As a kid, most people would say that they had their ‘favorite’ place to play either by themselves or with their friends. Mine just so happened to be very specific.
It wasn’t specific in the sense that a plethora of details had to fall into place just to make it perfect; it was more about the time of year where I’d be able to mingle amongst the high stalks and conceal myself from anything and everything around me.
I’m talking, of course, about a corn field.
This was not your average wide-spanning flatland field that gets tilled at the same time every year. The big difference with this particular field was that for some odd reason, the farmer who owned the land only sowed the crop every OTHER year. I never found out why, but it might have something to do with the tale I’m about to tell you.
In those early days, I had a small group of friends who lived relatively close to me. During the summer, we would gallivant through the forests and across streams, we would relax by the lake and bike down the dirt road I lived on. But one day we noticed the corn field for the first time ever.
I’m not sure how we hadn’t seen it prior, but now I chalk it up to our adolescent minds being far too distracted with the world around us to notice. But that day, my friends and I all became elated with the notion of running between the rows of corn that stretched higher than our imaginations.
We would play various games like hide and seek, tag, and we would even knock down different sections and pretend they were our ‘forts’ (sorry Mr. Beasely.) That entire summer we let our minds run wild with the fantastical aura the field provided and nobody ever told us what we were doing was wrong, or at least, impolite.
When the crop was harvested, my friends and I were incredibly disappointed and two of them seemed completely deflated altogether as if their whole world had been ripped away. I felt for them, I really did because I, too, had a great sense of sorrow deep within my being for no longer having our place of respite.
That school year was the most boring year I can remember. My friends and I drifted apart and even for people our age there was a palpable tension growing amongst us that you should only find between estranged adults. Needless to say we were all extremely unhappy.
Winter came and went. Then spring, followed by summer. Believe me when I say, I was brimming with excitement over the prospect of returning to the corn field. And, as summer approached my friends and I reconnected and were all incredibly excited about delving back into our world away from home.
However, when my mother told me she hadn’t seen any corn growing in the field, I was heartbroken. I told my friends and they all didn’t believe her, so of course we agreed to meet at my place and ride our bikes to see it with our own eyes.
Much to my (and assuredly their) dismay, my mother was right. There wasn’t any corn in the field this year; it was nothing but dirt with small vegetation sprouting from it. Once more we were devastated and some of us began to wonder if we would ever be able to play in the corn ever again.
Another boring year flew by and as reality set in further, I started to lose interest in the corn field. When I would bring it up to my friends, they seemed disinterested as well. It reached a point where we all agreed to just stop talking about it because we were older and therefore we didn’t need childish games to pass the time anymore.
As summer came and the first fields near me started showing signs of growth, I decided I would bike down alone and check out the corn just to satisfy my wondering mind. Upon coming around the row of trees that normally obscured the field, I saw it, in all its green glory.
The field had returned, or rather, Mr. Beasely had planted it once again.
My heart pounded with joy and excitement. I thought about my friends and if I should tell them about it, but something had a hold on my mind; it was like an exceedingly demanding force beckoned for my presence deep in the stalks. I found myself leaving my bike on the side of the road in favor of entering the field alone without a single rhyme or reason.
It was the middle of the day and the sun was high in the sky covering every far reaching corner of the field with its nurturing light. But when you’re in the corn, you can’t see one row from the next and sometimes the corn plays tricks on you. I thought that’s what happened to me when I started seeing hints of movement rippling between the individual stalks.
At first it seemed like my own eyes were betraying me because the moment I turned my head to focus on the movement; it was gone. But then, I heard it again. There were hurried scurrying noises weaving in and throughout the field around me like a host of rats searching for carrion. Obviously as a kid, I was pretty scared, however, my friend Dorian suddenly emerged from out of nowhere and nearly made me piss myself.
“Dorian! What are you doing out here?!” I asked quite perturbed and in the middle of trying to catch my breath.
He smiled and flipped his curly brown hair, “The same thing you’re doing out here!” He said jovially.
Immediately I felt remorse, “I’m sorry I didn’t call and invite you and the rest of the guys out here… I just wasn’t sure if the field would be around this year and I didn’t want to get anybody’s hopes up.”
“Who cares about them!” Said Dorian unexpectedly, “We can have plenty of fun with just the two of us.”
