"Whispers Growing" by EmpyrealInvective (Narrated by NaturesTemper)

Sinister and Strange’s Introduction

The video begins recording with a clap and a small blinking red light to denote the fact that the camera is live. A man stands in front of the camera in a Victorian-looking room with random phrenology charts, guttering candles, and anatomical skeletons behind him. He is in a dark sports jacket and his hair is perfectly coiffed. To the unobservant, he would look exactly like a newscaster who is getting ready to read the obituaries live on the air. To his more perceptive audience, he is trying to project a calm and collected air, but he is anything but. After a few moments in which he tries to compose himself, he speaks:

“Welcome to this week’s episode of Sinister and Strange, a web series dedicated to the strange and supernatural. Suicides, ruined lives, many of us are still reeling from the death of one of YouTube’s very own urban explorers and the shockwaves it's sent through our community. Tonight’s episode: John Kerrof. This is a very special episode as I considered John to be a close friend of mine. His death hit me hard, but through your support, and insistence that I address the circumstances of his passing; I’ve managed to make it here today. A few months ago, John Kerrof died in a livestream in front of thousands of adoring fans. Before we view tonight’s episode, I must warn the audience; this video contains mature language, adult themes, and self-inflicted violence. Without further adieu, tonight’s episode of Sinister and Strange, John Kerrof.

John Kerrof’s Final Moments

The livestream starts with John Karrof in front of his camera. He’s in his late twenties and he looks disheveled. His palms are pressed against his temples and he blows out a long breath as if he were preparing himself to pull out his fingernails. In the background, a bottle neck can be seen sticking out from a mesh trashcan alongside a few crumpled up cans. Eagle-eyed viewers identify the bottle as Grey Goose vodka. His eyes appear dull and bloodshot.

“Hey fuckfaces,” (This is not his typical greeting.) he slurs, “welcome to the livestream.”

He’s immediately inundated with comments inquiring about his wellbeing. Long-time viewers were immediately concerned given that he had posted a video a few months ago titled: “Draw My Life: Three Years Sober” which detailed his struggle with alcoholism and how it sent his father to an early grave. That video ended with him telling everyone about how alcohol nearly killed him and he would never touch a drink again. A few moments pass as John Kerrof hazily looks through the dozens of comments before he burbles:

“Yeah, I’m drunk. So what? What’s the big deal? People fall off the wagon all the time, sometimes they need to just so they can realize how important it is to be sober.” He takes a moment to read the comments before answering, “Yeah, that’s a shitty excuse, but I’m a shitty person so what do you expect?”

Messages of “Is this a joke?” roll across the screen. A lot of his viewers can’t believe that he would attempt to hold a livestream in his condition. He looks into the camera on his laptop as if he’s trying to organize his jumbled thoughts before he continues:

“You want a joke, here’s a joke: I used to love all this shit. Exploring places with actual histories and telling stories. Remember one of my early videos where it was just me and a handheld digital camera poking around an old factory and I found this dirty mattress, a bottle of pills with the label scratched off, and a bunch of old women’s magazines? That was genuine discomfort and fear. I legitimately thought that the squatter was going to come back at any moment and I’d have to run for my life. That was real. That’s gone now. You killed it.”

John burps as he looks around for something by his feet. He eventually reaches down to pick it up, nearly falling out of his chair in the process. Having retrieved the item, he slurs to his fanbase, “You want a peek behind the curtain? Too bad, you’re getting it anyways. Can you look at this shit?” He lifts up a ratty-looking doll. It’s a cheesy half-burnt doll that looks like it was lifted from the props department at the latest Chucky movie. He rotates the charred doll in his hands while sarcastically gasping and groaning in mock-terror. “Here’s the best part, watch what happens when I press this button on the back.”

John presses the button and the doll’s eyes open, revealing bright red pupils which appear to be dripping ketchup. It warbles, “Mama,” in a distorted voice that sounds like it was ripped straight from a B-horror movie. He groans in response as if it physically pains him to see it. “I said that I wanted to investigate real places and see what comes from it, not this staged shit. I’m supposed to come across this little asshole tomorrow while investigating Sunnyside Mine and it’s supposed to be the thumbnail for the video. It’s probably going to be hanging from the ceiling with chains or some stupid shit like that.”

