When Dylan moved to Lakeview he was too young to remember where they'd lived prior. Not that it was anything special, a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The suburbs were a welcomed change to the rest of the family. Dianne and Ron were his parents. A stay at home mom and a police officer. The money was okay, enough to support the family with a few extra things here and there. Lakeview was a small town in upstate New York with a tight knit community, everyone knew everything. Surprisingly, not many people knew about the tower in the woods. The place where people really didn't go. It was located off of dimly lit River Road that ran parallel to a foul smelling wetland. Every time someone drove down the road, they'd immediately smell the musty, dirty aroma that wafted from the woods. Needless to say, people avoided the road, and never even thought about the woods. There was another street, on the other side of the forest, that went the same way. River Road was almost useless, besides the fact that it ran straight into Dylan's house. Kids are a different story, when Dylan turned nine, the woods were his stomping ground. Building forts, naming paths, climbing trees, skipping rocks through the swampy water. The smell didn't bother him, it gave him comfort, it was just the smell of the woods to him.
He made a few friends in school, although, he wasn't the least bit popular. Their names were Allison and Carter. Dylan would have them over after school to do homework and talk about a band that they would start and be the most famous people the world had ever seen. A few weeks into fifth grade, Dylan decided he should show his friends to the woods. He had kept the place all to himself before, but as he grew closer to his friends, he decided to reveal his safe haven to them. One day while sitting in Dylan’s room he said, "Alright guys, you know the woods up the road?" Allison and Carter, looking quite confused, nodded their heads. "Those woods no one goes in. I've had the place all to myself for a while but I really want to show you guys the cool stuff in there!" At this point Dylan was very anxious to go out and show them the place only he had known all this time.
Allison and Carter looked at him for a moment before Allison said, "Those woods smell funny, you go in there?" Dylan's smile deflated and he scowled and started putting on his shows. His friends followed suit, he announced to his mother that they were going in the woods. She gave them a smile from the living room, on the phone, and mouthed a "be careful" before the door closed behind them. They trekked down to the opening of the woods, where the smell hit like a brick wall. Dylan inhaled deeply and let out a satisfied exhale. He motioned for his friends to follow and started on the familiar path he made.
They came upon the fort that he constructed a few months ago, Dylan added a few sticks before proclaiming, “This is my castle!” Allison and Carter looked wide eyed at the crooked structure of sticks, Carter was the first one in.
From inside he yelled, "Cool! You brought out video tapes?" Dylan's proud smile faded when he saw Carter exit the fort with a VHS tape in hand. Carter questioned, "Why'd you bring this tape out here? You can't even watch it or anything."
Dylan looked at the tape confused, scratched his head, and said, "I didn't bring that out here, someone else must've found my fort." With this realization Dylan was very disappointed.
There was a few moments of silence before it was broken by the excited voice of Allison, "Maybe they built a fort that they want us to find! Like a treasure hunt!" Carter nodded his head quickly in agreement and Dylan's smile began to return.
Dylan replied, "Yeah, there is one area across the swamp that I've never gone to because I can't cross." They agreed that their mission was to find a way across the water to meet this other wanderer of the woods. They walked up and down the front of the water and furiously brainstormed.
"Maybe we can build a bridge?" Carter suggested.
Dylan replied, "No, no it would never work, it's too far across." Allison was about to add an idea when they heard a loud crack. They turned to the source of the voice and saw a broken root jutting out of the ground snapped in half. It was almost pointing to an area of the water that split into a series of creeks. They walked over to it and could slightly make out a preexisting structure. It looked like a very thin bridge that zigzagged its way across the creeks.
An audible gasp of excitement emanated from Dylan as he happily started on the four inch "bridge" that lie across the putrid, muddy waters. The bridge was broken in a few places which was cause for jumping some creeks and maneuvering through thick thorn bushes. After a solid twenty minutes they made it across. In front of them stood a large stone tower surrounded in a flat, concrete clearing covered by leaves. The area was circular and surrounded by creeks, almost like the moat to a castle. Sounds of excitement came from the group as they all jogged to the structure. They came to the door and opened it right up without hesitation. Inside was a spiral staircase leading up. There were light bulbs coming out of the walls all the way up the stairs. Dylan flipped a switch to the right of the front door to no avail. Regardless, they climbed to the top of the tower where the staircase opened into a makeshift kitchen.
