A few months ago, I was in a flea market to do some last-minute shopping for my little sister. I was heading for a stand selling over stuffed animals, perfect for six year olds, and nearly tripped over something. I glanced at my feet and discovered the object at fault was a thick novel book with the cover ripped.
"Oh forgive me sonny boy," Chuckled a tender voice, "I have so many books they try to wander off on their own at times."
I cocked my head to the right and saw a batty old woman sitting in the middle of the multiple towers of books. Her wispy hair was white as snow and her brown eyes tired with bags underneath them. She seemed like she was close to dead, probably in her late eighties or early nineties.
"Uh, it's alright," I said, picking the book from the ground and setting it on top of a copy of How to Kill a Mockingbird, "Got any children's books?"
The woman smiled warmly at me. "A few, I believe. They're somewhere here." The woman began rummaging through a cardboard box, her frail hands trembling as she took a few books out. I decided to browse through a couple of the books that were on the front of the table.
I could see why nobody stopped by here. These books were in pretty bad condition, with ripped covers, pages missing, and stains that stuck pages together, causing them to tear.
The only thing that caught my eye was a ratty old journal lying on the ground under the table. The cover was a thin leather, held together with a tight belt. The pages were yellowing and a few were sticking awkwardly out of place. Still, it looked pretty old, maybe even worth something. I bent down and tried to get a better look at it, brushing off a healthy layer of dust.
"You find interest in that, child?" I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the woman looking down at me. I grabbed the book and stood up straight. The woman had a few Disney picture books and The Polar Express in front of her with that same sweet smile. I held out the old journal and her expression became a bit more serious.
"How much is this book?" I asked, hoping she wouldn't be mad. The woman stared at me, the at the book, then back at me for a few moments.
"It's free," The woman insisted forcefully, "It's just been collecting dust for years, not much use."
"Thank you very much ma'am." I slipped the journal into my bag and quickly made my way to the vendor selling stuffed animals, refusing to even look at the batty old lady selling books. I almost swore she was muttering something as I walked away, but decided not to mention it.
After arriving home I kicked my shoes into my closet and flopped on my bed, the journal still clutched tightly in my hands. The belt came off with ease, as the buckle was basically rusted to dust. There was a label on the inside if the cover that said "Property of Travis" written in a black marker. I flipped open to the first page and began to read this old finding (which was, upon further inspection, only a few pages long). Here's what I found:
April 15, 1996
Today was the day Sophia's parents had gone out of town, leaving me to watch Sophia. Though frankly I'd much rather not, as I'll have to miss my date with Alexis. At least Sophia's a good kid, unlike those rowdy boys who are nothing but trouble two doors down.
I took Sophia to the park as always. I pushed her on the swings for a good twenty minutes as she chattered about her day at school yesterday and then led her along the path in the woods. I held her on my shoulders until we reached a small opening that connected two paths. I used to come here when I was younger to play cops and robbers with my friends, so it was nice to feel the surge of nostalgia wash over me. I let Sophia down and watched her run around freely in the forest area. She was so full of energy today!
I saw her stop at the old well at the edge of the clearing and ran over to see what was wrong. She was staring into the well with a blank expression on her face, as if she saw something, which was doubtful, since the well was a never-ending dark abyss. Me and my friends used to joke about how a witch lived at the bottom and would pull people into the well if they came at night to eat them. It was stupid, but many in town believed it was true.
I heard her suddenly cry out with glee. She just knelt down and was hugging a stuffed animal. It was probably the creepiest thing I'd seen in my entire life. It had a body of a snake, a human head, and scythes for hands, all a gold-gray color. There were deep red bat wings sewn to the back of the creature. A wide grin was on the creature's face with sharp pointed teeth drawn on with a marker. There was most likely eyes on the doll at one point, but they were ripped out and left strands of thread sticking out of the spot eyes usually were.
Why Sophia loved it so much, I'll never know.
I asked her where she found it and she happily told me she found it leaning against the well, still hugging the doll. I thought for a moment, then told her to leave it. It probably belonged to some kid, or it was a prank or booby trap for someone. Sophia was clearly upset, but followed me back to the path and I carried her the rest of the way back, since she was pretty tired after getting rid of all her energy.
