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Maybe you guys will enjoy this story. Recently, I made a quite surreal and admittedly horrifying discovery about my own family.

I grew up as an only child in a very "high-tech" family; my dad was a broadcast engineer for KTCI in St. Paul, and my mom was a computer programmer for a company that made dental record-keeping software. I followed in my mom's footsteps to become a computer programmer; her and I were always rather close, and I scored a rather well-paying first job with a rather well-known aerospace firm. They were located in Maryland, so I had to make quite a big move. Being a bit of a packrat as a teenager, I loaded up about ten boxes worth of what is admittedly junk and packed it in the back of a U-haul. The three of us made a nearly sixteen hour trip to Clarksville. Mom and dad couldn't stay very long due to mom having run up all her vacation time, so they did little more than help me bring boxes into the house and departed.

Unpacking throughout the evening, I discovered many of these boxes contained things I haven't seen in years. It's always a nice nostalgia trip to go through these links to the past. I had my high school planner, the composition notebook I filled with crudely-drawn newspaper-style comics, toys I loved and had long forgotten about.

One of the things I found at the bottom of a box was an old VHS tape. Scrawled on the front were things like "MICHAEL PLAYING 7/94", "MICAHEL'S FOURTH BITHDAY 10/94". Immediately, I recognised it as one of the many childhood family videos my dad made when I was a baby.

My dad was not only a broadcast engineer, he was an out-and-out A/V enthusiast. This video had to have been one of maybe fifty he made of us. I remember quite well watching a few of them with family during fits of nostalgia we had together, but because there were so many, I don't really remember having seen all of them. I'm not sure we ever really watched all the videos he made of us; a great deal of them were mundane little things like going to the park, or me playing Nintendo. Nothing particularly interesting or remarkable. That being said, I'm a sucker for nostalgia, and I wanted to relive just a part of what I remembered to be the happiest days of my life in infacy.


I had long disposed of my VCR, so the following weekend, I made a trip to the flea market to pick up any old one and watch this video. One salesman had a ton of them new in box; he said they were unsold stock discovered in a shipping container. Couldn't go wrong for a VCR in new condition for ten bucks. I drove home, plugged it into the last TV I had with composite inputs, and popped in the tape.

The tape began with the customary "blank static" and then scanlines disappearing as they floated over a muddied window to happier times. Sure enough, the first segment, "MICHAEL PLAYING", had taken hold. There I was in my old bedroom! Playing with one of my favourite teddy bears as mom sat next to me!

How sweetly those memories came flooding back to me! That teddy! I even remembered how much I loved that toy, a white teddy bear that played a cute piezoelectric tune when he was squeezed! He even had a heart that would shine many colours as the cute little song played. I was tempted to shed a tear, at the beauty of the innocent and childish love I had once felt for such an adorable toy.

Something stopped me from doing so though, some kind of inexplicable...restraint. It was just a dumb toy, after all. A part of me wondered where he was today, and the other part of me cynically remarked how surely there were hundreds of thousands of bears of the same type, mindlessly and thoughtlessly produced by a factory. I wanted to find him and hug him today. I miss him. But again, it's just a dumb toy.

My dad had been filming the scene in front of my mother and I; I kept hugging the toy to hear its tinny song play, and its plastic heart shine joyfully. Mom remarked how me and the toy were "inseperable"; from behind the camera, you could hear my dad say "Yeah." He sounded strangely disinterested, I thought perhaps he was tired. Mom eventually fetched a basket from across the room containing all sorts of stuffed animals and brought them to where I was, planting them in-between us.

"Watch this...Micahel, do you want to play with Goofy??"
I shook my head no.

"Do you want to play with Mickey?"

No.

"How about Teddy Ruxpin? Ooh, he talks!! See??" She moved the mouth up and down on the doll, which obviously had no batteries in it. But I shook my head no once again.

Mom looked up at the camera, laughing. "Do you want to keep playing with him instead?" I smiled ear-to-ear, nodding yes. I hugged the bear again, and the adorable tune played, the heart lit up with its beautiful colours.

My dad said another thing from behind the camera. "I really don't know why you keep buying him these things," he said. His tone was very cyincal.

"Oh, shut up, he loves them. Michael, do you like your bear?" I nodded yes once again.


Here's the interesting part.

