It was a wonderful place to live, if you followed the rules.
The rules were easy to follow, so easy in fact, that no one had ever really needed to be told about them. Being at home before ten was best, though it didn’t get really dangerous until after one a.m. This seemed to suit everyone. Children had a clear and delineated curfew, and the adults had to be home to enforce it. Date nights could go on late if one had a car, then it was much, much safer. The only bar in town opened until twelve and they were happy to sell cans and bottles of booze to those who wanted to continue drinking one they arrived, safely, home. There was nothing stopping you from staying outside of course, everyone just drifted home and closed the curtains. It always seemed to be just a bit too chilly to enjoy staying out any longer, a bit too dark, a bit too spooky.
No one really knew what happened if you stayed out, it had been a long, long time since anyone had tried. Every few years there is some talk around the school, that someone’s going to break curfew, but no one ever does. It’s that easy kind of rumour that springs up and dies on it’s own every once and a while.
Then of course, there was the house on Lexi. It was best avoided if possible. There was nothing wrong with it, it didn’t look abandoned, it was, in fact, well maintained. The lawn was always bright green and the perfect length, all year round in fact. The windows were always clean, though curtains blocked any view of inside. The flowers were perfectly placed in their beds, cycling through the seasons. Lights came on and went off, but no one ever actually entered or exited. Occasionally you could hear a garage door opening and the dull rumble of an engine, but if you were to look out at the house, you’d see nothing at all. The neighbours either side treated it as though it wasn’t there and the postman unthinkingly skipped over it on his morning rounds, there was never anything for that house. Sometimes neighbours would talk to one another in hushed whispers, with glances thrown back over their shoulders, about a strange noise they heard during the night. Of course no one ever saw anything.
Let’s not forget about Meadow Hill, which should never be travelled alone. Only if you’re carpooling. It was never acknowledged by anyone, but people would always find themselves distracted and they’d miss the turn, adding on a few minutes to their journey with a shrug and “oh well, too late now.” Or they find they suddenly remember they needed to pick up milk, so they drive to the convenience store just a little further up the road. There are of course, other roads, ones that must never be travelled under any circumstances, but those roads have long since been forgotten. If anyone asked about the road that connected east street and Silverwood, the one that ran besides Nan’s Bakery and came out at Stanley’s Supplies, they’d be looked at as though they were insane, after all, everyone knew those roads were never and had never been connected.
The public buildings all had at least one room, a room which no one ever entered. Everyone assumed that the door was locked and the key was misplaced long ago and of course, there is no reason on earth that anyone would want to go into a dusty old storage room that was probably just full of broken junk. Had anyone ever tried the door they’d find that it was, in fact, unlocked and the things inside were far greater and immeasurably terrible than previously thought.
There were these things and more, simple rules, ones that were easy to follow. If you obeyed the rules, as most people did, then everything was good. Very good in fact. Illnesses were few and far between, as was alcoholism, though any alcoholics either quickly found their way to an AA meeting, or they’d disappear from the town with no note or forwarding address. People in the town seemed slightly luckier than those outside it too, winning prizes and raffles, sometimes never even knowing that they had entered. The water was sweet and pure, the fruit was always delicious, there were many benefits to living there, if you knew the right way to do it. Families would move to the town with some regularity, but most moved on soon after. Those that stayed would flourish, settling down and growing roots in the community. Those that moved on would just smile at the mention of the towns name and tell you that they lived there, however briefly, and that it really was a wonderful place, then they’d quickly and adeptly change the subject. They wouldn’t tell you about the unease at night, or the houses that gave you chills or the roads that were always, always empty. They wouldn’t tell you of how late at night they would lie in their bed, listening as something gently scratch scratch scratched against the window, seeking to be let in. They wouldn’t tell you of the uneasy sleep and unpleasant dreams, that would always come later, at night when they were lying in bed, listening for that sound at the window, waiting for the faint unearthly shrieks that sometimes echoed through the town, but those noises never came. The town had rules and if a family left, the town would leave them alone, it no longer had claim over them after all, you were free to come and go as you please, as long as you followed the rules.