“That place is cold and a darkness weighs heavy there…
It is not a place where the living should linger.
It is corrupted, unnatural in its silence.
That place…is forgotten.”
– Former Mayor of Whislem
I went back to that town..and I shouldn’t have.
Delain…sister. This letter may never find you, but I must write it anyway for my own sanity. I feel your spirit yet lingers, or perhaps, I had simply gone crazy.
Perhaps I’ve broken down. After all these years, your disappearance was never solved. And now, I am sure, your spirit or some impression of you, waits there restlessly.
On the eve of that accident’s anniversary, I took the first train out to Whislem. I went back to that once happy place to find it trapped in winter.
Mother tried to dissuade me on behalf of our ill father. I still see the effects of the explosion in the discolored skin of his face and the brittle patches of hair. His sight never returned and his memory is faulty. He was once so strong, a military man. Do you see what he has become?
Still, Delain, I had to find my peace by going back there. I saw you in my dreams, nightly, running through the halls of the base. I could never quite catch up. You called out my name and it rang in the empty halls.
Don’t you see? I could not let you go until I returned. I felt it in my bones, my skin, teeth and nails. Were you calling to me, sister? Is our twin sibling bond something unbreakable? The answers were in the ruins of the plant and that military base.
I hung on to your favorite coin. The one father brought back from Vietnam.
As soon as I entered that town, it was the only warm thing besides myself. Whislem had died. It was a ghost town, save the few drunks who shut themselves up in dilapidated bars and boarded up homes. How could they still live here? Wasn’t the place toxic?
A heavy snow covered the place. Everything was white and icy. The snow topped trees blanketed the land in a thick forest. That is where the base and plant was.
I looked past buildings and gazed at the spaces between them to see alleyways…that was the first time I saw you. Not as the child you were when you disappeared but older, my age; young and beautiful.
Delain, I did not know how it was possible then, but your piercing eyes beheld me and the vision of you was like a phantom.
I knew I missed you. That’s why I turned away. I knew it surely had to be my mind, wishing you back into existence.
I continued my journey, your coin flipping through my fingers. I pushed through snow, every step a bit harder than the next. That place was sapping my energy. I knew then why the people there looked so…lifeless. Perhaps I could feel it then and knew my answer, that Whislem was not a good place–that it wasn’t right.
Still I proceeded, because Delain, what else was I to do? I wondered every single day and night after your disappearance…why not me?
And so I entered the forest. I had plenty of light left and I still remembered where everything was. I walked through the trees, snow beginning to gentley fall from the grey sky, and as I did, I could see a figure moving along with me.
The glances I stole where short but I was sure; it was the white of your dress, a half of a face, fingers wrapped around the trunk of a tree–fleeting images of you. I shook my head, I tried to clear it. My heart beat rapidly and my nose ached from the cold as I continued.
It all seemed so real…
Yet, still I walked with the weight of winter pressing down on me. They say it never stopped; that winter never ended after that fatal day. In Whislem, time has stopped.
I had to see you, Delain. Your disappearance left a hole in all of our hearts. You and some two hundred others. Your bodies were never found.
I came upon the base. The fence was still up, but it had fallen apart like everything else. I glanced back and was all by myself, surrounded by trees and silence; and then I saw you again. Tan hair flowing, as you ducked behind a building.
I shouted your name like a mad man. How would you have actually been there? But I didn’t care, Delain, I followed and crept through a hole in the fence. The base was so cold. Utterly cold.
I ran to where I had last seen you, only to find one of the doors ajar, broken and hanging open. I entered and it all came rushing back to me. The time we spent running those halls, playing hide and seek while father worked at the plant.
Did you know what he did there? I still don’t have all the answers. He’s never talked about that day but I remember the flashing lights and the sirens. We were playing hide and seek again and my fears were confirmed when I couldn’t find you at the base. All those rushing people, the screams, and panic sent my mind into chaos.
