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For The Record, Episode 2: Run Rabbit, Run

[brief static, gradually fading while narration begins]

File Number 20324, Statement of Daniel North in regards to a disappearance.
Submitted to the Directory of Violent and/or fatal circumstances.
Original Date of statement March 30th, 2011
Recording and Revision by Nicole Monroe, Curator of Wheate’s Vault, Bellvue, Nebraska.

Statement begins [Static dies down]

You know the feeling of being lost? Of course you think you do, but I doubt that you’ve really felt lost in your entire life.

You see, when people think of being lost, they think of being afraid and confused, but that isn’t what it’s like to be lost.

To be truly lost is just… pure bliss. To be alone, not an expectation for your next step. There’s absolutely nothing in the world that compares to the feeling of simply knowing you are safe, because you know nothing can find you. Nothing can harm you. That’s lost.

I didn’t understand this truth until one particular summer, during my family’s trip to Yosemite. It had started out as a completely normal trip. My father piled all of us into the station wagon just like he had every year, and just like every year, I spent the ride staring out the window, longing to be anywhere else, with anyone else. Every tourist trap we’d pass was just another pitstop on this annual journey where I was glued to my family. I’d learned to appreciate the cluttered drives, as the window gave me the freedom to imagine somewhere else to be. I had no clue where we were going. My father liked having a surprise every year. I dreaded it. Every year was a new place with the same crowd. Insufferable tourists that took more pictures than what was necessary.

Needless to say, though, I was stunned when we reached our destination. Seeing the trees just stretch all the way to the horizon, it was a liberating sight. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in my life.

It was like landing on a different planet…

My excitement was cut short as I soon realized that my time spent there would be curated within a crowded tour group. I don’t know why I expected any different, but I had already had a vision in my head of enjoying time surrounded by wilderness. I desired nothing more than to explore my surroundings, but instead I was guided down a predetermined path with no deviations from my father’s schedule.

In total, we spent three days of being in tour groups before the trip concluded. However, after exiting the gift shop with a pathetic pocket knife and other knick knacks my father bought, I found that I was all alone for the first time since the trip began. Most people might start calling out for their families in this situation, but being the angst ridden teenager I was, I continued on, without supervision or crowds. When I saw a trail that lead into the lush forest, I decided that I would have a moment of solitude and wander for a while. Not too far or for too long, of course. No longer than five minutes…

Well, that ended up not being the case. I had just finished carving my name into a tree when I realized I had no clue which way I had come from. This of course freaked me out, and I began panicking. Had I known any better, I’d have stayed put, but instead I decided that if I just kept walking in one direction, I’d make it out.

I also made the mistake of carving a notch on every few trees. I thought this would help leave a trail of breadcrumbs, but it further served to disorientate me. I ended up passing trees I had marked even when I walked in a straight path.

When it started to get dark, I had accepted that I was lost. At first I was scared, but after realizing I had not seen a single animal so far in the past few hours of wandering, I began to feel a sense of empowerment. There was nothing to be afraid of if I was by myself.

I was on my own, and nothing else was threatening my survival but my own determination.
I had gotten lost because of my desire to be alone, and now I was as alone as I would ever be. With this comforting thought in mind, I let myself rest as the first night came to a close.

As I awoke to the new day, I thought about what I would do next. The lack of any wildlife meant that I’d have to forage rather than hunt, which further served to strengthen my attitude of self reliance.

The sun was halfway through the sky when I had finally found another life in the forest. I heard something rustle in the bushes behind me, and immediately I was overcome with dread. I didn’t know what it was, but it was making noise and I could hear it. And if that was the case, that meant I wasn’t alone anymore. There isn’t anything to stop it from killing me, the only certain way was to be alone.

My heart was pounding as I slowly turned around to face my predator. I prayed that perhaps movement would scare it away. It didn’t.

I had no expectations, so discovering that it was a rabbit that had snuck up behind me was not really a surprise. My eyes were locked with it, holding a cold gaze that pierced my soul. I thought it was odd, but it looked like it took pity on me. Like it knew that I didn’t belong there.

Before I could really think about my situation, it hopped off just as quick as I had turned around. A return to my solitude, and to my safety.

However, now that I had felt the panic of unseen company, I realized now the issue with embracing loneliness is the fact that I now knew if I was truly alone…

This meant that I could not choose to ignore the animals rustling in the bushes. The veil had been lifted, my ears were perked. Every branch snapping was the paws of a lion stalking its prey. Every crunching leaf was a patient killer waiting for the moment to strike. Every noise in the forest rang in my ears, and I could not find peace until I was free of any threat.

The remainder of the day was spent in sheer terror, knowing I was never alone, always seen or heard. No, it wasn’t being seen or heard. It was the fear of being Watched and listened and hunted. I only found peace at nightfall, as the things that pretended to be birds returned to their impression of a nest, and all those things that could be confused for deer gathered together to rest. I, too, pretended. I pretended to believe that silence was the same as solitude, but I was mistaken. They were not sleeping, only plotting. I let the sound of wind comfort me as it was the only thing that could drown out the hissing and growling of the things that wait on the ground below, as I sat safely on a cluster of branches.

The silence gave me time to reconsider my original plans I had made that morning. I had not found a single piece of edible vegetation since the rabbit ushered in this wave of panic, and I knew there were things out there that were not me. They continue to invade my isolation, plaguing me with the threat of something else.
Every squirrel on a branch was now a pounding headache that I needed to remove. I needed the only thing in that forest to be me. Yet, those things surrounded me and continued to be something else. I wanted to make everything else regret so dearly the fact that they were not me.

