A Year and a Day in Priorville

📅 Published on January 10, 2022

“A Year and a Day in Priorville”

Written by Kitty “The Odd Cat Lady” Olsen
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 22 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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I suppose there are people in the world that are worse than Pastor Murdoch Prior.

But Prior really was a bastard. Even before everything that happened, he was a bastard.

My memories before Priorville are hazy with only bits and pieces sticking out, but granted, that whole mess happened when I was eleven. Nothing before then was outstanding. I was your average kid. I liked English class. I hated math. I had lots of friends. My parents took good care of me. I once broke my arm trying to do a stupid stunt on my bicycle, and I lost a whole summer while it was in a cast. And every Sunday we went to church.

If there was a minister at our church before Pastor Prior, I can’t say I remember him. All I remember is Prior- a middle aged, portly man with oversized bifocals and a smile that never felt quite natural, never felt real. He had a booming voice that deafened anyone who sat in the front pew, and whenever he shook your hand you felt the bones in your fingers creak.

I didn’t really care that much about church. In hindsight, my mom didn’t either. But my dad did. He was one of the deacons and a close friend of Pastor Prior. I believe they were classmates in high school, even attended college together for a bit before Prior went on to seminary school… and was kicked out of seminary school, for reasons I’ve yet to really root out. I only found out he didn’t graduate quite recently, when I started looking into the disaster that was Priorville. I don’t know how many people knew the truth.

I also remember that for a long time, one of Prior’s main points in sermons was to be ‘in the world, but not a part of it’. Lots of end of the world talk, I don’t know how he was so popular for so long, whenever I paid attention to the sermon I thought he was kind of a bummer. Pastor Prior believed that as God’s chosen people, we should focus on building communities of those chosen, to not be influenced by sinners and ‘fall’. There was a lot of events to build up the church family, bake sales, vacation Bible school, bonfire nights at Prior’s home.

That apparently wasn’t enough for Pastor Prior though. Through several donations from the church goers (including my father, who nearly emptied his retirement fund), and a lot of ‘praying to God’, Prior invested in creating a gated community, that he dubbed ‘Priorville’. I’m sure you’ve all picked up by now that yes, he named the damn place after himself. Talk about an ego.

I didn’t quite get it back then. I only knew that one day Dad came home, singing praises to God and telling us that we were going to move. Everything was going to change. Our things were boxed up. I was pulled out of school to be enrolled in a private school inside of the community’s fence. I had to say goodbye to all of my friends. And our new home looked like every other one on the street, a three bedroom with bright yellow siding on Joseph Lane.

All of the ‘streets’ and cul-de-sacs were named after biblical figures. Example, Prior and his family lived at the end of ‘Adam Street’. The park and school were on ‘Mary Court’. The Church, which also served as a community center, was on ‘Peter’s Way’. In hindsight, the reason it was so extra was because Prior wanted it to look like a perfect place for God’s children to stay and worship together. And that was to cover up his own stupid bullshit.

Again, a lot of this I’ve found out after digging as an adult. At the time, I didn’t have a clue that Pastor Prior was embezzling from the Priorville fund. It started off as nickles and dimes, but by the time people were starting to ask questions about when Priorville was going to happen, Prior had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fund for his own use.

Of course, he couldn’t let that get out. So he cut corners. The materials for the homes were cheap. The builders were not anywhere near qualified to be doing the work they were getting paid for under the table. And his biggest mistake- while scrambling to find where to break ground on Priorville, he was offered a deal too good to be true.

He didn’t know, of course. He wanted to build his perfect neighborhood, where everyone took his word as straight from God’s. He was just stupid. And greedy. So when Mr. Gresill Bram offered to sell him a plot for practically pennies, he leaped for it. Why wouldn’t he? Another way to prevent anyone to find out about his thievery.

Course, cutting corners is how you get in deep shit.

It’s how everything that happened afterwards happened.

The first month in Priorville… it wasn’t too bad. I was mad about having to change schools, I was mad that there was an iron gate separating me from all of my old friends. But you know, as a kid, you get over those things. You make new friends.

