Missing Person's Report

Oregon County

Date Report Filed: 7/12/17

Name of Missing Person: Marcus Byrn

Gender: Male

Age: 17

Last seen: Leaving Mitch Walkers lake party at 3:15am in his grey land rover on the 10th of July 2017 wearing blue jeans and a red checked shirt.

…..

7/14/17

Marcus had escaped but he wasn't free.

They were going to catch him at this rate.

His breath scathed his throat as it surged in and out over his sandpaper tongue.

The forest was quiet and heavy around him. Twigs snapped curses at him as he passed. Branches hissed their discontent when he wrenched himself free of their grips. Nature recoiled at his passing, and it punished him for it.

His bare feet had yet to go numb from the cold and each step was fresh agony. Barbs and stones sliced at his feet the way a chef preparing fresh meat might. Marcus was sure that without the mud they'd be scarlet.

He'd been running for 20 minutes maybe more. He didn't know the area just that he should keep heading north. That was where the lake was.

The barbed wire fence around the farm had slowed him down but he was making progress. If he were fast enough he could stay ahead of them and reach Mitch's lake house. It might be an early wake up for his friend but-

No, no-Mitch would have already left for his vacation in France by now. He would have left on the 12th.

What day was it now?

Panic shoved its way into his chest next to his racing heart.

How long had they kept him in that house? There had been no light in the basement. No way to tell. Just footsteps rattling the floorboards overhead.

They were patrolling that was all he could gather. Every few hours the footsteps would change, airy and light to heavy and stiff. That was his only measure of time.

They'd only brought Marcus outside once, and it had been at night.

They'd dragged him out, forcing him to his knees under a cat's smile of a moon, and then the girl had picked up the white-hot branding iron.

She was the one who had caught him in the first place. She'd run screaming straight in front of his car, only a last second swerve saving her.

He'd nearly killed her.

Marcus wished his reflexes had been slower.

When he jumped from the driver seat the girl had screamed something about her friend being in trouble before racing back into the forest. Marcus had followed, phone at the ready to call for whatever help was needed.

She was fast, and by the time she'd pulled to a stop he was out of breath with only the forest around him as far as the eye could see.

By then it was too late.

She'd stopped and turned, and Marcus finally got a proper view of her face, specifically her eyes. Framed by long blonde hair; they were dark.

And old.

And he didn't mean old as in the way she looked, 20-something. He meant old as in scars and horror and decades of rage had marred them.

Marcus remembered how his blood had turned to icy slush in his veins. He'd attempted to step back, as she'd moved closer, biting her lip as if to hold back a smile; but when he needed his body most it refused to co-operated. Refused to run.

She was holding him there with her eyes. Her eyes that were so wrong. Like two coals burning their way through her face.

He had been unable to stop the whimper that had wrenched itself from his lips, prehistoric fear building inside him that screamed she was dangerous.

But in the end the real danger came from behind. Something smashed into his skull, sending Marcus stumbling, and in a shower of sparks he had descended into blackness.

Marcus's foot caught on the root of a tree sending him falling to his knees, at its base, with a tooth jarring thud. A sob ripped itself from his mouth as he felt his resolve crumble around him.

His shoulder burned where it had been branded. Feeling as if there was a fish hook embedded there, dragging him back.

He should just give up. Give up running and hide. Maybe they wouldn't find him. Or maybe he should give up entirely and go back. Maybe they'd forgive him once they saw how co-operative he could be. Maybe they'd let him go.

The forest had returned to its natural quiet before being shattered again by nearby voices.

Marcus's head shot up but he refused to move. He didn't need to run. He wanted them to find him.

They were drawing closer now, and he could pick out the voices. Young and old. Some of them could have belonged to children no older than ten, others sounded warped, full of bent wires and rusty cogs.

Marcus felt a cold snake of dread fall into the pit of his stomach as he heard a twig snap a hundred feet behind him. It didn't matter he wasn't going to run-

He changed his mind.

Leaping to his feet he bolted.

He heard an uproar of voices behind him, but he ignored them. All that matter was putting one foot after the other.

Marcus didn't want to die. His mom, his dad, his sister, his dog. He'd get back to them, he wasn't going to let them catch him. He wasn't going to die.

As he round a ridge he spotted a break in the tree line on the horizon. He pounded forward, eyes fixed on the golden light pouring though, the glittering blue water beyond.

A few more feet and-

He exploded onto the lake front, bloodied feet skidding in the shilling, arms wind-milling for balance. His eyes darted around him trying to catch his bearings. But there were just trees, water and a makeshift wooden dock. He knew immediately he should have stay in the trees where the ground was firm.

Here they'd catch him.

Panic threatened again like an oncoming tidal wave, building and building like the banging noise in the back of his head.

Marcus took a breath, knowing he was out of time.

"I've got him!" He heard a voice full of joy and youth cry.

He ran to the dock. For the first time, he was glad he wasn't wearing any shoes.

There was a clatter of pebbles behind him; more shouting; an unmistakeable bang of a shot-gun; curses, then the roar of the water past his ears as he hit the lake.

His dive could have been more elegant some hedged off part of his mind thought; he could swim; he'd won competitions. He would cross the lake in no time.

Well he could have-that is before he had only stale crust and rain water to sustain himself. Now it became awkward, desperate paddling as he fought against stronger currents.

