“Where do the missing go?”
Barbara and Jamie could not wait for the bell to sound. The autumn wind filled the school with the smell of freshly fallen leaves; enticing them to come outside and play. It’s only been a month since school began, but Barbara and Jamie quickly became best of friends. To them, the small rural town they lived in was a large as the world when their imagination was in control. Somedays it was a far away land, filled with castles and knights. Others, it was a fascinating city, full of bright lights and movie stars. There were even a few times when it was a totally different world, filled with strange people and even space ships. Yes, it was no ordinary rural town for these two.
Unfortunately, Jamie and her parents were going out of town this weekend to visit her grandparents up north, leaving Barbara behind for the first time since school began. Not wanting to stay indoors missing her friend, Barbara decided she would spend the entire time playing in the freshly piled leaves her neighbors were making. And in this town, the piles were not in short supply.
From house to house, she hopped and played, with her neighbors laughing and enjoying her antics – reminding them of when they were young. For some neighbors, it was hard days’ work lost, and would chase her off of their property. After a few hours, Barbara found herself at the edge of town. Smelling of crumpled leaves, she knew that it was time for her to go home and get cleaned up for dinner. But just as she turned around and headed for home, she noticed one more pile calling her name. She quickly ran down the street, further from her house than she’s ever been before. It wasn’t long until the leaves were flying once again and she was laughing, nor was it until Mr. Branson came out of his home shouting.
Mr. Branson usually kept to himself, ever since his wife died years ago. He never got over the loss, and being around people brought back memories that were too hard for him to bear. Knowing that she had overstayed her welcome, Barbara quickly ran from the yard back towards town. To her surprise, Mr. Branson was right behind her, shouting and waving a rake. It didn’t take long for him to catch up with her, grabbing her arm and stopping her in her tracks. Yelling at the top of his lungs, Barbara’s glee turned to gloom as Mr. Branson started dragging her back to his yard. Putting the rake in her hand, he put her to work cleaning up her mess.
A few hours have passed, and Barbara’s parents were getting concerned. It wasn’t like her to miss dinner, especially when she knew it was her favorite meatloaf. Her father decided to search the town, starting with her neighbors. After hearing about her antics earlier in the day, he got into his car and drove down the street; stopping at the houses with leaves scattered everywhere, following the clues she left behind. It wasn’t long until he made his way to the edge of town. Noting that Mr. Branson’s yard boasted a fresh pile of leaves, he pulled up in front of his house, parked the car, and walked up to his door.
The strange man came to the door where he found Barbara’s father waiting. After telling him of the mess that Barbara made earlier in the day, he informed her father that she left his yard, heading back home, cutting through the neighbors backyard. Thanking him for his time, he quickly took off in the direction provided, searching for his daughter, but with to no avail. Even with the help of the sheriff later in the evening, Barbara was no where to be seen.
It was a small room, no larger than a closet. There was barely enough room for her to move, if she were able to do so. Her hands and ankles were bound together, keeping her sitting on the floor as well as from reaching the tape over her mouth. Panicked and afraid, she struggles as hard as she could, yet her bindings would not give. Alone in the darkness, her muffled weeps echoed in her heart, and in all the hearts who were searching for her. Alone in the darkness.
She would be his first.