I live in a small coal town on the Ohio river. Our community is pretty well crime free. Since we’re on the river, most disappearances are chalked up to people drowning and getting washed downstream. I want to keep track of my research, and this document will serve as a history of what I’ve found.
The most recent disappearance from our town was my oldest friend. The official chain of events was something like Jeff was out drinking with friends from out of town, they decided to go fishing, and he drown. They dredged the river but decided the current probably drug him too far out and he would pop up soon enough. Jeff didn’t drink, and he was with me that night.
Here’s what I’ve pieced together so far. He was sent out to visit an elderly woman through a volunteer organization he was a member of. Apparently Jeff hit it off with her granddaughter who was also there assisting her. She invited him out that night, the night he went missing.
Jeff was ecstatic. He called me right after he left the lady’s house. She was perfect to him, tan, fiery red hair, and loved country music. I’d never seen him get swept off his feet, and I’d never seen him actually get ready for a date before, either. I met him and his date that night with our mutual friend Jen as my date. She introduced herself as Lynn. I found her to be unremarkable, except for two things: the way she smelled and the reddish purple V under her eye. I can’t put an exact description to it, other than just really good. It wasn’t floral, sweet or any other word you would describe scent with, it was just a smell that made you feel content.
We had dinner and hit a little dance club the next town over. I think if he had had a ring, he would have been on one knee fast enough to crack concrete. He hung on her every word, he worshipped the ground she walked on. Suddenly, we couldn’t find a single sign of either. I checked my phone and had a text message from Jeff that read, “Headed to the river! ;)” That was the last time anyone heard from him.
I’m not Shaggy and Scooby. I gave every bit of this information to the police before I started my own search for the truth. Jen also verified it with them. They never responded to my inquiries on the status of the investigation, or whether or not my information helped. Jeff’s parents were also in the dark, so I decided to look into it myself.
My first step was to find the girl. I put out calls for help onto social media, friends and family of both of us shared it as far and wide as we could. We were looking for a short redhead with a V or check mark shaped mauve mark under her left eye under the guise of Jeff’s family just wanting to meet someone who was instantly important to him. I had a few leads come in, but no one who had actually met Jeff or had the mark under her eye.
I decided I should visit her grandmother. I called the organization that Jeff was working with, and kept the guise of trying to find the girl for Jeff’s parents to meet. The woman who handles their scheduling knew my mother, so she gave me an address. It wasn’t far from my parents house, so I took a walk. I purposely walked on the opposite side of the street.
There wasn’t a house there. I double checked the address the dispatcher gave me, I checked my phone’s map, and I checked the house numbers around it. Everything matched up, except this house was definitely not habitable. It was boarded up, it looked like it’d been on fire at some point. There was a lone window on what I assume is an attic or maybe a loft that wasn’t boarded up.
I saw someone in the window, just for an instant. It occurred to me that people live in all kinds of conditions. I crossed the street and opened the old chain link gate. The front door was covered by a sheet of plywood, so I crept around the back. No door at all, just an empty door frame. I checked around me. All of the yards within view were empty. I climbed up the old concrete steps and poked my head in the door.
“Anyone here?” I called out, “I was looking for someone who may have lived here?”
The house creaked, but no one answered. I decided that it was probably a squatter and I went back across the street. I called the charity scheduler and confirmed that was the address that Jeff had last went to. I went to the door of the house directly across the street. I knocked on the door.
“Hello?” a man looked skeptically at me, keeping his front door mostly closed.
“Hi, I was dropping something off for a friend, but the address he gave me is the house that burned down. Do you know where the people who lived there are now?”
“Well, I reckon it’s been boarded up for about four years now.”
“Ms. Robinson lived there, had since I was just a squirt.” he shook his head, “But she didn’t make it outta that fire. I think the investigators said it was from a space heater she used in her living room.”
I thanked him for his time and turned around to head home, I saw some quick movement of something out of that uncovered window again. My entire way home it felt like I was being followed.
I called the police, too. I told them that the house Jeff had been sent to had apparently burned years ago. He talked to me like I was a fool and insisted that there was a home there and they had questioned the lady and she had said she didn’t have a granddaughter or any other young lady that would be visiting her. I asked if they’d take me to see the lady. They declined at first, but I pressed them and if I want to be completely honest, they probably thought it’d shut me up.
The next evening the squad car picked me up in front of my house. We turned onto the same street I’d been on before. I could vaguely smell something that smelled, well, good. It lulled me into some kind of contentment. We pulled up to the same address, but this time there was a whole house. No fire damage, not even so much as a lawn ornament out of its place. I looked across the street and there was the man I’d spoken with the evening before working in his yard.
I quietly composed myself in the squad car. I didn’t want to look like a crazy person, so I held in the flood of emotions that tried to overwhelm me. That house was not like that yesterday.
“You good? Let’s head in before I get sent on a call.”
