I apologize for the delay in this second post. My weekend was busy, though I feel quite a bit refreshed since I first brought my story to you. I did notice a few more stares than usual from the locals when I went out for groceries on Saturday, though. Does everyone already know what I'm doing with this blog?
Speaking of the residents of Pale Forest, I thought I'd spend some time describing them and the town so that you might have a better idea of what I'm dealing with. They're an odd lot-- coming from me this might not mean as much, I realize-- so I hope I can do this justice.
Pale Forest, to an outsider, would probably appear to be a fairly ordinary town. There isn't much to look at, really. This is likely why there are so few visitors (that and the odor coming from the paper mill). There's a town square with a few musty stores and the usual government buildings, a small strip mall on the outskirts of town where we do most of our shopping, the usual assortment of gas stations, a school, a bowling alley, and the paper mill. The rest is a smattering of houses, with the majority clustered around the mill, which had previously been the town's lifeblood. As I said last time, the mill is not as prosperous as it once was. In fact, the layoffs that came with the shuddering of many of the mill's facilities reduced the population of Pale Forest by quite a bit. Or so I've been told-- this all happened back when I was ten and I don't remember it well. I do recall my father being one of the few who kept his job, though. Had he not been, we likely would have a packed up and left with the others.
The people of Pale Forest are just as run down as the buildings. Let me start by saying that I have nothing against the elderly. This town, however, is simply full of them for whatever reason. And they are all the type that stare as if they're "keeping an eye on you". It's unnerving. The lack of kids and teenagers is also unnatural. I went to school here and, even though I had few friends thanks to being painfully introverted, I remember other children. Now there are so few, they've all been lumped into a single school building. It's as if the town is rotting from the inside out.
At this time, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to go back and describe the mill since it's impossible to talk about Pale Forest and not include it. It has, in fact, existed for as long as Pale Forest itself, the trees surrounding the town having been used to make paper for centuries. The locals had apparently fought its expansion for years before finally allowing outsiders to move in and work the mill. My father, a man of few words, rarely spoke of his job. Maybe he thought it was too boring. I do remember his face often being an ashen color, much like the trees themselves, after work. The mill has since gone back to only being operated by "natural born" residents again, which is fine by me. The official story is that the supply of trees had dwindled under the stress of the larger mill. I can't really comment on this other than to say I certainly never felt as if there were less of those thin, cruel giants fencing us in.
I thought I'd conclude this entry with a recent story about the mill. Since moving back after college (I will describe the circumstances behind that unfortunate decision at a later date), I have noticed that the mill has begun running at night and is mostly closed during the day. This was tremendously puzzling. In fact, it was my questions regarding this that first raised a flag with the residents of Pale Forest. Since no one seemed willing to explain, and given my curiosity getting the better of me, I eventually drove there after dark to take a look myself. The first thing that caught my attention was the new fences that had been put up. They were at least seven feet tall, topped with seemingly unnecessary barbed wire. While the mill had always had some sort of wall around it, these new structures made the mill look less like a factory and more like a prison. Despite the impression of heightened security from the walls, there was no one stationed at the front. There were, however, lights on and the humming of equipment could be heard from inside the compound. I wandered around for a half or hour or so (though I probably lost track of time), before a familiar sound distracted me. It was similar, God help me, to the grinding I had heard when I was a child, though far louder and slightly more mechanical in nature. This time it seemed to be coming from the mill instead of everywhere at once. Perhaps I should have investigated more thoroughly, but I'll have to ask for your forgiveness for now. The noise had brought my childhood fears with it, like a boogeyman suddenly emerging from an adult's closet.
I fled without once looking back.
So there it is. At this point I am convinced that there is something strange happening at the mill, but I am having a hard time summoning up the courage to go back. Perhaps in time, I will. Until then, I have included a picture that I took of the walls surrounding the mill. Doesn't it look as if the intent is less to keep people out than to keep something else in?
I am going to have to stop here-- my head is beginning to hurt. Hopefully I will be back in the next few days to share more.
Until next time...