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July 1, 2015

Honestly, I’m not completely sure why I’m writing this. These memories are something I’ve been repressing, or trying to repress, for a majority of my life. I’ve been told it can be therapeutic to put a traumatic event into writing, but I guess I’ll be the judge of that once all of this is done. I’m sure most, if not all, of what I’m about to say is supposed to be classified but, in light of recent events, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal anymore. I don’t see how posting any of this online could possibly make this situation worse.

I’m not going to post everything up here, there’s far too much to the story for that to be possible, but I’ll let you know how it all started. That’s what has been on my mind, anyway. Maybe if things had gone a little differently back then, I wouldn’t be in such a mess now.

To preface this a little, you need to know that I grew up in Sutherland, Nebraska. Even those of you familiar with Nebraska will probably still never have heard of there. It’s a town of just under 1,400 people a little south of North Platte. Not a lot happens here, so when something does, the whole town goes crazy over it for an unholy amount of time. After a quick google search, you’ll be able to find that the thing we’re probably most well known for is the Kellie murders. In 1975, a family of 6 was murdered in their home by a local. It was one of the most well-covered stories in Sutherland’s history. The killer was almost released a few years ago, so the story is all over the internet again. It’s an absolute favorite of the press. I guess the fact that those murders were so popular is why I’m so surprised that the others weren’t as famous, or even famous at all. Few people, outside of Sutherland residents, have even heard of them.

Now, I can’t give specific details because I haven’t read any articles about them, but I can tell you the stories I grew up hearing. I think it happened sometime when I was very young, I have a vague memory of my father telling me to come inside immediately and making me stay with the rest of my family in the living room until the morning came, but I don’t know for sure if this was why. Several decades after the Kellie murders, there was another double homicide in Sutherland. About a mile down the road from where I grew up, actually. The family who owned the property lived in the main home about hundred yards off the road. There was a second, guest house on the property that they rented out to an older couple nestled right by a small grove of trees about halfway between the main home and the road. The murderer apparently broke into this guest house and, for some unknown reason, brutally murdered the elderly couple and fled the scene without stealing a thing. I believe the murderer was caught several days later, but, like I said, I don’t know for sure. The police came and took the bodies and cleaned up all of the blood, but the family who owned the house hasn’t rented it out since. It’s hard enough to find renters in Sutherland as it is, much less for a murder house.

Going into middle school, I had heard this story many times so it was no news to me. I actually knew the girl whose parents owned the property (when your class size is 17, you pretty much know everybody). So, when I was invited to the girl’s 13th birthday party, the murder house was one of the last things on my mind.

Her family was one of the rich families in Sutherland. As a kid, I knew this because they were the only family in town that had their own pool. I don’t mean one of those collapsible, above-ground bacteria pits, I mean a built-in, wonderful oasis in her very own backyard. It even had a waterfall for Pete’s sake. When I got there for the party, I swam until my body was so full of chlorine saturated water that I just HAD to soak it up with some cake. Up until this point, my life had been sufficiently normal. Dare I say it, boring? If only I had just gotten a second slice of marble face cake instead of leaving that house, things might have gone on that way and my life would be so much simpler. However, kids get themselves into stupid situations and I was no exception. While I was getting cake, my gluten-intolerant friend, Shelbi, was getting some carrots at the refreshment table. Like everyone else my age, I had known Shelbi since we were little kids. We got along pretty well and it’s safe to say that, even then, she was one of my best friends.

As we were eating our snacks together, we got to talking about the guest house on the property and I dared her to go inside. She responded with something along the lines of “only if you go with me.” Now, I had no desire to enter a potentially ghost infested home, but I couldn’t let her know that, so I decided to call her bluff. We changed out of our swimsuits inside, grabbed our shoes, and left out the front door of the house to head towards the guest home.

When we got near, it was pretty easy to see that no one had lived there in quite some time. The paint was peeling on the outside of the house and the hedges had grown out of control. When we got to the back door, Shelbi weakly said “you first.” I bravely marched up to the patio and put my hand on the doorknob knowing full well it would be locked and I would still get to look like a bravest 12 year old out there. To my surprise, the handle twisted with ease and the door swung open with a loud, stereotypical creak. Despite the fact that I was basically shitting my pants at this point, I decided to try to keep up the brave act and said “you coming?” in snotty voice before stepping over the threshold.

