Author's Note: I deeply apologize for this late upload. Fictionpress decided to bug out on me and despite my uploading the chapter (FIVE SEPARATE TIMES!) it just didn't register. Ugh. Well, now it's here, and you can all see it. It's time to finally put a bow on this story. I hope everyone has enjoyed it, especially in these times. After that cliffhanger in chapter 14, I couldn't just leave it there. So, here's the conclusion. Questions are answered, fates are revealed, and there is some room for speculation at the same time.
Hope you all like it.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: ONLY ONE FAMILY
One Hour Later
Somehow, against all reason, against all odds and logic, they did it.
The last channel managed to shut down the hijacking.
They saved the town. No. They saved far more than that. They saved their whole world. And no one would ever even know.
The convenience store clerk, after seeing the hijacking in progress, and hearing the harrowing story from the three investigators, felt nothing but sympathy for them. He was inclined to believe; after all, he had told Billy of the urban legend of a channel that could kill its viewers. The clerk kindly offered them a free snack of their choice, and they all partook. Then, Martin, with blood from his knee forming a thin trail behind him, led his team out to the parking lot, into the car, and drove them all home.
Throughout the ride, none of them could speak. They were all physically and emotionally exhausted from the ordeal of the last several hours…or was it days? Either way, Martin, Madeline, and Billy all silently hoped that they would never have to take on such an arduous and dangerous investigation again.
However, that raised an obvious question: could they even do it again? As a team? As friends?
Martin spotted Steve's old farmhouse on the left and pulled in, the truck headlights casting a long, lonely beam on the gravel driveway. All the windows of the house were dark, and not a sound could be heard. Not even the chirping of crickets broke the still, sad, sorrowful silence.
The Shadow Hunter sighed heavily as he shut off the engine. The truck's headlights switched off, leaving the trio bathed in darkness. Madeline checked her phone and noted the time. Almost one in the morning. To think they had been gone for three days! To think they were sent forward in time at all!
What a strange and stressful investigation. What a heavy price they paid. What a calamity they prevented. What a secret they had to keep.
Martin glanced up at the house. His breaths were heavy and pained, his injured knee still smarting. He was starting to wonder if that was Julia's doing as well. A simple banged knee couldn't hurt this much.
But something else was hurting. Something inside all of them.
It was a lingering beast called sorrow, hovering over the trio like a storm cloud. Their victory was a Pyrrhic one. The losses they suffered were irreplaceable. Even if they fought well and hard for the world to be saved, was it worth it in the end? If they never discovered the supernatural, could they have spared the life of one of their own? Was a dream of adventure and ambition just dust in the wind for it to be snuffed out?
One could not say for certain. Or rather, they were too afraid to even consider those questions. All they felt was a huge vortex in their hearts. The adrenaline died down slowly and painfully as they simply sat in silence in Steve's truck.
At last, Martin rested his head against the leather-coated steering wheel. This old truck had been Steve's for God knows how long. What would happen to it now? What would happen to his house?
What would happen to all of them?
Martin failed to hide a quiet sob. So many questions were left for him to ponder. What if Steve hadn't accompanied them? What if he had heeded Julia's advice and stayed away? What if Madeline slept soundly the night when she discovered Local 66?
No answers came. All that was left was a dark, deep, empty silence. A silence he broke with his tears.
At long last, the adrenaline was replaced with despair, anger…and hopelessness. The memories flooded Martin's mind. Memories of his ever-supportive grandfather. The beast finally emerged, and a wail of agony erupted from Martin's cracked, cut, dehydrated lips. His clenched fists slammed on the wheel several times as he screamed in pain, strong enough to nearly break it.
This was not a victory. They had not won. They lost the one thing that kept them connected to each other. They challenged something that was far beyond their comprehension and they paid dearly for it. This loss was one that would remain, no matter how long they have finished grieving or how many years have passed since.
Madeline offered no words of support. Instead, the virus spread, and tears grew in her eyes. Even Billy was not immune, despite his fleeting connection to Steve. Now they were cast adrift, lost ships in a stormy sea.
