(T.W. cults, child abduction, death)
Since coming back to visit my hometown, the nightmares have returned. My therapist told me this might happen and suggested writing the entire event down in a journal after the nightmares. She said it would help calm me down, a false lie, but here I am doing it anyways…
I was twelve years old when my life ended. I was talking with Emma, who else. She was my best friend, we were born at the same hospital, two days apart. I was shy, quiet, and didn’t know how to talk to others. She was the opposite; it seemed like everywhere we would go she would make friends. It didn’t help that she was gorgeous, almond-colored skin with freckles, and green eyes, who wouldn’t want to be her? The way her smile lit up the whole room, or at least it used to.
I’m getting ahead of myself, the point was Emma and I were best friends, we never did anything alone. That was until that summer anyways…
The air was humid, sticky, the kind where it felt like you were in someone's mouth. My blonde braids stuck to my t-shirt, coated in sweat. Emma and I were walking back from the pool, towels draped over our shoulders, hair dripping beaded water droplets.
“Benny Bateman told me that there’s a cult in our forest,” Emma said suddenly, “He told me that my dad’s a part of it,” she growled.
I laughed, “A cult? With your dad in it? No way!” I glanced at her, eyebrows raised.
“Yeah, Benny said that they take girls and fulfill their fate,” Emma said, her eyebrows furrowed. “I kinda want to see for myself, ya know?” She asked, kicking a pebble along the sidewalk.
I shook my head, “What fate? We live in the most basic town in the entire world,” I laughed. “Plus, if there was a cult, I would never wanna see for myself; I’m perfectly happy here,”
“Yea, but still, wouldn’t you wanna see? Plus, Benny said that that’s why Morgan disappeared.”
Morgan was a teenage girl who mysteriously vanished about a decade ago. Police reported her as a runaway, that was until they found her dead, mangled, body hidden in the forest behind a rock.
“The police said she got mauled by bears,” I mumbled, trying to hide the anxiety in my voice.
“Because they didn’t want to deal with a cult!” A voice yelped from behind. Emma and I both jumped.
“Jesus Benny, you scared us!” She yelled, throwing her towel at his face. He ducked, his messy brown hair flying in front of his face.
“Hey Emma, hey Bella,” he said, staring us both in the eyes. “And I’m not lying,” he sang, “About the cult house; it is there. My dad and I found it while out hunting,”
Emma raised her eyebrows, skeptical. “Do ya have any pictures?” Arms crossed as she glared daggers at his eyes.
Benny shifted his weight uncomfortably, “Well… no, we just got the hell outta there,” he told his shoes.
“Yeah right” I scoffed. “There’s no way a cult exists,”
“You’re just looking for attention!”
“No! I just think you girls are scared,”
That was it. We were visiting the cult house. Emma was smart but she didn’t back down from a challenge.
“That is a phony lie, Benny Bateman!” she screamed. “We’ll go to your stupid cult house and prove it to you.”
“Emma, do we have to?”
“You don’t have to, but I will,” she stated. A gnawing feeling grew at the bottom of my stomach. I didn’t like the idea of visiting a cult house, but Emma visiting one by herself I liked even less.
“N-no, I’m going,” I puffed my chest. “Prove to Benny that he’s an idiot,”
We arranged to have a sleepover Friday night and go find the cult house on Saturday. Using the scribbled-out map Benny drew for us, Goldfish, and flashlights, we set out on our expedition.
It was a nice day, the trees shaded us from the burning sun, a light breeze keeping us cool.
“Do you think there is a cult house?” I asked.
“Gosh Bella, you are so gullible. No, I just wanna prove to Benny that my dad isn’t in a cult. He can’t be a part of a cult that doesn’t exist,” she laughed.
I processed this, then blurted, “Hey, I am not gullible!”
We laughed and continued on the road. We talked about the usual stuff, how we were excited for seventh grade and what boys we liked, and who we thought was a part of the cult.
“Hey, I heard Ms. Florence was a part of the cult,” I said.
“Yeah right, the lady’s like 90 years old and has five cats, she’s the leader for sure,” Emma snorted as I giggled.
The sun was setting and we still hadn’t found it. The sky was a pale pink, our goldfish supply out. The trees seemed thicker than before, so much so that we had to walk sideways between trunks. The once light breeze now became a vicious wind, hungry for cold.
“Emma,” I sighed, “Can we just go home? I’m hungry and cold,”
She rolled her eyes, “Five more minutes?”
Five more minutes turned into ten, and ten turned into twenty.
