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My name is Jeffrey; my friends call me Jeff. My good friends had bought a house in a suburb as a “vacation home” sort of deal, that we were staying at it when this happened.
There were four of us; me, Casey, Jack and... Daniel. We were all living in this house together during the fall. In this area of the country, the suburbs pool into one another, so one community is joined with the other by streets, and if one of the neighborhoods is gated, there’s usually a gateway separating the two communities. The gateway to the neighborhood that pooled into ours had no gate, really. So it was just a fence with an opening.
Casey’s family owns the house, so naturally, he knows all about the two communities. From what he’s heard and been told, the community separated by that “gate” has a rapist that prowls around it. Nobody knew who the rapist was or what he looked like because he only strikes at night. I didn’t believe Casey; he’s the sort that jokes about crap all the time, and he was probably stretching the stories too far, but the first night in the house, I swore I heard a kid screaming.
By the time the guys wanted to bike up and down the bike road that ran along the long side of the neighborhoods, the idea of a local rapist was pretty plausible, kinda like how the unexplained creaking in your house could be a ghost or some sick psycho-murderer about to strike. But the guys knew that the bike road was definitely safe. Casey swore that especially on a Fridays that the last place any rapist, killer or psychopath would be a bike route along the riverside. This was probably especially true since the local high schools had homecoming week, and everybody was at the football game and or dance.
So me and the guys, one week after we stayed in the house, pulled out our bikes and biked up to the bike route. I’ve got a fifteen-speed bike, but it doesn’t really switch its gears since it always sounds like it’s in between. Jack has a fifteen; Casey’s got a ten and Danny had just started riding so he borrowed Casey’s dad’s old one-speed. The sky was purple and pink with fringes of orange-yellow. It was agreed we’d ride up the bike route till we hit the street and then ride back. We rode along the concrete slowly, noting how empty the bike road was. As we passed the neighborhood where the rapist roams, dogs barked, and we heard kids squealing, and Casey gave me a smirk.
I’d been riding more in the longshot, but I hadn’t been riding as much, so my legs started cramping. When we got to the end of the bike route and the sun was behind the walls of the neighborhoods, I was willing to go for a less bumpy and dark route, even if it meant having a greater chance of getting raped.
After going back and forth between Casey’s “you’re going to be raped”, Danny’s “let’s all stay together” and Jack being Jack on the fence, Casey told me that there was a fork in the sidewalk that cut through the rapist neighborhood which led to the suburb streets that would lead to the gate. So straggling behind, I turned into the fork and biked up the sidewalk along the community park, the guys sending me off.
It was well-lit but empty. I could hear the dogs that lived on the right of my path barking again. Another shrill scream and my heart started to skip beats. Bushes began to rustle; probably lizards or rodents, but in the dark, and since I couldn’t see, it was probably a man creeping up on my slow biking form. I forced myself into overdrive, pushing my aching legs to floor the pedals. All I could hear was my panicked breaths as I rode off the sidewalk onto the street, mind playing tricks, hearing sick perverted laughter, imagining getting knocked off into the street to-
I was hit in the back with such force that I landed on my chest, having the breath knocked out of me and my bike flew over my carcass. I got to my knees and faced the laughter-
The shirtless little boys squirted the front of me with the garden hose and water cannons, laughing as the shirt clung to my bra. They grinned and pointed as their leader got me in the face.
--What? You never heard of a girl called Jeff before? You know, a long time ago, that was a thing: naming a girl Jeffrey. Besides the point: back to me getting hosed by middle schoolers. Fear had turned to relief and then relief into a womanly rage. I got to my feet and ran after the little perverts, chasing them into the closest house. Once they were gone, though, I smiled as the water on my face washed away the fear as I biked casually into Casey’s neighborhood through the gate.
I got into the house, apparently the first one back, even after that run in with the future douchebags of the neighborhood. I’d taken a shower and changed clothes by the time I heard the guys get back. I went into the front room to tell--
I held my breath when I saw wide-eyed, dirt-covered Casey and Jack. Just Casey and Jack. “Where the heck’s Danny?” I said, wanting and not wanting to know at the same time.
Both of them were out of breath and wide-eyed; Casey was shaking and Jack, always Mr. Cool Guy, looked ready to drop to the floor. Both of them couldn’t manage a sentence.
The next morning they had enough sense to file a report on Danny’s disappearance, but they weren’t able to describe the scene or be willing to show the police the area they’d biked back up. I led the officers to the bike path I thought they took, but they found no sign of Danny or Casey’s dad’s old bike. I told the officers that I’d been with the guys until sunset because I’d taken the shortcut through the neighborhood. Casey and Jack were able to confirm that I’d gone that way, and I showed them the place where I’d gotten hosed by those kids.
