I am going to share with you part 1 of an untitled story I am referring to as “The Land of Milk and Honey”, but before I do, let me fill you in.
r/nosleep is a subreddit dedicated to original scary stories and the suspension of disbelief. Twenty-seven days ago a story began to appear in r/nosleep by user nazisharks. Approximately every five days, another part of the story appears. The last update was two days ago. The title is “An old friend’s been emailing me about a strange, secret website”. That’s basically the whole premise. A can of worms is opened when he goes searching for answers to eerie messages he is receiving online.
I am going on record saying that as of part six, this series is the scariest thing I have ever read in my life. My blood has never buzzed so much as it has reading about the reddit users’ spine-tingling odyssey. More than once I experienced full body chills and had my hair stand on end. I am waiting with bated breath for the story’s conclusion. Why is this story so effective?
We are all wired in these days–each of us existing under several identities. That is to say we exist under different user names on different websites. Many of us have had that moment where we stumble onto something creepy late at night while perusing the internet. Something that makes our blood run cold and we announce aloud to ourseves “Welp! That’s enough internet for tonight!”, Especially those of us who surfed while the net was young. Let’s face it, the internet is a crazy place.
Then there are the feelings of being watched and are powerless to keep someone from looking at you and knowing everything about you. Add to that the repeated theme of hearing that things/people are not as they seem, and you have something truly unsettling.
Please take my recommendation, and delve into the odyssey.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’ve been an internet user for twenty years now. That’s older than some of my co-workers. It’s over half my life. And still the internet feels like “the new thing.” I take it for granted, like we all do. But at least I remember what it was like when it wasn’t there. When you had to leaf through an encyclopedia set to find an answer. When you could only find Gillian Anderson’s picture in magazines. Or later, when songs took 30 minutes to download and full-length movies were almost impossible to find, because no-one’s harddrive could hold them.
First getting online was super exciting. I mean, the first time I did it without supervision. Because I knew I had anything at my fingertips. I could type it into good ol’ Lycos and there it would be. I was interested in naked celebrities and the paranormal back then. I was only 13, give me a break. I was so interested in the paranormal, I built a fortunecities homepage and linked it to the DarkNet webring, where all the best “dark” websites and homepages came together. Pages on spellbooks, goth babes, the occult, dark art, and a grossout page or two. It was through the webring that I met Angelica.
Angelica hosted a Wiccan geocities or tripod homepage that I found particularly alluring. No wait, it was angelfire. She just made the best of some cool animated gifs, midis, and frames—amazing stuff at the time. Just like her, the page was creative and attractive, but also simple. The reason I bring her up is she contacted me just a few weeks ago by email asking, “What’s been happening?” A catch-up question. And this is pure Angelica: She signed the email with her ICQ contact #. I enjoyed the quaint touch. It’d be like someone in the ‘90s sending a letter with a wax seal, right?
I replied back with a summary of how my life had gone over the past 18 years or so since I’d last communicated with her. 18 years—makes you think. She shot back a response almost immediately asking for details. We exchanged a few emails this way. I was pretty excited to come home from work and write to her, actually. Nothing romantic. It was just like reconnecting with my past. It was a strange feeling.
But I started to notice something off. She never really answered anything about herself. She ignored my suggestions that we text or even talk on the phone. She just kept wanting to know more about me. It got me wondering if something was wrong. Like she’s dying and just doesn’t want to say. So I just ask her why she isn’t sharing and if there’s something I should know.
I read over her previous messages looking for clues, I guess you could say. And I noticed something that didn’t occur to me at all until then. Her email address was at globetrotter.net. I know a lot of people still have their old email addresses that they just haven’t given up. It just struck me as strange. Globetrotter was a Canadian ISP way back in the mid-90s. I didn’t even realize they still hosted. It’s like she was purposely trying to be old school. But something about it creeped me out. Like she was trying too hard to make me feel nostalgic or something. It’s hard to explain.
Again, I didn’t have to wait long for her reply. She didn’t tell me what was wrong. She just asked me, “Hey, do you remember The Hole?” I didn’t. Just a hazy sense that I dreamed about something called ‘The Hole’ once. Whatever it was, I had an instinctive feeling that it was something bad. I went over IRC rooms, websites, and newsgroups in my head, but nothing.
She sent me another email, before I could even reply. “You really don’t remember? The Hole was our little secret. Not many knew about it. Even fewer how to find it. But we found it. It was right there all along. Sometimes, when you’d load darknet in Netscape, there’d be a tiny black dot in the bottom, left corner, in all this blank space. You had to hover over it exactly and click it. Then you’d be there. You’d be in The Hole. You remember it now, don’t you?”
She was right, I did. I didn’t remember ever calling it “The Hole,” but I remembered that secret little space we found. I remember it was like the browser didn’t see it as a real website or something. There wasn’t even an address to copy and paste from the bar. It was just the letter ‘M.’ I tried everything to pin it down to an IP, but ‘M’ was all I could ever find.
