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Because my job could be done by a trained monkey, and not necessarily a well-trained one at that, I get left alone at work pretty often. Nobody can see me, and more importantly, nobody can see my computer screen, not when they work on the ground floor and I’m up in the stacks.
My superiors don’t track my browsing history, and no one bothers to peek at my computer screen even when they’re right behind me. As long as I turn in something at the end of every day, no one pays me much mind, and they don’t care how much time I spend screwing around on Facebook or how much creepypasta I listen to on YouTube. I don’t abuse the privilege, but having some white noise going in the background helps keep my productivity up, and as long as I allow myself a few minor distractions now and then, I’m more productive in the long run. My fiance, Kevin, likes to joke that I have the world’s easiest job, which usually prompts me to roll my eyes and tickle him.
I work in a building with two other people, Sue and Larry, and we’re stationed in the off-campus archival library, which holds all the records since the founding of the school, carefully cataloged in moldy, dust-covered shelves, some of which have gone untouched for decades. I’m not exaggerating: when I pull out a box of minute meetings from 1974, it tends to have thirty to forty years of dust on it, and it flies into my face and nostrils. All the building is missing is a raven cawing ‘Nevermore!’ ad nauseum.
My job, the one I do for seven and a half hours a day every day, is to pull a box down from the shelf, write down the contents of that box into a computer system, and place the box back on the shelves. Sue and Larry have tons of work of their own to do, and since I’m a lowly graduate student, I can’t possibly help them empty boxes and put things into other boxes, so I’m stuck cataloging row upon row of dusty records and files. Fortunately, this gives me a wealth of time to listen to creepypastas on YouTube. MrCreepyPasta is one of my favorite readers. He’s got a great reading voice.
The actual building is quite large, though it’s well insulated to keep the aging, yellow records away from the sun and the elements. I get no reception in here whatsoever, an issue that causes no end of problems with my needy fiance. The records are contained in large, two-story bookcases made of metal the color of wet grass.
A steel grating divides them in into two floors; one made out of concrete and level with the ground, and the other formed by the grating, which we call the “second floor”. This is where I do most of my work. I grab a company laptop, queue up MrCreepyPasta’s Nightmare Fuel playlist, and get to work. Because of my natural tendency to be a scaredy cat, and the obnoxious amount of horror movies I watch, I’m prone to seeing things out of the corner of my eye that I know aren’t there.
Don’t be mistaken; I know the difference between reality and fiction. Just because my brain thinks it sees a masked face underneath the grating doesn’t mean there actually is one. It usually turns out to be a stray piece of paper I caught out of the corner of my eye. Normally, I’m good at avoiding this kind of real-life jump scare, but being alone in a dimly lit building with too many places to hide certainly doesn’t help.
I’m always there until four, and since I’m an intern, my schedule is more fixed than the other two employees (because that makes sense). They come in at much more erratic hours, breezing in and out to attend programs, professional development conferences, doctor’s appointments, and all manner of things.
Today was one of the days where Sue was only working until two, and I was staying another two hours on top of that, and since Larry was out sick, I had the building to myself. It’s not that I’m afraid, being here alone in a windowless building in the middle of the afternoon, but the settling of the pipes and the creaking of the metal grating that served as the second floor often stimulates my overactive imagination, and listening to creepypasta all day at work doesn’t help matters. It sometimes gives me the feeling that I’m not alone in the stacks, even when I’m sure I am.
Today was one of those days. Today, I was in the musty, stifling archival library all by myself, although I didn’t feel it. As the feeling of eyes boring into the back of my head got stronger, I decided to take a break and get a little fresh air.
Usually, a break from staring at the computer screen was a very, very good thing. I got up and stretched my arms above my head, then I put the video I was currently listening to on pause. I cracked my neck, lolling my head from side to side, and twisted my torso. The satisfying sound of my back and neck crackling like a fire in a hearth sounded throughout the upper level of the archival library, and I decided to look around me.
Silly superstition, I know, but I felt like I had to make absolutely certain I was alone. I turned my head left; nothing. I turned my head right; nothing. All I saw were the stacks upon stacks of boxes containing the old, dust-covered files that I had spent the better part of my summer cataloging. I got up to take a walk around the stacks and stretch my legs as well, and as I went, I peeked my head into the other stacks for a brief moment, making sure there were no serial killers laying in wait to ambush me.
