Childhood memories have a sort of dreamlike quality to them. You could be forgiven for fudging the details a little bit because who really knows what happened? Then there’s repressed memories.
Big fad in the 80s. Supposed recovery of repressed memories of ritual Satanic abuse. All of which turned out to be fabricated. With the smallest suggestion, in that state the mind fills in the blanks with whatever it pleases. Sometimes, whatever it fears.
I’m not an expert in any of this. It’s just what I tell myself so I can go on with my life. I had some unfortunate formative experiences that until recently I doubted were real. It is still the easiest option to conclude they never happened. My life stays simple that way. The alternative opens up a can of worms I would’ve left shut, if I’d had the choice.
I remember the cabin on the island. Vacation home my father helped his mother build when he was thirteen. The land was passed down through the generations, originally costing mere pennies. The cabin didn’t get built until the mid 1970s though.
This was real wilderness. A treat for young me to explore. I was sternly reminded time after time to stay close to the cabin. Bears were after all numerous out here, as were wolves and other assorted animals. Nobody warned me about the ‘little ones’ though.
Childhood is also the time when you have the most difficulty separating fantasy and reality. When I was younger still, I had imaginary friends who were absolutely real to me. My fantasies engulfed my perception so completely that when I encountered them for the first time, I wasn’t even surprised.
They vary in size but none were smaller than my pinky and none larger than my middle finger. Two arms, two legs but shriveled little faces which looked neither human nor animal. Emaciated, and blackened everywhere as if burnt.
They complained of a hunger that food could not satisfy. Looking feeble as they did I felt sorry for them and eagerly listened to their pleas. I was to bring them any sharp things I could find which were small enough for their use. So I did.
Dad complained of the missing scissors. “Shit seems to grow legs in this place” he grumbled. Mom noticed her sewing needles were gone and questioned me. I feigned ignorance. All for my little friends.
When I began to find the mice, shrews and squirrels out in the woods, I had second thoughts. All were pinned to the ground with the sewing needles the way you’d mount a butterfly in a collection case, or the way you’d restrain a frog during dissection.
They were cut open groin to neck. All of the insides were missing. I could see footprints of dried blood leading away but they faded after very few steps. It was enough to realize what I’d done. I dearly loved little animals, so the thought that I’d indirectly brought them to harm was troubling.
They came to me that night. I lay in my bed, lights off, scanning the corners of the ceiling for bogeymen. Then came the tapping at the window. I did not react. Scraping followed. They’d brought tools.
I relented and opened the window a crack, then dashed back to bed and pulled the covers over my head. When I felt brave enough to peer out, they stood lined up at the foot of my bed. I asked what they wanted. They answered directly inside my head as if steering my thoughts.
“We fled our home. Narrow escape, can never go back. But the laws differ here. Our bodies do not work and are breaking down. Many have perished already. Our medicine is advanced. We can build new bodies suited to this place, but we need parts.”
I wanted to shout or scream at them. But I was afraid. They wanted understanding, but I couldn’t oblige. I was complicit in something I went into blindly and now wanted out of. They wouldn’t allow it.
Dad came home with one of the animal carcasses the next day. I heard him talking in hushed tones with mom about it. “Hunters? Demented teenagers? Never seen anything like this.” I continued to act as though I knew nothing.
Mother made a trip to town later and along with groceries and other supplies, she brought me a trio of cute little teddy bears. They were about six inches high with swivel joints in the limbs so you could pose them. I told her I loved the gift and gave her a big hug.
Chores went smoothly. And kept my mind off of things. That and a heavy dinner knocked me out. Once in bed I thought I’d drift off quickly, until I noticed the bears had moved. It wasn’t something my mother was likely to do.
For one thing, they had stitches up the front of their bodies. For another they now had small fingers and held needles. Here and there small blotches of dried blood stained the fabric. I lay frozen in place, beads of sweat forming.
So slowly that at first I wondered if it was really happening, their heads turned to face me. I pulled the covers over my head. My eyes teared up. When I peeked out, they were no longer on the shelf. I was afraid to check the floor.
I took shelter again. But minutes passed and my curiosity got the better of me. When I peeked again they still were not on the shelf. I gingerly got out of bed, turned on the lights and searched the room. Only a faint trail of blood drops remained, leading to the window.
Sagging grades and social difficulties after we returned home led my parents to send me to a child psychologist. I made as much small talk as I could but he eventually wrung the whole story out of me. Had a thousand and one ideas for what could have “actually happened”.
I did learn alot from him. Like how to pretend to be normal so as not to alarm anyone. Thoughts of my little friends still returned now and then. I drew sketches, a mistake in retrospect. When my parents found them we had a big fight about how I needed to grow out of it, how it was all to get attention.
They didn’t feel like shelling out more money for therapy. Dad’s idea was to take another trip to the cabin. I’d declined the past two years. He figured an uneventful Summer trip to the place where I thought all of it occurred would finally put the matter to rest.
We passed a lot of cop cars as we got close. The radio was broken, Dad’s view was that there wasn’t anything on there worth listening to, classic Dad reasoning to cheap out of having it fixed or replaced. Too bad. We might’ve had some warning.
Maybe they knew I was coming. Maybe our timing was just lousy. We drove through town to find the streets empty. Homes were boarded up. Businesses were closed. Except the department store. We needed supplies to restock the cabin, so despite the fact that it looked deserted, we headed in.
The aisles were as empty as the streets. Many lights were either altogether broken or flickered on and off sporadically. I noticed a newspaper on the floor with a headline reading “Back woods murders continue, organ removal deemed ritualistic by police chief.”
The cart loaded up with food, we swung by the clothing section for new swimsuits. I almost apologized for running into someone before I realized it was a mannequin. There were about a dozen of them modeling various garments. Made me wish the lights worked in this department.
I should’ve looked a little closer. Wouldn’t have taken long. After all there’s no good reason why a mannequin should be stitched shut. When we looked up, they were all around us.
Dad laughed, figuring it was a prank. “Alright, come out. Good one, didn’t even see you move ‘em.” They chose this point to begin moving themselves.
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