ashley eyes widened. "Are we on the wrong road?"

"No, we can't be. I followed the directions exactly."

"Maybe the map is out of date. Where is the GPS?" she asked.

Brad pointed at the glove compartment. "In there."

Ashley opened the compartment and brought out the GPS, turning it on. After a minute of typing, she stated, "This is the right road."

"Type in Marwolaeth," he said.

"How do you spell that?"

"M-A-R-W-O-L-A-E-T-H."

Ashley typed in the town name. "Huh, that's weird. Are you sure you read the sign right?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Well, it is not popping up on here. The GPS is not recognizing it."

"I swore it read Marwolaeth," stated Brad.

The car's engine started to make heavy, clunking noises. Both Brad and Ashley stared at the hood of the car.

"That doesn't sound right," she stated.

"Ya think?"

The car slowed down as smoke streamed through the cracks of the hood. The engine sputtered.

"Great!" Brad turned the wheel to pull the car to the side of the road. The engine died. "Just great!" Brad smacked the steering wheel.

"What are we going to do?" asked Ashley.

Brad unbuckled his seatbelt. "I'll check the engine. You try to call Josh or Rachel." He exited the car, slamming the door behind him, and went to the hood. Ashley pulled out her cell and dialed a number. Brad lifted the hood up, causing more smoke to rise and into his face. He swung his arms, wafting the smoke away from himself.

Ashley held her cell phone higher and returned it to her ear. She looked down at it. "Oh, come on." She exited the car and walked to different spots, holding up her phone. Back and forth the phone went from her ear to the sky. Brad examined the engine, fumbling around with the parts. Ashley approached him and said, "I'm not getting a signal."

Brad peered up at her. "Seriously?"

She nodded.

He stood up and closed the hood of the car. "I don't know what is wrong with this thing."

"What do we do now?"

Brad looked down the road. "I guess we walk. Grab your stuff."

He hurried over to the trunk and started to pull their bags out.

"You're kidding me?!" exclaimed Ashley. "We don't know how far the next town is and it's almost dark."

Brad closed the trunk and carried over two bags, handing one to Ashley. "What do you suggest then?"

"We sleep in the car for the night and then we walk."

"I don't want to sleep in the car when there could be a nice, little motel down the road."

Ashley replied, "There is nothing nearby."

"There could be since we are in Marwolaeth," insisted Brad.

"You're joking, right? There's no town! It's not on the map or on the GPS."

"I saw a sign back there!"

"Are you sure about that? I didn't see anything."

"Well,...that's because you were...I don't know...asleep!"

The two pierced each other with silence.

Brad took hold of his bag with a stronger grip. "You can stay with the car if you want. I'm going to visit this little town whether you come or not." He marched pass Ashley and started to make his way down the road. She stood there pouting, which quickly ceased as she observed her surroundings. The trees were getting darker as they loomed over her and the sun was getting lower. She switched her gaze between the car and Brad who was getting further away. She sighed and followed after Brad. "Wait for me!"

The couple ambled down the road, lugging their bags, as the sky dimmed into night. Ashley dragged her feet, falling behind as Brad continued on, not looking back.

"Brad. Could you slow down or could we take a break? This bag is real heavy."

Brad stopped to where the road came to a bend. He turned around but stopped as he caught a glimpse of a light through the trees. Not a light of natural origin but one from a light source in a window.

"Ashley, look!" Brad pointed through the trees.

Ashley came to where Brad was standing. She saw the light. "Oh my gosh!"

Brad bragged, "Told you there was a town."

The two hurried around the bend of the road and there before them was a town with a sign that read 'Welcome to Marwolaeth'. It was a quaint little town that was stuck in time. No huge buildings but ones made long ago out of brick. The most prominent building was a brick church that towered over everything else. The place was quiet and there was no sign of anyone around.

"Well, wouldn't you look at that," said Brad.

"Look at what? The place is abandoned," stated Ashley.

"What about that light we saw?"

"That doesn't mean the place is a metropolis. It could be some homeless guy hunkering down for the night."

"Abandoned or not we found a place to stay instead of sleeping in the car."

"Honestly, Brad," spoke Ashley, "I'd rather much stay in the car."

"Why?"

"This place gives me the creeps."

"Any place looks creepy at night. Our apartment is creepy at night. It will be much safer to stay here than the car anyway. Let's go find a place to sleep."

Brad and Ashley led themselves further into the small town, heading down a road that had houses lined up on each side. The inside of each house was dark until Ashley saw the light from the second floor window of a house on their left.

"Brad! There it is."

Brad gazed up. "Maybe we should go say hello."

"What?" Ashley smacked his arm.

"Ow." Brad rubbed his arm.

"I'm not going in there! The guy could be a pervert or some sort of lunatic."

"I was kidding! Calm down, would ya."

