Looking back now, all I can see is his damn face. It looks at me, as I close my eyes. I can see the dripping of the black liquid, as it falls from his eternally-smiling mouth. His teeth are small and sharp and sit in rows, like a shark's do. I'm not sure why, but he let me live. Not again. I cannot let it happen again.
I will tell the tale now of how I met the entity I call "Mister Smiley." Although, it might be better just refer to the creature as an "it", seeing as the only thing that stays constant about it is the smile. I was just playing a harmless game of hide and seek with some kids from the neighborhood when everything happened. We decided it would be fun to play the game in the woods as there were more places to hide. Most of the woods in the area where I live have various paths for logging and mining, so getting lost is almost impossible as just about everywhere there are pathways that lead back to the main roads. We were not that worried about hiding; either the trees or brushes, the mounds of leaves, and the small caves and underpasses made excellent places to hide.
We began with a few simple rules that made the game difficult, and arguably more fun. The first rule we made was that, because a few of us were not very strong in terms of how far our voice could carry over longer distances (as flu and cold season was upon us and a few of us had sore throats- namely, Jimmy, Ricky, Sarah, and Timothy). Although we were stumped as to how to make sounds to signal, we were ready. We heard the falling of a tree- not uncommon, as the area was under logging in certain parts- only as we heard it, a thought came to mind. We could use wood-knocking to signal if we were ready; one knock for 'not ready' and two for 'ready'. This was a relatively simple rule.
The second rule said that we could not go out of the range of where the knocking could be heard. This took a while to figure out, in a circle, how far we could go. The third rule, which was also the final one, went without saying in hide-and-seek. No one could help the seeker find the others.
So in the beginning, I lost at rock-paper-scissors the most times, and the eleven other kids got to hide. As tradition in all the games of hide-and-seek that we played, I waited until everyone knocked twice with their sticks. Right at that moment I should have noticed it, but I paid it no heed, because I thought someone was being a smart ass. The number of knocks I heard was not twenty-four, it was twenty-six, meaning that someone had knocked four times. Or so I thought.
As I began my search, I found most of the others within an hour of looking. Jimmy was in a pile of leaves, and jumped when he saw a spider, allowing me to find him easily. Sarah let go of the branch she was using to balance in a tree, and fell to the ground with a thud, alerting me to where she was. Ricky was stuck and crying in a small cave. It took a whole five minutes for me to pull him out. As for Timothy, he tried hiding in a blueberry bush, which made him an easy one due to the cuts and thorns still stuck to him. I was quickly able to round up Carrie, Ginger, Michel, and Josh because they were in the same cave, just within different portions of it. John and Richard were no trouble, because they were fighting over the ideal hiding spot in an old cabin. The last one was Kevin. He was the hardest to find of all, and I wished that he had chosen a better hiding spot.
We found Kevin as it began to grow dark. We were huddled in the closet of the cabin, repeating “The trees are smiling”. We thought that he was trying to play a prank on us, as he was the last one we found, but then Sarah screamed at the window of the of the house. There was a tree that was odd because of two distinct features; one was the fact that it was a different color than the other trees. The bark was almost black, with green here and there, and the second was in the center of the tree. There was a mouth that curved in a smile, and as the mouth opened up, we saw a row of sharp teeth that began to grow larger the longer it keep its mouth open, as if it were a living thing.
We shut the door to the cabin and began to watch the thing. As it grew darker outside the cabin, its smile grew wider and larger, and began to drool a black liquid. I had no way of knowing that “it” was not there at the window at the time, but I knew if we left the cabin, it would get us. I did not sleep a wink.
The next morning, we took a roll call and realized that our parents would be looking for us by now. Somehow, "it" knew and smiled, and vanished, but none of us would leave the cabin as it could merely be waiting. As the day dragged on, we searched the small, four-room cabin to find why "it" was not able to come in. We found nothing, but as the day progressed, the creature did not return. Around dusk, Sarah’s mom was the first parent to come looking for us, and we stepped nervously outside of the cabin and started to walk home. Sarah ran to her mom and hugged her.
As we all started to emerge from the cabin, Kevin huddled in the corner of the closet once again. He said, “Mister Smiley is here.” I asked what he meant, as the tree was nowhere to be seen. Just as Kevin was about to answer, I heard a scream, and saw what caused it. The hugging daughter and mother was not the scene from some child’s fairy tale anymore. Sarah was pale white as she looked up at her mother’s face, only to see the widened smile and black fluid dripping down on her from the thing that had taken the image of her mother.
