Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
Thanks for the info, niceguyphil13.
I started digging around for myself using my top internet sleuthing tools (aka cached Google results and WayBackMachine) and found some forum posts. He went by “BenjiMCFC93” and was quite prolific, it appears. Mostly just memes and arguing about WWE with people, but there’s one that really stands out.
I think it’s the last before he went missing. And – whoa. Did they ever even question the dad? I can’t find anything in the local news archives that even mentions K****.
///submitted Aug 28 by BenjiMCFC93
So I’m over at my Dad’s, I ask if I can use his work laptop for the internet because there’s nothing else to do here. He says sure, so I go up to his study, flip it open and there’s a browser window already open (I swear) with this string of emails. I know I shouldn’t have read them, but I didn’t even know Dad was seeing a therapist so I guess I was just concerned and wanted to check everything was okay. I really, really wish I hadn’t read them.
Subject: Your first session
I hope you feel that you managed to get something out of our first meeting, despite the teething troubles we encountered in vocalising your memories and thoughts from that period. It’s not uncommon for people to struggle initially when trying to open up about traumatic experiences – it takes time. Eventually, I believe you’ll find it immensely beneficial to be able to talk to someone in person. Don’t be perturbed!
We can take the next session as slowly as you like. You’re in control, and you can choose to use our time together exactly as you like.
Re: Your first session
I came away feeling quite frustrated, to be honest. I’m not sure what I expected of myself, or the situation as a whole, but I suppose I’d imaged it’d be easy to talk about everything.
Look, in honesty, I feel a lot of shame associated with my behaviours. It’s all very difficult to admit to myself, let alone try to explain to someone else.
If you’re open to the idea, can we try to talk about it on here first and pick up on it in person at my next session? I think it’d really help. I might be able to get that whole situation out onto a laptop screen more easily than I could through my mouth.
Re: Re: Your first session
Absolutely, if that’s what you find most comfortable. We can pick up the conversation in person when you next come over, as you say.
Re: Re: Re: Your first session
Okay. Here goes.
As I mentioned, Ben and I were best friends from age 11. We’d spend a lot of time at each other’s houses or at the park, mucking around, making dens, fighting. Kid’s stuff. He was always the more mischievous of us, but we never did anything that I’d consider serious or dangerous in retrospect.
During third year of secondary school, Ben started acting differently. He was around my house a lot more, I’d say almost every weeknight and certainly both days of each weekend until quite late at night. My parents began to ask questions. I’d become slightly wary of him, too. The mischievous ideas he’d have suggested previously had given way to darker suggestions. He spent a long time trying to make a bomb using matches, tinfoil and various measures of fertilisers and cleaners from around my garage. I can remember being very worried I’d get in trouble if either of my parents came in and saw what we were doing, but being more worried about losing face with Ben if I suggested we stop.
One rare evening when I was over at his house for a change, he left the garage (where we’d been shooting paint tins with a BB gun), came back in a moment later with a kitchen knife, and told me to get in the chest freezer. That alone wasn’t alarming – we were regularly trying to scare each other like that. I laughed it off, but he continued the act for several minutes, insisting that I climb inside the chest freezer or he’d slit my throat. There was a peculiar intensity about him as he said it. Let me be totally clear: at no point was I under the impression that my life was genuinely in danger if I didn’t comply. But I could tell he really wanted me to believe it was, and I felt a unique anxiety at that. After what felt like far too long, he dropped the act and we continued shooting objects in his garage.
But the strange energy he had remained. I found it increasingly difficult to be around him, as did our other friends at school. We were on the verge of ostracising him completely when he told us that his parents had divorced. His mum had moved out and his brother had gone with her, leaving Ben and his dad. I remember my mother saying that explained everything when I told her. She told me it was probably a big deal for Ben to tell us, after apparently keeping it a secret from everyone for so long. An indication that he was back on the right track.
I suppose I saw it that way, too. With my teenager’s understanding of psychology, I waited the best part of a week for the old Ben to re-emerge, smiling and ready to come and play football with the rest of us on the school field. When he didn’t, I finally broached the subject. I told him I noticed he’d been acting differently for the past few months, and that I guessed the divorce must have been hard on him but he didn’t have to push me and other people away. He started crying. I think it was the first time I’d seen him cry. “It isn’t that,” he said.
