Wow! I didnt expect that response to the last chapter! Thanks for all the reviews! And, At last, we finally find out why Dan went into the woods in this chapter. This has been a crazy week, right? S if thr Coronavirus killing old folks wasnt bad enough, this morning I was woken up by an earthquake that happened in Utah! Super scary. I ran outside thinking the house was going to fall down and it was the end of times, lol.

Anyways, hopefully this will answer some questions we've all had since Chapter 1. Thank you all for being so patient!


Chapter 17: Cellphone Therapy


MJ led them to a small room at the back of the hospital. It was a pretty room with pale blue walls and beige colored curtains that matched the tasteful decor. There were flowers everywhere from students and family, including flowers that Sarah and the gang had sent while vistors weren't allowed. The group was already there, clustered around the bed where Dan lay still and quiet.

Sarah felt the breath rush out of her. She felt like she'd entered a funeral home rather than a hospital room, "Oh, Dan…"

Dan was wearing a light blue hospital gown, same blue as the walls, and his light brown hair was combed neatly around his face. It was so similar and so different to the way they had found him lying in the woods. His eyes were closed, but he didn't look peaceful.

Sarah came closer and slowly sat in an empty chair next to Emily and Stacey. Beside her, the heart monitor showed the green line silently beating a cardiac rhythm. Everyone was silent for a moment, just staring at him.

"Jeez…. He looks so…" MJ looked down at Dan sadly, "it's like something drained the life out of him."

Sarah's looked around at the group. Everyone's faces reflected hers; somber and downcast. She tried to swallow the lump caught in her throat, "Can he… I mean, does he know we're here?"

"Dunno. Nurse was here a minute ago. He said Dan's in a 'vegetative state'." Taylor murmured, hands in his jeans with a huge frown.

Luke blew out a breath, "Is it… do they know what caused it?"

"They have no idea. He just… he just won't wake up." Emily said softly, looking ready to cry.

Stacey sniffled, hugging herself and looking up at the ceiling to try and hold the tears back…"Guys…" she said, "what if he never wakes up?"

Luke moved to stand by Stacey, putting an arm around her shoulders and Emily reached over and squeezed Stacey's hand.

Sarah looked down at the white hospital floor. She knew how Stacey felt about Dan. Guess it was a good thing nothing ever happened between us, otherwise Stacey would've hated me.

"Th-the nurse also said we should talk to him, though. He said that Dan might be able to hear us!" Emily said hopefully, looking over at Sarah.

Taylor shook his head, "It's probably crap. They always say that to make you feel better." He huffed and folded his arms over his jean jacket.

MJ looked over at him, "Does it work?"

He was surprised by the question and thought for a moment before his expression grew vulnerable, "I dunno…yeah. Kinda." He turned away from the group to look out the window, hiding his face.

Sarah turned back to the bed and reached out, squeezing Dan's hand in her own. For a moment, she thought she felt a slight pressure as Dan squeezed back. A barely-audible whisper escaped his lips, "Sarah…"

Sarah gasped in astonishment and turned happily back at the group, exuberant, "He does know we're here!"

Everyone brightened up and moved toward to the bed, pressing close.

Sarah turned back to Dan, "Dan, if..if you can hear me…we're going to make this right." Sarah said, squeezing his hand again. "I promise you. We'll make the Goblin King pay for what he did to you, and we'll keep him from hurting anyone else." Sarah's voice started to get choked up, and she fought against the tears. Why was Jareth doing all of this? "We'll find a way to bring you back, Dan. And this time, we're all going to be there for each other."

Sarah thought she might have imagined the tiniest hint of a smile curved the corner of Dan's lips, and he seemed to relax ever so slightly.

"Uh…Sarah? Your backpack is angry." Sean said, worriedly.

Looking down, Sarah saw a tiny black paw sticking out of the top of her bag, swiping blindly at Sean's leg.

