This will be my final journal entry. That I am almost positive of. I've been running for over a year now and no matter how far I go, how well I hide, they still manage to find me. I'm not sure whether it’s because of my computer or maybe some satellite that is dedicated solely for me, I really can’t say for sure. I am writing this by hand, because my computer is nothing more than a pile of slag. I destroyed it after my last attempt to seek help which turned out to be an epic failure on my part. I should have known better but I had no choice. I had to try. Now, I'm attempting to remove myself from the grid as much as possible. When I have to call someone I use burner phones or even those old antiquated devices called Pay Phones.
Now you may think me insane, but I can assure you I am not. Someone or some group is after me. I stumbled onto something that I shouldn’t have and now I'm living on borrowed time. All I wanted was to have a little fun. I didn't think that things would escalate so quickly, so violently. My girlfriend is dead. My best friend is dead. My parents are in critical condition at the hospital and I can't even go visit them because I know someone is watching them; waiting for me. Everyone I care about is being taken away from me because they are nothing more than collateral damage. They are victims of my stupidity and foolishness. I'm all alone now and the Dark Net is coming for me. They will not stop until they have me, one way or another.
Now you may not know what the Dark Net is or who they are. Allow me to tell you so that you may avoid my folly. The Dark Net is an area of the internet that is only traversed by the demented, the damned, and the depraved. It's a black market where anything is on sale for the right price. Information, technology, organs, even people; for enough money you could have any of it, or all of it. With the explosion of the internet, back alley deals have gone digital; money wired across the globe, routed, encoded and encrypted. Sure the police and Feds monitor the feeds and chat rooms, but they can only do so much. Just because you are in the middle New York or Boston, doesn’t mean that the person you are talking to is as well. They could be in Nigeria or Japan, in a country with practically no extradition. The internet, like anything else, has its pros and cons.
I stumbled into this mess during my junior year in college. I grew up with the internet and all forms of technology as did all of my peers. I had my first cell phone when I was ten and a smart phone a year later. After living for so long with the world at my fingertips, it took some time to adjust. Being off the grid has been a challenge but the threat on my life has simplified things in ways you could never believe. I live a cash only existence and have become quite adept at pickpocketing and stealing. While I am living off the grid, I still hop online ever so often just to poke my head above water. I use libraries, internet cafes and the life. I do this Mostly I just to check the news. Recent reports have the police wanting to talk to me in connection with the death of my girlfriend and best friend. It's not a surprise since my finger prints were all over the place including the murder weapon, but it wasn’t my fault. I know that sounds pretty weak but it's the truth. I was set up by the Dark Net. They are pissed because I tried pulling a prank. I mean I just thought all of it was a joke. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong.
All of this started months ago when I was just messing around online waiting for my girlfriend to show up. Melissa was an amazing woman and I was crazy about her. She originally started as a rebound lay after getting spectacularly dumped by my girlfriend at a Delta Chi party when I found out that she had been sleeping with... well Delta Chi. After finding out I ran to the local clinic to make sure I didn't have any STIs, which I found out I had the Clap. This certainly put my painful urination in perspective. I just thought I had a urinary tract infection. Of course that didn't explain the tenderness in my scrotum. So while I popped antibiotics and tried to suppress the memory of having a cotton swab shoved down my urethra, I also mourned the end of my longest relationship.
Anyway, several weeks later Nick and I were getting some much needed lunch after class. After dropping off our books, we went to the dining hall on the first floor. It wasn't anything spectacular but if I really wanted better food we could have gone to the Student Union Building. I opted for the dorm cafeteria since it was closer and I didn’t want to wander too far from my room. I had a big test coming up and I was in desperate need for some study time. The hall was a decent size, with a fair number of tables. We lucked out that we went down just as the hall was opening so it hadn’t been inundated with other hungry students yet. Swiping our IDs we went into the buffet line for some lunch. Chicken Fried Steak and lumpy mashed potatoes and peas were what I chose, with unlimited refills of soda and some ice cream to beat the heat outside. The summer season had come about three months early and the building was sweltering. The dorm didn’t have central air so each room had their own window unit which barely worked. The dining hall was the only room in the building with a dedicated cooling system and it was heaven when the temperatures reached eighty or above.
