There’s a comforting solace that comes from being alone in my bedroom, which I know sounds pretty rough. I might get mistaken as one of them not-so closeted serial masturbators but, for me, it’s my safe haven and there’s not much to do these days, which wasn’t always the case. But, you know, this isn’t just about broadcasting the pity party that is me and my internet browsing history but revelling in the kind of, I guess, excitement that is born from boredom. When armed with the depths of, say, the internet for example, there’s a lot to distract you from, well, the nothing-ness of normality.
So here we are – about to explore the unknown, like Matthew McConaughey in that space film of his, and you know what? It’s comforting to know there is a somewhat-shared uncertainty of a ‘what’s next’ when you go online and that everyone, and anyone can get swept in – whether it’s by a particularly riveting news article, a few risqué blog posts or hell – even series of YouTube videos. You start one place, armed with a morbid curiosity and a persistence that would otherwise remain better deterred and who knows how far you’ll end up down that rabbit hole. Kinda fun, isn’t it?
DON’T READ THIS
Rest assured though - there’s always going to be some deluded fool, like myself, who decides to stick their two cents into the mix by throwing together some presumably self-important and unapologetically deep-set philosophical musings of his own adventure though the digital wilderness and figures, someone, hopefully, might just find it interesting. So here we, welcome to my journey down the rabbit hole.
Then it was simply the matter of deciding how to make my mark. I sat in front of the computer with a few beers brainstorming ideas for my new Vlog concept, faced with the rather ironic reality that I lacked almost any originality in my thinking. You see, online popularity was once about how many tide pods you could eat or sucking bottle lids until your lips were as big as Kylie Jenner’s bank balance. Seemingly innocuous, these concepts at least shared enough risk and recognition that were key to its success as viral sensations. For me, it’s just exciting to think where these ideas come from, and who made them. Even the infamous dangers that lurk out there, like the thankfully short-lived Blue Whale challenge came from someone. It makes you think, doesn’t it?
Frustratingly, I have as much technical know-how and the creative flair of a decapitated gazelle negotiating his way through Sunday lunch with the cast of the Lion King but thank god I had Paul. He was online a lot and we had quickly become friends. Most evenings now, we’d find some website, with a thread or blog online and entertain ourselves silly for the most part until getting bored, and eventually moving on to something else. Tonight, after some considerable convincing on his part, we were soon talking in one of those closed off chat rooms he had recommended after downloading this new internet browser he sent me.
A few ideas were floated between us; he suggested I create a gimmick for my Vlog, like ‘the guy who drinks stuff’ but I’ve seen enough carnage on TV to know not to go down that route so I told him no, but he was persistent. He kept on saying that I should just drink stuff, and a load of it. I’m not entirely sure Paul’s all there in the head but he seemed pretty adamant about it. Shortly after, he sends me this video file of a similar concept he’s seen online. I am always a little weary clicking on videos that Paul sends me, as you probably would with most people – what with viruses and the lot. But then again, that blue link – it’s always intriguing isn’t it? I suppose today wasn’t really any exception.
DON’T READ THIS
I clicked on the file and it opened. There was an elderly aged man, half-dressed, just stood still in the middle of an empty room. He looks old, frail almost. He moves out of the frame and comes back a minute later with two huge plastic tubs, like petrol cans, held in each hand. He’s not moving very quickly and I don’t know, but he looks a bit confused. This was obviously being filmed on some rickety tripod but then the cam-recorder shoddily cuts to a handheld shot of the two cans on the floor. The lids are off so you can just about make out what’s inside. It’s not clear but it’s a liquid of some sorts. It quickly cuts back to the man again in the room and he’s just standing there against a plain white wall. This time he’s crying. The sound has been muted but you can see in his face and how he’s moving that’s he’s listening to something. A minute or two passes before the guy slowly reaches down to pick up one of the heavy petrol cans. He’s still crying at this point. The quality of the video is so poor, you can’t really make out what’s going on but then he raises the lip of the can to his mouth and then just starts drinking it. Gallon after gallon of this stuff. It spills all over him, this thick, cloudy liquid. His eyes are streaming as he struggles to choke it down. His face just gets redder and redder, his eyes bulging, it looks like he’s drowning himself in the stuff but he doesn’t stop. At first I thought it was water but just by the way it was pouring down his face and chest - the consistency just didn’t fit right.
The sound started flickering on at random intervals shortly after. You could hear the liquid splashing on the floor, the strained gargling and – I was almost sure, a coughing out of shot but I couldn’t be sure. But the man on screen just kept drinking. You could see his knees beginning to give way as his body began to buckle almost. I switched it off before it ended. It was hard to watch. What the fuck even was that? As far as ideas went - it hardly seemed worth water boarding myself for a few likes online but jokes aside, it was unnerving how dark that was. Not sure what fucked up movie scene he swiped that one from was but I figured best to change the subject after that. I’ve never been able to stomach horror films, not even the older ones.
More time passed that evening and I was still knocking the beers back. This, coupled with a lack of inspiration and restlessness setting in – Paul and I began our usual roam around the net – our go to being trolling some obscure, but public online chat rooms and the like. I used to enjoy dicking about on chat roulette in the day before its popularity fell off the map and eventually the site became a breeding ground for a circus of freaks with dicks.
Paul was used to dictating the evening’s entertainment, he always sent me links and invites for chats and various online forums/sites. He knew how to operate it all. Presumably the payoff for spending most of his waking hours strapped to the computer and, if not, compulsively masturbating whilst rummaging about in the quiet corners of the dark web, foraging for the new, bewildering and outright strange. I guess that’s why Paul doesn’t have many friends. Then again, we only met online a short while back ourselves so who’s to say? He’s kooky, a little disturbed maybe but mostly harmless. Really, I was just grateful to have someone to see me through my loneliness.
2am hit and I was gone. Absolutely battered. I was sitting in a make-shift shrine made up of empty beer cans and not feeling all the prouder for it. Paul and I had gone back to our private chat room, and had switched the webcams on to discuss a few TV fan theories and the like. It was all run of the mill, normal but it got strange. Fast. My memory’s a little hazy up to this point but we were talking and suddenly, without saying a fucking word mind, he just pulls out this HUGE, unwieldy sword out of nowhere.
I’m not sure I clocked what it was exactly, not at first - it was about 2 foot long but weighty by the looks. Certainly sharp enough to cut through a slab of ice with some considerable ease. I just watched him momentarily in a sort of drunken daze just trying to process the scene of events in front me. Presumably picking up on my sudden lack of conversational engagement, he quickly mumbles something about having ordered it online somewhere and that was it really – here we are, Paul wielding this medieval weapon like a fucking nut job.
At this point, the whole evening suddenly felt like it had taken a really dark turn for the worse. I could barely focus my eyes or remember anything clearly, the alcohol level in my bloodstream was enough to sedate a small school bus of young children but for some reason I can still vividly recall seeing Paul flailing his body about, twisting and turning violently, struggling to steady the sword at arm’s length. What made it worse is that Paul is a big guy. He had this kind of, a protruding belly that hung over his waist band like a fleshy rucksack. I remember watching as his gut jiggled with each manic thrust, as if he was wrestling the weight of weapon into submission. But oddly, he seemed manically happy. Like, fucking ecstatic. The sound of hog-like high pitched squeal protruded through my speakers and ricocheted around my bedroom, a small-like grunt of glee every time he wildly wielded his sword triumphantly.
Staggeringly, this whole charade only went on for another few minutes until, for some inexplicitly weird reason, he began lifting the sword over his head and started throwing it back and forth, just - repeatedly. He didn’t do it in a smooth, waving motion – oh no - I mean this looked homicidal. Haphazardly thrusting this massive blade in epic blows, forward. And again. It was fucking terrifying to watch and I wasn’t even in the same room. He wasn’t saying anything at this point, just swinging his body about like a pendulum, aiming for absolutely nothing. That’s what baffled me most. He wasn’t hitting anything. Instead he just remained rigidly transfixed in his motions as if he was possessed. Back and forth, back and forth.
Then the web cam just shut off. The screen went black. I quickly went back to check the chat box and he was still online but nothing was coming through. I sent him a few web cam share requests but nothing. He must have hit the screen or something. Exacerbated, I ran my hands over my face unable to process all that was happening. It was nearly 3am at this point and I think if I had been capable of stringing together something that even resembled a comprehensive thought, I would have been more worried but I’m not really sure what happened next. I must have decided to give up and go to bed but made it as far as my hallway rug and fell asleep. You see, the floor doesn’t spin as much when you sleep. Got to love drunken logic.
I awoke the next afternoon, grateful the curtains were closed as the last shreds of daylight seeped through the cracks in the windows and blistered against my skin. There’s nothing fun about a hangover in your thirties.
I had no plans for the day, as was the status quo. I had fractured my pelvic bone a few weeks back, was signed off work and have been housebound since. I still have some mobility though, cruising about my two-storey flat in a decrepit and wickedly sluggish wheelchair. I suppose I’ve got something of a cushty set up here on the first floor here at least, but I’ve forgotten what upstairs looks like at this point but hell, it sure beats having to stay in bed. Either way, I have since been spending all my time in the house, alone and to describe these last few weeks as excruciating slow would be a something of an understatement. Too much time to think and dwell on things, it can make someone a little odd, you know?
