"It's a quiet rural town, you'll love it,"
"I don't want to go, it sounds boring,"
"I promise you'll have fun. You'll make plenty of friends, maybe even meet a girl you'll like,"
"It can happen!"
1998. An ecological disaster of untold proportions reached a climactic breaking point in southern Pennsylvania, in rural Old Ackerby.
The history of the town was based on the coal mines underneath the streets, which were thought to have been depleted long ago. Its economy flourished in the mid-to-late 1800s, and it slowly became an afterthought in the minds of avid industrialists by the early 1920s. Ever since then, it remained small and forgotten at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, relying on local business and tourism for economic survival.
Yet something happened that no one could predict.
On the morning of September 23rd, 1998, the town suddenly began to shake violently. The streets broke apart and windows shattered. Immediately, an evacuation was called for. About 1,000 of the town's estimated population of 6,000 refused to heed the evacuation. The events of that morning could only be described as unforgettable. Within hours, visibility dwindled down to absolute zero. Smoke clogged the highways, making rescue attempts impossible. Even when vehicles could penetrate the thick smog, all they found were blazing remnants of streets. The cement and asphalt had begun to melt away, and further voyages into the town were abandoned. It and the surrounding area were quarantined indefinitely.
Somehow, the old assumedly depleted coal mines were ignited and triggered an acute volcanic reaction underneath the town like a fuse leading down to hundreds of megatons of dynamite buried a mile underground. But while the underbelly of Old Ackerby burned with a raging inferno, helicopters scanning the area could visibly make out the structure of the town. It had not fallen or disappeared at all, merely became isolated from the rest of the world by thick columns of smoke and ash. Still, anything that went into Old Ackerby never came out.
The residents who stayed there were never heard from again.
"See Dustin? Old Ackerby, only a few more miles ahead! Geez, this fog is really thick, my brights aren't working at all. Can barely see the road..."
"Mom, are you sure this is the right direction? We've been driving for hours,"
"We'll be okay honey, it's only a little fur - what's he doing? Dustin GET DOWN!"
While those who lived in Old Ackerby know of its current condition, it seems like a dark and forbidden secret to the rest of society. Former residents don't talk about it. Detectives investigating missing persons can't find any evidence. Tourists still think it's a perfect little rural town to visit on their way to other cities in the state. Rescue officials who were part of the operations surrounding the town make it a point to keep their mouths shut about what they saw. Even visual and recorded evidence of the event are exceedingly difficult to come by, with fleeting video clips of people shouting and poorly-taped shots of the fire only accessible on the deep parts of the Internet. By that point, it's only usually dismissed by the common public as a snuff film.
There are even recordings of people running out of the smoke screaming and completely doused in flames, with onlookers trying to put them out with blankets.
Again, it's only usually ignored for the wider evidence and popular opinion that Old Ackerby is still intact and untouched.
The number of traffic accidents on Route 523 going to Old Ackerby has increased by 24% ever since 1999.
"Dustin? Not in the car... Where's the other car? I know I saw someone. Dustin! Where are you? Dustin! I-Is... is anyone here?"
It creates a soft atmosphere. The streets are empty, choked with a thick mist. Clouds of it block anything from being seen unless it's close enough to have already made out the details. Pallid, these colors of brick and mortar - a blank slate with no human touch. Almost void of anything distinctly alive, like it was built and forgotten within minutes. Nobody lived in these buildings. Nobody bought and sold what they loved. Nobody ate, slept, or spoke between these walls. The echoes of conversations are still there. Remnants of happenings so distantly mortal are just lying there on the floors and on the long cobbled streets.
This town is a corpse.
But its eyes are darting back and forth.
Maps exist of the town. Guidelines for tourists hang next to them, pointing to the local museums and aquariums. There is only one hospital in the entire area, one nursing home, and one mental ward. One prison as well. For some reason these are all left on the wall, but the place where they should be on the map is torn off. Walking into the town along the 523 doesn't take much time. Getting out is an entirely different story. Little does anyone know, 523 ends with a tunnel going through a small mountain. It collapsed years ago, when the town burned. There is no way inside from that highway, yet those unfortunates who are trapped within the spell of Old Ackerby always seem to find a way.
Old Ackerby is a place where the guilty end up finding themselves. Their fears, their anxieties, their melancholies...
To the town, nothing is kept secret. It all comes to the surface eventually, either in bursts or all at once.
Inherent malevolence does not exist. It is not meant as a trial where people die and only the strong survive. Mental stability by the end is a measure of success, if there should be any victory in leaving the town. Mostly it is a journey of self. A voyage of discovery meant for the individual, not for society. What happens on the inside changes according to the person traveling along that lonely road.
They're either looking for Old Ackerby, or Old Ackerby is looking for them.
"An account that is brief, yet substantial. The only evidence of what goes on in that town. The only guaranteed piece of spoken or written word that is not already vanished or somehow otherwise gone. As requested by the person or persons responsible, all names and identities have been withheld."
I take it back. I take it all back.
I was driving down Highway 523, with my son, thinking we could start a new life somewhere. Somewhere away for a while, far away. Home didn't seem like home anymore, so we packed up and left in the middle of the night. It must have been early in the morning when this all happened. I slept for a couple of hours beforehand. The road didn't seem straight sometimes. Traffic didn't exist on this road, and yet we... we had a wreck. Only, we didn't.
