After overhearing an urban legend about an abandoned village, Haley “The Sounds” Riot and Robin Bee set off to test Haley’s future predicting music player to uncover the mystery behind the community.
* This story takes place after Body Drop, however, I wrote this to stand on its own.
Haley Riot pulled on the purple musical note attached to the retractable band around her neck. The networker designed to look like two beamed eighth notes brought life a three-dimensional map of their position in the woods. Beside the map were a few postings and news clippings about the Babylon Sisters Village. Some of the posts talked of treasure, murder, and ghosts but offered no evidence other than stories of people going missing who explored the area.
Haley was determined to solve the mystery and had a secret weapon on her side: a device that predicted the future and revealed truths through song titles.
Robin Bee took a seat on a fallen tree as Haley reviewed the map. Once she caught her breath, she asked her girlfriend, “Are we on track?”
Haley swiped away the map. “Just down this hill, and we should be there.”
“Good,” Robin said as she laid down the log. “I didn’t expect this journey to be such an exhausting hike.”
“It wouldn’t be an abandoned village if it was next to a subway station.”
Robin sat back up. “Yeah, I know. Does your music player have any advice for approaching the village?”
Haley couldn’t tell if Robin was facetious or genuine. She had only helped solve one murder thanks to the music player, and Haley wanted to put it through a test on this urban legend she heard. Haley also often had difficulties reading Robin’s facial expressions, but she learned to default them all to seriousness. She decided to pull out the device to answer Robin’s question.
“What should we be aware of as we approach the village?” Haley said to her music player. She pressed the shuffle button. “Endless War.”
Robin sighed. “That’s helpful. Anyway, I’m ready to go.”
Haley pondered the meaning for a moment before letting out a frustrated moan as she returned the device to her short’s side pocket. “Yeah, let’s go.”
Haley led the way down the hill. The incline was steep enough for Haley to be mindful of her footing but not steep enough to slow her down.
“Ouch!” Haley mumbled, feeling a scratch across her tanned legs.
“I felt something scratch my leg.”
“Told you you should’ve worn pants like me,” Robin said and then felt a scratch across her leg. “Ouch! Something scratched my leg too.”
When Robin got scratched, Haley knew it wasn’t her imagination. While Haley was human, Robin was a ghaukvoi, and her thick, blue skin was tougher. Before they could think about it, a bunch more scratches cut across both their legs. Haley cussed, and they both ran down the hill, slapping at their legs to brush aside whatever was scratching them. As Haley rubbed her ankles, Robin looked back to where they once stood. Gusts of wind cut across the grass and plants, and she found the source.
“Wind ants,” Robin said.
“Wind ants?” Haley repeated.
“They’re territorial insects that can fling sharp gusts of wind at their enemies. I did some reading on the subway on our way,” Robin explained. “Anyway, from the looks of it, I think I see two different groups fighting each other.”
Haley’s face lit up. “Like they’re in an endless war!”
Robin’s eyebrows squinted down. “That’s a bit of a stretch.”
“But it makes sense,” Haley said with an optimistic wink. “Come on. We’re here.”
Nature had reclaimed most of the tiny village. According to Haley’s research, the cobblestone community consisted of about 25 people living an off-grid lifestyle. A dozen dome-shaped homes surrounded a large community center building also fashioned out of brown cobblestones.
“You know, this place is kind of cute,” Robin admitted as she took in her surroundings. “Not sure if I would say that at night, though.”
Haley laughed. “We got plenty of daylight left.”
“What do you want to investigate first?” Robin asked.
Haley took a look at the houses, inspecting them for any activity. “Let’s try some of the homes first and make sure this place is abandoned.”
Robin nodded. “Sounds good.”
Haley and Robin walked over to the nearest house, where Haley knocked on the door and called out hello. The wooden door crept open with a sharp squeal. Haley looked around and opened the door further, calling out hello again as she entered. Robin stayed behind, keeping watch.
“Anyone here?” Haley shouted.
The house was the same small size on the inside as it was on the outside. The lights did not automatically turn on, so Haley turned on her networker’s flashlight function to see. Instead of electricity, she found candles scattered around. The home was one room with furniture creating dividers for different sections. The place’s brown wood design had a warm, rustic atmosphere that Haley would have found calming if it weren’t for all of the belongings left out and covered in dust, leaving her with an ominous feeling. She returned to Robin outside.
“Anything interesting?” Robin asked.
“It’s like someone lived there, but they left years ago without taking any of their stuff.”
“That is weird. Do you want to head back?”
No,” Haley said without hesitation. “I want to see if it’s the same story with the other homes, and then I want to check out the big building.”
The couple visited three more homes, each with the same story. Clothes, food, and keepsakes were all left to gather dust. Inside the fourth home, Haley found a crimson wooden spoon resting on the kitchen counter. The spoon reminded Haley of the one Robin used to shove a rainbow muffin into her mouth when they first meet. Upon seeing Haley’s rainbow hair at the coffee bakery shop Robin worked at, Robin thought Haley would be a perfect test subject for a new recipe. Robin pocked the spoon and left the abandoned house.
“Same story,” Haley said to Robin as she closed the door.
“I’m curious. If everyone here suddenly disappeared, then how did you hear about this place?”
“I overheard this conversation at a bar, and they were talking about unexplained stuff, and this person was talking about the Babylon Sisters Village. Apparently, they came out here to deliver stuff for a wedding, and no one was around. I did some digging as I wanted to know more, but there wasn’t much to be found as it’s a small community. There were some posts about people saying they were going to explore this place for themselves, but they never did follow up.”
“Did they just not go or something?”
“No, it’s like they said they were going, and they disappeared.”
“And you’re not worried about disappearing?”
“Not when I got this,” Haley said, shaking the music player. Robin scoffed, and Haley quickly added, “And you too, of course.”
