What is Real?
Questions about life, death and reality have meddled with my mind lately, and after undergoing great pain and ordeal, I’ve finally found an answer to one of those questions. You all need to hear my story first, to start off-
When was the last time you bought a DVD off a DVD rent store?
Long time ago, right?
Some of you might not even be able to recollect. But, my life has changed working in one.
I worked for Ben, a nice, pot-bellied guy with a walrus moustache, who could wear a smile on his face at even 8 in the morning. He owned a DVD store in Atlanta.
Three years of my early Twenties were spent in that store, West of Atlanta. The store was huge, if not vast. The collection in the store was surely vast though, ranging from the comedy, drama, and adult to the horror section. Entrance to the store from the main door was met by, a corridor of DVD movies, on the left, stacked in shelves. All of them belonged to the Horror section. The walls were decorated with posters of classics and cults, Ben made it a point to change the posters on a yearly basis.
Horror movies, old Ben loved them, his collection in this genre was especially curated by himself. It had the most unheard movies, movies with different languages and some of them were also privately filmed. Many of the movies added to his collection were gifts and presents from close friends and associates, who were aware of Ben’s interests.
Though, nobody knew how deadly this interest could turn out to be.
Business was running good for some time, the store was one of the most popular in the neighbourhood. But then came, high speed internet and torrent sites, and well, it ruined everything. The only people who still kept coming were creepy teenaged boys, even they stopped after some time.
We were forced to shut down that place. Ben started a pub down the street. He told me, “pubs never run out of money”. Instinctively, I wanted to follow Ben into his new venture, but a thought struck me, “Why not take some time out and meet my family and folks, been a while”. So, that made me shift back to Ohio with my girlfriend Jane.
They were nice 2 years in Ohio, with family and Jane, worked in a convenience store during the day hours. Life was simple, but happy. Whenever I spoke to Ben, he was happy too.
One day, I got a call from Ben, late in the night, this wasn’t the usual chit-chat calls that we often used to have, he seemed more than terrified.
“Bruce…BRUCE… something weird is happening, please help me….PLEASE!” The last thing I heard was him screaming at the top of voice immediately followed by dead silence.
“Hey, Ben are you okay? TALK TO ME BEN.”
The police found his body lying on the floor of his house, left wrist slit, it seemed as if, he had committed suicide, but I knew that was far from the truth. He was the last person, who would even harm himself, let alone committing suicide.
I told the police about the phone call. The police tried retrieving the contents of the call for investigation, but to little or no avail.
Ben had no surviving relatives, and I wasn’t very surprised to see Ben mention all his private DVD collection to my name. His house was taken up by the state.
Being strong is definitely not my forte. The death affected me a lot, losing a close friend and that too under such strange circumstances. It kept me awake at night, wondering whether Ben was murdered or he actually did kill himself. Just imagining that there would be no lively face to greet people in the morning, made me sad.
A few weeks passed, before normalcy could resume, after another hectic day at the store, I came back home to see my wife watching TV. She was so fixated to the screen, she didn’t even notice that I had come home or maybe didn’t bother to notice- which ever one it was.
“Hey Jane, what are you watching?”
“Honey-? When did you come home? I was just going through the DVDs you got from Ben” She immediately shut the TV and got up in a hurry.
“Let’s have Dinner, I’m sure you’re hungry, aren’t you?” She smiled awkwardly and made her way to the kitchen.
Jane had this habit of smiling awkwardly whenever she liked to hide something from me. It never lost my attention. Ever.
“There’s leftover steak from lunch, you want some Bruce?”
“I never say no to steak, darling”, I met her gaze, and she smiled, not awkwardly but radiantly, and after a long time, it had truly felt happy to be alive.
During the dinner, there was an air of anxiety looming around her, she seemed worried, and that was very unlike Jane. Times like these, I had learned through experience that it was best to leave her alone. If Jane had decided to not tell something, she wouldn’t. Even the steak wasn’t properly cooked, this isn’t the right time- I had quietly kept the thought to myself. After the dinner, I collected the dishes and made my way to the kitchen.
It was my turn to do the dishes that day, Jane went to the bedroom to rest. Doing dishes could be one the most boring jobs on the planet, I can be sure of that. Jane and I always kept turns for doing the dishes, just so that, the temper and mood swings in the house were kept in balance.
“AAAAAAAH…” a pain filled scream echoed through the house.
That was Jane’s voice, in immense pain.
I swiftly ran towards the bedroom. The sight left me sick. Jane was lying in a pool of blood, left wrist slit.
“JANEEE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!”
“It wasn’t me, Bruce, it wasn’t me…”her voice was fading.
“Stay with me Jane, you’re going to be alright, just stay with me”, frantically, I called 911.
“Hello, my wife…my wife has a wound on her wrist, she is bleeding uncontrollably, and please do something, please”
“Sir, please keep calm and try to stop the bleeding. Hold her hand straight up and apply direct pressure to the area above the wound till the bleeding stops, tie a cloth to help you with it. The paramedics are on their way.”
