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The children have been playing for numerous hours after school by now, even into the unforgiving night. None of them are still aware that their parents continue to grow even more concerned for them as the darkness enclosed on the little suburb where they make their fun more noticeable throughout. After all, it had been only a few days and hours since one of them, Felix, mysteriously disappeared in the exact same patch of land that they all play in everyday, at the same hour that it was now, 9:30 during the evening. No one suspected a thing, not even the kids who were there to have the clearest vantage point on the entire incident. There was no explanation for the adult’s odd behavior as far as the kids could see, and that worried them big time.
No one knew exactly what happened during that fateful night in question. It was a slightly moonlit night during the autumn days of October, the clouds hinting at a rainy day the following morning. All the parents were cautiously watching their pre-pubescent kids participating in their unusual, but harmless fun underneath the few stars that shown through the gray sky. All of a sudden, there’s a horrible shriek that comes from the evergreens and pine trees in the surrounding forest. Felix was the only one missing after the kids overcame their shock from the blood-curdling yell. The police arrived late, so they really couldn’t do much. After all, there was no sign of a struggle, no blood, no trail leading off into somewhere. For all they knew, Felix could’ve been playing some sort of sick game with all of them. The adults, careful as they were however, didn’t want to take any chances again with the rest of them.
Now they just watched the kids even more carefully than ever, sending them inside their respective homes just before 9:30 in order to avoid having another kid being lost or kidnapped or whatever happened that specific day. The parents were standing in the house of Lacy, the mother of Felix, who was so flustered by the incident that she decided to take a vacation to clear her head, leaving her house in the care of her very comforting neighbors.
“Maybe he won’t…come back.” Said Martha, the mother of Angie, the little blonde one playing in the jeans and the frilled shirt, surrounded by boys in what seemed to be a witch-hunt game. “It could’ve been just…coincidence that other night.” Her hesitation was evident by the glazed look in her eyes, as her voice produced a tone similar to that of fear.
“Coincidence?!” Shouted Tina, the mother of Harold and Ernie, who were the ones hunting down Angie, calling her the evil witch in their harmless, but still seemingly twisted-looking game. “How could a kidnapping, much less a possible murder, be considered just ‘coincidence?! It’s always something with those psychos Martha! There’s almost never a case where they just did it out of nowhere!”
“Well whatever it is, it’s out there, and it’s going to come back…I just know it.” Said Greg, the single father of Ryan, the kid who sat in the grass, unmoved by the interactions of the kids, playing with some sticks by arranging them in an odd linear pattern by size. “What if they took Ryan? He’s unfit to take care of himself, even with the way he is.”
Each of the four kids stared occasionally at the house where the adults stayed in, peering through that horrible eyesore known as the living room window. There was an uneasy feeling hovering over them as if the government’s big brother was watching a terrorist organization.
“I hate that they’re doing that,” Angie said while being captured by Ernie. “Watching us like they think we’re going to disappear like Felix did. They don’t even know what really happened.”
“I know,” Harold said as he sat down next to Angie. “Why can’t we tell them the truth?”
“Do you even know what they’d do to us?” Ernie said, almost in a shout.
“Yea I know, but I hate that they’re going to become stricter on us. They need to learn that we need our independence just as badly as they do from this thing. I mean look at Turner Street; they get to do whatever they want ever since they scared their parents half to death with their little game. If we tried the same, we’d get punished.”
“Angie, shut up! You don’t talk about stuff like that, ya hear? We can do this. It’s not the same game that Turner Street played, but it’ll be just as effective.”
Suddenly Harold shouted, “Where the h***’s Ryan?” He pointed to where the line of sticks was. There was nothing there but the imprint of Ryan’s legs that had been crossed in the grass.
“Oh my God, what happened?” Angie said frantically. Suddenly she gasped, “You don’t think…?”
“No way, it can’t be. It’s not supposed to be real right? I mean we all know that Felix moved…right?” Ernie was getting nervous. Suddenly the parents were outside, shouting and yelling in a blaze of terror.
“WHERE’S RYAN?!” Greg shouted as if he were shot in the heart by a 12-gauge shotgun that had fragmented upon impact.
“They got him –– right under our noses too –– oh dear Lord, why?!” Martha screamed out towards the heavens.
“Calm down people. The perp may have gotten him, but he left something on the ground. Look.” She said, pointing to what looked like a napkin with some ink scribbled on it lying on the grass.
Angie was incredibly nervous for her best friend. “Why would they take Ryan? Why would he go with somebody? He’s misunderstood, not an idiot.”
