Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
Growing up I was always a curious child. I always wondered what was behind all the “Authorized Personnel Only” doors and in the “Classified” folders. It didn’t have to be anything secret to attract my attention; it just had to be out of my reach to get me wondering about. As I grew up my curiosity only grew stronger, so much so that when it was time to go to college I’ve chosen a computer engineering major, despite the fact that most IT and programing jobs are being outsourced. All that mattered to me was that being a programmer I would get the “behind the scenes” look at the biggest pool of information in the world- the internet.
This natural curiosity of mine was the cause of the chain of events that made me kill that homeless man. Not directly, I didn’t want to kill him, or anyone in particular, but at the time it seemed like the only way out. How else would I be sure that she’ll leave me alone? Anyhow, it started on the bus. Back then I was still attending UNT, a fairly large university in Dallas. By the time I was done with classes it was around six in the evening and I was exhausted, with barely enough energy to get on the almost empty bus. Aside of the driver it had a teenage couple sitting at the very back watching something on a cellphone and an elderly woman sitting close to the driver, reading a Stephen King book. Naturally I proceeded to sit down in one of the seats in the middle of the bus spacing myself evenly away from others.
I put the headphones on and started looking through the window, mostly spacing out. As the bus was passing the downtown area I started looking at skyscrapers, dreaming about a corner office in one of them some day. All of a sudden I saw a silhouette of a girl emerge. It was dark and transparent. The girl was looking at something. My first thought was that she was standing behind me, and I was just seeing the reflection of her in the window. I quickly turned around but there was no one behind me. I looked around; the couple was still there, as was the old lady upfront, peacefully reading her book. I didn’t know what to do, yelling would seem weird, besides it might have just been a trick my brain was playing on me, as revenge for six classes a semester and long nights of online gaming. Calming myself down, I slowly turned around…The girl still was there. She didn’t move, she didn’t even look at me, she was looking at the empty seat next to mine. I turned around once more to inspect the seat, and didn’t find anything. I looked back at the window, the girl didn’t move an inch, her calm face seemed scarier to me than any other expression imaginable. She looked young, maybe twelve or so, wearing as far as I could tell a grey hoodie, I couldn’t see much more, but she didn’t seem even remotely from the past, like I would imagine a ghost to look. Her eyes, her pitch black eyes were locked at the same point. I tried my hardest to trace her look that was piercing through me, as if I wasn’t there at all, but deep inside I felt as though the girl wanted me to see what she was seeing. Finally I looked at the gap between the seats and found a memory stick, the micro one that is usually used in smartphones. When I turned around the girl was no longer there. This must have been it, she wanted me to find the memory card. Still being frightened by the silhouette I just saw, I started thinking that it must have just been a coincidence, after all how many ghosts do you know that are dressed in modern clothe and reveal themselves to help you find a piece of digital technology?
When I got home it was already nine, the rain that I thought would start a lot earlier just now started pouring, and I could see the lightning flash even with the blinds closed. I lived alone in a one-bedroom condo my grandma left my family when she passed away. This place was the main reason I moved away from my parents, it was my first shot at independent life. I loved the place since I could remember myself, it was in between other condos and trees, so the light almost never came through. Furnished in a Victorian style it had a hint of darkness to it, and such surrounding always helped me think and be productive. The only downside to it was that no friend I’ve ever brought home ever came back here again, but I didn’t mind, I liked being alone. Especially during a storm, such at the one that was about to start. I put the kettle on the stove to start making some tea, laid back on the couch and reached for my phone. As I was grabbing the phone I felt something besides it, something tiny and thin…the flash card. I almost forgot about it, frankly if it wasn’t in my pocket I would soon forgot about the girl in the window. I pulled out the card and looked at it. Nothing special, a plain micro SD card, 256 megabytes, the basic one, the kind that comes standard with the phone, the kind that you change for something better the same day you buy the phone, the kind that just sits in your desk drawer for years never once used. The kettle whistled, and I went to fix a cup of black tea with some lemon. Nothing in my opinion feels better than drinking some hot tea on a cold rainy evening. Thinking about how cold and yucky it is out there while staying warm, dry, and sipping on a delicious cup of pure goodness.
I brought the tea to the room and left it on the desk, and then came back for my phone and the memory card. I wasn’t sure if I should do anything about it. On the other hand I’ve already picked it up, it’s not like I could just go put it back…or could I? My natural curiosity got the best of me. I quickly swapped the memory card in my phone for the one I found on the bus and started anxiously waiting for the phone to read it. No new applications or pictures showed up on the phone, however the video folder contained a file. The thumbnail was black so I could only guess what was on it. After couple of seconds oh hesitation I’ve decided to play the file after all.