My heart was pounding, I was in panic mode and I couldn’t think straight at all.
Jane was giving up.
“NO JANE, NO. PLEASE NO.” I wrapped my shirt around her wrist, and something inside me knew that, I can’t stop her from leaving me.
“You’re going to be alright, everything is going to be alright”, I lied, her head was on my lap, I kept stroking her blood laden luscious hair.
By the time, the paramedics had arrived and declared her dead, it wasn’t a shock altogether. Miracles, is something that I’ve always believed in. I hoped this was the day, my belief was confirmed.
But it wasn’t, Jane passed away, in front of my eyes, and there was nothing I could do to stop her.
Her death was so similar to Ben’s, the only difference being – I didn’t see Ben die helplessly.
There was no coming back, Jane’s void left me so helpless. I would often wake up every day with tears in my eyes. There was no reasoning in my head that could justify why Jane had taken her life. Why would Jane harm herself? The thought kept running in my head, till the point of insanity.
After a couple of days, I decided to switch on the TV to take my mind off things. The DVD showed there was a disc inside, switched to DVD and the disc started playing.
The movie’s name was “The eyes of the Watcher”, it was written in crimson red and had glittering eyeballs jumping around it. A typical old and low on budget type movies.
It surely seemed, homemade. Ben and his taste in movies, especially horror, was weird to say the least.
The eyes just kept moving all over the screen. What bullshit is this, I had thought then.
There was no production house name, no name of the actors, the terrible animation continued for a minute before I thought of shutting it down, then-
The scene, all of sudden shifted to Ben in his apartment, sitting on his sofa, reading a book.
“WHAT KIND OF A JOKE IS THIS”, I screamed.
This was going to be worse, when I saw myself appear on the tape, slowly approaching Ben with a kitchen knife, and then, with calmness only a murderer could possess, I sliced his wrist and left him lying there. Ben offered no defence, let alone seeing that an intruder had come.
“IT WASN’T ME, I DIDN’T DO THAT”, I yelled at the TV. Ben looked so surprised on the tape, he kept looking around and then immediately called me, exactly like the night it had happened.
My phone started ringing, it showed Ben on the id.
This couldn’t be…this isn’t real…please stop ringing, I kept wishing.
I picked up the phone, it was the old familiar Ben’s voice.
“WHY DIDN’T you call 911?” it just felt strange screaming at a ghost.
– …BRUCE… something weird is happening, please help me….PLEASE”
“WHYYYY” I broke down.
And then the screaming followed.
“Please stop, whoever is doing this, please stop, I beg of you, please…” I could barely control my tears.
The disc started playing again, this time it was my wife. Jane was relaxing on the bed, and I appeared like a shadow, again, with a knife.
Jane doesn’t sense anything, and I cut her wrist open and walk away.
“NOOO”, I broke the TV with a statue, picked up from the mantelpiece.
I removed the disc, and tried breaking it into half.
The disc didn’t budge, as if it were made of iron. Carried it to the kitchen, and kept it on the gas flame.
“THIS ISN’T REAL”, I flung it across the hallway in disbelief.
I went weak on my knees, and knelt at the helplessness I was feeling.
Realisation struck me then, Jane was watching this DVD the night she died, and it surely implies that Ben must have watched the same DVD before his…
And I’ve watched it too.
This shouldn’t imply anything.
No, but if the DVD gets in the hands of the police, they will wrongfully accuse me of all the crimes that I did not commit.
I have to save myself.
But, how? There is a blade lying near the side table, it’s becoming more and more tempting by every passing minute.
There has to be another way.
Voices, ring in my head which keep saying “It was you, Bruce, it was you”.
I know it wasn’t me, or was it?
No, it can’t be, I was back in Ohio when Ben died. This is a trick, and I’m falling for it, a pretty nice trick for one…
Slowly, I crawled towards the table and took the blade in my hand, slicing my wrist seems such a good option than facing the even thought of having killed my wife and my closest friend.
I can die in the way that they’ve died, and maybe…maybe I’ll be able to meet them.
There would be no life ahead of me, living with all of this….the guilt.
I kept telling myself that it’s all false and a big trick, but the DVD, it seemed so real.
The DVD is so damage proof, it’s unreal. Surely, some paranormal force is behind it.
That could even be an excuse, I’m giving myself to hide from the truth, what if I somehow actually killed them and don’t remember anything?
The blade is too tempting, I’m sure there will be a safer place after this…
Something, I can be sure of…. Or not…
That shadow…it looks like me, what if that shadow comes to kill me now?
I need to be aware, be alert.
It could try to creep up on me– but I’ve been forewarned.
With a kitchen knife in hand, I searched for the shadow behind curtains, in closed cupboards.
But the shadow, was found in the most unlikely of all places. So skilfully lurking around me, it couldn’t escape the reflection I saw in the mirror though.
My mind is clear and calm, just like the sea before a storm, there is only one way to kill the shadow and end this for once.
– Najeeb Qazi.