My friend Chris told me I should “look up” sometime, that I should stop checking for tweets or notifications on my phone. I’d usually say, “Says you”, or “Sure, because I’m the only one.” But then he would always say, “But I’m talking about you here.” We’d always end on a broken note after our visits, still retaining our friendship by a thread.
Nobody really cared for my tweets, posts or Vines, or practically any typed communication of any kind. And then one day I stopped. But let’s start at the beginning.
Chris asked me on phone to come to his house to play video games, and that I should come at about two o’clock. I said yes, but I’ll have to go through the woods, as the roads were clogged up. As soon as I stepped out of the front door, my phone vibrated madly, as if in a wild rush, nearly falling out of my pocket. It was a text. But not from Chris, or anyone I’ve ever heard of.
It was from a person called question mark.
The text was just some random numbers, “25, 15, 21, 23, 9, 12, 12, 4, 9, 5”. I had no idea what on earth they meant. Thinking it was spam or a wrong number, I carried on to the woods.
Belgrave Woods wasn’t the prettiest of forests in my area. It had no rare flora or fauna, no distinguishable path, or any type of markings denoting a path. It was just a piece of land covered in bronze leaves, with tall oaks and spots of shrubberies.
My phone rattled once more into life, this time with a chime. A photo text. Sliding the screen open, the photo revealed me from behind walking through the woods.
I looked behind—no one there.
“Hm,” I sighed gently.
I returned to the bright light of the phone and typed in:
“who r u?”
The phone vibrated instantly. It read:
Looking behind again, revealing the empty forest once more.
Tapping the screen vigorously, I texted:
“no ur not. who r u? y r u texting me?”
There was a long pause this time.
I did just that.
From far into the trees, a barely recognisable object shifted amongst the narrow gaps, disappearing through the bark. It startled me, I shifted my weight, turning my head to see what it was. The phone beeped.
“Let’s play a game. Wanna see what happens if you lose?”
Rhetorical. With that, my phone’s screen suddenly went static, revealing a bound and gagged man in a chair, blood dripping down his head. It was Chris. Another text.
“Bye bye Chris! LOL!”
The screen reverted to the texting interface.
It was a prank. Must’ve been. Chris being a bit of a pratt. I switched my phone off, and put it into the confines of my pocket. I walked on, oblivious to the rustling sound behind me.
My phone beeped and vibrated, but how could it? Quickly reaching in, the phone sprung into life again, showing the texting interface again. It was a photo of Chris, with a bullet hole straight through his head. I gasped, dropping the phone onto the leafy surface. Screw this. I ran. I could hear the phone on the ground whirring and vibrating madly, desperately trying to get my attention, the cracked screen hardly making a luminescent glow through the murky leaves.
The image ran through my mind, the lifeless body of Chris.
A strange weight dropped into my pocket, reaching down, it was a phone. It was exactly my phone, same layout, background, you name it. A text again.
“Shall we play?”
I tapped murderously on the pictured keyboard.
“what have u done with chris?”
“Please, you know the answer as much as I do. Now, shall we play?”
“fuck you fuck you fuck you & your game”
“The rules are simple. Text with me, and you live. Don’t, and you die. Your turn.”
“y r u doing this?”
I heard rustling leaves. Coming closer towards me. Beep.
I looked up, still no one there.
“just stop you sick fuck”
I looked up again, fear and hate in my eyes, tearing up. I just wanted this all to stop, to play video games with Chris, just for everything to be normal again!
“i have! what do u want?!”
Another pause. I was shouting now.
“What?! What?!” I screamed. A final chime.
In those final moments, the final blips of existence, I should’ve taken notice of that rustling, the large and heavy movements of a stranger's footsteps. My eyes widened, not just out of horror and shock but out of pure disbelief. The phone dropped from my hands. The last looks in my eyes revealed a wide grin on an unfamiliar face, and then gone.
The last text on the phone.
And then I’m here. Here in this text, in these words, in this sentence and story. I realise that we become so connected and influenced by inter-connectivity we pour our love, kindness, darkness, hate, malice, despair, hopelessness and insincerity into text.
You’re reading a ghost.
A shard of a half-memory.
A faint glimmer of existence.
We all are.