It was the summer before my sophomore year of high school. My older brother had just gone off to college, leaving a box of 80's-era VHS tapes in the closet of his recently vacated bedroom, which was actually a renovated loft over the two-car garage attached to my parents’ house. What my brother Josh had referred to as his “Mike Seaver bedroom,” though I never got the reference (well I do now because I Googled it as I was writing this, but I digress…)
I’d always envied the apartment-like privacy of my brother’s room and was pestering my folks to let me have it the moment Josh announced that he was going to an out-of-state school. My mom eventually relented on the grounds that I first moved everything he left behind into my old bedroom. I quickly agreed and the closet had been the last thing I cleaned out. When I came across the tapes, I immediately assumed “vintage porn” but was quite surprised to find that the entire box was nothing but old obscure horror films. Mostly stuff with ridiculous titles and dated cover art but, being a fan of terrible B-grade horror, it was actually quite the find.
The only problem was my brother didn’t have a VCR, at least not one that he left behind, and neither did my parents. I begged my mom to let me use her credit card to buy one I found online for like thirty bucks and she of course asked me what a boy with a Blue-Ray player and a laptop needed with a VCR. I explained about the box of tapes in Josh’s room and she scoffed, saying “I’m really starting to worry. You’re always watching horror movies and playing those violent video games. You need to start reading more books.”
“Then can I use your credit card to order books?”
I spent that entire afternoon scouring all of the nearby stores and was eventually able to locate an old DVD/VCR combo-player tucked away in a dimly lit section of Best Buy’s Home Entertainment department. And then I dusted off a price-tag that read $199.99 and promptly put it back. What am I, a drug dealer?
I was walking home and contemplating simply swiping my mom’s credit card when I spotted a large black rectangle lying beside several bags of trash that had been placed out on the sidewalk in front of a vacant lot. Odds were it was just a busted DVD player but I stopped to check anyway, just to be sure. Imagine the look on my face when I saw that it wasn’t a DVD player but, shit you not, an actual for-realzies VCR.
I practically ran home, the old bulky machine clutched to my chest and me looking like the world’s most needless burglar. One of the main benefits of my new room was that I was able to enter through the garage and would thereby avoid any possible questions from my parents, who are both upper-middle class white people and generally judgmental of anything that involved pilfering trash. I hurried up the stairs to my room and plugged in the machine. It was then I discovered that, big surprise, the VCR which I found on the side of the road didn’t work. I don’t know what I was expecting but this still managed to frustrate the shit out of me.
Luckily, I was the type of guy that when you asked who his favorite X-man was, he answered “Forge.” Which obviously meant two things: One, he probably enjoyed tinkering with machines and, two, even in an age where nerds were actually cool this guy still wasn't getting laid. So, of course my first reaction was to retrieve a soldering iron from my dad’s workbench and bust that bad boy open.
I sat up most of the night, Googling VCR repair manuals and watching tutorials on YouTube. Eventually, I located what seemed to be the problem and in the end it was a relatively easy fix. The only real speed-bump was when I cut my hand while replacing the VCR’s metal casing and a few drops of blood managed to end up on one of the exposed video-heads. If this had been a horror movie, I probably would have heard an ominous clap of thunder right about then but no such luck.
I carefully wiped off the video-head, secured the casing, and plugged in the VCR. And yet, after all of this, I was still genuinely surprised when it actually turned on, the green digital-clock style display lighting up as the machine whirred to life. I quickly hooked up the VCR and dug a tape from the box at random. I slid the movie (Blood Train) in and hit PLAY.
An image appeared on the screen; a static black-and-white shot of a dimly-lit windowless room. The back wall looked like it was made from packed clay. Aside from the clay wall and a few feet of cement floor, the only thing visible within the frame was a rusty floor-mounted chair (like the kind you see in a dentist’s office) which was partially visible to the left of the screen. Not exactly Kubrick-level composition but there was something that began to feel oddly menacing about the shot as I watched it continue, uninterrupted, for almost two minutes.
