Why does this person look just like me? From what I can see, they carry themselves the same as me, they have the same mannerisms as me and they have the same body language as me. The way they present themselves is the same as me. The scary thing is, they’re wearing an outfit very similar to one I actually own. This is weird. It’s as though I’m looking at myself. Dumbfounded, I find myself walking down this dark looking alley and towards this person, and on closer inspection, I notice something odd.
Their face looks a lot like mine, but something is different. This other person’s face shows a lot less emotion than mine, as though it’s been toughened by a hard experience. Their eyes seem empty and hollow, as though there is no soul inside this living body. It just seems as though it’s another version of me but we’ve lived two very different lives. The atmosphere given off by them is cold. I don’t know whether their aura is genuinely icy or it’s just the raw feeling of confusion flowing through my blood. Why do I feel as though I’m stood next to another version of myself? As all of these thoughts run through my mind I realise that at this point I am just stood in front of this figure, my mouth wide open in shock, and my eyes gazing right into theirs.
I quickly come back to my senses and the chilling uncertainty turns into a scorching fear. I feel the temperature rise as I see emotion emerging on their face. What are they going to say? Before I can even say or do something to make myself seem normal the person reaches into their coat pocket. At this point I don’t even know how I’m feeling. My blood feels like lava as I feel it pumping from my heart and around my body but on the outside I feel so cold that I’m actually immobilised. Time feels to be going extremely slow and my vision is blurry. The only thing that’s in focus is this strange character.
In what seems to be a very voyeuristic journey, this person’s hand rests in their coat pocket for what seems an eternity. The corners of their mouth slowly turn upwards and formulates their mouth into a grin. A very sly one. If the grin could speak to me it would be telling me that they’re aware of the hold they have on me. Their eyes begin so squint ever so slightly but my gaze isn’t fixed upon their face, it’s on their right hand in anticipation of what they’re about to brandish. It becomes visible. In an anticlimactic fashion, it’s just a piece of paper in their hand. It’s clear they want me to have it. Robotically I hold my hand out and take it and with my hands shaking with the magnitude of a severe earthquake I open the piece of paper.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day but they were laying bricks every hour” reads the crooked handwriting on the paper. In utter astonishment at what I’ve just read I look back and find that the mysterious character has disappeared. But they couldn’t have possibly walked off this street in the short amount of time that I took my gaze off them. This isn’t the worst of my worries though. Is it a coincidence that a person who strangely resembles me handed me a piece of paper with the first thing I tweeted all them years ago?
Millions of questions are racing around my head quicker than the particles in the Hadron Collider. With each conclusion I come to I find another question to ask. How does this person know me? Why would they have something I wrote on my personal social media account and hand it to me? Is this merely a coincidence? This process is similar to nuclear fission, and it becomes a never ending cycle. Suddenly I don’t feel safe in this dark alleyway, I am exposed from both sides, front and back. I just want to be on my own in a place where nobody can see me. With no consideration towards how shifty I look running out of a dark alleyway I feel as though I am alone despite being surrounded by hundreds of people in the city centre. Out of breath I make it to the bus stop, anxious that there doesn’t seem to be a bus in sight. I hunch myself on the notice board as I read the timetable, which shows me that the next one should be here in seven minutes. I need to calm down. So I close my eyes and count to ten.
As I reach ten I open my eyes and take a deep breath. Even though I look distressed, nobody seems to be noticing me. Everybody has their face buried in their mobile phones, and if they’re not looking at them they’re wired up with earphones or headphones and completely oblivious to the surrounding environment. Suddenly a loud noise can be heard from behind me. On my guard I jump and turn my neck around, similar to the way a wise owl would do. Much to my relief it’s just a baby in its pram crying. It becomes clear that the baby’s mother dislikes the sound of the crying, so in protest she takes another phone out her pocket and hands it to the distressed baby, whos face lights when the theme song of probably their favourite game rings out.
I must’ve been fixated on this baby and its mother for quite a while because the seven minutes that just passed seemed like mere seconds. After paying and running upstairs to the top of the bus I feel exposed again. I feel exposed sitting on a vehicle that travels on a set path, surrounded by glass windows that allow people from all angles to see me, even if I can’t see them. To pass the time, I conform with the rest of the people on the bus and put my earphones in.
After the zoned out bus journey, I find myself walking through my jungle of a garden and into my home. Ignoring the mountain of letters in the doorway, I pull out my phone to have a quick conversation with myself on social media as I walk upstairs to my room.
