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Gilr1-1494621771379

Genesis

For awhile now, this picture has been floating around on the internet. You’ve probably seen it by now. The photo is a simple black and white, grainy still of a young girl in the woods. The girl has a dark shadow over her face and is posing in a strange, standing position. There has been some debate as to whether she is running, jumping, or simply posing for the camera.

The story surrounding the photo has only added to the intrigue. Apparently, this photo was discovered on a trail cam in Cambridge, New York. If you don’t know, trail cams are specialized equipment used by hunters, researchers, and farmers to track game and other wild animals. These cameras are made to snap a picture when a motion sensor picks up movement in the lens’ view. The landowners had set up this trail cam for hunting purposes.

There are people on the internet who have latched onto the idea that this picture is of a long-dead girl; that this picture is of a ghastly presence. Others yet wonder if this is just a girl and why she might be alone in the woods. Police have gotten involved to find the identity of this child.

This afternoon, I saw the picture while screwing around on Facebook during my lunch break at work. When I saw it, I froze. I knew who was in the picture. It was a face I hadn’t seen in years.

I left work early. I had to call my mom and get the facts straight. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m on my fourth shot of Malibu as I type this out. The booze helps. After all, what else can I do but tell a bunch of scary story junkies what I have to say? Nobody would ever believe me anyways. Nobody I told believed me.

I’m rambling again. I’ll take it easy on the sauce until I finish.

My name is Rebecca, but everyone just calls me Becca these days. I grew up in Coila, a small township within Cambridge, New York. Compared to the hustle of my current home in Manhattan, Coila was a hole. I’m pretty sure more people live in my apartment building than lived in all of Coila.

My best friend was Zoey. Zoey was fun, brave, and so adventurous. God, I haven't thought about her in years. You could probably say Zoey was my first love. Of course, at our age, I was too young to see it that way but isn’t that how you always see friends from the past? They are a grainy photograph in your mind's eye; a caricature. You remember all of the good and ignore the bad.

I was 12 years old on the last day I saw Zoey.

Every small town has rumors. Coila was no different. In the late 1980’s the rumor mill was spinning stories about a Satanic cult. If you’ve ever heard a cult story (I’m guessing you have) then these stories were nothing too shocking. Rituals in the woods, animal sacrifices, evil chants overheard in the trees; these were the stories spread from child to child and, unbeknownst to me at the time, adults as well. Supposedly, a cult had taken residence in a house in the woods around Cambridge and Coila and were privy to these and more depravities.

The word on the playground in elementary school was exaggerated to the nth degree. According to my old friend Ricky Davis, these cultists would take children and “molester” them (I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded bad). After they were done, they would kill you and use your blood to make cranberry juice, the worst juice of all according to Ricky.

I know this sounds silly, but you have to understand, this is what we thought about these supposed cultists at the time. We were kids in the 80’s in a small town. We had no internet. We were much more sheltered to the realities of the world than today’s kids. If I'd had even a clue as to what was really out there…

I’m jumping ahead again. Back to Zoey.

I met Zoey about a week before kindergarten. Her family had just moved from Manhattan to settle in a quiet community. The house they settled on ended up being right across the street from my house. Being the same age, Zoey and I become fast friends. We stayed over with each other, ate dinner at each other's houses, and did virtually everything together. By first grade, our parents would joke that they shared a pair of daughters.

In the summer of ‘89, we were both 12. It was the summer between fifth and sixth grades; a big year. We were headed to Middle School. This year would be all about lockers and class schedules and puberty. Zoey and I were so close by this point though that we weren’t too scared. Transition meant change, but we had each other. We were taking 4 of our 7 classes together and were excited to see what was in store.

The week before school started back up, we were more worried about how to make the best of our last week of freedom than we were about school. Of course, at this time, the cult stories were as big as ever.

On the Friday before school was scheduled to start, I awoke lying next to Zoey in her bed. She was still fast asleep. I remember watching her sleep and thinking about how pretty she was. There was a time when I had wished Zoey were a boy. A part of me wanted to kiss her, and it would have been so much easier if she had just been a boy. Zoey was my best friend. Looking back, I guess it’s only natural I felt that way. It was a very confusing time in my life.

As I lay there, a clatter came from downstairs. Zoey had a big family. Two brothers, two sisters, and a dog. All that, in addition to Mom and Dad, and there was seldom much quiet time in Zoey’s house after 7am.

Zoey slowly opened her eyes and looked at me. The morning sunlight from her bedroom window swam through her dark hair.