Looking around the inside of the home, the only thing that really seemed to be wrong with it was an excess of dust. Other than that, it looked just like a normal home. I was in a hallway of sorts that went all the way to the front door. In the dim, dusty light that filtered in through the window, I could see a kitchen to my left. There was a table with chairs, placemats, and a centerpiece of fake flowers. There was a toaster on the counter, towels by the sink, and a drying rack filled with dishes. When I turned to my right from my place just inside the doorway, I could see what looked to be an office of some sort. There was a desk, some filing cabinets, bookshelves, even a briefcase sitting by the wooden desk chair. I turned to tell Shelbi what I saw and was startled to see she had come up into the doorway just behind me. I stepped further into the home and she followed me, grabbing my arm at first out of fear, but then releasing it so she could move around freely out of curiosity. Now, I was absolutely still terrified, but when you’re that age and you’re trying to impress the first girl you’ve ever had a crush on, you’re willing to do most anything. And, to be fair, that house could have been a lot scarier. I’m sure the way you’re thinking about it is something fresh out of a horror movie, but you have to remember, it was broad daylight at the time. It’s not like we were trying to navigate using the irregular flash from a camera or the flickering light of a single match. It was relatively bright in there.

While Shelbi walked over to the dining room, I stepped into what looked like a living room. The strange thing was that all of the couches had been pushed over to the wall by the fireplace and TV, leaving an entire blank wall on one side. What was strange about that wall was that, though most of the walls of the house were yellowed with age, this wall had a large, irregular portion of it that was still mostly white. Assuming it had been some kind of decoration, I got closer to see if I could figure out what had been hung on that wall to make that strange shape. Upon closer examination, I saw what looked like brush marks in the white patch. At first, I thought something had been painted over. Then, with a gasp, I realized the truth. This is where they had scrubbed the blood off of the walls. The murders had happened right here.

Mildly freaked out, I walked over to Shelbi in the dining room to see her crouched over something in the corner. I looked over her shoulder and recognized it to be some kind of bird. Hearing me approach, she glanced toward me and said “must have been some kind of animal that got it. The weird thing is that it took all the feathers.” As I examined more closely, I saw she was correct. Underneath the crusted blood, there were, indeed, no feathers left. I shrugged it off and began to walk around the room, wondering what kind of animal might done that to the bird. Looking around the floor of this room, there were four or five more birds just like the one Shelbi had found. Whatever it was, it had been busy.

The longer we stayed, the braver we became. At first we just explored the main floor which had the kitchen, the office, a bathroom, the living room, and the fancier dining room where we had found the birds, but then we moved upstairs to the bedrooms. There were three total bedrooms and a bathroom. The two smaller ones seemed to be guest rooms and mostly vacant, but the master bedroom was the real find. It, like the rest of the house, was as if someone still lived there. There were clothes in the closet and jewelry on top of the dresser. There were slippers on the floor near the bed just like in my parents’ room at my house. Now, I didn’t question why any of this was still here as a child, but I found out later from talking to my friends that the couple who was killed there had only one son who lived in California. For whatever reason, he never came to collect their things and, since the owners didn’t intend to rent the house out anymore, nothing was cleaned out of the home. It was, for the most part, exactly as it had been when the couple lived there.

When we had seen everything to see on that floor, we moved on the attic. The attic was accessed by a narrow staircase that, very steeply, led to wooden door at the top. Shelbi shyly pushed me in front of her towards the stairs and, not wanting to disappoint her, I began the ascent. Maybe it was just because the sunlight didn’t reach this staircase as well, but for some reason I had a growing feeling of dread as I climbed those stairs. Shelbi must have sensed it from the way my pace slowed because she said “we can just go, if you want.” From the tone of her voice, I could tell that leaving is exactly what she wanted to do, but all that did was inspire me to try to impress her more. I reached out to the door at the top of the stairs and twisted the handle. It wouldn’t budge. My courage returned to me. I tried even harder to twist is while pushing on the door to no avail. I took a step back and steadied myself to kick it, when Shelbi very quietly said “can we please just go?” I looked back down the stairs and saw the fear in her eyes and I knew this was no test. She just wanted to get out of this house and, the sense of dread returning, I was not about to argue with her. I walked back down and, as I passed where she stood at the foot of the stairs, I froze. I looked straight at her and she at me and I knew we both heard it. It was a soft, constant scraping sound that resembled a deadbolt being turned. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity that we were frozen in place, our eyes locked. A gentle creaking came from the top of the attic stairs followed by the most terrifying thing I had ever heard in my entire 12 years of life. A weak voice, almost like it was out of practice, speaking for the first time in days, simply called down “hello?”

