Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Ripley N. has won second place in the 13-19 age group for the Scary Stories 2021 Youth Writing Contest with their piece "What Happened in Glen Forest"
Omnes una manet nox. That’s what it said on the invitation. Cole didn’t know much Latin, but he knew that said one, night or dark, and omnes. Many? Whatever it meant, Cole was in.
He had been delivering the weekly paper when he arrived at Taryn Nichols’ house and found the invitation in her mailbox. Listen, it was sticking out of the top of the mailbox, begging for him to look! Anyways, on the cardstock was, handwritten, a location: Glen Forest, north end; a date: tomorrow; a time: midnight. It had to be a party. Cole loved parties.
All the next day, his mind wandered more than usual. There would probably be lots of hot people, though Cole didn’t have very high standards since no one liked him back.
The night of, he drank an energy drink and got ready to go. He told his mom he was going out with friends. His parents were pretty laissez-faire, so he was allowed out without a curfew as long as it wasn’t a school night. Still, he climbed out his window so he wouldn’t have to kiss his mom on the cheek like she always makes him do. He got his bike from the side of his house and off he went.
It was pitch black when he got to the forest. Legend in their town says that whoever goes into Glen Forest comes out a changed person, but he was trying to ignore that. All he wanted to do was have fun and maybe get laid.
Cole only had a moment of hesitation standing at the road, looking into the forest, when a branch snapped behind him. He whipped around and looked, but he couldn’t see anything in the night. Sure, he was excited to go to the party, but he still had a head on his shoulders. He knew not to take any chances, so he dropped his bike and ran into the darkness in the opposite direction of the sound.
As he walked, he strained to hear any music. He was on the north end, where was this party? He walked aimlessly for a few minutes, hoping he wouldn’t get lost. Then the thing that he dreaded for his whole high school career came true.
He ran into the one and only Ezra Olson.
Cole heard him coming and turned, and then his throat closed up. This was the guy that he’d had a crush on for years, purely out of physical attraction and fear. He was extremely popular, and he had this thick, curly black hair that straightened when it was wet. Cole wanted to… he wanted to grab a handful and shake Ezra’s head around.
“Hey. You’re… don’t tell me… Cole?”
“Uh, yeah.” Cole’s voice cracked and he mentally throttled himself. Why did he have to embarrass himself like this? But then… “How do you know my name?” No one knew Cole. He always sat at the back of the classroom, ate lunch in the emptiest hallway.
“It’s my personal mission to know everyone’s name. You were on the baseball team last year?” Ezra started walking and Cole had to kickstart his brain to follow.
“Yeah, but I wasn’t very good.” If he was honest, he had only joined the baseball team to see if anyone would sleep with him. He preferred to lose his virginity to a guy, and maybe, if he played his cards right, he would get to tonight.
“I watched one of your games. I thought you were pretty good.” Ezra wasn’t looking at him, but he was smiling. Cole’s heart squeezed and he had to organize his thoughts before speaking.
“Uh, thanks, Ezra.” He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling sheepish as he fell in line with him.
Cole turned away from Ezra and saw a firelight. He’d been walking for a few minutes and he still couldn’t hear music, only chatter. This must be a lowkey party. Bummer.
He also didn’t see any drink table. He hadn’t been able to steal any rum from his parents because he’d been caught the last time he left the house late at night and he didn’t want to go through the lecturing on safe drinking again.
At least he got to talk to Ezra before he got swarmed by all his friends. He was always in the halls talking to a group of high schoolers like a preacher, which was so cool.
“Okay, bye,” Cole said meekly when Ezra walked into the crowd. When everyone saw Ezra, they went silent. It sent chills down Cole’s back. Ezra motioned for someone to come over next to Cole, and only when they stood next to him did he realize it was Taryn. She was beautiful, her waist-length hair straightened like usual. The firelight danced on her skin, making her glow, and her eyes were lit up with oranges, reds and yellows.