My best friend became Florence… Florence Beatrice Prior. Yup. Pastor Prior’s daughter who was just my age. Before we moved into Priorville, I never really interacted with her. I thought she was quite stuffy, always dressed in flower printed dresses and never speaking to anyone. Of course, my opinion changed quite drastically when we literally ran into each other at the St. Mary’s Park while she was chasing geese. She was covered head to toe in dirt and was screaming threats at the geese for trying to bite her little sister Leah. No cuss words, but when she screeched that she was going to catch them and tie their necks in a figure eight knot… well, crushes happen when you’re that age.

We spent the rest of the day running around Priorville, learning the layout of the neighborhood while chatting about everything under the moon. Florence only wore those dresses to church because her dad made her. He always wanted everything to look perfect. She couldn’t stand her dad, and that I agreed with. She wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. ‘Your parents can’t bug you if you’re in space’ was her reasoning.

I liked that reasoning. I told her I wanted to be an astronaut too, and she called me a liar. She was right, but it still hurt a bit.

I made other friends too. Polly and Alfie Rogers lived in the house to the right of me. Polly was a bit older than me, and thought of herself as ‘mature’ and ‘grown up’ all at thirteen years old. Alfie was a year younger and was obsessed with collecting bugs. They were fun to hang out with, even if Polly kept calling me a kid. Reuben Chambers lived to the left, he was also my age, he spent every spare second he had on his dirt bike, and he had the biggest crush on Polly. It was cringey to watch, even if at times I was no better with Florence. At least I was never the ‘be mean to my crush’ type, like when Roger put a snake in Polly’s bike basket or when he threw a rock at her and it ended up chipping one of her teeth.

It wasn’t so bad at first. Under any other circumstances, I probably would have made friends for life.

But things only went smoothly for that first month.

Of course there were things the adults noticed, like how lights would flicker and breakers would flip at unreasonable times, or how the brand new appliances were already starting to break. They certainly weren’t what was promised, I know that.

No, the first thing I knew was wrong was that the pond went red.

Next to the park was a decently sized manmade pond, with a fountain spewing up in the middle. It was a good spot to hang out, my friends and I usually spend the afternoon catching frogs there. Florence would give them names before letting them go back into the pond, Alfie would proudly proclaim each frog’s species, and Reuben would torment Polly with them by dropping them on her head or in her lap. Poor frogs.

It was a warm day, like the rest of the summer had been. School was coming up and Florence was talking about how her mom was going to be one of the teachers. We were all so caught up in talking about what school here was going to be like that most of us didn’t notice it at first. Only Alfie did.

He was always the type to wander off mid conversation, usually to go catch more frogs or follow an interesting looking butterfly, so it wasn’t anything new that he ambled his way over to the lake.

A few minutes passed with an absent Alfie before he interrupted our conversation with a yell.

“Something’s wrong with the frogs!” He shouted as he bolted back to us, pointing frantically back at the pond.

Time slowed for a moment. I don’t know what I expected when I looked up. But it wasn’t that.

Frogs were fleeing the pond en mass, their croaks sounding like screams as they leaped out of the water and across the grass. There must have been hundreds of them. When the smell hit me, I thought I was having a bloody nose. I instinctively reached up to pinch my nostrils but then I realized it wasn’t a bloody nose.

It was the pond. The fountain in the center was now spewing this thick, red liquid, spattering it all over the water that was rapidly turning red. Frogs that didn’t have the sense or weren’t fast enough to escape the reddening water floated to the top, limp and belly up.

I don’t know what possessed me to walk to the pond’s edge. But I did. I walked close enough that the last remainder of the clear water washed up against my shoes, followed by a flood of red. I leaned down to brush my fingers against the stained water, and when I pulled my fingers back the liquid dripping off could only be blood.

And then they burned.

It felt like I’d dipped my fingers in boiling oil. I lost my balance, thankfully not falling into the pond as my hand tensed and twitched uncontrollably. I screamed. I screamed so loudly I think the entirety of Priorville heard me. I remember Florence and Reuben grabbing me and dragging me away from the water, Florence asking again and again what was wrong. I couldn’t respond. I could only scream and cry.