"Sorry! We had to sneak her past the front desk. Everyone…meet Juju! She's the newest member of our 'Anti-Goblin' team!", Sarah unzipped her bag, and Juju immediately sprang out, clawing her way up the side of Dan's bed!

"Hissssssssss!" she hissed at everyone around her. Uh-oh! Sarah forgot that she wasn't exactly tame yet. And she obviously didn't like being stuffed inside a backpack, either.

"Whoa! Is that your cat, Sarah? It seems kinda…feral." Taylor backed away.

MJ cooed, "Naw, Juju talks tough, but inside she's just a wittle wuv muffin!"

"Kinda like you?" Sean looked over at MJ and smirked.

MJ stopped and glared over at Sean, "HISSSSSSSSSS!" She hissed at him. MJ apparently didn't like being called 'wittle wuv muffin'.

Juju scampered up to the head of the bed. She raised her paw, batting softly at Dan's earlobe. Sarah worried for a second that she might hurt him and stood up to put her back in the backpack. But when Dan didn't respond; Juju sniffed his cheek then nestled against the side of his neck, curling into a tiny black ball and began to purr.

"Awwwwww!" Everyone's response was automatic.

"Has anyone else been here to see him?" Sarah asked, not being able to take her eyes off of the cute couple.

"We ran into Dan's mom on the way in, but she was on the phone with someone named Dr. Chambal," Taylor informed her and Luke.

Luke piped up, "Another doctor? Are they bringing in some kind of specialist or something?"

"Actually, based on what they were saying, I think she may have been Dan's therapist," Emily said, stepping forward and giving the kitten a soft scratch.

Dan had a therapist?! "Really? Do you think she knows something about all of this?" Sarah asked. It would be good if an adult was on their side.

"Who knows? He never told me about any of this. He wasn't one for talking about feelings." Stacey shook her head.

Yeah, I know how you feel… Sarah thought.

"Dan, buddy… I wish you could tell us what happened." Sean said to Dan, gently putting a hand on his hospital-gowned shoulder.

"Nnnnn…" a soft sound escaped Dan's lips, so soft it was almost inaudible.

Dan's head turned, just a few degrees to the right. Sarah frowned, then followed the motion…to see his clothes folded neatly on the bedside table, surrounded by flowers.

"Wait a second…" she said as she slowly got up and walked over. She patted around Dan's jacket and clothes, then felt in the pocket of his jeans. Bingo! She pulled out his cell phone. "He didn't tell us what was going on…"

Sean caught on, "…But maybe he told someone else!"

"He did send all of us those weird texts the night he disappeared… His other texts could tell us more." Emily said as Sarah opened the phone.

Suddenly Stacey jumped up and put a hand out to stop her, looking at Dan, "Dan... Do you really want us to go through your phone?" she asked him.

After several seconds, Dan's head moved again. The ghost of a nod. Sarah opened Dan's texts without further inturruption and Stacey scooted her chair over next to Sarah's.

"Okay, so when did all this stuff start?" Sarah thought out loud. She turned to Stacey, "Hey, you once said that Dan was having breakdowns at football games, right? When was that?"

"Sometime around last September, I think." She nodded.

Stacey and the rest of the gang read over Sarah's shoulder as she scrolled backwards through Dan's life, rewinding across days… weeks… months…

Saturday, September 17 / 11:09 am

Stacey: Hey dan, its Stacey…r u doing alright?

Dan: yeah, what do you mean?

Stacey: i saw you after the game last night…

Dan: ?

Stacey: crying? under the bleachers?

Dan: Lol what? must've been somebody else

Stacey: im pretty sure it was you

Dan: well, im pretty sure it wasn't lol

Stacey: Then they looked a lot like you. and had

your same jersey #. and afterwards im

pretty sure they stole ur car

Dan: I'm fine.

Stacey: just… i hope u know u can talk to me

about anything

Dan hadn't responded after that.

"I tried." Stacey said sadly.