We were about halfway through our lunch when I saw Melissa for the first time. She was absolutely beautiful and Nick had to practically pick my jaw up off the floor. After regaining what little sense I had, Nick told me to go talk to her but I wasn’t having any of it. She may be gorgeous but I still had my ex in my system, both literally and metaphorically. I opted just to shut up and eat the rest of my lunch before heading to my room to study.
Two days later as I was wandering around the campus, just enjoying the bright sunny day when I ran into Melissa once more. She was walking across the quad when she first noticed me. I was just sitting against a tree reading, trying not to draw any attention as I often preferred. I was halfway through a paragraph before a shadow fell over me. Looking up I saw the Melissa standing there.
"Hi." I said, a bit taken back by her sudden appearance. She smiled at me like we were old friends.
"Hi," She said, "I'm not bothering you, am I?"
"No, no." I said, maybe a bit too eagerly. I practically jumped to my feet. Offering my hand I said, "Mason, I’m… my name is Mason."
She smiled and accepted it. "Melissa." She told me.
I can’t quite remember what we talked about. Terrible I know but its more about what I felt when I was with her than anything else. She seemed so cool and confident that I felt like I could just be me instead of some version that she wanted me to be. What I do know is that eventually after about an hour of just talking, she asked me out on a date. Now I was still recovering from my break up and so I didn't really want anything serious. Though I didn’t mention this to her. If I did, I probably wouldn't have had a date with her. Of course that would mean Melissa would still be alive and happy. Hindsight is always 20/20 they say.
Two days later we went on our date, which turned out to be retitled as our "first date." I didn’t want to be that guy but my intention was to have a fun evening, hopefully get laid, and then start the process of trying to get back out into the dating world. I got past step one and two but didn’t get to three because Melissa was just so damned great. Instead, I skipped step three altogether and went straight to step four: a new and healthy relationship. Melissa was everything that my ex wasn't. She was sweet, thoughtful, kind, giving, and not a huge slut. Thinking back, I wondered why we didn’t break up sooner. We had very little in common really. Well we had one thing in common, but not exactly something you want to base a long term relationship on.
Anyway, Melissa and I quickly became a couple. The semester had come to an end so it was time for everyone to return home. Fortunately, Melissa and I lived in the same city so our budding relationship wouldn’t suffer from the long distance blues. During our summer vacation, when we weren't working, we spent together. We hung out at each other's house, went to the movies, dinner, lunch, the mall, the park, everywhere. I even showed off some of my sleight of hand skills. I had hopes of being a magician when I was younger but eventually the novelty wore off, but I kept up the sleight of hand because it was a great skill to have like lock picking and juggling. Melissa and I were in love, in mean genuinely in love. When she said it I knew she was being honest and when I said it, I meant everyone bit of it.
Eventually the summer ended and we were back to school. It didn’t bother me that I had to go back, since Melissa was coming with me. The new semester started as it always did and before you knew it we were back into the routine of homework and research papers. It was a month after we got back that things had changed. It wasn't due to any personal reasons or that friendships were tested and relationships were broken. This all started purely for the fact that I was bored. My entire life flipped upside down and slowly crumbled into the mess that it is now all because I was bored.
I was at the library waiting for Melissa to get out of her Econ class. Nick, Nick's new girlfriend, Melissa and I were going to get some dinner when she was done. My classes were over first and Nick and, I'll call her Mindy, were no doubt at her sorority having sex... again. This was not Nick's first girlfriend but certainly his most... active I’ll say. Granted I was he was happy and having fun, and I didn’t have to worry about walking in on him masturbating for the fifth day in a row, but if they would have just come over to the library when we said, I wouldn't have been surfing the net and found that blog post. It’s not his fault of course. I know this was my fault. There is no doubt in my mind. This is merely transference of blame so that I feel less guilty.
I was surfing the net looking at random websites and just clicking on any click-bait that looked interesting. I was on my own lap top so I wasn’t bound by the web filter of our university. I didn't have any real goal in mind, just jumping from one site to the next. The problem with forums is that they can thread back for days, weeks, and sometimes even years. I was bouncing from user to user to user, reading about one stupid thing or another when I stumbled on a topic that caught my attention. It was something innocuous and any other day I could have ignored it, but again I was bored and willing to root through the tedium.
