Probably the best thing I’ve written so far.
Please feel free to tell me what you think, and I hope you enjoy~
Several years ago, when I was a college senior, I participated in a somewhat unusual study. The last day before winter break, a psychology professor approached me in the hall. I had never met this man, and I didn’t take any of his classes. He said he had heard I was strapped for cash (which was true) and offered to pay me for my help in a study he was conducting. He wanted me to approach strangers on the street and ask them to tell me a story. Not just any story, but a true story they couldn’t get anyone to believe. I asked him why he wanted this. He simply said it was for a “personal project”. I was going to decline until he told me the amount of money he was offering.
Over winter break I approached several hundred strangers, and asked if they wanted to participate in an anonymous study. Most of the stories were rather banal. The majority of people told me about times they met a celebrity, or achieved some amazing athletic feat when no one was around to see, banal things like that. Some told me about visits from angels or dead relatives. A small handful of people though, told me stories I found truly disturbing.
Interview Location: A local coffee shop
Interviewee: A man who wore thick glasses and a heavy winter coat. He played with and bent his coffee stir stick while he told the story.
Story: When I was a teenager, I was in this hospital for a few days after a car accident. My roommate was a 12 year old girl, and she wasn’t much fun to talk to, so I was pretty bored. Anyway, on my last night in the hospital, I woke up at about 3 a.m. and I couldn’t get back to sleep. After a few minutes I heard a rustling sound to my left. It was coming from the air vent on the wall above my bed. Then, in the air vent, I saw a face. It was a man’s face, but its eyes were closed. Then a hand reached some fingers out of the vent and started shaking the slats. I could only see his face and hand, but his skin was all clammy and wet looking. Then he started to talk. He talked in a voice like someone who had strained their vocal cords real bad.” Let me out of here” he said. “You can’t keep me caged up like this. I’m innocent. You know I’m innocent. Let me out”. It kept going like that. I just closed my eyes and pretended I was asleep. After a few minutes it stopped, but I still didn’t open my eyes until morning.
Interview Location: The sidewalk outside a fast food place
Interviewee: A teenage boy. His hair was dyed neon red. Was wearing a black hoodie with the name of some metal band.
Story: So dude, there’s these videos that just show up online sometimes, on lotsa different video sites. But they always get taken down right away. It’s always this same thing. This guy surgical mask talks at the camera in front of a black background. He talks at the screen in some language I don’t know. I think maybe it’s German. And there’s Japanese subtitles at the bottom of some of the videos. After he talks for a bit it zooms over to a person tied to a chair. It’s a different person each time, and they always seem like their drugged. They wiggle around but they don’t talk. Oh, and their always naked. Then the dude walks and cuts their throat with a scalpel, and the blood spurts everywhere. The most fucked up part is that, the people, they don’t die though, they just keep wriggling around and bleeding and bleeding. They keep the camera on them for like ten minutes, and they just stay alive. Then it just cuts to black. I know you think its special effects of somethin’ but it can’t be. If you could see one you would know it was real. I only saw a few of them, but I was talking to this guy on some forum, and he said there’s lots more. I thought about downloading one, so I could prove to everyone that they were real, but somehow, it just felt like a bad idea. I mean, those videos really fucked with my head. I kinda wish I just never knew about them.
Interview Location: Mall food court
Interviewee: A woman with her hair in a ponytail. Wearing a black sweater.
Story: When I was a little girl my dad was the preacher at a really old church. The church had a tiny cemetery behind it, and I used to play there a lot. One day when I was about 10, I noticed something near the back of the cemetery. There was the rusty metal pipe sticking out of a grave. It was in the oldest section of the cemetery, and the writing on the headstone had been worn away. I looked down the pipe and saw this tiny, little grey stone room. In the middle there were 3 people huddled around an old gas lamp. They looked like people, but they were all rotten and blackened. They were clearly dead, but they were sitting there whispering to each other. I couldn’t make out what they were saying though. Suddenly one looked up and made eye contact with me. I ran away at that point. I never told anyone about it until I was an adult. About a year ago I went back, but the church had been torn down, and the bodies in the cemetery had been relocated.
Interview Location: Local Library
Interviewee: A young man. Wearing a button up shirt.
