Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
No matter what you see in the coming months, regardless of how convincing it might seem; Know that I didn’t want to die. I’m going to take all possible steps to prevent my predetermined demise, but if I don’t make it, I need at least someone to know what really happened to me.
* * * * * *
I’m not, nor have I ever been a remarkable person. I’ve never been terrible, but I never did great deeds either. To put it bluntly: Ever since I left high school, I’ve found my place in eternal mediocrity.
Honestly, being perfectly average didn’t bother me much while growing up. Life was decent, I didn’t struggle, and it felt like I had an overabundance of time to improve myself. But, once I entered my thirties, the time I’d wasted started to wear on my confidence, and a bout of anxiety invaded my otherwise peaceful existence.
In order to make myself feel better, I decided to look through my old home videos, figuring that maybe I could get an inkling as to where I lost my passion for living.
I dug through my parent’s basement while they were at the market, to look for the long since forgotten memories. We hadn’t filmed anything since the death of VHS tapes back in the early 2000s, but with some luck, the infinite procrastination abilities possessed by my father, meant that both the tapes and the player still waited idly by in the dust-covered boxes.
After a long search, and a couple of coughing fits from the dust clouds, I found a box marked “Home Videos.”
The box was full to the brim with old tapes and the player itself. It was far more than I ever remembered filming, but it already started to satisfy my hunger for nostalgia. I felt confident that I’d find at least some inspiration, and drive within the films. So with little hesitation, I eagerly brought them home to my one-bedroom apartment, and connected the old player, using a ton of adapters to make it fit modern televisions.
I picked up the first tape, labeled “Adam Davies, Highlights: 1985 – 2006,” and inserted it into the player.
Though some of the footage was more than three decades old at that point, the tape itself was rather new, or at least as new as VHS tapes could possibly be. It meant that someone had transferred the footage to a newer tape to preserve the film, probably my mother.
It had to be rewound, and as it did, I poured myself a glass of cheap whiskey while listening to the loud whirring sound of the tape being dragged back to its beginning, then I hit play.
A poorly focused picture came to view, partially covered by the date, reading January 5th, 1985. It was myself as a baby, barely out from the womb, and my mother was the person behind the camera.
She cooed and made funny hand gestures to get me to smile, which I diligently did as she laughed in joy at her wrinkly, little creation.
I sat through half an hour of footage, watching myself grow up, and though I had no recollection of these events, it felt nice to see that I once lived a carefree life of joy and exploration.
Everything felt amazing, and before I knew it, Christmas of 1989 had rolled around, one of my very first happy memories.
Four years old and wearing an oversized Santa hat, I sat on our carpeted floor and fiddled with a colorfully wrapped Christmas gift. Cheerful music played in the background, and a dog ran around, excited about the torn wrapping paper littering the floor.
The dog eventually ran over to my young self and started to playfully pull on my present while I attempted to push it away, all the while laughing my heart out.
It was a wonderful scene to behold, and though I had a vague memory of that day, my first Christmas to remember, I had absolutely no recollection of ever owning a dog.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. In fact, I always wanted one, but due to horrible allergies that developed during my childhood, my parents always kept me away from the furry and lovable creatures.
My first thought was that the dog belonged to some other family member, but as the years went by, the dog proved a fateful companion and made several appearances on the tape. Though the footage was clearly real, and I was the center of it, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the dog.
He, Doug, followed me around until the age of twelve, where it suddenly stopped showing up on the tape. Presumably passed away from old age, but he wasn’t discussed any further in any of the other clips.
I kept watching through my primary school years, then high-school, and finally college. Everything was exactly how I remembered it, every minute detail matching my memory of life, everything except for the dog.
As the tape neared its end, the date read October 7th, 2006. I was filming myself out with some colleagues from my part-time job. We were just having a few drinks after work, and though it wasn’t a particularly exciting evening, I remember feeling so happy, absolutely certain of my place in the world. Everyone was laughing and we seemed to have a genuinely great time.
The evening went on, and my memory turned hazy while the footage turned more sloppy. As it often goes with an overabundance of alcohol, there were holes in my memory from that night.
The screen cut to black for a few seconds, and once the picture returned, someone was filming me from the other side of the bar.
Whoever held the camera, they weren’t one of my friends, nor did I seem to pay them any attention.