“Silly thing, did you not wonder why I had left for the day?” "It" said, and then lifted up Sarah and began to widen its mouth much like a snake would to swallow its prey whole. Sarah wiggled like a caught fish, screaming and crying for "it" to drop her.
Timothy tackled the creature, and it let go of Sarah. She ran back into the cabin. As Timothy got back up, the thing no longer wore the disguise of Sarah’s mother; instead, it was a bear, and it promptly charged Timothy. All the while it kept the widened grin on its face. We all watched as the creature dragged Timothy’s bloodied body away, and could hear the crunching and slurping of the creature as it was enjoying its meal.
“Aren’t you wondering why I am doing this now?” asked the creature. "It" was chewing up Timothy outside the window, as easily as a dog chews a bone.
“I have been oh-so hungry for a while now, but I was trapped.... Trapped much like you are now in that house." "It" trailed off after that we searched the house again and found nothing, but then I remembered Kevin had given it a name.
I shook Kevin and asked why he gave it that name. Kevin responded with an old story his grandfather told him about. It detailed an old coal miner and a creature, and how that coal miner tricked the creature with a promise to feed it if it stayed somewhere. Instead, the old miner locked the creature in the place with some kind of ward. (There was nothing in the cabin to make me think the story had anything to do with the thing currently stalking us.) The next morning, we felt hungry and thirsty. As the creature looked through the window and heard us complain, it offered us a deal. It said that if we sacrificed one of us to it, it would give us a chance to run for the day. Then as we were thinking about it, the creature reached in and grabbed Ricky and Ginger, pulling them out through the window.
"It" laughed in enjoyment as it munched down the two screaming kids. We all stood in horror. We had thought it could not get in.
“Well, I am one to keep my promise... So you may leave, but if any of you set foot in these woods again, I will have a snack." "It" smiled, and disappeared.
Years passed without anyone going back into the woods. Authorities and news sources wrote the attacks off as bear attacks and shot the animal supposedly responsible. As teenagers, we forgot about the creature as a figment of our imagination. Our parents convinced us that a way of coping with the 'bear attack' was to forget that it ever actually happened.
Kevin, eventually, was dared to go into the woods. A week later, his bones and what little else was left of him was found near the cabin. We all got back together, all eight of us, for Kevin’s funeral. John and Richard convinced Michel to join in a hunt for the thing that did it over the summer.
That summer, all three went missing. No bodies were found, and the area was sealed off after a message read out on the cabin wall was found.
“I told you all I am here, and yet you forget”.
Jimmy began to see the smile everywhere he went after watching the woods. After the three disappeared, he said it would not stop smiling, and a week later, he died in bed with a large circle carved out of his body where his chest should have been. This time, there was no way it could be written off as a bear attack.
Sarah and Carrie were the next victims. They were strung up like dolls in their houses, with large smiles that were ear to ear carved into their faces, their intestines dangling from them like jumping ropes. I realized then only I and Josh were left. I met with him to discuss what he remembered about the creature. He said he could "do me one better", and showed me a photo of the woods. As I looked at it, the trees were odd and distorted. In the center was a large smile with rows of teeth and black fluid leaking from them.
When I put the photo down I looked at Josh. It was then I realized that the thing in front of me wasn’t Josh, and as I began to recall anything to do with Josh, my head began to hurt. As I wondered why, "it" responded with the answer. It explained that prior to that day, Josh as I knew him had never existed and that "it" used him as a way of signaling a meal. He was supposed to leave with the rest of you, but was stuck in that house because of the other thing out there. I thought back, and the thing has never near Josh like it was afraid or something. Josh just smiled and said there are things better left unanswered.
Now as I write this, I look out my window and notice the tree is moving closer. Although I am not scared of it, I am more worried about the thing in the reflection of the mirror as it moves closer.
"It" smiled, and the teeth are not sharp like that of a shark. Instead, they look like repeating snake fangs, dripping green. The mirror shows its true face- that of a rotting corpse, covered in worms and the tattered clothes of something long dead. As "it" begins coming closer, I notice the thing at the window is smiling.