Shadow Town Park
With the sun so high in the sky and the sun so bright, Jodi decides to take a leisurely stroll home rather than take the train. As she moves past the buildings, people, landmarks and urban bustle, Jodi breathes it all in and smiles. “It’s the simple things,” she thinks while humming wake me up when September ends.
Upon reaching Shadow Town Park, Jodi stops. It has been so long since she walked the park and took in all it has to offer. To her left, an elderly couple play backgammon on one of the 20 various game tables. Further in the distance, a group of teens test their skills in the skate park. One of Jodi’s favorite features is the arboretum which she intends on taking a quick walk through before going home.
Heading toward the park entrance, Jodi sees the tot lot. Children frolic while mothers chat. This day, the park seems more glorious than ever.
Purposefully Jodi steps onto the path. As soon as her foot hits the pavement, the sunlight dims. She looks up thinking a cloud has blocked the sun but they blue sky is gone and is filled with a black haze.
Upon looking back to her path, Jodi stops dead. The elderly couple is no longer playing backgammon but instead propped up by ropes, stakes and wires. Their lifeless faces stare in opposing directions. Jodi walks closer and recoils upon seeing the woman’s empty eye sockets surrounded by the black rotting flesh.
Wanting to see if there is life, she sits down and touches the man’s hand. It is hard as stone with a weird density. She pulls her own hand away. As Jodi gets up to run, she knocks the old woman down. A strange part of her wants to bend down to prop the woman back up but the sensible part of her takes flight to get away.
Running toward the tot lot, Jodi hopes to warn the mothers and children of the impending doom. When Jodi arrives at the tot lot, she collapses in shock. Dead toddlers in the swings, supported by wires, dead mothers propped up against their baby’s strollers.
Now crawling and crippled by fear and dismay, Jodi makes her way to the arboretum to find security. On the way, more startling sights come about. Gardeners tied up by the trees, dogs suspended by framed trellises. Even the squirrels are nailed into the tree branches.
Jodi makes the bleak determination that she is the only living creature in the park and now changes her plan of action to getting out alive. She heads toward the path where she entered the park. The worst part is having to pass the corpse statues. She sets her sights on freedom and does her best to not look into their faces.
When Jodi reaches the backgammon table, she knows the exit is near except she can’t see the end of the path. This path seems endless. As she starts to run the path, she only ends up back at the arboretum and then back at the tot lot. Returning back to the game tables, Jodi falls and the fall unleashes her phone from her pocket.
Gleaming among the darkness of death, Jodi grabs for the phone and dials 911. As soon as the operator answers, Jodi is back outside the park in the same spot on the street where she stood before entering. While the death on parade is gone from sight, it is not gone from her memory. Feeling disoriented, she stops to call an Uber to take her home.
Once inside, Jodi immediately calls her brother Jeremy. “What gives? You sound horrible. Did someone die?” Jeremy inquires not knowing the full extent of the impact of his question.
At this point, Jodi is sobbing. “Someone did die?
Who kiddo, tell me what’s going on?” Jeremy now sounds panicked.
Jodi starts to choke out the words but asks Jeremy to hang on so she can get some water. After a few deep breaths, Jodi speaks. “No one we know died. Jeremy, something crazy happened to me and you are the only one I can tell about it. Even you will think I’m crazy but if I don’t tells someone, I might lose my mind.”
Jeremy feels a weird sense of relief. “Okay, Sis calm down and tell me what you can in anyway you know how.” Slowly, Jodi recounts each chilling detail, not pausing in order to get though it and to not let Jeremy ask any questions. She knows there are no answers for what just happened to her. Jody ends the story with climbing in the Uber.
Jeremy is silent but only for a moment as to not rattle Jodi anymore than she is already. He is careful in his response. “Jodi, you are right. There are no words or explanations for this. Even if it was a black out or hallucination, I don’t think you would have ended up in an Uber but in an ambulance. Why don’t you let me fly in and we can go through it together and see if we can find some answers. With today being Wednesday, will you be okay until I can get there on Saturday morning?” Jeremy suggests.
Jodi wants to stop him by saying it’s crazy to fly from NYC to Salem Oregon only because your sister is nuts but Jeremy stops her. “Anyway, we haven’t seen each other since last Christmas. I love Salem in the fall. Let me get things settled at work and make sure Sandy has kid coverage and I will be there. I will e mail my itinerary to you. If anyone asks, I will say we have to do some estate planning for the parents. I will call them and tell them you and I need some sister and brother time. It will all work out. Will you be okay until then?”
