File 0039+0041-43: Campfire Stories to Tell on the Internet
With it being summer and hectic days ahead as Halli prepares to move to another state, we decided to make some episodes where we read you some of our favorite stories from the internet! Grab your marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, it's time to make some s'mores and snuggle up for story time!
Content warning: some of these stories are high on the spooky meter and contain discussions of suicide, murder, mental health and isolation.
Part 1: Creepy Pastas
Creepy pasta refers to a specific genre of stories that come from the internet. It's name is a derivative of the term "copy-pasta", a word used to describe a block of text that has been shared repeatedly around the internet, the main difference that and creepy pastas are... Well... Creepy. We've talked about Creepy pastas briefly when I covered Ted the Caver, which is considered one of the first creepy pastas. But Ted is just the tip of a very large and diverse iceberg.
The Ted story is a bit of an exception as the story originated on its own website, but most creepy pastas are shared on forums like reddit and 4chan. Originally these posts often were written and depicted as real events that happened to author or someone the author knew. These days, while some may still try to pass these stories off as genuine encounters, audiences have become much more skeptical and forums and wikis have sprung up all over to archive existing stories and collect new user submissions. Really, creepy pastas are just the next evolution of the urban legend
Creepy pastas come in every flavor you can think of from aliens to unusual neighbors to ghosts. The core theme of any creepy pasta is that it should be unsettling and should be told as if it were a thing that could actually happen
They can also come in any length, here are some of my favorite 2 liners courtesy of reddit:
- justAnotherMuffledVo: I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, "Daddy check for monsters under my bed." I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, "Daddy there's somebody on my bed."
- guztaluz: There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping. I live alone.
- comparativelysane: You hear your mom calling you into the kitchen. As you are heading down the stairs you hear a whisper from the closet saying "Don't go down there honey, I heard it too.
Lavender Town Syndrome
The Lavender Town Syndrome (also known as "Lavender Town Tone" or "Lavender Town Suicides") was a peak in suicides and illness of children between the ages of 7-12 shortly after the release of Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, back in February 27th, 1996.
Rumors say that these suicides and illness only occurred after the children playing the game reached Lavender Town, whose theme music had extremely high frequencies, that studies showed that only children and young teens can hear since their ears are more sensitive.
Due to the Lavender Tone, at least two-hundred children supposedly completed suicide, and many more developed illnesses and afflictions. The children who completed suicide usually did so by hanging or jumping from heights. Those who did not act irrationally complained of severe headaches after listening to Lavender Town's theme.
Although Lavender Town now sounds differently depending on the game, this mass hysteria was caused by the first Pokémon game released. After the Lavender Tone incident, the programmers had fixed Lavender Town's theme music to be at a lower frequency, and since then children were no longer affected by it.
It is said that the Beta Version of Pocket Monsters was released to some kids to test the games. This is the video of the Beta Version of Lavender Town:
Story Credit: Anonymous
Polybius is an urban legend about a rare arcade game released in 1981. The game was created by a mysterious company called Sinneslöschen (German for "Sense Deletion") and was a puzzle/shoot-'em-up somewhat like Tempest. It was only released in a few suburbs of Portland, Oregon.
It was supposedly very popular, with people forming long lines to play it. However, players reported strange things about the game, such as hearing a woman crying and seeing grotesque faces out of the corner of their eyes. Players would also have nightmares, experienced nausea, headaches, blackouts or even develop amnesia. Some even completed suicide. Others stopped playing video games altogether and at least one became an anti-video game activist.
According to one owner of an arcade, men wearing black suits would often come to collect "records" from the game.
They did not take any money, simply data on gameplay. Because of this, the leading theory is that it was some sort of government experiment using subliminal messages. The game remains in obscurity as around one month after its release, all of the cabinets suddenly disappeared. One cabinet reappeared in an arcade 1998, but quickly disappeared again. While some have tried to recreate the game, no one has ever found the original ROM.
The game can be
found available for download at the Sinneslöschen website. (download and play at your own risk)
Story Credit: Anonymous
BREE, DON'T DELETE THIS!
I know you hate me, but we were best friends once and I need you to read this. I think I'm in serious trouble and there's nothing you can do, but I need you to read this so you understand.
I know we haven't talked since sectionals. It's been forever, but what happened to you wasn't my fault. At least it wasn't entirely my fault. I know everyone thinks it was, but I would never do anything to hurt you.
