Dagen Valley was a quiet place, separate from the outside world. Rolling hills of forest spread out along all sides of the county road leading into town, the half-hidden welcome sign covered in moss and vines. Harley turned in her seat as they passed it, her attention drawn to ‘Population: 100’ printed on the bottom. In the driver’s seat, Godric laughed. Harley’s lips pressed into a thin line as she slumped into her seat.
“Cheer up, Harley,” Godric reached across the space separating them, his hand landing on hers. Fingers interlacing, the ginger-haired man brought her hand up to his mouth and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. “We did promise your father we’d come up and visit.”
“I know,” Harley ran a hand through her hair, eyes half-lidden as she eyed the sea of green surrounding them. She stroked his thumb with hers, taking comfort in the pressure.
Squeezing his hand, Harley rested her arm on the open window of their car as she said, “We haven’t spoken in ten years, Godric. Then he asks us to come out here, into the middle of nowhere – I don’t know what to think.”
“And that’s fine,” Godric tossed a lop-sided grin her way and Harley rolled her eyes. A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth, a laugh rising into her throat as the car rounded the last bend along the round. As the first small, old-fashioned house came into view, the stones thick with nature’s growth, Godric squeezed her hand. “It’s only for a week. By Saturday, we’ll be home watching TV or eating out at your favorite haunt.”
Nature retreated, the dirt roads straightening out. They drove over a bridge, the large, granite rocks gleaming in the early-morning light. A small pillar stuck out of the ground just before it, faintly glowing. Harley leaned forward, gaze shifting from the odd device on the roadside to the town hidden within the forested hills miles above them. Godric squeezed her hand, drawing her attention away from their surroundings to him.
“You should probably call your dad,” Godric drove them between the old homes, the farmlands around them spacious. A few people stood up, silently watching them as they made their way through the outskirts of Dagen Valley. Harley let go of Godric, leaning into the floorboard to grab her purse as he said, “We’d best to let your old man know we’ll be at his place in a bit.”
Harley tapped the screen of her cell twice, watching as it lit up. Then she paused. It was almost like she was looking at a static-filled television, the screen veiled by white noise. Her screensaver – a picture of her and Godric with a candle tucked between their chests – struggled to rise out of the pale depths of breaking technology. She hit her phone against her palm, her brow furrowed. A moment passed before her screensaver popped up, the battery-cell flashing red.
“Damn it!” Harley rooted through her purse, looking for the micro-phone cable buried in its depths. She tossed her lip balm aside, then her wallet. As her fingers curled around the cord, Godric asked, “What’s the matter?”
“My phone’s almost dead,” Harley plugged the cord into the car charger and then into her phone, attention focused on the screen. It was flickering in-and-out once more, the buttons flashing. She saw the small charging icon appear next to the battery and, the moment the phone cleared, dialed her father’s number. It went straight to voicemail. “Dad, it’s Harley. Godric and I are in town. We’ll be at your place in ten.”
“Your phone’s almost dead?”
Harley tossed the phone onto the dashboard, cord and all. She sank into her chair. She felt Godric’s gaze on her, vibrant blue eyes undoubtedly trying to come to a logical conclusion even as he slowly said, “It was fully charged an hour ago…”
Sighing, Harley gestured to the upcoming street. “Turn left at the stop sign. We’ll follow the road to Verna.”
“Verna?” Godric turned as direction. Harley rolled down the window, eyeing the shops and houses as they made their way past the old, run-down cemetery. Looking back at Godric, she said, “My dad lives in a cul-de-sac, the last house on the hill. You can see it from here.”
She could see it from the car, as they turned onto Harford. Her father’s house was on a winding, dead-ended street that wound up a massive hill. From the car, she could easily see it was as run down as she remembered it to be. It didn’t take them long to reach her father’s home, Godric tentatively parking in the weed-thick, gravel driveway.
Looks like he hasn’t mowed the yard in a while, Harley got out of the car, not quite sure she wanted to attempt getting to the sidewalk leading to the porch. The grass was waist high, the dull brown blades swaying in the early, morning breeze. Not in a few years, anyway. Wonder if he died on our way here…
Godric’s elbow hit her side. Harley shot him a look, her voice low as she asked, “What was that for?”
“I know that look, Harley,” Godric grabbed their bags out of the trunk and turned to eye the overgrown field that used to be a front yard. He stared at the grass for a moment, voice even as he said, “Even if the thoughts running through your head have merit, it isn’t nice to think such things.”
“What was I thinking?” Harley stepped away from the car, her gaze on the chipped, red door on the porch. Behind her, Godric said, “You were likely wondering if your father decided to join the Legion of the Dead, I’d say. Can’t blame you there. I can’t believe anyone would let a yard get like this…”
Before Harley could say anything, the front door was flung open. Harley stopped at the base of the steps as a man with an unshaven face and unruly hair stumbled out of the darkness, a cop on his heels. She barely had time to reel backward as the man said, “I’ve told ya a thousand times, Don! Those black-bellied, government assholes are plotting to burn this town down. Why can’t you see it for what it is?”
“And I’ve told you a thousand times, you’re a delusional old fuck,” Donald retorted, eyes narrowed as he followed the unkempt man down the stairs. Said man in question threw his head back and laughed, voice carrying as he said in response, “Come on, Don! I’m older than you by ten years. You’ve seen the – oh, Harley! You’re here! I haven’t seen you in ages!”
“Godric, grab the bags,” Harley turned on her heels, intent to leave just as heavy arms wound around her from behind. Her feet left the ground, the man’s laughing voice carrying as she was swung about. She grasped the hairy forearms, eyes wide as the man said, “Look, Donny! My baby girl’s finally come home!”