First, let me start by thanking you for your help deciphering the image. It is appreciated. Unfortunately, I am not significantly closer to arriving at the answer to the riddle. However, while doing research (and potentially ruining my eyes staring at the image), I came across the idea of steganography. Perhaps there is something to this. Or perhaps it is a dead end conjured by an exhausted and desperate mind. Either way, it might be worth looking into; though I haven't a clue how to go about decrypting the image.
Along with the assistance on cracking the picture's secret, I also received an email I thought I would share. I have removed the address, per the author's request. Please be aware that it is not mine and therefore might be fake. I've taken the liberty to edit one word as well, though the sentiment is hardly lost for it. The subject, however, was chilling enough that I thought to include it.
Jonas,There isn't much I can add so I won't even try. This is starting to get to me.
I almost didn't send this to you, but I couldn't stop thinking about your friend Mike. It made me sad to read your post about him, and not only because he's probably never going to be found. But also because it was so familiar to me. I used to live in Pale Forest but my family moved a couple of years ago. I don't miss it. I do miss my brother, though.
He was only six when it first visited him.
It was summer. I remember because I had just gotten back from swimming in my best friend's pool. Corey (my brother) was sitting in the living room when I came in. I immediately knew something was off because he was just there in front of the TV but it wasn't turned on. After walking over to him, I noticed he had a weird expression on his face but he didn't respond when I asked him what was wrong. I had to shake him to get his attention.
Corey was pale, but he smiled when he saw me. It was the same one he gave me when I woke him from his naps. I hadn't seen it for a while. Reaching down, I hugged him and asked him what he was doing in the living room but he didn't seem to know. Honestly, he seemed really disoriented. I picked him up and carried him to his room where he went to sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.
That night, after dinner, I was on my way to the bathroom when I passed by the door to Corey's room. He was slumped over on his bed with the same look on his face that I'd seen earlier. Again I had to shake him. This time I was determined to know what was going on, so I stayed to talk to him for a while.
Corey said he hadn't been asleep, though I could tell he was really tired. He told me he'd been talking to a friend of his both times and hadn't noticed me. This was kind of strange, but little kids have imaginary friends so I didn't think too much about it until he attempted to describe the thing to me. He'd never seen more than a shadow so he didn't know what it actually looked like, Corey told me, and it didn't speak like we do. He assured me he understood it anyway. I asked him how, and he said it kind of growled and he somehow knew what it wanted. Apparently what it generally asked for was his complete attention. He said it didn't allow him to sleep, growing incredibly angry when he did. It had, for example, been furious because of the nap he'd taken that afternoon. Beyond that, Corey said it simply wanted to be his friend.
This was disturbing. While I didn't yet think there was an actual monster keeping him awake, it seemed really unhealthy anyway. When I asked if he'd been sleeping at night, he relunctantly told me the nap was the first time he'd slept in a week. He begged me not to tell our parents, though; the thing had warned him that they wouldn't understand their friendship.
I hate myself for it now, but I agreed to keep it a secret as long as he promised to sleep. A week later I learned he'd not been resting as we'd bargained, and went to my parents, but I can't help but blame myself for not going to them sooner.
The next couple of months were torture for my poor mom and dad. They had to watch as their young son withered in front of them. They tried to save him, but the thing was relentless in its pursuit of my brother. Our father, like yours, worked for the mill, so we didn't have a lot of money. Still, my parents spent pretty much every dime we had on trying to reach Corey. The mill even provided a child psychologist to help, but now that doesn't seem like the advantage that it did then.
Corey's "spells", as we came to know them, were slowly taking over completely. He was becoming aware of those around less and less until eventually he spent more time in his mind than with us in reality. I remember I had to hit him once to snap him out of it. I felt so guilty for doing that.
As it turned out, the thing hadn't needed to worry about me telling our parents. They were convinced it was all mental. I, however, fought with the idea of a monster destroying Corey everyday. My brother didn't have a great imagination; he watched a lot of TV instead of playing games. Was he really capable of creating this whole story? When I confronted my parents about it, they cried, afraid they were losing me, too. I decided then that I'd let it go and concentrate more on getting Corey better and less on what was making him ill.
Six months after I'd found him on the couch, Corey finally went to sleep and never woke up. We found him curled up in his closet. My parents had taken to staying up with him, but my dad had fallen asleep the night before and hadn't heard Corey creep away. We were all devastated. Deep down we had believed he'd get better.
After reading about Mike Scola, I wept for an hour because of how it reminded me of my brother. Then I dug out a box from the top of the closet where I'd stored my memories of Corey away for the past few years. I vaguely remember the looks on the faces of the people who ran the funeral home where we said goodbye to my brother, but I didn't understand their shock at the time. Having lived with Corey throughout his illness, I'd slowly accepted what he'd become as normal. Time had mercifully wiped away those final days, though, and I almost screamed when I saw a picture that I'd taken less than a week before he'd passed away.
My brother's body, which had been that of an ordinary six year old boy, had been warped by a lack of sleep and whatever else that horrible f****** thing had done to him. His frame was thin beyond what looked capable of life, his face was drawn and dark, and his teeth had become twisted and almost feral. But what struck me the most after reading your story was my brother's arms. They were so long and thin! My God, they were almost impossible to look at! Why were they that way and why hadn't I noticed it before? After a minute or two, I couldn't stand it any longer; I tore the picture to pieces before the image could drive me mad.
I think you're on to something, Jonas, and I wish you the best. I just can't be a part of it. Even writing this email has brought back feelings I had hoped were burried with Corey, and I can't put myself through it again. I know that makes me selfish, but so be it.
If you decide to post this, please remove the email address. I will probably delete this account, but I don't want people using the old email to find out who I am.
Good luck. I'm praying for your safety.
Until next time...