Author notes: Based on the true Manson murders in 1969. All events are factual, all spoken sentences were actually spoken as described in testimony in court, from the book Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.

Please, please… let this all be just a dream, just a really bad trip… don't let this be real…

But the dark-haired man still stumbled towards me across the lawn, anguish distorting his features, blood soaking his shirt… the closer he came, the less credence could I hold that he was a figment of my imagination.

He held out a weak hand to me, trembling and blood-streaked, as his cracked mouth opened to attempt speech. His words were barely coherent, but I understood.

"Please…help…"

Beginning to shiver in shock at the realization of just how far this macabre nightmare had done, I whispered, "Oh god, I'm so sorry…"

I was a terrified sheep, unable to rise up against the wolves who had taken control of what I had once thought to be a peaceful pasture. I could not even bring myself to move…

Suddenly I saw Tex and Sadie rush out of the house, streaked with blood- the blood of the people inside the house….

They flew over to the poor man they had already hurt so badly, began to stab him with frenetic glee… and I stood there, distraught, terrified.

"No!" I screamed, barely articulate in my panic. "Please, Sadie," I fibbed, "someone's coming! Please make it stop!"

"It's too late!" panted Sadie as her knife slashed into the man's already weakened body once again.

I started to run, enervated, my mind numb, empty, as blank as a once full sheet of paper which had been totally erased. When I reached the car we had ridden over in, when I had locked myself inside, when I had closed my eyes as tightly as I could, I still could hear the man's screams… they seemed infinite, as though no other sound would ever enter my ears….

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I've never been as satisfied with my life as I wanted to be, even as a teenager. When you're in high school, you're supposed to be having this fab time. Well, I guess I got gypped on that, because by the time I was eighteen, I was already on my second marriage and pregnant with my daughter, Tanya. See, I left home when I was sixteen to marry Johnny, my first husband, and I lived with him a while before I found out he didn't really love me like he said he did. I couldn't go home- the whole reason I'd left and married Johnny was because I couldn't stand my stepdad. He always seemed to think every little thing I said or did was stupid and wrong. I guess I proved him right when I dropped out of school at sixteen to get married.

I think my stepdad was probably right about me bring pretty stupid, and that's why it hurt so much when he said it. I mean, nothing I decide to do ever turns out right. Everything I do usually ends up being a huge mistake that eventually overwhelms me.

Like my second marriage. Robert didn't seem like such a bad guy. He was the one who gave me my last name, Kasabian- my first name's Linda, if I didn't mention it. But he ended up leaving me when Tanya was only two, and I didn't have anywhere to go after that.

This was in 1969, about June. I had a few friends who'd become hippies, gone to Haight Ashbury, so I decided to try it, living there a while, I mean. I had heard they were real hospitable there, just accepted you as you were and fed you and let you do your own thing with them. It sounded like the best shot I had.

But it wasn't… it was one of those stupid decisions that seem to make up the majority of my life. Because that was where I met Gypsy, a female member of the Family, and that's where I found out about Charlie Manson..

Gypsy told me all about the Family, how they just loved and cared for each other, how groovy it was. And she talked about their teacher, Charlie… I could see from the gleam in her eye how much she loved him.

So I decided to go with her to Spahn Ranch, where they lived. And from that point on, I was sucked into a maelstrom of events I could not escape…

It was July 1969 when I met Charlie… Gypsy introduced me to him on the porch of the ranch. Charlie, a beautiful man with long dark hair and a beard, gazed at me with piercing eyes that seemed to see right through me. It was like he knew everything I'd ever done, my every thought..

He started to work on me right away. Charlie really emphasized love and sex- he told me I'd have to lose all my fears and sexual inhibitions, to be as I was meant to be. My very first day there he had me sleep with him and Tex, as some of the girls watched us closely, critiquing. Gypsy told me that by doing this, I was killing my ego - and Charlie said all our egos must die.

Charlie introduced me to LSD too that first day. I'd done drugs before, but mostly gage butts. He gave us pinks and mescaline, and a lot of other pills I didn't recognize too. He always took less than us- he didn't want to feel "electric", he said. LSD was an amazing thing for me. It made me feel this intense love for everyone, especially during sex. I never really had a bad trip or freaked out like some people. Some people never came down from their trips at all, but I always did. I thought at the time that was proof that what I was doing was okay, that it didn't hurt me.

