The negative backlash for B.U.L.L.’s pirate broadcast video in addition to the spam and flame wars for the initial subway video had filled YouTube to the point where a denial of service (DDoS) attack had been launched out of protest. The American video-sharing website suffered an outage in the United States and most of Europe and remained offline in excess of two hours. As a result, Google suspended the “Ya Can’t Unsee S#!t Like This” account but by then it was too late. The moment YouTubers received the error message: “500 Internal Server Error. Sorry, something went wrong. A team of highly trained monkeys has been dispatched to deal with this situation” the subway video began appearing on Vimeo, DailyMotion, Metacafe, flickr, and Veoh.
Then it multiplied. At first, it started popping up on accounts attempting to confirm or disprove the video’s authenticity, then it was examined by film students, video editors and special effects artists and then by bandwagon jumpers who wanted a spike in their account’s view count. In less than a month, the subway video had been analyzed and broken down as much or more so than the Zapruder film.
The attention paid to the video would have subsided and been forgotten, replaced by some new fad or other, if not for the other videos. New cell phone footage from various sources sprang up from subway riders who encountered what had come to be known as the shroud, the tall, almost column-like, objectless shadow that appeared and disappeared when it moved as if short-distance-teleportation was its mode of transportation.
Some speculated the shroud wasn’t teleporting at all, that it was a two-dimensional entity, having length and breadth but no depth, that rotated as it moved which gave it the appearance of momentarily vanishing. This theory was quickly dispatched when an eagle-eyed viewer noticed the trash on the subway cars, food wrappers, empty paper coffee cups and plastic water bottles, being pushed away from the shroud when it appeared and being drawn into the void left by the shroud’s absence.
The next big question tackled: Was the shroud a life form, a cosmic event or some supernatural occurrence such as an apparition?
Someone online pointed out for something to be considered organic it required traits shared with all the living things that exist on Earth. Of the six traits, the shroud only checked one box: Movement, but even that was a source of controversy as people debated whether teleportation of a stationary object counted as true ambulation. But was the shroud truly stationary? In the brief video clips, it never appeared to bend, wiggle, expand or contract. Perhaps there were slight movements imperceptible to the human eye or it moved at such a snail’s pace that it gained the ability to leap short distances faster than the eye could follow. The five remaining traits:
- Living things being made up of cells
- Organisms using energy and receiving energy from a source
- Growth and development
- The ability to reproduce and respond and adapt to their environment
could not be verified without a sample or test subject.
Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, physicist Brian Cox, and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, as well as several other noted professionals, were invited to weigh in on the matter of whether the shroud was truly a cosmic event. Each, in their own way, expressed the notion to be unlikely as cosmic events better known as astronomical events typically occurred off-world and though the planet may experience the effects of certain events, none of the recent eclipses, comet encounters, close planetary pairings, or other celestial wonders could have been reasonably connected with the subway shadow. They would not comment on the notion of the shroud being some form of extraterrestrial communication without examining the evidence further but appeared to think it was highly unlikely.
Now, when it came to the paranormal aspects of the shroud, so-called experts were crawling out of the woodwork with explanations as to what it was and how it came into existence. No one exposition matched or supported another so they were easy to dismiss. A popular one that garnered more attention than it should have was that the constant rumbling of New York City subway trains over the years had worn down the barrier that separated us from the underworld and eventually created a vibrational rift that led straight to Hell.
On October 14th, 2017, an MTA worker on a refuse train running on the J local line that operated from Jamaica Center in Queens to Broad Street in Manhattan, claimed to encounter the shroud between the Alabama Avenue and Broadway Junction station stops. Refuse trains, as the name suggested, bagged garbage collected from each station’s trash receptacles and stored them on six flatbed-like cars between engineer car and the caboose. The worker, who wished to remain unidentified, thought at first one of the black garbage bags had burst open and was flapping in the wind and as he prepared to make his way to the bag to secure it, he saw that it was no bag. He described it as a mysterious object that was there one time and gone the next, just to appear somewhere else and it was moving in his direction. Bags of garbage exploded when it appeared and the trash was sucked into nothingness when the object disappeared. Trash bags erupted like geysers and the refuse inside vanishing a moment later as the object drew nearer and nearer. Then it was close enough for the worker to feel the blast of air when the object appeared, pelting him with garbage and having the breath temporarily sucked from his lungs as it disappeared. He scrabbled back and fell over trash bags as the object advanced so close he could almost touch it. He kicked out with his feet and threw his arms up to protect himself and then… nothing. The mysterious object was gone. The worker later tested positive for alcohol, even though he admitted to having one drink after the incident to help calm his nerves, and was placed on suspension.
The very same day at very nearly the same time, on the very same subway line but on the track going the opposite direction between the Gates Avenue and Halsey Street station stops, a commuter captured the shroud on a video which showed trash being spat into the air when it appeared. Trash that wasn’t there a moment before. Connecting the two sightings gave light to the possibility that the shroud wasn’t simply teleporting itself in short distances but teleporting back and forth between two (or perhaps even more) locations. This revelation opened several scientific threads online, which reexamined older shroud videos to see if there were simultaneous time coordinations linking any of them, and calculating the distance of the two most recent trains and the speed they were traveling in order to map out a teleportation range.
Apart from the theory and amateurishly fake sighting videos, some done for comedic effect, the shroud became the topic of fan fiction, appearing in Reddit threads and on Creepy Pasta. DeviantArt was also plagued by shroud drawings, from pencil sketches to manga pin-ups to full-blown CG portraits. It then became a meme with Hollywood stars like Harrison Ford from his 1993 film The Fugitive running from the approaching shroud. There was even a first-person video game in which the player entered an abandoned subway. Once inside, the entrance collapsed and the player had to investigate a derelict J train, car by car, to collect seven pieces of a device that when assembled created a teleportation device to transport the player to safety. All this while avoiding the deadly shroud which always appeared out of nowhere.
When the memes had run their course, interest in the shroud had waned and the subway shroud joined the ranks of Slenderman, NoEnd House, Polybius and The Smiling Man.
To be continued…
What the hell is this, you may be asking yourself. It’s none other than my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite. I have absolutely no idea who any of the characters are, or how many there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.
So, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.
©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys