On May 28, 2015, the body of one Juliana Sebastian was found in her home with the fingernails and toenails in a pile next to Sebastian’s corpse and her hair in another neat pile next to that. Upon further investigation, the body's leg, arm, and all external body hair were found on the inside of her clothes. These are the most common side effects of radiation poisoning. A sweep of the house was done and there were no spikes in radiation. After an autopsy, two cancerous tumors were found to have completely enveloped her cerebral cortex. The tumors were sent to St. Mary's Hospital for further examination and have not been identified as any known class of tumors. Police suspect that she died sometime after 3 o’clock in the afternoon. She was found in front of her front door at 4:29 that same afternoon by her brother that had come home from school.
The following was written by a fiction writer in order to explain this phenomenon.
Houses are their own living organisms. They can be beautiful, extravagant, decrepit, or empty. But regardless of their physical condition, they have an aire of mystery to them. Apartments can be similar, but when an apartment makes a creaking noise it’s easy to blame it on neighbors. When one is alone in a house, there is no one to blame for the unexplained. And as houses are their own organisms, they too can be prone to...parasites. You walk by a bedroom with an open door and see someone standing there. You stop, knowing that it was probably your imagination, but you go back and check anyways. No, not a person, just a robe that was thrown over some chairs. Just a couple of oddly placed pillows. You sit alone in your bedroom and hear a hissing sound from the kitchen. Faulty plumbing, you think. But then it goes away before you can investigate. That’s what the most dangerous noises are. The ones you don’t examine. Those instances when you see something out of the corner of your eye and decide not to pause. It is in these instances that you’ve allowed the parasite to lie undetected another moment in the house. And so next time, they’ll stray further. Less fearful of being seen because you have decided not to see them. But when you walk by enough times, ignore enough times, is when you become the parasite and they the exterminator.
Juliana Sebastian had come home from a track practice early that day. The coach had made a deal with one of her teammates that if he could beat his best time, then they could all go home. He lined up at the start and his coach blew the whistle. Juliana watched from the sidelines, drinking out of a Gatorade bottle, talking to one of her friends about if he was going to make it or not. He rounded the first corner, his blue Nike sneakers being coated with the reddish sand that covered the race track.
"You can do it!" someone shouted, which eventually lead to the entire team on the sidelines cheering for him. The coach waited at the start line, holding his stopwatch out in front of him with a blank expression. He rounded the second turn. His eyebrows were set in a look of total focus and determination. Juliana took another sip of Gatorade and took out her phone, letting her team do the cheering for her. His feet were moving fast, his arms tucked in close against his body. "You're almost there! You can do it!" her teammates were shouting. Juliana wondered if they were cheering him on because they wanted to go home early or because they wanted to appear as supportive people.
He jetted towards the finish line and practically threw himself over it, landing on the ground covered in sweat and dirt coating his skinny legs. A friend of his brought him a water bottle. He chugged some of it while the rest of the team held their breath for the time. The coach looked at his stopwatch, his expression unreadable. Juliana thought it must be the face he uses for his late-night poker games.
"28..." he started. Everyone was aware that the boy's previous record was 28.56, so they didn't celebrate too much. "34!" the coach shouted, sending the track team into a rush of shouts. They ran onto the track and helped the runner up, giving him pats on the back, hugs, thanking him for being the one that got them out early. Juliana began the long walk to the locker room without saying a word to anyone. They would be out there a couple minutes more before coming into the bathrooms, and she wanted to be first in the shower. On her way across the vivid green field, she passed by a playground full of screaming, hollering, and laughing children. A couple of them watched her as she walked by, but she wouldn't meet their gaze, nor would she say 'hello'. She had made it past the playground when she heard a scream. It was one of those bloodcurdling screams that little kids use when they don't want to get a vaccine shot, a scream of terror and pain. But Juliana knew that kids had a tendency to scream like that when they were having fun, so she didn't look back. She just kept straight on walking. Later, she would think back to that scream and wonder why she hadn't checked to see what was going on. But in the moment, she walked right into the building without a glance.