Shelbi ran toward the stairs first, but I was not far behind her. The stairs were steeper than either of us were used to so it took longer than either of us were comfortable with to make our way down. About five or six steps from the ground floor, Shelbi lost her footing and fell. She managed to land on her right shoulder and roll the rest of the way down, relatively unharmed. I, on the other hand, was not so lucky. My momentum was too great for me to stop before hitting the falling Shelbi and I tripped over her body, taking a few staggering steps while trying to balance myself, before running full-force into the front wall of the house with the top of my head. Immediately dazed, I collapsed before rolling over so my back was against the wall and my butt on the floor. My vision was pretty blurry at this time. I don’t think it was a concussion, but it definitely disoriented me for a minute. The first thing I saw was Shelbi getting to her knees and starting to stand up just in front of me. Despite my mental fuzziness, I remember I was still relieved that she was okay. As I began pulling myself to my feet, I glanced up to the top of the stairs. Now, my vision was not entirely back to me at this point, but I swear I saw a hand, paler than any I had ever seen, gripping the railing at the top of the stairs. The hand appeared to be straining to drag the rest of the being into view and, the last thing I saw before leaving, was a set of shoulders and an even paler face joining the hand. At least, I think it was a face. Most of it was obscured by long, black hair that appeared to have other black objects twisted into it that stuck out at various angles.

Now, I have played soccer most of my life and people who know me will tell you I hit my peak speed in early high school before I had my knee surgeries. This is not true. The fastest I have ever been in my entire life was that day when I grabbed Shelbi’s hand and pulled her out the back door of that house. I remember leaving that door wide open as Shelbi and I sprinted with all our might back into the main house and back to the party. I can’t imagine we were much fun for the rest of the day as we sat mortified in the corner of our friend’s living room. When the other party goers were waiting for their parents to come pick them up, I walked up to my friend’s mom and asked her who was living in the guest house. She got a somewhat surprised look on her face and said “no one, we’ve had that place locked up tight for a several years now.” Not wanting to get in trouble, I didn’t say anything else. When my dad finally got there, I looked out the window of the car at the guest house as we drove by and I saw that the back door was, again, shut. I turned away and told myself to forget any of it had ever happened. I had hoped to be done with that house for the rest of my life. If only.

That night, I had trouble getting to sleep. The day I had was pretty dramatic and I could not get that awful voice out of my head. I woke up several times in the night from nightmares of that single word it uttered, before falling back into uneasy sleep. The next morning is when things got really fucked up. I woke up to the smell of my mom making breakfast and I resolved that the events of the previous day were nothing more than my imagination. As I started to get up, I noticed a sealed envelope on the foot of my bed. It was strange, I hadn’t heard either of my parents enter to put it there. Not thinking too much of it, I opened it and read the note inside. It was written in neat cursive, which took me a moment to decipher, but I quickly discovered that it read:

Thank you SO much for coming to visit me yesterday! It has been SO long since I’ve had visitors! You left so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to thank you in person, so I decided to come pay YOU a visit. However, you were too busy sleeping so this note will have to suffice. You MUST come back by again so I can give you a proper welcome! I look forward to seeing you again soon,

R

P.S. That girl you were with is absolutely stunning! Do you mind if I pay her a little visit as well?

I can’t tell you how many times I crumpled that letter up and threw it away before fishing it out of the trash again. I knew I should tell someone about it, but I was afraid of what kind of trouble Shelbi and I would get into if they found out we had been sneaking around in that guest house. I finally decided to hide the letter in a small wooden chest my grandparents had given me and store it under my bed in case I needed to show someone later.

It was then that I swore I would never return to that house again.

I have broken that promise twice since I made it and I wish with all my heart I hadn’t. BUT, that is a story for another time. It’s getting pretty late here and that’s about all I have the energy to talk about for now. I can’t believe I’ve been writing all night and I still haven’t even gotten to the part about Shelbi’s surprise party yet. It does feel nice to write this out and get it all off my chest. I think I'll post more when I get a chance.

Until then

-Tyler

February 29, 2016

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted last, I’ve been pretty busy. It feels good to finally be able to talk about this, but it’s hard to work up the energy to relive all these memories again. I just have to find the drive to get me started.

I’ve been on the road so much these days, sleeping wherever I can, that it got me to thinking about my school campout from back in my middle school days.

Every spring, the Sutherland 6th, 7th, and 8th graders would all get to go on a trip to some privately owned, team-building camp. It was three or four days of activities that were supposed to bring us closer as a school and encourage us to branch out and interact with one another. Whether or not it actually served that purpose, it was the one school event every middle school kid could not wait for.