Now I had returned. I ran back down the halls. They were empty and rusted. They seemed old and dank, as if the snow had gotten in and melted. I ran down the halls, just like in our dreams and by the heavens, Delain, I saw you. You ran ahead of me, disappearing behind corners, keeping just far enough away that I couldn’t catch you. We ran and ran, till I ended up at the section that led to the plant beyond.
The steel door used to need a code and I remember guards always standing near it. They held guns, automatic weapons. Their eyes were dark and just as cold as the winter. We never went in that way. We had a secret passage. But this time, it was different; no guard to stop me.
Your voice was a sharp whisper. I spun around and there you were, Delain. So ghostly white and beautiful. Your hazel eyes did not blink, but your countenance did. Your face glitched and melted in places that made me turn to ice. You reached out, glitching in an out of existence, saying something I could not hear.
What I did next, I regret. I closed my eyes. I looked away from you and when I opened them, you were gone.
What the Hell had I seen? Where was the little sister I had known?
I entered the plant, my skin crawling. The plant didn’t feel as dead as Whislem had. It felt electric, as if there was some sort of static in the air. It was impossible though, the plant had been shut down after the explosion.
“Wait for me!” echoed a ghostly girl’s voice.
I whirled around but saw no one.
“Level five personnel only,” came another ghostly echo.
And then it began, the walls started to shiver and shift; yet still I carried on. What happened to our special place? What had dad worked on?
The ghosts of the past came screaming back into the present through phantom whispers and I swear reality was shifting. And as abruptly as it started, it ended. I was in silence as I walked the dead halls of the Whislem Military Plant. Labs branched off down dark corridors and just ahead, was the power supply room. The reactor.
The air felt sticky and heavy.
“Don’t…” your voice whispered.
“Don’t what?” I called out.
You couldn’t have still been there.
I slid open the door to the reactor room and of course, there you were. Beautiful, ghostly, and crying.
The reactor should have been powered down, but I could feel a slight buzz in the air. The visions of you was glitching in an out. You pointed towards the reactor and spoke, but Delain, I could not hear you and then all at once, everything came crashing together.
The screams, the cries, the smells of chemicals, and ghostly glitching of people around me.
Finally I could hear you.
“I am trapped,” you said. “Don’t come here, brother, or you’ll never return.”
“Delain? Is that really you?”
Everything looked warped. It buzzed and blended together like running paint. My world world seemed to shatter around me.
“You have to leave,” you said.
“The reactor should be off.”
“No, you have to leave Whislem. This place–” Your voice cut in and out. “–Father knew what they were doing——-reality split. Your world———are separate.”
And then everything stopped. It was still and quiet, as if I had hallucinated the whole thing, but I hadn’t.
I stood there gawking just before you screamed back into existence, inches away from me. The world was melting around me in a cacophony of sound and colors.
“Get out or stay with us forever!” you screamed.
The piercing wails and screeching made my head feel as though it would burst. I clamped my hands over my ears, turned, and ran. I didn’t want to, Delain. I didn’t want to leave you but your sorrowful glitching face told me that I couldn’t help you if I stayed.
I got out of there. I ran through the base and through the cold forest. I got to town and it was silent and empty, no signs of people, just decrepit buildings. Were they ever real to begin with?
Delain…they say winter never ends in Whislem and I think I know why.
That day, the reactor malfunctioned. Or, perhaps it did exactly what it was meant to. You disappeared, so did two hundred others, while the rest of us suffered with the after effects.
I left as you had told me to. I went back home and saw our father. I told him what I saw and he balked at the idea but faltered when I told him of you and how I felt you were still there, trapped.
Perhaps he knew the whole time that what they were creating and trying to do. There experiments with time and space tore the fabric of reality.
Delain, my twin sister, I think we are still connected.
That is how I was able to step between my world…and the world you are now trapped in.
And I promise you, Delain, i’m going to go back there. I will not abandon you. When I do return, I’ll have found a way to set you and everyone else free from that endless winter.
Just wait for me, sister.