“Smooth save there, muffin. That thing tell you how this all got started?”
Haley asked the music player the reason that caused everyone to disappear and tapped the shuffle button.
“My Heart is Burning,” Haley said, confused.
“Don’t finish that thought,” Haley interrupted. She held up her music player. “How does Robin feel about that news?” Haley tapped shuffle. “Okay, now finish.”
“Spooky,” Robin finished.
Haley smiled and showed Robin the exact song title.
Robin rolled her eyes. “You set me up.”
“What? No way!”
Robin turned away and faced the community center. “How about we go check out this large building now?”
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
Blocking the wide double doors rested a large wooden crate with the retailer’s name, “Journal of Ardency,” stamped in black ink across the sides. Haley peeked inside through the opening. The container was empty, save for a few bits of red fabric hairs. Despite nothing being inside, Haley requested Robin’s help after trying to push it aside as it was heavier than it appeared. With the door clear, they both went inside this time. There was no need for additional lights as the windows filled the space with warmth and light. Both girls’ jaws dropped at the simplistic charm of the wooden reception area. They slowly walked into the room, soaking in the place. Haley could see the site as a perfect venue rental for events with its open floor plan and natural lighting.
“There’s nothing here,” Robin said, surprised.
“Except for that big old rug,” Haley added. In the center of the room was a fluffy, red rug several times their size. “Wait. I wonder if something is under it.”
As Haley stepped off, Robin yanked on her arm and pulled her back. “Hold on. Something is off about this place.”
“What do you mean?” Haley asked.
“You said all the homes were dusty?”
“There’s not a speck of dust here.”
Haley looked for confirmation. The place was immaculate. Haley asked her music player, “What danger should we be aware of in this building?”
“Well, what did it say?”
“Quicksand,” Haley spoke with gentle reservations.
She pulled out the wooden spoon she found and tossed it at the rug. The rug snapped on the spoon, like the jaws of a giant beast. Haley and Robin both shrieked and jumped back. The carpet slithered toward them, and they both bolted out of there. They didn’t bother to look back to see if the rug was following them or not. They ran as fast as they could, slammed the door shut, and moved the wooden crate back over the door.
As they caught their breath, a tall, brown fur sasquatch yelled, “Don’t go inside there!”
“Too late,” Haley snapped back as the sasquatch came racing up toward them. “What the hell was that thing?”
The sasquatch didn’t immediately answer.
Robin repeated Haley’s question with a threatening grumble. “What was that?”
“A carnivorous carpet,” he confessed.
With a gentle tone, Haley asked, “How did this all start?”
“You could say it was because my heart was burning with pain.” The sasquatch took a seat on a rock, putting him more at eye-level. “The woman I was in love with was getting married to someone else, and I got that rug, thinking it would scare them as a bad omen. Instead, it ate everyone in the village. I’ve been sticking around for the past few years to make sure it got no one else. I was hoping it would’ve starved to death by now…”
“But it’s still kicking,” Haley said.
The sasquatch nodded.
Haley pulled out her music player and asked it, “How do I kill the carnivorous carpet?”
She tapped the shuffle button. Upon seeing the result, she nodded.
“Simple enough,” Haley said as she strolled off. “Be right back.”
“What’s is she doing?” the sasquatch asked Robin.
Robin shrugged. “Her thing. I’m Robin, by the way.”
“Francesco,” the sasquatch introduced.
About a minute later, Haley returned with a rag stuffed inside a glass bottle.
“Open the door and get ready to close it,” Haley said to both Robin and Francesco.
Haley struck a match, lighting the rag on fire. Without questioning her, they promptly opened the door. Haley tossed the flaming bottle at the rug. It snapped the bottle in its clutches. Robin and Francesco slammed the doors shut as the carpet howled in pain. Robin covered her ears while Francesco squinched in pain. Haley hummed and moved her fingers like she was conducting an orchestra until the cry stopped.
After a moment of silence, Haley consulted her music player.
“It’s safe to enter,” Haley announced.
“Are you sure?” the sasquatch asked.
“See for yourself.”
Robin stepped back as Francesco opened the door. In the room was a smoldering pile of ash from the burnt carpet. The sasquatch bent down and picked up some of the remains. They blew out from his hand as a tear formed.
“It’s over,” Francesco said.
Night had fallen when Haley and Robin returned to the subway station to get home in Aequus. Francesco insisted on staying in the village as he didn’t know where else to go, but he assured them he would give his future some thought. The car Haley and Robin entered only held a few other people, but they knew it would fill as they got closer to the city. They used the opportunity to spread out and relax. Robin rested her head on Haley’s legs.
“What does that thing say about how I feel about you?”
Haley asked and pressed shuffle. “Really love you.”
Robin smiled. “What about our future?”
Haley consulted the device.
“Champagne,” Haley lied as she closed the music player, hiding the answer, “Can’t Cheat Death.”
Thank you for reading my February 2021 short story!
After writing about Detective Psychon last month, I knew I wanted to feature another story about Haley “The Sounds” Riot where she was solving some sort of mystery to test the music player. I got inspired by the writing prompt, “For years, people go missing in the nearby abandoned village, sparking dozens of theories about treasure, murder, and ghosts. The culprit? A carpet that traps and drowns them like quicksand.”
Like I did for Body Drop, I also solicited song suggestions from friends that I incorporated through the story in different ways. Those songs were: Journal of Ardency by Class Actress, Spooky by Classics IV, Babylon Sisters by Steely Dan, Don’t Call Me Back (feat. Francesco Yates, DJ Lux & AJ McLean), Really Love You by Paul McCartney, and Mein Herz Brennt by Rammstein. I also tossed in a few of my shuffled songs.
Story artwork brought to life by Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.
I hope you enjoyed this story!