Everybody knew about the boy with the golden shoe laces. His real name was Noah Young, but no one paid any attention to him. He would spend every recess sitting under the massive tree in the middle of the playground reading to himself, because no one would dare go near him. About 15 years ago, we were all in elementary school and it was already starting to feel like high school. Only certain kids hung out with each other, and if someone wanted to join them, he would be scolded and insulted unless he were man enough to come back with his own insults.

Sometimes, he would even disappear in the middle of recess and they would have to go looking for him. They always found him in the same place outside the class, in the dark woods, all by himself. Nobody knew why he would do this and I finally decided to risk my reputation and start talking to Noah. I asked him all about why he would leave and where he would go.

He said some pretty weird things. He told me that his parents didn’t love him. His father would drink and beat him with no mercy and scream over and over again, “You are not my son!” His mom was no help either, because all she did was stay in the bathroom all day and come out with cuts on her arms.

The way he described her behavior back then seemed like a mystery to me, but looking at it now that I’m older, I am almost positive she was on meth. He told me there was only one thing that loved him in this world, and that was the tree in the deepest part of the forest. He told me he would go there and the tree would comfort him and tell him not to worry, that everything would be okay. The tree gave him fruit when he was hungry, and provided a blanket of leaves when he was cold. He told me that not even the kids in his class cared for him, so what he would always do is go to the tree.

I thought he was crazy. Looking back on it now, I remember telling all the kids in class of his stories. Everyone made fun of him and I felt terrible. One day, a kid tripped him in the middle of class and, with tears in his eyes. Noah ran away. After that, I never saw him again. The police went searching for Noah for months and eventually closed the case.

He was gone and none of us knew why. I looked up my old hometown about a week ago and discovered some shocking things, the first of which being that my town had the highest missing children count in the entire country. This came as a shock, as I had only remembered it happening twice in my entire life. But the other thing that I discovered sent shivers down my spine. I still have nightmares about it.

A boy found an odd tree in the forest. He contacted the police and, to their surprise, they discovered a tree with hundreds of shoe laces hanging from the branches. And, at the very end of the tallest branch, were the golden shoelaces of Noah Young.

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