I made the fateful decision to first start using tinder a couple years ago.
It had seemed like a simple and convenient dating option. Me and my friend Francis both set up our tinder accounts at the same time, part of a mutual challenge to ‘break out of our shells’, since we’d long shared in common our struggles to find a relationship.
Neither of us was exactly… Great with women, you see. I was shy and a bit awkward, having the kind of personality most women didn’t find very attractive. Plus, with the majority of my time occupied by repairing and selling items at the antique shop I owned, most of the people I ever interacted with were families and people over the age of at least seventy: not, exactly, relationship material. I thought tinder might be the ideal solution for both of us, a time efficient way to find women in our local area.
The only other idea I could come up with for us was hanging out at a bar and trying our luck there again. Every time I’d previously tried to approach a girl at a bar, they’d either ignored or walked away from me. Francis was the same.
What I didn’t know about tinder at the time I signed up for it was that there were about eight other guys for every one woman using the website. Eight predominantly other attractive, funny and confident guys with pets and lots of friends and great personalities.
And I, of course having to compete against all of them, didn’t stand a chance.
I’d get a match every once or so few weeks. About one in five of these matches would actually respond to my first message. And of those, I managed to keep the attention and interest of a couple a year past a few simple conversations and mutual introductions between us.
In three years of using tinder, I managed to go on exactly two dates, both which were fairly uninspired, and neither of which turned into the night I’d hoped they would.
Francis, unsurprisingly, hadn’t initially had much more success than I did. He was even more awkward than I was, being quiet, overly serious, and possessing a terrible sense of humour. His job was at some dodgy IT firm and spent most of his day alone at his apartment working from home.
This all changed a couple months ago, though.
One day he’d surprised me with a visit, where he had immediately brought up the whole online dating thing.
‘I met someone,’ he declared to me proudly. ‘On tinder, I mean.’
‘Seriously? How’d it go?’ I’d asked immediately, leaning forward from where I was sitting.
‘Believe it or not, it went kinda great,’ he responded. ‘We got pretty serious, actually.’
‘Like, you went out on a date, serious?’ I queried.
‘More like, she went over to my place after serious.’ He grinned meaningfully.
It took him actually showing me the match on tinder and scrolling briefly through one of their conversations before I fully believed him.
I didn’t have time to comment about any of this, though. He’d continued talking before I had the chance.
‘Ralph, I gotta tell you, I didn’t meet the girl on normal tinder. There’s this special add-on I downloaded for it. Some guy I met on a forum sent it to me. It gives you access to this whole other side of tinder I didn’t even know existed!’
‘Slow down,’ I said. ‘I want to hear more about the date first. What was she like?’
He waved dismissively. ‘She was… Great. Different. A bit terrifying.’
I pushed him for more information, but Francis was oddly vague about his experience, saying they had gone on a picnic and then gone swimming together, and she was an incredible swimmer. That was about all I could get out of him. It was very weird, considering how much we usually discussed these things with one another. I found myself starting to have doubts about his story for a second time.
I pushed him for more information at first. But his obvious keenness to discuss the app itself ended up winning me over, so I eventually asked him about it.
‘I was talking to this pal of mine about how frustrating tinder was and he asked if I ever heard about cursed tinder. He wouldn’t say too much about it, just told me I should check it out for myself. So I did.’
‘It took me a while, but I came across a download link for the program on some dodgy forum on the deep web,’ he said casually. ‘Wouldn’t really recommend you going there. I’d most likely send the download file directly on a USB for you to take a look at instead. Yeah, that’s definitely better, I think.’
Not knowing what the deep web even was, but being aware of how my friend liked to browse around many questionable and creepy websites and chatrooms across various parts of the internet, I agreed to this and assured him I would download it and try it out for myself.
‘Listen, there is more I need to tell you about the program before you can use it.’
He turned down to eyeball his feet, searching for words. ‘I mean, you could say there is one catch to using the, uh, addon.’
I raised my eyebrows. That made sense. The catch, I expected, had to be monetary. ‘Oohhh,’ I responded knowingly.
But Francis definitely didn’t follow up by saying what I thought he might.
Instead, he told me, ‘I know what you’re thinking. And it’s not any of those things. The women on this site, they can be sometimes – kind of – dangerous.’
I chuckled. ‘What, are they into weird fetishes or something?’
He laughed a little bit, too, but shook his head. ‘No, really. I mean some of them can be, like, actually psychotic.’
‘Psychotic,’ I repeated doubtfully. ‘You mean they are going to try to murder me or something?’
He seemed to trip over his words a little as he tried to explain himself better.
‘Well, probably not. But yes, the idea is not all the women you’ll encounter are friendly. The women on this site, you see, they… They aren’t quite human.’
Seeing the look coming across my face, he added, ‘Again, not what you’re thinking. They’re not animals – well – not most of them.’ He frowned. ‘I’d say they’re – supernatural, I guess? They’re not from this world. I don’t even think they’re from this universe.’
‘Francis,’ I’d said in a slightly discomforted voice, ‘you’re sounding kinda out there. Out there even for you.’
