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It happened last year, or somewhere in the middle of last year. Our town witnessed the single greatest horror in the history of any town anywhere; I'm sure of it. It was first said to be an unknown phenomenon of some kind, and people were blaming it on a disease we didn't know existed yet. But it was far from it. Let me tell you what happened. Men, in their 20s, would start randomly being found dead doing perfectly normal things. There was one named Christopher—I forget his last name—who died whilst he was on his way to work. He didn't appear to have any cuts and bruises, no marks to the skin. Nothing happened to him that could've been inflicted by someone else. Everyone, at that time, just shrugged it off as a death of natural causes. But then, more things happened.
A man named Adam was found dead in the exact same way as Christopher was, only a few hours afterwards. Adam was found dead in a supermarket; he was in the middle of buying some groceries to feed the two babies he had waiting for him at home. Now they're going to grow up without a father and that breaks my heart.
Me? My name is Alex. I report for the local newspaper, and they wouldn't let me run this story, thinking it was too scary for a small town to read about—so I'm putting it here. Let me give you the information on the other deaths that came on the same day, making it apparent that these men were dying by some other means than natural causes.
A guy called Blake, only 23, was shopping with his friends in the local shopping centre when he went into a store, and, as the CCTV shows, just fell to the floor. He was dead. This is what struck me as odd. There was no sign of anything happening; nothing to say these men were in any pain. There was nothing to say that these men had anything in common either—they were almost selected at random. And that was just it.
Over the next couple of days, it got heavier. A guy named Edward, known as "Eddie" to his friends, dropped dead on his way home from work. This time, there were witnesses. Many people saw it; when I say there were many people. This was in the middle of town in broad daylight at 5 PM. There were at least 50 people there. He just fell to his knees, and by the time people rushed over to help him, he was already dead. This is what rang the alarm bells for the police, and the forensic pathologists. They thought it was poison.
They ran toxicology report after toxicology report, and came up with, you guessed it, absolutely nothing. There was nothing to suggest that there was any poison used to kill these men. Only a few hours later, a guy called Isaac was brought into the station as a dead body, after falling dead whilst cooking some grilled chicken for his three-year-old daughter. The three-year-old was still crying when she reached the station, and was handed to a distressed mother hours later.
So, we could deduce: there was no poison, there was no physical harm, there was no form of internal harm, and there was no gunshot wound or knife attack. The police had nothing to go off and the journalists were going insane with the little information we had about anything going on in the murders. The long, dark corridors of my workplace were filled with crying journalists, tearing their hair out; each trying to get in on the story, because it was so fresh, and it was happening now. It didn't last though. These crowded hallways were, after a few days, washing off the remains of a dead body–the intern, Tristan. He had dropped dead whilst walking to the office one day, and he was one of them. It was then that our unit began their task of investigative journalism into the way these guys were dying. Over the next few months it would get worse to the point where the police couldn't physically keep up.
It began to get more frequent. At first, there were about five people dying per day. Then, after a few days, it became seven. After another few moths, it was up to 20. It went up and up every week or so, and it became unbearable. There were a group of people saying it was a rare phenomenon in which God was punishing men for being so obnoxious towards women, and some people actually believed that shit. If that was so, then why was "God" taking the innocent fathers, the good little university students, the shop-floor workers who were there to serve you or point you in the right direction and most importantly, someone's sons? Why wasn't God taking the rapists, or the child murderers, the jailbirds, the drug dealers, the arms dealers, or the paedophiles? It seemed like a pathetic theory, and nobody with half a brain bought into it. But, as I was saying, the death toll kept rising, and it got to the point that people were purposefully avoiding men of this age group in order not to be connected with the deaths. Let me give you an example.
There was one man, his name was James. He died whilst walking to the bus station to catch his bus to university. This was at the point where all men in their twenties only went outside if it was absolutely essential. Not because they were afraid of dying, they were afraid of leaving someone behind. James was found dead only a few meters away from the bus station, and he had his wallet, his money, his passport, his phone, and his bus ticket on him at the time. When looking back at the footage of his death on the bus station's CCTV cameras, I saw one thing that looked a little bit out of order. Just before he died, probably about a minute before he hit the floor, the people who were in his general parameter moved away from him. There was one woman in her 60s walking up the side of the road, she crossed the road to move away from him. There was a bin man loading his truck, he went faster after he saw James, hopped in his truck and missed the entire street James was walking on. There was one other woman, pushing a pram, she moved away by not only crossing the road, but by also walking in the opposite direction. When I saw this I knew I had to find these people and talk to them. They all knew something the rest of the town didn't.
