Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
Before I start, I just wanted to explain that what you’re about to read will make you question the writer’s identity, my identity. Believe me when I say that I am too. You’ll question whether I’m telling a lie, or maybe you won’t even believe me, because this story is just so bizarre.
I was 17 at the time this all happened. My Social Studies class was doing an assignment that compared traits we all had as children based on now, and to do this we had to use home videos from our childhood. My friend David’s mother had drawers in their house stacked full with home videos of him, being he was an only child. My mother didn’t have any home videos of me that I knew of. I had 3 siblings, all of which were in the frame of 3 years apart from me. I get the camera quality was probably better by the time they were born, but still.
I didn’t know if it was just my mother’s way of shunning me since I’d chosen to move in with my grandma on my dad’s side 2 months ago. She had alzheimer’s, so my dad and I looked after her since my grandpa had long since died. However, I learned that my mother had a reason for having no home videos of me after I asked my grandma if she had any. She said she did, but couldn’t remember where she kept them, and that I would have to search for them.
I spent about an hour ransacking the house looking for the home videos, until I found them in a box hidden deep in the guest room closet. They were covered in dust, and I wondered if we even had a VHS player in the house. I ended up calling David after finding that we didn’t have one, since I knew that he had one in the living room in his house. I drove over with a box full of home videos and started watching them as David went to get us some soda.
The tapes were pretty poor quality. I guessed that my grandma had an old fashioned film recorder when she was recording. The tapes started out normal enough, the first one contained a cliche bath scene when I was about a year old. There was another kid in the bath tub with me, who looked to be the same age I was. I figured it was a cousin or something, seeing as it couldn’t be one of my siblings. However, the kid’s face was oddly similar to mine. The film was rather blurry and Grandma seemed to be moving around a bit, so I couldn’t exactly confirm how similar the kid’s face was to mine. It didn’t really seem out of the ordinary, since my mom and her sister were twins. I hadn’t seen my cousin in a while, but I just figured he looked similar to me when we were little. But I must have been mistaking him for being older than he actually was at that time, since he was 2 years younger than me.
We started the next video after deciding that the bath video would not be shown in class. The next video was footage from Christmas morning. The tapes had no labels on them, so I was just popping them in randomly. This video was long, the camera never moved from me as I opened all my gifts and giggled with glee at my unwrapped presents. My cousin from the last video was there again, sitting beside me as he opened his gifts as well. We were older, about a year and a half. I heard one of the adults in the video say my name, to which my cousin looked up. Or maybe it was me that looked up. I must have mixed my cousin and I up, considering I never really giggled much as a child and was rather quiet. I shrugged it off, beginning to play the next tape.
This video was recorded at the beach. This time, I could see my brother as a baby in my mother’s arms, the youngest not yet born. My cousin was there again. I thought it was kind of weird that he was there in every single family event, but I slightly remember my mom and her sister being extremely close around this time, so I supposed it wasn’t really that odd.
As David and I were watching the video in silence, I remembered my Mom and my Auntie were always together during this time, usually speaking to each other in hushed voices in Mom’s room. I remember being told to leave Mommy alone when I would listen at the door. I could never figure out why they were crying though.
This time, there was another kid with us. He was splashing me with salt water, causing me to run to my Mom crying. The camera followed me as I ran up the beach, but suddenly jerked towards the other kid’s direction. I heard screams. They were unlike anything I’d ever heard before, I’d describe them as bloodcurdling. I saw my Auntie run towards the kid, who had fallen over in the waves and was unseen by the camera. She was screaming a name I’d never heard in our family before; Skylar.
I saw my Mom follow her, they were both calling into the waves, screaming “Skylar!” Over and over again. At this point, I couldn’t see the kid anywhere and the camera had been dropped on the ground, so the view was at a sideways angle. Suddenly someone, who I assumed was my Grandma, shut the camera off and the video went to static.