I had always known Francis to be a bit of a horror buff. I was too, though to a much lesser degree than him. He’d forever been fascinated by cult-like stuff and urban legends and creepypastas and that stuff. I also knew he took some of it quite seriously.
‘I know, I know, you think I’m crazy. I don’t know how much I believed it myself, in the beginning. Just try the app and follow the rules, okay? That’s all I’m asking. The danger, the freaky shit, it only gets bad if you’re not careful or don’t follow the rules. You’ll be fine, trust me.’
It took a bit more persuasion, but I eventually, grudgingly, agreed to try the app out once he sent it to me. I have to admit, I was a little curious to see this tinder addon. Francis sure did come across some very fascinating things on the internet. I sometimes enjoyed having him show me weird websites or pieces of obscure software he had downloaded. So I was looking forward to seeing what strange corner of the internet my friend had stumbled into this time – a place where, apparently, he found himself a date.
Francis had a USB to give me a few days later, making me promise to read the rules which came with it, and then, for a second time, to be careful when I used it. He handed it to me while repeating simple instructions on how to install the program onto my computer. He said he couldn’t wait to hear about my experience and mentioned looking forward to telling me more about his own before leaving.
‘You won’t regret it, trust me,’ he promised. ‘You have even more of an adventurous streak than I do.’
It wasn’t until a couple of days after that, over the weekend, that I found the spare time to have a look at the USB for myself.
I’ll admit I completely forgot Francis’ advice and installed the program – which Francis had explained was supposed to function like a browser addon – before even remembering to have a look at the attached document. I only thought of it at all when I spotted the document file named RULES beneath the one I had just installed.
This is somewhat a summary of what it read:
The Tinder Ritual
Do not try this if you’re not prepared for, or not willing to appreciate, the possible consequences involved.
Cursed Tinder (abbreviated as CT for simplicity) allows various entities from different worlds to temporarily enter our own through their relationships and interactions with humans. Don’t ask me exactly how it’s supposed to work. I don’t know.
What you need to understand is that not all of these entities are friendly and very few have wholesome intentions.
The rules are there to protect you, but they aren’t fool proof. I’ve known people whose matches on CT ended up trying to kill them, eat them, kidnap them, harvest their organs – among other things. And that was after they followed these rules to the letter and took all reasonable precautions.
Using CT is a game of chance, where you are putting your own life on the line. If you’re not prepared for that, you are better off deleting this file.
While searching for matches on CT:
1. Follow your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about a potential match, swipe left.
2. If you see something – anything – on a person’s profile moving in non-repeating animations, even subtly, swipe left.
3. If you come across anything that isn’t humanoid, swipe left.
4. If you cannot swipe left on an individual in any situation, close your browser. If that doesn’t work, shut off your computer and wait a couple of minutes before turning it on again.
5. If you see ‘flesh sowing’, ‘harvesting’, ‘feeding games’, ‘synchronized consumption,’ or ‘blood rituals’ as interests, swipe left. If, during a conversation, any individual mentions one of these interests, politely say you are not interested and then unmatch with them.
6. If you feel someone watching you from your surroundings, close CT and don’t reopen tinder for at least a couple of hours.
7. If you feel a match or prospective match watching you from the other side of the screen, unmatch (if you are matched with them) and report the profile immediately before following the precautions laid out in rule 6.
Note: Such profiles most often belong to individuals previously banned from the website for their unwholesome behaviour – and whoever moderates CT are perfectly fine with murder, assault, abduction, and various forms of torture, so you really, really don’t want to get involved with someone – or something – whose actions are enough draw ire from these people.
Strong advice to follow during a date with an individual from CT
1. Your matches on tinder come from different worlds, with different customs, cultures, and beliefs. Be polite and respectful. Don’t laugh if your date does or says something strange or odd. No matter how strange or odd – or disturbing – this may be. Just act like what they are doing is normal and be non judgemental. You don’t want to offend them. Really.
2. Never leave prematurely for any reason. Stay with your date until a time which is appropriate and acceptable for you to say goodbye to one another e.g. when you are leaving dinner with her.
3. Do not let your date take you back to their home, under any circumstances. This is most likely an attempt from them to lure you into their world. It is acceptable to take your date back to your own home or apartment.
4. Be sure to bring some form or method of self defense, just in case. There is a chance you might need it. (Crucifixes / other holy objects or blessed weapons are recommended. Conventional weapons may not always be effective.)
5. Be prepared for anything. Watch out for warning signs your date may have sinister intentions beyond just having a fun time.
Now you’ve read the rules, and understand the risks, following are simple steps to access CT from your device using the program:
1. Download and install the file. Follow the prompts and installation instructions. It should work on any device that normally allows tinder to run on the internet.
2. Open tinder. This may take a bit longer than usual.
3. Make the following changes to your profile:
– Add interest ‘Otherworldly fascination’ (if interest does not appear, reload page until it does)
– At the end of your ‘about me’ bio, include the following: ‘On the lookout for something out there and unconventional!’
4. Navigate to the ‘explore’ button on the tinder menu
5. Continue reloading this page until you find the ‘preternatural matches’ option (it will usually be located at the bottom of the page)
6. Clicking ‘preternatural matches’ will take you to CT. You may now begin searching for a suitable partner.
To uninstall: follow uninstallation instructions and then delete ALL TRACES of CT off your device, including these rules. In rare cases, a complete memory wipe of device may be necessary, if installation is unsuccessful.
