I never should have looked at that website...
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
It all started a few weeks ago when my friend Denise told me a rumour about this website called ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com, which everyone in college was talking about. There was some urban legend circulating about how if you find your picture on there you’d be contacted by someone on the dark web and then... who knows what.
A few people from our class were bragging, claiming to have done it, and saying things like their webcams had spontaneously turned on or they had received text messages in foreign languages with their addresses and pictures of their houses, or they received mystery packages, or other horrible stuff.
Since Denise and I are obsessed with scary stories she was desperate for us to investigate this further. We even had a YouTube channel covering reddit mysteries and true crime and she was adamant this would get us a lot of views.
She invited me over to hers that very night to film. However, I was hesitant. Stories about the dark web are one thing, and while i knew it was probably just bullshit anyway, I wasn’t eager to test the waters on this one. Denise wasn’t too pleased that I had declined and insisted that she was going to check it out that night, regardless.
She claimed she wasn’t annoyed but she avoided me for the rest of the day I didn’t hear from her again until the following day in class. She was quiet all through English, almost sullen, sulking I’d thought and so I tried to make conversation.
She was pretty evasive and eventually I just came out and asked her - ‘Did you do it?”
Denise’s face flushed white and it was then that I noticed her checking behind her, ‘...yeah’, she said flatly, but her shoulders were pinched and she would barely look at me.
‘And....’, I pressed, yet her response to this was just a lacklustre, ‘...nothing happened’.
I assumed she was still pissed off since she ditched me as soon as English was over, and since we don’t have many classes together this term, I didn’t see her for the rest of the day. She was slow to return any of my text messages and all of my calls went unanswered.
Over the next few days I barely saw Denise and when I did she looked dreadful. Drawn and pale as if she hadn’t slept. She was constantly agitated - she almost leapt out of her skin when a boy brushed past her in the cafeteria.
Eventually Denise stopped talking to me completely, until late one night I got a call. Half-asleep, I held the phone to my ear but all I could hear was a faint fizzing static - then beneath was Denise, whimpering. She sounded so small and frantic. Talking quietly as if she was worried someone would hear her.
‘Tell me I’m real’, her voice quivered under the static hiss.
‘What?’ I said in my drowsy haze, it was hard edged due to the rude awakening.
‘Tell me I’m real. Tell me I exist...’ the static seemed to be getting louder. I could hear footsteps and she sounded a little out of breath.
‘Where are you?’
‘... coming for me...’
‘What, who? Where are you?’ I could barely hear Denise, but I knew she was crying. Denise’s breath was becoming ragged and I could hear shoes thundering against pavement.
Then the line went dead.
Worried, I bolted upright and called her back. She didn’t answer and I tried again, accidentally hitting FaceTime. Moments later her terrified, sweating face popped up onscreen. She was crouched behind a wheelie bin somewhere dark.
‘Don’t come off the phone with me, okay?’ She whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks.
‘What’s going on?’ I said, every hair on my body standing on end.
Denise’s image started to waiver, drowned out by the encroaching static. She kept repeating ‘I’m me, I’m me’, over and over again, until...
Something grabbed her and seconds later the line disconnected.
I screamed and ran into my parents room. I told them what had happened and my dad immediately rang Denise’s parents to find out what was going on.
At first my dad looked tense, and then he started to look annoyed, he thanked Denise’s mum and hung up the phone. Dad shook his head angrily as he returned the phone to it’s cradle.
‘Is this your idea of a joke?’ He said, slumping down onto the bed. My sleepy mother looked at me with confusion. It was then Dad told me that Denise was perfectly fine, at home asleep in her bed.
I was dumbfounded. ‘I know what I saw!’ I said, but my mind was racing. Was it possible I had just dreamt the whole saga?
Knowing dad had an early meeting the next day, I returned to bed, but I was awake all night calling Denise on repeat. She never answered again.
The next day at college, and dying from lack of sleep, I was perturbed when I arrived at English and Denise wasn’t there. However, moments before the bell, a girl dropped into the seat beside me. It was Denise.
She looked radiant. Fresh faced, made up, and all tarted up in a slinky co-ord number showing off her midriff. Something that Denise normally never did. I stared at her in startled confusion until she eventually noticed and turned to look at me. I don’t know why but my blood ran cold.
Her face seemed too perfect. Her smile too bright. It was like she looked right through me. The corners of her lips curled upward but the smile never quite reached her eyes.
‘What happened last night?’ I said, tripping over my words. I must have been exhausted because I was sure her features were swirling around her face.
Denise furrowed her now perfectly tweezed brows and giggled slightly. ‘Nothing happened last night’, she replied, whipping her silky hair over one shoulder disinterestedly. She ignored me for the rest of the lesson and once again disappeared straight after class.
