Before I talk about what happened, I should say that I’m not an angel. I’ve had speeding tickets before, even a DUI, but I’ve never purposefully hurt someone. Maybe a break up or something, but never actually physically hurt someone. I back down from fights. I avoid conflict when possible. It’s just not in my nature. So when Anna5788 first contacted me I was confused to say the least. She replied to a random YouTube comment that I made with this:
Anna5788: I know what you did.
I had never seen that username before and didn’t know anyone named Anna. It was weird, but I shrugged it off as a random troll. She had probably seen me posting on some of the same creepypasta videos that she did and thought she could punk me. No big deal.
That night I went out to dinner at a nice Italian place with my then girlfriend, Rachel. We had a rule about phones during dates. If one message alert came, we would ignore it. If more than one came in rapid succession, we’d check to see who it was. If it was a family member, it was okay to check to see if it was an emergency. It seemed like a reasonable system to us, and being reasonable was the foundation of our relationship. We never had problems with jealousy or trust. At least, not until this stuff started happening.
Right after the first round of bread, just as the salad came to the table, the first alert came. I had different vibrations for alerts and text messages, so I didn’t think it was important. However, the alerts kept coming at a steady pace until Rachel looked at me as if she expected me to check my phone.
“They’re not text messages,” I said.
“Still, it’s getting annoying,” she said. “You want to set your phone to silent?”
“Maybe it’s a thread. I can probably stop the notifications.”
She nodded, and I looked at the notifications. All of them were from YouTube. All of them were different replies from Anna5788. I thought they were on the same video, but it turned out that she had gone back into my comments and left the replies on older videos. I didn’t even know you could search a user’s comments like that.
When I strung them all together, they made a single statement: You can ignore me all you want, but I’m not going to go away, and that is a fact. You hurt me, and you have to pay.
Of course, I didn’t figure out all of that right then. At the time I just saw a few replies like “go away,” and “ignore me.”
I must have looked halfway between confused and bewildered, because Rachel put her hand on mine and asked if I was okay.
I said yes, that it was just some weird messages. I planned to block the user when I got home. Until then, I put my phone on silent. I wish I’d followed through, but a night of movies, drinking, and dancing made me forget all about the notifications.
The next morning I woke up to an e-mail in my gmail folder. It was from email@example.com, and there was a zipped file attached.
On Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 12:17 AM, Anna5788 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
You must not believe me. I guess I wouldn’t believe it, either. Watch the video. It’s the proof you need. You hurt me, and you have to pay.
Seeing the e-mail jogged my memory about the messages from the previous night. I didn’t think much of the fact that she sent me an e-mail, considering it was my username @gmail, but it also didn’t seem like one of those scam e-mails or a virus. This user knew my real name. It wasn’t enough to get me to open up an unexpected attachment (I’m not a complete moron after all), but I didn’t delete the e-mail either.
Instead, I went through and put together the message from the comments of the last night. It gave me a slight chill that an internet troll had given me so much attention, but I still shrugged it off. It was an elaborate practical joke. It had to be. I was determined not to give the situation any additional thought. If I let it freak me out entirely, then the troll had won.
Things got weird shortly after. It was about two weeks later when I was sitting at dinner again with Rachel. My phone started buzzing. The vibrations came at such a steady rate that I thought my phone was going off, but I glanced over at it to see that they were text message alerts. Eleven of them.
I picked up the phone, looked up at Rachel for a moment to get approval, which she gave, and then read the messages. Each one was a single word from a local phone number ending in 5788. The messages spelled out: Have you forgotten? You hurt me, and you have to pay.
My hair stood on end. I didn’t link my phone number to any of my accounts, especially not my gmail. I valued the split between my online and offline identities. I didn’t even have a Facebook account. There was no way that someone like that could have found my e-mail.
Rachel didn’t say anything, but she looked worried. My hands shook as I shut my phone off. “It’s nothing,” I said unconvincingly. “Let’s just finish our meal.”
When I got home that night, I knew I couldn’t ignore her any longer. I wouldn’t be able to go to the cops with what little information I had, so I decided to look at what she had sent. She wasn’t some hacker trying to get my account information or something, so it seemed like everything would be fine if I just watched the video. I would just see what she had to say, prove that she had the wrong person, and move on with my life. I was so wrong.
I pulled up the video and watched it. It started fuzzy, the screen almost filled with static. I was about to close the video when a face started to come into view. It was an older man, probably forty-five or fifty, and he had a look of regret in his eyes.
“You probably have a lot of questions at this point,” he said. “Especially if you can recognize who I am. Take a second. It’ll come to you.”
He stopped talking and got close to the camera. My heart skipped a beat. He had crow’s feet, wrinkles on his forehead, and a sharp widow’s peak, but there was no doubt about it. I was looking at myself.
“The next couple of years are going to be hard on you. Rachel is going to meet someone else, and you are going to live alone in dead end relationships for about a decade. Your career will take off, but it’ll feel hollow. You’ll run out of family to visit as they die off, and you will be lonely. When you’re a senior vice president at your agency, you will get an administrative assistant named Anna. You will be attracted to her, but she will only go on a single date with you out of pity. You will then strangle her in your office.”
It was a lot to take in. Was loneliness really able to make me into such a monster? The figure in the video raised his hands into frame, and they were covered with blood. “I am going to kill myself now, but I’ve been given a chance to save you from this fate. The only way to avoid this future is for you to die earlier, before you meet Anna. Please, listen to my words, and be at peace with your decision.”
I paused the video and sat back in my chair, tension carrying throughout my body. I didn’t know what to do, but I realized that if he was telling the truth, I was going to stop pain by following his advice. I watched the video to the end to see if he was telling the truth about dying, and he was. The video ended with him cutting his throat with a letter opener.
I sat there in awe. I had always been a non-confrontational person. How could my life come down to this? My hands shook as I looked around the room. I had a buck knife, a holdover from hunting with my father as a kid. It seemed like as good an implement as any. If it would stop someone else from feeling pain, it was the right thing to do, right?
I took the knife and cut myself in the same fashion as the future-me had in the video. As I started to feel cold, I looked at myself on the monitor. My life was draining, but I could have sworn I saw a smile form across my older, dead face. The last thing I remember was my phone buzzing, a call from Anna.
Written by Casualobsession