I’ve started and deleted this email five times so far. I’m aiming for a record. I want to swallow as many words as possible. I’ll stamp them all down until they’re thick enough for me to cut them out and post them to you.

I’m not sending you another email asking you to reconsider. You don’t reply to those and I suppose you’re not going to reply to this either. But I didn’t stop loving you just because you stopped loving me. All it means is that my love doesn’t have a place to go, it hangs around in me like these unsaid words.

It’s so alien living in a flat without you. I feel like I’m in someone else’s life. I keep thinking: I shouldn’t be here, I’m intruding.

My new flatmate John is a nice enough guy –thirty-something and permanently yearning for his Cambridge days. He’s subletting very cheaply, as he’s ‘turning over a new leaf’, to quote him, so I have plenty of money that I don’t spend because I pass my days sitting in front of a computer, deleting emails to you. My room’s smaller than ours but it feels enormous. Your absence is everywhere. It’s like a vacuum. It warps the walls.

I keep straining my ears, expecting to hear you moving in the kitchen while I’m in bedroom, shifting on the bed when I’m in the kitchen. There’s nothing but your absence.

Write back.




grep grep: y’alright

Nathan: Mitch, what is ‘grep’.

Nathan: Why is your name grep grep?

grep: didnt want to be easily searchable

grep: didnt want Zuckerberg stealing my nudes off messenger

Nathan: No one wants your nudes, Mitch

grep: OK 1 facebook is notorious for selling your data to ad agencies or the government and other such wicked nefarious 2 theres nudes in this baby that would melt the conogolese minerals right out of ur phone

grep: anyway, I said

grep: y’alright

Nathan: I’m fine

grep: you dont have to be fine. you can be not fine for as long as you need to be. im always here if you need to talk or u wanna hang

grep: no homo

Nathan: You’re a dick

Nathan: but I love you anyway

grep: what part of no homo do you not understand.

Nathan: ha

Nathan: What if the only thing that would get me out of these doldrums is a blowjob?

grep: ok yeah id do it but in like a not-gay way

grep: anyway motherfucker for the third time: y’alright

grep: is like you blind

Nathan: I’M FINE.

grep: somehow I feel like your lying

grep: call it intuition

grep: your typing for a long time and it’s kind of ominous

Nathan: I’ve just been dumped. I had to move flat. I live with a man who can’t stop himself apologising for pouring muesli too loudly or having to step round me to get to a cupboard. My downstairs neighbour’s a cunt. I sleep like shit. I have bad dreams. I’m still so in love with Jules it’s like love is a virus that you have to spread or else it festers inside you and right now all my fucking nerves are tingling with the pain of having that love in me. I’m fine. Just fine.

Nathan: I’ve got a date this eve.

grep: this is a confusing way to deliver that news because youve just been listing your ailment and various so now the date feels like an ailment?

grep: im truly sorry you feel and sleep and are like shit

grep: at least youre handsome

Nathan: no that’s not an ailment, sorry, it’s a good thing, I suppose

Nathan: I asked Lisa out, think I might have told you about her. Research assistant in my building (NOT my department)

grep: who is it

grep: oh right

grep: shes hot, iirc. bit weird but hot

Nathan: I guess

grep: yeah think you might of told me

grep: small town devon or similar, hit the big city, chrysalissed then blew up

Nathan: yeah she was at UCL

grep: into the beautiful partygirl neuropyhicscists butterfly you see before u today

grep: cant spell that word fyi

Nathan: I’m just not really thinking about it

grep: that is so weird to me because you love overthinking shit. sometimes I wanna come to you with a random piece of concrete

grep: & just be like ‘grandpa tell me a story’ and watch you split the notion of a brick or whatever into its idea atoms

grep: lol I love to make no sense

Nathan: haha

grep: can we go back to your neighbour being a cunt

Nathan: you’d be amazed at what kind of stories I can get out of a brick.

Nathan: I bumped into him when I was collecting my post. He’s sweaty middle-aged UKIP-voter type

grep: make that brick sing

Nathan: and he made a point of telling me that he’d seen ‘men like me’ before

Nathan: and that he hoped I wouldn’t be having ‘loud parties’ with ‘my sort’ in the building because he lived directly below me.

grep: oh cool what a sound guy

grep: cant wait to meet him

grep: wear a hoodie round the building, he’ll love that

Nathan: I think the locked rooms in the basement are his, for storing his Oswald Mosley memorabilia or whatever

grep: what fkin locked rooms dude

Nathan: there are, for real, a bunch of locked rooms in the dank-ass spider-den murder basement

grep: oh shit first you get dumped now you live in american horror story: hotel?


