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Alone in a Crowd (Draft, Unreviewed)[]

My fingers were going numb as I stapled another picture onto the telephone pole, the fingerless gloves not providing much warmth in the ever-growing chill of the fall. Before I moved onto the next, I took a moment to stare at the poster.


Elizabeth Hunt, 28-year-old woman, disappeared on her way home from The Drunken Goose, her destination 25th Garombie Crescent, on the 13th of March. If you recognize this woman and have seen her recently, please call xxx-xxx-xxx to relay this information.

Elizabeth had been smiling in the image, her brown eyes framed by falling waves of chocolate locks. The picture had been taken the day she left for the pub, an hour before as we had celebrated her new job in New York. She had been so excited for the move, the new opportunities, the new friends she would make.

And now she was gone, vanished on her way home.

Shaking my head, I hefted the stack under my arm and continued down the sidewalk. As I walked, I felt the stares of my neighbours and fellows on my back. I must’ve been quite the sight, wandering the length of the town every day in a desperate attempt to find my missing sister. I laughed humorously under my breath, how pitiful was I?

I was so lost in my thoughts, that running into someone was just inevitable. I collided with a solid surface, papers flying as I landed back on my ass. A yelp slipped out of my mouth when the pain shot up my spine.

“Shit I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there!” the stranger’s voice came from above me. I shook my head, taking the offered hand and allowing the man to pull me to my feet.

“No, it’s my fault,” I sighed, “I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran right into you.” As I raised my head, I couldn’t help but analyse the face of the new guy. His hair fell in brown curls, floating on his head like a cloud. Evergreen eyes watched me with a look of pure curiosity, like I was a puzzle to unpack. His skin was lightly tanned, like he had been just barely kissed by the sun. His face slowly flushed under my intense stare. Realizing how weird it must be, getting stared at by a stranger, I hastily jumped into action. “My name’s Michael Hunt, I live on the other side of town,” I blurted.

“Ah! I’m Ethan Walker,” he introduced, using out joined hands to give me a handshake. I blushed, realizing through the whole intense stare off I had been gripping his hand. “I just moved in a little way from here, and I was checking out the town. I gotta say, it’s a nice place to live.”

I nodded, “It’s normally very safe.”

“Normally?” He asked, looking confused.

“A few weeks ago, my elder sister went missing. I’ve been putting up posters to try and gain any information on her, since the police won’t update me about the case,” I explained. I bent down, trying to gather the posters that had flown all over the street. “I haven’t had much luck so far, but I can’t exactly give up hope.”

Now Ethan sounded really confused, “Disappearances? In this colony? How would that even work?”

“Colony? What are you, an English settler?” I chuckled.

I heard a muttered cuss and a few words in a foreign language as I finished gathering my items. Standing up, I saw that Ethan had gathered the rest of the posters and was holding them out to me. I thanked him, and as I was taking them back onto my stack, I had a thought. “Hey, why don’t you come over to my place for dinner tonight?”

Ethan’s eyes went wide. The poor guy stuttered through a denial, but I shut him down quickly, “come on. You’re new here, I might as well give you a warm welcome.”

“You shouldn’t exactly be inviting strangers into your house; you have no idea what I’m capable of.”

That was rather dramatic, “Look, as long as you aren’t a serial killer, I’ll be fine.”


Dinner was interesting. Ethan mostly asked about the town, how long I’d lived there, and what I do in life. I answered honestly and in turn he answered my questions. Where abouts he lived, why he was in town, and if the move was permanent. According to him, it was, and he was super excited to live here. He’s heard good things about the town and its people and wanted to experience it himself.

“This is a pretty big house to live in by yourself.” Ethan hummed, pausing our conversation to gaze upon the old furniture and size. It was two stories after all. “You really don’t have anyone you can share it with?”

“I shared it with my sister before she disappeared,” my melancholy must’ve bled too much into my voice. Ethan stared at me with pity. “She’s the last family I have left since my parents passed two years ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s alright,” I mumbled, “I’ve managed so far. I can hold everything together until she gets back.”