Jodi nods but realizes she is on the phone. Yeah, I think I will work from home for the rest of the week. I don’t really want to leave the house right now. Thank you for being a great brother. I’m really sorry about all of this. I will wait to hear from you about your arrival.”
Jodi says goodbye to Jeremy and just sits on the floor and cries. The images of the dead propped up by artificial means is still all Jodi can see. She decides to go lay down. The thought of sleep, however, scares her terribly. Something like this will be sure to cause nightmares.
Remembering an old sound machine tucked in the closet, Jodi goes to retrieve it. She recalls when these things were all the rage and Jeremy bought her a state of the art player along with a huge catalog of sounds. “He will be happy to see I’m using it.” She thinks plugging it in.
Jodi lays flat on her bed listening to the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. The exhaustion of the day overcomes her and she falls into deep sleep. It is not long before the conscious and sub conscious collide and result in a nightmare of epic proportions.
First seeing herself on a boat gently rocking with the waves, all is calm. As the water increasingly becomes rougher, the boat is now being thrown from side to side. Jodi holds on with all her strength. Looking down into the water, she can see objects floating all around her. Leaning over to get a closer look, Jodi recoils quickly as the objects take life and begin to grab at her trying to pull her out of the boat. She recognizes the figures as the dead from the park. The elderly couple tug in unison while Jodi screams in terror. Just as she is jarred from her safety and into the depths of the dead, Jodi awakes on the floor of her bedroom.
Grabbing a blanket off the bed, she wraps herself tightly. Jodi is shaking and sobbing and yells to the ceiling. “Why me, God why me?” With two more hours until daybreak, Jodi cannot bear the thought of going back to sleep. She turns off the sound machine, goes around the apartment turning on every light. For a moment, Jodi thinks about taking a warm bath but the idea of climbing into a pool of water terrifies her. Instead, Jodi turns on the television hoping to find something to distract her.
At 4 AM, the best she can find is the Home Shopping Network. Cookware is the deal of the day. Rachel Ray is the guest host and touts her pans as the best money can buy. Jodi stares blankly at the screen. During the demonstration, Rachel whips up some fluffy pancakes on her non-stick skillet as she crisps up some bacon in the small fry pan.
Jodi feels her stomach pang. Realizing, she hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before, Jodi moves toward the kitchen. Eyeing the jar of peanut butter, Jodi decides on toast. A warm piece of toast always settles her when she is sick and this encounter closely mirrors a crushing illness.
As the sun begins to rise, Jodi falls back asleep on the sofa with Rachel Ray now cooking dinner in the background TV show. Unfortunately, sleep does not mean rest and the images of the dead take over the demonstration in Jodi’s dream.
In the shot, three bodies are propped up in front of the demo counter. They are cooking the dead squirrels from the park. “Look how perfectly cooked this critter is.” Chimes in the Rachel Ray corpse while dangling the squirrel above her waiting lips by its tail.
Jodi is jarred awake once again by the image. She drags herself to her desk and begins an e mail to her boss at the newspaper.
I wanted to let you know I am going to work from home today and tomorrow. I have been feeling a bit under the weather and don’t want to risk getting anyone else sick. I’m attaching my last editing job on deadline for today’s publishing cycle. Please send me a new story or two for the next publishing cycle.
While waiting for Logan’s reply, Jodi settles on taking a quick shower. The warm water feels good on her skin and helps to lower the intense anxiety. She is careful to focus outward and thinks about a nice dinner place to visit with Jeremy. Keeping distracted over the next couple of days will be key.
Hearing her e mail ding, Jodi dries herself while reading Logan’s reply.
I’m sorry you are not feeling well and I very much appreciate you taking your colleagues into consideration by working from home. I have the perfect project for you to get started on. You can work on it today and tomorrow. When you come back to the office on Monday, we can meet to tweak your work before going to press. See the summary below and the story attached. Feel better soon!
One of our investigative reporters has been working on a story involving the AT REST CEMETARY on Old Willow Lane in Salem. The cemetery is nearing bankruptcy and a builder is interested in purchasing the land. One of the stipulations is the cemetery owners must contact each family – living or deceased – with an option to have their loved ones moved to another location. After a reasonable amount of time, the graves of those, whose loved ones have not replied will be dug up with the remains scheduled for cremation. From the current data base, a letter was generated and send to the addresses on file. You can imagine, the contact rate would be low. Only 40 of the 2000 families replied. A small plot will be retained for those requesting reburial. The issue with At Rest is, we feel they did not make a reasonable effort to contact the loved ones. We want to reach out to the general public so that families have the option to moved their deceased relatives. At Rest is not looking for a high contact rate so that more of the land can be developed. The more land having to be retained and maintained will reduce their profit in selling the land. At Rest is looking to seal this deal before they would have to file for bankruptcy which would allow their creditors to sell to the developer. While The Daily Press sympathizes with the owners of At Rest, we feel there should be more done to save the sacred graves.
