“You have no new messages. First saved message.” the robotic words of the voice message system echo slightly in the rest stop bathroom. Tim knows well what the message will say. He's listened to it over a dozen times. He needs to listen to it. Remind himself that it's real and not another hallucination.
“Tim,” Jay's voice crackles over the recording, “I don't know what's going on. I don't know how I got here. I'm in some... Some place. It's foggy but I think the sign says Silent Hill?” he paused, breathing heavy into his phone, “It- Everything's wrong here! The place is abandoned and I keep getting attacked by dogs and I keep hearing something flying around.” the sound of running, creaking of stairs, “Listen, Tim I don't know if any of this is making sense, but I need you to help me. Please. I'll be here... Silent Hill...” the connection goes to static before cutting off with a beep.
Tim gave a heavy sigh, looking up from his phone to the mirror that hung on the dirty rest stop wall. He'd shaved. First time in a while he'd trusted himself enough with a razor. First time in a while he'd felt like himself. He pulled himself away from the frightened-eyed man in the mirror, throwing the disposable razor in the trash on his way outside. Fog rolled up from the lake down in the valley. It was thinner here, looking as thick as soup down over the town. That was Silent Hill, according to the signs he'd followed off the freeway. The road ahead was out, something about a sinkhole. But there was a path, narrow and winding, leading from this rest stop down the hill. It was too hard to see past the first bend, but Tim just knew that the path would get him into town. It had to.
The parking lot was barren. Just his car and some lonely van that looked like it’d been there for a while. No one came to Silent Hill anymore. There'd been some accident or something. He'd skipped those particular search results. Tim passed the van and took the steps down to the park path two at a time.
The fog through the trees made him paranoid. Anything could be hiding in there. It felt oppressive and unnatural. It was almost the same feeling he got from staring down the Operator. He jammed his hands in his pockets, grabbing the only bottle of pills he had left. He couldn't take one now, not if he wanted them to last till he found Jay, but he had them. He would be safe. They both would. He just had to remind himself of that. Keep your eyes on the path and walk. A mantra in his head. The path was long but it didn't take much time to travel. It sloped gently down into a large open field dotted with gravestones. “A Cemetery?” he mumbled to himself. Why would anyone end a nature trail in a cemetery?
Across the lot he could see a figure moving in the mist. A young woman with short dark hair was wandering from headstone to headstone, reading the engravings before shaking her head and moving on. Tim stood a moment, watching and wracking his brain for a way approach her without seeming strange. He needed directions but interrupting a mourner was quite possibly the worst thing to do. “Um, excuse me?”
The woman yelped, leaping up and away from where she's been tracing the lines of a long worn headstone. She stuttered, “I-I'm sorry... I-I... I was just-”
“No, sorry, I didn't mean to scare you.” Tim held his hands up in an effort to calm her. She seemed scared, like she'd been caught trespassing. If anyone was trespassing here it was him. “It's just... I'm lost.”
Her face screwed up in confusion. How could anyone get lost in a graveyard? How could anyone get so lost they WIND UP in a graveyard? “Lost?”
“Er,” he felt incredibly stupid, “Yeah. That path back there?” he thumbed over his shoulder at the trail he'd followed down from the parking lot, “That leads to Silent Hill right?”
“Um, yeah. It's hard to see with all the fog but there's only the one road. You can't miss it.” she shrugged and wrapped her arms around herself. Even in the knit sweater she was wearing she must have been cold.
“Thanks...” he stepped back, now was as good of a time as any to escape the increasingly awkward conversation.
“Wait!” she reached after him.
“I think you'd better stay away. This uh... this town... there's something... wrong with it. It's kinda hard to explain but...” she trailed off.
“Jay said as much.” He heaved a sigh, if Jay really was here that could be bad news. “Is it dangerous?”
“Maybe... And it's not just the fog either... It's...”
Tim held up a hand to stop her. “Thanks, for telling me. I'll be careful.” he turned to head into town again. Jay might be in danger and he was not going to fail him again.