Now, in the darkness and in tears, they all took stock of what had transpired those past dozens of hours. This past month, even. They were indeed better people than they were in the past. But did it require such an immense sacrifice? Did more await them if they ever encountered Julia again?
Perhaps they never should have set foot in Wakeford at all…
It didn't matter much now. It was pointless to think about it. There was no room for any kind of thinking. Just a now raw, crippling, grim reminder. Paralyzingly constant reminder of their failure to protect what was close to them all. Failure of allowing time to slip away from them.
"…I can't believe it...I can't fucking believe he's gone…" Martin whispered inbetween sobs.
"What's gonna happen to us now?" Madeline asked the wind.
What, indeed? With their guardian dead, there was no one left to care for them here. They had no money. No car. No way of getting out of town except for the round-trip train tickets their parents had bought them. And even then, it was far too distant in the future. The sooner they called home, the better. But even then…
"And what are we gonna tell Mom and Dad?"
"We can't tell them the truth," Martin noted with an ounce of bitterness. "No one will believe us."
Madeline's jaw dropped. Was he being serious? He, the Shadow Hunter, the firm believer of the supernatural and paranormal, was proposing to keep the truth a secret. Was this Martin sitting beside her, or had Julia taken him and replaced him with someone else?
"So, you're just going to lie to them?" Billy protested. "You got to be kidding—!"
"You got a better idea?" he asked morosely. "You think anyone's gonna buy the story that our grandfather died protecting us from some interdimensional being?"
Again, silence entrapped them. Billy looked away in shame. Madeline could only bit her lip in frustration. As much as they wanted to believe otherwise, Martin was right. No one would believe them.
"Why did this shit have to happen to us?" Madeline cried in despair; her face soaked with tears. "Why us, dammit?!"
"…I don't know, Maddie," Martin mumbled. "…I…really don't have an explanation for any of this. But I sure as hell wish I did."
"Was it even worth it?" Billy muttered; his voice shakier than a rickety old house. "Would it have been better if…we didn't figure out the mystery? Did we really do the right thing?"
"Well, apparently not, 'cause Grandpa is dead! Nobody knew what happened and they wouldn't even care. So, why bother with any of this?!"
"Guys!" Martin entreated, fighting through his grief. "Please, just calm down, okay? We can't keep talking like that. That's not what he wanted!"
He looked at his sister. The girl was the image of utter misery, so different from who she was at the beginning. Before she had an aggressive drive, a fiery spirit. Now that spirit seemed doused by a continual downpour of tears. In the back sat Billy, their newfound friend. He had arguably suffered the worst from all of this. Not only did he lose his parents but his guardian. Where would he go now? What fate awaited him?
Martin sighed. As difficult as it was, they had to keep things in perspective. If they didn't, there would be nothing to save them from the dark sea of depression in which they were drowning.
"I get it, okay? Shit, I get all of it. Gramps is gone. We came within an inch of losing our lives. But somehow—and I really don't know how—we made it through. We saved Wakeford. Hell, we saved the whole fuckin' world! That's gotta mean something, dammit. It has to!"
Madeline and Billy exchanged glances and nodded reluctantly. Indeed, it was true. They lost a great deal, but that was nothing in comparison to what they saved. People they didn't even know about would live out their lives peacefully and happily, albeit in ignorance of what was done to make it so. That had to mean something. Even if no one believed them, they would carry that accomplishment throughout their lives.
"I don't have answers for what's gonna happen next. For now…let's just go back inside. We need to get some sleep. I know it's hard, but…we did what we had to do. The rest…we'll just figure it out. Somehow. One day at a time."
The other two, far too fatigued and grief-stricken to argue, only assented. They couldn't sit in the car forever. They reeked of dirt, blood, and God only knew what else.
Exhausted and demoralized, they filed out of the car and walked uneasily up the steps to the house. For now, they needed sleep. They needed to recover. And they needed to move forward, no matter how painful their losses were.
As Martin unlocked the front door, Madeline whispered something to her brother.
"We're not coming back here, are we?"