My mom reached over to give me a hug; she hugged me just like I kept hugging the teddy bear. "Are you gonna sing me a song too? Doo-doodoo-doo-doo!! Doo-doodoo-doo-DOO!", she said, imitating the song the bear played. My dad, from behind the camera, puts it on the floor; right as the scene filled with my mom's knees and the carpet in front, the video ran scan-lines down itself, and the scene became garbled. My dad's voice came out very distorted, almost like he was yelling about something, but I couldn't understand it. Static then enveloped the screen.

Fuck! This cheapo VCR had eaten the tape! Immediately, I hit stop, and ejected it.

I grew up around VHS tapes, so I this would occasionally happen, especially with a certain variety of Made-in-China VCRs my dad derisively referred to as "Chink Shit". The reason I mention this is because, almost as soon as I pulled the tape out of the VCR, I noticed that the tape had not been mangled and hanging out of the cassette. It ejected...normally.

Now, I know damn well that almost every time a cheapo VCR ate the tape, it would eject a bent-up mess, tape hanging out and all that. But I pulled this one clean out of the VCR, no trouble. I flipped the lid open on the tape to inspect it. Sure enough, it was crinkled. Maybe it did eat up the tape?

I wasn't convinced. Maybe the tape was eaten up before when we were watching it. I grabbed an ink pen from the desk and shoved it in the hole on the back, then slowly wound the spool using my knuckle. Sure enough, the tape came up garbled as I was unwinding it. The tape was accidentally eaten up long ago some other time we were watching it, or so I reasonably figured at the time.

I plopped the tape back into the VCR and played it until it went past the eaten-up part. Almost nothing was legible throughout, it looked vaguely like a scrambled porno channel, and it kept playing it at an odd speed. My parents were saying something to each other, but it just sounded like garbled and distored yelling.

There was also a big "BOOM" somewhere in the middle that made me jump out of my chair when I heard it. Eventually, lines and static gave way to a scene in an empty room, where my mom and I had once been sitting, and the audio came back to normal. The scene was now the camcorder, still on the ground but looking like it was laying on its side. I nor mom was nowhere to be found. After three minutes or so, I saw feet up the right side of the TV. I heard my dad say, "All right? I love you." My mom, notably less cheery than she was before, sniffled as if she were sick and said "I love you too." I heard a kiss, and then she left the room. My dad picked up the camcorder, and it flashed at the window briefly before the white fade-out effect.


Something did NOT sit right with me about this. It was utterly bizarre, and something seemed rather familiar about it. What happened on the part that got eaten up? If I didn't know any better, I'd say the two of them saw a ghost. I rewound and tried to play through the crumpled part of the tape, but all I heard was distorted shouting and screaming, that boom in the middle, and all I saw was static with distorted pieces of scenery cutting in. I couldn't really make out anything from the scenery that remained, except for the fact that my dad did pick up the camcorder and was kind of waving it around the room, like the scene shook a lot.

I had to find out what happened. My mom and dad though had notoriously poor memories, so it was doubtful they even remembered what happened. I called them up and struck up a casual conversation, then found an excuse to slip in something about the tape.

I asked my mom if she remembered all those tapes dad made of us when I was a toddler. She said yes, she used to love watching those, what brings this up? I mentioned I found a tape at the bottom of one of my moving boxes. Instantly, she fell silent.

"Mom?" I asked.

"Which one?" she said.

"Uhhh...hold on.", I said. I popped it back out of the VCR, and looked at the label. "Says us playing, my fourth birthday..."

"What number?" she interjected. Now, I'm starting to get weirded out.

"Number?"

"Your father numbered them. On the back. Which one is this?"

I flipped over the tape. Scribbled on the back was a number "2"
written in Sharpie. I must've missed that when I was unwinding it the night before.

"Looks like the second one," I said.

"Bringithome," she said quickly. "Don'twatchit."

"What? I was just watching it yesterday. I wanted to ask you-"

"Michael, this is a bit embarassing, but...we need that tape back."

My father must have heard her talking about this supposed
notorious tape. He butted in quickly and took the phone from my mom.

"What's going on? Michael?" he said.
 

"Hi dad. What's-"

"Michael, do yourself a favour. Bring that tape home and don't watch any more of it."

I laughed on the phone. "Why, what's wrong with it?"

"Well, you wanna know? You really wanna know??" His tone got indignant.

"What's wrong with it?"

"Your mom and I made a sex tape. That's what's wrong. We put it at the end of one of your tapes by accident. There."

I hit the hold button as I laughed uproariously.

"Still wanna watch it, or are you gonna bring it back? Do yourself a favour, Mike. Don't watch the tape."

I took myself off hold after catching my breath. "I-I'm sorry dad, this is hilarious."