This is going to sound crazy, but I need to tell you this so that someone knows.
It started when we were in the 8th grade. It was the night before the Crystal Classic competition. I was at home and I couldn't sleep because I was so nervous about competing. Well, I got on the computer, just sorta surfing the web and stuff, but I couldn't concentrate on anything, I was just sitting there, so I googled myself.
I never should have done that Bree. At first it was all the usual stuff you find when you Google yourself; then I found a link to a Wikipedia page about me.
I thought our club or my dad made it or something. There wasn't much there; just some basic facts about skating, what city I lived in, but the thing that got me was that it said I won that year's Crystal Classic.
I laughed, I thought for sure someone just did it to encourage me. I confronted my dad about it, but he denied it.
When I won the competition the next day, I was so happy. That was the first competition I had ever won and it felt so good. Remember how hard I worked after that. That's when my parents hired Sergei to coach me. You know how much that must have cost.
After that, I would check my page before every competition and it would always tell the result of how I placed. It said I would win the regionals at 15, and it all came true. After that, Sergei convinced my mom and dad that I had a real shot at the Olympics, that's when they pulled me from school.
I skated every day, but I just wasn't progressing the way Sergei said I needed to if I wanted a shot at the Championship. I was working so hard and I was skating well, but still Sergei said it wasn't good enough.
When the sectionals came. All I could think about was winning, so I did something I shouldn't have. Everyone was saying that you were the favorite and I felt like I had already lost the competition, so I made a Wikipedia account and tried to update my page to say that I was the winner.
The thing is that after I tried to update the page, I checked it and all it said was: "
Annora Petrova is a selfish little bitch who is going to get what she deserves."
I broke down. That's why I looked so awful the next day. I was in a daze. I remember watching your routine and seeing your blade snap and the next thing I know, I was on the ground and my face was covered in blood from where the tip flew off and sliced my forehead. Then they told me it was my fault because I had your skates in my possession earlier. Bree, I honestly didn't do anything to your skates- I wanted to win, but I wouldn't do anything to hurt you.
When they told me I was banned from any further competitions, everyone said that I got what I deserved. Nobody even asked for my side of the story.
I guess you heard that Sergei dropped me after that. He said I ruined him. No one would talk to me.
Do you know what it's like to be ostracized by everyone? I couldn't even get ice time. And then the page got worse. Anytime I'd check it, it would say all these horrible things about me. I can't even tell you half of them, the language was so vile. I'd cry every time I read it, but I couldn't stop checking it. I knew I had to do something, so I made a complaint to Wikipedia. I even tried calling them, but no one there claimed to know anything about the page.
I was home alone that Friday night and I decided to check it to see if it had been taken down. The page was still there, only this time it said:
"Annora Petrova is a pathetic little orphan."
I freaked. I kept calling my parents to warn them, but every time I'd call, all I would hear was this horrible laughter on the other end. I must have called them a hundred times until I couldn't take the sound of the laughing anymore.
After the accident, the police gave me their phones and there wasn't any record of my calls that night.
I was so devastated. Before that I was so busy training all day and doing home school, I never realized just how alone I had been the whole time. I know you tried to reach out, but I was so depressed and angry I just shut everything out.
Once I turned 18 and got the settlement money from the court, I came to Switzerland. I got to reinvent myself. My skating really took off. It hasn't been a year and I feel like everything that happened was so long ago. That's why I shouldn't have done it Bree.
I'm writing you now from an old hotel outside of Prague. I'm auditioning for the Ice Circus tomorrow. I know it's the kind of thing we used to make fun of, but I really want this. I was feeling really nervous and out of an old habit I checked my page. It's so hard to say this, but when I checked the page to see if I'd get the job tomorrow, all it says is
"Annora Petrova died friendless and alone"
and it has today's date listed as the date of my death.
I'm sobbing so hard, I can barely type this. But I wanted you to know the truth. Please believe me, Bree. I attached a screenshot of the page so you'll believe me, it's all there just as I told you. I don't know what to do. I don't know anyone here and nobody speaks English. I keep refreshing the page.
God, it's been forever, I keep refreshing but it still hasn't changed, I'm waiting for midnight, I don't know what to do, so I locked myself in my room. There's only a few minutes to midnight now. All I can do is refresh the page. I'm exhausted, but I can't stop. I'm afraid to leave the computer until I know what happens next.
