On May 4th 1989, in my town of Cumbernauld, Scotland. A 6-year old boy by the name of Connor Docherty was reported missing by his mother Joan, she reported that her son was particularly tearful one morning and seemed to be inconsolable. She attributed it to the random emotional tantrums and outbursts of a six year old, dismissing any seriousness of it. However it’s estimated that sometime that night, he vanished from his home without a trace. Detectives swooned in to try and find DNA samples left behind or other forms of evidence to confirm an abduction, but they found nothing. They worked tirelessly over the course of the next few years to try and locate the little boy but to no avail.
Connor has never been found.
Four years later on January 12th 1993, 9- year old Amy Mckenzie was playing in her garden when she vanished, her father Adam, noted that she seemed bored or disengaged, she just sat on her garden bench and seemed to just be blankly staring into the grass below her. When her father returned to the garden to beckon Amy in for dinner, she was no longer there. She was nowhere to be seen in the surrounding areas either. Neighbours did not report seeing anyone strange or see anyone acting suspiciously near or in the garden at all. There were no witnesses.
Amy has never been found.
Five years later, a similar incident occurred when 5 year old Samantha Burley disappeared. The same pattern shown in the previous two cases were present in hers, odd behaviour by the child, then a sudden and unexplained disappearance. Throughout the remainder of the nineties and the noughties, three more children disappeared in the same fashion.
Our little town had become a helpless victim of media exploitation and the police department found itself under nationwide pressure to find all these lost children. Our town has since decayed and crumbled at the wake of these events, the foundations of our town collapsed and our moral fibre and our sense of community have been completely destroyed. The place is now full of nihilistic, opportunistic youth, whiskey chugging, hopeless law enforcement and emotionally dead civilians. They just exist now, getting through another grey, rain drenched day. Then at night everyone in town cries themselves to sleep every night over their lost children. I am one of those people. As the latest of these vanished children – 8-year old Lisa Maddens – is my daughter.
She was the perfect daughter, she was always kind and polite, and had an incredible deal of maturity for someone her age, she was always respectful, humble, and for a child, rarely ever demonstrated self centeredness. She was also the most passionate and imaginative child I’ve ever laid eyes on, she personified that youthful zest for life that we as adults prayed we could gain back. She would always have an exciting story to tell you, about school, about play, or about our garden which myself and her helped populate with some of the most gorgeous roses our community has ever seen. Yes she was quite the gardener, she would ramble on for hours about it if you’d let her.
She also loved everyone she met. We adults may be judgemental and sceptical of one another when we get older but she saw the best in people. Everyone was her friend. We could all learn a lesson from her. And in the days leading to her disappearance she wasn’t showing any change in her passionate personality whatsoever, the only change in her behaviour came from when one Friday after I arrived home from work. I came in to find her already in bed, it was only six o clock and it was light out. Her mother – and my wife – Linda said that she was tired and had a giant workload at school that day. It was strange, she usually battles her sleep valiantly, but not that day, and when I walked into the kitchen, I saw that she had drawn a picture and set it up on the fridge. She was fond of doing this, she always fancied herself as a future artist, she always asked for my opinion to which I would immediately respond positively, even though I hardly ever paid attention to her doodles. The fact that I didn’t has become one of those little things that makes tears roll down my cheek now that she’s gone.
This doodle, however, did grab my attention. It wasn’t the typical childhood sketch. It involved nothing more than what seemed to be a hand sprawled palm down across the paper. I noticed that the fingers seemed longer and far more jagged and sharp than that of an average person, but this was an eight year old’s drawing I wasn’t exactly expecting technical proficiency. But what did strike me as slightly peculiar, is that the hand was completely black, it was totally monochrome, unusual for the rainbow-like doodles Lisa usually churns out. I then noticed through the window to my dismay that the flowers in our garden had begun to wither and die. The colours seem drained on them. Something that I was dreading telling Lisa.
That night Linda and I snuggled up on the couch and watched repeats of old game shows that were on we were kids, we sipped on wine and giggled at the ludicrous 1980’s haircuts. I know most people would perceive our little Friday night as boring or banal but we were as happy as we could be. That night we lay in each other’s arms, emptied the last bottle of red and fell asleep on the couch.
I awoke several hours later in the middle of the night due to the pounding rain on our window, the alcohol had taken its toll on my bladder and I needed to piss badly. I ran upstairs and did my business, after doing so I decided to check on Lisa, she had been asleep for a quite a while now after all. I creaked open her bedroom door to find the bed completely empty. My mind seemed to halt at this point, I couldn’t think. I tried to dismiss what I was seeing but I couldn’t, I felt a vile sense of dread snowballing up inside of me. I tried calling out for Lisa and checking all the rooms.
