When I got the tape, I didn't know whether to play it or not. It came in a small, tattered brown box; black text crudely scribbled across the top reading, "Open. Please watch." Of course when I first saw it, I figured it was just some guy trying to play a prank at me, failing his attempt. I watched the box for a while, pondering what actually lay inside. It was about 10 minutes before I snapped back to reality and decided to bring it inside. I couldn't just leave it there. I sat it on my kitchen table and went off to do other errands around my house.
I guess I eventually forgot about it because a couple of hours later I felt something scratching at my brain. I had forgotten something. Something important? And then I remembered - the box. I passed through the doorway back into the kitchen and saw it lying ominously on the table. It seemed to give off a dark aura, and I felt uneasy approaching it. I mean, imagine receiving a box in your mail telling you to "Open", and to "Please watch." I approached the table and felt the box. It was cold and rough. It was dirty, too. The top was taped with two layers of duck tape, which took me about 20 minutes of pulling with my fingers to get off, since I couldn't find anything sharp enough to cut it with. The last piece of tape had finally come off.
I slowly pulled the brown, cardboard flaps apart, revealing darkness. The inside of the box smelt musty, like an attic. I poured the contents onto the table. There now lay a note, and a smaller, aluminum container. I picked up the note, reading it intently. "John." the note read.
My blood went cold, and a wave of anxiety filled my stomach. I read the first word again. John. My name. I felt my core body temperature normalize as I realized it could of just been one of my friends poking some fun at me. I gave a chuckle, although it seemed more nervous than legitimate. I read the rest. "I feel it's about time I... released this... well, the tape that is..." I looked over to the container, which was gleaming in the soft light. "I hope you enjoy." Something was written at the end, probably a signature, but it was smudged away by something. Time, probably. I folded the note closed and grabbed for the container. I lifted it up, weighing it in my hand. It was the size of my palm, and it was colder than the box. The aluminum twinkled, slightly hypnotizing me. I finally pulled open the tiny box, revealing a cassette tape. It seemed to glow; to shine. I plucked it from its resting place, examining it. It was labeled, "hunt01". Hunt01; what a name. I grinned at its mediocrity. Whoever this was wanted me to play the tape, so I was obliged to play it. I wanted to play it anyway. Something deep inside of me was telling me to put it on, to find out what it was hiding. I guess it was just the adventurous or curious side of me.
It took me a straight half-hour of cleaning and unpacking old, forgotten boxes until I found my old camera. It felt so antique in my hands, yet brought back so many vivid memories. Oh, how I missed my childhood. I brought it back to the kitchen, sticking the tape in. I powered the dinosaur. It booted, and I was startled at the fact that it didn't require new batteries. I never was quite the photographer. The black screen fading into a soft gray. I fondled with the thing until I found the controls. I pressed the play button on the tape and sat down, getting comfortable in a chair.
The video flickered to life, fading from static for a short split-second. The audio began to rebuild itself, it seemed, piecing itself together from static hell. When the footage stopped freaking out, all I saw was pitch black. I heard a shuffling sound, like someone was moving, and a few metallic clicks.
Silence. It was silent for what felt like an eternity.
The sound of a car door opening, the footage was still pitch black. Although I could make out the sounds of someone walking; the crunching of pebbles underneath boots. The crunching soon transitioned into the tapping of a sidewalk. Unfocused lights danced along the screen. Walking, walking, walking, walking.
The knock on a door, no answer. I can make out the light seeping from the windows along the door. The hand that is knocking is gloved in black. Strange, I note mentally. Soon the man with the camera is banging on the door, but still receives no response. The camera flicks from left to right, as if I'm watching from his own view. He walks along the side of the house, and the next thing I know, he is standing next to a window. He looks in, peering around. Looking for something. I feel a tingle run down my spine and out my toes. Am I watching someone get robbed? One of my friends certainly wouldn't do this. This is too extreme for the likes of them. He tries the window, and it won't budge. The camera points at the ground, pitch black. I hear more shuffling, and the camera is facing the window again. This time, the man is holding a hammer.
I feel a knot in my stomach, and my breathing becomes shallow. What is he doing? I see him swing once, cracking the glass. He swings again, the crack multiplying in size. One more swing and the window shatters, the noise penetrating the silence in my house. A muffled noise comes from somewhere in the being-intruded house, and the man silently pulls himself into the window, landing feet-first. He must be skilled at this, I thought to myself in disbelief. It was as if I was watching some sort of homemade horror movie. But no, this was real. Too real. I can now see everything. He is standing in a bathroom. The light is on, a sharp white bouncing off of the porcelain floor. The camera flicks around some more, and all is quiet as I suppose he is listening to see who is in the house besides him. No noise whatsoever. He opens the bathroom door and walks out into a hallway. The floor is hardwood, and echoes every step he takes. He walks slowly, taking in all of his surroundings. My mind is now racing. Thoughts spinning in my head, questions brimming. Why would someone rob a house relentlessly like this? And the tape was labeled hunt01. Are there more tapes? And why is it called "HUNT"?! I begin to feel nauseous asking so many questions.
The man is now at another door at the end of the hallway. He reaches his gloved hand out and tightly grips the doorknob, carefully twisting it, pulling the door open. The light floods into a dark room, and I can make out a bed. Out of my horror, I spot that it is occupied. I silently urge whoever's in the bed to get up and run, or fight, or whatever, but to no avail; whatever happens in this tape happens. He takes a step. And another. Another. Each step is torture to me, and I can't take it. It is tearing my mind to shreds knowing this man is about to be robbed, or hurt even. The man takes a few more steps, until he is next to the bed. He lifts the hammer, taking aim.
A clock goes off, startling him, and he trips onto the ground, causing a loud thump.
The man in the bed jumps awake, throwing his head back and forth, trying to find the source of the disturbance. My heart is racing now. The robber stands himself back up, and the man in the bed jumps up, scurrying out of the room. I can't tell what he looks like because he is running so fast. The robber chases him out of the bedroom and into the hallway. The robber seems so much faster than the man, and has already caught up to him before he can make it to his front door. The robber grabs the man by his shirt collar from behind and carefully lays the camera down onto a table. He walks out in front of the camera, and takes a few swings at the man. The robber is clothed fully in black, from head to toe. He is even wearing a mask. I feel the blood rushing from my face and hands as I watch the events unfolding in front of me. The robber throws the man onto the ground, causing the camera to fall off of the table. It seems to fall perfectly, because the camera is now aligned with the man's face. I can see him now. Bile rises in my throat, and I let out a sharp cry.
My best friend, Tim, stares back at the camera, as if willing me to help. But I cannot do anything for him. I can only cry. The robber thrusts the hammer down upon my best friend's head and the world seems to fall apart for me. I begin to relive the best moments of my life with him, from drinking beers, to roaming the country. Tears run down my face as I watch blood pool under Tim's head at it is caved in by a madman. Swing after swing, until I hear a loud noise. A crack. Probably the crack of Tim's skull, and it once again penetrates the silence of my disturbingly quiet house.
I pause the video and close my eyes. I let the tears rush, and I weep. I wonder why it was him. And then I remember that I hadn't seen him for at least a couple of weeks. He had just disappeared. I feel a massive wave of guilt flood my body and mind.
After an hour, I finally regain enough of my sanity to press the play button of the video. I watch Tim's eyes glaze over as death creeps upon him, and I say my final goodbyes. The camera is picked back up, and the robber is breathing heavily. He walks over to a mirror-covered door and stares at it. He looks awkward holding a camera up like this. He drops the hammer out of his hand. He still stares. Finally, after a couple of minutes, he pulls off the mask on top of his head.
Written by Jsflaherty