I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, here... so if you believe in haunted "Lost Episode" legends and enjoy living in that world, maybe this isn't the post for you.
Don't get me wrong - I hate when people complain about "lack of realism" in entertainment, and I think all kids need to believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy for as long as possible, but... this is different.
Back in the 80s I met this dude, Sid, who used to cut old VHS tapes and shit. It was more than a hobby for him - it was pretty much his entire life. His parents were a bit more wealthy than I'd been blessed with, so when we were teenagers and I was slaving away at a "Skats" (Yes, Skats) fast food restaurant, he just hung out around the house, cutting tapes. All day. All night.
Of course, as you get older things in your past become a bit clearer and I think he might've been borderline Autistic... or maybe he was a very high-functioning person with Asperger's... but of course I'm no expert and I'm not saying that was the case. It's just the best and quickest way I can think of to explain his personality and this obsession with cutting tapes, cutting tapes, cutting tapes.
It started when he saw "Old Yeller" as a little kid. For whatever reason, his parents let him watch that shit. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's the tale of a boy and his dog. I hope I don't have to announce the spoiler on such an old-ass movie, but in the end the boy has to shoot his own dog because it's rabid.
Sid didn't appreciate this. His dad photographed and video-taped weddings, so he showed Sid how to operate some of the machines... and Sid cut out the ending, replacing it with an earlier, happier scene as if Old Yeller just suddenly "got better" offscreen.
He watched the tape obsessively after that, even into his early teens when I'd first met him. He made me watch it once to show how he "fixed" it, and I could actually picture him as a little boy once he started applauding and cheering his own faux-ending.
I don't want to say I was a bad influence, but after I saw it I asked if he could do that with other movies.
My major interest was perhaps taking a film or two and cutting in some nude frames the actresses hadn't really done... Don't worry, though. I never had the guts to actually ask if he would. I just imagined how cool it would be. Often.
Sid told me that, yes, he could "fix" any movie he wanted. In fact, he had done it with a few others. He had a copy of a Ghost Busters cartoon and - I shit you not - every single ghost was completely removed. The story made no sense, there was no continuity, but he had accomplished it and I was very impressed.
I guess in the time of VHS, these things seemed more magical than they do nowadays.
As time went by, I encouraged Sid to edit more movies, but with different purposes. Instead of whitewashing all the scary stuff like he'd wanted to do, I got him to "see the light" on how awesome he could make things.
Somewhere out there, this chubby Star Wars nerd from our highschool has all three original films flawlessly cut together, with edited-in effects that would've made George Lucas himself cry out: "Enough meddling!!"
We charged him like twenty dollars for the only copy, because we were idiots.
Anyway, this went on for a while before I lost most of my interest in it. It was more of a goof for me than it was for him. This is the point where I started working, started driving, started taking bases with local girls... while he just got more and more involved in cutting those tapes.
I think his favorites were cartoons. When The Simpsons came around, he went ape shit with those. Now his edits weren't so much fixing things as just breaking them in interesting ways. Another thing that sticks out in my mind is when he recorded an episode of M*A*S*H and cut it with a gory old war flick. Halfway through his version, the camp gets bombed... soldiers invade... everyone dies. At the end, he specifically worked in freeze-frames of each cast member's face. Eyes closed.
He had completely reversed his interests and embraced what had once terrified him... scary endings. He seemed to love things like long, drawn-out sequences in terrifying silence. He'd make me be quiet while they played, too.
You may have heard about this mysterious fellow named Banksy who goes around creating interesting graffiti and whatnot. At one point, he went into a music store and replaced some Paris Hilton CDs with his own fakes.
Banksy had nothing on Sid. Every other week, he'd tell me about some store or a video rental place he'd snuck some of his tapes into. He swapped out the real ones for his versions, and then he'd start all over by cutting the ones he had stolen.
At one point, when I hadn't heard from him in a long while, I stopped by his parents' house and found him in the garage. He'd set up his own little movie studio there, complete with a drawing board.
He was actually animating entirely new content.
All at once, I was both blown away by his artistic skill I'd never seen before... and very concerned about when this guy was going to come out of the dark and start acting "normal" like me.
He barely looked up from his drawings as we spoke. I asked him what any kid, now in his late teens, would ask...
"What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"Seriously, dude. This is some crazy shit."
"It's work. I'm working. My work is just as important as anyone else's."
"Are you even selling these anymore, or are you just sneaking them into places? How much is all of this costing your Dad?"
"I don't care."
I looked at what he was so fervently illustrating.
"Is that a headless body? Dancing?"
"That's pretty dark, man."
"I know. That's the point."
"I don't get it."
"Those tapes. I thought they were wrong, but over time I figured out the truth."
"The scary stuff is right. The happy endings are the lie."
He just kept drawing as I stood there. The silence was disturbing, and in that moment I could smell the B.O. coming off of him. It wasn't just sweat, either. It was a mingling of that and a foul ass and piss-soaked cloth.
I hate to say it, but I gave up on him right then. It's that moment when you look at someone... someone you thought you knew... and all that you can think is... "Holy shit, I never realized they were this far gone."
It wasn't until I was in my 30s that Sid crossed my mind again. I was pursuing the internet, just aimlessly wandering the web, when I came across a series of "urban legends" about strange VHS tapes, re-cut movies, and lost episodes.
Some of these I recognized. I'd watched them with Sid, or I'd actually seen him in the middle of working on them. Every disturbing scene, every unbelievable anecdote... I believed it, because I had been there.
Others... Spongebob cartoons, episodes of iCarly or whatever, those shows came long after I'd made my break with Sid, but the style was all too familiar. Even the ones that didn't sound like his work seemed like they could've been broken copies or attempts at mimicing his work.
He was still doing it. My God, it boggled my mind.
