For The Record, Episode 10: Disconnected
[TAPE RECORDER CLICKS ON, STATIC]
Alright, let’s see what we have today.
Hm, interesting. Statement of Roy Sanders, regarding a strange and distressing incident with his computer in his apartment. Statement sent and received via email on the 10th of June, 2019, recorded on the same day. Recording by Juniper Powell, lead archivist of the Supernatural Preservation Order of New York.
I never thought I’d need to make a statement of a paranormal experience… to be fair, I never thought I’d experience anything worthy of one. But what happened to me couldn’t be anything but paranormal, with the way it managed to pick at my soul and pull out the bits of my life that evoked the most dread and hopelessness and spit them out like seeds from a fruit. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I feel like I need to explain those bits before I tell you my story.
I’m sure you hear this a lot from the people who come to you, but I did not have the best childhood. I was an only child born in the 90’s at the rise of the internet. But my parents wouldn’t have any of that in the house. The computer was exclusively for the parents and for schoolwork, no social media whatsoever. Sure, it’s not as if I had nothing else to do; I would draw, I would watch my favorite shows on TV, play games, read books. The problem was that I had nobody around who shared my interests. Nobody in my class liked the same shows I did, and while some said they liked my drawings, most of them teased me for it. It left me somewhat isolated from my peers. Sure, I had the occasional friend I made and hung out with sometimes, but I never managed to truly bond with anyone over a shared interest.
Eventually I grew up and left home for college and finally started my independent life. As part of my college work, I needed a laptop, which my parents helped me pay for. With it I could do my studies, write papers, and look up anything I wanted. Anything.
And thus began my long-awaited nosedive into the internet… It was the early 2010s when I began college, so you can imagine what it was like to discover this well of information and culture that was only a click away; it was everything I ever dreamed of and more. I found communities and platforms flooded with people, and it was so easy to find those who shared my interests. I started forming an online presence, posting my artwork and talking about the books I read, the shows and movies I loved, and every post was a magnet to others who shared my enthusiasm. Through them I met people like me, who loved the things I did and more. Faster than I ever imagined, the internet became my second home, a world filled with possibilities all contained in a rectangular device.
After college I settled in my own place, away from my hometown. I started renting a small studio apartment. It was a little cramped but I managed. And now, for once, I felt life was great. I had my online friends, who are pretty much my second family. I even got an internship in my desired field for me to start with, and I also began taking art commissions on the side for extra money. That money helped me pay for and build my own computer, beyond my laptop, and I loved it.
And that’s how I lived my life for several happy years, going to work, making art, talking and chatting with my friends. Over time we’d become extremely tight-knit and caring of one another, we even knew each other by our real names, which I never imagined doing with anyone I never saw face-to-face before.
It was the weekend when it happened. Saturday, I think. I’d gotten up, had some breakfast, and sat at my computer to work on some art and chat with friends. But when I opened the website, the page was blank. No groups, no chat logs, no PMs, no signs that I had ever touched the site before. It looked as if it were shut down, but if it were there would be some message saying so. I tried opening one of my other accounts on another platform; the same thing, my feed was blank and all my friends were simply… gone. Every other platform I tried yielded the same result… nothingness.
It couldn’t have been the wi-fi messing around. That was the first thing I checked, but it seemed to be running fine. I refreshed the page, but it only led to the same blank screens on all sites, unchanged. I tried troubleshooting the issue, but there was no option for troubleshooting blank websites. The only possibility that remained is that overnight all my friends and groups on all platforms simultaneously blocked me.
But that’s too far-fetched, there’s no way that’s the case… right?
I sighed, then tried my one final, desperate attempt. I called one of my online friends. He had given me his phone number so we could text and for potential emergencies. This certainly counted as one. I dialed his number and… no answer came.
I felt this awful pressing dread that maybe, just maybe… my notion of everyone blocking me was accurate. It seems they’d grown sick of me. Was it something I’d said? Something I’d done? Was that joke I made the other day just a little too much into somebody’s comfort zone? No answers came; my mind was in no state for that. All that came were questions upon questions of what, who, and why. Maybe if I’d had the answers to any of these questions that now started permeating and swirling through my mind, I would have had some semblance of peace. But no. Instead, I was left in paranoia of what had happened to me… of what I may or may not have done.
Whatever it was, it made my friends abandon me.
And I was alone.
Of course I was, why wouldn’t I be? I was always a loner, from birth through childhood. All the memories of being alone in my room washed over me once more. Those old wounds of lacking and longing for companionship to share my joys reopening and gushing with pain and agony, making me convulse and bend over as if I were a sheet of paper being crumpled up and tossed away.
As I dwelled on these thoughts, I had not noticed my computer starting to smoke. Clouds of thick light grey smoke billowed out of it in unnatural amounts. In a panic, I snapped out of my trance, reached for my phone and tried to call the emergency hotline. No answer. I looked at my phone screen, there was no reception. I tried to run for my door, but it was locked, and by now enough smoke had accumulated so as to make it impossible for me to find my keys. I was trapped in my apartment with no way out, nowhere to call, and nobody to offer me so much as an explanation.