“…the hell is this?” There was no score or audible sound of any kind and if it hadn’t been for the grainy quality of the film or the time-code ticking away on the VCR’s display, I would’ve thought I was looking at a still image. I tried to fast-forward but nothing happened. Hoping that this was just a busted tape, I hit EJECT and grabbed another movie (She-Snake!) from the box. I replaced Blood Train with the new tape and hit PLAY.
I blinked at my TV. The image that appeared on screen was the same as before; the same continuous shot of the same clay wall and partially visible chair. I double-checked to make sure that I had put in a new tape, then hit the fast-forward button and again nothing happened. Same story with rewind and pause. I ejected the movie and was only mildly baffled when I got the same result from a third tape. For close to a minute, I just glared at the TV screen as my disbelief combined with exhaustion and started to turn to rage. I was reaching to hit EJECT and contemplating chucking the VCR out a window when a shadow flickered across the clay wall on screen.
I glanced up at the TV just in time to see a balding old man in a pair of grimy overalls stalk into frame. The old man was almost abnormally tall and walked with the kind of slouch one develops after a lifetime of dealing with inadequately sized spaces. In one hand, he gripped the handle of what looked to be a metal bucket with several wires hanging from the bottom. Thin streaks of gore poured from the two hollow sockets where his eyes should’ve been and stained the length of the man’s pock-marked cheeks with streams of dried blood.
Though being sans eyeballs didn’t really seem to hamper the old man’s vision as he stomped past the clay wall and then out of frame, leaving me sitting there on the floor in front of my television, mouth agape. And that’s how I stayed for about half an hour, just watching what basically amounted to a particularly boring security-camera feed as it continued uninterrupted. In that time, the shot never cut. Nothing else appeared on screen. It was mesmerizing.
So many questions ran through my head: Where was this room? Why was that chair there? Who was the old man? What the ever-loving fuck WAS this?!
Even then, I would’ve believed there was some benign explanation for all of it. Maybe Josh had been working on a student film and used these old horror movie tapes to store his footage on and what I was watching was simply unedited B-roll. Maybe someone accidently left the camera rolling between takes. Three times while filming the same shot.
And then the old man returned, dragging a frantically kicking woman into frame. What I originally mistook for a bucket was actually a helmet-like apparatus that was currently clamped down over the woman’s head. The wires hanging from the helmet were clipped to various parts of the woman’s body. She continued to flail in vain as the old man used the attached handle to drag her across the room.
They reached the floor-mounted chair at the edge of the frame and a disquieting grin spread across the man’s face as he squeezed the handle. The woman immediately began to vomit blood through an oval-shaped hole in the helmet and, just like that, her body went limp. The man lifted her effortlessly, placing the woman into the chair as he moved just out of frame. He then turned the chair so that the only thing still visible in the shot was a profile view of its back and part of the woman’s helmet-covered head.
But something told me that was more than enough. I had this sudden overwhelming feeling that what was about to happen off screen was something not meant to be seen. This was not footage from some movie my brother made. This wasn’t footage at all. It was a window. A thought came to me then from out of nowhere, clear as someone talking in my ear:
Videohead… His name is Videohead. I passed out somewhere around dawn and groaned at my mom when she tried to wake me up two hours later. She yanked the covers out of my hand, saying, “Oh, no… Save that song and dance for a test or something. You’re not faking sick your first day.”
Apparently, I had completely forgotten that school was starting this week. “You sure that’s today?” “Yes. Me, the bus driver outside, and the thirty kids on board are all pretty sure that’s today.”
I went through my morning classes in a half-conscious fog and then power-chugged two cans of Mountain Dew at lunch to ready myself for the big reveal of last night’s discovery to my one and only non-internet friend, Walter. I told him about everything… The box of tapes, the VCR, the old man who I had come to think of as “Videohead”, the woman in the helmet… And when I was done, he just stared at me with a thoughtful expression on his face. After a beat, he finally said, “You saw Brett Marshal’s car?”
“No. I didn’t.” I replied, a bit bewildered.