Story: 2 years ago I was scuba diving in off the coast of Malaysia, when something really weird happened. It was the first time I was diving solo, and I had just reached the ocean floor. I was checking out some cool coral, when I saw something weird under the sand. I thought it was a flounder, but it was way too big. I brushed the sand off it, and I nearly shit myself. It was this cluster of human organs! Heart, liver, brain, stomach, intestines, all of it! But they were moving! The heart was beating, the lungs were moving up and down. They were all connected, and bunched up tight. The weirdest thing was though, was the eye. A little to the left of the things center, peeking out from between the intestines and the stomach, there was an eye. It was looking right at me! And then, it shot something at me! It shot this chunky slime right at me! I think it was vomit. It reminded me of the way a squid shoots ink. I was terrified. I shot up to the surface way to fast, gave myself the bends really bad. About a year, before that I met this guy in Australia, and he had a real similar story. He said he was diving once and saw something crawling across the ocean floor, it was this thing made of 4 human arms connected in the middle. I didn’t believe him at the time, but after what happened to me…
Interview Location: Dive Bar
Interviewee: An older man. Wearing a denim jacket and a flat cap. Made me buy him a beer in exchange for the story.
Story: Back in my home country of China, I spent a few years as a sewer maintenance worker. I was down there one day, when I noticed something stuck to the wall. It was like a big see-through bubble. It seemed to be some kind of membrane and it was full of liquid. And right in the center, there was a fetus. A human fetus. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that’s what I saw. I didn’t have an umbilical cord though, and it wasn’t very big. It didn’t seem like it was very developed yet. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I reached out to touch the membrane, to see if it was real. But when I touched it, it popped. The liquid got all over me, it smelled awful. The fetus fell into the sewer water, and washed away.When I woke up the next day, I had this rash that itched like hell.
Interview Location: Book Store
Interviewee: A man wearing a grey jacket and a fedora. Total hipster.
Story: When lived in New York, I had a really bad moth problem. I know they say everywhere in New York has roaches, but I never did. Just tons of moths, usually little brown ones. It was this really sketchy little apartment, and my landlord was this scary foreign guy who seemed like he didn’t like me. I asked him to take care of the moths, and all he did was give me a single roll of fly tape (which as it turns out, does not work on moths). One summer the problem got really bad. The moths had always been annoying, but now they were straight up driving me insane. Around that time, I started noticing the little brown ones were being joined buy some larger grey ones. They grey ones were big enough that you could see their freaky little faces, and if you smashed one it would leave a huge stain. I didn’t wanna piss of the landlord, so I decided to fix the problem myself. I had no money for an exterminator, and mothballs give you cancer, so eventually I settled on a bug zapper. I hung it from the ceiling fan in the living room. It didn’t help much. A few days later I got home from work, and the amount of moths was fucking insane. They were god damn everywhere. That was it. I called my landlord and demanded that he take care of the problem. He grumbled that he would get to it in the morning. I was sitting down at my computer later that night, but I could barely use it because moths kept crawling on the screen. I noticed one of the big grey ones fluttering in circle above my shoulder. I was gonna swat it, but when it passed by my ear I heard something. This soft, buzzy little voice said “You should leave”. I got the hell out of there. I went back the next day, and all the moths were gone. I asked my landlord about it, and he said he hadn’t done anything. Even with them gone, there was no way I was staying there. I was packing up my things, and when I took down the bug zapper, I noticed something weird. It didn’t smell right. The dead moths were giving off this weird sent. It smelled like blood.
Interview Location: 24 hour diner
Interviewee: A guy who seemed like he had a bad cold. Wearing a flannel shirt. Had a tattoo of a snake on his left hand.
Story: Well, there was this story my Grandpa told me. I think I was the only one who believed him, but I know he was telling the truth, cause my Grandpa never lied. He served in the Navy during WWII, so he had tons of stories, but this is one he didn’t tell very often. He served most of his time on a landing ship, but near the end he was on a cargo vessel. Early one morning he went out on the deck for a smoke. There were a few other guys out there, but they were changing shifts so there weren’t a ton of people out and about. One of the other guys shouted something and pointed. My Grandpa looked, and there was a woman standing on the deck! She just kinda appeared while no one was looking. She was wearing a short white dress and had long black hair. She was barefoot. She had her back to the men, and she seemed like she was watching a flock of seagulls off in the distance. Grandpa called out to her, and slowly she turned to him. She looked exactly like his girlfriend back home! Every detail was identical! She slowly walked over to Grandpa, and brushed her hand against his face. Then she just fell over. One of the other guys took her pulse, she was dead. Definitely dead, no doubt about it. No one knew what to do. Eventually the whole crew came out to see. While they were talking about what to do, the dead woman started talking. Without moving anything but her mouth, she said “Look at the birds”. Then silence. They took her pulse again, still dead. After much discussion, they came to a solution. They tossed her overboard. Grandpa tried to talk them out of it, but their minds were made up. After that, everyone just silently agreed to pretend it never happened. My Grandpa didn’t marry his girlfriend when he got home like a lot of other vets did. In fact he only talked to her a few times before he told her it was over. He said she just wasn’t the same as she had been before he left. He met my Grandma a year later.
