Day 20: Hot Potato

She Just Wanted to Be Heard
Day 20: Hot Potato
Part of Story Arc 1: Counterclockwise
A "The Ring/Ringu" Fanfic
by Laurel (Sailorhathor)

Chapters: 20 of 100
Rating: Overall Rating Sup13+ (adult theme; some elements might be too intense or scary for those under 13; bad language)
Dates: Begun September 2006. Some material is based on previously written stories from 2003-2005. This chapter was written in September 2007.
Word Count: 3,983
Summary: Beckett performs a psychometric reading of Samara's videotape. The results are frightening.
Warning: Contains spoilers for the entire Ringu and The Ring series.
Fanfic Challenges: Fits [info]50_darkfics Prompt #20 Master and [info]Coclaim100 Prompt #20 Need.
Author's Notes: How this chapter fits the challenge prompts - Samara is the master of this situation, as you can see, and the need of several of these characters to escape her has become all they can think about.


        Pretend everything is normal. Pretend everything is normal.

        It had become Quinn's mantra over the course of the day. From practically sleepwalking through his classes to convincing his parents that there was nothing wrong when he picked up his dog, Quinn had perfected the act that everything was totally normal in his life right now. Mundane. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. His professors were used to seeing exhausted, overstudied students in class; nothing strange there. And Quinn had been able to convince his parents that the dark circles under his eyes came from writing a paper at the last minute. His mom had bought it immediately, but his dad had looked at him suspiciously before finally accepting the explanation. Not without a parting comment, though.

        "You look like you haven't slept in days," his father said.

        Quinn had just laughed. The fact that it was true was inconsequential.

        Pretend everything is normal.

        Quinn was trying, but as he approached the door of his apartment with Mukluk in tow, the feeling that he was being watched crept up his spine. Samara was standing behind him. He knew it. Following him. Stalking him.

        His hands shaking, Quinn fumbled out his keys. He wasn't sure why the little ghost girl scared him so bad... it was more what he felt the girl had the potential to do than what she had already done. Not that the intense nightmares hadn't been bad. And her creepy appearances. Then there was her habit of communicating by scratching on the wall and the furniture. A person would have to possess a pretty strong constitution not to be freaked out at this point.

        Quinn was nearly startled out of his skin when Mukluk suddenly began to growl. The dog was looking behind his master, right where he had imagined Samara was. Quinn fearfully scrunched up his shoulders, cowering from the idea of turning around and looking.

        "Uh, Quinn?"

        He wasn't sure whether he should climb the wall in surprise or sigh with relief at the sound of Beckett's voice. Quinn turned to see the teen and his girlfriend, Stacy, along with Stacy's sister Amy standing there. They had tentatively stopped in their tracks when Mukluk started to growl at them.

        The dog held a protective stance. Quinn looked at them and wondered what was setting Mukluk off. He was acting just like he had the other day, when Samara was lurking in the corner of Quinn's parents' house. What the dog found threatening about the three teenagers, he had no idea.

        "Hey Beckett, Stacy, Amy." Quinn tried to calm down so his voice would stop shaking.

        "Why is your dog growling at us?" Amy asked. She stayed a step behind her sister out of fear of the big dog.

        Stacy just watched Mukluk with wide eyes. He was glaring mostly at her.

        Quinn yanked on the Malamute's leash. "Mukkie, stop that. There's nothing wrong with them."

        Mukluk knew his business. He went on snarling.

        Pulling the leash again, Quinn said, "I'll put him in my room. I don't know what's wrong with him. Sorry about this." He opened the door and dragged Mukluk inside. "Make yourselves at home. Mukluk, quit it."

        The dog went with him reluctantly, still glaring at the youths as they entered the apartment.

        "Maybe he smells our cat," Amy suggested with a shrug.

        Quinn opened the door to his bedroom. He was surprised to find Svetlana sleeping in his bed. "Well, looks like my bed was just right, Mukkie. It's Goldilocks. Svet, wake up! What are you doing here?" Quinn dragged his distracted dog into the room.

        Waking up, Svetlana scrubbed at her eyes. "Jodie let me in. I wait for you." She yawned, and noticed Mukluk's behavior. "What's wrong with him?"

        "I don't know; something about our visitors is spooking him. Remember I asked Gunnar to get his brother over here to do a reading of Samara's tape? He's here. Beckett brought a couple friends along."