I followed the officer up to the porch. Up close, there was something off about the house. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, though. I touched one of the posts supporting the roof over the porch. It looked freshly painted, but felt rough and cracked. The chairs on the porch leaned just a little too far to the side, things like the peephole that should have been circles were just slightly oblong. The officer knocked on the door.
When the door swung open, that vague pleasing smell washed over us like like a wave. Everything seemed a little more… right. A tall, broad woman with short grey hair filled the doorway.
“Mrs. Robinson, how are you this evening?” the officer asked.
“Still kind of sore, Officer Riley.” she said with a still sunny disposition, “How may I help you gentlemen?”
“This is Alex, he’d like to ask you about the boy that stopped by to help you and went missing.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry about your friend. He was such a help to me.”
“Riley tells me there wasn’t a little redheaded girl here?”
She gave a little frown and shook her head. It seemed like her whole face drooped with the frown. “No, just him and I were here. Red hair doesn’t even run in my family.”
“That’s weird. He kept going on about how glad he was that he volunteered because he met Lynn here while helping you out.”
She gave a little shrug with her hands up in the air. I saw genuine sympathy in her eyes.
“He also said you were short, and the guy across the street said this house burned down.” I turned to Riley, confused and unsatisfied, “I’m not exactly sure what’s happening, but I think we have the wrong house, Riley.”
“No, this is the place, this is the lady, everyone involved has confirmed it.”
“Jeff confirmed it? You talked to Lynn? Can I meet her?”
“I think we’re done here.”
He pulled me out of the house. I looked over my shoulder as we walked down her short front yard. The smell was getting more faint, the house started looking slightly off again. I saw Mrs. Robinson in the doorway, but she looked at least a foot shorter and with greying red hair. I hopped back in the passenger side of Riley’s cruiser.
“What the fuck is actually wrong with you, Alex?” he said as he stared me down.
“What the fuck was up with that house? It just felt… wrong. What the fuck was that smell? The only time I’ve smelled that is from that Lynn girl that was with Jeff when he disappeared.”
“The house isn’t ‘wrong’. It’s old. The shit inside is old. The lady, also, old.” he snapped, “Old shit, including people, seem a little off sometimes.”
“What about the smell? It’s not normal, it doesn’t smell like anything, but it makes everything feel just a little better. That house has something to do with Jeff, and that lady knows it.”
Riley hit his head against the steering wheel a couple of times and shook his head. “Don’t do anything stupid, Alex. If you’re harassing that lady, I’ll take you in.”
I kind of blew it off and he took me home. I called Jen that evening and asked if she remembered anything about Lynn.
“She smelled like patchouli.” she immediately answered, “My mom used a lot of patchouli scented incense when I was a kid.”
“I thought it was more of a… like… grandma’s cookies kind of smell. Something kind of vague but super comforting. I definitely kept thinking about stuff from when I was a kid most of the time.”
“I guess you might be right, it wasn’t exactly like patchouli, but it made me really comfortable.”
I told her I had to run some errands still and hopped off the phone. The smell had to have something to do with it. I text Jen and asked her if she remembers seeing anyone else that we knew that night while we were with Jeff and Lynn. She replied with a disappointing “no.”
I decided to go check it out again. This time, I would test if the smell had something to do with no one else seeing what was wrong with that house. On the way back there I stopped at the drugstore and picked up a pack of smelling salts. I figured the ammonia smell would overpower anything else I could smell.
I approached from a side street so I could see the house from further away. It looked perfectly normal from a block and a half down the street. As I approached, I paid close attention to the smells around me and tried to stay as casual as possible. I stopped before crossing the street to the block that Mrs. Robinson’s house sat on. A short person with long red hair went through the gate and around the side of the house.
I ran towards the house and hopped the fence. As soon as I rounded the corner, I saw a flash of red hair go around the back corner. I instinctively busted in the back door after it. There was no one there. I stood in there in the kitchen, the table was set and a pot boiling on the stove. The pot stood out, kind of like how things in the background of old cartoons are a little bit brighter or are styled a little differently.
I almost forgot what I was doing. I started smelling that delicate, indistinct smell. I peeked into the boiling water. It looked like just leaves and branches in the rolling boil. It seemed to be coming from the pot. My mind filled with old memories of my grandma, running the streets with Riley and Mike as a kid, and just about anything else that’d make me smile.
“Alex? Is that you? I thought I saw you walking down the street.” a soft female voice called through the house.
“Hey, Lynn!” I called out, putting porcelain dinner plate over the boiling pot to contain the vapors.
I cracked the smelling salts and took a whiff. It ripped me right out of it. The sweet memories shot out of my consciousness immediately. Everything was off. It was still the house I visited with Riley, but it was kind of like an impressionist idea of it. The fine details were rough sketches at best, everything kind of had a slight tilt to it. I cautiously stepped into the living room, and there was a red headed girl sitting on the couch, looking the opposite direction of me.
