Vern closed the diner down early, which was just as well since he had run off all of his customers. Reagan walked home just after twilight gave way to a proper night. The few street lights on her familiar route were enough for Reagan. It was only three blocks from the diner to ZZ Highway, and then only a half mile to the trailer park at the very edge of town. Beyond the trailer park was the county's unified high school, and then ZZ Highway extended to the darkness of the west, ultimately leading to what was once a frontier, at least until it became Springfield.
The last actual house before the trailers was Mrs. Gill's. It was a tiny house, split evenly between a single car garage and a small living space, both with unknown contents. Nothing entered or left the house other than Mrs. Gill herself, who departed three times a day to walk with surprising briskness to Vern's diner for meals. Mrs. Gill made her pilgrimage come rain or shine or snow, but that was the extent of her forays into the outside world. No one in town remembered a time when the old lady didn't live there, other than maybe the old lady herself. No one was brave enough to ask her, though.
The one street lamp between the trailer park and the small house cast a dim yellow light on Mrs. Gill sitting on her front porch. That was weird, Reagan thought. In two years of working for Vern and walking this route to work and home again, Mrs. Gill had not once been on her porch. Reagan tried not to inspect her most loyal customer too obviously as she walked by.
Mrs. Gill held something before her in her left hand as her right hand caressed it. Reagan caught a glimpse of green and realized that Mrs. Gill was still reading her Psalms and New Testament, or maybe just looking at it and stroking it in the dim light. Reagan shoved her hands into the pockets of her old jeans and looked down at the uneven pavement as she passed in front of the house. Her ploy didn't work.
"Good evening, dear," Mrs. Gill called from the shadows of her porch. "Off to hunt extraterrestrials, are you?"
"No, ma'am," Reagan answered, adding to herself 'not yet.' Then she added out loud, "It's a pleasant evening to be out."
"It is a pleasant evening to be out, my dear. Very pleasant." Mrs. Gill looked past the trailer park and the high school, down the strip of asphalt extending into the night. Reagan couldn't help but look too. All she saw past the trailer park and the school was a thin sliver of moon setting over treed hills.
"Umm, well, I had bettered get home." Reagan realized she had paused before Mrs. Gill's house to stare down the road out of town.
"We had all bettered get home, dear," the old lady replied as Reagan walked on toward the trailer park.
Ready for the next part? Here's Chapter 6(ish)
Need to catch up? Here's Chapter 4(ish)