Right in front of them were a few cabinets, a microwave and a very large sink. Next to the sink were tools that looked like they belonged in a dentist's office and a few empty bottles of bleach. Confused, they explored the kitchen, opening cabinets and turning on the faucet. Dylan looked at the running water and asked his friends, "How do you think they got running water all the way up here?" His friends looked at him and shrugged, they continued their inspection. They came across a heavy steel door clad in pad locks and deadbolts, all of which were unlocked. The group agreed that the door felt almost hidden and that added a sense of adventure. More excited than ever before, Allison pushed the door open.
Inside were tall bookshelves full of VHS tapes in plain white slips with names and dates on them. They were ordered alphabetically, Dylan looked across some: "Alex '92" one read and "Andrew '99" was written on another. There was a tape missing before a tape labeled “Brian ’95”. Their excitement turned to confusion as they continued their search. A small television sat in the corner with a dirty old notebook on top of it. Allison crossed to it and flipped through the pages.
She finally spoke, "It's just a whole bunch of names." She turned the book around to show her friends, Carter walked over to her and happily wrote his name below the rest and giggled, satisfied. They continued their search when Dylan came across a box full of old camera equipment and shared it with his friends.
Looking just as confused as everyone else, Carter looked at the VHS he had been carrying since they left Dylan's fort. The white slip was blank, he pulled the tape out, written in black marker was "Brandon '01". Carter's face turned beet red and he turned it to Allison. She covered her mouth, gasped, and whispered, "Brandon..."
Dylan was looking quite confused when he asked, "Who is…”
Carter cut him off, "My brother went missing in 2001, he never came home from school, they found his…” Carter got choked up then cleared his throat. Silence fell over the room, Carter broke from his daze, walked to the television set, turned it on and inserted the tape. No one protested, they knew they couldn't stop him from watching it. Allison and Dylan worriedly looked at each other not knowing what to expect.
The tape started up and the displayed a room with gray walls and an empty bed covered in white sheets with a brown stuffed bear in the center. A young boy maybe eight or nine years old entered with a backpack on, climbed on the bed and held the bear. You could hear him say, “So I did leave you in the fort, Grizzy.” The boy smiled to himself, and looked around. The kids watched the video, confused as ever. The boy looked into the camera and was visibly confused when a loud slam came through the speakers and the boy was startled. Quick thumps like someone running were heard and a large man appeared on screen. The boy looked horrified and his knuckles were white from squeezing the bear. The man stood over the boy, breathing heavily and caressed the side of his face. The man climbed on to the bed and Dylan, Carter and Allison all turned away afraid they'd witness the man hurt the boy. They ran out of the room and came across another door. It was painted white although the paint was chipped and peeling. Still scared and confused, Carter opened the door.
They stood frozen as they saw a camera lying on the floor and a bed covered in white sheets with huge, copper colored stains on it. In the corner of the room, the same bear from the video was lying on the floor. Carter began to cry and they ran out down the stairs into the clearing. They saw the road on the other side of the woods visible through the tree line. They ran toward it as the sun disappeared behind the horizon. Roots and branches seemed to reach for them as they ran away. Allison jumped over a small creek and made her way up the hill through the trees to safety. Dylan followed and stopped to wait for Carter, who'd been hysterical since they ran out of the tower and moving slower. Carter jumped up when Dylan saw a root reach out and wrap around Carter's foot, he fell and whimpered. Dylan reached out and grabbed his friend's hand and looked into his eyes, full of terror and running with tears. Dylan swore he saw Carter dragged away into the foliage. He tried to run and help him when he heard a loud scream come from the tower through the speakers of the television. Almost too scared to function, Dylan ran up the hill and met his friend there, both crying and screaming for help until an elderly woman heard them.
The police investigation didn't take excessively long. They went out in the woods and saw the tower. Apparently it was part of a sewage treatment plant that used to be down there. Abandoned in the mid 80's the woods always had a putrid smell. When the police found the tapes and reviewed the footage, the children in the tapes were all identified as missing children from around the country. They never found Carter, they searched the woods and found the bodies of all the children in the tapes, lying at the bottom of the swamp. No one ever questioned the putrid smell of the swamp, they all just avoided it. All the bodies of the children had been laying there, some for over twenty years. All the bodies but Brandon, his body had been found years ago in a dumpster, in the next town over only three days after being reported missing, they never searched the woods. Dylan swore to the police that he saw the earth drag his friend away, the police told his parents that a child's mind will do anything to recover from a trauma like the one Dylan endured. The man in the tapes was identified as a man named Kenneth Brown who was found hanging in his apartment three years ago. His room full of stuffed animals.