My name is David, and I live in Skibbereen in County Cork in Ireland, which I suppose is relevant to, this, due to the hilly terrain in this general area. The neighboring county, County Kerry, has some of the biggest mountains in Ireland, and Cork has a few interesting ones as well. My parents had actually met for the first time in a mountaineering club in college, and this led to a sort of tradition of mountaineering in my family, at one point myself and my Dad would climb a local hill almost every Sunday!
As a result, I often went hill walking with them and later in my teenage years, with a small group of friends, one of these being a guy named Adam, who I’d known since we had started school, and, well to put it simply, he went missing. It was about a year ago actually, he had been behaving a little bit odd at school and one day just didn’t turn up. Eventually, a teacher or parent of someone told us that he had gone missing, and to this day no one knows what happened to him, but I think I may have found out.
You know how I said that I and my Dad would climb a hill every Sunday? Well, we stopped a few months ago, because of in-grown toenails I had. I have a minorly deformed foot, which had been a problem for me in the past, and for whatever reason this made in-grown toenails very nasty and very painful, two surgeries for it were aborted because the local anesthetic wasn’t working as a result of infection, antibiotics didn’t work, so I went up to Cork City to have it done under general anesthetic. Since both my large toes were ingrown, for a couple of days I was practically immobile, both my doctor's orders not to walk and by the fact that my toes were almost constantly painful. I spent these immobile days on my computer.
Said computer is one I’ve had for five or six years now. I got it when I was 11 or so, I won’t talk about it but at the time my family was going through some difficult times, personal stuff really. Anyway, over the years I upgraded parts and removed others to the point that now the only thing that remains of the original rig are the hard-drives (yes, even the motherboard isn’t original!) I was never very efficient at keeping hard-drive space so I generally just got larger or more hard-drives, I have four now, that’s six terabytes in total, and I’ve used 90% of it. I had never really done any mass cleaning of them, so they are littered with miscellaneous files dating back years.
For these aforementioned immobile days I was feeling depressed, sort of agitated and claustrophobic, kind of like cabin fever but worse because I knew at any moment I could go outside, and family members were going outside all the time. After the initial excitement of being able to stay in playing Counter-Strike all day I felt constantly surrounded and I didn’t want to be in the same room as anyone for too long. I didn’t feel lonely or anything like that, it must have seemed that way to other people, but if anything I was feeling just the opposite.
Probably just a side effect of the anesthetic.
These feelings however quickly disappeared when my father dug out an old box of mine, containing various items from my pre-teen years. It included, among other things, a lot of paper (I used to draw on A-4 sheets, maps of imaginary places and guns and the like, I was a weird child!) an incomplete "fold a day" paper aeroplane calendar which had fallen off my table and could not be rearranged, a few "Adventures of Tintin" graphic novels, and an A-4 pad titled “Atlas of the World” in which I had begun to chart an imaginary planet with cities of <100,000,000,000,000,000 people.
It gave me a huge amount of nostalgia.
For whatever reason, it relieved me of my stress!
I then decided to look through my computer’s file system in search of more delicious nostalgia, and more delicious nostalgia I found!
I found folder after folder of project after project, with a large spectrum in terms of organisation. There was one folder in particular, “Videos etc.” in which I made stupid little YouTube videos, I found hundreds of compressed raw video files on a variety of different games. I was amazed by how my voice sounded, I cringed at my lack of self-awareness, and laughed at the fascinating humour one has at that age.
I had at some point in 2012 decided that I would be a programmer, a look through some files reminded me of the world of HTML and game-makers. I found half-complete websites that had only worked for my old sub-HD monitor, accompanied by lots of unused images from Google images lying around in files, unused for eternity. I then looked through a few game-maker folders, in particular my uncompleted "games" (uncompleted being all of them!) each with optimistically decided titles such as “Game-1_Alpha_0.01.gam”. I had got as far as “Game-7_Alpha_0.22.gam” and on one occasion a “Game-4_Alpha_0.32.gam”! (This was a result of me making a new alpha for literally every change I made, this included bug-fixing).