They got me home quickly enough at least. When my mom asked what happened, they couldn’t explain it. Not really. My mom washed off my bloody hand with clean water, which helped a little, but I was still too hysterical to really explain what happened. Thankfully by then, the whole place could smell the bloody lake. It was explanation enough.

The pond was immediately fenced off, a town meeting that night said it was a contaminant, that it wasn’t actually blood and only looked like it. Just don’t go near the lake, they’ll have it sorted in a few days. I was taken to the nurse that lived a few doors down and she did her best to treat my injured hand, but no amount of cleaning and care took away the red stain from my fingertips.

The stain is still there, and on bad days I can still feel it sting.

Perhaps things would’ve been different if we’d gone to the hospital, but my dad was strangely against that. Insisted that since we had a medical professional just ‘down the way’, we didn’t need to leave Priorville. I don’t know why. But I think that was the start of the rift between my parents.

The pond was never fixed, by the way. Sometimes the ‘red’ was filtered out for a few days, only to return full force. The smell was terrible. Like a bloody nose mixed with rotting flesh, the latter was blamed on the frogs that had made the pond their home. But like I pointed out earlier, not all of them died. In fact, a lot of them got out of the water before they got killed. Something changed them though. You know, frogs are amphibians. They need water.

After a few weeks, these frogs didn’t need water. For a time they made do with puddles and drainage ditches, but over time they spent more time away from water… and more time being an absolute pain in the ass. Frogs. Frogs everywhere. On the side walks, hopping all over the place. Under your cars, so you’d try to leave and go to work or church and you’d end up squishing them. In your houses, hiding in the cupboards or in the basement, croaking and hopping out at just the right time to scare you half to death.

No building was safe from frog invasions. They’d get in one way or another. It was pretty funny during the sermon when Pastor Prior was going on about something, only to be interrupted by a bullfrog croaking into one of the mics. But it wasn’t nearly so funny in school when you’d be trying to do schoolwork, only for a frog to drop down from the ceiling tiles and land on your desk or your head. I thankfully dodged the frog bombs, but not everyone was so lucky. After some time, the frogs had somehow gotten so fat, they’d burst like water balloons they moment they landed on something or… well, someone.

Yeah. More than one kid went home to wash off frog gore during a school day, which was just bad news all around. I remember one of the teachers poking his head into the classroom to request I walk Alfie home because he’d been a victim of a frog bomb and Polly literally vomited when she smelled him. Granted, the smell was really that bad, so I couldn’t blame her. I can only describe the smell like wet basement filled with mildew coupled with bad fish. Ulgth. I can still remember it clear as day.

Alfie was obviously distressed, his hair and face coated in brownish viscera. I remember how quiet he was though, not complaining as I escorted him home to wash off. The only thing he mumbled was that the frogs ‘weren’t right’ before he hopped into the shower.

I don’t know what he meant by ‘not right’. I have tried to figure out what species of frog lived in that pond though, and I’ve not found any that looked like the frogs that escaped the bloody pond- brown skin that was nearly translucent with how thin it looked, these hard nubbins (almost like horns) protruding above their eyeballs, a short tail, like they’d forgotten to get rid of them from their tadpole stage… and teeth. Like little needles, twisting their way out of the frog’s gums.

Bloody ponds, frogs that aren’t right, these remained for the rest of my stay in Priorville. Just assume for the rest of my tale, there are frogs in the background and the stink of a bloody pond hanging in the air. It was rough. But they seemed like nothing compared to how quickly everything went downhill.

It became clear how cheaply the buildings were thrown together when winter came. When school began, I’d end up wearing my heavy winter coat in class, and I wasn’t the only one. Poor Florence would keep an extra set of snow gear to change into once she got to school, she was so sensitive to the cold. The class’ handwriting suffered that year, since all of us kept our gloves on, but what else could we do? It wasn’t much better at home either. Thank god my house was one of the ones with a fireplace. I spent every waking second by the fire, and when I went to bed I’d curl up under enough blankets to suffocate a small child. It was the only way to keep me from waking up half frozen to death. Even then, sometimes that wasn’t enough.

Of course I got sick, more than once. If you’re constantly shivering and struggling to stay warm, you’re going to get a cold or the flu. I missed a good portion of school in December and January because of that. That meant I missed the day that Mrs. Prior went bonkers… although to be quite honest, I’m glad I did miss that.

Reuben told me the whole story after school that day. Up until that point, Mrs. Julia Prior was the image of a perfect pastor’s wife- active in the community, friendly to all, the perfect host. Couldn’t harm a fly.

It was quite a dramatic turn of events then when she brought in several personal pies for her students. The pie shells apparently looked quite normal from the outside, and after she passed them out Mrs. Prior excused herself to the bathroom. Even when the pies were cut open they were filled with so many different fresh and dried fruits that most kids didn’t realize something was wrong with them until they took a bite. Crickets crunch, raisins don’t. Worms don’t either, but most of them were still coated in dirt.

You can imagine the absolute pandemonium that broke out once the kids realized they’d been served bug filled pies. Reuben had luckily stabbed his fork right into a spider and realized what it was before it went into his mouth. He immediately went to find another teacher and told them what was going on. It took seeing to believe it. The kids who had taken a bite or two were hysterical, unable to stop gagging and vomiting. Even the kids who weren’t typically squeamish were freaked out. All of Mrs. Prior’s students were sent home while they started looking for her.

She was gone though. Her car was still in the parking lot, with several more bug pies stacked up in the back. She’d not even taken her coat, despite it being below twenty degrees out. Some of the adults found footprints believed to be hers walking into the nearby forest, but they lost her trail quickly.

We’d not see her again until the summer.

Lots of people disappeared during that winter. I think probably most of them just went ‘to hell with this’ and gave up, leaving Priorville and selling their property for pennies back to Pastor Prior. Just to be done with it. I don’t even think all of them had homes to move into. They were just that done with all of this. But there was a few other incidents. People going outside for ‘just a moment’, without so much as a heavy coat, and then… gone. It was obvious they’d wandered off on their own. No sign of kidnapping. No letters saying why they’d disappeared. They’d just go.

A few were caught before they got away. I remember one night being woken up by a loud kerfuffle outside. My teeth chattering so hard they hurt, I got out of bed and I peered out my window to see Mrs. Rogers being dragged back into her house by her husband and another neighbor. She was screeching like she was being murdered, begging to be let go so she could ‘follow the Long One’. I think she even bit her husband at one point, he loosened his grip enough so she could start bolting down the road again in nothing but a nightgown and slippers. But luckily for everyone involved, she fell on the ice. Mr. Rogers and the neighbor pulled her back up as she sobbed, and this time they successfully took her back indoors. The next few days she went door to door to apologize for her strange behavior. We all told her it was fine, but my mom didn’t let me play over at Reuben’s house anymore. None of the kids went over to Reuben’s anymore. And by the time the snow melted away, Reuben’s family had moved out of Priorville. I’ve never seen him again.

When spring arrived, the disappearances finally petered out, but several houses in Priorville were now empty of anyone that had initially moved in there. I don’t mean to imply they were actually empty of course. Occasionally I’d spy shadowy figures peering out of windows, and it was an unspoken rule that we don’t go near those abandoned houses. Their yards became overgrown, their windows and shutters would crack and break, but it was just going to stay that way. They stuck out like a sore thumb in the otherwise perfect yards on their streets. I think Pastor Prior tried to clean one of them out, but whatever he saw scared him enough that he never even put out job offerings for people outside of Priorville to come clean the places up. He didn’t put them back up for sale either.

Of course, he also stopped buying the houses people were moving out of. He was stupid, but he was also manipulative as hell. He convinced his congregation that we were being tested by God. That it was all going to be fine in the end, as long as we remain ‘faithful’. Basically, stay in Priorville, be one of God’s chosen few when we all went to heaven.

If he was somewhat less of a bastard, he should’ve just given up on making his perfect utopia, where everyone worshiped him and God together. But well, an egomaniac is an egomaniac, and there’s nothing really anyone could do to change that.