It was a thread for something called the Meat Train. Now I am well aware of certain internet memes that don’t possess the same fun quality of Grumpy Cat or Get to the Choppa. Even Scumbag Steve and his antithesis Good Guy Greg made me laugh but things like Tub Girl, Goatsee and even Meat Spin made me wary. Of course in order for me to avoid certain things like Blue Waffle, I had to jump in feet first. Meat Train sounded like some sort of all male gay orgy and so I should have just ignored it since I had no interest in that, but that little part of my brain that needs to know things had convinced the rest of my brain to click the link. If it was an all-male gay orgy, I would just close the window and move onto things that were... well… not an all-male gay orgy.
So as a precaution in case audio was a factor for this click-bait link, I turned down my volume, muted it and plug my headphones into the audio jack for good measure. It wasn’t gay porn as I suspected. In retrospect I would have gladly made that my background. The link took me to a page that was merely a plain black page. There was nothing obvious to click and no text. Now I had seen sites like this. In order to hide content they will make the page and the text the same color so you had to highlight everything to find the text. Moving my mouse I dragged the curser all over the page but found no text. Instead I found something else: a link. It was only a single period in the upper left hand corner of the page and could have been easily missed but as I said I was bored and now curious so I wanted to know if I had missed anything. It was the brief flicker from curser arrow to finger that stopped my hand. It took me almost two full minutes of going pixel by pixel to find it again.
I was amazed at the length someone was willing to go to hide this link. My curiosity was definitely piqued. I had to know more about who made the site and why they went to such trouble to hide it. Of course since I found the link, I may as well see where it went. It took almost a full minute for the page to load as if someone had designed it to take a long time to load as a way to discourage anyone from stumbling on the website. I however had nothing but time on my hands so I didn't let a slow loading time discourage my adventure into the Meat Train.
Eventually the black screen changed and brought me to a new webpage. It was basic in design, something straight from the nineties. The page was black and white, lacking any sort of creative web design. The page was broken up into three different panels. One had several links with obscure titles like: Pleasure, Function, and Gear. The second appeared to be for video chat. Since I didn't have my webcam on, the space had the text: Camera Inactive. The final panel was for what appeared to be a chat window.
The chat box and webcam weren’t currently active so the only thing I could click on was one of the links. Of the three I decided to click on Pleasure. After all who could turn down a little pleasure in their life? The webpage changed slightly as the two other links vanished and several new ones appeared. Pleasure remained but was joined by several sub links underneath two columns M or F: 5 + or -, 10 +, 15 +, and 20+. It was certainly strange and that voice in the back of my head told me that I should just shut down my page and go back to reading about upcoming movies or recent news. However, my curiosity was just too loud, muting the other voice. Opting to continue with this discovery, I clicked on 20+. Intuition told me that the numbers were age ranges and the headings were genders. While I couldn't be certain, I chose the safest route possible with F 20+. The page changed again, the numbers replaced by letters: W, B, A, and O. At this point I had no idea what to choose. So I opted for B and the page changed to the options Delivery or Stream. I decided on stream. Why not? Another option came up with several more choices: R, T, K, A. Letting my fingers work I chose K.
The page didn’t change this time, but instead the chat window became active as someone named B1ackHat69 appeared in the chat room. A new window appeared requesting that I create a chat ID. Since this website was presumably super-secret, I opted to create an ID representative of it. I decided on: Mr.B1ack99. Here is my best recollection of how the conversation went:
B1ackHat69: Payment is required. Please provide wiring instructions for payment.
Mr.B1ack99: How much?
B1ackHat69: Depends on how long you want.
Mr.B1ack99: How do I know you’re not a cop?
B1ackHat69: Trust is required in this business.
Mr.B1ack99: Prove it. Can I get a sample for free? Want to make sure your product is good.
B1ackHat69: How can I be certain you aren’t law enforcement?
Mr.B1ack99: Trust is required in this business.
