Payton Leutner has no desire to talk to the former best friend who stabbed her 19 times and left her for dead in the woods. But if she did, "I would probably, initially thank her," the 17-year-old tells David Muir in what ABC News reports is her first time speaking out since the 2014 attack inspired by the fictional "Slender Man." "Without the whole situation, I wouldn't be who I am" and "I really, really like [my life]," says Leutner, who plans to attend college next fall en route to a career in medicine. "I didn't have a plan when I was 12, and now I do because of everything that I went through." She's not entirely free of the trauma: She sleeps with a pair of broken scissors under a nearby pillow "just in case," Leutner tells Muir. But she tries not to live in fear. And she knows if Morgan Geyser was released from a mental hospital and came to find her, "she would go right back where she was."
Looking back, Leutner sees red flags but acknowledges "nobody could ever see something like this coming." Geyser, whom Leutner had befriended in fourth grade because she looked lonely, had gotten close with Anissa Weier, who was "always cruel to me," and both became convinced that Slender Man was real. Then, at a sleepover, Geyser, who usually "wanted to stay up all night," had gone to bed early. The plan had been to kill Leutner as she slept, though she was ultimately led into the woods the next day, May 31, for a game of hide-and-seek. "Anissa told me to lie on the ground and cover myself in sticks and leaves … but it was really just a trick," says Leutner. Geyser pulled out a kitchen knife, sliced through Leutner's diaphragm, and almost penetrated her heart. But the scars are "just a part of me" now, she says. "It's time for people to see my side." (Mental illness played a role.)