Ethan looked a bit unsure, but he opened his mouth regardless. “Why don’t you tell me about her?”

So, I did. I told him about that time when she punched my bully in the throat and took me out of school for the rest of the day. And the other time when I heard she was being sexually harassed so I ditched my friends to do some research and ruined the guy’s life the next week. How the town would call us the ideal sibling relationship. How it was my fault she disappeared because I wanted to stay and get more drunk and left her to walk home alone. How nobody had been able to help me yet. How I’m so scared about what happened to her, where she is, and if she is even alive right now.

My darkened rambling came to an end with the whispered fear that I might never see her again and that it would be my fault. In the silence that followed was heavy, laden with my burdens and fears.

“… Your sister is lucky to have someone as dedicated as you looking for her.”

I swallowed thickly, “thank you. Sorry I made things weird.”

Ethan waved his hand through the air, an easy smile painted across his face, “it’s fine. I’m sorry I have to leave you on this note anyway. We’ve talked the night away.”

I looked at the clock, blinking in surprise. He was right, we’d been talking so long it was 10 at night. “Oh god, here’s I’ll show you to the door.”

As we stood in the doorway, watching Ethan put his coat on, I hastily grabbed a sheet of paper and shoved it into the coat pocket. At his questioning glance, I explained myself. “It’s one of my sister’s missing persons posters. It’s got my number and address on it, so it’s a lot easier to give it to you than to run around the house looking for a pen and paper.” As an afterthought, he added on, “and if you see Elizabeth, you can recognize her and call me quickly.”

Ethan gave me a smile, both kind and sad at the same time, “I promise I’ll keep an eye out for her.”

I smiled back, “That’s all I ask.”


I walked with a skip in my step, excited for what the day would bring. Finally, I had found a sort of lead to the case of my missing sister. Going to the library had unearthed old newspaper articles about disappearances in our town. Apparently, the town I had grown up in all my life held a large history of vanishing people. Almost every single one of them had resurfaced, planting a seed of hope for my elder sister’s wellbeing. Jumping up my first target’s porch steps, I rang the doorbell and said my line.

“Hi! I’m Michael Hunt, and I’m here to ask questions on your disappearance!”

The door slammed in my face. This might take a while.


My exhaustion was hitting me full force by the time I made it to the last house. For the past 3 days I had gone house to house, asking around about the history of disappearances. Every time, I had been turned away. It was incredibly frustrating, watching this lead vanish before my eyes like smoke. I knocked on the old wooden door, wishing for the rejection to go over swiftly.

“Hi, I’m Michael Hunt. I’m here asking about your disappearance thirty years ago, may I come in?”

I expected a yell, telling me to get lost. Maybe even to be warned against asking people about that kind of stuff.

The door opened, and I was ushered inside by an elderly woman. I yelped, stumbling and tripping over old carpets and tables as I was dragged around by the lady. In a whirlwind of events, I was deposited on a musty old couch with the grandma sitting opposite me on an armchair. Her blue eyes were piercing.

“I thought you’d be here soon enough, dear,” She hummed, pouring me a cup of tea. “Ask me your questions, and I will answer them as much as I can.”

I sat in silence, mind a tempest as I tried to sort my thoughts out. I had spent three days chasing this lead and now, at the end, I was finally getting my answers. The first question tumbled out before I could stop it.

“How did you survive?” I asked her, wincing at the wording.

“I didn’t,” at my confusion, she elaborated. “What happened to me also likely happened to your sister, except she met a more or less sinister fate. I still think about it to this day, which one is worse.”

“You know I’m here about my sister.”

“I know you won’t find her.” She took a drink from her cup, her frown deepening. “I’ve watched you grow up since you were just a boy, you and her both. The two of you were always the highlight of our town, the unique part. You may think that the police have been lazy, but I can assure you that when she vanished, they worked tirelessly to get to the bottom of it.”

“They found her?” My voice was barely a whisper, but she heard it regardless.

