“The Ari Monovovich Iceberg: Explained” 342 views, uploaded by Alexandria_Eternal 7 hours ago.
I read the title over and over, scanning for some kind of mistake in my vision. But nope, there it was staring me in the face.
How was this even a thing? Did my friends pay for some elaborate prank at my expense? No… they’d have encouraged me to find this and my birthday is a solid 2 months away.
Surfing YouTube late at night was, as it has been for many of my generation, a nightly coping mechanism with insomnia. I find a good, inoffensive retrospective video theory, letsplay or narration and drift off to the sultry sounds of bullshit I don’t care about or gritty details of a murder. We’re strange creatures, but it works.
I’d been taken by the iceberg theory videos since the memes floated around some 6 or 7 years ago, no pun intended. Now that competent YouTube personalities were dissecting the theories behind games like Super Mario 64, The Legend Of Zelda and even lost media tapes made it all the more tantalising to seek them out.
But finding one about me? With my face accompanying the now foreboding iceberg photo on a strangers channel? Yeah, not so fun anymore.
And yet I still clicked it, because of course I did.
A cold opening, no music, and a black screen for the first few seconds.
A deep, powerful voice fills my speakers. I can’t tell if it’s been edited or if he’s simply that naturally gifted, but it makes my ear drums ring and my hairs stand up on end.
“All good people have a degree of mystery around them. Today will be no exception. Ari Monovovich has been a fascinating individual and one that I have been eager to cover on this channel since I first came across them, I have no doubt you’ll all be eager to put your thoughts in the comments below…”
The screen fades and the iceberg photo comes up in full view, I have to pause it to take in the full brevity of what I’m seeing.
For those unfamiliar; an iceberg theory video is an off-shoot of an Ernest Hemmingway writing theory that the best kind of storytelling should always be under the surface, with only the tip of the iceberg poking out. A good tale gets better the further you delve into it.
It only makes sense that the same rule applies to mysteries and theories. Every popular game, tv show and everything else has conspiracy theories, dark rumours and the like. An iceberg theory allows experts to gather the info, start from the plausible and pleasant at the top all the way down to the downright insane and, sometimes, absolutely vile.
So why had someone made one about me? An ordinary 20 something from the Midwest? I’m not special, I’ve never BEEN special. Ordinary, happy upbringing. Ordinary, happy family.
And yet when seeing a photo of my face on the side of this iceberg, the brightness in my eyes withering away as the iceberg goes deeper, the smile growing cracked and fragile, the skin blackening… I couldn’t help but press on.
The iceberg faded and the first title card came up, some soft water sounds and a gentle guitar playing as we went into the first section of the video:
Tip Of The Iceberg:
I wasn’t sure what to expect, if I’m honest. The video opens with some innocuous info that anyone could glean from a quick look over my Facebook or twitter posts, nothing particularly insightful beyond my political alignment, my love of surrealist art and quotes from homestuck.
Then things began to get weird.
“Ari’s favourite video game “Mass Effect” is not the one that they are most emotionally attached to. No, that honour goes to the new hit “Omori” which they have played for a staggering 200 hours and are currently on their 5th play through, seemingly doing the same thing every time and not looking for alternative endings. This was confirmed through reliable sources and their steam activity.”
I looked at my gaming PC in the corner. I never streamed, I felt too uncomfortable. So many eyes watching me and judging me, asking me questions I wouldn’t know how to answer.
Or didn’t want to answer.
My hand traced the side of my face before recoiling and slamming into my lap in frustration. No, now wasn’t the time to think about that.
I racked my mind for these “reliable sources” and my mind could not help but go back to an odd prank my friends had pulled coupled with the already available information through some good searching. Already cursing my public information in an age where anything and everything can be found, I resolved to watch on.
A lot of the information in the tip of the iceberg section was simply things that could be gleaned from my Facebook profile, my twitter, my TikTok and my Instagram.
“Ari’s routinely blogged about their mental health and gender dysphoria, showing great solidarity in a world that is constantly changing. We also know that they would occasionally post time lapses of their struggles on TikTok and then delete them if they got too much attention. Thankfully, we saved them for research purposes.”
I swallowed at that last revelation. Research purposes
This was getting increasingly uncomfortable as he brought this section of the iceberg to a close.
“Ultimately, what we have here is info that is already available for consumption, and we of course did consume it down to the last drop. With that being said, we’re upping our investigation and moving onto the next level of the iceberg.”
The sound of immersing in water, bubbles floating in the blackness and the text flashed up, followed by the dire dire docks theme from Mario 64.
