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There is a road, with exquisitely smooth pavement and an astounding view of the surrounding woods. A river runs parallel to the road, and on occasion a fish will break through the clear fluid, soaring several feet through the air before gracefully returning to its territory. On bright days, the sun shines through the branches, leaving magnificent shadows to shine through the overhanging branches, checkering across the road in a beautiful display.
However, if one is a local to the town of Umbrason , all measures will be taken to avoid the road. Tales such as the man who missed the birth of his daughter due to having to take a less direct route to the hospital, or the one of the woman who refused to let her ambulance drive on it, managing to direct him to a longer side route at the cost of part of her arm, are in abundance.
Most tourists to the town find this behavior odd, but accept as part of the culture. They drive on the road, enjoying the sights as they relax in the peacefulness, they alone in this comfort. Most do not understand, but go on to enjoy the road nonetheless.
The tourists will take the road, no matter what measures are taken to prevent their travels.
Road blocks mysteriously vanish at the time of the tourist’s arrival, and any cameras set to detect a possible thief malfunction before any crime can be caught. Eyewitnesses report a fuzzy feeling, a sort of haze clouding their mind, which when dispersed, has prevented them from witnessing the disappearance. This has not been properly documented, as those brave enough to endure this are few and far between.
Construction efforts to demolish the road, no matter how much support they garner or how much money is funded, inevitably fall through, one way or another. In one notable incident, an irritated worker took a sledgehammer and blasted off part of the pavement, before his eyes widened, his face went pale, and he dropped dead, the word no etched on his lips.
Attempts have lessened ever since that incident.
Thus, those hailing from outside the town continue to take the road and, as has been previously established, most find the experience quite comforting. The townspeople envy those, not for their luck, but more for their obliviousness to just how lucky they are. If they hadn’t lived in Umbrason, perhaps they too may have been just as blessed. As it stands, however, they must carry the burden of knowledge.
However, it is not those who know who pay the highest price; it is those who, every few months, vanish in their travels on the road.
One of the more popular stories surrounding the road details one such occurrence. One summer, a handful of college students, three frat boys and their girlfriends, had passed by Umbrason on their way to Florida . They, like all the others, were not impeded by any warnings, and they drove confidently onto the road, laughter echoing in their wake.
20 or so minutes later, John Gardner, a boy of about 12, noticed that as he played a game of hide and seek with the neighborhood kids, a foul stench was emanating from the forest that surrounds the road. He raced to get his father, unheeded by any punishment he may receive for playing too close to the road.
When Mr. Gardner had entered the area his son had been in, he was struck by the smell, much more powerful than before. Suddenly, however, the smell was not what he was worried about.
The car’s engine, still as noisy as ever, was easy to hear as the student’s car slowly ambled out of the thicket. The car, without a nick on it, was fine; however its occupants could no longer say the same for themselves.
One of the boys’ head was taken clear off, as well as the top half of one of the girl’s. Another occupant had green ooze burning in his shoulder, his eyes glazed over in pain. Another girl was missing her eyes, her expression morphed into one of eternal terror. A female arm, belonging to none of the current occupants, was the last echo of the third girl, while the third male was nowhere to be seen.
The surviving boy was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he was stabilized, emergency surgery saving both his life and shoulder. The ooze had taken 7 hours to be completely eliminated.
When he was awakened, he could not remember the circumstance of his injury, nor of those for the deaths of his friends. A psychologist deduced that he had blocked the memories completely from his psyche, and she believed it was unlikely he would ever have access to them.
No one could blame him for this.
With incidents such as these in mind, it came to be that the townspeople slowly started to ignore the road, to ignore the occasional traveler who was seen entering the thicket yet not exiting. The citizens of Umbrason continued with their humdrum lives, the road not lore but merely another inevitable, obstinate facet of everyday life. Warnings that would inevitably go unheeded gradually stopped until only the most stubborn continued with them.
Many find the warnings to be inane, but the most kind-hearted believed them to be a form of hope.
For most, however, there is no hope.
The road will have its sacrifice.