And so I did exactly that. The next day, I stopped running from the noise, and rushed toward it. I removed every single threat to my solitude that I could. I had another use now for that pathetic little pocket knife. My trail of notches soon became a path of carcasses which did not stop until I felt the peace of loneliness.

It was hard to recall anything after that, until on my fifth day animals soon began to recognize my menace, and chose to leave me alone. I remember thinking they were wise.

I believe it was on day nine that I realized I hadn’t eaten in so long. I felt my body starting to give out on me, though I felt no hunger. As expected now, there were no animals foolish enough to approach me, so hunting was not an option. Though I felt as if my pain went beyond food and sustenance.

The pain felt vaguely familiar, but I could not recognize why. My chest pounded and my breath fell out of me with exhaustion. I realized as I was lost in thought that I was not alone. I finally recognized the pain as I heard the sound of movement in the brush behind me. There was no hunger, only the need to ascertain my solitude again. I clutched the pocket knife that had served me so well, searching for the infiltrator to my own solace.

When I locked eyes with the rabbit, every pain I had ever felt returned to my body. I could not walk, not until there were no eyes to watch me, so I crawled to the rabbit, as it sat there with patience, mocking me.

I was straining every muscle in my body to grab the wretched thing by its neck, staring at its judging eyes. I held back all the pain in my stomach and lodged my knife into its neck… it sprang to life in my grasp, as a spray of viscera leaked out of itself, and it kicked its legs with such terror under my weight.

I was filled with victory as I saw life leave the rabbit’s eyes. No longer did they judge me. In its moments of fleeting life I saw it beg for forgiveness. Begging to share the serenity of the Forest with me. I let it have its solitude in death.

When I finally felt its body go limp, I was no longer hungry, but rather satiated by the return to my lonely existence. I no longer needed to eat to survive, I just needed solitude.

After that, I continued my blind trek through the Forest, killing to feed my lonesome. There was never a moment where I wasn’t either by myself or making sure I was by myself.

I believe I was out there for three weeks when I felt the presence of another person. The thought had crossed my mind that there might be someone else who got lost in here, but I never considered that we’d cross paths. So when I found footprints that didn’t match mine, I felt an unexpected sense of worry.

I tried to ignore it, and continued walking, but I felt something follow me… Something vicious. Large. I knew it saw me, there was no mistaking it… so I began to walk a little faster, maybe it’d wander off like animals usually do.

But I felt the hunger that I felt when facing the rabbit. I felt the pain. I realized that it was not just following me, but stalking me. It knew the love of the forest just as I did, and it naturally wanted to be alone with that love. It wanted to be alone just as much as I needed it.

Through the pain I began to run, now clutching my knife as I heard heavy footsteps pursue me.

My bones were about ready to break as I felt it coming up from behind, and so I just stopped in my tracks. I’d rather crawl than break my ankles, and if I took another step, I knew I’d certainly collapse.

I heard it breathing down my neck as I stood there for a good ten seconds, waiting for it to attack. I felt the breath retreat and slowly heard it back away… I turned around to face my assailant.

Though I could not see it, I could hear it, its heavy breathing turning into wheezing. I knew just where it was, hiding behind a tree. I found it pathetic that it tried to retreat into the comfort of loneliness as I approached. I never hid from the rabbit. I was never scared.
This thing did not deserve the forest. It did not earn the forest as I did.

I saw the old man collapsed at the base of the tree, hyperventilating and crying. I saw on his face that he was scared of me. As he coughed and wheezed, his eyes did all the speaking for him. He begged me just like the rabbit had. And again, I refused him.

I would hope he’d do the same for me.

As I felt my hunger dissipate, I noticed a pattern on the bark of the tree… my initials.

The forest had led me back to the beginning. I thought this would happen soon, as I remember thinking that I no longer felt lost in the Forest. I’d just been there too long, and started to feel like I belonged. And of course I accepted. I’d hate to prove the rabbit right after I’d gained the love of solitude. I wandered in a random direction and before I knew it was being surrounded by park rangers.

I still feel so lost outside the forest. I’m glad that I feel that still. I don’t think I could ever accomplish the same sense of loneliness however, but I feel separated from humanity. I am the only one to know the sensation of being lost.

The only one. [Static]

Statement ends.

Every aspect of this statement is a mystery to me. Most of it begs the question “Why?” Why now? It goes without saying that follow-up and confirmation for the events transcribed in North’s statement is impossible. Moreso now due to the incompetence of the former staff that took this statement. From what I was able to scrounge up in regards to the events in Yosemite, there was indeed a Daniel North that was reported missing for multiple days, heavily documented by the local news and less so by the actual national parks foundation. No evidence or information for the identity of Daniel’s victim, but I feel as though this is due to lack of documentation of records from over two decades ago.

[Sighs] I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I don’t get paid to investigate… There isn’t much to add or correct with Case #20324, other than my predecessor marking it under the directory of Violence and Fatal circumstances. Clearly, this statement is best marked under either Directory of Predation or Directory of Isolation. This is no surprise to me. My predecessor made a habit of listing anything that features violence under Directory 3. At least it keeps me in a job…

End recording.

This episode of For The Record was written by Regan Parisi, directed by Tom Chaney, edited by Megan ‘Ryan’ Lee, starred Sarah Klawun as Nicole Monroe and used sounds from freesound under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, for full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement or to get involved in production you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpodcast, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod or view our website at Stay safe, take care, and don’t be afraid.