I told the police about what I'd found, and seriously, I thought it was a breakthrough. It was like when that guy from television found out that Robert Kardashian was carrying OJ Simpson's Louis Vuitton bag. "So you're telling me..." The cop said. "That these three people know why the guys are dying?" His accent was thick and heavy. He was a man in his 40s, and looked like he wasn't looking after himself as well as a cop should. He was bulky, and I could see the fatty folds moving as he adjusted in his seat. It was unsettling that this was our town's police force. "I don't know what you're on about, but you're lucky you haven't dropped dead out of your own stupidity. Now leave us alone, we've got actual cases to solve here..." I walked out of the office, kind of deflated, and so, decided as anyone would, to go it alone.
I went back to my office in the town's only journalism unit, and told my friends what I had found. Steph, a tall, slim journalist with slicked back black hair, suggested we take it further, and find out who these people are. Starting with the bin man, because that would be pretty simple. You see, our town only had one set of bin men, so it was the same guy emptying them every time. All we had to do was go to the dumping ground and talk to the guy who was emptying the bins into the truck. We brought him in by the next day, and this is what he said. Back then, I didn't know whether to believe him or not, but now, I just find it pretty damn disturbing.
"You see, I was just going about my own business and doing my job when this sudden urge came over me. It wasn't like I was going to hurt anyone though." He clasped his hands together as if they were getting sticky and sweaty talking to a bunch of journalists playing cops. "It was an urge like I was feeling really sick, and–and–as this guy moved towards me, I started to feel even more sick. Not sick as in I was gonna vomit or anything; I was feeling sick as in I felt like I was slowly dying. So, I realised that it was because this guy was getting closer, that was the only thing it could've been. That's why I moved away. As soon as I left, well, the feeling went away entirely." After this, I didn't think I needed to call the other two in, because they were all within the same area of James. The bin man left, thanking us for letting him go. I don't think he realised that we weren't cops at all.
"You think he's telling the truth?" Steph said, sitting down on the chair, and swinging around like a child.
I sighed, holding my head in my hands. "I don't know." I stood up and paced towards Steph. "Why would someone lie about feeling as if they were about to die?"
Steph shrugged, swinging on the chair some more. "How am I supposed to know?"
"Well, would you if someone was practically interrogating you?"
Steph stopped swinging and affirmed a "no" to me. We both agreed that the bin man wasn't lying about anything. To make sure, even though I didn't agree, we put out the word for the two other people in the video by sharing a screen-cap in the local paper the next day. The two women came forward themselves, and waited in the waiting room whilst we revised the interview questions. The woman in her 60s was first. She said this:
"I felt something come over me. It was like a horrible pain that spread across my body, and I thought initially it was because of the wind that was going that day, seeing as my age may be involved. But when that boy started getting nearer I realised that I was wrong. It was this boy, he was getting closer, and I started to get a stronger sense of maybe, I would die. This could've been the only thing seeing as he was the only person walking towards me. So I did the only thing I could think of; I moved away. As soon as he was out of sight. The feeling went away, and I was, well I was fine." When she finished the interview, we let her go and she was visibly shaken about what we told her had happened to the man, named James.
You could only guess what the other woman said about the incident. Her baby had started to cry and she just wanted to get out of there before something bad happened. We managed to get a hold of other CCTV videos when people had died mysteriously, and questioned the other people in those videos. As you have probably already guessed, they were all saying the same thing. A feeling of impending doom coming over them until they finally knew it was coming from the direction of whoever was next to die.
"So what we're saying, that, if this word was out, we could prevent people from dying?" Steph had stopped swinging on the chair, and was now eating a ham sandwich.
"We know how it happens..." I replied. "We still don't know how to stop it."
