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  • Going back to school after a few years working always sucks.  It means admitting defeat, and finally accepting that your first degree really was worthless.  But, after about five years of floundering about and growing into what could be roughly called maturity, it was the decision I finally made.

    My first semester was…a strange one.  Before I began my major I found myself forced to take Algebra as my only remaining Core, a class I dodged in favor of Statistics my first time through college. I was going to class in the morning and volunteering for an afternoon/evening shift at my call center job, plus Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I was able to squeeze the class in while working overtime, only at the cost of anything resembling a social life. Being yelled at by old people wasn’t my first choice for employment, but the turnover was so high that there was always opportunity for overtime. I was determined to make sure my car was paid off when I finally started taking the courses for my major.

    So, most nights after work, with all my friends already asleep, I drove over to my school library for a few hours of studying.  Going back to school meant going back on Adderall, so I was always able to force the drowsiness back. I was probably getting four hours of sleep most nights, maybe less.  I didn’t care, tucking myself away in a little cubby to study on the second floor of the library was my way of unwinding. As uncertain as I was about the rest of my life, I always knew what X was, and that gave me some comfort.

    Of course, I couldn’t make myself work constantly, no matter how hard I tried.  I found my mind wandering. So I searched Youtube for interesting videos. I’d periodically scroll through iTunes on my laptop to see if there were any interesting podcasts.  For a long time, iTunes was a dead-end, and I kept going back to YouTube, sometimes watching the same video multiple times in a night. The only thing I firmly remember watching, out of all the dozens of videos I undoubtedly checked out, was the teaser for M. Night Shyamalan’s Tales from the Crypt series-the one they ended up not making after all.

    The more I came to the library, though, the more I wondered how alone I was.  I would sometimes lose track of how long it had been since I’d seen my friends, and every time I saw my mother she’d comment on how long it had been (averaging about two weeks).  I suppose for a lot of people not seeing your mother often isn’t unusual, but I was literally a two minute drive from her. I’d send Facebook messages when someone was on, but more often than not anyone I wanted to speak to was asleep.  I don’t know how many times I got a reply, “Hey dude, can’t really talk, about to pass out.”

    This isn't to say that I was alone, mind you.  There were almost always a few other people studying at the same time as me.  Plus, the school had two librarians, a large bearded student worker and a thin scrap of a lady, who I always waved to on my way to the elevator.  But, if they knew my name it was only because I might have checked some headphones out once when I forgot mine, and had to let them scan my ID.

    The monotony was broken, though, at some point between my second exam and my third.  On yet another scan through iTunes I found a podcast I hadn’t seen before. “The Lost Cases: An Exploration of Lesser Known Missing Persons.”  It had thirteen episodes, being uploaded sporadically every week or two.

    I’d tried listening to a few creepy podcasts before, but they’d never quite caught my interest.  True Crime was all either rehashes of the same half-dozen stories that sold to their audiences, or some amateur with god-awful audio.  There are so many people who think they know how to do podcasts that it’s almost impossible to find a legitimately creepy voice. But, Lost Cases didn’t fall into those traps.  It had two narrators, and both of them sounded experienced.  A male speaker would read off statistics and data surrounding the missing person’s cases, and the female counterpart (neither of them ever credited) would then cover a variety of theories about what happened to the person.  Usually, though, it would be pretty clear which of the theories she believed. She’d give maybe fifteen to thirty seconds each to a list of theories, then spend six to eight minutes on one in particular. Strangely, the theories she expounded upon most weren’t even the most rational; more often than not her theories sounded batshit insane.

    The first episode was Muhammad Davis, a black Muslim convert from Rhode Island.  I googled the hell out of every possible search term the whole time I listened to this first one, but couldn’t find anyone else who had covered the case.  According to the narrator Davis had been a Union activist trying to arrange an employee buyout of a tourboat company. As creepy as the voice sounded, the only remotely notable thing about him was that he disappeared on July 30, 1975, the same day as Jimmy Hoffa.  The female narrator gave several theories, but seemed pretty intent on the idea that Hoffa was one of numerous Union representatives murdered that day as part of an intimidation tactic. She believed that Hoffa was the only one too high-profile for the Unions to cover up, as they were determined not to appear vulnerable.

    At this point, with nothing else on Google about Davis, I was already starting to wonder if the podcast was just fiction, but the second episode did at least show up in a Google search. There was only one local article, though from the local paper of the town where the disappearance occurred.  There weren’t many details, either, just a local paper reporting that a little girl was missing.

