Beware of where your curiosity leads you; it can come with consequences. Don’t do anything that will later cause you regret.
This story is a (Dream, Fiction, Thriller, Dark Fiction, Short Stories)
Summer was close, and Lyle was nearing his eighteenth birthday but felt the isolation of being young coupled with nothing to do. His parents were often away on business trips, and he was left alone in their home, bored and searching for something to capture his interest. There had been one thought in his mind over the past few months, yet it scared him. Kids at school talked about the internet, not just the everyday sites like YouTube or TikTok but also the internet’s forbidden “nectar”- the dark web. With no parental supervision, Lyle decided to explore this uncharted area of the internet. It called to him like a siren song, promising adventure, danger, and, most importantly — money. With trembling fingers, Lyle opened the dark web and took the first steps down a path that would change his life forever.
When Lyle started browsing, he knew he had entered a treacherous and chaotic realm. Websites were saturated with inappropriate and obscene content, and the people he encountered were far from ordinary. His gut instinct told him to turn back, but his curiosity forced him forward. Time flew by without warning as he stumbled across something bigger than he could have imagined. What started as an idle pastime soon became an addiction that enthralled him for hours. Just when his day was about to end, he saw a message from a woman in one of the forums. She pleaded for someone to watch her take her own life in exchange for money. He was shaken to his core, wanting to look away yet feeling strangely drawn to it. Taking a deep breath, he replied.
“Hello. May I ask why you would want to take your own life?” Lyle’s fingers hesitated over the keyboard as he typed out the question. He had never been one to pry into other people’s business, but something about this woman made him want to understand her reasons. He hoped a friendly chat would be enough to change her mind.
But Lyle’s gut twisted in apprehension when she responded with a link. Was this some kind of trap? A virus that would destroy his computer?
The cursor hovered over the link for what felt like an eternity before finally clicking it. Who was he to judge her choices? Maybe if he listened long enough, he could convince her that things were worth living for.
Lyle sat in front of his computer, his knuckles turning white around the mouse as he hovered over the mysterious link. He felt his heart pounding as the webpage slowly loaded, a strange mix of anticipation and fear coursing through his veins. The screen seemed to freeze for one moment before finally continuing, and a sultry voice spoke out from the speakers, beckoning him into a world unknown. “Welcome… Are you ready for something new?” Lyle felt himself shaking uncontrollably, beads of sweat forming at his temples. He was paralyzed with fear, yet slowly reached out towards the keyboard to type his response — yes. Little did he know that he was getting into a dark web full of deception, maliciousness, and lies.
“Good choice, Lyle.” Lyle’s heart seized with panic as he heard the voice from the other side of the screen. Whoever — or whatever — was on the other end somehow knew his name, though he had never uttered it. Before he could type his concern, cold dread seeped into every corner of his being when the voice spoke again. “I will show you some pictures, ask you some questions, and tell you some riddles. If you like one of the pictures, I will deposit $50 into an account of your choice. Get my question right, and I’ll deposit $100; get it wrong and take away $50. Solve my riddle correctly, and I’ll put in $200, but if I get it wrong, not only will I take away $50, but something bad will happen. Do you want to play?”
Lyle’s hands quivered, fingers fluttering like frenzied birds as his mind reeled with confusion. “Wait, something bad? To me? Something bad will happen to who?” A deep voice replied, “That is not your concern. Do you want to play? You will have ten seconds to reply.” Terror raced through Lyle’s veins as he watched a countdown clock ticking down the last of his choices. With every second that passed, his terror mounted until it was unbearable. Finally, he typed the word NO. He didn’t want to be the reason anything terrible happened to anyone, especially himself. The screen fluttered, and then his computer shut off. Lyle’s hands trembled, and chills rushed through his body. What had just happened? He took a few moments to compose himself before standing up, but he still could not shake the dread lingering in the air. He quickly grabbed his phone, unplugged the computer, and hurried out of the room.
Lyle stepped outside and felt the tension within him slowly drain away. Yet, a knot of curiosity and dread tightened in his gut. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was coming. His heart sank further when his cell phone started ringing from his back pocket, and an unfamiliar number flashed on the screen. A wave of dread set in as he pondered whether to answer his phone. Had the same voice that had greeted him on his computer now reached out to him through his smart device? He was terrified of what news might be waiting for him on the other end.
Lyle hesitated before answering, bracing himself for the worst. “Wrong choice!” The voice boomed through the line, causing Lyle to recoil in horror as if struck by a physical blow. He fumbled with the phone, his heart racing, and finally threw it to the ground in frustration. Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, his house phone rang with a shrill, ominous tone that rattled his spine.
The very air around him seemed to vibrate with an eerie intensity, and Lyle could feel his senses heightening as if preparing for something terrible about to happen. His hands shook as he picked up the receiver, unable to escape the feeling of impending doom that consumed him like a thick fog.
Lyle’s soul seemed to grind to a halt as he heard the angelic voice on the other end of the line asking for Tanner Lone’s family. His heart beat noisily like a thunderous drum in his chest, and his stomach churned with dread. Then, before the woman could finish her sentence, Lyle heard sickening laughter from the computer room. He could feel the color draining from his face as he waited for the woman’s response.
Lyle’s voice caught in his throat as he uttered the words, “I’m his son.” The woman’s sorrowing tone pierced him like a blade. “I’m sorry, but I think I just found your parents,” she whispered. She explained that she’d found his father’s ID and phone on the street and had called ‘home’ from the cell phone contacts. Though the car was unharmed, she’d already alerted the authorities about the unresponsive bodies in the street. He felt as if every particle of his being had been ruptured by her heartbreaking news and crumpled to the ground, enveloped in grief. The cackle echoed through the room, drowning out all other noises. “I OWN YOU!”
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