“Hey, what’s your name?” she asked, smiling at him, and Cole liked her a little less. She didn’t know him at all even though he went to her school and lived in her neighbourhood. She was probably one of those popular people, not the same kind as Ezra.
“Cole — Meyer. Um. Cole.” He didn’t know what to do with his hands, so he shoved them in the pocket of his hoodie and traced the ridges of his phone case. “When’s the party starting?”
“Party?” Taryn furrowed her brows, and Cole furrowed his right back.
“If there’s no party, what was the invitation for?” And shit, he wasn’t supposed to say that. He wasn’t invited.
“Oh, you must be the new recruit.”
Before Cole could ask what the fuck that meant, Ezra was speaking, stood atop a log near the fire.
“Tonight’s the night.”
“I thought it wasn’t for weeks?” Taryn whispered to herself from beside him.
“What? What isn’t for weeks? Or, what is tonight?”
“You’ll see,” Taryn said cryptically.
“Jesus.” Cole rolled his eyes, huffing out a big breath. Maybe it was a good thing he didn’t have friends. People were weird.
Ezra was still talking. “We all know the drill, right? I don’t want us messing up here.”
“Um,” Cole spoke up. “I don’t know the drill. I’m new here.”
“Oh, but you’re the most important cog in the machine! You don’t need to do anything, Cole.” Ezra hopped off the log and walked towards him. He slung an arm around his shoulders, pointing at his chest. “You are the MVP here, tonight.”
His face was so close to Cole’s. His cheeks were warming and he would obviously blame it on the heat of the fire. He spluttered, searching for an appropriate response to such a thing to say, but Ezra interrupted him.
“Taryn,” he said, turning away but not letting go of him. “You take care of Cole.” He took his arm back and Cole felt cold.
Before he knew it, he was being dragged away from the rest of the group, Taryn holding him by the wrist, and he didn’t know whether to be excited or scared out of his wits. Why was he important? Who even knew he would be here? Was he invited? He would have to check his mailbox when he got home.
They’d been walking for about twenty seconds and already Cole couldn’t stand the silence. “So, uh, you enjoying your night?” he asked.
“Yup, it’s gonna be exciting,” Taryn said in a not at all excited voice. It was obvious she didn’t want to be talking to him, so Cole zipped his lips.
Nope, he couldn’t stand it. Another twenty seconds later, he said, “So, what’s happening tonight? And why’s there no music, or drinks?”
“Because we don’t need those.” She wasn’t looking at him, and her voice was monotone.
“And what are we doing?”
“I’m getting you ready.”
“To be initiated.”
“Is this some sort of coed fraternity?”
She hesitated. “Yeah.” Something told Cole she was lying, because frats were college things, and there had to be drinks at frat parties. He went along with it anyway because he had a feeling he could pull something off with Taryn and get down and dirty. The forest wasn’t the ideal setting, but you don’t always get what you want.
They’d been walking for about five minutes when Taryn took a turn. The forest opened up into a clearing about as big as a classroom and there was a small orange tent smack dab in the middle.
“Get in,” Taryn told him.
Cole couldn’t believe it. He was going to get laid. He didn’t question anything and unzipped the tent flap and got right in. Inside was a sleeping bag, an oil lamp and a walkie talkie, nothing else. When Cole turned around, though, Taryn was zipping the tent back up.
“Hey, what the fuck?” Cole slapped at the fabric of the tent, but he could barely stand up inside of it. There was a click and when Cole tried to unzip the tent, both zipper sliders moved together. She must’ve locked them together. “What’s going on?”
Footsteps on dirt and leaves, receding. She just locked him in a tent and left. “What the fuck?” he yelled, trying the zipper again. Still not opening. He checked his phone, but he had no service, and it was almost 1 AM. He couldn’t text anyone to come save him. Not that anyone would.