The screen was black, nothing was happening for the first five seconds, suddenly I heard heavy breath, scratching noise, and finally a cry for help. “Help me!…Someone please!…This is not funny any more..” The voice sounded desperate and loud, it was high pitched enough to belong to a child, maybe even the girl on the bus. Suddenly the screen got green, like in a video that is shot in infrared. I could see her now, it was the same black-eyed girl that I’ve seen earlier today. The camera was positioned a few inches from her head, and the girl herself was laying down on some soft fabric. I could only see her face, a nicely decorated pillow, and more fabric on top. I couldn’t tell the colors, all I could see is her laying between the two walls of fabric crying for help. The moments the girl wouldn’t cry I couldn’t hear a thing, just her breath, it was dark and quiet. The top wall seemed curved…just like a coffin. Could it be…could someone have buried her alive and filmed it? But why? And why leaving such a horrifying video on the bus, and why did she help me find it? I kept watching, hoping to see a slightest hint that it was just a prank, someone’s sick joke. At one moment the girl stopped crying and turned her head to the right, looking straight into the camera and whispered “help me”. She was looking right at me, as though she knew I was watching. The video abruptly ended. I put the phone on the table and grabbed the teacup. Only now I’ve noticed how much my hands shake, I literally could not hold it without spilling tea on the desk so I put it back. “Starting navigation to Richland Cemetery” computerized female voice proclaimed. I looked back at my phone, the GPS was set for the cemetery on the other side of town. It…or she…something wanted me to go there, maybe rescue her. I opened my laptop and looked up the cemetery, I searched the recent obituaries nervously scrolling through the page. 1924-2013 1935-2013, 1966-2013…I couldn’t find anyone younger than thirty buried here in months. Maybe this is all just in my head, if not than it’s just a prank, it has to be. I turned off the GPS and got on Netflix, hoping that a season of a good show on a Friday night will wipe this memory and I will start tomorrow with a clean slate.
I was awakened by a phone notification. My phone was buzzing as though someone kept texting or messaging me on Facebook. This was rather annoying, anyone who knows me well enough to text me knows that I will never be up at 10 AM on a Saturday morning. My dungeon-dark condo didn’t let a single sun beam in so I could rest safe and sound, like Count Dracula in his coffin….Coffins, why did I shiver thinking about them right now. I reached for the phone and peeked at the bright screen. Something wanted me to share my location, probably some app that updated overnight and now came out with a GPS feature. I agreed to the terms and conditions to shut it up and went back to sleep.
After I woke up and ate it was time to fulfill my New Year resolution- go running. I barely started my grandma’s old mercury and headed to the nearest park. When I got to the park there was just one other car there, and no wonder, all the running trails were wet, and the cold wind was blowing especially strong today, as though near-freezing temperature alone wasn’t bad enough for me. But since I’ve decided to not make any excuses I forced myself out of the warm car. The park was dark, despite the mid-day, not a single person in sight. The wind was blowing in my face so I looked down as I slowly started to run. Two songs into the run (I would time my runs by songs) I got to a narrow alley with a wall of tall bushes on both sides. Wind didn’t freeze my face here as bad so I could finally look up. What I saw ahead of me made me freeze like a deer in the headlights.
About fifty feet ahead of me I saw a girl. Not a jogger, and not the owner of the other car on the parking lot, she looked too young to be a driver. Her skin was pale, grey hoodie and jeans were muddy. I froze, waiting for her to make the first move. After a minute or so of silence she started walking towards me. An unnatural, animal fear took me over, I started sprinting back to the car. The girl just walked. Each time I would turn around she just seemed to walk, but each time the distance between us didn’t seem to change a bit. By the time I ran up to the car I didn’t win an inch of the distance between my pursuer and me. My hands were shaking as I started to mess with the lock. By the time I opened the door the girl was at most twenty feet away. She now was walking even slower than before, almost if she knew that I will not escape. I could see her much better now. It was not just her clothes that were muddy, so was her face, the face that was no longer neutral, it was furious, she was looking at me with her eyes that now were solid white with no sight of pupils or iris, dirt was in her hair, and on her hands…her hands…her nails, they were handing of the hands attached just by some of the skin, some nails were missing, as though she was scratching them on something…like a coffin lid…no…this is impossible, I’ve read somewhere that it is impossible to get out of the buried coffin alive. I wasn’t sure if she was alive though. I jumped in the car and slammed the door shut. Couple of spins of the starter, and no sound of pistons firing. There was a reason I took a bus to college; this car would never start when I needed it the most. The girl was now near the trunk. I closed my eyes, floored the gas pedal and turned the ignition key again. The old Grand Marquis roared, I shifted in drive and took off the moment the girl reached for the door handle.
I got home at least twice as fast as I got to the park, I ran the lights, and I didn’t care for the speed limit. If anything, an officer pulling me over would comfort me, the though of sitting in a metal cage on the back of a squad car driven by an armed officer didn’t seem too bad at all at the moment. As I closed the car door something seemed odd. It was the handle, or more specifically the absence of the handle. Could it be that when the girl grabbed the handle she ripped it off.
I had no intention of staying in the condo for too long, I grabbed my laptop, some basic clothing, and couple of energy drinks. I wanted to go home, if I was to die I wanted to spend the little time I got left with my family. A car alarm went off but I paid little attention, I needed to get away from this place as fast as possible.
