"I was scared when I first saw him. It happened just as you told me: the messages, the pictures, seeing him around every corner afterwards. I was so young; who wouldn't have lost it?" William sighed. By then, he was over the creature following him. It wasn't like it was going to go away, no matter how much he begged, or pleaded, or attempted to bribe. He knew that the best and only solution would be to just get used to Capone being there. At least he had the solace of knowing he wasn't going insane.
“Believe me William; I know many people have reacted the same way. Fear is a more common reaction to the unknown than you’d think.” Dr. Laura Breynz consoled him. These cases weren't exactly common, but they were commonly known.
“It’s not even that I'm afraid of him anymore. I mean, he makes me jump when I see him in the morning, I don't think I'll ever get used to that; It's the just the bad connotations he has.” William rebutted.
"I know that he does, but it happened two years ago. I know it's hard for you, especially with your shadow, but you need to carry on." Dr. Breynz stated. William just sighed as she continued. "Our session is almost up. We made some real progress, William. I want you to do something for me when you get home. Do you have any homework or anything?"
"I did it all on my break."
"Good. When you get home, I want you to think back to your first experience, and write as much as you feel comfortable sharing. Is that alright?"
"Yeah. Thanks for seeing me."
It wasn't too long a drive from the doctor's office to home. Five, possibly ten minutes if there was a train. He always saw the creature through the rear view mirror when he drove, riding in the back seat. It looked innocent, in its own, alien way, waving to William as he saw it.
Despite everything, William found himself talking to it, like one would talk to a dog or cat about their day when they're alone. It seemed to listen when he talked, and after a while, he could swear that it understood. It's hard to tell with a face like that, so all there were to go by were various head tilts and waves, and even then, he had to teach it how to wave.
"At least I know you're interested."
Drop the backpack near the door, go to the patio, wave to Capone from the mirror, fridge, drink, chair, crash. William's afternoon routine was more clockwork than it should be. He thought back to his session with Dr. Breynz. "She wanted me to try and recapture the experience when I first saw him, huh?" William mumbled as he grabbed a few sheets of paper and a pen. Bit by bit, he pieced together the sequence of events that lead up to this point.
I've had Capone with me ever since I was fifteen years old. I remember that my twenty-year old sister, Sara, brought up an app that she downloaded earlier at the dinner table one night. She had no idea how it does it, but hazarded a guess that it tracks you through your phone's GPS, and sends you pictures of the places you've been with a 'really cute' monster placed in the photo to make it look like it's following you.
It didn't seem that weird. I recall that Google maps could get a decent ground photo at the time, so just add Photoshop to that, and you'd have a gimmick. Plus, we knew it couldn't be a virus. The app store checks every app for things like that before peddling it. The only thing I found legitimately off about it at the time was that it was both free, and ad-less.
Her explanation of it sounded pretty cool to me, so I asked Sara to help me download it on my phone. She told me that while my old, hand-me-downed, flip-phone did have something like an app store, it most likely didn't have MalO. Didn't stop her from looking though.
Sara was a good sister. She really could have told me to just get out of her hair, but she always took time out of her day for me, packing my lunch, playing with me, bringing me to 'R' rated movies that I was clearly too young for. I was lucky to have her as a legal guardian when our parents went away.
I was too young to process it all when it happened, but mom and dad died from a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Sara took care of me as my legal guardian up until I moved out for college. God knows where I'd be if she didn't. After some prodding, she found the app, which was a surprise to the both of us. It was obvious that my phone didn't have any kind of GPS, but neither of us had even thought about it until much, much later. Soon enough, I received my first picture.
I'll never understand the way Sara saw the world, if that was her idea of 'cute'. The photo was taken in my school's courtyard, with the creature I'd soon call Capone sitting on one of the benches. You could barely see him, but there he was, covered in his black, matted fur, with his knife-like claws, a set of blank, pure-white eyes, and that face, which was merely a skull belonging to some kind of large beast, looking directly at us with that large, wolfish grin.
I gave the phone back to Sara, telling her how terrifying it was, and that I didn't want the messages anymore. She just jokingly punched my shoulder, saying "Oh don't be such a baby. It is too cute! Look how happy he is to meet you!" I looked back at his face; his wide grin specifically… I have to admit, I laughed at that. It was just the sheer wrongness of that statement that made me listen to the next.
"I'm sure he'll grow on you eventually… Tell you what, if you can put up with him for one whole week, we'll go see that movie you've wanted to see. If he still gives you nightmares, we'll delete it. If you end up liking it, we'll laugh about it later; Deal?" I looked at the picture again. It appeared that getting a photo every now and then was the extent this was going to go to, and looking at it in hindsight, I probably would've kept it on for next to nothing if she really wanted me to; so I agreed.
