Broken glass crunched and crackled under Gerald and Marla's steel-toed work-boots as they crossed the threshold into the ruins of what had once been a school, the latter visibly wincing as each sound echoed through the abandoned structure's deserted halls. Even this far from where the fire had started damage was severe, cement blocks scorched black, steel ribs in the ceiling exposed, linoleum floors warped by heat and flame. Where once children had laughed and played, now only the lingering smell of burnt wood and melted plastic remained, a faint odor that would never completely fade.
Marla held her tablet computer up in front of her as she walked, tracking Gerald's movement, recording as the journalist spoke in a formal documentarian manner. "Decades ago Walter Reed Elementary School was the epicenter of a thriving rural township an hour out from the city. Their sense of community had been strong, local businesses had been thriving, and the local woods had seen a brisk traffic from urbanites seeking peaceful refuge from the hustle and bustle of their day to day lives. Then, seemingly all at once, everything fell apart in a cascading torrent of misfortune and tragedy."
Marla stopped and panned her tablet's camera across a fire-scorched mural of happy children in the foyer. The heat had warped the peeling paint, turning happy smiles into grimaces of horror and regret.
"It had started small." Gerald stopped as well. "Disappearing pets. A missing person here or there. Strange lights in the woods, strange sounds in the night, strange symbols appearing on public buildings." Some concerns had been raised, but Gerald had uncovered minutes from town council meetings and internal police memos that indicated that they were, strangely, disregarded. "The frequency of disappearances and vandalism continued to accelerate until a tragic but unexplainable fire broke out at the school. The official investigation was cursory -- by the time it was completed the town had been all but abandoned -- but one detail stands out like a beacon.."