I called up Sid's old number, not entirely sure I'd still find him there. It rang for minutes on end, and I knew that the search was hopeless. Even if he still lived with his parents, it wasn't likely they'd all still be at the same house by now.
I made it a point to drive out to his old place... to see if he was still in that garage, cutting tapes, or manipulating them via computer, or whatever he would be up to. When I passed by the house, the unkempt lawn was overgrown with huge, waist-high weeds. The dilapidated facade of the building, with its peeling paint on the shutters, missing roof tiles, and muck-filled gutters told me no one had lived here for a long time.
I saw a note on the door, but couldn't read it from the road. Maybe it was something I could use to locate Sid and see if he'd ever gotten the help I now realized I should have given him.
Pulling into the driveway, my headlights illuminated the garage door. It was windowless and vandalized with the gangster tags of some traveling band of assholes.
The note on the door, as one might expect, spoke of a certain bank now owning the property. It noted that trespassing was heavily discouraged, and that at a certain point someone would be out to make sure the house was "winterized". Whatever the Hell that is.
As I walked back to the car, defeated, something was nagging at me. I knew that Sid's parents kept a spare key under a false rock by the back stairs, basically by virture of Sid locking us both out on several occasions.
When I found that key, a sense of cold, gnawing dread swirled in my stomach.
Who would move out and leave everything in place like this? The key was the most obvious thing, but flower pots and lawn decorations were still there. Sid's old, rusted-out Huffy bike was leaning against the house, and had created thick rusty streaks along the aluminum siding.
I don't even know what I expected to find, but using the key, I entered the house.
The smell was overwhelming.
Not a putrid smell, nothing rotten or decaying... just the smell of... I don't know if this would make any sense to you, but... the smell of electricity. Like burning dust on a lightbulb or a heater giving off a peculiar warmed metal odor.
That was the least of my concerns, however, as I saw everything just as I had left it. Everything Sid's family owned was frozen in time. The dining room table we'd all sat at on many occasions was dust-covered and supported an emiaciated dead rat which had all but turned to dust.
The television... that bulky, oversized television set we'd all sat around to watch Sid's tapes and laud his creativity... it sat where it always had been, silently displaying a violent bombardment of black and white static.
As I moved through the rooms, the sense of panic and discomfort within me only grew. Every fiber of my being was shouting RUN... RUN, you fucking idiot!
Still, I pressed on into Sid's bedroom. It was now empty and in disrepair, his prized action figures and blank video tapes... hundreds of video tapes... stale and water damaged.
I almost wanted to call out... to shout "Sid!" and wait for him to appear as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
I went into his parents' bedroom.
There, lying in bed, were two motionless bodies. Gaunt. Gray. Half turned to dust, just like the rat in the dining room.
I could scarcely believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. Not only were two dead bodies slowly dissipating within the confines of this once idyllic suburban household... but nobody had even checked on them. Nobody had discovered this until now.
My mind raced. My heart raced. The only things that wouldn't move were my feet, which remained glued to the spot.
Sid, I thought, must have done this. There was no way the two of them would just lie down one night and simultaneously DIE of natural causes! Sid had said he didn't care about his parents, and...
When was the last time I had seen them? God, I hadn't seen them for days, maybe weeks BEFORE the last time I talked to Sid...
When I finally left the room, I took out my cell phone and began dialing 911. However, as soon as I lifted it to my head, an ear-splitting shriek of interference nearly caused me to fling the object across the room.
I rushed to the kitchen phone. Squealing static.
I tried the living room phone just to be thorough. Static.
It wasn't until I put the receiver back down that I heard it. Music. Faint, barely audible music that I hadn't noticed before. It seemed to be some repeating melody... happy and light... some flutes, maybe a whole horn section.
I followed the peppy tune to the in-house door to the garage. Pressing my ear to the door's dirty surface, I determined that the music was indeed coming from just beyond.
"Sid?" I called out, barely managing to form the name with cold, bloodless lips, "Sid, are you in there? Are you alright?"
I tried the door only to find it somehow locked from the other side. It was no matter, since one wild kick nearly knocked the rotting wood off its hinges.
"SID?" I shouted as the dust slowly cleared.
Through the haze, I could only see the light of a television screen. Vibrant colors. Blue, green, yellow...
Soon, I could make out a cartoon playing on the screen. Then, the silver wires running from the set itself to some dark mass. Then, the dark mass took shape as my eyes adjusted to the odd lighting.
It was Sid... or rather, his body... not dead nearly as long as his parents, seated in an old office chair. The wires from the television set lead directly to his body, eventually disappearing into several old, crusted-over holes his leathery flesh. Through a small worm-eaten opening in his ribs, I thought I could see more metal inside of him.
I walked to Sid's side, holding my hand over my mouth for fear of vomiting. His face was twisted into a hideous, wide grin... his empty eye sockets almost seemed happy, hooded by a pleased brow line.
"Hi there!" I heard a jarring voice.
The voice was upbeat. High-pitched. It sounded almost like Sid, but... different. Bubbly, cartoony.
I turned to the screen. The green grass, the blue sky, the yellow flowers... and Sid. A perfect caricature of him. It strolled along the infinite loop of that utopian cartoon background.
It waved to me.
"Sid..." I whispered, "Oh God, Sid..."
He... the cartoon version of him... turned his attention away from me and continued to merrily stroll across that unending cycle of the same backdrop. He passed a shrub... then passed it again... and again... The same bluebird, chirping happily, flew through the sky in a figure eight.
"Sid..." I shook my head, unable to comprehend the scenario, "I never should have let you leave reality."
I thought about what Sid had done to his Mom and Dad. I thought about how the bank would come by soon and this would all come to light. I watched Sid walk along for nearly a half hour.
Then I unplugged the set.