This is where everything fell apart. The camera feed suddenly became active, the black screen turning into a room. There was a man standing in an otherwise empty space. Wearing all black with a face mask, the man reached off screen and pulled a young woman into view. She was disheveled and obviously upset. Tears were streaming down her cheeks from red and swollen eyes. The woman was young, perhaps college aged, black and would be pretty if not for the bruising and dried blood. She was wearing nothing but dirty, torn underwear and her hands were bound behind her back. I couldn't hear any audio but I could read the poor woman's lips. She was crying ’help me'. With that I slammed down my laptop, and for good measure I also removed the battery. I knew that once I reopened my computer, that website would still be up. So this way when I rebooted it would ask to restore the session and I would just decline.
The implications of what I stumbled into were fairly obvious but I wasn't sure how to proceed. Sure I could call the cops and tell that that a woman was being held hostage but I had no proof, no idea of how to find the website again, and if that was even real. It could have been some faux snuff site and all of it was perfectly legal but very, very messed up. In the end I opted to just leave it be and hope for the best. But the best never came.
It was week later when I was working on a term paper that BlackHat69 returned. The day after more visit to that site, after restarting my computer I cleared my web history and even went into the root directory to clear out any hint of the website that I could find. I felt fairly satisfied that I had purged my system, and my life, of the Meat Train site and actually completely forgot about it until I received an email from a man called BlackHat69. When I first got the email, it took me several minutes before the name came back to me in screaming detail and my stomach dropped.
I didn’t even bother to open the email; instead I tossed it into the deleted items and cleared it out. That relief lasted only a moment longer before BlackHat69 sent another email. This one had a subject line this time. ’Open Me'. I didn't. I tossed it back into my trash and deleted it. I closed my laptop, deciding that it was time for me to take a break anyway. Pick up my keys, I headed out to the Student Union Building to get some food and take my mind off term papers and BlackHatters.
I met up with Nick and Mindy who were in the midst of a study/make out session. The PDA came to an abrupt end when I showed up. Clearly they were done studying and the kissing was only a prelude to what was going to happen in either her sorority house or my dorm. I hoped it would be the former. When Nick asked me why I wasn't working on my paper I told him that I just needed a break and he left it at that. I knew I should have told him or someone about the BlackHatter, but I didn't want to think about him, the Meat Train, or the website. I would have told him about all of this if I knew that it would get him killed. Once again… hindsight.
I returned to my dorm about an hour later, alone. Nick went over to his girlfriend's to ’study'. Melissa had a presentation she was working on so I was all by myself for the rest of the night. I opened up my laptop and was instantly greeted with another email from BlackHat69. The subject line read: Do Not Delete Again! This struck me as strange since how could he know I had deleted the previous emails. That same curiosity that pulled me deeper into the Meat Train website was the same one that compelled me to open the email, though I knew a virus had to be in it. There wasn’t a virus, though at this point I wish it had been.
There was a video embedded into the email. It wasn’t a link or a file to download because the moment the email opened, the video started playing. The video was a girl, the same girl from the previous week. I was pretty sure this was merely a carryover from what I saw in the library but I couldn’t be one hundred percent. I could hear audio coming through the headphones I had plugged into the port in my computer. Out of pure reflex I grabbed the headphones and placed one of the buds to my ear.
"Please let me go!" The girl screamed. The masked man grabbed her by the face and gripped it so tight that I thought he would shatter her teeth. Throwing her to the floor, he turned back to camera but paused as he noticed something. By now I'm sure he noticed that the connection had been severed when I shut off my computer. He turned back to the girl and shook his head disappointed. For a moment he turned back to the camera before proceeding to remove a knife from a sheath on his belt. At that moment I knew exactly what was going to happen.
Furiously I tried closing the email but the window refused to close. I tried force quitting the program but the moment I tried my keyboard and mouse refused to work. It was like they system had locked them out which didn't make any sense since they were hardwired in. As the man descended upon the pleading woman I slammed my computer shut. However the audio continued to play through the headphones and all I could hear was screams for help. Once again I pulled out the battery to my computer and only then did it finally stop. My heart raced and a fear I had never known, welled up within me. Even though the computer was off, I could still hear the screams echoing in my head. I stared at my laptop, afraid to even touch it. I barely had time to really process what was happening when my phone started to ring.