She got her shower and changed into her normal clothes. Then she decided she was too impatient to wait for half-an-hour for the bus. So she walked home. Juliana lived in a very safe neighborhood full of elderly couples and young couples that were starting families. Her family had once been like that. She moved into this neighborhood when she was two and her mother was pregnant with her little brother, Jordon. But now, Juliana had a full ride to college on an athletic scholarship and Jordon had just gotten his learner's permit. There was only one other family that had kids her age. When she was little, her and their youngest daughter, Emily had been good friends. But then she got into high school and everything changed. It was a messy parting of ways, but Juliana wanted one thing and Em wanted another. The only difference was that Juliana had gotten what she wanted and Em didn't.
Juliana opened the door to her tri-story house and went inside. She hung up her light, summer jacket in the closet and threw her backpack over the railing. She dug through it to pull out her laptop. She brought her laptop with her into the kitchen, opened it, and logged in. She poured herself a glass of water as it started up. Then she clicked on the YouTube shortcut and went to her favorite channel, Markiplier. She was a very causal YouTube watcher but it was a ritual of hers to turn on his new videos everyday when she got home from school. She barely checked the video before she clicked on it.
She reached into the bread box, intent on making herself a sandwich while she listened to the video. An ad started to play while she was at her refrigerator, collecting sandwich-making materials. The ad opened up with the sound of a girl screaming 'help me!' at the top of her lungs. 'please! Somebody out there help me!' she shrieked. Juliana rolled her eyes, moving back to her laptop to skip the ad. Usually, there was a little yellow box on the side of an ad that would let you skip it after five seconds of watching. If you couldn't skip the ad, then the box wouldn't be there. But when she went to click the box, she realized that instead of telling her how long she would have to wait before skipping it, there were two words written in black text that said:
"Can't go on."
Juliana took note that this hadn't happened to her before, but then reasoned that it must've been an update to YouTube or something, and went back to the other side of the counter where she had left her sandwich-making supplies. She made her sandwich, all the while listening to the horror movie ad, the entire thing consisted of little more than the screams of various people. It went on almost unbroken for a minute. It was then that she heard Markiplier's voice, talking about the game he was playing. It was called Power Drill Massacre. It's graphics were too poor to really scare her, more than anything else that scared her were the noises. She looked at the clock, it read 2:59. She had about an hour-and-a-half before Jordon would be home from musical rehearsal. Her parents would come home later. It was then that Juliana got an idea. She took out her phone and opened up a conversation.
"Hey." she said. "My parents aren't home ;)"
Then she turned the volume up on her phone as loud as it would go so that she would hear it when Michael texted her back. While she waited for him to text back, she went to put her plate in the sink and rinse off a gob of mustard on it. Then she turned off the water.
She was greeted by silence.
She had planned to turn on a different YouTube video, but for some reason, she stayed still. And then it hit her, there was someone behind her. She knew it. She could sense it. The muscles in her back tensed up, her breath shortening until it was barely audible. Someone's behind me. Oh my god, someone's behind me she thought. The house was deadly quiet. It was one of those moments like in horror movies that is so quiet you can almost feel that a jump scare is about to happen. No one is safe in this kind of silence. Juliana felt a bead of sweat run down her temple. She stopped breathing all together in hopes of hearing the person behind her. There wasn't a sound.
But she felt it.
Then, she felt something on her hair. It started at the top of her head, a faint, almost unnoticeable, thing. But in the stillness of her environment, it was all she could feel. It touched her hair softly, oh so softly, and then began to sink down it, towards her back. It was so quiet that she could hear the movement of her hair. She took a minuscule breath, hoping it wouldn't notice. The skin on her arms was erupted in goosebumps. Even the hair on the back of her neck seemed to stand straight on its end. And then, that vague touch was gone. Vanished completely.
Juliana stood there a full minute, noticing the departure of whatever had touched her. She could sense that it was gone, but she was still petrified. She wished for sound, anything to let her know that life was still going on. But there was nothing. Still, perfect, nothing. She let out a breath. Then took one. Then let it out.
"I'm okay," she whispered. "I'm okay." It was then, and only then that she built up the courage to turn around slowly. The touch had been so slight that within seconds, she wondered if she had felt anything at all. She turned to find nothing behind her. She took a few more deep breaths, rubbing her arms so that the goosebumps would go away. She went to the seat in front of her computer and sat down. And sighed.
And her eyes drifted to where she had been standing before. And she stared and stared and stared.
On the floor of her kitchen was a lock of her flowing black hair. She drew a breath in as if she was about to scream but nothing came out. Not wanting to provoke that terrible silence, she hit a random video on Youtube and it started to play.