I feel mostly bad for Florence, god knows what she went through having a man like that as a father. Especially since she was stuck dealing with him alone while taking care of her younger sister. Her mother disappearing aged her. She stopped being so playful and started trying to be several years older than she really was. No more dirty overalls and chasing geese. Instead she was trying to fill the role of being a pastor’s wife, a leader in the community.

No adults tried to ask anything of her, of course. But her dad pushed her to be an example to her ‘peers’, her friends. I believe he made her believe that if anyone else left Priorville, she was failing God.

So Florence took up preaching at the park. Doing mini sermons while standing on one of the benches. She’d holler herself hoarse about the parables of the fishes and the bread or the miracles of Jesus. She’d stay up on the bench, in rain or shine. She’d stay up there until it was dark out. Then she’d practically collapse off the bench. Sometimes I’d help her home, some other times it was Polly who’d serve as an escort.

I think it was the idea that she had to do these sermons that broke Florence. I don’t know exactly when it happened. Maybe it was the night that neither Polly or I could walk her home. Maybe it was another time entirely.

Either way, one day those sermons shouted from the bench were changed with stories as she sat on the swingset. I came to the park to attend the sermon to find a cluster of children surrounding her as Florence sat on the swing. She seemed happy, so I wondered if she had finally adjusted to her new reality.

As I drew closer, I realized the stories she was telling were not of any Bible story I’d ever heard. There was this pleasant little smile on Florence’s face as she told the listening children about creatures. Creatures with strange names. I can’t remember all the names. But I remember one of the titles.

The Long One. The Long One was the most powerful of the creatures in the forest nearby Priorville, and he had claimed this land long before her father had purchased it. As long as we respected (not worshiped, she was specific about that) the Long One, we wouldn’t be in any danger or have any reason to fear what would happen around us.

I asked her where she learned all of this when she opened up for questions.

Florence’s smile grew.

“Mother, of course.”

She ended her stories then, going home with a skip in her step and a hymn hummed on her lips. I asked my mom if Mrs. Prior had come back, but she still hadn’t been seen since the bug pie incident. I talked with Polly and Alfie about it too, and Polly said she thought Florence had gone crazy with all that was going on and we probably shouldn’t encourage what she was doing.

Florence only told her stories from the swingset for a week or two more. Then she came to the playground with a sullen expression and a black eye. She swung quietly on the swingset and didn’t seem to talk to anyone. But when I passed her by, she murmured that tonight I should come to the park. That I should tell the rest of the kids about the blessing on my hand.

I can only infer that she meant the burn from the bloody lake. It was fenced off now, no one was allowed to get near it. It wasn’t a blessing, the damn thing hurt, but the sad look on her face already had me convinced that I should sneak out that night.

I didn’t though. My mom and dad got into a blow out fight that ended with my mom crying on the couch while my dad fucked off to who-knows-where. So I stayed with her instead. I missed Florence’s night stories.

But Alfie didn’t. Eleven children in total managed to get out for the night stories.

And the next morning, they all had burns like mine on their foreheads, a straight line above their brow, and Florence’s pointer and middle finger were burnt scarlet, with bubbling blisters popping out from her fingertips and knuckles. They looked painful, but Florence looked happy at school.

Of course, literally every parent of those children were pissed off. The kids had been honest, and even Alfie told me what happened so matter-of-factly.

There was a hole in the fence. Not a big one, just big enough for children to crawl through. Florence had been waiting with a glass cup in her hand that was filled with the bloody pond water. And one by one, Florence ‘baptized’ the children by drawing a line across their foreheads with the acidic water. Just thinking about it is making my own scars twinge.

I don’t know why Florence did all of this. I wasn’t allowed to talk with her after that. Not because of my parents, no, that was all Pastor Prior. I imagine he felt quite humiliated about the stunt his daughter had pulled. She was pulled out of school to homeschool. She wasn’t allowed out except for church, and she was practically glued to her father’s side the whole time. Her pretty dresses didn’t hide her bruised arms, or how hoarse her voice was whenever she managed to get a word out. Prior’s sermons were frantic, focused on demons and demonic possession, telling everyone they needed to pray for the protection of their children, and if need be come to him for an exorcism. But Florence wasn’t done. She might’ve played innocent, but one way or another, she was communicating with her youthful followers.