"…No. I don't think so."
Three Days Later
At the train station, Billy sat down as he waited for the twins to arrive. Despite their victory against the supernatural enemies, it came at a heavy price. Madeline and Martin had trouble functioning for the past 3 days. Martin's knee, badly bruised from battle, left him with a limp. Blood caked his leg when he finally arrived home for the night. That was to say nothing of his mental state: neither of them slept or ate much, only grieving for their late grandfather. Martin barely even had the strength to edit his videos to explain what had happened. His followers, which had now ballooned to almost 200,000, were left wondering what had happened to them.
Steve's sacrifice was something no one expected. With him gone, and with no other relatives in Wakeford, the time had come for the twins to return to Washington D.C. Their lives were uncertain now. School would start soon enough, and both had to prepare for that, whether they liked it or not.
Billy's heart sank for their pain, but even more so for the fact that they were leaving him. Where else could he go? Who would be generous enough to help him along, seeing that his parents were still locked up? Just then, Steven's words came back to him.
Was it really the time to talk to them again? Was he ready to take that first step to reconnect?
He didn't have much time to ponder that. From the corner of his eye, he saw his two best friends arriving at the station, suitcases in hand.
Despite everything, the twins greeted him with a happy face. Perhaps it was their way to hide their grief. Or maybe they had found a silver lining in the dark clouds hanging over them. Either way, the younger boy was still pleased to see his friends as he ran up to them.
"Marty! Maddie!" he shouted before embracing the two of them.
The twins smiled as they returned the hug. Even though it was meant to be a somber, solemn moment, Billy still had the energy of a young adolescent. Martin couldn't help but admire that. Meanwhile, he was only 18, but felt more like 80. He even limped like an old man, his knee still hurting him. After everything Wakeford had thrown at him, after losing his grandfather and his first love, it was all too easy to let exhaustion and depression take him.
"Glad to see you, Billy," he remarked quietly as they broke apart. "Hope you've been better after all this."
"That should be my line," Billy gently chided with a chuckle. "How are you two feeling?"
"Like shit, to put it bluntly," Maddie admitted. "But, you know, time waits for nobody." The Shadow Hunter nodded.
"Gotta say, I never thought I'd be going home like this. It's too bad because I was really loving it here."
"Ditto," Billy agreed. "We had fun here, ghosts and all. Just a month ago, I was all trapped in the house with my parents, forced to dress in drag. And now…I've got two friends."
Madeline nodded as she shoved her hands into her pockets. Between the two of them, Madeline was returning home almost a different person entirely. What future lay ahead for her was as unknown as the monsters and spirits that awaited them.
"To think that, over a month ago, I was a bitchy skeptic who would shoot down my brother's career choice. The world seems so different now. College sounds like a cake walk compared to this."
Martin couldn't help but chuckle. She and Billy were right. A thousand times right. When they came in June, neither could have anticipated all the crazy and outlandish escapades that awaited them. Encountering a legendary cryptid. Freeing a ghost from purgatory. Stopping a dimensional merge. And for Martin, he fell in love with…an interdimensional being. He lost more than just his grandfather here. He lost perhaps the only woman (or creature) that he ever truly cared about.
What awaited him now, back in Washington? Would he even be able to continue his investigations back home, after all he had seen here? More importantly, what of Billy? They were effectively leaving him high and dry here, with no guardian to look after him.
"You can come with us, if you want." Billy's eyes widened to that of the size of dinner plates.
"W-what? Really? But…your parents…will they mind?"
"When we tell them what happened, I'm sure they won't," Madeline reassured him. "It's the least we can do after everything you did for us."
Billy considered that notion, and it was a tempting one. It was the best choice at that moment. How easy it would have been to leave Wakeford and move on to a better life. However, he thought back to Steve's words once more.
He thought of Audrey, who taught him to be patient with their parents during rough times. Her faith and patience in her family. Her love for her family kept them together even in death, albeit in a twisted way. He couldn't forget about her so easily, or his negligent parents on a whim like that. He owed it to Steve and his sister to move on with life. Things were tough already when he was 13. With a deep breath, he shook his head and smiled gently and sadly at the twins.