I just wish I had a girlfriend. I realise how lame I sound but what with my family living out of town and not being what you’d call a social creature by nature, it was slim pickings out there. I’m close with my mum though. I WhatsApp her when I can but she’s often busy working unsociable hours. Not a problem though since, of course, there was always Paul.
Oh shit, yeah. Paul.
I dragged myself back into my chair and wheeled myself into the living room, sliding gratefully once again into the comfort of my computer chair, using the arm rests to lever myself back into the grooves of my seat. I signed on and started mooching around our familiar online hot spots. I couldn’t find him loitering in our regular chat rooms and he wasn’t answering any of my direct messages. I even tried Skype, and I bloody hate Skype.
It was three o’clock now - he was almost sure to be online. So where was he? I thought back to yesterday and how he was manically wielding that sword about. What if he had decapitated himself? Or worse still, hurt someone else?
What even was that?
I was too hungover to think straight, even blinking felt like a strain. God, my mouth felt dry, like I’d been licking the inside of a cotton ball bag for hours. I didn’t want to deal with this and more accurately, figured it was probably best to forget. It was just too fucking weird, all of it. If Paul wanted to be found, he’d message me or pop out of the woodwork somewhere. That’s what he usually did – a law unto himself that one.
I’m going to go back to bed, got to get rid of this fucking migraine somehow. Not bloody drinking again, that’s for sure. I’ve got some takeaway in the fridge, I might go have a bite of that.
Paul’s back online but he hasn’t said anything to me yet. It’s been nearly two days since I’ve last heard from him or seen him. Not sure if he’s had another one of his episodes but it would be nice to know he’s OK.
I’ve spent the morning on YouTube, still trying to think up ideas for my Vlog. Can’t seem to get inspired though. I keep getting these recommendations for those ASMR videos but there’s nothing calming or sexy about listening to strangers sucking on the end of half-chewed ball point pens for a living.
I’ve got the curtains open today so I can see into the garden. I really should make more of an effort to go outside more but I haven’t. I put it down to a kind of social anxiety. I tell people it’s because it hurts too much to move and that I can’t put too much weight on my feet, which is true but – I don’t know. I’ve not been feeling myself. You know, run down. Kind of flu-y. Although it’s not been all bad, not had much of an appetite recently so at least my waistline is looking a little better for it. I’ve been sleeping a lot too. Perhaps I’m just wallowing. I’ve been called that before, a ‘wallower’. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been trying to think up all these Vlog ideas. Keep myself distracted, functional. Might even be kind of exciting but I’m finding it hard to get going. I’ll have another think of some more concepts over lunch. Working my way through a load of old take out at the moment. Easier to order in and leave it in the fridge for the next day. Mum’s been sending a ton of pizzas too so I’ve had a lot to get through. Must ask her to stop soon though, I’m just not eating enough and I don’t want it going to waste. At least she remembers me though, she’s always been good like that.
Right. Lunch, YouTube then a nap. The plan of kings.
I was asleep a little longer than intended – 3 hours in fact. I need to get my shit together and have a wash at least – Mum’s still banging on at me about getting a girlfriend. She’s got a point though I guess; the company wouldn’t go amiss. Nor would the sex.
I rolled my way out of the kitchen, still in my dressing gown; my hair wiry and unkempt. I looked a sight. I hadn’t woken up properly yet. I was still in a sleep-like daze when the doorbell rang earlier, another unexpected pizza order. Pineapple this time. Not really a fan, but at least it shakes things up a bit. I’ll call mum tomorrow to say thanks.
It’s pretty late and no one else was online so I’ve been talking to Paul for the most part of the evening. I can’t pretend it’s not weird – I’ve heard nothing for days and then he suddenly pops out of the woodwork and starts messaging me across all these various different chat logs, really keen to talk. I shrugged it off. No point in overthinking it, Paul’s just a weird kinda guy – this is what he does.
He didn’t mention anything about the other night, you know – that thing he did with the sword. I noticed he doesn’t have his webcam on either, but I figured it was all kind of related. Or maybe I dreamt it in some weird drunken state? Seems unlikely but still, better not to bring it up – Paul can be a bit erratic at times, manic almost. I’m never quite sure what’s going to set him off but he seemed alright today, excited even. He’s been going on and on about this idea he’s had for the Vlog and I must admit, it’s the first good one we’ve had in a while.
So apparently online there’s these mystery packages you can order from the Dark Web, something he’s found out about recently, he says. Sounds ominous enough, right? He tells me it’s this anonymous set up where you pay someone, say – 500 quid and you get sent some box but you have no clue what’s in it. I mean, it’s gotta be something a bit fucked up, right? Black magic, voodoo and the like would be my guess. I’m not into the whole supernatural stuff, I mean there’s nothing in it but a bit of scaremongering but it’s all good for a laugh. I do wonder whether there might even be something of value in it, like an heirloom or historical relic. Man, that would be cool. Imagine the wicked stuff I could do on the Vlog with something like that, that’ll get some traction online.
I think Paul could tell I was really on board with the idea too which was just getting him all the more excited. He even volunteered to help get it all set up for me, which was probably just as well as I wouldn’t have the first clue how to even go about getting the good stuff. He tells me a number of these things are just online scams designed to rip off ‘newbie dickheads’ but Paul assured me he’d done his homework and found a sure thing. Not entirely convinced how certain of a ‘sure thing’ you can have with stuff like this but I figured what with Paul being able to navigate his way about the web as he does – he’s as good as person to trust as any. So I agreed, what the hell. Something to while away the hours until I’m back on my feet – hell, might even have a little fun with it.
Paul signed off pretty soon after we agreed the plan of action, saying he’d sort out the finer details and that. Thought it was weird he didn’t ask for any money upfront, or any of my personal details for that matter. More than likely he’d get it sent to him first, you know – to check it out. Made sense, he’s a good friend like that.
Doorbell rang today. I just figured it was another take-away so I ignored it. I’ve still got two pizzas left uneaten in the fridge, hopefully mum would understand. For the first time, in a long time I’ve been craving fruit which, considering the weeks of living entirely on a diet of greasy carbs, isn’t that much of a shock. I think this is why I’m feeling so ill. That, and a lack of sunlight.
Really must open those curtains.
I’ve tried to be a little more active today – that’s been something. Online it says there are a number of exercises I can do to try and help minimise the pain whilst the fracture heals so I’ve been trying to put that into practice. The sooner I’m up and out of my chair, hopefully I’ll start feeling a little more human but still feeling tired, groggy even. I haven’t been up for more than a few hours at a time.
I’ll go online in a bit if I feel up to it, but might just head off to bed and sit on my phone for a bit. The Chinese in the fridge is going off so will try to stomach some of that.
Haven’t done a lot today – which figures. Ordered myself one of those cool mobile phone stands that I can use for filming my new Vlog earlier. You know – those little tripod things with the wireless remote. After that, I tried coming up with a name for the Vlog series, but kept coming up short with that one. Would be easier if you could order those on Amazon too… Must run a few ideas past Paul at some point. Can’t say I’ve nailed down any winners, but I’m probably thinking too ‘outside-of-the-box’.
I’ll see myself out.
Logged onto the computer to leave Paul a message but he wasn’t active online across any of our regular platforms. He must be having another one of his episodes. I can’t pretend it’s not frustrating as I haven’t heard from him since Tuesday but I guess I just need to be patient. I’m just going mad here moping about the house, I feel so utterly useless without someone to bounce ideas off. I’m practically climbing the walls with boredom. It seems out of character for him to be so off the radar recently, particularly as Paul said himself how comforting it is to know how much I rely on him, I just wish he was around more.
I’m going to assume he’s at least ordered the box by now, it’s been nearly a week. I’ll drop him an email just in case.
I know I’ve been AWOL these last few days but I’ve been working on feeling a little better. Found an old bag of frozen assorted veg at the back of my freezer so been experimenting in the kitchen with that as of late – it’s not been a huge success admittedly but hell, it doesn’t come delivered in a box so it’s already an improvement. I even ventured outside for a few moments of fresh air earlier today, but I didn’t see anyone though. I do wonder how long it’s been exactly since I’ve had an honest to god face to face conversation with someone. I try not to dwell on that fact too long though... I’ll call mum soon, see how she’s doing. Then again, she might be mad at me because I’ve been ignoring all those food deliveries she’s been sending me.
Maybe I’ll leave it a few more days. Let the dust settle and all that.
Finally got hold of Paul – couldn’t get a word out of him about the box. Or anything really. He was in a funny old mood today, sending over these weird videos he’d found online but not saying much else. As I’ve always said, I’m usually a little weary when he asks me to download all these random AVI files, especially the ones without so much as a title or context but it turned out they were relatively harmless. There was this one video of fruit being vacuum sealed in these tiny little plastic wallets. You couldn’t see much, just the sides of the bag compressing against these juicy, plump red grapes as they were squeezed firmly into place until they became rigid. Then the video just cut to black.
The second one was admittedly a little strange – it was an extreme stationary close up of what looked like a banana but trapped in, sort of, a bench vice? At first nothing happened but then the handle began being slowly turned, and then turned again as the clamps tightened against this banana. The fruit must have been frozen solid or something because not much happened – I could see that it was beginning to bulge but it hadn’t yet given way against the pressure. But again – the video stopped and quickly cut to black.