Now before you ask, I don’t know what happened to Skylar. I assumed he was swallowed by the waves and pushed back far into the ocean, but I don’t have the heart to ask anybody. All I know is that he isn’t alive.
“What the hell.” David said, looking at me in a way like he expected an explanation, but I had none.
“I don’t know, man.” I said, my voice sounded hoarse, my throat was suddenly unreasonably dry. I was so shocked, all I could think to do was put in the next tape, thinking that maybe the next one would explain what happened to Skylar, assuming these were in order.
David didn’t protest as I picked out the next tape, just stared at the screen. This tape felt charred, as if somebody had tried to burn it. It had pieces breaking off of it. I didn’t know if it would still work. I put the tape in, and sure enough it played almost like normal, aside from a few lags in the video.
The video was me, my brother, my cousin and another kid I didn’t know playing in the backyard. I was a little shaken from the last video, so I couldn’t pay too much attention at that point. However, when I looked at the face of the kid I didn’t know, I saw that it looked exactly like my cousin, down to the dimple that only appeared on one side of his face when he smiled. But then, who was the kid in all the other videos? I considered that maybe the kid was a ghost that only I could see, but I ruled it out because my family members had addressed him in the videos before. So then, who was he?
The video went on pretty normally with all us kids innocently playing in the backyard, until it happened. A dog I didn’t see until it surged towards me entered the video. Again, I heard screaming, much like the last video, except the name they screamed was different obviously.
The camera must have been left on a surface or something, because I saw my Grandma helping to try to pull the dog away as it attacked me. The other kids were cowering behind a bucket stood up at the corner of the yard. I watched on in absolute shock as the dog ran from my parents and my Grandma, dragging me with it and savagely shaking me about. My dad brought out an ice pick and threw it at the dog, and it finally let go of me with a yelp and ran.
I could see myself for a few seconds before the adults crowded me. My face was a bloody pulp, teeth marks were inflicted into my throat and I wasn’t moving. I watched them carry me off, blood trailing behind me as they left the thick puddle in the middle of the yard.
Something weirder happened then. Just before my Grandma shut off the camera, I heard my Auntie address the kid that I didn’t know as the name that my Grandma most often mistook me for these days. Justin.
My Grandma again shut off the camera, the video turning to static.
I felt sick to my stomach, but more than anything, I was beyond confused. I hadn’t died, I was still alive, but how had I died? And it had been me, I know it was me because I remember the shirt I was wearing. It was my favourite shirt when I was little, not to mention that everyone had been screaming my name.
I looked over at David, expecting him to say something, but he said nothing. A few seconds later I watched him rush to the bathroom and heard this gurgling purging noises.
That night, I considered what had happened. I was still confused as all hell, and beyond frightened. Was this the type of tape that showed you your death if you hadn’t avoided it somehow? Was I being picked off Final Destination style?
This happened a few weeks ago. I still don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t died yet though. I know what you’re all thinking, that it was my twin brother. But here’s the thing, I don’t have a twin brother, never did. I asked my Mom about it and she had no idea what I was talking about. I have no explanation for what happened.
Something weird happened yesterday though. I was at home with Grandma and she kept calling me Justin like she usually does. I always just shrugged it off because of her Alzheimer’s, but now there’s just something unsettling about it.
“Your mother ripped me a new one today, Justin. Said I should have got rid of those videos.” She said rather suddenly. She was staring at me in a way that made my back prickle uneasily.
“Why?” I asked softly, hearing the unease in my voice.
“Said you’d find out the truth, said you’d be mad. She wanted you to be him, she said.” She sounded confused, so I figured she probably didn’t remember the events that happened in the videos at all.
“My name isn’t Justin.” I heard myself saying, but it felt like it wasn’t even me speaking. “My name is Dan, Grandma.”
She smiled at me then, patting me on the hand.
“No honey, you’re Justin. Your brother’s name is Dan.”