“His dad bought him one of those new Mustangs for his birthda…”
“Brett Marshal is a douche!” I suddenly shouted, cutting him off. I was frustrated by Walter’s complete lack of regard for my story and more than a little sleep-deprived, which was enough for me to momentarily space on the fact that I was sitting in the middle of a crowded cafeteria. A cafeteria which immediately fell silent as everyone turned to stare at me.
A humiliated expression appeared on Walt’s face as he looked down at the table and muttered “Well, that was unnecessary.”
“Wanna say that shit to my face, faggot?” This was Mr. Marshal himself speaking; a guy who was at least six inches taller than me and, as previously mentioned, a total douche. I turned to see him sitting a mere two tables over and, caught off guard by the sight of him, my tired mind could think of no other way to respond.
“You’re a douche?” For some reason this made everyone laugh, which was almost as shocking as the look Brett was giving me. I turned back to find Walter still staring down and half-smirking as he shook his head.
“You’re a dead man.”
The day was a bit of a blur after that, everything around me seemingly set to half-volume as I did my best to go through the motions. I went to the rest of my classes and filed away my syllabi in their respective folders and nodded when it seemed appropriate. The bus-ride home was spent listening to music on my phone and avoiding all the awkward stares. Once I was back at my house, I went straight to my room and promptly passed out…
Now I’m walking down the street outside my house but then I stop. I stop because I see someone standing in the middle of street. I see the woman from the night before about ten feet ahead of me standing in the middle of the street. I can see her eyes through two small holes drilled into the side of the cylindrical apparatus on her head and her eyes are bright green and quite pretty and she says something but I can’t hear what she’s saying because she says it too quietly and I ask her what she said and she says it again but I still can’t hear her and then she’s gone. Then she’s behind me and screaming, “I said it fucking HURTS!”
I was pulled out of the dream to find myself in a nearly pitch-black room. I hadn’t bothered to flip on a light when I came in and the blinds were only half drawn, letting in the smallest sliver of moonlight. But before I could even reach for a lamp, the motion-triggered light in my backyard came on. My heart still racing from the nightmare, I hurried out of bed and crossed to the window just in time to see a tall figure slink into the shadows, heading towards the garage.
I grabbed the baseball bat from beside my bed and cautiously descended the stairs into the garage. The door leading out to the backyard had a square window set into its top half and as I was nearing it, a silhouette appeared at the window. I immediately ducked down beside the door, pressing myself against the wall and praying that I hadn’t been spotted. I carefully reached out a hand and turned the lock on the doorknob.
A moment later, the knob began to rattle as the figure outside attempted to turn it. A light overlooking the driveway was triggered, casting the figure’s shadow across the garage floor. I watched the shadow lift both hands to its face, using them like blinders to block out the light as the figure scanned the garage. After what felt like hours, the shadow finally retracted as the tall silhouette moved away from the window.
By this point, my heart was playing a speed-metal drum solo against my chest. I didn’t want to move but I had to do something. What, though?
Call the cops, dumbass!
That’s what characters in badly-written horror movies always seemed to forget they could do and now here I was doing the same thing. Stupid life imitating stupid art. I patted each of my pockets, hoping to feel my cell in one of them but I didn’t. Why hadn’t I grabbed my phone before I came down here?
Because you’re half-awake and obviously an idiot.
I was about to risk it and bolt back upstairs when I suddenly heard whispering from just outside the door.
“…when we’re sure…”
I couldn’t make out much of what they were saying but the first voice sounded vaguely familiar. After a few moments the whispering began to fade, muffled by the sound of footsteps heading away from the garage. They were leaving, heading towards the street. Long after I could no longer hear either of them, I carefully glanced out the window.
The lawn was clear but something was dangling from the tree in front of my house. A lot of something. It looked like…
“Mother fucker…” Someone had covered the tree in toilet-paper. The intense dread that had filled me a moment ago was replaced with indignant frustration as I yanked open the door and stepped outside to get a better look.
The sudden kick slammed square against my back and sent me tumbling into a set of plastic trashcans which thankfully cushioned my fall as I crashed to the ground, scattering garbage everywhere. From behind me Brett Marshal chuckled and said, “Who’s the douche now, ass-clown?”