“Help! Somebody help me!” the girl in the horror movie and started screaming again. Juliana wasn’t focusing on it. Instead, she got down onto the floor and moved towards the lock of her hair. She picked it up, it felt soft and silky in her sweating hands. She racked her brain for a logical explanation. “Maybe I cut it on something and it was just now falling out.” she proposed to herself. She knew that was ridiculous, but there was no other way she could explain it. “Help me please!” her laptop shrieked again.
“Shut up,” she said to her laptop as she got up. She held the piece of hair in her hand, went to the garbage and threw it out. Then went back to her laptop. This time, she had the option to skip the ad. And the screams from the ad were replaced by Markiplier’s voice again. She ran a hand through her hair, wondering if any more of it was about to fall out. None did. This time. Although the music coming from the video game Mark was playing was coming through her speakers, it became obvious that the sounds from the ad were still playing too. She paused the video.
“Help! Somebody help me!” It screamed. It was just that phrase repeated again and again and again. Juliana thought it was a glitch so she closed the tab. The screaming continued. A thought had entered her mind, but she refused to acknowledge it. Instead, she restarted her computer. She expected to come face with silence again, but she wasn’t.
It was a faint sound that seemed to echo up the stairs from her basement. She held her breath.
“Help! Somebody help me!”
The moment the sounds registered as words, Juliana grabbed her phone off the kitchen table and ran upstairs. She darted down the hallway, not looking in the rooms for fear of what she might find. Had she looked she would’ve found the stuff of imagination and childhood nightmares. But she ran past and straight into her room. Then she closed the door behind her and locked it. It was then that she took out her phone. She dialed 911.
“Hello? You have to help me, someone’s in my house.” she had planned to say. But when she brought the phone to her ear all she heard was a constant dial tone. Then she dialed her mother and got the same result. She threw her phone onto her bed and followed it there. she tucked her knees against her chest and sat staring at the door.
“Help! Somebody help me! Help! Somebody help me!” again and again and again. Juliana’s heart was pounding in her ears. Help. she thought. Somebody please find me here. Save me. To her horror, the screams of the girl didn’t subside, but grew louder. She couldn’t hear footsteps, but she knew it was getting closer. Please! Someone help me! Please! she was screaming in her own mind. She shut her eyes, an ostrich burying it’s head in the sand.
“HELP! SOMEBODY HELP ME!” it was right outside her door.
“Help! Somebody help me!” she repeated in her own mind.
And then it stopped.
She didn’t open her eyes but she looked at herself. Curled up in the very most corner of her room, holding her legs close to her chest, rocking lightly back and forth. I’m a child again. I’m nothing but a child.
She was a child being pursued by her monsters in the closet.
The child opened her eyes.
Standing less than five feet away was one of her monsters. A girl- though she barely resembled one- that appeared about ten years old. It looked that she had been put in a vat of bleach and left to rot. Her skin was a pasty, wrinkled white. Her head was bloated and looked almost perfectly circular. Her teeth were rotted and cracking apart in some places; even though they too were that unhealthy white. The eyes had no color to them, completely white with an impossibly small pupil in the middle of them. But perhaps the most frightening detail was the angle of her decayed head. It was positioned in an unhealthy, broken angle. As if someone had snapped her neck. She stared a Juliana with a big, white, smile.
It was then that the scream Juliana had been holding back ripped its way out of her throat.
“HELP! SOMEBODY HELP ME!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. Her eyes shut with the intensity of it.
When she opened her eyes again the girl was gone. But Juliana didn’t wait for her to return. She ran down the hallway, seeing the girl in the open doorways and screaming. She nearly jumped down all the steps and rushed to the door. She yanked on the handle to find it was locked. She turned the knob to unlock it, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Oh please. Oh please GOD NO!”
She felt another touch down a lock of hair and heard it fall to the floor.
“Please god no,” she whispered, knowing that she was trapped. Her knees collapsed from under her and she sat back against the door, staring at her prison. “Please god I’m sorry.”
The girl appeared again, the smile seemingly drawn onto her face.
“You should’ve looked,” she said.
Juliana screamed as her fingernails were ripped out of her, and her hair yanked until each strand fell helplessly to the floor.
“NO!” she let out one last scream as the tumors swelled in her brain. “Help. Somebody help…”
She faded off into the eternal void.