I hated this already.
Beneath The Surface:
“Ari Monovovich was born on the 4th of May 1998 and enjoyed a constant stream of lame star wars jokes, but one of the prevailing and accepted theories is that they were actually born in 1997.” The screen flashes a baby photo of me and a birth certificate I’d never seen before. “Documents show that Ari was not only born a year earlier but in a completely different state.”
Immediately, we were off to a disturbing start.
I felt sick. That was my full name, including my middle name that I absolutely hated. My parents Andrei and Danica were listed, but the DOB, state and hospital were most certainly wrong…
I felt the urge to grab my phone and call my parents, but the video carried on and I felt compelled to watch more, taking notes on my phone of anything that struck me.
“Now, we don’t have full confirmation, but this is quite reliable and something we’ll come back to later on in the video. But Ari suffered a debilitating injury when they were four and it required seventeen stitches. They were left with a scar, both physically and mentally. Our source says that it was caused by a-”
I paused the video and felt my eyes blur, my face burning.
There’s no way they could’ve known about that.
Mom told me the papers didn’t give out a lot of info at the request of the police, said it would be damaging enough for a child my age to go through the recovery without a spotlight on me at all times.
Did she lie?
Why would she lie?
I clicked ahead; I didn’t want to hear their speculations on how such an ugly thing happened to me. Therapy had done its job and if I was going to relive that, I needed to see the rest of this fucking video first.
Then maybe punch my friends square in the dick if they made this.
Or find the asshat responsible.
I grabbed a cider from the fridge and sat down with my sherpa blanket wrapped around me and my comfort animal nestled in my arms. I knew I was going to need them.
A few more bits of info passed on, things about past boyfriends and girlfriends that were relatively easy to ascertain, trips I’d enjoyed and contests I’d entered into. So far, enough to let my blood simmer down and figure out what the point of this was.
That would become far harder as we went into the next area of the iceberg.
Bottom Of The Iceberg:
“As we reach the bottom of the known iceberg, it’s important to look at what we truly know about Ari. They love a lot of things; security, people ringing the doorbell instead of knocking… strawberry and lime cider.”
I nearly choked on the swig of my bottle. What the fuck was this? I only just got into this flavour a couple weeks ago. There’s no way they could’ve known unless…
My eyes darted to the windows, to the small convenience store just a quarter mile from my house. It was the only one within a 5-mile radius and I didn’t *ever* drive to another due to fears of being away from home for too long.
They followed me.
This was not a prank by someone I knew.
Of course, that should’ve been obvious by now, but rationality can and will cling to the last vestiges of your fear like a stubborn child in an attempt to stop it from hurtling itself over the edge and into panic territory. A place I was firmly in now.
Gripping my stuffed animal tightly and my parents’ numbers on speed-dial, I knew I had to finish this.
I had to see what more they knew.
Looking at my face in the corner, the eyes have been edited and blackened, a reddish hue hanging in the surrounding space of the photo, as if they’d tried to burn the interior of the image itself. I looked gaunt, demonic and my happy smile was twisted into something I barely recognised.
Again, the slow, deep voice spoke:
“There’s a theory that Ari is extremely private about their home life and living situation, to the point that they have a job that requires no face-to-face interaction and a home with nearly a dozen unique locks. I can confirm that this is in fact true and is due in part to Ari’s desire to escape from the person she once was. While I don’t think it’d be right for me to say WHO they once were, they’re trying in vain as we can never avoid who we once were or our responsibilities to that old life.”
There was a pause as photos of me from my social media were put up on the screen; old school photos of me hanging out with friends, sleepovers and gaming nights. I looked so happy…
“Ari’s comfort animal smells like peppermint.”
I froze. Staring at the screen as a photo of Artemis, my comfort stuffed animal, flashed up and was accompanied by a photo of me sleeping.
“… but contrary to popular theories; Ari instead smells like orchids.”
I began hyperventilating, my hands shaking and the feeling of vomit rushing up.
This person has been in my fucking house while I slept.
It took a solid 30 minutes to calm down and a reassuring promise from the sheriff that he’d come by within the hour to placate me. I checked *every* lock in the house and found none to be out of place.
It’s possible that this was an ex who took the photo and passed it to someone else, right? Maybe some weird kind of revenge for breaking up with them unceremoniously? I had not always been the best partner, sometimes emotionally distant… ok, always emotionally distant. But that’s no excuse for this behaviour.
All I had now was time, my parents weren’t picking up and bringing this to my friends with my trust levels through the floor made no sense.
So… I hit play and carried on.
I wish I hadn’t.
I really, really wish I hadn’t.
The sounds of water rushing and someone gagging for air fill the speakers as a strange, dark and moody underwater theme plays, one that I don’t recognise but whose dissonance and odd sounds put me on edge.
In the blackness, for just a moment, I swear I see a smile barely visible in the murky depths.
My photo is almost unrecognisable now. A mess of black hair covering my pale white scalp, chunks of flesh torn from the face and teeth that should never be seen from behind the cheeks now flashing through.
I look like a monster.
A white title comes up onto the screen and the pit in my stomach expands.
“The 2000 incident.”
“Not many people know about this, but Ari was once the subject of a LOT of attention. They starred in a commercial as a child and garnered national adoration for their role. They were jubilant, cute and a total natural in front of the camera. For all the positives, however, came negatives. Some fans would fixate on Ari to the point of obsession. This would eventually lead to boundaries being crossed.”
A photo of my old family home appears. It’s blurry, and the house is dark, it must be the middle of the night. A window on the second floor is open.
Another photo fades in, this time closer. They’re on the property and are using a ladder to climb up, a photo of the uphill journey ahead of them.
A third photo of my bedroom, the flash going off and inevitably spooking me in my sleep.
The last photo is of what’s behind them as they run, the faint outline of my father chasing them at a distance.
“Ultimately, experts believe that if the family had listened to the letters, heeded the warnings, this would not have occurred and the rest of the events would not have played out how they did. Sadly, this would send Ari’s life on a journey towards one inevitable path… One that I have no doubt is slowly beginning to dawn on them.”
Tears stream down my face and I grip my stuffed animal tightly, rocking back and forth in my chair and begging the sheriff to come quicker, but unable to stop myself from watching. I *NEED* to know what the point of this is.
Why someone would do this.
“Ari’s original name was Alexandria, but was changed to Ari to reflect their gender identity and yet another desire to escape that old life. The sad truth is, they were never ever able to do so.” The voice sighed, weariness heavy in their tone. “It makes you wonder how much easier this could’ve gone, had they just not put up a fight in the first place.”
A fade to black and that faint smile visible once again. Nowhere near enough to make out features, save for a smile that made me feel like I was sitting in a shark tank. Emotionless, hungry and determined.
It was a smile that knew it had its prey where it wanted it.
On this final segment, the screen remained black as a low drone punctured the air and the narrator spoke.
“You’ve realised by now that this is a comprehensive video on Ari Monovovich and an admittance of sorts that I myself take a “special” interest in them. But, I think it’s only fair that I provide this as some evidence for those who find it to follow after the inevitable happens. Because there’s always a beauty in hoping for a happy ending, even if it doesn’t come.”
I keep telling myself the Sheriff will be here in a few minutes, that everything is locked and all spaces have been checked, but I don’t feel safe. I run my hands across my scar and I don’t. Feel. safe.
“There’s a degree of truth that obsessive types can’t leave well enough alone, I’m proving that here. But, I’m a patient type of obsessor. Because I’m one with a goal to have Ari as mine for all eternity. I came so close before. But… well, it wasn’t right. I left a mark to remember me by and sent them on home, never able to truly forget about me, even if they changed every facet of their being.”
A video clip of a fish fades onto the screen. It’s a deep-sea angler fish, the huge white eyes scanning the depths of the ocean for a sign of prey, the jaws permanently fixed open and large jutting teeth wait to snatch something. It blindly swims around in the inky blackness as the narrator continues, sweat pouring down my head.
“One thing about me for this video; I love the angler fish. A truly remarkable creature that utilises the lure to ensnare its prey. It doesn’t need to do anything because it knows that it just needs to send out the right signals and the prey will come to it. Just as you’ve finally come back to me.”
The camera zooms in on the angler fish as the bioluminescent lure begins to move and glow, a beautiful hue that permeates the darkness surrounding it. A small fish spots it and begins swimming closer, the angler fish sits patiently. I feel my knees begin to buckle.
“You did as I knew you would. You saw a channel with your name “Alexandria_Eternal”, a theory with your name and you came right away. They will try to find you and there will be stories, books and documentaries about where you went. But none of it will ever amount to anything. You will fade into the abyss.”
The Angler Fish clamps its jaws down on the fish and within moments it is devoured in its entirety.
With that, the video ends.
There’s a knock at the door as The Sheriff asks to be let in, I’m glad to have someone taking this seriously, but still…