Never take the cruel forest for granted

Beware of the Slender Man

Forty years ago, a “friend” and her gang tried to kill me. Memory is a funny thing. A lot of things could have happened that night. It could have all been made up. They could have lost their nerve. I could be remembering it all wrong. What happened was this: my mom trusted her gut, and didn’t let me go out of the house.

D was the older sister of my best friend. I crushed on my friend, which is normal at that age, but D unnerved me, even when we were younger and all played together.  I was around 11 or 12, and D must have been around 14. This is a chasm of an age difference, at those ages. D was already going off the rails, hanging with kids who were pretty delinquent. I was a nerdy tween, about to enter the worst years of my life in junior high and high school, socially inept and a natural victim, partly because I was so eager to be abused.

One winter night, D showed up at my house.

“Hi, Mrs. Sarath. Can Patrice come out and play?”

It was dark and cold. A school night. And dinner was close to being on the table. I thought it was strange that D was asking for me, but hey, it was flattering.  I wanted to go. But–

My mom hesitated and then said, “No.” And her expression was that of a mother trusting her instincts. I was relieved. It was weird anyway, that D would ask for me.

Some time later, D told me what they had planned that night. Not knives, like those girls who stabbed their friend to gain the favor of Slender Man. But rocks. They intended to stone me. We lived in a rural area with a lot of cold, wet places that were lost and swampy. They were going to lure me into the swamp and do it there. To this day I can remember the sickening lurch in the pit of my stomach when I heard how close I came to being killed.

Or not. Like I said, D was a liar and could have made it all up. Shortly after that she got pregnant and disappeared. Her sister and I remained friends, but that family exploded in a concussive bomb of mental health issues and was only able to piece things back together over years and years of unhappiness.

I saw D again in 2008. My best friend and her family, including D, came to my book signing in my hometown. I was so happy to see my friend, who was healthy and happy, and I was, despite everything, pleased to see D. She looked wonderful, still youthtful despite being in her 40s. She didn’t say much.

I have never spoken to my mother about that night. She did what mothers do; trust their gut and save their children. I hope that D, being a mother herself, looks back on that night if she even remembers it, and knows that my mother saved her too. I wonder if she read the news about the Slender Man attack and realized with a sickening lurch that it could have been her — not as victim, but as perpetrator.

But mostly the memory lies dormant within me, because who likes to dwell? It wells up each time I hear about attacks on children by children, and once again the rush of emotion came back with the news of the “Slender Man” attacks. Each time I’m reminded that I have never truly forgiven D and her buddies, and I freely admit that when I find out about the sad, often alcoholic, and used-up lives of my tormentors in their adulthood, I shrug and think, “oh well.”

My heart goes out to the little girl and her family in the Slender Man attack.

I have no feelings for the attackers.

Categories: Gordath Wood


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