        Svetlana hopped down off the bed. "I want to see this."

        "Okay." Quinn grabbed the videotape off his desk. "I'll have to leave Mukkie in here since he can't behave."

        "You think maybe he spooked by psychics?" Svet asked, throwing out a theory. "Dogs know stuff."

        "Nah. He's met Beckett. And he never reacted like this before." Encouraging Svet to exit first, Quinn released Mukluk's leash and scurried out of the room, closing the door quickly behind him. Mukluk began to scratch at the bottom of the door and whimper.

        Quinn was already talking as they walked into the living room. "I'm sorry about that. Mukkie's shut up in my room, so he won't hurt anybody. Not that he would anyway. He's more bark than bite. I really don't know why he growled at you."

        With a shrug of his own, Beckett reiterated Amy's theory. "Amy and Stace have a cat. Maybe he smelled it?"

        Quinn shook his head. "Mukkie loves cats. His favorite playmates. Likes to sit on 'em." He shrugged too. "He probably just smelled something he doesn't like. It doesn't matter. So... Gunnar wanted us to wait for him to get here before we started. Is that okay?"

        "Sure."

        "Oh, uh... this is Svetlana, my girlfriend," Quinn said, placing his hand on Svet's arm.

        Svetlana put on a little smile for their benefit. "Hi."

        "Svet, this is Gunnar's brother Beckett, and his girlfriend, Stacy, and her sister, Amy."

        The three teens waved and said hello.

        "Stacy and Amy are also Jodie's cousins."

        "Oh, that must have something to do with how you meet," Svetlana guessed.

        Beckett nodded. "Yeah, we met at a party Quinn threw last year. Quinn invited Gunnar, Gunnar brought me, Jodie invited Stacy... and, well..."

        "Hmm," Svet replied. "I was probably at party too. I think I see you all there."

        "I wasn't invited," Amy added, almost mumbling.

        Everyone fell quiet for a few seconds. Leaning over to Beckett, Stacy commented on the fact that they had walked up just as Quinn had arrived home. "And you thought we were going to be late."

        He shrugged, not speaking.

        Awkward silence again. They were running out of small talk.

        "Do you guys want something to drink?"

        The girls took a seat on the couch. "Sure, that'd be nice."

        While Quinn stepped into the kitchen to get them some soda pop, Stacy started asking questions, fidgeting noticeably. "What's this tape all about? The one you want Beckett to read."

        "Oh, geez... where to start..." They could hear Quinn dropping ice into glasses as he spoke to them from the kitchen. "Someone stuck it in my mailbox. We watched it and started having all these nightmares after - "

        "Don't tell me anymore," Beckett said suddenly. "Tell us about it after the reading, okay? I don't want the things you say to influence me. It's better if I read cold."

        "Oh, right," Quinn called back.

        Stacy flinched, and looked at Svetlana. "You watched the tape too?" she asked, assuming "we" meant Quinn and Svetlana.

        "Yeah."

        Biting her lower lip, Stacy finally uttered, "Oh."

        Svet opened her mouth to expound on the list of people who had seen this videotape, but Gunnar arrived at that moment, knocking loudly on the door. Instead of finishing the story, Svetlana let him in. Quinn came back into the living room with the glasses, handed them to the teens, and slapped hands with Gunnar. "Hey buddy."

        "Greetings, Q-man. I see the spawn have arrived." Gunnar reached over and smacked his little brother's head.

        Annoyed, Beckett smoothed down the part of his hair that Gunnar had upset. His hair had a habit of sticking up. "You really don't have to be here, you know."

        Gunnar grinned mischievously. "Quinn and Jodie are trying to play one of their horror jokes on me with this stupid cursed videotape thing. I want to be here when you get absolutely nothing off that tape so I can laugh in their faces."

        Quinn mocked his chuckles by imitating them in a dumber-sounding tone. "Laugh it up, Gunny Sack. I can't wait to see the look on your face when Beckett says the tape is real."

        "Yeah, whatever. Hi Stace." Gunnar smiled big for Stacy's sister, whom he knew had a big crush on him. It was so cute, he couldn't resist fueling it, although he'd never return her feelings since she was so much younger than him. "Hiiii Amyyyyy," he sing-songed.

        She giggled behind her hand. "Hi Gunny Sack."