Jodi cannot believe her eyes. “Why am I surrounded by the dead? This must be some kind of cruel joke.” She slams her computer shut and goes back to the television. Scrolling through the daytime TV lineup, quickly moves Jodi away and back to her work. “Who knows, maybe there will be some answers there.”
While doing some preliminary research on moving graves, Jodi stumbles on an article on the supernatural. What catches her eye is the headline When You Are Haunted: Where To Turn For Help.
Jodi stands by her window soaking in the morning sun while reading about the power of ghosts and why their spirits just wont die. While not particularly insightful, Jodi takes comfort in reading about the experiences of others who have been haunted. Most of the testimonials describe similar circumstances of the haunted taken by surprise during a regular day. In fact, none of the testimonials mention the haunting happening at night when most would guess haunting taking place.
Looking at the time, Jodi sees she has been reading these articles for over 3 hours and she is feeling that hunger pang again. Thinking about delivery, Jodi changes her mind quickly, fearing the dead will deliver her pizza. She makes another piece of toast and decides she should get some work done.
While digging back into the grave moving research, Jodi starts to wonder if there are any parallels with her situation and this story. “I’m going to wait for Jeremy before I dive any deeper into that.” She tells herself. Jodi concentrates on the job at hand which is editing for content, effectiveness and accuracy. “I wonder who this reporter is? I don’t remember editing this style before?” Jodi questions knowing effective editing keeps both the editor the author anonymous to each other before the story goes to press.
Having edited all the current reporters at least four or five times, Jodi can’t figure out who this one is. “I haven’t heard about any new hires.” She thinks but then passes it off as a guest reporter submitting to several papers to ensure readership. Jodi can’t help but wonder if this reporter has a personal interest in this story as well. The writing is so passionate and even includes information on what to do if you believe a friend or family member is buried in At Rest Cemetery.
Without warning, the night sky rolls in with the moon full in the sky. Jodi checks the clock to see she has been working non-stop for 5 hours. Confident, she will finish the piece by the end of day on Friday, Jodi shuts down her computer and decides to do a little indoor cardio to help with this night’s sleep.
During the workout routine, Jodi tries to figure out what she can fall asleep to that won’t cause a new nightmare. Laughing, Jodi thinks she may as well just sleep to this streamed workout routine. Finally choosing a good book, she settles in with a bowl of ice cream and her favorite author Kat Hibbard. “Kat’s books are so inspirational, surely enough to distract my gloom and doom thoughts.” Jodi believes.
The Chubby Trilogy along with the chocolate peanut butter ice cream, do their work and Jodi falls asleep still in her work out clothes and on the sofa. Almost instantly, the dream begins with Chubby Chasers character JJ Mack entering the dream as a corpse.
JJ is held up with barbells and resistance bands. She tells Jodi she has to work harder to get rid of the hauntings. Jodi feels like corpse JJ is behind her strangling her with a resistance band. Jodi has the sensation of not being able to breathe and sits up suddenly. “Ugh, Saturday can’t come fast enough. These nightmares are exhausting.
Jodi finds another shopping show to take her through daybreak. Following the same routine as the day before, she showers and then follows up with some toast before completing her work for the day.
Jeremy gives a quick call to notify Jodi, he will arrive at her apartment by 11 AM on Saturday. “How are you holding up?” He inquires.
“I’m super tired. Every time I fall asleep, the nightmares come. The only thing I feel like eating is toast and ice cream.”
“Jodi, how is that different from any other day?” Jeremy jokes.
“I’m just hanging on for a great big brother hug tomorrow morning. You are so great for coming to help me.” Jodi hangs up and goes back to work thinking the only time she doesn’t feel distraught is when she is working on this story.
After a couple of rereads, Jodi sends the completed story to Logan along with an alert to let her know when the publishing is set for. “I really want to know who wrote this piece. Maybe that person would be able to help me.” She hopes while fixing another piece of toast.
Nearing the end of the day, Jodi starts to think what she will fall asleep to this night. “Maybe I should just try to stay up all night. I can binge watch a series I have been meaning to get to in hopes of avoiding another horrific dream.” She looks in her queue to view her to do list.
