Whittier, Alaska is an oasis for two types of people, it’s said.

If you’re a socialite who wants to know everyone’s business and be involved in your community – what better place is there than a town of two hundred and fifty residents who nearly all live in a fourteen story Army barracks? The Begich Towers, as they’re called, provide everything you could ever need: a police station, a grocery store, a health clinic, a church, a laundromat, a garden, and more. Everyone knows one another’s business and histories, and residents shuffle around in silppers and pajamas to get coffee, or knock on the sherriff’s door to discuss how someone snatched their CB radio.

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If you’re a recluse, Whittier provides a different sort of paradise. The only way by land to get in and out is a one-lane railroad tunnel that shuts down nightly from 5PM to 9AM. During summer, ships of all sorts (cruise ships, charter boats, fishing vessels) bring thousands of visitors to the harbor – small planes bring supplies – but it all shuts down in winter. Cruise lines and fishing vessels can no longer get to the trecherous little abode; roads are nigh-impassible so the tunnel often shuts down for months, and so the only outside interaction are the few supply planes that land when the weather is good. Considering that the city gets 250 inches of snow and regularly has 60 mile per hour winds rushing it in the winter – to the point that tunnels have been dug to get the kids to school and access Begich Towers to the only outside-the-building shop – those supply planes are rare and few.

You’ve learned all of this very quickly about Whittier. Your friend, sister, girlfriend – whatever she is to you, Sarah Osaragi has stopped replying to emails and won’t call her family. Her mom tearfully begged the four of you to find her and bring her home. You just know you better move quickly – winter’s coming soon, and you may find yourself stuck in Whittier for a while.

Nightfall

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