Now, I had remembered a lot about most of the files, well not a lot, I’d say about half of them. Another 40% of the files were ones I had vague memories of, but only remembered anything about them once the files came up to remind me. The last 10% (not including "hjklrk") was a mystery to me, I might as well have been looking through someone else’s files as I had genuinely no memory of making them. They were mostly just loose folders holding long forgotten programs, images, videos and school projects, but there was one folder in particular which was especially noteworthy.
I said I have four hard-drives, two (C: & B:) were each 1 TB, and the other two (G: & H:, (I have synaesthesia, and these two letters I associated with dark brown and strong-heavy-duty-stuff:)) were both 2 TB each. On G:, there was a folder which was only accessible through the start menu. My desktop short-cut didn’t have it apparently so I never noticed it up until recently.
It was called “hjklrk”. It was ~235GB and I have no memory of its existence apart from me seeing it that day.
Naturally, I was curious, but I instead clicked on the alphabetically superior “Hard-drive 3” folder and spent a good three hours looking through it. Now, I’m not one to name folders such odd names as "hjklrk", I would not make a folder called “VREBNJIH”, put it on the desktop and put everything in it, I would instead make a folder called “annoying stuff” and put all miscellaneous desktop files into that. In fact, G: was my dedicated “annoying stuff” hard-drive, and as a result, it had some of the more interesting content on my computer.
After an interrupting dinner, I returned to see what exactly what this "hjklrk" was. I double-clicked it, and inside was one folder called "hjklrk_1".
If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s an identical folder within a folder. .rar files are forever doing this, you "unzip" them and you then need to click on a file within a file to get the actual content. I would not have done this.
In "hjklrk_1" there were two folders, I’ll actually start describing the folders in a different structure to make it simpler. Sorry, I don’t have any screenshots, it never occurred to me at the time! (‘/ /’ means it’s a folder)
"/789yy_readme.mm/" unsurprisingly contained a readme.txt. It was absolutely blank. Nothing in it. I tried to scroll up and down to see if I missed anything, but it was just blank. I went back and decided to investigate the third "/hjklrk/" folder so far.
/G:/hjlkrk/hjklrk_1/hjklrk/AA_saves/ /rmm1/ /rmm2/ /rmm3/ … /rmm67/
This kind of complex file system is nothing out of the ordinary for me, my "Videos etc." folder is similar, putting everything into a category takes its time but it’s worth it. I had no memory of this file system though.
Anyway, I started opening the folders.
"/AA_saves/" was empty.
I opened "/rmm1/" expecting to find an answer about why I would make such a thing.
/G:/hjklrk.hjklrk_1/hjklrk/rmm1/data 1/ /1/
Data 1 contained a .txt file: data1.txt. It had binary code (11000100100 etc.) inside. Immediately I opened up Google Chrome for an online translator, and it was just random numbers, nothing worthwhile.
It dawned on me that I had obviously not made this, it was probably some game folder I accidentally installed on the wrong hard-drive and didn’t uninstall properly once I realized, hence the empty "/AA_saves/" folder.
But it was an unconventional way to order, well anything, and what kind of name was "hjklrk"? I remembered again that the file was 235GB, I went back to check this, and in doing so I realized that this was made in 2012. GTA V was controversially over 60GB so realistically this wasn’t a game. Perhaps it was multiple video games?
Maybe this was some sort of self-replicating space hogging virus caught in the act all those years ago? I would have remembered something like that though, and I wasn’t very reckless in terms of downloading things at the time...
I opened "/1/".
I saw videos, I’d say 14 – 16 of them. They were all porn.
Yes, all of them, porn.
As much as people like to jokingly deny it when I tell them, but I never, ever download porn. Look at? I won’t say, but I never download anything. I checked the files, yes, they were dated in 2012.
To think that this was on my computer for four years!
I went out of that, and scrolled down to "/rmm34/", and clicked it. Inside was "/data34/" and "/34/". I checked "/34/", and yes, it was once again filled with porn. (Out of curiosity I also checked data34.txt, and it had the same numbers as earlier).
