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As you often do, after you get your morning coffee, you sit down, wake up your computer, log in, and check your work email. As you breath in the roasty aroma of the morning’s steaming brew, you sigh: the emails are just more of the same. Bored, you hop on over to your favorite web browser and bring up Facebook. You see you have some notifications - updates to posts from friends and friends of friends - but you see that you have a friend request. Finally, something rather unusual. It is not every day, or even every week, that you get one of those. You click on it to see who it might be.

The name of the person is Madeline Jones. The name does not look familiar, but it does say you have one mutual friend. Something bothers you about the profile picture in the thumbnail so you click on it to take a closer and bigger look. The user’s timeline comes up and of course you see the full size profile picture. What you see is not outright alarming but somewhat off-putting. At first you cannot quite put your finger on it. The picture looks old, like a scanned photograph from years past, unlike all the digital and phone camera selfies you’re used to. The photo is too warm-toned as if her reddish-brown hair had influenced the color of the whole thing. She looks to be in her late teens or early twenties. The bangs are split in two and drape down in a hairstyle you haven’t seen since the 1980’s. Even though it is a closeup of her face and it appears to be meant as a portrait it is definitely not a school photograph, evidenced by what little of the background that you can see - with the wooden shelves and indications of tools it looks like the photo was taken in a basement.

None of that is what is disturbing you, though. What’s really upsetting is her facial expression. It’s not very obvious, so subtle that you think maybe you’re wrong, but the look in her eyes and strain in her open mouth suggest that she is somewhat terrified of the camera, photographer, or both. Maybe that’s not it, you think. Maybe it’s not fear, but a hint of hopelessness? Or sadness? Actually, maybe you’re going crazy, but does her expression slightly change every time you look at it? Whatever it is the only thing that’s clear is that the young woman is not happy in the photograph.

Your curiosity gets the better of you and you accept the friend request. After all, there’s that mutual friend. By the way, who is that anyway? You click on the mutual friend link to check it out. Dwayne Roberts. Who is that? He’s an average-looking smiling guy. His timeline is sparse, mostly posted videos of high school football games. You do not ever remember friending him. Maybe it’s just one of those people who was a friend of a friend or something that you friended once on a whim years ago and because he hardly ever posts you don’t remember him. Oh well. You turn your attention back to Madeline.

Now that you’re friended with the girl you can peruse her timeline. There is not much there. There are not any status updates, only photo posts. One is a high-contrast black and white photo of a torn-up doll lying in a field of tall grass. It is missing an eye and most of its red hair and has no dress on. It is quite a disturbing photograph. The next post you gaze on is a blurry photograph of what appears to be the same basement in the background of her profile picture; however it does not look like a scan of an old photograph as her picture was. What bothers you is not the photograph itself but the fact that she had seen fit to post it to Facebook.

You sip your coffee as you scroll down further. Another photograph looks like a still from a video - a VHS tape - it is grainy and washed-out with high contrast only at the edges of the shapes. It depicts a pile of sticks at the edge of some unfamiliar wooded area. (Upon closer inspection you notice that it’s not a properly extracted still from an old video but it is actually a picture of a television screen.)

The next picture you notice is another similar-looking video still. This one shows some items of clothing hanging on a clothesline in a yard surrounded by woods. Two items hang: a red shirt with white polka dots and a pair of women’s jeans. When you look closer at the shirt there’s some sort of dark stain near the neck but the washed-out colors and low quality of the image make it difficult the guess what it is or even what color it is.

You look at the dates of the posts. Oh wait, there aren’t any timestamps. On any of them. Really? Is this a Facebook error?

The rest of the pictures are all odd and disturbing and a mix of scanned old photos, photos of normal modern quality, and VHS video stills. There’s a picture of a spilled purse in the grass. A blurry foot. A blurry hand palm. An old abandoned brick school building with nature all around it taking the area back. Finally the last photo (actually, first) is of Wayne, that mysterious mutual friend. He’s standing some distance away from the photographer, hands on his hips, and he’s wearing tight jeans, a blue Izod shirt, an 80’s hairstyle, and a huge grin on his face.

Most of the photos have no comments or likes. It’s not surprising, given the only friends on her list are Wayne, yourself, and… there’s a third friend… well that’s really strange. You have trouble reading the name. At first you think maybe it’s a strange foreign name, but you realize that you’re not even sure the letters making up the name are Roman in nature. And the photo of the man - or woman - is black and white and quite blurry, some thin pale face with dark eyes. The more you try to refocus your eyes the blurrier it gets. It starts to give you a headache. You must look away.

You decide to investigate the few comments you see on the photos. You realize that all the comments are made by that mysterious other friend. The text of the comments are as difficult to decipher as the person’s name. Your web browser’s built-in translator fails you.

When you realizing you’re starting to feel ill you click back to the news feed and away from this woman’s timeline.

