You know, throwing out old stuff can be strangely satisfying.
A few days ago, I decided to give my cramped little apartment the good old once-over and throw out anything I didn’t need anymore.
For years I’d succumbed to the strange habit of throwing nothing out. You never knew if maybe, eventually, at one point in time you might need a certain item again.
Let’s just say, over the years, I’d accumulated a lot of, what I had to admit, useless things.
When I started cleaning, I threw out a pair of old computer cables, but before I knew it, I threw out anything that wasn’t essential.
I didn’t know how many useless things I’d stored away over the years. I found old tools, two broken mp3 players, an old landline phone, a box of computer-parts from the mid-2000s, and an old Sony Ericsson phone.
It was from before smartphones were a thing and felt like a distant remnant of the past.
I couldn’t help but stare at it. Man, hadn’t I used this thing back in university?
A moment later, I was already digging through my gigantic box of cables. It took a while, but I soon found what I was looking for: the old Sony Ericsson charging cable.
I put it in and once I was sure the old phone was charging, I went back to cleaning.
It was already evening when I called it a day and to check on the phone.
I started it and was promptly asked to enter a PIN, and of course, I didn’t remember what it was. After some thinking, I tried my luck and entered my birthday. What do you know, it worked, and the phone was unlocked.
There was probably nothing interesting on this old thing, but I still decided to have a look, if only for nostalgia’s sake.
I recognized the menu and the apps almost instantly. Before I knew it, I’d started up a game of Super Real Tennis. I didn’t last long, and the game was over after only a few minutes. Still, I couldn’t help but smile and remember all the boring lectures the game had helped me through.
The next thing I had a look at was the music folder.
It contained a mixture of classic rock, some metal, and a lot of video game music. In-between I even found a few cheesier titles like The One and Only by Chesney Hawkes. I tinkered with it a little and played a few songs I hadn’t listened to in years.
After that, I remembered the phone might be old, but it still had a camera.
The moment I opened the picture folder, the faces of old university friends greeted me. I saw us at the cafeteria, at a team meeting for some sort of project and a party. Then I found pictures of me and a bunch of old high school friends celebrating New Year’s together.
Oh man, everyone looks so young in those pictures.
With a smile on my face, I continued to click through them.
Eventually, I came upon a picture that was different.
Gone were the bright colors and the smiling faces. Instead, I saw nothing but a dark picture taken during the night. I brought the screen closer to my eyes, but I couldn’t make out a thing. The next picture was much the same, but this time I could make out a sidewalk that led past a couple of trees. What followed were more pictures of dark sidewalks and random buildings.
I couldn’t help but laugh. How drunk had I been when I took those pictures?
As I continued though, I noticed that all that was left were similar pictures. I found nothing but dark sidewalks and empty streets. When I checked the details of one of them, I frowned.
The date wasn’t back from 2010 when I’d last used the phone, but from this year. From today, a mere ten minutes ago.
All right, this doesn’t make any freaking sense. I hadn’t used the damn thing in years.
Then I started to think. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t turned on the damn thing in so long? Who knows, it might be an error that scrambled up the meta-data and set them to today.
I shrugged and continued on, hoping to see more pictures of friends or university, but all I saw were more of these strange, dark pictures.
Then the strangest of feelings washed over me. There was something about those pictures. That bend in the road, the old building over there, the walk in front of it. I could’ve sworn I knew it.
I leaned in closer and studied some of them, and soon enough I realized what I was looking at. It was the way towards my apartment building.
I was more than a bit confused. No, I was unsettled. How in the hell were there pictures of this area on my phone? I hadn’t lived here back then. Hell, I’d been living on the other side of the freaking country!
I was about to throw the phone back into the box, right in the trash, but curiosity came over me.
Something strange was going on here, and I wanted to know why.
I exited the picture folder to check messages or missed calls or anything when I saw the video folder. I selected it, wondering if there was more of… whatever this was.
After pressing a few swift buttons, the video folder opened up, and I could see that there were about a dozen videos.
The first one was a shaky video of what I assumed to be university part. The quality was terrible. You couldn’t make out a thing, and the music was way too loud and scratchy. The next showed a view of campus from my dorm window.
The third one, however, sent a cold shower down my spine.
I pressed play, and all I could see was the walkway outside my apartment. Whoever had taken this video was walking. I heard hard footsteps and labored breathing as someone was walking towards my apartment building.
The next video showed a view of the apartment building’s entrance before it zoomed in on the doorknob.
When I checked the meta-data of the video, it was the same as with the pictures. The video had been recorded today and only five minutes ago.
For a moment, I stopped and took a deep breath. This didn’t make sense, no sense at all. Was this some sort of prank or elaborate joke? Had someone hacked my phone and was sending those weird videos? But how the hell would that even work without an internet connection!?
I told myself to let it go, to throw it away, but as if in a strange trance, I continued on. There was this nagging feeling, this urge to sit this through and to figure out what was going on here.
The next video was of the stairs inside my building. At least, I assumed it was. There was no light, and the video was all but darkness. The sounds, however, were there. I could hear the same heavy breathing and the sound of footsteps echoing through the empty staircase.
With each video I played, the steps seemed to grow louder, seemed to echo a tad big more.
Then I caught something else, some sort of… laughter or giggling. Whoever had been recording this was giggling as they continued on their way. And yet, it sounded so familiar, almost like a distorted version of my very own laugh.
The penultimate video wasn’t just darkness. Instead, it showed the hallway right outside my apartment. The camera centered on my apartment’s front door before whoever had recorded it walked towards it.
Hard footsteps echoed through the hallway and for a second I wasn’t sure if they were coming from the phone or if they were coming from outside.
Once they’d made it to the door, I saw a hand, a strangely twisted hand that reached for my door. It wasn’t touching the doorknob or holding a key. Instead, its fingers slowly moved down, and I saw long, yellowed fingernails scratching over the door’s surface.
In that moment I jerked up because this time, I knew the scratching wasn’t just coming from the phone. No, it was coming from outside, from right outside my front door!
I stumbled off my chair, clutching onto the phone with a sweaty, shaking hand. Fear washed over me as I tiptoed towards the front door. All was quiet now. There was no scratching, no giggling, nothing.
I stared at the phone. There was one more video.
I stood there, unsure, confused, and apprehensive.
Maybe this last video, this last little recording, would clear it all up. Maybe it would prove that all of this was nothing but a joke, a prank, or a silly trick that someone was playing on me.
And eventually, staring at my front door, waiting, hoping, praying, I pressed play.