It was a seemingly quiet place; the only way into the town was an almost invisible side road at the end of a quiet country lane. It radiated ‘1980s small town America’ vibes with its pastel, wooden weatherboarding and the verandas hanging from the top left corner of every just-too-perfect house. The main street was plastered with shops – everywhere. They were copied and pasted into every nook and cranny. Their red and white striped canopies just sat there swaying, looking all pretty.
The occasional missing poster would pop up in the police station window, but people would no longer stop to look.
For decades, rumours of mythical creatures swirled like a whirlwind around the town; stories and legends of murderous, destructive creatures that tore apart its unsuspecting victims and hid the bodies deep into the moor, never to be seen again, and many were right, although they didn’t realize that this ‘mythical’ monster was no more real than the rest of us. Lurking among our streets, walking every corridor, even getting into our houses. Eating and breathing; walking and talking and living with us.
Some even linked the disappearance of some of the kids from the wealthiest family in town. They drove around in Porsches and Chevrolets, breaking dress code daily. They lived in their own world, a world moulded from clay, plastic and a couple hundred million dollar bills.
That was, at least, until they went missing.
First it was Noah and Lana Valente, the kid from field hockey, Josh from the soccer team, Elle the choir kid and Amanda from the school newspaper. The list goes on. Everybody and everything was just too perfect; perfection to the point where people could honestly say ‘I woke up like this.’ Unbelievable, right? But of course, there had to be the misfits; the black stallions in an ocean of white show ponies.
That was me.
It all started at Taylor Murphy’s house. We’d been at school, slagging the new mathematics teacher and getting into trouble. Our new topic was Chilli Chics, the school’s rip-off version of Spice Girls. The usual. My parents wouldn’t be back from work until 8:30pm and I promised them I wouldn’t go out, but I went to Taylor Murphy’s house anyway. More trouble. They’d put me on strict house arrest since the disappearances, wanting to know where I was every second of every minute of every hour of every day. I’d practically lost my mind.
Taylor was different; ever so slightly more sadistic than the rest of us. Taylor was bullied, you see. The tall scrawny kid with the black buzzcut who’d been in and out of foster care since he was twelve. I didn’t expect what came next, but a post notification from the town’s police Instagram confirmed it all.
RIVER WOOD KILLER CAUGHT
My phone flooded with pictures of Taylor; his flat block, the street, pictures of him stood with me and my other friends on sports day. I peered out the window, only to see, to my amazement, men carrying bullet proof shields and firearms breaking down the closed door. Their broad shoulders rammed against the door, before breaking the security mechanism as the door came off its hinges and gave way.
Taylor ran out of the shower.
“What did you do?” I shrieked in hysterics. He grabbed me, trying and failing to yank my grip from the door frame. The armed men burst through the door and shot him in the calf as he disappeared from sight, into the kitchen. I chased him, only to be trampled down by the officers and shouted at to get down.
I sobbed, collapsed in half over my tiny, stick-thin body and peering over the low window sill until his tall, lanky frame became lost from view over the court yard fence, followed by yet more cops.
I endured three hours of intense interrogation. did. Hiding his secret for the eight months since the first disappearance, I had no alibi, other than ‘I didn’t know’. I was distraught, in tears and broken. Taylor, my best friend, killed over twenty people and will undoubtedly get away with it.
No, I didn’t care who the people he killed were to me. Nonetheless, I pitied all of them in their last moments.
Weeks later, a pile of bloody, mangled limbs were found beside a highway in the freezer of his old supermarket job, here and there. Bruised and beheaded as the bodies were, they were eventually identified. In the two or three years after the deaths, I attended every funeral, every memorial, everything to contribute to what he did. Everything to atone for the people he killed.
Taylor was never punished. Seen occasionally, stealing a car this time and robbing a man at gunpoint the other.
In fact, it wasn’t until twelve years later that I ever saw him again.
Recently married and in my second trimester of pregnancy, putting trash out, I found a boy. A tall scrawny kid with a black buzzcut who’d been running from multiple convictions of third degree murder and manslaughter since he was fifteen.