Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
My name’s Charlie, and I’m 15-years old. I’ve lived in Chicago for just about my entire life before my entire family moved to the small town of ********* (I’m not going to name it for personal reasons).
There’s been a story going around this little town, something about children getting taken away by these things called Takers when they misbehave. So basically what these Takers do is that they’ll climb through the window of the child in the dead of the night, and whisk them off to some unknown place. Nobody really knows what happens to these kids, and I highly doubt it’s true, but it’s been pretty effective in getting kids to behave relatively well.
The more superstitious folk in here think that the Takers are real, mainly because of the few cases of missing children that have occurred in the last couple of years. But I know otherwise. The dense woods surrounding the entire town would have been a more plausible reason for the disappearances than some stupid rumor concocted by frightened townsfolk. You have a bunch of ballsy young kids and you put them in the vicinity of a deep, dark, mysterious forest. You wouldn’t have to be a genius to put 2 and 2 together- these kids embarking late night exploration trips into the forest and winding up lost. I mean, yeah, a bunch of search groups were sent in to hunt for the kids but I’ve seen how big this forest really is. It’s enormous. You’ll need an entire army to comb through the area and even then it’ll probably take them a couple of weeks, tops.
Alright so being the new kid on the block, kids generally ignored me in school, which was fine with me- I didn’t have to put up some badass punk image to keep bullies of my back. Eventually I was invited to a big party, it was going to be held at this really popular’s guy’s house so I figured why not? This was going to be my best chance at making friends.
The party was OK, I guess, I’ve been to better ones. The kids here were too quiet, too tame that almost none of them wanted to drink more than a couple cans of beer. I was almost at the maximum threshold of my boredom by 11.30pm though, more than half the people had left and the only highlight so far was some stupid guys versus girls mass badminton match. I decided that this was a good chance to establish some reputation in this town.
‘Guys. GUYS!’ I clambered up onto one of the wooden picnic benches and clapped my hands for attention. The other kids all turned and I knew from their looks that some of them didn’t even know who I was.
Fueled by my 10 cans of booze, I raised my arms and gestured to everyone. ‘Look, I don’t wanna be an asshole or anything, but this party really kinda stinks. Trust me, I’m from Chicago and I’ve seen some hardcore parties over there.’
‘Yeah? What do you think we should do then, party-man?’ This huge hulk of a guy, Vince, pushed his way to the front of the twenty-strong crowd and sneers at me.
‘Well,’ I paused dramatically and jabbed my thumb towards the forest just beyond the back-gate of the house. ‘We’ve got this at our disposal, and I think it’ll be a shame to just ignore it.’
The crowd lapsed into silence before breaking out into a nervous laugh and turning away from me.
‘Seriously? C’mon, we’re teenagers, you seriously believe that the stupid monster-in-the-woods story is true?’ I climbed down from the table in dismay and disgust. I made my way to the cooler and popped open a can of beer before hopping over the back gate.
‘Hey- what the hell are you doing?’ I turned back, and it was Carl, a fat guy from my English class, hollering after me.
‘What does it look like? I’m going into the damn woods, Carl. There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of, and I’m going to prove that to all you wussies.’ I tossed the half empty can towards him before ducking under the branches of the trees. ‘Peace out, ya pussy.’ I saluted him mockingly before making my way into the woods.
I had to admit, after about 10 minutes of walking into the forest, I was beginning to regret my decision. The initial rush of bravado had gone and what replaced it was a growing feeling of anxiety.
‘Just 5 more minutes, Charlie, 5 more minutes and we’ll go.’ I muttered to myself as I stomped through the bushes to emerge into a clearing. The sudden illumination from the moon took me aback. However, what surprised me more was a rather large wooden cottage sitting in the middle of the clearing. Being the idiot I was, I decided to check it out.
The cottage, as expected, was abandoned and it was clear that it had been so for a long time- it was almost entirely covered by a thick layer of moss and grime. The stairs leading up to the door were all broken at various parts which some of the steps even missing. The only parts of the cottage that still looked presentable were the windows, which were grimy and badly stained, and the door.