Nathan: Speaking of which, I need to get ready for my date

grep: ok man.

Nathan: Catch you soon.

grep: yeah cool good luck




Nathan J @ndjohnson


4.07AM 20 Oct 2015


Katherine Cruz @catscruz

@ndjohnson I don’t know, Nathan, when?!?!


dotto kiddo @anjalimehru

@kittycruz @ndjohnson he hasn’t tweeted since 2012 & now he’s asking for our time, huh


Katherine Cruz @kittycruz

@anjalimehru @ndjohnson too little too late! lol!


grep @problemhouser

@ndjohnson ass tweet




Lisa Colebrooke

last seen today at 17.07


Hey Lisa. Thanks for last night, I had a lot of fun. Hope the Iceland conference goes well. Just remember: do not under any circumstances imagine any of the audience naked. X

12.13 ✓✓


Hi Nate! Thank you too, I had a great time 😉

12.37 ✓✓


On balance I’ve decided that winky face was much creepier than it should have been.

12.37pm ✓✓


Still, I could have said, “I’ve been imagining YOU naked . . . and skinning you.”

12.37pm ✓✓


I’m so happy you didn’t say that

12.50pm ✓✓


Oh good, my first date behaviour is improving. First I managed to stop skinning men, then I managed to stop talking about it.

12.52pm ✓✓


By the way. I left my satchel at yours.

12.52pm ✓✓


This is not my way of getting back into your bedroom to skin you.

12.53pm ✓✓


I bet you say that to all the boys. I should be back at around 5 today, so swing by if you want to pick it up. Otherwise I can just bring it in tomorrow and leave it with you/one of your office mates?

1.32pm ✓✓


Thanks! If you don’t mind, I’ll come and pick it up? It’s got a bunch of important paperwork, you know the drill.

1.32pm ✓✓


Sure, no worries

2.01pm ✓✓


Cool. Let me know if you want to just hang out tonight too, btw. I don’t have any plans.

2.01pm. ✓✓




grep: did u get your end away my boy

grep: Nate I can see youre online, satisfy my curiosity and be the man who stops me playing Overwatch for the next 2 hours

Nathan: Hey dude, sorry

Nathan: Was just in the kitchen trying to sort out knives

Nathan: Yes we had sex, in answer to your question

grep: feel ok?

grep: emotionally, not dickly

Nathan: It was fine. It was sex. It was not with Jules.

Nathan: I’d rather not talk about this.

grep: uh well what do u mean, you were sorting out knives?

grep: please do not kill your dates, thats not sexy

Nathan: My flatmate has this wildly expensive set of Japanese kitchen knives that live on this magnetic block in the kitchen

Nathan: like, they all stick to a magnetic block

Nathan: and they all fell off at the same time

grep: wow weird

grep: did you accidentally switch off the electricity that is powering the magnet?

Nathan: That’s not how magnets work

grep: they stuck back on?

Nathan: Yeah, I stuck them back and there was no problem. I was just a bit spooked by the sound of a bunch of very sharp knives simultaneously crashing to the floor.

grep: dont blame you

Nathan: I’m just a bit spooked at the moment to be honest.

grep: how come?

Nathan: My flatmate’s fucked off to Berlin for some business trip or other for a week, whatever hotshot lawyers do, so I’ve got the place to myself

Nathan: I think we have a leaky pipe in the floor above us or something, because the lights keep flickering in a line

grep: in a line?

Nathan: yeah, like, from the back of the flat to the front door and then down the stairs

Nathan: They’re doing it now

Nathan: It’s weird

Nathan: If I sort of squint, it looks like a shadow walking along the ceiling, out the door and down the stairs

Nathan: hang on

grep: u know what matey, I might just call you. I wanna see your beautiful post-coital face & also you should talk to me because Im your best friend, self-declared, and u don’t seem ok

Nathan: hey dude, sorry

grep: knife trouble?

Nathan: Heard a scraping noise, like something being dragged along the floor. Checked in the kitchen and obviously there’s no one there, but I’d left a chair in the middle of the room like a fool.

grep: cool. im gonna call ok? post-coital face etc

Nathan: cool

Nathan: oh shit, I forgot, Lisa was supposed to pick up her satchel and I wasn’t in.

grep: can u give it to her tomorrow

grep: ‘give it to her’ lol

grep: Im so ready for death

grep: Nate?

Nathan: Well, I just checked and it’s not in my room anymore. My flatmate must have let her in and given it to her before he headed off.

grep: mystery solved.