The case hit a dead end immediately since there was no definite crime scene or suspects. Danny’s parents begged and begged Jack and Casey to tell them what had happened, but they were stunned. Eventually, the cops suspected since there were no other witnesses to clear their names that the boys had done it. They were arrested and would’ve been put on trial if the prosecutors had found any incriminating evidence against them; nobody, no bike trails, no trace. Heck, I was probably the next suspect if they hadn’t confirmed my story with the little boys.
I’d never know what happened if Jack hadn’t written down his story in his little dream-journal-thing; I found dates and entries like a diary, but the tidbits I got while looking for this story are too fantastical to be real. Jack said as long as I treated it nicely I could keep it since he was nearly done with this one. Danny’s story is the last one to be recorded in this thing, and the space left is about only three or four lines long.
Jack had handed this off to me about three weeks after the case went cold for good. I’d asked about it, and he reluctantly dug it out of the depths of his room. He handed it to me and told me to be gentle with it, then asked if I was going to post this or something like that. After a bit of me trying to persuade him that I could keep this secret if he wanted it to be, but he told me that if I read it, and wanted to share it with anyone, that it would do Danny some good.
“People have a right to know what happened to him. They’ve got a right to all these stories,” he said to me. “I think I’ll start uploading the others, too.” So now Jack’s still writing in those dream-journals and posting them as I type this. I don’t really want to post the other entries in this issue. I don’t know these other ones, and it’s not right, I think, to post them. I’m only posting Daniel’s story to send him off.
As read from Jack's Journal.
God, the lighting in this place sucks. I’ll be lucky if I can even get words on the page.
A few days ago, Casey, Jeff, Danny and I rode our bikes behind the neighborhood. Jeff went another way through a “rapist-murderer” neighborhood, so it was just us guys. The sun was behind the walls so there was no way any of us could see very well; the bike route had no lights surrounding the road. Maybe they did, but they weren’t on for some reason.
Danny’s riding a one-speed bike; Casey’s riding a ten and I’ve got a fifteen. We were all casually riding; Casey laughing and riding ahead showboating and Danny and I are about neck-and-neck with each other, I suppose. Danny’s complaining about how he can’t see and Casey said he had known the route like the back of his hand before he tumbled into the dip between the concrete and the houses.
I slowed down to fetch him, and Danny rode along, laughing at Casey. I slid down the rocky decline and helped Casey up. He certainly had gotten the wind knocked out of him, but other than that, he was fine. He picked up his bike and led it up the dip, telling me how Danny’s probably leaving a trail and staining his dad’s bike seat. I laughed, and we both sped up a bit, though we caught up with him soon enough.
That’s when the crickets stopped chirping. I suddenly felt cold, but from previous experiences, it didn’t really seem like anything; just a cold pocket of air. Casey hasn’t told me about feeling cold, and... I can’t ask Danny about it. The area seemed to darken as if giant hands came up from either side and meshed together above us, as if passing through a tunnel. Casey started to slow down, suddenly forgetting the area, and stopped. Danny and I did the same.
“What’s wrong, Casey?” Daniel asked.
“I...I don’t know where we are,” he choked out. “It’s so dark...” We stopped riding and started walking together, trying to look for some landmark, some imperfection in the road, but it was too dark. I could hear hushed, low noises as if something was whispering or breathing next to me. My heart was tapping, not pumping, tapping as if a looming presence was causing my body to-
Crunch. Like a bone. And that was all that needed to awaken the... the darkness.
After I had stepped on whatever it was, something, it didn’t really sound like a roar or a scream, it sounded like squealing metal, and then pounding, just, pounding, and everyone got on their bikes. Casey and I shifted the bikes into the highest speed possible, and we floored it. Danny called after us and pedaled as fast as he could, but then I heard a crash and a sickening crunch, and his screams, they followed us home... I kept hearing them, Casey and I, after we got to a spot of light, went back for him, but whenever we got to a part we didn’t quite remember, we heard grinding stones and deep rumbling.
Oh... Oh, God. That place is bad, but I have to go back sometime; whatever happened there was probably because of me.
UPDATE from Jack
I wanna thank Jeff for asking to see Danny’s story and typing what I wrote in jail that night before Casey’s parents bailed us out. What I’d written then, I was still shaken a bit from the past night, and I didn’t know what had happened, and since it was an issue after several others, many of you might not understand why I put the blame on me. I’ll be sure to write a note to you readers later on if I get enough people interested.
Anyway; Danny. That thing on the bike route. I’d written before how that thing was probably after me. Let me just tell you to know; I still have no idea what’s wrong with me or why these things keep coming after me. There’s a word for them, yes, but if I told you that, I couldn't be sure what would happen to you, innocent people. I just know that whatever I am, I attract these things.
