I'm sure you're well acquainted with wind farms. They're quite popular here in Germany, especially in the more rural areas.
One of them isn't too far away from my small home village.
The first of the giant wind turbines was built more than a decade ago. Throughout the last years more have been added.
At night, you can always make them out due to their bright, red, obstruction lights, even during the sickest fog.
To be honest, I haven't looked at them or their lights in the longest time. As a kid, they were the most impressive thing in the world, but the more they added and the older I got my interests shifted. Once I was a teenager it was all about parties and girls.
The past weekend I went out there by myself once again. For the first time, I looked up at the turbines. What I saw and realized at that time sent me home within utter, terrible fear.
You see back in summer and early autumn my friends and I used to hang out near the wind farm a lot. It's one of our favorite spots to hang out all by ourselves.
There's really nothing there. The turbines are constructed on small hills. The meadows surrounding them aren't used by anyone. You can be all by yourself out there. It's an ideal spot in the warm months to hang out, put up camp and spent a few nights out alone.
It was in the middle of June that I, my best friend Tom and our buddy Mike went out there. We'd haphazardly decided to spend the weekend camping out there and drink away the memories of a, particularly hard work week. On Friday evening we went out with two tents, our sleeping bags and enough booze to last us a week.
We didn't do much on Friday. We had a few drinks, played some cards, but didn't stay up too long. We were all pretty exhausted anyway.
On Saturday we got up soon after dawn. Tom and I had a slow morning, set up the grill and had a hearty breakfast, Mike start the day off drinking.
I didn't mind at all. I was the last person to judge him on these things. What I wondered though was if it really was all about fun or if it was due to his recent break-up with his girlfriend.
By early afternoon Tom and I decided to join in with Mike, who was already pretty hammered at the time. He'd put on some music, was dancing by himself and seemed to have all but forgotten about us.
It wasn't even an hour later that he'd fallen asleep in the middle of the grass.
While he was sleeping off his drunken stupor, Tom and I had a great time, relaxing and chit-chatting. That was until early evening when the weather suddenly changed.
It had been a hot and humid day, and the sky had gotten cloudier without us noticing. We only realized the change when it started to downpour.
We'd hoped to spend the evening outside, but instead, we were forced to retreat into our tents and wait for the rain to stop.
It didn't take long before we heard some heavy cursing from outside and saw Mike stumbling around. It took him quite a while to understand what was going on before he finally found his way into a tent as well.
His cursing wasn't only directed at the weather but also at us for just leaving him out there. By now though Tom and I were pretty drunk ourselves and had a good laugh at the whole thing.
I jokingly asked Mike if he wanted a beer as well, but he only grimaced, shook his head and rubbed his temple. Well, that's what you get for your head start, I thought.
The rain continued to fall. While Mike was trying to overcome his hangover, Tom and I kept drinking.
It took almost an hour before the rain stopped. Dusk had already fallen, and a layer of mist engulfed the gentle, early evening.
The moment I went outside to rinse off my chair I noticed how thick the mist actually was. Everything that was more than a few meters away was completely hidden. The only thing I could make out clear.y were our tents, the chairs and the bright, red lights of the wind turbines nearby.
If I'd been sober, I'd probably have found the whole scenario eerie and a bit creepy, like Mike. Instead, I opened my sixth beer and made fun of him for being unnerved.
We'd just rinsed off the table and started another round of cards when Mike interrupted us.
"Do you guys hear that?" he asked, his face serious.
"Yeah," I answered, "I hear a dumbass asking stupid questions."
"Oh fuck off, Eric," he yelled at me before he started to listen again.
"What if it's a wild boar or something? Don't they come out into the meadows after downpours like that?"
"Jesus Mike, shut up, nothing is going on, and we're trying to play our game," Tom said annoyed.
In the end, Mike shrugged, but I could see he was agitated by something.
"It's just the wind turbines," Tom yelled at him after a few more minutes and threw an empty beer can into his direction.
When Mike winced, we both broke into loud laughter.
By now he was clearly annoyed at us, almost angry. Moments later he walked off and vanished out of sight.
For a bit, I wondered where he'd gone before my attention went back to the game. We finished one, then a second and then the third game without Mike around.
"Where'd he go? Think he left for good?"
Tom shrugged, took another sip of his beer and then started to deal the next round. As I picked up my cards though, I started to hear something as well. It was a low, distant rumbling.
"You hear that?" I asked.
"Oh come on, not you, too." Tom cursed.
"But there's something over there," I protested and pointed at the area behind our tents.
"Yeah, wind turbines," Tom laughed and pointed at the bright, red lights above us in the sky.
"No, that's not what I mean," I said and got up.
Tom groaned as I walked towards the tent ignoring his cusses for me to come back and continue the game.
"If this is because you're losing, then-" Tom started, when the tent a few meters away from me began to shake suddenly. It was as if someone was pulling at the guy ropes. Surprised I took a few steps back.
"See, I told you there's-" I started as I turned around, but broke up when I saw something moving behind Tom.
