The reporter decides to research more. He tries to see if there is something he missed, surely if this nonsense was fake, there would be a clue there. Maybe one with the real history or signs of tampering. He is adamant about finding something, that way I can start my cross examination on the old man. I have been in this game for a long time, I can spot a forgery a mile away he proudly boasts. He looks through again and to his dismay they all seem real. But he notices a book that wasn’t there before. He wonders how he could miss that. It is in the town records but it looks new. Is this my smoking gun he wonders? Or did they set up a trap. In the book is a hollowed out center with a smaller book inside. In the smaller book, is a piece of paper. It says talk to the woman at the swamp, she is the only one that will tell you the truth, but she will mask it in lies. Real useful he snidely declares.
Well I guess the game is starting. I noticed something odd about the paper, it looks as if something was written here. Something someone didn’t want me to see on the back of the paper. Well then, maybe this is my clue?He mutters. He feels eyes on him, this must be something I am not supposed to see. Hmmm…. what should I do…. he decides to not even hide he is trying to find what is missing. On the paper, the missing words say, “this is all his game. Please just leave, don’t be so damned arrogant boy. That book you found is part of it, but you won’t believe what’s on it. That’s what he wants. Please leave.” Are you kidding me he laughs. This game is so pathetic, not even the first night and they are trying way too hard. They must really want people to believe in this Slithering man nonsense. At this point I don’t even want to do it. I almost feel bad for them. They’re trying so hard, it’s almost cute. I guess I will sleep now. Curfew is coming. ooooooh, can’t break it! The reporter complains about the bed to himself. I think the real monster here is the people, they charge people to sleep on this? Now that is a story he laughs. Maybe I can make this an exposé on this dump of a hotel. His eyes are heavy, he falls asleep.
For the first time in years the reporter dreams, he dreams of the woman he left behind, his partner, he dreams of a phone call they had before he left. His partner tells him”are you really going? This story is beneath you. You should be trying to do something good with your skills!” He says, something good, doesn’t pay the bills unless it is a big scoop. I could try to make things better but I’d be in danger and broke. She sighs. He laughs and tells her well this kinda stuff people like to read. I’m the first person to report what is happening in this town, being the first is important. This urban legend crap, the crazies go nuts for it. When I debunk it, they’ll try so hard to say I am wrong. It gets my name out there. She tells him”that’s really stupid”. He tells her, what if I make a deal with the town, because my article, they get tourists, all trying to prove it is real. Me debunking it might be the best thing for them because the crazies. People still visit Roswell and Hopskinville.
These stories will keep happening because of misidentification. I can make money here, don’t you think after the tourists made those towns money the people who covered it were kicking themselves for not trying to get a cut of it? She tells him” or they could reject the deal you wanna offer, get rich off your story and you get pigeonholed into doing this garbage for the rest of your career.” He says trust me, My gut tells me there is something here that is a good story. Good enough that I can make money. She yells”I swear you prefer good stories over sex”. He says, well I am dating you so I never have good sex, so I need good stories to satisfy me. She says”why am I with you?”The reporter wakes up smiling but to his dismay, it is only 4am. URGH! Stupid hotel! Stupid town! I guess I can try to go somewhere….come to think of it, the old man never said when the curfew ends….. damn it.
I probably have to wait for someone to come here. Guess I can read that book. It is part of the game I guess. He reads it and for the first time is creeped out. It is illustrations of the slithering man and has lots of dates and farming schedules. What? He wonders. What are they farming? This small town seems to be making a lot of cash from whatever this is… Drugs? Has to be right? But why wouldn’t I believe that? Is it supposed to make me doubt it? Wait a minute….. says they only farm this every 30 years…. how does it make them money? Then he reads a part that makes him feel stupid. ….. So the slithering man is what makes whatever this money making crop is……I see now why the note said I wouldn’t believe this. This is too stupid. As if on cue a man opens the door. The reporter asks him, where’s the old guy? The man says, “you’ll have to be more specific” the guy that brought me here? He told me about the curfew? The mysterious man says”are you feeling alright boy?” I was the man that what brung ya here.”
No this man was much older and he had this world weariness about him. “Kid I am the town elder, I brung ya here, I told ya about the library. You tryinna add something to your story?” the mysterious man says The reporter thinks, this must be part of their game. But his gut tells him something is very off. Whatever he tells the mysterious man, can I check the financial records? “after accusin me of not bein myself, you got some nerve to boss me around”The mysterious man says. URGH how about the lady at the swamp? “you wanna talk to her? I guess she is colorful and interestin for a story” the mysterious old man says. I do, well first I wanna interview some people. The reporter stops asking what he wanted and tries to get info on the old man. They all say his description is wrong. They even laugh at him. He tries to even cross examine the townspeople but to no avail.
There are no pictures anywhere of him. The townspeople also look terrified and try to make it about the town or the Slithering man. What is there goal? What is happening? This isn’t fun anymore. On the way to the swamp, he gets lost and cannot find the mysterious man. Suddenly he is hit with something wet. The reporter picks it up and it is a bloody piece of clothing from the old man. The reporter is angry and starts screaming WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!? IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY!? He hears slithering everywhere. For the first time he feels fear. Suddenly the dirt moves on its own and it says YOU KILLED HIM. IT WAS YOU. HE PAID FOR YOUR SINS. The floor starts bleeding. The reporter is in awe, this must be a trick. IT HAS TO BE A TRICK. He starts running and the slithering is everywhere and the way to the swamp seems like a labyrinth.
Then as if in the blink of an eye he feel disoriented, sees he never went on the way and is still interviewing a kid from the town. He is more confused. His hands still wet with the blood on the shirt. But no one notices it. The kid tells the reporter” are you okay?” he tells him in a calm kind voice, do you know the old man I mentioned. The kid tells him I have to go now. The reporter loses it and yells to the kid. YOU KNOW SOMETHING!!! The mother comes and takes the kid inside and stares daggers at the reporter. The mysterious man tells him, “best we see the woman at the swamp now before ya start hollerin at another person who doesn’t find your joke funny” The reporter knows in his gut, that what happened was real. He knows. But after that he seems crazy. He knows that. He tries to calm himself down. Tells him he won’t be beaten by crazy hicks.
He says, alright lets go. The reporter knows he underestimated them. He knows now that this place does have some secrets. He intends to find out what they’re doing. Because the game has gone too far. He’s gonna have to take it seriously because something is wrong with these people. He knows it. He’s sure he is not crazy. As he sees the peoples faces as he passes them by, he sees the fear in their eyes, but he was too arrogant to notice it from the moment he stepped out. Fear that was not actually there until the old man disappeared. He’s no longer smiling, this story is no longer fun for him, for the first time he fears he might not make it back to his partner.
TO BE CONTINUED