"Creeper,” Zoey yawned at me.

I scoffed at her, “I was just trying to wake your lazy butt up with the power of my eyes. Did it work?”

“Eh,” she said; rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Something like that.”

“Hey,” I said nervously. “About what we talked about yesterday, we don’t have to. Like, nobody will care.”

“And let that little dork Ricky get one over on us? No way! We’re doing it.”

We got up and went downstairs to enjoy our breakfast of champions, Frosted Flakes, and get our day started.

We already had our day planned. The previous day, we ran into Ricky Davis near the school. Now a few years older than his cranberry juice-hating self, Ricky had evolved into something of a class clown. He and his core friends would always prank and dare people to do stupid things. He wasn’t a bad guy, just a little obnoxious. While we were strolling home from the nearby corner store with quite the candy haul, Ricky saw us while riding his bike and made a beeline for us.

"Hey, did you guys hear?” he asked us, slightly out of breath from his stressful peddling. “We found the house!”

Confused, Zoey asked, “What house?”

"The cult house!” Ricky exclaimed.

"No way, you’re full of it,” I said.

"I did! Really. Yesterday morning, my dad and I were out hunting and we saw this old house out there. It was really huge, but looked like it was falling apart. My dad said he saw footprints leading to the house and we should leave it alone, but it was TOTALLY THE CULT HOUSE!” He shouted this last part.

Zoey eyed Ricky skeptically. “So you saw some old house and it's just supposed to be the cult house? I don’t buy it.”

"Think about it,” Ricky pressed. “An old house in the woods, lots of footprints, IT HAS TO BE THE CULT HOUSE! You guys have to go check it out.”

Ricky seemed thrilled by the concept. I was a little more weary.

"You want us to go out to some nasty house in the woods and waste our time making you look stupid when it isn’t the house? No, thanks.”

He snickered. “If you girls are scared, just say so.”

And with that comment, I knew we were going. Zoey was a lot of things. She slacked on homework, she didn’t like to do her chores, she had even been known to get mouthy with teachers from time to time, but nobody called Zoey chicken. Zoey never stepped down from a challenge.

"Look,” Zoey said, almost angry. “If you want us to go look at your stupid house and prove you wrong, then we’ll do it. We’ll do it tomorrow. We aren’t scared.” Zoey puffed her chest slightly.

I, on the other hand, was less enthused. “I thought we were going to the mall with your sisters tomorrow.”

“Oh come on, Becca. We can get ice cream and pretzels any time. Besides, this moron needs to be taught not to believe everything he thinks he sees.”

Zoey never bought into the whole cult story. Her dad was a history professor at a nearby college. His personal motto in life was, “question everything,” something which had definitely rubbed off on her. When she heard the cult stories, her dad had told her that many small towns make up stories about things that go bump in the night, but these stories are seldom anything of merit. Zoey saw the stories as nothing more than pure baloney.

I was less rational about the cult stories. Looking back, I think if you had asked me directly, I would have said I didn’t believe the stories, but they still freaked me out. I was comfortable not knowing. While I did want to hang out with Zoey, I didn’t want to go into those woods looking for a cultic site.

"But…” I started.

Ricky interrupted me. “Hey, if Becca is too scared, I can go out there with you.”

This got to me. Ricky was one of the few black boys at our school. Maybe it was because of this that a lot of girls liked him. I always heard girls giggle about their crushes on Ricky. Years later, Ricky would go on to be the captain of the high school baseball team and would go through girls about as quickly as he went through baseballs. He was that guy. I didn’t realize why at the time, but I was not ok with Zoey being alone with Ricky in the woods.

“I’m not scared. Zoey and I are going out there and you’re gonna feel like an idiot once this gets out.”

And then it was settled. That night I stayed at Zoey’s. We were up late into the night looking at the map Ricky had eventually drawn us and planning what we would need to bring with us into the woods; mostly a few basic survival items and junk food.

It was an unusually cool morning for mid-August, so we bundled up accordingly. The local weatherman forecasted cloudy skies and cool temperatures for the weekend, much to the chagrin of Zoey’s parents. After finishing our breakfast, we headed out to the school; just up the road from our houses. According to Ricky’s map, the woods behind the school would be the best place to start.

At the school, we stopped under the Moonlight to be sure we had everything we needed. The Moonlight was another local curiosity. Next to the school in the parking lot was a huge light post that had been installed years ago. Due to some electrical malfunction that I really didn’t understand, it glowed brighter than the surrounding lights. Due to its near blinding intensity, it had been dubbed “the Moonlight” by the locals.