He was nothing but serious. "Michael, don't watch it. Bring it home. Book a flight home for Saturday. Bring it with you."
"Haha. Okay dad, I'll do that."

"Micahel, I'm serious. Bring that tape home. I uh...I don't want anyone seeing your mother like that."

"Will do, dad."

He hung up without even saying goodbye.

I don't know if he was trying to dissuade me from watching the rest of the tape, but if he was, it sure as hell didn't work. This only provoked my curiosity. Was it a...good...sex tape? Yeah, it was my parents, but I just had to see this.

Right after getting off the phone, I put the tape back in the VCR. He said it was at the end. I fast forwarded past my fourth birthday, my party with friends, the trip to Discovery Zone, the time we went to the park. All the while, I'm thinking this probably has to be the shortest sex tape anyone's ever made, because I was starting to run out of tape.

A scene of us at church faded out. Some static was left on the tape, and then the blue STOP screen came up. The VCR clicked, and began to rewind.

That's it? I ejected the tape; sure enough, it hit the end.

But wait, where was the sex?

I looked up and only then it dawned on me.


There is something my parents don't want me to see in that crumpled part of the tape. And now, I had to find out what the fuck it was.

I was a bit mad. I restrained myself from calling them and yelling at them though, because I knew in my gut it had to be something so terrible, they'd fly out here first-class lickety-split just to rip that tape out of my hands.

So I got to work fixing the crumpled part of the tape. I just needed to get it fixed just enough to see what in the world had happened.
I rewound the tape. I played it back. My dad put the camera on the ground, and then the scanlines started again. I stopped it immediately and ejected it.

I unwound the tape delicately across my desk and pressed it together as best as I could using a pair of credit cards, the only thing I really had laying around that wouldn't demagnetise it. Gently, I wound it back together, and played it again. This time, the scene became clearer, but it was still impossible to tell what was going on. The static gave way to a very garbled image. The image seemed to move around, a lot. The audio was the same creepy slow-playing garbled screaming. That big boom still happened right there in the middle.

Now, I'm thinking I can't fix this tape, and I have what must be less than a week before my parents fly down here to get this tape out of my hands. Suddenly, I remembered a place around the corner with a sign saying they did VHS to DVD transfers. Surely they could do something about this.

I walked into the tiny shop the next morning with the tape and asked the man if he could restore the damaged part.

"Well kid, ordinarily we can't, but I can try to press all the wrinkles out of it and get something back. No guarantees though. It'll probably play funny," he said.

"I'll do anything to get anything legible from this part of the tape," I said.

"You'll need to make an appointment, first. I got next Thur-"

"I need it now."

The man laughed. "Well kid, I can't..."

I took a hundred dollars out of my wallet and put it down on the counter. "Need it now."

The man looked down at the counter and back up at me. Retrieving the hundred, he took the tape with him, got up out of his chair, and said:

"A'ight...follow me."

The two of us walked into the back, where he had a workshop and plenty of (what looked like very old) video equipment.


The man did much the same as I tried to do with the tape, only he used what looked like plastic-padded steel tongs to gently press wrinkles out of the tape. He had all the precision of a surgeon, and I admired his swift, yet patient action. As he pressed the tape back together in bite-size segments, he struck up small talk with me. I told him I just moved here, about my family. I mentioned my dad was a broadcast engineer and had fifty of these tapes.

"Fifty!" he said. "Ho ho ho, that's quite a lot, kid." I nodded.

After what seemed like an eternity, he pressed the last crinkled part of the tape together, and started to wind it back up. "Well, looks like we're all done," he said while winding up the last bit of tape. "Nice and flat." He loudly clicked the lid back over the VHS tape.

"Pop it in over there, let's see what life she's got left in 'er." He pointed at a wheeled rack containing a TV and VCR; I hadn't seen one of those things since elementary school.

My heart sank into my stomach as I put the tape into the VCR and pressed play.

The two of us watched the first part of the tape. My mom and I, cheerfully playing with an adorable musical teddy bear.
"Heh," the man said watching it. "That's pretty sweet, kid. My daughter had that same toy, she loved it."

I nodded.

"What part got eaten up?" he asked.

My mom started imitating the bear's song again as she gave me a big hug. Hot pitch poured down my insides. I felt like I was starting to remember something terrible. My dad had put the camera down on the floor.

"...kid?" he asked.

Suddenly, the tape glitched out where it normally did.

"Ah, this must've been it."

