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When I was a kid, my family and I lived in a modest house in West Virginia. As I said, it was quite small and there was a large forest behind my house. I was pretty curious, as any small child is and so I’d always find myself asking to go into the woods. My parents would consent but I was never allowed to go near the river that was located deep in the forest. At first, I was slightly disappointed but I never gave it a second thought and decided not to question what they said. Being an only child at 8-years-old, things could get pretty lonely. I was a recluse of sorts but had a big imagination so I always created a multitude of friends to play with me in the woods but they never left the wilderness so I ended up going back home to discuss the adventures I had with my parents over dinner.
One day, after my dad left for his classes at the seminary (he wanted to be a pastor at our local church), I decided to go on a short walk in the woods considering it was an Act 80 Day and I was off from school. I put on my jacket and found my shoes with the help of my mom and quickly rushed out into my imaginary kingdom within the confines of the forest. When I reached the point of the woods that I never went past, my mind became particularly curious. I got tired of limiting myself to just having a small amount woods to play in so I slowly made my way past gnarled tree roots and low hanging branches, thorny underbrush and overgrown weeds until I finally ended up finding the oh-so-infamous river my parents told me to stay away from. It had a strong current. Looked like pretty rough waters. I peered across the river to where the forest seemed to thicken substantially. Through the thin trunks and massive amount of branches, I saw something moving. A shadow of some sort? Whatever it was seemed to be advancing closer and closer to the other side of the river until finally, the shadow came out into the clearing. It was a man. Emaciated, lanky, and over 6 feet tall, he silently watched me from across the river. Being a lonely little girl, my first thought was that he could be a friend. I smiled and waved but I got no reaction. On closer inspection, I realized that the man had a small grin on his face. For some reason, the grin scared me a little but I was intrigued so I decided to leave. The next day after school, I went back. Then it became a daily thing. I didn’t mind his grin after a while. I thought it was cute. He never crossed the river but we still found a way to play and somehow, we created a bond with each other. One day my father asked me what I actually did in the woods. I mean, I guess it did seem a little weird; a little girl going into the woods by herself on a daily basis…there can’t be that much to do. I told him I had made a friend. He laughed.
“Oh, really? What’s his name?”
“Well, he can’t talk. Or, at least I don’t think he can.”
Thinking nothing of it, he let it go and I visited my friend everyday, per usual.
One day, he finally told me his name.
I ran to the river, smiling out of anticipation. It was like any other day; he was on the other side of the river but instead of his normal half grin, he was smiling. Teeth showing. It wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal except for the fact that his teeth were pointed. All of them. Every once in a while, a forked tongue would sniff the air through his slimy yellow fangs. I gasped. My friend once again became a figure of slight terror. I wanted to turn and run but my feet were stuck. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t avert my eyes. After I collected myself a little, I turned to run. As soon as I took my first step back however, he spoke for the first time.
“What is your name, child?”
“…C-cassie. My name is..my name is Cassie Littman.”
His smile widened.
“My name is Levi.”
I ran. The way he said it. His voice. I knew I never wanted to visit him ever again. It was awful. It was like he was whispering in my ear even though the river was crashing loudly against itself and even though he was standing across the river. It wasn’t like any voice I’ve ever heard before. It was unearthly. As I turned and started to run I heard him call to me.
“Please don’t leave me, Cassie.”
But I couldn’t stay. I had to get out of there. I think I might’ve been crying. I can’t remember. I ran home and practically attacked my father.
“Gosh, sweetheart. What’s the matter?”
“My friend. My friend in the woods, he has pointy teeth! He’s scary!”
“Oh sweetie, it’s just your imagination. Don’t get too worked up over it. If your “friend” bothers you that much, don’t go in the woods anymore.”
It made sense. And I never wanted to see that…thing again. So I didn’t go back for months. I actually became kind of a recluse. I was scared to leave my house. I felt like he’d be there…waiting for me.
I was sleeping when I heard it. Crying. I jumped a little and tiptoed to my window. I got a clear view of the woods but I didn’t see anything. I heard someone speak through the tears but I couldn’t put a face to the muffled, contorted voice and I didn’t know where the voice was coming from so I went downstairs to try to get away from it but it just got louder.
“I miss you. Please come to me Cassie. I love you. I miss you so much.”
I didn’t want to follow the voice. I really didn’t. But something told me to follow it. Something in me told me to console whatever or whoever was in pain because of me. So I went outside. I didn’t know where I was going but I knew exactly where to go. I headed toward the woods. I walked a while until I got to the river and then everything clicked. I panicked. I started to cry and I looked around watching out for Levithis or whatever the hell his name was. I heard rustling. The talking was now replaced with horrid, inhuman screams of agony and pain.
I couldn’t see him but I heard him speak.
“WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME. I NEEDED YOU. YOU WERE MY ONLY FRIEND AND YOU ABANDONED ME.”
He appeared at the other side of the river a few minutes later. I was too terrified to speak. He wiped his tears away.
“I’m sorry Cassie. I just love you so much. You’re my only friend. Please come play with me across the river. Please, cross the river for me.”
I considered it. He was lonely…like me.
Then I remembered what my mother had told me during the months that I wouldn’t leave the house.
“I can’t say I’m happy with the fact that you don’t go outside anymore but I am glad that you’re steering clear of the woods. That river has a notorious reputation. So many children have drown. It’s…odd.”
I made the connection. I screamed. I wouldn’t let him into my head. I had to get out. I told him I had to go but he kept coaxing me. He promised me happiness and games and fruit and a nice long life forever, with him. All I had to do was cross the river. All I had to do was take the plunge.
Despite what my mother had said, I took a step closer. I was so incredibly lonely. I just wanted a friend…
In June of 2004, Cassie Littman’s body was found lying gutted on the far side of the Shaver’s Fork River. There were bite marks covering almost every inch of her body.