In my neighborhood we have a set day every year where anyone who wants to has a garage sale on the same day. The streets fill up with trucks and vans parked illegally in order to get cheap stuff. Some houses even go all out and sell hotdogs and drinks, and others sell stuff like popcorn and hot chocolate. It's pretty fun if you aren't trying to drive somewhere (it can take like 20 minutes to leave the neighborhood). I usually walk around looking for neat electronics to tinker with and records. Lately I've been more into 45s, because I don't have to be as worried about playing them often.
My neighborhood is on the edge of my city, with most streets east of the tracks that run through it. My back yard backs up to the field with the tracks, and on the other side there are about four streets and our community centre. I'm not sure why, but that part of the suburb always seemed a bit seedier than the rest. Maybe because of our lackluster community centre, or maybe because two of the streets are right next to the small forest on the edge of town. Either way, it always seemed like the low end of the neighborhood.
Last year it was rather miserable that day, so not many people were selling. So I decided to head over the tracks and try my luck there. I wasn't doing much better and I was about to head home, when I saw a sign for one more sale. It was at that one house on Brandon Street, which was the dirt road that ran along the edge of the neighborhood and continued on to the city's dump. That place had always creeped me out, but I figured it was worth a shot.
When I got there, I noticed that the yard was overgrown and the house looked like crap. It used to be white, but years of neglect made it look more like a pale yellow. But there were six tables absolutely covered with stuff. I consider myself a bit of a scavenger, so I immediately started looking through everything. Not much was standing out, and what few records he had were classical or songs I had never heard of. But then I saw a laptop. I had been considering getting a cheap used laptop to use for notes, because I had broken the screen of my regular laptop and I have it hooked up to an external monitor (fixing it would cost almost as much as a new laptop), and my handwriting is atrocious. I picked it up and walked up to the owner of the house.
He was a thin guy, probably in his 50's wearing a dirty t-shirt and jeans. His greasy hair was slicked back under his hat, and his mustache had bits of food in it. Basically, he looked like the house, dirty and poorly maintained.
"Hey, does this still work?"
"Far as I know." He sounded exactly like you would expect him to, a kind of weaselly voice that somehow sounded as greasy as his hair. He had a slight accent that I couldn't quite place.
"Five bucks and it's yours." Was this guy serious? If this thing still worked, It would be worth way more than that. Even if it didn't work, for that price I'd be glad to take it apart for parts.
I paid the guy and happily went home with my prize. When I got home I set the laptop on my dresser and promptly forgot about it. School wasn't starting for a couple of months, so I didn't bother looking at it right away.
And then September rolled around and I decided to get it ready to use. I plugged it in and powered it on. I was greeted by the manufacturer's logo and then the Windows logo. Windows Vista. Great. Thankfully there was no password and I logged on the the account simply marked User.
When you buy something used, you should always reset to factory settings. I should have done that immediately, I was going to. But the laptop was empty.There were no extra folders or anything. The guy must have done a factory reset himself. The wallpaper was the Microsoft rolling hills picture, but there was something different about it. On the far end of the hill there was a silhouette of a man. Strange, but nothing anyone with paint couldn't do, so I ignored it
I got to work installing the programs I needed: Chrome, Evernote, Anti-Virus, iTunes. When I was all set, I powered the laptop down and went to bed.
The next morning I got up at 6:30 and got ready for school. 8:30 AM Psych class. Great. I managed to get to a desk right as the prof walked in. She passed out the course outline and started explaining how the course would go. I pulled out my laptop and booted it up. When the desktop appeared I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but I had no idea why. I brushed it off and started taking my notes. But I kept having this nagging feeling that something wasn't right.
Once class ended I went to turn off the laptop, when I finally saw it. Is the man closer? I could have sworn that he was farther away. But I convinced myself that I was imagining things and shut the laptop off. The rest of the day the figure stayed still, so I assume that i must have been imagining it.
Wednesday rolled around and I was once again turning the laptop on for Psych. I froze. The figure was even closer, I could swear it. The owner must have put some sort of program on that changes the background occasionally. I had put a password on. Still, it was making me uneasy, so I changed it to a picture of my favourite band's logo and started taking my notes.
Then came Friday. I typed in my password and almost screamed right there in class. The hill wallpaper was back, and the silhouette was now at the bottom of the hill. I slammed the laptop shut. Suddenly there was silence.
"Is there a problem?"
I looked up to see the entire class staring at me, including Professor Campbell.
