by

Cody-Mower

There are two places called “Satan’s Ridge” in the town of Greene, but you won’t find either of them on a map. Towns in rural Maine or rural anywhere are like that. Locals give nicknames to undesirable areas. These names stick in a way that cartographers or zoning boards don’t understand, allowing the places like Greene to keep their secrets or, in the case of the two ridges, be forgotten about entirely.

I first heard about the two ridges in my junior year of high school during a fall visit to my grandparent’s house in 2008. Dad and I had just spent eight hours chopping a truckload of firewood for my grandpa. When we pulled off onto the dirt road leading to his house, I was already exhausted, and the fresh blisters on my hands made me wince any time we hit a pothole.

“Alright, I’m going to go inside to start stacking, and you’re going to start chucking the wood through the basement window,” Dad said to me as we reached their driveway. He swung the truck around, backed it up to the small window, and killed the engine.

The sky had started collecting the soft purple of twilight, and the temperature was flirting with freezing. Dad lit up a cigarette, blowing smoke into the cab, “Your hands wouldn’t hurt if you did more than write stories and play video games. This will put hair on your chest.”

After twenty minutes of throwing wood down the shoebox-sized hole into the basement, my hands became numb to the pain, and I grew bored with the monotony of the task. I heard my grandpa come down the stairs and start talking to Dad. I wasn’t much of an eavesdropper, but with nothing else to do, it couldn’t be helped.

At first, they just babbled about my mother, Veronica, maxing out another credit card. A discussion about old news then morphed into a conversation about Dad’s work at Lowes, and eventually the topic of snowmobiling. The truck was almost empty. The sun dropped below the trees and the sky darkened to pitch black. No moon tonight.

“Gotta find a new way to get onto Henderson Loop this year,” I heard Dad say from the glowing light of the basement window, “Game warden is shutting down the main access to give the deer some space.”

The ache in my hands returned as the dwindling pile of split wood reached the layer of heavier, uneven cuts from the early morning. Dad never took me snowmobiling, so I had no idea where all these trails were that he was going on about.

Grandpa grunted, “That sucks. Whaddya gonna do about it?”

“Thinking about going up towards Satan’s Ridge, cutting left on the old trail, and cutting back right to avoid the shutdown altogether. I think that’ll solve the problem,” he said.

I dropped another pile of coarse wood through the hole.

“Satan’s ridge is nowhere near Henderson,” Grandpa said as he stacked another log against the cement wall.

My father’s voice dropped into a whisper, which I almost missed. “No, not that ridge. The ridge.”

Jesus Christ Joel,” Grandpa said, “Why in the hell do you want to do that for? There has got to be another way. Make a whole new trail if you have to.”

In all my seventeen years, I had never heard grandpa talk with such severity in his voice. It gave me goosebumps that had nothing to do with the cold.

“Just a thought. I said towards it, not through it,” Dad said. They stopped talking about snowmobiling, leaving me to wonder.

The bed of the truck was finally empty, and I was grateful to be sitting on a cushioned seat with a heater blowing in my face. I looked back through the rearview window, and I could see Dad flipping the glowing ember of his cigarette off the front porch. He finished his conversation with Grandpa and headed towards the truck.

“There. That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he said, slamming the door as he got in the cab.

I clicked the overhead light on and showed him my mangled hands. The blisters had popped, leaving angry, bright red splotches on my palms that stood out even through the fine layer of dirt and slivers of wood.

“You’ll live, Nancy,” he said, shaking his head.

As he pulled the truck out of the driveway, I asked, “What’s Satan’s Ridge?”

“It’s a ridge by Hooper Pond that we use for four-wheeling or snowmobiling,” he said without missing a beat. The potholes still stung my hands.

“What about the other one?”

