There goes the computer, notifying Vincent of his fifteenth unread message on Facebook. Vincent is downstairs, scavenging for something to eat from the refrigerator.
Less than a minute later, he hurries up the stairs as if there is an emergency situation. In his mind are the unread Facebook messages and the urgency of each exchange of words. He placed his dinner plate recklessly at an arm’s length away from the computer, and in a split second, his hands are already in the keyboard keys, crisply typing and banging the enter key as he inputs and sends his message. Typing in the keyboard is as automatic as breathing and as essential as life.
Facebook. That’s where his life revolved these past few months. He’ll never be contented to be below level 20 at all popular Facebook games, and he has 37 community pages on Facebook which he administrates. Vincent is quite the social networking magnet, updating his status at an average of 32.3 times a day, based on his own computations and receiving likes at an average of 21.8 per status update.
Call him the ultimate Facebook addict.
“Vincent! It’s already midnight!” her mother yells from the bedroom.
“All right Mom! Just a moment!” Vincent replied.
That was Vincent’s 12th “just a moment” to his mother, who has recently been complaining of her son’s uncontrollable Facebook addiction causing their electrical bills to skyrocket.
Vincent proceeded to chatting with his friends, some from his neighborhood, some from his past, some from school and some from online forums. Abused as the keyboard may be, the chatting continues until several notifications fill in the left side of Vincent’s monitor.
It’s a friend request from someone named Fara Higgins.
With the notifications from that friend request flooding Vincent’s monitor continuously, the web browser hangs and is not responding anymore, and without any warning, closes by itself. He tries to open his web browser. It wouldn’t open. Double-clicking the desktop icon did nothing, too.
Anxious, Vincent triple-clicks, quadruple-clicks, speed-clicks the mouse in a frenzy. Still, he received no response from his computer. He slaps the monitor, gently kicks the system unit, and all of a sudden, dozens of Google Chrome windows piles up his screen. One-by-one, he closes them.
He goes back to the friend request, to that of Fara Higgins. Without hesitation, even without any mutual friend, but with that gorgeous and seductive display picture, Vincent accepted the friend request.
He then goes on to chatting with his friends, wanting to apologize for the delay in reply caused by his browser crashing. However, there was a problem loading the chat feature of Facebook. He couldn’t see his online friends and he couldn’t send any message. Anxious as Vincent naturally was, he double-clicks, triple-clicks, quadruple-clicks, speed-clicks the mouse in a frenzy.
There goes the computer, notifying Vincent of an unread message despite an error in the chat feature.
It was a message from Fara: a plain “Hi!”
“Hey!” Vincent replies, “Thanks for the add!”
“No prob, twas nothing. Just wanted to make friends on FB,” Fara replies.
The conversation went deeper and even sweeter – the typical teenage flirts online. Vincent already forgot to talk to his other friends and to eat the food he scavenged from the refrigerator.
The next day, at school, everyone is talking about Tetris Battle, that new addictive game on Facebook that put some competitiveness over the classic block game of Tetris.
“Hey Vincent, you suck, I’m now at Level 31,” a classmate brags to Vincent.
“Level 36, baby. Now who sucks?” Vincent returns the boast.
“Level 36? The last time I checked, it was Level 30!”
“And when was that last time you checked?”
“Hahaha! Well, you’re connection has a really serious problem, bro. Check it again. Level 36!”
To settle their debate, they go online and check Vincent’s real level. It turns out that Vincent is still at Level 30. Vincent is convinced that he leveled up to 36 last night, just before he slept. His classmate concludes that server problems might have caused his progress not getting saved. Vincent’s ego just can’t consume how Facebook is starting to meddle with his online life.
That night, Vincent scampers to his computer, and logs in to Facebook. Well, at least he tries to. Facebook wouldn’t load. Google, Twitter and all other popular sites will load, just not Facebook. YouTube videos would buff with ease, yet even that light Facebook logo won’t appear.
Vincent contacts his classmate, Paulo, who is well-known in the class for being a computer geek. Vincent asks for some tips. Paulo tells him of some proxy sites, some codes to tweak in for faster connection and some buttons to tick so as to make sure that Facebook is not blocked. All of them did not work. The elusive error is showing some invincibility.
Frustrated, Vincent goes downstairs and once again, forages for some dinner.
Coming back was a surprise for Vincent. He sees his Facebook account logged in and open, as if nothing had happened. There are no notifications for the 6-hour period that he hasn’t logged in, and it’s quite another surprise for this social networking addict. There was a single message however, that from Fara. It isn’t humanly understandable for the message did not contain any message at all: it only consisted of randomly typed letters.
Ignoring Fara’s nonsensical message, Vincent opens Tetris Battle, and was surprised to see that he is indeed Level 36. He chats his classmate and sends a screenshot of his Tetris Battle home page, showing that he is Level 36. His classmate sends back a screenshot of his, showing that he is Level 30. For Vincent, it seems like his computer is having a problem.
