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I found a thumb drive in my basement

I found a thumb drive in my basement

Estimated reading time — 15 minutes

The frigid November air entering through the window contrasted sharply with the humid heat under my mask, caused by my rapid and uneven breathing. My hands fidgeted with a button on my coat sleeve, while my leg made a rhythmic thumping sound as it jutted up and down from the floor to the table above it. I relapsed into these movements every time my mind returned to my whole purpose for entering the pocket-sized sheriff’s station. It was as if all the moisture from my body had concentrated around my mouth. I had only brought one mask, which hadn’t lasted long. It was from one of those cheap boxes with forty of them stacked in perfect rectangular mounds and wrapped in plastic. I had just committed to the idea of removing my mask to allow more air into my lungs when the sheriff stepped into the office.

“Good afternoon . . . Mr. Shrider,” said the sheriff between lethargic sips of coffee.

I gave a distant and fatigued “hi.”

“My deputy gave me your written statement and a summary of the conversation y’all had a moment ago. Now, is there anything I can fetch you, like a Coke or a water?”

“No,” I said, reminding myself that I hadn’t seen a fridge anywhere when I came in and was directed to one of two offices the building somehow managed to fit.

The dampness of my mask was becoming too constricting, so I asked to use the bathroom and was directed to a door near the entrance. When I returned to the office, the sheriff stared down at a piece of paper that I presumed to be my statement and didn’t say anything for what felt like ages, the only disturbance being the draft coming in through the window. When the sheriff finally did speak, his voice lacked all the lightness it carried when he first came in.

“Sunny, you can call me Sheriff Matheson. I see you recently moved into one of dem houses off Shepard Road.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, I know you already told my deputy and wrote it down in this statement, but could you tell me one more time how you found the thumb drive?”

After a few moments of trying to collect my thoughts to avoid regurgitating everything that had preceded my visit to the sheriff’s office all at once, I began, unable to make direct eye contact, with why I came to Teton county

I hadn’t landed a steady job yet, but I did a lot of freelance photography for a few private companies. These short-term gigs led me to the small city of Choteau. With a population under 2,000 and surrounded by open wilderness and rivers, I wasn’t expecting to stay long—just to snap a few pictures of some water and whatever wildlife came my way. I rented the cheapest house I could find, which had been on the market for about three years. Given how rough the housing market has been because of COVID, I was surprised it hadn’t found any buyers. Without thinking twice, I decided to buy it and flew out to move in four weeks later.

The house I rented was modest, situated near a river and a wheat field over a mile away. At first glance, you might have thought an elderly couple once lived there. The pale-yellow paneling led up to overflowing gutters and a roof in desperate need of repair. By the steps leading to the front door, a wheelchair ramp started near the bottom, veered to the left, then turned right to connect with the platform at the top of the stairs, directly in front of the door. Mountain bikes, overtaken by weeds and rust, littered the sides of the house. The recent rainstorm had caused the rust to stain the surrounding area with a reddish-maroon hue. Everything, except the heat pump, suggested a silent, ongoing battle with the weather and vegetation—slow but persistent.

The inside wasn’t much more appealing than the outside. While the exterior of the house was cluttered, the interior was completely bare. It seemed the previous homeowners had taken every precaution to leave no trace of themselves. This was puzzling because the lawn was littered with bikes and other items, you’d expect a family to either take with them or give away.

On Zillow, the house was listed as fifty years old, but the wallpaper looked fresh, the hardwood floors were scratch-free, and even the baseboards appeared recently replaced. There was no mention of any accidents, water damage, boiler explosions, termites, or anything else that might require renovation. If they had done any renovating inside, surely, they would have addressed the exterior as well.

There was no furniture, and the kitchen had only the cheapest standard appliances. As I walked around, I noticed that the floorboards didn’t make any noise.

I paced through the rest of the house before deciding to investigate the basement. Perhaps there would be new pipes somewhere that would suggest damage requiring repairs. The door to the basement was in the back of the house, isolated in a corner away from the two bedrooms and single bathroom. Scanning the rest of the house as I made my way to the basement door, I tore my view away from the floors and walls to focus on the door, which hung loosely from its hinges in front of me. The basement door appeared to have also been replaced. It was an off-white color, the base color of a hollow door you’d buy from any hardware store, not yet painted. The door made a deep, reverberating whine, which could easily be mistaken for a crying animal.

The basement was unfinished. Exposed stones formed the walls, and the light from upstairs shone through the wooden floors, illuminating the hackneyed basement. I could see tiny collections of dirt lining the base of all the walls. There was no ventilation, and the air grew more suffocating with each minute I lingered. I quickly scanned all the pipes overhead and determined that they were as old as the foundations that held this house. The basement was lacking in everything but dust and dirt. I ran my hand along the walls to check for any leaks or breaches from the outside. Instead of finding any sprouting plants or signs of a crumbling foundation, I found a thumb drive.