So, later, when the case went completely dead, no media coverage, no police tape, no convictions or suspects, I went back to that bike route in the middle of the day on a weekday since there were less people around. I walked the length of our ride and back, looking around for anything suspicious, but I couldn’t find anything.
That’s when I stepped on something that crunched. And I looked down and found a bone. Somehow I knew it was a human bone; just the size and shape of it, and I could feel a sort of aura about it, you know...Sort of automatically, I looked up at the tree above me, wondering if a carrion bird had dropped it after feeding...Nothing.
Well, no, actually, not nothing- more like no living thing, no animal, bird, corpse- but I saw something hanging on one of the lower branches. I jumped and swatted at the branches to try and jostle it free, and after a couple of hits, I did it.
What fell was a little stuffed-animal backpack suited for a little girl about three or five years old. The fabric and fur of the backpack was dirty and torn in some places. Some rips actually looked like a small animal had gnawed at it, but what struck me as odd the most was the way that the dirt looked like it had stuck after it had gotten wet. The wet spots accumulated around this gaping hole in the animal’s chest. The way the rips in the fabric in the hole suggested that something a fist wide, and sharp, had to have punctured it through the backpack side, er, the back or whatever.
As I was holding the backpack I got the strange feeling I keep getting when this sort of thing happens because I felt like I had a thousand pairs of eyes boring into my back. That’s what it usually feels like. I used to call it my spidey-sense when I was a little kid, but I don’t really know if that’s what it should be referred to as.
I think that everyone else can be susceptible to the feeling that I get, but perhaps everyone else isn’t as aware of it. The random shivers down your spine... the feeling of being watched even though you are utterly alone... as if someone in the wall behind you is glaring right at your shoulder blades. Those feelings. I’m like the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” except that I was born with these, or rather I held onto them since babies cry for no observable reason sometimes... I’m not sure. I’ve tried my best to research my condition, but there’s precious little information regarding it. That being said, if anyone here can shed a little light on this for me, I would be grateful. Please, any information counts, but please, please don’t go digging into things that give you bad vibes at the start. I can’t promise your safety or the ones in close contact of you.
Now. I began to sense a presence that got my heart skipping every two beats. This became every other beat when I touched the trunk of the tree. I ran my hands across the bark, and somehow... those two thousand eyes and my skipping heart... it all seemed to tell me that the tree was very old.
My hand began to move slightly as if the bark was bulging, like the tree was breathing like an animal. My heart began to skip faster, and without any thought, as if I were a mere animal, began to climb into the canopy of the tree.
No birds nor small animals fled from me since there were none taking refuge in the dense foliage. When I pulled myself up, my head rammed into a heavy object. I looked up and saw a dented, old-looking bicycle helmet, hanging from the branch above me.The Hot Wheels stickers on the side were torn in some places and bleached of color where the sun fell on them. Six letter-shaped stickers along the crown of the blue helmet had been completely fried of their color, but the shapes were still intact.
I began to feel that one out of the one thousand pairs of eyes had gotten closer to my back, beginning to take on dirty blonde hair and blue eyes with a simple black and red-flamed sticker across his left cheek.
I clamped my eyes shut and crawled away from Conner’s helmet, trying to avoid the backpack of an Amelia and the half of Troy’s skateboard and all the other eyes burning into my back until my hand had nearly stepped on air and I woke myself up to stop me from falling into it.
The branches grew along the edge of the trunk of the tree, leaving a tunnel-like opening in the top of the trunk. My heart thudded, and I could feel more eyes looking up at me from inside the darkness.
The sun glared at me through something inside the opening, not too deep. Holding onto one of the branches, I reached out my hand to grasp the object, groping about it. It was something attached to something else slender and long. It felt like a stick, but it felt a bit cushiony, and I started to pull it out, letting out a little gasp when I pulled it out of the hole.
A bicycle’s handle piece, broken off from the base. There wasn’t much damage to it, and it wasn’t as worn as the other items in the tree, but the thing that got me wasn’t the bike piece.
It was the hand and wrist with the watch attached to it.
I left that place afterward, and I’m not looking back. There’s too many eyes there, just too many for me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry if someone you knew went for a walk somewhere and they went missing, or they were right behind you when you lost them in the darkness. I’m sorry. But I can’t take those eyes. I didn’t go anywhere or outside after that inspection for awhile; it was that bad.
Sigh... Oh, Danny...
If you and Casey had gone without me, that might not have happened. If it was just me, we’d all be okay...
I wish I’d been the one that had to break off from the group and go into the bad neighborhood.
Written by JayPuma186