Sarah looked over at her just as Stacey burst into tears. Sarah ignored the phone a moment to turn and give her a real big hug. Sean and Emily patted Stacey on the back or squeezed her shoulders. MJ and Taylor look on sadly since they were out of their element with physically comforting someone.

"I know." Sarah said, "I did too. He just didn't want to admit he had a problem." Sarah felt herself start to tear up, and she quickly turned back to scroll to the next message, which happened to be from his mother…

Sunday, September 18 / 1:42 pm

Mom: Everything ok, kiddo?

Dan: yeah why

Mom: My 'mom senses' are tingling. Also I

found Picard meowing outside your

door this morning, and you only kick

him out when you're upset.

Dan: I'm ok… just school stress and stuff. I

didnt sleep super great last night.

Mom: Are you having the nightmares again?

Dan: no, and no offense, but can we please

not do "the talk" again

Mom: The Talk?

Dan: the one where I tell you a bunch of stuff

that makes you look at me like a sick

puppy and u try to convince me to see a

shrink and I say no and we argue

Mom: Ouch.

Dan: sorry… im just tired

Mom: Look, I know you don't want to talk to a

Therapist (because you're stubborn and you are

your father's son) But I worry about you. And I want you

to be happy.

Dan: I know

Mom: What do you think about something

like this?

"New Phone App Places Therapy at Your

Fingertips…" Read the whole story at


Dan: what is this? texting with a therapist?

seems kinda cheesy…

Mom: Just think about it.

"See?!" Sarah said to Stacey, "he wouldn't even tell his own mother what was going on." She glared over at Dan's still form, feeling peeved, "Nice going Dan. How'd that work out for ya?"

Everyone gawked at Sarah. She was always the upbeat person in the group. The proactive, teamwork, optimistic 'adventure is out there!', or 'let's find magic!' girl. She wasn't normally like this.

"S-SARAH! shouldn't talk like that!" Emily gaped at Sarah, "He's sick! You don't need to make him feel worse!"

"Yeah, maybe he just didn't want his mom to think that he was crazy and put him in a mental home. I mean, c'mon! Have you told YOUR parents?" Taylor asked, folding his arms and giving her a hard look.

Sarah glanced back over at Dan, and sure enough, even though he looked as unconscious as ever… his mouth did seem just a tad droopier. Sarah sighed, and put her hand on her face, trying to relieve her frustration. If it wasn't for Dan, we wouldn't be in this mess…but if it wasn't for me… there never would have been 'a mess' to get into.

"You're right. I'm sorry guys." Sarah said sadly, "No, I wouldn't tell Karen. I'm just...I'm just...really stressed right now and frustrated. We could have avoided all of this if he had come to any one of us." Sarah turned away from the group and back to the phone before she said anything else she might regret.

Keep it together Sarah, she reprimanded herself

Thursday, September 29 / 2:19 am

Mandy: Hi there :) Do you prefer Daniel, or Dan?

Dan: dan is fine

Mandy: Well Dan, my name is Dr. Amanda

Chambal and I'll be your Lighthouse

counselor. But you can call me Mandy :)

Dan: sup

Mandy: How are you feeling?

Dan: what like now or in general?

Mandy: Let's start with now.

Dan: idk…hungry?

Mandy: Same. I'm eating nachos!

Dan: aw man, Now I want nachos

Mandy: Yes, so does my German Shepherd.

He's making googly eyes at me.

Dan: Lol

Mandy: So how have you been feeling lately?

Dan: idk… hard to describe. kind of alone i guess?

Mandy: Alone like sad?

Dan: no. more like… scared

"What did Dan have to be afraid of? This was long before all the creepy stuff started happening… right?" Sarah asked the group, worried. Had the Goblin King been stalking Dan before any of them? Why? What for?

"Hm… Skip ahead to November, just after Thanksgiving break, " Stacey suggested, "Dan was out of school for a couple days in a row and… I don't know. Something about it felt weird to me."