“Jesus Christ,” Cole muttered, setting himself down on the sleeping bag. Then he saw the walkie talkie again. He grabbed it and lit the oil lamp, turned on the walkie talkie, testing to see if it had any battery. He had never used one before, but he was desperate. “Hello? Can anybody hear me?”
“I’m stuck in a tent in the north end of Glen Forest. If anyone’s awake listening, please come help me.”
Sighing, he pulled his knees to his chest and rested his head on his knees. He waited for a minute for an answer but received none. He tried again: “If anyone is driving on 47th Line and you see a bike, please come help me, I’m about ten minutes’ walk into the forest.”
He spent the rest of the night talking into the walkie talkie and then waiting for a response. By 3 AM, he was too tired to go on and he got under the sleeping bag. He made sure to jack up the volume and set it beside his head in case anyone responded. Cole fell asleep in minutes.
When he woke up, there was a blaring siren going off, and for a second he thought the party was found by police. Turned out, someone was setting off an airhorn right outside his tent. The oil lamp had burnt off but it was light outside. It was morning, at least 8 AM.
As he came back to his senses, he looked up and saw that the zipper sliders were in a different spot, on the top instead of the bottom. As quietly as he could, he got out from underneath the sleeping bag and lunged toward the zipper, grabbing one of the sliders and unzipping the flap.
He ducked under the flap, climbing out of the tent at top speed. Cole went to start running, hoping his conditioning from the baseball team came through, but was quickly stopped as he took in his surroundings. All the people from the “party” were encircling his tent, and there was no way out.
Cole’s eyes landed on Ezra. “Hey, um. What the fuck is going on? Why was I locked in a tent?” He had a lot more questions than that, but he just wanted to get out of the forest.
“Everyone knows you don’t show up where you’re not invited.”
Cole blanched. Ezra must’ve organized this party. It must’ve been his writing on the cardstock. “L-listen, you didn’t have to keep me hostage, you could’ve just told me to go home. Speaking of, I’ll be going now.”
Ezra smiled, but it wasn’t a friendly one. Shaking his head, he tsked, and said, “No, Cole, you’re not going anywhere. We had plans for you to come here, actually, but you just pushed up the main event by a few weeks. You’re not going anywhere.”
“What does that mean?” He felt cold. Why did he feel so cold?
“See, you needed to sleep in the open air for this, and though inside a tent isn’t the most open it could’ve been, it was enough to get you in without suspecting anything.”
“Um, I suspect a lot. But it would be nice if you could get to the point and tell me what’s going on.” Did everyone here go through this? Was this a hazing ritual?
“Cole, if you scream, this will only be harder for all of us. So keep quiet.”
Then he brought out a knife. It was at least a foot long, the metal tinted black. There were a few inches of serration, probably meant for — for cutting through bone. Cole swallowed around the lump in his throat, feeling his stomach turn.
“Listen, we don’t need to do this, Ezra, come on, we can talk it out! I promise I won’t ever come to your party again! Just please let me go,” Cole begged, putting his hands together in a plea.
“This isn’t about my party. It wasn’t a party, Cole. It was never a party.”
“Then what the fuck was it?” Cole was getting more and more agitated, Ezra was freaking him out. What was he going to do with that knife?
“We’re an organization for the preservation of youth.”
“What the hell does that mean? You’re going to turn me into a baby?”
“No, Cole. When we eat a young, healthy person’s heart and brain, we gain their youth.”
Then someone came up from behind Cole and pressed a cloth to his mouth.
When he awoke, he was on a table, naked. He tried to sit up but he was tied down. He looked around and saw he was surrounded again. Cole saw Taryn, looking off into the distance somewhere to his right. She wasn’t looking at him. “Taryn, please, just let me out and I won’t tell anyone!”
Then Ezra walked in between two guys. Tracing the blade of the knife, he looked up at Taryn. “Go on, let him go, Taryn. He won’t tell anyone.” His voice was light, but there was something dangerous about his tone. Taryn did nothing.
