You may be wondering how I got involved with our mutual friend. It’s always a riveting tale to tell, isn’t it? A roommate introduced you to Marble Hornets, you investigated the disappearance of a girl driven mad by a mysterious figure, you stumbled across the blogs, thinking they were fiction before getting wrapped up in the madness yourself…
I’m afraid my own story is none of the above and, thus, in order to learn it, you will have to bear with me a while longer.
The tale begins with a young Marcus Prendergast, having just finished a degree in English at Bennington College in Vermont, an exclusive and rather elitist liberal arts college. The degree was largely useless, both because of its rather limited employment opportunities and because I had no intention of working, but it was a good way to pass some time. It was the day of my graduation, in fact, and my childhood friend, Benjamin Vanderwaal, had come to see me, not only to see my graduation but to offer me a place on his latest excursion.
Benjamin, you see, had a fondness for going on trips. He’d see a film or hear a story and his imagination would be instantly captured; the mountains of Peru, the rolling plains of Africa; if you’d shown him a yellow brick road, he would have skipped merrily along it to find the Emerald City. His latest trip was to the Black Forest in Germany, for he had heard a marvellous local myth and been…enchanted by it.
A rather rich expatriate of Germany, who had grown up on the outskirts of the Forest, told him of the legend of Der Baumwanderer; the Tree Walker; a dangerous faerie that was said to amble through the forest, occasionally stumbling across a small child out picking berries and spiriting them away. This legend wouldn’t have enchanted Benjamin so much if not for the fact that the expatriate claimed that his grandfather, who had served in the Germany army during World War II, had seen the creature with his own eyes while on a mission.
You can imagine how Benjamin’s imagination was inflamed by such a tale (or perhaps you cannot and I am merely projecting my own assumptions about him on to you); he was determined to go to the Black Forest and find the Tree Walker himself. He had enlisted the aid of a professional explorer, Winston Ramsey, and a local, Hans Schlueter, to help us track down the creature. I counselled against having both on the team, I could see the inevitable conflict which would ensue as they both attempted to attest greater knowledge, but he could not be swayed.
We arrived in the Black Forest a month later. What happened within…I am not ready to recount, but suffice to say, when we came out, Hans was dead, Winston was blind and Benjamin had been driven as close to madness as a man may be without being driven over the edge completely. From that day on, we were hunted, wherever we went. Our homes held no refuge, nor did the highest mountains in the world. For ten years, the three of us fled across the world, fled from the Tree Walker and the horror of what happened in that great, dark forest. Eventually, we grew tired of each other’s company and that weariness turned to rage all too easily. After a particularly tense argument between Benjamin and I, the three of us parted ways. Winston returned to his home in London and I returned to mine in Vermont. Alone among us, Benjamin returned to the Black Forest and bought a cabin on its edge, for he had been possessed with an obsession far beyond the initial enchantment that had brought him there in the first place.
I have been here for eight years now. I am not completely alone. I am visited once a day by a nurse, who makes sure I am fully stocked on food and whatnot. The house has been fully outfitted to allow me to live a perfectly pleasant life without external aid. She visits me not on my own invite but on Winston’s. You see, Winston fears that unless I am checked up upon daily, if I am to suddenly die, it will be some time before anyone would discover my body. A reasonable fear, perhaps, considering that I have not left my house in four years. Not since I was brought home from hospital after the accident that landed me in this wheelchair. You see, my home is surrounded by trees on all sides, but for a single narrow driveway leading up to the door, and even that is surrounded and overshadowed by an arch of trees. I know he’s waiting there. Always. If I leave this house, even once, he will be back to finish me off.
For the Tree Walker does not forgive. Because the Tree Walker does not forget.