Somehow the water had the opposite of a cooling effect on him. He was more terrified than ever. His heart hammering to the time of an old playground chant.

Run rabbit; run rabbit; run, run run!

The water stung the cuts running up and down his limbs; the chill making his back throb harder; but he tried to remain focussed. He still had adrenaline left in his veins and he needed to use it.

Like his coach said: Control your breathing with a one, two, one two. Keep a sustainable pace.

Though Marcus was focussed on swimming as far away from the dock as possible he was also acutely aware of the fact there had been no splash behind him. No one had jumped in after him, no more shots had been fired.

The lake was large and he was cutting across it at the narrowest point he could but still he would only have been a few hundred feet out, but his curiosity was stronger than his rationality, he dared a glance.

Trying not to lose momentum for fear he wouldn't be able to begin again. Marcus rolled onto his back, angling his head so he could see better and then almost- almost froze, habit keeping him moving alone.

The girl who had caught him was standing at the edge of the dock. Her feet were bare like his, toes curled over the end of the rotting wood, but instead of being a bloodied mess they were a bleached bone white.

He wished he had been far enough away so as not to see her face. Her smile- well maybe less of a smile and more of a stretched capital U- was fixed it as if stitched there. Her dark eyes equally fixed on him.

He was terrified to look but terrified to turn away too as if looking away from her starved gaze would mean she could be anywhere. She could be right behind him.

Marcus tried to focus on the facts. She was alone there, he would hear her if she tried to follow him into the water, she wasn't magic. The others must be circling around, which meant he needed to be careful choosing his spot.

Not that he had much to choose from. His pause in swimming had cost him, already his muscles were cooling and he was beginning to tremble. Marcus's eyes darted all around for somewhere safe but there was just the open treeline. Nowhere to hide.

They could just wait there in the shadows, wait for him to come ashore and then take him.

Uncalled, the memories of his first night in the basement returned. The other boy? It might have been a boy, the voice was too broken from screaming for him to tell. But the voice didn't stop. It screamed and begged and yelled things like "not me! Please-no, nono- please! Not me!"

Marcus believed he must have passed out from fear, because that night he was plagued my nightmares of a figure standing in the corner of the basement staring at the wall. He was almost impossible to make out, dressed in black, he almost faded into the plaster-until he jerked back a step.

The figure didn't turn, just took one puppet like step backwards towards him. All the while letting out a continuous moaning sound that droned on and on, never-ending but leaving an impression of just one word.

"Mine."

He had shut his eyes, hearing only short creaks as it came closer. Wondering if the same had happened to the other boy-wondering if being silent would help.

The answer wasn't clear because Marcus either passed out again from fear or woke up.

He couldn't go back to that place-he'd rather stay right where he was and drown, he was close enough any-

There.

A glint of colour.

Hope?

Two tents were pitched at the edge of the treeline almost invisible in their green and black tarp.

Campers! Oh, thank god, campers.

With renewed strength Marcus surged forward, taking in the still smoking campfire and the laundry hanging up to dry on the branch of a tree.

He was about 20 metres out when the cramp hit. The pain shot up his right leg and turned it into a frozen dead weight dragging him down.

Breath.

He rolled onto his back.

Breath.

He began paddling again with his arms. He couldn't stop now, he couldn't die here not after all he'd been through.

He'd been beaten, branded, locked away in a basement. He'd torn his body to shreds to escape he would not die here he would live.

Marcus flopped onto the shingles, gasping for breath and retching up water. His muscles burned and all he wanted was to lie there and rest; let exhaustion envelope him.

A twig snapped and his head shot up so fast that black dots swarmed his vision. Without thinking he let out the loudest yell he could which amounted to no more than a wheezy shriek:

"Help! Someone please, help me!"

Whether the campers ever heard him Marcus never knew because a second later he felt a caress of cold metal at his throat.

"Don't scream, kiddo." A raspy voice whispered in his ear.

Like hell I won't. What else did he have left to lose.

"Hel- "the strangled cry was half way out his throat before a boot to the face cut him off.

"Shut up."

"Don't hurt the body too much." A new comer interrupted, his voice impossibly sounding older than the first. "That'll be mine in a few hours."

Marcus stopped breathing.

Oh god, oh god, oh god. He was dead.

He was dead.

…..

Chief Larry Jones was busy playing cards alone when his radio crackled.

"Chief..Chief…Come in…I've found the boy…Marcus Byrn."

Sergeant Tomson! There was an unusual amount of static over the line but the Chief's excitement at the news meant he ignored it. People went missing in their town often but always showed up again sooner or later, it was just missing kids was bad for ones rep.

"But…there's a problem…I don't…the boy."

"Could you repeat that Sergeant? What's the problem, is the boy hurt? Do you need a medic?"

The static died away for a moment and Larry became suddenly aware of the fear in Tomson's voice.

"It's his eyes Chief, there's something wrong with his- "

There came a squeal of breaks and Larry cringed away from the radio as the feedback roared. When his ears stopped ringing he could make out the sounds of a girl's voice screaming for help.

The radio whined.

"Help!... my friend…danger…injured…please!"

He could hear a boy's voice which must have been Marcus join the commotion in agreement, that they had to go it was an emergency. But all the Chief cared about was Tomson.

"What's happening Sergeant?" He yelled down the line.

The radio shrieked.

"Chief- "

Then the line went dead.