19 years ago, my best friend disappeared from a place I’ve never returned to. Something wants me to go back.

Every neighborhood has that neighbor, that one house to which stories are attached, stories that have been passed from friend to friend, from older siblings to younger. Stories told in tents under flashlights, around bonfires. The house itself is nondescript, but more often than not, children walking about the neighborhood will cross the street so as not to pass directly in front of it.

When I was a kid, those stories were told about the Olson farmland.

The Olson house and its adjoining farmland sat off of a long, otherwise empty road, the road that led from the rest of the town to our school, which itself was on the edge of the county line. Countless bus rides were spent with some kid regaling a story told to him/her by his older sibling, who had heard it from their best friend’s older sibling, who had heard from a guy at the ice cream shop about some terrifying night when they bravely ventured onto the Olson property.

It was more than that, though. Going onto the Olson farmland became a rite of passage of sorts, the top tier of truth or dare, the place where only the bravest of kids played Ghost In The Graveyard. The rumors, though, were usually enough to keep kids away. My parents told me all the stories were just that…stories. Being young and naive, I swore they were just telling me that to protect me, that there really were unspeakable horrors past the Olson property line.

When I was 10 years old, a small group of us were sleeping over at our friend Luke’s house when his older brother Kyle and his friend Dylan came downstairs. As they walked through the living room, we heard them talking not only about the Olson farmland, but about going to it that night.

Luke asked his brother if that was indeed the plan, which the older boys confirmed. Being as young as we were, we were desperate for the older kids to like us; we would’ve followed them off a cliff if it meant we got to hang out with them before we fell. As such, we asked to go with.

After feigning incredulity at the prospect of us, a group of dumb little kids, being able to handle venturing onto the dreaded Olson property, the older guys agreed to let us tag along. I was somewhat apprehensive but intrigued, while Luke and Ryan were both nothing short of ecstatic. Ben and Danny weren’t sure what was worse: the idea of going to the place that terrified them, or the ridicule they’d suffer for being the only ones not to go. Children are the meanest people.

That night, we waited until Luke’s parents were asleep, then snuck out of the house under the leadership of Kyle and Dylan. As we made the nearly 2 ½ mile walk, Ben and Danny’s fear only rose while my own relaxed. I was going to be able to say I’d been on the Olson farmland, and I’d have people to corroborate my story; not just my friends, but the cool older kids too, whose words carried more weight. It was a big deal in my 10-year-old old mind.

We came up to the top of a hill that finally revealed the Olson property.

According to my parents, the Olson family consisted of patriarch David, who personally handled transportation of the crops they grew, mother Jennifer, and son Tyler. They’d inherited the land from David’s father, who in turn had inherited it from his father, and so forth going back several generations. Jennifer apparently had a sister in the next town over, with whom she and her son would occasionally spend the night when David was on a particularly long delivery. The Olsons kept to themselves, but were hardly the malevolent people children’s stories would lead someone to believe.

We looked down the hill and found that David Olson’s semi-truck was nowhere in sight, nor was his wife’s van. Kyle and Dylan said how lucky we all were that they were gone, that now we could really explore, really roam around to try to find evidence of whatever horribleness laid within.

If I could go back in time, I would’ve snitched us out to Luke’s parents, I would have drugged my friends, I would have beaten them to the point of unconsciousness if it meant not going down that hill.

We crossed the street and stepped foot onto the Olson land, and the only way I can describe it is that it felt like a blanket of anxiety came over me. From the moment my foot hit the grass on their property, my chest tightened and my heart sank to my stomach, a feeling that didn’t go away the entire time I was there.

Kyle and Dylan told us that they were going to go around the left side of the house while we went around the right side, a decision that according to them was an effort to confirm nobody was there. We obliged, finding that the house was dark, silent, by all accounts empty, and that we didn’t need to worry about anyone suddenly coming outside and busting us.

We made our way around to the backyard and waited for Kyle and Dylan. And waited. And waited. We expressed some concern at first, but Luke said they were probably just fucking with us, that they might even have brought us out there just to ditch us as a prank. I would find later that this is indeed what happened. They thought it would be funny to leave us out there, to let us piss our pants from fear.

Regret from this decision would lead Kyle to commit suicide when he was 15 years old, which in turn led their mother to do the same the following week, and their father the day after her.

At this development, Ben and Danny insisted we leave, but Luke, the de facto ringleader of this endeavor, said we didn’t need the older guys, that we knew how to get back just fine. Even still, Luke said our scared friends were welcome to leave, but reminded them that they’d be walking home through a large set of woods they weren’t familiar with, just the two of them, with nothing but a single flashlight between them to light the way.