As we walked from the Moonlight through the open field separating the brownstone school building from the treeline, I felt uneasy. Coila is a small place, as I’ve mentioned. It’s normal for people to be out walking dogs, gardening, mowing, etc… There was none of that. Nobody was around. No kids on the playground. No teachers going back and forth from their cars while preparing classrooms. Nothing. I suddenly felt alone. I quickened my pace to make sure I was side-by-side with Zoey. She made me feel safe.

The woods in Coila are much the same as the woods in your own hometowns. Lots of fallen trees, worn paths from decades of playing kids, beer and liquor bottles and condom wrappers leftover from nights of teenage debauchery. Typical.

From the map and Ricky’s testimonial, we estimated it would take about an hour and a half to get to the house, if it really was there. While I was by no means an expert, I had been hunting with my dad and uncle a couple times. In my 11 year-old mind, I was pretty sure I knew the woods well enough to get us there.

While walking through the woods toward the house, we talked about what you would expect a couple of pre-teen girls to talk about. What movies did we want to see? Which girls did we hope wouldn’t be in our classes? How would we rub it in Ricky’s face when we proved him wrong? Eventually, our minds started to turn toward the cult stories.

“Did you hear the rumor that Principal VanDresen is in the cult?” I asked Zoey.

Zoey laughed. “Yeah, and so is the librarian. And the janitor, Mr. Nick. My dad, too.”

“Really, your dad?” I laughed.  “Who said that?”

“That bitch, Lisa. She had the nerve to say it to my face. She said the only reason I have a nice house is because my dad is in the cult.”

“Forget her. She’s just jealous because her mom is a waitress.”

“Ouch, Becs. That's cold.” We both burst into a fit of hysterics.

In our minds, if there really were a cult, none of these people would be in it. Every few months, a teacher would give someone a bad grade or a write-up and within hours, that teacher was suddenly the cult leader. Rumors would spread for awhile before a new target was eventually found.

This is what really made the cult stories so scary; the fact that anyone could be in it. There were always rumors being spread. If stories were to be believed, just about everyone in town had been a cultist at one point or another. If a cult really did exist, it was formed by everybody and nobody.

About an hour and forty minutes in, I realized that the forest was subtly changing. Gone were beaten paths and the abandoned refuse of our elders. I noticed how clean the area was. Not just free of trash, but free of typical forest debris as well. It was as if the area had been picked through numerous times for firewood. Twigs, sticks, leaves, most of these things were just gone

I was just about to tell Zoey when…

“Jesus, he was telling the truth.”

It took me a moment before I realized what Zoey was talking about. Ahead through a clearing was a structure. Wordlessly, we walked forward to get a better look.

The house was not as large as I had pictured. From Ricky’s description, I imagined this huge sprawling mansion.  What we saw, while large, was much more modest than my imagination had led me to believe. The simple two-story house seemed to be only slightly larger than my own house. The windows that weren’t boarded up were long since shattered. The color seemed to have once been a pale blue, but much of the paint seemed to have chipped away, revealing splintered wood. There was no front door. It looked a lot like the old house from Leave it to Beaver, if that house had been abandoned for decades. In front of the house was a large fire pit.

"Well, damn,” Zoey said.

“Yep,” I responded. “Well, he was right. What do we do now?”

“I guess we can go inside and look. It looks like the cultists aren’t home,” she smirked.

“Zoey, we came. We saw it. It’s really here. Can’t we just go? This is really freaky.”

“No way! We came this far. We at least need to find a souvenir to prove we did it.”

"Maybe you’re positive nobody is her, but I’m not.” I could feel my heart pumping. I couldn’t explain why, but I was terrified. Every adult had always told me that the stories of a cult house out in the woods were just stories, but here it was. Part of me was afraid that at any moment, someone would jump out and grab me or Zoey.

“Dammit Becs, I didn't hike through the woods for nothing. If you want to sit out here like a baby, fine! But I’m going in!” She turned away and started into the house.

As I stood there and watched her walk away, I felt my dread deepen. I was afraid of being alone, but I was more afraid for Zoey. My best friend was going into certain doom and couldn’t stop her. I wanted to cry.

"Zoey, please!” I shouted. Zoey stopped and turned around to look at me with anger in her face.

I felt a tear run down my cheek. “I’m… really scared. Please…” I trailed off.

