As darkness descended upon the forest, Oliver began to feel like he was living a nightmare.
"William!" he shouted.
Oliver's voice faded into the thick woods. With his heart pounding in his throat, he anxiously waited for a response.
His eyes welled up with tears, and he had to fight back the urge to cry. He felt something inside him crumble, along with whatever hope he had left. He clenched his fists and struck a tree trunk in frustration.
Oliver was searching for his son, William.
They had gone camping in the forest near their town at the insistence of the young boy to celebrate his twelfth birthday. Initially, everything went well. They spent the morning setting up the tent, gathering firewood, and exploring the campsite's surroundings. However, by the afternoon, William grew bored and eager to return home.
Unfortunately, Emma, his mother, suggested playing hide-and-seek to pass the time. While she closed her eyes and counted to a hundred, her son slipped away to find a hiding spot.
And they never saw him again.
After searching near the campsite for about half an hour, Emma grew increasingly anxious and decided to call the authorities, but her mobile phone had no signal. After debating her options for a minute, she got into her car and rushed to get help.
Oliver stayed behind, continuing his search for William.
Six hours had passed.
He called out his son's name again, his throat burning.
No one responded.
William seemed to have vanished into thin air. Oliver couldn't find a trace or any other sign to guide him; he was circling aimlessly. He leaned against a tree and repeatedly banged his head, trying to think of something. The fading twilight gave way to the darkness of the night, and Oliver turned on his flashlight, shining it randomly.
A shiver ran down his spine.
In the flashlight's beam, he glimpsed something reddish, partially hidden in a bush. He jumped and ran towards it. His heart raced, almost like a drum inside his chest, with every step. He knelt down, placed the flashlight on the ground, and grasped the familiar object: William's jacket.
Oliver felt relief like never before.
Then, the relief was devoured by panic.
The drawing on the back of the jacket, one of the Cars movie characters, was torn. Oliver tried to calm himself, thinking that it could have torn on a branch, but he couldn't. A chilling sensation washed over him; the jacket had been scratched, but by large claws. He shook his head in denial and picked up the flashlight for a closer look.
He found small dark stains on the fabric.
With trembling fingers, he touched them; they were sticky. Oliver dropped his son's jacket as if it were cursed and averted his gaze.
As he was about to vomit, something moved among the bushes ahead. He jumped to his feet and shone the flashlight where he thought he had seen the movement.
A small dark silhouette crossed the flashlight's beam.
"William," he whispered.
After a moment of surprise, he called out to him loudly.
Again, he shook his head to clear his mind. It made no sense for William to run from him; quite the opposite, he would run into his arms. He decided that the best course of action was to move forward. He grabbed William's backpack and circled the bush to get a better look.
After walking for several minutes, and with his voice hoarse from shouting, he stopped in front of a natural cave. The flashlight barely penetrated the deep darkness, like the throat of a giant creature. Oliver swallowed hard and entered; he would find William, no matter what.
Stepping inside the cave felt like entering purgatory; his worst fears awaited him.
The rocky ground was stained with blood.
"Oh God, please, let it be a deer's blood," he pleaded with a quivering voice.
Every step he took following the blood trail was agonizing. The flashlight seemed to be in the hands of someone with Parkinson's disease. Nevertheless, the beam illuminated the cave's end. Oliver felt a tingling sensation all over his body, as if a thousand needles were piercing him simultaneously. On the ground, marked in the mud, he discovered small footprints; they were William's. But there were also a pair of larger footprints that could only belong to an adult.
He didn't have time to contemplate their meaning.
His son's backpack and the flashlight slipped from his hands.
"William..." he stammered.
Oliver approached, his feet dragging. Tears streamed down his face and slid to his lips. He collapsed to his knees beside the small boy.
Or what was left of him.
William was missing an arm, and a piece of his throat had disappeared.
Oliver buried his face in the boy's chest.
"It's a nightmare, a joke, it can't be real. It can't be..."
That was it; a cruel joke. Holding the mutilated body of William, Oliver raised his head and began to cry uncontrollably.
He cried for hours.
When the authorities finally found him, he was still crying, with little William in his arms.
The small rectangular door opened. Inside the white padded room, a man, dressed in a straitjacket, rocked back and forth, crying incessantly. It seemed as though he would drown in his own tears at any moment.
"Who is that?" asked the new nurse at the psychiatric hospital. "He seems to be in great pain."
"That's Oliver," the supervisor replied. "Around this time, the medications stop working, and he starts crying."
"Do they know why?" the new nurse inquired.
According to what the psychologist has managed to extract during his visits, he is traumatized by having found his son's partially devoured body."
"Oh my God. Poor man..."
"Poor?" The supervisor made a disgusted face. "He should burn in hell."
"I don't understand..."
The supervisor closed the opening and looked at the new nurse.
"You see... It's true that the police found Oliver crying in a cave with the body of a boy named William in his arms. And it's true that the boy was partially devoured. But what's also true is that it was Oliver himself who kidnapped the boy while he was camping with his mother in the forest.
And he's the one who tore into the boy's body with his teeth..."
Merci pour la lecture!
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