Everything seemed to be drained of color by the overcast sky, and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Once Allen had crossed the threshold, it was as if he’d stepped into an old, faded photograph of Barryton–not the real thing.

“As you get closer, there are a few things you’ll have to watch out for,” Carson had said, after his attempts to argue Allen out of the expedition had failed. “The cold’s one; I’ve never been all the way inside, but it’s been down to 40 on the dog days.”

“I’ll pack a parka.” Allen pulled his coat close about him, recalling his flip response; it didn’t seem to help. The thermometer on his wind gauge read 60, but he still felt chilled to the bone.

Carson had said more, of course: “The…silence…is another thing. It’s hard to describe but damn unsettling. You will quite literally be making the only sounds you can hear; there will be nothing else. Sound doesn’t carry well either, so even talking to yourself won’t do much against it. And I wouldn’t recommend drawing attention to yourself, anyway.”

“I thought you said it was deserted,” Allen had said. “Dead.”

“It is, but…there’s still something about that place. I don’t know what you’d call it…a presence, maybe. Like something’s watching you. Not so much as a blade of grass has grown there in decades, but something has kept the others from coming back. You’d best go cautiously and armed.”

Moving throughout the deserted streets as the temperature dropped and the silence grew all the more deafening, Allen came to understand what the old man had been talking about. Despite the fact that all color, motion, and sound seemed to have been sucked out of the world, he didn’t feel lonely.

He felt watched.

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