They were all empty.
My wife awoke as my calls for Lisa grew louder and more panicked. Hearing my calls for our daughter she froze –unwilling to ask me what had happened and confirm her fears– I bolted outside and began screaming at the top of my lungs
I frantically darted up and down my street to find her, awakening several of our neighbours, I pressed them to see if they had seen anything. They hadn’t. I found myself for what felt like hours wandering aimlessly through the streets that night, howling my daughter’s name to no avail. ‘How could this be fucking happening?’ I thought to myself. I still think that.
I arrived home, tear soaked and devastated to my wife, who was unable to stand or speak. She was just lying on the floor, curled up, shivering and sobbing like an infant. I covered her with a blanket and then called the police. I explained to them what happened and they said they would begin searching for her as soon as they could. I tried so desperately to force an ounce of optimism into my brain but I knew it would be false, it was just like the others. She wouldn’t ever be seen again, I knew it, my wife knew it, and I’m sure the police knew it too, although we never dared to voice that to each other, or even ourselves. I spent the rest of the night embracing my poor wife. We cried, the whole night through. They weren’t the tears of a missing daughter, they were tears of grief.
Following the incident, the police work went as expected; they found nothing. No leads, no traces as usual. The town found itself under media scrutiny once more and everyone in town was being reminded of the horror that has plagued us for over twenty years. My wife and I’s relationship became increasingly strained after the incident. She became more reserved and melancholic and began turning to alcohol to cope, something which caused an unbearable amount of friction and tension between us. As the months went on, I began to have nightmares which eventually began to spill into reality. I began to hear things and see things, horrible, deformed and repulsive apparitions of my daughter, haunting me, telling me to ‘save her’. I would see her at night when I looked out of my window, I would see her on the street waving goodbye to me, before that hand, that jagged, black hand – which has now become cemented in my memory of that night—would drag her into the shadows.
I began to isolate myself even more than I was, every time I went out I couldn’t help but feel as if I were being watched or stalked, I began to see the rain as blood and I saw people’s faces contort and fade into a light eating blackness. It was a horrifying and visceral reminder of what happened. I eventually got diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and put on strong doses of anti-psychotics and my wife was diagnosed with depression. My wife and I split up not long after that. We couldn’t live with each other anymore.
Then my wife discovered that she couldn’t live at all anymore. She took her own life not long after we split. I think that deep down I knew she was going to. I would too if I had the courage.
That was four years ago.
My current living situation consists of a one bedroom apartment I had to move to after I was let go of my job because of my illness, I now live off government welfare. I don’t do much worth elaborating on except stare out of my window into the rain.
‘It’s particularly heavy today’ I thought to myself as I dozed off in my single bed once more.
I awoke to find myself in a forest, a beautiful, colourful forest. The weather was fantastic and the sun shone brightly, illuminating the many strong, beautiful colours in the trees. The noise of chirping birds gently brushed my ears and a cooling summer breeze shifted and weaved through my hair and fingers. I was completely relaxed.
It was to this I realized that I was having that dream again. That recurring dream where I see myself and Lisa playing in these enchanted woods. It was one of my fondest memories of us. And sure enough there we were, she was swinging from one of the makeshift swings that hung off of one of the stronger tree branches, the wind blowing her beautiful golden locks through the air, her blue eyes shone bright with glee, and a giant joy filled grin stretched across her rosy cheeks. I had noticed that every time I fall into this dream I seem a further distance away from her than the last time. So I was placed fairly far back now. I watched with happiness as I see myself and my daughter together again, and sadness as I know one day I’ll be placed too far. I watched on anyway, savouring the dream when I noticed…
That wasn’t me. The man with her was not me. As my eyes adjusted from the sunlight I noticed that the man’s face, was just a pitch black void. Before I could get a closer look, heavy clouds formed at a rapid pace and it began pouring rain, obscuring my vision. I noticed my daughters smile and joyful emotion began to drain from her face until all that was left was a dead, stoic expression, the swinging slowed to a halt, and the thing leaned forward toward my daughter’s ear and seemed to whisper something to her. Her face began to contort into an expression of profound despair and she began to sob painfully. She then looked up at that being with such gut wrenching dread. I felt like running after her, grabbing and beating the shit out of whatever this thing was but I couldn’t move. I was frozen, I tried to scream but my lips were completely sealed, all I could do was watch this creature with my daughter. It then extended its hand; its grim, black, jagged hand and placed it beside her own. She reluctantly locked her hand around it’s and begrudgingly left the swing. I stared in terror as I watched my daughter being dragged, further and further into the soaking wet forest. Then, just before they faded into the rainy haze behind the trees, she turned to me, looking directly at me with those same eyes of such harrowing fear. She then mouthed something to me, something familiar. Something which I heard as if it were being uttered directly in my ear.