I remembered it. But I never liked that site at all. There was nothing there. It was all empty. I remembered being excited the first time we found it, because it was something hidden. And it felt like somewhere we shouldn’t be. And then I hated it. Because it was just empty. And it made me feel bad and empty. I never cared to remember it.
I wrote Angelica back telling her this. I didn’t hear back from her that night. That was unusual. She normally replied right away. Eerily fast, like she already had her answer typed out and it didn’t matter what I actually said to her. But now I was waiting for a response, because this whole thing had me inexplicably shaken up. So of course she doesn’t reply.
The next day, when I got home from work, an email was waiting. She said that we were missing so much. The Hole had so much in it to discover, so many secrets, you could just keep going and going. It was like an endless puzzle. Everyone else stopped at the first layer. But she felt there had to be something else in it, that no-one would create and hide this thing for no reason. And she kept looking until she discovered how to go deeper. And she kept going. She said it’s still there to find, if I want to go looking. The webring is gone, Netscape is gone, but The Hole is still there.
I felt a strange chill down my spine that I brushed off as nerves. I was up for a promotion and a little stressed, after all. Then I started to wonder if she was pranking me. But Angelica wasn’t really a humorous girl. She’d laugh at your jokes. But she didn’t really make her own. And I just felt she was completely serious. In fact, something about her earnestness was really disturbing.
I didn’t reply to her right then. I decided to run some checks on her, because things just weren’t adding up. I started with her email address, to see if she’d been posting anywhere. I was searching for a while before I hit something. I didn’t find any forum posts or websites or anything like that. What I found was that her email host, globetrotter, had stopped hosting eleven years ago. The email address she was writing from was impossible.
Why would she go through so much trouble to create a fake email address that mirrored whatever email address she would’ve been using in the ‘90s? That wasn’t just quaint anymore. That was crazy. I was really worried about her. But at the same time, I was worried for myself. I was never all that close to her. I mean, we hadn’t talked in 18 years. Why did she suddenly want to reach out to me? And why just to talk about some long-forgotten website? Because I felt like that’s what she was building up to all along. It’s just so weird.
I kept digging around. I used her ICQ number, her name, the state I believed she lived in. I could find no record of her doing anything after her angelfire homepage. No facebook, no google plus, not even a myspace. It’s like her last presence on the internet actually was in the ‘90s. It’s possible to take nostalgia too far.
I tried not to think about it. By this point, I’d gone a week without sending her an email or her sending me one. I felt guilty about it. But I had every right. I was losing sleep over this. I just knew I’d regret it if I sent her another email. And it seemed like she took the hint at first. But a new email came in, telling me how she thought she was coming to the center of The Hole. “But you could spend your whole life in here.” I remember those words exactly, because they unsettled me.
A week after that, I got a different kind of email. This one didn’t even have an email address. That was spooky enough in itself. But then the text just read, “If you get an email from anyone saying they’re someone, delete it and forget what you read.” It wasn’t signed. I figured it had to be Angelica. But it was so vague. I was really getting nervous. I thought about getting the police involved, but I knew they couldn’t do anything.
I received another email with instructions of where to go looking for The Hole. A place on archive.org, on their Wayback Machine, still had the dot to click on. I thought about going to check it. But the honest truth is I was afraid to check it. Something was just wrong with this whole situation.
The another email came from the blank email address. The body was just the link to a gopher site. Now, I hadn’t seen a gopher site in a good 15 years. I had to download an old browser just to access it. If you weren’t around at the time, Gopher sites just housed a bunch of text files in folders. You’d go to Gopher://blahblah.com. They were usually run by universities.
This particular gopher site only had a few files. They had different file names, but all the files said the same thing. “help me please” over and over. I did get the police involved this time. They were courteous. But they thought I was being pranked. I asked them if they could at least look into Angelica. I told them all I knew about her. They said they’d try.
I stopped received emails from Angelica and the blank address after that. I hoped it was over. I think a month passed before anything else happened. I got a large, manila envelope in the mail. No return address. I hesitated to open it. But I did. And inside was a print out of all my correspondence with Angelica. Not just the new stuff. Even emails I’d written her back in the ‘90s. I barely remembered them. But I recognized my old email address and the things I said sounded like teen me. The only thing not in there were the emails from the blank address.
I took this stack of papers to the police to tell them something’s definitely up. They told me they still thought it was a sick prank. I asked them “why sick?” because that seemed strong. That’s when they told me they heard back from her local PD. Angelica’s been a missing person since 1999. Her parents offered a reward and everything. But there weren’t any clues. One night she was in her room, listening to music, on the computer. In the morning, she was gone.
I was so shocked I had to sit down. I had to side with the police that this was a prank, now. But at the same time, what if it was her? Maybe she’s had a psychotic break or something? Or what else could it be? What’s this stuff about “The Hole”? Is it even real? And about about the blank email address? I haven’t a clue. And that’s what scares the crap out of me about this.