Photo uncredited [original source unknown]
Diary entry of Keith Lamarck: “Hide and Seek” - June 14th, 1997
The other day while I unpacked from the move, I chanced upon my old childhood glasses in one of the boxes I kept all my grade school junk. In that moment I realized that I had never made a written account of a particularly delusional episode I had when I was a kid back in November of 74.
I was 13. Peter and I had just moved into wooded Suffern, NY from a Long Island suburb. Our parents both found work up there and the decision was out of our hands. I personally wasn’t all too thrilled about moving away from my friends but my brother, a 15 year old on the cusp of a bravery streak, loved the woods and exploring whenever we ventured up north to visit family. While Peter was gifted bravery, I was gifted calculation. With that calculation came risk assessment, and with that a fair sense of anxiety. I was a bit more on the sheepish side, the frightened sort who kept night lights on every available outlet near his room. I was a slave to hypotheticals; what if scenarios plagued me daily. I remember seeing the rolling carpet of endless trees and thinking, “If I was dropped randomly in that massive wood, how long would it be to find my way out? How would I? How long would it take? What if I ran into someone?” Improbable things like that. In that situation, all that would be on my brother’s mind would probably be “How many trees can I climb?” Our house was at the end of a steep drive, a two story that looked something out of a winter catalog. This residence was much larger than our previous house and my brother and I were elated because as much as a coward as I was, we both enjoyed a good game of hide and seek.
About a month into moving in, our parent’s left for their first days of work. They were out for most of the day, so Peter and I had the whole house to ourselves until around midnight.
"Hey Keith, wanna play hide and seek?"
We played our usual game of hide and seek. Peter was seeking and I was hiding. I hid in the closet, but he found me fast.
"Got you! You always hide in the most obvious places! Say…how playing about outside?"
"I don’t like the woods, Peter."
"Come on, it’ll be fun. Mom and dad won’t even know."
"Hey, it’ll be just this one time. If it isn’t fun you can tell mom that I forced you to."
I looked up to Peter. I was envious of his ability to ignore fear in the face of fun. I agreed, thinking that some of his courage would rub off on me if I took a chance. A waning crescent moon lightly illuminated the night as we exited into the backyard.
"You seek, ok?"
"Come on, you hid before. Not fair!"
"I won’t hide that far."
I palmed my face and counted to 30, hearing the leaves crush as Peter darted away. I felt like crying, but I held it back. I didn’t want to lose this feeling, I was excited for once.
"Ready or not here I come!"
I walked slowly around the house. No Peter. He definitely went past the trees. I took a deep breath and reluctantly entered the are past our backyard. It was darker here, and an odd smell came from the trees. I had smelled it sometimes when leaving for our new school, but it was hard to pinpoint what it was exactly. Here, it was particularly strong, it reminded me of how our pumpkin smelled as it rotted on November 3rd. I walked past the trees, my eyes darting left and right into the darkness. I spent a good ten minutes searching in the woods around the house, before fear took me and I came back into our backyard. Then I saw Peter’s back, he was crouching next to our grill.
"Haha, you went right in there! See, you aren’t scared of it. Now go hide in the woods and let’s play a real game!"
Peter’s encouragement pumped me up. I ran into the woods where I had looked initially, and then a little deeper just enough to still see the faint glow of my house. I circled around to the left side of our property and hid behind a particularly fat trunk.
"Ready or not, here I come!"
I giggled to myself. I had a good hiding spot, and I wasn’t afraid about being in the woods. It felt good.
Half an hour passed. I had stopped hearing rustling leaves for a while after I saw Peter last circle the house and enter the woods. “Did he get lost? Did he go back inside? Is he hurt?” With that surplus bravery I had mustered that night, I got up and walked toward the house.
"Peter, I’m done playing!"
"I don’t want to play anymore, you can stop seeking! Peter?"
He wasn’t on our property. He didn’t answer when I yelled his name in the house. I went back into the yard and called for him again as that rotted pumpkin smell wafted past me. I heard something. Something from far into the woods. I stopped and listened.
It was definitely Peter, it sounded like he was staying my name.
"Pete! Come back I don’t want to play anymore!"
"Kees…Keets cohm… Seekeets…"
"Stop it! You’re scaring me! Just come over…"
A scream. Peter’s voice. Something slammed my leg and then I was on my back. My glasses flew off and I turned around to see what had hit me. Although my vision was blurred due to my astigmatism and it was fairly dark out, I saw a dark figure between me and the house. It seemed like body of a large dog, but its texture seemed more of bark than fur and what looked like writhing branches protruded from its back. I blinked a few times and I noticed a blunter skull where I expected a snout. It turned to me. I opened my eyes wide enough to make out Peter’s features. The head tilted and let out a growl that was half Peter, half a gargling splintering cacophony.
I jumped up and made for the trees. The pumpkin stench was nauseating. I moved without thinking for the first time in a long while. Although I could barely see, I did a fairly good job of avoiding obstacles. Running as fast as I could, my hands brushed by what I thought were trees and bushes but felt more like skin and hair. Then I slammed into a large tree. I got to my feet and stumbled behind it, crying. That wasn’t Peter. I stayed behind that trunk for a good hour. The pumpkin smell assaulted my nostrils in waves. A faint growling came from every direction, I held my mouth to quell my sobbing. Eventually, I looked behind the tree. The lights in my house were off. Something came from behind me, rustling leaves. I turned round and I freaked.
"Shhhh." It was Peter. "Something is out here, man. We must get to the house."
"Pete, I lost my glasses!"
"Don’t matter. We must get to the house."
I grabbed his hand and we ran home. His hands were wet and dirty and his shirt was very muddy, like he had been rolling on the ground. He spoke in an oddly calming tone.
"What happened, what happened?"
"I was looking for you and it was looking for us"
"Was that a real monster, Pete?"
"I don’t know what it is. It looked like you."
"But it looked like you! And it kept trying to say my name…"
We ran up the steps to the the front door.
"You are with me now, you safe K-Keets…"
I could see Peter better now in the moonlight. His shirt was more than just dirty, it was soaked in mud with sticks embedded all over. His eyes and brow looked different and he wore a smile that wasn’t Peter’s. Pumpkin spice was everywhere.
"We must get to the house…"
"You safe here… PEETHA keep you safe…"
I pulled away, but its grasp got tighter. I grabbed at its arm to pull free and felt rugged textures where flesh should have been. It’s mouth opened and let out a screech resembling several shrill woodwind instruments. I kicked at it’s legs and it fell backward down the stairs. It’s arm had detached from it’s body and still grabbed tightly onto me. I grabbed for the doorknob and screamed. The door swung open and I rammed right into a wall. I looked up. Peter was holding the knob of the closet door.
"Got you! You always hide in the most obvious places!"
I looked down at my arm. One of Peter’s shirts was wrapped around it.
"Say…how about playing outside?"
I threw the shirt in the closet and locked the door.
"No… No more hide and seek."
"How about a game of Guess Who then?"
A faint rotting smell wafted by. Peter held his nose and gave me a look.
I had shit my pants.
I never told Peter, my parents, or anyone else this story save for my shrink years later. She cited our recent dog’s sudden death that Halloween as a possible trigger for the delusion. We all loved Bessie, she always barked at the pumpkins. I don’t trust shrinks and I still can’t stand pumpkin pie.