"I appreciate it, Marty, but…I can't. I still have some…unfinished business here. I wouldn't feel right if I just left things be as is."
Both twins exchanged confused glances with each other at his refusal. They would think anyone else would gladly jump at the opportunity. A foster family and a chance to start over was the best prospect someone like Billy could hope for. Yet…he stayed. Why?
"Billy…seriously?" Madeline said at last, dumbfounded. "I mean, both of your parents are in the slammer, right?"
"Yeah, but it won't last forever. They'll be let out eventually. And when that happens, I need to straighten things out with them. Even if they wronged me in the past…"
Madeline was going to voice her concerns when Martin touched her shoulder, signaling her to stop. It was clear that Billy was different somehow. He changed since that month ago, when he first met him, a meek and timid boy falling victim to his family's abuse against him. Now, he was stronger, more mature. Even if their bond for him compelled to protect Billy, they had to accept his choice. He still had his own battles to deal with.
"We understand, Billy. I hope things turn out for the best on your end. No matter what, you're still our little brother. It's something Gramps would have wanted, too."
"Thanks, man. I appreciate it."
Just then, an announcement blared on the intercom.
"NOW DEPARTING FOR WASHINGTON, D.C.: TRAIN NUMBER 27."
The conductor's whistle indicated that their time together was fast coming to an end. Billy helped them all board the train before Martin turned him one last time.
"Billy, listen. This may sound corny as all hell, but…I'm glad I met you. I'm happy we got to work together on this. And I'm glad that you're my friend. If you ever change your mind, our door's open to you. Just give me or Maddie a call."
"Thanks, Marty. I'll remember that. So, what about your YouTube channel? Gonna keep at it?"
At that, Martin paused as Madeline filed their baggage away in one of the compartments in the passenger car vestibule. Truly, he didn't really know. This summer had been such a life-changing experience that he wondered if anything could top it. Even now, some of his subscribers and followers thought all the investigations were staged, they were so fantastical. Some people would never be convinced.
"I…don't know. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what the rest of the summer holds. But I know I'm not gonna forget my time here." He reached out his hand and Billy took it in a firm handshake. "Good luck with everything, my friend."
The conductor's call meant they had to part ways. The twins filed into the car as the diesel locomotive blared its horn, signaling its impending departure. Through the windows, the twins never took their eyes off Billy. Likewise, Billy never broke contact with them, even as the train started moving.
His heart was heavy but at the same time, Billy made the right choice. He knew that he would see the twins again. Whether it was 5 years or even 10, they would meet again. There will be more adventures for them in the future, uncertainty be damned. But for now, healing had to come first. Rebuilding a life had to be of top priority.
As the train faded away into the horizon, Billy turned to leave the station. He had a long walk ahead of him before meeting up with someone he needed to see.
While sulking in his cell, Justin Jacobsen heard a loud clank from behind him. One of the officers tapped on the bars with his stick to get the man's attention.
"Hey, get up. Your kid's here to see you."
The middle-aged man glanced at the man in blue, quizzically before he stood up from his seat in the bed. With the escort of the cop, he was sent to the visitation room, just like before. As he walked closer to the gray circle table, he spotted Billy already there, patiently waiting for him. He couldn't believe his eyes. His son returned for another visit! Why? How come? Billy had cut his ties with him long ago. Did he have a change of heart?
The father nearly hit his knee when he stopped walking near the table. Slowly, he sat down, never breaking eye contact with the young lad.
"Billy…you came back? B-but I don't understand. I thought…"
The young teenager cleared his throat and began to speak. Justin noticed there wasn't any harshness to his tone. No anger. No resentment. His voice sound more…calmer. Wiser. Stronger.
"The last time I was here, I said that I never wanted to see you or mom again. I realize now that it wasn't anger or hatred that made me say those words, it was sadness. You destroyed my trust and loyalty to you. You tried to ruin my life. You robbed us of our future together."
