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Johnny Really Goes Missing by X129

When I was a kid, we lived in Washington outside of Seattle, nestled up against the foothills of the Cascades. If you've ever been up there, you know pretty much any residential neighborhood has amazing wooded areas running through them.

We played in these woods all of the time. As we grew older, simple games of tag became more complex games of tag, followed by paintball and even overnight camping excursions. There were about 6 of us by the time we reached 17. Me and my two cousins, Evan and James, a couple neighbor kids, Luis, Ahmed, and Johnny.

We hated playing with Johnny in the woods as his favorite thing to do was to fake his disappearance. He'd leave his paintball gear behind and just vanish. We'd find him hours later sitting on the porch of someone's house, laughing that 'he got us'.

Behind our house, there was a series of logging and development roads, a plot of land was being built on (although wood and materials were delivered, they sat there for 4 years). Deeper into the woods there was a small camp of transients, good people who just wanted to usually be left alone. Cooper, as he called himself, was a Vietnam Vet and self-proclaimed 'mayor' of the hobo camp. He'd always be friendly to us, kept the druggies out (booze was fine but he didn't want needles around). We'd bring them stuff to trade, higher end canned goods for interesting things, or sometimes just a cool story. Anyway, I bring this up because we'd always end up running into Cooper whenever we'd go looking for Johnny. And usually he was the one to point out that Johnny was up to his tricks again and went home, that he'd seen Johnny drinking a soda back at his place or our place.

So it was a few weeks before graduation, and most of us were graduating at the same time. We decided before the hubub of graduation kicked in we should do one last epic paintball game. We'd pack up our gear, spit into teams, and spend the whole weekend in the woods hunting each other down. My cousins and I would drive up to the end of one of the logging roads near an old abandoned railroad bridge about 5 miles away and start from there. We had all been in Boy Scouts together so we all knew how to prepare for a weekend in the woods. We started out early Saturday morning, and by mid-day hadn't seen anyone as we 'patroled' a trail that eventually led back to our place.

We stopped for some lunch in a small clearing. I had just finished half a sandwhich when we saw Ahmed running full-board toward us. He put his gun over him, panting. "DON'T SHOOT!"

We couldn't do anything, we were figuratively caught with our pants down: our lunch cantines spread open and our guns leaning against a tree.

"What's going on?"

"We can't find Johnny."

I sighed. "Did you check his place?"

"Yeah. We did. And yours, mine, and Luis checked his place. No sign of him."

"Did you talk to Cooper?"

"Yeah, he did. He seemed a little... concerned when I asked him."

"What do you mean?"

"He didn't laugh like he normally does."

We grabbed our gear and headed to the hobo camp. We met Luis there talking to Cooper and a few of the regulars that lived at the camp.

"Yo." Luis said as we rounded the bend. "Get over here."

As we approached, Cooper looked pale.

"Cooper, man... what's wrong?" I asked.

"So, you boys can't find Johnny?"

"Yeah, he's pulling his old tricks again."

"I'm not so sure. I wanted to wait until you all got here, so I didn't have to repeat myself."

"Okay, what's up?"

"So, Tuesday this fucker comes up here, twitchy mofo, tracks in his arm and shit, right? I knew he wasn't good to have around. I told him to beat it. Get lost. We don't want tweakers here. He got all pissed, said he just wanted a place to sleep. His twitching told me he needed a fix, bad. He threatened Pete over there, and threw a brick at Mrs. Peabody, damn near killed her."

"So, he moved on, right?"

"No, not exactly. He's been fucking with us. Coming in at night, stealing shit, nearly set Pete's tent on fire. I'd get the police involved but, they'd end up making us leave."

"So what does that have to do with Johnny."

"I just hope Johnny doesn't run into this dude. I hope Johnny is just really playing it cool and went off and set up camp somewhere to fuck with you all."

"You think you can help us find him?"

"Ya, just let me get my sack. Pete, want to go too?"

"Ya, I'm a comin!"

The camp had about 5 people living there at all times, so he put a war buddy of his, Zeke, in charge before he left.

We hiked down a trail we all knew quite well toward another, larger trail. When we got there, there were signs Johnny had gone that way. A big wad of Big League Chew was stuck on a tree trunk and his foot prints were in the mud, leading into the hills. Down the trail was a few streams, and eventually, it spit to go either to the old rail bridge where we parked, or toward an abandoned logging camp.