    Tiffany Janice Martin was ten-years-old when she went missing at some point in Spring of 2012.  I say “at some point” because her mother had apparently gone crazy when the family moved to South Carolina.  The mother, Stacy Martin, was a well-off widower whose husband had been insured up the ass before dying on a business trip several months early.  Her move from Utah to South Carolina was prompted by her decision to leave the Mormon Church following his demise.

     Before moving that January, Stacy had been hired at a new job and paid a year’s rent in advance on an apartment.  That was the end of it, though. She moved into the apartment with Tiffany, and the landlord didn’t see her again.  She never showed up for work, her new employers couldn’t get her to answer her phone, and Tiffany was never formally enrolled in school.  Six months later the one relative she had left Utah on good terms with became suspicious about her failure to respond to Facebook messages and called the police.  They found Stacy alone in a trashed apartment, living off cans of black beans (despite still having plenty of money in the bank). When asked about Tiffany she became evasive.  Eventually it was determined that she had experienced a mental breakdown (no shit), and she was committed to a psychiatric institution. The local DA apparently debated charging her with child neglect, lacking a body or a witness for more, but she was found unfit to stand trial.  She died less than two years later.

    For this one, the narrator was insistent that Tiffany’s father had faked his death.  His wife’s insanity was caused by a neurotoxin he gave her to keep her from telling anyone that he came back and took his daughter with him.  The fact that Stacy had all the money was proof he must be part of some kind of conspiracy, because otherwise he wouldn’t have had the funds needed to do any of the things the narrator claimed he’d done (I felt like the circular logic had to be intentional).

    Over the next few nights I gobbled up the remaining episodes during my study breaks.  I still remember more than I should. Kate Phillips, a distant relative of HP Lovecraft, who supposedly took part in a THC-fueled orgy on Walpurgisnact, and was gone when everyone else regained their senses (either Cthulhu is real, or a government conspiracy, this one gave two serious options).  Matthew Gibson, a sculptor who disappeared after offering a $100,000 reward for anyone who could help him retrieve the twenty-foot statue of President Buchanan that he insisted had been stolen, despite no record of him every producing such a statue (unwitting dimension-hopper). Max Dougherty, a private detective who, weirdly enough, apparently took Matthew Gibson’s case and disappeared after phoning his wife that he’d found the statue (actually unrelated to Gibson, Dougherty had been eaten by sewer-dwelling cannibals).

    After the second story I stopped Googling.  I didn’t really want to know if the stories were true by that point, they were just fun.  I found myself mentally debating if the people making the podcast were sincere or just trolling.  I was also really surprised that there weren’t more viewers. I don’t think any of the episodes had been rated more than a few dozen times.  I tried to find it on Facebook to like it and share, but it didn’t seem to be anywhere on social media.

    I think it took me a week, maybe two, to get through all the episodes, and I was hoping that another episode would drop soon after I finished it, I didn’t want to wait for more.  I remember the 14th episode was posted the night after I finished the 13th.  I was excited; it seemed like great timing.  I was a little weirded out when I saw the title: Jacob Cole.  My name. It wasn’t an unusual name, though, so after a moment I recovered.  I just plugged in my earbuds and hit play, thinking it would be kind of cool to hear a story about someone with the same name as me.

    I was also happy that tonight the second floor was mostly empty.  From my cubby I could only see one other person, an Asian girl zooming through some flashcards over and over again, evidently nervous about a test.  Fewer people around me made the atmosphere creepier.

    Then, it started.  The first narrator gave my name.  Then my birthday. Then the city I was born in.  Then, he just kept listing things about me. Within maybe sixty seconds my eyes were wide.  I tried to slow my heart, and told myself it was a prank. But, it kept going, and I couldn’t figure out how the fuck some friend or other could have arranged for me to find this exact podcast, or even know that I’d been listening to it.

    I toyed with the idea that it was some kind of malware that stole info off my computer and generated my name and information in a pre-recorded podcast.  I mean, I wasn’t keeping up with the current state of computer text-to-speech. Maybe they could do that now? But Googling quickly I didn’t find anything like it.

    By this point the narrator had moved on to the day “I” disappeared.  I glanced at the calendar on my laptop…yep… I clocked out at work as usual.  Since I worked the last shift the only people who saw me leaving were the security guard and two co-workers.  It was enough to confirm I’d been there, alongside my clock-out in the system. Then the two librarians saw me head up in the elevator, as usual.  There was a brief clip of the woman, who’s name was apparently Shannon, being interviewed by the local news station, just saying that I was nice and quiet and they never had a problem from me.  The last person to see me was Cassie Park, who left the second floor to head home sometime between eleven and eleven thirty PM. I glanced over at the Asian girl. None of my stuff was found in the library, but my car was still outside the library the next day.

