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Whispers of Morg City
Chapter 4: "Marketplace"
The reporter's trip had escalated into a cycle of fear, recluse, and confusion, then partying at night and starting the whole process anew. Weeks had passed since his first night at the Burlesque, and yet every night it was like nothing had changed. The nights were just as wild and exciting, and the alcohol just as alluring. During the day, he preferred to stay indoors. To say something is “off” about the residents of Morg City is an understatement.
One day, the reporter got bold and decided to venture to the market for some sustenance beyond the inn's horrid coffee and stale snacks. For good reason, he chose not to make this trip often.
Around mid-day with an extreme gust of wind blowing through town, the reporter trekked through the Waterfront district, holding on to his hat for fear of losing it. Just an hour before the air was calm without a breeze in sight, yet here, now, the weather has changed drastically. Once again, the townspeople did not seem to notice nor care.
Exiting a nearby barber, a middle-aged woman limped her way down the street. Her head was noticeably balding and her skin almost grey. She coughed repeatedly, not even bothering to conceal it. A large burst of furious wind knocked the walking corpse of a woman onto the ground, provoking no one around her to help. The reporter approached the woman, out-stretching his hand to assist her.
“NO! You will not take me away again! Stay back!”
“Whoa, ma'am, calm down.”
“Stop it! I am not your servant anymore! Keep the Order out of Morg City!”
The lady jolted up, pushing the reporter away and sprinting as fast as she could with her weak body. The reporter expected furious accusations from the city-dwellers who witnessed the incident, but instead, they continued about their business. It then occurred to him that there had been no sign of police in Morg City outside the Footlight District.
He regained his bearings, ready to begin walking towards the market again before noticing another oddity, this time on the ground. In the alleyway near the barber was a strange assortment of biological matter. It looked like a strange fungus, similar to some he saw near a dumpster days after his arrival, but much larger. The fungus was emitting a green gas and pulsating rapidly with a fluorescent glow. As he traversed the street, he noticed even more of this fungus in corners, alleyways, and on the walls, yet no one seemed to care. Just being near this fungus gave him anxiety.
The woman, now gone from sight, had a similar skin tone to many others he had seen roaming the city, including the old couple residing in the inn with the reporter. They too had been hacking their lungs out, with pale, ashy skin to coincide. It was likely not a coincidence that the residents of Morg City had started getting sick when this alien mold began to spread.
If the townspeople would not acknowledge the happenings in this city outwardly, then they must be asked directly. The reporter headed to the square, hoping to find people willing to answer his questions. Citizens rushed past him, giving the reporter little time to conceive, let alone ask his questions. But one individual stood still in the ocean of city-people: the old man with a knack for staring. Just as every night before-hand, he sat at his fruit stand staring at him with a passionless gaze, arms crossed and legs apart. The reporter finally worked up the courage to approach the man, to hopefully capitalize on his solitary nature. The man did not greet him on his arrival, nor ask him if he wanted to buy any fruit. He simply awaited the reporter to make the first move.
“Good evening, sir. I'm a reporter looking to ask-”
“You aren't from around here.”
“Well, no I'm not. I'm from up north, you see. I'm being paid to come down here and get a feel for this fine city of yours.”
The old man continued to stare, with blinks few and far between. The reporter made a move once again, saying, “So since I've been here, I've noticed some strange happenings in this city, particularly in the Waterfront and Canals District, when I felt like heading that way. Seemed to me like everyone's been getting sick all at once. Then I noticed this peculiar green, eh, mold or something growin' at every street corner. I just want to know, do you know what's going on there?”
The old man leaned back in his chair, gazing up at the moon coming above the horizon, deep in thought.
“I've been roaming this earth for around 82 years now. Or was it 84? Well, I can't quite remember. But I've been in Morg City for most of that time. The fungus you are speaking of is quite odd, not something I'd find particularly interesting though. But, I do remember something like this 'round when I was your age. Not here though; out in New England. 1882, I believe. My family had a big house, all paid for and such, and I was free to stick around on that property as long as I needed to.”
“Sounds like you had it set. Why'd you leave, sir?”
“I had to get away. Before it got me. Like it did my mother.”
“Before what got you?”
The old man lowered his head, ignoring the question. His eyes shut tightly and he began to snore softly. No more questions from him today. Morg City had begun to haunt the reporter. His dreams were filled with terror and desperation, and they all centered in this city. He continued through the market, purchasing any goods he needed and failing to get any more answers from anyone before heading back to his room to think. The old man's words began to eat away at him, pressing him to pursue the truth even further in the coming weeks.
At the inn, he decided it was time to give Mr. Rapt a call, and maybe he could give some insight on what the old man meant. He reached for the phone, coated in dust. He was not entirely sure it was connected to the wall. But surely enough, the dial tone echoed out, and the reporter entered in Mr. Rapt's number. The phone rang repeatedly, but there was no answer. It was late, and Mr. Rapt may be asleep for all he knew. He left behind a message:
"Hey Mr. Rapt, just checking in. So, I'm here, finally, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Morg City. I know you sent me here to write a piece about the city's bustling nightlife and theater scene, and the characters that inhabit it, but things are getting kinda strange. Even though no one seems to wants to talk about it, something is definitely off about this city. Just last week there was a meteor shower, a freakin' meteor shower! And everybody acted like it was no big thing. Then, the mold showed up, all over the city. In the dark, damp alleys, there's a strange kind of fungus growing. It looks weird, and smells even weirder, but nobody really says anything. Then people started getting sick. At first it just made them delirious...confused. Then they really got sick. It was like they were wasting away. People finally started talking about it. I spoke to one guy in his 80s, a fruit seller, at a local market. He said something similar thing happened in New England in 1882. When I tried to press him on it, he just lowered his head and ignored me. If you ask me, something definitely ain't right here."