I jumped at the sound, not expecting a call. I tried to laugh off the growing fear, thinking that this had to be some elaborate prank but as I started at my caller ID it read: Unknown Caller. Now I should know better than to pick up unknown calls, but I felt compelled to answer. That curious voice screaming in my head, demanded answers.
"Hello?" I asked. The voice on the other end was digitally altered. The gender was indistinguishable but the message was not.
"Did you like the sample?"
Now when I heard people say that they feel like they were being watched, I always dismissed them as being overly dramatic. However, ever since I received that call, I had the distinct feeling that I someone was following me. It might have something to do with all of the security cameras on campus or the sheer number of students I was surrounded by, but I just felt uncomfortable. I told Melissa and Nick about what happened. Nick was skeptical but Melissa was just plain pissed. She told me that I should go to the police but I asked her what could I do? I had no evidence, no proof that any of this actually happened. Even my computer didn’t have evidence. When I restarted my computer, the emails were gone and all systems appeared to be working as they always did. It was like a bad dream except I knew that this wasn’t a dream and waking up wouldn't help.
Nick then asked me the worst question in the world. He asked if I could find the website again. I was floored by it. Before I could argue though, he went on to explain that if I could find the link again, then I might be able to show the cops and they could shut the site down, if not find the bad guy behind it. I was hesitant but Nick and Melissa was certain that this was the perfect thing to do. Eventually I relented but I told them we would have to use someone else's computer. The last thing I wanted was to put that website back on mine. In the end we decided to use Nick's computer.
Later that night we scoured the net starting at around six and going until almost midnight when I found the site again. I knew Google wouldn't be of any help. It's not exactly something that they really advertised. Instead I went about the route that I took before. I went into forum after forum trying to recreate the path I had followed during my first foray into this darker side of the internet. It was more difficult because it had been over a week and the paths I took, or I thought I took, were pushed back into the threads. I don't know whether it was because I took the same path or found another link for it, but I finally found the Meat Train.
"The Meat Train?" Melissa asked me with a raised eyebrow. I shrugged and started my search for the hidden link. It wasn’t in the same place as I remembered so I had to search Pixel by pixel, finding it in the bottom right hand corner this time. Something told me that the link moved each time you navigated onto the page. Anyway, when I clicked the link, we were taken to the same familiar three windowed page that I first found.
"So what now?" Nick asked. I pointed at the three options at the top of the screen: Pleasure, Function, Gear.
I told them to choose one, but said that the girl I saw was under the Pleasure option. Melissa seemed a little annoyed but given the vagueness of the webpage my actions were forgiven. This time we opted for Function, though we didn’t fare much better. The links were: H, K, L, E, Lu. We chose H since it was the first on the list and as we did the options disappeared and the chat window became active. Instantly my stomach dropped when I saw the name BlackHat69.
B1ackHat69: Payment is required. Please provide wiring instructions for payment.
"That's the guy." I told them. The chat had started but we were yet to put in a comment. The BlackHatter was patient but who knew how long that would last.
"So what now?" Nick asked.
"We call the cops and tell them what we found." Melissa said. I was in total agreement but didn’t have the opportunity to voice my opinion when I saw that more text was appearing on the screen.
BlackHat69: I wouldn't be so hasty, Mr.Black99 or should I call you Mason Black?
"What the hell?" Nick gasped. "How does he know your name?"
"I don’t know." I said in awe, but the BlackHatter already had his answer all set up.
BlackHat69: I know a great deal about Mason Black, Nicholas Andrews, and Melissa Archer. I know all about each one of you.
Without warning, Melissa grabbed the laptop and slammed it shut, killing the connection. However the moment she did so, my cell phone beeped indicating a text message. Now very few people text me, and those that do were the same people who were in my dorm room. With unsteady hands, I pulled the phone from my pocket and looked at the screen. That uneasy feeling in my stomach grew worse as words started to appear as the texts showed up.
Unknown Caller: You should have stayed away
Unknown Caller: You can’t run from me.
