Kevin knew as soon as he got out of his car that he would not like this town.
It was a tiny little town that he had never heard of before called Galen, his parents had told him just a few weeks ago, and that’s where they would be spending their lives for the next year. They were moving because Kevin’s stepfather had gotten a job opportunity in one of the factories there; the town was so far away that it required the whole family to relocate.
Kevin, of course, was not happy about moving. He was seventeen years old and was just a month away from starting his senior year when his mother broke the news to him. He wanted to stay in his hometown and spend his last year of high school with the friends he grew up with. He had been looking forward to commencement and graduating with his childhood friends, but with the prospect of moving all his hopes were crushed mercilessly.
His mother tried to make him feel better, saying that at least they were moving during the summer so he wouldn’t have to transfer in the middle of the school year. But no matter what she said it was no use. He did not feel better in the slightest.
Despite Kevin’s unhappiness with the situation, he knew better than to complain. No matter what he said he knew it wouldn’t change anything, they would move whether he liked it or not. So he kept his mouth shut. And before he knew it the house was sold, all their stuff was packed up, and they were traveling across the country by car to get to Galen.
As they drove into the town Kevin already had a bad feeling about the place. When they finally arrived the sky was gloomy and dark. As they continued driving a thick, dense wall of smog began to roll in. The smog appeared gradually but it wasn’t long before it completely engulfed their car and they could barely see anything outside the vehicle beyond ten feet.
Kevin’s mom, Joanna, turned to her husband. “Why is it there so much smog Robert?”
Robert leaned forward, trying to peer through the windshield. “What did you expect? This is a factory town, of course there’s going to be smog,” he said. “The factories run all week and they give off a lot of smoke.” He squinted and turned on his brights.
Joanna sighed and leaned back in her seat. “I don’t know if I like the sound of that…”
Kevin sniffed. All the windows of the car were closed, sealed shut, yet he could smell a very odd, distinct odor as they drove through the town. It was an oily and bitter smell, like burnt almonds. He had never smelt anything like it before and it tickled his nose.
“Do you guys smell that?” he asked his parents.
His mom looked back at him. “Smell what honey?”
“You can’t smell it? It smells really gross. I bet it’s poisonous gas from the smog.”
“Oh, stop it Kevin.”
At that point the smog started to clear up and they could see their surroundings. They were in the center of town now, yet it was eerily quiet. There were no people anywhere, it looked like a ghost town. The buildings were tall and loomed over them like shadows in the thin fog.
“Where is everyone?” Kevin asked his stepfather. Joanna looked at Robert too but there was no response.
They drove for a little more before Robert pulled into a small, empty gas station. “We’re running on E,” he said to no one in particular, before swiftly getting out of the car.