NOTE: Uninstallation will not protect you from anything which has already taken notice of you from CT. Such entities may still attempt to establish contact with you even after you have deleted all traces of CT off your computer.
I read this document several times over just to make sure I’d read all of it right. I had.
I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. The writer of these rules, I thought, they couldn’t possibly be serious. Francis most likely wrote them himself. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought this was all part of some kind of elaborate joke Francis was trying to pull on me.
Whatever the case, my interest was piqued, even if I thought the whole thing was a bit stupid. I decided it couldn’t hurt to open up tinder and see what happened.
Tinder did, actually, take a little longer than usual to open up on my browser. When it finally did, though, it appeared completely normal.
I went along with the instructions. I added the interest ‘otherworldly rituals’ to my profile, as surprised – and amused – as I was to discover it.
After changing my profile description, I went to the explore option, and then started reloading my browser, feeling a little more stupid every subsequent time I did it. Each time, I saw no visible changes to the website.
I think I must have reloaded the page at least twenty times – enough to be on the verge of giving up – before it appeared near the bottom of the webpage. A picture which hadn’t been there before was fuzzy and flickering before me. It looked as if there were something hiding within the darkness of the frame, defined with the outline of what might have been eyes and a gaping open mouth. The text at the lower left was too glitchy to be legible, but I could clearly see a red-pink label in the middle of the picture reading ‘preternatural matches’.
I shook my head as I clicked on it. I was really starting to wonder how far Francis, or whoever the creator was, had gone to design this. It felt like too much work to be all for a joke, like I’d previously suspected. They, I thought, were more likely testing out or promoting a horror themed ARG, or something along those lines.
I was both impressed and somewhat creeped out.
Whatever this was, Francis – or whoever was responsible for designing the experience – had sure worked hard to change the tinder’s appearance. The background was now dark red and I swore I could see the screen pulsing faintly. Every now and again parts of the screen would flicker or fully glitch out for a few seconds. This, combined with the appearance of some of the matches themselves, made the experience of browsing tinder feel definitively eerie.
The matches – most of them were normal, but about one in four would turn out somewhere between disturbing and outright harrowing.
Other profiles I encountered included one which appeared to depict an old looking van with the words ‘Free ice cream’ scrawled unevenly across the front in dirty white letters, and a haunted looking, gaunt and naked man standing in a hellish, fiery red landscape under a burning sun. Some of these more disturbing profiles, I noticed, contained interests including the ones the rules warned about.
I did remember apprehensively liking a couple of the safer, more normal looking profiles, but for the majority, I swiped right. I’d started to notice even a lot of the normal ones possessed strange and off putting descriptions or interests.
To be honest, the longer I spent on that website, the more unsettled I felt. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing, and it seemed like the more I swiped, the more intensely disturbing the profiles became, to the point where I was genuinely apprehensive about what I’d see next.
I’ll add that few of the profiles I came across were not only disturbing, they were just plain fucked up. I’m talking realistic looking depictions of blood, gore, abuse and cannibalism. I clicked off most of them before I glimpsed too much detail, but many still managed to burn themselves into my mind.
About twenty minutes into my browsing, another one of these more disturbing profiles appeared. It depicted a white faced creature with no eyes and long, stringy grey hair, its face caked with a thin film of red. It was crouched over a limp, pale human body of a young man, his wide eyes staring sightlessly into the screen. Flickering in and out of view at the bottom of the profile were listed almost every one of the interests the rules had warned about.
I tried to swipe left. When I did, the profile appeared again, the creature’s eyeless face at the center of the same photo, posed over the same body of the dead man.
I tried several more times. I could have sworn the face looked subtly different every time it reappeared as the last image of it fell to the left, like it was moving an inch closer to the camera each time. I had also at this time begun to notice an unsettling sensation of the thing observing me from its position within the screen.
I tried exiting tinder, and when that didn’t work, I powered off my computer, increasingly desperate to get the view of that horrific, eyeless creature off the screen. To be honest, I was slightly relieved when the power button of my computer even responded, and the screen turned black.
I didn’t return to cursed tinder after that. Or tinder at all, for that matter.
I couldn’t get that final tinder profile I’d seen out of my head. The entity’s face filled my nightmares that night and the sensation of someone watching me from my computer didn’t fully fade until the morning after the experience.
I called Francis and argued with him for a while about all of it. I expected him to be apologetic and possibly hoped he might be unaware of how disgusting some of the content on the website was.
Francis didn’t offer anywhere close to the response I hoped he would. My friend continued to insist on all of it being real. When I eventually got through to him about how truly horrific my experience was, he started going on about how I couldn’t handle the website and that he’d made a mistake sending me the program. According to him, all of the CT profiles I saw originated from another universe. And what went on in those worlds, what abhorrent scenes the profiles displayed, was not our place to judge.
I refused to acknowledge there was a chance any of what I’d seen was real, whatever the explanation. I knew Francis wasn’t sick enough send me to actual depictions of torture and abuse. At least, I hoped he wasn’t.
