by Michael Athey © 2002

That's what the note taped to your VCR says. You didn't put it there...someone else did. But who? You live alone, you've been gone all day, you had no visitors, and now it's late, so...you're left to wonder. You stare at the note and you wonder still.

"Push PLAY," that's all it says back to you.

You're becoming nervous as you look around your room. Everything seems normal enough, though. Nothing's out of place. Nothing appears to be out of the ordinary, except for that note. You nudge at the slot in the VCR to see if there's a tape inside it. There is. You didn't put that there, either. You're really beginning to worry...

You turn on your t.v.

You turn on the VCR.

You push PLAY.

You settle down on your bed facing the screen. A face appears...no, someone wearing a mask. It's a child's Halloween mask. Casper, all smiles, chuckling a low, raspy chuckle. A man, then. A man in a Casper mask...

"Hey!" says Casper. "Thanks for pushing PLAY."

You smirk uncomfortably as the camera pulls back a bit. Casper's holding it himself, you can tell by the angle. He's still laughing to himself.

"Can you guess where I am?" he asks, tilting his head to the side. "Noooo? Well, take a look..."

The camera turns abruptly, Casper disappears. Now you see a room...

Your room, in fact...

"That's right," says Casper. "I'm here, same as you. Together..."

You're sufficiently freaked out. You move to get up.

"But wheeerrre?" says Casper. "Where could I beeeeeee?"

You can't help but watch. He's moving around your home, into the hallway, into the bathroom...

"Here?" he says. "Noooo..."

From the bathroom to your living room, touching everything with his gloved hands, around the sofa, into your kitchen.

"Maybe here?" he says. "No, I don't think so, buuuuut..."

He snatches at one of the knives on your kitchen counter, holding it up close to the lens.

"This I might neeeeed..."

You're unfrozen again. You snatch at the phone beside your bed and start dialing. No use, though - the line's been cut. You look back at the screen. He's moving again, through your living room, through your hallway...

Back into your bedroom.

"Yessss," he says. "I'm in here, but where? I'll count to three, and then...well, then I'm coming for you. One..."

Your eyes dart around the room, to the half-bath adjacent...


To the foot of your bed, to the closet door...


You scream as Casper crashes out of your closet, knife poised to strike. You rush out of the bedroom, down the hallway, to your front door, you throw it open and keep running, but he's right behind you, laughing that horrible laugh...

You reach the stairs outside your home, but your feet can't keep up. You fall down the short drop, screaming in vain. You land on the ground as Casper falls on top of you. You try to struggle to break free as the knife plunges into your stomach...

But there's no pain.

Casper laughs in your face as he withdraws. He shows you the knife, a fake, plastic, retractable. He rises and takes off the mask. He's your best friend. It's all been a joke. Other friends appear from their hiding places as well, all laughing heartily.

You take it well, nodding and cursing them.

You wave good-bye as they leave.

You go inside and tear up the note on your VCR.

You begin to reassess your friendships.

x x x

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