Just when you all thought it was safe to skim the new material in this section without stumbling across my Penname-- Here's my new age horror/ramance/drama. This is a ZoLu story, but not to the extreme. It's a mystery first, with the relationship second so it doens't overthrow the plot. In other words there's a major plot here, so it's not simply ZoLu.

--written by Teresa Starr (TreeStar) Ruark--

Homecoming Hill

1 -(Prologue)

No Visitors in Hill Town

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

-- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Hill Town, population 1,600, resided in the middle of a lush, beautiful forest. Oddly enough it was on flat land, but was still aptly named as it was surrounded by rolling hills on all sides.

At a glance, it was a very normal, old-fashioned small town, full of large colonial-style houses the had been built when the town was founded, the youngest of them being over forty at least. The streets were narrow and those that had been paved had not been that way for long. The townsfolk acted normally enough. The children went to school together in the only schools in town -one for all elementary grades and one for middle and high school. The elderly men sat on their porches and read while the women cooked pies for their families and neighbors. The adults who worked plowed the fields for the farmers, for the outskirts of the town were littered in small farms who's crops required constant upkeep. Every Sunday you would find them all gathered in one of the two churches when the bells pealed out from the church domes, signaling the start of the morning services.

In the middle of this town was a large white clock tower that rang out every hour of the day and evening, from six in the morning, to nine at night, when the children all went to bed. It signaled the start of the work day and the time for people to be indoors. People did not wander about at night; even The Tavern and the Corner Store closed early and drunks were home before it became too late.

Those who lived in Hill Town had lived thus all their lives; it was routine, but one they were used to and there were no objections. Families had lived and died in Hill Town for generations. It was very hard to leave once you were there, and the number of people in town had managed to somehow stay about the same throughout the decades.

Visitors never came to Hill Town anymore. Not since all the small vineyards had closed their doors to the public so many years ago. The townspeople had agreed that while the vineyards still sold their product, they should not be open to have strangers coming to sample the wines anymore.

It did not do to have outsiders coming into town at all. They asked too many questions and liked to explore the beautiful lands that Hill Town had to offer. Young people would take walks and hikers would hike through the lush forests outside of the town.

People who lived there knew better, but the outsiders...

No. It did not do to have strangers wandering in town at all. For their own good.

At the end of town -straight down the central street to the end- was a high, sloping hill that stood out because of the huge beautiful mansion on top of it that was so captivating. It was surrounded by what had, at one time, been beautifully kept grapevines, orchards and gardens. The reddish brick drive path was long and very narrow, having been originally created for carriages and old Fords when automobiles were a new thing. It started at the gate and ended in a large circle around a fountain covered in cherubs.

One hundred years ago roses, carnations, various ferns and other colorful flora had surrounded the drive path the whole way up. The Hill had been a goldmine. With enough workers, in one year it produced nigh a hundred thousand dollars, and back then that was like being a multi-millionaire. People would pay a fortune to drink the wine or even walk through the beauty that was Homecoming Hill.

Built in 1913, the house itself was of wood and stonework; firm walls surrounding the various sized and shaped rooms on the inside. Large double doors guarded the entrance to almost every room, including the baths. The floors in the entry were marble and spotless. The halls were many, and always busy. Now, however, while the house stood very firm, the halls were dark and empty, though they still whispered; and the vineyard and gardens had overgrown and supposedly died with the passage of time.

Nothing lived on Homecoming Hill, and it had been thus for fifteen years, though the mystery of Homecoming Hill began more than eighty five years before that. The first sign that something was terribly wrong was marked by the disappearance of an sixteen year old girl.

Nefeltari Vivi was a beautiful, peaceful child with a gentle nature. As her parent's only child, she had lived happily and wealthily in that house with her family and staff whom she treated all as friends since it was built.

Then one day, she vanished without a trace. There was no sign of her anywhere. The grounds were searched extensively and everyone in the town was questioned, but nobody could even deduce for sure where she was last seen. The family was oddly quiet about it. After searching for only two weeks, the family went into mourning and made a memorial statue in honor of her life, and placed it in a large, open area in the extensive garden. Out beyond the stone steps and lowest balconies, it could be seen from every window on the southern side of the house not facing the town.

The rumors became much more intense and a fear settled over the grounds and staff when the gardener's twin daughters vanished twelve days after the funeral. Both had been seen going through the doors onto the third-floor balcony of the second East Wing together in their black mourning dresses complete with parasols, yet when the maid went to fetch them for dinner moments later, they were gone.

Another search was conducted in earnest but there was no other way off the balcony and the girls were never found. Rumors of a haunting spread as another funeral was planned and held, and then the family and staff abruptly moved away from the painful memories, leaving the Hill and Manor alone to wait in silence.

Other people had, of course, tried to take the mansion and vineyard for themselves. The time the house took to claim it's victims varied, sometimes people vanished or died right away. Sometimes it took weeks. Sometimes it never happened before the family left. There had only been two families that had left whole, and they had been frightened off after only two mere weeks.

Sometimes there were just reports of things rearranging themselves, and there being rooms that maintained themselves. One maid reported taking down a portrait of a woman that had been long left behind from one such room, only to find it back the next day and all portraits her own room slashed apart.

But they had always moved out within a couple months due to strange occurrences of some sort. All the while the number of graves and memorials for bodies never found grew steadily larger. Some, oddly enough, even seemed to appear by themselves.

It always started slowly: a disappearance here, a mysterious death there. Finally it got to the point where no one in the town ventured near Homecoming Hill anymore. It wasn't worth the risk.

The mansion could be seen from anywhere in the town, and though this meant the people saw it everyday, it did not mean that they got used to it or were any less wary. Homecoming Hill loomed over the town like a shadow in a nightmare.

People who went up there and did come back had never seen a thing out of the ordinary. Most merely got the feeling that they were being watched or followed. Two old men in a tipsy humor who stumbled in together in 1996 claimed to have heard an invisible man ask them politely to leave in the front yard under the dead trees, and though they were reputed drunkards, no one put anything past that place. Therefore, it was believed by the superstitious townsfolk that those who did not return or were never found had probably ventured too far onto the grounds and had run into something that they couldn't deal with.

No one who lives in the town knows what happened to suddenly wake Homecoming Hill all those years ago. Anyone who might have been able to answer the questions the townspeople had with any sort of certainty had been silenced forever. But there wasn't a soul in Hill Town that had not heard voices whisper in the night.

All anyone knew for sure now was that if you stayed in the town and minded your business, nothing minded it with you (aside from nosy neighbors). If you went beyond the gates of Homecoming Hill, there was a good chance you would never be seen again.

AN: This is a prologue, so it's short. But since the chaptering feature doesn't have a chapter 0 option, I'll just list it as chapter 1 on this site because it's easier to keep track of if I ever have to do chapter replacements or anything. Right now this is only rated M for safety. This will get very graphic in parts. Both traumatic-past-wise and possibly gorey-description wise.

I hope you like it! I meant to post it earlier... I have the next several chapters done and going through some final plot revisions and then they'll follow this up. And I absolutely SWEAR that I have NOT forgotten RUMBLE! The very next thing I write will be chapter 17 of that.