Story Credit: Anonymous
I'm not sure why I'm writing this down on paper and not on my computer. I guess I've just noticed some odd things. It's not that I don't trust the computer... I just... need to organize my thoughts. I need to get down all the details somewhere objective, somewhere I know that what I write can't be deleted or... changed... not that that's happened. It's just... everything blurs together here, and the fog of memory lends a strange cast to things...
I'm starting to feel cramped in this small apartment. Maybe that's the problem. I just had to go and choose the cheapest apartment, the only one in the basement. The lack of windows down here makes day and night seem to slip by seamlessly. I haven't been out in a few days because I've been working on this programming project so intensively. I suppose I just wanted to get it done. Hours of sitting and staring at a monitor can make anyone feel strange, I know, but I don't think that's it.
I'm not sure when I first started to feel like something was odd. I can't even define what it is. Maybe I just haven't talked to anyone in awhile. That's the first thing that crept up on me. Everyone I normally talk to online while I program has been idle, or they've simply not logged on at all. My instant messages go unanswered. The last e-mail I got from anybody was a friend saying he'd talk to me when he got back from the store, and that was yesterday. I'd call with my cell phone, but reception's terrible down here. Yeah, that's it. I just need to call someone. I'm going to go outside.
Well, that didn't work so well. As the tingle of fear fades, I'm feeling a little ridiculous for being scared at all. I looked in the mirror before I went out, but I didn't shave the two-day stubble I've grown. I figured I was just going out for a quick cell phone call. I did change my shirt, though, because it was lunchtime, and I guessed that I'd run into at least one person I knew. That didn't end up happening. I wish it did.
When I went out, I opened the door to my small apartment slowly. A small feeling of apprehension had somehow already lodged itself in me, for some indefinable reason. I chalked it up to having not spoken to anyone but myself for a day or two. I peered down the dingy grey hallway, made dingier by the fact that it was a basement hallway. On one end, a large metal door led to the building's furnace room. It was locked, of course. Two dreary soda machines stood by it; I bought a soda from one the first day I moved in, but it had a two year old expiration date. I'm fairly sure nobody knows those machines are even down here, or my cheap landlady just doesn't care to get them restocked.
I closed my door softly, and walked the other direction, taking care not to make a sound. I have no idea why I chose to do that, but it was fun giving in to the strange impulse not to break the droning hum of the soda machines, at least for the moment. I got to the stairwell, and took the stairs up to the building's front door. I looked through the heavy door's small square window, and received quite the shock: it was definitely not lunchtime. City-gloom hung over the dark street outside, and the traffic lights at the intersection in the distance blinked yellow. Dim clouds, purple and black from the glow of the city, hung overhead. Nothing moved, save the few sidewalk trees that shifted in the wind. I remember shivering, though I wasn't cold. Maybe it was the wind outside. I could vaguely hear it through the heavy metal door, and I knew it was that unique kind of late-night wind, the kind that was constant, cold, and quiet, save for the rhythmic music it made as it passed through countless unseen tree leaves.
I decided not to go outside.
Instead, I lifted my cell phone to the door's little window, and checked the signal meter. The bars filled up the meter, and I smiled. Time to hear someone else's voice, I remember thinking, relieved. It was such a strange thing, to be afraid of nothing. I shook my head, laughing at myself silently. I hit speed-dial for my best friend Amy's number, and held the phone up to my ear. It rang once... but then it stopped. Nothing happened. I listened to silence for a good twenty seconds, then hung up. I frowned, and looked at the signal meter again - still full. I went to dial her number again, but then my phone rang in my hand, startling me. I put it up to my ear.
"Hello?" I asked, immediately fighting down a small shock at hearing the first spoken voice in days, even if it was my own. I had gotten used to the droning hum of the building's inner workings, my computer, and the soda machines in the hallway. There was no response to my greeting at first, but then, finally, a voice came.
"Hey," said a clear male voice, obviously of college age, like me. "Who's this?"
"John," I replied, confused.
"Oh, sorry, wrong number," he replied, then hung up.
I lowered the phone slowly and leaned against the thick brick wall of the stairwell. That was strange. I looked at my received calls list, but the number was unfamiliar. Before I could think on it further, the phone rang loudly, shocking me yet again. This time, I looked at the caller before I answered. It was another unfamiliar number. This time, I held the phone up to my ear, but said nothing. I heard nothing but the general background noise of a phone. Then, a familiar voice broke my tension.
