Two wide ditches ran along either side of the highway. It had rained so much in the previous three days that both were nearly overflowing, and I could see the moving water’s surface reflect the light blue-gray of the cloud scattered sky from any point on the abandoned pavement. It was almost seven AM on the 28th day of April. The first part of the morning had been dark with the slow, heavy rain that characterized the past month, but the last hour had broken up the clouds and the sun now shone between them. I walked along the asphalt in search of a single exit ramp. Every other step knocked loose some piece of concrete and sent it flying. The road was in pathetic condition; there probably hadn’t been anyone on it in several years. Congress had long since declared these old roads condemned and made their use a crime, but they never thought it useful to send someone to patrol them. I had encountered no one since leaving Pittsburgh, a full two days before. The wind pushed against me, and the seventy degree weather seemed a bit cooler.
I eventually came to the exit ramp I had been searching for: a single green sign, leaning at a forty-five degree angle with its lettering masked by black spray paint. I turned to the right and headed up the slight incline. At the top of the hill I turned to my left to cross an overpass which lay above the highway. After almost a hundred feet, I was between the abandoned buildings of a small town. I knew its name. Very few who were still alive did. Among the first structures I came across was a brick convenience store with an unlocked door. It was dark inside, but light still entered between the planks of wood that barred the windows. Bare metal shelves with old coats of off-white paint stood at odd angles. Wires hung from what had been a drop ceiling, the tiles now ripped and rotting. I took a seat on the top of a long counter that stretched in front of the door. I inhaled and closed my eyes. Breathing out, I placed my face in my hands and leaned forward, resting my elbows just above my knees. A few minutes passed and the door opened again.
I raised my head. In front of the door way stood a tall black man with shallow cheeks and long limbs. It appeared as though it was my turn to speak. “Did you come alone, Anderson?’
He smiled. “Do you think I did?”
I dismounted the counter and approached him. “I hope you did.”
He chuckled and relaxed his posture. “So, why am I here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Anderson turned his head from side to side, looking at the bare shelves and cracked walls. “So we’re ghost hunting?”
I glanced towards the decaying ceiling, then towards a boarded window beside Anderson. I was eye level with a single rectangle of light filtering through the space between boards. It was a thin strip of blue interrupted only by the dark green of a far off tree. “You could certainly say that.”
“That’s good, because ghosts are the only goddamn thing you’re gonna find here.”
We left the store and continued down the road. We were on the southern edge of what had been a town of 4000. The southern half had mostly been residences, with a few service stations scattered near the outskirts. The north half was mostly businesses. Now they were all decrepit buildings. The neglected structures were in various states of collapse, some just piles and others still livable. They were all empty, though. We stayed on the street that the convenience store had been on and headed north, away from the highway. Anderson walked with his hands stuffed in his jacket and let his eyes shift warily back and forth. His right hand left his pocket, and in it was a crumpled piece of pink paper. He stared at it for a moment.
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