I don’t remember exactly where the camp is, but I want to say we had to go pretty far south to get there. I think it was called Wildwood, or something along those lines.  All I remember is that the bus ride seemed like it took forever with nearly 50 kids and something like 10 adult chaperones crammed onboard.

The trip that really stands out to me was the last one I attended. Normally, kids get to go three times, but I was excused from participating my 8th grade year. I remember really enjoying myself my 6th grade year, so I was absolutely stoked for my next opportunity. Truthfully, I can even say that I enjoyed MOST of my experience in 7th grade. It’s the way that trip ended that put a real damper on things.

To put this into context, Shelbi and I had explored the guest house early on in the fall semester of this year. The camping trip would have been sometime during the spring when it had finally gotten warm in Nebraska. For the most part, I had been able to put the whole guest house experience out of my mind. Shelbi and I had started to take the long way home so that we wouldn’t have to walk by that house and, other than to tell her about the letter and the face I had seen in the home, we had tried to talk about it as little as possible since. The letter was still in the chest under my bed and, other than occasionally when I let my mind wander, I didn’t even really think about it. We really failed to understand the significance of what had happened that day and the only thing I had really done about it was to start locking the window in my bedroom at night. Suffice it to say, I was not truly prepared at all.

When we finally got to the camp, things began as they had the previous year. We were divided into about 5 groups, each with two adult chaperones. Shelbi and I were put into a group along with about ten other kids. Among them was a girl, Rachel, with whom Shelbi and I did not particularly get along. Rachel had always been a little snobby, but when we got into middle school she decided that the whole school belonged to her. She and her two minion followers dictated what was cool and not cool and they were quick to enforce their decrees. If you crossed them, you were added to a very short list of enemies and were quickly taken down. The punishment varied based on the offense, but it was always carried out and no transgression was ignored. Shelbi and I had made this list by not attending her birthday party the previous week. As I mentioned before, with a class size as small as ours, you were invited to nearly everyone’s birthday and were expected to attend. Shelbi and I had made up some flimsy excuse but, in actuality, we had never been a huge fan of Rachel and her lavish celebrations of her own birth didn’t appeal to us all that much. Rachel did not buy our ruse and continually hit us with generous amounts of her icy stare on the long bus ride there. Luckily, neither of her mini-Rachels were in our group, so I could take solace in the fact that Shelbi and I at least had her outnumbered.

Once the groupings were finalized, we all headed outside to our first team building activities. Our group was chaperoned by Shelbi’s dad and a science teacher, Mr. Nelson, from Sutherland as well as two of the camp directors from Wildwood. They led us down a path into the woods for probably about ten minutes until we got to a miniature obstacle course. As us kids stared in wonder at the different tasks involved, one of the camp directors began the introduction. He said his name was Patrick and he would be guiding us through our adventure there. He was pretty tall, likely around 6 foot, and he was jacked. I remember looking at him and thinking that his bicep was bigger around than my head. His booming voice rang out over the small group and explained how we would proceed through the course and work as a team to get over some of the more difficult obstacles. He wore cargo shorts and a gray t-shirt topped off with a fishing hat. His fellow director wore the same clothes, but looked considerably goofier. He was close to the same height as Patrick, but was incredibly scrawny and pale in comparison, looking nowhere near as much an outdoorsman. He was also incredibly shy, speaking very quietly and infrequently. He didn’t even introduce himself to the group. It wasn’t until the middle of the course that he even spoke to me at all as I climbed the 8-foot wall.

“Are you enjoying yourself so far?” he asked as I grabbed onto the rope and started to walk upwards.

“Yeah, this place is awesome!” I replied as I struggled to continue my ascent.

“Good,” he said. I could see him smiling out of the corner of my eye as he helped me balance on the top of the wall. “My name is Mr. Ribbon.”

“I’m Tyler,” I responded as I swung my other leg over.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tyler,” I heard him say as I disappeared down the other side.

We continued on in the same manner for the rest of the day. Patrick would lead us to a new activity, explain the task at hand, and us kids would set off to complete it with vigor. Everything went off without a hitch and we made it to the last activity on the course for the day. It was late afternoon and we had almost made our way back to the camp. Patrick stopped us on a tree-covered hill about a hundred yards from the campsite. Despite the steepness of the slope facing the camp, the side we walked up had a relatively small incline, seeming almost flat on the top. Patrick explained that this last activity was to be a competition. He would divide all of us into groups of two. One of the members of the group would be blindfolded and it was the job of the other to lead them through the trees to the top of the hill using only their voice. Once there, the blindfolded member would have to grab a flag from a small sapling. The first team to have both members return to the bottom of the hill with the flag would be considered victorious and both members would be awarded a free camp t-shirt.