        Beckett put his drink down on the coffee table and stood up. "We kinda have some stuff to do, so let's get this show on the road, okay? Where's the tape?"

        Quinn picked it up from where he'd laid it down. "How does this work?"

        "Just give me the tape. I'll tell you what I get off of it." He held out his hand.

        Stacy tensed up considerably.

        For a second, Quinn hesitated, holding the tape out. He was worried reading the videotape might hurt Beckett somehow. Was it fair to give it to him, not knowing exactly how this power of Beckett's worked? Would reading the tape curse him to a week of nightmares and ghostly visitations? Quinn finally pushed it all out of his mind and placed the videotape in Beckett's hand with a sigh. They had to know.

        Since his abilities began, Beckett had been hearing a voice in his head that another psychic, a witch at a magick store who had done a tarot reading for him, had called his spirit guide. The voice spoke up when the pictures that ran through his head needed clarification.

        It also spoke up to warn him. Hot potato.

        The voice, called Faulken, had codes. Beckett had learned from experience that Hot potato meant an object had a bad history associated with it. Sometimes so bad that just touching it could be a very negative experience for him. Beckett had seen some pretty nasty mental images by holding onto things that Faulken had used this code for in the past. The guide's basic advice was to treat the videotape like one would treat a hot potato - just drop it.

        Beckett made a face of discomfort. The others watched him expectantly. The vibes coming off the tape began to seep from the cracks in the side and from under the top flap that protected the actual film, surrounding Beckett's hand and filling the space between his fingers. He'd never felt vibes this thick; they were almost tangible. Soupy.

        Evil.

        Faulken again. The images on the tape, they are evil?

        What the images do is evil.

        The vibes had become so thick around Beckett's hand that he wasn't even sure that he could drop the tape now even if he'd wanted to. What do the images do?

        Curse.

        Wow. The curse is real? The tape really does something?

        Hot potato.

        The guide's tone had become much more urgent. Faulken...

        Beckett felt something that was like tiny creatures slithering along the webs of skin between his fingers. An entirely new voice entered his head. The voice of a little girl.

        "I can become people like you."

        And then, Beckett was not alone inside his body.

        "Charlotte calls it possession."

        Beckett was no longer himself.

        "I have to show you something."

        The others were not aware of what was happening to Beckett. All they saw after he took the tape was him closing his eyes and concentrating, holding it lightly with one hand. Beckett slowly moved his fingers over the videotape while the others watched. He winced slightly, his expression troubled, and then opened his eyes.

        "Beckett?" Gunnar said. Something in his brother's eyes bothered him.

        Over the next few seconds, Beckett's face grew more and more alarmed. He looked around with an expression of confusion and childlike fear. Clutching the tape tightly to his chest, he turned to the wall and began clawing at it. "Mommy?" Beckett said, his voice small, like a child. "Mommy, why did you throw me down here? Mommy! Don't leave me here!"

        Everyone looked at each other, confused as well. The more Beckett said and did, the more concerned they became.

        "Mommy!" he screamed. Beckett tried to climb the wall. "It's dark down here! Why did you throw me in the well?! My head hurts, Mommy! You hurt me!" He started to cry hysterically with loud, childlike sobs. "Why did you hit me, Mommy? No! Don't leave! Don't leave me down here! Get me out! Mommy! Mommy!" Beckett frantically threw himself against the wall and continued to try to climb it, scratching and clawing desperately.

        Stacy, who jumped up from the couch and rushed to Beckett's aid, beat Gunnar to the punch. She grabbed Beckett and tried to take the tape from him. "Hold him, Gunnar!"

        Quinn watched helplessly, feeling responsible for what was happening. There wasn't much Amy felt she could do either.

        "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" Beckett screamed. He didn't see Gunnar or Stacy and certainly couldn't feel them wrestling with him - he was Samara. Beckett still had the videotape clutched against him; Gunnar tried to get a hold of his one flailing arm while Stacy attempted to pry the tape out of his other hand. "Please, Mommy, don't leave me down here! I love you! Don't you love me? I'm cold! It's dark! Ahhh, bugs! Bugs! They're in my hair!" cried Beckett.

        Svetlana, beginning to cry too, put her hands over her ears. "He's Samara," she sobbed. "He's Samara in the well."

        Quinn instantly put his arms around her. She was right; Beckett was acting out Samara trapped down in the well.