Despite my unease, I was still intrigued. I don’t know if I wanted the rumors to be true, or if I was just excited to be able to personally disprove them. We continued on our journey to the area of the Olson farmland to which most of the stories were attributed, the farmland beyond the house. There were three barns, a large storage shed, several plots of various crops, and a set of woods that was otherwise out of place in that it all began and ended on their property.

Luke decided that it would be a good idea if we split up (I genuinely believe that his only rationale for thinking that was Scooby-Doo). Because Ryan wasn’t worried about anything, he offered to go with Ben and Danny, while myself and Luke went the other way. We’d brought a set of four walkie-talkies from Luke’s house, giving two to the three of them before they ventured off.

Luke and I went to the largest of the three barns first; stories had been told of the Olson’s raising rats as big as dogs, and any number of animal hybrids. We went into the first barn, and I can’t really think of a way to put it other than it was…impossibly dark. Even with the door to the barn open and the moonlight pouring in from behind us, the interior of it was completely pitch black. Our flashlights only illuminated the shortest of distances.

We soon realized that there was nothing in the barn at all; it was completely empty. The only thing of note was that there was a door on the floor. It looked like the front door of a house, with a trisected window and everything, fancily trimmed wood, and a knob. We turned it but it didn’t budge an inch. We were tasked with checking out the first of the three barns and the storage shed, so we headed there next.

As we were walking, I looked out towards the woods, and under the moonlight I saw the silhouette of a person, someone from the build of which I would have guessed was around our age or slightly older.

I remember stopping in my tracks and staring at the black shape in the distance. I obviously couldn’t see any features, but I somehow knew they were staring back at me, that kind of hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck surety you get but can’t explain. Luke asked what I was doing, and I didn’t break my gaze when I told him there was someone out in the woods. Luke craned his neck to see, but by this point, there was no one there.

The person hadn’t run off, they hadn’t suddenly hidden, nor had I averted my eyes for even a split second. It was like my mind didn’t register where they went. I swore up and down to Luke that there was someone out there and that we should leave, but he convinced me that it was more than likely his brother playing a joke on us, considering we could still see Ryan, Ben, and Danny sheepishly investigating their first barn.

I shook off the bad feeling I had and we kept going to the storage shed. Now, it’s important I emphasize a detail about this shed.

The road we’d crossed to get onto the Olson farmland was just went of their house, and the door to the shed faced that same direction.

Anyways, we go into the shed, and it’s a normal shed. The lights don’t work, but our flashlights do an adequate enough job. There are metal rows of various chemicals and tools dividing the structure into rudimentary aisles, all parallel save for one at the rear of the shed which ran perpendicular. We each took an aisle on either side of the middle one.

In my aisle, the only thing of note that I can recall were a number of small figurines carved from what appeared to be rock. That in and of itself isn’t strange, but they were soaking wet to the touch, and they had a texture that was almost gelatinous. I wiped my hand off and met Luke around the other side.

We went to check the solitary aisle at the back, but as we stepped away from the initial set, the unnatural darkness returned. I looked back and could hardly see the aisles behind me, and could see next to nothing in front of me, save for what was lit up by the dim flashlights. We turned the corner down the aisle, at which point we were both startled by the static sound of the walkie-talkie, as though someone had pressed the button to communicate by mistake.

We heard rustling around, and what sounded like our friends whispering to each other. Luke tried talking to them but couldn’t; it would seem that the button was indeed being pressed. The static then ceased, then started up again, then ceased, then started up again, like someone was repeatedly pressing the button. Irritated, Luke turned the volume on his walkie down and had me do the same.

We shined our lights at the shelves, finding more chemicals and tools, but nothing of note. I was looking at a bottle of cleaner or something when Luke said my name. I looked to him and saw him pointing his light at the wall in front of us. In the small circle of it that was illuminated, it looked like it was moving…like the wall was squirming. I shined my light at it and squinted, taking a step closer to inspect it.

What I saw was centipedes. Big, small, long, short, hundreds of them in that little illuminated circle, all crawling over each other, back and forth. Neither of us being afraid of such creepy crawlies, we were more fascinated than anything, though that feeling of dread still simmered until my skin.

Suddenly the room got very bright, like clouds had moved out of the way of the sun. This revealed that the entire back wall as well as the ceiling was crawling with thousands, hundreds of thousands of centipedes. This made me step back and tense up, but Luke just laughed. What bothered me the most was that I looked around, and there wasn’t a single centipede on any other walls or the floor. They went perfect from one side of the ceiling to the other, and one side of that single wall to the other, and were nowhere else, not a single stray, wayward one of them.