As soon as the speech was finished, Patrick set about dividing us into pairs. Before I could move closer to Shelbi, Patrick pointed at me and said “You… and you” with his finger coming to rest directly in front of Rachel.

In all honesty, she seemed just as determined as I was to win and when we turned to look each other in the eyes, we knew their would be a temporary truce until the t-shirts were ours. She quickly informed me that I would be the one to wear the blindfold and I wasn’t about to disagree with her. We took our position at the far left of the starting line and the last thing I remember before the blindfold went on was glancing over at Shelb’s apologetic face. Then, everything went black. Patrick yelled “go” and the race was on.

Rachel was a better guide than I expected. When the race first began, I didn’t completely trust Rachel and I moved pretty slowly. As time wore on, however, my desire to win overcame my mistrust and I picked up the pace a little. I found her directions to be incredibly accurate and helpful. I was able to move through the trees without incident and it wasn’t long before I heard her shout “That’s it, you’re through the trees! Now, run! You’re almost to the flag! Hurry, we’re in first!”

“Which direction?” I called back anxiously.

“Straight ahead, you’re going the right way,” was her response. As I reached my sprinting pace she added, “20 more feet, you’re almost there.”

Almost immediately after those last words had left her lips, the ground disappeared out from under me. My legs were running as hard as they could, and the next moment they were flailing uselessly in the air as I fell. It couldn’t have been more than a second, but to me it felt like I was falling in slow motion. My feet hit the ground mid-flail and I immediately toppled over. I landed on my shoulder and kept log-rolling until I collided, stomach-first with a tree, which knocked the wind out of me. My blindfold had come off in the fall and I took in my surroundings as I struggled to catch my breath. I was lying near the base of a hill in a part of the woods I had not seen before. I looked back over my shoulder and saw Rachel standing at the top of a steep incline (really more of a miniature cliff) facing away from me and screaming at the others for help. It was then that I realized what had happened. She had convinced me to keep running until I ran right off the edge and now she was pretending like it had been an accident. It wasn’t long before other kids and the adults joined her on the top of the hill. Everyone was looking down at me and talking amongst themselves. I couldn’t stand their eyes on me, much less the look of absolute pity in Mr. Ribbon’s eyes when he saw me lying there.

I rolled back over and closed my eyes in shame as I gasped for breath. After a few minutes, I felt a hand on my back and I looked over my shoulder again to see Patrick down in the woods with me.

“Hold on, buddy,” He said with a look of concern on his face. “I’m gonna get you out of here.”

As he started to pick me up, I glimpsed something in the woods. I took another gasp of air as I realized that, just a few feet behind the tree that had stopped me was a pile of three or four dead birds surrounded by flies.

All of them had their feathers removed.

Patrick carried me back to the nurse’s office at the campsite who kindly told me that nothing was broken, I would just have a few bruises and scrapes and a sore shoulder for a few days. She had never been a fan of those blindfolded races and I was not the first child to fall down and get hurt in them. She went on like that for a while, but I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get back to the rest of the campers and talk to Shelbi about how Rachel had exacted her revenge.

I didn’t get to return to camp activities the rest of that day, but I did meet up with the rest of the boys from my group that night at our cabin, who were glad to see I hadn’t died.

As the rest of the boys were falling asleep, I got a text from Shelbi saying that she didn’t like hearing all the strange noises of the woods outside her cabin. I responded ignoring the subject of her text and saying I needed to talk to her. She asked me if I could meet her. I was already sneaking out one of the windows before I even thought about responding to her.

The cabins were all lined up with their backs to the tree line. The first group was boy cabins 1-5 and the next was girl cabins 1-5 with about a 50 yard gap between them. Since we had been group one, we were in cabin one and we knew the girls would be in girl cabin one. I walked behind the other four boys cabins and, when I came to the gap between cabin groups, I moved to just inside the tree line.

It’s true that I scare somewhat easily, but when you live in the country, you play a lot of flashlight tag and hide-and-go seek in the woods at night. It’s not a big deal at all. One of my neighbors had about 2 acres of woods on their property and my friends and I would play in there all the time. I entered the trees at Wildwood without a second thought and the moonlight was so bright that I only used my flashlight sparingly. I didn’t want to be caught.

