The tenant on the floor above them disappeared.
He only left enough warning for Tuva to know that it had been his decision. That morning the buzzer rang, and she was the first to wake up. At first she couldn’t place his voice.
“It’s Lennart Juliansson,” he said. “On the fourth floor.”
“Do you need help with anything?”
“You’re the landlord’s daughter, aren’t you? I’m leaving… I’m not coming back. You can keep what’s in there, or sell it. The key is in your mailbox.”
She phoned dad, and when her room-mates had woken up she went upstairs. Of course Mari, Tony and Joakim climbed the staircase – echoing, in artificial stone – behind her. Truth be told, she was grateful. She didn’t know what she’d find in the shut-up flat, if there’d be vermin or spots of green mould.
It turned out to be banal enough to embarrass her. It was clean; perhaps he’d done some tidying. The cream-coloured carpet, the same as in their flat, was still as high and fluffy as if he’d never walked on it. In the kitchen were a chrome-plated tea-kettle and toaster that glared in the morning light from the windows, but nothing in the cupboards or the fridge.
“This wasn’t much of a treasure hunt,” Joakim said in the kitchen door.
“What’d you expect, then?” she said. “The Holy Grail?”
The only clutter they found was in the garret behind the bedroom. The floor was covered with filled paper bags. Mari was the first to go inside, and she lifted one up, looking inside.
“A bunch of video cassettes,” she said.
It rustled when she put it down. She looked in another.
“Just VCR?” Tuva said.
Mari’s toffee-brown ponytail whipped when she nodded.
“Just VCR. Maybe there’s DVDs, too.”
Tuva looked in the closest one. The cover at the top was Flickering Lights. She picked it up – it was heavy enough that there must be a cassette inside – and saw the next one, Wayne’s World.
“Is there nothing else in here?”
If she counted twelve cassettes in each bag, give or take, and there were films in every cover, Lennart must have had some eight hundred films. Tony came in and took a look at them.
“Good Lord, Tuva,” he said. “You could open a rental.”
“Only with videos. Does anyone even have VCR nowadays?”
“Clearly this guy must,” Joakim said.
They found it on the shelf below the TV in the bedroom.
They’d had a little debate about what to do with the only other interesting thing in the apartment, a black flatscreen TV that stood on the shelf opposite the neatly-made bed with its tan quilt. Tuva hadn’t had any qualms about taking any of the rest, not even the video collection that might have been the work of years, but the TV was ludicrously expensive. It felt like stealing, regardless of what Lennart had said. Mari had suggested taking it to eBay, but perhaps it was better to keep it in case he showed up. Finally, Tuva and Tony had carried it down, under one arm, with careful steps to stop it from knocking into anything.
“This is like a creepypasta,” Tony said when they turned in the corner of the staircase. “Right at the start of one… you’ve inherited a room full of videos. Now it’s gonna turn out they’re arranged according to a secret code or something.”
“Creepypasta.” Tuva shook her hair out of her eyes. “Those horror stories on the internet? I don’t see why they can’t just call them ‘horror short stories.’”
She hadn’t read a lot. Perhaps she ought to put some time into that. Tony was behind her, but it sounded like he was shaking his head.
“I guess it’s a bit more. They’re pieces that you’re supposed to be able to post on other fora, as if you’ve written them yourself. They have to feel like it may have happened…”
They left the bags up there. In the afternoon she went up alone with a notepad and had a longer look. The sun made the dust in the garret room glitter.
It seemed to be mainly drama and gentler comedies, plus one or two romances. No science fiction, and no thrillers as far as she could see. No porn, like Joakim had joked. Worth selling? They were no rare films, but the amount itself might give them a bit of money. In one of the bags were some CD cases, with the titles written in marker on the discs. Perhaps he’d started pirating them and hadn’t got far before he decided to go off.
They talked about watching one after supper. The genres weren’t her bag, but it felt appropriate to do something with the films, as if they were plunder. The others went up with her, and after a while they picked an Estonian drama, Ilmar, about a guy in the fifties ending up in a love triangle with his best friend and his girlfriend.
Ilmar was slow. The environments interested her, but she didn’t care about the plot. Once or twice the image staggered and turned into coloured grains.
“How old is it?” Mari said the second time it happened.
They were at a scene where Ilmar’s mate sat talking to his girlfriend in the kitchen, but there was a quick nauseous cut to an empty hall, a gymnasium judging by the green floor. A young man, hardly older than they, entered, walking up to a table where a few small objects lay glinting in the light. He was skinny, tanned or dark-skinned, with black hair and a white shirt.
“What the fuck?” Joakim said. “This is something else.”
The guy pulled himself onto the table, like a kid sitting on his school desk, and undid his cuff-links so that he could roll up his sleeves. After that he started unbuttoning his shirt.
“What the hell is this?” Mari said. “Turn it off, already!”
The image bobbed as the camera came closer; handheld. The guy sat with his shirt open, but didn’t take it off. He took something from the table, the glitter of something square and edged. A razor? He smiled, but it wasn’t a normal smile. It was as if he were about to force himself into something.
The camera snuck close to his arm and she didn’t have to see that smile any more. He turned his arm a little so that they could see its smooth underside and started hacking at it in long jagged cuts.
The screen went black. Joakim had pushed the power button as if attacking something. The last thing she saw was the camera swerving to the side to show a sheet metal cutter with lacquer-shiny handles.
As she took the cassette out, they looked at each other as if they needed to be aware that the others had seen the same thing. Keeping it to yourself would have been worse. She needed to look around the living-room, maybe out the window, and see that the blood hadn’t left traces.
“What the fuck, what the fuck,” Joakim muttered. “That was for real.”
Tuva felt her pulse begin to slow. Tomorrow they might have got over this, as if it hadn’t been more than a nightmare.
There were several hundred cassettes up there.
THE ENDRecommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in