I have ever been afraid of the tree-lined hills around my town. The starkness of their limbs seems to scream at me, for even in the height of spring they barely hold a hint of green. No one else ever thought it strange and seemed quite taken aback anytime I happened to mention it. I have always believed that those hills are the reason that we never acquire new town members. Travelers pass through and look around at the barren trees on the glassy slopes of the surrounding hills and turn quickly back the way they came. I can see it in their eyes, the acknowledgment that there is something wrong with that landscape. No one else notices. No one else believes.
I blame the first disappearances on those hills, and the ones after on the fact that people went out into the tree filled, rolling landscape to look for the missing. Their mistake for ignoring what I could see.
There are currently twenty-three people missing. That may not be a large amount to any other town, but Alcot can only lay claim to a couple hundred individuals. It is quite a punch to us, and more people disappear as the days go by. Some can be seen wondering off of their own accord, but others simply vanish without a word or witness.
The sheriff refuses to call for state or federal assistance, even though he has already lost both of his deputies to those hills—the first his own flesh-and-blood son. It is passing strange that the sheriff never went to look for his son. It is even more strange the power these hills have over a community which refuses to acknowledge the existence of any power, save that of God.
Their mistake, and no one but me to correct it. And what am I to do about the matter? I may be the only one in my town with the power to sense the wrongness of the hills—and their ghostly trees—but I hold no other power, not even that which is granted with adulthood. I am seventeen years old, and my right of passage lies seven months away—if there are even any of my townsfolk remaining by then to see me through it. I cannot wait that long to enter the woods.
I toss my hair behind my shoulder with a quick shake of my head. No, I cannot even wait until the coming day dawns—my dreams have told me this much. If I do not enter the hills tonight, my mother will be the next to disappear. I do not question this knowledge. I have always had unexplainable knowledge, and it has never failed me in its truth. I no longer question why I have it. The answer is quite simple really—all knowledge is given so that it can be used. I am given this knowledge because I am the only one who will act on it. The only one with faith in ungodly things, which can be sensed simply by looking at those tree-lined hills.