John spins the doll around in front of the camera, giving his audience ample time to see how the doll is rigged up. “I’m still trying to figure out how they’re going to create a narrative in which there’s a nine-year old miner who carries her dolls to work in the mines with her. How the fuck are they gonna explain this?! My fucking producer is treating this like a jumpscare series. There’s no history needed, no real drama. It can all be manufactured. It’s all smoke and mirrors, it’s all lies and emptiness!”

John, wrapped up in his anger, hurls the doll against the hotel wall. It crackles, “Mama,” and the eyes dribble red onto the carpet. John Kerrof turns towards the hotel bathroom as if he’s heard someone. It’s obvious he’s causing a scene with his outburst and that the adjoining rooms can hear him. He mumbles out an apology, but there’s no audible reply. It distracts him for a moment longer than a standard blink before he’s back at the audience.

“They got me staying in this shit-hole hotel on route to an old mining town. They got guys out there already, probably painting pentagrams and upside-down crosses on everything. Here’s the funniest thing, the place is genuinely creepy from the photos I’ve seen. There’s no need to stage anything. I could make a genuinely intriguing video without it. The scenery outside is beautiful and when juxtaposed with the darkness inside the mine, I could really build an oppressive atmosphere, but they want the views. They don’t want a slow-burn. Shit, I can imagine the video title already, “Real Ghost Encounter in Sunnyside Mine: How I almost died”. Fuck ‘em.”

He looks like he could bury his head in his hands and cry at any moment. The comments are flying by with fans telling him to call his AA sponsor and to talk to someone. A few people are trolling. He ignores them before fixing his stare at the camera.

“…Well, they’re not the only ones to blame here. It’s you assholes, bombarding every urban exploration and abandoned hospital and factory video with ‘ZOMG! I was super-spooked, I can’t believe that the abandoned Jiffy Lube a mile outside of town is haunted by a pair of twin ghosts who leave oil splotches wherever they go. Is this for reals?’ You incentivized this charade. Ghost-Grabbers (the title of his latest series) t-shirts and Urban Exploration Crew hats. They’re making money off your stupidity and you gobble it all up hook-line-and-sinker.”

He grits his teeth as he continues, “Then there’s the assholes calling everything fake in the comments. Of course it’s fake, you weren’t watching it when it was real. It was too boring for you. No one was interested in me walking through an empty automotive factory while talking about the history of the place; all its industrial accidents and shattered dreams. You can’t have it both ways, it can be real and full of excitement all the time. You either get something real and atmospheric punctuated by occasionally exciting moments or you get something exciting all the time and fake. Are you happy? Is this real enough for you? Fuck you. Fuck you!”

Kerrof is shouting at the audience now. He suddenly snaps his head in the direction of the bathroom. He whispers, “I think I pissed off the next-door tenant in this shit-hole. I can hear him talking through the bathroom wall. Think he’s calling management? Wanna see me get arrested on stream? I bet you do, it’d probably make your day.”

He gets up and stumbles into the bathroom to apologize to the tenant through the wall. He steps off camera, but the recording picks up his voice, “Sorry man, I’m only going to be a couple more minutes. I just gotta do this one thing real quick and I’ll be quiet for the rest of the night.”

John Kerrof returns to the seat in front of the camera and sloshes into it. He belches, “Guy’s more fucked up than me. Blabbering something about wooden hearts and skeletons. Probably should have expected as much when I pulled up to the motel. This place is a real shit-hole, I’m surprised they don’t rent by the hour and have plastic-wrapped beds. I guess you get what you pay for.