Something about his eyes didn’t sit well with me; they looked hungry but being as young as I was, I couldn’t come to rational conclusions. “Are you sure? Won’t they be mad if they find out we played without them?” I asked quietly.
His eyes widened and he reached out and grabbed my wrist, “You can invite them tomorrow! Right now it’s just me and you and I want to show you something!”
“Show me something?” I wondered aloud as he began pulling me through the corn.
Dorian dragged me for a long time without saying another word. I kept asking him where he was taking me but he wouldn’t answer, he’d just smile and it must have been wide because I could see his cheeks perk up every time he did.
Eventually we came to a small clearing where the corn had been matted down. Dorian smiled again and pointed to a strange object protruding from the center of the circle. As I approached it, I realized it was a bone although I have a hard time remembering which type these days. At that moment, however, I knew it shouldn’t be sticking out of the ground like it was.
“What… what’s that?” I asked while inching my hand closer towards it.
“Doesn’t it look fantastic?!” Shouted Dorian in an inquisitive demeanor, “I put it there, hopefully something incredible will happen!”
“You put it there? Where did you get it?”
“I found it! Can you believe that?” He was incredibly excited and I wasn’t sure why because to me, I felt uncomfortable standing next to it.
“Where did you find it?” I asked as the tip of my finger touched it, “What even… is it?”
“It’s a bone!” He said as happy as could be.
I reeled my hand back in disgust and fright, “A bone?!” I shouted while trying not to freak out even more.
“Yes! Doesn’t it look… delicious?” Asked Dorian with that same uneasy hunger set deep within his stone-grey eyes.
“Delicious? Why are you being so weird Dorian, what’s gotten into you?”
“Oh, never mind! I just thought you’d like to see it, I think it’s neat!” He reached down to grab the top of the bone before twisting it around.
“I think I’m going to go home.” I said, scared out of my mind.
“Okay! Hey, let’s get everyone else out here tomorrow! But, we should come at night! That way we can play some hide and seek like old times but it’ll be much more fun if it’s in the dark!” As I look back on it now, his face looked like what you might see on someone with psychopathic tendencies.
I reluctantly agreed even though Dorian’s enthusiasm was unsettling. I don’t remember how long it took for me to find my way out of the corn but I know that by the time I reached the road where my bike was; it was dusk.
As I rode home, I couldn’t help but think about Dorian’s malignant look and of how he was there in the first place. It was my understanding that he was helping his dad clean up their yard on that day, but I could have been mistaken.
My mother scolded me when I returned home, wondering where I had been and all that. I told her about Dorian and the corn field and she gave me that typical motherly warning of, “You better be careful and mind that you don’t get into trouble. I don’t want to have to clean up after your mess if you anger Mr. Beasely by being in his field!”
“I will momma, I promise.” I said in retreat and in respect of my mothers wishes.
That night I woke up in a cold sweat with my heart furiously beating. I wasn’t having a nightmare so I quickly scanned the room the best I could for a possible reason as to why I was awoken.
Nothing caught my eye until I looked at my window. Dorian was standing there with his face pressed against the glass.
I jumped and gasped before regaining my composure, Dorian’s elated expression failed to wane even after noticing he had scared me.
I crawled out of bed and went over to my window. I didn’t open it, instead I opted for just talking through the glass since it was quiet enough. “What are you doing here Dorian?” I asked lethargically.
“Just came to remind you about getting everyone to the field tomorrow night!” He was exaggeratedly excited.
“Yeah, I’ll call them in the morning. You should go home, I don’t even know why you’re out there right now!”
Dorian didn’t respond, he simply nodded without taking his eyes off me before backing away from my window into the dark beyond the reach of my nightlight. Now I know that wasn’t normal behavior, but as a young boy, I didn’t know any better.
The next morning I started by calling Ben. When I mentioned the previous day as well as the way Dorian had been acting, he was furious. However, I was able to calm him down by telling the truth. I didn’t know the field would be there, and I SURELY didn’t know Dorian would be there either. After that he came to terms with the situation and agreed to sneak out that night.
Next, I called Corbin who wasn’t angry nor excited and strangely enough he agreed with me about Dorian’s behavior. Luckily, I didn’t need to convince him because he was already prepared to jump at my beck and call; it was nice not having to explain myself further to one of my friends.
Finally, I called Dorian. I wanted to confirm that we were still in fact meeting in the field that night. But, when he answered he was completely confused. I mean, he was almost yelling at me saying, “I never left my house yesterday!” and, “You’re crazy, Gavin!” I admit, he almost had ME believing that everything I saw was entirely a figment of my imagination. Fortunately, he managed to collect himself and decided in favor of coming to the field as well (although it was HIS idea to begin with.)
My mother suspected something was up and continually pressed me for information all day long. I was able to dissuade her from asking me after dinner time because I was getting annoyed and I’m sure she sensed it.
Finally night fell and I waited for my mom to go into her room. When I heard her door close, I grabbed the flashlight I kept under my pillow and snuck out of my window onto the soft grass outside. In the back of my mind, I was worried about whether my friends would actually come and another part of me began to feel fear of being out in the dark alone.
I was terrified of the dark as a kid.
My bike was left out in the rain far too often and therefore the chain grinded and squeaked from the rust that covered it as I pedaled down the dirt road towards the corn field. On the way, I met up with Corbin. He had a flashlight attached to the front of his bike as well as a separate handheld one gripped tightly in his left hand.
I rode up next to him and he nearly lost control; it was hard for him to hold the flashlight while holding the handlebars at the same time. “Why’d you scare me like that?!” He shouted as he darted his head in many directions.
“I didn’t mean too…” I said softly; it really wasn’t my intention to spook him.
“This is so stupid.” He said after a short time. He must have been referring to our antics regarding our visit to the corn field.
“I know, and Dorian acted like he had no idea what I was talking about when I called him.”
“He did?” Corbin asked perplexed, “That’s… weird, right? Well, you did say he was already being weird. I wonder if he is trying to trick us or something…”
“Maybe? The whole bone thing has me seriously wondering if there might be something wrong with him.”
“Bone thing? You didn’t mention that this morning.”
“Yeah, he brought me to this spot in the field where a bone was sticking out of the ground. I’m not sure what kind it was but he asked if I thought it was… delicious.”
“What?! That’s so weird Gavin. How are you not like, freaking out over that?”
“Well, I don’t know? It’s Dorian, maybe he’s just into some weird stuff these days.”
“You’re telling me!” He said before the conversation ceased entirely and we continued riding until reaching the edge of the corn field.
Ben was sitting on his bike seat with a flashlight as well. I was glad everyone opted for bringing one since I had forgotten to mention it on the phone earlier. I looked around for Dorian but couldn’t see him, so I asked Ben, “Has Dorian already showed up or what?”
“Nope.” Said Ben sharply.
“You haven’t seen him?”
“Don’t be mean, Ben. This wasn’t Gavin’s idea.” Said Corbin.
“I’m tired and I don’t like mosquitoes.”
“Neither do I.” I said softly, “How long have you been here?”
Ben shrugged, “I don’t know, like… four hours?”
“Four hours?! You’re lying.” I snapped.
He chuckled, “Nah, I’ve only been here for a little bit.”
“If you should be messing with anyone, it’s Dorian.” Said Corbin as he scuffed his foot against the dirt.
“Well he isn’t here, is he?” Asked Ben while turning his head away from us.
Then, the sound of spokes clicking sounded off in the distance. “That must be him.” I said, shining my light down the road. Dorian rounded the corner from the other side of the treeline and came to a skidding halt in front of us.
“It’s about time you showed up.” Said Ben perturbed.
“I don’t know what you’re all thinking but I have no idea what Gavin’s talking about. I only came down here to see what all the fuss is.” Said Dorian.
“Why are you lying to them, Dorian? We were both in the field yesterday. You even came to my window last night!”
“I did not! I was sleeping the same as you!” Shouted Dorian. Corbin stepped off his bike and stood in the road between us.
“Enough!” He began, “It doesn’t matter now, let’s just go in and see what happens? If Gavin is trying to mess with us then we’ll find out and if Dorian is doing the same thing, then we’ll find that out as well.” Corbin was definitely the sensible type, even at the age of eleven.
“Fine, let’s go.” Said Ben hastily. He, too, stepped off his bike and gripped his flashlight in his left hand.
“This is so stupid!” Professed Dorian before throwing his bike against the ground and producing a small flashlight as well.
“Good, I’m sure this will be over before we know it.” Said Corbin as he shined his light towards the corn.