He tries to chat with Paulo for help, but unexpectedly, an error in the chat feature occurs once again. The annoying error is pestering Vincent once more.
“My computer is kinda sick. These Facebook errors are getting to my nerves. Help?” Vincent types as a status message.
Posting it was equally as hard as logging in. Facebook won’t allow Vincent to post that status; again, an error occurs.
No matter how pissed Vincent was, he just couldn’t leave that site. To burn time and irritation, he just tries to browse over his profile, and again, putting frustration to an extreme, something in his profile was gravely incorrect.
His 3,000+ friends disappeared. He could not see his 200 notes. Add to that the displeasure of receiving no notifications. Vincent is slowly turning red in exasperation. He just can’t believe the errors that are happening to his Facebook account.
His computer, after a long time, sends him a notification. It is a message from Fara, and this time, this one is readable. A simple “Hi!” from a sweet girl partially assuages Vincent’s bad mood.
Some sweet exchange of words that lasted for hours sparked Vincent’s curiosity at last. Who is this girl?
Vincent clicked over her profile and found only two display picture – typical of a fake account. No educational background is available, just gender and a few liked pages. Friend list is hidden. Vincent is troubled whether this account is a fake or whether the girl is just secretive. Just a sweet word or two, it doesn’t matter to Vincent anymore.
The night after, coming from school, Vincent sprints to the computer, hoping to start early the conversation with Fara. Earlier that morning, at school, Vincent asks Paulo to come over their house to fix the computer without any compensation, of course, being a friend of Vincent.
Fara is not online. Vincent, however, is still delighted to discover that the chat feature is now functioning. Eating some finger foods with his left hand while scrolling with his mouse on the right hand, Vincent goes back to enjoying the pleasures of being the social networking magnet that he was, chatting with his friends until sleepiness pass him out.
“Beep! Beep! Beep!”
The computer sounded once again, this time in bursts of beeping. In a short span, more than 30 of his friends messaged him, which is soon followed by 100 more. In the middle of the beeping climax, a classmate of Vincent calls him through phone.
“Vincent! Vincent!” the voice through the phone shouts in panic.
“Why? Why? What’s the problem?” Vincent answers, also driven by the panic.
“Don’t! Oh please, Vincent! Don’t!” the voice pleads.
“Don’t what? You sound like I am raping you!” Vincent replies confidently.
“No time for jokes, Vincent. I’m coming there,” the voice says, still in panic.
“Why? I do not understand! Calm down!”
“Your note on Facebook? What the freakin hell was that, and how do you expect me to calm down?!”
“My note on Facebook? Which one?”
Baffled by that alarming call, Vincent checks his Facebook profile. Amidst all the hysterical beeping and the upsurge of messages, he discovers that unknowingly, he had supposedly typed a seemingly suicide note telling everyone that he is happy with this life except for one mysterious thing which the note did not state. The note also contains some dramatic farewells to his family, his classmates, his friends and to the world. One thing, each of his friends was tagged in the note.
Vincent’s cellphone was on rage. Calls and messages keep coming, and Vincent does not have any idea how to fix the impression that the note he supposedly typed and published created to his social circle. He was also oblivious as to where that note comes from.
The frenzy on phone and on his Facebook continued as Vincent became witness to his own account automatically posting status messages talking about revenge and death. Minutes pass, status updates were posted and troubled friends warily struggle to contact Vincent, who was, in turn, in shock of what is happening to his online life.
While clicking on Facebook, he sees that his display picture had changed without his knowledge. His display picture became a picture of him three years ago at an educational trip. In the background was a bunch of people, and in those was a strikingly familiar face. He was bothered by that familiar face.
“Beep! Beep! Beep! Beeeeeep!”
Vincent’s computer beeps numerous times.
Fara messages Vincent, 99 times in a few seconds.
Vincent views the messages. Empty. They are all blank.
That display picture of his just flashed back on his mind. He clicks back to the picture, looks at the display picture, and sees that the familiar face he was looking at a while ago is already gone. The girl has already left the photo. “Imagination?” Vincent was asking himself, “it couldn’t be.”
It really couldn’t be.
Another message from Fara.
This time, there is an attachment. After some online virus scan, Vincent downloads the attachment.
Double-clicked, triple-clicked, quadruple-clicked, speed-clicked. Opened. A picture.
The picture shows Vincent. The description says that it was taken in a museum, dated December 3, 2008, three years ago. The picture is the exact same picture that became Vincent’s display picture on Facebook.
Vincent is startled. Why did she send that?
Lights flicker. They turn on and off, alternating rapidly. Vincent, on total fright, stands in the corner of his room and watch as his online life turn into a living nightmare.
The monitor slowly fades to black. It left words in red, bold, capital letters -- DIE. The monitor strongly tells Vincent to die.
Eyes are straight. Hands are sweaty. Heart is skipping a beat on fright. Holding his body against a wall, he starts to scream, but no voice is coming out of his lungs. Lights continue to flicker.
