Twenty-two year old Catherine needs to figure some things out in her life- and to come to terms with a tragedy in her pass. She heads out to visit her estranged grandmother in the town of Snarling River. There, she learns of a sinister secret that has been kept hidden for centuries.
The road stretched out in front of the maroon Grand Am seemingly forever. With every kilometer travelled, with forsaken town passed by, more feedom was gained. Problems left far behind in another lifetime, out of sight and out of mind.
Catherine had texted her mother an hour ago to tell her that she was fine before turning off her cell. She knew that she would be receiving about a dozen or so frantic texts if she did not, probably begging her to return home. She decided not to turn it back on unless absolutely necessary. If she truly wanted to emancipateherself, it was necessary to cut this last remaining string which connected her to home.
At 22, Catherine had not been anywhere on her own before. Other than summer camp as a child, the only trips she had ever been on had been with her parents. It was a sad thing, but she understood it. Since the tragic loss of her sister, the world had become more of a threatening place, in both their eyes and hers.
She had not seen her grandmother since her sister's funeral.
Since then, things had happened in her family.
Catherine knew in her heart that loss changed people.
It was already 7:00 in the evening when she pulled into the town of Watkins and was relieved to see a gas station up ahead. The fuel light had come on a ways back, and she had been fearing the worst.
She knew that it would be a couple hours yet before she reached Snarlling River (a rather forboding name for a town she thought) so she was eager to get back on the highway and maybe reach her destination before dark.
After a much needed pee break, Catherine selected a bag of Cheezies- not the healthiest choice of snack she knew but they had been calling her name- and when to wait in line to pay. She noticed, with some annoyance, that a plump man of around 50 who had just paid for his gas was standing at the till talking up a storm to the plump young woman at the till. The girl nodded her head politely, while her eyes silently entreated him to quit his yapping so she could help her next customer.
The man finally turned away from the counter, his blue eyes lighting up at the sight of Catherering- someone new to chat with.
"Hello," he said, a friendly grin spreading across his chubby face. Catherine felt immediately charmed by this guy, even if he couldn't acertain that people were in a hurry. Clearly to this guy, there was no such thing as hurry. Hurry wasn't even in his vocabulary.
"Hey, I haven't seen you around here before? You must be passing through somewhere, because there's no way you want to hang around a dull town like this."
The girl behind the counter gave a sad nod in agreement.
"I'm driving to Snarling River. Visiting someone."
"Snarling River. How are you going?"
"The main highway, through Manton and Broadnax."
The man clicked his tongue and shook his head.
"That road's no good. There's some sort of construction going on there, and that could hold you up for about an hour. And you want to get moving, because there's a storm moving in. Take the service road, and you're like to break an axel that damn thing's so full of potholes."
Catherine broke away from the conversation long enough to pay for her gas and the Cheezies. The man waved to the checkout girl and began to leave. She hastily grabbed her receipt and shoved it into her pocket as she chased him out the door.
"Where do I go then?" She shouted as she clambered out the door.
The man had lit a cigerette and looked at her distarctedly.
"Is there a better way to get to Snarling River."
The man seemed to think for a moment, taking a drag of his smoke before tapping out the ash (causing Catherine to look nervously at the pumps).
"There's Champaigne road just before Manton. It's a grid road, pretty narrow but it will get you where you want to go quicker than the highway or the service road. Just look for the sign on the left side of the highway, and it will take you up to Fish Lake. There you can turn back onto the highway and that will take you to Sarling River."
"Thank you so much," Catherine looked up at the darkening sky with a twinge of concern as she hurried back to her little car.
Starting the vehicle, she mulled over what the man had said. So far, it looked as if her passage to her grandmother's place was not going to be as smooth as she had hoped. She did not feel comfortable taking her car down some rough grid road with a storm on the way. Maybe, with a storm coming, construction would be halted by the time she made it down the highway. Maybe...
She turned to wave to the man as she pulled out of the gas station, but saw that he had disappeared. She opened up her bag of cheezies, cranked up some Johnny Cash and headed down the road.