"John?" was the single word, in Amy's voice.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Hey, it's you," I replied.
"Who else would it be?" she responded. "Oh, the number. I'm at a party on Seventh Street, and my phone died just as you called me. This is someone else's phone, obviously."
"Oh, ok," I said.
"Where are you?" she asked.
My eyes glanced over the drab white-washed cylinder block walls and the heavy metal door with its small window.
"At my building," I sighed. "Just feeling cooped up. I didn't realize it was so late."
"You should come here," she said, laughing.
"Nah, I don't feel like looking for some strange place by myself in the middle of the night," I said, looking out the window at the silent windy street that secretly scared me just a tiny bit. "I think I'm just going to keep working or go to bed."
"Nonsense!" she replied. "I can come get you! Your building is close to Seventh Street, right?"
"How drunk are you?" I asked lightheartedly. "You know where I live."
"Oh, of course," she said abruptly. "I guess I can't get there by walking, huh?"
"You could if you wanted to waste half an hour," I told her.
"Right," she said. "Ok, have to go, good luck with your work!"
I lowered the phone once more, looking at the numbers flash as the call ended. Then, the droning silence suddenly reasserted itself in my ears. The two strange calls and the eerie street outside just drove home my aloneness in this empty stairwell. Perhaps from having seen too many scary movies, I had the sudden inexplicable idea that something could look in the door's window and see me, some sort of horrible entity that hovered at the edge of aloneness, just waiting to creep up on unsuspecting people that strayed too far from other human beings. I knew the fear was irrational, but nobody else was around, so... I jumped down the stairs, ran down the hallway into my room, and closed the door as swiftly as I could while still staying silent. Like I said, I feel a little ridiculous for being scared of nothing, and the fear has already faded. Writing this down helps a lot - it makes me realize that nothing is wrong. It filters out half-formed thoughts and fears and leaves only cold, hard facts. It's late, I got a call from a wrong number, and Amy's phone died, so she called me back from another number. Nothing strange is happening.
Still, there was something a little off about that conversation. I know it could have just been the alcohol she'd had... or was it even her that seemed off to me? Or was it... yes, that was it! I didn't realize it until this moment, writing these things down. I knew writing things down would help. She said she was at a party, but I only heard silence in the background! Of course, that doesn't mean anything in particular, as she could have just gone outside to make the call. No... that couldn't be it either. I didn't hear the wind! I need to see if the wind is still blowing.
I forgot to finish writing last night. I'm not sure what I expected to see when I ran up the stairwell and looked out the heavy metal door's window. I'm feeling ridiculous. Last night's fear seems hazy and unreasonable to me now. I can't wait to go out into the sunlight. I'm going to check my email, shave, shower, and finally get out of here! Wait... I think I heard something.
* * * * * *
It was thunder. That whole sunlight and fresh air thing didn't happen. I went out into the stairwell and up the stairs, only to find disappointment. The heavy metal door's little window showed only flowing water, as torrential rain slammed against it. Only a very dim, gloomy light filtered in through the rain, but at least I knew it was daytime, even if it was a grey, sickly, wet day. I tried looking out the window and waiting for lightning to illuminate the gloom, but the rain was too heavy and I couldn't make out anything more than vague weird shapes moving at odd angles in the waves washing down the window. Disappointed, I turned around, but I didn't want to go back to my room. Instead, I wandered further up the stairs, past the first floor, and the second. The stairs ended at the third floor, the highest floor in the building. I looked through the glass that ran up the outer wall of the stairwell, but it was that warped, thick kind that scatters the light, not that there was much to see through the rain to begin with.
I opened the stairwell door and wandered down the hallway. The ten or so thick wooden doors, painted blue a long time ago, were all closed. I listened as I walked, but it was the middle of the day, so I wasn't surprised that I heard nothing but the rain outside. As I stood there in the dim hallway, listening to the rain, I had the strange fleeting impression that the doors were standing like silent granite monoliths erected by some ancient forgotten civilization for some unfathomable guardian purpose. Lightning flashed, and I could have sworn that, for just a moment, the old grainy blue wood looked just like rough stone. I laughed at myself for letting my imagination get the best of me, but then it occurred to me that the dim gloom and lightning must mean there was a window somewhere in the hallway. A vague memory surfaced, and I suddenly recalled that the third floor had an alcove and an inset window halfway down the floor's hallway.
