FIRST PART

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"THERE is no way this is a good idea."

Owen held the dirt-crusted VHS tape between his fingers, his eyes grazing over the words DO NOT WATCH, written in clear and bold letters across the front of it. His heart was throbbing in his chest, not from fear, but rather from pure excitement and curiosity.

"Winnie, it's fine," he called to his girlfriend, who was sitting in the kitchen, hiding beneath the safety of the bright ceiling lights. "I doubt it'll even play, anyways."

Winnie emerged from the kitchen, standing in the doorway and watching while leaning against the frame. Her eyes, behind her glasses, were narrowed and filled with aggravation. She crossed her arms over her chest and took a deep breath, followed by a silent pause.

"Normal people don't watch a VHS tape that they find in the ground while burying their dog, Owen. Especially if it's labeled 'do not watch'," she mumbled, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.

Owen bit down on his lip as he knelt to the ground, slipping the tape into the VHS player. He fumbled with the buttons for a few minutes, feeling Winnie's presence beside him as he attempted to play the tape.

"I don't know how to use this thing," Owen muttered under his breath, hitting the side of the dusty VHS player in frustration. "I'm surprised it even turned on, that's how fucking ancient it is."

A blaring pop sounded from the VHS player suddenly, scaring both Winnie and Owen. Winnie yelped while moving behind Owen, as Owen instinctively took a slow step away from the television. White static filled the screen, drowning the dark living room in a dimmed ivory light.

Owen reached back and placed his hand on Winnie's thigh to reassure her while he grabbed the remote to the television. He muted the loud noise and pressed the play button several times, before instantly, the static ended.

"I don't like this, Owen, can't we just watch a movie or something?" Winnie whined, her nails digging into Owen's arm. "I have a bad feeling."

Owen inhaled sharply, running his hand through his messy hair. "I- Winnie, I just want to see what's-"

The snowy display on the screen turned into a paused clip of a man sitting in a chair, the camera close to his face. A dark shadow casted over the side of his face, revealing only his dark eyes, shiny bald head and his facial hair as he stared away from the camera.

In the right corner of the screen stated OCT 14, in white letters.

"That's weird," Owen spoke with a light chuckle while cocking his head to the side. "Today's October fourteenth."

"Who is that?" Winnie whispered while gnawing nervously on her bottom lip.

Owen shrugged, grabbing her small hand in his. "Probably the last person to own this house. Let's watch it."

"No, Owen, I'm scared. I'm going to go home," she concluded, beginning to turn away from him.

He grabbed her arm to stop her. "You're going to make me watch this alone?" he asked while frowning.

His eyes scoured her face, the light illuminating her every feature and accentuating the worry in her almond eyes. Owen gently pressed his knuckles against the side of her jaw, softly stroking her skin to calm her.

"Fine," she concluded meekly, plopping down on the couch across from the television.

Owen grinned and moved beside her, wrapping his arm around her body to pull her closer. She cuddled against his shirt, her fingers locking around a handful of the fabric.

He pressed play.

The man continued to stare away from the camera, locked in the exact same position, save the blinking of his eyes that occurred every few seconds. The quality of the film was grainy, and the only sound that played was a dull roar.

Owen and Winnie locked eyes in confusion, before Owen fast-forwarded the clip to find that the man did not move his position once.

"Is... is this it?" Owen groaned in frustration, shaking his head. "How lame-"

He fell quiet the second he stopped fast-forwarding and the person being filmed turned his head to stare into the camera. The man had a very angular face - it was extremely thin, the dip of his cheekbone and edge of his jawline even sharper due to the dark shadow he was submerged in. His eyes were dark and fully gazing into the camera lens.

Owen shifted uncomfortably. "This is really weird."

"Well, what did you expect, Owen? Are you serious?" Winnie rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, moving to stand up.

"Hey, where are you going?" Owen asked, grabbing her hand.

"To pee," Winnie furrowed her eyebrows. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Owen shrugged, relaxing his body back into the couch.

"What?" A teasing smile broke across her lips. "Are you scared? Huh? Now you're the one that's scared?"

"Stop it, stop," Owen said, his words drowning beneath her teasing accusations.

"You're scared," Winnie laughed, bringing her fingers up to cover her mouth. "That's hilarious, you're the one that wanted to watch this stupid vid-"

A piercing noise blasted from the television, making the both of them jump and scrunch their faces in irritation. They both covered their ears with their hands, while Owen frantically reached to lower the volume.

"Lower it!" Winnie screamed over the monotonous sound. "Oh my God!"

"It's fully lowered, I don't know what's happening!" Owen yelled back, his shaking fingers fumbling against the remote controller as he desperately tried to find a way to quiet the noise.

He stood to his feet and ran over to the front of the T.V., dropping to the floor and trying to remove the tape from the VHS player. The tape would not eject, no matter how many times he tried to press the button over and over again. His heart was racing, pounding so heavily in his chest that his body began to ache and cramp.

"What's happening? Shut this video off right now!" Winnie screamed out, while Owen groaned heavily.

"I'm trying, Winnie! It won't turn off," he gritted his teeth while wrapping his grip around the VHS player and ripping it off of the T.V. stand, unplugging it instantly.

The television shut off, and the two of them both took a deep breath of relief, enjoying the silence that engulfed the small room.

"Thank goodness," Owen exhaled, rolling his head back and rubbing his hand over his clammy face. His skin beaded with sweat, which feverishly dripped down his neck.

"I really don't like this," Winnie took a deep breath while also pulling her blonde curls off of her sweaty forehead. "Let's watch a comedy movie or something."

Owen swallowed and nodded, although his eyebrows were furrowed as he still felt strange. There was a feeling at the bottom of his gut that made his stomach twist, and made him fall back onto the couch in exasperation. He sunk into the soft fabric, his head back and his hands on his reddened face as he inhaled deeply.

"It's okay, Baby, it's over now," Winnie whispered, sitting beside him and pushing his thick hair off of his forehead. "Have we learned our lesson?"

Owen nodded. "That noise was so awful. I feel sick to my stomach now," he groaned, and Winnie leaned over to press her lips to his cheek.

They sat in silence for several beats of time, Winnie's head on his shoulder as they closed their eyes and relaxed their breath.

Until suddenly, the noise sounded again.

But this time, the VHS player was unplugged.

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