Quickly bypassing American Horror Story, Jodi settles on How I Met Your Mother. After getting through all of season 1, Jodi cannot force her eyes to stay open so drifts off. The dream begins at the park with the bodies mounted in position and then moves to the beach where they are washed up onshore. Finally, the visions dissolve in blackness and Jodi’s dream becomes purely audio. The moans because more clear as the sounds get louder. Hundreds if not thousands of voices moan help in unison.
Jodi does not wake this time, the droning maintains her sleep through the duration of the night and well into early morning. When she wakes, it takes several minutes for the sound to go away. Still feeling that haunted feeling, Jodi lies in a fetal position and cries. “Only 1 hour until my hero gets here.” She thinks. Skipping the shower, Jodi finds something suitable to wear on a mission. While toasting the last slice of bread in the loaf, Jodi tries to imagine what hers and Jeremy’s plan of action will be. Concentration doesn’t come easy with her mind wandering in and out of the events of the past few days.
“Sis, I’m in the Uber. I will be there in 20 minutes. I can’t wait to see you.” Jeremy’s call is more comforting than ever.
“Okay, see you soon.” Jodi says with her voice cracking as she sobs in relief to not be alone anymore.
Jeremy’s arrival keeps the tears flowing. Upon seeing his sister this distraught, Jeremy feels haunted himself.
“Are you hungry?” Jodi asks.
“I ate on the plane. I want to get started on erasing this evil that has been following you. Are you ready to head over to the park?” Jeremy looks hopeful.
“I’m ready, terrified but ready. I can only hope we can figure this out together.” Jodi grabs her bag and heads for the door.
On the way to the park, Jodi tells Jeremy all about the dreams, the newspaper piece she is editing and the horrible moaning from that morning.
“Oh Sis, this sounds bad. You are so strong for holding in there. I promise, I will not leave until this is resolved.” Jeremy vows.
Upon reaching the park, Jodi feels an all-over chill. She turns very pale and her heart races. Reentering the park may be the most scary thing she has ever had to do. Jeremy looks around while Jodi points out all the main areas and refers to the bodies she saw in each one.
“It didn’t happen until I stepped into the park so I think I should go back in at that exact spot.” Jodi takes a deep breath.
Jeremy asks, “do you think I should go in first?”
“No, I have to do this. When and I guess if I come out, you can go next. The way I was able to come out was by making contact with another living being. So I will go in for only a few minutes but then call you and hopefully, that will allow me to get out.” Jodi hugs Jeremy and steps onto the path.
Jeremy can’t believe his eyes. His sister who was just right in front of him has disappeared completely into the park. The park looks the same to him but on the other side, Jodi is faced with the corpses hung from every limb and structure. She only takes a moment to see if anything has changed. All seems to be as it was on Wednesday so she calls Jeremy. As soon as he answers, Jodi is able to come back into the world of the living.
Holding his head, Jeremy stares in disbelief. “It’s really true. I guess I hoped it would be to know you are okay. I was not prepared to deal with you losing sanity.”
“Thank you for trusting me. Are you ready to go in?” Jodi asks holding Jeremy’s hand. “Just remember to have your phone in your hand. Don’t wander off too far and don’t stay too long. I will be freaking out over here.”
“I got it Sis.” Jeremy headed to the path entrance.
As Jeremy steps on the path, Jodi can’t believe he doesn’t enter the corpse world. He keeps walking but she can see him. He turns to her with a quizzical expression. Throwing his hands up, Jeremy walks back to Jodi.
“I don’t get it. Will you try to go in again?” Jeremy wants to see if Jodi can go in now.
Jodi almost cringes while thinking she is getting use to being among the dead. Before going in, Jodi has a thought. “Jeremy, do you think the dead are trying to speak to me to help them with their final resting place? You know about the story I’m working on about At Rest? Could that be why you can’t see them? Is the answer to help get the word out and save those graves?”
“It sounds crazy but I don’t have any other explanation. Do you think Logan can give you a publication date? I don’t know what else you can do. Perhaps, you shouldn’t go back in until we can find out how this will resolve.” Jeremy suggests.
“Or maybe I can go in and ask what they want from me so I know what to do? I don’t even know if the corpses are able to communicate but maybe I can find a sign.” Jodi feels braver now that things are starting to make some sort of sense.
Jeremy does not look happy. “I don’t know if you should take the risk. What can you do anyway. I mean really Jodi, how do the dead target a newspaper editor to do their dirty work.” At this both Jeremy and Jodi let out a laugh.