“You shouldn’t seek these answers, little one. It will make you miserable. This town was ready to let her go, because we loved her and knew she would thrive outside of here. But you have always been different. This town loves you too much, especially since dear Elizabeth is no longer here. They won’t let you go.” Her voice was intense, much too intense to belong to an elderly woman, “let this go, Michael. You will regret it otherwise.”

I reached for my tea, downing it in one go before standing up. “Thank you for your time,” I mumbled, “but I won’t stop until I know what happened to my sister.”

She sighed, taking another sip from her cup, “I was quite afraid you would say that. Good luck dear, and may whatever gods you pray to be listening.”


“The search is going nowhere,” I groaned, laying my head on the coffee shop table. Ethan watched my misery with sympathy, hands too preoccupied with food for proper comfort. The clatter and chatter of the shop drowned our conversation to meaningless noise. “I just wish that I could get some sort of clue, some sort of closure as to what happened.”

“Well, where haven’t you checked then?” Ethan prodded.

“I don’t know! All I know is that she’s missing, and I’ve checked the entire town! She isn’t here. The only other place she could be is the woods on the west side of the town,” I bemoaned, before perking up. “I forgot the woods!”

That was how I found myself an hour later, Ethan by my side, trudging through the woods. Snow melted around us, spring touching the town after a long and lonely winter. The sludge made it hard to walk without slipping, but I couldn’t have brought myself to wait. If this would give me a clue to my sister’s disappearance, then I would chase it until the ends of the earth.

“You won’t actually search the entire forest, right Michael?” Ethan puffed beside me. I looked over and laughed a little. He had his hands on his knees, bent over and breathing heavily as his lungs tried valiantly to increase his oxygen intake.

“What, you’re already tired? We’ve only been walking for ten minutes.” The filthy glare he gave me was worth it.

A further 20 minutes later and it started to look like we’d need to head back anyway. The shadows were growing longer and darker, the sun trying to disappear behind trees and hills. I sighed, prepared to announce quits to Ethan. We’d pick it up again tomorrow. Then I saw something. Buried under a half-melted snowdrift.

“Ethan!” I called, attracting his attention from where he had been looking down a fallen tree. I trotted to the melted snow, grabbing colourful fabric and pulling it out. My face paled. “This is her dress.”

The colourful fabric was something she had painstakingly sewed together herself. The pink flowery patterns swirled down to her legs, billowing outwards as she walked. It had originally been an old blanket that she then repurposed to suit her styles. And if its presence here wasn’t horrifying enough, the state of her beloved dress was something to give me nightmares on its own. Brown stains spotted the fabric, rips and tears along sleeves and sides and soaked with the same stain. Faintly, I recognized the stains for what they were. Blood.

“Elizabeth what happened to you?” I whispered. Ethan slipped the dress from my hands and lead me from the woods, saying that I’d had enough excitement for that day.


In the early hours of the morning, two days after we found that dress, I went into the woods alone. I didn’t let anyone know I was going, not even Ethan. I knew there was something else in those woods, something else I didn’t want to see. I needed to see it anyway, I needed to know exactly what my sister’s fate was. At this point, there was no possibility that she was alive. It would take a miracle for that. But if I could at least find her body, I could bring her home. That was enough for me.

It took almost two hours of walking to find something. A cabin, one that nature was trying desperately to reclaim. The slowly rotting wood wore ivy like a coat, the corruptive plant chewing away at the walls like an acid. There was no door, and the entrance stared back at me with the hunger of a starved beast.

If Elizabeth was anywhere, it would be here.

I crept across the creaky wooden floor, wincing as it croaked beneath my feet. The walls groaned as I stepped around decayed carpets and broken furniture. Plants attempted to grab my legs and drag me away, but my careful footsteps evaded them at every turn. The smell in the house was arguably the worst thing I’d ever smelt in my life. To describe it would be to describe death. The entire house reeked of death and broken dreams.

Staying away from the walls, I eventually found myself in the bedroom. Instead of a bed, there was a chest. It looked newer than the rest of the house, the ivy creeping towards it yet not a single vine touching. The stench was overpowering now. I threw up a little in my mouth with my next intake of breath. It was fowl.

