Author Topic: Childhood Memories  (Read 80 times)

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GammaNumeric

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on: 02:56 PM, 04/30/19
Childhood memories

Willhaben is a neologism due to being the fusion of the German words ‘will’ and ‘haben’ meaning ‘want’ and ‘have’ respectively. The website of the same name is the Austrian equivalent of sites like Craigslist that work as a hub for people to sell belongings for which they don’t have any use anymore or to look for jobs.
Everything happening on Craigslist has a certain flair of sketchiness to it due to the archaic Web 2.0 design, Willhaben on the other hand uses a sleek and intuitive baby blue UI. More akin to sites like eBay (which also isn’t a thing in Austria) the site uses more moderators to check uploads et cetera. It’s a pretty safe place for transactions and purchases.

In my experiences there’s two kinds of listings you can find on there. It’s always either people trying to scam others by listing a definitely not mint-condition collectors item without its box for an exorbitant amount of money or clueless people selling boxes or piles of stuff that they don’t need anymore for dirt cheap.
Back in my high school days it was a hobby of mine to purchase those surprise-boxes of useless junk. It was a mix of going to a yard sale and buying a surprise-toy-bag.
At age 15 I definitely was too young for the former and too old for the latter. I don’t know about the US but here in Austria yard sales are strongly associated with seniors.
Something about those random piles of junk intrigued and fascinated me. With the items mostly being defunct toys I pondered all the great stories in kids’ minds which they inspired. Each time I felt like I was experiencing somebody else’s nostalgia.
I never really played with the toys that I got, it just felt good to collect them - I had piles of beyblades, legos, Pokémon cards et cetera lying around in my room and honestly I didn’t mind it. I’m not a spiritual or superstitious person but those items truly feel magical due to all their respective histories.
Aforementioned pile of Willhaben-trash was left alone when I went to college. A week ago I was informed by my half-brother that my mother, much to my dismay, threw away half of my junk-pile and, quite ironically, sold the other half on Willhaben.
I wasn’t devastated, simply a bit miffed over the fact that all my cool stuff was gone. Others would’ve been furious over their belongings being thrown away or sold but what cheered me up was that the items that survived the garbage-purge were sold hence got the chance to continue their stories and be part of more childhoods and inspire more pleasant memories. Willhaben giveth and willhaben taketh away.

Miffed nonetheless I browsed the website again after hearing the news in order to get myself a new box of stuff - and I hit the jackpot.
A huge box of early-2000s toys for the equivalent of roughly 15 bucks. I immediately made the decision to splurge on that pile of stuff and get it as soon as possible.
The package finally arriving and me opening it felt like nostalgia squared - not only did I get nostalgic items but getting those items did also feel nostalgic to me due to me performing that same action in my childhood.
The contents of the box were slightly underwhelming. I got a lego Star Wars spaceship with half of it missing. I couldn’t even recognize which one it was supposed to be but it did have an olive green paint job and the over all shape of a triangle which led me to believe that it most likely originated from that animated clone wars show. The box also contained some children’s books, a broke ukulele, one of those weird lego children’s watches, a metal fusion series beyblade which was riddled with scratches due to overuse and battling and lastly something that truly intrigued me. It was a figure of a male character standing at roughly 2 inches tall featuring neither parts of articulation nor a paint job. The toy was a cheap looking monochrome plastic figurine which resembled an adult man wielding a cartoonish space gun in his right hand. Additionally he appeared to wear knee-high boots and a futuristic visor. I couldn’t make out more details due to the bad condition of the toy - it had scratches all over.
No willhaben find ever intrigued me as much as this little guy managed to pull off. This was due to me feeling as if I knew him from somewhere but I wasn’t able to pin down from where exactly for the life of me. This feeling was simply overwhelming.
When I was a young kid all ‘fandoms’ I was in had a certain feel to it. I can’t really describe those ‘feels’ but when I really got into something (for example during my Indiana Jones phase) all my experiences were tainted in the unique ‘feel’ this phase managed to give off.
This little figure made me feel one of those again which hit me like a train. I simply needed to know everything about this. How could I have ever forgotten everything about a childhood phase that had such strong feelings connotated to it?
My initial attempt at unraveling the story behind the toy was talking to my mother about it who didn’t have a clue either but used the opportunity of me calling her to complain about various things I won’t go into too much detail about. After making a post on reddit asking the community to identify the figure the next person I chose to contact and quite frankly interrogate about the situation was my elementary school friend Lukas. We hadn’t talked that much after we parted ways when going to high school, which was now 8 years ago but he didn’t seem to have changed that much. I mean sure I was talking to an adult man but he still was a friend. We had the usual chit chat about things going on in our life but the tone shifted when I told him about the figure. At first he laughed telling me that I once had a nightmare about something similar to that and cried in the classroom but when he heard the seriousness of my tone he grew concerned as well. I quickly inquired about him being able to recall any source material where the figure might be from or what my nightmare was about but didn’t get a conclusive answer due to him not being able to recall anything. Being a nice and compassionate dude Lukas offered to browse his old diaries for informations on the subject and urged me to do the same. Luckily our teacher in elementary school forced us to have diaries and now for the first time I was finally able to appreciate that.
Trying to relocate them failed due to me burning most of my school stuff after graduating (yeah I hated school) and in my desperate need for answers I decided to message the seller on willhaben about it.
For her I must have seemed like a crazy person or obsessed nerd and honestly at this point I wasn’t sure which one I was. To my surprise the effort of contacting the seller wasn’t fruitless. She said that the toys belonged to her younger brother who passed away at age ten in the year 2008. Only now, twelve years later, she found that box and decided to sell it due to her having no use for it and her having financial troubles. After me expressing my condolences the seller finally answered my question about the figure. She had no clue who it was but she remembered a character fitting the description appearing on a VHS cassette that her brother had. After 5 minutes of me begging and pleading her to find that cassette she finally gave in went on to look for it.
After a week she finally responded back to me and stated that she was able to find the cassette but wasn’t able to get it to play the movie. All she was able to get from it were those dark static-ly lines that you got from old DVDs and Cassettes where you are able to vaguely recognize outlines of scenes and characters and if you’re lucky you could get some distorted audio too. I was disappointed for sure but also excited over getting at least a bit of knowledge about this strange toy.
An impulse-buy of a VHS-Player later my bank account score dropped to an underwhelming 12€ but at least I was able to finally view what remained of the movie.
I spent a good ten minutes trying to get it to work and upon finally succeeding the image displayed was harrowing.
It wasn’t the guy I had the figure of but a person drawn in a similar art style so I knew that they had to be connected. The figure was short but really lanky and its appendage didn’t look proportional to its body. The simple sight of the badly distorted outlines of that character made me feel crushing weights pressing down on my chest squeezing out all air. My vision got blurry and one of the quickest decisions in my life was turning the tv off after all those effects started occurring.
I wanted to write it off to the uncanny valley of the character design or due to my brain being and at processing static images and hence going into anxiety mode but I had the unnerving feeling that there was a more sinister reason behind the panic attacked that i suffered at the hands of a broken vhs cassette.

