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People usually don’t pay much attention to their surroundings, but I have to. I can’t help it. Little things would sometimes change—a piece of paper would be turned around from how I left it, the ketchup would be in a different part of the fridge, my shoes by the door would be tilted slightly at an angle when I know I left them straight. I told people about this, but none of them would take me seriously. It’s as if the magnitude of the change was all that mattered to them. I tried to tell my friends that I fucking knew things were different. It was just a few inches away from where I put it, but you have to understand that it really had moved. It always happened overnight, and only when I went to sleep.
There is a stigma attached to having obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s not the kind of OCD where a teenage girl is “really OCD” about not getting dirt on her shoes. I have the real thing, and it's very draining. Every cabinet and door must be closed and there can’t be anything out of order. I have always made sure that every object is perfectly neat wherever I live. Most of my friends, however, had the audacity to think that I was imagining these things getting disordered! Even though I had always paid all this attention to detail, they still didn’t believe me.
I only had one friend who was close enough to tell how I really felt. Teddy and I had known each other for years; we told each other all kinds of things. I didn’t hesitate to tell him about all of my phobias and obsessions. It wasn’t just OCD that plagued me; I’ve been a psychological wreck my whole life. No matter what, he never judged me for any of it. Teddy took all of my ridiculous problems seriously. Secretly, I think I loved him. I wish I could have gotten a chance to tell him that.
Anyway, I got pretty annoyed because of all of that disorder in my apartment. The annoyance was just minor, though. Really, I was afraid. It was that kind of fear where it feels like something is in your throat trying to crawl out. You know the kind where something just feels wrong? It was an odd kind of fear. It was . . . the fear of not knowing? Yes, I think so. My chronic anxiety would force me to imagine all kinds of awful situations, and anything mysterious would fester in my mind and turn into a line from the obituary.
I tried to make sure that nobody was breaking in at night. Before I would go to sleep, I would always move my desk to block the front door; no one could open it from the outside. The only other way in was from the back door, and that led to the balcony. Since I was on the top floor, I didn’t think that anyone would be risking their life to get in from the back. I blocked myself in because I have this fear that someone will come in in the middle of the night and do something to me. I decided that I must have been sleepwalking and then moving objects around. I had been taking a medication to help me get to sleep, and a little bit of research on my laptop revealed that sleepwalking was one of the side effects. I felt relieved. I was sleepwalking! My world made sense again.
I didn’t let the little changes bother me for the next few months. I just told myself that I was doing these things in the middle of the night. But let me tell you something: I was still afraid. There were ways that I could have tested to see if it really was me doing these things, but the truth is that I didn't want a test. My mind was at ease and I didn’t want to screw that up. If I put out a camera and recorded my room for a night, what would I see? Sleepwalking made sense to me, so that was what I was going with.
Unfortunately, it became harder to put the little changes out of my mind. I woke up one morning and my laptop had been turned on. This had never happened before, but I still attributed it to sleepwalking. A few days later I awoke to find an egg broken on the floor. The carton was sitting on the counter top still opened. Sleepwalking did it, I said to myself. But now I was bothered deep down. I didn’t want to be afraid of the unknown anymore, so I put out a camera to catch myself in the act. I just needed to see myself doing it to know that there was a reasonable explanation. Putting out the camera was like a small defeat for me, though, because it meant admitting that I was fearful of something.
The very next day, for the first time in months, nothing had been moved around or messed with in my apartment. I watched the video in fast motion, and it was just hours of me sleeping. I repeated this experiment every day for the next few days, and got the same results. I hypothesized that my subconscious brain would not let me sleepwalk if it thought I might be recorded. It was a weird thing to think but it was the only explanation. The first night, and every night after that, that I turned off the camera, things were moved around again. A part of my brain, I told myself, just didn’t want to be caught on camera while sleepwalking. Things made sense.
One day, I went out with my camera to record a drunken fight that was happening in the parking lot of the apartment complex. I shot the fight from my balcony. When they had dispersed, I came back inside and fooled around on my laptop for a while before going off to bed. When I woke up the next morning, something remarkable had happened. For the first time since it all started, without a camera running, things had not been changed around my apartment. Was I getting over my sleepwalking problem? I noticed my camera, sitting on the desk where I had left it last night. It was still on. I watched the video and it was like the others, with me lying still. Maybe you don’t understand the significance of this, but hear me out. I accidentally left the camera on when I got back from recording those two assholes. The camera being on is what kept things from getting moved around, but this time I was completely unaware of it. This seemed to disprove the possibility that my subconscious mind just didn’t want me to be recorded while sleepwalking. I didn't even know the camera was on, but it still had the same effect.
Despite my OCD, I found that I could ignore my own slowly building suspicion. I would just wake up and fix the things. I mean, it was just stuff getting moved around. As time went by, however, the changes started to get more explicit. One day, I woke up and found that my laptop had been turned on again. A notepad document was on the screen and it had a single sentence: “I exist.” What did that mean? I got that awful fearfulness again. Surely, somebody was fucking with me. Or maybe I was sleepwalking. But I couldn’t believe that anymore; the time when I had unknowingly left the camera running cast serious doubt on whether I had ever sleepwalked to begin with. From that day on, I always made sure that the camera was running while I slept. I would charge the camera every day and record myself every night. This fixed my problem for a long time.
