Simon Blanche cursed everything he knew. His friends, his family, God, and mostly himself. Deep down he knew it was his own fault, but he needed to vent. How could this possibly happen to him? he wondered to himself. He’d been here countless times throughout his life, he knew the woods like the back of his hand. Simon had combed the woods for many reasons, he visited so much that he was able to make an incredibly detailed map, adorning it in markings indicating points of “interest.” It had served an invaluable tool to him, and it allowed him to practice his favorite hobby from time to time and still be able to be home in time for supper with his loving wife and children.
But alas it was useless now, because Simon was completely lost. If he didn't know any better he would have thought the forest had shifted and changed, but Mr. Blanche was a logical thinker, and knew that the most realistic answer was that he had simply made a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up in a spot that Blanche used infrequently. The woods were usually peaceful and calming to Simon, but he had never experienced it under the cover of darkness, and it was something he wished to avoid. He forced himself to remain calm, even as the light slowly began to fade, the beams protruding through the leaves upon the forest floor becoming muted.
Simon thought for a moment or two, considering his options. He could either give in to panic and attempt to bolt through the forest—hoping to reach the exit—he could prepare a spot to camp for the night, or he could attempt to find one of the landmarks he had recorded on his maps and regain his bearings. He chose the latter, and began trudging through the underbrush. The joyous and friendly singing of birds Blanche had grown accustomed to over the years was no longer present, and silence became deafening. Blanche was a people's person, and he felt the need to drown himself in company at all times, ironic given his love of the forest, but he learned to find company with the forest life.
Tonight was different however, as every rustle and crunch excited Blanche, making his heart pound against his chest, almost as if threatening to bust out. He fought off the sensation of panic, and kept moving forward, trying his previous footsteps imprinted on the forest floor. Mixed with the darkness and forest debris scattered on the ground, this task became too difficult, and Blanche was left with only his memory to guide him. When the darkness threatened to blind him, he produced a small flashlight from his utility bag. The beacon of light cut through the dark, allowing him to see. He smiled to himself as he could once again see his footprints.
He followed them for at least an hour, when to his dismay the light began to flicker. His heart skipped a beat, his wrinkled face creased in an expression of fear. The battery wouldn't last much longer, and he kicked himself for not packing extra batteries. Knowing time was limited before he was engulfed in complete darkness, he charged full speed ahead, ignoring the growing pain in his aching joints. He tripped, fell, smacked against trees and branches, but he ignored the pain and kept going, for he knew he must be getting close to the exit. As the glowing ray of salvation began to die, he could see a familiar sight, one of the points he had previously marked on his map illuminated by the fading light. It brought him relief but also frustration as he realized where he was, nearly dead center in the forest.
The little lump covered in growing grass and thriving tree roots normally would have marked the almost home point, and would have normally been nothing more than a progress marker, but tonight it was the place of his terror. He had little choice but to sit tight and hope nothing would decide to make him its prey for the night. Blanche curled up and laid against a decaying log covered in moss, the bugs crawling around on his neck and shoulders didn't bother him at all as his mind was preoccupied with the notion that he would be forced to sleep alone and isolated in the place Blanche loved and knew so dearly, yet if he was so in love with it and knew it as well as he did, why was he so terrified?
He attempted sleep, but it didn't come. He couldn't help but feel guilty despite his misfortune when he thought of the fear his family likely felt right now, wondering where he was. His loving wife of 21 years would be grief stricken, but she knew he had visited the forest, and he knew she would call the police to organize a search party. He felt a surge of hope, and it compelled him to get up and keep moving. He dug through his bag, and found his box of matches.
The matches didn't do a whole lot to light up his way, but it was better than nothing, and for that he was thankful. He made sure to guard the tiny flames from any wind or anything else that could extinguish them like his life depended on it, and it very likely could. He didn't need to follow his footprints anymore, as he was confident that he knew his surroundings even shrouded in darkness as they were. He traveled for what seemed like hours, and he did a good job keeping the flames burning, only losing a handful of them. He was alert, listening for any sounds that could indicate a possible search party, and was overjoyed when he heard a someone call out the words, “Hello?”
The words were quiet and weak, but he didn't consider this, and he immediately responded. “Hello! This is Simon Blanche, did you come to find me?” His excitement oozed out in his words, his previous fear completely gone at the sound of another person's words. No one responded however, prompting him to go investigate. In the brush, he found the form of a young woman hunched over, shaking. Confused he gently put his hand on her shoulder, gaining her attention. She swirled around, wearing the same expression Simon had plastered on his face for most of the night. Tear streaks ran down her soft face, her eyes reflected the faint light flickering from the match flame.
Her expression relaxed at the sight of Blanche. Normally a heavily built and gruff man such as Blanche would have caused fear in a young girl's heart, especially alone in a dark and isolated place, but this girl seemed overjoyed to seem him, perhaps thinking he would serve as protection against whatever lurked in the woods. Her warm face was familiar to Blanche, he felt like he had seen this young woman before, but he couldn't quite place his finger on it. “Are you here to rescue me?” the young women whimpered.
Blanche let out a sigh of frustration, “No dear, I was hoping you were here to rescue me.” The young woman wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Well could I go with you please? I’m trying to get home but I got lost and I don't know what to do..." she replied.
“Of course dear, but can I ask your name first?”