He made us walk to the edge of the village, out in the woods, before he’d tell me what it was. He told me that around six months previously he’d seen a man in the supermarket who he’d stared at because of the way he pushed the trolley around, slumped over the bar like it was a Zimmer frame, and because his skin was so yellow. When his mum saw him staring she told him the man was probably terminally ill, and “didn’t look long for this world.” Those words, that particular choice of phrasing, always stayed with me, as I’m sure it stayed with Ben.
That same week, Ben said, he got out of bed one night to draw his curtains and noticed something out in the garden. It was the man from the supermarket, standing completely still in the middle of his back garden, looking straight up at him, arms by his sides. They held each other’s gaze for a second before Ben sprinted over to his light switch to turn it out, pulled his curtains shut and pulled the duvet over him. He could still feel the man looking at him, he said.
He wasn’t telling this story to scare me. Ben wasn’t such a good actor. His breathing was irregular, his voice wavered and broke, and tears kept creeping into his eyes. Whatever Ben saw, or thought he saw, had evidently profoundly affected him. If I were telling you about this in person – and as we’ve established in our first session it’s extremely unlikely I’d be able to get this far – you’d certainly see the same signs from me.
It happened once every couple of weeks, Ben told me. Almost enough time would pass for him to start relaxing and explaining it away with logic, then he’s see the man again, looking up at him through his bedroom window from the garden, alone and unknowable in the pitch darkness. He never told his mum or dad about it, he said. Telling them would be admitting to himself that it was really happening. I was the first and only person he’d spoken to about it.
There was more. He’d been having terrible nightmares since the first time. One night he dreamed he was preparing to hang himself in the back garden and videotaping a message to his parents while he did it. There was a recurring dream in which he’d find a girl’s body in a bin bag, limbs cut off and emerging from the bag at strange angles. I couldn’t think of anything to say for a long time after he stopped talking. Finally, he said “I just don’t know what’s going on anymore.”
I believed him, inasmuch as I believed he was seeing something, and it was causing him a lot of emotional distress. So when he asked if I’d stay over, I did feel scared. But I also felt I might somehow be able to understand what was going on, explain it, and make everything magically return to normality for Ben.
It would have been late November. We were watching a Bond movie with his dad downstairs, eating chow mein on our laps. Over the course of the night the things he’d told me had slipped to the back of my mind. Ben seemed to relax around his dad, and became someone more like the kid I used to climb trees with in the woods. I started to consider the possibility that what Ben told me wasn’t true – specifically, that he couldn’t own up to the truth, which was that it was the divorce that had rattled him so much. It was easier to invent something fearsome to explain his emotional state than it was to deal with the raw wounds of his parents’ separation.
I’d become quite set on that idea when Ben asked his dad if we could all stay up and watch the boxing at 12AM, live from Vegas. “Not a chance,” his dad replied, laughing. It was a school night for us, and a work night for him, he pointed out. But Ben pushed again for it. And again. It quickly turned into an outright argument between the two of them. I looked down at the patterns of oil and soy sauce on my plate until it simmered down. Ben really didn’t want to go to bed, that much was clear. But he was swimming against the tide with this one.
When we went up to his room to pull out the futon, I was trying to think of way to tell him it was okay to be angry, or sad, or even scared after the divorce, without suggesting I didn’t believe what he’d told me out at the woods. Before I could get anything out, he looked at me nervously and asked if I wanted to check the garden with him from the window. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure whether to go along with it, or to confront him directly in the hope that the reality check would help him resolve whatever he was going through. Inevitably, I did neither. We walked over to the window, looked down into the garden below, and saw no one. Ben sighed in relief, then jabbed me in the kidney to try and scare me. We drew the curtains, talked about which girls from school we fancied with the lights off for a while, then both drifted off to sleep.
I woke up a few hours later needing to pee, having had a couple of cokes after dinner. The bathroom was to the left of Ben’s room, and around a corner, and I made my way to it without turning on any lights. I remember not wanting to wake Ben’s dad, since he’d been so vocal about getting a good night’s sleep for work the following morning. The only light in the bathroom was the moonlight from outside, so I think that drew my eye in the window’s direction. I remember choosing to glance out into the garden to reinforce the belief that there was no one there, as we sometimes check the corners of a dark room to strengthen the belief that we’re safe. And, honest to God R*****, I saw him. I saw the man.
