A young man stands in front of a camera's view. Behind him is the empty corridor, clearly designed for numerous people at once. Thanks to the night vision filter, everything is dark green. Dressed in a simple T-Shirt and Jeans, he holds another camera in his hands, focusing on adjusting the settings before finally looking up.
'Okay, ready?' he asks
'All set,' comes a girl's voice from behind the view. There is a moment of silence between them while the young man focuses, until it is finally broken by his intro.
'Hello everybody, and welcome back to Urbex with Josh and Zoe! I'm Josh, and this right here behind the camera is the wonderful Zoe!' From behind the camera an arm appears and waves to the audience. 'As you know, we have been exploring the Aresdale Hill Centre in the north of Scotland. Now, we've gone all the way through the building and there's only one shop left remaining. Reason for that is that this particular place is a bit of a mystery; it was shut down and abandoned back in the early 2000's – at least a decade before the rest of the centre, and no body knows why! So we're going in to see if we can find anything. And you guys are coming with us!' the last part is said in a well rehersed voice like a catchphrase.
There is another moment's silence and the young man called Josh relaxes by a signal from Zoe. 'How was that?' he asks
'Great, that was perfect,' The scene goes slightly lazy, while she holds the camera and it can still see the bottom of Josh's face. He is smiling.
'Okay lets go.'
The camera is now on the floor having been sent through first, and off to the side is the sight of two figures slipping under the shutters. One is clearly Josh. The other is a young woman with short dark hair dressed in a top and jacket. This it seems is Zoe.
There are ruffling noises as they both pick up their cameras. The view moves so centre on Zoe as Josh holds it in his hands, then moves it in a slow sweep over the area. The place is far grimier than the other shops. Everything is covered in black dust.
'Guess we're lucky,' says Zoe, stepping forward, and then looking back at Josh. 'No security here.'
'Yeah,' comes Josh's voice 'Most of the other shops have guards on shifts or CCTV still going, but here...not even a monthly check up. If they wanted to keep hold of an investment, even after all this time, you'd think they'd want to keep something to stop people getting in.' The irony, it seems, is lost on Josh.
'It's like they just grabbed everything and left.'
'Or were taken,'
Both of them are heard to chuckle. It's meant to be a joke – both of them are horror film fans. But its clear there's a sliver of fear in Zoe's eyes.
They both move closer to the aisles. Here the dust lays, the fact that that it has been undisturbed for 10 years is one of the reasons they both do this, with its faded metal displays and outdated logos. It's a look back into history for them.
An audible crunch makes them halt and the camera jerks downwards so only Josh and Zoe's feet can be seen.
'What the hell is that stuff?' asks Josh. He zooms in on a row of black reeds that run across the floor from shelf to shelf under the stands.
Zoe kneels down and holds them like a scientist examining a new strain of life.
'Plants,' she says 'Some kind of weed, I guess. They must have spent ages growing in here from outside,'
'What made them go all black like that?' The reeds are dark and look dry. They're brittle too, as Zoe demonstrates – it's easy for her to grab a couple and snap them away. But it's clear, they are not yet dead.
Josh's head snaps upwards. Through habit, so does the camera. He's heard something. Like static. And he could swear it said his name.
'What is it?' asks Zoe. She's looking up at him, and he pauses, figuring out whether he should tell her or not.
'Not sure. I think the Camera glitched or something, that's all.'
They are now further into the shop. The Camera is travelling across the set up of old freezers. The black roots have managed to get into these too, and now line the metal walls, growing up and out to cross the ceiling.
'Must have gotten in through the cracks in the doors or something,' muses Zoe 'Either that or this is one seriously overgrown houseplant.' The view stops to the sound of the silence. A quip like that would have earned a titter at least. Suddenly she feels very alone. 'Josh?'
No answer. A couple of aisles slide by before she finds him again. He's fallen behind and is standing in the middle of what would have been the stationery section, again looking upwards with his hand holding the camera slowly falling to his side.
'Josh?' she asks again. At first he doesn't answer. His eyes are fixed on something behind the wall which once showed an idyllic picture of a family. She calls his name again and her arm comes from behind the camera as she flicks his arm. He jumps as if he's been caught.
'What?' he asks, looking from both camera to friend.
'Are you alright? You were just sort of...staring.'
'Sorry, yeah. Just thinking.' He tries to smile, but there is something about his eyes that doesn't quite match with the rest of him. 'I think we should go take a look upstairs now.'
'I just wanna get a few more shots of these plants,'
'Okay, well, I'll meet you up there then,'
Zoe seems to agree with him. She keeps her camera on him and, in usual habit for when they split up, he waits until he is at the end of the aisle to turn around. The night vision makes his eyes look hauntingly white.
'Stay safe,' he calls back.
'You stay safe!' she replies. With that, he grins and goes on his way. He hasn't heard the unease in Zoe's voice.
And neither of them have seen the shadows watching them from all around.
A close up view of the blackened roots. The camera follows them over the shelves, and across the floor until they splay out to reach into the freezers at the back.
'Actually kinda beautiful, aren't you?' Zoe is clearly fascinated by the dark reeds. She pauses. And listens. 'What the hell was...?' she moves the camera, making a sweep of the floor. There is nothing at first.
Another, more audible noise and the camera zips towards one of the walls next to the escalator. Just in time to see a mopp clatter on the ground. Zoe's breathing turns ragged.
'J-Josh is that you?' the view is fixed when the second mop falls. 'You better not be messing around!' The camera flies around once more to another aisle. Here, a shape ducks out of sight, knocking over an abandoned wet floor sign.
