4 Chapter 3: Welcome to Tophe
I woke up to the rays of dawn the next day. Roger was asleep next to me while Earl was driving. It seems they took turn driving last night. Seeing that I was awake due to the rearview mirror, Earl passed me a thermos filled with coffee and a cup. I carefully poured myself a cup before passing the thermos back to him. We were still inside the forest and according to Earl, we will reach Tophet within an hour.
The remainder of the trip mostly consisted of me and Roger talking about the hunting opportunities around Tophet until we reached the path going down the hill into the valley. Earl tapped my shoulder before pointing a finger towards something in the distance."Kid, welcome to Tophet." He said as I peered out the window.
It was a quaint little town filled with brick houses none of which rise for more than 2 stories. There were no factories or high rising buildings as far as I could see. The buildings looked a little outdated but that was not strange considering that the town itself is so isolated. According to Earl around 100k residents live in Tophet. The town had the basic facilities such as a school, a hospital, a powerhouse to distribute electricity, a motel and a mechanic to repair vehicles. The rest consists of farms owned by different families as well as a few other buildings.Honestly, I thought it was a great place to stay after I retire.
Earl drove to the Motel which was coincidentally 3 blocks away from the mechanic. After parking the car, Roger helped me take my stuff out the truck while Earl went inside the motel. He came out after a while with a middle-aged woman with ginger hair. The woman had a joyful smile as she received me. "Madison, this is here is Edge. He's new I town and would like to stay a few days." Earl introduced me before he turned to me. "This here is Madison. She owns the Tophet's best motel as well as Tophet's best diner, Maddie's." Earl dramatically pointed towards the woman like a hyperactive salesman. I saw Madison blush before playfully slapping Earl's hand. "Oh stop it Earl, you are embarrassing me." Madison giggled before turning to me. I noticed a dangerous glint in her eyes as they fell on me. "Ah, such a handsome lad. We almost never have visitors these days. What brings you here?" Madison vigorously shook my hand while sporting a charming smile. Stunned, I stuttered out an answer with her shaking my hand the entire time. Eventually, Earl shook her shoulders and said "Maddie you are scaring him." Madison's face flushed as she let go of my hand and sheepishly apologized to me.
She then asked me to follow her inside the motel. The motel was what I had expected it to be. Small yet cheap but unlike other motels I stayed at, it was clean. Like 5 star hotel level clean. She led me to a room near the reception. "You can stay here for the time being. The rent is $50 per night but for you, the first night is on the house." Madison pointed to the room and gave me a bright smile. The aforementioned glint briefly appeared once again. I hid my discomfort and thanked her before stashing my stuff inside the room. The room like the rest of the hotel was very clean and only had a bed a full length mirror. It also had a bathroom complete with a shower and a sink.
After having a shower I laid down on the bed and thought about the events that happened since yesterday. I still had no idea how my car broke down. I had it checked it before coming to Tophet and I was certain it was working fine. My mind also pondered about Earl and Roger. Why were they so kind to me? They gave me a ride to Tophet, and even covered my bill for this room even though we were strangers. And then there is Madison who is acting like she had been waiting for me for a long time yet I am certain I have never seen or even heard of her before. Well they said that I am the first person to visit Tophet in a long time so maybe they are being overly hospitable to me.
After taking a short nap, I got out of the room wearing a grey hoodie, a pair of jeans and sneakers as well as my camera. I greeted Madison on the way out and she led me to her diner a short walk from the motel. It was now 8 in the morning and I started seeing several of the towns residents outside. It was mostly people either on their way to work or farmers who have come to the town for supplies. I spotted some children following their parents most likely on their way to school.
The town square itself was dotted with various types of shops such as boutiques, salons, bars and even a gunshop. I made a mental note to visit the gunshop to stock up on hunting gears. I planned on staying in Tophet for a few days and what better way to productively spend my time than going to hunting.
Eventually, we arrived at the diner. Like the rest of the town, it was best described as "quaint". There were several customers already inside including Earl and Roger. They were helping themselves with a mountain (emphasize on mountain) of pancakes (man these guys can eat) as me and Madison walked up to them. "Look who's finally here." Earl said with his mouth full of pancakes. Madison chuckled before ushering me to the seat next to Roger. By this time, both their plates were nearly empty but lo and behold a waitress came carrying two more "mountains" of pancakes.
Madison was unfazed by this as though they do this every day while my I stared wide-eyed at the duo eating like a hippo. Madison passed me the menu and I ordered a Belgian waffle since I lost my appetite for pancakes and Madison walked in to the kitchen. The next 5 minutes consisted of me staring at the two elephants in the room (Earl and Roger) finished the food enough to feed a family of five within this time.
Suddenly, a slender arm placed my Belgian waffle next to me. I looked at the waitress and froze. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen in my life. With silky, black hair, emerald green eyes, porcelain white skin, a cute button nose and a bust size of .....OW!!
I was brought out of my stupor when Roger elbowed me with a silly grin. I glared at him a little before turning towards the waitress only to see that she was no longer in sight. Dejected, I turned towards Earl and Roger to see them grinning at me. " What?" I asked feigning ignorance. Earl placed his hands under his chin before saying. "Oh I don't know, maybe it's the fact that the girl left immediately after giving you your waffle yet you were staring at where she was standing for 2 whole minutes after she left" he finished after glancing at his watch. I blushed before proceeding to eat my waffle and Earl and Roger broke into a laugh. "What so funny?" Madison asked as she sat down next to Earl. Earl struggled to stop laughing and tried to say. "Well our mutual friend here took one look at Kayla and froze." "Like a deer infront of headlights." Roger added as they broke into laughter again this time Madison joined in as well.
Even though I was embarrassed at this point, I nonchalantly continued eating my meal. "Jokes aside, what are your plans now?" Earl asked. I shrugged. "I guess I'll finish my business here and who knows maybe stay around for a week or 2." I replied. "Oh you never said what you were doing here exactly. Can I ask what it is?" Madison asked with a smile. I nodded as I finished the waffle. "Well you see, I was asked to collect pictures regarding an urban legend in these parts. You may have heard of lnferus correct?" The trio looked shocked as I mentioned Inferus but they regained their composure and nodded. It was Earl who spoke next. "Of course we know. Most of the sighting occur in this town. There are many areas that was said to be visited by Inferus. Actually you know what let's go there tonight. I am sure you will pleased with the results." The tone he used made me a little suspicious but I didn't think too much of it.
"That would be awesome. I'd prefer to finish this as fast as I can." I excitedly said.
"All right. meet me at the ranger station at the end of the town around 5 in the evening and I will take you there." Earl chuckled before he stood up. " Oh I sent one of my boys to fetch your car. He should be here with it by tomorrow." he added as he and Roger stepped outside the diner. I thanked Madison before leaving the diner myself. As there was still a long time before evening, I decided to explore the town to pass the time.