Sarah nodded, remembering her conversation with him. She remembered that he had gone up to his uncle's cabin in the woods with his family, "Okay, let's see…"

Wednesday, November 30 / 9:14 am

Mom: Dan, I'm trying to be respectful and give

you your space but it's been three days, son!

I'm getting worried. And the school is

calling. And you have half our cups and bowls

in there!

Please open the door.

Dan: tomorrow

Wednesday, November 30 / 3:14 pm

Mandy: Is this the first time you've had an

episode like this?

Dan: never this long

idk what's wrong with me.

im just lying here shaking

Mandy: Did something happen that might have

set this off?

Dan: sort of. we went to my uncle's cabin for

thxgiving and i started having nightmares

worse than ever before

Mandy: Were they about what happened? The

incident when you were a kid?

Dan: yeah

Mandy: Are you ready to talk about that yet?

Dan: no

Mandy: That's fine, no rush. You don't have to

answer this but I have one other

question. Would you describe this

incident as negative? Or violent?

Dan: yes… understatement of the century

Mandy: And would you say, before this episode,

that it's been a while since you last

thought about it?

Dan: sort of… well, no. not really. i think

about it a lot. but I try not to.

it got better for a few years… I just

pretended it happened to someone else

Mandy: But visiting your uncle's cabin brought it

back for you? And then it all came

rushing back to you? Sound about right?

Dan: yes

Mandy: Okay. Well I have good news and bad

news. Which do you want first?

Dan: good please

Mandy: The good news is, I think you're making

progress. And I think we might have an

idea of what we're dealing with now.

The bad news is, from everything you've

told me over the last couple weeks, it

sounds like you might be dealing with

symptoms of dissociation that manifest

with some forms of PTSD.

Dan: what does that mean?

Mandy: It means this may get worse before it

gets better. But I do believe it will get better.

I hope you do too.

"Looks like the next big batch is around February…" Sarah murmured as she continued scrolling.

"Oh, no. Winter formal…" Stacey shook her head.

"What happened?" Sarah asked.

"After the dance, there was a big party at one of the football player's house. I think it was Seth's? Anyways, I found Dan freaking out in the bathroom. Looking back on it, he seemed afraid of something he saw in the mirror? But when I left for a minute he just took off…"

Friday, February 10 / 2:18 am

Stacey: Dan? i left to get towels and u disappeared, where r u

Dan: I'm fine, I walked home

Stacey: ur clearly NOT fine

wtf is going on with u?! talk to me!

Dan: just leave me alone

Stacey: okay

Friday, February 10 / 9:14am

Mom: You came home super late last night.

Everything okay, kiddo?

Dan: ya im fine

Mom: Are you sure? Do you want to talk about


Dan: NO. for the millionth time: I AM FINE

Sarah was pissed again but she hid it from the group, and didn't say anything. Dan should thank his lucky stars that Sarah wasn't his mom. She would have assumed that he was doing drugs and she would have taken his phone away…..and his bedroom door…..until he told her what was wrong. Sarah shook her head, and turned back to the phone.

Saturday, February 11 / 4:15 pm

Dan: I did something dumb the other night…

Mandy: What happened?

Dan: i went to a party even though i was

feeling bad

i had a freakout, and I was really

crappy to someone who was trying to

help me

… two people actually

Mandy: Have you had any more episodes


Dan: Sort of… ive been having nightmares all


Also, I had an episode at the party and

when I was coming home, I went by the

woods… and I thought I saw something.

I guess it was probably just a

hallucination but it really freaked me

out. Pretty sure I ran most of the way home

Mandy: These woods… are they near where

Your original incident took place?

Dan: Yeah

Mandy: Okay, let me ask you this..

How do you feel when you see a forest?

Or when you think about being inside


Dan: Bad

Mandy: Bad how?

Dan: Like I cant breathe

Mandy: Do you think the woods might be a

trigger for you? You see a bunch of

dark trees and you start thinking about

what happened?

