I’ve been trying my hardest to stay away from other people since we’re in the middle of a pandemic. I haven’t been going to beaches with friends. I haven’t been going to the movies on dates. I’ve barely left my house these last few months, except to get groceries and walk my dog around the block.
Since I’ve been bored out of my mind, I decided to start geocaching. All you have to do is download an app to your phone and you can start going on treasure hunts. It’s pretty fun. It gets me outside. It gives me exercise. And it allows me to explore more of my own town. It seemed like the perfect way to spend my weekends.
And it was. At first.
If you’ve never been geocaching before, you should know the treasure at the end of the hunt is usually hidden inside a small jar or container of some sort. Inside, there will be a little notebook or sheet of paper where everyone can write their name. Sometimes, people take it a step further and will leave presents that can be swapped out. Stickers. Erasers. Pens. You take something. You leave something.
On my first stop, deep in a forest on the side of a road, there was a jar hidden inside an open tree trunk. It was half-filled with marbles. They were grimy, covered in dirt, ruined from rain that must’ve seeped into the container. I didn’t touch them. I simply jotted my name down on the slip of paper and went on my way.
My next few stops were in more public places. A jar was hidden beneath a park bench. Another was at the front entrance of a shut-down mall. Another was leaning against a street sign.
When it seemed like I had gone to every single geocaching location in my town, I searched through some online forums to see if there were any more I’d missed.
I came across a weird post, warning everyone to avoid a certain location. It was one I had already visited, the first one, but I read through the post for the hell of it. It was written like a ghost story. A local myth.
Allegedly, every single person who wrote their name on the list inside the jar there had died. They had either gone missing or were found dead, their bodies mutilated.
It was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.
But I still had a strong desire to scribble my name off of the damn list. Just in case. It couldn’t hurt.
I returned to the woods, stupidly forgetting to pack an umbrella in my bag. By the time I got there, it was pouring. I ran through the rain, my shirt absolutely drenched, and pulled out the jar from the tree.
Under the cover of branches, I slipped out the notepad and plugged the first name into my phone. MARY SHEPHERD. She came up in an article about a kidnapping. She was listed as a missing person, presumed dead.
I tried the next name. JACK PACE – MISSING PERSON.
And the next. ELIZABETH BLACK – MISSING PERSON.
Every single name on the list was missing, murdered, or MIA.
“Shit shit shit.”
I stuffed the notebook back into the jar, planning to take it to the police. In the process, my finger brushed against one of the marbles at the bottom. Except they weren’t marbles. They were too squishy. Too soft.
More like eyeballs.
I swallowed down vomit, sealed the jar, and clutched it against my chest. I rose from the mud, turned to leave, and stumbled right into a masked man in black.
“You have such pretty eyes,” he said. And then it all went dark.