The mystery of message.PNG has been solved! Special thanks to Brittany for all her hard work.
Here is a rundown of what she found (you can follow her comments under the post where I originally asked for help):
1. The picture was indeed encoded as I had speculated. Brittany ran it through the decrypting site at http://mozaiq.org/decrypt. This returned the numbers 2034931404.
2. The message in the photo turned out to be a phone number with a weird recording of a grinding noise (similar to what I heard at the mill) and then a voice calling out letters. The voice did not seem real, though, and was hard to understand.
3. After listening several times, Brittany was able to write down what the voice said. It was a URL: 2219cw.xp3.biz.
4. This page contained nothing more that a link to a text file named shadows.txt.
I have confirmed all of this to be true. The grinding sound I find extremely troubling as I believe it confirms that this whole cover-up is tied to important people here in a Pale Forest.
Here is what can be found on the text file:
There once was an ancient city plagued by the shadows of men who didn’t exist.
And in this city lived a very brave man who was tired of the shadows.
“I’ll hunt them,” he promised the others, “and we’ll have peace.”
So he did.
And the man was very good at this job even though the task was troublesome. Shadows are, after all, hard to find at night.
The first shadow he caught as it was hiding under a girl’s bed. He used a special rope to bind and drag it into the light where it burned and faded out of memory.
The next shadow was cunning, but the man was more so. He tricked it into coming for a young boy at the town’s church before throwing open the windows. That night the village celebrated the victory.
The man did not allow himself to enjoy success for long, though. He still had shadows to hunt.
He found the third in the well at school, poisoning the children’s drinking water. Unable to draw the shadow out, he wisely chose to close off the well’s mouth, trapping it below.
A fourth shadow was but a whisper and its words were madness. So the man devised a plan. He would lay in wait until the shadow came for his own son. There was no risk, for the boy was deaf. This plan, too, worked and now there was but one shadow left in the ancient city.
But there is a darkness that is persistent. There is an evil that is timeless.
Despite his efforts, the man found he could not catch this last shadow. Though it was the youngest of all his quarry—and the smallest—it was also the fastest and most devious.
No rope could ensnare it. No trick confuse it. No rock trap it.
For months he schemed and gave chase, but this shadow was different. It had learned from the mistakes of its brethren. And it was angry.
The man watched as this shadow, the last of its kind, took the youth and peace of the ancient city. It came relentlessly, night after night, until there was nothing left for it to steal.
Then it left, having completed its revenge.
The man finally died old, reviled, and broken. He had suffered greatly for his arrogance.
“I was so close,” he is remembered to have remarked with his last breath. But for all his efforts and strength, this brave man could not best the shadow.
This is, of course, a cautionary tale. The destruction of evil is impossible. It is at best a foolhardy quest, and at worst, to invite the retribution of the devil himself. Though we may contain them in the light of day, shadows will always exist.
They are, after all, very hard to find at night.Whoever went to the trouble of setting this all up obviously wants us to leave it be. But I am not afraid of shadows and I'm not going to turn back now.
My thanks again to Brittany. You did an amazing job and brought us all closer to unraveling this mystery. Our next goal is to figure out who the author of "The Monster on Browning Street" truly is. All we have is a name: Charlotte Hamm. I've done a bit of research into this and I'll be back when time permits to share what I've found with everyone.
Until next time...