It’s a normal sunny day in Moonlight Bay. The sounds of kids laughing, wind rustling leaves, and a radio far away blasting the newest pop song can be heard.
A girl yells angrily at her mother, “Mom, you can’t! I like going to school to see my friends!” Her voice is whiny and angry, and she stomps her foot.
Her mom quickly cuts in. “Marie, you didn’t see what they wrote on the windows. It was terrible! I’m not having those bullies pick on you again. Your father and I have already decided. You should be happy that you don’t have school anymore.”
Across the street, Miriam Sloane walks onto a vacant lot. She wipes a bead of sweat off her forehead. After her own husband had cheated on her and left her for her rich co-worker, she’d been living in a motel for the past few months. She’d finally been able to find her own home, but it only left her with $1,300 in the bank. As she enters the empty lot, her eyes grow wide.
“What – what happened to all my stuff? Where’s my house?” She pulls out a cell phone and swipes through it. “I just bought it last week! What’s going on?”
She races across the lot, her eyes tearing up, making everything blurry. She mumbles furiously to herself, trying her hardest not to cry.
She chases after a pretty, unfashionable teenager who is rushing to get to the bus on time. “Wait! I need to talk to you!”
“My name’s Miriam. I – I need to ask you a question, if that’s fine.”
“Sure. I’m Elaine. Can you just make it kinda quick, because I need to get to the bus. I have a geometry quiz in first period and I really can’t miss it.”
“Of – of course. I just wanted to ask you if you knew why this house is vacant. Just a week ago there was a nice picture of it up online, which is why I bought it.”
Elaine is completely silent, with a slightly shocked expression on her face, so Miriam keeps talking.
“I mean, was it all a scam? Because I paid everything I had in my bank account for this house, and I only have $1,300 left.”
“Um, I’m not really sure what happened. It was just a couple days ago. But, you know, people, like, spread rumors and stuff at school . . . they said, it, like, uh . . . got picked up by aliens. I, um, actually believe that stuff. You know what I mean? Because who’s to say aliens can’t really disintegrate houses and stuff? That kinda stuff interests me. I’m actually in an alien study program! I could –”
A teenage boy walks up and turns to Elaine. “Elaine, what are you talking about? Tell me it’s not your alien stuff again. You and I both know aliens didn’t pick up that house.”
“You never know, Herger – ”
The boy turns to Miriam. “Hey. My name’s Herger. Nice to meet you. Now allow me to tell you what I’VE heard around the halls. And I actually have a theory that’s pretty understandable.”
Elaine rolls her eyes. “Whatever. I gotta get to class.”
“So, I heard that the owners living in the house went through a pretty nasty divorce. You know the kind. They couldn’t look each other in the eye, no less share their kids.”
“One day, it got so unbearable for the mom, that she tied her kids up with rope while their dad was at his other house. She left the kids inside the living room, and set the house on fire. Then she immediately left the scene, running through the forest.”
“The cops got there almost as soon after she left through the woods. The house burned down, every last bit of it, with the kids still inside. You could hear the sirens from across town, and it made the news from here to Bridgeport. They never found the mom again, and shortly after the dad committed suicide. It was crazy.”
Miriam laughs quietly. “That’s a great story, Herger, but I’m not sure I can really believe that. It’s just too . . . bizarre. Sorry.”
Herger’s eyes blazed with anger. He stepped forward, his expression furious. “Alright then. Get out of my face.”
As Miriam walks, she thinks to herself, Alright. If I want to figure out what happened to my house, I’m going to need to ask the neighbors across the street. They’ve got to know what happened.
Hopefully they’re home. I don’t know what I’d do without a bed, toilet, or shower. I’m not peeing in front of everyone. And where would I sleep anyway?
Outside the house, Miriam can hear yelling. It sounds like a little girl’s voice. Then she hears a loud “Fine! Leave me alone!” and the pounding of angry footsteps.
Miriam presses her finger to the doorbell and gently pushes. Ding-dong.
A man steps out, mumbling angrily to himself. Miriam catches tiny snippets.
“Why’d . . . even . . . have a daughter . . . place? . . . always . . . trouble . . . friends . . . always . . . dumb . . . come over.”
He catches sight of Miriam and his face grows a deep shade of red.
“You darn kids! My wife’s not here, got it? She’s BUSY! Now get away from my house!”
“Excuse me, I’m not, uh, here for your wife,” Miriam says nervously.
“My name is Miriam Sloane.”