She smiled, “It's Sam Melhorn.” He had definitely heard that name before, but where? He offered his hand to her, and she gladly took hold of it and pulled herself up.
“I’m Simon Blanche, he said, despite his gravelly voice she seemed soothed by him.
“I know,” she responded. It wasn't the fact she knew his name which struck Blanche odd, as he had declared it when he thought he was going to be saved, but the way in which she said it. It was cold and calm, sounding like it belonged to someone who wasn't crying in fear moments earlier. They made small talk, but they were both afraid, Blanche tried not to show it though. He thought for sure he knew where he was going, but once again his mind must have played tricks on him, as he no longer recognized his surroundings. He paused and examined his environment, trying to look for something familiar, his matches were running low, which only served to worry him further.
Sam picked up on this, and inquired as to what was wrong. “Nothing, just gathering my bearings.” He began walking again, still grasping her warm hand. “So Sam, you look awfully young to be wandering a forest like this at night.”
“I live around here, and I thought I heard someone yelling from the edge of the forest so I came to investigate, but got lost. What about you, Mr. Blanche?”
“I come here a lot, never been lost before though, I must be going crazy or something,” he replied with a nervous chuckle. They continued for a while, and as they did Blanche noticed Sam’s eyes began to light up from the sulking gaze she had carried before.
“What is it?” Blanche asked. Sam startled at Blanche’s question, almost as if she had forgotten he was there.
“Oh, it's just that I think I recognize these parts of the woods, I think we’re getting close to the exit.”
Blanche gave a grunt in reply and they continued to push forward. He sure hoped she knew what she was talking about, as he did not recognize their surroundings in the slightest, which was odd, even when he was lost he still recognized some of the attributes of the woods. Sam stopped and swung her head from left to right, before she exclaimed, “We’re almost there!” Before she took off ahead of Blanche.
“Wait!” he yelled in vain, before muttering his curses and taking off in pursuit. Almost where he wondered to himself, he may not have been familiar with these surroundings, but he sure as hell knew they weren't anywhere near the outside of the woods, and he fully expected that when he caught up to Sam that she would be utterly confused and feeling incredibly idiotic. He was wrong however, as when he finally managed to catch the surprisingly fast young girl, wheezing and out of breath, she was excited and jumping for joy.
“I’m home!” she exclaimed, the excitement spewing out with her words. Looking around, Blanche quickly came to the conclusion that Sam was completely insane. They were not at anyone's home, in fact they were right back in the middle of the forest, complete with the familiar mossy lump in the ground. Blanche's blood began to boil, fiery hot like the flames of hell itself. Thinking that he was the victim of some joke, he shouted obscenities, his voice loud and thunderous. He fumbled with his beltline, before grasping the handle of his machete, and sliding it out of its sheath, pointed at Sam.
Its shiny and polished surface reflected Sam’s face, one of complete fear and terror. “You crazy girl! You’ve led me back to this God forsaken place!” He lunged forward, and snatched the shocked young girl's arm. She writhed and pulled against his iron grasp. Staring into his eyes, she saw the look of a madman on Blanche, his face flushed and blistering red, veins bulging from his forehead. “Because of you, we’re trapped!”
Sam's tear ducts opened like floodgates, and snot poured from her nose. “Let me go!” she shrieked. “Don't kill me again!” At hearing her words, Blanche’s blind rage dissipated at once, and his grasp loosened allowing Sam to push away from him.
“Wh-what?” Blanche muttered, confused. He dropped to his knees, staring wide eyes at Sam. Again? What could she mean by... it all came rushing back to Blanche. He remembered the name Sam Melhorn, and he remembered where he’d seen her face.
“This is my home now!” Sam cried before seemingly dissolving into the darkness.
The police arrived at the forest in the morning, and began combing it after Mrs. Blanche contacted them informing them of her missing husband. Upon searching the woods, the police found one pair of footprints leading in circles, looping back to the same spot every time, which is where they discovered Blanche, laying on the forest floor and mumbling to himself. The authorities tried to question him at the scene, but he was unresponsive, only repeated the words, “It's her home.”
They discovered that buried in the mossy lump in the ground was the remains of 17 year old Sam Melhorn who went missing 30 years prior. The police found a handmade map in Simon Blanche's utility bag, on it were red crosses scattered around, adding up to a total of 56 markings. Upon investigating the locations indicated on the map, they discovered numerous bodies, some unidentifiable to how old and rotted they were, others were more recent, and were identified. On the most recently buried corpses, the police found DNA evidence from Simon Blanche indicating that he had sexually assaulted his victims before slaughtering the vast majority of them with a machete wound to the head.
The police launched a large scale effort to thoroughly search the forest, finally putting to rest and giving closure to many missing persons cases. Even now, the police are still discovering bodies, and when asked for an estimate on how many more are likely to be found by the local and national media alike, they explained that they were unsure as not all of the bodies were marked on Blanche's map. The evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Blanche as the murderer, and was convicted as such. As he awaited trial, he would sometimes snap out of his insanity, and was totally normal as far as murderers go.
When asked why he murdered so many young women, he would respond that it was his “hobby.” He was tried by a jury, and was sentenced to death, and was later executed by lethal injection. Before death's grasp took hold of Simon Blanche, it's said that in his dying breath he uttered his last words, “It's her home now.”