        "Goddamn it, give me that tape!" Stacy yelled in frustration. She had a hold of it, but couldn't get Beckett to let go.

        Determined to release his brother from the psychic reading gone wrong, Gunnar wrapped his arms around Beckett's chest, pinning his arms to his sides. "Get the friggin' thing!"

        Beckett screamed and carried on like a child having a tantrum, thrashing in his brother's arms.

        With her boyfriend partially immobilized, Stacy was able to get a better hold on the videotape and finally yanked it out of his grasp. She raised it over her head like she was going to throw it to the ground and smash it, but stopped herself at the last second. Instead, with a contemptuous look, Stacy tossed the videotape to Svetlana, who instinctively caught it, but then let out a whimper and chucked it to Quinn. He was barely able to catch it in one hand. Afterward, Quinn briefly wondered why they were being so protective of it.

        Once the tape was out of his hand, Beckett collapsed into his older brother's hold. Gunnar lowered him to the floor and started tapping on his cheeks with the pads of his fingers. "Beckett? Becks? Come on now, talk to me..."

        Stacy got down on her knees next to him. "Wake up, baby." She frantically shook her boyfriend.

        "Is he okay?!" asked Amy.

        Although the situation was still chaotic, Beckett was no longer screaming - Quinn could now hear his dog howling from the bedroom. He figured Mukluk reacted that way because he could sense Samara's presence. God knows Quinn could feel it.

        With a gasp, Beckett regained consciousness and flailed his arms wildly. His eyes were like a terrified animal. "God! No, no, what?! Help me!"

        Gunnar and Stacy both grabbed at him, trying to keep him from hurting them or himself, and worked to calm him down. "Beckett, it's okay! You're safe! The reading's over."

        His eyes darting around, Beckett took in his surroundings, obviously disoriented. He touched one of his eyes and looked at his wet fingers. "I've been crying."

        "Yeah. The reading went bad," Gunnar explained. "But you're okay now."

        "Does that happen a lot?" Quinn questioned. His tone was sheepish; he felt guilty. "Readings going bad?"

        "No. It's rare," Gunnar answered with a shake of his head.

        Quinn cringed. "I'm sorry."

        Shaking his head again, Gunnar said, "Don't feel bad. It just goes that way sometimes."

        "What do you remember, Beckett?" asked Stacy.

        He sat up. His hands were still shaking a little. "I was Samara Morgan."

        Svetlana burst into fresh, heavy tears. Quinn held her again, patting her back.

        "Is she alright?" Beckett asked.

        "Not really," Quinn replied, and shrugged. "But go on."

        "When I held the tape, I became the girl who made it. Samara Morgan. Her mother threw her into a well and put this cement cap on it. She left her there to die. The kid was so terrified down there... I could feel her fear." Swallowing hard, Beckett finished, "And betrayal."

        Quinn looked at Gunnar, folding his arms. "Did you tell him anything?"

        Gunnar shook his head. "Nothing. He got it all off the tape." Looking at his brother, he let out a shaky breath and exclaimed, "Holy shit. There really is something to this."

        "She want us to know how she suffer," sobbed Svetlana with a loud sniffle. "That's why she make Beckett act out what happen in the well. Samara wants us to suffer like she suffered, so the world understand how much she hurt." She began to sob harder, inconsolable. "She going to drag us down there with her."

        Quinn pulled her into him and put her head on his chest. She just cried. "Samara's not going to take you anywhere. I won't let her."

        "How you keep it from happening?!" Svetlana suddenly yelled, snapping at him. "She got you just as messed up as me! What can you do to protect us?!" Before Quinn could even attempt to answer, Svetlana stormed off down the hall to his bedroom. She went in and slammed the door behind her.

        Quinn had not felt this helpless and inadequate in a long time.

        Beckett, shifting his eyes from the hallway to Quinn, commented, "That was harsh."

        Brooding silently for a short time, Quinn finally turned from the empty hallway and sighed. "Ever since we watched that videotape, our lives have been seriously disrupted. We've been having nightmares so bad that neither of us can sleep. Svetlana's roommate wants to take her to a church and practically have her exorcized. It's all because of this little girl named Samara Morgan. She's real, Beckett."

        "I know," he replied simply.

        "Of course you know. You're the psychic," Quinn said, rolling his eyes again at the fact that he hadn't picked up on that.

        Beckett couldn't help but smile.