The truck slowed to a crawl along the road, filling the cab with the sound of crunching gravel. He cut the headlights off, and darkness swallowed the world around us. My heart took a sharp leap into my chest. It felt like I had just uttered some curse. Outside the windows, not even the trees were distinguishable in the silent black. The neon green glow of the dashboard was the only thing that kept us from disappearing into the nothingness. Dad parked and reached for another cigarette before melting into a long silence.

“Okay,” he said, his voice meaner than I’d heard in a while. “I take it you were eavesdropping?”

“No, sir. It’s just—there wasn’t anything else to listen to.” My stomach began to hurt. My father is one of the last people I wanted to upset. It didn’t matter that I was almost eighteen. He could easily slap me around like a child. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. It was just a question.

He took a long drag from his cigarette, the ember momentarily lighting up his face in a red glow. “I’ll tell you the story,” he said, “but you have to promise me two things. Do you understand?” He looked over at me in the dark.

“Yes,” I said.

The buzzing electricity of relief and mystery made its way through my tired body. Mostly, I felt glad that I wasn’t in trouble, but ever since I was a boy, I knew that Greene, a town older than the country itself, had plenty of secrets. Every time I asked the question, “Has anything bad ever happened?” the adults would shake their heads. Finally, after all these years, I was about to be let in.

“The first thing is that you will not tell your brothers or your mother about this. Is that clear?”

I nodded.

“The second thing is that you will not go looking for this place. Do you swear?”

I swore. The tension was making it hard to sit still.

“Okay, then we have an agreement,” he said, clearing his throat flipping the headlights back on. The truck began to move again.

“I guess the story starts in the fall, ten or so years before your grandfather was born, so ’36 or ’38—somewhere around there. Back when our family still owned that farmhouse and those ninety-nine acres,” he said, focused on the road. “Anyway, Bucky—my grandfather—was one of the first to know about it.”

“Know about what?” I asked in a low voice.

Dad continued like he hadn’t heard me. “Their closest neighbors, the Demarais’, had a baby girl. Unfortunately, the baby was stillborn, meaning she hasn’t been born alive.”

“I know what stillborn means,” I said.

He grunted, “Right. Well, then you’ll know that because the baby wasn’t baptized, they wouldn’t let them bury it in Old Valley Cemetery, so they had to have the baby cremated. No funeral or anything.”

“That sucks,” I said, leaning back in my seat.

“Mrs. Demarais thought so too. Her husband wanted to just give the body over to the town and be done with it, but she insisted on holding a private funeral.”

“That seems like a normal thing to do?” I said, confused.

“To us, sure, but places like Greene can be slow to change.”

The truck snaked down the road in the pitch black. There were no streetlights on Allen Pond Road. The town couldn’t afford them.

“Anyway, they wrapped the body up and set her in the barn to give the wife time to grieve. By the third day, Mr. Demarais had enough, and he said it was time to move on, but when he went into the barn, the body was gone.”

Dad flicked his cigarette out the window. I watched the ember spark and die in a rush of the wind. “Did they find the body?” I asked. Up ahead, I could see the town’s only traffic light at the four-way.

“No.”

“Wait—even today, they still don’t know where the body is?” I sounded more excited than I should have about a missing body.

Dad nodded. “Yes, even today, no one knows where that little girl is buried, but people have an idea of where she may be. You see, later in the summer, Mrs. Demarais started acting really odd—disappearing from the house, coming home late at dusk, dirty and mumbling to herself. She started acting weird shortly after the body disappeared, and everyone chalked it up to grief. And you couldn’t really leave the house in the wintertime, especially back then.”

“We can barely leave the house in the wintertime now if the plow truck doesn’t come through,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“You going to keep interrupting the story?”

“Sorry.”

“One morning, Mr. Demarais said he was going to walk into town for the day and pick up some things, but when he got out of eyeshot, he cut back into the woods to spy on his wife.” Putting his knees up to hold the steering wheel, Dad reached into his jacket pocket for another cigarette. With the snap of his Zippo, he blew fresh smoke into the cab and continued. “Sure enough, she comes out of the house and starts to walk through the woods. He follows her for a while before she gets to a ridge in the middle of nowhere, and that’s when he sees it . . .”