It was really odd. Like, bizarrely so. I watched them again but I didn’t get it – if there was some underlying meaning or correlation, I was clearly missing it. Well, other than the fact they were all food. Maybe it was like a fetish thing? Not my scene but Paul’s a big lad, so I couldn’t put anything past him. But something didn’t sit right. Maybe it was fact that there was a disturbing absence of sound in each video. That’s unsettling in itself, right? Instead of there being background noise or some sort of static hiss – there was nothing. Sheer silence, almost deliberately. It just made it all feel that little more unnerving but I couldn’t place why. I mean, why bother taking the sound out in the first place? But, then again, who’s to know why people do anything. And really, I’m not sure that I care that much. It’s easier to just accept that people are weird sometimes, and if these are the kind of kinks Paul is into – who am I to judge?
Anyways, he sent a few more links to download but being that it was already 2am and I was tired - I didn’t bother opening them. Instead I left the chat on, not wanting to offend Paul and headed to bed.
I’d just come through from the kitchen, enjoying a cold pizza slice for breakfast. Today’s speciality; peperoni and extra cheese. The chat box was still open when I went over to the computer. Paul was offline again but I’d seen the couple of video files he’d sent in the early hours were still there. None of which had names, just an assortment of numbers and letters all jumbled together. I looked at them hesitantly; there were three of them in total. The file sizes considerably bigger than the last two I had opened. I hoovered the cursor over the first of the three as curiosity slowly started getting the better of me.
They took a few minutes to download, my internet speed is shockingly poor – I really must contact my service provider and speak to someone soon about it, been that putting it off for a while now too. Eventually they downloaded. Paul had always sent on some interesting stuff, but considering my persistence last night, I was hoping this has been somewhat related to our Vlog idea. Failing that, perhaps something a little sexy. I am only human after all.
The first video was about 30 seconds long, an extended clip of the fruit in the vacuum seal bag from yesterday. Red grapes suffocated into a clear plastic wallet filmed on a low budget camcorder. Again, no sound – nothing. But this time, something was different. It started the same, the slow build-up was there but give or take about ten seconds before the end of the video - something catapults into shot suddenly. A spade maybe? Totally flattening the bag instantly, and filling the room with a piercingly loud and audible ‘BANG’ as the metal object clanged against the surface of the worktop. I nearly jumped a fucking mile out of my seat.
I went back, just a few frames to re-watch the end of the video (this time with the sound muted completely) – figuring I missed something but I didn’t. I watched until the end but all you can see after the impact blow are these grapes with tiny splits, crushed under the weight of the sheer blunt force of the spade-like object, juice oozing from the cracks. And then, again, just like before - it just cuts to black.
A bloody jump scare. How original. But, well – I guess it worked, I still felt uneasy and I’m pained to say, my curiosity was piqued. Maybe it was the lack of context that had made this so strange. Maybe this was art? They say it’s subjective. My heartbeat had quickened in anticipation of the next video. I prepared myself for the next reveal, choosing at random which file to open as the names had no discernible meaning behind them.
TFH746VYYR.avi - This one was longer, but not by much.
Like the video before, this clip was similarly familiar – it was the banana in the bench vice again. Another extended version. Same as before, it was a close-up shot, as if either end of the banana was cropped out of view and all you could see was the handle of the vice being turned slowly as the clamp holding the banana began to tighten against the fleshy middle of the fruit. I watched it intently with a quiet resentment, feeling foolish for having worked myself up for yet another lame let down. I can’t say what I was expecting but it was something better than this. Maybe the sudden gratifying flurry of yellow-y banana flesh to burst through the peel would have been enough but nothing was happening. I stopped/started to make sure it wasn’t frozen but no – the vice continued to turn, and the banana stayed in place as the video played on.
I watched patiently, the vice continued to get tighter, and tighter – the banana bulging now but not crushed under the force of the clamp. Tighter still. Then something unexpected happened. Little dark red spots began to appear on the outside of the peel, specks of it trickling through the pale yellow skin. Then more, until it was rapidly seeping through the peel and spilling onto the metal plate now firmly wedged either side of the banana. My eyes widen. The camera then begins to pull back, revealing a fuller frame showing the entirety of the shot. My hands tremble, I’m not sure I’ve blinked yet. The video reveals a man standing side on, his body flailing as he wrestles against what I can only imagine are restraints that bound his arms at the back. You can’t see what’s holding him but he’s pulling at his wrists trying to get free and violently shaking, thrusting in every which way direction. You can only see as far as his chest, his full abdomen openly exposed; only his face is out of frame but you can tell he’s in agony. His penis, fully gripped within this vice, only now partially hidden by the banana peel as blood is gushing from open, fleshy wound. As if crushing a tomato in your hand, his genitals are horrifically disfigured and mangled beyond recognition at this point. In the lasting moments of the video, the sound quickly cuts in for the first time throughout this entire ordeal exposing a soul piercing scream. Sheer AGONY excruciatingly expelled out of every last remaining orifice. He sounded like begging for death was only too welcome in that moment of horror. As suddenly as the screams started, I quickly shut off the video.
I sat there, must have been for a full five minutes without moving. I couldn’t process what I had seen – it felt so real. It couldn’t have been real. I’ve never seen something so violent, so graphically brutal before - I can’t even stomach shoddy horror films. Trying to push past the overwhelming flood of nausea, the sickening feeling of being so suddenly violated was making me dizzy. Why on earth would Paul send me that? How’d he even find something so twisted?
I quickly went to the download folder, needing to delete every trace of this – not only from to rid this from my computer but to wipe it from my memory. I had no idea where it came from and I wanted nothing to do with it. Just as I went to click, I saw it.
The third and final video.
I hesitated. I’m ashamed to say I did but considering what I had literally just witnessed, did I want to see more? Shaking my head, almost as if to fully convince myself, knowing full well I could not deal enduring any more of I had just seen – I highlighted all three files in the download folder and hit delete. Fuck that.
Paul. I had to talk to him, what the hell was he thinking? Could we get in trouble for having shit like this on our computers? Surely there are people who can trace these things. I frantically started looking in all the chat rooms I know he’s used to frequenting, all the threads he comments on. I must have sent him nearly a dozen emails – all demanding to hear back from him. I was at it for nearly three hours, scouring every inch of internet space I knew existed to just try and get a response. It’s not like I could just hop onto Facebook or Instagram and the like. He’s like a shadow in dark, he’s near impossible to find. But as I kept hunting, it started to dawn on me. How much did I really know about Paul? I mean, really. I know he likes early 90’s science fiction and has an exotic collection of Japanese hentai art but that’s the superficial stuff. Where did he live? What does he do? I don’t even know what he does for a living. Hell, did he even have a job?
I think I’m going mad. No, can’t be getting carried away like this now. It was just a stupid video. Paul’s weird, this is what he does. I just need to talk to him, ask him what’s going on and straighten this out. I just need to talk to him.
10:51pm – Nothing yet. Sent another few emails.
12:31am - And still no word. Still trying. Have tried getting in contact with a few others who comment on his fan thread pages but no one know who he is. I even tried to see if I could trace him back through any of the comments he used to leave under his username: playthebuzzsaw but it was a dead end.
It’s nearly 4am now. My eyes hurt, my brain – it’s not working properly. I’m going to have to give up and try again tomorrow, I need sleep now.
I haven’t slept a fucking wink. Spent all of yesterday on the computer again, trying to get hold of Paul but I haven’t heard a word but now it’s more than just about the video, it’s become a matter of urgency.
Today a box arrived. No return address, not even my address. No details – nothing.
It appeared on my door step, just out of nowhere. Didn’t even hear the doorbell ring – can’t be sure that it was couriered here. I don’t know what to think anymore. It’s sealed with an unruly amount of parcel wrap; sticky tape crudely stuck everywhere without any care or precision. The box, old – tattered but big enough to fit a person inside. It doesn’t though, I kicked it and nothing moved.
The strangest thing, as I rolled myself to the door and dragged it inside, was that it barely weighed a thing. I kicked it again for good measure but as it rocked back and forth, I could hear a number of small items slide about inside but I couldn’t make out what it was. I haven’t opened it yet, I haven’t dared to. And – I won’t, not until I’ve spoken to Paul.
My chest hurts and my eyes are dry from starring at the computer screen for so long. I’m not sure why I’m so on edge, maybe I’m just tired but something’s wrong. I can feel it. I know I’m getting hysterical. I need sleep but I’m scared to close my eyes. If Paul did send me the box, how did he know where I lived? I never told him my address, I never told him anything. I mean – oh god, had I? I’m doubting myself, this isn’t good. There are just too many questions – I mean, if this was him, did he come here alone? I can’t. I can’t even begin to process this. No. It’s all getting too real for me. It’s the lack of sleep talking and now, I’m going fucking mad. Great.
I had another food delivery again last night too, this time a veggie pizza with extra peppers and mushrooms. At least there’s some ounce of consistency at the moment. It’s about as much interaction as I have with people these days. I guess Mum does it to make sure I’m least getting out of bed but I’m grateful for it – it’s all I’ve been living on for the last few weeks, it’s also given me reason to stay in – especially after the last of the food in freezer went. I need to call her. She’ll make me feel better, she always does.