It was, well, somewhat unconventional porn, I’ll put it that way (This was the case in the first folder as well). I scrolled down to "/rmm67/" and the same sort of thing was there too.
Disgusted, well, not disgusted more surprised really, I went away from it and instead decided to go on YouTube for a while. I should have deleted the folder right there...
It was the next day when I looked at the folder again, YouTube had bored me quickly and I decided to call it an early night. Lying in bed that night I had a dream, not a nightmare, just a dream. In it, I was climbing a mountain.
Anyone who has ever climbed a hill or mountain will know this feeling, being in bed after a day when you climbed one and having this sort of feeling that you are still on the mountain and you need to get down. It is always followed with a sort of relief when you realize that you’ve already got off the mountain, and you’re now safe and warm in bed, and you only thought that you were still up there in your mind.
In a way, this relief is almost the best thing about mountaineering.
Anyway, my dream had a strong dose of this feeling. In this dream, I was on a hill, I think it was Cnoc Bui (the tallest in Cork) and I was with my friends, Adam being one of them. Adam was sort of lagging behind at the back, silent, I know we were talking (apart from Adam) but I forget what we were talking about. That’s all I remember.
Anyway, I had come up with this idea a while back, and that folder, "hjklrk", made me think about it again. To put this idea simply, if you were trying to hide something, let's say some sensitive data from the CIA or something, a good way to do so is as follows:
Have 5 levels of security, progressively being more and more secure and difficult to crack. Level A would be easier to hack into than Level E. Separate data of different security levels so that they are with identical files in terms of security (e.g. All level A files are together).
So you have 5 security levels, A, B, C, D, and E, you should put all the sensitive data into C, and fill the rest up with police reports and personal details, stuff that wouldn’t be too bad to leak in general.
The idea is that if a hacker were to infiltrate this system, he would be more likely to break into the easiest (and the least legally punishing to look at) data first, being A. This person would be very disappointed with the lack of juicy results here and may give up right there. If not, they might go for Level B, only to find that it’s got pretty much the same sort of thing. At that point, they may decide that there is nothing shady going on after all and give up.
Another kind of person might instead be inclined to go for the most (perceived) sensitive data, and go for Level E. Finding this useless stuff, he might think this is a trick and go for Level D, at which point he’d give up.
It’s not a perfect system, but it does have potential. It’s an effective method of hiding things. If there are more levels, don’t put them right in the middle as people are more likely to go for a random one. If you want to simplify this more, basically you put the data in the least investigated places.
"hjklrk" could be a similar system, just with a huge amount of files instead of security levels or whatever.
To test my theory, I opened up the folder and opened "/rmm24/", and found videos, but not pornographic.
To me, this proved my theory, but to be sure, I spent a good hour opening the files, checking their content, and then moving onto the next file. What I found was that (/rmm[ ]/) 1 to 12 were porn, 30 to 44 were porn, and 55 to 67 were porn. The rest was either empty space or non-pornographic videos. A few things occurred to me while doing this, however. Whoever made this file system wasn't trying to hide the porn, and the more unsettling one, for me anyway, some dated as recent as December 2015.
Not only was there a large collection of pornography on my computer for years, hiding something, but it was being added to.
The dates at which they were created were relative to the folder (rmm…) number, as in, stuff in "/rmm1/" were older than "/rmm2/" etc. It was very orderly.
I’m not going to lie, upon this realization I was out of there! (The last immobile day was the day before) After turning off the computer I went out of the room to think.
I thought that perhaps my brother would have put this on, as sort of a practical joke. Putting large folders onto my computer without me realizing it is the sort of thing he would do, but not porn, especially not in 2012! I asked him later that day if he had put "hjklrk" on my computer, and after showing it to him he said that he’d never done anything like that, besides, he doesn’t even know my password.
Later that day I was on YouTube, again. I don’t know why, but I had decided to watch Adam's old videos. He used to make videos as well as me, not editing them or anything like I did, just casually putting videos of him climbing mountains and such, I was in a few of them actually.
