by Paul Alex Gray
It’s late on a Saturday at Sarah’s house. Her mom goes out and won’t be back for hours, so the girls pull a bottle of fruity wine from the fridge and a half full bottle of vodka from the cupboard. They wash it down with messy snorts of Ritalin from Sarah’s brother’s stash.
In the basement, Donna suggests they talk to the Streamer Man.
They message a boy from school who tells them they’re idiots, but he sends them a bit.ly link. As they finish off the vodka, they open Sarah’s laptop and type in the link. It directs them to an IP address that loads another website. They follow a path, scrolling through sketchy pages filled with popups, clicking link after link. The Streamer Man isn’t easy to find. Each site sends them to another URL, then another, then another again until they’re all laughing and sure they’ll be hacked, but who cares?
They finally find the Streamer Man’s site. Just a blank page with a chat box.
If you want to talk to the Streamer Man, you must make a video, thirty seconds or less. Say his name three times and upload it.
He will tell you two things.
First, he tells you something only you know. A secret. A bad one. The absolute worst thing you’ve ever done. Maybe you prank called the cops to SWAT some kid from school. Maybe you found the cat that belongs to the old lady that lives alone, and you ran over it with your car. Maybe you did that thing you’re thinking about right now.
He knows it.
The Streamer Man tells you something else.
He tells you something that will happen. It might be tomorrow. Maybe next year. It could be fifty years from now. Whatever it is, it will happen.
Donna goes first, flicking the webcam on, her voice amplified by booze.
“Streamer Man. Streamer Man. Streamer Man. Tell me things no one else can.”
She uploads the video and waits.
The typing indicator appears, as the words come back and the girls shriek and giggle, but a tinge of fear colors their laughter.
YOU UPLOADED THAT CLIP OF JESSICA KEATON
Donna gasps and the girls howl.
It’s true. She was the one that punked Jessica, the cute but kind of dorky girl that moved to the fancy part of town last summer. Donna took her to the mall and made her buy them Starbucks. They talked about boys and the Kardashians and makeup, even though Donna did most of the talking. They went to Target and she made Jessica try on clothes. She took pics of her through the curtains and posted them to Insta with a burner account, tagging just about everyone in school. Donna’s phone began to blow up and she choked back a laugh, but mostly kept a straight face when Jessica asked what was so funny.
They left the mall and Donna said she’d walk home instead of catching the bus. As Jessica waved from the window, Donna burst out laughing.
Sarah pokes Donna in the side and the girls laugh and snap pics of the screen.
“You’re such a bitch, Donna!”
“You’d do the same!”
Donna watches the screen as the typing indicator cycles again. She waits for what the Streamer Man has to tell her.
HERE IS WHAT WILL COME
An attachment file appears and the girls squeal, taunting and laughing at Donna who is beginning to wish she didn’t suggest this game anymore.
“I bet you’re a total slut”
“Maybe you’re old and gross!”
Donna hesitates, her finger pressed on the trackpad as the girls laugh and shout around her, buzzed up with anticipation.
She waits too long, and Sarah flicks her hand out of the way, saving the file and loading it. The video is super small, and grainy, just a black room with a flickering light in the middle. The camera is shaky, but it moves closer, the light evolving to shape and substance. It coalesces, the form of a bright rectangle, occluded by shapes that move below it, obstructing the light.
One of the girls spurts out a laugh, but no one joins in and the silence that follows is as cold as ice.
As the camera draws nearer, the rectangle of light gains clarity, shimmering as the focus adjusts, revealing a white screen with a chat history and an attachment, reflecting the eyes and faces of Donna and her friends.
It reflects something else too, and when the girls see it, they scream, turning around.
A kitchen knife flashes silver and vicious. Jessica Keaton swinging it downwards, again and again, cutting and stabbing, ripping through flesh and fabric. The screams are terrible, but they fall silent, as Jessica gazes wide eyed, her face a mask of fury and vengeance, splashed red with blood.
About the Author
Paul Alex Gray writes linear and interactive fiction starring sentient black holes, wayward sea monsters, curious AIs and more. His work has been published in Nature Futures, Andromeda Spaceways, PodCastle and others. Paul grew up by the beaches of Australia, then traveled the world and now lives in Canada with his family. On his adventures, Paul has been a startup founder, game designer and mentor to technology entrepreneurs. Chat with him on Twitter @paulalexgray or visit www.paulalexgray.com.