“Just calm down sweetie,” Angie’s mother said, flustered and nearly about to faint from the stress. “We’ll just read the note…and hope that the person who did this…shows us where to go.” Her throat was beginning to feel lumpy with every word she spoke.
“What if this is another Felix inci…” Martha was just something about to say when Tina forcefully slapped her in the face.
“Don’t you dare jinx it like that!” Tina shouted into Martha’s face. “We don’t know for sure. Now let’s just…read that note…and figure this out rationally.”
They all gathered around the note as if they had discovered the Holy Grail within their own backyard. Greg was the one holding the note, carefully like an egg, with sweat dripping from his face as his lightly wrinkled hand shook with trepidation, as if he were holding poison within his fingers. He cautiously opened it, almost as if it were a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and kill everybody. Once it opened, everybody jumped back in fear, and then returned to read the words written in red ink.
Martha nearly fainted at the scarlet sight, thinking it was written in pure blood or something of the sort. Tina had her hand over her mouth, as if she had seen the end of the world in those words. The kids were more confused than ever. They couldn’t comprehend what was being said. Greg…he just stood there, mortified, all the life sucked out of his body, leaving him a stiff, living corpse surrounded by the air of fear and dread. The note said this:
Ryan is such a magnificent child. He listens, he understands, and he likes to answer my questions, no matter how...inaccessible they are to him most of the time. He’s almost like...well like Felix, even. Oh, Did I scare you with his disappearance yesterday? I might as well have, seeing as I took him from right under your watchful eyes. This just goes to show you that not everything can be controlled, as you so claim in your minds. Just wait...it’ll all be over soon, for all of you.
“Mommy, what is it trying to tell us?” Angie said, suddenly feeling an intense sensation of trembling as her legs nearly gave way under her fear.
“It’s going to be all right baby,” Tina said, the sense of false hope killing her from the inside. “We’ll find him soon.”
“HELP ME!” Harold cried out as he was pulled into the forest, legs dragging and arms flailing as the trees rustled lightly, and then stopped. No screaming, no movement; just an increasing stillness in the air.
The others went frantic, running around, yelling into the night like hyenas before taking down their prey. The kids were stuck in place, standing still. They saw who it was, and their eyes showed incredible disbelief in the predator that took Ernie’s younger brother. Angie gazed, thinking that she could’ve stopped it, had she not have been caught with the trepidation of the menacing face that stood before her as Harold’s back was turned, never knowing that he was to be next.
“Let’s hunt him down now!” Greg shouted like a warrior. “He’s in the woods, obviously. He led us to our kids. Now’s our chance to bring him to justice!”
“Are you INSANE Greg?!” Tina shouted, nearly choking him as she grabbed the scruff of his shirt. “He could have a gun or worse…it’s just not safe to go in there.”
“Tina,” Martha said coldly. “For once, stop being the voice of reason and just act. Angie could be next. Do you want that?”
Tina looked at Angie, and then into the woods, her eyes glazed over with shock and terror at the thought that she could lose her only daughter. Then, she turned back around, and with a snarl, she spoke out, “Let’s take this son of a b**** down.”
Branches cracked on the ground, causing a nearby deer to run past the party, nearly killing them from the sudden heart attack of fear as it almost knocked Greg over. The kids didn’t really pay attention, for they really didn’t want to be there at night. They weren’t allowed to go in there at night, and that rule stuck with them like superglue, even if the adults were there with them to protect and serve them. Plus, the darkness around them, the flashlights revealing twisted and gnarled branches of the trees, and the weird glowing dots of color that darted away from them gave them more chills than they were used to. It was like being in one of the scary movies that they weren’t allowed to see.
“I want to go home.” Ernie said, with an earnest and agreeable terror gripping his throat.
“We’ll go home soon honey, don’t you worry about that.” Martha said, feeling the same crushing sensation in her own throat. Everyone else had felt it too: the same imminent danger to their lives was filling their thoughts.
They continued north, passing by the trees and broken branches on the ground. No one had yet noticed that Tina and Angie have completely disappeared from the search party. Angie got caught on a branch, and her mom came to her rescue when they were abducted in the blink of an eye by a pair of black gloves coming swiftly out of the nearby bush. No one else heard it, so they kept going, their eyes fixated on pushing forward using the clues laid out for them along the ground.
Eventually, it was now Martha and Ernie’s turn to be taken into terrible custody. Greg kept pushing forward, desperate to find his only pride and joy, when Ernie plunged into a hole silently, with not even a yelp of fear. Martha, not wanting to alert anybody of the search party’s current position, travels into the hole herself, never to be seen or heard by anybody else after the fact. This left Greg all alone to try and find his son –– he now also had to find the others once he found out he was alone.
