David would never have gone to Camdigan by choice. But then, no one did.
When he realized his mistake he pulled into a driveway, backed out again, and retraced his path down Strauss Street. After four or five blocks, he came to a dead end. He went over one street thinking he'd turned off somewhere but again he came to a dead end. He couldn't even see the highway from here, let alone find his way back to it. David tried another route and again came to a dead end.
What is this? he asked himself.
He cruised slowly along a residential street, cursing himself for ending up here, wherever here was. The sign a few blocks back read Camdigan but where was that? He pulled over and gazed at the town. The scenery reminded him of a graveyard, all stone and grey with dead flowers and an overcast sky. The trees stood tall and bare, sentries over dull, lifeless lawns and empty yards. From here, it seemed the city was abandoned.
Then he spotted a girl walking down the sidewalk, wrapped in a grey coat. He rolled down his window and asked, "Hey! Can you tell me how to get to the highway?"
She barely glanced at him before cutting through a yard, disappearing.
The streets were empty and that death imagery returned to him. David clicked off the radio which had faded to white noise some time ago. He gazed up and down the street, thinking something was wrong with this picture but unable to say what, exactly.
He put the car in park and got out, looking around. Wrapping his coat around him, he crossed the street. The air tasted stale with age, dust and dampness. He knocked on a door but no one answered. The same with the houses on either side and up the rest of the block. He went back to his car and sat. His fingers formed random guitar chords on the steering wheel as he wondered where the town had gone.
This wasn't one of those weird Rod Serling towns, was it? He'd read dozens of small town stories it seemed and, more often than not, the hero usually ended up dead at the end. He couldn't help wondering if he was the hero in this story.
He sat a second longer and was surprised when a line of cars suddenly passed him, going very quickly down Washington Avenue, directly in front of him. David stopped counting after the fifteenth car and just sat until the rest had gone by.
Turning onto Washington Avenue he decided if the town wouldn't come to him, he would go to it. He looked in the rear view, over the guitar case, to see if more cars were coming. None were. The train was further along and every time he thought he was gaining, the end car suddenly seemed further away. He kept speeding up, half-hoping he wasn't going to be pulled over, half-hoping he was. At least then he'd get directions back to the highway and he might make Seattle by midnight. Then he could have at least half a night's sleep before work. If he wanted to make a good impression baggy eyes were not the way to do it.
He caught sight of the cars over a hill up ahead and wondered if this was a funeral procession that he was following. He hoped not; funeral crashing had to be near the top of the bad taste list. Suddenly realizing all the cars were black, he hoped for the best.
He lost sight of the cars but kept going, sure he'd find them over the next hill. It took five hills before he saw the last car pull into a gravel parking lot. As he neared, a building came into view. David's breath caught when he saw it fully.
First, it was huge. Second, it was dark, with steeples at the four corners and a huge pointed roof dominating the sky. The closer he got the more clearly he made out the crosses, at least as tall as himself, set at opposite corners on two of the steeples. The steeples between them presented two huge stone ankhs.
Closer still, he saw the angel. A set of double doors stood in the center of the facing wall and, above it, standing on an overhang, was a large stone angel, twice David's height, its wings spread wide.
The roof though, was the part that made his breath catch. The steeples easily reached seven stories but the roof, a huge pyramid set atop the square building, towered above them a good three more stories and, atop this, stood another angel.
He slowly pulled in and scanned for a place to park but the lot was perfectly full.
He ignored the oddity of this and made his mind focus on getting the hell out of Stepford or wherever he was. He put his car in park and remembered the name: Camdigan.
Right, he thought, shifting into reverse and backing out to park along the sidewalk. He shut off the engine and got out. The wind grabbed his coat, whipping it around his legs. David grabbed the front edges and wrapped them tight, cinching the belt, then jogged toward the door, his eyes on the angel above it. His mouth hung open in awe. He lost his footing in the gravel and banged his knee against the rocks, embedding a few sharp stones in his skin and scraping his hand raw in the process. He got to his feet too late; the doors closed inward with a hollow echo. Save the cars and David, the lot was empty.
He brushed gravel from his wounds then walked, carefully, to the doors. His eyes were still on the angel above them, then up to the crosses and ankhs, up again finally to the giant angel at the top which, despite its distance from him, was still huge. David had seen plenty of buildings taller than this but somehow this one seemed massive enough to swallow any other in its shadow, like a mouse overcoming a lion. When he got to the doors he hesitated.
If it were a funeral he could imagine all heads turning toward him when he broke the gloom by opening the door. Could he wait until someone came out and ask them for directions? He could, but he was exhausted and wanted to get going as soon as possible.
David had driven straight through from Kansas City and needed sleep, food, and a shower in whatever order life presented them. And he only had, maybe, another three hundred miles to go. First, though, he needed an on-ramp.
The inside mirrored the rest of the town of Camdigan: grey and cold. He stepped toward another set of double doors behind which he heard voices. They muttered a low monotone and David put his ear to the door.
The only thing he made out clearly was a name, Theodore Matthew Miller, which seemed vaguely familar but he couldn't even begin to guess why. He grabbed the latch and slowly pressed down, turning it as quietly as he could. The door clicked open and David put an eye to the crack of light.
It wasn't a funeral. In the middle of the sanctuary stood a man in a grey robe, looming over a large stone tub, out of which he drew a small lump of dripping pink flesh that cried as soon as the air hit its wet body.
He backed away from the door and let it close, then moved down the hall.
Keeping his attention on the door and the expectation of moving feet, his heart nearly leapt out through his mouth when he felt a tug at his sleeve. He hitched a breath and looked down sharply. All he saw at first was a bundle of grey fur which his brain shaped into a girl in a grey coat. He recognized her from the sidewalk.
His first thought, upon looking into the bright green eyes ringed by a mane so black that light was swallowed in it like a vacuum, was: Rose. But she was dead years ago.