I’ve never shared this before because, really, where do you talk about something like this? Well, that and the fact that I have just been really hesitant to talk about it and make it real again after working so hard to make it a faint memory, like a faded dream after you wake up. Do you know how some dreams leave that impression that doesn’t fade? Even when actual memories do, things like what you did three Easters ago or who came to your tenth birthday party; real memories just seem to drift to the waste bin while some bit of a dream where you were running away from your father and your legs turned into big, orange flashlights stays at the front of your mind. Yeah, I know it sounds stupid but it was a real, recurring dream; too dumb to make up, it’s true. I would be running, knowing that he was chasing me to kill me, and my legs would turn into these stupid, cheap orange flashlights that we used to own when I was a kid. Of course, with flashlight legs I could hardly run. I had no knees to bend and I would just start clomping along while he got closer and closer. Thankfully, I always woke up right before he got to me. But that crap still sits in the front of my ready recall while something nice like what I got for Christmas when I was thirteen is lost to me.
That was a dream anyway. But there is this real memory that I wish would drift off. I really will it to but it won’t. Maybe it’s because no one else knows it and it doesn’t want to die. Maybe if I share it, give it another home, it will leave me and let me forget it. I know that it’s not very kind of me, passing along something terrible like that, but I figure no one is forcing you to read this, whoever you are, and maybe you can take it and forget it like I cannot. Anyway, I think that I’m stalling. I cannot believe how my heartbeat and pulse are rising just as I start thinking about writing this. Ok, here I go.
I was nineteen years old. Nineteen years and eight months actually; I remember because I was born at the end of March and this was Thanksgiving. I’d already had an early dinner with my family. My grandmother had passed away just a couple of months earlier so this was not a very festive time. We pretty much ate in silence and then just went our separate ways. I decided to go for a drive. I knew where there was a pond back behind a development; it was in a nice grassy valley just past some woods and about a half an hour drive away so I figured I’d head there, just stare at the water and smoke a cigar. Yeah, I know, just what every nineteen year old does with his evening. I was a dumb teen. I smoked cigars because no one else my age did. Stupid. Anyway, I drove back to the end of the houses, to the end of the court which ended at some trees and beyond which I knew there was a fairly worn foot-path down a hill and to the pond. I parked and started walking, biting the end off of my Bances cigar and lighting it up. I knew that once I was on the trail I was pretty much out of earshot of the houses but I was still doing my best to be fairly quiet; watching my step and gently moving overhanging branches out of my way as I walked. I think the fact that I was being so quiet was the only reason that I even heard her clear her throat. Just ahead I heard the grumbled sound as I’d reached the end of the path and I just thought, “Aw crap, someone else is actually here.” I had wanted some time alone, in the quiet, to just sit and think and I’d thought that this place would be perfect. I’d been here before in the daytime to fish and even then I rarely saw anyone else. Thanksgiving night seemed even less likely a time to expect company.
It was a pretty dark night. The sky was clear but the moon was almost completely black. My eyes were adjusted to the gloom well enough to see where I was going but to stare too far ahead I really couldn’t make out much detail. I certainly did not see anyone else down by the pond. I was sure that I was as dark to them as they were to me so I assumed that they must have seen the glowing tip of my cigar because I then heard a voice from somewhere ahead ask. “Hey, do you have a light.” To my surprise it was a female voice. Maybe it’s sexist but I wondered that a woman would go out in the dark to an isolated pond alone. This might not be the city but it just sounded dangerous. Then again, I never felt any danger. Hearing her voice, which sounded normal enough, I was no more than mildly startled to be addressed.
“Um, sure. Sorry, where are you?” I still could not see anyone but I was looking in the direction from which I thought I’d heard her speak.
She laughed a little. “I’m right here. Can’t you see us?”
“Us?” I thought to myself and then asked out loud.
“Well yeah, silly, us. And just one of you.” I started to sweat a little then. When she said it her voice didn’t turn evil or anything like you might imagine in a horror movie. She didn’t speak “you” in a deep, dark voice. She spoke it just as normally, as pleasantly, as she had everything else. And then I felt dumb. Of course a girl didn’t come out here alone. She and some of her girlfriends did. That made more sense. They were probably just all hanging out. Still, probably not a good idea for them to talk to me. What if I were some psycho?
“Sorry, I can’t see you. Where are you?” I asked again. But she didn’t answer. “Uh, hello?” I asked out loud, still not really freaked out but a little spooked.
“Here.” a voice whispered into my left ear. “And here.” another whispered into my right. I swept my head from side to side but saw nothing. I felt someone blow into my ear and I turned and grabbed in the dark. I caught her arm just at the elbow and she shrieked, not in fear but as if playing a game, “Eee, you got me! He got me, he got me!” That’s when the laughter started all around me. What the hell? I couldn’t tell how many voices there were but it sounded like they all were female except for one.