He made his way into the deepest part of the forest. Not realizing where he actually was due to the incredible darkness and the increasing fog all around him, he walked right into a wooden wall, knocking him down, but not knocking him out. He regained himself, then backed up to figure out what it was that brought him to the cold and dusty ground in the first place. It was a shack in the dead center of the woods, rotting and smelling of mold. Two windows decorated the outside, along with a shovel and a few blocks of wood stacked high upon each other where the shovel rested upon.
“This is an unusual place, but I should still look inside. It might be the place where Ryan’s being kept. Who’s…guys? You there?” He turned around to find that nobody was there behind him. Just a patch of dirt with his footprints tracked along the top of it. He was now caught with a dread that nearly paralyzed him.
Suddenly the door nearby opened up, allowing a rush of cool air to blast through his slick hair and face. He leapt back at least a few feet before finally deciding to enter the lowly building. It was pitch black inside, which only served to hinder his walking through the shaking and trembling that overcame him swiftly. He entered the door with careful precision –– every move was like clockwork, slowly creeping open the door to try and get in –– and finally made it inside. There was a light switch nearby where he felt around the wall.
The lights flashed on instantly, and he found the entire party: Martha, Ernie, Harold, Tina, Angie, and even Felix, tied up with rope, mouths covered with duct tape. Greg cried out, and then rushed over to help them out. He tore off Tina’s tape, which left a red mark all across her mouth.
“LOOK OUT!” She cried out. Greg had no time to look behind him before he was smacked in the back of his head with a blunt object, leaving him on the floor with blood creeping across the floor. He didn’t move, not even a twitch.
“Oops, I guess I should check my strength before I start swinging.” A familiar female voice said, but nobody recognized it on account of them being stricken with horror at the death of their friend –– and father for Ryan, for which he stared open-eyed, wondering if he was ever going to get up –– right before their eyes.
There definitely was a female figure in the darkness, but nobody could really tell who it was on account of the darkness enclosing her very well. She seemed to be wearing gloves, a sweater, and a ponytail to conceal herself.
“You monster!” Tina yelled, struggling in vain to free herself and deliver the mysterious attacker the same fate as Greg.
The woman just chuckled with glee. “You don’t get it do you? I won. And none of you will know who did it. You see, you think you know a person. But the reality is that you can’t trust everybody. Not even those close to you.” She said while Tina leapt forward, landing with her face on the floor, causing the mysterious woman in black to laugh again.
She then revealed something from her pocket: a matchbook with only one match inside. Everyone watched as the killer lit it, not realizing that Tina landed in a large puddle of gasoline that had soaked into the wood. When it dropped, Tina was instantly aflame, screaming and squirming as everyone else witnessed their near fate. The kids started screaming through the tape, while the other two moms simply watched, their eyes glazed over with terror, as their best friend was being burned alive.
Tina kept writhing, the flesh melting from her face as the blaze continued to consume every inch of her body. It was like watching a fish being lit on fire, then seeing it struggle for dear life by just wanting to dip itself in at least a bucket of fresh, cool and lifesaving water. Suddenly, she landed in a spot near the door. It was yet another gas puddle…this time with a trail of gas leading to a stack of large, unlabeled canisters in the left corner. A spark of flame touched it, and soon the fire started racing towards its main goal. Everybody who was alive currently watched and closed their eyes as the fire drew closer. Their sweat was more noticeable, nearly soaking through everybody’s shirts.
“Welcome to the neighborhood b****es!” The woman in black said, laughing maniacally as she shut the door and ran a good distance to get away from the shack.
The explosion rocked the trees, sending a mushroom cloud of fire and ash into the air as wood splintered and fell upon the dirt surrounding. The fire went up at least a hundred feet, consuming anything and everything within its radius. Birds flew off into the distance, screaming for mercy, while the animals of the ground went sprinting to safety. Limbs and other human pieces landed along the trees, decorating the evergreens like twisted Christmas ornaments.
In the clearing, just as the explosive wave settled down and the debris stopped raining down upon the forest landscape, we see boots standing in the dirt. Moving up, we can see the black jeans of a slender-legged figure, tucking in a thin, black shirt into the waistline. Along her back, a flow of black hair is seen blowing in the wind. Turning around to the face, it’s the familiar face that the others recognized, but will now be forgotten: the crimson-lipped, eyeliner-filled, mascara-loving Lacy, the mother of Felix!