Call from grep grep

21 Sep at 12:47am

Duration: 23 sec


Nathan: Dude, what are you talking about? There’s nothing behind me?

grep: no it was just my screen. weird shadow by the wall/curtain made it look like there was someone standing behind you/moving towards you

Nathan: Seriously?!

grep: just my screen playing up dude. you looked like some ugly bunch of pixels too

Nathan: Was it my downstairs neighbour with a lynching rope in his hands?

grep: hah. no.

grep: tbh looked more like that woman in a white nighty thingie with her hair over her face

Nathan: Classic stuff

grep: ikr why does everyone get haunt by a light-skinned chick with dark hair and dirty lingerie

grep: ok am gonna call again




Nathan J @ndjohnson


3.04AM 24 Oct 2015


Katherine Cruz @catscruz

@ndjohnson when did you what?! We must know the answer lol


fr33 f0ll0w3rs @hiyfk89

@ndjohnson follow to unlock 1K+ followers!


grep @problemhouser

@ndjohnson ass tweet





I miss you.

I keep thinking that you’re here, in the flat but just a room away. I’ve convinced myself I can hear your soft footsteps in the night, creeping towards bed. Last night I caught sight of a long black hair on the edge of my vision – your long black hair. You haunt me.

My downstairs neighbour is probably a manifestation of my lack of gratitude to you, punishing me for failing to love you the way you deserved to be loved. He hates me. He doesn’t know me, he just hates me. When he sees me, the hate behind his eyes narrows and he skewers me with the point of it.

I was smoking outside the front door yesterday and he leaned out of his window and went mental at me because he thought I was smoking a joint (he kept pronouncing it ‘marriage iguana’). Kept threatening to call the police even when I showed him the packet of cigs. Said I was ‘worse than the last one’, which I assume means the last person to sublet my room. She must have made the same mistake as me, being born with the wrong sort of face for a world that has already scripted what we’re allowed to do and say.

This is also my way of telling you I’ve started smoking again. I need something to chew on. I need something in my mouth, to stop me shouting the lampposts bent, the tiles off the roof. I’d say it stops me from calling you, but you’ve blocked my number, so I can’t use that excuse anymore.

Please, please, please change your mind. I can do better. Just let me show you.




Nathan: Hey Mitch, are you up?

Nathan: Decided grep grep wasn’t the name for you, did you.

Nathan: I feel like shit. Again. I sent an email to Jules a couple of hours ago and now I can’t sleep because I keep imagining what she might be doing right now, and who she’s doing it with.

Nathan: I play this stupid game where I delude myself into believing that the sounds of my flatmate moving about are her moving about. Earlier I heard him in the kitchen, opening drawers, and I pretended it was Jules

Nathan: But for half an hour or so he got really noisy – I think he’s drunk – and I could hear him smacking the knives into the chopping board and scratching at the sideboard. So I had to give up because Jules doesn’t cook like she’s attacking her crockery.

Nathan: Although she is an awful cook.

Nathan: God, I would do anything to taste one of her charcoal-and-ketchup meals again.

Nathan: I have no idea what he’s making. He told me he went vegetarian because he can’t bear the ‘cruelty of meat’ anymore, but it sounded like he was slaughtering a cow in there.

Nathan: I should go to bed, you’re out or you’re unconscious. Obviously. Friday night at 3am? That’s the special time for anyone with a life to be fucking or dancing. Night dude.




Michio: hey matey sorry I missed u, was full unconscious by 2. drank mezcal, which is mexican for ‘hurt yourself with alcohol and hit on the barmaid then get thrown out’

Michio: yeah facebook sent me a msg asking if grep grep was my real name and I felt so sorry for it asking me a basic bitch question like that, so I changed it back

Michio: do you wanna hang out tonight? think anjali and eileen and chris are doing a pub quiz or similar ludic horseshit, or you can come round mine for food & I will feed u actually extremely good and well-cooked cuisine & you can stop pining after your ex’s cooking, which insulted/hurt me when I ate it

Michio: also, thought your flatmate was in Berlin?




Hi David,

I’m really sorry, I think I’m going to have to cancel our meeting today. I had a bit of a rough night and haven’t slept –we had an intruder and I was stalking the halls all night with a saucepan. I must have looked insane.

My flatmate’s due back in an hour and I’m hoping to have a chat to him about security etc. (We have a weird downstairs neighbour.)

Really sorry again. Can we rearrange, at your convenience? I’ll buy you a beer. I have some good ideas for the second chapter following our last talk.