Unknown Caller: If you go to the cops I will find you.
Unknown Caller: And I will kill you.
Unknown Caller: All of you.
The final text was a picture. I dropped my phone stepping away as if it were a rabid animal preparing to bite me. Melissa, seeing my obvious distress, leaned down and picked up my phone. She audibly gasped when she saw it. The image was of us, Nick, Melissa and me, standing in the dorm room staring at something in front of us. It didn’t take long to realize how he took the image. B1ackHat69 had managed to snap a picture using the laptop's camera.
It took me about one second with an internet search to realize that I had made a huge mistake. Twice. At first I thought the user on the other end was just making up screen names as we all do; however I learned that this was most likely not the case. A black hat is a term used to define an individual who violates computer and internet security for malicious or personal gain. It appeared that the moderator or maybe even the administrator I had crossed paths with was a hacker. To worsen the matter, he or she was not only a hacker but a psychopath as well. Someone who was willing to kidnap and brutalize someone for the enjoyment of others was not the type of person I wanted to cross, let alone exist on their radar. And yet I not only put myself on it, but dragged two others with me.
The first thing we did was go to the cops. It took absolutely no convincing for us to seek help. It took some effort to explain how I stumbled onto the website in the first place and in the end I think they believed me when I said I was bored and was just clicking on anything I could find. We were certain that once we took them to the website and showed them what we found then things would start to turn around. This was not the case. When I finally found a link to take me to the website, I was not greeted by the black screen. Instead, we received a 404 error and the possibility that the website may no longer be active. We tried to explain what we found but they didn’t believe us. We were told that we weren’t the first students to ever pull a prank on the police and we should be lucky that they didn’t arrest us for filing a false police report.
Without the police we had no other options than to hope that the hacker didn’t make contact again. This may have been a onetime thing after all; a scare tactic to make sure we remained silent. So, with fingers crossed we went about our lives with the hopes that everything would tum out fine. Again, we were wrong and Nick was the first to suffer at the BlackHatter’s insanity... among others.
Melissa and I were on our way back to my dorm a week after our incident with B1ackHat69. Everything was quiet and had been since. We assumed that the photo and texts were the worst of it and that he was done with us. The website had shut down or moved and so we couldn't prove anything. All evidence was gone, erased by the hacker. After a few days of waiting and wondering, we all decided that nothing would happen. As the week went on we returned to our natural equilibrium and the BlackHatter was nothing but a bad memory. Then I learned how wrong we really were.
It was a Saturday and I had spent the night at Melissa's new apartment. At the start of the semester she had started living off campus and so I would spend the night there every so often. It granted us privacy that was great for studying, among other things. However since I was off campus I didn’t hear about the incident until we were on our way to the dorm for breakfast. It was the crowd of students that first caught our attention. At first we didn’t know what to think. In college there could be a myriad of reasons as to why people were gathered in the quad. Protests, performances, arguments, it could be anything. It was when we got closer that we saw the ambulances and then the police cars. We approached the enormous group students and heard some mutterings but paid it no mind… until we saw the bodies.
From what the university told us, there was a carbon monoxide leak in the dorm. The alarm system was supposed to have a Carbon Monoxide detector but the alarm had somehow been disabled and so the sensors never detected it. From what I’ve read about CO poisoning, it's just like falling asleep. There is no pain, just nothingness. This event hit me hard but struck me worse when I discovered that Nick was in the dorm during the leak. He was supposed to have been at Mindy's but for whatever reason he was in the dorm and so was yet another victim to this tragic accident. Though I soon learned it wasn't an accident.
I was devastated. Nick was perhaps my best friend and was an amazing person. To lose him in a tragedy was one thing but to discover that he was murdered was another. The university had closed temporarily while they determined the cause of the leak and because of the terrible loss of so many people. Over one hundred students died as a result of the leak. In less than a day there was an uproar by the parents and media, demanding an explanation as to why the system didn't work. This stumped the administration as well as the fire marshal since days before they ran a test to ensure the system was working and it passed with flying colors. In the end everyone just assumed it was a simple accident but I knew better.
