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Canonical Youth

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The following text was found as a document on a laptop possessed by writer William Mathers of NYC.

The Hamza Forest that surrounds the village of Greenwald has had a morbid history. Even during the clear happy summers the sleek pine trees and old stone paths can seem as though the forest is hiding something. At least, that is what we all thought as kids. There was me, Bobby and Daniel. We formed a sort of rat-pack in elementary school which persisted until I moved to New York City when I was eleven. Despite the eeriness of the forest, we spent many days playing in it, pretending to be knights and dragons, or Special Forces operatives hunting down an enemy commander. I was sad when we moved and lost almost all contact with them until my twenty-third birthday, when I received a letter from Daniel that simply read:

Bobby’s dead

Funeral at Greenwald Church

11th July

Please come

I was obviously saddened by the letter, although I imagine the people of Greenwald were severely grief-stricken by the death. There were less than one thousand people living there, so everyone kind of knew everyone. I booked a flight to Denver and drove the rest of the way to Greenwald and, to be honest, it felt like I was going to a land where time stopped. Despite the expansion of logging projects, the Hamza still had all its trees standing. As I approached the village, I saw many landmarks that I remembered from my childhood. The fallen log over the creek, the ruins of Bradley Manor and, my personal favourite, Craig the tree. Back in 1979 a group of villagers built a huge treehouse and named it Craig. But when I was three (1989) a large wind blew the thing down. The treehouse was gone, but the name Craig stuck. But back to the story at hand.

I drove over the villages’ south bridge (Greenwald is surrounded by the creek so the only points of entry are the west and south bridges) and parked my car outside the Greenwald Lodges. Carol, the owner, recognized me right away and offered me her condolences towards Bobby. When I asked her how he died she shrugged, saying that she heard he was sick for "quite a while." I rented a small cabin for three nights and went to put my stuff down.

The cabin was wooden and rustic; exactly what you’d expect in a woodland township. There were three rooms, the bedroom, the bathroom and the joint kitchen-dining-living area. The bed was old, judging from the condition of the mattress. It would have to do. Given that it was only 2:40 PM (roughly) I decided to head to the library to read some of the old Greenwald Annual journals. They were these great tomes that replaced the daily or weekly newspaper by collecting the most important stories of the year into one volume. I had loved reading the ones from the late 1800s when I was a kid, and I thought it would be wise to catch up on what had happened since I left. What I had not expected was the frightening occurrences that had taken place after I moved out.

The journals from 2002 onwards were the ones that chilled me the most. From February to October, seven children disappeared, with each of their final sightings being someone watching them walk into the Hamza Woods. Massive searches were conducted by the local police and forest authorities, but they turned up nothing. Then in 2003, a total of nineteen children between the ages of five and ten vanished. This time people suspected kidnapping, as in most cases their parents found their bedrooms empty in the morning, with the windows wide open and a single pair of tracks leading deep into the forest. People were truly shaken by these events and there were numerous photos of crying friends and families included in the Annual.

The nineteen in 2003 were the last to go missing and for the next five years police tried desperately to find the missing children, or at least their no skeletal remains. Despite a total of 436 expeditions into the forest, they all turned up nothing. And, in terms of interesting happenings in Greenwald, that was about it.

It was dark when I was leaving the library. The areas of road that weren’t illuminated by the few streetlamps were cloaked in an intense darkness. As I walked back to the cabin, I couldn’t help but feel… watched. Like as if something in the dark was stalking me. It was a feeling similar to the fear of the dark I had as a child that, strangely enough, I got over once we moved to NYC. The nocturnal birds were up, and I could hear the wind whistle and howl as it navigated the maze of wood that was the Hamza. Despite my uneasiness, my walk back to the cabin was uneventful.

It was colder the next day, and much more still. As I stood out on the cabin porch eating my toast, I only realised how imposing of a silence it was. It was like, I knew how much was out there, people, animals and the like, and yet combined they made so little noise. The thought was still in my head as I asked Carol at reception about Bobby’s family. She informed me that everyone was still there, his mother and father and three little sisters, Anna, Mary and Eva. But she also told me that most people in the town were avoiding talking to them as Daniel had told her that they just wanted some privacy to mourn. I thanked her and left the reception area.

I spent the next while mindlessly wandering about the town, enjoying seeing the places of my childhood, and reminiscing on days gone by, when I bumped into Daniel himself. We shook hands and sparked up a conversation on how each other adolescence had gone. We both agreed that mine was far less interesting than his, as Daniel had been up to a lot during those years.

Due to the isolation of Greenwald there is no high school. Most people after middle school work on the town farms. Daniel was special in that he was able to get an apprenticeship at the Handyman House. The HH was a place that housed the mechanics and construction workers, so Daniel was able to learn about the functioning of the great farming machines that the town used to harvest its crops. After we had caught up I asked him what life was like during the disappearances and kidnappings. He said it was "crazy", in that parents always kept an eye on their kids and at one point there was a group of volunteers who patrolled the outskirts of the village at night armed with their hunting rifles. He said there was a large hysteria over the whole village that was still there today, though in a much smaller and quieter form. We then parted ways.

I had decided that I would seek out Bobby’s family and talk with them. I knew the town was leaving them be but I really wanted to catch up with them. As I approached the house, I was amazed by how much had changed. The house looked… abandoned. The white fence from before was now either damaged, missing or destroyed and the paint had begun to break off into small strips. The beautiful flower garden Meryl (Bobby’s mother) had kept had become overgrown with weeds and other invasive plants. My knocks on the door met no response but the door was slightly ajar, so I went in. The house was decrepit; the wallpaper had fallen off revealing rotting, damp wood boards and the carpet smelt revolting. If I remember correctly, it was white when I had gone over to Bobby’s for playdates. It was now light blue.

I called out into the house, asking if anyone was there. As with my knocks, there was no response. I walked slowly down the unlit corridor and went up the stairs. The creaked like an old ship sailing over violent waves. As I reached the top, I saw the door to Bobby’s room. Or rather, I saw the entrance as the door was completely gone: only its hinges remained. Bobby’s room had changed since we were kids; all the posters of cars and cartoon characters were gone and replaced by paintings by Ralph Dorner, the local artist in Greenwald. His chest of toys was covered with dust, and was unopened. That’s when I noticed the desk, and the hastily scribbled note left on it.

My heart skipped a beat when I read the top of it. The note was a letter, and it was addressed to me:

Alex, I do not know when you will read this or if I even have time to send this to you but I need you now more than ever. Time is mortally short for me, but I will attempt to outline most of what has happened. You must understand that I am gravely sorry for what I have done.

You remember Damon? That idiot who used to push you into puddles? Well after you left Daniel told me we were gonna get him back. He said he had found an old dried up well in the basement of Bradley Manor, about 10 metres deep, and that he was going to push Damon into it. It seemed harmless so I joined in. We lured him to the Manor and Daniel forcefully shoved him. He must’ve landed on his head or something, because when we climbed down the well with the help of a rope, he was DEAD. I freaked out, telling Daniel we were going to get into so much trouble. Strangely, he didn’t seem worried. He tied the end of the rope around Damon’s ankle and we hoisted him to the surface. Daniel handed me a shovel and we buried him in the Bradley Manor greenhouse. Daniel said that if I ever told anyone he would hurt me.

I thought that was the end of it, but then a week later Daniel asked me to help him bring another kid to the manor. I called him a psycho but he said that if he didn’t help this time, he would kill my family in their sleep.

Alex, me and Daniel are responsible for the kidnappings and disappearances. Each time we brought a kid to the manor, leave them gagged in the well until they either starved to death or, if Daniel got bored, got murdered. Eventually, Daniel began to use the digger to dig the graves, and because of his apprenticeship, no one got suspicious when Daniel was driving it. I thought about going to the police but I still feared for my family. If you take one thing from this note, Alex, take this: Daniel is dangerous. If you are reading this and do not know where my family is go to the manor and go straight to the basement. I think Daniel plans to murder me and torture my family by putting them in the well.

I do not have much time, currently I am home alone and very vulnerable. Daniel could strike at any time...

The note abruptly ended there. Much like Bobby, I did not have much time. I ran down the stairs and out the front door before breaking in a full blown sprint towards Bradley Manor. As I got closer I realised it looked even more run-down than when I was a kid. My chest began to hurt but I continued running and only stopped as I reached the front doors. Catching my breath, I noticed that down the main hallway there were obvious signs of a struggle: bloody handprints coated the walls and the rug had become crumpled on one side. I walked in softly and headed down to the basement. God, the entire place was filled with cobwebs and cracks and all things disgusting.

Somehow the basement was more eerie than the living area. There were no walls, just the dirt left over from when they carved out this place an odd hundred years ago. The floor was made of wood boards, but many of them had given way and all of them creaked when you stood on them. The whole place was dead quiet. I couldn’t even hear Bobby’s family, if they were still alive. After exploring the extensive basement I reached the well, which was covered by a blue tarpaulin. My heart sank.

A cement mixer was beside the well.

I grabbed the tarpaulin and threw it away, only to be greeted by the most disturbing sight of my life.

The well had been filled with concrete.

I collapsed to the ground and sobbed. I was too late.

The events after that discovery are blurred for me. I spent a long time in that basement and next thing I know I am on the flight back to New York City. I did not contact the police or alert anyone, I just wanted to get the hell out of Greenwald.

My first night back I remained sleepless. I had been traumatised by my horrific learnings in Greenwald and was far too anxious to sleep. I decided to mindlessly browse the internet in my bed when I thought of something. I googled “Greenwald Colorado”. No results. I tried an advanced search but that turned up nothing. For the next half hour I frantically searched the internet for information on my home town, only to be led to dead end after dead end.

Finally, I checked my phone’s GPS tracker history. It showed driving along the highway, branching down to the road that goes west and then…

Nothing. Literally not a single shred of data as to what happened then. The next piece of data shows me on that same road, heading in the opposite direction.

I went back to google and searched for Daniel. I even tried Facebook which I knew was useless since Greenwald had no internet. There was no trace of either Greenwald or Daniel anywhere.

Stunned, I checked my bedside cabinet. A small pill bottle filled with pills of Modafinil (narcolepsy medicine) was there with my name. A get well card from mom lay beside it and a note from a doctor Wayne Cartwright.

To Mathers, Alex

With your condition, you may begin to suffer from amnesia. Because of this I am writing you this note to remind you that you suffer from chronic narcolepsy, and to take 1 tablet of Modafinil every 12 hours. In addition to amnesia, you may also lose some old memories that your brain will try to replace with false ones. Please write down any “old tales” that pop in your so we may discuss them.

With that note, I began to write this manuscript. I have no idea if Greenwald is real or if any of those children were really kidnapped and killed or if Bobby and his family were drowned in concrete. I am putting this here, online, as a plea to anyone. If you know anything, ANYTHING, about Greenwald that proves its existence, please email me at mathersgibgib@gmail.com.

It just seemed so real...

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