We followed the trail down for what seemed like ages. Cooper stops us all about a hundred yards from the split-off.

"Pete, c'mere."

"Yeah?"

"Those are Johnny's prints, right?"

"Sure do look like them."

"What kind of shoes was the tweaker wearing?"

Pete thought for a moment, scratching his greasy hair. "Boss, man I don't think he was wearing any."

Cooper sat looking at two other sets of footprints, one that looked like little kid's prints, small with the word 'sketchers' barely legible in the mud., and the other bare feet, about a size 8.

"I think our tweaker friend has someone with him."

It was beginning to get dark. We wouldn't be able to go much further on this trail at night.

"Coop, our truck is just a few hundred yards that way." I said, pointing to the right trail. "We can make camp there, maybe send someone back to get help."

"We might want to do just that." He replied, his eyes were carefully scanning the trees.

We make our way as fast as we could to the truck. The rest of us made camp while Ahmed drove the truck up the road to get help. It didn't take long for him to return, though.

He was pale white.

"Ahmed? What the hell?" I asked.

"The hobo camp... I don't know what the fuck happened there, but..." He started puking trying to recall what he saw. He eventually came to his senses long enough to describe what was nothing short of a bloodbath. Body parts, everywhere. Zeke's little trailer had been rolled out into the road. Zeke's head was sitting on a lawn chair in front of it, his intestines draped everywhere. Mrs. Peabody was impaled on a large wooden pike. Everyone else was chopped up.

Cooper and Pete were shocked. They hadn't seen brutality like that, even in Nam.

"This tweaker is one sick fucker."

The truck's engine was off, and the headlights caught the movement of someone in the bushes. I switched on my flashlight to get a better look.

"It's Johnny!" I shouted.

Johnny looked like hell. Covered in blood. His eyes though were dark, piercing straight ahead.

"Johnny?" I asked.

He stopped moving toward us. I looked down to see something in his hand. He threw the object at us.

"Holy shit!" Cooper yelled. "That's the tweaker!"

The face of a man with deep sunken cheeks looked up at us as the head rolled to a stop at our feet. We looked up, and Johnny was gone.

"We've got to get out of here, get the police involved."

"Yeah, but how. The road is blocked."

I looked with my flashlight over the abandoned railroad bridge. It wasn't in the greatest shape, it hadn't been maintained in decades. But boards had been put down at some point for a vehicle to get across.

"Get in, I don't know about you but right now I'll risk drowning in the river."

The old railroad would meet up with the main highway a few miles on the other side. We all piled into the truck and left our gear. I eased the truck onto the bridge. Slowly we made our way across, the bridge creaking and moaning with its first real use in years. Cooper banged on the roof. "DRIVE!"

I looked into the mirror, the guys in the back had illuminated what looked like Johnny fast walking toward us. I floored it, and as I did, the figure set out in a sprint, eventually tripping over a loose board and crashing into the wood on the bridge. Johnny let out a blood-curdling screech. We raced to the main road, turned and routed our way back to the group of houses that made our little neighborhood in the woods.

Cooper and Pete explained everything we'd seen to my dad and my cousin's parents. Cops arrived and we all took them first to the hobo camp. We got there and found it just as Ahmed described. The next morning, a search team was assembled of officers from all over the state.

Searching the woods, about a mile north of the camp, they found a grizzly discovery. The body of a young girl, who had gone missing months ago, was found, freshly killed, she had been eaten alive by someone.

Several miles away, outside of the community of Index, a homeowner called the police: he had just shot a crazed man who tried to claw his way through their back door.

It was Johnny.

An autopsy revealed he had eaten the girl, and blood on his clothes was 'too intermingled' to determine clear identity, but it was safely assumed it was that of the hobos.

No toxins were found in his bloodstream, nothing to explain why a bright young man, runner on the cross-country team, destined for Stanford, had suddenly and dramatically turned so violent.

Ahmed and Luis explained they never even saw him leave. He just, disappeared from the group. One moment, talking all about how the first summer after graduation was going to be a blast, the next, he was gone.

Forensic psychologists could only conclude that Johnny had some form of latient mental disorder, and that when he disappeared from the group to do his normal tricks, something triggered it.

A review of the autopsy showed he had suffered a relatively minor concussion and several sprains, which suggested he had fallen at some point. Police later retraced the area and found evidence where someone had tripped and slid down a slope and injured themselves on some rocks at the foot of the steep incline. Those rocks are where Johnny became truly lost.

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