Steph stopped eating the sandwich, and looked at me, still chewing something. Afterwards, Steph had out with it. "Well, how the hell are we supposed to find that out? We could ask some people who may be willing to—"
"Do you understand Steph, that if we say anything it's going to look like we orchestrated it? We need a solution before we tell anyone anything!" I snapped. My head was killing me, and I was working myself to the bone trying to find out why this shit was happening. Our town was small, quiet and not prone to any form of big criminal case.
"If you wanted to know..." Steph added, in a snarky sort of way. "They have a serial killer in custody as one of the prime suspects in the killings. I was gonna tell you this morning, but you were too busy ordering people about..."
"I'm sorry, Steph. I really am. I haven't been sleeping or eating well, and my head is throbbing." I replied, handling my own head with care.
"Apology accepted." Steph got up, patted me on the shoulder, and then went to leave the room. "Now let's go and get an interview with that serial killer."
"Uh, Steph?" I said as Steph, and I walked down the corridor, almost side-by-side. "Don't you realise how impossible this is? Don't you think the police are trying to close the case so they don't have to investigate anymore?" I walked in front and grabbed Steph by the shoulders, my eyes wide. "You saw the CCTV images and videos, didn't you? There was no sign of any kind of killer. You saw the toxicology reports. There was no sign of poison or drugs or anything of the sort. What the hell are they arresting a serial killer for?"
"Calm down." Steph patted me again. "Let's just go and check it out. Maybe we can eliminate him as a suspect."
We walked up to the station, arriving there only a half hour later. the officer sat in his chair and Steph asked if we could interview the suspect as we required it for our investigation. "You again..." The officer looked straight through Steph and directly in my direction. "What did I tell you to begin with?"
"What the—?" Steph looked back at me. "What did you do?"
"I came here wanting to report it before we got the pictures, reports and those interviews; I wanted to see if the police could solve anything, but no, our police force are a bunch of lazy ass cowards!"
"Oh Jesus!" Steph replied. "You turned Alex away!" Steph turned back to the officer. "We have got a whole lot of information that if it got out would make you look like absolute shits for not getting it earlier. It's like we're doing your god damn job for you."
"Oh God, you aren't being serious, are you?" The officer looked at us, almost laughing. "I'll give you an interview with the guy we've got but seriously, stay out of it. This is the police's job, not the job of people who write papers for a living. Stick to wring about the Catholic Church's interest in little boys or something."
"We'll take that interview but, you have to admit, we've done a lot more than you have." Steph continued. "If any of this gets out, then you will have to explain why you and your force weren't on this earlier." It was only at that single moment when I saw the officer look genuinely worried. "It's not like you could get out of your chair to do anything anyway." Obviously, Steph was referencing the officer's size. I continued on, holding the door open for Steph, and we moved towards the interview room where we heard they were taking the killer. We already knew he had nothing to do with it, because whilst he was in custody, I had heard on the car radio we drove up to the station in that another three people had died.
Steph sat down next to me, we were opposite someone who had been arrested and detained for a crime they had not committed. "We know it's not you." Steph said. The man opposite was a short, stout guy that you could beat up in a fight. He was known for killing young women, and raping the corpses. He wasn't a suspect for these murder cases. "I know you commit other crimes, but this one..." Steph clicked. "Nah, not you. Definitely not you."
But, the killer toyed with us. "How d'ya know it ain't me?"
"There were three deaths whilst you were in here." I said, almost monotonously.
The killer shrugged. "Okay, fair enough. You know it ain't me. But you know what, you're still not close to solving this case. You know right, nobody talks about the fact this happened in a small town, just south of here about fifty or so years ago. Ain't nobody remembers that one... and that one was worse!"
Steph and I looked at each other and I furrowed my brow. How the hell did this guy know all of this? "What are you talking about?" Steph leaned upon the table, moving towards the killer. "How do you know this?"