When I finally got close enough to the girls cabin, I told her to meet me in the woods out back. I watched as she clumsily opened a window and climbed out and into the woods alone. When she got near enough, I whispered her name and she came over to me.

“Let’s not talk here,” she said as she pulled me further away from the cabin. “No one knows I left, I don’t want them to hear.”

We moved to an area about halfway between the two cabin groups where we thought we wouldn’t be heard. There was a small clearing just inside the trees with a large fallen log that we sat on.

I asked her about the noises and she said they had thought they heard something at one point, but the text was mostly just to get my attention. She asked if I was okay and I regurgitated what the nurse had said. We talked a little about what I had missed at the campfire and finally we got to the subject of my fall. I told her the whole story but, just before I mentioned the pile of birds I had seen, we heard a piercing scream from outside our clearing, a little deeper in the woods. We both jumped to our feet and looked in the direction from which it came.

The scream continued and we could hear loud rustling from a bush in the general vicinity and we could see its branches shaking violently. I was just about to turn and run when I heard the screaming voice crying “No, no, scream, help, someone help, scream” and I immediately knew who it was.

I took a breath and turned my flashlight on the bush. I began shouting something, though I can’t recall now exactly what it was, and then I ran at the bush. I pushed through the branches, some of them snapping back to hit me in the face, but I didn’t stop. It was a larger bush than I expected, but I kept fighting through it. A strange growling and popping sound had joined the chorus of scuffling and screaming in the background. I finally pushed through to the other side and pointed my light into the woods just in time to see a silhouette disappear into the trees. I took another step forwards as I looked around and tripped over something on the ground.

I caught myself with one hand before I fell all the way to the earth and I pointed my flashlight down to reveal a sobbing Rachel lying on her back. I helped her up and I out my arm around her shoulder as I was led her through the bush and out of the wood. As we walked, I felt something sticky on my hand that was holding her steady and I kept hearing her mumble over and over through her tears “He bit them, he bit them off.”

As soon as we stepped outside of the trees, a group of concerned adults rushed up to us. I stepped back as they surrounded Rachel and the light from the adults’ flashlights and lanterns illuminated the scene. Rachel was covered in dirt and tears and clutching her left hand. There was a bright red color mixed in with the mud caked all over her and I quickly realized it was blood. It didn’t take long to discover the source of the scarlet river to be her left hand, which was now short a ring and middle finger.

The police arrived quickly and the officer who interviewed me at the scene told me that Rachel had said she snuck out after Shelbi in attempt to prank her when an unknown assailant attacked Rachel. They were conducting interviews in an attempt to identify who attacked her and locate the suspect. It wasn’t long until the police officer realized I knew nothing and lost interest.

I had to talk to another police officer when we got back to Sutherland and he told me he was taking a complete statement and I had to tell him everything that happened at Wildwood. He was a lot friendlier and seemed really interested in everything I had to say, nodding after every few words I spoke. I even told him about the birds.

When he was finished interviewing me, he stepped outside of the room with my father to speak privately. I never told my father, but I could still hear their muffled voices through the door. I could only make out part of what he said, but I remember it to this day.

“We have several different reports that reference that man. Statements from parents, teachers, students, and even other counselors have all included him. Everyone said he seemed to know what he was doing and seemed like he belonged there. The only problem is, we’ve talked to all the administration from the camp and they have no record of him at all. He wasn’t an employee…”

The rest of that day was a blur, but I remember getting home that night and going straight to my room and crying. I don’t know exactly why I was crying, but I didn’t know what else to do. It just seemed like the only thing I could muster. Right before I went to bed, I saw a tiny roll of paper tied to a low hanging branch of a tree just outside my window. I unlocked it, opened the glass, and grabbed the scrap of paper.

Something fell out as I unrolled the paper and read the neat cursive writing inside:

Tyler,

I’m so sorry you have to put up with that people like that mean little girl every day. No one is going to hurt you and get away with it anymore. Not while I’m around.

I’ll stay in touch.

 R

After scanning through the note a few times, I bent down and picked up the object that fell when I opened it.

It was a single, black feather.

That’s enough for now. I don’t see how I can go much further in the story without talking about Shelbi’s sixteenth birthday, and I just don’t have the energy for that today. For those of you reading, I’m sorry it has taken this long to get this far in the story. I don’t know how long it will be before I can post again but I promise that I will.

Until then,

-Tyler

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