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Camera 23

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I've been teaching film studies at the local college for about six months now, since I got my degree. As well as teaching classes, a part of my job is to lease out cameras to the students and keep track of which cameras are available and which are leased out. This particular story is a few weeks old, but now I feel it's safe to talk about that fateful night.

Since the theory part of the course is to be taken in May, we encourage our students to finish their practical work by mid-February. From Christmas onward, cameras were being booked in all directions. On the third week of January, every camera had been lent out for the weekend. Well, not every camera. You see, we had twenty Kodak cameras, which we numbered between 1 and 20. All of those had been taken out, but we'd bought four new cameras of the same type, which had come on the Wednesday and had not been leased out. We gave these the numbers 21, 22, 23 and 24. They were all on my desk when I locked up my office on Friday night.

Upon returning to work the following Monday, all was as it should be, except for one thing: Camera 23 had inexplicably gone missing. I knew no one else had entered my office over the weekend. Everything was as I left it except for the missing camera, and having bought the new cameras out of my own budget, I was the only person who knew about them. I was going to present them to the staff meeting that morning, but all I could do was explain the apparent theft of Camera 23. We all expected someone to come clean eventually. After all, our only suspects were film students, not international jewel thieves.

After a stern word with each of my classes about the importance of returning equipment, all twenty cameras were back in my office by the end of the day. The following weekend, all 23 cameras still in my possession, including the other three new ones, were borrowed and returned on the Monday. Camera 23 had now been gone for a week, so we agreed as a department that we were well within our rights to check CCTV footage from the weekend the camera went missing. I stated my intentions; I'd be the one checking through the footage; to all my classes that day. I gave all my students a final ultimatum and, as had been ritual for the past week, every single student denied the theft of Camera 23.

At the end of the day, I was given the relevant security camera disc by the caretaker; 4 PM Friday, before I left, until 10 AM Monday, after lessons began; with a direct view of my office's front door. When I got back to my apartment it was just starting to get dark, so I opened a can of Fanta, booted up my laptop and put the camera disc in. The camera showed a normal, quiet night on the Friday and no life on the Saturday, except for members of a youth club simply walking to where they were meeting within college. Nothing freaky happened until I skipped to midnight, between Saturday and Sunday.

Suddenly, static filled the camera's vision as if it were an old VHS camera. The static engulfed the screen for around a minute, before it faded out into a rather... peculiar image. A man was now staring directly at the camera. He was black, in his late thirties and was bald. He had a heavy set face, but I couldn't tell if he was obese or not because I couldn't see his body. It was like a mug shot, but slightly closer up. He had demonic yellow eyes and a fat, down turned nose that looked like a lemon. But the most disturbing thing about him, apart from his icy gaze, was the fact that he had no mouth. It wasn't even like it had been cut off, he literally had no mouth, as if he was born that way. It was scary enough that someone had tampered with the CCTV footage to show this disturbing mute, but what I heard next was the single worst sound I have heard in all my life.


That cacophony of breaking glass made me scream like a demented baby and covered me from head to toe in Fanta. I was more scared than I'd ever been. Slowly, I turned around to see that my window had been smashed by a blunt object which I immediately found on the floor. It was heavy Kodak camera bag, with '23' written on a custom label. Camera 23! I was as relieved as I was scared shitless at this point. I checked inside the bag for any signs of damage. Strangely, the camera was in the exact condition I'd bought it in, but with one anomaly.

The college doesn't provide SD cards to the students, nor did the camera come with one, so I shuddered when I opened the battery pack to find that the SD slot had been filled. It was a regular 10 speed SD card. Thinking it could be evidence to catch my assailant; and still scarred by the sound of breaking glass and sticky with orange-flavoured fizzy drink; I popped the SD card into the front of my laptop.

I opened the DCIM folder to find three QuickTime files. Apprehensively, I double-clicked on the first file. The video began with a shot of an apartment building. After about two minutes, the camera began slowly zooming in on one of the windows, which I realised looked into a bathroom. A young girl was taking a shower, she couldn't have been more than ten years old, having barely matured. I stopped watching out of pure disgust when I began to hear animalistic breathing from whoever was filming. My guts churned as I came to the startling realisation that Camera 23 had been stolen by a voyeuristic pedophile.

I was about to alert the authorities when, against my own better judgement, I realised I had a moral obligation to view the other two videos. Luckily, the second video was slightly more innocent. Slightly. It was the same girl from before sitting on a sofa, this time fully clothed, specifically wearing a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and a denim skirt. She was talking about her life to the camera, being asked questions by a sleazy-sounding man behind the camera. The disturbing thing was that, while the content of their conversation was perfectly innocent, the video was set out like one of those interview segments at the beginning of online porn films. I thought little of that as the video ended.

I opened the third video, and what I saw disturbed and shocked me out of my Fanta drenched seat. The girl was now tied to a table, naked, with a single burning light glowing above her. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and, most disturbingly, he feet had been cut off with some kind of sharp object, bloody pools replaced them as she continued to writhe in agony. Then a door opened from the other side of the room and an obese, dark-skinned man walked in. I felt a sharp pain in my neck for a second as I realised it was the man who had stared at me before, with the same piercing yellow eyes and lack of a mouth. Shockingly, he seemed to be wearing severed feet on his ears like antlers. I froze when I put two and two together. What kind of perverted madman was this? I noticed that he was naked also, and the next thing he did scarred me in a way no other image could. He proceeded to repeatedly and forcefully jam his erect penis into the girl's left ear.

I vomited, tore the SD card out of my computer and drove with all the speed I could muster to the local police department. A few days later I got a call from the local Chief of Police. He said that the girl, who I won't named here, had been reported missing a few weeks earlier. I was told that she was murdered later in the video, and that her family were distraught, but thanked me for helping them uncover the mystery of their daughter's disappearance. I attended her funeral on principle and met with her family. This was no happy ending for them, but I was humbled to have helped them achieve a degree of closure.

A few mysteries still remain however. The girl's body was never found and the authorities were unable to identify the house she was being interviewed in. The mystery that plagues me though is that the police still have no record of an obese, mouthless black man with shockingly yellow eyes. I'm worried that this 'man'; I'm not sure if I should call him that; is still out there.

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