"My father died in that one, that's why." He laughed. "You see, I ain't from around here. I'm from down south, and I saw that what happened down there is now happening here. I came up here to tell someone and you know, my lust got the better of me and I forgot." I was finding it hard to believe him until he said this: "My father dropped dead before my eyes. You see, I was a child and well, I was playing with my toy plane. I felt a nauseas feeling in my stomach, kind of like sea-sickness and then, cramps. God, I thought I'd die, I was in so much pain. But when my old man finally bit the dust, that's when it all stopped. I realised something wasn't quite right." Steph and I leaned in further, the killer was whispering now. "It's the same thing happening here. You'll never be able to find out what it is, and even if you do, there's no way of stopping it..."
"And what is it exactly?" I asked.
"Devil himself, that's what it is..." He leaned back in his chair. "Devil's taking souls."
"But–that can't be true..." Steph replied, looking more and more confused with each word the killer spoke.
"Believe it or not." The killer continued. "Believe it or not, you'll never be able to find the cure. You'll never be able to figure out who is doing it. You'll only ever find out if you see it for yourself. It's only there for a split second, so open your eyes..."
"What is there?" I was on the verge of demanding an answer; this wasn't theatre or television. I wanted to know exactly what was going on, not some half-arsed backstory about a fatherless childhood.
"When someone dies, there's always this shadow that appears for a split second when they drop dead. I saw it with my father. It's like a flash of black and it is unmistakable who it is in that shadow. God damn unmistakable." He leaned back in his chair again, putting his arms behind his head as if he were relaxing. "Now, I'm going straight to the electric chair for what I've done, but you, you can find out what's going on here."
Steph and I looked at each other and sighed, almost simultaneously. Steph cocked back, "And why do you give a single shit about that?"
"I want you to know that I tried what you're doing now. Before I started giving into my inhibitions, I wanted to solve the death of my father because I was the only one who saw what was there on that day. I dare you to look over your CCTV tapes, and not go out looking for it. I dare you."
Steph and I left after a few words and got back into the car, taking the small walk back up the road from the parking to the unit. It was getting dark, but we knew for a fact that we weren't going to be done for a fair amount of time. Steph took a deep sigh, exhaling slow into the night air. "We're going to look at the tapes, aren't we?"
"Yes, Steph. Yes, we are." I walked by Steph, and did a small jog up towards the unit, getting out the CCTV tapes as Steph stepped inside.
"We're gonna watch the tapes for one split freaking second where something goes "boo!" hey?" Steph sat down and swung in the chair.
"Please take this seriously." I put the tape in the player. "If this is correct, which I'm not really buying, we could be on to something here."
I played the tape at normal speed and it seemed at first, a little weird that we could see the same thing happening. It was James' tape, and I saw the bin man literally run as fast as he could, God knows the kind of pain he was in at that moment.
"You see, nothing." Steph was getting cynical, and it was probably about two in the morning. Even I wasn't feeling this.
"We have to keep looking."
"Fine." Steph stopped swinging and pointed a pencil towards the television. "Slow it down."
I slowed the tape down a bit and it began to play. There was a flash of something that I saw in the corner of the screen, but that could be the shadow of a car coming down the road or something. It wasn't exactly against popular belief to assume that it wasn't the shadow of Satan. I slowed it down some more, and played the tape. This time it was at least five times slower than its normal speed. "Stop!" Steph shouted, getting up and looking in the tape. I had paused it just when Steph had said so. And there it was. The outline of an image next to the dead body. It was only around for a split second and looked a little bit blurry, but by God, it was unmistakable.
"Good God, he wasn't lying..." I said, peering into the screen with Steph's face quite close beside mine. "He wasn't god damn lying."
We looked at the rest of the tapes, each one that we had CCTV of, and slowed them down to the same rate before stopping them at the exact time of death. "Do you have any idea what we've found?" Steph said.
"Yep." I threw my pencil down on the table in realisation. "Something that nobody will believe. A fucking conspiracy theory, that's what we've found."
"God, now what are we supposed to do?" Steph sat back down, leaned back and spun 180 degrees to face the other way.
"That's exactly it." I said, in a moment of realisation. It was, in fact, a conspiracy theory after all. "We'll release it as a conspiracy theory. Then, when it spreads, people are gonna know more about it. Our aim must be to raise awareness–at the end of the day, Steph, there's no way we can prevent this from happening. I mean, who's to say more people haven't dropped dead whilst we've been locked in here?"
