I’m sure you all know about IRL streamers. There are so many stories about them on the internet right now. You’d have to live under a rock to not know about them.
For the past month, I’ve been doing these types of streams myself. I don’t have too many crazy stories to tell. Most of what happened was rather harmless. The only trouble I ever encountered was to get kicked out of a mall, but that’s about it.
It was about a month ago that I noticed I’d hit a dead end. Sure I had my core audience, earned a bit of money, but I couldn’t seem to reach any new people.
To change things up, I partnered with another streamer from my city, Sander. He’s a bit more popular than me, but neither of us are big names.
For a while, we’d just go out together and stream our antics, but we realized that this wasn’t it either.
Our idea was to actively include our audience in the streams.
Now here’s the thing. Most streamers are on Twitch. It’s without a doubt the most prominent platform. Sander and I were active on a different platform called YouNow. Maybe some of you have heard about it. What’s unique about the page is that you’re able to invite other people as guests into your stream. What happens is that it creates a split screen and you can interact with one another.
The first thing we did was to do a sort of treasure hunt. We let the audience decide where we’d go and see what would happen. Looking back, it was a pretty dumb idea. Sure, we checked the places out beforehand, but we were still trolled quite a bit. The worst that happened was us trespassing on private property. We got in quite a bit of trouble for that one.
After this ordeal, we decided to change our approach a bit. Our new idea was a bit more boring and conservative. We decided to do a sort of meet and greet with members of our audience. People could join our stream, we’d meet up with them and hang out with them for a while. It went quite well, most people absolutely loved the idea of being a part of our streams.
Tonight, things turned out a bit different.
For the past week, one of our subscribers had been really active in the stream and donated a good amount of money. When he asked to join the stream to hang out, we were more than happy to.
The moment we invited James, he was thrilled and excited.
He was a guy in his early twenties and lived in an apartment complex in the outer parts of town.
When we checked Google Maps, we saw it would take us almost a half hour to get there. There were no tram stations nearby, and after our last trouble with a bus driver, we decided to walk.
After a short tram ride, it would be another fifteen minutes to get to James’ place.
He told us to follow Main Street for about ten minutes until we reached Mendel Street. From there it wasn’t long before we’d arrive at an intersection. That’s were Cornelius Lane was. He was going to meet us there.
As we continued Sander and I noticed that the area was almost a bit too quiet. There were no people out in the streets, and we only saw a few parked cars here and there.
At first, we thought it was due to the late hours, it was almost ten in the evening. The further we walked though, the fewer and fewer the signs of people became. It seemed as if no one was living in the area.
“Yo, James, you sure you gave us the right address?” I asked.
“Yeah, why? Anything wrong?”
“Well, there’s no one living here. The whole area is a ghost town.”
“What? No way! Where are you guys right now?”
“Still on Main Street.”
“Then you’re on the right way. There are a few office buildings nearby, maybe that’s where you’re at.”
I looked around for a moment. Hadn’t we passed the office complex a couple minutes ago?
We continued on and joked about the whole situation with James and the audience. Soon enough, we reached Mendel Street, and the apartment complex James was living in. By now, we were walking in almost complete darkness. Only a few of the street lights in the area were working.
When Sander next to me checked out Google Maps, we saw that Cornelius Lane was no more than a few minutes away. I scanned the area, but there was still no sign of people.
“Alright, James, are you trolling us?”
“What? No fucking way, guys! I’ve wanted to be on your stream since forever so why-”
“Yeah, alright, you got us, man. Ha ha, very funny, you led us to an abandoned building complex.”
“Wait, no!” he said, startled. “Abandoned building complex? That can’t be. You must’ve taken a wrong turn or something. Wait, let me put on Google Maps and show you where you’ve got to go!”
With that, he started to tinker around with his streaming software and soon put a Map on the screen to show us his location.
“You see this? That’s where I live. So how far away are you guys? Maybe you missed Cornelius Lane or something.”
Sander scanned the Map on my phone screen and compared it to Google Maps on his. Everything checked out.
“Alright, man, but you live in a seriously weird area. Don’t you get the creeps living out here?”
“Out here? What are you guys talking about?”
“There’s no one here. The street lights aren’t working, there’s no cars and no people at all. How’d you end up in a place like this?”
“That makes no sense,” James said, perplexed, “there are tons of people living here. Take a look!”
With that, he moved his webcam towards the window and showed us the brightly lit adjacent building.
“See that? That’s Cornelius Lane!”
This was starting to get weird. Sander and I looked around, but we were in the dark and utterly alone. By now, it was evident that this guy was messing with us.
“Come on, man, just admit that you trolled us. You obviously faked your location and lured us out here to this creepy place. Well played, man. We’re out of here.”
“Guys, wait! I swear I’m not doing anything. Maybe your phones aren’t working, right? Maybe something’s wrong with your GPS.”
“Yeah, man, we really got no time for this. Thanks for the donations and all that. You got us good.”
“Freaking hold on! I swear, I’m not trolling you. Just hold on. I’ll get my phone, and I’ll come get you. I’ll be back in a sec!”
With that, he left the stream. Sander next to me sighed.
“Well, can’t say I’m surprised something like this happened. Let’s just get out of here. We got a lot of other people waiting to get on as well.”
By now, I saw that the whole chat was being spammed with laughing emoticons and messages telling us how dumb we were to fall for this.