        "Anyway, you said that Samara made the tape. We're not talking about her breaking out the camera crew, are we? She's got some kind of power to make it happen."

        "Yeah," Beckett nodded. "How do you think she sends you the dreams?"

        Quinn remembered the blond guy with the shotgun saying that, that Samara was "sending" the dreams to them. "Putting the dreams into our heads... so she can project stuff from her mind onto videotape too?"

        "I don't know what you'd call the kid's ability, but she can project whatever she can come up with onto any kind of recording media. My guide just told me that," explained Beckett. He pointed to his head.

        Quinn had been told about Beckett's spirit guide in the past. He'd never really thought about the things Gunnar had told him about his little brother's psychometry, at least not in practical use, until now. "I can't believe we're talking about this. Little girls who can imagine shit onto videotapes? Is this really happening?" If he hadn't liked Beckett, Quinn would have added how much it freaked him out that a regular teenage boy could have a spirit guide, one that fed him information from who knew where.

        "It's happening, Quinn. It's crazy, but it's all real. In fact, Faulken says that the curse on the tape is real, too. You guys are under its spell right now."

        Glad that Svetlana hadn't been there to hear that, Quinn nervously asked, "What does the curse do?"

        Beckett listened to something the rest of them couldn't hear. "Puts you at Samara's mercy," he replied.

        Quinn, sighing again, said, "Great." He looked at the videotape, still in his hands. For a moment, he wanted to smash the thing for causing him so much trouble, but he didn't - Quinn didn't know who had given him the tape yet. Maybe he'd need it to figure that out. "Beckett..." He looked up. "Did you find out who sent me the tape?"

        "No. No, I'm sorry, there was nothing in there about that."

        Stacy quickly cut in. "Did you see any cursed images?"

        Beckett answered, "No," again, shaking his head.

        "Good." She seemed relieved as she gave him a small kiss.

        Standing up, Gunnar ran his hands through his hair. "You're telling me there really is a curse on that thing? That's even possible?"

        "That's what Faulken says," replied Beckett.

        "But... a curse? On a videotape? A curse?"

        "Yes," Beckett replied with irritation.

        With a wide-eyed look of disbelief, Gunnar admitted, "I guess I was wrong." A second later, he added, "Curses are real?!"

        This time, both Beckett and Stacy barked, "Yes!"

        "Well..." Gunnar turned to his best friend. "I guess I owe you an apology, buddy."

        Quinn, however, was not satisfied; he still had his mind on figuring out who had given him the tape. "If you did another reading, do you think you could see who - "

        "Are you nuts?" Stacy snapped. "You saw what happened. He's not doing another reading, no way."

        Chewing on a fingernail, he almost pursued it further. "But... I gotta know who did this to me. Why did they want to hurt me like this? I - " Quinn stammered over what he wanted to say and finally gave up, waving it all off dismissively. "Forget it."

        Beckett got to his feet. "I'm sorry it didn't work out, Quinn. You deserve to know who did this to you."

        Waving him off again, he said, "Don't worry about it. You did your best." Quinn tried to smile. "Any idea what Svet and I are supposed to do for the rest of our week?"

        Beckett shrugged. "Wait it out."

*****

        After Gunnar and the others had left, Quinn went into his bedroom to check on Svetlana. She had fallen asleep on his bed. Mukluk had climbed up onto the bed and lay down next to her, but he stayed wary, lifting his head and laying back his ears when Quinn entered. Quinn came over and patted the dog's head.

        "Protecting your mistress, huh? Good dog. Good doggie. You okay?" Quinn quietly sat on the edge of the bed. He watched Svetlana sleep for several moments. "Sorry, baby. I'm stumbling around in the dark here. I wish I knew what to do." Softly stroking her hair, Quinn whispered, "I'd make it all stop if I knew how."


it won't stop

The Ringu series is (c) 1998 The Ring/The Spiral Production Group. It is based on the novels by Koji Suzuki.
The motion picture The Ring is (c) 2002 DreamWorks Pictures. The title "She Just Wanted to Be Heard" comes from a line of dialogue spoken by Rachel Keller in this movie. The motion picture The Ring Two is (c) 2005 DreamWorks Pictures.
I do not know if the prequel, The Ring 3, will have any bearing on this story or not until I see it.
Everything else is (c) Demented Stuff.


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there really is a tape