I’m going to go lie down for a bit now, I’m not feeling very well again. It must be the stress. I’ll update you all later.
I know I’ve been away a while but things, I don’t know. Things are getting WEIRD. I can’t say too much but I will update you when I can.
My hair has started to fall out. Like, in clumps. I just – I don’t know what’s happening anymore. I’ve been looking online at those self-diagnosing websites again. I know I shouldn’t, but it wasn’t much use anyways. Most it, just old women prattling on about the menopause and the like but this – it’s falling out, in my hands. This – it isn’t normal. Who in their early thirties loses hair like this? It’s like those skin crawlingly dark dreams where you think you’ve lost all your teeth, but it’s actually happening. Maybe this is just some fucking elaborate nightmare and I can’t wake up. Fucking hell.. I’ve got to calm down, this is not the time for an existential crisis, I’ll tell you.
I haven’t got out of bed today, I haven’t got the energy. And honestly, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to leave the bedroom. I have the perfect view of the front door from right here. I can see the box from here too. I think I saw it move from the corner of my eye once but it could be just my mind playing tricks on me. So I just watch it. To be sure, you know? Prove that I’m not crazy.
I’m not crazy.
It’s 2am and I just saw the front door handle move. I’ve been awake nearly 31 hours now but I’m sure of it. It just wobbled. I called out but no one said anything. I’m not going to call out again in case anyone actually is out there. Probably wasn’t a wise move to do it the first time round. Now they definitely know I’m here. I’m not sure what to do, so I’m just going to wait and watch under the covers. Hopefully they’ll go away.
If anything does happen, I’m just going to make sure I still update this blog so if someone finds this, they understand what’s happening.
I’ve boarded the windows and doors, or as much as I can reach. I’ve had to use the broom a few times but I think I’ve managed to cover the most part. The box is in the corner of the room and I’ve not let it out of my sight since last night. Anything with a camera in the house has been covered too. I have barricaded myself in. I no longer feel safe, I am not OK.
I keep thinking though, am I – is an overreaction?
I finally called mum today. After months of putting it off, I just needed to hear someone else’s voice other than my own – it’s crazy to think what being trapped in your own mind will do to you sometimes. But we’re not using that word at the moment. Not crazy. This is just a blip or something. A tiny downward spiral into mania maybe, but I know – I just need a little perspective. Someone to talk me down, settle my thoughts a little. I needed my mum. She’ll just tell me I’m being silly, or over-reacting or something. She’ll worry about what I’ve been eating for breakfast and ask me about my day. That’s I needed. Normal conversation. I just needed my mum.
But the conversation. It went something like this:
Mum: Dylan? Is that you love?
Me: Yeah mum. It’s me. I’m sorry I’ve not be in touch. It’s been a little – I think I’ve just been a little tired recently. But I’m still sorry.
Mum: You sound upset, are you alright? Is everything OK?
Me: Yeah everything’s OK mum.
Mum: I’ve been trying to get hold of you for weeks but your phone’s been off, I just assumed you’ve been busy.
Me: My phone hasn’t been off. Have you tried calling me?
Mum: Yeah but it just kept going to voicemail. I didn’t know if I had done something wrong so I just tried to give you your space, sweetheart. But you’re calling now which is all that matters.
Me: I – but I wasn’t mad at you.
Mum: You still don’t sound like yourself. Are you sure everything is OK?
Me: Yeah mum, I’m OK. I just miss you.
Mum: I miss you too. You really should come home for a bit. Let me look after you.
Me: No it’s OK, I don’t need to come home. I just, wanted to say thank you, you know, for all the pizzas and that.
Mum: What do you mean?
Me: The takeaways, mum.
Mum: What takeaways?
Me: The pizzas, I’ve been getting like four a week, like every week for nearly two months now. I - I just assume you were the one sending them because - you know - it’s my favourite.
Mum: Do you want me to pass the phone on to your dad? Maybe he knows something about it.
Me: W-what do you mean?
Mum: Sweetheart, I haven’t sent you anything. I mean, maybe your dad has but he’s been working late most evenings. Are you sure it’s not someone else? Sounds very generous. Maybe a new girlfriend or something?
Mum: Dylan, you still there?
I choked on my words. Fear filled my throat like a white iron rod plunging into my lungs. I felt a severity of dread like nothing I had ever felt before. This was new, dangerous territory because I don’t think even I could recognise the magnitude of threat I was now facing.
I hung up the phone as I was beginning to hyperventilate. My chest became tight, black dots glittered in front of my eyes as I crouched over, my arms giving way as I put my hand to chest and held down hard. It wasn’t mum. She hadn’t sent any of the pizzas, not a single one of them. I couldn’t let her know, I couldn’t have her exposed to whatever this was. I couldn’t risk her too.
I rolled my way to the kitchen, quickly. The room, it had become almost completely unrecognisable in recent weeks. Every square inch of surface space, occupied by high piled stacks of empty pizza boxes I’d been meaning to recycle. There was still one in the fridge. I yanked open the door, grabbing at the corners of the soft pizza edges and catapulted it across the room, the crust ripping off in my hand as the remainder of it slammed into the wall and fell limply to the floor. Bits of pepperoni flittered across the room, like a rain of meat hailing from the sky. I felt sick, but mostly violated – and confused.
I bit down on my lip, hard – concentrating – forcing my brain to think, ignoring the coppery aftertaste. Who I could I even begin to ask about this? There’s got to be at least twenty pizza places in my area alone that deliver and who’s to say that whoever ordered them even used a local company. Was it even the same company each time? I had been eating this food almost religiously for a near solid eight weeks, and was now plagued with the very immediate realisation that I was now fully immersed in this an unimaginable fucking nightmare.
I just couldn’t comprehend why.
I started feeling dizzy again. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how much of this stuff I had already eaten. Was this why my hair was falling out? I tried to think back; to remember the first time an order had arrived here but I can’t think, not anymore. I’m more mentally exhausted than I’ve ever been.
I’ve unplugged my computer. I’ve taken the battery out of my phone and I’ve locked myself in my bedroom. I only leave to use the bathroom but I’m quick.
The box is still out there though.
I passed out yesterday, woke up on the bathroom floor. I was curled up in the foetal position holding a bread knife that sat inches from my face. I must have fallen out of my chair. I can’t remember why I had the knife but I remember being in the kitchen.
I still haven’t eaten. I found some stale biscuits under my bed but I’ll save them. Emergency rations.
The doorbell didn’t ring today. The pizza usually comes every two days. Like clockwork but it’s not come today. I don’t know why.
Do they know I know?
I’m going to do it. I’m going back online – I don’t know how he’s tracking me but I’m almost sure that he knows. I’m sure of it. He must know.
The computer took what felt like an ice age to start back up, it’s an outdated piece of junk anyways but as soon as it did, I jumped straight back online. I checked my emails first. There were a number of them – the usual build-up of shit from various mailing lists, nothing of any notable concern. I scrolled down, the wheel on my mouse being working furiously. I was foolish to be so hopeful.
I went elsewhere, the usual spots. I scoured page upon page for his username or tag: playthebuzzsaw. He never used his real name for anything. I didn’t even know his last name. I only had his email address because of a PDF he sent me a while back. Couldn’t open it – it was encrypted so forgot about it pretty soon after. He just said it was important and I trusted him. It was probably more about him getting my contact information than anything else but there we are. I hate myself for having been so naïve.
I was just about to sign off, having closed down the many tabs and browsers I had open when – smack bang – like a heel to the face, and a punch to the jaw – it was there on the desktop. Just sitting in the recycle bin.
The last fucking video.
I double clicked the desktop icon and there it was, in all its glory, the last of the unopened files Paul had sent me. I hoovered the cursor over it, my hands trembling. Like Pandora’s Box, convincing myself to open it would only end one way.
I knew mentally, at this point the damage had already been done but I could feel my body beginning to brace itself. This video file, it could be another big-fucking-nothing. Just some bullshit scare tactic – to fuck with me. I left clicked and restored it, then went back digging through my download folder until I found it, glaring at me. Another obscurely named file: 4476KUILO.avi. I double clicked and it held my breath as the video window opened, before pressing play.