A week after the incident, our pipes began bleeding too. I was about to hop in the shower when I realized the spray of water had a reddish tinge. I paused, and good that I did- the water turned dark red and smelled all too familiar. I turned off the shower as fast as I could before I ran out to tell my mom and dad.

The entirety of Priorville’s water had been tainted. Polly was the one who rooted out how it potentially happened. She found a cup hidden under Alfie’s bed, still stained with the red pond water. She questioned him and he told her that he and the rest of the children, under Florence’s influence, had taken cups from the pond to dump down their sinks. I don’t know how the hell that fucked over the entirety of the pipes. I don’t know if it had anything to do with what happened to the pipes at all. But Polly never told her parents. But she did tell me, while looking pale and nervous.

Alfie was never the same after the baptism with the red pond water. He didn’t tag along with us anymore. He only hung out with the other baptized children, never impolite but always smiling. My friend group that had just spent the last summer catching frogs and having a good time had shrunk away to just me and Polly.

My family all used bottled water for the rest of the time at Priorville. My mom was a thousand percent done with everything at this point. She and my dad were sleeping in separate rooms, and I’d find out later she was starting her plans on leaving him by the time the first anniversary of Priorville rolled up. By then, half of the people who had moved in last year were already gone. The neighborhood was infested with monster frogs, the pipes would randomly spew red water that burned you like acid if you touched it, several children were walking around telling stories of The Long One… it was a time. I had trouble getting to sleep, and when I did sleep, I had nightmares. My life had turned into a giant mess and it was all thanks to the perfect Priorville.

Florence looked like a ghost that anniversary celebration, a ghost in a sunflower printed dress with twig thin arms and sunken eyes. It looked like she’d been sleeping as much as I had, but she was still smiling. I couldn’t make myself smile.

Pastor Prior had decided on a nice picnic potluck in the park for the celebration. That would’ve probably been really nice, if there wasn’t monster frogs hopping everywhere and a damn smelly pond that looked and smelled like a pool of blood nearby. My mom brought a fruit salad. Polly’s parents brought a vegan ‘meat’ loaf. Someone had brought a CD player that mostly played hymns.

No one was happy to be there. Even I could tell that. Everyone was shuffling about like zombies, trying to small talk about anything but the elephant in the room- that it was clear that Priorville had failed.

It was in the middle of the meal that Pastor Prior got up to speak. I remember it clear as day. He’d changed a lot too over the last year, he had lost most of his hair and his smile had this twitch to it like he was just a minute from snapping and losing his mind. He was a sweaty mess, still twitching and laughing nervously as he welcomed us all to the picnic before launching into a speech.

“No beginning is without its hiccups, and God’s tests for us just… just keep coming.” Pastor Prior wiped his forehead off with a napkin. “But to see that we’re all here today, that is a sign that he truly loves us. That we truly love him! And I promise, this year will be the year that Priorville becomes… what it was meant to be…” Prior trailed off as my dad loudly began coughing and hacking.

He’d not stopped eating when Prior started his speech, and now his face was turning a bright red as he pounded his chest and gagged. My mom got up first to try and help him, but he shoved her so roughly she nearly hit her head on the ground when she fell.

Finally my dad coughed up what had gotten stuck in his throat onto his plate.

The fake meatloaf. And half of a cockroach that was still twitching.

My dad’s face went white before it went green, and he bolted to the trash can to vomit. I lurched away from my dad’s plate as the cockroach, who didn’t clearly realize it was dead, squirmed and tried to get up.

Pastor Prior tried to get the attention of the room back on him with a loud clearing of his throat, but then Mrs. Rogers screamed as she threw her plate across the green lawn. Bugs were pouring out of her slice of fake meatloaf, roaches with their brown shiny backs and crickets that chirped and tried to fly even with dry bread coating on their wings. Before anyone could do anything else, someone flipped the baked mac n cheese off the table while screaming about worms.

Pure chaos erupted. People threw their plates as far as they could. Others opened up their sandwiches and their pies to find all sorts of unpleasant things seemingly spawning inside of their food. Stinkbugs in the pudding, grasshoppers in the bread rolls.