I opened the condo door ready to head to the car when I saw her again. She was standing next to my car, the driver side window was broken, the alarm that was going off turned out to be mine, there were imprints of the dirt on light-grey cloth driver seat. My heart started racing as I slammed the door shut from the inside and locked both locks. Alarm timed out and stopped panicking. How did she find me? How did she know I was on a trail, knows where my car is, but not where I live. I’ve decided to call my only friend in the city to come pick me up. Cellphone was nowhere to be found. Thankfully grandma, being old-fashioned lady had a landline. I didn’t know my friends number, but at least I could call my phone. After the first beep in the phone I heard the same car alarm go off. I looked through the peephole and saw the girl beating on my car and reaching inside. By her chaotic moves I could tell she was blind. That’s when it hit me, the cell phone! I took it with me on the run and left it in the car. She didn’t know where I was, she just knew the phone’s location. This scientifically made little to no sense to me but I was not going to question in when my life was on the line. I sat on the couch and started praying, as far as I can recall, for the first time in my life. In ten minutes or so the car alarm turned off.
I slowly stepped outside and made my way to the car constantly looking around. When I opened the door there was glass and dirt everywhere, I swept all I could off the seat and started the engine. I didn’t know for how long she left me alone and if my phone is the only way she can track me, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I decided to leave Dallas and go back to my family.
The traffic was heavy and the traffic light would only let about five cars through at a time. My phone was turned off and I kept staring at it, and on a rear view mirror, expecting something supernatural to scare me to death one way or another.
“Spare some change?” the old man said. I never talked to homeless people at the traffic light before, I wouldn’t roll down the window, but since this time my window was gone, the man approached me unsolicited. “Pardon me?”- I said, trying to get my thoughts together and snap back to reality. “Could you spare some change or food please?”-the man said. He looked very pleasant, the kind of a guy who could play Santa Clause if he was to wash his beard and put on a couple of pounds. His face, despite all the troubles of life he must have been through, still looked very kind and appealing. “I…I’ll do you one better”-I said looking at my phone-“Here, take it”. I handed the homeless man my phone. “I don’t have any change but you can sell for some money”-I said. As the man with the genuine smile thanked me I tried to look away. I was ashamed of putting him in danger, but all I could think of was the girl who was still on my tail, the girl who was able to crawl out of the grave and could easily break into my car. As I finally got to the highway all I could think of was the old man selling the phone to someone who deserved to die, or to someone who would throw it away, or recycle it, and those thoughts helped me deal with the guilty conscience.
Six month later I was at Texas Tech, on the other side of the state, still far away from parents, but thankfully as far from Dallas, and Richland cemetery, and my condo. I was about to go to lunch when I received a call from a Dallas area code phone number. The shivers went down my spine as the memories of the winter events emerged again. I let it go to voice mail. As soon as I got the notification about a new voice mail I immediately opened it. “My name is Officer Williams”-the voice said-“I believe we recovered your cellphone and we’d like to ask you a few questions”. The officer proceeded to ask me to show up to one of the police departments in Dallas at my earliest convenience.
Being anxious about what the police wanted with me I headed to Dallas the same day to show up to the department the following morning. I was lead into the office of one of the detectives. “My name is officer Williams”- said a sharp dressed lady in a suit-“I was the one who left you the voice mail. Now tell me, what happened to your phone?”. “I…I lost it”-I mumbled. “Where?”- Said the detective. “Around my condo, I must have been taking out trash or running late to school and didn’t notice it falling out”. Detective looked disappointed, not with me, but with my answers, she was clearly hoping for some promising clues. “We found your phone on an elderly homeless man”-said Mrs. Williams-“I don’t assume you know him, but nevertheless, could you look at the pictures and tell me if you ever seen him around”. She proceeded to hand me a folder but stopped at the very last moment. “These pictures are very graphic, you don’t have to look if you don’t want to”-she warned. “Its okay”- I replied taking the folder.
Inside were three pictures. Just by the first glance I could tell it was the same guy I handed my phone to; medium build old guy with a long white beard. First picture was him laying on the ground. Another, a face close up, his eyes were wide open, and solid white, just like the girl’s. His hair and beard were black from dirt, so much so that I could barely tell that they were grey before. The other picture was of one of his hands, all bloody and missing nails, some fingers were bent in unnatural shape, as if they were broken. “She did to him as they did to her”- I whispered. “What did you say?”-Asked the officer. “Nothing, nothing officer. I’ve never met this man.”-I replied
I drove out of Dallas in silence. I was angry at myself, at the girl, at the memory card. I didn’t even know that old man, I don’t know where he’s buried, I can’t send him flowers or say thanks, but I will be forever in debt to him for taking my fate on himself. From there on I spent a lot of time volunteering at the soup kitchens and ended up changing my major to human sciences and becoming a social worker, working with homeless, trying to repay the debt that I owe to one kind old man.
Credit To – Yevstakhiy Syvyk