Zoey saw the look on my face and sighed. Her face softened. She looked back at the house toward the porch. Sitting on the porch was a smooth, black stone.

"Hey, look at this,” she said, as she bent over to pick it up. “Do you know what this is?”

"No.” I wiped the tear away.

"This looks like a pretty good souvenir. Let’s get going, Becs.”

I smiled, relieved, as Zoey walked up to me. She pulled me into a hug and apologized. I felt her warmth against me. It felt good. For a minute, we just stood there, embraced.

“HEY!”

We quickly let go of each other and turned our heads toward the sound. Faster than I thought possible, Zoey’s hand had darted down and found my own. She squeezed hard.

Just ahead of the house, we heard a heavy trudging through the brush. Through the thin tree line in front of the house stepped a man.

He was a large, burly man with large arms. His tattered New Yorks Mets cap hid dark hair. He wore faded, muddy jeans, a red flannel shirt, and a scraggly beard. In his left hand, balanced on his shoulder, was an axe.

I felt the color drain from my face. The cultists. They were here. That axe was the last thing I would ever see. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I felt my hand tense in Zoey’s. Her pounding heartbeat echoed into my palm.

The woodcutter met our gaze and quickly tossed the axe into the dirt. “Oh no. no, no, girls,” the man said with his palms flat out. “It’s ok. I won’t hurt you. I was just clearing some brush out here. Collecting wood, that’s all. Really, it’s ok.”

Zoey’s grip loosened slightly, then she sighed and let go. “Oh, it’s ok. You just scared us. What are you doing out here?”

The man laughed. “What am I doing here? I own the place. I’m fixing it up so I can rent it out to campers. What are you doing here?”

We awkwardly explained why we had come out this far, telling the man about Ricky and the cult house. The man listened patiently, chuckling whenever the cult came up.

“Well, little ladies, I can assure you that this is not a cult house. I am a godly man,” the man said after listening to our story.

“Look,” I said, “we’re sorry, Mister. We didn’t mean any harm. We just wanted to see for ourselves. We should probably get going before our parents worry.” In my head, I cursed Ricky. He probably met this guy too and sent us out here to mess with us.

The man smiled. “You two seem like good girls. Why don’t I give you a ride home? It’s only a 15 minute drive to town.”

"No,” I said, “That's ok. We know the way.”

“I’m sure you do. Just tell me one thing,” the man said. “Are you both virgins?”

"What?” Zoey asked, shocked.

"Virgins,” the man repeated with a little smile on his face. “Have you fucked anyone?”

I turned away from the man to face Zoey, who looked appalled. Before I could respond, I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head before the world faded to black.

Mean

I awoke after what must have been hours. It was dark out now. My head ached immensely. I was on the ground; tied up around my wrists and ankles with thick rope.

I looked around and realized I was still next to the house. From behind, I could feel the warm of a massive bonfire. Flipping over, I saw the largest fire I had ever seen. The tips of the flame were taller than the house before it. On the other side of the fire, was Zoey.

She too was bound. She was awake and looking at me with a horrified look on her face. I immediately thought back to my backpack I brought with us. Zoey’s dad insisted we bring a pocket knife if we were exploring in the woods.

“Zoey, it’s ok. Where’s my pack. There’s a…”

Zoey cut me off, “Becs…” Tears poured down her face. She wasn’t looking at me.

I turned around. In the dark, I hadn’t seen them before, but now they were all I could see. A dozen or so figures stood at the tree line. 

Each person wore a long black cloak, with black gloves. They were all identical, save for one feature. Each wore a nearly identical mask. They were white, expressionless masks. The only thing setting them apart was red. Several of the members in the back wore all-white masks. The rest had varying numbers of red dots painted on the masks. As they grew closer, the cultists masks had more red dots. However, the one standing closest to me, that mask was completely blood red. 

The robes they wore hid their features well. Some were tall, others short. Some were heavier than others. Several even bore the unmistakable curves of women. However, no identities could be discerned from this. 

The one with the red mask stepped forward. “Brothers and sisters of the knighthood, our time is nigh,” he spoke in a deep voice. He was tall, but not the tallest among them. Even under his billowing robe, he seemed very thin. 

“We, the knights who have promised ourselves to the mighty king of darkness, have come to make an offering to our Lord.”

“HAIL DAEMOS!” the rest said in unison.