It was then I realized something. This smoke… didn’t smell like smoke. It didn’t really have a smell, but it was moist, more like… steam from a kettle, or a fog, perhaps? The realization my computer was not on fire eased my panic somewhat, but it still didn’t explain why it was emitting fog at a rapid rate. Oh, what did it matter? My life was over. My friends were gone, probably left me with their group to start their lives fresh without the parasite that was me, leaving me in the dust as I deserved. My room disappeared around me, leaving me in a foggy nothingness.
The thoughts consumed me, and I lay down on the cold, unswept floor.
I don’t know how long I lay there; time melted into a meaningless puddle as my feelings swirled with the mists. My brain grew tired and my confusion began to subside. The perpetual questions replaced themselves with the clear answers. How ironic that the thick fog cleared my mind. Why were my friends gone? Because they were never truly real. You never truly connected to them and they finally grew sick of your antics. That’s what my mind concluded, and it all made sense; Why bother trying to get them back? My entire room was foggy and so was my mind, why bother trying to get those people back? Did they even care? Maybe they were always better off without me?…
But… the fact is… that I had been a part of their lives, even if maybe not a big one or an important one, I was still somebody to them. Even if not a permanent somebody. The fact that they acknowledged my existence, even if by pushing it away, indicated some significance.
I sat up slowly, mustering every fiber of my will to do so, and dragged myself to the chair in front of my computer. The fog was so thick the screen was only a blank white blur, but muscle memory led my hand to once more click the refresh icon on the webpage. There was a blink, and the screen showed no signs of change. I sighed, and a single tear escaped my eye and slid down my cheek. I clicked again. Same result.
No. This isn’t right, they… they must still be out there. They’re just on the other side of the screen, and they wouldn’t have pushed me away without talking to me first. I had to keep believing that. I decided at that moment that regardless of their reasons, I would not give up until I got an explanation for why they left. This… was unreasonable and wrong. My friends… the friends I knew, at least, wouldn’t be so petty as to give me the silent treatment. They would talk to me first…
I kept clicking refresh. I did so over and over, not giving up hope anymore. My finger grew sore, and I swear I could feel the mouse button eroding under my finger. And strangely, the fog gradually subsided. The screen was now clearer, and I became more determined. I jerked a moment, feeling as if I’d been awoken from a daze, and found the screen reset. The site had returned to normal, and all the chats and groups had returned! At the bottom right corner, I saw the prominent ‘no wi-fi’ symbol, but I didn’t care. I was just overjoyed that my safe haven never left, and that I was not alone.
The fog was gone too, I hadn’t noticed until a minute or so after the computer returned to normal. I did take a moment to check my PC and monitor, where the fog had come from. But there were no signs of burning or anything to show the thing ever emitted so much as a puff.
I cherish my online friends dearly and appreciate them with all my heart, but I realized I couldn’t live solely on virtual connection. Since that day I’ve made more of an effort to go out and meet people outside of work. It’s not easy, people are very confusing, but I feel like I’m improving. Living life on and offline, a dual life, twice the friends, I suppose. Hopefully someday it will get to that, but for now, I value the friends I do have, and I feel like that’s what matters.
Well, that was… certainly an experience, to put it lightly.
[CLEARING THROAT] This statement was sent in by e-mail just this morning, so it’s too early for a follow-up. Parts of it seem to be contradictory, but it could be to describe the ever-shifting experience, or emotional rollercoaster, so to speak. In a week or so I’ll send the others to look into it further. Heaven knows Knight could use the experience.
What’s interesting though, is that along with his account, Mr. Sanders provided some artwork of his own making depicting his experience. The art is… monochrome, and yet somehow intense. To describe it, it shows a person’s silhouette lying on the floor, as the statement described, in front of a desk with a computer emitting grey fog. The silhouette is greyish-blue, and wafts of blue mist seem to be dissipating from it into the room. In the background, despite the apartment setup, there appears to be a stretch of endless plains, with a few scattered hills fading into the distance beyond the fog. It’s definitely a unique addition to our Archive, as a personal artistic rendering of a paranormal encounter. Whether it provides any concrete evidence is a different question, probably best to leave that up to the researchers.
Though, I can’t help but wonder how much of this drawing is artistic dramatization, and how much is accurate depiction. Based on the statement it appears to be mostly the former, but this could be his way of filling in the blanks of details he could not put into words. Honestly, I’m not sure if I want to know…
Right, covered all that. I’ll just mark that as completed and recorded… make a note to print it for the filing system…
Aaaaand end recording.
[TAPE RECORDER CLICKS OFF]
This episode of “For The Record” was written, directed, and produced by Shalhevet Ebner, co-produced by Floris “Swiftly” Bordewijk, and edited by Megan “Ryan” Lee, and starred Sivan Raz as “Juniper Powell”. It used sounds from freesound.org, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod, or view our website at fortherecordpodcast.co.uk. Stay safe, take care, and stay connected.