Before I could respond with what I’m sure would’ve been an extremely clever and biting insult, my parents’ bedroom light came on and Brett took off running. I climbed to my feet and brushed a used coffee filter from my shirt as a black truck pulled up to my house. Brett hopped into the flatbed and the truck sped off just as my dad was yanking open the kitchen door.
“What the hell?!” he shouted and I quickly pointed toward the tree draped in toilet-paper. My dad saw this and he let out a weary sigh. “Fuckin’ kids...”
The TV was on when I returned to my room, the screen displaying the same static shot of Videohead’s lair as the night before. I guess this should’ve seemed kind of strange since the set had been off when I left the room. But considering the preceding events of that night, I barely registered the anomaly as I climbed back into bed.
It didn’t take long for Videohead to show up, entering frame with a new helmet-clad victim. It was a man this time, chubby and kind of short. The guy’s hands had been savagely cut off and he held the two bloody stumps up above his chest in a protective manner; probably because it didn’t feel so great to let them drag on the ground as Videohead pulled him across the floor.
Videohead lifted the man into the chair and then, just as before, he turned it so that the guy was now almost entirely out of frame. After a moment, the man’s head rocked back and the part of the chair that I could see began to shake slightly. He was struggling.
When sleep finally returned, it was deep and mercifully dreamless.
I spent every night that week watching the feed of Videohead’s lair, anxiously awaiting his exit and eventual return, a fresh victim in tow. He always arrived at a different time, though it was usually well after midnight. And each night, there would be something “unique” about the victim…
One woman was covered head-to-toe in a dark sludge that looked a lot like raw sewage and another, a man, had a small machine attached to his mouth with a tube leading out of it that seemed to be pumping a menagerie of vile-looking insects from his body. I talked Walter into coming over that Friday to “see for himself” how awesome of a find this was and when Videohead finally showed up that night, he did not disappoint.
He entered, a woman’s contorted body dangling from the handle in his hand. The woman’s arms and legs were hogtied behind her back by a coil of barbwire and a rabid possum was scampering alongside her, biting at the woman’s gnarled and bloody stomach as Videohead carried her across the screen. He kicked the possum away as they reached the chair and Videohead bent to unwind the barbwire holding her limbs in place. Immediately, the woman began to struggle, clawing at Videohead’s already severely scarred face.
Un-phased by the nails digging into his empty eye-sockets, Videohead casually pulled the woman’s hands away and then broke one of her arms like it was a dry branch. The fight quickly drained from her and Videohead gently lifted the woman into the chair before turning it to face off-screen. I looked at Walter and said, “Right?”
“Seriously, they’re not even gonna show the best part?” he asked, gesturing at the turned chair angled just out of frame.
“But that’s the whole point. Whatever you saw up until now is nothing compared to what you’re not being shown. There’s nothing scarier than the unseen. You don’t get that?”
Walter shrugged and said, “I don’t know. Plus, it was boring up until then. I guess the thing with the badger was pretty cool.”
“It was a possum.”
“Yeah, I liked that part. Anyway…” Walter yawned and slowly stood up. “I’m gonna take off.”
This left me feeling pretty bitter and I didn’t bother walking Walt out. As I listened to the door close below me, Videohead once again came into view as he started back across the screen. “Whoa. Leaving twice in one night? That’s new.”
As I said this, Videohead stopped in place, almost directly in the middle of the frame. He cocked his head slightly, as if straining to hear something. Videohead then turned to look directly at me and his face seemed to light up. He grinned at me then and it’s worth noting that, on a scale of 1 to 10 of bone-chilling creepiness, that grin would’ve scored a perfect “holy fuck!”
After another tense beat, Videohead turned and exited the frame, leaving me sitting there looking like Lenny holding a freshly crushed puppy. For about five minutes, that’s how I stayed, mouth-agape and waiting-hoping that Videohead would return. Perhaps he had simply left something in his car and that little fourth-wall break had really just been him spotting a stain on a couch cushion or something. I bet there were stains all over that place.
“There’s no need to panic,” I told myself when Videohead didn’t return. I made my way downstairs to lock the door to the garage and then hurried back up to my room and grabbed my bat. “Which is why I’m not going to panic.”
