I'd moved to a new town, this was a much nicer, cleaner, quieter town than the one I'd lived at before. Not the sort of town you'd expect to have... things wrong with it.
There was a very big public park right in the center, it housed rows upon rows of swings, slides infested with snake-like tunnels that weaved in and around the playground - providing a maze for children to lose themselves in their games. There was even a functioning merry-go round which seemed to always be slightly turning, inviting the children to hitch a ride on its platform of twirls.
I have to emphasize on the fact that it was a quiet, peaceful town. The kind of town where kids could leave the house on their own and take the short journey to the park. I had been given strict instructions by my parents that I should come home the second it started turning dark. My life was wonderful, or so it seemed.
It was a Friday. I knew the day because I remember coming home with a large grin on my face as I knew I had the luxury of non-stop playing for the next two whole days. I did what I always did, I chucked my school bag on my bed and was ordered to change into other clothing. In a matter of minutes I was ready to descend into a world of fun. Nothing could stop me.
The tunnels were my favorite, it was so easy to get lost in them which made great fun for playing hide and seek with my only two friends, Billy and Tom. They were both in my class and we - like many eight-year-olds - loved any game that filled us with pure adrenaline. We were going to play Murder. I don't expect anyone to know this game, we made it up. The rules were very similar to hide and seek, except when the one seeking found you, they had to 'murder' you. (Pretend, obviously).
It was nearing winter as I remember being slightly cold as I wormed my way around in the tunnels, furiously trying to find a perfect hiding spot. Billy was the seeker. Tom had hidden behind the merry-go round. I was alone.
It must have been maybe ten minutes (Which for an eight-year-old felt like a year) when I decided to do what all kids do when they get bored - Give up. "I give up!" I shouted, my voice echoing through the tunnels. "I'm in the tunnels! I give up!" I heard sudden shuffling from one end of the tunnel. Now I don't know why. But I froze still. I didn't call out again, I just... waited. Something wasn't right. Billy would always say something before coming in after someone in the tunnel. He'd always congratulate them on being the last to be found, or for cheating by hiding in the endless maze of tunnels. As I stood frozen, the shuffling grew louder.
I could tell it was starting to get dark outside as the tunnels slowly began to lose any light in them, slowly but surely dropping into darkness. I began to slowly shuffle backwards, the shuffling ahead of me grew louder, as if someone or something way too big for the tunnel was trying to navigate around. "Come out, it's time to go home now," a very creepy voice echoed through the tunnels. It sounded like when a grown man talks to small children, talking slightly higher pitched. This was definitely wrong. I probably would have come out if the voice was outside. But it wasn't. It was inside the tunnels. Why would an adult crawl inside?
As I was shuffling further and further back, the face of an old man appeared in the darkness ahead of me. Patches of hair on his head and a definite look of someone who hadn't showered in the last week. I couldn't see what he was wearing but I knew it was tattered old clothes. He had a sharp, scraggly beard which was peppered with dirt. The second we made eye contact he just smiled at me. Revealing his filthy, under brushed teeth which had blotches of brown and black covering them entirely. I panicked, turned around and began shuffling on all fours as fast as I could, the shuffling behind me growing louder and quicker.
He was chasing me.
I sped through the maze for what felt like an eternity, I only stopped when my legs refused to move anymore. I'd taken so many twists and turns that even I was completely lost. "I don't want to hurt you, I just want to talk," the voice echoed through the tunnels, I could tell he was nearby. I pressed my body against the bottom of the small, narrow tunnel and listened. He continued to make soft cooing noises, begging me to come out and present myself to him. I lay in that tunnel for hours. No exaggeration. Even after I heard him curse to himself and angrily force his way out of the tunnel, I continued to wait. Thoughts raced my mind of me coming out the tunnel only to be met by that same smile that once greeted me.
In the darkness of the tunnel I could make out blue flashing lights on the outside, I heard frantic voices calling three names repeatedly. "Billy?! Tom?! Michael?!" When I heard my name my heart slowly began to calm. My parents had come. I easily shuffled out of the tunnels, guided by the wet dirt scrapings along the walls of the tunnel, the way the man must have gone. Outside I was greeted by several police cars, lights flashing. There were groups of adults with concerned looks on the faces. I recognized two of them. My parents. "Mom! Dad!" I wailed, crying as I ran towards them. They began crying and ran towards me, lifting me off the ground and hugging me so tightly it felt as though I was being slowly crushed.
Billy and Tom were taken that evening. They were later found hidden in a nearby skip. Mutilated. They had been brutally massacred, their skulls had been caved in with a large iron bar and their bodies had deep cuts everywhere, large pieces of glass found buried in their backs.
What chills me to the fucking bone is that the wet dirt I saw in the tunnels wasn't entirely dirt. It was Billy and Tom's blood. After slaughtering my two best friends and making eye contact with me in that tunnel, he just smiled. He had just won the game.