A naked woman is lying in the middle of the room on this plastic sheet-like wallet – it’s a stationary shot, high-angled, slanted slightly but steadily placed on a familiar rickety tripod. It’s the same camera quality as the banana and petrol cans films before that. Like the others, you can’t see her hands. Her arms are firmly strapped behind her back so tightly it looks like her shoulders have popped out of her socket, but she’s lying on her arms. It looks agonisingly uncomfortable. She’s bruised, beaten. Her left leg is bowed, and bent out shape, limply resting at an odd angle beside her. It looks badly broken. She’s in pain and looks terrified. Her eyes wide, but she’s fixated on something, or someone behind the camera. Her eyes follow it, looking at it pleadingly. There’s a heavy desperation that fills the air, and a helplessness to match. There’s no sound but a moment passes and then, suddenly, you can see she’s trying to scream but she’s struggling. I’ve never seen one before, but there’s a gag-like device in her mouth, a thick wire frame that’s keeping jaw firmly parted. It looks crude, almost amateur – as if homemade. It’s strapped tightly around her head as blood pools gently at the creases of her parted lips as the force of the contraption takes its toll. As she screams, you can see right every inch of inside her mouth, her tongue wagging with such a violent need as she shakes against her constraints. She’s crying now, it’s clear she’s been there a while. This goes on for a few moments longer, before someone eventually appears in the corner of the frame – but you can’t see much, just a pair of hairy forearms that lean across momentarily to pull across the top layer of plastic tarp over the wide-eyed girl. The sheet is see through – so you can still see her wrestle beneath the fold, her eyes even wider now – petrified. The man, still out of shot, shuffles around the rim of the sheet and appears to be fastening the edges together, like a sandwich bag. Closing her in, she tries to roll on to her side but quickly stops herself as she recoils in pain in trying to move her left leg. When she repositions, you can just about make out the bone slowly appearing through her wound but the absence of blood here is, well – odd. Almost deliberate. Finally, when the plastic wallet is sealed shut, the man walks out of view and as if paused, nothing happens.
The girl has stopped screaming and simply looks toward the camera, as if directed to do so. The quality is poor but you can see her eyes occasionally flicker to the figure there, before looking back towards the lens. A few more seconds pass, but it feels like a lifetime. She appears dazed but conscious, tears rolling down her cheeks silently. Her mouth still open but her tongue now limp inside her mouth.
All of a sudden, the bottom right hand side of the plastic sheet appears to be pulled towards something – it’s out of shot but it’s violently tugged at. The girl begins to panic. She’s tries to raise her head to look at what’s happening near her feet but the strain of lifting her neck seems to be too much for her. She looks like she’s screaming again, her tongue wagging like mad. Then it happens. Everything starts to get flatter as the air begins to vanish around her.
She’s being vacuumed sealed into the fucking bag.
The oxygen is being sucked out slowly but you can see this as it starts to compress around her, her body getting more and more compact as she’s trapped inside this plastic packaging. Her movement becoming less and less frantic, until she’s rigid, like stone. She can’t move, her breathing looks laboured and strained. Her mouth is gawping, tongue desperately trying to extend out of her mouth, to push the plastic away from her mouth but it’s no use. She’s suffocating. She can’t breathe. Seconds pass and you can see her eyes start to bulge out of head, her skin turning red, then blue and then as if clawing for that last shred of breath she started violently shaking, an involuntary spasming. Hard. Then – it happens. One swift hard blow. Followed by another. A long, sharp heavy metal object comes crashing down on top of her, ripping through the plastic and slicing her in two. And then again. And again. Harder each time, thrashing down on her like this maniac was fixated on pain. Blood was gushing, exploding out of her. The video clip ends with the sword still violently being swung, back and forth, back and forth – then just black.
Nothing. I couldn’t muster anything else. There was a ringing in my ear – that sort of buzzing static noise you get just before you pass out. A high-pitched whine, that’s all that filled my head. I couldn’t speak words or think any thoughts. I could feel the blood in my head pool around my eyes, making it feel heavy.
The shock and realisation set in. I just sat there and the next thing I knew, my body began convulse. I started retching violently until I vomit, profusely, all over myself, the keyboard and the floor. Then, I just sat there.
I couldn’t move from my chair but I knew I needed to check the doors again. The doors, the windows – even the little air vents in the bathroom. I had to be sure I was alone. He knew where I lived. This man who had killed this woman, and then celebrated this by sharing it with me, knew where I lived.
I thought long and hard about my options here. I could get the police involved, I mean – most would figure that’s the smartest thing to do in a situation like this here, right? I’ve done NOTHING wrong. I’ll just simply give them any and all details of everything I know. Any leads or information I have on Paul, I’ll hand it straight over to the police. That includes all the video files too, you know – might be able to rustle up a few old chat logs too? I’m sure google knows how to do that – right? If not, surely the police.
But – if he’s watching, if he’s monitoring me, then what? If I talk to the police what can they do? There’s no protection service for someone who’s seen a scary video online. What did I have to offer the police - I couldn’t prove anything. They might even think the videos were mine? This could all be some elaborate trap. What else had he sent me that I didn’t know about?
The fact of the matter was, is that I knew nothing and by no stretch, had that been accidental. I didn’t even know if Paul was his real name. But one thing for sure, is that he knows more about me than I do of him and that was the real threat here. No, no police. I needed to think through this rationally.
Rationally. In a totally irrational fucking situation.
Then, well – there’s the issue of the box. I turned, moving slowly, inconspicuously. Feeling the damp soggy pool of vomit soaking into my lap, seeping through my trousers and soiling my pants. The smell hanging in the air like a rancid cloud of waste. I could see it there. The box. Still unopened, just – sitting there.
I eased my way over, carefully. How long had it been here now? Well over a week, even longer maybe - I’d lost track of all time. I kicked the box again, harder this time. The flimsy frame held together by reels and reels of parcel tape felt rigid against my foot. Nothing happened, bar the expected rattles of a few hardened objects inside.
An unwelcome ‘BING’ sounded from my computer monitor, the noise cutting through the silence that hung in the room like a sharpened chef’s knife gliding through a wheel of soft cheese. It was one of those online notifications. I had an email. My head was pounding, as if swollen with blood – I could feel my heartbeat in my eyes. I swallowed, gasping for even a merciful morsel of wet, slimy saliva to quench me of this unruly thirst, my throat dry and my heart hammering so violently against my chest I thought it might rip through me.
I rolled back over to the computer, and I opened the browser, the one he told me to download.
It’s was Paul.
I had this unshakable chill, like I was grasped in this unrelenting icy grasp. It pierced through me, held me hostage by the bone that if shook, would shatter like splintered glass at any impending moment. Shackled, I knew I couldn’t move. The sense of fear, dread and outright desperation had become seemingly so overwhelming, it was moving through me like water through a sponge. Starring me right in the face was his name – there. Must have been days or even weeks since I last heard from Paul but there he was.
I managed to drag my heavy, limp but ultimately reluctant hand over the mouse, just able to hover over the email with no subject title. I opened it. And there inside, were four words only, just four. They said:
Now, open the box.
Day – unknown.
I opened the box. The parcel tape that had been used to crudely contain its contents had put up a good fight against the bread knife I now keep strapped to the bottom of my wheelchair. It struggled against the thick layer of plastic coating but the cardboard itself was flimsy. It was a big box, unsettlingly so for how little was in it.
I peered in. At the bottom of a dirtied, clearly once sodden box was a floppy disk. Just the one. And a children’s plastic key ring in the shape of Donald Duck but the colours looked ever so slightly off – as if it were a knock off item once brought somewhere years ago, from a place quite remote. I picked it up, cautiously and held it in my hand. It felt cheap too – as if you’d pull it out of a cereal box or win at an arcade. It felt surreal, crazy even.
I mean, Donald, fucking Duck.
I didn’t know if Paul was messing with me but it scared me more than I cared to admit. I didn’t know what it meant. I never really thought much about cartoons – didn’t really watch them a lot as a kid but something just felt inherently off. Like this was the piece of a puzzle that should have stayed lost. I didn’t want to know where this fit into the grand scheme of this all.
I reached in and trepidatiously grabbed the floppy disk. I inspected either side of it but there was nothing – no writing or indication, at all, to what could have been on it. Classic Paul, he lived without context, thrived on it almost. Now, I know what you’re thinking - how does anyone, in this day and age, access anything you might find on a floppy disk. It’s not like you can download the contents on to your phone and check it out. No, this was odd. Deliberately so, as if though Paul had wanted me to work out what was happening, and at some effort, and perhaps some cost and difficulty. It seemed an unusually vindictive thing to do – especially as I had so recently thought of him as a friend but none of this had made any sense.
I quietly held the floppy disk close to my chest. I thought about my family, and my being here. And this house I live in. It used to be my aunts before she passed away. Cancer. She didn’t have any other family, nor many friends so she ended up leaving everything to us. I thought a little more about my family, and what they were like. I’m assuming Paul hadn’t grown up the way that I did – with a sentimental edge that kept, cherished and practically horded anything they’d ever own. There were more than a few relics to hand and it was a similar living practice I’d somewhat adopted myself. If I remember correctly, I was pretty sure there was an old computer tower that my aunt used to have in the loft upstairs. I had borrowed it a year or two ago, with every intention to trying to strip the things for parts to modify the desktop I have now but – well, back then I didn’t the time I had now and it has just been festering up there for the best part of forever.
The only real issue, I thought as I sat in my wheelchair, is how the hell I’d make it up to my loft, and up the stairs to get it. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. But a shower first and perhaps a change of trousers.
OK – I won’t bore you with how I did it, how long it took or how I damn near killed myself climbing up the stairs and dragging my limp lower half into and then back out of the loft. I also won’t mention how unbelievably difficult it was to try and shift a fucking massive, and I mean massive, thirty pound computer tower back down the stairs and into the living room, by myself.
But it’s here. I’ve connected it up, honestly – I was a little surprised it’s still up and running at all but it is. It’s going to take a little while to warm up. I’ll check in with you shortly.
I regret everything.