There’s something quite eerie about an inactive YouTube channel, (if you want some examples there’s Kitty0706 and RoyalTrax, both channels stopped uploading - Kitty0706 died, not sure about RoyalTrax) they feel like a sort of graveyard, or abandoned house, I don’t know, it’s creepy, Adam’s was made more so by that fact that I knew him and that I was in some of those videos.
I had only seen the thumbnails for the videos in "hjlkrk", so I didn’t know what the remaining videos really were. I checked the following day, and apart from a few accidental or blank videos they were all filmed in mountains.
My friends were in the videos, apparently, I was filming, you can hear my voice but I’m not ever shown in the frame. I never remember doing this though, filming things, filming mountains especially. I would take photos but never videos.
Regardless, I watched a lot of them, spent practically the whole day at it. It was sort of relaxing and nostalgic to watch them, but for a different reason than what I had assumed.
To see Adam's face again, looking around, talkative and smiling, well, it was just sort of comforting (I’m not gay!) His videos were always from his own perspective, so you only got a two-dimensional view of his personality. His videos were more focused on the fabulous landscape, but mine were a little different, mine really captured how we socialized, how we rotated the bag carrying duty, the subject of our conversations and our stupid inside jokes. It reminded me of the old Adam we all knew before he went all anti-social in school and disappeared, a person I’d not seen in over a year.
I enjoyed watching them, but, something about them was just wrong. Never mind the fact that I had no memory of filming on mountains or any of "hjklrk" nonsense, there seemed to be a dark edge to what I was witnessing. As I said, I enjoyed them, but I was taking a little too much enjoyment out of it. The blank ones (by that I mean just filming a wall or something accidentally), to me were tense, sometimes I had huge adrenaline rushes watching these. There’s nothing to see, these feelings were distinctively personal, as I said, nostalgic.
Anyway, I was about to watch another group of the videos, the "/rmm54/" folder, when I got a Facebook notification. Suddenly distracted, I clicked it. After about a minute of being told information about people I hardly know I found myself underwhelmed and bored. Inspired, I typed "hjlkrk" at the top bar to try and Google-search it. Maybe it was just some crazy virus after all.
“Lost connection to the server.”
I went into the other room to see if the internet had been cut off, and no, it hadn’t. I went back to the computer again and reloaded the page.
“Lost connection to the server.”
Now this was weird, we have some internet trouble here sometimes but the router was working, Skype was online and Wi-fi was working.
I pressed back, and Facebook popped up, proudly displaying new notifications.
I searched instead for “facebook”, and Google gave me search results.
Now, I don’t know what part of me thought this, but my reaction was pretty much “well that’s enough internet for me for one day!” and I left, I didn’t come back to the computer until later that day. Why did I think it so normal?
So yes, Google refused to search hjklrk.
That was weird...
On returning at a very dark 10 pm, I finally clicked on "/rmm54/". The thumbnails didn’t look too promising, mostly blank videos, in fact, there were only two ones that looked like they were on mountains, both half an hour long. This folder had ten videos in it, four of the blank videos were accidental two second long things, but the other four combined made 20 minutes or so. As I had been doing up to now, I first watched the first video set on a mountain.
This video was different from the others, the second mountain video in "/rmm54/" was very similar actually.
Up until now, all of these videos had been filmed among my fellow hill walkers, we were never more than ten feet away from each other at any time, but in the "/rmm54/" videos I was walking at least 30 feet behind, if not further. You could hear the others talk but it was unintelligible. At certain points in the video, I could be seen to duck behind a rock or something, holding the camera so that it could see them stand around or look at a nice view. Usually, at these moments I would point the camera towards said view, do a brief pan of it and then go back to whatever I was already filming, but I just kept the camera on my peers, every time. I watched the entire first video, 30 minutes straight, and they never noticed me.
I didn’t watch much of the second video, but from what I did see I seemed even more cautious.
I was stalking them.