Interview Location: Another coffee shop
Interviewee: A woman wearing a black jacket and khakis. Had on mismatched winter gloves.
Story: I was living alone in this tiny house in the suburbs. It was nice, but it was always way to cold. On a shelf in the upstairs bedroom closet, the was a little metal safe that was attached to the wall. It had been there since I moved in, so I just assumed it was empty. It was locked, but I didn’t need a safe, so I never bothered with it much. Over the winter, I caught the flu. My friend brought me food and water, so I just spent most of my time lying in bed. I threw up on the floor one night, and there was a key in it. Really, I vomited a key. It was just a little nickel plated key with no markings on it. I don’t know why, but for some reason I tried it on the safe. It opened. There wasn’t really much inside. There were a few pages of sheet music with no titles, a little plain ring which didn’t look like it was worth anything, a pen knife, and a stack of photographs held together with a rubber band. Most of the photographs were of landscapes and buildings I had never seen, but the last photo was of me. It showed me standing in a courtyard that I didn’t recognize, and I was wearing clothes that I had never owned. I know it was me because of the tattoo on my ankle. In the picture, I was looking off to the side at something off camera. I threw away the key and everything in the safe, and I moved out as soon as I got well.
Interview Location: Upscale Bar
Interviewee: A well dressed man. I think he had just gotten off work. Kept wringing his hands as he told the story.
Story: Okay so, I was just a kid when this happened, but I know it was real. I was pretty sure my little sister had taken one of my toys, so I was looking through her room trying to find it. Then I heard a phone ring. It was my sister’s toy phone! It was one of those little plastic rotary phones, you know the ones I’m talking about. So… I answered it, and I actually heard a voice. It sounded like an old man, and it spoke in this really friendly tone. “Is this Sarah?” the voice asked. I told it “No, I’m her brother”. The voice just said “Oh” and paused for a while. Then he asked “Well then, what’s your name”? I told it “Jeremy”. The voice said “Ah, Jeremy, that’s a nice name. There’s something I want you to know Jeremy, and I want you to always remember this. After you die, you don’t have any friends, you don’t have anybody”. Then there was just silence. I went back to my room and hid under the blankets, crying my eyes out.
Of course I have no way of knowing if any of these stories are true or not. Common sense and basic logic would dictate that they are completely false. However, when those random strangers were telling me their stories, I could clearly see that they believed them to be true. They didn’t their stories like they were trying to impress me with a fascinating tale, they told their stories like they were trying to get just one person to finally believe them.
By the time I had interviewed the amount of people that the professor required, winter break was over. On the first day of the new semester I met the professor in his office and gave him all of the information I had recorded. He thanked me and gave me a check for the agreed upon payment. As I was leaving the office, I decided to go with a hunch I had. I turned back to the professor, and asked if he had a story that he couldn’t get anyone to believe.
Interview Location: A small office
Interviewee: A middle-aged man wearing thin-rimmed glasses and a sweater vest. Had terrible coffee breath.
Story: One morning, I woke up a bit early than I usually do because of this strange, tinny taste in my mouth. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. I went to the kitchen and made my self a bowl of cereal. I sat down at my table, and looked out the window. I watched some crows on the power lines for a while. The sky was still tinged red and orange. When I turned back around, there was somebody sitting in the chair across from me. It was myself, not just somebody who looked like me, but an exact copy of myself. He even had the same scar on his forehead. He as wearing khakis and a sweater vest. He had appeared in less than a second. He told me he wasn’t here to hurt me, he just had some questions. I began looking around the room for a weapon, but I was too frightened to move. He asked me a few questions, very general questions though. What was my name. How old was I. Did I have any family in the area. All I could bring my self to do was sit there and answer him. After a while, he said that he had all the information he needed, and began to get up. I managed to ask him why he wanted to know these things. “It’s research” he said “for a personal project”. With that he stood up, walked out of the kitchen through, the living room, and out my front door.