The computer was finally up and running. I wondered what would happen if I put the floppy disk in, whether the computer would eat it up like one of those old VHS players or something but it seemed to accept it just fine. Silver linings and all that, if you can count that in this context. An icon appeared shortly after. I clicked on it, and a folder appeared. I could feel another wave of nausea hit, harder this time. It just said:
I can’t describe the feeling. I mean, it’s not like this came as any kind of shock - I’ve had the box living with me for the last two weeks and there’s no confusing who it was intended for but reading my name like that. I don’t know. It just really brought home how personal this was, as if I could sense how much time and effort Paul had already put into it. Into this moment. Me, sitting here – about to experience this unprecedented level of sheer tyranny and terror.
The folder opens and inside are seven video files. Seven. All AVI files – labelled with only random assortments of letters and numbers, like the ones Paul had sent me before. It was hard to remind myself that any of this was real. I couldn’t tell if there was any kind of order to them so I guess I started at the top, where anyone would. I took a deep breath first, and then exhaled deeply, physically having to push the breath out of body as I did.
I clicked on the first video. The video window popped up, I pressed play.
A handheld camera appears to be moving quickly but the picture – it’s dark. The operator struggles to focus the lens. It’s the same quality footage as those other videos, a bit blurry this time but there’s a consistency there. A young girl comes into focus, couldn’t be any older than six. She’s sitting on the floor, her knees tucked under her chin as she tightly wraps her little hands around her shaking bare legs. Her knees knock together but she tries to keep them firmly in place, making herself as small as possible. Her face is flushed, her nose snotty as her fringe sticks to damp, sodden cheeks. My stomach churns in a deadly anticipation. In any other context, she’d look the picture of innocence with her delicate fair hair and skin to match, but as she stares into the lens of the camera with wide dark eyes – like a Disney cartoon, but with the innocent lost and replaced with an unfathomable sense of foreboding. The camera wobbles again, as the operator reshuffles themselves into better position, shoving it now mere inches from her face. She looks between the lens and to the person stood behind it. She doesn’t say anything. There’s no noise on this video, but I lean over and turn down the volume anyways in case it cuts in again suddenly – like last time. I look back to the girl, she’s still looking behind the camera. She knows something’s wrong but there’s an uncertainty about it. It’s like she doesn’t understand what’s happening. I get the impression she doesn’t know who’s filming her, it’s all new and unsettling. Whoever it is, they’re shining some kind of torch in her face. The footage itself is over exposed. The little girl strains her eyes against the light, but he keeps it there firmly in place, ignoring her as she winces. She looks down, almost as if for momentary relief but he must have said something, as she quickly jerks her head back up and continues to look straight into the lens again. Then nothing. It cuts to black.
The video ended.
Time felt that little bit slower. I’m already struggling to comprehend the reality I was living in, let alone the one I was watching. Her eyes, that little girl – seared into my brain like a bad memory. Pleadingly lost, and vulnerable, like a puppy before it’s drowned. Knowing I knew more of her danger than she did, it gave me a position of voyeuristic power I couldn’t internalise or process – nor wanted any part in. I only willed for her to be safe.
I click on the second video. It loads and opens. Again, despite my better judgement, I press play.
It’s different this one. The camera’s on a tripod again and we’re inside what looks like a kitchen. I can’t see much, it’s a limited frame – high angled though, as if pointing down to the floor. I can’t make out a lot. It’s filthy though, as we stare down at a cheap self-adhesive vinyl flooring that is curled around the edges, layered with a thin crust of both grime and dirt. In the distant corner of two walls in the background, I can see something’s there. I can’t be sure, the quality isn’t great but it looks to me like a kitten. It’s just lying there, motionless and still. There’s no trace of blood or debris so I’m not sure what’s happened but it doesn’t move. It’s just on its side, its leg sprawled out, mouth open. Nothing happens for a short while, until something is pulled into shot. My stomach drops. It’s a puppy being dragged by a leash.
I press [X] on the window and just sit there. I don’t think I can do this. I just close my eyes and breathe. Count to ten. And then again. And again. When I open my eyes, the folder is still there. I’m still there. Here. In front of the computer where I don’t want to be. I can’t do this though, I can’t. I can feel myself getting emotional, tears prickling at my eyes – it’s because I know what’s coming. I know something’s going to happen to this dog but I - I just don’t want to watch.
I give myself a few moments, just go back to breathing. Just anything to stay calm. I breathe harder, just so I don’t have to listen to the deafening silence in the room but there’s no escaping it, not really. It’s no longer curiosity I realise now, driving me forward in this. It’s almost a primal need to know that the others are going to be OK – that they survived and that the worst I could imagine, remains just that – imagined. I re-open the same clip, skipping ahead slightly and resume.
The puppy, he looks malnourished and neglected, as if ridden with parasites and ticks. I can see his skeletal structure, his rib cage protruding through his chest and every chink of vertebrate as it travels all down his scarred and hairless back. His tail is down and tucked between his legs as he shuffles reluctantly into shot, he looks scared. He’s tugged harder by the leash this time as wrapped around his throat, as if to discipline him but he sits obediently, silently and waits. There’s sound this time, on the video. The dog, it whimpers. Someone tugs at his leash again to reposition him more centrally in shot, causing the poor puppy to yelp in pain. A food bowl of grey-like slimy substance, masquerading as questionable chunks of meat is thrown in front of him, lazily. The metal bowl clangs as it makes contact with the floor. The dog, already shaking, jumps – startled by the noises. He sniffs it, and recoils. He looks hungry enough but there’s something wrong. He doesn’t want to eat it. He tries to look away, something I’m grateful for – I can’t look into those desperately sad eyes any longer. The leash gets pulled again, this time closer towards the contents of the bowl. An arm swings into shot as a man shunts the bowl closer to the dog and better within frame. His hand, it’s fat – his fingers stubby with little black hairs that protrude from the knuckles. The dog, waits, and then waits some more – before beginning to cautiously, and obediently, eat from the bowl, slowly and reservedly. As if forced and unwilling.
I stop the video. There’s another twenty seconds still left to go but I can piece together what happens next. I just don’t want to watch anymore. But there’s one thing that sticks out in my mind. There’s a pattern almost, nearly all to do with food, or ingestion and the like. The grapes. The banana. The petrol cans. Now, the dog? Fuck me – had my pizza’s been some part of this? I started getting that nauseous feeling again but I need to get through this. Just get this over and done with. I’m praying there are some clues here, telling me if I am safe from any of this.
The third video. Three of seven. Click, open, play.
It starts the exact same as the first video but it’s clear this clip is the extended version. I skip through, about midway to where we last left off. The girl is still sat, on the floor of this seemingly darkened room as the person continues to relentlessly shine a dazzling light directly into her face, forcing her look into the camera. This goes on for another minute. She doesn’t say anything. I can’t tell if the person behind the camera is talking to her, or simply watching her squirm and suffer accordingly but the sound remains mute. It’s so frustrating the not knowing, the growing anticipation and worry. The girl has stopped crying now, she’s just waiting. Maybe listening, but she sits there.
Then something happens. The camera shifts. He seems to momentarily place the camcorder down and I can now make out the faint outline of a closed door. It appears to be light outside. The movement of the torch catches the walls of the room. It’s small, tiny even. Barely eight foot wide or so. It doesn’t feel like a room anymore, but like the inside of a small enclosure or something. The camera gets picked up again, and it’s now back on the girl. This time, he hands her something. A tall glass filled with liquid. A fat, masculine hand thrusts it forcibly into hers.
I pause the video. As best I can, given the light and the quality of the footage – I try zoom in on the image. It’s the same hand. Fat, with stubby fingers and dark, thick hairs that protrude through his knuckles. It’s the same-fucking-hand from the video before.
I quickly resume, watching intently now. She’s holding a drink of some kind. It reminds me of that video with the petrol can. I look at the glass. She doesn’t move her hand much, or at all really, so it’s hard to tell but it doesn’t have the consistency of water. It sticks to the side, like it’s thicker, like a bleach or something. It’s off-white though, a cloudy light colour. I could imagine the smell, like old chemical discharge I’m sure with a texture that would fatally cling to fabric like a malnourished parasite. It looked toxic, lethal even.
She’s still holding this cup, at a small distance away from her face with her delicate arms outstretched. Still, faultlessly, maintaining eye contact with the man behind the camera – not once daring to look at what’s in her hand. A moment passes, before she suddenly looks frightened again. She jolts back, recoiling as if somebody has just yelled at her. If not instantly, her eyes begin to swell and prickle with tears once again. He must have yelled at her a second time, as her hands begin to shake, and she hurriedly brings the cup to her mouth and quickly gulps down the contents of the glass but she doesn’t look like she can.
I can’t bear to watch this.
She chokes and splutters, as if it’s physically agonising to swallow, each strained gulp like razor blades lining the inside of her throat. I can’t know for sure but even as if the smell, the impossible stench from the substance appears to be burning her eyes, she’s crying but it seems more than a cry for help – it seems an involuntary reaction to the nightmare that is consuming the contents of that misery. She gulps it down, her throat gurgling, her body fighting to keep it in place as her body pushes it back up and out of her throat but she’s scared and determined to do as she’s told. It only lasts a few seconds but fuck me – does it feel like a lifetime. She wolfs it down, determinedly, terrified – she races to the last gulp and thrusts the glass back into hand, vomiting slightly before wiping her chin and mouth with the back of her sleeve. Her face glistens brightly under the relentless shine of the torch, but now appears now red, irritated – almost sore. A moment lingers. The girl, looks up at the man desperately, broken – as he reaches out and gently pats her on the head, like he would a dog. Then. Cut to black.