“I’m not making this up.” I said under a muttered breath.
I was quiet enough that nobody heard me. A breeze picked up as well and likely carried my hushed words away. I took out my flashlight and shined it where Corbin was shining his. Apart from the added horror of being dark, the field looked no different and I still had a yearning sensation for it.
Ben and Corbin went first and Dorian followed. I stayed behind because if Dorian was planning something, I didn’t want to be the brunt of it. After walking between the tall green stalks for who knows how long, Dorian disappeared. I mean, one minute he was there and the next he completely vanished as if he became air itself.
I stopped moving and shined my light in every direction searching for him. Ben and Corbin noticed that a distance had been created from me to them and they stopped as well. Corbin shined his light at me and shouted, “Hey! What’s the matter?”
“It’s Dorian! H — He’s gone!”
“Gone?!” Asked Ben with a certain shakiness in his voice.
“Yeah, he was right in front of me and now he’s just… gone!”
They both walked to me and searched with their lights. “Well, what do you mean he’s gone, like did he run off somewhere?” Asked Corbin quietly.
“No, I’m saying he was standing or rather… walking right where you are and then he vanished!”
“That’s not possible.” Said Ben hurriedly. He always had a knack for pointing out the obvious nature of things.
“What’s not possible?” Asked Dorian as he stepped out of the corn behind me. His intrusion scared me to the point of hyperventilation but I managed to maintain my composure.
“What the heck Dorian! Where did you go?!” I asked furiously because I’d been scared.
Dorian smiled like the way he had the day before and patted me on the shoulder, “I didn’t go anywhere! I’ve always been here.”
“Gavin said you disappeared.” Remarked Ben.
“Well, sometimes the field can play tricks on your mind!”
“Hmm.” Uttered Corbin.
“It was not a mind trick.” I said timidly. I wasn’t enjoying the feeling of being defeated and refuted at every turn.
“Oh well! Let’s continue shall we?” Asked Dorian, seemingly unbothered.
“I guess.” Answered Ben and Corbin agreed. I simply followed without saying a word.
Further into the field we went. Dorian was acting incredibly strange. He would turn around often and stare right at me with his creepy smile like some kind of deranged lunatic. He would even march over the stalks without being phased like they weren’t there.
Then, he stopped walking.
“I have an idea everyone!” He announced.
“An idea?” Asked Ben. He was a boy of few words.
“Yes! Let’s play hide and seek!” Suggested Dorian with a scheming demeanor.
“Hide and seek, out here?” Questioned Corbin.
“I agree, maybe if it was during the day but at night? Count me out.” I said fearfully.
“Nonsense! It’ll be fine and fun! I’ll start as the seeker! you all get ten minutes to run and hide! You can even turn off your flashlights when you find a spot.” Said Dorian with a wry smile and an off putting chuckle.
“If it gets me out of here sooner, then sure.” Said Ben who was already walking away from us.
“Wait Ben!” I said, eager to hide with someone so I wouldn’t be alone.
“I’m hiding on my own. I don’t want to be caught with all of you.” Said Corbin, walking the opposite direction.
“Oh, this is so exciting!” Began Dorian, “I’ll start counting now! One… two… three.”
Dorian laid on the ground with his head buried in his hands and counted loudly. I could hear him counting from quite far away as Ben and I walked for a good while before deciding on a spot. We found an area where the corn grew around a rock; it wasn’t huge, but neither were we so it covered us completely.
Ben broke the silence after we settled in for the long wait. “I know what you mean now.” He said quietly.
“Dorian IS acting strange. Did you notice how his mood changed entirely? After you claimed he ‘disappeared’ I mean?”
“I told you. Something isn’t right and I don’t want to be a coward but… I’m scared.”
“Me too.” He said unexpectedly.
“At least we aren’t like Corbin.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be by myself out here.”
“Thank you for understanding, Ben.”
“No problem, I really just want to get out of here. Honestly… I was thinking about just walking back to the road and leaving.”
“Why don’t we?” I asked curiously.
He sighed, “You know I’m in the scouts right?”
“Yeah, what’s that got to do with anything?”
“Well, you didn’t notice, but the direction I walked was relatively back the way we came.”
“And, where’s the road?” He asked as he turned his head towards me. Despite it being night, I could see fear on his face.