“Irwin Idaho. You’re a reporter? Because if you are – ”
“No, of course not! I, uh, live at the house – well, it’s not a house anymore – across the street.”
Irwin immediately turns around and heads up the steps.
“You darn reporter! Never come back over here again or I’ll . . . I’ll . . .”
Miriam chases him up the steps. “Mr. Idaho! Please! I don’t want to just let myself in, but I need to talk to somebody!”
Miriam pushes open the door and walks in to find Mr. Idaho busy in playing a guitar.
“Mr. Idaho? Please, I need to ask you what happened to the house. You ought to know.”
“Ssh! Can’t you see I’m BUSY?!” he retorts.
“Da-ad! Can you please stop that? It’s so annoying!” A girl playing on the computer in the corner covers her ears with her hands.
“Excuse me? Can I ask you a question?” Miriam asks, hurrying over to the girl.
“Of course. Let’s go into the kitchen where Dad probably can’t hear us through his hearing aid. We can thank him later for playing the guitar so unbelievably loud,” the girl responds.
“My name’s Miriam. I just moved here this morning.”
“I’m Marie. Just ignore my dad. He’s just a crazy old man. And be glad my mom’s not here, she’d be even worse!”
“I mean, they’re not literally crazy. They’re just so mean to me! It’s so annoying. I mean, they think people are bullying me, but it’s only because of my mom. I just don’t know why they think she’s weird . . . and they took me out of school for it! I’m not even allowed to see my friends anymore! It’s not even my fault! . . . So, what were you gonna ask? I’m sorry, I just started blabbering . . .” Marie trails off.
“It’s fine. I just wanted to ask if you knew anything about the house across the street. Um, 72 Erin Lane? Everything’s gone, and it’s just . . . weird.”
Marie raises an eyebrow.
“Oh . . . that house. Well, nobody’s really sure what happened, but, you know, everyone’s got their own little story. I got a few people’s stories and put them together, so here’s mine.”
“There was a young couple, about twenty-five years old. They were slowly separating, but still lived together with their two kids, because they didn’t want them to know what was going on. One night, the mom put on a pan of bacon for her husband, who would be coming home from work late that day. They had argued, and she was still angry, so she left the pan on the stove, so he would have to get it himself when he got home.”
“The mom went to bed shortly after. But the husband decided to work overtime so he wouldn’t have to face his angry wife. He didn’t know the stove was on. Suddenly, the house erupted in flames! The woman rushed out of the house, only to realize that her children were still sleeping soundly in their beds, stuck upstairs.”
“By the time the police arrived, the house was already up in flames, with the mom safely outside. The house burned, along with her two young children, and disintegrated. Since it was all a big accident, the mom left the town and went to Appaloosa Plains, where she lives with her parents, while her husband committed suicide due to the deaths of his kids.”
Wow. That was a crazy story. How can I live in a house that has such a bad history? . . .
But I can’t do anything. I hardly have any money left.
What am I going to do?
I should probably look in the newspaper. They might have discount items available. I need whatever I can get.
Hmm . . . Job Employment? Maybe I should get a job . . .
“‘Business. Work at the Business Complex! By City Hall. Monday-through-Friday. Come to the Complex and start working tomorrow!’”
That’s awesome! A new job already! Unemployment must be low in this town.
Hmm. Maybe I should go somewhere to celebrate.
Heads I go to the park, tails I find a restaurant nearby.
Heads. I guess going to the park would be a good way to make some friends. It’s all I got.
Wow, the park looks beautiful today!
Maybe I should talk to that man. He looks friendly.
“Hello, sir. My name’s Miriam Sloane. Is that your daughter? She’s adorable!”
“No, she’s not mine. I’m trying to adopt her though, she is the sweetest thing! My name is Leonard. Leonard Ryan. What brings you to the park on this wonderful day?”
“I just got a new job at the business complex! I’m so excited, so I thought I’d spend a day at the park,” Miriam says politely.
“Oh wow, really? At the business complex?”
“You better be careful there, Miriam.”
“Because I heard, that the boss . . .”
“It’s silly, I know . . . but she . . .”
“Uh . . . it’s pretty hard to say this to a random stranger, but she . . .”
“Burned down her neighbor’s house.”
Who is Miriam’s boss? Why can’t Marie’s mother be seen, and why is she pulling Marie out of school? Is Leonard telling the truth, or is he lying just as much as the teenagers? What will happen to Miriam?
Find out in Episode 2!