What was all that about? you wonder as you start to feel better.

The next morning you get another new friend request. This one is from a young woman named Kaye Fallon. Like with Madeline she looks in her late teens or early twenties and her profile picture is a scan of an old photograph, but not quite as old-looking as Madeline’s. The quality of the image is slightly better and her subtle bangs and curly long hair suggest perhaps a late-80’s hairstyle. The photo does not dip down much further than her collarbone but the loose, think white straps going over her shoulders indicate she was either wearing a thin-strapped white summer shirt or… just a bra. Her facial expression is different from Madeline’s but equally disturbing. She has a look of shame in her eyes - they look slightly upward as her face is tilted slightly downward. The background of her photo is gray, indicating there’s either a photographer’s screen behind her or… the bare concrete wall of a basement.

You cannot help yourself and you accept the request. As soon as you do something tells you that you should look at the friend list. There’s yourself, Wayne again, that blurry person that’s difficult to look at, and, oh, look, there’s Madeline.

On her timeline are the same sorts of photographs that you’d seen on Madeline’s. Video stills, black and whites, scanned old color but washed-out photos, and modern-looking photos. One post, you notice, is a blurry photograph of a basement. It’s definitely a different shot from the one Madeline had posted but it appears to be of the same place. Once image shows a low-heeled girl’s shoe in the grass. Another blurry one depicts a hissing orange tabby cat. The very next one is what looks like just a front leg from that very same cat lying in the grass. It indicates that perhaps a more zoomed-out view would depict the cat lying on its back lazily catching some sun. Or, maybe not.

Other photos depict a lonely tire swing hung by a frayed rope, a female Cabbage Patch Kid doll lying to ruin in a little bubbling creek, more abandoned shoes, and… Wayne. It’s clearly a different shot than what was on the end (or beginning) of Madeline’s timeline, but it’s virtually identical. Again, comments on all of these are sparse but all of them are by the blurry person.

No, actually, there is one comment not by him. (Or her?) It’s by Madeline, on the blurry basement photo. Oh look, it was just posted five minutes ago. It just says “Hel”

H-E-L? What’s that mean? Hello? Help? Ummm.. Hell?

You try to post a comment yourself, asking what that means. Facebook errors out. You get a prompt saying “You cannot post comments at this time.” You growl in frustration. You reload the page and try again. Again, you get the error. You sigh and decided to get to work and come back to the effort later. But you forget and later doesn’t come.

The next day - and oddly you almost expected this - you get yet another strange friend request from a young woman: Annabelle Brewster. Her profile picture is disturbing as the others were. She’s looking up at the photographer, standing at on the second step of a stairwell; behind her the bottom of which is obscured in darkness. Is that a pink nightgown she’s wearing? Her hands are outstretched to either side of the staircase and she has this fraught “Please, no!” look on her face that chills you. The image looks like another scanned photograph but it is of even higher quality than Kaye’s photo. That and the girl’s hairstyle indicate that this was taken perhaps in the early or mid-1990’s. Actually, you admit to yourself, it’s difficult to know for sure when it was taken and you realize you’re guessing because of the pattern: Madeline’s looked like it was taken in the early 80’s, Kaye’s the late 80’s.

”I must be crazy,” you mumble to yourself as you accept the friend request. As you sip your coffee you see kind of what you were expecting. Annabelle’s friend list consists of yourself, blurry person, Madeline, Kaye, and Wayne. You only quickly glance at blurry person’s thumbnail. It’s starting to make you feel so ill that you almost get the urge to vomit. Suddenly you remember that the image was in your dreams - no, your nightmares - last night.

The images on Annabelle’s timeline are different, yet more of the same fare. Only this time they venture slightly away from odd and subtly disturbing to a little alarming. A blurry video still seems to depict a pair of panties lying amongst tall grass and brown leaves. Is that a blood stain on the panties??

”Oh my god,” you whisper to yourself. The epic strangeness of all this starts to really grip you for the first time. Something is definitely not right. Is this all an elaborate social media prank?

Again you notice comments are sparse. Sudden, harsh headache attacks prevent you from even trying to read the comments by the blurry person. However, you do notice a comment from Kaye on a sad-looking dog photograph. It just says “Don.” Don? Is it the name? Or is it a cut off word like “Hel” was? Maybe it’s supposed to say “Don’t?” Madeline also made a comment on a blurry basement photograph. “Pleas.” So it’s a full word this time. But maybe it’s not “pleas.” Maybe it’s “please?”

You click to comment. You type “Who are you people?” You successfully send it this time. Almost immediately a comment from the blurry person appears. It’s in the strange writing but every unfamiliar letter appears to be capitalized. Chills run up and down your spine, you cannot read the actual text but you get that it’s a very, very angry message. It frightens you. Your heart rate ticks up. Your blood cools. You get nauseous again and must scroll down fast before you throw up.

