Marisol stopped to catch her breath as she rounded the curve in the path that took her through the woods. She spent every morning running through the woods near her house. The town of Era was charming and always drew tourists to the many hiking paths, the antique shops, the classic malts at the diner, and the old-fashioned style of the buildings down Main Street. The town was small and everyone knew each other, but to Marisol, it was home. She had agreed to meet her closest friend Eleanor for brunch at eleven, but going a morning without a run would throw off her entire day. She checked her watch and was surprised to see the time stuck at 8:30. She started her run at 8:15 and could have sworn she had been running for at least an hour. Marisol shook the watch and frowned. She would have to get it checked.
The rest of her run was relatively quiet with a few chattering squirrels leaping among the treetops and a few birds fighting over spots on the branches. It was peaceful and idealistic. Marisol found every day to be another day in paradise. If paradise was a town stuck in the past with rustic surroundings and a heavy flow of tourists that came for the way-back charm. She rounded the turn that would bring her out into the parking lot for the trail. A bark caught her attention. A large dog with a shaggy dark coat and big brown eyes emerged from the bushes, dragging its leash behind it. The dog ran up to her with a wagging tail. “Hello there.” Marisol knelt in front of it and checked its collar. “Diggory, where’s your owner?”
She took hold of the leash and backtracked toward the direction Diggory came from. “Hello!? Did someone lose a dog?” Marisol walked the trail for several minutes but came across no one. She tried the number listed on Diggory’s tags, but the number came back as ‘not in range’. By now it was probably closer to 10:00 and her friend would not appreciate her being late. After a quick shower, she went to check the time on her clock in the living room, but it was stuck at 8:30. The same as her cell phone.
Diggory was a polite house guest, waiting as she got ready and then followed her to her car. He sat in the passenger seat as she made her way to the local diner. Marisol hoped that someone would recognize him or the owner’s number. The clock tower in the center of town wasn’t ticking and had its hands positioned at 8:30. “What is going on with the clocks?” She even checked the calendar to see if this was an elaborate April’s Fools prank but it was mid-May. Eleanor’s car was already in the parking lot. “Give me one minute to talk to her and then I will be right back.” She took a quick picture of Diggory before making her way into the diner.
When she stepped inside, she wasn’t greeted with the familiar chatter of the locals or the buzzing questions of the tourists. She was only greeted with silence. The booths and tables were empty. No one was behind the counter. Half-eaten food was on plates that sat at the tables as if the patrons had just got up and left. She went to the usual booth that she and her friend occupied. Her friend’s purse was all she found. It was easily recognizable with the small blue gems that lined the top. “Hello!” Marisol made her way to the counter and peered into the back kitchen. “Anyone here?”
The kitchen was as empty as the rest of the diner. On her way out, she caught sight of the clock on the far wall. 8:30. She hurried out the door and went into the small boutique next door only to find the place just as empty. Returning to her car, she was relieved to find Diggory still sitting dutifully in the passenger seat.
She let the dog out of the car. Together they walked down Main Street, but every shop she went inside was just as empty as the diner and the boutique. “Where is everyone?” Keeping a tight hold of Diggory’s leash, she returned to the car and after securing him in the seat next to her, she drove down the street. She went to the first house on the block and parked in the front yard. Mrs. Potter was always home. The woman walked with a cane and barely left the house. Marisol knocked on the door several times but received no answer. “Hello!” she yelled. She was met with silence.
“The whole town can’t be deserted, Diggory,” Marisol said. She scratched behind the dog’s ear. “I spoke with Eleanor this morning. She was fine and was already getting dressed to meet me at the diner. What could have happened?” She looked at the clock in her car. “And why do all of the clocks read 8:30?”
“There has to be someone else here…” Marisol spent the rest of the day driving to every house and every store, only for each to be empty. “Maybe I tripped and hit my head. And I’m now in a coma,” she mumbled. She sits on the edge of the sidewalk. Diggory licked the side of her face in an attempt at comfort. “The trail!” She popped up onto her feet. If she went back to the trail maybe she’ll walk herself up and find her way back to reality.
They made their way back to the trail. She backtracked down the path until she located the place where she and Diggory first met. “Okay, Diggory, let me know if you see me unconscious anywhere.” She spent what felt like hours going down the paths and eventually had to call it quits. She found no sign of her body or that she was dreaming. She plopped down in the middle of a pathway and Diggory did the same next to her.
Diggory scrambled to his feet. Marisol got to her feet. Her eyes searched through the trees as the dog took a position in front of her. A deep growl emerged as he barked at an unseen sight. “Someone there?” she called. She was ready to chalk it up to an animal until a figure emerged from the trees. The figure was the first person she had seen all day.
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