They say that a haunting is like a scar. An emotional wound that never fully healed. If that is true, then Ashland must be like an infected cut, left to fester then amputated from the world. The remnants of evil, the ghosts of the past, do not haunt Ashland. The evil here is still very much alive.
For you to understand the things that are to come I must first allow you to understand a few things about myself. First, I am young. A young girl. I'm not sure how young, I don't know my own age, though I believe that the range between twelve and fifteen is a rather accurate guess. My age is not the only thing that I don't know about myself. I don't know my own name either, though I suppose given my situation a name is not something that I need. Still, perhaps at some time in the future I'll decide that I am worthy of such a luxury and christen myself.
I read frequently, after all I have little to do but read. I don't attend school, though periodically I receive report cards (from which my name has been redacted) with grades that are just mediocre enough to be worthy of absolutely no commentary. From my reading, I have grown to understand the unusualness of my own situation, my disease if you will. I also attribute my rather advanced vocabulary and manner of speech to my frequent forays into the realm of literature. From what I understand girls of my age, my peers, I suppose I could call them, rarely speak as I do.
The more important thing that must be understood about me, however, is this. I have never seen another living human being. Ever. That is not to say I have no memory of speaking to or interacting with another human, or even seeing another person for that matter. I have inspected my memory on numerous occasions and there are no gaps. It is an undeniable truth that never, not once in my life, have I been with another living soul.
That being said, it is utterly impossible for that to be the case. I live in apartment 33E, the third room on the third floor of the East wing of the Ashland Heights apartment complex. It is a small apartment. There is one bedroom, one bathroom, and a mixed kitchen/living area. Additionally, there are two closets, one in the bedroom and a linen closet across from the kitchen. Every three or so days, the refrigerator is restocked. Every day, my possessions are moved around, and every once and awhile the furniture will be moved as well. None of this is my doing.
On the wall in the living area, there are a few photos hung. None of them have very much personality, except for one. A portrait of a family. My family, I assume. A grown woman and a grown man are pictured, along with myself. The man has his hand on my shoulder. I assume these people are meant to be my mother and father, though for some reason I've never felt as though this was true, and not because of my inability to recall ever having known them. No, it is because of my face that I doubt them. The face I make in the photo. It appears apathetic to those who would not look closely, but I know how to read myself. The emotion I am hiding in the picture, behind a veil of dispassionate aloofness, is disgust.
I cannot understand the nature of my existence. I have doubted my own sanity and memory on numerous occasions, so I took to keeping a notebook for some time. I would record my actions throughout the day, so as to be sure of my own memory. I recorded events with precise detail, marking the date, time, and a brief summary of the event in my notebook. It became clear that, while my sanity may still be questioned, my memory may not. As I said before, there are no gaps in my memory. I remember each day very clearly, in fact I would say that my memory is above average.
It appears as though I exist as a person without my own participation. There is a girl that exists that looks like me, that goes to school, that lives with two adults that may or may not be her mother and father, and the lives her life as I do, but I am not her. I am some sort of shadow of that existence. Or perhaps, these events I perceive are shadows of her, shadows of a life that I could've had if I wasn't trapped in this empty place.
This life is miserable. I feel as though I'm living in a hollow world, maybe even a dead world. I walk the streets every day. The wind blows, the electricity runs, the stores open and close, the stoplights change, but the world does not turn. There are no people in Ashland, and as far as I can tell, there are no people left on the planet. The empty streets run in all directions, and as I walk them I the loneliness itself is the only presence I feel, and it terrifies me. There is a malevolence in those empty streets, an evil.
There is one escape I have from this world, and that is my dreams. At night, I sleep, and in my dreams I'm not forced to live in this empty world. In my dreams, I wake up and I watch the clerks open the stores. I run down the bustling streets to my school, and I sit in my classroom, happy, laughing and playing with my friends. There is a music in the air, played by the twilight sun as I walk home. The days are long in my dreams, but they don't last forever, and when they end I find myself here again.
In the empty apartment 33E of Ashland Heights, on the empty Sunderland Street, in the empty town of Ashland.