Working as a director has been my lifelong dream. As a child watching movies was my favorite pastime, I would try to imitate my favorite directors by filming movies of my own. For my thirteenth birthday, I asked for a video camera. I remember feeling like an actual director as I carried my camera around and filmed whatever I could find. Filming wasn’t just an activity for me, it was my passion.
In film school, I was learning the practices of successful directors. I was to watch as many films as I could. I survived on a steady diet of Coppola, Hitchcock, and Lynch. I’d seen all of the classics. I watched and rewatched them. I studied and took notes. There wasn’t anything left to watch. I resorted to short films, independent projects. I would browse the internet for hours, searching for my next one. Sometimes, the task became grueling. Each storyline was different, but all of them felt like the same movie. I wanted something fresh, something new.
It was in this moment of desperation that I stumbled upon a video on YouTube, except it wasn’t like the other ones. It struck my attention because the video didn’t have any views, perhaps because it was titled only with the number one, and the thumbnail was just an image of a young woman sitting down on a couch. After hours of idle searching, my interest was sparked.
As the thumbnail suggested, the video showed a woman sitting on a couch. Her body was facing forward, but her face was turned towards what appeared to be a television. She was in a living room. Occasionally, she would pick up the remote from her side and change the channel. The video was shot in such a way that it appeared the camera was fixed on her, even as she moved. It was an unconventional method of filming, and I hadn’t seen it used often, so I was already gripped.
I glanced at the time indicator. The length of the video was five minutes, yet three minutes into the video, nothing of importance had seemingly happened. I skipped to the near end and the woman remained sitting on the couch.
Puzzled, yet intrigued, I continued to the next video titled “2.” In this video, a woman cut up vegetables on a counter, in what appeared to be a kitchen. After she was finished, she transferred the vegetables from the cutting board into a bowl, and then began adding various seasonings. It continued on for five minutes, just as the last video, as she ambled around the kitchen.
I proceeded to the next video titled “3” in which she appeared vacuuming the carpets of the living room. I didn’t plan to watch each five minute video, so I looked to the user’s channel to see how many videos had been posted. My jaw dropped when I reached the end of the page listing the videos uploaded. Fifty videos had been filmed. Each apparently consisting of five minutes of everyday household chores.
Despite feeling overwhelmed, I continued watching. I couldn’t just leave this discovery behind. My curiosity was aroused. Each video was practically the same, consisting of the same woman carrying out everyday tasks. I made my way through each one. I didn’t watch them fully, and skipped to the next one before I became bored.
It wasn’t until I was towards the end of the series that I noticed the videos started to take a different, somewhat darker direction. In this particular video, the woman was lying in bed. It was dark, but I could see that her eyes were closed, and she didn’t appear to know she was being filmed. The camera was positioned above her, filming her as she tossed and turned restlessly. A feeling of unease came over me as I watched. I was unsettled, yet also filled with a morbid curiosity. The videos appeared to become more and more intrusive.
I watched her leaning against the wall in what appeared to be the living room. There was something different about her in this video. Her body appeared gaunt as if she hadn’t been eating, and her face was a sickly shade of pale as if she were ill. Her eyes were wide with worry, and her forehead was wrinkled in frustration. She frequently looked around the room, darting her eyes from left to right as if she were afraid someone was going to sneak up on her. Holding a phone to her ear, she spoke in a muffled voice. She spoke in a fast and rushed tone, occasionally stopping to catch her breath. I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying, but I could make out the words “watching me,” and “what if something happens to the baby,” and “please help me.” Towards the end of the call, her eyes filled up with tears and she began to cry, only stopping to gasp for breath in between sobs.
In the next video, I watched as she frantically rummaged through her room. She looked under the bed, opened each drawer, and even removed the picture frames from the walls. When her search proved fruitless, she walked over to the bookshelf. Standing in front of the bookshelf, her body was facing the camera and she was seemingly closer to it then she had been in all of the previous videos. She began removing books and tossing each one to the floor.
It was then that I was able to see her face clearly. I suddenly recalled the missing person poster I had seen a few weeks ago while I was out. I could only remember a few vague details, like that she was in her early twenties and she had a baby, but I distinctly remember her face. My heart skipped a beat upon the realization that it was the same woman. The feeling of nausea filled my stomach. I gulped in fear as I watched the woman in the video suddenly freeze. For the first time, she looked into the camera. Her face became contorted in an expression of horror. She gasped and her hands flew to her mouth.
The video came to a stop. I sat motionless in my computer chair. Any sense of curiosity I had was vanished. I didn't want to continue watching, but I knew I had to find out what happened. With a shaking hand, I reluctantly clicked the next video. It was the last one. A sense of dread filled me as I watched the screen intently, my eyes wide and bloodshot. Nothing appeared on the screen. It was entirely black. I could hear a faint and muffled sound in the background, a woman screaming in pain and a baby crying in a shrill and high tone, as if it had been crying for a long time. It continued on for three minutes until the woman’s agonized screaming turned into groaning and then completely dissipated after several minutes. The video came to an end.
I immediately stood up from my seat and bolted across the house to find the phone. I called the police. I don’t know how I managed to get the words out. My voice shook and my entire body trembled with fear as I waited. When the police finally arrived, I led them to my computer. It had automatically turned off from inactivity so I restarted it and opened up the browser. I tried to find the video again but the search was fruitless. I quickly grew panicked.
My eyes widened in disbelief when I saw that the computer history had been completely cleared. I searched, using every possible method I knew, but it was as if the video had never existed. The police officers scoffed at me. I begged them to listen to me and to consider what I had to say, but they didn’t believe me.
The police won’t believe me. My family won’t believe me. No one believes me. I feel like I’m losing my mind. With each passing second, this feeling of dread inside of me grows stronger. I haven’t been able to sleep for days. I lie awake every night, afraid that whoever or whatever killed that woman is going to come for me. It could be watching me right now.