The next day, Steph and I uploaded all the content to places like Reddit, 4Chan, and these other places that were known for crazy theories on the internet. Immediately, the videos began to gain traction and were noticed by people all over the globe. We couldn't have been happier. "We couldn't prevent it, but we can get it out there. Just in case it happens again, somewhere else." Steph stared at the screen as comments on the videos came flooding in. Surprisingly, nobody was trying to debunk the evidence; people had downloaded it and searched for edited content, but of course, they didn't find any. It was a CCTV video; we hadn't played around with it. As the comments increased, the popularity of the videos we kept uploading grew and grew. Conspiracy theorists from Reddit and 4Chan came to our town to investigate, catching videos for themselves, and learning the horrifying truth of what was actually happening. We met up with a few of them. One of them, I remember, was named Quinn.
Quinn sat down at the coffee table in the unit, opposite Steph and I, who was holding two of the CCTV tapes. Steph was visibly tired and hadn't slept in a long while because of the rising popularity of the tapes. They were being nicknamed "The Massacre Tapes." "So, what made you investigate this anyway? What are two journalists like yourselves gonna do with this information?" Quinn leaned back in the chair, and swung on its back two legs in a way that reminded me of Steph. But Steph was listening, intently, leaning towards Quinn.
Steph and I looked at each other but Steph spoke first. "The police." He blurted out. "They weren't helping at all. They arrested some serial killer who was a suspect in the case. But as you can see from the videos, there was no such killer present at the deaths of any of the men involved."
"Just the Devil." Quinn put a coffee cup down upon the table and Steph nodded back.
"The police weren't helpful at all." I interjected. "They completely refused my request that they take a look at the people surrounding the man who died on the tape. Specifically, the James Tape." That's what we called it now, because it was the most popular one. "The officer I told just laughed it off and wanted nothing to do with it..." I trailed off, and ran my hand through my hair in tiredness.
"So, you guys thought you'd do it yourself?" Quinn waved a hand at us in a matter-of-fact way, and crossed one leg over the other. Steph and I nodded again. "You guys did a pretty good job. But I have to wonder, what are you going to do to stop these killings from happening?"
"That's the thing, Quinn." Steph began. "We don't actually know if we can stop them. If it really is the Devil out there grabbing souls, then maybe it's best we stay away, and just warn people of what may come."
"The serial killer the police arrested..." I started. "He said that there was another massacre in a town just south of this one. Apparently, it was so bad it killed the guy's father." I sighed. "Man, he told me he saw the Devil in that second, and if you were to look at the tapes from the CCTV cameras, it is god damn unmistakable." I inhaled and exhaled heavily with that last word repeated. "Unmistakable."
"It's unmistakable, all right." Quinn was taking this very seriously. Picking up the coffee cup, taking a deep swig and putting it down again as if Quinn, be friend or enemy, was willing to help us out. "Now all we gotta do is find out where it's going next."
"Is there anything important about fifty years?" I asked Quinn.
"I don't know; you guys are the experts here."
"The killer... I remember him saying that the massacre in the town south of here was fifty years ago. Maybe the Devil moves once every fifty years."
Steph interjected. "That means it must have been somewhere else before that fifty years ago!"
"We don't have the time to look for it." Quinn said, swigging at the coffee cup again. "We need to get the word out. Nobody is safe. Especially not men in their 20s. Young souls are gonna die."
And Quinn was right. There was nothing we could do, not me, not Quinn and not Steph. We decided to get the word out wherever we could because really, there is no defeating the Devil is there? It reached as far as Japan, China, Thailand, The USA, Brazil, and many more countries. We felt like we had done a service.
Now, it has been a few more months since then, and about a year since this whole thing began. I found Steph dead in a chair inside our unit some weeks after Quinn left. It's not what you think though, Steph shot himself in the head. He was overwhelmed, tired even. It just wasn't fair on him to be dragged down into all of this, and he wanted nothing more than for everything to be okay again. As for Quinn? Quinn got into a horrible car accident about a week after he left us. He died on impact. So, I guess I'm the only one left out of the three of us, and if you're reading this now—please be aware in your fifty-year period to check your CCTV very, very carefully because the Devil's in the details.