“Maybe we haven’t walked far enough?” I suggested.
“No, Gavin. I’m following scouts survival rules. The moment I set foot in this field I began counting the time and even if we went diagonally from our starting point; we should still have found the road. That’s really why I’m scared.” I had never heard him speak that much.
“Don’t worry, hopefully you’ve just made a mistake.” I said reassuringly.
“It’s not likely.” He said matter-of-factly.
Suddenly, the stalks rustled near us. It wasn’t caused by the wind because no breeze accompanied the sound. The noise was definitely reminiscent of someone working their way through the field and they were approaching our hiding spot. Ben clenched his fists and I tried to stifle my breathing.
Then, Corbin appeared and sat by us as if he didn’t just scare us half to death. “Corbin, what are you doing here?!” I asked with a harsh whisper.
He smiled, not unlike Dorian, and said, “I was getting lonely where I was hiding and decided to come find you guys!”
“How could you have found us all the way out here?” Asked Ben scrutinizingly.
“Oh it wasn’t too hard, plus you two didn’t go very far!”
“Not very far?!” Asked Ben angrily, “We walked for nearly half the time Dorian should have been counting! I just don’t see how it’s possible for you to be here but whatever.”
“Just be glad we’re all together now!” Said Corbin. I felt uneasy sitting next to him suddenly, he seemed like a different person.
“Yeah, I guess.” Said Ben, returning to his concise wordplay.
We sat quietly for a very long time. In fact, I started to get tired even though fear vastly outweighed my desire for slumber. Only the buzzing of annoying mosquitoes AND Corbin’s strangely excited breathing kept me awake.
After not hearing any more movement or even Dorian calling out the typical, “Ready or not, here I come!” I grew even more on edge. At one point, I wondered if he had left and his entire plan was to trick us into sitting out here for the whole night. Ben nudged me with his elbow and broke my contemplation.
“What?” I asked sharply.
“I’m going to try finding the road again.” He said while rising to his feet.
“Oh! Are we going to try and escape?” Asked Corbin enthusiastically.
“We just aren’t going to play Dorians stupid game. Right Gavin?” Ben asked while looking down at me.
“Right.” I said before getting up as well.
“I’ll be right behind you!” Said Corbin. He was acting just like Dorian had been and it was freaking me out.
We began following Ben but Corbin brushed passed me to walk beside him. They wove through the stalks in an odd fashion that made it difficult to keep my light fixed on them. Then, like before with Dorian, they both disappeared.
I started to panic immediately, “Guys? Guys! Where did you go! Don’t leave me out here alone! Please…” I admit tears began to well up in my eyes. Hey, I was a kid and a scared one at that.
I did the only thing I could think of, I kept walking. The field around me fluttered and rustled and each new sound made my heart skip a beat. The longer I walked, the worse it got and my entire body was dripping with sweat.
Then Ben reappeared.
He smiled widely in a way I’d never seen him do before and my eyes widened with shock. “What’s the matter?” He asked with equally widened eyes.
“Where did you go?! And where’s Corbin?” I tried my best to hold back my tears.
“Don’t worry about him! He went far away to hide!”
“No! You’re lying, you both disappeared like Dorian!” I shouted back.
“Come with me Gavin, I’ll get you out of here!” He said as he stepped around me to walk the opposite direction we had been.
“But… that’s the other way, I thought you knew where you were going Ben?”
“I must have made a mistake because the way out is over here!” Said Ben ecstatically.
“Okay…” I said in solemn retreat.
Ben started to skip through the corn and I did my best to keep up but I tripped over something and fell on my face. I remember my cheek being scuffed and my nose hurting. I also remember shining my light on my hand to see it covered in blood, but it wasn’t my blood. There was a puddle of it underneath me; it was wet and sticky, an oil-like viscosity.
Naturally I shrieked and Ben turned around with a frightening expression on his face. Before I could ask what was happening, he leaned down and started licking my hand. I pulled away from him in shock and said, “What are you doing?!”
“Delicious, isn’t it?” He asked with a blood covered grin.
“You’re scaring me Ben! What are you even saying?!”
He smiled and then took off running. I didn’t know what to do, I sat there on the ground with a pool of blood next to me before the disembodied voice of Ben echoed through the field around me. “Come find me!” He said like a careless whisper.