Tom looked over at me and before he could even react a figure appeared out of nowhere and rushed towards him. The figure threw itself at him, holding something in his hand, grunting and moaning.
Tom screamed up in shock and surprise, dropped his beer and toppled over his chair, trying to get away.
I took the first few steps towards him when the figure burst out laughing. Seconds later Mike took off the stupid mask he'd been wearing.
"That's what you get asshole! Hah!" he yelled at us.
Once Tom had gotten up he started to run after Mike in anger. The problem was, Mike was much too fast and most importantly, much too sober.
Finally, after a couple of minutes of this idiotic chase, the two of them settled back in their chairs. Mike finally decided to get himself another beer, but this time he drank it slowly.
While he sat there, with a triumphant smile on his face, Tom gave him the stink eye.
As I sat there, I couldn't help but feel as if I was missing something. I tried to remember what it was, but couldn't. The bottle of beer in my hand seemed to make fun of me and gave up once more. Then something came back to me.
"Mike, how'd you shake the-" I started, but Tom cut me off right at this moment.
"Yo Eric, you lost the game, right? You know what that means!"
"Wait, no way, the game wasn't over! It's because Mike jumped out all of a sudden and scared you!"
"Hey, Mike," I called out to him, but I saw that he was busy with something else.
He'd taken a sip of his beer before he turned his attention back to something else.
"Thirteen... Fourteen... Fifteen...” I heard him murmur to himself before he shook his head and started again.
"Hey, asshole, the hell are you doing?" I called out to him once more.
The moment Mike noticed that I'd been watching him, he shook his head.
"Nothing," he answered, "just something that was on my mind."
After that we just sat out there, chatting for a bit longer. It wasn't long though before Mike decided to go to sleep.
I sat out there with Tom for a while longer, opened another beer and leaned back in my chair to relax with a last beer.
The next time I looked over at Tom, I saw that his chair was empty. As I sat there, I realized how uncomfortable I was. My clothes were wet, and I felt cold, freezing.
The moment I looked at my phone I realized that it was long past midnight. I must have fallen asleep in my chair. Freaking hell, I cursed at myself.
I was about to join Tom in our tent when I got an idea. Sure, I could go and sleep out here in my wet cloth, or I could make my way home. It was not even a half an hour walk, more like twenty minutes. Back home I'd have my warm bed and most of all, dry cloth. In my drunk state, I thought of my idea as ingenious.
Sure, Tom and Mike might be mad at me tomorrow for leaving them out here, but I really didn't care about that at the moment. By now, my sole goal was to go and get home.
I picked up another beer for the trip, and after a slight detour due to the fog, I arrived home. Only a few moments later I fell into my bed.
It was the next day that all hell broke loose.
I woke up with a splitting headache, and at first, I'd no clue why I was at home and not out camping anymore. Only after a while did I remember my nightly walk home. I wondered how mad Tom and Mike were when they noticed I wasn’t around anymore.
When I checked my phone though, I saw that none of them had sent me any messages yet. Guess they didn't mind I'd run off? Or where they still asleep?
Either way, I didn't care. A freaking headache was killing me, and I tried my best to get back to sleep for the time being.
It was in the late afternoon that someone called my landline.
"Oh my god Eric, do you have any idea where Mike is?"
It was Mike's mom. She seemed to be out of it for some reason.
"What do you mean, Mrs. Kadner?" I asked, "Hasn’t he gotten home yet? Are they still out there?"
"No! They aren't! We've checked the site, it's in total chaos! There's no hint of him or Tom! What the hell were you doing out there?"
"Wait, what the hell are you talking about?"
I was suddenly wide awake.
"Mike didn't get home and Tom neither! Tom's dad went over there because Tom said he'd help him with the car. When he got there though, everything was destroyed!"
"The tents, the chairs, the grill, everything!"
I sat there, not sure what to say. I explained to her that I had no idea since I left in the middle of the night. She didn't listen and kept asking me over and over again if I knew where Mike was.
After I'd hung up, I started to worry as well, but knowing the two of them, I was sure they'd turn up eventually. Hell, it might indeed have been a boar that ran into the camp, and they booked it.
When Monday came around, and they were still missing, I grew a bit more worried.
By the end of the week, a police investigation was started. A month later, they gave up. Mike and Tom stayed missing. No hint of them was ever found.
I've been to the area around the wind turbines countless times, even long after the investigation had ended. I keep telling myself deep inside, that there must be some sort of hint that could explain it all.
I wish I never found anything.
When I was there on the weekend, I looked over the small meadows once more. It was a bit too late already. The sun was setting, and I knew I'd to give up my search.
It was at this moment that I looked up at the giant wind turbines next to me after so long.
I thought back to that summer night and remembered Mike. He'd been counting something, hadn’t he?
I began counting the wind turbines one by one. I came up at thirteen. Thirteen bright, red lights, shining high above me in the night sky.
And at that moment it hit me. I felt goosebumps all over my body and started shivering as I remembered something. Mike hadn't counted to thirteen that night.
No, he'd counted to fifteen.
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