The computer, despite fading to black, begins to play a recording.
A girl screams from the computer speakers. A girl is screaming desperately for help. Background voices grow louder. Deep male laughter, violent physical movements, flowing liquids and falling objects to a wooden floor noised the recording. The scream becomes inconceivable, as if something had covered the girl’s mouth.
The recording becomes more disturbing. The screams become more deafening. The girl is struggling. Gasping every single breath available. Calling for help that obviously weren’t there. Screeching in struggle and pain. Not long, sound of flesh being stabbed becomes audible, and the girl’s cry for help becomes more emotional – the scream was for her dear life; it was for her survival.
Then, for seconds, moments of silence.
“DIE! DIE!” an outraged female shouts.
“DIE! DIE!” the message of death reverberates around the room, echoing more violently inside Vincent’s mind. The voice is filled with revenge and ruthlessness. Vincent is being compelled to death for something he has no idea about. Vincent just stared at his computer set, in trauma, in shock, full of guilt for something unknown, full of pity for a girl whom he did not know, full of worry not only for himself, but for the girl whose life has been taken away.
He leaves the house in terror. He called a friend and asked if he could spend the night with him.
The next day, terrible news came to the classroom. Paulo died of a car accident. Paulo was supposed to help Vincent fix his computer, but it seems like on his way, Paulo met dreadful fate. Also, Vincent is the most talked about person of the day, with the unexpected suicide note, the melodramatic status updates, the weird display picture and just this morning, the pictures that were tagged to Vincent, abstract red and black probably depicting death and suffering. Vincent had no control over all of these. Vincent is a victim of an unknown online activity.
Facing his fear, after class, he goes home.
In serenity, his computer sits there idly, his Facebook logged in, showing his home page. The whole desk is clean, and it seems like everything is waiting for him to take his seat. Everything is in order except for Vincent’s mind, which is still disturbed by everything that had happened last night.
His computer notifies him of a message. Blood surged inside his body. An unexplainable chill raptures from his body. He becomes uneasy. He isn’t ready to see from whom the message was. Slowly, his sight crawls from the keyboard to the bottom part of the monitor.
His worst expectation came true, the message is from Fara.
A single message still unopened lies there. Vincent hesitates if he’ll still open the message. He opens.
That single message was followed by dozens more, all in a continuous inflow of sharp death threats.
The web browser minimizes and maximizes on alternate, showing the desktop background on glimpses. Daunting, on the desktop background is Fara – that gorgeous display picture of hers drenched in blood, with a knife stabbed on her neck. Fara’s eyes were looking sharper and sharper to Vincent as Google Chrome continues to alternately minimize and maximize. Tears of blood flow from her innocent eyes.
The browser stops and opens a new tab instead. There, a video automatically plays.
The video shows a slaughterhouse, with hanging dead pigs in the background. Light from a swinging incandescent bulb plays with the shadows of the hanging pigs. Dim as the light could be, the video shows the silhouette of two men approaching. One of the figures adjusts the camera to show a woman hanging head down along with the pigs. The woman begins screaming, and it sounded exactly like the recording that Vincent heard yesterday.
The video was inhumane. Torture. Abuse. All Vincent felt for the woman was pity. The woman is stripped off her clothes and was bathe in boiling water. The woman struggles to escape the tight knot, but was only weakened by the continuous beating of the two men. One of the silhouettes covers the woman’s mouth with a duct tape while the other continues the torture. The woman dies, after receiving dozens of stabs from the cold-blooded criminals.
A voice from the video calls.
The voice is getting louder.
Terrified, he races to the computer and unplugs it. Still, the computer was unaffected, playing from an unknown source of electricity.
Then, another clip plays. This time, it was him. Vincent sees himself in the video. In the video, he’s holding a rope, staring at the computer, guilty and crying. Disheartened, he falls down to his knees. He sets a chair up and knots the rope in a support bar attached to the ceiling. He positions his head on the other end of the loop.
Vincent is taking his own life, and in the moment he jumped, the footage is cut, and on the screen appears Fara’s face, talking to Vincent, “DIE!”
Fara, red in blood and anger, continues to speak to Vincent in a psychedelic voice. With her eyes with capillaries oozing out blood, the edges of her teeth decaying to black, her neck with a knife stabbed deeply, she fills the room with her grudging voice – calling for Vincent’s death.
The morning after, Vincent’s friends came to confirm the news from his parents, that after he had supposedly changed his display picture into his decapitated head, posted his own video committing suicide and tagged all of his friends, he had really killed himself.
“How did he post his video committing suicide if he had already died?” a classmate asked.
Fara’s account never really existed at all.
This short story is an experiment trying to source fear from one of the least explored medium in horror literature – the Internet. Many of us find the Internet as an important tool in our lives. This story wants you to ask yourself a question: will I ever fear the Internet?
This short story was originally submitted at a short story competition for the Lance's literary folio, Muralla: Space. The Lance is the official college student publication of Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Intramuros, Manila.