I pushed my dresser in front of the door and then, just to be safe, I locked the window as well. Surveying the room, I remembered Monday night’s visit from Brett and immediately grabbed my phone.
“Who has two thumbs and the presence of mind to no longer make cliché mistakes?” I continued, trying to distract myself frin my own increasing heart rate. And then the backyard’s motion-triggered light came on. This time, I didn’t bother checking to see what had set it off.
I could hear the doorknob downstairs rattling as someone tried to turn it, followed by the sound of breaking glass. I quickly unlocked my phone and dialed 9-1-1. The line rang once and then a familiar female voice answered with a faint “Hello?”
“Hi, yes, uh someone is breaking into my house!”
The operator let out a surprised gasp. “Really? That’s awful.”
I suddenly realized why I recognize the voice on the phone. It was Videohead’s first victim, the woman from my nightmare. “There’s no one coming to save me, is there?”
“Sorry, sweetie. I’m afraid not.”
I pulled the phone from my ear and tossed it onto the bed as the sound of whining door hinges filtered in from downstairs. Someone was inside the garage. The stairs began to creak as the intruder slowly climbed up to my room.
After all this, I still jumped when the knob to my door began to rotate. The door was locked but it was one of those cheap residential indoor locks and it only took about five seconds of forceful turning before the bolt snapped open with a loud CLUNK. After a pause that felt no shorter than several eons, the door finally swung open and immediately banged against the dresser.
Videohead leaned his out of the darkness and into my room, looking even taller than he did on screen. Nearly eight-feet would be my guess, considering he had to duck beneath the doorway to enter. It was at this point that time slowed to a crawl. I tried to back away and it was like moving underwater.
Videohead shoved the dresser aside and started toward me, that creepy-as-shit grin stretched wide across his face. I held the bat up in front of me as he neared and Videohead easily swatted it out of my hands, which caused me to stumble back onto my bed as he raised the bucket-helmet over my head…
And then he was gone.
“Huh?” I lowered the arm I had held up to block my face and glanced around to find Videohead nowhere in sight. I realized I was sitting on something and pulled a universal remote out from under my ass. The same remote I had programmed to the VCR. I glanced at the TV and found my answer in the form of a blue input screen; a single word spelled out in blocky white lettering hovered at the top left of the frame…
Without another thought, I unhooked the VCR and shoved it inside one of the trash cans beside the garage but this didn’t quite feel like far enough away so I snuck out with my dad’s car (somehow, the commotion earlier hadn’t woken either of my parents) and drove around, trying to locate the empty lot where I had originally found the VCR but couldn’t and eventually ended up chucking the machine into a dumpster behind Best Buy. My logic was that their lack of reasonable prices was at least partially to blame for my present predicament and the least they could do was assist with the disposal.
When I got back home, I cracked open my laptop and searched Netflix for the most benign comedy I could find. I settled on the first season of the American Office and eventually managed to drift off to sleep.
The dream I had that night as I slept…
I don’t want to talk about the dream I had that night. And you don’t want to hear it. Even if you think you do, trust me. You don’t.
I spent most of Saturday cleaning out my room, which surprised the crap out of my mom, but my dad was still a bit pissed at me since I told him I locked myself out the night before and had to break one of the panes of glass on the door to the garage to get in. But then I asked if he would drive me to go get a replacement pane and teach me how to install it and his mood instantly brightened at the prospect of me actually volunteering for father-son handy work.
After that I tried to call Walter (no answer) and then my brother, thinking I might ask him about the box of tapes I had found even though by this point I was certain the VCR had been the source of everything, and ended up getting his voice-mail anyway. I had been feeling weird all day, almost as if I was hung-over from the intensity of last night’s events. To be fair, the entire week had been pretty draining and I ended up passing out at around 9:00 p.m. while watching Let’s Plays on YouTube.
Thankfully, that night I slept like a rock and didn’t have a single dream that I could recall. I woke up Sunday actually feeling pretty good. Walter finally called me back and I apologized for being a pretentious dick. We went and saw some awful action movie that ended up being thoroughly entertaining in a “so bad, it’s good” sort of way. It was nice to be watching a film that I knew was just a film.