There weren't any. I sighed with relief, sure once again that I was just being a hypochondriac. Kevin always liked to tease me, saying things like “Be careful, I see your shadow”, and he always liked to pick on me for the fact that I was terrified of Bruce, the shark from Finding Nemo. When he smiles with his huge rows of teeth, I just about shit my pants every time.
I made my way back to my laptop station and went to press play on the video and get it to start again, but to no avail. I wiggled the mouse, but the cursor didn’t move. The computer seemed to have frozen on the image of Jeff the Killer, which made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Sure, the original pasta isn't much to look at (it’s no Abandoned by Disney or NormalPornForNormalPeople), but the image still scares the hell out of me. With an exasperated sigh, I held the power button down, and the screen went black. I pressed it again, cursing my bad luck for not saving my work more often as I waited for the laptop to boot up, but nothing happened.
The screen remained black. I furrowed my brow and pressed the button again, waiting for the telltale Windows jingle that would let me know I was successful. Still nothing. There was no way I could have gotten a virus on this computer, as I obviously didn't visit any shady sites on my work machine, and I wasn't running nearly enough programs for the computer to freeze from overwork. I raised my eyebrow and pulled out my smartphone to try and email my boss, but of course, the thick, archaic walls of the building prevented any wireless signals from penetrating it.
I sighed with frustration again and looked around once more. This time, however, I caught a shadow moving from out of the corner of my eye. I quickly whipped my head to the left, looking in between stacks 38A and 39A, but there was nothing there. I turned back to the computer and hit the power button again, hoping that I wasn't going to get the same result. No dice. I checked the plug below the computer; maybe I shut it off with my toe or something. Nope, the power strip was still on.
All of a sudden, however, I felt cold. I'm not sure why, but it was like one moment I was naturally chilly from being in a dark, air-conditioned building, and the next my veins ran with ice water. I snapped up, banging my head on the cart where my laptop sat. I cursed and rubbed the back of my head. As I stood back up, I noticed that the computer was turned on again, and displaying MrCreepyPasta's YouTube page.
My eyebrows creased, and I wiggled the mouse to try and find the cursor, but it didn't appear. I wiggled even harder, but nothing happened. Suddenly, I felt a vice clamp down on my heart. I doubled over in pain, falling to the ground and clutching my chest as my body was racked with a sensation I'd never felt before. The best way I could describe it was that I felt like the physical embodiment of nails on a chalkboard or teeth grinding, painful and indescribably sickening. I shut my eyes as tight as they would go, but nothing helped.
Then, I began to experience something I couldn't explain. It was as if someone else was thinking, but they were using my brain to do it. The nails-on-a-chalkboard sensation continued to race throughout my body, and I felt myself vomit. Luckily, I was on my side, so it merely slopped through the metal grating that served as the second floor's bottom and the first floor's ceiling. Between convulsions, I said a quick prayer that it wouldn't hit any of the files. It didn’t.
Images flashed through my head. A shadowed hand on a doorknob. A creature with razor-sharp teeth with it's head buried in something I couldn't recognize. A woman with her ear pressed to a door and a masked man on the other side, doing the same. As the pain subsided from my body, I opened my eyes and bolted to my feet. I was unsuccessful, however, as I felt my stomach begin to heave again, and I fell to my knees once more, throwing up through the grating again.
My entire body was on edge, my hair was standing straight as an obelisk, and my eyes were wide open as the images in my head and the sensations in my body cobbled together to create one, cohesive thought: fear. Suddenly, I felt a wave of positive energy sweep through me, as though it were confirming something I couldn't understand. Whatever was using my brain to think for me played several more pictures of things I could barely identify, and when it finally stopped again, I stood.
When I rose from my position on the floor, my eyes widened. I saw a tall, thin, faceless man in a dark pinstripe suit. I knew exactly who it was. My head ached when I tried to look at him, so I turned away, only to be met with yet another familiar face. This one was bone white, and his elongated Glasgow grin and lidless eyes told me exactly who he was as well. I tried to back up, but my heels caught in the grate and I fell onto my back. Jeff grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, hauled me to my feet, and slammed me down in the chair in front of my work laptop, and that was when I began to understand what was happening, if only a bit.
The computer was miraculously on again, showing MrCreepyPasta's YouTube channel, but this time it was browsing videos at an alarming rate. It flashed through all the famous ones starting with Ichor Falls: The Gristers, Tails Doll, suicidemouse.avi, Squidward's Suicide, smile.dog, and countless others. As it scrolled, images of the stories, ones that I had conjured in my head while reading or listening, flashed through my head as well.