I didn’t give much thought to it. I assumed a previous owner had a table or desk against the wall, left a thumb drive there, and accidentally pushed it off one day, causing it to get jammed between two stones in the basement wall. It wasn’t until a week later that I actually saw what was on it. Conveniently, I already had a USB-C to USB adapter for my computer. The thumb drive had been sitting on my desk—the only piece of furniture besides my bed that I brought with me. I was looking through photos with different lens exposures when the thumb drive caught my eye.

I’ve always been a nosy person, ever since I was a child, but now I wish I wasn’t. I wish I had never read the files on that drive.

Sheriff Matheson sighed deeply after I finished telling him what was on the thumb drive.

“May I have a look at this thumb drive for myself?” he asked.

“Yes, Sheriff,” I said meekly.

I took the thumb drive out of my pocket and handed it to him. The rest of the conversation mainly consisted of the sheriff telling me to expect a call if anything came of my statement or if they needed to ask me any further questions. The last thing the sheriff asked before I left his office was:

“Did you make any copies?”

I knew he noticed how long it took me to respond, even though it couldn’t have been more than fifteen seconds before I said:


The sheriff didn’t say anything else after that. The only goodbye I received was a silent nod and wave, followed by the cold night as I stepped out of the sheriff’s station.

That visit was two months ago, and I don’t believe they’re doing anything with the evidence I presented. I don’t understand why. However, I did make a copy of that damn thumb drive—how could I not? If something happened to the original, I’m afraid no one would know. I’m posting everything from the drive below. Please, if anyone knows anything, reach out.

January 5, 2018

Hi I don’t really know what to say. Its weird just talking to myself. I guess its not really talking to myself. My therapist will eventually take a look at these. She’s the one who suggested that I do this. Hi Dr. Sano. Or just Kyra if you prefer. Hopefully you don’t have a hard time reading this. I’m still getting used to typing on a keyboard again. The screen reader I got has been useful. I really don’t like that I can’t see. Obviously. It fucking sucks. But I’m alive. Great. Besides getting better at reading braille and having my dad pack my stuff for when I go dog sitting. Nothing has really changed. I still miss Zach.

January 8, 2018

Hi, I’ve acquired the power of the COMMA! Along with other punctuation marks, of course. I’m still not sure how long I should make these entries. Kyra said I should track my feelings and use this to work through my grief. Not sure how exactly I’ll do that yet, but I’ll also write down what happens each day. I don’t really have anyone else to talk to right now. After the car crash, I pretty much pushed everyone away. The only people who are still around are my ex-boyfriend Tyler and my dad. Tyler doesn’t tell me what’s happening in his life anymore. I’m guessing he’s moved on; it’s been over a year since I lost my vision. I don’t blame him, but he still comes by and checks on me.

My dad and I were never that close, and we’ve only grown further apart. I know he blames me for Zach’s death. The only reason we talk at all is because of my disability. I feel lost.

I leave for Teton tomorrow.

January 9, 2018

I just finished moving my stuff in. It was about a 50-minute drive from home. When I arrived, my dad directed me through the front yard, which he said was quite a mess. He helped me to the front door of my “employers”—I guess that’s the right word. I scanned the wall with my hand until I reached the doorbell and pressed it. After a moment, an elderly woman answered. I could tell she was older by the deep, splintered quality of her voice, which carried the weight of years of smoking, yet it remained feminine.

“Hello, you must be Thyia,” she said.

She was very nice. After our introductions, she helped carry some of my bags and guided me to my room. The house had a mix of smells: in some places, it was rich with rose perfume, while in others, it smelled like a Home Depot. After showing me my room, she led me on a tour of the house. The walls were smooth, and she made sure I knew my way around—to the front door, the kitchen, where the dog food was kept, and my room, which was right across from the bathroom.

After about 30 minutes, she introduced me to her dog, Scooter. She said that he’s an Australian Cattle Dog, but he’s older and doesn’t move around much anymore. I don’t need to worry about taking him out since he uses a dog door to go into the fields for his “business”. If he takes longer than an hour to return, there’s no need to worry; rattling his treat container will bring him back. And there’s no animals in the area that would mess with him.

Natalia, the old lady, showed me how to feed him. It’s easy—he gets a cup and a half of food twice a day, and the scoop is exactly that size. She left a little bit of food in the fridge for me. Before leaving, she mentioned that Scooter is a certified service dog, so he’ll be keeping an eye out for me more than I need to for him.

The rest of the day went by quickly. My dad made a joke about me finally becoming independent and reminded me to call if I needed anything. Tyler plans to drop off some supplies later this week.