Sitting there in the theater and laughing my ass off at the unintentional comedy gold unfolding on screen, I finally started to feel like it was actually over. My brush with darkness had been just that and nothing more. I knew I was lucky to have skirted so close to danger and lived to tell the tale. But now, it was done. It was time for me to return to my boring old regular life.
Then came Monday. I knew it was going to be a weird day when I stepped outside and felt how unseasonably chilly it was. I tried to shrug it off, chalking the cold up to nothing more sinister than global warming but there was this strange nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I couldn’t shake. A feeling like I was somehow responsible for the strange shift in weather.
Of course that was absolute nonsense, I told myself as I retrieved a sweater from my room and hurried back out to the bus. Who did I think I was, Hallie Berry in X-Men? I was still smirking at the mental image of me dressed like Storm as I reached my locker and started to dial in the combination. And then I pulled the locker open and my smirk instantly vanished.
There, wedged inside, was the bulky top-loading VCR I had left in Best Buy’s dumpster Friday night. I immediately slammed the locker shut and several Senior girls turned to glare at me.
“There’s like a… snake in my locker.” I said, pointing as I quickly turned and started down the hall to class. All morning, the only thing I could think about was what was sitting in my locker. Sitting there, waiting.
Walter had a dentist appointment that day and I ended up eating lunch alone. I found an empty table at the back of the cafeteria and sat facing the wall as I racked my brain for a solution. Why not just set it on fire? Let that bad boy burn until it was nothing but ash.
Then I remembered that, according to the slew of “real” paranormal encounters shows which I frequently watched (hey, we all have our guilty pleasures… mine is just really silly), you’re not supposed to burn haunted Ouija boards because the element of fire actually makes malign entities stronger.
So what, then? I Googled “disposing of haunted objects” on my phone and read that I should tie large stones to the VCR and toss it into a running body of water like a river or a deep stream. One site suggested filling a kiddie-pool with saltwater and submerging it in there if I couldn’t locate a suitable natural water source but I seriously doubted I would be able to explain that one to my folks.
I was searching Google Maps for the nearest river when I heard a familiar voice approaching. Brett was talking to one of his idiot friends as they sat down at the table directly behind me. “…That’s when my mother-effing mom decides to barge in without even knocking and I’m just sitting there, dick in my hand and two lesbians going to town on a double-ended dildo on my computer screen.”
Brett’s friend… I think his name was something stupid like Clyde… started laughing. “Fuck, man! You don’t know how to lock a door, dude?”
“I thought I had. Anyway, now my mom’s so freaked out, she made my dad block internet access to my room. She thinks I’m gonna become a sexual deviant just because I like a little girl-on-girl action.”
“No internet? That’s like, what do they call it? Crueler than usual punishment.”
“Tell me about it. So I went digging through all this stuff from my dad’s bachelor years that he’s got stashed in the shed out back and guess what? I found a straight-up box full of porn out there.”
“Problem solved then. Sure, they might be a bit bushier than you’re used to but still…”
“Yeah, the only problem is it’s all VHS tapes…”
“So? You don’t have an old VCR lying around?”
“Of course not. Do you?”
“Exactly. Nobody does.” Brett grew quiet for a moment and then suddenly he shouted in my direction, “Hey!”
Something small ricocheted off the side of my head and I looked down to see a single tater-tot roll beneath my chair. “Hey, faggot.”
When I didn’t respond, Brett tossed another tater-tot at my head. “Hey…”
I let out a long sigh as a third tater-tot bounced off of my shoulder and landed in my Jell-O. “…faggot.”
“What?” I nearly hissed as I quickly spun to face Brett, who’s arm was poised and ready to throw another tot. “You got a VCR I can borrow?”
I tried my best not to smile. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
To say that Brett looked surprised when I pulled the bulky machine from my locker and placed it in his outstretched arms would be an understatement. “Here. You can keep it.”
“Really? …Thanks, man.”
