I’m not sure if anyone saw that happened last night.
By the time things got really bad, I was hiding under the desk in the fetal position and bawling my eyes out, too busy to notice whether or not the camera was still rolling. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to wake up in a few days and find the footage on YouTube. “EPIC news fail,” it’ll say. 2 million hits. Everyone will be laughing at me. This is the kind of shit that can ruin a career in the news industry before it even begins. No legitimate network will ever even consider looking at my portfolio, let alone hire me. God, I hope no one was watching last night, but if you were, I owe you an apology and an explanation. I need you to know exactly what lead up to the flurry of guttural screams and blood-curdling bellows you heard during the broadcast.
Last night, I stayed after work to get some studying done. The studio was quieter than my apartment and the producer didn’t mind my presence, as long as I didn’t disturb the crew. Most nights, I handled the 5 o’clock news segment, after which I found an empty desk in the back and studied until about 8:00 pm. Yesterday, however, I was so focused on mid-terms that I lost track of time. It was 10:30 pm when I finally started packing up. That’s when the cameraman, Jeremy, approached me and said I was needed for the 11 o’clock news segment. The usual reporter apparently hadn’t shown up.
Now, I probably should have been a little suspicious. To call Jeremy my “rival” would be giving him way too much credit, but it was no secret we didn’t exactly see eye to eye. The guy had it out for me, and he’d often try to stump me mid-broadcast. You see, we were both in the same media class and both wanted to be reporters, but as they say, he had a face for radio. That ugly mug of his was the main reason I managed to beat him out and get the position of news anchor. He was none too happy about playing second fiddle, but kept his mouth shut around our colleagues. I guess he was hoping he’d get me to mess up enough times that they’d replace me with him. I was determined not to let that happen.
Regardless of his many sabotage attempts, I kept a professional demeanor at all times. That’s what they paid me for. Or, that’s what they would have paid me for, if they paid me. Like I said, it was community TV, where almost everyone was a volunteer. The gig was just a stepping-stone for me. I was trying to catch the attention of a real news network. If I could show them that I could handle myself professionally, it’d help my prospects when applying for internships and, if all went well, a job as a news anchor.
But back to Jeremy, the guy behind the camera. You could almost see the smoke blowing out of his ears whenever I managed to spin his curve balls back in his face. I was his Gary Oak, but he was just an annoying little mosquito buzzing in my ear.
So anyways, I agreed to fill in for the missing reporter. I took a seat at the news desk in our humble studio, and started reading the bulletins as they flew by on the teleprompter. I was halfway through a fluff piece – a story about a vegan pet food bake sale – when the teleprompter went on the fritz. I knew right away who was to blame for the malfunction. As text fizzled with static, I subtly shot a glare towards Jeremy, but realized he was gone. The camera was still on its tripod and pointing at me, the little red indicator light was still blinking to tell me it was recording, but there was no sign of Jeremy. Where had he gone? He’d been there moments before. Whatever, I thought, he’s probably taking a piss.
With few options at my disposal, I flipped through my notes and moved on to sports. The last thing I wanted was for our viewers to see dead air. As I started listing stats and ad-libbing my way through the segment, I noticed Jeremy off in the distance. He was leering at me from across the studio, with so much hatred that I actually felt a twinge of pain in my chest. He looked just about ready to kill me. Was he that upset that his little stunt hadn’t worked? I chose to ignore him and keep going, but as he limped closer like a half-baked zombie, I realized he was bleeding from the head. I could see sagging skin, darkened eyes, rotten flesh—he’d gone all out. Fucking Jeremy, I thought while keeping a stoic face, always trying to mess with me.
In hindsight, I should have realized this was beyond the scope what he was capable of, but you have to understand just how often this guy messed with me. I figured he got his hands on the Halloween decorations that the station owner bought earlier that day. Damned if I knew how he managed to apply the make-up that quickly, but this was just the kind of shit Jeremy would do. He wanted to scare me. He wanted to record me screaming on-camera. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.
Again, I ignored him and kept going. That is, until he reached the large glass wall that separated the recording studio from the office. Jeremy walked right through the thick soundproof glass, and though I tried to convince myself that the whole studio was in on the joke, that they had, together, removed the glass pane so they could play a Halloween prank on me, I knew the truth. In my heart, I knew the truth. I could still see my reflection as he walked through it. I knew it was still there, though I didn’t want to admit it to myself. The goose bumps on my skin went from small hills to mountains as he continued his jagged path towards me. He stretched out a bloodied arm that trembled like a branch in the autumn breeze. I could see bones sticking out, but I still tried to deny what I was seeing.
Until I saw him step through the camera.
That’s when the screaming started. My screams, I mean. If you were tuning in, that was the exact moment when my expression turned from a peaceful walk in the park to holy shit a chainsaw murderer is running after me. Screw the professional façade: I was playing a game of supernatural chicken, and this thing was winning. I started chucking objects at the ghostly apparition. I mean, what else was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to defend myself? I threw my notes, my pen, the microphone, a decorative globe, and even my nametag. Everything I threw passed through him as though he was made of smoke. Though I wanted nothing more than to regain my composure and think through the situation like a rational adult, I just kept screaming like an overzealous teenager at a boy band concert, minus the “MARRY ME” sign full of glitter.
Then, the lights went out, plunging me in near-total darkness. All I could see was a tiny red dot straight in front of me. The camera was still on. I fell into my chair, legs too shaky to hold me upright. I felt a breath against the back of my neck. Cold, humid air that smelled like worms wriggling in the rain. I could hear a nauseating sound like that of gums smacking together repeatedly. At that point, I threw myself on the floor, rolled under the desk, curled up in the fetal position, and started crying hysterically. The lights came back on within moments, revealing an empty studio. Fucking empty. No Jeremy, no ghost, nothing. Just an empty room with a single camera on its tripod. The only evidence that anything had happened was the lingering stench of worms in the air, and the trail of blood leading from the back of the office to my desk.
I jumped over the desk and accidentally knocked the camera down as I ran out of the studio.
I have no intentions of going on the air tonight. Or any other night. I am never stepping foot in that studio ever again. All I can do now is sit back and hope that the footage doesn’t get leaked, so I can put this behind me and hopefully find a job elsewhere.
Oh, and one last thing. I don’t know how I didn’t know this before, we don’t even have an 11 o’clock news segment. The channel loops community ads from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am. Damned if I know whether the Jeremy that asked me to stay late was real, or if it was his horrific doppelgänger.
Either way, he got what he wanted: my job.