Excited to look out into the rain and possibly see another human being, I quickly walked over to the alcove, finding the large thin glass window. Rain washed down it, as with the front door's window, but I could open this one. I reached a hand out to slide it open, but hesitated. I had the strangest feeling that if I opened that window, I would see something absolutely horrifying on the other side. Everything's been so odd lately... so I came up with a plan, and I came back here to get what I needed. I don't seriously think anything will come of it, but I'm bored, it's raining, and I'm going stir crazy. I came back to get my webcam. The cord isn't long enough to reach the third floor by any means, so instead I'm going to hide it between the two soda machines in the dark end of my basement hallway, run the wire along the wall and under my door, and put black duct tape over the wire to blend it in with the black plastic strip that runs along the base of the hallway's walls. I know this is silly, but I don't have anything better to do...
Well, nothing happened. I propped open the hallway-to-stairwell door, steeled myself, then flung the heavy front door wide open and ran like hell down the stairs to my room and slammed the door. I watched the webcam on my computer intently, seeing the hallway outside my door and most of the stairwell. I'm watching it right now, and I don't see anything interesting. I just wish the camera's position was different, so that I could see out the front door. Hey! Somebody's online!
* * * * * *
I got out an older, less functional webcam that I had in my closet to video chat with my friend online. I couldn't really explain to him why I wanted to video chat, but it felt good to see another person's face. He couldn't talk very long, and we didn't talk about anything meaningful, but I feel much better. My strange fear has almost passed. I would feel completely better, but there was something... odd... about our conversation. I know that I've said that everything has seemed odd, but... still, he was very vague in his responses. I can't recall one specific thing that he said... no particular name, or place, or event... but he did ask for my email address to keep in touch. Wait, I just got an email.
I'm about to go out. I just got an email from Amy that asked me to meet her for dinner at 'the place we usually go to.' I do love pizza, and I've just been eating random food from my poorly stocked fridge for days, so I can't wait. Again, I feel ridiculous about the odd couple of days I've been having. I should destroy this journal when I get back. Oh, another email.
* * * * * *
Oh my god. I almost left the email and opened the door. I almost opened the door. I almost opened the door, but I read the email first! It was from a friend I hadn't heard from in a long time, and it was sent to a huge number of emails that must have been every person he had saved in his address list. It had no subject, and it said, simply:
seen with your own eyes don't trust them they
What the hell is that supposed to mean? The words shock me, and I keep going over and over them. Is it a desperate email sent just as... something happened? The words are obviously cut off without finishing! On any other day I would have dismissed this as spam from a computer virus or something, but the words... seen with your own eyes! I can't help but read over this journal and think back on the last few days and realize that I have not seen another person with my own eyes or talked to another person face to face. The webcam conversation with my friend was so strange, so vague, so... eerie, now that I think about it. Was it eerie? Or is the fear clouding my memory? My mind toys with the progression of events I've written here, pointing out that I have not been presented with one single fact that I did not specifically give out unsuspectingly. The random 'wrong number' that got my name and the subsequent strange return call from Amy, the friend that asked for my email address... I messaged him first when I saw him online! And then I got my first email a few minutes after that conversation! Oh my god! That phone call with Amy! I said over the phone - I said that I was within half an hour's walk of Seventh Street! They know I'm near there! What if they're trying to find me?! Where is everyone else? Why haven't I seen or heard anyone else in days?
No, no, this is crazy. This is absolutely crazy. I need to calm down. This madness needs to end.
* * * * * *
I don't know what to think. I ran about my apartment furiously, holding my cell phone up to every corner to see if it got a signal through the heavy walls. Finally, in the tiny bathroom, near one ceiling corner, I got a single bar. Holding my phone there, I sent a text message to every number in my list. Not wanting to betray anything about my unfounded fears, I simply sent:
You seen anyone face to face lately?
At that point, I just wanted any reply back. I didn't care what the reply was, or if I embarrassed myself. I tried to call someone a few times, but I couldn't get my head up high enough, and if I brought my cell phone down even an inch, it lost signal. Then I remembered the computer, and rushed over to it, instant messaging everyone online. Most were idle or away from their computer. Nobody responded. My messages grew more frantic, and I started telling people where I was and to stop by in person for a host of barely passable reasons. I didn't care about anything by that point. I just needed to see another person!