April 16, 1996 (morning)
Today I saw Sophia at the bus stop with her mother today as I rode my bike to school. I noticed the head and wings of that stuffed creature from yesterday sticking out of her backpack.
Guess her parents did approve of it after all and got it for her.
April 16, 1996 (evening)
Sophia came over just introduce me to Nuzezu (the name she'd given to the stuffed thing). Now that thing's starting to scare me a bit.
April 17, 1996
I heard Sophia fell ill today from Mom. Wouldn't even come out of her room, she said.
April 19, 1996
Sophia's still ill. Her parents took her to the doctor's this morning. It was just a fever, or at least they hope.
April 24, 1996
Over the past days I've neglected to write in this journal, but these events have been much more extreme than I can express in words. I'll try to explain the best I can.
The day after Sophia went to the doctor she was in perfect health, but very abnormal. She kept insisting Nuzezu was whispering things to her, mainly "Go to the well", or something of that norm. Not only that, she seemed to be getting paler, as opposed to when I saw her only ten days ago. Her parents refused to take her to the well, and I don't blame them, it's been pouring buckets for nearly a week.
I sometimes hear tapping on my windows, but I assumed it was just the stray cats who live near our house. One night, the night before the incident, I heard the squeak of my door open. I sat up and looked at the door. Nothing was there, but the door was definitely open. For a split second I swore I saw a creepy grin with razor-sharp teeth, but after rubbing my eyes it was gone. I went back to sleep, assuming it was just my eyes playing tricks on me.
I woke up the next morning to sobs coming from my kitchen. I dashed out of my room and to the kitchen, still in my pajamas. Sophia's parents were at the table with my parents, Sophia's mother sobbing into her hands. I asked Mom what was wrong, and she said that Sophia disappeared last night and her window had been wide open. I couldn't believe it. Sophia, the sweetest girl in the world, got up and abandoned her family without a trace. Her parents said that the only thing that was missing was Nuzezu, but other than that the house was untouched. Then it hit me! Sophia must have gone to the well. Though nobody would believe me, even if I tried, so my parents and I spent the next few hours comforting the couple in mourning.
The cops came over at noon with terrible news. Sophia was reported to have fell in the well to her death. The body was not found, but they found her finger prints all around the well's edge and the well's inside walls. Her parents cried even harder, then left an hour later saying they were going to start planning the funeral.
Sophia is not dead. I'm sure of it, and I will prove it.
April 25, 1996
It's currently 11:32pm. I'm by the well and to see if Sophia shows up any time soon. I brought my dad's pistol and a flashlight for protection. As much as I'd love to leave now, I have to crack this case.
Then again, maybe Nuzezu is not real after all.
The journal ended there. I could feel my heart pounding nearly out of my chest and I was close to tears. I'm a fan of horror movies, but not one ever felt this real to me. I threw the journal to the other side of my bed and noticed a slip of paper fall out. With one shaky hand, I picked up the note and unfolded it. It read in black marker:
P.S. Nuzezu says “hi” and he's sorry about the mess. He's just a bit too playful sometimes.
A red heart was drawn on the corner, added to the creepy essence of the already horrifying letter. I picked out a page that was in the back of the journal and saw it was a photograph. It depicted a forest path at night with only at street lamp illuminating it.
At the end if the path was the figure of a girl with long straight hair and a seemingly gray dress on. Next to her was a serpent-like creature with bat wings and scythes for hands. It had a wide grin that appeared to glow, despite it being pretty dark in the photograph.
On the back it read:
Now you know. But now you must hide. Sophia loves games, especially hide and seek. Don't let Sophia find you, Nuzezu's hungry and needs prey.
The same red heart was drawn on the back corner of the photograph under the writing.
Months after the incident, I am still paranoid. I refuse to go to the woods again, especially to any well of any kind. I tried to ask the old woman at the flea market about the contents of that journal the day after I read it for the first time, but she didn't know what I was even talking about. I burned the journal and dumped the ashes into the sewers, never to curse anyone who reads it again. Nearly every night I can still hear tapping on the glass or chuckles in the wind. Sophia and Nuzezu never show their face to me, but I know they are there... hungry....
Hungry... and waiting...