The next day after that I met up with Lukas who was able to retrieve his old diaries from his childhood home. We browsed them together over a nice cup of coffee and bonded over all the fond memories we had of us playing as kids. This cheerful atmosphere was shattered when we finally found the page detailing the day when I had the nightmare. According to kid-Lukas’ poor handwriting I was shaking and crying in class. When asked what was wrong with me all I was able to utter was the single word “nightmare”. After being further inquired about the contents of that nightmare all kid-me was able to say were three words. “Laufwerk”, “Rohrbruch”, “Todesangst”.
The first word simply means ‘disk drive’ (which is odd because I didn’t know anything about computers back in elementary school), the second one refers to pipes breaking inside a wall causing liquid spillages and the last word, quite harrowingly is a compound word of “tod” and “angst” translating to “fear of death” or “fear for one’s own life”.
Us being tough manly men we decided to hide how freaked out we were and laughed it off.
The next week wasn’t really eventful. Keep in mind that I was in university at that time and my head was packed full with chemistry stuff that there simply wasn’t any space for being freaked out about vague childhood memories.
That’s what the weekend was for.

First thing I did on Saturday morning was trying to get the vhs to work. This time it managed to display something akin to movement. The outline of that figure on the screen now had two frames of animation. Idle-animation of it standing still and swaying with the wind. Looping over and over again. Trying to at least get the audio to work I connected my speakers and turned up the volume. No success.
Only Static. After trying different speakers, headphones, different ports and changing cables I turned down the treble all the way and maxed out the bass.
Through the static I was able to hear harrowing music that sounded like someone who doesn’t know what a piano is attempting to play a synthesizer. After about a minute the music stopped and I heard something that made my heart feel like as if it was trying to jump out of my chest. Frozen in place by fear with shivers creeping up my appendages I heard a low distorted voice uttering the three words “Laufwerk”, “Rohrbruch” and “Todesangst”. The latter was drawn out over several seconds.
That was it. That was the moment in which my fascination died. I didn’t want to know anything about this stupid figure anymore. Sure I was intrigued in the beginning but now I only was scared. Out of my mind.
My next action was ejecting the cassette followed by my discarding both the vhs and the figure in the trash bin.
I didn’t feel the need to rationalize what i just witnessed i just wanted to forget the whole thing.
It was over.
So I thought.
I had a huge test coming up so my next few weeks were spent studying and sometimes meeting up with Lukas. He was a fun guy and it turns out I missed talking to him a lot. I felt
close to him but neither one of us dared to mention the diaries again.
Right after the test I had coffee with him in the university cafeteria when my laptop we were browsing the Internet (and shamelessly freeloading the universities WiFi with) broke down. As detailed before I was a broke ass student at the time so my second most expensive possession (after my bass guitar back home) breaking down unnerved me a lot.
Lukas’ kind words assured me that it was only out of battery and I was able to not worry about it until I got home.
First thing after getting my shoes off was plugging in my laptop and waiting for it to recharge.
Apparently Lukas was right. The laptop seemed to boot up just fine much to my relieve. Yet I noticed a foul stench coming from the base of the laptop. Opening its disk drive revealed a pulsating mass of mold inside.
Not even a second later the laptop was shattered on the ground due to me dropping it with me next to it, crying.
I had Lukas take it to the repair shop for me. Despite my assumption that mold wouldn’t be covered by insurance I didn’t end up having to pay anything at all - maybe the shattered monitor was covered?