I got fed up after a while at his attitude, and told him I was over it and I didn’t know what he was playing at. I didn’t plan on speaking with him again until after he decided to apologize.
Following my confrontation with Francis, I uninstalled cursed tinder, following the instructions and removing all traces of the file from my computer.
I thought that would be the end of my experience. I’d delete it, I thought, and try my best to forget about cursed tinder.
If it really was some kind of joke or elaborate horror experience, I wanted no more part of it.
If not, well, I didn’t want to think about what kind of sick and disturbed individual was behind it.
The next afternoon, I was working from home answering customer enquiries, doing my best to put the whole experience out of my head, when I got a new notification of activity from tinder. I’ve got to admit: when I saw it, I very nearly shit myself.
It was nearly an hour later before I could bring myself to reopen the website. When I finally did go back, I found, to my relief, tinder had returned to its normal look. No red screen, or glitching, or creepy and unsettling profiles showing up in the browsing section.
I did notice I had a new match. A young woman’s photo stared back at me, under my previously empty matches list. She was about my age, with light brown hair and brown eyes. She had dimples and full lips and a kind of cheeky looking half smile on her face.
I hesitantly clicked on her profile, then clicked rapidly through all of her photos, worried one of them would display one of the freakish, gore filled scenes I’d been subjected to the previous night.
Her pictures were all totally normal, depicting her posing in various scenic locations, or, less frequently, inside her own house.
Her name was Esther. She was beautiful. Gorgeous to the point of leaving me wondering why she’d taken any interest in some loser like me. I’d just assumed, after checking her profile out, that I must have swiped on her profile some time before I’d installed the program Francis sent me.
I sent her a message, not really expecting she’d respond to me, bracing myself for another small disappointment.
Somewhat to my surprise, she sent a message back within only a couple minutes.
Our conversation started with basic things, both of us awkwardly introducing ourselves. I made a few bad jokes and otherwise managed to decisively embarrass myself in my attempts to try to get her to like me.
Esther didn’t act like she was bothered by this, though. She said she thought I was sweet, and admitted to feeling about as shy as I did at the time.
I spent the next few days getting to know her, and against all my expectations, we actually hit it off. We were both somewhat introverted and quiet, and sometimes preferred to be around ourselves than other people.
Asking her more about herself, I found out we also both shared a similar passion and taste for adventure. On most of my free weekends, my hobbies were anything ranging from surfing to skydiving. Before long, Esther and I were discussing our favourite thrill-seeking activities and where we went for them. Esther’s favourite was rock climbing around the Appalachian mountains.
She even thought it was cool that I worked at an antique shop, and pressed me until I told her more about it.
Esther was turning out to be one of the few people I’d ever met on tinder who I felt like it was easy to talk to.
God, I thought, after two full days of us speaking, I think she really likes me. And I sure as hell fancied her.
I should have probably taken a bit more time to consider the fact she was never more than a couple minutes in responding to any of my messages, and how she appeared almost a little too eager in her interactions with me, and that she almost always agreed with everything I said. Instead, I brushed those details away, telling myself I should be grateful I managed to find a successful match at all.
After three days of talking to her on tinder, I asked her out on a date. She said yes.
I’d considered taking her to a restaurant, but at the last minute I decided to try something different. I suggested we visit a fair that had been set up in my city. Esther told me she moved around a lot due to her job and was new to the city, so I figured she most likely hadn’t been to it before. It was a somewhat spontaneous decision, but my instincts told me it was a good one.
Esther said she thought it was a fun idea and she looked forward to meeting me there.
Esther was more beautiful in person than she was in any of her photographs. Her hair fell in chestnut tumbles down her shoulders and she wore a flowery, green dress that reached down to her knees. I spotted her out of the crowd of people milling around easily and made a beeline for her.
Her face lit up when she saw me too, and she waved eagerly.
She gave me a bright smile as I came over to her. I told her how beautiful she looked. She blushed and responded telling me I had a cute tie. I’d laughed, and we’d fallen subsequently into an easy conversation as I guided her through the fair.
I’d been right to decide to take her to the fair. Esther said she’d never been to one before, and her eyes lit up in response to the twinkling lights of the rides and the various clowns and elaborately dressed performers moving past us.
I took her around the fair for the next couple of hours, visiting rides, buying her sweets and playing games at some of the stalls with her.
We must have gone on half the rides at the fair, and definitely all the scariest ones. One the most intense parts of these rides, Esther would grab on to my arm or my hand and hold on to me tightly as she shrieked along with the other people sitting nearby. Each of these times, I felt my heart stop for a moment as our skin made contact.
Honesty, I was too busy paying attention to her half the time to notice much of what we were doing together.
After we had both exhausted ourselves, we bought some kebabs and fresh lemonade at a couple stalls and sat down together somewhere a little more quiet.
We must have sat and talked for at least another hour. I’d honestly never thought I could have felt so comfortable around someone like her, but she had a way of making me feel like I was talking to someone I’d known for a couple years, rather than only a few days.
‘I get the feeling you don’t like your job that much,’ Esther observed at one point. I’d been telling her more about the work I did as we watched the sun setting on the horizon together.
