I was out late at night, returning home from a dinner party with my family. My way home took me past the local cemetery, and I decided to visit the grave of a recently deceased friend of mine. It was rather eerie, walking past all those dark stones and trees in that sea of sepulchers, but I wished to pay my respects.
If only I hadn't. If only I'd kept driving that night, gotten home, and buried myself under the covers. But I didn't. I was a little drunk from the party, and waltzing through a graveyard late at night registered as a fine idea in my mind.
I eventually found my way to his grave, stumbling in the dark. Upon finding that flat chunk of rock that bluntly announced my friend's departure, I was surprised to find a disk there, among the flowers.
This disk didn't have a professional label; it was the kind you could buy by the hundreds, the kind to burn files on. It was in a plain, square case, with no writing on the clear plastic. The only words were scribbled onto the CD's white sticker; using my phone to illuminate the disk, I read the two words scrawled there, hastily and unceremoniously in black marker.
They said, "Dead Fred."
What really perplexed me was the handwriting; it was clearly my friend's. He used to own a video rental store, with hundreds of old VHS tapes that couldn't be found anywhere else. He had written the receipts by hand, and it seemed to match up with the disk's title...and, after his recent suicide, his note had been found, covered in gibberish scribbled on with the same, messy script.
Intrigued, I wondered who had left this here. I hadn't seen anyone with it at the funeral.
Tears were starting to burn my eyes. I missed my friend so much, and this disk must have been something very important to him, to be on his grave like this. Then why hadn't he told me about it? We told everything to each other. It wasn't right for him to keep the secret to himself, carrying it to the grave.
How dare he leave me out?
In a fit of drunken rage, I swatted the tears from my eyes and stormed out of the cemetery, disk in hand.
Only later, when I arrived home and was already popping the disk into my computer, did I realize what I had done. I had taken something off of my closest friend's grave, something I knew nothing about. It wasn't right; this was worse than him keeping secrets from me.
Bitterly, I went to eject the disk before the WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO? OPEN DISK WITH ITUNES, VIEW FILES, etc menu popped on screen when, unexpectedly, a video opened.
This surprised me for two reasons: one, I had assumed the disk had either audio, image, or text files. I hadn't even thought it could be video. Two, it hadn't asked me if I wanted to open the video with so-and-so program. It just started playing.
It was an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, my friend's favorite show. I hadn't really ever been into the show myself. I found it very disturbing, and had only watched the first season or so.
So, when the title, "Dead Fred," appeared murkily on screen, I didn't know that something was wrong. I had seen the original "Freaky Fred" episode with my friend once, and I assumed this was just another episode starring the deranged, poetic barber.
Disgusted at myself for taking the disk, I went to exit the video only to find that my cursor was frozen. The keys rendered no assistance either, so I reluctantly turned up the volume on my speakers and started watching the video.
It started out just like "Freaky Fred," with Fred on the bus and Muriel spreading that yellow quilt over the bed. Fred wasn't reciting his poem, though; in fact, there was apparently no audio to go along with the video.
I thought that it must have just been the original episode with the title shooped until I saw Courage. The small dog was looking out a window, glaring down at Fred with a mixture of fear and malice in his eyes.
Courage turned from the window and looked angrily into the distance...then he started having flashbacks. All that shit he had always had to put up with, all the terror, all the abuse...it came crashing down.
Courage was crying in his frantic, animated style as he ran downstairs and to the basement. He started rummaging through a trunk, throwing out various objects (an ugly mask, a shrunken head, and other objects coordinating with the show's signature, disturbing style) until he pulled out a cartoon double-barreled shotgun, tears still streaming down his face.
Lugging the thing upstairs, he stood, aiming it at the doorway, tiny paw on the huge trigger. The adventurous background music started playing; however, the video was still without sound effects.
Muriel ran excitedly downstairs (I guessed that the doorbell had rang, as I couldn't hear anything) and swung it open to greet her nephew.
There stood Fred, with his wide grin and messy hair, looking just as freaky as ever. He opened his mouth to speak, looked down, and saw Courage standing there, trembling shotgun aimed at his chest. A look of shock and fright overcame Fred before a shot rang through the house.
By 'the house,' I mean MY house. The shot was the only thing with sound other than the music, and I shat a brick.
I had just expected a "bang" flag to pop out of the gun, but no. Fred stumbled backwards as cherry-red blood started spouting out of his chest, spraying everything in the house. Fred fell to the floor, dead. Muriel started sobbing. Courage looked horrified at what he had done, and ran upstairs to the bathroom. He was soon locked in, as what happens in the normal episode.
At this point, I was a little shocked. This was disturbing, even for courage. For the next few minutes, Courage sat on the floor, sobbing, fur spattered in blood. Then, words started coming through my speakers, long and low.
"Hello, new friend."
Courage looked up, looked around, and saw nothing.
"My name is Fred."
Courage stood up and spun around. He went to the window, trying to find the source of the voice. Muriel and Eustace could be seen dragging the body to Eustace's truck, a trail of blood streaming behind it. Muriel was still crying.
"The words you hear are in your head."
Courage backs away from the window, looking at the shotgun beside him. The flashbacks return, all the name calling, all the times he'd risked his life to receive no reward, all the horrible things he'd seen. All the things Eustace had done to him, even after he'd tried so hard.
"I say, I said, my name is Fred."
Courage picked up the cartoon weapon, balancing the barrel on the windowsill, aiming down his sights at Eustace's head.
"And you've been very..."
Courage pulled the trigger. In a fraction of a second, Eustace's head exploded into a goopy mess. He dropped on the body of Fred, his falling on top.
Muriel screamed mutely. There was no bang of a shot this time, either; the audio was still off, except for the creepy poem.
As courage turned the gun on himself, I yanked the computer's plug out of the wall. I stood up, pacing the room, thoroughly disturbed. My friend's suicide note had only said the word "naughty" several dozen times.
"Hello, new friend."
I jumped. I must've left the speakers on, and just unplugged the computer. Although, the video still should have gone off, so it made no sense.
I went back to turn off my speakers, when I saw that they were off.
"My name is Fred."
I had turned them off after the first gunshot...long before I had started hearing the poem.
"The words you hear are in your head."
They were in my head. And they have been in my head ever since I watched that video.
I can't take it anymore. I'm going insane...have gone insane, I suppose....or maybe I've just gone bad.
It's too much. I'm going now. I had to tell someone, so I'm telling you..
Goodbye, my friend, for I'll be dead.
I'm putting a bullet through my head.
I'm glad that you've read all that I've said.
But, now, I must do something...
|Hello, new friend...|
(Do not mention any alternate beginning. I say, I said, do not mention an alternate beginning....or I will do something...