I live in an area which has unusually many weird inhabitants. One woman is for example locally known for going around in the neighbourhood in a winter jacket all year and always having a napkin decorated with flower-patterns covering her face. But these strange individuals are however almost always completely harmless, so therefore do people seldom react to stories told by children about them. When I was ten years old did for example my mother dismiss my account of an especially strange encounter as just a product of my childish imagination. This event took place when I after school one sunny October day made the choice to take an alternative road home. The road I used to take had some large building blocks on one side and a football field on the other, and on the other side of that football field there was a road that had a forest of oaks and maple trees on its opposite side. Since this was early during October where almost all of the red and yellow autumn leaves still on the trees, which looked spectacularly beautiful. I therefore thought it would be nice to go nearer this forest by taking this way home I had never walked on before.
After some minutes on this alternative road home I came across a gathering of five children hysterically laughing at a person who told them to not laugh. After getting closer I saw that the children laughed at an old man that appeared to be homeless judging from his shabby clothes. His white hair was greasy and spiky at the same time, he had a white five-o-clock shadow and his tattered clothes revealed extremely thin and almost skeletal arms and legs. But both his skin and clothes were covered with irregular spots of some reddish-brown substance which I then assumed was some kind of mud or paint. He stood there holding a cap with the same kind of spots while all of the children but me laughed at him. I did instead just stare at the strange man with out making any sound at all. But suddenly did the man start to look at me and said with a raspy voice: “Finally, a person that takes a retired surgeon seriously during this day! My name is Steve, and we are going to my home in the forest!”.
Before I could even react to these words, he grabbed my arm and ran into the forest with me. The man smelled like rotten leaves and something ironlike that I couldn’t identify in this moment. After having been running for a time that seemed like fifteen minutes we came to a small, cave-like opening in a cliff. There he stopped running while I fell to the ground which was covered my something reddish that I could not identify. Then did the man say this without showing any sign of being exhausted: “My insides have started to disappear since my retirement so I have to do a surgery on you. I hope your heart will not be rejected by my body like the hearts I have tried to insert during the preceding days!”.
Then I suddenly understood why the ground was red and what the irregular spots on the man’s clothes and body was made of. He took of his jacket and opened his shirt which revealed a black cavity there his stomach and chest should otherwise have been. From one of his pockets the man now took up a scalpel and drew it over my chest. This gave me a small cut on the part of my body where my heart is. But before the surgery could go any further, I succeed to get out of his grip and ran as fast as I could from the place without ever looking back. After about a half-hour I came home to my mother who had been worried if something had happened to me during my way home. But when I told her about my experience and showed her my cut, she just dismissed it as a product of my imagination and said that I just got the cut from a thorn bush.
After that I never took that way home from school again, and after I had finished primary school, I started to theorize that the man had drugged me and that all that I had seen during that afternoon was just hallucinations. But yesterday, about seventeen years after the encounter, I meet an old friend of mine when I was out walking my dog in my old neighbourhood. We then preceded to talk about our lives since we finished primary school, but suddenly she said: “It’s a bit sad that one hasn’t seen Crazy Steve for so many years now.”.
When I asked who this “Crazy Steve” was she answered: “Oh, he was a homeless street magician that claimed to be a retired surgeon. Steve showed up outside the forest every day there he was laughed out by almost everybody for his failed magic tricks. And I can remember you saw him one time if I don’t misremember it entirely?”.
I then confirmed for her that I had really met him but did only say: “Yes, he was a real original.”.
She then replied: “Whenever a person didn’t laugh at Crazy Steve, they were always taken into the forest by him. I’m not entirely sure I saw many of the people again after that happened, but since I saw you after he took you into the forest, I guess the others also came back.”.
But when I heard these words my face faced and I felt the need to throw up. Because now I did not just understand that what I experienced there was indeed real, but also what happened to all those who didn’t laugh at Crazy Steve’s failed magic tricks.