“I'm not lying!” the woman called after him.
“It's not that I don't believe you it's just... I have to go, whether it's dangerous or not. I have to.”
“My friend... I'm looking for him. He's supposed to be here and I have to help him. I'd do anything to see him again.” Tim could feel a blush threatening his cheeks, what on earth had made him phrase it like that? It made him sound like a love struck fool.
“Me too.” she turned to look over the graves, “I'm looking for my mama- I mean... my mother. It's been so long since I've seen her.”
Tim looked from the woman to the graves, then to the path into town. If she was looking for her mother in the cemetery...
“I thought my father and brother were here, but I can't find them either...” she paused to rest her hand on a nearby stone, “I-I'm sorry... It's not your problem-”
“No it's fine!” he reassured her, “I'll uh.. Keep an eye out for them. I hope you find them.”
“Yeah you too...”
She didn't stop him as he turned down the path a third time. He knew if he did run into her family he'd have no way of knowing who they were. The town was mostly abandoned except for a few die hard citizens so he could only hope that it would be easy. He knew what it was like to be lost and alone, hoping for someone, anyone, to come help you. Tim almost wished he'd offered to stay with her so they could look together, but he knew how dangerous just being around him tended to get. It was bad enough that he’d dragged Brian and everyone into his problems, he didn’t want another innocent getting hurt.
The exit of the cemetery was a huge metal gate that he had to throw his entire weight onto to get it to move. Years upon years of rust had sealed the hinges shut. The gate squealed and groaned, but eventually it opened wide enough to squeeze through and stayed that way.
The path was once again winding through the forest. One side lined with a dilapidated wooden fence. Tim could have sworn he heard feet crunching through the underbrush alongside him. As if there was someone following him from just out of sight. He shoved the paranoia out of his head forcefully, making himself stay focused on getting to town and trying to find Jay. He passed a sign that read 'Silent Hill Ranch', “At least I'm going the right way.” As much as he tried to ignore the noises there was no doubt that there was something rustling around just past the fence. A dog, Tim reasoned with himself, or a deer. It couldn't be the Operator, that thing was silent, and all the people he knew that snuck around watching other people were dead...
The fences fell away to a wide open field, then the concrete side of the highway came into view. There were no cars and the side was covered in vines and cracks. No one had driven this segment in years. Here the path widened out and became a one lane road, curving underneath the overpass and leading to a chain link fence. “Danger, keep out.” Tim read out loud. “As if trespassing signs ever did anything.” He opened the gate and walked through to Silent Hill. The road was barely wide enough for a single vehicle with a tall cliff face on one side and a sheer drop on the other. It was unnervingly silent. The only sounds his footfalls and the faint howling of the wind. Tim almost preferred the dog-deer-stalker-thing he’d left behind. It was at least ten minutes before the road opened up, the cliff side curving away to the right and leveling out on the left. Soon Tim began to see the starts of civilization, if you count long closed, vaguely racist tourist attractions and 7 foot privacy fencing civilization. And then suddenly he was at a cross roads. The fog had gotten so thick he could hardly see ten feet in front of him but he didn't bother to look for cars before crossing to the other side.
Across the street he found what looked to have once been a flower shop. Outside on a bench laid an open first aid kit and a small backpack. It looked a lot like the one Jay'd been living out of the past few years but Tim knew it couldn't be. That backpack had been in Jay's car the day he abandoned it. The only things Tim had kept had been the laptop, the camera, and the tapes. The bag looked to be in pretty good shape and it was mostly empty. A couple scraps of blank paper, a shopping list that included primarily junk food, three markers (red, black, and green), and a slightly crumpled map of town. The map had been drawn on, places where the road was out had been scribbled over in black and a couple places had been circled in red. At the bottom was a small note 'I hope one day this may be of use to someone – Heather Mason'.
“Thank you, Heather.” Tim tucked the map into his pocket, snapped the first aid kit shut and stuffed it into the backpack. Now that he had a map all he had to do was orient himself and finding Jay would be much, much easier.