Dan: yeah! Like at my uncle's cabin! And

what makes me so mad is that I used to

love the woods. My friends and I went into

them all the time. But now...

Mandy: If that's the case, then I think I have an

idea for how we might start to deal with

this. Let me run something by you….

"After that… I think my last text with Dan was in June" Stacey said helpfully. The girls sifted through texts until they found it.

Monday, June 5 / 4:15 pm

Stacey: Hi Dan, I was thinking about you today.

It's been a few months since we talked

and I'm sad with how we left things off.

I hope you're doing okay.

Dan: Hi Stace. I'm good :)

I mean I wasnt before, but I think im

getting better. I can't talk now


Stacey: that'd be great!

Dan: Have a good summer vacation!

Stacey: u too dan! ^_^

Monday, June 5 / 6:15 pm

Dan: New record!

Mandy: Whoo!

Dan: This time I went right up to the treeline &

stood there for 10 minutes

Mandy: That's great! I'm happy that you're

making so much progress.

Dan: its not enough though. i still have to go

inside. i have to see the place where it

happened. i have to face it.

Mandy: Remember not to push yourself too

hard, okay? If this starts to stress you

out too much, there are always other

methods we can try.

Just take one day at a time.

"It's mostly little texts after that, all throughout the summer." Sarah told the group, scrolling through the rest. "One step into the woods… a picnic five feet inside… one hour picking acorns...He was working his way up to it. Working his way up to…" Sarah's suddenly overcome with emotion. "that night." she finished.

"What happened next?" Taylor asked, stepping forward, "Skip to that night that he got lost and sent us all those texts…"

Sunday / 3:15 pm

Mom: You have everything you need?

Dan: yep

Mom: Toothbrush? Underwear? Blanket?

Dan: yep yep yep

Mom: Okay. Have fun, stay safe! Normally I

wouldn't let you spend the night at a friend's

before the first day of school...but

since it's your Senior year I guess I can

be cool this one time ;)

You want me to come and pick you up from school


Dan: you don't have to do that. i'll walk.

Mom: K. Call if you change your mind?

Dan: lol, you're acting like this is some huge

deal. i've crashed at Tony's house like a

million times

Mom: Not for years! I'm just so happy to see

that you're doing better.

I love you, honey.

Dan: thanks mom. love u too. see u tomorrow

5:15 pm

Dan: Hi Dr. Chambal. I'm standing on the

edge of the woods for what I hope is

going to be the last time. Just wanted

to say thank you for all your help.

I'm going in there tonight. And this time,

I'm going all the way to where it

happened. To end this once and for all.

I'm going to walk into that house, down

those stairs, and tell the Goblin King he's

not real. And he never was. And he that

doesn't scare me anymore.

10:15 pm

Mandy: Hi Dan. Sorry, today is my day

off but I just saw your messages.

I'm glad I've been helpful to you, but I

hope you understand that trauma isn't

something you can just "fix" with one

grand gesture.

Dealing with what happened is going to

take a lifetime of work that may not

ever stop. But it will get easier.

There are also limits to what a mental

health professional can do via text, and

I do still strongly encourage you to

consider traditional therapy as a long

term treatment option.

Also, I hope that if you're going into the

woods, you're staying safe and taking a


You have a lot of people who care about

you, and there are other dangerous

things out there besides bad memories.

Take care, talk soon.

10:47 pm

Mandy: Wait, I just re-read your last text

...what house are you talking about?

Who's the Goblin King?

Dan? Who's the Goblin King?

Are you there?


Sarah put down Dan's phone, her hands shaking a little. She already knew what came next.

"Oh, Dan…"


Well! Now we know why Dan went into the woods! Kinda creepy, huh? I imagine what it would have been like for Dan to hike through the woods to the ruins, go inside, and then go down that hole! Only to come face to face with the Goblin King! XD I don't think I could write a chapter that would do it justice. Freaky...

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