I began to love Charlie as much as the rest of the family, even worship him… I was like a little blind girl in the forest, seeing nothing, stumbling through a darkness that would eventually swallow me up…

I remember one day when Charlie came up to me outside the ranch, looking at me with those dark, probing eyes.

"Don't you know who I am, Linda?"

"No," I said, puzzled as to what he meant. "Am I supposed to know?"

He just looked at me meaningfully- and suddenly, I knew what he was trying to infer. He wanted me to believe that he was Jesus Christ…

And I did… at the time, it made sense to me. He always seemed to know what I was thinking and feeling. He had even known the first time he saw me that I disliked my stepdad- a "father hang-up", he called it. He seemed to me more than human…

And so whatever he told me, I would do it… I emulated the other members of the family, with none of us daring to disobey Charlie. Despite his telling us girls to go on stealing sprees he called "garbage runs", despite his telling me to have no contact with Tanya so he could kill her ego, despite the gruesome visualizations he led us in, where we imagined killing people, I trusted Charlie. He told us there was nothing good or bad or wrong, that death did not exist- and I believed him, as long as the idea was distant enough from my mind.

We would bring new people in and teach them as we'd be taught- and gradually, he prepared us for Helter Skelter.

Helter Skelter, Charlie told us, was coming soon. There would be a war between the blacks and whites, and all the whites would die. We, of course, would hide away and survive- and then we would take power from the blacks and rule the world. All this Charlie knew from messages he'd uncovered in Beatles songs. And of course, we believed him- he was Charlie, he was Jesus, and we never questioned him.

"Never ask why," he often told us- and we didn't.

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It was August 8, 1969, when Charlie gathered us on the porch- Tex, Sadie, Katie, and me. He looked at us with glowing eyes as he said, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter."

He told me to get my car- I was the only one of us who had a legal license- and then he spoke to Tex, Sadie, and Katie alone. I didn't know what was going on, only that he had chosen me to do an important mission for him to help along the Helter Skelter- me, when I had only been with the Family a few months. I was primed, thrilled to receive his favor in such a way… god, I can't believe how naïve I was then…

I drove my car up the front of the ranch, and Tex, Katie, and Sadie climbed in, with Tex motioning me over to the passenger seat so he could drive. I noticed that Katie and Sadie were holding knives, a gun, and a rope in their arms. It confused me, but I didn't question- I never questioned Charlie. Maybe we were to kill an animal of some kind. I know how stupid it makes me sound, but I honestly never thought we'd have to kill anyone. I never thought Charlie would want that, even after all the violent visualizations he'd led us in. I certainly never thought he'd tell us to kill a whole houseful of people, with me serving as the lookout…

Tex started up the car, but Charlie called for him to stop. As he rolled down the window, Charlie told him, "Leave a sign- you girls know what I mean. Write something- something witchy."

But I didn't know what he meant, I didn't have a clue…

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I sat trembling in the car in front of the house the others were in, trying not to see the poor dying man, the viscious glee on Sadie's and Tex's faces as they stabbed him to death… trying not to think of how many they may have killed inside.

But I kept picturing them, kept seeing the man on the lawn, and the man from before- the poor guy that Tex had shot just around the corner, the guy sitting dead in his car.

I couldn't do this, I couldn't… no, no, this wasn't happening, I didn't remember, no…

But then Tex, Sadie, and Katie came rushing up to the car, grinning, nearly skipping in excitement. Tex motioned for me to get in the passenger seat again, and I obeyed numbly. He had me steer as he changed clothes while still sitting in the passenger seat. In the backseat, Sadie and Katie changed as well, as casually as if it were dirt, not blood, staining their clothes…

It was like it was all a game for them, just a funny, silly game… as I sat there in silence, unable to stop shivering, Katie and Sadie chattered excitedly about what they had just done. Katie even complained how stabbing one of the men had hurt her hand. She didn't seem to care how she had hurt him, killed him…

When we got back to the ranch, Charlie was waiting for us. He looked each of us in the eyes, and I knew he could tell what I was feeling… and I knew, right then I knew that Charlie was not God. No god would ever make me do something so horrible- no god would ever make me fear for my life…

"Do you have any remorse?" he asked us.

"No," replied Tex, Katie, and Sadie, and I could tell from their tones they meant it.

"No," I echoed, a beat later, but my voice was weak, wavering. I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it at all. I was remorseful, god was I remorseful- but even more than that, I was afraid…