The red stationwagon pulled into the car parking space at the top of the hill overlooking the polluted desolation of Pepper Grange. Garry opened the passenger side door and stepped out, the crunch of gravel under his shoes disturbing the birdsong for the briefest of moments.
"You're a bastard," said Lucy as she turned off the ignition and got out of the car. "You knew we were running late. Now we have to eat here."
Garry leaned back into the car and pulled out the soggy paper bag from Whiffleking, smiling to himself.
"Dealing with bugs and leaves and... fuck!" Lucy shivered. "Eating outside is for cavemen. Your cavemen."
"My cavemen are only cavemen for a few weeks," answered Garry, "And then we turn them into psychos and then we turn them into businessmen and lawyers and accountants. And anyway, they eat inside."
They walked over to the picnic table, a rusted collection of mouldy green planks covered in birdshit. The sun was slowly inking its way down over the distant hills and the air had the frosty bite of oncoming storm.
"Ominous," said Lucy, as she sat down and pulled out a few fries to stuff into her mouth.
"Yeah, I don't think you're supposed to telegraph a situation with 'ominous'," said Garry. "Normal people use 'creepy' or 'weird'."
"Well, why the fuck have I driven us to this creepy, weird place then?" asked Lucy. "The last time we were here was for Cleanup. It was a shitty place then, and now it's a shitty, spooky place with bad memories."
Garry sat next to his wife and looked out across the valley. The slate grey factories that dominated the town of Pepper Grange were constantly spewing dense, black smoke into the air. Car headlights were the only sign of semi-intelligent life as people travelled home for the evening. Stretching across the valley, cutting the town in two, ran the River Piper as it flowed from the mountains in the north down to Collinsville at the coast.
"Used to be houses here," said Garry. "Nice houses with nice people living in them. Now look. Seven years. Progress."
Lucy put her arm around him and said, softly, "Honey, it had to change. After... the Incident, and the suspicions, and those missing kids... people had to get away."
Garry turned and looked into her eyes. "I don't want to work there anymore."
"Oh, Honey, I know. We'll work it out. We'll find a way. If we need it, we've got my folks. They can help us get through until you find something new."
"It won't change anything though. They company doesn't need me anymore. So they'll continue. I don't- I don't want my kids wandering the streets with the monsters."
"Our kids. We do this together, remember?"
Garry smiled and turned back to the sun.
"So why here?" asked Lucy.
"Wait for it."
As the sun finally dropped behind the mountains with the faint green flash of pollution, the howling started.

The End

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