On the footage, I still sat with a couple of my colleagues at the table, just finishing up my final beer, before getting up to pay the tab. As we left the bar, the cameraman followed us, keeping his distance. We still didn’t acknowledge his presence.
Unbeknownst to us, a stranger had gotten a hold of my camera, and my drunken state I never realized. He kept following us down the street as my friends dropped me off into a taxi.
The clip ended, and the screen cut to black for a full minute. I wondered if the tape had reached its end, but the timer kept counting up. Once the picture returned, I was met by a dark scene.
The camera was pointed towards a dimly-lit road, and slowly panned along the street. Small pieces of debris and chunks of cloth littered the road, all accompanied by a vague crackling sound in the distance.
Before long, the picture showed a mangled car, wrecked and partially on fire. The cameraman moved closer to the wreck. I gasped in shock as I saw the severity of the crash: The driver’s head had been smashed beyond recognition by the steering wheel. He’d suffered a quick, unexpected death, but the passenger, I, was still alive.
It zoomed in on my mangled body, as I desperately tried to get free from my seat, but I was stuck under twisted metal, and my broken legs had been caught within it.
The fire spread slowly at first, and the cameraman stood by idly watching as it reached my body. Still, I didn’t notice anyone filming me. The fire started to spread quicker, and I screamed in agony as it climbed up my body towards my face, my clothes fusing to my skin and my face charring from the heat.
After the fire had burned away most of my skin killing each of the nerve endings, I stopped screaming, though I never stopped moving, not until my muscles had stopped functioning did I finally go quiet.
I’m not sure how long the scene lasted, nor do I care to go back and check. I sat frozen in fear as I listened to each second of my pleading screams until the moment I fell silent and finally died.
My life had ended, on camera, the 7th of October, 2006…
* * * * * *
That was just the end of the first tape. I sat speechless trying to figure out if I had fallen victim to some sick prank, or if the footage showed an alternate version of myself that never made it out of college. I dug out another tape and read the title.
“Adam Davies, Highlights: 1985 – 2002.”
With extreme trepidation, I removed the first tape, and inserted the second into the player. Be it morbid curiosity, or a desperate need to find answers, I decided to watch another.
The footage was almost identical to the first tape, but no dog ever showed up in the film. Instead, the only notable change to my life was the fact that my grandfather died in 1999, instead of 1993, and that the color of my first car changed from black to red.
I kept forwarding to the very end of the tape, only watching bits of clips along the way. Once at the end, the day was dated November 15th, 2002.
It was a party, and though too young to legally drink, it hadn’t stopped me from enjoying the occasional house party. I remember leaving the place around midnight, after being rejected by my crush, and walked the two-mile journey home, alone in the dark.
As I walked, someone followed me in the distance, filming me without my knowledge, just as with the first tape. I crossed the street and took a shortcut through an alleyway, and was immediately cut off by a hooded figure.
The scene was filmed from too far away to hear what was happening, but the hooded person pulled a gun, and I lifted my hands up in response and immediately froze. Whether it was supposed to be a robbery, or a hostage situation, I didn’t know. I just kept holding my hands up high while the robber erratically waved the gun around. Before I could defuse the situation, the gun went off and hit me point-blank in the throat.
I fell to the ground, clutching my throat. While I lay there, desperately trying to slow down the bleeding, the cameraman approached me with slow, patient steps. This time I noticed the stranger approaching, and I stared into the camera as I gasped for air, unable to call out for help.
It took me less than a minute to bleed to death. The camera continuously getting closer to my panicked face until the moment I took my last, gargled breath, then it cut to black.
In 2002, I died alone on the street, never knowing why…
* * * * * *
The same scene kept repeating itself for each of the recordings. Every time, small details were changed, memories that didn’t make sense, things that didn’t happen, but they always ended with my untimely death.
On September 29th, 2004, I drowned as my car plunged into the river. The windows didn’t open, and I couldn’t break through the windshield.
On January 13th, 2005, I fell off a cliff and broke my legs while hiking alone in a neighboring city. The fall caused an open fracture which severed one of my arteries, and it took me a full hour to bleed out as I desperately tried to crawl for help.
Four deaths, each filmed by a stranger, never offering a helping hand, never speaking a single word.
* * * * * *
I returned to my parents’ place with the box of tapes and demanded to know what the hell was going on. They took one glance at them and denied knowing about their existence. Despite my father’s extreme laziness, he’d long since gotten around to digitizing the footage, putting it on a hard drive and storing it in a fireproof safe.
