September 29, 1981:
Aurora Hills, West Virginia was once a thriving town home to over ten thousand residents. Nestled deep within the Appalachian Mountains, the town was settled due to its abundance of lumber and coal deposits in the nearby hills. The picturesque views brought in tons of visitors annually to take in its splendor and beauty, something which greatly benefited the local tourism industry. Owing to the region’s rich natural resources and thriving tourism sector, Aurora Hills enjoyed remarkable prosperity after its establishment in 1922.
60 years later, the town is a shell of its former self. Most people would blame the exodus of its residents on the depletion of the nearby coal mines, or the decline of the lumber industry. But the true reason for the departures has been far more mysterious, and one which the town officials have gone to great lengths in keeping under wraps. A series of disappearances have plagued the surrounding region, with 6 people having gone missing in the last 3 months alone. Historically only happening within the national park boundaries, the occurrences have now migrated well beyond, and most recently within the town itself.
A handful of residents are all that remain of the once vibrant rural community. The residents, and of course, the park ranger station at the edge of town. That’s where I work. I am one of the lucky few tasked to stay behind and keep an eye on things. At first it was mostly fire watch duty and dealing with the rare animal encounters. Now my job description has shifted towards search and rescue. But mostly just searching, we rarely find any sign of those who have gone missing. Only a handful of them have returned. The one’s who have don’t have any recollection of what had happened to them, ensuring that any new leads we find vanish as quickly as they arrive. We don’t get any help from the authorities anymore, they see it as “throwing good money after bad”.
Luckily I have been assigned a new partner, first new person around here in two years. She seems keen on finding these missing folk. I wonder how long her optimism will last. Six months? A few years at most? God knows I’m nearing the edge of my rope. Even so, it’s been nice having someone new around, a break from the predictable routine. She has been talking about heading out on a reconnaissance expedition sometime deep into the nearby national park.
I have to admit, with all these disappearances I don’t like going out into the forest much anymore. I feel uneasy whenever I’m in those woods. Especially with that fog, it seems to reach farther up the valley each year. I should mention that to her before I forget: stay away from the fog…
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