Zoe begins to move, slowly towards the stairs. Suddenly the alone feeling is gone. And the surrounded feeling is even worse. More things start to move. Buckets flip as if they've been kicked, signs and equipment clatter on the ground. Even the shelves skid on their own out of their housings.
Zoe breaks into a run and makes for the stairs
The shadows stare on.
The view shows the sight from the top of the escalator. It stays completely still as a figure runs into view. She looks behind her to check there is no one following, and begins to climb the metal steps. The camera slips into the dark when she looks up at it.
'No moving things up here,' says Zoe. She is half remembering that they're supposed to be presenting the video, and half saying it for her own sanity. The shelves have been left totally alone up here. The clothes, the games, the DVDs, the bed linen – it's all still here. 'It's worse on this level. Guess this is where the plant came in...' the black dust is thicker here like pollen on grass. And the vines are larger and more concentrated, lying layer on layer. Some of the growths have even managed to bend the shelves they are lying on.
'Josh?' she calls out 'You up here?' the silence is oppressive. Nothing moves but it feels like there's something there, in the darkness beyond the camera's range.
The view turns up to see Zoe's face as she looks over the device. The static voice came from the camera itself.
Her face slips backwards as she drops the camera and lands on its side. It films a shadow hiding at the end of the nearest aisle. The view moves as Zoe picks it back up and looks over it again. It manages to catch another view of the same aisle. The shadow is gone.
This time the voice comes from a ways off.
'Come over here. Come and see.'
She's cautious and keeps looking behind her in case she catches something...or someone.
The camera has been left recording on the shelf in an aisle leading to the changing rooms. Zoe comes into view, holding her own camera in front of her to see through the dark. She stops at the sight of the camera, then bends down to grab something on the shelf below. An old news paper. She reads aloud, as if reciting to it.
'Still no clues as changing room mystery deepens. Local girl identified as victim.'
She looks up, then drops the paper, gasping. Then she sighs.
'Very funny,' she says 'Okay you got me, now knock it off, Josh!'
Another figure stands in front of the changing rooms. It's wearing the same boots and jeans that Josh does, but he is also wearing a light coloured, oversized hoodie. The shoulder is ripped and spattered with dark, dried blood.
The figure does not answer. Its head is lopsided and covered with a large hood.
'I said stop it!' her voice rings through the empty building. Then fades to silence.
The figure finally moves. It takes a heavy step forward, it's posture sagging. Zoie steps back.
'Josh?' there is fear in her voice now.
It takes another step and noise seeps out of its mouth. A low, sighing groan that sounds like the wind.
One more step.
She doesn't see it coming. The figure lunges at her, like an animal, its arms flailing in a lazy attempt to grab hold of her. Definitely not Josh.
Zoe yelps and takes the chance to turn and run. The view is blurred with movement as she makes right down the centre aisle. She swears and lifts the camera. It's lurching towards her from the other side, blocking the way to the stairs.
'How did you...?' the question is disregarded as she slips into one of the side aisles, and around.
The creature is waiting for her again. She has no choice but to double back, across one aisle and on to another. Here, she slows and ducks down, trying to hide her heathy breaths – whether out of fear or out of breath, she cannot tell. Her head switches to gamer-mode and she hopes that the creature is following the noises she's making.
It seems to work, as she manages to make it one aisle over from the stairs. The camera freezes. Both it and Zoe can hear it. Behind them. A long, low sighing groan.
She doesn't even look back. She just get up from her haunches and runs.
The view switches to a close up of Zoe's face. She's trying to be brave. The perspective changes when she lifts up the camera and point's it over her shoulder. A way of looking forward and back at once. There is nothing there.
'Gotta get out of here.' She breathes. She doesn't know what she'll do once out, but at this moment, just getting there is the challenge.
She snaps the camera back and tries to keep it level as she makes for the exit. She hasn't seen but there are flecks of static in the recording now.
The shadows have gone. And Zoe is beginning to feel like she's playing a game of Cat and Mouse.
She manages to slip quietly past the tills, but breaks into a run when she sees the shutters. They're fully closed now. And locked down. They don't even rattle when she tries to pull at them.
Slowly she straightens up and points a camera at an open office door. She can see the CCTV set up from here, and one of them has been turned on. It shows the view from the tills to the doors. She's there too, kneeling on the floor and pointing a camera off to the side. She's terrified. Because of another figure. It stands just on the edge of the screen's sight. Wearing a light coloured hoodie with the shoulder spattered with blood.
Zoe turns back to the tills. The thing stands there, it's head lopsided and waiting. Like a hunter. Behind it, shapes are moving. Shadows writhing like hounds ready to be set loose. It reaches out. She calls out in pain and the camera drops to the floor. Now all that can be seen are Zoe's trainers. She screams and shrieks to be let go as again and again she is pulled by something unseen. Each time she manages to break free, she scrambles for the shutter in hopes that she can find a way to open it.
And suddenly the black roots cover her feet. Like bony, old fingers.
The static clears. Something lies in a heap, surrounded by roots. It does not move.
The camera is lifted off the groun and there is a build up of static from the moment it's touched. When it clears, it shows a close up of the figure. And has a clear view under the blood soaked hood.
His skin is pale and dry, aged like an old leaf. His mouth hangs open to an abyss behind his teeth. And his eyes are blank and dark. And, like his head, lolled over to one side. The shine of life has long since faded.
And static ends the video.