Thinking that the inside of the cottage would be a great photo background to show off to the other kids, I gingerly made my way up the steps and pushed the door open. The door opened with a loud creak, as expected with old abandoned cottages in the middle of the woods. I was immediately hit by a foul, putrid odor that rushed out from inside the cottage. Gagging, I took out my phone, turned on my flashlight application and stepped through the door.
The inside of the cottage seemed rather normal, a bunch of furniture pushed towards the back of the living room and a small kitchen to the left of it. There was something eerie about the place though, and I quickly snapped a couple of pictures before turning to leave when all of a sudden something hard hit me on the back of my head.
I was still in the cottage when I regained consciousness. However, I was in another part of the cottage, maybe in one of the bedrooms. I couldn’t tell, because I was blindfolded. Fighting back a sense of nausea and fear, I struggled to my feet before realizing that my feet were shackled to the floor and my arms tied were behind my back.
The putrid odor seemed even more foul than before, if that were even possible and I just about had enough. I drew in a breathe to yell when I felt a warm breath down my neck.
‘Good, you’re awake.’
‘What the- what’s going on!’ I whipped my head back and hollered.
‘Please do keep quiet, I wouldn’t want to have to gag you.’
Biting down a scream, I forced myself to stay still while tender, soft hands gently removed the blindfold. As I gradually adjusted myself to the dim light from the lamp in the corner, I began to have a clearer view in the room.
I immediately wished for the blindfold to be back on.
All around me, in various forms of decomposition, were dead bodies of boys, all shackled to the ground the same way I was. There were about the same number of bodies as those that had disappeared before. Choking down a scream, I immediately began to hyperventilate and pulled desperately at my restraints.
‘Hello, Charlie, my name is Peter. Please, do no panic.’ A figure, tall and dark, climbed in-front of me. I could barely make out the features of a man’s face in the dim light, but what frightened me the most was the wide, maniacal grin he had plastered on his face and his round, beady eyes fixed right upon my face. Sighing softly, he settled down in-front of me and gestured towards the bodies.
‘All failed experiments, I’m afraid. I do sincerely hope you would not end up like them.’ He paused for a second, regarding me quietly. ‘Are you hungry?’
The absurdity of his question shocked me out of silence. ‘What the fuck is this! What the fuck are you?’ I screamed wildly and swung my legs out to kick him but my efforts were in vain- the shackles held them down.
‘Dear oh dear… such language. And violence! You are indeed a perfect candidate!’ He rose to his feet in one fluid motion while clapping his hands in glee. ‘The other boys had some real fire in them but you, ho boy, you might just make the cut.’
‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! LET ME GO!’
Ignoring me, Peter reached into his pocket and pulled out a large hypodermic needle. Uncapping it, he crawled slowly behind me, and caressed the left of my neck gently.
Trembling wildly in fear and horror, I ducked away from his hand, only to feel a prick of a needle on the right of my neck.
It all happened so quickly. My vision began to swirl and blur before I slumped onto the ground.
I woke up with a throbbing headache and sore limbs. My vision was still blurry as I massaged my head gingerly, before realizing that I was lying in the middle of a clearing in the forest.
‘Ugh.’ I climbed slowly to my feet and surveyed my surroundings. A normal plain clearing, with trees along its sides. The moon was still up, so I couldn’t have been unconscious for long. Groaning, I staggered back slowly into the woods and after 15 minutes of walking, I emerged out of the forest and into the back-gate of the house. It seemed like the party had just ended.
‘Hey! Hey- dude, oh my god, we were just gonna call the cops!’ Carl hurried towards me before yelling wildly to a boy in the backyard. ‘Vince! He’s back!’
As I was helped through the back-gate, Vince grabbed me by the shoulders and laughed in relief. ‘You freaked us all out, Charlie, you maniac!’
As I made my way back into the house while Carl and Vince ran to their phones to spread the news, I felt a grin slowly grow onto my face.
My name is Peter, and I am now 15-years old.