And that’s when you notice, at the bottom, a photo of Wayne. Like before, similar, but not exactly the same shot.

Who’s Wayne?

At this point you wonder if you should call the police. You get out your cell phone. That’s when it beeps. It’s a Facebook notification from the app on your phone. It’s another new friend request. You turn back to your computer. Sure enough it’s there on the website, too. You click on it. Another young woman. Star Fenke. You click on it. You accept it. This freckled ginger girl is crying in her photograph. It’s a digital photograph this time, not a scan, but it doesn’t look exactly recent, either. Early 2000s? This one doesn’t disturb you so much as breaks your heart. It almost brings tears to your eyes. You wonder if you’re losing your mind as you accept the friend request. Her friends list continues the pattern. You start to look at the photos. They all look more or less modern. The first one is of a bloody kitchen butcher knife and the camera looks as if it’s capturing it as it sits on the basement floor. You gasp. The next one down is very blurry, but you can make out that it’s likely depicting a menacing man’s arm wielding the same knife. The next one down shows a greying foot sticking out of a dirt pile.

You start to feel ill, very ill. You see Wayne again all the way at the bottom but you cannot look at any of the other images. You decided to call the police. It gets you nowhere. They don’t believe the strange story. The officer who answers seems to chuckle at you. You hang up in frustration. You plan to go down to the police station in your town and show them the Facebook stuff on your phone. Maybe then they will believe you!

You decide to Google all the names of the girls. You quickly see that every one of them are girls that have gone missing from in or around your town who have never been seen again. Madeline disappeared in 1981. Kaye vanished in 1988. Annabelle in 1993. Star in 2001. You never heard about any of these because you hadn’t been living in the town that long. You are more determined than ever to go to the police!

The police station is within a mile of your house. You decide that some fresh Fall air and walking will do your anxiety and queasy stomach good. As you stroll down the sidewalk you breathe in as much of the fresh air as you can.

Another friend request! You hear the ding on your phone. You rip it out of your pocket to investigate. Molly Simons. It’s a smart phone pic. It definitely looks like it was taken within the last few years. Maybe even today! This pale, dark-haired young girl looks terrified, crying, pleading, which is very weird because it’s definitely a mirror selfie: it depicts her holding out her iPhone to take the picture. Her lips are quite crimson - she almost reminds you of Snow White - but blood of almost the same color is dripping from the corner of her mouth. You accept the friend request.

All of a sudden, before you can even tap to view her timeline, a chat message from her pops up.

”HELP PLZ!” it says. It tells you her location. You realize that it’s at the intersection right up ahead! It’s by a wooded part of town that didn’t see much development. Houses along that street have more land than most do. The house right at the intersection has a very long driveway, large yard, is surrounded by trees, and is in disrepair with boarded-up windows. Oh yes, the creepy old house that you and your neighbors mention sometimes, that you all think is probably abandoned (you’ve never seen anybody come in or out of it).

”HELP OH GOD!” another chat comes in. You respond “I’m coming!”

”What are you DOING?!” you mumble to yourself as you run down the long driveway toward the house.

”HURRY!” Molly chats. You can barely read it, the phone shakes so much as you run.

Thoughts blur through your mind at light speed. How is this all possible? Why you? What supernatural craziness is all this?

You get to the door. You knock frantically. Nobody answers. You open the door. It’s unlocked! It creaks open. Your heart is pounding! You tremble so badly that you put away your phone so you don’t drop it. The air inside is stale. Furniture is covered in plastic, which in turn is covered in dust. You sneeze. The wood floors creak eerily as you step inside.

”Hello!?” you call. “Molly?!”

You think you hear a pitiful whimpering or crying coming from a nearby staircase. It goes downward, to the basement. A light is on down there. You descend the stairs to the bottom.

A strange, haunting, chilling voice, speaking in a strange language, whispers in your ear. You jump! Suddenly you’re dizzy. You have to lean against the wall. Your head is splitting with the worst headache you’ve ever felt. It feels like your brain is thumping like it suddenly thinks it’s a heart. A wicked ringing in your ears drowns out all sound.

After a moment it passes. You stagger around. There’s a mirror over a tool counter. You look in it. And there is Wayne staring back at you. You are Wayne. You look down at your hand. It’s holding a bloody knife. You look to your left. There’s Molly, tied up, lying on the floor, blood streaming from fresh stab wounds. Tears are coming from her eyes. The slut deserved it, just like all the-

”NO!” you yell. A strange man’s voice is coming from your mouth! You shake your head. You drop the knife. “I’m not Wayne! I’m me! My name is-!”

The strange creepy voice comes back again, this time booming and right behind you! “AHHH TAHH FORNAR BONEESH FOLAAAAAA!”

You wheel around. IT’S THE BLURRRRRrrrrrrrr

For 13 O'Clock: The 2013 Halloween Horrorquest

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