All best,





Hi Nate,

Of course – that sounds terrible. Did you call the police? Lewis and I had an attempted home invasion recently – someone tried the latch with a screwdriver in the middle of the night – and it really shook us up, even though they didn’t manage to get in.

I can do tomorrow between 2 and 4 or Thurs after 3. Let me know what works. Catch me late enough on Thurs and I’ll take you up on that beer.





Nathan J @ndjohnson

w ENd I go

4.06AM 30 Oct 2015


Katherine Cruz @catscruz

@ndjohnson ooh this is turning into a regular puzzle! Give us a clue? J


Paul Smart @greensmarty

@kittycruz @ndjohnson I think he’s been hacked, Kate


grep @problemhouser

@ndjohnson ass tweet




Michio: hey man kate cruz fancies u with the heat of a thousand embarrassing suns

Michio: also I bumped into hot lisas housemate and apparently she hasnt seen lisa in a week so if you are actually bumping off your dates lemme know, I could get rich writing your biography

Nathan: what? who’s kate cruz?

Michio: girl on ur twitter? replies to all your tweets? prob got a my little pony bdsm fetish?

Michio: which I have been meaning to ask u about actually, what’s the deal there, who’s wEN – di and where is she going?

Nathan: I haven’t tweeted in literally years. I got logged out of Twitter on my desktop and I can’t remember my password and I can’t get back in

Nathan: something fucking weird is going on in this place

Michio: ok, your accounts been hijacked

Nathan: Lisa told me she was at a conference in Iceland

Michio: look non importante. whats up, why are you freaking out

Nathan: there’s something in the basement. In the locked rooms I was telling you about.

Nathan: I think the downstairs neighbour is using it for something fucked up.

Michio: pls tell me exactly what is happening

Nathan: I’ve been hearing dragging and footsteps for a couple of nights now. Just now I could hear what sounded like someone running up and down the stairs

Michio: shit ok

Nathan: it sounded like bare wet feet, and they were slapping the walls

Nathan: so I went outside and looked over the banister and there was a person there, right at the bottom of the stairwell.

Michio: call the police

Nathan: I could only see the top of their head, they were swaying. Long black hair, could have been a wig, but I think it was a woman

Nathan: I called down and they stopped swaying and then moved, really really slowly, out of sight. I could hear their feet dragging along the floor.

Michio: are u deliberately ignoring what I’ve said about calling the police or

Nathan: I went after them and was heading into the basement but my flatmate John came through the front door and stopped me

Nathan: I sort of babbled at him about what I’d seen and he took me back upstairs and gave me some whiskey.

Michio: and did he call the police?

Nathan: yeah he said he’d call them

Michio: thank fckin god for that

Nathan: I think whoever it is, is working with the downstairs neighbour.

Nathan: I think he did something to the last person to sublet this place, like, frightened her out. I think he’s a proper nasty racist.

Michio: was the person before u a race?

Michio: u know what I mean

Nathan: she was American

Nathan: as in, Native American. An exchange student.

Michio: OK. you don’t have to put up with this.

Michio: You can come and stay with me.

Nathan: Mitch, I have to go, John wants to talk to me

Michio: OK. Give me a call if you need me.





Today I was thinking about the time you told me about the Voynich manuscript, how it’s still entirely encoded and untranslated. You were so excited by the idea of a book that had spent 500 years refusing to give up its secrets, you talked about the writing as if it were something organic, grown to completion and self-contained – like it was mysterious the way some intricate mineral is mysterious.

But I kept thinking about how sad it seemed to me. For there to be a piece of writing that can’t communicate what it needs to say. For it to have all the markings of sophisticated meaning but to

Jesus fucking Christ. I need to write this down. I need to fucking write this down. It’s late and I just heard wet feet running outside my flat again. I got up and opened the front door, there was no one there, I turned on all the lights in the hallway and the stairwell, no one there, I went down to the basement, no one there, I came back upstairs, there are pictures on my computer.

Pictures of me, of the back of my head, sitting at this fucking desk, typing to you.




Nathan J @ndjohnson

WENd I go 00 0 we n dIg owe nDI g0 w end iGO

3.03AM 31 Oct 2015




Michio: pick up your phone

Michio: Nate what is going on? jules called me and said she gota a weird email about someone stalking you?

Nathan: I saw her

Michio: Jules?