The two stared back up at the window but jumped at what they saw. Standing in the window, blocking the light was what looked like an old man in all black, staring down at them.

"Is he looking at us?" asked Ashley

"I think so... let's just wave at the old guy, huh?"

Brad and Ashley awkwardly waved at the old man in the window. The old man didn't wave back or make any motion.

Ashley said, "Maybe he doesn't see us."

"He could be blind."

The old man walked away from the window and the light went out.

"Um... where's he going?" Ashley's voice shook.

"Are you picking up a vibe here?"

"I've been having a vibe this whole time, Brad."

"How about we go down... this street?" Brad pointed to a street that went to the right.

"Okay."

The two scurried to the street, quickening their steps as they moved along. The scratching of gravel occurred, causing Ashley's eyes to widen. "Brad... do you think that guy is following us?"

"There is only one way to find out."

"What's that?"

"To look back. Do you want to?"

"No! You do it."

"How about this," started Brad, "we do odds or evens."

"Okay, odds," agreed Ashley.

"Evens."

As they walked, the two played out odd or evens. Ashley won the game.

"Crap." Brad peeked over his shoulder to look behind them and turned back with wide eyes.

"Well? Is he?"

Brad nodded.

Ashley looked back. The old man was standing at the very end of the road.

"Oh my goodness! Brad! What do we do?"

Brad halted and so did Ashley. He said, "You know what. I'm going to confront him."

"What?! Please don't."

"I don't want this guy following us around. I'm not going to be looking over my shoulder all night. So yes... I'm going to talk to him."

Brad turned to go talk to the old man as Ashley tried to pull him back but he stopped after two steps. The old man was nowhere in sight. Suddenly, a light emerges from one of the houses next to them. The light was coming from the window next to the front door.

"Brad?" Ashley tugged on his arm.

As the light illuminated through the window, a dark figure passed by the window, making way for the door. The light went out.

"Brad?!"

Slowly, as Brad and Ashley stood there, the door creaked open. The couple looked at one another. They dropped their bags and sprinted down the road.

"This way!" Brad took Ashley's hand and they dashed to the left that lead them to a grassy area. They ran through until Brad stopped.

"What are you doing?!" Ashely yelled.

Brad pointed over at a bench in the area where a person cloaked in black sat with their back towards the couple. The person was whimpering. "I think it's a lady crying. We should check her."

"Are you crazy?"

"Maybe that creepy old guy is bothering her. We could help." Brad made his way towards the lady.

"No! Don't go over there," begged Ashley. "Oh, come on." She caught up to Brad and they both walked towards the crying lady. They stood behind the bench as the lady sobbed.

"Miss?" Brad softly spoke.

The lady didn't react. She kept on crying to where her whole body was shaking.

"Um... miss?" Ashley tapped the lady on the shoulder.

The lady turned and both Brad and Ashley screamed. The lady had no eyes and black tears rolled down her face. She cried, "My baby! My baby!" She grabbed Ashley. "Where's my baby?! My baby!"

"Brad!"

Brad grasped the lady's wrist, twisting them away from Ashley. As the lady released her clutch, Ashley fell on her back. Brad helped her up and they ran away from the crying lady who followed them still screeching, "My baby! My baby!"

Brad and Ashley made their way back to the main road. They stopped in the middle of the road when a group of people dressed in black, wandering about, surrounding them. Each person was pale white with gaunt faces. All their lifeless eyes were on Brad and Ashley.

"Brad!"

"What is this?!"

The strange crowd inched closer to the couple, almost blocking them from escaping. As the people crept forward, the only gap that remained was that between the couple and the towering church.

"This way!" Brad pointed at the church.

The couple sprinted away from the people and headed toward the church. At the door, Brad pulled on the handles but the door wouldn't open.

"Brad!"

"Stand back!"

Ashley moved to the side as Brad took a few steps back. The people were climbing up the steps. Brad kicked the door open. The two ran inside and shut the doors on the people. They pushed against the door, keeping it closed. From the outside, the people started to bang against the door nearly pushing the couple away from the door. Ashley screamed. Brad noticed a latch to his right and swung it down to lock the door. The couple backed away. The banging grew and grew until it abruptly ceased.

Brad released a big breath. "Shit!"

"Shit!" Ashley squeaked.

As they stood there staring at the door, the sound of a baby crying echoed through the church halls. Lights from candle-lit lanterns flickered on. Brad and Ashley peeked over their shoulders. Up on the stage, on top of a table covered in a red cloth, sat a tiny wicker basket. And, on the wall in the back of the stage, hung an upside down charred, cross. The crying of the baby shrieked louder, causing Brad and Ashley to cover their ears.

"What the hell!?" yelled Brad.

"I think the baby is in that basket!" Ashley ran up to the basket.