These videos had the same tense effect that the blank videos had on me earlier, just more intense. With this in mind, I watched one of the longer blank videos, all 7 minutes and 30 seconds of it.
It showed a blank wall, and you could hear my voice talking.
“You’ve been acting weird lately, what’s going on?”
“Is that a camera?” This was Adam’s voice.
“Alight, what do you mean by weird?”
“You know, you’ve just, been acting, kind of anti-social...”
“I don’t know, I don’t feel right, I feel, claustrophobic,” he said slowly, uncertain of his wording. “I feel like something bad will happen, you know, like before, like when you anticipate something, I, I don’t really want to talk, to be honest.”
“Okay,” I said after a moment of silence, after which you could hear me leave the room. Two or three minutes later he called out to me, saying that I’d left my camera in the room. My footsteps could be heard becoming louder, and as I picked up the camera, you could see Adam leaving the room. He glanced at me, you could barely see his face, but I recognized this paranoid facial expression as the one he had in the few weeks of odd behaviour I mentioned earlier.
I apparently stood in the room for a full minute, before placing the camera exactly where I had just left it, only to pick it up again and stop recording at the seven-minute 30 mark.
The other three longer blank videos had nothing like this, just showed a wall with a few footsteps audible in the background.
As I said, I have no memory of this.
After watching nearly 20 minutes of total non-movement I was bored enough to walk around for a few minutes, before I, almost reluctantly, clicked "/rmm55/".
There was only one video in there, the last non-pornographic video, dated December 2014, about a year ago. The thumbnail suggested that it was a blank video, but it wasn’t.
It was just under an hour long, but I skipped most of it. The screen at first was almost entirely black, but a few lights here and there indicated that this was filmed outside while walking down a street in the night time. This lasted for 20 minutes when out of nowhere a window appeared. The visible interior was unrecognizable but bright. The window had blinds on it, which were dark like the edge of the window. The interior had a yellowish glow to it in vivid contrast to the dark. I had stood here for a good half hour looking through the window, breathing excitedly but quietly.
Again, absolutely no memory of this.
At the 50 minute mark, after a small bit of movement in the room, the camera swiftly changed angle and after a second of the camera readjusting to the dark you could see my face. I was leaning against the wall beneath the window smiling.
“This is me,” I had slowly whispered, with an emphasis on "is", as if I was reassuring someone that it was indeed myself.
“I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, but don’t delude yourself, you’re happy this happened, aren’t you?”
I smiled, and watching this on my computer alone in the dark I smiled along with him, but in fear. The adrenaline was rushing to my head, I didn’t know how to react. All I could think of was to just smile along.
Back in the video, I remained silent for a second, before the camera started moving violently. There was very little in the way of sound, and you couldn’t really see what was going on. This went on for about five minutes, during which I think I heard a window open, a door open, a door close and a window close. For the last three minutes, I heard the rustling of grass and leaves.
The camera was suddenly the right way up, and you could see my face, deciding whether it wanted to be smug or serious. I had eventually decided to be smug, I pulled the camera down a little, so that you could see my neck, and stepped away from the camera.
I was in a forest, and at my feet was Adam, unconscious but alive. I could see his chest move up and down in breathing.
“As I said,” said I, “This is me: David. I know who will watch this. I know who you are.” I pulled out a knife, it was a kitchen knife, probably stole it from someone’s kitchen.
“To my little, one-man audience,” I said, giggling a little towards the end of my sentence.
As I said, I have no memory of making this video, no memory of anything within "hjklrk", nothing. Upon discovering this folder I found many surprises but this was ridiculous.
“You don’t really care, do you? You don’t have any bad feelings about this. You’re happy about this, you monster!”
I watched in horror as I slowly knelt down towards Adam with the knife in hand. Without hesitation, I had placed down the weapon, pointed down on his still moving chest. As I plunged it down, waking him up from his somehow sustained sleep, holding the knife steady, ignoring his surprised gargles of pain and horror, allowing my hands to become sticky with his thick warm blood, watching the life leak out of him, I realized that, in regard to my last statement, I was right.