Tim decided that left was as good of a direction as any and set off into the ever present fog. There hadn’t been any street signs that would be any help on the way into town. Near the end of the road there was a figure moving through the fog. It was too far away to see them properly but they were stumbling, holding themselves around the middle, and hunched as if in pain. “H-Hey!” Tim called, running in order to catch up.
Tim’s foot caught on something slick and he slammed face first to the ground. It took Tim a moment for his mind to catch up to his body as he lay stunned in the street. He’d fallen. Slipped on something thick and red and… Oh God this was blood! He jumped to his feet with as much care as he could muster in his rush to get away. Three long streaks of blood painted the road. It looked almost like something or someone had been hit by a car but there was no body in sight. There was too much, whatever it was couldn’t have survived, could it? He glanced to where the figure had disappeared into the fog. Could the blood be from whoever that was? He had to hurry.
For the first time in his life Tim was glad he’d been running around in the woods with a mask. As he ran down the road after whoever it was he was chasing he passed more blood streaks on the ground. As much as he tried to ignore them he had to follow them. He’d lost precious time when he’d fallen and if these were from the person he had to catch up, and fast. Straight past the first intersection, past the monument to something he didn’t have time to read, left here, the road turned from asphalt to gravel. He kept running. On either side of him the street was lined with barbed wire fencing. A farm? Was that person trying to get home or something? There had to still be a doctor in town right? Tim passed through a gate with another Caution sign, blood on the ground here as well but not as much, this was the right way. Another overpass, this one surrounded by barrels and barred up with wooden planks. He could see the person cowering inside against the wall. Somewhere a radio blared horrible static.
“Hey!” Tim leaned against the wooden barrier and caught his breath. “Are you ok? I didn’t mean to scare you.” He slipped between the cracks. “There was blood and you looked hurt I just-“
It had turned to face him. The- the monster he’d followed didn’t have a face, or hands, or real arms. What had looked like it holding itself was its skin stretched tight across where its limbs should be, giving it the appearance of being in a straight jacket. From the neck to the middle of its chest was a giant gaping wound. It moved in a twitchy, unnatural way, advancing on Tim quickly. It jerked the wound open with an unnatural scream, spraying Tim with its blood.
Tim fell back against the barrier with a cry. It burned! It felt like he’d been hit with boiling water or acid. Tim grabbed one of the loose boards and swung blindly. He swung, again and again and again until it stopped moving. The radio cut out with a sudden click as the weapon collided the final time.
“What was that thing?” he backed as far away as he could, just in case it got back up. “Is it dead?” He knew he was talking to himself but it was better than silence. Anything after that scream was better than silence. It couldn’t have been human, no way. He’d killed a monster. It wasn’t human.
Tim curled in on himself and sat against the wall. What if it had been human? What if he was just hallucinating? With shaking hands he fished his pill bottle out of his pocket and took one. It wasn’t time for his medication yet but if he had been hallucinating the- the thing, would go back to being human. And so he waited. And waited. Five minutes, that’s how long they were supposed to take to kick in and the dead thing was still a monster. Was it better to know he hadn’t killed a person or that he had killed a monster? This was what the girl in the cemetery had meant. There were monsters here. At least these monsters you could kill. But Jay, he’d never been much of a fighter and he couldn’t be stealthy to save his life! Tim would have to find him fast.
With renewed resolve Tim picked himself up. He kept a firm grip on the wooden board, it could come in handy if more of those things showed up. As he readied himself to squeeze through the barrier again the radio blared back to life. Through the static he could make out Jay’s voice, but it was too garbled to hear more than a few words. “Tim… I’m… …er… Wait…g… …el… …ca… …hel…”
“Jay?” He grabbed the radio and held it up to his ear but the broadcast had already stopped, leaving just faint static behind. “What the- what’s going on in this town?” The radio was small and old, but if Jay had been able to contact him though it once he might be able to do it again. Tim clipped it to his belt and climbed through the barrier. Jay was here, he was waiting for him. All Tim had to do was find him.