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Where the Forest Ends

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In a small town in Washington State on January 9th 1992 at 6:21 AM a woman was found lying face down in a puddle of rain, blood, and dirt next to the highway. She was taken to the local sheriff’s office after she was found by two officers on their routine shifts, Sheriff Michael Ogden and Deputy Landon Marx. In addition to some minor scrapes and bruises she was grasping a bloody stab wound at her side and had, judging by her gait, sprained her ankle.

The only possessions she had were the torn sundress she was wearing and a bloodied kitchen knife she refused to let leave her hands. Upon reaching the station Ogden walked her down to his office and ran her information through the computer. According to police records she was Shelly Hanson and had gone missing several months ago. After printing the documents and grabbing a cup of coffee he decided to find out more about Shelly’s disappearance from the source. His heart skipped a beat as he entered the office. The way the mysterious woman was sitting reminded him of a starved animal, rapidly surveying her surroundings and ready to dart off should a threat appear. He sat down and struck up conversation

“Ma’m, Shelly, what were you doing out there?” The instant the words left his lips the woman’s eyes widened and she snapped to attention

“Ran.” She croaked.

“From what?” the sheriff asked

“Shack… Him.” The questioning continued, “Who is ‘Him’?”

“Monster… Disgusting… Monster… Gone” Her white-knuckle grip on the knife tightened.

“I… I see.” Michael changed the subject, “Do you think you could tell me where this ‘Shack’ is?”

The woman stared deeply into his eyes. Her gaze was like that of a veteran of war. “Shack?… Where the Forest ends.”

Michael sighed, thanked the woman for her co-operation and left the room, motioning to the deputy to follow him.

“I’m going out there to get to the bottom of this. From what I’ve gathered this poor gal probably did that freak in with that knife after she was held up on some shack in the woods. If we can get some good information on what happened we can probably get a case file together.”

Marx reached for his hat on the wall.

“No, I don’t want both of us out there. I need you here to make sure she’s okay. Stay on the walkie and I’ll check in with you when I find the Shack. I’m counting on you kid.” The deputy nodded and made his way back to the office. Sheriff Michael Ogden took his gun from the wall, threw on his jacket, and pulled the cruiser out of lot.

The Sheriff parked the cruiser at a rest stop near were the woman was found and followed the drops of blood she left behind. The trail led him into the nearby woods that bordered the road on all sides. The trail of crimson droplets led for well over three miles. Michael would occasionally find a puddle of blood larger than the others near a rock or a tree, probably were she stopped to rest. While the trail started simple and straight forward but then it quickly became erratic and twisting. The Sheriff climbed over rocks and streams and had not for the snowfall the day before the trail would have been lost. Michael eventually reached a road block, a wall of rock about fifteen feet high. At the base was an imprint in the snow and a blood spatter larger than the others. “This must be where she hurt her foot.” He thought.

Ignoring his deep seated fear of heights Ogden began to scale the rocks jutting from the snow. By the time he reached the top he was drenched in sweat and his jacket and pants were caked in slush. He collapsed into the snow to rest his eyes but was awakened by crackling from the radio

“Mike? Mike you there buddy?”

“Marx? Yeah… I’m fine. Waddaya need?”

“Have you found that shack yet? our guest is getting a little restless. She seems shaken.” The sheriff was about to respond when he noticed his new surroundings, In front of him was a large snow covered clearing with a windowless shack at the end.

“At the end of the forest…” Ogden muttered

“What?” The deputy asked

“Nothing, just tell her she’s safe and I’ll be back soon. I have a feeling we may need a ‘sick bastard’ sized body bag pretty soon.”

“No problem, see ya boss.”

The Sheriff looked out at the shack and a flood of memories rushed through his head. He reached into his pocket and opened up his wallet. Inside was a tattered picture of a young girl. He ran his thumb across the photo and croaked “I wish I could’ve been there… The more people like this guy in the ground the better.”

Lori Ogden was kidnapped on her way home from school on April 12th 1989. She hasn’t been seen since.

Michael wandered up to the shacks door and shoved it open revealing a musty, dimly lit room. The one room cabin seemed uneventful at a passing glance but upon closer inspection it was clear something was amiss. In a small sink next to a closet was an assortment of rusting knifes, one of them was placed in a puddle of blood on the nearby counter. Michael ran his fingers across it, the blood was still warm. By the table in the center of the room a grimy burlap sack leaned against the wall.

Inside was a twisted menagerie of bones and dried meat. Most of the bones were too small to belong to a deer but Ogden hoped he was wrong. At the far end of the room The Sheriff spotted something that made his hair stand on end. A trapdoor with a metal handle, locked with a chain. As Ogden began to walk towards the door he began to hear faint moans and cries that grew louder with each step. But as he placed his hand on the chain something else caught his eye: sitting on a desk in the corner was a small wooden box simply labeled “Memories”. Michael had no idea why it stuck out but something about it called to him.

He opened the lid of the box and immediately recoiled with disgust. Inside the box was a collection of Polaroid’s. They were separated into little stacks by hastily wrapped rubber bands. His breath grew shallow as he slid the rubber band off of the first stack. While fear begged him to close his eyes curiosity wrenched them open. Each stack told a story of a victim of the shacks owner. They started tame, simple pictures of a person eating at a diner or walking down the street and quickly escalated to kidnapping and then tortures that turned Michael’s stomach inside out.

The stacks ended with the death of the victim and usually a few extra photos postmortem. After several stacks he even noticed the unfinished series of the girl from the station, Shelly. He put them in a plastic bag and stuffed them into his jacket. Michael continued flipping through the pictures, drenched in sweat and heart pounding, until he reached the final grotesque volume. Vomit welled in his throat the instant he looked upon it and no matter how hard he pushed himself he could not manage to look at any pictures past the first.

The first picture was of a young girl standing at a stop sign, clutching a backpack.

The still was broken by the crackle of the radio, “Mike! Mike answer me! This is important!” The Sheriff took a deep breath to gather himself and answered, “Yeah?”

“She’s freaking out man! I told her you were going to the shack and she lost it!”

“Put her on the line.”

“What?”

“Put her on the damn line Landon!” There was a loud rustling from the other end of the radio and Shelly’s voice broke the static.

“Don’t… Shack… Leave now!”

“What’s wrong!?”

“Man! Monster! He! He!”

“Answer me!” There was silence from the other end of the radio until the woman faintly whispered

“He’s still there.”

Michael Ogden’s blood ran cold as the cabin door slammed shut behind him.

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