“Wow, something very weird happened to me today” I type, as I slump on the bed. As I get caught up in reflecting upon my bizarre day and scrolling down the timeline, a heavy tiredness grabs my body and before I know it I’m in the midst of a deep sleep, however this satisfying sleep soon stops as my phone starts to ring out loud.
Fearing the phone call might be an important one, I rummage around the bed searching for the vibrating phone and to my horror, I see the caller ID shows my own number. This oddity sparks a reaction in my body. My temperature which was as stable as a dormant volcano feels as though it’s slowly beginning to rise due to a dark fear. With my fingers sweating, I swipe to answer the call. I try to speak but my voice has been kidnapped. The other end of the line is also silent. The mutual silence speaks a thousand words.
“So you think I’m weird?” an ominous voice mutters in a low tone, “there’s nothing weird about me”.
At this point, my temperature has soared to an unbelievable height. The torrent of fiery blood has erupted and my body has been engulfed in a blaze. I frantically try to ask who the other voice is but the only words I can say are unrecognisable.
“There is nothing weird about me” the voice responds, “I am merely a creation of you”
Before I can ask one of the many questions buzzing around my head, the voice speaks again.
“Every time you share information online, I grow. Whenever you update your personal data, I find another way to manipulate you. When you speak your mind on social media, I learn about the way your subconscious mind works. I am not a virtual representation of your online personality. I am a living being who feeds off your every move. There is nothing you can do to terminate me.”
The phone call ends and I am left with a deafening silence.
The paranormal activities of the strange being confirm to me me that it isn’t just a bored teenager making prank calls. After all, it disappeared from the alleyway, something which proves impossible for any regular human being. Also, they held a striking resemblance to me and the note they handed me anchors the idea that I am dealing with something otherworldly. At this point I am so consumed with fear that my whole body is numb. But what do I do now? I can’t tell anybody. No. I don’t want to come across as a crazy person who hallucinates and hears voices. It’s something I need to keep to myself.
Then, like a standing ovation to an inspiring speech, the hairs all over my body rise and a startling chill glides across my skin. Through my own use of the internet, I have created an entity that reflects the thoughts and interests of well… me. But not the actual me. The version I like to portray to other people. The quiet, vulnerable and shy version of myself has a shadow. An impulsive, cunning and shadier shadow. The online version of me is nothing like the actual me. The fact that this once virtual persona now exists as a living being could have detrimental repercussions on my life. It is basically a living version of my subconscious, except with no morality. The most daunting thing about this whole situation is that this mysterious entity knows me inside out. From the public statements I make on social media, to the private conversations with my friends and loved ones. Nothing is hidden. Everything is exposed. I shake my body to alleviate the feeling of numbness and jump out of my bed – with my desk as my hopeful destination. Prevention is better than cure. If there’s nothing to hide there’s nothing to expose. I must delete everything from my laptop.
If anybody could see me right now they would think I had just gone twelve rounds against a heavyweight boxer who had slugged the life out of me. Knocking down everything in my way, I stagger towards my desk, pull my laptop out of the top drawer and rip it open at the hinge, almost snapping it in half during the process. Somehow amongst the chaos I manage to type in my password correctly. Where do I begin? A factory reset seems like the best option. In fact no it doesn’t. If I reset it to factory settings, the content isn’t fully deleted. I need a more permanent option. After doing a search for effective methods of thoroughly restoring a computer it’s clear that there isn’t much I can do on my own. Think, think, think. Then it clicked. Conveniently a hardware store had opened not too far from where I live. Surely they must be able to perform some kind of military style reset which will no doubt eliminate the entity. It’s worth a shot. The only downside to this is that there’s no way that the store would be open at this time of night. Sleep is a must.
The idea of sleep is a lot easier than the reality. As I close my eyes I see bizzare things. The encounter in the alleyway, the caller ID when my phone rang. But nothing scares me more than the look on its face, the look of emptiness and death. Being in a dark room doesn’t help. The fact that this thing could be hiding anywhere unnerves me. After all, it did disappear when I first saw it, so it must be able to appear wherever it wants to. By the time I had realised this, all hope for sleep was lost. Feeling sorry for myself I sit on my bed staring into the darkness. I am a sitting duck.
A loud beeping noise fills the room and my eyes are pulled towards a new source of light in the room. My laptop screen. My skin thickens as I wait in anticipation for what’s due to happen next. This is when writing appears on the screen.