Then we found it. A large farmhouse hidden by the trees. It had brown siding and gray shingles, a well-manicured patio, and a lawn. Not at all what I was expecting.
I stood, frozen in fear as Emma dashed in front of me.
“Look! We found it! Benny isn’t a liar after all!”
I glanced around, my heart pounding out of my chest, taking a deep breath. As I took a step forward, my foot crunched as it landed. Lifting my foot, it revealed a mouse, its head dislocated from its neck. The fur and whiskers were stained with blood.
I could feel the vomit rising in my throat, I wanted to leave, now.
“Bella,” Emma called out, distracting me from my thoughts, “The front door’s unlocked!”
I shook my head, “No, we’re not going in.” My voice trembled.
“Come on, it’s not that big of a deal,” she said as she began to open the door.
“Emma stop! I’m really scared, can we just go home?” I cried, finally letting my fear show.
She stared at me, her gaze softening, “Yeah, this place is pretty spooky,” she soothed. “Do you have your phone to take a picture?”
I sniffed, “Y-yeah,”
“Great, then let's go home.” She grasped my hand as we began to leave.
“Hey!” A voice called out, and we jumped. Behind us was a large man. He was tall, his beard long, and a gruff expression across his face. And the worst part, he had a large ax resting on his shoulder.
“What are you kids doing here?” He asked, confused as we stood, paralyzed in horror.
“Oh, no, I’m not gonna hurt you,” He realized, tossing the ax to the ground. “It’s just that there’s bears here, I don’t want you girls getting hurt,”
“Oh,” Emma sighed in relief. “We just heard that there was a cult in the forest and we wanted to see if it was true.”
He laughed loudly, “There ain’t no cult here, I’m fixin’ up the property to rent out to campers.”
“Oh,” I mumbled, embarrassed.
He smiled, taking a step towards us, “I just have one question for you girls.”
The last thing I saw was his fist racing toward my face as he asked.
“Do you know your fate?”
I woke up, my head throbbed, the taste of blood on my tongue. As I tried to stand, I noticed my arms and legs were bound to a tree by a rope. Emma was across from me, also bound, but she was unconscious. I tried to call out to her but found I had no voice, my throat raw and bleeding.
That was when I noticed my surroundings. Several dozen figures gathered in a circle around us, a giant bonfire in the middle. They wore black cloaks, with a white mask. The white masks had red marks on them, some had no marks. The figure in the center, their mask was entirely red.
Tears streamed from my face, I sobbed silently as the figure in red approached me, chanting the same words over and over again.
“Your fate will be fulfilled. Your fate is sealed. Fate is predestined. You belong to the Lord now.”
I don’t remember much about that night, all I remember is that I woke up in the forest, in extreme pain. I had several broken bones; I knew that for sure. Nothing made sense anymore. I was in sixth grade, supposed to be innocent, happy, joyful, not whatever this was.
I sat in pain for hours before it occurred to me that Emma wasn’t by my side. I couldn’t scream her name, cry out, anything. I wandered around for hours mindlessly, losing hope that she was here.
Until I found her. Behind a large rock was her body. Crumpled up, tossed aside. Her neck tilted at a funny angle, and dried blood pooled around her. I was going to be sick; her hair was cut crudely, her nose broken. She was unrecognizable, her signature smile gone, a mouth wide open, frozen in a scream.
I ran, I ran and I ran and I ran. Away from the forest, away from Emma, away from the cult house. I ran until I reached our town.
Five days, we had been missing for five days. Our small town had turned upside down, and the towns nearby had as well. I spent three months in the hospital recovering from multiple rib fractures, a pneumothorax, and a destroyed larynx. It was said I would never be able to talk again, so when I was brought in for police investigation I had to write.
I told them everything, every single detail. About Benny, how we planned it, Emma’s crumpled disfigured, dead body. Two things made them believe me, the strange symbols carved all over my skin, they were burn marks. And the dead body of Emma, who had the same symbols carved into her.
The police’s official statement was that two girls were kidnapped by a cult and tortured. They left the girls for dead, one died of her injuries, the other survived.
I’ve suffered a great deal since then, the trauma, PTSD, and horrors I’ve had to face have been nothing short of a nightmare. The part that haunts me is that the cult was never found.
Until last week…
A girl was found in the woods, behind the same rock, symbols carved into her skin, dead. I was invited to speak at her funeral and give some comfort as I went through the same thing. I did just that, shared remorse, loss, and inspirational messages.
But the cult is still out there, doing the same thing, torturing the same little girls.
Hungry for more…