I fed Scooter an hour ago. Tonight, I plan to fall asleep to an audiobook I’ve been listening to.

January 10, 2018

I haven’t done much today. When my dad found this job for me, I was happy at the thought of having a dog to keep me company. WRONG! Scooter doesn’t play, doesn’t sit next to me, and doesn’t even lick my hand when I feed him. The most I get is a sniff. I’m determined to make him my friend!

This is for you, Kyra. I’ve been thinking a lot about Zach. The night he died plays over and over in my mind. Although I was a bit drunk, I remember most of it clearly. It was also the last time I had my vision. I replay it, thinking about what I could’ve done differently. What I should have done. I shouldn’t have been drinking. I shouldn’t have taken Zach for ice cream. I thought it would be nice since we didn’t see each other much anymore. I’m sorry Zach. You were the best brother I could have asked for. I miss the references you’d make about cartoons I had never seen. I miss how you’d argue that you were a grown-up just because you were going into the 8th grade. You never did get there. I can still see it all in my head. I’m sorry.

January 11, 2018

I ran out of Pringles.


January 12, 2018

Today was boring. It’s gotten easier to get around the house. I don’t have to do much—just feed Scooter, and then I’m free. I’ve been spending my time listening to my audiobook (I think I’m about halfway through), getting better at reading braille, and eating. I’ve mostly been eating the junk food I brought with me. Natalia never told me exactly what she left in the fridge for me, so I felt around and found some vegetables, a half-gallon of something, and in the freezer, just frozen packages.

I tried cooking one of the packages I found in the freezer. It was a thick block of meat. I don’t believe Natalia would leave me spoiled food, but just in case, I felt that taking my chances with stuff in the freezer was my best bet. It took me a little bit to find a pan. I let the meat thaw out for four hours and then tried cooking it. I salted it like a steak and threw it on the pan. It must’ve already been pre-seasoned because it didn’t just smell like plain cooked meat—it kind of smelled like a stew. After cooking it a little on the pan, I threw it in the oven to make sure it was cooked all the way through. It was steak, I’m pretty sure. It tasted like beef, but a bit sweeter. It wasn’t too chewy, which was a nice surprise.

After I was done cleaning, I was tired. Luckily, Tyler is dropping by tomorrow. I am in desperate need of more snacks and microwavable shit.

January 13, 2018.

This might sound weird. Tyler came over around noon and acted strange. Yes we don’t talk like we used to but he’s visited me a couple of times since the accident. He came over and brought the “essentials.” My portable charger, snacks, and food. He also got me lemon sorbet. We sat down and talked for a little bit. But I could hear it in his voice that something was off.

“So how’s it been, dog sitting?”

“Its been good” I told him.

Tyler sighed and started to clear his throat. He did this whenever his mouth got dry.

“Thyia, are you sure you should be doing this?”

“Yes, it’s been a year, I’m finally back to something normal.” I tried to say this in a light tone, but I could feel the agitation build up. The only reason Tyler is still around at all is because he feels bad, but it’s nice still having someone from my old life around. Besides my dad.

“It just might be too soon. This place is just, I don’t know, weird.”

I was curious. “Tyler, how’s it weird?” I said blankly.

“Well like it almost looks like they took rooms out of a commercial, got rid of the furniture, and fitted it in the house. The rugs are new except for the stains past the bathroom, the walls are the ugliest orange color I’ve ever seen. I know you can’t see this shit but didn’t your dad or the who hired you, tell you what the place looked like. Even the couch we’re sitting on looks like it was brought in a week ago. And I’ve been in this house for a couple of hours. Where’s the dog?”

“Well she wanted to make it easier for me to get around, so yeah she took the shit out. And I don’t know where the dog is. Grab his treat jar off the counter and shake it.” I was starting to get panicked. I was worried scooter ran off.

Tyler shook the jar lamely while walking near the front door.

“SCOOTER” we called out.


We didn’t find scooter, and I was so upset. I called Natalia but it went right to voicemail. We waited an hour hoping Scooter would come back, but I finally got a call back.

Natalia said she was busy shopping but reluctantly allowed me to speak. I told her Scooter is gone, and has been for at least 3 hours. She told me not to worry that he’s old but still likes to get into trouble. He’ll come back at some point and that I should just wait patiently. I didn’t get to say anything in response because she hung up.

Nothing else happened that day. Tyler stayed around for an hour and then left. And told me to call him if I needed anything.

I’m in my bed now, but I think scooter came back. I heard his whining sound. I’m going to go add water to his bowl.

January 15, 2018.