“I TOLD YOU BEFORE. YOU CAN’T TERMINATE ME” flashes on the screen. This triggers a reaction in me. The fight or flight reaction. But this time, my reaction wasn’t to hide from the situation. No. I’ve had enough of this thing messing around with my head and I need to put an end to it. Throwing my bed covers onto the floor I spring out of bed and yet again, make my way to the desk. I bang my fist on the keyboard and attempt to type back to this entity. My attempt was fruitless. The screen just fades back to black. At this moment in time I feel defeated and have no other motive other than to rest my head in my hands. Slowly but surely I begin to drift into a soothing sleep.
Once I realise I am unconscious to the world I awake in a flurry to notice that the room is filled with a bright light, and birds can be heard chirping outside. Wow. I slept through the whole night. Slightly confused I look over to my bed to see that the covers are still on the floor, reminding me of the events from the last night. In an attempt to forget what happened I make my way towards the bed and pick up the covers but what I see on the floor causes me to freeze up.
A note written in the same handwriting as the initial note handed to me by the entity. It reads “some shadows stick around during the darkest times”. Even more weird, the note contains a time and a date, which happens to be today, and 9pm.
What could this mean? Confusion lingers on my mind like the irritating buzzing white noise from an old television. To combat this I throw my earphones in and focus on the mission at hand – restore my laptop to factory settings via the hardware store and put an end to the harassment. I choose an album with an upbeat tempo, which reflects my current dedicated mood. The drums and bass compliment the pace at which I am moving and before the first song is over I am dressed and out the house. Dressed in black, with a cap covering my face, backpack on my back with the important laptop.
The atmosphere outside is foggy. Ironically it harmonises with my mindset on the current situation. Even though the fog clouds my vision it holds a secretive beauty. It’s amazing how the disclosing fog has so many secrets. What hides inside it? I can see bright lights dancing through it. Though it masks my vision, I can still hear through it, birds belting out soulful harmonies. The other side to this elegance is that I feel as though the mysterious entity hides amongst it, watching my every move, tracking me by the location of my laptop. With every drum that beats through my ears I move through the fog in a rhymical manner. With every snare I look behind me and at the end of every verse paranoia takes over and I mistake one of the lights for the entity. This monster really scares me.
As the album through my ears progresses, the environment around me does too. The fog begins to clear and the mystery it once held becomes apparent. The city is vacant. Derelict. Abandoned. This creates a spooky air. Usually this place never sleeps – constant chatter and charisma can be found all year round but right now that isn’t the case. I guess it is just me, myself and I right now. By myself and I, I mean myself and the entity since it is a creation of me. As I go about my journey my footsteps come to a halt, in perfect sync with the album. Immediately I pull my phone out of my pocket and see that the brightness is very low. As I hold the phone up to eye level I see that the signal has gone, hence why the music stopped. That isn’t the only thing I see.
Through the reflection I see the entity standing behind me in the distance. Fixated on it I spin around, ready for confrontation. It begins to slowly make its way towards me. I would normally freeze up in fear but right now a passion simmers inside of me. I make my way towards this devil and we meet halfway. Much to my surprise I see emotion on its face. The look of sadness and the visual representation of neglect. This once emotionless thing seems to have developed emotion. Its eyes are filled with sorrow. In its hand is a rose. The passionate red petals contrast the grey palette of the city.
“You want to kill me” it says in a defeated tone, “But why would you want to kill something you created. I have never harmed you, I just wanted to get to know my creator is that so bad”
Suddenly my mindset on the whole situation changes. The entity never harmed me or did anything to endanger me, it just approached me in a way that is unfamiliar to any human being. But it isn’t a human being. It wouldn’t know how to abide with our way of life. Maybe it was just trying to be friendly but my fear of the unknown blinded me to it. But np. How can I trust this thing? The mystery it shrouds itself in tells me not to. On the other hand, if it wanted to harm me in any way, shape or form it surely would’ve done it by now right? At this moment in time, my defences have dropped and I have bought into the idea that the entity was just trying to be friendly with me.
“Come, I have something to show you”
Completely unsure of how to think I find myself following the entity through the bleak looking city, my mind working overtime trying to figure out where it could be taking me. My actions are almost zombie like. Right now I am not in control of my actions, I am just walking out of instinct, as though I am in autopilot. We walk side by side in complete silence. But it isn’t a scary silence, no, more of a peaceful one, created by two souls in perfect harmony. As I look over to the entities face, the emotion shown seems to be more positive, a lot happier and full of more content. This reassures me that I am in no danger.