Nathan: the girl with the long black hair I saw her she’s got no

Nathan: eyelids

Nathan: someone’s cut her eyelids off she’s got no eyelids

Michio: pick up your phone please

Nathan: don’t call she can hear

Nathan: she could only stare she had no eyelids

Michio: I’m calling police ok go get ur flatmate

Nathan: bit of her jaw missing I could see her tongue inside her mouth

Michio: wake John up

Nathan: yes I’m going to now, I’m not dying here

Nathan: she had no eyelids

Michio: get John

Michio: the police are on their way OK?




Hey Mitch,

Came across this on Buzzfeed of all places. He’s the first one on the list – I didn’t bother sending you the rest, they’re mawkish and macabre and I don’t know how the hell people entertain themselves with this stuff. I can’t believe Nate’s been turned into clickbait. It’s only been a year. Even though I know it’s something he would have found hilarious, I’m still angry. And I know he would have told me to take it easy. And I’m still angry. It was always like that.

I’m sorry for not keeping in touch, and I’m sorry this is such a lame way to get in touch. I just wanted to share it with someone who would understand. I suppose. Or, if not understand, who misses Nate the same way I do.

I still have days where I can’t think clearly because fogging up my head is the conviction that I should have done something. It blots out everything else, even the memory of his mother’s face at the funeral, and believe me, that’s a memory that’s not ever going away. But what could we have done? How could we have predicted this?

I hope you’re well. Eileen mentioned you’ve stopped seeing your therapist. I gave up on mine months ago. I was never really convinced therapy would work. I need a memory scrubber. Or an exorcist.

Do you ever see her? The girl with the dark hair?

I do.



———- Forwarded message ———-

8 Unsolved Crimes That Will Make You Shit Your Pants




1. 42 Jubilee Street

In October 2015, 29-year-old Nathan Johnson moved into a sublet on Jubilee Street, divided into two flats and a basement storage area. He lived with John Barker, a young human rights lawyer, on the top two floors. The ground floor flat was owned by Maurice Smith, a retired software consultant.

About a month later, police received a call from Michio Hasegawa, a close friend of Johnson’s, claiming that someone had broken into Johnson’s house and was ‘harassing’ him. Johnson was alone in the flat – Barker was on a business trip in Berlin.

By the time the police arrived, Johnson was already dead. He was found in the basement with multiple stab wounds to his face, neck and torso, and his eyes were missing. His throat had been cut and his body parts drained of blood. If you think that’s pretty nasty, you probably don’t want to read the rest.

In the room where Johnson was found were five other bodies. One of them was Lisa Colebrooke, a 31-year-old neurophysicist at Bentham University who Johnson had been dating. Lisa had been missing for a week prior to her discovery – she was found cut open with her liver and heart removed, her lips severed and her hands and feet missing. Evidence suggests that the body parts were removed over the course of the week, before and after death.

The four other bodies in the room – two men, two women, with both men still unidentified – also had parts of their faces, limbs and inner organs removed. The two women were Marla Rossellini, an actress and barista who had been missing for seven months, and Wyome ‘Wendy’ Marshall, an American student who had been missing for more than a year. She had also previously lived in Barker’s sublet flat.

Police initially arrested Maurice Smith, who had a criminal history of assault, as Hasegawa suggested that Smith may have been motivated by racial hated to attack and kill Johnson, who was black. But there was insufficient evidence to support a case against him.

And this is where it gets really creepy.

A couple of weeks before his murder, Johnson’s Twitter account – which had been inactive since 2012 – started tweeting sporadically. The word salad the account was tweeting seemed to spell Wendi (Wendy?) GO. The tweets only appeared in the early hours of the morning, and seemed like a frantic attempt to communicate.

It gets worse. One of the reasons that Smith was acquitted was the forensic analysis showed that the wounds made to the bodies were made by something much stronger than a man, something inhumanly strong.

And it gets worse still. The oldest body in the room, that of Wyome Marshall, was (except for Johnson’s and Colebrooke’s) the least decomposed. In fact, certain tears to the muscles and ligature suggested that the corpse had been moving quite close to the time of discovery, although this should have been impossible. Several theories have been advanced, ranging from weirdly variable temperatures in the basement room to a chemical reaction to mould, but none seem credible.

One final piece of this puzzle to ensure your pants are thoroughly shat: a theory is being advanced that Johnson’s tweets were about a ‘wendigo’ –a creature from Algonquian folklore known for possession and its insatiable appetite for human flesh.

So what were those tweets really about? Johnson putting the willies on his friends? Him channelling the spirit of Wyome Marshall? Or was it Wyome herself, trying to warn someone about the presence of a wendigo in the house?

Sweet dreams.


Image © Rosa Menkman

Five Things Right Now: Eliza Robertson
What’s Not There Can’t Hurt You