Sara was ecstatic after that, and assured me that I wouldn't regret it while showing me some of her own pictures. She only had three so far: one at her office, one at the park, and another on the road we lived on, each picture containing her own clearly visible entity. I must have looked nervous or something, because she suggested that I name mine like she did with her 'Cassandra'. I thought about it for a bit.
Let me make something clear though, because it seems to come up whenever I tell people this: I did not name my MalO 'Capone' because of the incident with my parents; I didn't even know that mom and dad's arrest involved alcohol at the time. I named him after a history lesson I found amusing in school where people's fear got the best of them, and as my teacher put it, it ended up doing more harm than good. It was intended as a reminder that I shouldn't be making the same mistake.
I saw a bit of light in this whole thing after giving it a mock-title and thought it wasn't going to be that bad. I went to bed, and my normal life went on for just a little while longer.
I continued to get pictures of Capone for a while, following me at school, the bus stop, my street, virtually everywhere I went. It wasn't until the third or fourth day when I got called in from class. I was thinking that I was in trouble for something, even if I didn't know what, but as soon as I saw Sara, that feeling was stifled. She looked very shaken. The instant she saw me, she immediately yanked my arm, and brought me to the car.
Sara was not looking good at all. She kept asking questions about Capone, things like if I saw him, or if I received any photos from him with me in the images. I haven't checked anything from today, but when I checked, there were two. I remembered exactly when and where those messages were taken, because during them, I made a mental note that I got some texts from Capone. They've been sent as soon as they've been taken.
Sara knew that we were being pursued by something, she probably had no idea by what they were, and I knew she had no idea how they were doing it, but she knew that they knew where we lived. She couldn't figure out how to delete it. She said she tried everything, but couldn't find a way to get it off. She couldn't even find where the app went.
I'm not even sure what we were planning to do, but before we could even fully plan a course of action, I got another text. Sara froze and stared at me, as if to say 'don't look at it'. If I didn't, I could have had a semi-normal life right now. It would have been over the news within the week, and we would have known…
But I did it. I opened the phone… And there we were, just sitting there, with that fear stricken look on our face. The photo was clearly taken from the hood of the moving car, giving us a clear view of what was behind us. He took up most of the backseat, and towered over me. We both turned around, preparing to scream at the monstrosity behind us, but when we did, the seat was empty. We didn't know what was happening, or what to make of it, but we felt that the only thing to do is run away, abandoning the car.
We hastily ditched the car, ran the rest of the way to the apartment, and locked the door behind us. We locked ourselves in the bathroom, and waited. We just stayed there, even when we got a message from Cassandra or Capone, Sara would scream at them, asking why they were following us and begged for us to be left alone.
We felt helpless against them. All we felt we could do is just sit in the bathroom, and hope they would go away. The room felt like our only safe haven until… We were exposed to them for too long. Sara started to panic, saying that she kept seeing one of them behind her. I wasn't seeing it though. I was more concerned about trying to calm her down by telling her that maybe they weren't really there than I was about seeing Capone in the mirror.
I convinced Sara that we needed to leave the room out of necessity. We couldn't stay in the apartment forever, and if they wanted to get us, they would have done so already. We called the police and… Here we are.
We both got help, but I was the lucky one. Everyone's case was different in terms of interaction, but for me, Capone was always in a mirror or some reflective thing large enough to show him. He was predictable, and I could find ways to block him out when I needed it.
I learned how to expect Capone, and after a while, he kind of grew on me. I used to have a makeshift curtain that I would pull over the mirrors when I didn't want to see him, but I started using that curtain less and less as time went on.
Capone always seemed to try and interact with me, even if I didn't understand what he was trying to say most of the time. I started to greet Capone with a casual wave as I passed by him from the living room mirror, and eventually, he started to wave back. He kind of became a constant companion to me, and I adjusted to Capone just as he adjusted to me.
My case wasn't as severe as Sara's. She saw Cassandra every where she looked. Around every corner, just out of sight, over her while she slept. Sara took her own life two years ago. I wanted to blame the MalOs for it, but I can't. Following the person who looks at their messages is just… what they do. Now, every time I see Capone, I'm reminded of what I did in the car that day. I knew I shouldn't have picked up that text. If I didn't, she would still be here.
It was almost four hours since William started writing, but he almost felt relieved. He's never actually told anyone about this in such detail before; the majority of what happened was kept between himself and Capone. He looked up to the creature in the mirror from across the room for a few seconds, as it gave the old, familiar wave.
William was silent for a minute, staring at Capone, and then back to his papers. He felt the need to make one last point.
But then again, how would I have known? I don't know who made the MalOs, or why. I don't even know if anyone actually made the app; many things like it have been created naturally, or have been given some kind of anomaly out of sheer chance. It would make so much sense if some physical thing was to blame, but there's none that I can legitimately find: none on the MalOs, none on me; just on chance.