“I don’t hate you guys though. No, how can I? You’re just like me. Always judging everything around them, desperate to see something that suggests the world is something other than ordinary. We want to know that there’s more to life. I used to poke around the abandoned churches and asylums, hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s beyond the veil, anything to give me a reason. A reason to believe in something, reason to get out of bed in the morning. I just need a reason to keep…” he trails off. Maybe he’s worried he’s saying too much, maybe he’s worried that this will open the floodgates and he’ll be swallowed in the depressing deluge.

John Kerrof looks like he’s seconds away from dissolving into tears, “What do I-” He snaps his head towards the bathroom. Apparently some sound that wasn’t picked up by the audio equipment has distracted him. Many people have suggested that the neighboring tenant has said something, but there’s nothing to indicate that an audible noise has been made. He shouts, “Shut up! I’m trying to have a moment here!”

He starts crying. He wipes away tears, but more come unbidden. “What’s left for me to do? I sure as shit fucked up my YouTube Red contract once this all gets out. They’re going to fire my ass. I really shit the bed on this one, like I always seem to do with everything.” He glances off camera towards the bathroom again, frustration playing across his face as he shouts, “Mind giving me a moment man? Just let me say good-” The sound apparently continues and John loses his patience.

“Alright, now you’re just pissing me off.” John Kerrof sits up from the chair and stalks towards the bathroom. His entire body is trembling like he’s about to blow a gasket. He picks up a shoe on the way over (likely to bang on the adjoining wall while shouting something) and he steps out of the camera’s frame. Everything is quiet for a moment, except for the constant dings of messages inquiring about what’s going on that are scrolling across the screen which are pinging him. What happens next stuns the audience to silence.

The quiet moment is broken by John tumbling back into frame. He looks terrified. He whimpers, “W-what the fuc-” He loses his footing and falls, striking his head on the side of the computer chair. It sounds like he hit it full-force. There’s a brief moment where nothing happens, there are no messages as the audience is transfixed by what is happening, John is not talking. For a moment, the viewers wonder if he has suffered a concussion, but an instant later, he is seen crawling across the floor. He looks harried and distraught. There’s a red spot on his head that will likely form into a bruise. He crawls along the carpet, looking visibly dazed and frantic. Eventually he drags himself past the scope of the camera and everything is silent before chat erupts in a fury of dings.

Five minutes roll by with frenetic messages popping up on the screen. Most are trying to figure out what is going on, some are asking if John is okay, and others are asking if this is all being staged. Some people are trying to get in contact with the police, thinking that the next-door tenant threatened John to the point of causing a panic-attack. Some people are trying to get in contact with YouTube, but it’s late at night and they are put on hold. Before anything new can develop in their attempts to reach out, John Kerrof returns for the final act.

John Kerrof shambles by the screen and bumps the table as he’s passing it. The coffee table he was recording on tips over and the laptop falls to the ground with a visual jolt. The camera shifts and points to the bathroom just in time to see John stumble into the dirty-looking room. He is no longer crying when he speaks, “Please don’t leave me.” The words sound almost like they don’t belong to him. He doesn’t say anything else, instead he takes off his belt and loops it around his neck. Ineffectual messages telling him to seek help are pouring in, but he’s too far gone to notice. He ties the belt to the doorknob in a perfunctory manner. His face is devoid of emotion, but he looks like he’s aged thousands of years. There’s nothing there. He doesn’t say anything, he just sits down.

He dies quietly. The scene is blurred out, but through the mosaic you can see him writhing around. His brain is being deprived of oxygen. His neck doesn’t snap, instead he slowly chokes. In the uncensored version you can his Adam’s apple bobbing against the belt as if in an attempt to free himself. He twists and turns for minutes in what looks like agony before he stills. The audience watches the stream continue on with the camera facing the bathroom and John Kerrof’s lifeless body. The video ends and it cuts back to the set of Sinister and Strange.

