Fiction: Eleven Rules for Visiting a Ghost Town


Read More: A brief interview with Daniel Miller


Rule #1: The first rule states that the location of Pithole, Pennsylvania can only exist on one (1) map, for one (1) year, at any given time.

Rule #1 (a): If, after the span of one (1) year, the map is not found and/or found but not utilized, the location of Pithole, Pennsylvania, shall cease to exist on said map.

E.g., Pithole, Pennsylvania appears on a map located in a Soviet bunker.  After three-hundred-sixty-five (365) days Pithole, Pennsylvania appears on a map buried beneath a yurt, constructed and forgotten in Southern Pakistan.  After three-hundred-sixty-five (365) days Pithole, Pennsylvania appears on a map blowing through a DuBois, Pennsylvania truck-stop parking lot.

Rule #2: The second rule states that the map on which the location of Pithole, Pennsylvania is drawn must be acquired by extraordinary circumstances.

Rule #2 (a): “Extraordinary Circumstances” include but are not limited to: Regurgitating said map; finding said map behind oil paintings found in small town thrift shops; or receiving said map via post from relations no longer living.

E.g., Kimberly Brenneman of York, Pennsylvania drives west on I-80, en route to her Erie home.  She pulls her beaten sedan onto DuBois exit 101 and into a truck-stop for a much needed restroom break.  As she returns to her vehicle, as she opens the driver’s side door, a wayward map is blown into the sedan’s interior.  Under ordinary circumstances Kimberly would discard the map, would leave it to continue its tumbling.  But these are extraordinary circumstances.  Kimberly has just left the funeral of her father, and it is a day unlike any other, so she opens the map, closes her eyes, and points a finger, resolved to travel to whatever place lies beneath her skin.  She opens her eyes.

Rule #3: The third rule states that once and if the finder of the map ventures to Pithole, Pennsylvania, he or she must thrice walk backwards down Holmden Street.

Rule #4: The fourth rule states that if, while walking down Holmden Street, the finder hears a knock on a door then it is considered polite to open said door.  If, however, the finder hears nothing, he or she should leave Pithole, Pennsylvania immediately, for to stay would be to invite certain annihilation.

Rule #4 (a): Structures found on Holmden Street include but are not limited to: “General Merchants;” “Bonta House;” “Dry Goods Department;” “Chase House;” “Lily’s Brothel;” and “Danforth House.” Structures in Pithole, Pennsylvania are not static.

E.g., Upon first pass of Holmden Street, “Lily’s Brothel” exists on the West side of Holmden Street.  Upon second pass, “Lily’s Brothel” exists on the East side, or ceases to exist at all.  Upon third pass, all structures on Holmden Street are replaced with replicate copies of “Lily’s Brothel.”

Rule #5: The fifth rule states that the finder must not resist whatever lies opposite the door.

E.g., Kimberly hears a knock from the General Merchants, opens the door to find her father.  But it isn’t truly her father, for he’s far too tall to be human, his skin too tight, hanging off his cheekbones.  His fingers are slender, made longer by unkempt nails.  Kimberly is unable to meet the not-father’s eyes, but, still, there is a familiarity about this creature.  She is both comfortable and uncomfortable as the not-father sweeps his arm in a welcoming gesture.

Rule #6: The sixth rule states that if the finder is invited inside the structure to which the door is attached, it is considered polite to accept the offer of hospitality. […]

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Daniel Miller’s work has appeared in Conjunctions, Puerto del Sol, and Zone 3, among other publications, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Read More: A brief interview with Daniel Miller