As you check your mail, you notice a letter that makes you stop in your tracks. You dig out a compact, folded square of paper with your name written on one side. You notice that it’s not sealed in an envelope, so you assume that one of your friends put the note in your mailbox since only a few of your friends know your address. But as you start to unopen it and catch a glimpse of the handwriting in the letter, you realize that the handwriting is unrecognizable and so messy you almost can’t make out some of the letters. This is not from any of your friends. You start to read the letter.
“I’ve been watching you Madison. You seem to be happy. Do you like the life you’re living? You shouldn’t get too comfortable with it because things are going to change very soon. Your parents are liars. They took something from me a long time ago and I want it back. You shouldn’t trust them too much because they’re keeping a secret from you. Although I don’t like them, I hold nothing against you Madison because you are going to help me get back what I once had. Soon, you will find out the truth.”
After you read the words of the letter, you instantly whip your head around to examine if the sender of the letter is still nearby watching you. Your palms start to sweat, and your face gets hot as you realize that the letter was not sent by any of your friends but by a mysterious, dangerous person who seems to know too much about you.
You face your house with the letter in your hand and stare at your front door that’s wide open just as you left it and suddenly feel unsafe in your neighborhood. You race into your house clutching the letter and lock the door behind you. Your first thought is to call your parents to tell them about the daunting letter, so you dash to the table in your kitchen where you left your phone, but when you see your phone, you also see something else next to it on the table. A green, wooden train sits on the table in front of you. You pick up the train that strangely appeared in your house and examine it. Oddly, it has a familiar feeling to it.
You quickly place the train back down after looking at it and grab your phone to make a phone call, but when you pick up your phone, you see a notification for a text message from an unknown number. The text you read is undoubtedly from the same person who sent you the puzzling letter.
It reads, “Do you like the train? It was yours a long time ago, so I’m returning it just like how what was mine before will all be given back to me. You won’t tell anyone about me or my letter because if you do, I will hurt your parents, your friends, and anyone you love in this world. I have lots of information and access to many things, and I have eyes everywhere. Don’t even try to get away with telling somebody because I will know, and the consequences will be severe for you. Do you want to risk the lives of your loved ones? Don’t worry, I will not hurt anyone if you just keep silent and keep on reading my messages.”
A myriad of questions fill your mind as you read the text, but you hurriedly send a message to the mystery person in hope of a reply.
“Who are you?” you type in your phone.
You wait anxiously for an answer, and a minute later you see three large dots appear in a grey text bubble. Your heart pounds rapidly while you wait on the mysterious person to finish typing a response. A few seconds after, you receive a text from the unknown number that says, “My name is not important.”
Frustrated, you type another question.
“How do you know me and my parents?”
You immediately receive a response, “I told you already. Your parents stole something from me.”
“What did they steal from you?” you ask.
“Something very, very important.”
You clench your jaw, irritated by this mystery person’s abrupt and unrevealing answers. You can’t seem to get any answers from him, so you decide to ask him irrelevant questions that he might answer which could possibly give you some information.
You type, “Have I ever met you before?”
A second later, “Yes.”
“Have I seen you recently?”
You rack your brain, searching for anyone you might have met during your childhood that knew your parents. You can’t seem to remember anything; your mind is a blank haze that seems to be spinning relentlessly. All you can remember from your past is living a peaceful life with your parents. Everything else is just a remote blur.
You suddenly get a text from the unknown sender saying, “Meet me tonight at 10 at the playground in your neighborhood. Do not bring anyone else with you. If you fail to obey these instructions, the consequences will lie with your loved ones.”
Chills shiver down your spine as you read the threatening message. A knot forms in your stomach. You check the time. It’s already 7pm. You feel uneasy about meeting this mystifying person face to face, but you don’t want to endanger the lives of anyone even more.
Time passes as you nervously check the clock repeatedly. In an instant, the time reads 9:30pm. You decide to start heading to the playground early and slip on your shoes. You hold your phone tightly in your hand and head out the door into the gloomy night illuminated by faint street lights.
Once you get to the playground in your neighborhood, you check the time. 9:45. You’re 15 minutes early. You look around to see if anyone's surrounding the playground. Not a single person is outside near you. You think about all the crime shows and documentaries about murders you’ve watched before, and the darkness seems even more terrifying to you as it crawls over your skin. You used to think that all those episodes of murderers killing and being caught were so entertaining and exciting to watch, but now it feels like you are in one of those episodes, shivering in the dark waiting for a murderer.
As your brain takes you to all these horrifying scenarios, you unexpectedly feel a tap on your shoulder. You jump and turn around, more alarmed and frantic than before. You back away a few steps and look straight at the person who stands before you.
A black hood covers the majority of the face of the person standing in front of you. Furthermore, the mysterious person stands with their head hung low, concealing almost all of their face in the blackness of the night.
“Who are you?” you ask in a shaky, high pitched voice. Your voice completely gives away your panic and fear.
“I will help you remember Madison,” the man replies in a low, raspy voice.
The voice of the masked man sounds oddly familiar, but you can’t put your finger on who the voice belongs to.
“Try and think of your past. Can you remember what your childhood was like?” the man asks.
You think hard about the time when you were a small child, but you can’t seem to think of anything. You can’t even remember your parents. It simply feels like your mind is a black void that cut out your childhood. Now that you think about it, you’ve never been able to think of your lifetime as a child. Everytime you thought about it, you couldn’t think of a single thing from your past until the middle of elementary school. Why?
“Maybe this will help you remember,” the man says as he pulls out a worn out stuffed bear from the inner pocket of his jacket.
The man extends his arm, offering you the bear. You notice that there are long, jagged scars on the back of the man’s hands. You take the bear and turn it around in your hands. You instantly remember the familiar feeling of holding this exact bear and running your fingers through the shaggy fluff on its back. You examine its face and the familiar feeling reappears. You definitely owned this bear as a child. A few memories come rushing into your head as you hold the bear tightly in your hands.
You remember playing with this bear in a bedroom as a child. You envision the bedroom again, covered in pink with toys sprawled all over the floor. You remember hiding under a pink, girlish bed while holding your stuffed bear in your arms. You remember crying while laying on that bed and wrapping your arms around the bear. You remember taking the bear with you to play in a backyard and clutching it as you rolled in the grass. Your mind feels like it has been set ablaze while memories pierce through it. Your brain is on fire; you feel a dull throb in your head while recalling so many strange memories all in a place you never knew about before.
Then, the man peels back the black hood that envelops his face, revealing his face. You stare at him, and examine every feature on his face. The shape of his bald head and creasing wrinkles in his forehead seem familiar to you. His dark eyes and defined nose and prominent chin all are familiar. Multiple scars cover his face, and you think hard as you try and recall who this familiar man is.
And then it hits you. You remember him. The part of your childhood that was always missing was absent of your memory because you blocked it out. It was gone because you didn’t want to remember it. It all comes back to you, and you realize who the man standing in front of you is.
“You are what your parents stole from me,” the man says bitterly as he grabs your arm.
Then, the world goes dark once again, and you drown in the inky blackness surrounding you a second time.