The day of the incident, after the bodies were removed and the building was declared safe to enter, the surviving students were allowed to retrieve personal items before returning home for an indeterminate amount of time. Melissa and I drove back home together. Her car was acting up and so she opted to drive with me and deal with the car later. I was in no frame of mind to drive so I opted to ride shotgun as she drove. We were about forty miles away from school when I got a text message. Not thinking anything of it I looked at my text and literally gasped when I saw it.
The image was a screen shot from what appeared to be my dorm room. In the shot was Nick asleep on his bed. It didn't take me long to realize the screen shot was from Nick's laptop camera. A moment later, I received another text from the Unknown Caller. This one didn’t even allow me to open it as it did it on its own. It was an image from what appeared to be a POV camera. The operator was standing next to what appeared to be a very large furnace. This person when moved the camera down to the furnace to show that there were several tools as well. The video played for only about a minute, stopping partly through the dismantling of the furnace. A moment later I received yet one more text. This one only had two words: HA HA. In that instant I knew that Nick's death was no accident.
I had hoped that when I returned home everything would be fine. On the way there I explained to Melissa what was sent to me. She demanded we go straight to the police, but when I went to look at my texts they were all gone. Someone had remotely wiped out every text I had ever received or sent. Once again all evidence was gone. The BlackHatter had struck again.
I was almost home when I received a phone call. Certain that it was from our stalker, I picked it up and started screaming at the other end. This proved fruitless as the moment I stopped screaming, the caller had introduced herself as Detective Sarah Milner. I apologized profusely, terrified to antagonize any law enforcement officers since I may need them in the future. I inquired as to why she was calling me when the detective dropped yet another bomb shell. My parents were in the hospital. What followed next was a bit hazy as my memory is somewhat fragmented. From what I could remember she said that there had been a fire at my home and that they were badly injured. In fact, their prognosis was bad. It was not a matter of if, but of when.
After hearing this I was in complete and utter shock. I managed to finish my conversation with the detective before hanging up but I couldn’t remember what I said or really what she said. My world was shattered. My parents were dying, my best friend was dead and my girlfriend and I were being stalked by a psychopathic hacker. When Melissa asked me who it was, I simply told her to take me to the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital ten minutes later, my mind reeling from everything that was happening. I told Melissa that she could take my car and go home to check in with her parents but she insisted on staying with me. I thanked her and we both took the long and painful walk to the burn ward. I met the doctor outside of the ward where he tried to explain the extent of his parents' condition. The burns covered almost all of their bodies consisting of second and third degree burns. He warned me that they were in medically induced comas due to the pain that they felt. Odds were that they would pass away in a day or two if not sooner.
I was absolutely devastated at the news. I wanted to see them at least once before they died but he warned that they wouldn't look anything like I remembered. I told him I didn't care. I wanted to tell them that I loved them one last time before they died. I'm not going to go into detail about how they looked or what I said. Frankly that is unimportant to the story. All I can say is that I was fortunate enough to say my goodbyes, though they weren't able to say theirs. I knew they loved me and that was all that I needed.
I spoke with the police wanting to know more about what happened. What they told me was that there was a fire in the early hours of the morning. They would have to wait to hear more from the investigators but it was possible that arson may be involved. When they asked if my parents had any enemies, I said no. When they asked if I had any enemies, I also said no. What would be the point? The BlackHatter has gone to great lengths to keep himself off the grid. I could tell the police the truth but I had nothing to back up my claims.
I couldn't bear to be at the hospital anymore and I had no home to go to. So Melissa said that I could come with her to her parents. She would explain the situation and figured that it would be okay, at least for a little while. She figured once I got ahold of my out of state relatives, I could move in with them but for now I could stay nearby. I was actually quite grateful for that.
Melissa's parents weren't home when we arrived and that was when she remembered they would be out of town for a wedding. Given everything that happened, she completely forgot. I said it was probably a good thing that they were gone. It was bad enough to worry about us, let alone other victims of this madman. When we arrived I left my bag in the living room and followed Melissa up to her room. I was absolutely exhausted and only wanted to sleep. My family would be on their way so I was certain I would be inundated with people over the next few hours. All I remember was my head hitting her pillow and then nothing.
