Witiko Falls: Disillusion
The town of Witiko Falls may seem relatively normal on the surface, but those who linger begin to notice a number of unsettling phenomena.
Non-human mammalian animals do not fare well in Witiko Falls. Dogs, cats, horses, and other creatures have been known to exhibit behavioural changes, anxiety, aggression, and bouts of illness in the town. Most blame such symptoms on altitude sickness. Non-mammalian animals seem unaffected. There is a pet store in Witiko Falls, but it only carries birds, fish, and reptiles.
Everyone native to Witiko Falls is afflicted with anisocoria –they possess differently sized pupils. All those born in the town, regardless of ethnicity or background, suffer from this (harmless) condition. It seems to become more severe with each passing generation: a second-generation resident of the Falls, for example, has a greater disparity in pupil size than a first-generation native. The affliction is known as the “Eyes of the Witiko.”
For unknown reasons, batteries only last half as long in Witiko Falls. This phenomenon is one of the few associated with the town that can be consistently and quantifiably documented. Laptops, cellphones, flashlights, and other battery-operated devices all drain their batteries at double the normal rate. All other electronic devices perform completely normally, unless one counts the television program The Ritualist.
Periodically, residents and sometimes even visitors in Witiko Falls will receive anonymous instructions, usually in the form of letters, cryptic voicemail messages with disguised voices, text messages, or emails. Such notes always insist that their contents and even existence should be concealed from others. The instructions vary wildly in character but usually ask the recipient to perform some innocuous or trivial task, such as going to a certain cafe and ordering a particular drink, leaving a cold tap running in a public bathroom, turning a picture so that it’s askew in a hotel lobby, taking out a certain book from the library, or leaving a doughnut in a paper bag on a specific park bench. The writer addresses the notes to “Agent X,” X being the surname of the recipient. The tone is always one of intense urgency and secrecy, and the writer never reveals anything about the greater context or consequences of such activities. Very rarely, the messages will not be mundane at all; recipients will instead be instructed to perform some hideous, unwholesome, or even violent act. The space of time between instructions is unpredictable, ranging from hours to years. Most residents of Witiko Falls never acknowledge the existence of such instructions and will plead ignorance if confronted with them.
Visitors to Witiko Falls often seem unable to obtain a good night’s sleep. Many of those who first arrive in the town immediately begin suffering from some form of parasomnia, even when they have no prior history of sleeping disorder. The most common include night terrors, sleep paralysis, somnambulism, and somniloquy; sexsomnia and sleep-eating have also been known to manifest. Even those who avoid such symptoms tend to suffer from nightmares and especially vivid dreams on first arriving in town. In particular, new visitors tend to dream of happy childhood memories, memories horrifically marred by the presence of shadowy “things” watching from just outside of the dreamer’s peripheral vision; sleepers will inevitably wake moments before finally properly glimpsing those watching them in their dreams. This condition persists for a variable amount of time, sometimes never fully dissipating, although natives of the town seem to sleep soundly enough.
A television program that seems to be exclusively broadcast in Witiko Falls. The extremely campy show features an occult detective similar to literary figures like John Silence, Thomas Carnacki, Simon Iff, Steve Harrison, Harry Dresden, and other supernatural investigators, and is comparable to similar programs such as Baffled! and The Night Stalker. The program seems to have been made in the 1970s, although some episodes make references to events that occurred in the 80s or even later. The eponymous Ritualist is Max Carter, a hardboiled American detective who deals with supernatural crimes. Most of Carter’s cases take place in a fictitious east-coast city named St. Lazarus, though episodes also take place in a range of other locales including London, Cairo, Istanbul, and Shanghai. Extremely episodic and formulaic, The Ritualist is never broadcast in order, although it would be difficult to discern the correct order in any event. The program is (apparently) syndicated and appears on multiple channels in lieu of regularly scheduled content. TV guides do not mention the program, but it is available through on-demand and subscription services accessed within the town. As far as can be ascertained, the program has never been broadcast outside of Witiko Falls, no record of its production or broadcast has been found, and none of the actors have been located. Those few DVDs and videotapes of the show taken out of Witiko Falls eventually fail to play properly once they have left the town limits.
It is unclear whether the roads around Witiko Falls constitute a manifestation of its peculiar nature or not. The area around the town is a mass of logging roads and disused back-country roads, and finding the town can be difficult even for those who have made the trip multiple times. Locals can usually give coherent suggestions on how to leave the town, but periodic flooding, downed trees, broken bridges, and other obstacles can complicate travel to and from Witiko Falls. Gravity hills and other optical illusions also pervade the roads, complicating navigation. Not every trip is difficult; it has been observed that those who aren’t looking for the town seem the most likely to find it. Satellite photography of the area is often curiously obstructed by atmospheric interference and technical malfunctions, and most maps of the roads are outdated and unreliable. Some conspiracy theorists maintain that the roads move around to “protect the town.” When asked about this phenomenon, some residents will chuckle and concede half-jokingly that the roads “have a will of their own,” but always do so with an ambiguous wink or a sly smile. Some truckers have reputedly collected certain “tricks” to reach the town, which they sometimes use as a rest stop.