There was a mother who was new to the challenge of raising a child. Her husband worked while she remained at home as a housewife. Her son, who was only a toddler, enjoyed playing in their back yard, though she always feared that he would wander off into the woods that lurked behind their home.
The boy had begun constructing sentences this year, and he often spoke to anyone or anything that was willing to listen, sometimes even those who weren't willing. It was common for the mother to hear her son from the kitchen window, talking to butterflies or birds.
When she would go to check on him, she would sometimes find no one and nothing there for her son to chatter with, yet he still spoke with someone when she couldn't fully see outside.
“Who were you talking to, sweetheart?” The mother would innocently ask.
Each time the boy was found alone he would reply, “My friend Sticky fingers, momma!”
The mother only passed it off as an imaginary friend. Soon, the boy would be joining preschool, so he would make real friends there, and these odd moments would end.
One day, while the boy was playing outside, the mother heard her son scream. She ran outside, fearing that he had been bitten by who knows what.
Instead, she heard he call out to his imaginary friend, “Come back, Sticky! Gimme my toy back!” The boy was facing the woods, tears streaming down his red-flushed face, and confusion swirling in his eyes.
The mother took her son into her arms, trying to comfort his distressed crying. “What toy, dear?” Between hiccups and sniffles, the boy explained that Sticky Fingers had stolen his favorite action figure.
Sure enough, after searching every inch of the yard, the toy was nowhere to be found. The mother shrugged it off, though she had the faint suspicion that something strange was going on. She assumed that the toy had to be somewhere, maybe even in the woods, and her soon was blaming it on this "Sticky Fingers" so he would not to get into trouble.
After calling her husband and telling him what happened, a new action figure was brought home to replace the currently lost one. With children, a toy could go missing for years or seconds, and since this was the boy's favorite one, it wouldn't hurt to replace it just once.
Their son was pleased to receive the replacement, but worry and confusion still shadowed his face. In the back of his mind, he was trying to understand why Sticky Fingers stole his beloved toy after they had become such good friends.
The following day, the mother heard her son screaming outside, once again. She ran out, finding the boy yelling at the woods for his imaginary friend.
“What happened, honey?” The mother held her son, receiving the same answer as last time. Sticky Fingers had stolen his action figure again.
“Sweetie, we need to talk about you losing your toys.” There was no way that someone was stealing these toys so quickly, much less never being seen by anyone but her son.
“It wasn't me, momma!” The boy tried to defend himself, but his mother saw no other logical explanation for this.
“If you just tell me the truth, I won't be mad at you.”
“I am telling the truth!” Despite the desperation in his voice, his eyes, and his mind, the boy's words were but gentle gusts of wind through leaves – acknowledged, but quickly forgotten.
After discussing the matter with her husband, they decided not to replace the toy again. Still, toys would go missing at least once a week.
The parents were growing irritated, especially when they searched a short ways into the woods to find none of the missing toys. Sure the boy didn't trek too far past the treeline with the mother keeping such a close eye on him.
By the fifth missing toy, the mother banned her son from playing outside. This upset the child quite a bit, for fear of not being able to play with Sticky Fingers. Even though his friend would take his toys and get him into trouble, the boy still enjoyed having him around. He argued and cried for hours, insisting that he wasn't losing his toys on purpose.
Eventually, the boy grew tired and laid down for a nap. The house was finally quiet. The mother took this opportunity to relax and read a book, her head pounding from her son's screaming.
Minutes passed by in silence, the ticking of the pendulum clock nearby interrupting any complete peace. There was mumbling from down the hall. It sounded like her son, but there was another young voice.
The mother, however, never heard any of it.
“Why are you trying to get me in trouble?” The boy softly sobbed to his friend Sticky Fingers.
“I'm not. I'm showing you that your mommy and daddy don't really love you.” Sticky Fingers stood in the corner of the bedroom, observing the boy's knitting eyebrows. Soon, he would have the fellow child wrapped around his finger.
Sticky Fingers was not much older than the boy. His dark, empty eyes made him look as though he had seen much more than any child has. He had done much more.
He had blonde hair, pale and ghostly, yet he wasn't dead. Sticky Fingers didn't wear any special clothing; just a green shirt with a cute little ferret on it, a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of red and white sneakers.
There was, however, a green band-aid on Sticky Fingers's left cheek near the corner of his eye. Faint markings of a scar peeking out from the edges that the bandage didn't reach. He always wore that bandage there, even when the boy started seeing him.
“If your parents really loved you,” Sticky Fingers continued, “They would believe you.”
The boy bit his lip, doubt filling his little heart. “But you're never there for my mommy and daddy to see that I'm telling the truth.”
“They should already trust you. It's obvious now, that they don't.” Sticky Fingers stepped up to his 'friend', holding out a welcoming hand. “I trust you. I can show you where your toys are.”
The boy eyed Sticky Fingers hesitantly. If he left with Sticky, he could get in even more trouble. Even if he told his parents that he had only gone to get his toys back – even if he brought all of his missing toys back – his parents would punish him for disappearing. They probably would just say that he was hiding the toys to make them buy more. No matter what, he wouldn't be able to please his mother and father.
“I can bring you to a place where everyone trusts you.” Sticky Fingers added, in a sly smirk curling on his lips.
Now, Sticky's hand seemed to be the best solution to the boy's problem. He grasped it, still not completely sure, but it was too late. The boy was led out of the house with near inaudible footsteps.
They entered the forest.
As they reached deeper into its wake, the trees seemed to grow taller, darker. The only sounds that entered the boy's ears were his footsteps and nervous breath.
How far was Sticky Fingers taking him?
As though his thoughts had reached out beyond his mind, Sticky Fingers stopped in front of a long, slender tree. Its bark darker than the depths of night air. Its branches void of life.
The boy would never get his toys. He would never see his parents again. He would never see anything again; nor feel, smell, or hear a single thing. His existence was no longer apparent to the world.
All that remained as a sign of his life were his beloved toys, but they were hidden away in the Sticky's room. It was filled with many other toys of all sorts. Sticky didn't care if it was a doll or a remote-control car, just as long as they now belonged to him.
Just as long as the other children suffered as he did.