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I’m a senior at a high school in a small town out in a pretty isolated place. I haven’t many friends, only a few close ones that hang out with me on occasion.
I live in a poor family as an only child—causing my parents to fight a lot—and we are just trying to get by. I enjoy gaming (to what limited things I can afford) and have recently started an interest with computers.
I was very familiar with the online website YouTube, where users can submit any videos (no matter how outrageous or creepy) as long as they aren’t pornographic.
One weekend my friends were all busy. On vacation—family visits, I suppose. So I decided to surf around on the website for a bit. I know there are different parts of YouTube—for example, if you were looking at a comedic video prior, then all of the suggestions will be links to more funny videos—so once I got a suggestion for a Japanese SpongeBob commercial, I knew I was on the weird side of the site.
Now all of the suggestions for these videos did not have many views. Somewhere in the hundreds, which was very different from the hundreds of thousands I was used to. Scrolling down, I noticed a very recondite link titled "The Vanity.prel". It stood out to me for reasons I still don’t know—it just did. Maybe it was the fact that it had the least amount of views in the bunch, the name, just something. So I clicked it.
And I regret I did.
The beginning was horrifying. Unlike anything I had ever seen before and I didn’t know why. It was what appeared as an old style film—black and white with a CGI animated woman in a dress. Dancing. But that wasn’t it. Her face. It was lifeless. Completely expressionless, all of her emotions had been distressingly wrested out of her. She looked almost dead. Dancing there, breathless. And it was the movements, her arms flailing. Staggering. Moving like no person should. Towards the end of that clip she started to go faster—feral; out of control.
And the music. Oh, god the music. It was incomparable to anything I‘ve listened to. It sounded like the voice of an altered automated voice. Inverted and looped, audio reversed and reverted.
But then it got worse.
An even more terrifying image of a dying face flashed the screen for a second. Then faded to blackness. When it continued playing it showed another animation of a man and a limbless corpse of a horse lying on its side, dead in the grass.
The music kicks in. But the sound is too much to bear. It’s what seems to be the sound of a horse’s neigh, but a cry as if it was being wounded or beaten to death. The man falls to the ground right beside the horse, leg still twitching. The rest of his body was immobile, while spasms in his leg were still apparent. I couldn’t get a look at his face—which was undoubtedly filled with excruciating pain and anguish.
Now a different angle, the man and the corpse fall to the ground simultaneously. However this time it’s not just the man’s legs that are having spasms, it’s his entire body. He violently has a seizure. Arms and legs kicking in every direction, his body shaking and twitching in pain. The music is still playing which now makes sense under what I am being shown—the horse is helpless. Presumably tortured just seconds ago. Back to it’s original [dead] position in the grass after the spasms are over, then to blackness.
I didn’t want to watch the video anymore. It was too much. I was disturbed, frightened, wondering why this was made. What message was this trying to convey? I wait a bit, and to my horror a clip of an animated girl with a distraught, sullen look on her face followed by an agitated scream that made my ears want to bleed. She continues walking, sluggishly and unwillingly towards the camera as the video pans to black yet again.
By now I’m putting my hands over my face. But something was making me want to keep watching. Some unwanted determination of wanting to make it through to the end.
More animated characters. Two males falling down the stairs—again helpless, unable to move. When they reach the bottom they just lie there—symbolizing to me that they are dead as well. A final soundless clip of video plays out of the same little girl from the section prior to this one. It loops three times as she just moves her head—haltingly, sacredly.
Then it was over.
I had been a fan of horror tales, movies, even stories on the internet. But that… that was different from all of them. It was just awful to watch. Painful almost… like all hope had been lacerated out of you. Trying to piece together and decipher exactly what I just watched was impossible. There were no comments since the video had less than a hundred views. Nobody to talk to about it. The link to the creator was broken, only directing me to a white screen.
I didn’t even dare to show anybody I knew. I already kept things to myself, but this time it was because I did not want anyone else to witness the horror that I saw. I began to live the rest of the day as I normally would, and I was fine. Until nightfall.
As soon as I tried to go to sleep, the nightmares started up. The music played oh too familiarly. Looping in my mind again and again. All I saw was the dancing woman in that dress. Dead. Expressionless. So I decided not to sleep. I couldn't deal with the nightmares. I still had to go to school, despite the lack of sleep. I had been up for about twenty-four hours and running solely on coffee to make it through the day.
Upon getting back home, I decided that an afternoon nap was in order—but I still could not go to bed. Every time I try I just lie there, trying not to remember. But I couldn't help it. Focusing on anything else isn’t an option—and whenever I do it is only for a few seconds at a time until the song repetition begins.
I didn’t tell anybody. They would think its stupid. But I was getting to the point where I needed to. My sleep deprivations were getting bad. I was almost at the seventy-two hour mark.
This is where I changed for the worse.
Now I have heard about hallucinations, stories of men from the depths of the Sahara falsely seeing the things that they most desire—but I have never heard of hallucinations from lack of sleep. And if I had, I would have never stayed up as much as I did. Because what I saw was far worse than any nightmares I could have ever dreamed of.
My eyes were entirely lassitude and discolored to a dark shade of red. Pupils dilated, mood groggy, I was about to black out. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t. I sluggishly limped over to the end of the couch to try to rest my body. I didn’t want to fall completely asleep, but I did unintentionally drift off for an hour. As soon as I opened my eyes, however, I wanted to die.
I saw her. The woman in the dress, doing the same dance that I know so well. Circling in front of me—dancing to a nonexistent rhythm. But it was in my head. I knew the movements. Every beat matched the patterns of her style and played out exactly how it does in the video. But I’ve had enough. I didn’t care if I was imagining it or not, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I reached underneath the sofa and pulled out my switchblade knife. I lashed out. Pointing the dagger forward I lunged and thrusted the blade right into her chest. Thick, bright red blood gushed from her stab wound and a loud but distinct cry in agony escaped from her mouth as she vanished. Disappearing from reality. Had my aberration been over? I looked down.
The same wound and the same blood completely soaked into my white T-shirt.
I could not tell what was happening. Had I stabbed myself? Was I imagining all of this? I cried out in pain. Tightening the grip on the knife that was now by my side. I looked down a second time.. listlessly closing my eyes. All I could hear was the sound of an ambulance siren whirring past my head, and it was the first time in a while it was something other than the memorizing, distorted music from the video that had haunted me up until this point. It was as if I was finally at peace.
I smiled to myself as I began to fall asleep.