The only ones who didn’t lose their heads were, you guessed it, Florence Prior and her baptized friends. Alfie was covered in bugs after a while, letting them crawl all over him while he beamed from ear to ear.

No one noticed at first that there was someone coming into the park that we hadn’t seen since winter.

Mrs. Prior was barely recognizable. She was wearing scraps of the dress she was wearing on that day in class, but her shoes were gone, showing that her toes were all gone, ending in blackened nubs. Along with about half her fingers and her nose, all blackened with scarring from what I imagine was frostbite. She looked more like a zombie than a living person. She had a mad smile on her face, her eyes glazed over as she stared at the pandemonium. Florence noticed her first and her delighted scream of ‘MOMMY!’ got Prior’s attention.

The pastor went dead pale as his wife limped up to to their table. Florence gave her a quick hug that Mrs. Prior didn’t even acknowledge, she was too focused on her target- her husband.

She grabbed Pastor Prior by the shoulders and dragged him along towards the lake. A few of the baptized kids had started ripping it down the moment everyone was focused on their infested meals. Mrs. Prior dragged her husband across the flattened chain link fence as he kicked and screamed for help. A few of the church elders managed to shake off the shock and tried to save him, but there was no stopping what Mrs. Prior was doing.

She lifted Pastor Prior up by the neck, laughed, and stuck his head down into the bloody pond.

I didn’t get the best look when she hauled him up to let him get some air back, but Prior’s face was twisted in agony as his face bubbled and his eyes looked like they were melting out of their sockets. When she shoved him back below the surface again, I was grabbed from behind and hauled out of there.

My mom didn’t look back, not once. I imagine she would’ve thrown me over her shoulder if she had the strength, she wanted out of there and she wasn’t going to wait any longer. We went back home, mom ordered me to pack a bag as fast as I could, and we left Priorville behind that day, never to return.

I can’t tell you anything that happened after the panic. Only that the police were never called, or at least I found no evidence of it. I did find a death certificate for Pastor Prior, but his cause of death was listed as ‘accidental drowning’. I don’t know how that worked out the way it did, but I can confirm that it was definitely not an accident.

I found a death certificate for most of the church elders and deacons. At least one choked to death on beetles swarming out of his throat, although that was obviously not listed. Some died of heart attacks. A few others had strokes. And my dad committed suicide a few years after it all, stepped in front of a train. I never saw him again after the anniversary picnic. I wonder what excuses he would’ve given if we’d stayed to talk with him.

It was all swept under the rug. I went looking for answers the official way and I found nothing.

… So I went to Priorville three days ago.

I expected the whole place to be mowed over, either replaced with another development, or just fields of regret. I didn’t expect Priorville to still be there.

And not only there… thriving.

The houses have either been rebuilt or refurbished to not be absolute garbage anymore. The water in the pond is all clean, with a few geese and ducks making their homes around it. The kids are playing at the playground, the church turned into a cozy community center, the school’s now a pool. You’d never guess what a rocky start Priorville had.

I started to believe that I was either at the wrong place or perhaps the memories I had of Priorville weren’t real. I sat on the bench at the park, trying to deal with the twisting in my brain, when I heard someone clear their throat behind me.

I barely recognized her, but it had been a long time. She was back to wearing overalls and wore work gloves that were covered in dirt, but I knew that she was Florence. She’d gotten quite tall, and although when she spoke there was a rasp to her voice, she still spoke with a gentle confidence.

“It’s been a long time, Stephan. I’m glad you’re doing okay.”

Florence answered the questions I’d desperately needed answered. Priorville is still Priorville, just… under new management. She took care of the grounds. And she was still quite a storyteller. And she certainly inherited her father’s charisma. I barely realized I put in an offer on the old house I lived in until I was driving away from the cozy neighborhood.

Perhaps moving back to Priorville won’t be so bad though. From what Florence told me, it’s a much different place now. A safe place. Almost perfect.

All it’s missing is the last of her childhood friends.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Kitty “The Odd Cat Lady” Olsen
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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