Sinister and Strange’s Conclusion

The host speaks, “Panicked calls flooded 911, but without a physical address, they could do nothing. They can only watch for the next thirty minutes before the camera dims and the livestream ends. On June 1st, 2017, John Kerrof took his own life during a livestream. John was beloved by his fans, many claim the stress was too much, which was compounded by relationship, management, and personal issues. His confrontation with the person in the motel room next to him was likely the final straw. Whether he talked with the man in the moments he was off camera, or if he was just threatened by him through the wall cannot be verified. Attempts to ascertain the identity of the man have turned up no leads. All that we know for certain is what we can see on the stream that some in the audience recorded. The death of John Kerrof was just the beginning of terrible things to come for some.

“His fans have taken the news of his death hard. Some organized candlelight vigils to say farewell to the man they knew. His videos were flooded with comments eulogizing his life and trying to come to terms with their loss. A few were even hit so hard by his traumatic passing that they even took their own lives, some even parroting his final words, ‘Please don’t leave me.’ Those people left behind families, lovers, and friends who will miss them dearly. Much like John, they ended their lives way too soon.

“Yet, there are some who claim that there is something far more sinister at play here. People who have visited the motel and reviewed the visitor logs on the night of John’s death say that no one was registered in the room next to him. To make things stranger, viewers have attested to seeing a shadow moving across the screen at multiple occasions during the livestream. The most noted times that people have claimed to see a dark form were right after John injured himself on the floor and was crawling away and when he re-entered the frame. They claim the dark shadow is slowly approaching the downed man. The next time the shadow is spotted happens as John enters the bathroom. People have reported seeing a dark form circling around him. Some have even remarked that they could see the shadow during the suicide. Analysts who have studied the video can find no recorded instance so these reports of shadowy figures are unverified.

“Whether or not you think there is something more to the video or if you’re just trying to come to terms with the loss of our friend, I ask that you be respectful in the comment section. As for me, I gotta say, I think I see something there. I’ve watched the video multiple times and it never ceases to unnerve me. This is going to haunt me. I considered John my friend. Goodnight everyone, tell those who are close to you that you love them, and keep it strange.”

Greg ends the recording and blows out a sigh. He immediately ranks the video as one of the worst ones he’s ever done. The entire experience has left him drained and feeling unclean. He had met John a few times at a few YouTube conventions. He was an all right guy. They had only hung out for a little bit, John was quiet and Greg was more caught up in everyone around him. He was an acquaintance at best, but that didn’t mean that everything that happened didn’t weigh on him. He didn’t want to do this video but everyone had been clamoring for the past month and he eventually gave in.

Sometimes he thought about quitting. His inbox had been flooded with requests for this since John’s death (some arriving before his death was even confirmed by authorities) and multiple people had privately messaged him the video of the livestream on numerous occasions. He had told everyone that he felt uncomfortable talking about the death of someone he knew, but they persisted. After a few weeks of constant requests and people complaining, Greg relented. He sat down and rubbed the bridge of his nose. The thought of quitting YouTube had popped into his mind from time to time, usually when he saw a particularly terrible comment or video, but never had he ever wanted to leave this all behind as much as he did in this very moment.

It sapped him and sometimes he wondered if they would keep pressing and pressing until he cracked under the pressure of their demands. They wanted blood and they didn’t care about how it affected him. They would probably have him provide a retrospective on the death of his mother if they thought it would make for an evocative story. In his lowest moments, Greg imagined them as emotional vampires; unable to feel emotions themselves unless they were stolen from those around them. They wanted everything and sometimes it felt like they were bleeding him slowly with a dull knife. He wondered if they would sap everything until he was nothing but a splintered skeleton and a wooden heart.

He paused. He had never said those words before, but they seemed so apt for this situation. He didn’t know where those words came from. He didn’t realize that he had heard them mentioned only minutes before in the video. Thinking those words opened up a part inside him and something dark began to wriggle its way into his heart. He didn’t realize what was happening. He had just heard its call. As Greg sat there in silence and contemplated life, he could have sworn he just heard the words again. Wooden heart. It was whispered low, but it slowly grew louder. It would continue to grow louder until those around him heard and understood. It would spread and infect everyone it could, desperate to not feel so alone. After all misery loves company. The whispers grew, and we listened.

Written by EmpyrealInvective
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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