I also tore apart my apartment looking for something that I might have missed; some way to contact another human being without opening the door. I know it's crazy, I know it's unfounded, but what if? WHAT IF? I just need to be sure! I taped the phone to the ceiling in case
THE PHONE RANG! Exhausted from last night's rampage, I must have fallen asleep. I woke up to the phone ringing, and ran into the bathroom, stood on the toilet, and flipped open the phone taped to the ceiling. It was Amy, and I feel so much better. She was really worried about me, and apparently had been trying to contact me since the last time I talked to her. She's coming over now, and, yes, she knows where I am without me telling her. I feel so embarrassed. I am definitely throwing this journal away before anyone sees it. I don't even know why I'm writing in it now. Maybe it's just because it's the only communication I've had at all since... god knows when. I look like hell, too. I looked in the mirror before I came back in here. My eyes are sunken, my stubble is thicker, and I just look generally unhealthy.
My apartment is trashed, but I'm not going to clean it up. I think I need someone else to see what I've been through. These past few days have NOT been normal. I am not one to imagine things. I know I have been the victim of extreme probability. I probably missed seeing another person a dozen times. I just happened to go out when it was late at night, or the middle of the day when everyone was gone. Everything's perfectly fine, I know this now. Plus, I found something in the closet last night that has helped me tremendously: a television! I set it up just before I wrote this, and it's on in the background. Television has always been an escape for me, and it reminds me that there's a world beyond these dingy brick walls.
I'm glad Amy's the only one that responded to me after last night's frantic pestering of everyone I could contact. She's been my best friend for years. She doesn't know it, but I count the day that I met her among one of the few moments of true happiness in my life. I remember that warm summer day fondly. It seems a different reality from this dark, rainy, lonely place. I feel like I spent days sitting in that playground, much too old to play, just talking with her and hanging around doing nothing at all. I still feel like I can go back to that moment sometimes, and it reminds me that this damn place is not all that there is... finally, a knock on the door!
* * * * * *
I thought it was odd that I couldn't see her through the camera I hid between the two soda machines. I figured that it was bad positioning, like when I couldn't see out the front door. I should have known. I should have known! After the knock, I yelled through the door jokingly that I had a camera between the soda machines, because I was embarrassed myself that I had taken this paranoia so far. After I did that, I saw her image walk over to the camera and look down at it. She smiled and waved.
"Hey!" she said to the camera brightly, giving it a wry look.
"It's weird, I know," I said into the mic attached to my computer. "I've had a weird few days."
"Must have," she replied. "Open the door, John."
I hesitated. How could I be sure?
"Hey, humor me a second here," I told her through the mic. "Tell me one thing about us. Just prove to me you're you."
She gave the camera a weird look.
"Um, alright," she said slowly, thinking. "We met randomly at a playground when we were both way too old to be there?"
I sighed deeply as reality returned and fear faded. God, I'd been so ridiculous. Of course it was Amy! That day wasn't anywhere in the world except in my memory. I'd never even mentioned it to anyone, not out of embarrassment, but out of a strange secret nostalgia and a longing for those days to return. If there was some unknown force at work trying to trick me, as I feared, there was no way they could know about that day.
"Haha, alright, I'll explain everything," I told her. "Be right there."
I ran to my small bathroom and fixed my hair as best I could. I looked like hell, but she would understand. Snickering at my own unbelievable behavior and the mess I'd made of the place, I walked to the door. I put my hand on the doorknob and gave the mess one last look. So ridiculous, I thought. My eyes traced over the half-eaten food lying on the ground, the overflowing trash bin, and the bed I'd tipped to the side looking for... God knows what. I almost turned to the door and opened it, but my eyes fell on one last thing: the old webcam, the one I used for that eerily vacant chat with my friend.
Its silent black sphere lay haphazardly tossed to the side, its lens pointed at the table where this journal lay. An overwhelming terror took me as I realized that if something could see through that camera, it would have seen what I just wrote about that day. I asked her for any one thing about us, and she chose the only thing in the world that I thought they or it did not know... but IT DID! IT DID KNOW! IT COULD HAVE BEEN WATCHING ME THE WHOLE TIME!