I started sobbing uncontrollably. Fear took me completely. Behind me I heard Zoey pleading for them to stop. She kept saying she was sorry and that we wouldn’t tell anyone. I could not muster the words to agree or disagree. I was lost in my own horror. 

The leader paid us no mind and continued. “These beautiful ones shall make a glorious sacrifice for the coming of our Lord of the Wood.”

“HAIL DAEMOS!” The group converged and circled around us in a loose circle. 

“We make an offering to you, oh Lord.”

In unison, they began to chant, in almost singsong fashion in a tongue I didn’t understand.

Quæsumus, Domine, Dominus noster tenebris,
Et suscipe benedictionem hanc pulchrae dominae munus primarum.
Sit vobis famem satiare se praeparat,
Ambules inter nos usque in aeternum!
This continued, again and again, for minutes. Or hours. Or days. I was lost to it. The rhythm took me. I almost would compare it to being drunk. My head swam; it made me feel tired. 



When the chanting eventually did stop, the group cried out one final time in unison, “HAIL DAEMOS!”

With everything that had happened thus far, this was the most horrifying event of my, or anyone's life. I lay there, listening to their chant, knowing I was going to die. Knowing Zoey would die. That is a terrible realization for any 12 year-old to be faced with.

What happened next was worse.

Done with their chanting, the cultists were ready for us. They… look, I would like to hope that everyone who is hearing this is an adult. But regardless, you’re not stupid and I’m not going to sit here and spell it out. Needless to say, every one of them took turns using us in every way imaginable. The men. The women. All of them. I tried to fight it at first. I think Zoey did, too. But after awhile, the futility of it all set in and I just waited for it to be done. Eventually, it ended.

Afterward, the man in the red mask walked over to the house and procured a black goblet. He walked over and ordered me to drink from it. I probably should have resisted. Fought. Struggled. Something. But I had nothing left in me to fight with. I was nothing. I leaned my head forward and sipped the vile black liquid. It tasted like rotten eggs mixed with fire. The liquid burned me from the inside. The pain was maddening, worse than anything I had ever felt. I was dying; I knew it. I was finally dying. I vaguely remember hearing Zoey scream my name as the darkness took me. I was still screaming when I lost consciousness. 

Pinnacle

When I awoke, I heard sobbing. My head ached and my throat burned. I looked around to gather my surroundings. The remains of a small campfire lay before me. 

“He told me I was his bride.” 

I looked over to see Zoey sobbing into her knees. 

I had no idea what she meant. I just laid there watching her, confined to my own thoughts. I felt useless. Used. Dirty. Nothing. I was nothing.

I realized we were no longer in front of the house. The area looked more like one of the campsites littering our woods. It was still dark.

“Zoey,” I started, but I had nothing to say. I realized how cold I was. I slowly stood, completely sore, and walked over to Zoey and put my arms around her. She finally seemed to realize I was there, held me tight, and cried. To this day, I have never heard or felt such anguish that was in that clearing that night. She cried, then I cried. We must have sat there holding onto each other for hours, before we finally mustered the courage to stand. 

Upon examining our surroundings, I realized how dark it was: how alone we were. At least, I thought we were. 

At the other side of the dead campfire was one of the robed figures. He was laying with his back rolled against a large sitting log. We cautiously approached the figure. When we inspected him more closely, we saw that the man’s ribcage had been torn open. The inside of his chest was completely exposed. His face bore a solid red mask.

If I had seen this gruesome sight only hours ago, I would have screamed. I would have cried. But I was not the same girl I had been hours ago. I was nothing. 

I became aware that Zoey was holding my hand. I looked at her and she seemed to have regained some of her strength. “Ok?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I responded. “Let’s go home.”

Having been in the woods a lot, I had a pretty good idea of where people liked to camp. This gave me a rough idea of where we were. I picked a direction and we started walking. 

For about a half hour we just walked silently, hand-in-hand. Eventually, I heard Zoey say, “I’m so sorry I dragged us out here Becs.”

We stopped and I faced her. I wanted to scream that it was her fault. I wanted to scream that it wasn’t her fault. But I had nothing. I was nothing. 

Instead, I just said, “Alright.”

It was shortly after that, through the brush, we saw a huge bright light in the sky. 

“The Moonlight,” I could hear Zoey’s smile as she said it.

Then I heard it. It started as a noise off in the distance. Crunching. Trampling. Pounding. It sounded like some large animal was charging through the forest straight at us. 

We didn’t wait to see it. 