I saw each scene I imagined from BEN DROWNED, and it played the video series in it's entirety, though in fast forward. I tried to struggle, to escape, but Jeff's freakishly strong arms held me firmly in place. Below the floor, out of the corner of my eye, I could see other creepypasta monsters gathering. The gristers were below, gnashing their little teeth. The Rake walked by, scraping it's claws on the ground as it went. Laughing Jack, looking just as I imagined him, like Ryuk from Death Note, was giggling as he looked up at me. The group of monsters grew as the videos played faster and faster, and my head began to pound as I watched, somehow unable to close my eyes.
Then, as quickly as it started, the playlist stopped as it reached the first video. It continued to search YouTube for other things, landing on Fewdio's channel, CreepsMcPasta, Let's Plays of Amnesia, and everything that made it difficult for me to sleep at night. My breathing escalated to an almost uncontrollable level as the computer surfed through videos and finally the internet, getting faster and faster with each image it showed.
Everything I saw began to materialize around me, and finally, as I saw in front of me an image of the crawling, ragged Regenerators from the Resident Evil games, I felt the pressure on my shoulders disappear. The laptop sparked and the keys on the keyboard flew in several different directions as the machine gave out and caught fire. I was thrown on my back once more. Scrambling to my feet, I made my way to the door as quickly as I could, but I was suddenly met with the one frightening image I didn't think I'd see.
It was my fiance, Kevin. His skin was pallid and pale, and his arms had been sliced up, one single red line traveling up the street, not across. His neck was covered in red, irritated rope burn, and a thin line of blood trickled from his mouth. When he opened it to try and speak, nothing came out but the sound of gurgling.
"Kevin?" I said tentatively. "You can't be here. I know you can't be here." My voice was barely above a whisper, so low that I could barely hear it.
"Is this what you fear, boy?" Kevin, or whatever was assuming his form, asked me as he showed me his arms. He didn’t use words, but I could feel his speech, his intent, in my head. "Is this what you fear the most?" I nodded slowly, taking slow breaths. My stomach felt empty, my limbs were light, and I could feel what little bile I had left rising in my throat.
“Then I have learned all I can from you," the apparition went on. "I thank you for introducing me to this machine, this computer. It has proved most useful to my designs. As a reward for aiding in my rebirth, I award you your miserable human life. You may go, or not. it is up to you." And with that, there was a blinding flash of light. I collapsed to my stomach, and the pain finally made me pass out.
The next thing I remember is being shaken into consciousness by Sue, who came back for her purse or something. I’m not sure what her reason for being in the building was, as I was still pretty dazed and my thoughts were racing with whatever it was that had assumed the form of my fiance, the thing I now come to refer to as The Fear. Whenever I think of it now, I get a warm rush of satisfaction throughout my body, like the one I got when I first gave it its name. Sometimes, I can feel it sending images to my brain, things I’d never heard of or seen before, things that make my skin crawl and my muscles convulse.
It’s been nearly six weeks since that day. I wasn’t able to explain what happened to the laptop, so I had to get a new one taken out of my salary, or at least I would have if I had been able to show up to work. Lately, I’ve not been doing much but rocking back and forth under my covers like I walked straight out of a Lovecraft story. With no job, no social life, and no money, I got kicked out of my house and had to go back to living at home. My parents tried to get me counseling, but none of it helps.
No therapist can undo what The Fear did. Kevin and I haven’t spoken in weeks either. I broke the engagement soon after the incident. I can’t look at him without seeing It. I can’t look at him without seeing the rope burns on his neck, or the tracts on his arms, or his mouth oozing with blood. I can’t bear it, and I can’t let him see the look on my face when I get those images in my head.
Usually, when I find myself desperately afraid and can’t forget certain images I turn to My Little Pony or Regular Show or some other harmless cartoon, but even that isn’t helping much now. Not even Kevin makes me feel better now, not since I got rid of him. Eating makes me sick, I’m too afraid to even leave my house, and I haven’t seen anyone for days. I can get into my brain through my eye socket. If I can carve the eye out with a knife or a spoon. I can get in and cut The Fear out of my brain. If nothing else, I’ll die, and the images will finally, mercifully, stop, and I’ll be at peace again. The option is starting to look more and more attractive with each passing day. In fact, I have a nice, sharp pair of scissors in my desk drawer...