Only this time, the picture was legible; fully legible even. Only dotted white lines had pollutted the image and a certain "prickly static" sound came out of the speakers. The tape appeared to still play slower, so the voices were distorted. Whenever someone talked, they sounded like a cliche demon.

"Is that better than it was before?" he asked.

My eyes lit up. "I couldn't even get it to play. That's way be-" I stopped as I finally saw what was happening before me.

Oh my god, this day. This rotten, rotten day.

The camera had still lain on the floor. My dad had stormed out of the room.

"BEN?" my mom asked in a demonic, distorted voice. "BEN!"


Feet stomped back into the room.

"BEN!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP," my dad said in an equally distorted voice.


"BEN!!"

"SHUT UP!!"

My dad had kneeled down to the floor and gotten in my face with what looked like a steak knife. The tip of the knife had come within inches of my nose. You could almost see blood coming out of his eyes.

"FAGGOT. YOU FUCKIN' G-" The tape skipped.

I had felt like I was going to pass out. I began to remember something repressed and truly terrible. This rotten, terrible day.


"BEN!!," my mom cried.

"RHONDA, SHUT THE FUCK UP, ALL RIGHT?" My dad looked back down to me with the steak knife.

"BITCH-" The tape skipped again. "-GIRL TOYS AND I'M FUCKIN' SICK OF IT. HERE! BE A MAN! CUT IT UP!"

In the video, I began to cry. My distorted wailing was loud enough to cause the plastic on the TV set to vibrate. The fact that the tape was playing everyone's voices slower than normal just added to the horror that came flooding back to me.

The repairman and I turned to look at one another, stunned, then turned back to the TV.

"ARE YOU GONNA DO IT, OR-" The video skipped, then came back.

"BENJAMIN, STOP!"

My dad got up and, off camera, either hit or punched my mom. I don't know where, but it knocked her right down to the ground. It was so loud. Like cannon-fire, underwater. Blood had fallen and splattered onto the wall next to where she was standing, leaving big red marks in the background. My mom had fallen out the doorway and laid on the ground a few seconds. My dad went back over to me, and I could see her in the background, trying to crawl up the hallway as her feet dragged. My dad picked up the knife and once again held it up to my terrified four year old self.


I had held the beloved teddy bear in front of me, in hopes that my friend would protect me. My dad had then stabbed the knife, square at my chest, with the full intensity of his entire rage.

Because his aim was slightly off, or perhaps through a stroke of fortune, the teddy bear appeared to take the brunt of the hit. Again, I heard the tinny music from the bear play, its plastic heart lit up with all its vibrant and beautiful colours.

In a rage my dad took the knife, with the toy still stabbed through it, and began stabbing the floorboard next to me repeatedly. The bear fell to the ground, and bore the full brunt of his rage. With a ferocious repetition, he stabbed at the bear on the floor over and over again. The music coming out of the bear, already distorted through the damaged VHS tape, began sounding sickly and intermittent. Finally, he had stopped after what must have been fifteen stabs.

The knife, stuck in the floor with the bear in its path, took the front of the scene. The camera had autofocused on it and on me and my dad a few times, not seeming to know what to focus on. Slowly, the lights stopped cycling through its plastic heart, blinking before going dark forever. The end of the song had crackled and struggled to play, and stopped just before the final bar. Doo-doodoo-doo---

"HE'S DEAD!!," my four year-old self cried, wailing and still distored. "HE'S DEAD!"

My dad kneeled back down to pick up the camera, but was interrupted by my mom walking back in. He dropped the camera, and it fell to its side, facing the wall. This had been the scene for a few minutes. I heard footsteps, rapid footsteps, and me crying, fading from what must have been my mom carrying me down the hallway.

The video had started playing its audio normally. Feet had appeared on the right side of the TV screen. Someone had picked up the camera. The damaged part of the tape had ended.


"...won't happen again, all right? I love you," said my dad.

My mom sniffled.

"I love you too."

(kiss)

I stopped the video tape. I looked up at the repairman. He had no words. I had no words.

The repairman was the first to break the silence. "Kid...," he said, staring at me puzzled. "...what's this all about?"

My father. He was a monster. My mom knew he was a monster. They had kept this hidden from me for years. My dad had never acted this way in my entire memory of him. What happened? What is going on?


I could do nothing more than stare back at the repairman. I stood there in the middle of his shop, agape, shaking my head "no" over and over.

"...Kid?"

I stood stoic, just shaking "no" at him.

I wanted to cry. Badly.

But I simply could not do it.


---
by reddit user katsukitty via: reddit.com/r/NoSleep           

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