In the glow of the dashboard, I could see Dad squinting as he wrestled with the words. “Three giant stone altars—one with an animal carcass rotting on it—a small dirt amphitheater with steps leading to a low stone ring that has trees growing out of the middle of it, carved with eyes—”

“NO FUCKING WAY!” I blurted out. “There is no way that’s real, right? Like, that’s got to be a joke.” I felt the sting of disappointment. He really had me going for a minute.

Dad glared at me through the dark. “What the fuck did I say about interrupting the fucking story? No, this is the real thing.”

“Have you seen this place before? Actually? Or do you just know about it?” The story seemed too fantastic to be real.

“I’ve been there before,” he said, squeezing the steering wheel. “On your life, I promise you I have been out there. Only once, though.”

My spark of curiosity re-ignited. “What was it like? Wait, what happened to the lady?” I couldn’t decide what I wanted him to answer first.

Dad cleared his throat. “The short answer to the first question: creepy. I’ve spent a lot of time in these woods, and nowhere else comes close to what that place is like. First of all, it’s quiet. As soon as you get on the ridge, all the birds and bugs just sort of melt away, and it’s just you and these stones. No matter where you go in that little clearing, you feel like something is watching you.”

A silent shiver jerked through my body. I involuntarily clenched my hands, sending a shockwave of pain through my arms. The cab was hazy with all the smoke from Dad’s cigarette, making me dizzy.

“As for the lady, she claimed to be talking with spirits that could bring back their baby. The husband had her committed to St. Mary’s in Lewiston for a while, and the place got the nickname ‘Satan’s Ridge.’ Until the early ‘70’s when some kids started stealing chickens—and then pets—in the night. The sheriff’s office tracked them to the ridge, where they found carcasses laid out on the stone altars. They had even driven a metal pole through one of the rocks, so they could do some sick shit to those animals.”

“What happened to those guys? Where did the altars come from?” I asked.

“Two guys from the cult caught jail time, and the town cut down trees across the trail leading to the spot to keep people away.” He paused. “Folk named the ridge by Hopper Pond ‘Satan’s Ridge’ to get people to stop talking about it.” He took a final drag from his cigarette and threw the butt out the window. “They said that Old Lady Demarais built the altars herself—and the amphitheater for that matter—but I’m telling you, Cody, I’ve been out there before, and there is no fucking way one woman did all of that alone. If anything, I would say the stone altars are Native American, but I don’t think there was ever a tribe out here, so I’m not sure.”

I sat in silence for the rest of the ride home. When we pulled into our driveway, Dad looked over at me. “Not a word, remember?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.


I never planned on telling anyone. The whole story disappeared in the din of high school drama, and for a while, the forbidden ridge fell out of my mind completely. It wasn’t until late July that the story comes back to me. My younger brothers, Casey and Cole, were at daycare that summer, and that left a lot of time for my best friend Kyle and me to get into trouble. One hot afternoon, we were lying on the hood of my ’87 Honda Accord, trying to think of something to do while getting a tan in. I went to prop myself up, burning my palm on the hot metal.

“Fuck!” I hissed, shaking my hand. Kyle chuckled, and I gave him a dirty look. “That hurt, dude.”

“Watch where you put your hands next time, dumbass.” Kyle was the son of John Grove, a two-time golden glove boxer who became the town drunk. Kyle had his father’s dark hair and broad frame, and his short temper and love for alcohol. Kyle was an asshole to just about everyone he knew, except me because I know “a lot about feelings an’ shit.” We made an unlikely pair.

Looking at the swollen red skin on my hand, I remembered the ride with my dad last fall. “Hey man, have you ever heard of Satan’s Ridge?”