I said to Luke that I wanted to get out of there, and he abided. We started walking back towards the door when it suddenly slammed shut, extinguishing all the light but for our weak flashlights.

“Ha ha guys, very funny.” Luke said in a half-whisper.

He wasn’t afraid, not even for a second, but I was petrified. I could hardly breath. Even less so when our flashlights simultaneously flickered out.

“Pieces of shit.” Luke said. “Come on, go.”

I was in front of Luke, and I started walking towards the door, completely blind. I heard Luke’s shoes skid behind me.

“Nick?” he said, and for the first time all night I heard fear in his voice. Then he repeated it, but his voice sounded higher pitched, and almost…mechanical.

“What?” I whispered back.

“Is that you?” he asked me. “Is that you?” The second time had the same off-kilter tone, but wasn’t quite so high pitched.

“Is what me?” My heart felt like it was beating out of my body.

“Nick…” he sniffled, like he was crying. I’ve never heard the voice of someone who was more afraid than Luke in that moment. All of his bravery was gone, all of his posturing that he got from having a tortuous older brother washed away by a flood of true, pure terror. “Nick…” That same awkward tone of voice returned.

Then, after another sniffle, my best friend said the last words I ever heard him say.

“I don’t want to be here anymore, please.”

And the other, just barely…off…voice repeated.

I don’t want to be here anymore, please.

The room then lit up for a split second, almost blindingly so. What I saw, I’ve never been able to reason away, never been able to justify.

I saw Luke, with his face twisted in a horrified scream that made no sound, and I saw a figure looming over him with his hand on Luke’s shoulder, easily twice as tall as us, crooked fingers gripping onto my best friend. Its face was as though someone had used a heavy blur filter on a face of an already heavily blurred photograph. I don’t know how I knew, but I was certain that it was what I had seen in the woods, only now, there were these horrible, jagged, irregular antlers jutting out from its head.

The light then went away completely once again, and for no longer than a second, I heard what sounded like scurrying footsteps heading towards the back of the shed. Then the light returned to normal.

Luke was gone. I didn’t know what to do. My 10-year-old brain said to run, so I did. I sprinted for the door of the shed, but when I burst through it, I ended up not in the middle of the farmland where I’d entered it, but rather in the middle of the woods.

Stranger yet, it was daytime. Moments before it had been around midnight, now it looked as though it was noon.

I looked behind me and the shed was there, but there were no centipedes on the ceiling (or, presumably, the back wall), and the contents of the shelves were different. I didn’t know where I was, and I just sat down and sobbed. That’s when I heard my name being called, by a cacophony of voices. I was found in those woods by one of the people who lived a few streets over from my house.

I had been missing for three days, and despite them checking that shed in the woods several times, they hadn’t found me in it. I explained what I could to police, but they took much of my tale as trauma-induced exaggeration and rehashings of the campfire stories I’d heard of the Olson farmland. Ben and Danny said that they’d looked for us but once it started to get light out they left, going to Danny’s house and telling his dad that they didn’t know where we were.

They’d apparently gotten separated from Ryan, but Ryan too had made his way back to his own house by the time the sun came up. He saw something that night too, of that I’m sure, but he’s never said a word about what happened during their search of the Olson farmland or his time there alone. Not to anyone, ever.

No trace of Luke was ever found. Not a single one.

I’ve lived the last 19 years confused, angry, sad, vengeful, helpless, regretful. Not a day has gone by that I don’t think about Luke, about that night. I keep the walkie-talkie I had that night on the dresser in my bedroom, always on and always with fresh batteries. I did it initially because I hoped he might still be out there, and I might be the one to hear from him, then later because it became habit, and a token of remembrance.

I’ve often thought about returning to the Olson farmland. Maybe through the eyes of my adult self I might be able to better rationalize what happened. The confusion and fear of that night have kept me from doing so. But I’m going to start my journey back after I click ‘submit’ on this post. I’m going to start it by finding my old friend Ryan.

Last night, I was awoken by the repeated static sounds, like someone pressing the communication button over and over. I sat up in my bed and listened, and after about a minute and a half of this, a voice came through. It was quiet, like it wasn’t intentionally trying to speak through the walkie.

It was the awkward, mechanical voice I’d heard in the shed just moments before my best friend disappeared 19 years ago.

“I don’t want to be here anymore, please.”

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