“Tag, you’re it.” he said just above a whisper, his voice coming from the path right behind me. He did not sound like he was playing a game though. My heart went to instant overdrive. I let go of whatever girl I had just “got” and ran for the pond, hoping that maybe if I got away from the path and into the open I might be better able to see them. After all, they seemed able to see me clearly enough, cigar or not. “But that doesn’t help”, I thought to myself and dropped the stupid thing. As I ran I could feel hands from the dark slapping at my sides, not really trying to grab me, just teasing. I could make out their gray shapes, their smiles brighter in the dark, and I could hear them laugh and giggle and taunt, “Run, run. You’re it.” I remember thinking that it couldn’t be real. This was the stuff of really poorly made horror movies. People did not do things like this. Knowing that it had to be a stupid prank that was probably being filmed in night vision and would end up with me being the chicken-crap loser on the funny YouTube video, I stopped running and turned around.
“Alright, then. If I’m it then I chase you.” I tried to sound brave as I said it but I still could not see anyone very well at all even though I could now see their basic outlines; there were at least eight of them. “And here I come.” I started striding right towards the biggest looking one, the one I assumed was the man I had heard behind me at the exit of the trail. He would see that I wasn’t just some stupid victim. I was angry. I walked right up and swung. He did not even try to move and I felt my fist connect with his nose. “Screw you!” I shouted and walked for the path to leave.
I saw two very tall silhouettes there at the mouth of the path and behind me I heard the male voice say, “Tag. I’m it.” I just lost it. I ran at the two tall shapes and watched them shift to stand shoulder to shoulder but I just put down my head and charged. It felt like I’d run into a wall when I hit them and then I felt their fists as they pounded the back of my head and my neck.
I curled up on the ground and just yelled, “Why are you doing this?” Cliched, I know, but trust me. If you are ever in a situation like this I bet you’ll ask the same thing. It all made no sense, there was no reason. If you’re going to die you at least want to know why. At some point they stopped with a final kick to my stomach. They hadn’t beaten me too badly because I was still conscious but gasping for breath. Then I felt a kiss on my neck and a female voice asking, “What are you thankful for?”
“What?” I asked. This was just wrong.
“You heard me. What are you thankful for? It is Thanksgiving. Won’t you tell us? Or should we start first?” She laughed then and I heard them all start taking turns saying all of the things for which they were thankful.
“Rope” one girl shouted.
“Duct Tape”, said another.
“Sticks and stones” said one of the males.
“Thin skin.” said one, “and sad eyes.” said another.
“Dark moons.” Another male voice
“Dark bruises” spoken almost seductively.
“Pumpkin pie!” shouted one of the women and they all laughed at that.
Then, right in my ear, the female who had kissed my neck whispered, “Victims.”
I knew that they were going to kill me then. The way that she said it took away any doubt. They wouldn’t just beat me and leave. I still didn’t know why or what I had done to provoke all of this. I felt her place a knife against my throat then as she said, “Stand up, pretty please.” I was sure that this was the same woman who had asked for a light. I stood up.
“Do you still want a light?” I asked. She then laughed so hard that I could feel the knife in her hand shaking against my neck as she shook with laughter. Funny, but she did have a pretty laugh.
“Sure honey. Give me a light.” I reached into my pocket and, before I could let myself reason through things, pulled my hand out with my pocket knife, flicked the thumb tab and stabbed to my right, into what I assume was her stomach. She was so stunned that she dropped the knife at my neck. How easily could she have just slit my throat then? I ran, slashing the air in front of me with the small knife in my hand, directly at the mouth of the path. I could see it, lighter than the trees on either side. It was not currently blocked by the two men; they must have assumed that they had me already. I felt a hand grab my arm and I slashed it twice until it let go. Things happened so fast but it felt like slow motion. I ran up the path, tripping but not falling, and made it to my car. I jumped in and started it, headlights lighting up the path in front of me. No one followed. I drove home cursing and screaming the whole way, filled with adrenaline.
I did not go to the police, I have not told anyone and I still don’t really know why; maybe because I stabbed someone, actually stabbed someone. I can still recall how that feels and it is sickening. I threw my knife away. It was a present from my brother but I just could not look at it. I think that is the worst part, that I stabbed someone. That is the part that I can’t get out of my mind. There was a feel and a sound to it; I just can’t describe it. It was horrible.
Like a fool I did go back to the pond the next day, during the day of course. I don’t know what I expected to see but there was nothing. No one else was there. No pentagram burned in the grass or abandoned abduction kit. No pools of blood that I could see. Anyway, that was the last time that I went to the pond. I hope that after sharing this I can just let this become a forgotten memory. I am so sorry.