01 Feb The Dvd Was Covered In Fingerprints
Is it so strange to open a box on your doorstep? It was addressed to me. That means it was mine. Of course I would open it. I didn’t even notice that it had no return address. It was just a small package wrapped in brown paper. My name was written so perfectly in dark black marker. It was for me. Anyone else would have done the exact same thing.
The box held two things. The dvd and a small wooden figure. It was a bear.
Without waiting, I put the dvd in my computer. I put the tiny bear on the table beside me. The dvd had a small menu with four chapters. The chapter names were Origin, Cast, Helen asks to leave the table, and Overture.
I clicked the Origin chapter.
“Origin” starts with the word “START” flashing on the screen. That lasts for a few moments before it switches to a forest scene. The person holding the camera walks slowly through the woods. The only sounds are those of nature. Sometimes I could hear breathing, but it seemed too quiet to be from the cameraperson. After spending five minutes walking through the woods the person comes across a house. Maybe it was more like a shack. The structure has a dirty wire fence around it with an open gate. The person circles the house four times. There was one window on the west and one on the east walls. You could almost see a woman inside. She was not moving.
The camera was held very carefully. There was very little shaking or distortion.
After the last circle, the cameraperson pans to the trail they just came from. The sound of crunching leaves can be heard. This clearly scares the cameraperson. They run behind the house to hide. The video moves as if it was going to show the cameraperson’s face but it abruptly cuts out, leaving the following numbers written in yellow on a black screen: “43. 184094. -89.627832.”
Then I was taken back to the main menu. I tried to click the Origin chapter again but it was crossed out with a yellow X.
I realized then that the little bear had fallen over on its side. I righted it, and clicked the next chapter.
“Cast” begins with footage of black trash bags. They look as though they were used. The video then switches to a kitchen. A woman in a green dress has her back to the camera. She is stirring something on a stove. Faintly I could hear her sniffling. Someone comes pounding down the stairs off camera. A child is crying. The woman doesn’t react to either of these sounds.
The camera is suddenly picked up by someone. This cameraperson is much less careful with the camera. They turn way from the woman and instead focus on a young girl. She is on her knees on the kitchen floor, her hands folded as if in prayer. A book is being held between her arms and chest. Her head has been shaved except one odd chunk that hangs almost completely over her face.
No one in the scene is disturbed by the little girl. The footage moves down to show another child, a boy, at the feet of the cameraperson. He is the one crying. The cameraperson kicks the boy in the stomach. Then, in the first audible dialogue of the dvd, the cameraperson says, “You forgot the face of your father.” The voice is of an adult man.
The boy crawls desperately towards the girl. He grabs at her clothes. He does not speak in words, but seems to be trying to get the girl’s attention. She ignores him. The man speaks again, “Do as you’re told or what you’re told will be done to you.”
The boy looks helplessly into the camera. He finds no solace there. Slowly he scuttles up onto his knees and folds his hands like the girl. This action seems to prompt the girl into action. She takes the book she was holding and puts it delicately on the boy’s head. He must now balance so the book doesn’t fall. I tried to see the title of the book, but I could only make out “The Dark ____ ___ Slinger.” The boy begins to whisper. The girl kisses him on the mouth and then resumes her own prayers.
The footage pans back to the woman, who has since removed her dress and stands naked in the kitchen. Her back is covered in scars. Three of her fingers are missing on her right hand. The cameraman approaches her and with a black gloved hand, strokes her injured spine. The woman keeps stirring whatever is on the stove.
The man places the camera down on a counter. All I could see was the woman’s midsection. The man behind the camera steps into view. He is wearing a long jacket and has a machete in his gloved hand. He presses the blade to the woman’s skin. The scene cuts away before anything else can happen.
On a black screen, these letters appear in bright yellow, “jung vs lbhe sngure unf ab snpr.”
The main menu comes back suddenly. I wanted to be done watching but the next chapter loaded without me clicking on it. The bear had fallen over again but I didn’t pick it up this time. I felt stuck in place.
“Helen asks to leave the table” had the oddest title of all the chapters, and possibly the most disturbing footage.
There is no opening the way the other two chapters began. Instead it starts at a table. The camera sits upon it, starring at an empty chair. The room is dark but not completely black. The light flickers as if lit by candles. Nothing makes a sound except labored breathing which comes from people off-screen. It stays like this for almost ten minutes. I couldn’t look away.
