Watching the footage on the camera he’d found sent a shiver straight down his spine. Beads of cold sweat began to appear on his forehead as shockwaves of fear jolted through his body. Trying to keep his numb hands from shaking, he dialed 911.
He had only agreed to collect his neighbor’s mail… he hadn’t asked for this. What had his neighbor done?
Pulling into his own driveway had become an exercise in restraint for Clinton Martell because even the sight of his neighbor had become enough to annoy him.
Over the last few days, he’d witnessed the man coughing out clouds of cinnamon, dousing himself in lukewarm water, and lying on the hood of his own car as it slowly rolled down the road. And every time Clinton saw what new shenanigans his neighbor was up to, his jaw clenched a little tighter.
Clinton’s neighbor was an unemployed man in his mid-twenties who had recently decided that he wanted to be a famous YouTube vlogger. But, no matter how hard he tried, he was always one step behind the latest “viral” craze.
With his cheap handheld camera duct-taped to a beaten-up tripod in the driveway, Dillon performed his stunts for his nonexistent audience, hoping to luck out with a piece of viral content that would make him rich.
One morning, Dillon knocked on Clinton’s door and informed him that he was going away for a while to work on some “epic” new content, and would Clinton mind getting his mail while he was gone? Clinton immediately agreed.
Honestly, he was just relieved that he would be spared from Dillon’s annoying antics for a few weeks. Clinton had always had a nagging suspicion that one day his neighbor’s stunts would somehow bleed into his own personal life. And oh boy, was he right.
For the first few days, Clinton enjoyed the peace and quiet and collected his neighbor’s mail like he said he would. Rifling through the envelopes, there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Dillon received a few bills, the usual mail-in spam, and what he assumed was a birthday card. Until the evening that the cardboard box arrived.
Emblazoned on the package — in large red capital letters — were the words ‘RETURN TO SENDER.’ Now, Clinton prided himself on the fact that he worked out every day, but even he struggled to move the box from where it was left on his neighbor’s porch.
It took every ounce of strength he had to lift and carry it down three stairs and across the street to his house… and he quickly realized that there was no way he was going to be able to carry it up his stairs and through the front door. And that’s when he made a big mistake.
Clinton decided to leave the package in his garage. It wasn’t like he was using it anyway… the garage door had been broken for years and would only open with a good kick. He’d grown tired of fighting with the garage door over the years, so now he parked his car outside.
But instead of setting the package down before he opened the garage, he balanced the box on his knee and kicked at the door with his other foot. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but his decision would set off a chain of events that would result in a full-blown investigation.
Clinton’s knees felt like they were snapping under the weight of the box as he kicked the garage door for the third time, but then something awful happened.
Feeling his hands beginning to slip, he cursed as he lost his grip on the package. It fell heavily to the ground and Clinton heard a light “crack” from inside and his heart sank.
Hoping that he hadn’t broken anything important, Clinton decided that he wouldn’t tell his neighbor that he’d dropped the box and prayed that Dillon would assume that the breakage had happened en-route. But now that his hands were free, at least he could deal with the garage door, which made a deafening screech of metal-on-metal as it finally rolled up.
Clinton huffed and puffed as he dragged the box inside and pushed it into a corner. “That’s that” he whispered, pleased with himself. But his ordeal with the mysterious package was only just beginning.
Clinton closed the garage, with its strange cargo inside, and promptly forgot all about it. That was his second mistake. A few days later, a strange smell began to permeate through his house. Almost unnoticeable at first, the sickly-sweet stench progressively got worse.
Eventually, it grew so intense that it drove Clinton to search for the source. After following the nauseating smell, it didn’t take long for Clinton to identify the culprit — it was coming from the package.
Clinton kicked open the garage door and was left reeling by the stench inside. It must be one of those meat-of-the-month subscriptions, he thought — running back to the house to fetch a pair of scissors.
The meat must have gone rancid. Now more than slightly annoyed, he wondered why his insufferable neighbor hadn’t warned him. And how much meat had the idiot ordered? An entire freaking cow? Pulling his shirt over his nose, he approached the box, retching.
When Clinton’s eyes had stopped watering, he noticed that the cardboard box was soggy at the bottom. “Great,” he spat. If he tried to drag the box outside, it would split and cover his garage floor in spoiled meat.
He’d have to open the box and take the pieces of putrid meat out one by one. He quickly slid the scissors through the packaging tape, but once he’d gotten the box open he almost blacked out.