No more of this. No more.
I’ve got to call the police, someone. Anyone. I don’t know what else is left to watch but someone has got to be looking for this girl and I can’t just sit here and do nothing.
I’m going to call the police. I have to.
I can’t get through. It’s like I’ve got no service anywhere in the house, it’s a total black out. I’m fucking shaking, I wasn’t sure if was putting in the number right, but how can you fuck up the same number three times?
There are four videos left. I’m not sure I can get through this.
I go back to the computer and line up the next file. It’s smaller this one. I open it, it’s only 17 seconds long. Not that duration had anything to do with it. God knows, I don’t think it makes a difference anymore.
I press play.
He’s walking around a room. It’s a bedroom. Oh god. It’s a little girl’s bedroom. It’s dark but I can make vaguely make out framed photographs of a loving family, scattered along the walls. He moves further in, inspecting and investigating the space around him, with a malevolent linger. For such a heavy set individual, it was unnerving how easily he appeared to glide, slither almost. The camera moves with a slow caution. There’s a night light or something plugged in over by a child’s doll’s house. Teddies are lined along the windowsill, some of them knitted and others, just loved. I can see drawings on the wall, hand crafted pictures of Mickey Mouse and Goofy as well as the name ‘ANNIE’ in wooden letters hanging decoratively above the bed. The camera moves closer to a child sleeping now, lying in the middle of the room. At first, both he and the camera remain still simply filming the child as she rests. But then, as abruptly as he started, he begins to zoom closer, and closer. Getting closer still. The video becoming less steady the more he zooms, until her sleeping face, distorted, fills the screen. Blissfully unaware of the events that surround her, she takes a few quiet breaths in and out, lost in a graceful slumber. Then, it cuts to black.
I pinch the bridge of my nose. I was starting to feel something different, something new in all of this. I was getting angry. Having to sit here through another one of these excruciating videos like impaired puppet on the end of Paul’s rather disturbed and perverted string was not only mentally exhausting, but intolerable. But here I was, in the theatre of nightmares. But thankfully, now I was now down to the last three videos.
I hurriedly opened the next one. The video started a little confusedly, like the person filming was struggling to set up the camera in a hedge or something. There seemed to be some battle amongst the foliage for a short while until the device, planted crudely in some sort of bush, was faced looking out to a local park area sat next to an open road. There wasn’t a great deal in shot. A few cars maybe, a small reddish van. There was a big patch of grass ahead, with what looked like a play area with swings and a slide in the far back. There were people around. Not many, a few passers-by, walking dogs or pushing children in push chairs. It seemed oddly idyllic. Homely even, like this was a place for families and evening walks with the dog. The camera rattled again, this time the lens focusing on a point in the distance. I couldn’t really make out what we were watching. A few moments later, a man walks into shot and away from the camera and into the distance. There was no mistaking it - that misshapen, top heavy frame with a grotesquely heavy bulk of stomach weighing down every oaf-like movement. That patchy head of hair, with short stubby arms and fingers to match, layered both with a thick layer of dark, bristled hair.
He walks over to the reddish van and waits there, before pulling something out of his back pocket. He’s far away, so I can’t make out what it is but it’s small. Tiny in fact, it looks like it could fit into the palm of his hand. He beckons someone over. A little girl, fair haired and skin to match.
Oh my fuck.
It’s the girl from the first fucking video. Jesus Christ. He beckons her over, holding out his hand. She wanders over to him, a little weary but with a gentle stride. They talk for a brief moment, him gesturing to what seems like her backpack or something, and then back to his hand – maybe a broken zip? But it seems unlikely. With her curiosity piqued, she turns her attention to the bag behind her but as sudden as a falling sword, and just as violently, with one swift blow he strikes her on the head with his fist and she falls to the floor, almost instantly. In one bold, rapid movement, he scoops her up from the pavement, flings open the back doors of his van and manically thrusts her in. I watched in disbelief. Like a ragdoll, he simply threw her like she was nothing more than a toy. He looks around briefly but it’s clear he’s not been seen. He slowly makes his way back towards the camera.
My blood begins to boil, a seething rage unprecedented . How can he stroll – no – stride so brazenly towards the camera like that? I’m watching him, getting closer and closer. My heart pounding. His face, it’s disturbingly placid. Content almost. A nothingness that makes this feel all the more cold. The absence of remorse, fear or even perverse pleasure – without so much as batting an eyelid, I can tell he’s done this before, and done it often. I dread to think of the scale his monstrosity.
There’s only about ten seconds left of this video. I watch intently, again – making sure the volume is turned low. As he walks closer to the camera I can see something swinging from his left hand. A few moments pass, and I lean closer to the screen – not quite making it out. Then, it clicked. It had to be the same thing he had retrieved from his back pocket not moments earlier, and used to distract the little girl before he bludgeoned her over the head. My eyes were intensely focused now, watching as it swung into view. I needed to know, to be sure – but there it was, there was no denying it. I threw up in my mouth a little.
A Donald duck key ring.
I slowly turned my head, and locked eyes with key ring that was now sitting beside me on my desk. Donald’s misshapen face, skewiff and deranged, if not a little creepy looking appeared to be laughing at me. Every time I blinked, it was almost as if his sadistic little chuckle was getting wider, and wider. I forcibly started rubbing at my forearms trying to rid myself of these goosebumps. This cheap, plastic toy – with its colours faded was nothing more than a weird, worthless penny item but it had cost that little girl’s freedom, and I feared, her life. The same Donald Duck key ring that was now sat in my home, and on my desk. To think this had been his. I picked up the duck, filled with a quiet disgust. This animated character was a symbol of pain and torture. It scared me to think, how handled it looked, how long had Paul owned this?
Fuck you – I thought, as I swiftly threw it across the room. It didn’t get far, sadly ricocheting off the wall opposite and bouncing back playfully toward me, landing barely inches from my feet. It looked up at me with its gormless and twisted features. Fine, you win this time Donald. You can stay there for now, just until I can had you over to the police – along with the other bullshit on this disk.
Like pieces of a puzzle, I was getting somewhere though. I mean hell, it wasn’t as if I was getting any answers to what now was rather plentiful number of god-desperate questions, but I slowly learning – if not more about my own lack of safety but at least who I was dealing with, each video got me closer to the end of this nightmare. Right now, there were two to go. Two more videos until whatever this was – was over.
I loaded the second to last video. The penultimate.
I can do this.
The video started up. I always hated these almost deliberately shitty beginnings, as if the person behind the camera had never as so much picked up a camcorder before, let alone shot on it. There were a few black frames to begin with, then followed by the ever familiar POV shot of what seemed like Paul walking aimlessly around the inside a room somewhere. I was struggling to make out anything discernible. There was no sound, no light, nothing. I thought I could make out the outline of a street lamp seeping through a curtain window but otherwise, it wasn’t almost instantly obvious where he was. But then, he must have flipped a switch or something as the screen lit up. He was shooting night mode. It took a moment to adjust, but there was no denying it – I could make out everything, in absolute, undeniable clarity. Unmistakably – I was watching Paul in the inside of my house.
I lent forward, gripping the handles of my wheelchair with such force my knuckles turned white. I started having heart palpitations so violently, I thought it was going to leap out of my chest and up through my mouth.
That was my fucking house.
I watched intricately his every single step, every frame, as Paul made his way through the upstairs of my home. Roaming the halls with an uneasy familiarly. The pictures on MY walls, through MY hallway, peering into and around every single one of MY rooms. He lingers, momentarily at each bedroom doorway – wallowing in the threshold. Again, it felt like he walked with an edge of malevolence, deliberately so. He relished doing it, so freely and without exception. My home had become an open space for his musings, and he took his time to savour this. I had to pause the video.
I felt sick. Like, honestly sicker than I’ve ever felt. It’s been no secret that I’ve been bound to this fucking wheelchair for close to four months now. I’ve not been upstairs. I mean, why would I? The only time I’ve been up there, even recently, was to the loft to get this fucking computer. My head was spinning. There were – just – too many things to try and process here. How long had Paul been there, and by there – I mean roaming around the inside of my home? Was this the first time he’d even been here – or even the last? Fucking hell. You couldn’t even make this bullshit up.
I was angsty, fidgety. Experiencing a combination of both panic and anger simultaneously. I lent over and resumed play. Paul was making his way down my staircase and toward my front hall. The whole of the downstairs was open plan. You could see right into the kitchen, living room and once dining room/now downstairs bedroom if you stood in the right place. It left very little to the imagination – which, previously had been something of a positive given my predicament but had become now something of a glaring glitch in the matrix.