Finally a man begins singing tunelessly. It’s “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. He sings almost angrily. Accusingly. The man’s torso comes into view as he picks up the camera. He turns the lens to the rest of the scene. There are three other people sitting around table. I assumed they were the characters from the previous chapter. Each is wearing a black trash bag over their head. The bags had been cut so some air could come in and out. Even so, the wearers seem to be having a hard time breathing. The plastic presses tight against their faces before billowing out as their exhaled.
In front of each person is an empty plate. In the center of the table is a dead raccoon. It looks like it had been dead for a long time. Maggots had eaten out its eyes. The man walks around the table, snatching the bags off each person’s head in violence thrusts. The first bag was of the young girl. She gulps air in like a drowning victim. She has a black eye now. Her small chunk of hair is stuck in her nose and mouth. She does not move it away. Maybe she cannot?
The next bag removed is of the woman. She does not react except to blink quickly. Her neck is cracked at an odd angle. There are bits of dried blood around her mouth. She does not look at the man or the little girl.
The last bag is of the young boy. His eyes are open but his skin is sallow. It is unclear whether or not he is breathing at all.
The man circles back to the head of the table. He sits, placing the camera in front of him. He has stopped singing. Instead he lets out a loud laugh and says, “A family that eats together, stays together. Aren’t we a family?” No one response, which angers the man. “Well, aren’t we!?”
The little girl squeaks, “Yes, John. I mean Dad. A family. A perfect family.”
The woman and young boy do not respond.
The man seems satisfied. “Feast then.”
The woman and the little girl stand. They descend upon the raccoon. It is revealed that both have their hands tied behind their backs. They shove their faces into the carcass, tearing and eating with desperate hunger. The boy does not move. He hasn’t blinked. The man hums Hey Jude as they eat the raccoon. They swallow the maggots along with the raw meat. This disgusting banquet goes on for well over fifteen minutes. The boy does not move during this time. At one moment a bone flies out and hits the boy in the temple. He doesn’t react. The bones strikes his face and then lands on his lap.
The man eventually pounds his fist against the table. The woman and the girl tear themselves away from what’s left of the raccoon. Blood and pus cover their faces. The man stands up and walks over to the girl. He looks like he’s trying to clean her up, but instead lingers sickeningly long on her budding chest. His gloved hands cover her face and body. He then leans over and kisses the back of her head. She shuts her eyes tight.
The woman vomits onto the table. This distracts the man, who runs over to her and slaps her face. “You are ruining our family dinner!”
For the first time she stares back at him defiantly. “Leave her alone.”
“She’s my daughter,” he says carefully.
The woman goes to respond but the man grabs her by the hair and slams her face against the table. He does so seven times. Blood covers the wood of the table. The man then throws her onto the floor and takes the camera. “Ungrateful, ungrateful, ungrateful,” he repeats. “What happens to sinners who are ungrateful. What happens to ungrateful women. What happens to women.”
During this time no one has realized that the little girl shrank away from the table.
The last cut of footage is of the young boy, clearly dead for at least a few days, laid upon an altar. There is a large statue of the Virgin Mary behind the boy. The face of the statue seems to be the same face seen in the window of the structure in the first chapter.
The chapter ends and the main menu began flashing. At this point I could not move. I looked down and realized my hands were tied with the same rope of the women in the video. I called out for help but something was in my mouth. I coughed up the small wooden bear onto the table before me. The next chapter began playing.
“Overture” begins with a yellow and black striped screen. The yellow saturates the black until the screen is completely yellow. The video then cuts to the man called “John” by the little girl. He is speaking into the camera in a fast pace. Most of what he says makes no sense. There are themes of family throughout but otherwise has no obvious connections. At one point he says he has no family, then quickly jumps back to the family he does have (or has created). The entire time he holds a book in his hands. The books is bent so I could not see the title. But there was definitely a gun on the cover. The man even uses the book to pretend to shoot himself. “Dead dad, dead dad. Dad is dead. Wants to be dead. My family wants a dad but wants a dad dead.”
After ten minutes of rambling he pulls out a chunk of wood and begins biting it. With the wood in his mouth he reaches below him and pulls up a hand connected to an arm off-screen. A hand with only two fingers left on it.
The last footage is similar to the first chapter, except the person is running. They run through the woods urgently. Once they come to the small house in the first chapter the cameraperson drops the camera. This distorts the image.
My laptop went completely black at this point. “What the hell,” I hear myself say out loud. I look down at my hands and realize they are not tied together. They probably never were. The little bear is upright and sitting where I had originally put it. I was able to eject the dvd and close my computer. Without hesitation I broke the dvd in half.
I might have been able to move past this. I opened a box with my name on it, watched a dvd meant for me, and it was over now. I might have been able to move on. But there was another box on my porch this morning.
This one was wrapped in a black trash bag.