I’d considered denying it, then decided it was better to be honest with her.
‘It pays okay. Most of the time. And it keeps me occupied. I guess. But, yeah.’
I searched for the right words, while Esther watched me intently. ‘I never really had a choice. My great grandfather founded the business I own now and it’s been passed down through the family since. My dad kind of raised me expecting me to continue a legacy, and I never had the opportunity to consider if it was right for me, you know?’
It was true. Although it wasn’t something I had discussed much with others before.
She smiled a little bit. ‘Yeah, I get that, actually. I was… Well, I was raised very religiously and my parents expected me to do something traditional like housework or teaching when I grew up, just something that they thought was appropriate. I spent the first few years of my adulthood with almost no choice in what job I worked in and I hated it.’
‘What changed?’ I asked.
She replied simply, ‘I found the courage to stand up to my parents and turn my life around for the better.’
She smiled. ‘I guess I’m trying to say, I understand how it feels, to be trapped. It’s like you’re scared you’re going to be stuck doing the same thing until you grow old and die. And then, what you did for your whole life won’t have meant anything.’
I nodded. ‘That’s a depressing way of putting it,’ I’d observed, with a touch of amusement. Feeling a hint of regret, I’d commented, ‘I wish I could try to do something else for a living, but I don’t have the money or the time anymore to be able to consider it.’
We fell into a brief silence. ‘That sucks,’ she murmured, staring down at the table. ‘I think I’d go nuts if I were in your position.’ She added shyly, ‘I’ve never really met anyone who understood what growing up like me felt like.’
She’d reached over then to absentmindedly to grab a cloth and wipe under her nose. When I looked at her face, I noticed a streak of red was oozing down above her mouth. I got concerned, but she just chuckled and said she had nosebleeds all the time. She held the tissue to her nose for a bit as she continued speaking to me about her childhood, assuring me a couple more times she was fine.
As she pulled the tissue away, I swore I caught a glimpse of something dark and slimy slithering back up the trail of blood emerging from her nose and disappearing inside the shadow of her nostril. It was wriggling rapidly back and forth in its attempt to drive itself upward. It was gone so fast though I decided I had to have imagined it.
I’d admitted to Esther the depressing life at the antique store I was condemned to was one of the big things that led me to pursue thrill-seeking as such an active hobby. The thrill-seeking allowed me to escape my world, a world I’d long lost patience for, for a few precious hours. Just for a short time, I felt alive, and truly happy. I felt like life was worth it.
And then, without even completely intending to, I told Esther that was exactly how she made me feel.
She’d simpered and blushed and then gave me this intense look that made the blood rush to my own face.
Yeah, I was already crazy about her. Even though she was a bit weird and eccentric. I’d never met a girl like her. I did mean every word when I told her how I felt about her.
And, better than that, she seemed to actually like me back.
I invited her over to my place for a couple more drinks. She agreed immediately and went with me back in my car.
I led her into my small apartment. I was a bit embarrassed by how unimpressive it was, but I at least had had the foresight to clean up a bit in the case of our night leading to the both of us being there together.
I know we both got fairly drunk at my place. The first hour or two went great, and I was truly starting to hope we’d be spending the night together. However, after a while of us talking and laughing Esther started to get a bit more quiet.
‘Ralph, there’s something you need to know about me,’ Esther brought up, after I asked her if she was alright.
‘That sounds serious,’ I’d observed lightly, noting her change in tone.
‘It kind of is, actually,’ she answered, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand.
‘Oh,’ I’d uttered, and suddenly her nervousness had become infectious. I wanted to say something else, but my mind went stubbornly blank as I tried to think of what between my wondering what exactly Esther was about to tell me.
‘I’m – how do I say this?’ She took a deep breath. ‘I’m an… Alien? To be honest, I don’t even know what you’d call me. Look, the point is, I’m not like you, I’m not human. The world – the universe – I come from, it isn’t this one.’
She looked down almost guiltily. ‘From what I understand, when you found me on your dating app, you created some kind of link which enabled me to travel to this universe.‘
Her words were coming out in a slight rush now. ‘I guess I kind of lied to you a little bit before, didn’t I? I’m sorry. You’ve got to understand – I really really wanted to visit your world! It looked so innocent, so enticing. And you were my only way in.’
That was when I suddenly remembered cursed tinder. And I really started to try to recall where exactly it was that I’d swiped right on Esther.
‘When you asked me if I was from your country, I figured out you must not have known what I really was, and that if I told you the truth, I thought you might stop talking to me.’
I just kept sitting there, staring at her open-mouthed, as she proceeded to elaborate further on how she had used a dating platform to gain access to my world from hers. If I wasn’t sure about her being a match from the program Francis sent me, her words left me with little room for any further doubt.
‘Ralph? Talk to me. Say you think I’m crazy. Say something. Please.’
Esther had finished speaking. I was still fighting to rationalize her words, to wrestle against the beyond out worldly possibility that she might be serious.
‘I guess I don’t know what to say,’ I murmured eventually.
‘I know I manipulated you. And lied and used you, I guess. But that was all before I got to know you tonight,’ she told me, searching my face with an anxious expression. ‘Listen, you’re the best part of this world I’ve seen so far, Ralph.’ She laughed. ‘It’s actually pretty boring here, compared to my reality. You are what made it worth visiting.’