Cole recoiled as Ezra stepped closer. “Calm down,” he said, and Cole realized he was hyperventilating. “You’re not going to get out now, so might as well calm down and make this easier for all of us.”
“Please, can I tell my mom I love her? Please?” Cole’s voice was pathetic. He felt hot tears run down his face into his ears. Ezra tutted, shaking his head and inspecting the blade of the knife. He was too comfortable with a weapon.
“Now, if you make this easy, I’ll make it quick. Just cooperate, you can’t get out.” Ezra motioned for everyone to move back and then stepped closer to the table.
A scream ripped from Cole’s throat as Ezra pressed the knife’s tip into his chest, just above his sternum. He put just enough pressure that Cole couldn’t breathe, and blood spurted from the cut. He pulled the knife down, and his skin split in two, his veins pouring blood by the litre.
He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe!
Ezra passed the bone and was cutting into soft tissue, into his stomach. Cole felt a warmth spill over, his stomach acid spreading over the table. The pain was unbearable, he just wanted to die. “Please, just kill me!” His legs and shoulders were shaking and he was pretty sure he’d had an accident.
“There’s a process to this, Cole,” Ezra said calmly. “I need to get rid of all your organs except the heart and brain. I can cook those, but nothing else.” He was slicing across his hip line, making a T with the knife. “I mean, the intestines are safe to eat, but that’s nasty. The liver has too much cholesterol since we’re already eating the heart. But don’t worry, we’ll do the brain last. It’s only humane.”
Cole was crying, trying to pull back from the knife, but it was no good, Ezra wouldn’t stop. Would it even help if he stopped now? He would bleed out anyways, he wouldn’t live no matter what, now.
Ezra opened the flap of Cole’s skin and put on gloves. Cole’s crying got to a hysterical point, he was yelling, tears running down his face. “No! Please, please, it’s okay, you can stop now, I won’t tell anybody, just drop me off at the hospital—”
And then Ezra dug his hand into Cole’s abdomen, wrapping his fingers around his small intestine. He pulled as Cole screamed, letting the organ fall out onto the ground with a slick, disgusting noise.
It was excruciating. Cole wanted nothing more than to die. Ezra kept going until all of his intestines were on the dirt. He reached back in and started for his kidneys, throwing them behind him carelessly as Cole’s screams got quieter. He was succumbing to the blood loss, his vision fading to black.
“Ezra, please…” Cole whispered, no longer able to speak at full volume. “Come on, I— I liked you…”
He couldn’t hold up his head any longer and he finally stopped feeling the pain. He let his head loll to the side and he looked at the blood stained shirt of the person beside his head. His ears rang and he couldn’t hear the sounds of his organs being removed anymore. All he could feel was pressure, and then pulling. His abdomen must be an empty cavern now.
“Please… just— just kill me,” Cole said, his voice no louder than the wind. He kept his eyes on the splatter of blood on the person’s shirt. If Ezra responded, he didn’t hear it.
As his vision went, Cole felt— he felt better.
He wasn’t completely dead when Ezra started drilling into his skull. His body lit on fire, every nerve screaming at him to get up and move, and so he tried, but Ezra was holding him down, drilling deeper, deeper, deeper, until he got through bone and reached the brain. Cole couldn’t make a noise if he tried, his vocal chords were too raw. He still couldn’t see, he just felt. It was grueling.
The drill left his skull and came down in another spot. By then, he’d lost too much blood, he was seconds from dying. Those last few seconds were worse than ever. He hurt all over, he couldn’t feel anything other than pain.
When he finally died, he was a shell of a human, but he couldn’t have been more grateful for death than he was at that moment.
Two nights later, police found Cole Meyer’s remains in the same place that he died. The group had left town after they ate the organs, and there was a nationwide search for Ezra Olson and crew.
The local news covered the story a week before Ezra and the rest of the group were found in a cottage off the Mississippi River, having killed two more.