Brad stayed where he was for a few seconds but then ran up to the stage as well. They both eyed the basket that had a blanket over it. Ashley grasped the edge of the blanket and started to remove it off the basket, unveiling the bones of not one but multiple infants. Ashley cried at the sight and started to shake uncontrollably.

"Holy...?!" exclaimed Brad.

"I want to get out of here! I want to... Brad!"

Brad grabbed Ashley by the arms and looked into her eyes. "We're getting out of here. You here me?! It is going to be –" Brad took his attention away from Ashley to the doors. Ashley then saw it too. Standing at the doors was a young boy; a boy almost inhuman with his burning, orange eyes, a snout for a nose, and skin so transparent that his black veins could be seen.

"What is that thing?!" cried Ashley.

From behind them, two hands reached out and seized Brad and Ashley by their shoulders. They jumped and screamed. It was the old man from the window, clutching them. His eyes were all white.

He whispered, "The back door."

Brad and Ashley stood petrified.

The old man yelled, "Go!"

The couple ran around the corner and came upon a door. They opened the door but instead of exiting, they peered back at the old man and the boy. The old man stood on the stage, facing the boy who was approaching him. They glared at one another.

"Come on!" Brad grabbed Ashley's arm exited through the door, which led into an empty basement. There they found a hatch door, leading outside. The couple crawled out of the hatch and made it outside. Brad and Ashley ran into the woods and kept running, dodging trees and fallen branches, until they came back onto the road. They rested at the side to catch their breath. Ashley sat down on the dirt, taking long and deep breaths. She pinched herself in the arm.

"You aren't dreaming, Ashley."

"Then please explain to me what just happened!"

"I wish I could."

Lights flared into their eyes as a car with its headlights on slowed down to where they were. The car parked beside them and the window rolled down. The driver was a scrawny man dressed in a nice buttoned up shirt with his hair slicked back. He asked, "Are yeh two heading toward Ilchester?"

Brad answered, "Honiton."

"I can take yeh as far as Ilchester. Hop in."

Brad and Ashley looked at each other. Brad shrugged and they both entered the car and the man turned it around. The car speeded down the road.

"Yeh two seem a tad startled. Like yeh saw a ghost."

"You have no idea. You wouldn't believe us if we told you," stated Brad.

"Let me guess. Yeh had a little visit in Marwolaeth?"

"How did you know?" asked Ashley.

'"I graft at a hotel in Ilchester. My job is to come to the border of Marwolaeth in search of tourists, fancy yourselves, who have had the misfortune of entering that God forsaken town. Yeh wouldn't believe how many people I've found. Compared to the others, yeh two are handling it all bleedin' quite well. I don't suppose you know the story."

"What story?" asked Brad.

"The story goes back to the 18th century. Some woman, who people believed was a witch, gave birth to a child that they said wasn't part of this world. When the child reached the age of seven, he terrorized the town with its ungodly powers. To appease the child, an infant had to be sacrificed so, every year on the child's birthday, they would feed a newborn to the child."

"Feed?" Brad's voice shook.

"I think I'm going to vomit," remarked Ashley.

"Paper bag. Left side pocket," stated the scrawny man.

Ashley grabbed a paper bag and barfed into it.

"There's also a bottle of water back there for yeh ma'am. Anyway, the town continued this ritual until one day the old pastor couldn't take it anymore. His conscience finally put some sense into him. The old man confronted the child. Pretty bold I'd say."

"Then what happened?" Brad leaned in closer.

"The child killed everyone, including the pastor. He also put a curse on the town so no one would leave. So today when yeh drive during the day the town is not there, which is why it's not on the map. But at night, it's there. And the old pastor and the demon child are at constant war between each other. Some say that it's the pastor that helps the skint souls that enter the town."

"Brad," whispered Ashley, "the old man is the pastor."

Brad asked the scrawny man, "Have you ever been there?"

"Oh, no! I wouldn't dare. The owner of the hotel has, which is why my job exists. Most people don't believe the story or that the town ever existed. I do because of my boss's story and the stories from the people who I have found out here. So uh... did yeh two see him? The boy?"

"Yes... yes we did," stated Brad.

"Well," the scrawny man continued, "yeh two are safe now. I'll go out in the morning to retrieve your things. Are they in your car?"

"The car broke down so we took our bags with us into town," replied Brad.

"Yeh left them in the town? That's going to be a tad of a problem."

Ashley asked, "Are they gone?"

"No, no, it just means they are going to be hard to find because they'll be out in the woods."

"So it really is gone during the day?" Brad gazed into space.

"It certainly is," claimed the scrawny man.

They stayed in the car for 20 miles until they reached the hotel in Ilchester. The two checked in and once they reached their room, they fell onto the bed and lied there, staring up at the ceiling all night. Neither of them could sleep.

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Emily Ericson

I'm an aspiring writer with many stories and opinions to give along with much knowledge to share.

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