I looked down and took Zoey’s dark hand and started running harder than I ever had. After our ordeal, I didn’t think we could run like that anymore. We charged recklessly through the brush, but despite our haste, the stomping behind us grew louder. The pounding was now accompanied by a monstrous roar. A roar which would send beasts of any kind fleeing in terror. The Moonlight grew brighter; I could see the edge of the treeline and feel the heat of hot breath against my neck. The rancid air smelled of rotten eggs and fire. 

I burst forth from the woods like a swimmer out of water gasping for air. I keep charging forward with every ounce of my strength before collapsing under the gorgeous majesty of the Moonlight. In that exact moment, I thought, I’ll die here.

The sound had stopped. I just lay there panting. I was cut and bruised from my charge through the brush. I was bleeding. We had experienced the worst trauma imaginable, but Zoey and I had made it out alive.

My hand was empty.

“Zoey?” I asked through panting breaths.

“Zoey!?” I looked around, but she was nowhere.

“ZOEY!” I thought I couldn’t possibly cry anymore tears. I was nothing, after all. The tears started to come freely nonetheless.

I stood feebly. The woods, I thought. I started to walk toward the woods to find Zoey when I saw it. Just inside the tree line was a massive silhouette, easily 15 feet tall. The shadow seemed to be heaving, exhausted from its chase. Right in the spot where eyes would be were two glowing red orbs.

His eyes.

In those deep crimson eyes, I felt pain. I felt longing. Anger. Suffering. Hatred. But most of all evil. Whatever this creature was, a demon, a god, the devil himself, he wanted me. It felt the pull of its lustful desire for me at a time when I should have had no understanding of what that meant. I was not meant to escape.

I stared for about a minute, cursing whatever it was that stood in front of me. Hating it. However, faced with this evil forth the depths of Hell, I was filled with even more terror than fury.

Suddenly, the entire treeline flashed red. Then blue. Then red again. I heard a car pull up and screech to a halt behind me. I turned to see a police car. I looked back at the tree line, but the shadow was gone.

Denouement

Zoey and I had been gone for three days. 

In that time, the towns of Coila and Cambridge had been completely upturned. Police from neighboring cities had volunteered to come and help find two missing girls.

After I was found, I was taken immediately to the hospital. I was questioned by police, my parents, detectives, Zoey’s parents, and more police. I told them everything. I did not have the strength to hold back. Ricky. The house. The… attacks. Waking up next to Zoey. The beast. 

It wasn’t until two pieces of evidence were discovered that my story gained some tiny shred of credibility. First, my rape kit came back positive. Second, a heavily mutilated, robed body was discovered at a campsite in the woods. His identity was never uncovered. 

They never found Zoey.

It was eventually determined by the police that a group of cultists had kidnapped and raped two innocent girls. The group then killed their leader, left one girl for dead, then stole away with the other. They told me that I never saw Zoey after our assault, and I certainly never saw a beast. It was all made up to cope with the trauma.

For a long time, that was the story I believed. With my shattered mind, I created a horrible story to cope with losing my best friend. A story where I had one last chance to say goodbye. A story with a monster. I spent a little time in an institution to regain some semblance of a mind. I spent years in therapy, as well. Hell, I’m still in therapy. Between vivid flashbacks, PTSD, and night terrors, I’ll probably spend the rest of my life in therapy.

It’s been almost thirty years and I haven’t talked about Zoey since all those years ago. Sure, the people in my life know the rough details. I was kidnapped by a crazy cult. I was raped. I was nearly killed trying to escape. I haven’t told them about Zoey though. Not my wife. Not my therapist. Certainly not my kids. Nobody.

It’s not as though I had forgotten her, it’s just too painful. I honestly hadn't thought about her in years. At least not until I saw that picture of a little girl in a photo from Cambridge. 

I can only guess what you are thinking now. What chased you two through the woods? If you were gone for three days, what happened during that lost time? Why would Zoey’s childhood self appear in the picture? What if Zoey’s spirit is trapped in the woods, waiting for you? What if Zoey is still alive?

I wish I could go back and find Zoey’s spirit in the woods. There are so many things I would tell her. I would tell her that I didn’t blame her, that it wasn’t her fault. I could tell her how I really felt about her. I could hug her one more time. But I can’t do that. I can’t because Zoey is dead. Zoey is gone and she has been for a long time.

That isn’t Zoey in the picture. It’s me. Me as I was when I was 12 years old in those woods.

It’s a sign. Seeing that picture made me see the truth.

I wasn’t meant to escape. He wants me back.