“The place near Hopper? Duh,” Kyle said, rolling onto his back, wiping the grease off his face off with his towel.

“No, not that one—the other one.” I let the words dangle for a minute as I thought about what my father said.

“There is another one?” Kyle turned his head towards me. “No, there’s not. Quit the shit.”

“I’m serious; there are two ridges.”

“Okay, Mower. Convince me.”

He laid there as I recounted the whole story. Kyle’s eyes widened as I finished. I knew what he was thinking because I was thinking about it too, which made me nervous.

“I’ve heard of that broad before with the baby,” he said. “I heard my mom talking about it once with my aunt! They didn’t say anything about the ridge, though.” He sat up. “Holy shit, dude, we have to find that fucking place. Did Joel tell you where it is?”

“No.” I said, frowning.

“So, he didn’t say anything more about it?” Kyle pressed, throwing his shirt on. “He didn’t give you any kind of clue as to where it might be?”

I paused for a moment, not knowing if I should say anymore. In my delay, though, Kyle saw I was holding back information.

“I swear to God, Cody, fucking spill it before I make you,” he said.

“Okay, okay,” I relented. “I may have heard my dad say something about if he ‘cut left towards the ridge,’ he could ‘cut back right and be on the loop.’ That’s it.”

This information was useless to me, but Kyle was a walking encyclopedia of local trails. The woods were the only place on Earth outside the bounds of his father’s temper. He closed his eyes, wandering his mental map, then opened them.

“Okay, well, any real access to Henderson goes mostly through low-land next to the swamp,” he said. “I can’t think of anything obvious that would lead up to a ridge, but I know there are a few abandoned trails we can explore.”

“How far away are they?”

“Are you serious?” Kyle said, looking at me with disappointment. “The trail behind your house goes straight to the loop; holy shit, how do you not know this? Why do you think I take the snowmobile that way, like, every day in the winter?”

I shrugged. “Dad doesn’t take me snowmobiling. I just kinda wander around the trails in the summer. Don’t actually know the names of anything.”

Kyle shook his head. “Whatever. You’ll learn.”

The summer sun lit up the canopy of maple and oak leaves, warming the pines and making the carpet of dead leaves and dirt glow a soft amber, perfect for exploring. Almost every day, we made the mile-long journey from my backyard through the woods to a wide trail, which led to the Henderson Loop. We planned to explore as much as we could before winter. Along the well-maintained straightaway, small trails branched off into the unknown, one of which we were convinced would lead us to the forbidden ridge. Outfitted with nothing but backpacks full of bottled water and beef jerky, we sought our answers. On our fifth day of exploration, we headed out at our usual time after lunch, when my mom got home from work. I told her that Kyle and I were going out again to walk around the woods, and she waved me off.

“Bring your cellphone,” she said, walking down the hallway to her room.

“It’s in my bag,” I said.

Neither she nor my dad really cared about what I was doing as I got closer to my senior year, as long as I came home before dark.

I had drawn a crude map in a spiral notebook of the trails we explored to make sure we didn’t go down the same trail twice. Squinting at my map, I chose one of the few paths remaining. Tree branches bent and danced as the birds sang while insects drummed in the background. I walked ahead to today’s prospect, one of the few remaining ways we could go before we reached the place where the game warden had restricted snowmobiles the previous winter.

The path was overgrown with thick, thorny bushes and years of neglected debris from fallen trees. Kyle assured me it was a trail. Thorns scraped our ankles, drawing threads of blood along our legs, and a few times, I had to pick ticks off of my shorts.

The deeper we followed the trail into the trees, the more it felt like we were zigzagging down a path carved out by deer. I couldn’t imagine my father getting a snowmobile down this narrow strip of cursed dirt. After an hour of bushwhacking, we came to a wall of felled trunks and brambles heaped across the trial. It reeked of mold and looked like a tangled heap of corpses.

“Fuck,” Kyle said, wiping sweat and dirt from his face with his shirt. “Another dead-end.”