I didn't open the door. I screamed. I screamed in uncontrollable terror. I stomped on the old webcam on the floor. The door shook, and the doorknob tried to turn, but I didn't hear Amy's voice through the door. Was the basement door, made to keep out drafts, too thick? Or was Amy not outside? What could have been trying to get in, if not her? What the hell is out there?! I saw her on my computer through the camera outside, I heard her on the speakers through the camera outside, but was it real?! How can I know?! She's gone now - I screamed, and shouted for help! I piled up everything in my apartment against the front door -
At least I think that it's Friday. I broke everything electronic. I smashed my computer to pieces. Every single thing on there could have been accessed by network access, or worse, altered. I'm a programmer, I know. Every little piece of information I gave out since this started - my name, my email, my location - none of it came back from outside until I gave it out. I've been going over and over what I wrote. I've been pacing back and forth, alternating between stark terror and overpowering disbelief. Sometimes I'm absolutely certain some phantom entity is dead set on the simple goal of getting me to go outside. Back to the beginning, with the phone call from Amy, she was effectively asking me to open the door and go outside.
I keep running through it in my head. One point of view says I've acted like a madman, and all of this is the extreme convergence of probability - never going outside at the right times by pure luck, never seeing another person by pure chance, getting a random nonsense email from some computer virus at just the right time. The other point of view says that extreme convergence of probability is the reason that whatever's out there hasn't gotten me already. I keep thinking: I never opened the window on the third floor. I never opened the front door, until that incredibly stupid stunt with the hidden camera after which I ran straight to my room and slammed the door. I haven't opened my own solid door since I flung open the front door of the building. Whatever's out there - if anything's out there - never made an 'appearance' in the building before I opened the front door. Maybe the reason it wasn't in the building already was that it was elsewhere getting everyone else... and then it waited, until I betrayed my existence by trying to call Amy... a call which didn't work, until it called me and asked me my name...
Terror literally overwhelms me every time I try to fit the pieces of this nightmare together. That email - short, cut off - was it from someone trying to get word out? Some friendly voice desperately trying to warn me before it came? Seen with my own eyes, don't trust them - exactly what I've been so suspicious of. It could have masterful control of all things electronic, practicing its insidious deception to trick me into coming outside. Why can't it get in? It knocked on the door - it must have some solid presence... the door... the image of those doors in the upper hallway as guardian monoliths flashes back in my mind every time I trace this path of thoughts. If there is some phantom entity trying to get me to go outside, maybe it can't get through doors. I keep thinking back over all the books I've read or movies I've seen, trying to generate some explanation for this. Doors have always been such intense foci of human imagination, always seen as wards or portals of special importance. Or perhaps the door is just too thick? I know that I couldn't bash through any of the doors in this building, let alone the heavy basement ones. Aside from that, the real question is, why does it even want me? If it just wanted to kill me, it could do it any number of ways, including just waiting until I starve to death. What if it doesn't want to kill me? What if it has some far more horrific fate in store for me? God, what can I do to escape this nightmare?!
A knock on the door...
* * * * * *
I told the people on the other side of the door I need a minute to think and I'll come out. I'm really just writing this down so I can figure out what to do. At least this time I heard their voices. My paranoia - and yes, I recognize I'm being paranoid - has me thinking of all sorts of ways that their voices could be faked electronically. There could be nothing but speakers outside, simulating human voices. Did it really take them three days to come talk to me? Amy is supposedly out there, along with two policemen and a psychiatrist. Maybe it took them three days to think of what to say to me - the psychiatrist's claim could be pretty convincing, if I decided to think this has all been a crazy misunderstanding, and not some entity trying to trick me into opening the door.
The psychiatrist had an older voice, authoritarian but still caring. I liked it. I'm desperate just to see someone with my own eyes! He said I have something called cyber-psychosis, and I'm just one of a nationwide epidemic of thousands of people having breakdowns triggered by a suggestive email that 'got through somehow.' I swear he said 'got through somehow.' I think he means spread throughout the country inexplicably, but I'm incredibly suspicious that the entity slipped up and revealed something. He said I am part of a wave of 'emergent behavior', that a lot of other people are having the same problem with the same fears, even though we've never communicated.
That neatly explains the strange email about eyes that I got. I didn't get the original triggering email. I got a descendant of it - my friend could have broken down too, and tried to warn everyone he knew against his paranoid fears. That's how the problem spreads, the psychiatrist claims. I could have spread it, too, with my texts and instant messages online to everybody I know. One of those people might be melting down right now, after being triggered by something I sent them, something they might interpret any way that they want, something like a text saying seen anyone face to face lately? The psychiatrist told me that he didn't want to 'lose another one', that people like me are intelligent, and that's our downfall. We draw connections so well that we draw them even when they shouldn't be there. He said it's easy to get caught up in paranoia in our fast paced world, a constantly changing place where more and more of our interaction is simulated...
