“You’re out of your mind, Ashley. I’m sure it’s just a wrong number or something, chill out,” Robin said and shrugged her shoulders, hoping her best friend would believe she was as nonplussed as she appeared. Truth was Robin was freaked out. What had started as something benignly bizarre had deescalated to flat out alarming over the course of a few short hours.
Ashley tore her eyes away from the backlit screen of her Iphone and pierced Robin with a haunted expression. “Robbi, come on. Something is very wrong here. Someone is doing this on purpose,” Ashley replied in a hushed tone, her eyes darting sporadically around the darkened interior of Izzy’s Bar where the girls had been holed up for the last four hours.
“Let me look at them again, maybe it’s just Trevor messing with you or something,” Robin said as she reached out her hand for Ashley’s phone. Scrolling through to the last five photos sent via text, Robin prayed it was just Ashley’s waste of space ex-boyfriend and some ridiculous prank that somehow got out of hand… the alternative was too disturbing to consider.
Finding the first picture, Robin maximized the image and tried to find anything that might clue her in to its sender’s intention. All she could see was a set of old-fashioned hair curlers sitting on an old bedspread. Bizarre? Yes. But bizarre could be laughed off between the friends as the next round was ordered. Robin could handle bizarre. In the next picture, things started to get weird. Placed on a black backdrop, were five locks of pale blonde hair- the exact shade of Ashley’s, bound with sections of barbed wire. The third photo began the descent into the truly disturbing and Robin shuddered as she reexamined the pair of barber shears, the sharpened edges caked in clotted blood and viscera. It only got worse- the fourth picture was what appeared to be a newborn bird, not more than a few hours old, beheaded and positioned like a miniature thanksgiving turkey atop a set of playing cards, it’s head discarded nearby. As she stared into the poor thing’s pixelated blind eyes, Robin wondered again if the tiny bird was a robin and she couldn’t help but feel this macabre display was a personal attack. The final photo was the most unsettling. Sitting outside of the apartment Robin shared with Ashley, the apartment number clearly visible in the upper right corner of the photo, were two disrobed mannequins- one blonde, one raven-haired, and in their laps sat the remains of some slaughtered animal- its recently spilled blood cascading down the legs of its two silent spectators.
Robin tucked a strand of her bluish-black hair behind her ear nervously. Her façade of calm control was quickly unraveling as she forced herself to breathe normally. Turning the phone off, Robin turned to her terrified friend and decided it was time to stop acting so brave- and start being smart. “Come on, we’re going to the police,” Robin said and tossing back one last gulp of her hard cider, she helped Ashley out of the booth and they walked arm-in-arm to Ashley’s car.
An hour later, a very kind Officer Tate had offered them terrible coffee and made several copies of the disturbing images. Having received a brief synopsis of the events of their night, the officer looked at Ashley and asked, “Ms. Douglas, this may seem silly but bear with me. Did you ever contact the number to see who it might be or to ask what the pictures meant?”
The two girls stared unblinking at the officer before turning to each other wide-eyed, why hadn’t they thought of that?!? Admitting that they had not thought to reply to the morbid texts, the officer asked if he could have permission to text the sender from Ashley’s phone. Ashley nodded her agreement and after she unlocked her phone and opened the log of texts Officer Tate began to type a message. “I asked who this was and what the pictures were supposed to mean,” Tate said as he hit SEND. The three of them waited in anxious anticipation for what seemed like hours before Ashley’s phone chirped- indicating a new text message.
Looking at the girls, Officer Tate slowly reached for the phone and read the message and without looking up. “Do either of you know a Donald Russo?”
“Oh my God,” Ashley said as if the wind had just been knocked out of her. “That’s one of my co-workers’ husband,” she explained, now looking a little embarrassed, her cheeks beginning to flush. “He works for that TV show American Slashers, you know, the one about that family that’s haunted by a serial killers ghost?” Seeing that neither Robin or Officer Tate had heard of the show, Ashley continued, “Well anyway, he is the props guy for the show, I got to go on set once it was pretty cool… he’s responsible for creating all the crazy stuff for the show- I bet those are just props for an upcoming episode or something!”
Wanting to make sure that was all this was, Officer Tate called the number, and sure enough Donald answered and by the end of the conversation was profusely apologetic for the mix up, explaining the pictures were intended for his director. Sighing in relief, the girls thanked Officer Tate for his time and made their way out of the station. Hopping in the car, the girls were drained from the emotional toll of the night and were each secretly thankful the other didn’t feel like talking. With the exception of the radio quietly humming, the drive home was peacefully silent.
Just as they turned down the darkened street of their apartment complex, Robin broke the silence, “You know… there’s just one thing that still kinda bothers me about those pictures. Nah… never mind, I’m sure it’s nothing…”.
Ashley glanced at her friend, “What? What is it?” her voice betraying her exhaustion.
Hesitantly, Robin went on, a tremor working its way into her voice, “It’s just that… well, those manequinns… in the last picture, they were sitting in front of our apartment. I saw our unit number in the picture and I swore I could almost make out the potted mums your mom gave you last week sitting by the door. So, if those were just for props and Donald was just sending pictures to the director for approval, then why were those dummies sitting in front of our house?”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Man, that took a spooky turn, eh? So this whole thing was inspired by two mystery texts I received today. Around 5:15pm I receive two back-to-back pictures from an unknown number. When I opened the texts, this is what I saw:
Weird right? I didn’t know what to make of them, so in true Sam style, I made up a bunch of stories of what they might mean. Eventually, I did text the sender back, asking who they were and what the pics were all about. Ends up it was just a wrong number- oh well.
TWO: Another spooky tidbit- before texting the unfamiliar number for an explanation I had already started writing the first two sentences of this story and had decided on the name Ashley for one of the girls’. Turns out my mystery texter just so happens to be called, you guessed it, Ashley. Crazy.
THREE: I don’t know if it’s thanks to the season (only a few more days till Halloween!) or the fact that Andy has been working on back to back slasher/horror movies, but the genre has really worked its way into my repertoire. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit more cheery.
Love & Squirrels.