I shut my locker and smiled at him. “Go fuck yourself, Brett.”
I walked off, leaving him standing there beside my locker and looking more than a little confused. When I was halfway down the hall, Brett turned and shouted, “Oh… I get it!”
I spent the rest of that day trying not to think too much about what I had just done. Sure, I felt a little guilty about giving the VCR to Brett but then again, it was Brett that I gave it to. Besides, I think we can all agree that he had been asking for it. And I don’t just mean literally.
Still, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that even a total douche like him didn’t deserve to die. But who was to say that was going to happen? For all I knew, the VCR would work just fine for Brett and he would get to abuse himself to his heart’s content.
As it turned out, I only had to wait until later that night to find out the answer. I was in my bedroom, actually doing homework of all things, when suddenly my TV turned on by itself. I checked to see if I had accidently hit the remote and found it sitting on the nightstand beside my bed, well out of reach. I grabbed the remote and was about to switch the TV off when I saw what was on the screen.
It was a hand-held “found footage” style shot looking in through a window at what appeared to be a teenage boy’s bedroom. After a beat, Brett entered the room, holding a bottle of lotion. He locked the door and then tried to turn the knob to ensure that it was actually locked.
Brett had already hooked up the VCR and had a tape ready to go as he moved to the TV and undid his pants. Thankfully, the partially turned blinds blocked most of Brett’s lower region from view as he slid his underwear down and hit PLAY.
I couldn’t see his TV screen but the baffled look on Brett’s face was enough to tell me that what he was watching was not vintage porn. Though, it wouldn’t matter for long. In that same moment, Videohead appeared beside Brett and slammed the metal helmet down onto his head.
There was an abrupt cut as the feed suddenly switched to Brett’s point of view. Looking through the helmet’s narrow eyeholes, I could see that Brett was being dragged down a dark stairwell and into what I immediately recognized as Videohead’s lair. Brett’s breathing became louder and more panicked. He glanced at the clay wall to his right and then to the left…
And that’s when we both spotted me. More specifically, a monitor set into the wall displaying a shot of me sitting there on my bed in what appeared to be real time. I reflexively held up a hand to check and, sure enough, my double on the screen immediately mirrored the gesture. To Brett, it must’ve looked like I was waving.
Videohead continued to drag Brett across the room, giving me a quick glimpse at the rest of this new wall which I could now see was covered in dozens of monitors identical to the one I was on, each monitor displaying a shot of a different person sitting in a room somewhere and intently staring at the screen. Then Videohead lifted Brett into the chair and turned it to face yet another part of his lair that had, up until now, remained unseen.
The view through the eyeholes was pretty limited and it took me a second to fully understand what I was seeing. The wall the chair was now facing was covered, from floor to ceiling, in eyes. Hundreds of human eyeballs, to be specific. I assumed this was simply a macabre form of decoration; trophies from each of Videohead’s victims. But then he moved to a small metal table in the corner of the room and that’s when the eyes turned to watch him.
Each pair of disembodied eyes seemed to move in tandem, tracking Videohead’s every gesture as he retrieved an odd-looking device from the table (it had a thin handle and two clamps jutting from it that resembled those things girls use to curl their eyelashes) and slowly approached Brett. Videohead then bent down so that he was at eye-level with Brett, giving me a nice long close-up of his gore-stained pock-marked face. And then Videohead jabbed the clamps into Brett’s eyes and yanked.
I was expecting the feed to cut as Videohead ripped out his eyes but it didn’t. If anything, Brett’s p.o.v. became even clearer once it was pulled free of the helmet. The room spun as Videohead turned and pressed the device to a bare spot on the wall behind him, mounting the eyes in place and providing me one final wide-angle shot of his lair as Videohead grinned up at me, proudly surveying his work.
I hit a button on the remote and the TV switched off, which seemed to instantly depressurize the foreboding atmosphere that had enveloped my room. I set the remote down and let out a weary sigh. Did I feel guilty? Maybe. Relieved? Absolutely.
It was then, amidst the slew of thoughts and questions racing through my mind, something dawned on me: My mom was right. I needed to start reading more books.