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Rural Wisconsin consists of farmland, churches, cemeteries small towns and villages, you know the type of  place where everyone knows everyone. That is  the one thing Joel Hagen hated about living here. Sunfield is a town where rumors change by the minute. Secrets get distorted and overblown, truth becomes fiction and secrets get revealed.  The sad truth  is some secrets are better left buried.

Joel comes from a long line of Norwegians. He is originally from Wisconsin but moved to Vegas to get some taste of the city life, after a financial collapse of his business due to being screwed over by two many people. He decided to move back to Wisconsin to start over.  Joel didn't know that his family had a long dark history with the area. His father was a minister back in the day, he had his own church across from the  old cemetery on the north side.  The stuff that he would preach would now be considered controversial.

The air was cold  in November. Coming back in the middle of a snow storm was probably not the best idea.  He found an apartment for rent on the far east side.  He wanted to be farthest from the north side of town as possible, old ghosts of the past seem to haunt that side. Although, like they say the past has an interesting way of sneaking up on you.

As soon as he got settled in, the past came knocking at his door. Its name was Richard Hawkins, He was the Sunfield chief of police and  acting sheriff of Willow County.  Dick and Joel go back a long way, but not in a good way. Some people want to keep the past where it belongs and some people can't let go.

Dick Hawkins stood approximately 5 "11 black hair almost an albino like  a face. He was dressed in a blue police uniform. Joe was trying to figure out how a lowlife mechanic made it all the way to Chief of Police. Joel tried to shut the door on him, he knew exactly who he was. Hawkins stuck himself in front of the doorway.

" You got about a week to get your shit packed and go back to wherever is that you went before" Hawkins was very straight to the point. No bullshit kind of guy.

" No you can't get me to leave that easily, it was a nice try, though", Joel said as a quick smart ass response just to irritate him.   He was trying to run him out of dodge. It didn't work, though, it would turn out to be a huge mistake on Joel's part.

Dick Hawkins was promoted to chief by the mayor, he had no qualifications. It was mere favoritism. He had only been on the force for a year. The whole acting Sheriff bit was a favor the mayor pulled. Before that, he was fixing engines at the old diesel mechanic place on Iron Ave. Working for his uncle, in the fall of 2015 his uncle disappeared and was never heard from again. Rumor has it that he killed himself, others say he was killed. I guess it depends on who you talk to.

The problem was that Joel had no idea what was so wrong with his past that he didn't know why Hawkins wanted him out. He moved to Vegas as soon as he left high school. His father was very adamant that he move.  He did not question it, the opportunity to get as far away from this town would be great.  However, expecting to back in town did  not even cross his mind.

Sunfield, Wisconsin has maybe  one thousand people in it give or take during the tourist season. So the dark drive to the north side wasn't a long jog. It seemed long because that is  the part of the town Joel liked to avoid. Taking a trip down memory lane, which are all blurs here and there. Flashbacks of his father in church and visiting relatives in the cemetery .  Even wondering if the church was still there anymore since it was such a dark history of the town, you think they would just bulldoze it.  Guess it was time to find out.

To avoid getting caught by Hawkins,  he went in the middle of the night.  Willow County Cemetery was still there. Since it was like the only one of two  in Willow County. When Joel arrived it was like a ghost town, the first thing he heard was distinct growling noises like dogs were around. Thinking nothing of it, he found some of his relatives. The growling got louder like they were right next to him. It was a balmy 41 degrees after the snow storm.

Northern Willow Freedom Church stood there for the last 103 years.  Joel heard loud voices coming from inside the sanctuary. Joel stood in the cemetery perplexed. " What the hell is that noise"  He saw a tall dark figure suddenly stood at  the edge of the forest.  The growling from before started up again, or maybe they haven't gone away, to begin with. Between that and the growling noises, it was very unsettling.   The dark figure drew closer, He thought he was seeing things. He got back in his car and sped off.

The mysterious dark figure followed him home, Joel wasn't aware that he was being tailed.  All that was on his mind was what happened back at the cemetery. The  growling noise  still pounding in his head, couple that with the  illusional sound of church parishioners at midnight.  Joel also dealing with the fear of facing his past. Unfortunately, the past was just pictures that came and went.

The dimly lit apartment was jus the epitome of things that gone wrong that night. The dark shadow figure that he saw at the cemetery was right in the middle of the living room. The growls that he heard at the cemetery were louder than ever now, the almost deafening sound started vibrating the whole apartment. It got to the point where he almost went crazy. That is the last thing he remembered from that night.

Joel woke up the next morning, his mind was clouded. He had been through hell the last couple days. The shadow figure was wearing on him like a disease. Emotionally drained almost on the verge of depression. It took him almost an hour to gather all his thoughts completely The apartment was a mess like an f5 tornado had gone through it

A book lay on the floor, it wasn't that think about the size of a one subject notebook.  " Northern Willow Freedom Church". The book had a bunch of cultish drawings on the cover of it. Like the book of shadows or something like that.

The journal  sounded like a written confession but it was not. Pastor Hagen knew exactly what he was doing.  The sound of children screaming grew louder in Joel's ear. Upon reading the journal Joel started to figure out what happened. The church was not a church.

The church believed in mysticism. They also believed in wormholes, alternate realities  other mysterious practices. The majority of the town thought Reverend Hagen was crazy. Joel could see why his dad wanted him out of town. The funny thing is that Joel wanted nothing to do with his father's practices. Dick Hawkins wasn't going to see it that way.

Joel Hagen disappeared that night. There was no way to determine if he died or he just skipped town.  Some say people can still see him driving around town, especially by the cemetery. His car drives along Willow Hill Ave and just disappears. The church was torn down  and replaced with the new town hall. People still say that that area is cursed. Remember Sunfield, is a town where rumors change by the minute. Secrets get distorted and overblown, truth becomes fiction and secrets get revealed.



Derek Avery - Patz lives in Northwest Wisconsin and hopes to become a writer. His main line of work is retail which he has done for 10 years.


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