Jodi stands firmly with her arms crossed. That’s why I have to go back in. Otherwise, how will we know. Don’t worry. We know I can call you to come out. I will only stay in for 5 minutes. If I don’t find the answers we need. I will simply work to get the story published and hopefully me and the reporter can help to resolve this and save those gravesites. This way, I can stop being haunted. It’s the only way. I can’t live like this Jeremy. You don’t know what I have been through these past few days.”
“I hate to say it but you’re right. I will be here waiting for you. I love you Sis.” Jeremy hugs Jodi hard and as if he will never see her again.
Breaking free from the embrace Jodi moves to enter the park but starts to run rather than step in. Just before she reaches the threshold, Jodi trips on her own feet which causes her phone to fly out and toward Jeremy as her body flies forward into the park.
Jeremy is screaming as he loses sight of Jodi knowing she has no way of reentering the land of the living. When Jodi stands up, she also realizes her phone is gone and she screams as well. Because Jeremy looks insane standing at the entrance of the park yelling for Jodi, a young mother calls the police.
An officer takes Jeremy to his car. Jeremy tries to explain his current level of distraught but the details make him sound crazier. “Sir, where is your sister? I’d like to speak to her.” The second officer is looking up Jeremy’s ID to see if there are priors.
“I told you, she entered the dead zone in the park and because she dropped her phone, she won’t be able to get out. You have to help me.” Jeremy is sobbing.
“Dave, let’s take him down to holding until we can locate his sister. I don’t want to be a defeatist but I’m starting to smell foul play.” The officer takes Jeremy to his car and safely puts him in the back.
Back at the station, an investigator starts to piece things together. Jodi working at home for the past two days, Jeremy’s and Jodi’s parents telling a story that does not match Jeremy’s wife Sandy’s story and the disappearance of Jodi.
Meanwhile, Jodi is running frantic among the dead trying to get them to talk in hopes of solving the haunting and in hopes of getting out without her phone. “Sir, sir, please sir, will you tell me why you chose me? How am I supposed to help you?” Jodi cries but the dead man does not move. With each encounter, Jodi feels more and more helpless.
Jeremy is on the phone with his attorney trying to make sense of the chaos that has exploded over the past hour. “Jeremy, I want to help you but you can’t continue with this insane story. They are going to lock you away. Please tell me where Jodi is.”
Shutting down, Jeremy hangs up on the lawyer knowing the only one that can help him is Jodi. “Godspeed girl, Godspeed.” He decides to remain silent and give Jodi some time to figure it out.
Unfortunately, Jodi has also shut down. After approaching each dead person and animal, Jodi has not gotten anywhere or uncovered any clues. Because the sky never changes, because there is no sun, because there is nothing living in the park, Jodi has no idea how much time has passed but only feels weaker and weaker from lack of food and water.
“Maybe if I die, I will finally learn the reason for all of this. Just as her eyes close wile falling into unconsciousness, the sky breaks and the warmth of the sun jars her. She can hear people around her yelling. “Call 911, call 911!”
Looking up at the man taking her pulse, Jodi asks what day it is. “Sure thing, it’s Friday.” The man tells her. Jodi figures she has been stuck in the corpse park for almost 7 days without sleep, food and water. The paramedics start an IV line.
“Jeremy, where’s Jeremy?” Jodi sobs.
“Let’s get you to the hospital. I will have someone come to the hospital and speak to you.” The paramedic signals to the officer who is now on the scene.
Jeremy’s lawyer gets the call that Jodi has been found. He has had time to fly to Oregon and has met with Jeremy twice since his detainment. The lawyer heads to the station to begin work to free his client who still has not been charged but is only being held on suspicion.
Jodi’s and Jeremy’s parents were also called to notify them of Jodi being found. Her parents rushed to the hospital with Sandy. Jeremy is so relieved when his lawyer tells him Jodi is alive and well.
Jeremy knows how it is possible after reading the morning paper. “At Rest Cemetery is Forced to Take Further Measures to Contact Loved Ones With Option to Move Graves Before Construction.” Jeremy realizes this is why Jodi was being haunted and hopes beyond hope that this will free her.
In the hospital, Jodi sees the story on TV and also realizes how she was set free. When her parents arrive, all Jodi can do is ask about Jeremy. Sadly recounting the events of the past 6 days Jodi can only say, “he really is my hero. Within hours, Jeremy is released from custody and rushes into Jodi’s room. A shared glance that has the power to purge all the horrors from the week followed by a mighty embrace signals the end of suspended bodies in Shadow Town Park.