“Shit.”

I was starting to wonder if my dad had actually fed me a line of bullshit. I sat down in the middle of the path and threw off my bag in frustration. My feet hurt, and I was growing tired of failure. Kyle took a bottle of water from my backpack and kicked at one of the soft logs in the pile.

“Guess we’ll have to try again tomorrow,” he said, uncapping the bottle.

My mind drifted off a bit as I stared into the brown heap in front of us when I remembered.

“Wait!” I said. “Dad told me that the sheriff’s office cut trees to block the path, remember?”

Kyle nodded. “Yeah? And?”

I pointed to the large mass in front of us. “What if that’s it?”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but it’s worth a shot, right?” I stood up, wiping dirt off of my legs.

He shrugged. “Fuck it, I guess. We’ve walked this far.”

We went around the fallen mess of trees, which, once viewed from the side, looked even more impressive. It was half as deep as a school bus was long, packed with thorny brambles, brush, and trees layered so high, it reached from the forest floor up to my stomach. Definitely a man-made barrier.

On the other side, a thin sliver of path continued deeper into the forest. Kyle and I kept our eyes peeled for any sign of a ridge. After ten minutes of nothing, the forest floor to the right of the trail slowly began to swell until we could no longer see over the crest. It went on this way for maybe fifty feet before the hill leveled back out. It looked more like a small mountain or a fortress than a ridge.

“Oh my God,” I said, looking up the hill. “The ridge is real.”

“In all my years out here, I’ve never seen this,” Kyle said. He stopped next to me. “Do you think there are bodies up there or something?”

Over the past few days, my obsession with the ridge was more about fact-checking the story than worrying about the cult, a dead baby, or the slaughtered pets. My leg began to shake. What if people were still using this place?

The ridge emitted a conflicting magnetism that felt as if it were telling us to stay away while urging us to come closer. I checked the time on my phone, trying to look nonchalant.

“I don’t know, but it’s, like, almost five, so we shouldn’t stay too long anyway,” I said,  sounding more stoic than I felt. The truth was, with every step up the hill, a growing sense of dread was sending acid into my veins. My heart slammed in my chest so fast and hard, my whole body felt like one giant skittering heartbeat.

Cresting the top of the hill, we broke through the treeline and got our first peek at the real Satan’s Ridge. To our left, a granite boulder impaled with wrought iron bar twice our height dominated the landscape like a silent watchtower.  On our left were even more curious objects—two rough-cut stone altars sat side-by-side. The first altar looked like a misshaped triangle, twice the size of the coffee table in our living room. The smaller one was only as big as a school desk, but both radiated quiet malice. Looking down over the other side of the ridge, we saw something neither of us expected: a set of amphitheater-like steps made of earth leading down into a ring of small boulders that seemed to be holding back the sickly looking trees growing inside.

Kyle went around to get a closer look at the stone altars. I stared at the pine needles beneath my feet. The ground felt heavy. Gravity was different here in a way I couldn’t explain. The air was thick and stale, making breathing a chore, and I started to feel restless, paranoid about standing still for too long. When I looked up, Kyle was wiping debris off of the larger altar.

“Come look at this,” Kyle said, calling me over to the stones. He pointed out a faded channel etched around the edge of the weathered surface. “Is that like, for blood?” he asked.

I had no answer, so I just shook my head. What is this place?

Walking down the thick steps of the amphitheater, I couldn’t wrap my head around one woman doing this. At the bottom, a ring of stones held inside of it four unnatural-looking maple trees. Their trunks reminded me of upturned sewing needles wrapped in smooth grey bark, twenty feet tall. The branches didn’t even start until well above my head, looking like strands of tangled barbed wire, half-naked with wilted leaves.

Gazing higher up the trunk, I could confirm another part of the story. Eyes—crude and ugly—carved eyes of all sizes covered the four trunks. The image of Mrs. Demarais talking to the trees flashed in my mind, making my head ache. A gust of wind rippled through branches, and I watched as they bent and scraped against each other. That’s when it hit me.