He was standing in the middle of the lawn, next to the washing line, absolutely still, in what looked like tracksuit bottoms and a tweed jacket. He wasn’t looking up at me, but over at Ben’s room. The window, with its curtains pulled. Staring at it.
I rushed back to Ben’s room and woke him up to tell him. I simply said “he’s out there.” I won’t ever forget the look on his face. We both crept over to the window, pulled back a corner of curtain and looked down to see his ill-looking face already staring in our direction. He wasn’t quite expressionless, though almost. I remember seeing what looked like sadness in the faint moonlight. Ben started to cry. He tugged the curtain in place again, dragged the duvet off his bed and pulled me into the corner of the room with him, where we sat hugging out knees, the duvet covering us completely. Neither of us spoke. Ben sobbed. I knew then what he had meant when he said he could feel the man looking at him still.
It was just over a week later that Ben went missing. December 7th, just before the Christmas holidays. As I mentioned yesterday, they never found him.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Your first session
How awful that must have been for you. It must have taken a tremendous amount of bravery to endure that period, and more still to open up and talk about it now.
As painful as those memories are to access, I hope you’re encouraged by the fact you’ve been able to relay them to me. I’m curious – did you mention your experiences prior to Ben’s disappearance to anyone afterwards?
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your first session
It was extremely difficult. The school put on an assembly to explain to everyone what had happened, but I got a nosebleed almost instantly and had to leave. There were flyers around the entire area for weeks after, perhaps months. I hated having to see his face wherever I went, becoming more and more weathered as time went on. I understood why the flyers were there, but it seemed sick to me at the time. I suppose I’d accepted quite early on that he was gone. That he would not be found.
The police came over to my house one evening to talk to me, and I did try to talk about the night I’d stayed over the week before, and about what he’d told me, but I didn’t get the impression they took it very seriously. They were more concerned with his hangout spots, where he might go to if he wanted to run away. He hadn’t taken anything with him if he had run away, though. Not even shoes. There was no sign of a forced entry in his house, nothing out of place in his room. I’d heard these things via a friend in school whose dad played golf with Ben’s dad, so looking back they weren’t concrete truths. But I do remember everyone, the school, the police, and his parents, all talking as if Ben had run away, rather than been taken, in the weeks following his disappearance.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your first session
We’ve covered a lot of ground here, K****. I think it would be best if we continued this in person, and thus avoid the risk of overwhelming ourselves and losing focus. This has been a vital first step.
///submitted Aug 28 by BenjiMCFC93
I know I shouldn’t have read it. I totally get that. But I can’t un-read it now, and it’s all freaked me out so much I don’t know what to do.
Here’s the thing: my dad has NEVER mentioned anyone called Ben from when he was younger. He had two best friends, Gareth and Tom, the three of them met at pre-school and went through the whole education system together. I’ve met them both loads of times. They send me birthday cards. None of them have ever mentioned anyone called Ben.
Also: dad definitely didn’t grow up in a village near some woods. He’s from Walker, in inner-city Newcastle. There just aren’t any woods there, not now and not when he was a kid.
Then there’s the part where he mentions his “behaviours”. I’m guessing, but I think he must be talking about something that happened before Mum left. One night my sister went downstairs to pick up a book she’d left in the lounge, and found dad in there, with all the lights off, just standing. It scared the shit out of her. She screamed and turned on the lights, asked him what the hell he was doing down there like. He just mumbled something and stayed there. Rachael left him to it, I guess she must have wanted to go back to sleep and pretend it hadn’t occurred.
It happened a few more times – once mum found him in the garden in his dressing gown at 5 in the morning after she’d woken up and realised he wasn’t in bed. Then there was the night I woke up and found him in my room, standing by my bed, looking at me. We thought it was sleepwalking, but after things between him and mum got worse, man… idk.
And, I mean… Ben’s my name. Obviously. So that story he tells the therapist bloke really gets to me. Why would he lie? I honestly don’t know what to do, guys. Should I bring it up with him?
Credit To – Man1ac