Ryesville was a typical Appalachian town, complete with it’s own sense of time and a convoluted sense of it’s own importance in the world. Barely 800 people lived within confines of the town and only 1500 or so in the rest of the county. There wasn’t much industry here, there never had been, and the mountainous terrain made farming on any large scale unimaginable. The county itself was the largest employer, followed by the school system and the one small packaging plant that sat just outside of town. There were a few small businesses, but nothing that employed more than a dozen people of so.
Strict schedules were only a vague concept in this community. The few small stores operated on more of a “if we’re here we are open” timetable than an exact time for opening and closing. The only schedule in town that could be depended on was the scheduled dates and times of classes at the three county schools, and even they were depended upon the weather and whether or not there was a home football game or festival taking place that day..
Ryesville was a nice place to live. Quiet, for the most part, and relatively crime free. There were a few things that occurred from time to time, some drug problems, kids joy riding, a few fights and several domestic violence problems, but those things always seemed to happen outside of town. The biggest problem in town itself was speeding.
People felt safe here. At least they had until a few weeks before Thanksgiving. That was when things started to change, when people began disappearing. At first it was only a few, but as the weeks passed, more and more people were simply gone.
No one had thought much of it early on, this was a small town with only a limited number of jobs to start with and with the economy getting worse, the jobs were becoming more and more scarce. It was only natural that people would leave in order to try and find work elsewhere.
The initial ones missing were single people, men and women both. They were all people that could have relocated somewhere with more opportunity for employment. The only thing odd about the first ones to disappear was that none of them were originally from Ryesville, although no one made much of that fact other than to comment that it seemed odd.
By the time Christmas rolled around the number and frequency of disappearances had become so high that people were frightened. What had started as an explainable coincidence had now become a frightening shadow. The last to disappear were all respectable people born in Ryesville. They all had families and had, until recently, held steady jobs to support those families. Each of them had recently experienced a layoff or other type of job loss that imposed hardships, but they all seemed to be hopeful of securing future employment. These people ranged in age from early twenties to the late fifties.
Every one of the missing had been simple normal hard-working people. One day they were going on about their lives, looking for work, spending time with friends and family, living a quiet life, and the next day the just seemed to drive off to….well, that was the question. Where had they gone? Why had they gone? And more importantly, were they gone by choice?