They showed me the home videos they’d made, and everything appeared just as I remembered it, with no horrific death at the end.
The tapes had to have been put in the basement recently, as a flood had destroyed most of the stuff stored there only a year before while I was abroad. Whoever had put the videos there, it wasn’t my father.
Following the conversation with my parents, my first instinct was to throw the tapes in a fiery pit and forget they ever existed, but saner thoughts prevailed. I had to talk to the police, to figure out who had made them and more importantly, how.
I loaded them into my car, checking over each of the titles once more when I noticed one marked
“…Highlights 1985 – 2020.”
I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared at the tape in my hand. It was bizarre enough to hold a cassette dated in the future, but the fact that I already knew its ending horrified me even further.
After what felt like an eternity of contemplation, I decided to see what the tape had to offer, a glimpse into my near future, for better or for worse. If it revealed any details, maybe I would get the chance to escape whatever fate had in store for me.
I stared intently at each memory depicted on the television screen, desperate to look for any deviations from my memory. If I was lucky, it was another reality altogether, but no matter how hard I tried to look for any discrepancies, it perfectly matched my life as I knew it.
Once the tape got to December 2019, I took a deep breath and paused the video for a moment. Maybe I should have let the police deal with it. If fate is predetermined, then how could I even prevent it, but I had to know what would happen to me, the urge was irresistible.
I hit play once more…
The date read December 17th, 2019, and the picture revealed a cold, gray hospital room. I was there, holding my unconscious mother’s hand as she took her last breath and fell eerily silent, as if her presence had left the world. The doctor in the room assured me she didn’t feel any pain, that she was at peace, but the actual cause of her death never came up.
Whoever filmed it didn’t seem to take part in the interaction, just like with the other clips, the stranger simply observed us, unnoticed by anyone actually in the room.
The clip ended rather abruptly, cutting to black remaining empty for a full minute. Once it faded back in, the date read January 24th, 2020.
I saw myself sitting in what looked like a dirty motel room, one I couldn’t recognize. I kept my hands folded over my lap as I sat on the edge of the bed. I was clearly distressed, and paid little notice to the cameraman in the room.
It went on like that for a couple of minutes, me muttering some incomprehensible, panicked sentences, and the camera remaining focused on my hands. Suddenly, I lifted my head towards the cameraman with pleading eyes.
“Please, I don’t want to do this, don’t make me do this, I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” I said with a trembling voice.
The cameraman remained silent, but the look on my face said enough. I was horrified, and it was clear that whoever filmed me, was also coercing me to do something against my will.
I lifted my hands up from my lap to reveal a knife. Just the run of the mill pocket knife, but threatening nonetheless. My hands shook as I once more begged for mercy.
“I don’t wanna, please, don’t make me do this.”
Then I directed my attention to the knife, and without hesitating any further, I plunged it into my wrist, dragging it up along my arm towards my elbow as I winced in agony.
I sat motionless on the bed as viscous blood poured from the cut. The camera keeping its focus on me as the life slowly drained from my body.
Minutes passed, and I dropped dead on the floor, letting out a final breath before succumbing to blood loss.
The tape ended with the familiar jagged lines and gray screen, with a high pitched, monotonous beep the only thing left to keep me company.
* * * * * *
Following the last tape, I headed straight to the police station and handed over the tapes. They were hesitant at first, but quickly came around as they saw the footage.
Of course, their explanation was more within the realm of logical possibilities, that someone had altered the footage, and created a doctored video. Though they took it seriously, as a threat to my life, and swore they’d keep me safe while they looked into it.
Unfortunately, without a perpetrator, it would be hard to do anything. I was left with little choice, but to hide in my home with all the doors locked, and every window covered up.
After getting home, I sat myself down by the phone and waited for the police to call me with any updates, though I knew if anything came up, it would take days, if not weeks.
It’s possible, that it’s another reality, and that I’ll be fine. Maybe it’s just a sick prank and not someone that can literally see into the future.
Those are all just hopeless thoughts, because about an hour ago, I received a phone call from my dad. He told me that my mom collapsed in the bathroom, and that they’re taking her to the hospital.
He keeps reassuring me that she’ll be fine, but I know better. In a few weeks, my mom will be dead, and then shortly after, I’ll follow…
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