The Silence.

Up here, not even the wind made a sound. My blood froze, and I could feel the veins on the side of my head constrict.

“Kyle, let’s go home,” I said, walking up to him, shoving my hands in my pockets. I didn’t want him to see them shaking.

He sat on top of the massive granite boulder looking at the rusting pole. “Did you know there are cut marks in this pole? Like, legit fucking cut marks.”

Jumping up onto the rock next to him, I took a hard look at the pole. A thick layer of rust-covered the surface of the metal, but sure enough, I saw the perfectly straight lines, slicing deep into the iron at all angles.

My stomach turned as a stiff chill pricked its way up my arms. I could feel the eyes from the trees over my shoulder boring into me. I felt dizzy. Our fascination with the forbidden place had melted away, our curiosity smothered by the weight of this empty place.

Whatever we had been expecting, this was not it.

“I don’t care. Let’s go home,” I repeated, my voice sounding crystal clear in the dead air. He nodded and slid off the boulder. Making our way down the hill, neither of us said a word. Stepping back onto the trail, I could finally hear the sounds of birds and treefrogs getting ready for the night. I breathed in the fresh air to calm myself.

“Never again.” I said. “Never again.”

Kyle was staring back up the hill, nodding in agreement when he stumbled and suddenly began dry heaving, hacking like he was about to throw up.

Is he having a panic attack?

I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless. “Are you okay?” I asked.

Kyle put his hands on his knees before taking a few deep breaths. I grabbed his shoulder to help steady him and felt his body shaking.He made a high squeaking noise from somewhere back in his throat and looked up at me with empty eyes. For a moment, I thought he was going to say something, but instead, he bolted back down the trail.

“Hey! What the fuck?” I hollered after him, but he continued sprinting through the trees, crashing through the brush until I couldn’t see him. I didn’t know how to process what the hell happened. I ran my hands through my hair and sighed, resigned to walking home alone.

Just before taking off, I took one last look up the ridge. I thought I could see a shapeless figure crouched under the lengthening shadow of a maple tree, gazing down at me. Its eyes were two glowing yellow pinholes. In a fit of logic, I thought perhaps it was a coyote, but we had just been up there and didn’t hear anything, much less see any animals.

The figure on the ridge stared right through me. I couldn’t pull myself away from the unblinking orbs. They crept up my chest and into my lungs, squeezing me like a tube of toothpaste. I wanted to run, but I felt like my feet were sinking into the soft dirt. I pulled at my legs, willing them to move until they responded and carried me off in a blind sprint through the woods.

The summer day grew sinister as evening approached. The path we had used to get to the ridge faded in the growing shadows. My lungs and legs burned with a tense fire as I broke through the dense woods onto a path.

With my heart beating heavy in my ears, it struck me that I had no idea where I was. The trail I found myself on was only wide enough for a single four-wheeler, but it was well maintained and carpeted in ankle-high weeds. Standing in the amber light of the oncoming evening, I couldn’t tell which direction would take me towards home.

“Fuck.” I squeezed my head with my hands. My mouth was dry. Slinging my backpack off my shoulder, I took a sip of piss-warm water and checked my phone. It was 6:34 p.m., and as my luck would have it, I didn’t have a hint of cell service. As the sun sank between the trunks of oaks and pines, mosquitos began to cling to my arms and my legs, assaulting my ears with a high-pitched whining that made it hard to concentrate.

“Are you serious?” I slapped my legs, trying to figure out which way to go. Both left and right looked identical. In a snap decision, I decided to run in the direction of the setting sun. That way, I could soak up as much light as possible.