It felt like a head-on collision. The other car must have been going at least eighty miles per hour and they were driving in our lane. They wanted to crash into us, and it would have been fatal... if... if it had really happened. I know this sounds strange. I know this makes me appear like a lunatic. When I woke up I checked my watch, and it was around noontime. The first thing I noticed was that the car was intact. I had somehow pulled over to the side of the road. There was no other car, or even signs of a wreck. Nothing... happened. I looked to see if my son was okay, but he wasn't there with me. His door was left ajar, and the lights inside weren't on. The battery was dead. I took what I could carry, like my keys, wallet, things I could imagine needing on the open road - like a knife and a flashlight with extra Duracells.
Calling out his name would have been stupid, especially in the thick fog. I had no idea if anyone else was around. I don't remember ever seeing so little in the middle of the day. I also noticed that there were no skid marks anywhere on the road. No signs of a sudden stop, almost as if I had just glided the car to a perfect stop on the side of the road and parked it there for no reason.
The flashlight wouldn't have worked at all with the sun hanging overhead, so I just kept walking forward, following the road in the direction I was driving in. The last thing I remember before passing out besides the oncoming car was a sign: Old Ackerby, 3 Miles ahead.
I started walking.
There are things in this town that should not be disturbed.
Old Ackerby is decrepit, and angry.
A phenomenon has occurred within the borders of the isolated neighborhoods and commercial street corners. Underneath the veil of secrecy and immortal sin, there lies a beating heart of depravity. It is a soulless escapade, a broken dream come true in the final curtain calls of a forgotten stage play. The works of a distant poet are rewritten and repurposed while he silently screams his heart into those dreary and grim stories. His typewriter burns with effort, each letter a fragment of dissonance in a surmounting epic saga of lost pride.
It is the rising presence of something that has been buried within the town - for how much time no one now recollects. It is a philosophy of pain, the adventure of scions and psychopaths living for the moment when they can emerge in full broad array. For now they must remain quiet as the rolling mists. Their Dead God is still so far away, so eerily distant and yet his whispers are so irrefutably close. Drawing in their attentions, their waking nightmares, ever living breathing second dedicated to listening for that next shred of cosmic awareness. This is their hope. This is their ambition, to live for this eldritch thing they know not the shape or quality of.
This is their Cult, and they bring their empty promises to Old Ackerby with a stalwart vengeance, for that town is an epicenter of strife and mayhem ever since its founding. On another world, in another time, the footprint of an angry god came here and vanished. His rage shattered and splintered down into the dimensional wall, growing thinner and thinner as a root of a conifer tree, down until it barely became noticeable. Through the ebbing streams of time and thought and reality, that apocalypse became centered here and stayed alive. It kept the fires stoking and the hatred of the town burning even as the blood of settlers and pioneers stopped draining into the gutters. Old Ackerby is filled with hate.
It is a dreadful place, full of dour tidings and unsettling folk.
Some of whom, have returned to their grim beginnings...
There is a fine line between the Devil and God.
I tried. I honestly did. But seeing Dustin look at me and run down that alleyway did something to me. He was avoiding me. Or, maybe he didn't want to come near me anymore. I didn't understand at first. I thought I wanted to. He's been so distant to me, like I don't even exist sometimes. It all started with his father leaving.
I couldn't let him go. I followed him down that corridor. He kept leading me down, further and further until I couldn't even breathe anymore. After a while I didn't even catch a glimpse of him. I had no idea where I ended up. My life spiraled out of control, there in the deep parts of that town. Grinding all around me, my brain about to catch on fire. My skin burned and I couldn't see.
I wanted to die. But something kept me going. I wanted to be with my son again. I wanted to know that he was safe.
"This is where she trailed off. She and her son have returned to their hometown and never spoke openly of Old Ackerby again. What they witnessed in that town will forever remain theirs. I couldn't bear myself to let this leak into the public. That family and anyone who experienced something like that didn't need to be hounded any further. This is the first and last openly-discussed case concerning Old Ackerby, from my side of the story. I'm just a detective. Hopefully whoever's reading this will do the same and not pursue the matter into unsavory places."
We are a fragment of His Will.
We are a shard of His Power.
We are a spark of His Anger.
We are a whisper of His Voice.
We are nothing. We are His Hand.
The Dead God speaks to us.
The Dead God crawls towards us.
Those who hold sermon here are those whose lives are forgotten and discarded. Their purpose is nothing now, save for the unknown and malevolent guidance of a pale-handed wanderer dressed in black. These are the footsteps of a secret order, a priestly sect of both elitist and commonwealth who have abandoned everything for the barest promises of substance. Delirious, they march into the mists, never to be seen again, having long ago gone unseen in the cavities of society. Building up in the dark, a rising tide of influence and deception upon which the winds of torment howl a languid song.
They have all seen that town in the hills, Old Ackerby. They've watched it burn a thousand times in a sordid affair of lucid palpitations, their hearts swelling and popping in their chests. Minds wracked with decay and moral ambiguity strain to comprehend the message, though there is none. None save for the purpose of their Many-Angled King - go and kill. Kill and bathe in the carnage you wreak. It is no longer the time to wallow in self-deprecation. No longer will you stand idle and observe as the world tears itself apart. Butcher your neighbors. Burn their homes. Come to Old Ackerby, and become part of the Dead God.
His living corpse descends upon us all.
"He made a sound like a deflating balloon
He choked and fell down, a grave filled too soon"