She sighed. ‘But, well, I understand if this is all too much for you.’
I rubbed my hands across my face. My date thought she was an otherworldly entity. I couldn’t, honestly, fully wrap my head around the idea.
‘This is – got to be a joke, right?’ I asked, rubbing my temples. If you seriously believe all the things you just said… Then you need help. Professional help -’
‘I’m not making this up!’ She cried.
‘Did one of my friends set you up for this?’ I demanded. ‘Did they pay you or something to go out with me?’
She shook her head rapidly. ‘No! I would never do something like that! I’m trying to tell you the truth right now, but you’re not listening!’
Esther inhaled sharply. ‘You know what? I think this date might have been a mistake. You clearly can’t handle who I really am. I should probably go,’ she said suddenly, making a motion as if to stand up. ‘I’ve said too much, I’ve obviously ruined things – I’m sorry I freaked you out.’
She picked up her bag on one arm. ‘Goodbye, Ralph.’
‘No, wait! Don’t. Please don’t!,’ I burst out, grabbing onto her arm before I could help myself.’
She turned back.
‘I’m sorry – I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did.’ I couldn’t help adding, ‘You can’t leave. I – I don’t want you to go.’
I knew I should have let her leave, that I would be crazy not to. But I couldn’t. Really, it didn’t matter if she was serious or not about what she’d said. I still kept thinking about her one hand curling up against mine and the way her other one was trailing down the side of my arm. Her being crazy didn’t change how much I was attracted to her.
She looked back at me, so I continued, ‘I don’t know if I believe you, and to be honest, rationally I think you do need some kind of professional help, but, you know what? I – I don’t care. It doesn’t change how I feel about you. God, you have to be the most incredible girl I’ve ever met.’
‘I know how much you care about me,’ she answered seriously. ‘And I really am sorry I didn’t say something earlier. You didn’t deserve to have me lie to you like I did.’
And then she told me, ‘I will stay, if that’s what you want.’
Her words sent a rush of relief coursing through me.
I suppose you could say that I kind of went with it, after that. Esther settled down again, and I let her convince me she liked me as much as she had acted like she did the whole night. I think perhaps I actually even believed it. I tried my best to be accepting of her story, even if I couldn’t quite buy into it.
We inched nearer to one another until she was pressed up even closer to me than before. If she was an alien, I thought, she sure didn’t feel like one.
After a while, I’d managed to relax myself enough again to ask, ‘So my world is boring, huh? What’s yours like, then?’
She gave me a sideways look. ‘I think you’d quite like where I’m from. I’d almost be tempted to take you with me back there to show you.’
‘Describe it to me,’ I’d told her, genuinely interested to hear what she’d say.
She looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully, then picked up the bottle of wine from the table to take a sip from it. With careful words, she started to speak, while I listened in increasingly awed silence.
Esther described a sun which dripped from the sky like melted gold, and empires that fought over the pieces of it that fell to her planet. She talked of the carcasses of dead gods and ruined alien civilisations inside which people made their homes. There were rivers of blood, she said, and volcanoes that vomited ice, unending wars fought by titan-sized, monolithic beings and bloody tournaments in arenas the size of planets. She’d seen all of it, she claimed. She’d been given the power to explore both the most terrifying and wonderful parts of her world.
I must have listened to her speak for at least half an hour, but the time seemed more like minutes. Her descriptions were beautiful and terrifying, breath-taking and sickening all at the same time. She described them in such vivid detail, in such a haunting voice, that I could imagine each scene easily in my mind’s eye. And she was right. I would have loved to visit that world, if I could have brought myself to believe it did, in fact, exist.
‘Want to hear a secret?’ Esther asked. We were still sitting together on a sofa. Esther had taken her shoes off and her long legs were draped over my knees. She had already spent close to another hour explaining various, more intricate details of her world to me.
I’d looked at her and chuckled. ‘What, you have another one? Seriously?’
She nodded eagerly and pointed at herself. ‘I’ve been chosen for something special. I have a wonderful creature growing inside of me. A long time ago, its mother decided I should have the honor of being the one to carry its offspring.’
‘You’re pregnant?’ From what she said, it was the first thing I assumed.
‘Not exactly pregnant. See, this child, it’s not from my species.’
‘It’s still a baby, really,’ she continued, quickly trying to reassure me as she saw my eyes widen. ‘I like to think of it more like I’m.. It’s surrogate.’ She smiled. ‘Sort of. It kicks, it makes me want to eat weird stuff. I talk or sing to it sometimes to help it relax and go to sleep. It has been… Restless since I came here.’ She giggled. ‘I think it wants to get out and cause more mischief.’
I remembered, involuntarily, the moment at the fair where I thought I saw something poking out of her nose, something that she had so absentmindedly pushed back up inside of her.
God, I thought. What the hell have I gotten myself into?
I was, admittedly, back to being spooked at that point. Her words had finally managed to partially stir me out of the comfortable drunken haze I had settled into since Esther informed me she was extraterrestrial.
