Posted on the cracked.com forums for a scary story contest.
There was a small patch of forest behind the house I was raised in. It was large enough for my friends and I to run around in, playing games, but not so large that there was a real chance of any of us getting lost in it.
Except for the time I did. One day when I was twelve, I disappeared overnight in a patch of woods where it should only take fifteen minutes to walk from one end to the other.
I was with Danny, my kid brother, and we were going to the pond to look for toads that day. And in a fit of inspiration you'll understand if you have a little brother, I decided to give him a scare. I took off running into the trees and started to zig and zag until I couldn't hear him yelling for me anymore. I knew that when he couldn't find me, he'd head to the pond anyways, and then I'd have an opportunity to jump out and to scare the crap out of him.
But after I'd ditched Danny, I couldn't figure out where I was, even though I'd spent enough time in those woods to recognize every inch of them. Over the years, I'd left my mark in countless places, too, but that day I couldn't find any trace of my presence.
The first thing I did was try to retrace my footsteps, but I'd been running in every direction, twisting my way through the trees, and I almost immediately lost my own trail. Biting down on a little panic, I figured my best bet would be to pick a direction and walk - the woods were small enough that I couldn't go wrong that way. Worse case scenario, I'd walk right into Mrs. Carris' backyard and she'd give me an earful for "trespassing".
But after what seemed like far too long, at least an hour, I still hadn't made any headway. I hadn't found my way out, and hadn't seen a single thing I recognized. In fact, the trees seemed denser, and the foliage thicker, than I'd ever seen in our tiny forest. Looking up then, I noticed how the trees, taller than any I knew, taller than it seemed trees could possibly grow, blocked out the light. It couldn't have been later than noon, but the forest looked dark, as if it was already well into the evening. But it was hot. The temperature seemed to have skyrocketing, and I was pouring sweat. It got so bad that I tore off my jean jacket and left it lying by the foot of a tree.
I completely lost my shit right around then, and started running and shouting, and didn't let up until I tripped over an exposed root and crashed down into a thick bed of black and green moss. The wind was knocked out of me for a second, and all I could feel was my heart trying to pound right out of my chest, and when I could breathe again I did so in long, ragged gasps, and I just lay there until I ran out of terror.
When I got up, I wasn't alone. About fifteen feet ahead, in the shadow of a twisted, dead tree, was another boy. I couldn't see his face, but he was pale and scrawny, and his shorts and t-shirt were filthy.
"Hey!" I called. "I'm lost. You live around here?" He stepped back further into the darkness. "C'mon, dude, I'm shitting myself here. Where's the road?"
"I live here," he said. He voice cracked a little when he talked, which I guess put him right around my age.
"Great," I said with a grin. "Can you help me get home? I'm completely turned around."
"Maybe," he said. "If I do, can I come with you?"
"Uh...sure?" I answered. He was creeping me out a little, but at that point, I'd have let Hitler hang out with me if he'd just get me home before I started crying, or something. But then he stepped out of the shadows, and I shrieked so hard that it felt like something tore in my throat, because he didn't have a face. At all. His skull was just an egg-like pale blob.
I must have imagined it, I know. I must have been delirious, or in shock. That's what numerous therapists have told me since, and they said it often enough that I believed them. That's about all I can remember of it, too - the faceless thing came out of the shadows, and I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran again, and then it's all gone. The first of my recurring blackouts. The aforementioned therapists say that they're psychosomatic, that there's no physical cause to them. I got lost in the woods, and it scared me a little crazy, in other words.
I believed that too, for the longest time. I stumbled out of the woods at dawn, almost an entire day after I went into them, and I was slowly convinced that the whole thing was a stress-induced hallucination. I stayed away from those woods for five years until we moved away from the house, and almost completely forgot about them until I got an email last month. Danny sent it to me.
A construction company was tearing up the woods behind our old house, it read, and they'd found a body. He linked me to the story: the body was a young boy, around twelve years old. About fifteen years dead, impossible to identify, dental records don't match any missing persons cases. The body had been wrapped in a jean jacket and buried at the foot of a tree. And the autopsy showed that the boy's face had been removed.
"Gruesome, isn't it?" Danny's email reads. "Didn't you get lost in there around that time?" Yes Danny, yes I did. "Maybe you found him or something. It'd explain the blackouts and shit."
I've got another explanation for the blackouts. It's crazy, though. It doesn't make any sense. But I think about it every time I look into the mirror, which I do far too often recently. I can spend an hour there, sometimes, just kind of prodding my face. I think about it after I black out, too, and that seems to be happening with a lot more frequency these days.
Did he take me home? Did he come with me? Or did I go with him? He must have needed a face much more than that poor boy under the tree, the one wrapped in my old jean jacket. The one whose dental records, I'd bet, look an awful lot like mine used to, around the time I got lost in the woods.