    By this point I was already trying to download iTunes onto my phone.  I needed to get out of here, but I also needed to know how it ended. Unfortunately getting a signal inside the library was just about impossible, and the college wi-fi was slow as shit.  I could have just tried later, I suppose, but I read enough scary stories online to know crap like this podcast always disappear at the end. I needed to know the fucking theories, and if it wasn’t downloaded to my phone and playing I wasn’t leaving.

    I glanced over my other stuff.  I hadn’t taken a single thing out of my backpack, and I could have my computer in its case in a few seconds.  I unplugged its power cord and stuffed that in the case, letting it run on battery power. I wanted to be ready to get the hell out

    I sped the podcast up to double speed.  Somehow it didn’t squeak, and the female narrator sounded just as ominous as ever.  This time, though, it was different. Rather than pushing one theory and mentioning a few others, she just rattled off theory after theory, saying none of them had sufficient evidence.  I had been abducted by aliens. I had been snatched by a serial killer. I was the human sacrifice in a satanic ritual. I won big in an illegal gambling ring and fled the IRS. It just went on and on.

    There was still a good five minutes worth of theories left in the podcast when I heard the elevator door open.  I looked up to see the girl, Cassie, packed up and headed out. iTunes was only about twenty percent downloaded to my phone.

    Panicking, I just closed out the browser.  “Hold the door!” I called. I threw my laptop in its case, grabbed my backpack, and ran for the elevator.  Cassie seemed surprised, but stuck out her hand and held the door when she heard me

    When I got home that night I opened my laptop and confirmed what I’d already suspected:  The fucking podcast was gone. It wasn’t downloaded, and as far as iTunes could tell it didn’t fucking exist.

      Loading editor
    • It ends a little abruptly, but it's a nice electronic twist on the whole "character unwittingly reads a book that they realise is leading up to the end of their life" trope. The fact that the 'book' in this pasta is replaced with a podcast adds a new kind of dimension about it.

      In terms of a title...maybe something simple like just naming the pasta after the podcast? "The Lost Cases" doesn't sound like too bad of an idea to me. Or, if you want to keep it really simple, just call it "The Podcast".

      How did you manage to get the text black? I don't even know how that can happen. You should fix it, it makes the pasta harder to read and is generally distracting.

      All in all, good pasta, but I think the ending could be expanded a little. And get rid of the black text.

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    • If you didn't go the route of "the narrator finds a piece of information that states he's bound to die" this would've been way better. You decided to go that route however, which is a shame. 

      The trope could be used without becoming ridiculous, but requires an untimely death in some more distant future. One that the protag will try to prevent in the readers imagination - You didn't go that route. 

      You've realized you've dug yourself a hole and decided to go the easy (and silly way out), in a sense "it was all a joke" style. The moment the ending came the whole build was thrown down the toilet and that kills the story. The podcast is gone, so what's the bloody point of the whole thing? It's underwhelming. 

      Also, I suppose that if the reading of the episode in which the protags name wasn't "the cliche shift in tone" it would've felt more impactful because it doesn't border on the stupidly obvious supernatural tropiness of the bad kind.

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    • Cornconic wrote:

      How did you manage to get the text black? I don't even know how that can happen. You should fix it, it makes the pasta harder to read and is generally distracting.

      I...don't know...honestly, I just posted it, and it came up like that.

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    • BloodySpghetti wrote:
      If you didn't go the route of "the narrator finds a piece of information that states he's bound to die" this would've been way better. You decided to go that route however, which is a shame. 

      The trope could be used without becoming ridiculous, but requires an untimely death in some more distant future. One that the protag will try to prevent in the readers imagination - You didn't go that route. 

      You've realized you've dug yourself a hole and decided to go the easy (and silly way out), in a sense "it was all a joke" style. The moment the ending came the whole build was thrown down the toilet and that kills the story. The podcast is gone, so what's the bloody point of the whole thing? It's underwhelming. 

      Also, I suppose that if the reading of the episode in which the protags name wasn't "the cliche shift in tone" it would've felt more impactful because it doesn't border on the stupidly obvious supernatural tropiness of the bad kind.

      I see your point.  I felt a little like this was a story I needed out of my system, because it had been in my head for like three years, but I knew before writing it that it was kind of cliche.  I figured I'd make the protagonist at least kind of genre savvy (without directly referencing any other creepypastas) and see if it helped.

        Loading editor
    • A FANDOM user
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