Everything faded to black at that point. I opened my eyes and found that tears had been rolling down my face and that body was gushing with sweat. I tried to sit upright and collect my thoughts but… I still couldn’t move. Every inch of my body felt as if it was glued to the bed, only my eyes retained any motion. I felt mummified, a prisoner within my own body as I attempted shake and flail myself free of this paralysis.
And then a thumping sound hit my ear, it came from behind my apartment door.
My eyes then fixated on the door.
It began to creak open.
I then honed my stare on what was soon to be revealed. The hand.
That horrid, jagged hand slid, digit by digit through my door. Then after black, long, disfigured and horridly inhuman limbs edged their way through the door I gazed upon the pure, all consuming darkness that stood there. A mist enveloped it, it oozed in and spread to every inch and crevice of my room, creating a hazy blanket of black fog as this spectre slowly began to enter and move toward me. I found my eyelids frozen as I tried to close them, to ignore the horror in front of me. No, again, I was forced to watch as he towered and hovered over my paralysed and petrified body, it’s pitch black face edged ever closer and closer to mine until I could feel its breath on me. It smelt of rot. I stared into the endless and bottomless black pit of its face seeing nothing but a featureless darkness.
Until it’s eye opened.
Its eyelid peeled back revealing a blinding white light illuminating from the centre of its face. It wasn’t looking at me, it was looking past me. I felt as if it was looking into my mind, as soon I felt my brain pounding, I heard it. In my head. In a gravelly low pitched tone, I heard it whisper
“Let go. Let go and you will see the truth all around you.”
Its eye then promptly shut and the darkness returned. It then raised it claw like hand, produced something and held it front of me. It resembled a piece of paper but as I looked closer I realised that it was a photograph. It was a photograph of a girl, around ten to twelve years old. She had long, overgrown and dirty hair, long, overgrown and dirty nails, torn and messy attire and her body was dotted and lined in countless bruises and cuts. I looked at the girls face.
She had a dead and soulless expression, her skin looked bloodless and dreadfully pale, and dark rings encircled a deadpan, hollow and traumatized stare.
It was then I noticed the bright blue colour of her irises, it was then I realised that this girl was my daughter.
My mind became paralysed itself at this point. It was on static. All I could hear now was a persistent, sharp and stabbing ringing in my ear, I felt it sawing and cutting my brain apart. I felt my imprisoned body writhe in disgust, and bile began to rise at the back of my throat. I felt my body collapse within itself. I felt as if I were dying. I wish I did at that point. Then a wave sorrow overtook me.
‘My poor little baby, what did this thing do to you, why would you do this, why would you hurt an innocent little girl?’
I felt like shrieking at this creature. But of course, I was still completely paralysed. It laid the photograph on my bed and I watched as it slowly shifted his way out of my apartment. The black, hellish mist following it. As soon as my apartment door slammed shut behind it, I found myself mobile again. I darted out of bed immediately, opened my door and searched up and down the hallways for the creature. But it was nowhere to be seen. I then tried to calm myself down and attributed this to my psychosis.
‘But I’m on a heavy dose of anti psychotics, How could this happen?’
I went back into my apartment, into my bathroom to try and take another dose of medication, it wasn’t exactly a safe option but I had to be sure. Just as I entered my bathroom, however, I noticed that my medication was gone, they had completely disappeared.
‘Am I regressing?’ I asked myself. ‘Did I get rid of my medication?’ ‘Did I sleepwalk?’
But I surely couldn’t be psychotic again. I hadn’t missed a dose of my medication at all. It didn’t seem possible. But that had to be it. That thing couldn’t have actually existed, It couldn’t have physically interacted with the world and got rid of my medication. Could it?
I was about to exit the bathroom, then I remembered that the ‘apparition’ had left the photograph on my bed. I recoiled back into the bathroom in intense anxiety at that point. My breathing became laboured and heavy.
‘It was just a hallucination’ I kept repeating ‘there is no photograph’.
I found myself unable to exit; I was becoming engulfed with fear at what I was anticipating. I hesitantly left my bathroom, trying to avoid all eye contact with the bed; I shuffled towards it and laid my hands on my duvet. I slowly moved my hands across it – still averting my eyes—and I came across what felt like a piece of paper, although I knew that it wasn’t. My heart collapsed and I apprehensively picked it up. My eyes met with it and my fears were confirmed. It was the photograph. It was real, it wasn’t the product of a sleep paralysis induced hallucination, I was feeling it, it was real and that WAS my daughter. And that thing, whatever it was. I knew, I just knew that it was real too.