I woke up several hours later. The sun had set and all I could see was darkness. I felt exhausted, almost as if I wasn't even asleep, only shut down. I called for Melissa but either she didn't hear me or was asleep as well. My sluggish brain was slowly winding into action, memories coming back with horrific clarity. My parents were dying, my best friend was dead and there was a madman stalking me; check, check and check. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness and I saw that there was a lamp next to the bed. Reaching out I clicked it on, temporarily blinded by the CFL bulb as burst to life. Turning away from it I saw that I wasn't alone in bed. I instantly thought that Melissa must have taken a nap with me and for the first time a smile curled my lips all day. That joy I felt disintegrated immediately as I saw that Melissa was in fact in bed with me, but she was dead.
I jumped to my feet, my body trembling from utter fear. She did not look peaceful or happy. Instead a horrific expression of pain and fear remained frozen on her face. The thick handle of butcher's knife rose from her bloodstained chest. Around the grip were bloody smudges almost like a hand. In fact they weren’t smudges at all. They were fingerprints. And by the stains that were on my fingers, they were my fingerprints. I didn’t know what to think or what to do. I wanted to cry but I just couldn’t process any of this. My emotions had reached a boiling point that I just couldn’t express what I was feeling. I was absolutely heartbroken, tears wanting to pour from me but I couldn’t. I was in complete shock. Everyone I loved was gone. My life was over. It was as I stared down at Melissa, I heard my phone chime.
Ignoring the blood that covered my clothes and hands, I pulled out my phone and instantly a video started to play. It was once more a POV shot as a person moved around the interior of a house. The home looked familiar and when I saw my bag I knew exactly where the man was. He was inside of Melissa's house. The man looked up to the second floor and then ascended the stairs with all of the stealth of a cat. Swiftly and quietly he moved onto the second floor and stepping to his left, he approached a bedroom. Slowly opening the door, I could see myself sleeping soundly on the bed. Next to me Melissa lay, asleep as well. Creeping in, never making a sound, he approached us. Removing a small hypodermic needle, already filled with some substance he carefully, pressed the steel into a freckle on my neck and depressed the plunger. I immediately touched my neck and felt only the slightest bump as a small clot of blood had formed.
Replacing the needle he then stepped over to Melissa. Moving his hand, a large butcher's knife came into view. As I watched all of this I wanted to scream at Melissa to wake up and run, but it wouldn’t change anything. The man placed the tip of the knife against her chest and with a momentary pause; he slammed the blade into Melissa’s chest. Instantly she awoke but by then it was too late. Blood gushed from the wound before she could even fight back. Within seconds, her body went limp and she was gone.
The scene was not over yet. The man removed the blade and then gingerly took my hand and dipped into the warm blood. He then wrapped my fingers around the handle for a moment before returning the blade into Melissa's chest. Then he dipped his gloved fingers into the pooling blood and proceeded to flick droplets of blood carefully against my face and clothes. I instantly understood what he was doing. Blood Spatter. While it may eventually fall apart in court, he was planting evidence to ensure that the fingers were all pointing at me. That was when the phone cut out and I heard the sirens.
The story is pretty straightforward from here. I ran from the cops. What could I say? I slept through my girlfriend's murder, my parent’s happened to die from arson, and I just happen to not be in my dorm when there was a Carbon Monoxide leak. While it was all circumstantial, it did not paint me in a fair light. Before I left I did my best at wiping down the knife but my prints were in other places in the house and blood was all over my clothes. The leap from her death to me was a short one.
I spent the next two days hiding in abandoned buildings, cleaning myself up using runoff and puddles. I ditched my old clothes, burning them in a trashcan and then just started moving place to place. I rarely buy burner phones but when I do they don't last long. About a month or so after I get it, I start getting texts and phone calls from an unknown caller. The messages range from heavy breathing to threats of harm or even death. After that I ditch the phone and stay off the grid for about a month.
It has been almost a year since I started running. I've changed my appearance as much as possible to conceal who I am from both the police and the BlackHatter. But in the end it won’t matter. At this point it's simply a race of attrition. Who will find me first? I am positive that my fate lies in the hands of one or the other and I'm afraid that it won’t be the police.