Had any other woman said this, I believe I would have reacted more. But it wasn’t any other woman. Every time I allowed myself to look into those deep, hazel eyes of hers, I completely lost my train of thought. It’s like I said before. There was something about Esther that made her impossible to resist. She just kept disarming me. I wasn’t sure there was anything she could have said at that point that could have really scared me away from her. I know it sounds crazy, but I doubt she would have had such a different effect on any of you. Being around her, it took me out of my right mind.
So I decided it wasn’t that much more out there than the things she already told me, and I tried for a little enthusiasm as I told Esther I was happy for her.
I’d added, somewhat uneasily, ‘But wouldn’t that be kind of unpleasant? It kind of sounds like, um, some kind of parasite or something. No offense.’
She shook her head quickly. ‘You don’t have to worry about offending me. I do understand how strange this all must sound to you. Also, to answer your question, it’s not like that. It’s a privilege for one of them to choose you. It doesn’t hurt me; actually, it’s quite the opposite. My child is the reason I was able to escape from the religious home I was born into. After the mother’s eggs were laid inside me, I started to change, to get stronger. After a while, I was developing powers I never would have dreamed of having before then.’ She twirled one finger idly around a strand of her hair. ‘For the first time in my life, I was able to stand up to my parents. They couldn’t stop me from leaving. No one could.’ She giggled. ‘They were all too scared.’
‘After that, I was able to use my powers to explore the world, to see things I’d never dreamed of seeing. This child I’m carrying saved me from a lifetime of enslavement to my family. And it gave me a purpose, because it needs me to help it find the things it requires to grow and pupate in power.’
‘But… No, I’m sorry, I’m still not sold on it,’ I said, unconvinced. ‘It doesn’t sound natural – and you weren’t exactly given a choice, were you?’
‘We don’t get to choose our destiny. It is given to us.’ She replied breathily. ‘My child is destined to be a god among men. And I am destined to carry it until it is ready to be born.’
‘Someday it will hatch and eat what’s left of me,’ she had continued, thoughtfully. ‘Though not for a while. I’ll gladly make that sacrifice when the time comes.’
‘You probably could have left that last part of your story out,’ I’d advised her.
She laughed a little bit.
‘You want to hear about my other powers?’ Esther asked, once her laughter faded. Her voice changed suddenly, taking on a more seductive note. ‘I have many powers, not just the ones I used to escape from my parents.’
She told me flirtatiously, ‘Among others, I can make any man unable to resist me.’
‘Is that so?’ I asked, a touch apprehensively.
‘Most definitely. Here, let me prove it to you,’ she whispered, leaning forward into me.
I felt her warm breath whisper across my face and her body flattening up hard against me. I barely had time to smell her sweet citrus perfume and feel her hair tickling my face, before her lips were pressing up softly against mine.
Oh boy, could Esther kiss. Her kiss was more than just a normal kiss. It was hypnotic, irresistible. The second our lips were locked, all I could think about was her. She invaded all of my senses. My arms went around her and I yanked her even closer, as close as I could. She responded by kissing me harder, deeper, then rolling us over so she was straddled on top of me.
I’d say Esther made me high when she kissed me, but this was more amazing than any high I’d ever had in my life. I’m confident she hadn’t been lying when she told me about her having a power for seduction.
I suppose you can guess how the night progressed after that. I get shivers just allowing myself to think about it, and I’ve relived it more times than I can count.
I was sure, at one point, while her head fell back and with her body arched above me, I caught a glimpse of something half rising out of her mouth, as it tilted open in a silent moan. Whatever it was, it was too dim in the room for me to focus on it, no matter how hard I tried. After a while, I just forced myself to ignore it and focus on another part of her body. Considering the highly intoxicated state I had fallen into at the time, it wasn’t such a hard thing to put it out of my mind.
I know we made love continuously for hours, and after that, feeling deliciously and senselessly exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep with her spooned up against me, all the while thinking about how glad I was I hadn’t allowed Esther to leave earlier that night.
The next thing I remember, I’d opened my eyes to the darkness of my apartment, and my heart was pounding.
I had an inexplicable sense of fear crawling up my throat. I felt sick, and I knew, instinctively, there was something incredibly wrong. I could feel a heavy weight on my chest, like I was experiencing an episode of sleep paralysis. But I could tell immediately that wasn’t what was happening.
I was lying with Esther still curled up against me. I could see her outline under the sheets, the curves of her hips and chest. By that time, whatever Esther had done to me had mostly worn off and I was feeling a little more sobered from the long night of drinking.
My attention was drawn up to Esther’s face. I froze. Her face was shaded in darkness, but it wasn’t too dark to be unable to see basic details. As I leaned closer, I could see her still open eyes had rolled back in her head. Her face had gone a sickly shade of pale white that made her look as if she were dead. Her mouth had cracked open unnaturally, impossibly, wide. And there was something slick and dark emerging out of it.
With my eyes, I followed what I could only describe as a collection of innumerable wet, vein-like strings and tubules which ran across the bed from her mouth toward me. I traced them to where they extended into the back of a malformed baby-like face, with huge eyes, a swollen lump for a nose, and a misshapen mouth. The face was attached to a similarly malformed and twisted, wrinkled body.
