Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Technological Progress By Patrick O'Donnell

Harold finally caught sight of the village and allowed a deep sigh to escape him. Rain was evidently a permanent citizen of Torne. Even for a place this far north the dreariness seemed peculiar. The history of the area appeared to have lingered in the air well past its welcome. Harold tried not to imagine the long trip back and made his way up the muddy road towards the inn. He instinctively checked his phone; still no signal. The few compact homes scattered around (with considerable space distancing each from another) looked almost abandoned. Harold noticed the mostly faded sign above the door: ‘The White Lamb’. Swallowing hard he pushed the faded inn door open. The smell swiftly caught him unprepared and gave no mercy. Through the clouds of smoke he attempted to venture towards the bar.

“Hello, stranger. What brings you to this place?”, the old one-handed man behind the bar’s tone was difficult to comprehend.

“H-hello, I’m looking for someone actually. Ian Stoker, a businessman from the city, he’s been reported missing by his family. His last reported movements place him somewhere up this way and this is my last hope, to be honest, friend.”

“Huh, hate to disappoint you pal but we ain’t had nobody like that far as I’m concerned. Ain’t had anybody all together in a long while come to think”.

“Are you sure?”, Harold produced his phone from his pocket and opened the picture of Stoker. Rapid whispers flooded the inn as the barman gazed at it with a mix of fear and shock.

“Put it away!”, he almost appeared rabid for a moment. Sorry to yell there friend but we prohibit all damned technology here. We... we will not be controlled or our privacy violated, you understand?”.

Harold knew they weren’t exactly high tech up these parts, but this was a whole new level. Harold’s sleep that night was difficult to say the least as he contemplated the barman’s almost robotic explanation.

The extortionate price the innkeeper had insisted upon would only be the first terror he would experience that night. His insistence that his phone have its battery removed and placed in a lock box outside was ridiculous, but Harold had no choice but to accept it. Conspiratorial thinking was rife these days and it was not unwarranted, yet up here they had to take it a step too far. He would have sworn that there was someone right outside his door, incessantly muttering for much of the night. This was plainly a village that never slept as several men could also be heard downstairs apparently in the midst of some unseen midnight labour.

It wasn’t long after he finally drifted off that Harold was awoken with a start. The barman shook him violently with his working hand.

“You have to leave, now. They’re coming. Tell my family I love them”, Ian said, his moist eyes finally betraying some sincere emotion. They’ll take whatever hand exposed them to the phone. Hurry!”

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