Clinton staggered back as wave after wave of the stench hit him like a punch to his gut. He just couldn’t stomach the smell and deal with the horrific contents of the box. He ran outside to regroup before trying again, and the smell was so bad that it clung to his clothing and burned his nostrils.
And nothing he did to rid himself of the stench worked. Not air fresheners, not a face mask, not a change of clothes, or three showers. And every second that the box sat in his garage was another second that the smell was allowed to take hold in his home. It was time to bite the bullet.
Clinton returned to the garage, and this time he was prepared. Armed with a clothes peg, rubber gloves, a garbage bag, and a bottle of bleach, he approached the nightmare box in the corner that seemed to be waiting for him.
Determined not to touch what was inside, he snapped on the gloves. But, as it turned out, he needed none of these things. He turned his head the other way and reached into the box.
Expecting something soft and wet, Clinton almost jumped as his fingers closed over a hard rectangular object near the top of the box. He pulls it out slowly and is astonished to find an old digital camera in his hand.
Now Clinton knows that the box’s contents are far more sinister than a spoiled meat-of-the-month package. His heart began to race.
Clinton locates the ‘ON’ switch and holds it for a few seconds. Suddenly, the camera beeps to life. He is so surprised that he jumps at the unexpected noise. He stares at the blank fold-out screen and hits ‘play.’
He hears the audio — a scratching sound of the mic being dragged on cardboard — and the image comes into focus. The low-battery icon flashes on the screen, and the camera shuts off. He runs back into the house to plug the camera in.
Clinton sits on his bed, spellbound as he fast-forwards through the hours of footage. Beads of cold sweat run down his forehead when he finally realizes what he is looking at. “Oh my God,” he wails.
He has to gather all his courage to look inside the box. How could this be happening? He yells uselessly at the camera. He never signed up for this! He takes a deep breath and stumbles back to the garage… back to the nightmare inside.
He quickly peers over the side of the box, covering his face with one hand to keep himself from retching. He just makes out the shape of an arm… a finger… and pulls back in terror. Trying to keep his hands from shaking, he dials 911.
You see, the footage was one of his neighbor’s idiotic vlogs. And it was recorded from inside a box. A few minutes later, the police arrive.
The footage began with a poorly-shot vlog of his neighbor speaking directly to the camera. “Today I’m gonna do something EPIC,” Dillon bellows into the mic. With one hand holding the camera, he records himself getting into an enormous box, proclaiming: “I’m gonna MAIL MYSELF to my house!”
The camera pans to the bottom of the box — showing the food, blankets, flashlights, and bottles that Dillon had packed for the journey. He continues to record himself for brief intervals inside the box, giving “updates” as he is transported to his destination.
As Dillon gives his final update on his progress, suddenly the camera falls over on its side and the image fades to black. It records complete darkness — hours and hours of it. But the last “update” on the camera is a shot of Clinton’s shocked face as he pulls the camera out.
Clinton explained everything to the police when they arrived. They didn’t bother with the footage, they immediately set about investigating the box. Clinton was in for another surprise.
The police pulled out five military-grade cans of putrescine that were rigged to an elaborate timer that was set to dispense the foul-smelling “riot bombs” — they were set to go off on the hour, every hour.
Putrescine is a chemical that produces a scent that is almost identical to organic putrefaction. Along with the cans, they found a mannequin and sacks of concrete in the box. What had Dillon done?
Now, credit needs to be given to Dillon where it’s due. He set up the entire thing as an elaborate — if not downright distasteful — prank. He recorded the footage from another box that was sitting in his bedroom.
He filled the box with concrete and placed a mannequin inside for good measure. He wired up the cans of putrescine to give the box a revolting scent. Then, he placed the camera in the box. So, where was he now?
Dillon wasn’t expecting the prank to end with the police being called. He thought that Clinton would cotton on to the fact that there was a mannequin inside the box and realize that he’d been had, and that the joke would end there.
But the prank had gone horribly wrong. The police and Dillon’s poor victim were definitely not amused.
Nonetheless, Dillon had watched the entire spectacle unfold from the safety of his window and had recorded unwitting Clinton’s battle with the box from beginning to end.
He’d been inspired by the latest viral craze — vloggers desperate for attention were really mailing themselves to various destinations through the postal system. With such priceless and candid prank footage, surely he’d become YouTube famous now?