Bogleech.com's 2018 Horror Write-off:
It starts out slowly.
So slowly nobody really notices, at first.
A little girl who merely calls herself Tam, and some very strange dog, turn up one foggy evening soaked in mud and reeking of smoke. She says (very tearfully, with a warble in her voice to make the coldest hearts soften out of sympathy) that she lives in the woods nearby, and there was an accident, and her home burned down with her father inside. The dog growls when the townsfolk of Goldfield try to approach her, and they’re startled not by the fact that he’s terrifying but by the fact that for some reason they almost expect him to talk to them.
But he doesn’t speak English (or any other language, and why would he?) and they approach and they help poor little Tam and her snow white dog to the local inn until they figure out what to do with her.
Some point to this as the part where things started getting bad, but nobody truly felt it until one morning Jacob Mendleton drags his brother out into the street and beats him to death with no warning. Nobody’s sure what’s more disturbing - that Jacob, who’s usually so quiet and sweet, had suddenly beat his brother’s head in with a pipe in broad daylight, or that none of them particularly care.
The police do nothing and Liam Mendleton is left in the street to rot.
After that things start taking a steady nosedive. Everyone’s more irritable, and the doctor’s office is packed with people complaining about headaches and hallucinations and lack of sleep. Dr. Reinfield does his best to keep up with everything, but then he starts taking peoples hands, and everybody’s too frazzled to do anything about it so they let him lock himself in his office. He’s never seen again, though they know he’s still alive because anybody who goes inside doesn’t come back out of the clinic. His ten year old son’s left to roam the streets, dressed up as a cowboy, completely disconnected from reality, and they can’t tell if it’s the mania settling in or the trauma of losing both his parents or even if that’s just how kids are, so they leave him be because they aren’t acting much better themselves.
People start moving away, in an attempt to escape whatever has taken over this town, but they keep finding themselves drawn back. The mayor never declares a state of emergency - it’s just negative energy in the air, or something in the water, he swears, hiding behind his desk, it’ll dispel itself shortly. It does not dispel itself shortly.
There’s more murders in the street and people start doing the strangest things, like the old widow Mrs. Weste starts collecting people’s teeth after she kills them, and they just accept it when she makes a crown from stolen teeth and works on a wedding dress next. Mr. Jameson, the odd softspoken fellow who usually hosts puppet shows for the kids in the hospital, starts wandering the streets and dragging his puppets after him, and after he bashes in poor Mrs. Riley’s face with his favorite puppet he screams that the Puppetmaster is here now and nobody knows if he’s referring to himself or the puppet in his hands. Little cases like this become big cases like this become the entire town is wrapped up in this strange insanity and are perfectly fine with it, mostly, because isn’t it normal to leave your home to find the old garbage collector dousing your neighbor in gasoline and throwing a match at them?
Some of the residents, however, know somewhere deep inside that something’s weird, and they know it has to do with that weird little girl and her weird dog. At one point things seem logical enough to take that weird girl and just lock her in the clocktower, sealing her in by piling concrete in front of the doors until nothing can come in or out. Years slip by without notice and the town’s fallen into ruin and they don’t really notice anything wrong with any of this as everyone’s either dead or completely disconnected from the world around them. Visitors come to the town every once in a while and are killed pretty fast, screaming painfully as they try to escape and that’s the most fun the town has as they’re gathered around the visitors and beating their bodies to a pulp.
And then they start beating each other, which isn’t so fun for some, and then they disperse like ash scattering in the wind.
One day a woman shows up from out of town, a reporter, with a camera and a notepad and a gun and oh God, everyone wants to get their hands on that gun. They go wild trying to fight her and take it because something in their minds says that if they get that gun they’ll own the world, but for some reason King of the Pond (they’ve completely forgotten their old identities at this point and does it matter?) puts her under his protection and nobody fucks with King of the Pond.
The woman goes around taking pictures and writing things and anyone who comes within five feet of her without permission gets slaughtered.
Because this is a reporter, who reports things, and spreads the word about things to the whole wide world.
And what’s better for a town’s crumbling industry and collapsing population than some exposure, right?