Hello, and welcome to Raven Falls!
Raven Falls, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a fictional town of my own invention. It was the setting of my most recent novel, tentatively titled “Breaking Shadows”. It is a place of fear, and darkness. A place of rain, and mud, and filth. A place where no man in his right mind would chose to settle, if he had the choice. It’s a place of shadows, and a place of grief. A place of history, of painful memories for all its inhabitants. But most importantly, buried deep beneath its surface, it’s a place of hope.
Raven Falls is situated at the base of 3 wooded hills, with the forth side opening up to a very long, flat stretch of land. Nestled within upstate New York, it was once a small-town hub of simplicity. It was the kind of pleasant little town that resembled the great Thornton Wilder’s Grover’s Corners, from his incredible play “Our Town”. Their main industry was split between agriculture and lumber, back in the day. It was innocent enough, a town with its own share of stories and troubles, but no better or worse than any other town. It was one of those towns everyone longs for inside, where you know all your neighbors and they know you. Where everyone sticks up for everybody else. It was quaint, and beautiful. Above all, it was safe.
Like many towns with long histories, the founding of this one is a bit of a mystery. Centuries of change have jumbled the truth until myth and reality collide, creating a story all their own. Just as with Rome, where no one ever knew the full truth of how the great city (and, later, empire) was founded, but anyone could have told you the myth of Romulus and Remus, so goes the story of how Raven Falls got its name. It’s one of these mythical tales, passed down through the ages in the form of a lullaby. Not a soothing lullaby, but one that carries a darker meaning. Much like Rock a Bye Baby or Ring Around the Rosie, the distressing lyrics are covered up in a happy, bouncy tune, such that later in life a teen might realize its meaning and vow never to hum it to a child again.
As the story goes, the first mayor of this town kept a secret from his family and friends. A dark secret, perhaps of some great cover up. This secret planted itself within his chest, growing, ripping him apart. He eventually went entirely insane, and one day ran through town flailing his arms at “ravens” only he could see. He vanished into the woods, and when he didn’t return the townspeople became nervous. A search team was sent out for him, and after 3 days of combing the forest, they found him. His body, greatly mutilated by some “beast of the night,” was found in a crystal clear pool of water, fed by a small waterfall on a steep cliff face. In the cold, gray stone beside the fountain, written in bright red blood, were the words “Raven Falls”. Some of this may be true, or the whole thing could have come from some deranged mind. No one really knows. But still, the children sing the song.
The town had always been a wonderful place, despite the ever-ominous clouds that shrouded it. It was a small town, filled with happy, healthy people. That is… until the prison came. The giant prison, the largest in the country, was stationed just beyond the first large hill. With the prison came the guards, the policemen, the weapons. And slowly, as the government’s power climbed to its current dictatorship, ruling with a cold iron fist, the town began to change. There were very few rich to begin with, and as the years dragged on they vanished all together. The town was bathed in poverty, its residents forced to scrounge for anything at all to live on. It became the one of darkest, most dreaded places in the country, second only to the prison itself. The buildings crumbled, and the town fell into perpetual darkness.
Any passer by would believe it to be nothing but the ruins of some old town, its appearance that of an uninhabitable ghost town, besides the guards and policemen constantly walking the streets. But to its own residents, it is a steely cage, an iron claw that holds them captive. They walk in dread and hunger, for in these times no one is fully innocent. Everyone has had to steal to eat at some point, and it only grows worse from there. Beyond that, rebels are everywhere. Because of this town’s proximity to the jail, it’s a broken hub for rebellion. Everyone knows that if you even look at a guard in a way he doesn’t like, you could be beaten, imprisoned, or even killed for crimes you may or may not have committed. It’s not uncommon to stumble across a human corpse, left by guards or taken by hunger.
The only bright light left in this town can be found in the hill opposite the prison, hidden from all eyes but a precious few. For here, at the hill’s base, disguised by trees and vegetation, is a half-finished tunnel to its center. Years before, so far back that not a soul remembers, the townspeople tried to dig this tunnel to create easier access to the towns beyond. But when funds ran low and winter hit, the attempt was forgotten. It was later discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Resnik, who cleaned it up and used it as a back-up weapon store and safe house. When the Resnik’s base was taken out in the ambush that killed Ben and Jesse’s parents, they took shelter within its darkened walls. It has become the new home base for their growing rebel movement, and at any given time holds at least a dozen passionate rebels.
All in all, the town of Raven Falls is a dark place, a place to be avoided at all costs. But it is also a place of hope, the last real hope the country has for freedom.
“Poor John Charlie made a grave mistake,
Kept it to himself in fear that made him shake,
In that solitary, lonely place the secret his soul takes,
And day by day it eats away, until a fool of him it makes.
The crooked, crazy man took flight and ran away,
Seeing ghosts of birds, at them his arms insanely swayed,
And in the dark of night with nowhere at all to stay,
Some creeping predator set in, and shelter trees betrayed.
They found him in the fountain clear,
And clear it was some beast was here,
As punishment to his mistake, his fate to die a tear,
They stood in horror at the sight of bloody words so near.
And there, beside his watery grave,
Poor soul, this town a name he gave,
To warn thee of a deathly cave,
For here, in Raven Falls, fools alone be brave.”