I don’t know why the fuck I’m still updating this fucking thing it isn’t like anyone is reading it it isn’t like Madelyn’s gonna get online and find it and see how fucking sad I am and magically reappear in my life so idk why I’m still fucking doing this to myself
Okay, I’ll just say it: I woke up in the woods last night.
I had a totally normal evening yesterday. My mom had a day off from the hospital so she was even home. We had dinner together, like, at the table. She even cooked, which she hasn’t done in ages, she made earth soup, which is just soup using all the weird root vegetables like rutabagas and parsnips. We watched The Conjuring, which I maintain is a sweet, pure film about love and family, and my mom totally agreed. I said I wanted to bleach my hair and she said,
“Like silver blond? Like Factory days Edie Sedgwick?”
And I said, “Like Courtney Love, before Kurt died.”
And she said, “hm controversial.” She ruffled my hair to see how she would cut it, and then she said, “k, I’ll buy bleach tomorrow.” And then we listened to the Bleach album in my hair’s honor while I did my Spanish homework, and then I went to bed.
Just like Tilly and Madelyn, I slept like an angel. Like, it was a markedly good night’s sleep. Totally dreamless, totally uninterrupted, like a spot of black in my memory. In the first moments after I woke up I remember realizing with some surprise that I was cold, because it didn’t make sense that I would be so cold while also feeling totally rested and content.
And then I realized that there was something digging into my hip and I lurched awake and found myself out in the god damn fucking forest. My feet were bleeding, I was completely naked and I was covered in dirt and pine needles. I might have screamed, because I remember suddenly clapping my hands over my mouth, terrified, thinking I needed to be quiet or it would find me.
It would find me. I don’t know what It was. I sound like a Stephen King character.
This is all I know: I was filled with this like bone deep conviction that there was something out there. And worse, worse by far: I was searching for it. That doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true — I was walking towards something. I had a sense of purpose. My location was not an accident.
I was terrified. I mean I knew where I was, I’ve been out at the site a few times before. But never at that hour, never stark fuckin naked, and never in October. The sky was an ominous shade of indigo, the trees craggy and black. And there, behind me, something I had never noticed before: an archway, made of trees and thicket, and beyond the archway darkness.
I don’t know how long I stared into it, but the sky was lighter the next time I looked around. I literally slapped my cheeks to try to focus myself. I put my hand in the dirt to push myself up and found under my hand an iPhone in a pink glitter case. I knew who’s it was immediately of course. How many times have I used that phone to change the song, or to read through a text message fight, or call mine when it was lost in the couch?
It was Madelyn’s. Of course it was.
I picked up that phone and I left the clearing without looking back. I was miles from my house and it was probably like six in the morning, and people would be getting up soon and I really didn’t want to walk home naked. I was dimly aware that I was shaking uncontrollably. I have no idea how I got to the lumber road. I came out right where Maddie’s car was found. I just stood there and sobbed, these dry pathetic sobs. I couldn’t breathe. And then I started walking towards town.
I don’t know why I decided to try the phone. Probably just like sheer desperation. I hadn’t paused to consider what finding her phone out there might mean yet. I half expected it to be dead. Or at least broken, it’s supposedly been sitting out there in the dirt for like a month. It’s been raining.
It turned right on. I knew the code to get in obviously. There wasn’t any service yet, but it only took like a quarter of a mile before there was some. The charge was at like 90%.
I considered calling my mom, but I didn’t want her to know. I didn’t want her to be excited about it, or proud, or whatever. I also didn’t want her to worry. I scrolled through the contacts, realizing miserably that I had no one else to call. The only person to call was Madelyn. I considered calling Georgia, but even in that state I couldn’t call Georgia from Madelyn’s cell phone number. I couldn’t do that to her — and I didn’t want to share the phone with her.
On instinct I scrolled down to T, and sure enough there was Tilly Marlow. I didn’t pause to think, I just called.
In retrospect it was risky as hell to call the sheriff’s daughter on a phone I had every intention of hiding from the police. But my instinct was good.
Tilly picked up on the first ring, and said, in a hushed voice, “Madelyn?”
My throat constricted. “No,” I managed. “No, it’s Shiloh.”
There was a pause and I heard all thousand questions she wanted to ask. But all she said was, “where are you?”
So I told her and she said, “I’ll be right there.” Just like that. We both hung up. I didn’t take another step until she came roaring up the road in her infamous black Jeep Wrangler. She stopped in the dirt right in front of me and hopped out, dragging a bathrobe behind her which she wrapped around my shoulders. I sagged against her. I might have cried. I don’t remember. It was all a huge blur of relief.
She didn’t drive me directly home. She was wearing a puffy black down jacket zipped over flannel pajama bottoms. No makeup, curls all smudged from sleeping. She pulled through the local coffee stand, where she was greeted by name by the barista. I said I didn’t want anything so she ordered me chamomile tea and a vanilla latte. I clutched at the tea while we drove.
When I finally said, “I was looking for something” she just said, “yeah,” and kept driving.
“I don’t want to tell anyone,” I said.
“They won’t hear it from me,” she promised. We drove for like a full minute in silence before she finally said, “look, no judgment. But how long have you had that phone?”
I’d forgotten about the phone. “I just found it,” I said in a rush. “It was in the woods.”
“Charged?” she asked.
“It must have been off until I found it.”
I looked down at the phone in my lap. It wasn’t even dirty. “I don’t know,” I said. “I just found it out there with me, I don’t know how it got there.”
Tilly was quiet for a long moment before she finally said, “have you looked through it yet?”
I shook my head.
“Are you gonna give it to my dad?” she asked.
I hesitated, glancing at her. She continued before I could think what to say.
“I won’t blame you,” she said slowly, “if you don’t want to do it right away.” She was pulling up in front of my house.
“Thanks,” I said. “For everything. I didn’t know who else to call.”
She said “Call anytime,” and I think she meant it. “Do you want me to wait while you shower and stuff? I can give you a ride to school.”
But I said I was going to take the day off.
I turned off Madelyn’s phone. I haven’t looked in it. It’s the best lead I ever could have hoped for, but I can’t bring myself to look at it.