The message board Terry found was part of the dark web, a section of the internet similar to the sketchiest slum you could imagine. It was possible to find something benign and not quite illegal but the majority of items or favors sought were anything but. Out of curiosity and a peer-pressure fueled nudge from his classmates, Terry found himself Searching for something but nothing in particular. Scrolling through bits of unconfirmed leaked multi-government files and the occasional pornographic image he found a topic titled “Just another face ;Terry = – ).” He knew right away that this was something deeply wrong. There was no way or reason there would be someone tracking him. Nothing but coincidence led that topic to his eyes. Ignoring it he continued to scroll down, eating some snacks along the way and grabbing the obligatory glass of water. After hours of burying his face in a computer screen long enough to hear his eyes blink he called it a night.
The next day on the walk home he was talking to his best friend Pete who was familiar with the message board and was on the same night. “Hmmm yeah I remember seeing the pic of the girl on that motorcycle but the topic after had nothing to do with you. I didn’t see anything last night that said Terry… Maybe you fell asleep and thought it was real or something?” “Nah man, it totally said Terry and had some smiley thing at the end of it. I’ll take a pic and send it to you if it happens again.” Terry turned to press the crosswalk button and dropped his cellphone. ” You have got to be kidding!” After picking it up he saw it fell directly onto the camera. “Dude, it might still work just pick some off the glass off.” Terry messed around with the camera for a bit before snapping his first picture at the sky. “….Damn man my mom said I should’ve got a case when I got this phone. I never break my stuff. Hey, what does that cloud look like to you?” “A marshmallow floating on the dreams of angels!” Terry resisted the urge to smack Pete. “Seriously though! Doesn’t it look like a smile or something?” “Nope! I think you need to relax with that business. Just let it go. Even if it was there, what are the chances that you, ‘The Magnificent Terry Schaffer: World Renowned Sophomore’ is the Terry they’re talking about?” Terry laughed and gave Pete a quick punch to the solar plexus. “Yeah, Ok.”
Terry went back to his room to see his computer already logged in to the message board. The topics for all of the boards spelled out a message saying “Good luck telling anyone! They can’t believe you. I won’t let them. = – ).” After he scrolled down to the last topic his computer shut down and then restarted. At the same time his mother called him down to the dining room for supper. While eating Terry asked his mother if anything strange had happened to her. Startled by the question she gave him a confused facial expression. “Is someone messing with you at school?” “Not that I know of but I think I’m getting hacked and someone is bullying me online. I could take it. I just wanted to be sure nothing was happening to you.” Silvia took another bite of her food and shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t worry about me. Ever since your Dad died I don’t need you to fill the ‘Man-of-the-house’ role. I am YOUR parent and I care for YOU. Just worry about school and this mess about hackers I’ll look into it. Maybe the police would be able to help.” Worried of what the police would uncover by delving into a teen’s cyber life Terry was quick to respond. “Cops?! Forget it. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll just setup a better firewall. I’m good.” Supper resumed without a hint of unfamiliar essences. When Terry got back to his room his computer was left at the log-in screen. After logging in, his desktop wallpaper was a short note, “I’m sorry to have frightened you. I just want you to know there is something more to everything. It is here! I Love You, Terry! Don’t be afraid.” Terry pushed the keyboard tray in and stepped back. After fifteen minutes of pacing back and forth and biting his nails he unplugged his computer. He ran downstairs fast enough to trip over his own feet and quicken his descent to the ground by a few seconds with no favor to his face.
It was another day at school but he couldn’t concentrate. All that was on his mind was the voice he had read every message in. It felt like he knew who was talking to him. Where there was apprehension and nervousness now came a feeling of wanting. All that Terry wanted was to know what truth there was to what was going on. He never felt a powerful obsession like this in his life. After school it became a ritual to find a new message. What was hidden and why was beyond him but the need to seek was paramount. Three months had past with a complete silence just enough to drive him mad. He had lost his friends being unable to carry on any coherent conversation. Pete had gone missing during the first week of silence. Everyone around Terry believed that Pete’s disappearance is what started to diminish his mood and ultimately lead to his recent bouts with depression. The counselors who were assigned to Terry thought it to be in his best interest to stay at home to process what happened to Pete but all he could do is replay in his mind the few messages he received over and over again.
After a walk around the neighborhood with his mother he found a note on the ground. The paper looked more like a piece of cloth. There were dark red stains towards the edges the same size as Terry fingers. The writing on it was cursive with instructions written like a recipe. The list was short and simple. The person who plans to invoke the summoning of knowledge needs a candle and a dark room full of emotion. Terry felt confused but certain it was left for him. Everything he had experienced to this point felt like following a trail of bread crumbs he left while fearing he would be lost. The fork in this road was one approached before but he was not sure how he could know where to go. He shoved the note in his jacket pocket and ran straight to home. Terry’s mom shouted for him to slow down but he would not. Tears of excitement were sliding across his face. He ran upstairs to his room eager and lost. On the way in he kicked a yellow envelope packed with something labeled “You needed to know. = – ).”
Sitting in a room lit only by a candle light app on an adjacent smart phone, Terry felt like he was losing it all. His mind was just coping with the loss of itself fumbling with the pieces leftover from a blunt force of a traumatic sensory overload. On the floor beside him was the envelope, torn open like a long awaited gift. Each photo was on a holographic plate that only showed, at most, a 5 second stream of moving pictures. The plates were commonly used to string a few things together. Typically a quick “Hi Mom!,” or a troll shouting spurts of offensive material at some poor victim. This set was just a stream of what the worst humanity has to offer. Graphic scenes of war crimes of various nations, missing children being abducted and the unfortunate state some were found in, animals being sent to an unnaturally early grave. The graphic images suddenly stopped and a voice came through. It was deep, barely in the spectrum of human hearing but somehow familiar to him. “I’ve found heaven, son. You just need to follow.” Terry’s father had killed himself 2 year prior from suffering from depression longer than Terry had been alive. Terry felt a small poke at his foot and saw a knife with a small note that appeared from the envelope. Hands shaking and tears flowing in a constant stream was compelled to drive the knife into his neck. The note laid beside him, “Pete followed so should you. = – ).”
Silvia finally made her way upstairs and found Terry’s room the way they had left it but without her son. The sense of dread was overwhelming. She knew something was terribly wrong he was lost where she could not follow. She kept reminding herself she saw him come in. Frantically checking every room there was no trace of him. She called the police explaining the past events but they seemed to be more concerned that she may have been the cause of his disappearance. That night she cried for hours sitting in Terry’s room reliving the days events. The light to the room slowly dimmed black and turned full bright as she saw Terry laying in a pool of his blood with the knife where he left it. Silvia’s heart stopped and she dropped to her knees over his body. She felt his still warm body and wept repeating she loved him and she saw him come in. As quick as he appeared he was gone and she was left holding nothing. She slowly felt her mind losing control while she beat the floor boards until her knuckles were bloody. Silvia looked up after she felt an immense amount of defeat and saw her late husband Gregory standing in a black suit at the doorway. Gregory slowly approached her, knelt and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. At a complete loss Silvia was paralyzed. Gregory stood again and slowly spoke but nothing seemed to come out of his mouth. A knife and a small note fell out of his pant leg and laid in front of Silvia. “Terry followed so should you. = – ).” Gregory was gone and Terry’s body returned.