Prologue: Strange Stories From The Sallawalla Diner

There’s a story they tell down at the Ol’ Sallawalla Diner. Not one of those “shoot-the-shit, grab-a-beer” tall tales that a local might tell a traveler when he stops in to get away from the cold. Not something made up on a drunkard’s whim. It’s a story whispered in the dark silence of the night, a cautionary tale of the unexplained. No one knows where or when it originated, but it’s been a part of the town for years. Built into every brick, a wrinkle of worry on every face. Part of their DNA. It’s not a story told to strangers. But you’re not a stranger, are ya?

Picture a dark country road. Middle of the night.

There’s a single street lamp illuminating the dirt path. The black edges of the desert stretch out so far your eyes can’t see the end. An abyss. As if everything in the universe had disappeared, except for the road. The road and the girl.

She’s young. Can’t be more than five or six, wearing a crimson soaked nightgown that leaves a faint, wet trail across the dusty ground. A stuffed, plush cat dangles limply from the girl’s hand, swaying lightly on each step, dripping. The girl’s wild, red hair shines like a fire in the darkness.

When she gets to the street lamp, she realizes she isn’t alone. There’s a man dressed in overalls and a blue cap, wisps of white poking out from underneath. He holds a large broom, like a school janitor, and sweeps away at the never-ending dirt road.

“You’re lost,” he says.

The girl nods.

“Let’s get you home then.”

The man brushes himself off and takes her hand. They begin walking, the broom dragging behind, leaving a thick line that clears away their footprints.

The next morning, a few miles down the road, the line ends.  There are no footprints, no tire tracks. Just an undisturbed country road, with a slash right down the center, as if someone had reached down from above to wipe something away. As if they had vanished in the blink of an eye.

Do people believe the story? Maybe. It’s really just a feeling we all got, the cold chill of the desert night that seeps into your bones while you’re asleep. There’s something out there, something unnatural. We just didn’t have any proof. Until now.

Because the girl is back.