The temperature was starting to drop, and the smell of decaying stumps and mulching leaves mixed with the unpleasant odor of sweat. I wasn’t out of shape, but I had become so tired that my run had slowly degraded into an awkward shuffle, and my thoughts began to move faster than my feet. I had never been in the woods after dark without friends before, and as the shadows lengthened, a growing paranoia began to take hold of me.

My mind flickered back to those two yellow eyes. Even though the ridge was miles behind me, I still felt its hunger. I tried to shake the eyes from my thoughts, but the harder I tried to put them out of my mind, the more I thought about those pinholes filled with tiny gold embers.

All around me, trees and shadows twisted into one another, blending into dusk. The usual daylight sounds of birds and breeze were replaced with the chirping and chattering of frogs and insects and the rustling of the undergrowth caused by nocturnal life waking up, searching for food. I was lost in an alien world, a place I had no business being.

When the last of the light died, I still hadn’t found the end of the trail. I began second-guessing my decision to go right. I couldn’t move as fast in the dark. I had to be careful not to wander off the path and become even more lost than I already was.

My phone said it was now past 8:30 p.m., and I still had no service. In the dark, my mind slipped from me. I went into survival mode, robotically putting one foot in front of the other just to keep the fear from taking over. I knew if I stopped moving, those eyes would find me, and then I would never make it out. I wondered if my parents had tried calling me. Knowing them, I doubt they even realized I wasn’t home yet.

CRACK

Behind me, a branch snapped. I stopped moving. My body stiffened. On my left, something big rustled through the leaves, taking uniform steps in the shadows. I strained to see in the moonlight, but it didn’t want to be seen. Besides the footfalls, the thing didn’t give up so much as a breath to the night, and I thought about the unnatural silence of the ridge. Turning around, I took a deep breath and dropped my voice into a deep baritone, “Hello?” I bellowed, trying to sound threatening.

The footsteps came to a halt not too far from where I was standing. I could no longer hold the fear down, it erupted through my body, and I launched into a frenzied sprint, trying to evade the presence following me. The soft glow of the moon and the shadow of the forest fused into a blur. Sticks and branches snapped at my face, pulling my hair and tearing at the insides of my legs. I knew I wandered off the trail, but I couldn’t stop. I could no longer hear those footsteps echoing behind me, but I didn’t look back. My lungs burned. I was hyperventilating, but I couldn’t shut myself off.  The ground became uneven beneath my feet. I didn’t know if I was going uphill or downhill. I was simply going away.

My outstretched hands hit a wall of open-air, and my right foot went down. Way down. My shoes filled with sand as I awkwardly tumbled into a ditch on the side of a road, colliding with the muddy bottom with a slap. It reeked of stale swamp water.

Dazed, I climbed out onto the asphalt of the road. My relief was short-lived when I looked around and realized I still had no idea where I was or which direction lead home. I decided to go left this time, and prayed that somehow this would take me back to my bed.

Thirty minutes into my walk, I was startled by the buzzing in my pocket as a day’s worth of “WHERE R U!?” texts from my parents flooded in at once. Exhausted, I called my dad to tell him I got lost in the woods and ended up on some road. He asked me for landmarks, but the only thing I could see up in the distance was a large field with a single barn in it. Without skipping a beat, Dad told me that I was in Northern Leeds, a thirty-minute car ride from our front door.

“Oh, Kyle dropped by the house and told your mom about the ridge,” he said. “So just prepare for some shit when you get home. I’m on my way.”

It’s been 13 years, and I still don’t know what I saw that day at the ridge or what chased me in the woods. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might never know for sure. The experience didn’t turn me off from seeking out those secret spaces that cartographers and local zoning boards don’t understand—the areas locals only speak about in hushed tones. However, I now know better than to doubt those whispered legends and small-town rumors because I visited the silent ridge where the gravity isn’t quite right, and a yellow-eyed shadow watches from the treeline. I’ve been to Satan’s Ridge, which is why I’m urging you, if you ever visit the town of Greene, to stay out of the woods near Hooper Pond.

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