I’m restless. I thought Scooter came back, but now I’m not sure. Sometimes I hear noises at the door and assume it’s the dog, but it could be the house. I thought this place was old, but I guess they’ve done some renovating. I don’t hear the dog walking around, but when I check his bowl a couple of hours after putting food down, it’s empty. I also hadn’t noticed some of the sounds the house makes. I’ve been listening to audiobooks and re-runs of The Big Bang Theory. Although I can’t see what’s happening, I can still hear it. I had watched this show so many times with Zach before I lost my vision that all I need are the sounds to visualize what’s happening. It’s been a nice distraction, but it also blinded me to some of the noises the house makes.

It’s rare that I’m not wearing my headphones, but after how nervous I was about Scooter running off, I’ve tried to keep an ear out for him. That’s when I noticed the other noises in the house. There must be pipes running through the ceiling or something because every now and then, I hear a scraping sound, somewhere higher. Sometimes it’s right above me.

I’m also worried Scooter’s been making messes in the house. Occasionally, as I’m making my way through the house, gliding my hands along the walls for direction, my hands glaze over wet spots. It’s thicker than just water, so maybe Scooter drools? But a dog his size shouldn’t drool like that, right?

I’m sorry, Dr. Sano, you’re probably reading this and thinking to yourself, “How is this girl ever going to make it on her own?” I don’t know; maybe you don’t mind these ramblings of a madwoman. BAZINGA!

January 18, 2018.

Here’s a quick recap of the past couple of days. I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the journal. I should’ve never taken this job. I had to call the Sheriff’s department the other day. There was a break-in? I don’t know. I was up late because I couldn’t sleep. I was lost in thought, then I heard a loud crash towards the end of the house. It was deafening. My ears rang. I wasn’t sure what I should do. So, I leapt on the floor, crawled to the door, and positioned myself so my feet were pressed against the door and my back was against my nightstand. I can’t tell you how long I stayed like that. I had no idea where my phone was. I think I left it in the kitchen. I took my Kindle to my room at night, so I didn’t need my phone. It’s also easier to find my bulky Kindle. I cried silently until I got my breathing under control.

It could’ve been an hour, three hours, or five hours. I don’t know. Eventually, I got up and made my way to where I heard the crash silently. I felt around until I felt a deep stab into the side of my foot. I screamed. My nerves were on edge. I pulled a chunk of wood out of my foot. I crouched and explored the floor with my hands. I found more shards of wood scattered and caught in the soft carpeting. It led to the last door in the hallway. I’m pretty sure Natalia said this was the basement. It’s where the washer and dryer are, but I wasn’t to go down there because the stairs were old and could be dangerous for me. I felt around the door or where the door should’ve been. The shards of wood I felt must’ve been pieces of the door. Something caused the door to explode.

I made my way to the kitchen and called 911. A sheriff came by—Sheriff Mathews, I think. No, that doesn’t sound right. It took 30 minutes after the call for him to show up. I was standing by the front door the whole time, waiting for someone to come by. The sheriff came, and I told him everything. He told me to sit while he looked around. He brought one of his deputies with him, and they looked around the house. While they combed the house, I tried calling Natalia, but she didn’t pick up. I tried my dad next, but he was just as unreliable.

When they got done, the deputy told me that he cleaned the mess and that they didn’t find any intruders. The sheriff’s voice spoke up and mentioned that he “reckons” the door fell off the old hinges. I tried asking him about all the broken wood, but he cut me off. He told me to try and sleep. I explained that this wasn’t my house, that I’m here dog-sitting, and that I’m blind.

“I know,” he said. “The woman who lives here gave me a heads-up and told me to keep an eye out for ya.”

I didn’t understand. Natalia never told me this. I didn’t know what to make of it. I still don’t. The officers left and made it clear that I was overreacting. But how the hell did the door break like that if it only fell off the hinges? I don’t understand.

This morning, I tried calling Tyler, and he answered. I told him the situation and asked him to come by and maybe stay a night, but he said he couldn’t because he had work. He also said that if the sheriff said it’s fine, then it’s fine. I was so pissed. I don’t want to go back to my room. I have to walk toward where the door “fell.” I’m going to sleep on the couch tonight. Besides that, nothing new happened. I just don’t want to be here anymore. Every noise I hear makes me jump. Natalia should be back in a couple of days. My dad still hasn’t answered my calls.

I don’t know where Scooter is.

January 19, 2018.

No one is answering my calls. I called the Sheriff office again and they simply told me everything was going to be alright. I don’t understand. There’s no fucking way a door just falls and breaks apart like that.

I feel something in here with me. I thought it was the dog but, I’m not so sure.

January 20, 2018.

I woke up to breathing on my neck. It felt like someone breathing. I need to get out. I lost my phone. It wasn’t where I left it last night. I keep hearing banging at the end of the hallway.

I can’t open the door to get outside. It won’t open.

Help me.




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