I was so lost and confused. My first instinct was to run away but that had already proven impossible, so instead I chose to pick up my flashlight and wander slowly through the field hoping I could make it until the morning. In my mind I hoped my mother hadn’t found out I was gone because she would have been so worried by now.
My legs were like butter and it took all the strength I had left just to keep myself standing. As I stumbled through the rows of corn, I started to hear horrible gnawing sounds like an animal feasting on a carcass. At the time I didn’t equate it to that, but now that I’m older that’s exactly what it was.
Upon pushing my way through a row in front of me, I was met with something no kid should ever have to see.
Three bodies, each torn to shreds and devoured. Their intestines were scattered across the ground and their blood was splattered against the wall of corn stalks surrounding them.
Their faces were preserved and it was clear by the vague glow of my flashlight that they were my friends. All of them, including Dorian.
Each of them had looks are pure terror as if they were killed just as they were about to scream. My horrific discovery concealed the true gravity of situation because in the middle of the bodies was a fourth, one that was moving.
I slowly shined my light directly on it to reveal Ben, a second Ben. The one I had been following. He was eating Corbins leg and groaning with voracious pleasure as if he were in ecstasy. He ripped at the flesh with his teeth and seemed completely unaware of my existence despite him asking for me to find him. I almost passed out from the sight because I’ve always had an aversion to seeing large quantities of blood, but luckily I managed to keep myself standing.
Ben continued his feasting on our, I mean, my friends, I shouldn’t even call him Ben anymore. It dined on my friends while I stood there watching; it was grotesque, morbid and traumatizing. I then made the mistake I taking one agonizingly loud step backwards which prompted it to abruptly stop eating.
It spun its head around in an impossible 180° direction and smiled with blood stained teeth. “You found me!” It said in a sinister tone.
Its back shuddered and began to expand like some kind of twisted metamorphosis and my instincts told me to run, even if there was nowhere to go. So I did, I sprinted away from it all the while I heard terrible screaming and the voice of Ben yelling, “Come back! Share in my meal! Taste the flesh and become one with me!”
I wouldn’t listen, I just kept running without turning around to look. I could hear it trampling through the field behind me but I would not let it overtake me, I couldn’t let it eat me too.
The night had been harrowing and my childish mind did everything it could to rationalize what was happening but it couldn’t understand, no matter how hard I tried. I don’t know how it was possible but I found the road and my bike along with it and without hesitation, I jumped on and rode away, only looking back once to see Ben standing on the edge of the field waving happily.
The moment I got home, I rushed inside and woke up my mother. She was pissed at first and didn’t want to give me her ear for even one second, but she must have seen the look on my face and in turn begun to believe me. She called the police and told them my story. I don’t think they believed me either, but they went and checked anyway.
A half an hour later an officer showed up at our door and demanded to talk to me. My mother sat in the room the entire time I was telling him what happened. He had a difficult time understanding and he kept asking me if I was sure it wasn’t an adult out there. Obviously I thought I knew what I saw, so I stuck with my truth even if it did sound outlandish.
The officer left my room when I was done and asked to speak with my mother outside. I put my ear to the door to eavesdrop and heard the officer say, “They found a clearing out there where four bodies were maimed beyond belief. Three of them are children, the other is unidentifiable at the moment. I don’t know what was out there, but your son is lucky to be alive.”
My mother stayed in my room with me that night and she softly wept while I remained in shock.
It took me a long time to overcome my fear of the dark, and an even longer time to come to terms with the death of my friends. To this day I still don’t know what happened or what was in that field and as far as I’m aware, the police have let the case go cold. Worse still; it was revealed that the fourth body found was that of the farms owner Mr. Beasely.
But, despite all that, I drove by the field the other day. I wasn’t even thinking when I did, I just happened to take that road. Nobody even owns that land anymore, not since that accident; it’s considered cursed ground now but somehow the field was fully grown.
Worse still, Dorian was standing at the edge of the field waving as I passed by. I pressed my foot to the floor and drove faster than I should have to get away from that damn field. If I could offer a warning to anyone, I would say to always be wary of biennial corn fields.
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Hey there, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for reading my horror stories. If you’re interested in more bone-chilling tales, please feel free to check out my website. I hope you’ll enjoy them just as much as I enjoyed writing them. Thanks again!