I have to give him one thing. It's a great explanation. It neatly explains everything. It perfectly explains everything, in fact. I have every reason to shake off this nightmarish fear that some thing or consciousness or being out there wants me to open the door so it can capture me for some horrible fate worse than death. It would be foolish, after hearing that explanation, to stay in here until I starve to death just to spite the entity that might have got everyone else. It would be foolish to think that, after hearing that explanation, I might be one of the last people left alive on an empty world, hiding in my secure basement room, spiting some unthinkable deceptive entity just by refusing to be captured. It's a perfect explanation for every single strange thing I've seen or heard, and I have every reason in the world to let all of my fears go, and open the door.
That's exactly why I'm not going to.
How can I be sure?! How can I know what's real and what's deception? All of these damn things with their wires and their signals that originate from some unseen origin! They're not real, I can't be sure! Signals through a camera, faked video, deceptive phone calls, emails! Even the television, lying broken on the floor - how can I possibly know it's real? It's just signals, waves, light... the door! It's bashing on the door! It's trying to get in! What insane mechanical contrivance could it be using to simulate the sound of men attacking the heavy wood so well?! At least I'll finally see it with my own eyes... there's nothing left in here for it to deceive me with, I've ripped apart everything else! It can't deceive my eyes, can it? Seen with your own eyes don't trust them they... wait... was that desperate message telling me to trust my eyes, or warning me about my eyes too?! Oh my god, what's the difference between a camera and my eyes? They both turn light into electrical signals - they're the same! I can't be deceived! I have to be sure! I have to be sure!
I calmly asked for paper and a pen, day in and day out, until it finally gave them to me. Not that it matters. What am I going to do? Poke my eyes out? The bandages feel like part of me now. The pain is gone. I figure this will be one of my last chances to write legibly, as, without my sight to correct mistakes, my hands will slowly forget the motions involved. This is a sort of self-indulgence, this writing... it's a relic of another time, because I'm certain everyone left in the world is dead... or something far worse.
I sit against the padded wall day in and day out. The entity brings me food and water. It masks itself as a kind nurse, as an unsympathetic doctor. I think it knows that my hearing has sharpened considerably now that I live in darkness. It fakes conversations in the hallways, on the off chance that I might overhear. One of the nurses talks about having a baby soon. One of the doctors lost his wife in a car accident. None of it matters, none of it is real. None of it gets to me, not like she does.
That's the worst part, the part I almost can't handle. The thing comes to me, masquerading as Amy. Its recreation is perfect. It sounds exactly like Amy, feels exactly like her. It even produces a reasonable facsimile of tears that it makes me feel on its lifelike cheeks. When it first dragged me here, it told me all the things I wanted to hear. It told me that she loved me, that she had always loved me, that it didn't understand why I did this, that we could still have a life together, if only I would stop insisting that I was being deceived. It wanted me to believe... no, it needed me to believe that she was real.
I almost fell for it. I really did. I doubted myself for the longest time. In the end, though, it was all too perfect, too flawless, and too real. The false Amy used to come every day, and then every week, and finally stopped coming altogether... but I don't think the entity will give up. I think the waiting game is just another one of its gambits. I will resist it for the rest of my life, if I have to. I don't know what happened to the rest of the world, but I do know that this thing needs me to fall for its deceptions. If it needs that, then maybe, just maybe, I am a thorn in its agenda. Maybe Amy is still alive out there somewhere, kept alive only by my will to resist the deceiver. I hold on to that hope, rocking back and forth in my cell to pass the time. I will never give in. I will never break. I am... a hero!
* * * * * *
The doctor read the paper the patient had scribbled on. It was barely readable, written in the shaky script of one who could not see. He wanted to smile at the man's steadfast resolve, a reminder of the human will to survive, but he knew that the patient was completely delusional.
After all, a sane man would have fallen for the deception long ago.
The doctor wanted to smile. He wanted to whisper words of encouragement to the delusional man. He wanted to scream, but the nerve filaments wrapped around his head and into his eyes made him do otherwise. His body walked into the cell like a puppet, and told the patient, once more, that he was wrong, and that there was nobody trying to deceive him.
Story Credit: Matt Dymerski
Check out Matt Dymerski's collection of short scary stories, Psychosis: Tales of Horror now available on Amazon.com.