The chest probably held a clue, I could tell that. Something in that chest would lead me to Elizabeth. I crept over, placing my hands firmly on the lid. It cracked open easily, and the smell alone almost had me stumbling back. It was rotten and disgusting, but I needed to see what it was.

I came to on the floor, Ethan’s worried face staring down at me. My mouth moved but no sound came out, my throat obscenely sore.

“You were screaming,” Ethan explained softly. “I made it here by following the sound. You were standing over the chest and screaming. When I arrived, your voice gave out and you fainted.”

I looked around the room, eyes falling on the chest. It had been knocked over, facing away from me now. Pulling myself up, I walked towards it again. Something inside me screeched at me to stay away, but I had to see it for myself. The faded memories weren’t enough.

Ethan grabbed my wrist, attracting my attention again. “You shouldn’t see it,” his voice was barely a whisper, “if you don’t remember it that’s because you don’t want to. What you’ll see in that chest will change you. Don’t do it Michael.”

I shook him off and looked at the sight that made me black out before. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. I could tell it was some sort of dead animal, though it had rotted quite a bit since it was killed. That’s probably why it smelt so bad. Though the fur looked kind of familiar.

My stomach dropped. I stagged backwards into Ethan, trying not to hurl as I stared in horror. It was my sister. The thing in the chest was my sister. As I kept staring, the more horrible the scene became. It was my sister, but it was only, “it’s only her skin,” Ethan mumbled into my ear.

I turned to him and was met with the guiltiest expression I’d ever seen. He looked away quickly, but I knew. I knew exactly what he did. I pushed him away, jumping back and glaring hatefully at him. Hate turned to fear and horror when he blinked. People don’t blink sideways.

“I’ll explain everything. You have a right to know after all,” Ethan was blocking the exit. “It’s about this town.”

I stayed put. I didn’t know what he was capable now. I didn’t really know anything about him anymore, not even what he was. For all I knew, I was next.

Ethan took a deep breath, and then proceeded to shatter my world. An old story, about creatures who would steal the skin of humans. Monsters snatching and devouring people to integrate into their society. With every word my face grew paler. It was as though I was living a nightmare. Just as the horrors were ending, I remembered what the old lady had said. About the town.

“How many?” I whispered, my voice raw. Ethan didn’t need me to elaborate.

“You are the last human left in the colony,” his voice was thick with guilt, as if it would make this any better. “It was supposed to be you and your sister but I… I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

I pushed past him, shoving the monster into the wall as I ran. I couldn’t deal with this anymore. I couldn’t sit in the same room as my sister’s killer anymore. I ran through the woods until my legs were sore and my lungs were about to burst. Collapsing against a tree, I tucked my knees to my chest and cried.

I shouldn’t have searched for Elizabeth.


I walked down the road, kicking a pebble as I did so. The summer heat had me sweating bullets, my now severe anxiety making it much worse. The townsfolk looked at me with pity as I completed my daily lap of the town.

I didn’t have to work anymore, once everyone knew I knew. I didn’t pay mortgage or anything, and the grocers gave me food for free. Everything was free now. Like some kind of messed up apology.

My eyes met with evergreen orbs, and I paused. Ethan stood, watching me from the other side of the street. My pebble rolled to a stop as we stared at each other. Everyone else stopped as well, watching us. Always watching.

I broke first, kicking the pebble and walking away once more. I didn’t see his expression, whether it was relief or grief. I disappeared into the crowd, fighting back tears as I tried to forget. Forget that I was now the last human in town.  Forget how lonely it was now, knowing that none of my friends are my friends and nobody I knew were who I thought they were.

Even walking through the crowd, I was lonelier than I’d ever been before.

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Creepy Thomas O. (talk) 08:48, 14 August 2023 (UTC)[]

Not bad. Your ending was the best part, and definitely worth keeping. The rest of the story? Well it didn't really grab me, but I can't put my finger on why. Maybe it's just a tad slow? Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions on how to spice it up. So maybe it's okay after all. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful. Overall, it's an enjoyable story that's ready for the wiki after just a few corrections (hint #1 - it's "foul" not "fowl".