Eventually, I made a mistake. I plugged the camera into the wall to charge it up for the night, and I got down on my bed while I waited. I never meant to go to sleep, though; I just wanted to rest a little bit. When I woke I found my camera sitting in the middle of the floor. Its lens was cracked and it looked like someone had taken a bat to it. On my laptop, which was once again turned on, another notepad message was waiting for me. “No cameras,” it said. I was feeling pretty unsafe, but I wasn’t about to call the Ghosthunters. There was a reason for these things, I thought. I was—still am a secularist. But what could possibly have happened?
Somebody had to be breaking in. The sleepwalking story was ridiculous! I was embarrassed for believing something that dumb for that long. One or more people were getting in, but how? I had the door barricaded. And things only happened when I wasn’t recording. Then it dawned on me that someone must have been watching from inside. That was the only explanation for how someone could know if I had put out a camera or not. Feverishly, I searched all over my room for a hidden camera. I looked under my bed, half expecting to see someone hiding there, and found nothing. Figuring out what was going on was going to be difficult. I thought about calling the cops, but I didn’t really know what to tell them. “Someone is getting into my house somehow but I have no proof” isn’t a very helpful statement. I knew that I could stop the intruder in the short term by making sure that the camera was recording every night. Luckily, it hadn’t been damaged too badly to record. It was frustrating, though. How was I supposed to figure out who was coming in if I couldn't get visual evidence?
I felt really bad relying on a strategy that I didn’t understand. I was like some caveman, performing a ritual just because it had worked. I didn’t understand exactly why the camera kept things from being changed at night, but I just knew that it kept the intruder at bay. Anyway, I made damn sure that things were being recorded each and every time. After what had happened, I was not going to risk anything. Recording my room had worked up to that point, so it seemed like my best bet. There was just one more thing I decided to do. Giving into my fear, I moved my couch in front on the back door. Now both doors were blocked and I felt a little better.
One day shorty after that I woke up and found my camera was not where I had placed it. My laptop was turned on once again, and a notepad document had been opened up that said: “I warned you.” I felt a swelling of anxiety in my chest. I noticed that my couch had been moved from in front of the back door. I called in sick to work, and again I thought about calling the police but I didn’t. I left my house to get breakfast, but as I went outside I noticed something disturbing. By my car, I saw a mess of black plastic shards spread out. In the center of this mess was my camera; it had been thrown from the balcony. I rushed to retrieve the memory card from the wrecked camera. Soon after that, I put the card into my computer and watched the video in fast motion.
There I was, sleeping soundly as always. Suddenly, the point of view changed; the camera was being lifted up. I slowed the video down to normal speed. The intruder, whom I could not see, took the camera toward the door. The point of view changed again, and all I could see was the ceiling. I heard the couch scrape along the floor as it was moved out of the way. The door opened with a creak and a few steps were taken outside. Abruptly, the camera began spinning as it was hurled off the balcony. The video ended when the camera crashed into the asphalt below.
How did that son of a bitch get into my room? The intruder had to move the couch out of the way, which meant he couldn’t have come from the balcony. But the desk by the front door hadn’t been moved! And there was no way he could have put the desk back in its place if he left out the front door.
I watched the video over and over again with a morbid fascination. Finally, I noticed something. Right as the camera was thrown from the balcony, it started to spin. At one point, the camera had spun around and I could just make out a figure through all of the darkness and the motion blur. It didn’t look so much like a person. Rather, the intruder looked like some kind of mannequin reject or something. A bald head rested right on the torso; there was no neck. I don’t even know if it was a head I saw. There was nothing there but two deep shadows that I assumed were the contours of its eyes. I could see its hands out in front of it from where it had thrown the camera. There didn’t seem to be any fingers; it was like it had big, fleshy mittens instead of hands. I sat there for a long time, just staring. I know, you think it might have been the motion blur that made it look that way, but I am telling you this is what I saw. Was this thing really shambling around my room? The thought was too much for me. It was time to move out.
I called up Teddy on the phone. I must have sounded hysterical, going on about some deformed man creeping around in my room. Teddy said that he would let me move in with him; a wave of relief came over me. I admired him so much and I felt like he could make all that nasty shit go away.
That night, I slept in my car. I took my laptop and a brief case full of clothes and small items with me. I would only have to go back there one more time to collect the rest of my belongings. It was a rough night; I think I slept for only a few hours. I kept waking up with this sensation that someone was breathing in my ear.
The next morning, I searched my pockets and found that my cellphone was gone. I knew that I had had it with me that night. I guessed that it was probably lost in the car somewhere, so I didn’t worry too much. I went upstairs into my room to start getting my things when I saw that my cellphone was lying in the middle of the floor. The screen was notifying me that I had received a text message . . . from myself: “I know you saw me.” I was gripped with profound insecurity at that point, and I didn’t care about getting the rest of my things. I went down to start my car, but the battery was dead. I saw that the lights had been on all night. They were turned on by someone while I was sleeping. I pulled out my phone and called Teddy. He said that he would be on his way with jumper cables.
I waited and waited. It had been two hours and I was starting to drift off when my phone vibrated and startled me. It was a text message from Teddy. It started loading a picture onto the screen. I can’t say exactly what I felt when I saw my best friend lying still. He had no expression, and his hair was matted with dark red blood that was running down his forehead. The investigator later said he had been savagely bludgeoned.
The stalker never contacted me again after that, but it’s not over. It will kill me someday after it’s had its fun. And I know it killed Teddy because . . . I know it did. It wants me to live with the guilt. How did it know to do that? How did it know how special he was to me? It’s angry that I saw it. It will never, ever forgive me. I can sometimes feel it breathing on me at night. And I still wake up to find that all of my things have been slightly moved.
Written by J hardy