The month that my laptop spent in repair wasn’t eventful either. Nothing out of the ordinary happened other than me having trouble sleeping. Who wouldn’t after that happening. Too many questions kept me up - it was obvious to me that there was an unnerving connection between the nightmare the vhs and the laptop but I didn’t want to think about it. There was nothing I could do to learn more about this and the more I worried the harder it was for me to get some sleep.

Upon getting my laptop back the first thing I did was checking the disk drive. It was clean. The person working in the repair shop gave me a pep talk about keeping the laptop away from humid surfaces and spillages in order to prevent future mold problems and hence made me purchase a protective case which I paid for with money that Lukas was kind enough to lend me. I was so glad I took him to get the laptop back yet I felt a bit bad for lending money.

Me and Lukas went out for drinks more often after that and I’m not just talking about coffee. I’m talking shots, martinis and eventually romantic dinners. I daresay it actually got serious between us. You could argue that it was the horrific situation bringing us together but a far less dramatic explanation would be just us two getting along so well together. Long story short: Lukas eventually moved in with me. I actually had never had shared a flat with someone who wasn’t part of my family before and it was great due to being reminiscent of the sleepovers me and Lukas had back when we were in elementary.

Lukas’ question if I had ordered a box of crumpled newspaper was something that surprised me on a sunny April morning. Slightly unnerving notions of Lukas opening boxes addressed to me aside I was mostly confused due to me not having ordered anything at all. I had him toss the package to me and upon closer inspection I found, buried in crumpled newspaper, a plastic figurine. It stood roughly 2 inches tall and didn’t feature a paint job. Frankly it resembled the art style of the figure I had thrown in the trash weeks prior but didn’t depict the same character. Instead of the retro-futuristic space gun of its predecessor this little toy was unarmed yet its appendages were long, lanky and claw-like. Without a doubt it was the figure of the character I saw through the static on the VHS.
At that point I was only observing it. Involuntarily touching it and observing it from all angles as if I was trying to convince myself of its existence. To great success.
The realization, setting in mere seconds later, hit me like a train. My frightened brain still not being able to think clearly all I was able to hear were my loud, panicking breaths and the thumping of my heart. My legs felt glued to the floor, my fingers felt stuck to the toy and yet my mind soon started racing all over the place.
Lukas had left right after throwing the box so I was all by myself trying to deal with something I was not prepared for.
Five minutes of crying and rationalizing later I came to the conclusion that I must have accidentally ordered it when browsing the web for similar figures back when I was curious about the toys. Deep down I knew that this couldn’t have been the case due to me not being successful in my internet browsing.
Lukas would be gone for a week. He went to visit his family which had moved to Germany. Each day of his absence I received another figure.
The third one was the most peculiar.
It didn’t come with a box. The one following I didn’t even have to get into my flat. It just showed up there.
Of course I spent this week in a constant state of paranoia. Thoughts of somebody being out there to get me haunted me in my nightmares as well as my waking hours.
If only Lukas would’ve come home. I could’ve told him everything and he would have rationalized and explained everything. He would have protected me.
Yet, despite my messages, calls and desperate longing to see him again, I didn’t. Not ever again in my entire life.
I woke up to our entire chat history being deleted as well as his name being erased from the door bell sign. Calls to his home and cell phone proved to be futile. Those numbers didn’t exist.
I was terrified to have to deal with the haunting figures alone.
Turns out I didn’t.
Checking my reddit later revealed to me dozens of comments on my post which I made weeks prior asking the community to identify the figure and each of them having a conclusive answer to the toys origin. The comments traced back to the day in which I initially uploaded the post. I knew this couldn’t be possible.
Beneath all the fear, under all this confusion I was simply delighted to finally have figured out the secret.
In a last ditch attempt to tell Lukas about it I called his mother.
She picked up and after being questioned about her son she revealed something to me that still keeps me up at night.
Lukas Berger died at age ten in the year 2008.
I expressed my condolences unable to keep my tears to myself.
Apparently a pipe had broken in the wall next to his bed quickly filling the room, which was located in the cellar with water, drowning the boy. Now crying too, Lukas’ mother revealed to me that they first thought he died peacefully in his sleep, yet later discovered scratches on the door and ceiling which proved that the boy met his demise in a state of fear and terror.