After what seemed an eternity of footsteps, I see where it wanted to take me. In the distance I see a field, full of life and energy, which is the complete opposite of the concrete jungle we were in beforehand. As we make our way towards the field, my body surges with a positive energy. It becomes clear where the entity got the rose from, as the lush green grass is littered with them, some of them, however none of them with a red more perfect that the one it initially carried. I feel as though I’m floating. There lies a large tree in the near distance. The entity looks at me and signals towards it. In unison, we make our way to it. Awestricken, I turn my head upwards and admire the sheer scale of the humongous tree. We both sit underneath the tree, with the deep green leaves acting as an umbrella to us, shielding the negativity from over our heads.
“Do you like it? This tree is the thing that connects me and you. I call it the nexus. The central point where all your information is gathered. This is where I was born. As long as it lives, me and you will forever be in sync. What I didn’t tell you is that we aren’t only connected by your online activity. Because of my sheer knowledge of you, I have been able to establish a deeper connection to you, allowing me to feel the same feelings and emotions you experience. Ever since you found out about my existence you were scared. I know this because the health of the tree deteriorated. When the tree feels pain, so do I.”
Right now I don’t know what to say, I am still astonished by the fact that something so deeply connected to me lies in such a perfect place. How have I never noticed or came across it before? With my voice feeling as mellow as ever I respond to the entity,
“Why did you not just tell me in the first place” I say with an involuntary soothing tone, “I felt so scared, I felt intimidated by your presence. I felt like you would ruin my life with the information I posted online. You know, the information I put on there, the way I come across, is nothing compared to the way I am in real life”
The entity hesitates. It then looks away from me and begins to speak.
“I don’t fully know how to interact with humans, after all there is only so much that can be gathered by quantitative data. I don’t really know how to analyse any true emotions. I thought being direct with you would be the best policy. But you took it the same way I guess any other human would do, and tried to run from it. I am sorry”
Without verbally accepting the apology, I look at the entity and just smile. The entity now seems playful, wide eyed, and excited.
“Look closely at the leaves. Each one of them represents a memory. The dark ones are of negative memories, the brighter ones of the more pleasant ones. This is how I stumbled across the first thing you posted on social media. Take a look” it says whilst touching a leaf towards the bottom of the tree. Upon closer inspection, I can see everything I’ve ever posted publicly, written on a different leaf and signed with my online username, with the correct time, date and location. They even contain what looks like the IP address of the device used to post.
We spend hours on end looking over old memories and laughing. We’re so engrossed in reminiscing that we don’t notice the night sky has taken its place above us. Suddenly the entity points towards the sky.
“Look, there is a countless number of stars in the sky, all connected to each other. Just like your memories. They’re all connected via a specific emotion. If you look closely at the branches, you can see different colours running through them, similar to veins, each showing a different emotion.”
The entity was just right, bright pinks and dark greys are amongst the palette of colours.
“Listen I have an idea. Why don’t we join both of our auras together and become one. You and me can exist as one and we can achieve amazing things. Together”
I nod my head and smile. The possibilities are endless with us becoming one, just think of what we could achieve. Delighted with me accepting, in a cheerful voice, the entity speaks again.
“Follow the roots of the tree, through the lights in the ground and you’ll find a rose bush. the rose bush acts as the heart of the Nexus and is responsible for managing its connections. It is the same bush I got this rose from. If we both touch the bush at the same time we will form a perfect connection and live together inside the same body”
Finding the rose bush is easy. The colour of the roots is a pulsating mysterious one which shows the colours of the rainbow. The roses are very large and the blood reds are astounding. It holds an immense energy. This is it.
“Are you ready” I ask.
The entity just nods and smiles at me, we both grab a stem of the rose bush each. It was very hot to touch.
Immediately I can see every single memory I have ever experienced flash before my very eyes. My body feels numb. I can no longer see reality, just every thought that has passed through my mind since birth. Now I can feel a transfer of energy. My energy is flowing from my veins and into the rose bush. I assume the same is happening to the entity. Slowly but surely my vision comes back. I can see something strange. The eyes of the entity are glowing with the same colours as the roots of the tree. At this point I can’t move. I am paralysed. The entity disappears from my viewpoint, reappears, throws a leaf onto my body and disappears once again. Suddenly I feel myself floating, but I can see my body on the floor. Higher and higher I go, and I can see the entity running off into the distance, with my backpack on its back. I look back at my lifeless body. My view fades to black and I feel myself fade from existence…
The note reads “Watch out for the thorns whilst admiring the roses. 9pm”