“Have you seen Mike?” she asked.
“No one has, I’ve been looking for you to try to see if he mentioned anything odd to you.”
She looked up at me, and I wish I could say I saw the tears first. The first thing I saw was her face full of wrinkles. Red hair, red birthmark, even the same voice, but she had the wrinkles of an old lady.
“He just up and left me!” she wailed.
I stepped in closer, it wasn’t wrinkles. it was bunching up on the sides, like some weird mask. I sat by her, I rubbed her back as she sobbed. Her cries had an odd quality, like it was some kind of recording from years ago.
“Where’s your grandma?” I asked.
She choked for a split second. “Out with a friend for the afternoon.”
I feigned checking my phone, “Oh shit! It’s six, I have a school thing.”
I jumped up to hurry out the door. A hand that felt like it was covered in an old dried out latex glove grabbed my wrist. “Alex, please don’t leave me here alone.”
“I’ll come back soon!” I promised.
I watched my back the whole way home. I couldn’t shake the feeling she was watching me, stalking me through my own town. I never saw her, or her bright red hair. I assumed she’d started doing meth or something. I called Riley, let him know that she was there so he could follow up on their end. He scolded me for going back, but agreed it’d be good if he could actually interview her.
I was paranoid for the entire trip, it seemed like bushes were wiggling with unseen bodies inside them. I actually walked up into someone’s yard and dug around in a shrub to make sure I wasn’t being stalked. Then, on the steps up to my house, there was a “cat.” It looked like a cartoon. Dark lines around the major parts, colors a little too vivid for a house cat. I poked it. It hissed at me, scratched my hand and ran off. It felt like a stuffed animal. I looked all around for signs of Lynn. Nothing. My heart pounded and anxiety soared.
Was I next? Suddenly I felt like a gazelle being watched by a lion. Was that little girl really capable of disappearing people? What did I breath in that house? A stuffed animal couldn’t scratch me. Fear and shock dug in deep, I stood in shock on the steps. I don’t know how long I stood there, staring at the old cement steps, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I sent Riley to talk to her. What if he’s next? I called his personal phone, I bounced on my toes so I wouldn’t explode with anxiety.
“Pickuppickuppickuppickup…” I chanted to myself in a hushed voice.
Voicemail. I ran back to the Robinson house. Maybe I could save Riley myself if I got there fast enough. I got to her street as Riley was knocking on the door. The door opened and he went in. I peeked in his cruiser. His phone was sitting on the dash. I crept up on the porch and peeked in the window. Riley was sitting on the couch, she was sitting across from him. She still looked wrinkly and folded to me, but Riley had a look one his face that he only had when he was ready to do one thing.
They never broke eye contact as she stood up and swung her hips back and forth. She swayed her small frame across the living room towards Riley, pulling her shirt off. More bunched up pale skin was hidden under her shirt, Riley seemed to be too entranced to notice. She mounted his lap and draped her arms over his shoulders. Then she opened her mouth and looked up to the ceiling.
It looked like she’d paused, but in reality, her mouth kept opening wider and wider. The skin on her face tore and flaked to the floor, revealing a mottled, splotchy skin painted with light browns. The head hidden behind that layer that I knew as Lynn was bulbous. It didn’t have eyes, a nose or even lips. Just a mouth that was practically from where it’s ears should have been to the other ear. A long brown and black tongue flicked across the uneven, sometimes sharp, sometimes flat teeth that filled it’s mouth.
She leaned back and twisted her neck. I don’t know how, but she looked at me. She knew I was there, watching. I got a little smile from her, then she rose up slowly and hunched over Riley, he puckered up for a kiss. She sunk her teeth into his head. It… it took most of this face. She struggled, but with a crack loud enough for me to hear through the window, she bit right through his skull. She devoured it like a dog, looking straight up in the air.
I scrambled for Riley’s cruiser. I grabbed the car radio and squeezed the button.
“Officer down! Officer Riley’s down! Some crazy bitch just ate his goddamn face!” I sobbed into the microphone.
The entire department, including off duty swarmed the street in minutes. They saw the house as burned down. The only sign of Riley they found in the house was his badge. I told them exactly what I saw, they sent me to the hospital for evaluation. I was informed that forensics didn’t find any signs of blood or any evidence anyone had been in the burnt house. I was released, now I’m home.
I still feel like the gazelle waiting to be pounced on. Whatever the hell that little girl with the V birthmark is, she’s dangerous, and she’s well aware that I know her secret. I’ve started carrying a handgun with me just in case. I don’t know that anyone in my town even remembers what I told the police, or believes it. In the event that I die before I’ve reached a conclusion to this nightmare that satisfies me, I’ve placed this document on a dead man’s switch. Without my attention, it will send it to a few large communities who may take up my crusade or use it as a cautionary tale to maybe save others.
Now I’m going to hunt her before she can take me, too.