The father lowered his head in shame, deeply disturbed by his actions, still.
"I know. And I am truly sorry for that. If God could give me a second chance, I would take it. I would act differently, make less mistakes. I'd give anything to go back to the good old days—to be a family again."
Billy sighed deeply and admitted,
"I'm not sure if I can forgive you guys just yet, nor am I ready to, no matter how much you've changed. But…"
Justin's eyes lifted slightly, confused. Billy lowered himself on the table to grab something and put it on the table.
"…that doesn't mean I won't try. Audrey…would've wanted me to, at least."
He presented Justin was a checkers board. It was a game from his childhood, as well as Billy's. For the first time, the light finally returned to his once dead, depressed eyes. His mouth dangled open from shock.
Billy scratched the back of his head, failing to hide the small sprinkles of blush from his cheeks as he chuckled. Then, he flashed a strong, competitive-friendly smile towards his father.
"Dad, how'd you like a game of checkers?"
At that very moment, a dam broke loose. The once disgraced, immoral father now had tears in his eyes. Tears of joy and relief. If this was the first step to putting the pieces back together, he gladly took it. Anything to prove to his child that he was willing to redeem himself.
"I…I'd like nothing better."
"C'mon, don't go blubbering on me now!" Billy chided his father, mildly embarrassed. "The game has just begun. You haven't even lost yet." Justin wiped his tears away as best as he could, while snarking to Billy.
"You sure sound confident, son. I'm a master of this game, you know."
"Really? Prove it then, old man," Billy boasted with a cat-like smile. Justin laughed whole heartedly, for the first time in years.
"You're on, sonny."
The road to forgiveness and restoration of the Jacobsen family would be a long and arduous one. There might be more hardship and pain along the way. But Billy wasn't as scared or even apprehensive as before. After battling ghosts, monsters, and even an interdimensional being, this was poultry. With the wisdom and knowledge from the late Steven Chalmers inspiring him, Billy would take on whatever stood in his way. He was ready to take the chance and reconnect with his parents once more, day by day. Not just for the sake of survival and his livelihood but to honor Audrey's…and Steve's memory.
Justin moved first, and challenge Billy to move in kind. He pondered for a while, his eyes wandering around the room.
Then, in the corner of his vision, he spotted a prison guard who looked strangely familiar.
She was rather young, sporting a head of luscious, curly brown hair. Her blue eyes sparkled in the morning light streaming through the windows. Freckles dotted her face like constellations in the night sky.
No, it couldn't be…
The guard noticed him. At first, his blood ran cold. How did she make it back? Was it even her?
His body tensed, anticipating a fight.
But instead, the guard only smiled and nodded.
Every muscle relaxed. It couldn't be her, could it? If it was her, was she different now? Had she learned?
"Billy, you seem distracted by something." Justin recalled him. "Is something wrong?"
Billy returned his gaze to his father. The man who caused him so much suffering, but now was on the road to redemption. The young lad smiled.
"No. It's nothing."
He slid one checker across the board.
On the train, Martin and Madeline sat by a window, lazily watching the West Virginian countryside go by. The Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains passed them, majestic and stoically standing above all. Farmlands and small towns were rendered as blurs, as if zooming past a camera lens.
The train car in which they sat was quiet. Only a few other passengers were scattered around, making soft, hushed conversation. But besides that, and the rhythmic clicking of wheels on the rails, the air was still. Chokingly so.
Madeline straightened a lock of her hair out of her face before turning to Martin. His ash blonde mane hid his glassy eyes, fixed down at his beat-up sneakers. This was not how they anticipated leaving town. Not at all.
She didn't expect to leave town a firm believer in the paranormal like her brother. She didn't expect to come face to face with a legendary cryptid, let alone accompany Martin on his numerous mysteries. Least of all, she didn't expect to be burned and betrayed by, of all things, an interdimensional being masquerading as a kind, unflappably mischievous waitress.
"Hey, bro? You okay?" she asked, somewhat hesitant.
Martin didn't respond. He only looked out the window, resting his chin on one hand. The shock still hadn't subsided. It had been only three days, after all.