The camera swung round. He seemed less interested in the living room – that’s where I have my computer set up. I don’t use the space for much else. No, he seemed to be making his way with precision toward the bedroom. The hairs on the back of my head now stood on end. He made his way through the hall, closer toward me, moving with a swift ease before pausing, if not only momentarily, by the bedroom door. I am plainly in his sight. The camera zooms in, and in again until all that fills the screen is image of me sleeping. I am lying on my back, my mouth is open and the bed sheets are barely strewn across my naked unconscious body. I look pale. Limp. There’s a vulnerability there, unnervingly so. There’s no sound in this video, but I can tell by the way my chest moves and my nostrils flair that I’m snoring, oblivious to anything other than the redemption of my sleep. Paul eases closer, and closer. He moving slower this time, but doesn’t stop until he’s almost by my bedside, standing over me, his greatly belly protruding through the limited space shared between us. Then, he just waits – the camera always keeping me in shot. Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out again. Paul puts out his hand, those very same stubby fat fingers with the bristles of dark black hair that protrude from the knuckle like wires on a cheap toilet brush. He reaches out, slowly, towards to my face.
My fucking face.
His fingers outstretched, his sweaty palm open as if engulf me in his grip. Closer, closer. Fucking closer and then black. The video ends.
I don’t even want to think about the next video. I just click.
It’s silent again. I twist the nob on my computer speaker but nothing. No sound again. Paul looks into the camera, and smiles. He’s just starring into the camera. I look down at the scroll bar. 50 seconds long. Paul just keeps looking. He’s not blinking, not moving a muscle. I wonder if this might be picture or something but there’s a flicker of light behind him, so I know this is being recorded. Paul, with his gluttonous face, his patchy skin and stubble to match, like wispy hairs on the chin of an old woman, looks into the camera. It’s not his receding hairline, with obviously missing chunks of hair that startles me, nor the thin, crusty lips he purses together as he intently watches me through the lens. It’s the cold, dead look behind the eyes as he continues to watch. Never blinks. But, somethings odd here, like off. He’s not looking at the lens. It’s not the camera he’s looking at, it’s just a little behind it. At something else. His eyes flicker. It’s moved, whatever he’s watching has moved and he’s following it with his beady, soulless gaze. I instantly shiver. I must have seen Paul online, via webcam at least a dozen times but this – I’ve never seen this. I don’t know this person.
Then something happens to the video. It starts to, I don’t know – it began to judder, like it’s corrupted. You know that thing that happens to the screen, where the image, it starts to lag and stick. It pixelates, warping Paul’s face, twisting his features making his eyes look bigger, darker – demented almost but around it, his skin, it started to – I don’t know how but it looked like it was melting. Oh god, this is terrifying. His face began to twist into this lopsided smile, this thin lipped grin pricking up ever so lightly from the left, his teeth growing thinner but longer but he just kept smiling, it growing bigger and more transfixed as he never moved from the screen – never stopped watching. There’s a few flickers of white but it’s there. He’s still there.
Then the sound kicks in, like the punishment of a thousand suns, with an unrelenting fury it BLASTS out of my speakers; a child mercilessly screaming. The most desperate last cries of a human clawing on to those last few moments of life, you can hear every morsel of anguish and sheer agony, the utter pain and devastation. Fear, loss and panic. Screaming, like I have never heard it before. So unbearably deafening. I jump nearly a mile out of my seat, volume alone - I can’t believe this hasn’t blown the speakers yet. I grapple with the computer and try and shut it off but – it won’t switch off. I don’t honestly know how, but it gets louder, and louder still – I can feel every shrill piercing cry ricocheting inside chest, as it bounces off the walls and burns itself into my soul. My nose starts to bleed. I can’t get this off, I can’t stop this.
All the while, Paul continues to smile into the camera. The video progress bar – it’s stopped moving, it’s just caught on this one bit, this one corrupt part where it loops, and re-loops and re-loops again. His face, twisted and fucked, smiling into the camera as the screaming and wailing continues. I can’t stop this. I fucking can’t.
I’m going to have to yank the fucking speakers out of the wall but I fall out my wheelchair. The screaming, it intensifies and Paul he keeps smiling. It’s like he fucking sees me – he looks like he’s laughing now, my mind almost convinces itself that his eyes have followed me as I lay on to the floor. He’s looking down at me, still laughing. I quickly flop onto my belly, fuck me it hurts and I drag myself to the wall and yank the cord suddenly, the plug sparking as it quickly leaves it socket and smacks onto the floor.
As I look up, just before the lights cut out, I see the face of Paul burnt into my computer monitor laughing. His twisted smile, etched permanently it seems, as a long lasting reminder of this horrific ordeal.
I sit alone in the dark, panting. I must have tripped something and, of course, the fuse box is upstairs. Paul had to of known that. He’s known everything, from the word go and he’s been fucking with me since. I just wish I knew why.
As I lay on my belly like a worm, in the dark – I knew I had no choice. I had to leave.
I dragged myself along the floor, crawling along the length of my living room and through to the hall, I headed straight for the front door. I propped myself up against the wall and reached my arm out toward the handle, clasping the cool, cold metal firmly in my grasp. I was about to leave, before I remembered. The floppy disk. It was still in the computer. I couldn’t leave without it, I needed to give it to someone. I couldn’t do that to Annie. And what if Paul had planned to come back to retrieve it. Who would believe me then? Who would believe anything? I don’t even believe me and I’ve lived it.
No, if I had any hope of doing anything, I needed that disk and I couldn’t leave without it. The only problem was, that meant having to go back upstairs. I needed to switch the power back on, and reboot the computer. I shuddered at the thought.
I already felt weak. Tired, mentally exhausted – which I figure was already a given at this point but physically, I’m not sure I can make it. I’ve barely eaten these last few days and god knows what was in those pizzas but I can barely drag a spoon through a bowl of custard. I look ahead at the stairs directly opposite me, they seem to be a lot higher than I remember. Of course that can’t be possible but when you’re looking at a flight of stairs that you’ll have to carry yourself up using just the strength of your arms, praying that that gravity would be forgiving, it makes climbing Everest look a doddle.
I sighed, but accepted my fate. I was more fearful of the dark, and not wishing for my bravery to leave in such peril, I began my steep ascent to the top of the staircase. Slowly at first, obviously. I had to try and position myself carefully as I pulled myself along the ridges, perching on each steps as I went, my hip – unbearably sore and tender to the touch.
As I slowly made my way upstairs, one step at a time, my mind gave way to the silence. I had since come to learn there is a peace to be made with not knowing what’s next to come. I think of Paul. I think about how meticulous his actions and intentions were. How slowly they became unravelled, piece by piece, like some kind of game. It made me think again of those sweeping viral sensations, and how quickly things can escalate. It made me think of that.
I had nearly reached the top of the stairs, but by this time my shoulders ached with a fiery vengeance, I was no longer fuelled by either blind stupidly or adrenalin carrying me forward. I kept telling myself, I only needed to make it as far as the fuse box and this would all be over. I dragged myself over the final step, laying only momentarily on my back to catch my breath before eventually wriggling my way along the hallway, pulling myself along the coarse, bristled carpet by my fingertips – even allowing myself a momentary smile of celebration.
It was short lived.
I heard something. I couldn’t be sure though. The stress of everything, the lack of sleep and being so entirely warped by the uncertainty of darkness, it was hard to decipher what was reality anymore, I couldn’t trust anything – not even myself. Suffering from delusions, usually aided by an already over-active imagination, was hardly new to me, at least recently. Add to that, having experienced what I’ve done so in the last few hours, well – that’s probably just pushed it to breaking point. But I needed to focus. The fuse box was just at the end of the corridor – I needed to pass two rooms before I got to it. Both doors, just so slightly ajar. I crawled further along on my belly, hating the rough, barb like bristle of the carpet as it scraped at my elbows. I reached the first door. I stopped and peered my head round. The view was obscured but I just waited, for what – I wasn’t a sure. A flicker of light, the ring of a bell, the unexpected lunging footsteps of a crazed internet killer?
Nothing. The silence was resounding, but equally comforting. I crawled on, a little further to the second room – this time, braving to ease open the door, pushing it further ajar with the outstretched palm of the hand. Again, nothing. The edge of a dated wooden cabinet, a knock-off Tiffany lamp mistakenly purchased from a yard sale some years back and a free standing mirror, posed against the opposite edge of the bedroom. Again I waited, and watched for anything - the mirror giving full scope of the room, an eerie portal into the visibly reversed. Nothing again.
Finally comforted that the coast was clear and in fact, all my neurosis, as predictability flourishing in this current state, were indeed exactly that - I dragged myself to the end of the corridor, my elbows and arms now red raw, my fingertips skin near worn to the bone. I look up and reach out to the fuse box ahead, straining as it loomed above me. No such luck. I try again, propping my body against the wall, my chest near flat against it, extending my arm so far my shoulder nearly pops out of it socket.
Then I heard it, unmistakably the sound of footsteps, moving faster and closer to me. I barely had enough time to whip my back my head and see him.
I didn’t have enough time. And I’m sorry what’s got to happen next.
I wouldn’t have done this or involved you if I didn’t have a choice but he tells me, that I needed to pass on the message and that the only way to get out is to keep playing.
So he told me to tell you that you’ve started the game. You’re going to PlayTheBuzzsaw, and now, by reading this – you’ll already know how to play.
I’m sorry. I tried to warn you in the beginning.