The Alisters

From the very moment they first moved into our town, everyone thought there was something strange about Mr. and Mrs. Alister.

No one was sure where they came from. Some claimed that they had inherited their wealth, and they had moved to little St. Caron to retire into peace and quiet. Some claimed that Mr. Alister had earned his fortune through successful business entrepreneurship, but, of these, no one could agree on what he did. Some said he'd invested in oil. Some said he'd started a business making fishing equipment and nets. Some said he was the head of his own law firm, while still others said he made his living on, of all things, gumball machines. No one knew which of these stories was correct, but some of us preferred it that way. One thing everyone could agree on, though, was that Mr. and Mrs. Alister were always wrapped in mystery.

It started on the night that they moved in. Everyone swore that there was no house on that big hill just outside of town the day before they had come, but then, overnight, there was suddenly a vast, sprawling mansion there. There are no records of its construction, though the deed goes back for twenty-five years. No one is sure how they managed to build it so quickly, and without anyone knowing. One witness, who happened to be awake on that night and was staring at the hill out of her bedroom window, says that one moment, there was nothing, and then the next, it was just there. Immediately, rumors began to circulate about the couple.

In appearance, most could agree that they seemed fairly normal. Mr. Alister was a gruff old man, with a bald head and a pointed silver beard, and while he didn't seem to like people all that much, there was nothing especially malicious about him. Mrs. Alister was practically the opposite of her husband: plump and cheerful, with red cheeks and a kindly, almost grandmotherly demeanor, the kind of woman you find at town meetings and knitting clubs. Unlike her husband, she seemed to enjoy the company of people, but, even so, if you looked into her eyes long enough, you saw that there was something sad, almost resentful there. Both of them stayed inside their mansion most of the time at first, but after a while, Mrs. Alister began to emerge once a week to go shopping at the local store, while Mr. Alister began to make more appearances once he got himself a job.

No one was sure how he got his position, exactly, and no one remembered voting for him, but, only two months after he arrived in St. Caron, Mr. Alister managed to be elected Town Historian. Soon, it was a common sight to see him in his office at the Town Hall, although, oddly enough, no one ever seemed to remember him arriving. Every morning, as soon as the Town Hall opened, he was just there, already sitting behind his desk and filing through paperwork. He rarely spoke to anyone except for things related to his work.

For a while, everything seemed normal. Everyone went about their daily business, and, eventually, even the initial rumors about the couple died down, and everyone lost interest. They seemed contented to keep to themselves, so we did the same. No one pried. Not even when people started disappearing.

No one was even aware that anything was wrong until it was already too late. Over the course of a year, our town's population dropped steadily from eight hundred to less than two hundred fifty, and before we knew it, we were living in a ghost town. At first, everyone thought that they were simply moving away; after all, our town had never been very large to begin with, and it was understandable that some might want to move elsewhere to seek their fortunes. But soon people began to find it odd that they left no way to contact them, and gradually, they began to grow suspicious. Still, no one thought to blame the Alisters – they kept to themselves the whole time, Mrs. Alister shut up in her huge house, and Mr. Alister in his office at the Town Hall.

Now, we are the only ones left. Our town is almost completely deserted; only we two remain, huddled up in our cellar, waiting for them to come for us. They took all of them, every last one. We have seen what they do to them: they become something else, too strange and horrific to describe. But it isn't their fault. This is what they are meant to do; just as we are doing what we are meant to do.

We can hear their footsteps up above us. We sit here, silent, too terrified even to whisper lest they hear us. This is our final testament, our last remnant of what we once were. They will find us, and they will take us; this cannot be avoided, for we ourselves agreed to it long ago. One way or another, we will meet our fate. We only ask that you forgive us.

We are sorry. We had no choice.

-Henry and Margaret Alister