His eyes listlessly gazed at her. He was as lost as a message in a bottle at sea.
"Are you gonna be okay?" Martin shook his head.
"I really don't know, Madeline. After everything that happened…I'm just…lost."
"Yeah? Join the club. I still have no clue about everything. Fuck, I don't think we should even be alive right now."
"Yeah, you're probably right. We should be dead a hundred times over."
Silence gripped them with an ironclad hold. To Madeline, Martin seemed a different person. He came to Wakeford filled with hope and enthusiasm. Now he seemed…hollow. Dulled. Tired. And who could blame him?
"Marty, about what Billy asked you…are you gonna keep at it with your channel?"
Her brother leaned back, his hands sifting through his hair like sand on a beach. In the three days after they stopped the broadcast, he managed to make a series of videos covering the entire investigation. But through the whole process of editing and compiling footage, she could tell his drive was not the same as before. Maybe it was from the stressful nature of this case. Maybe it was from the fact even some of his fans found the whole story to be farfetched. Maybe it was because of what this last case cost him.
"You're not gonna pack it in, are you?" Madeline pressed.
"…No, I'm not," he relented. "Not yet anyway."
"Good. I don't want you to."
At that declaration, Martin raised his eyebrows. Madeline might as well have been speaking Russian.
"Really? I never thought I'd hear you say that, sis."
"Yes, I know. I even surprised myself! But seriously, I don't want you to quit!" she insisted. "I mean, yeah, I used to think you were an annoying weirdo, but I see things differently now. I know you're not just chasing shadows like I first thought. Besides, even back then, well…I was…really envious."
"Envious of me?"
"Of course, I was…"
She glanced out the window. An elderly man driving a tractor waved to the train as it passed. For a fleeting moment, she thought she saw Steve.
"Even if I thought you were doing something stupid, you were still driven. You were passionate about what you did. You didn't let anyone stop you, least of all me. A part of me wished I had that passion. Before jumping on board your team, I didn't really have any ambitions. I didn't want to do anything with my life. No work, no college, nothing. I thought I could skate by through life with Josh, and look how that turned out…"
She leaned across the table separating their seats. Martin felt something stir in his soul as she didn't relent.
"That's why I want you to keep making videos. I want you to keep ghost hunting. And, more importantly…" she averted her eyes, looking back out the window. "…I want to keep working with you. Helping you solve all these mysteries and chasing those shadows…it felt good. It made me believe I could do something meaningful. I had a purpose and a drive. So…that's why…"
At that, Martin's spirits picked up and the storm raging in his soul calmed, at least somewhat. Truthfully, he never would have thought that Madeline would come to his aid. But this summer had proved just that. She was a loyal sister. A dedicated, hard worker. Perhaps even more of a staunch believer than he was.
There would be more mysteries for him to uncover. There was no doubt of that. Indeed, his time in Wakeford proved that this world was far more beguiling and enigmatic than most thought it was. His experiences were proof enough. After all, his first girlfriend was a being from another dimension. Who else could say that?
So, it was with that knowledge, that assurance that Madeline would stick by him, that made him smile.
"Thanks, Maddie. I'm glad to have you as a sister."
"That's the spirit…Shadow Hunter."
The two shared a soft laugh between them. What lay ahead was as mysterious as Wakeford itself, but if he had his sister with him, there was a chance he could still make sense of everything. One case at a time.
He reached into his backpack and pulled out his high-definition camera before asking Madeline to record one last message. Madeline naturally obliged.
When she hit the record button, he found new energy. Energy to keep moving. To keep digging.
"Hey, guys, it's Martin. I'm recording this while we're travelling back to D.C. This is to tell you what's gonna happen now."
He glanced out the window for a fleeting second. He saw a girl standing by a railroad crossing, waving to the train as it passed. She sported a head of curly brown hair, and a smile as bright as the dawn. He smiled in kind.