I sifted the data points all day, going around and around in circles. Was Denise just messing with me? Had she concocted this to punish me for blowing her off the other night? I hoped it was all just a big joke... although something deep inside me told me it wasn’t.
I called Denise repeated that evening but just kept reaching a busy line. Eventually i found myself leant on my desk tapping the redial button over and over.
Finally it connected - FaceTime - and Denise popped onto the screen. She looked crazy, all wild eyed, looking down at the camera which was too close to her face. Still with that weird not-quite-smile and she was giggling.
‘I found you’, she said, her voice tinged with maniacal glee. The call ended and I immediately got a text message from Denise. No words, just a URL link. Stupidly I clicked it.
I was routed to the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com, where it loaded an image of me. Smiling. In a photo I had never posed for.
Next the screen went white and then blacked out completely. Catching a glimpse of myself in the dark glass, I dropped my phone in terror, and I bolted to a nearby mirror.
There I ran my finger along the bridge of my nose, the curve of my brow, stared into my dark brown eyes. It was all still there... my face.
Feeling silly, I returned to pick up my phone. The screen was on and it was like nothing had happened at all. The last text I had from Denise was almost a week ago. I searched and searched my texts, my call history, but there had been no activity since I’d left college at 3.45pm.
I glanced at my desk, wondering if I’d fallen asleep - startled myself awake after knocking my phone onto the ground, or something. That seemed more logical. Yet, I couldn’t shake this sick feeling I had in the pit of my stomach. You know that uneasiness you get when something is watching you but you can’t see it?
That’s when things started to get weird.
I’d had a disturbing nights sleep, I could hear buzzing, like there was a bug caught in my ear and twigs kept tapping against my window, so the next day I was practically like a zombie. My parents had gone away for the weekend leaving me home alone, so I decided to slob about and try to catch up on sleep.
I’d binged a few episodes of Cold Case Files when the internet started acting up, or at least that’s what I thought, the TV started buffering and so I went to reset the router. When I returned the episode played for a few minutes before the whole screen started to jump about, like a paused VHS tape, and I could hear that staticky sound again.
Then the screen went black and there I was reflected without my face. I jumped up from my seat, clawing at myself in horror, but my face felt fine. I could hear the TV playing again and when I looked around everything seemed normal.
That was until I looked at my hands. They were not my own. My knuckles were huge and gnarled, my hands lined and liver spotted. Before I could even scream, it was like I blinked and the illusion was gone.
Throughout the day, any time I passed a reflective surface I would catch a glimpse of that faceless creature. I could never see it fully, only in my peripheral, but each time it made my heart stop.
I just needed to get some sleep, I convinced myself. Hours later, curled up in my bedsheets, I drifted in and out of sleep. Disturbed. I could still hear that faint buzzing static, tapping branches, I felt like something was running it’s fingers through my hair and tickling the back of my neck.
At one point my body was not my own. It felt wrong, all at once too long and too short. First I couldn’t reach the end of my mattress, next the covers were too small to cover my enormous lurching frame. Yet, every time I turned the lights on, I looked like me. My face, my body, all felt like me.
Eventually I gave up on sleep and sat in the lounge reading a book. I avoided mirrors and technology, but the longer I did, the louder that staticky sound became. So loud, I didn’t realise the phone was ringing until the answerphone kicked in.
‘Hi, Roxy, it’s mum, just wanted to check in on you...’ I stood over the phone, completely terrified. Roxy? Who was Roxy? And who was this woman leaving her a message? I’d never heard that voice in my life.
I found myself tearing up the stairs but stopped dead when I came to my bedroom door. The sign on it said ROXANNE. Something in my mind clicked and it all came flooding back to me.
I’m Roxy... that’s my name.
My hands were shaking and I didn’t know what to do or where to go. That was until I got a phone call from Denise - she wanted to FaceTime.
‘Roooooxyyyyy’, she purred, her eyes glistening in the low light. She was smiling but it kept switching, like she wasn’t sure whether it should be happy or angry. ‘Did you find it?’
‘...Find what?’ I said, frightened tears rolling down my cheeks.
‘Your picture, silly. It looks just like you. It could even be you’, Denise spoke so casually, she was just filing her nails. Fresh acrylics to cover up her frequently chewed cuticles.
‘What are you talking about?’
That smile again. ‘Oh, you’ll find out’, Denise blew me a kiss and disconnected.
Afterwards I stood completely frozen. That was... until I saw that girl reflected in the mirror. She was out in the corridor. That me... without a face.
I slammed the door closed and I’ve been sat here with my back against it ever since.
I can hear her, scratch, scratch, scratching away at the wood behind me. She wants to get in here. At least that’s what i think she wants. Everything is so fuzzy now. I keep telling myself - I’m Roxy, I’m me. I’m Roxy, I’m me.
Now I’m scared to go to sleep tonight... I might not be quite myself tomorrow.