Somehow though, the guy’s reaction and acting, it was almost too good. It had been so genuine.
“Let’s wait for a bit,” I started. “We came all the way out here, might as well see how this plays out.”
For a moment, Sander stared at me, giving me a ‘really man’ expression, but then he shrugged and continued to follow me. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the intersection. A street sign informed us that we were indeed at Cornelius Lane.
The whole complex was abandoned entirely. As I looked around, I saw that most of the buildings were in questionable condition. The windows were broken, and many of the entrances were boarded off.
“Let’s get out of here, man, this place gives me the creeps,” Sander pressed on.
I still insisted on waiting, and the moment I saw another request by James, I hit accept.
“Where the hell are you guys? I’m right here, but I don’t see anyone.”
I turned around and scanned the area, but we were still completely alone.
I looked at his stream again and saw that he stood in the middle of a busy apartment complex. The whole area around him was alight by street lights, and I could hear people in the background.
“Yeah man, just give it up, we’re-”
I broke off. I could see James’ face on the screen, but behind him, I saw a very familiar street sign. It was a bit too far away to read it, but I was sure I was mistaken.
“James, what’s that sign behind you?”
“I told you, Cornelius Lane.”
With that, he focused the camera on it, and I could read the same letters I saw right next to me. I couldn’t help but shiver.
“That’s impossible. Just to make sure, you’re living in the same city we are, right?”
“Hm? What the hell are you-?”
I cut him off right away and made him repeat the name of our city and the postal code. He laughed a bit and asked what was going on.
Sander and I hurried to show him the street sign.
“H-how the hell are you guys doing that? I can’t see you! Is this some sort of trick?”
“No, James. We’re right here. Look at Sander’s Google Maps.”
With that, Sander held his phone up right in front of mine. I saw James frown, but soon his face changed to confusion.
“Okay, but how come I don’t see you guys?”
“No freaking clue,” Sander mumbled next to me.
“Here, see, you’ve got to be somewhere else!”
He turned his camera around to slowly take in the whole area around him. I watched his camera feed, and every once in a while I looked up at the buildings around me.
There was his apartment building and the building behind that. Then he showed us the rest of Cornelius Lane and the small parking lot at the end. The next thing I saw was a small playground, and then he panned over more apartment buildings to our left. Everything was exactly the same. Only his version was bustling with activity, and ours was a freaking ghost town.
“James,” I started in a shaken voice. “We’re exactly where you are, only that it’s,” I held my breath for a moment before I spoke the word. “Different.”
James shook his head and started to laugh nervously. “Yeah, sure you are, guys.”
I didn’t say anything. Instead, I did the same thing James had done moments before. I used my camera to show him the entire area around me.
As I did, I saw his face contort from disbelief, to shock and finally fear.
“There’s no way. You guys are fucking with me! This is just,” he broke off for a moment, shaking his head again. “You recorded this somehow! There’s just no way…”
“James, look at this, we’re right in front of the same damn street sign! I’ve got no clue how any of this is possible.”
By now, I couldn’t help but be crept out by the absurdity of the situation. Whatever was going on here was freaking weird.
I turned my phone around and focused the camera on Sander and me standing right in front of the street sign.
I saw James camera shaking. He was panting and hurried back into his apartment. I could hear him mumble to himself over and over again.
“This is just some freaking troll. Seriously, fuck you guys. Fuck you for this shit. You’re not funny at all!”
He was out of it I realized as I watched. I felt goosebumps all over my body. “James we-”
“You guys got the wrong fucking area. I don’t know how you’re faking this, but it’s clear that you’re fucking with me!”
With that, James left the stream.
“Dude,” Sander pressed out right next to me.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said with a shaken voice.
We started to walk off, but soon enough, we started running.
“Shit, man, what the hell was that?” Sander asked me again and again, but I couldn’t answer him.
I called out to James yet again, but I got no reply. Meanwhile, the chat was exploding with activity. Some people were crept out as we were, other’s called us out for faking the whole encounter. There was no sign of James, though. For all I knew he’d signed off.
It wasn’t long before we arrived back at the tram station. We took the first line that would take us back to the city center.
There were a lot of other people who wanted to join the stream, either to meet up or to talk about the events of the night. We denied all of them and eventually called it a night.
On the tram, we tried to wrap our head around what had just happened, but we couldn’t. James’ area had been an exact replica of the one we’d been at. How the hell was something like that possible?
Sander started to talk about alternate realities, but I cut him off right away. I was not in the mood for any of these weird theories. Not right now.
When I was home, I looked up Cornelius Street online. There wasn’t much though. All I found was an old article about ongoing renovations in the early 90s and insufficient funds.
For all I knew, the area had been abandoned more than two decades ago.
Even now, I can’t sleep. I’m still too confused about what happened. Every time I think about it, I feel goosebumps all over my body.
I checked out YouNow once more. I searched for James’ profile, but I couldn’t find it anymore.
I told myself he’d deleted himself right after the stream. This was most likely an elaborate and complicated joke, I told myself. In a couple of days, I’d see myself in some dumb video on YouTube about streamers being trolled.
At least I hope things will turn out like that.
There’s one thing; however, James’ reaction. It was too real, too genuine for a fake.
The look of disbelief, of shock, and finally that of real terror still sends shivers down my spine. What the hell happened today?
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