"No doubt you guys are all wondering what the hell happened in the last series of videos. To be honest, I'm just as lost as you. Neither I nor Maddie have any explanation for the last case. I never anticipated any of this stuff happening. I never thought…"
He choked on his next words. Madeline wondered if she should stop, but Martin raised a hand. He had to keep going.
"I never thought that I'd lose my grandfather fighting a creature from another dimension. Hell, I never thought that the culprit would be a girl that I liked. We never saw any of this coming. I-I know that a lot of you find what happened to be extremely hard to believe, and I don't blame you. Hell, I wouldn't believe it myself if it happened to anyone else. So, if you think I'm faking it all…that's fine. I can't force you to believe me. I can only share with you what I find."
He sighed, struggling to collect himself. But Madeline didn't stop recording. She had learned from him that it was vital to record everything.
"I'm not gonna lie to you guys: that case…it took a lot out of me and Maddie. It cost us far more than we anticipated. But, at the same time, I want to assure all of you that I'm not gonna stop."
He gulped, but he didn't shake. His voice was as firm as a rock standing against rapids.
"Ever since coming to Wakeford, my channel has been blowing up like never before. I-I can't even believe that I've almost hit 200,000 subscribers. To all of my new subscribers, I want to say thank you all so much. And yeah, I know, a lot of people are subbing to me just 'for the lulz' and think that I'm a total con artist, but I don't care about that. The reason I run this channel and the reason I'm gonna keep investigating the paranormal is because there are those of you out there who genuinely think like I do. This world is not as clear-cut and easily explainable as people like to think it is. There is mystery everywhere, sometimes hiding right under our noses. My job is to let those people know that, even if everyone thinks you're crazy…I believe you. I believe you because I've seen it too."
Martin leaned back in his chair. Despite every reason he had to break down and cry, despite every reason in the world to shut everything down, he sported a brave, wide, hopeful smile.
"Guys, when I get back to D.C., I'm going on a little break. I just need a bit of time to recover. But I'm not gonna stop. After I'm back, I'm gonna keep searching, and Maddie and I are gonna share everything we find here on this channel. Because there is a whole other world out there waiting to be uncovered. So, don't stop believing, no matter what anyone tells you. Until next time, I'm Martin Chalmers…"
He flashed the "V" sign at the camera in triumph.
"…and I'm the Shadow Hunter."
Author's Note: Well, that's it. That's the end. It may have come across a bit too sappy and hopeful for this spooky season, but if I'm honest, I think horror stories ending on a downer where everyone dies and the villains win are overdone these days. So, I wanted to end it on a more optimistic note. Feels right especially given the current times.
Firstly, I want to give a big thank you to my friend and editor Kahoruko711 for her help in this. She gave me valuable insight, advice, and just the right amount of nudging to help me finish this in time for Halloween. I owe you big time and I can't thank you enough for your efforts. I could not have done this without you.
I'll be honest: as much fun as I had writing this, it became really frustrating at times. During the eight months I wrote this, well...I went through quite a bad depression. My mother suffered a heart attack that put her in the hospital, COVID-19 basically shut the world down, and my country all but devolved into anarchy. Yet, through it all, this story was the one thing that kept me moving. It was the one thing I could sink my energy into and keep my sanity afloat. With this, I can at least point to one good thing that came out of 2020.
Which brings me to what happens next.
Now, I will admit that the idea of a sequel to this sounds tempting, and I've even entertained a couple of ideas for one, but I only want to pursue it if I know there's interest in it. So, if you guys want to see more of Martin and Madeline, just tell me in a review and I'll see what I can come up with next Halloween. It probably won't be as long as this, but we'll see.
Outside of that, though...I don't know if I'll be writing another story again for a while, horror or otherwise. This year has given me a lot of pain and left me starved for inspiration. After all the crap that's happened, I really need a break from it. With that in mind, I am going on a writing hiatus at least until next year. I don't know for certain when the hiatus will end, but rest assured that you or anyone who follows me will be the first to know when I'm back at it.
Until that time comes, however, and until the Shadow Hunter finds a new mystery to solve, I wish you all the best.
Happy Halloween, everyone.
Until we meet again,