The Facts Are These’, M. Bennardo

Illustration © 2020 Cécile Matthey

 [ she lives in the internet, © 2020 Cécile Matthey ] The facts are these: Momo is real.

She’s a ghost or a demon, and she lives in the Internet. She appears only to kids, when you’re watching videos alone. She waits until the adults step out of the room, to stir the sauce or put the wash in the dryer. Then suddenly, she’s there: grinning and watching you from the screen, her big bulging eyes following you around wherever you go.

If you’re a kid, Momo tells you to do bad things. You won’t want to do them because you might have to hurt other people or get hurt yourself. But if you don’t do what she says or if you tell anyone about her, then Momo will kill you and the rest of your family.

There were some kids who saw her, and they said that when Momo appears, you can’t stop or pause the video. You can’t click away or even turn off the phone. It’s like a glitch in the Internet. You have to watch and listen, and later she’ll stay: stuck in your head.

The facts are these: Momo is real.

She’s been on the news and the police have issued a warning. She isn’t a ghost or a demon, but if you don’t think she’s real, you’re just fooling yourself. She’s an avatar or a program that sick people use to talk to your kid. They can hack into your laptop or phone, and watch through the camera until your kid is alone.

Then they can talk to your kid through the speaker and microphone, and there’s no way that you’d ever even know. Even if you have filters, there are ways around that. Even if you check the browsing history, there are ways to hide that.

They’ll tell your kids exactly what to do to make sure you never find out. They’ll threaten and bribe them, and make them do sick things. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t even trust your kid. You have to always be watching, every single second that they can access a screen. If you’re not, then you’re just asking for trouble.

The facts are these: Momo is not real.

She’s just a hoax and no one has ever actually seen her. Her face is a sculpture that an artist made of a traditional Japanese ghost called an ubume. Her name is just nonsense syllables. And the rest of the story is just a new twist on old urban legends like the Blue Whale Challenge and no less implausible.

Where are the screenshots and chatlogs? Where are the real people who have seen her on YouTube? The kids who are scared always admit they heard about her from other kids. Have any of them actually seen Momo themselves? And the adults who are scared just heard about her on the news. But even the news doesn’t have any proof. Even the news is just repeating an urban legend.

No one can really make videos stop and play and say your name, not the way they say Momo can. Maybe there are some trolls who are doing a few Momo pranks, but they’re just exploiting the hysteria and trying to scare people. Don’t let them get under your skin. If you ignore them, they’ll get bored and go way. You really have to look at these things critically. If you think Momo is real, you’re just a fool.

These are the facts: Momo is real.

She’s a symptom of our sick society, a projection of our collective id. How else do you explain how popular she’s become? Everyone is talking about her because they recognize themselves and their fears in the mirror of her face. There’s a reason she gets stuck in your head.

The truth is that we all secretly want to do hurtful things and have the power to make other people scared. We all want to be somebody else. We all want to give in to our worst impulses, but not have to take the blame or responsibility for what happens next.

Whether you admit it or not, we’re each of us a little bit of Momo. The kids are Momo, the parents are Momo, the police are Momo, the newscasters are Momo. That’s why we all keep scaring each other, repeating the story and keeping Momo alive. She’s an excuse, a cover. A way to blame our own sickness on other people who are strangers to us. Of course, you would never do anything sick or bad to a kid. You would never scare a kid, or even an adult. It’s just weird strangers on the Internet who do that, or demons or ghosts. But look at the statistics. That’s not who is hurting kids.

The facts are these: Momo is real.

Her name is Miss Peters, and she teaches first grade at Riverbend Elementary School. The kids in her class are mostly too young to know that’s she Momo, but their older brothers and sisters talk about it a lot.

The older kids have always made fun of Miss Peters’s thin black hair and bulging eyes, and there’s definitely something not right about the way she smiles. Her skin is so pale that you can see her veins through it, and sometimes she bends in ways that only ghosts and demons can bend. There were some kids who said one time, they saw her hand go all the way in the wrong direction and then she ran out of the room.

Behind Miss Peters’s back, they call her Miss Momo. They don’t really believe that Miss Peters is Momo, except sometimes when they really do. They don’t know how much her joints hurt and how she dislocates her knees getting out of bed sometimes. They don’t know a lot of things about her. But it’s no wonder there’s something not right about the way she smiles. She’s still smiling, but she’s always in a lot of pain.

These are the facts: Momo is real.

She will stick in your head, whether you’re a kid or an adult. A lot of stories and legends admit that ghosts and demons don’t have any power beyond what we give them, and that is definitely true. So what really is a ghost or demon if not a story that sticks in your head?

But the more rational you are, the more exposed you become. Holy water and white sage and salt circles can never protect you from Momo. Not really, not in a way that you could ever believe. Because a rational outlook means that you always lose faith in the remedy long before the edge is dulled on your fear.

A two-minute news story or a rumor on the playground is enough to plant the seed. It’s enough for Momo to get stuck in your head, but it’s not enough to teach you how to break the charm or get her back out again. All you can really do is argue with yourself: she’s a hoax, she’s a troll, she’s a panic, she’s a delusion. But where is the proof? And where is the protection? You can never learn enough about a ghost or a demon to be sure that it doesn’t exist, only that it might.

These are the facts. Momo is real.

Or maybe she’s not. But just try to prove it.

© 2020 M. Bennardo

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