"No, sorry!" My cheeks flushed and I reopened the laptop. He was still there, but I quickly opened Evernote and started taking notes. Between classes I sat in the student lounge and examined the wallpaper. The man was still covered in shadow, but I could see faint features. The man was thin, almost too thin for a human. He had sharp features and messy hair, but that was all I could tell. The longer I stared,the more nauseous I felt. Eventually I had to stop or I would be sick.
I went to power down when I saw it. A new desktop icon. A text document called Untitled.txt. I must have saved a blank document by mistake. I double clicked on the icon and I froze. There was only one word on the page.
Alright, now I knew that someone had to be fucking with me. Was it my little brother? I used a password I use regularly, so it's not impossible for him to have guessed it. That little fucker. I decided to change my password to dennisisalittleshit. Let's see him guess that one! I then reset the wallpaper and deleted the document.
On Sunday I decided to double check my laptop so I wouldn't get a rude surprise in Psych again. My jaw dropped. That little shit! The document was back and the man was even closer. I opened the text document.
Don't ignore me.
This was creepy, even for Dennis. I once again changed the laptop back to normal, but this time I decided to hide my laptop. Normally I keep my laptop bag at the back door with my coat so I don’t forget it, but that night I decided to hide it under my bed. The next morning, my bag was still there, so I knew he hadn't been messing with it.
I was still feeling kind of smug as I turned on the laptop in class. When it turned on, my smugness turned to fear. He was halfway to the camera now, and I could clearly see his face. His eyes were wide and bloodshot, his nose crooked, and his hair was matted and filthy. But the worst part was his mouth. It was contorted into a disturbing grin, filled with sharp, jagged teeth. He was wearing all black and his clothes were covered with dirt.
The document was back again, and I clicked on it with shaking hands. I was sweating and doing my best to stave off panic.
Listen to me, Mark.
My blood ran cold. What the fuck, how did it know my name? I felt like I was going to have a break down. I went to exit the program, but my cursor wouldn't move. I tried hitting escape on my keyboard, but none of the keys were working. I pushed the power button down and held it. Nothing happened. I looked back at the screen and nearly had a heart attack. Letters were appearing on the screen, as if he were typing a message. I watched, horrified, as the words slowly appeared.
Why won't you answer me?
In a panic, I pulled the battery out, but the laptop stayed on.
I just froze. I didn't move until my classmates packed up and left. There was no class in there next period, so I was left alone.
I slammed the laptop shut, but as soon as I did, a horrible shrieking noise blasted out from the speakers. I covered my ears, but it wasn't helping. I opened the laptop again and the noise stopped.
Are you going to answer me now?
Behind the notepad window I could see that the man was even closer now. He was maybe 10 metres from the camera, his cold, bloodshot eyes staring directly at me. I finally mustered up the courage to type something. But I had no idea what to type. My mind settled on the worst possible option.
What do you want?
I immediately regretted typing that. I tried to delete it, but the the backspace key refused to work. I remembered something my Aunt had told me when I was a child. "Never ask a question you don't want to hear the answer to."
Suddenly the document closed, and his face filled the screen. I could see every feature on his face. His skin was covered in scars and his teeth were jagged and broken. His mouth was contorted into a twisted grin, and his eyes seemed to stare right into my soul. I watched him raise his hands and press them against the glass. My screen started to distort around his hands. Was it bulging out? Then I heard a snap.
Two small cracks radiated from the palms of his hands. I watched them split and grow as he continued to push. Finally my brain snapped back into place and I slammed the laptop shut. A bloodcurdling scream blasted from the speakers and I threw my hands over my ears. I knew that I couldn't open the laptop again. I looked around for something to use as a weapon, when my eyes rested on the window. I picked up the laptop and ran over to it. I tried to force the window open, but it wouldn't budge. My stomach dropped. That horrible screaming continued and I realized that I had only one option. I put my keys between my fingers and I slammed the window. The glass shattered, cutting my hand and sending glass raining down onto the roof below. I grabbed the laptop and hurled it out the window. I watched it fall, still screaming, until it hit the roof where it smashed to pieces.
I took a step back and almost collapsed. It was finally over. I grabbed my bag and I left. I didn't go to my other class, I just got in my car and left. When I got home my mom freaked out at the sight of my arm. I told her that I accidentally broke a glass bottle, and she took me to the hospital. Seven stitches.
The next day I decided to confront the guy who sold me the damned thing. I walked across the tracks to Brandon Street and walked up the driveway. The house looked even worse than it had, with a few of the windows boarded up. I walked up the front steps and started banging on the door.
"Where are you, you piece of shit?" I pounded on the door for a good two minutes before I decided to look inside. I leaned over and looked through the living room window. The house was empty. There was no furniture and the thick layer of dust on the floor made it very clear that the house had been empty for years.