Leviathan Blackwood – Levi for short – had lived for centuries, nestled in his wood cabin at the foot of the Appalachian mountains. The town grew up around him in the valley below.
They called it Oak Hill. Fertile farmland gave way, slowly over the years, to a series of small factories.
After the First War and then the Second, Oak Hill experienced what many Georgia towns just like it had before. The young folks moved away and the soul of the town began to wither.
But old Levi stayed, tending his garden, practicing his magic, and keeping to himself.
Only one factory remained. A sad sight, really. It employed most of the people left in Oak Hill. It pumped out poor quality t-shirts for rock bands – rock bands the townspeople only heard on the radio.
It felt like a forgotten place.
In the summer of 1995 Eddie Stone was elected mayor in a landslide, on the promise of change.
What kind of change? He had no idea.
He’d heard tales of a strange man who lived alone at the top of Oak Hill. A recluse. A whisper of a man with bones for legs and a raggedy beard. No teeth. Truth was, Levi could have been mistaken for a homeless man.
Eddie was curious about Levi and decided to pay him a visit. He drove up the winding road to Levi’s cabin. It was noon, and the hot sun baked everything in sight. But the closer Eddie got to Levi’s place, the darker things became.
The sky turned grey. Trees bent over, seeming to weep. Eddie’s skin prickled.
He rolled his beat up truck up past the No Trespassing sign.
Eddie heard bells ringing in the distance. Soft, like windchimes almost.
He hopped out of the truck and walked into the dark forest in search of Levi’s cabin.
Kudzu hunk from the trees, thick as a wall sometimes. He had to shove it to the side just to move through. On the other side of a particularly rough patch of the green vines, Eddie walked directly into the barrel of a shotgun.
The metal poked into his belly.
Levi’s voice growled from behind the gun, “What do you want?”
Eddie put his hands up in surrender, his heart racing in his chest. “Are you Mr. Blackwood?”
“What of it?”
“I just wanted to talk, sir. I was curious about you and your way of life up here.”
“Curious, are ye?”
Levi’s voice was eerie and grating. Dry-sounding. There was an undercurrent when he spoke, and it sounded like sand slipping through an hourglass.
Eddie felt a strange sensation wash over him, a kind of wooziness. Unpleasant.
“Sorry, sir,” Eddie said,” I’ve been real rude. Let me introduce myself. I’m Eddie Stone… the mayor.”
Levi hesitated, eyeing Eddie up and down, but he eventually lowered the shotgun. “What do you want? Out with it.”
Eddie took a deep breath, trying to keep his composure. “Look… um… I’m not really sure how to say this, Mr. Blackwood, sir. I’ve been hearing some things about you from the townsfolk.”
Levi snorted. “They talk about me, do they? What do they say?”
Eddie shrugged. “Just that you’re a bit of a recluse. But I figured I’d come up and say hello.”
Levi eyed Eddie warily for a moment longer before stepping aside and motioning him towards the cabin. “Fine. But watch your step.”