It was sitting, no, practically lying, right on top of me, its face reaching up to the bottom of my neck. The creature appeared to have reached its hands further up to hold on to it.
As I watched in a state of helpless disbelief, the thing leaned forward with its head and its tongue darted out. I felt it sliding across my face seconds later. The stench of something utterly putrid filled my nose, and I had to swallow repeatedly to stop myself from gagging.
Its tongue retracted slowly, its eyes gleaming in the darkness with an animalistic intensity.
I made the mistake of reacting to it with panic. I reached out and grabbed this thing’s body with the intention of hurling it off me.
The creature clung to me with surprising strength and resisted my efforts as I tried to pull it away. The demented smile on its face turned further into a frown the more I fought it, and then, finally, it settled into a grimace. One of its clawed hands, which had been draped over my neck, started to tighten, multiple sharp, cold points digging deep into my skin. The pain this sent through me threatened to drive me even further into hysteria.
My mind raced. The thing’s face did a full 360 turn above me and it opened its mouth, displaying a wide set of uneven, jagged teeth. It let out a high pitched growl which sent spittle flying over my chest. It raised one hand above me threateningly.
In that moment, I honest to god thought I was going to die, and the demonic child’s face would be the last thing I ever saw.
In pure desperation, I tried to do the only thing I thought might save me. I started singing. The voice that came out of my throat sounded like more of a wheeze, but the creature that had emerged from Esther had an obvious reaction to the noise, pausing in its action, and tilting its head to the side slightly, as if to listen.
I coughed to make my voice clearer. I steadied it to make it less wobbly, and then tried my best to turn it into some kind of tune. The first thing that popped into my head was the star trek theme song I would always hear Francis annoyingly humming whenever we would see each other. It had gotten so stuck in my head from all the times I heard it from him that I actually knew most of it from memory.
As I sang, Esther’s child seemed to, incredibly, be almost enjoying the sound of my voice. It lowered its clawed hand somewhat and the grimace half faded off its face.
It took every bit of courage I had not to freak out again, but I didn’t. Even though every passing second was utterly torturous.
Its hideous attempt at a smile steadily returned and expanded. It began to affectionately coddle me, its clawed hands drawing faint lines of blood across my face as I felt it grope blindly at my cheeks and mouth, gurgling and drooling all over me as it did.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how Esther had said it was like a baby, and how easily babies got upset, and what it could do to me if it got upset enough. So I tolerated all of this, and I patted it and stroked its head like it was a real baby, swallowing back the bile and vomit that repeatedly rose up into my throat and mouth. I cooed softly and told it what a wonderful baby it was in a voice I would have never expected to hear myself making. I did everything in my power to keep it from becoming upset again.
The next few hours were some of the longest hours in my life. Honestly, at a certain point, I began to sort of dissociate myself from what was going on. Like I was both witnessing and experiencing these events simultaneously.
I tried to focus only on making it through to the morning, where I hoped, and prayed. Esther’s parasite would retreat back inside of her.
After what had to be a small eternity, the thing stretched up from me and crawled its way back toward Esther’s gaping mouth. I watched as it somehow made its way back inside, although I’d say perhaps melting back through all of the orifices of her face would be a more accurate description to what I witnessed.
Incredibly, she didn’t even wake up through any of it, only turning over on her side toward me and draping one arm over my chest, letting out a contented sigh, and cuddling up against me again.
I think I must have passed out from shock a brief time after because the next thing I knew, I was being nudged awake and I heard her voice at my side.
I felt her lips on my ear, her warm breath on my cheek. One hand traced the length of my body while the other twined around my neck. My eyes snapped open and I was about to scramble away from her.
Then her lips moved from my ear to my mouth, too quickly for me to protest.
I didn’t push her away. I couldn’t. I was kissing her back before I even knew what I was doing.
Yeah, we had sex again. I know I should have really kicked her out but I also knew such an action was against the dating rules I was supposed to follow. Plus, the high brought on from her intoxicating presence temporarily pushed the prior traumatic experience to the far back of my mind.
Esther had taken on a kind of glow since the previous night and her body was impossibly flexible. I could see the veins of her wrists and arms darkening as she wrapped them around my neck. Something indescribable seemed to have animated her body, and she practically brimmed with energy.
We spent the rest of the morning together cuddled up on the bed. I let her talk to me, telling me more stories about her world and then what worlds she was, apparently, planning on exploring after she left mine.
We talked about plenty of other things, too, however neither of us spoke about what had happened the previous night. When she’d asked if I had a good sleep, I thought for a second. then claimed to have slept like a log.
To be honest, I don’t know if Esther was even aware of how her child paid me a visit. She hadn’t commented when she saw the scratches on my face and the small wounds on my neck, so I guessed she either wasn’t, or for whatever reason she chose not to mention it.
It was around the time I had finally started to disentangle myself from her that Esther told me – quite reluctantly – she had to get going. Something about her being close to her ‘first metamorphosis’. It was actually right after I was about to offer to prepare her breakfast, hoping she might stay for a bit longer. Esther’s charms had reasserted their full control again.
‘I had a great time last night,’ she said meaningfully as I trailed her to my door. ‘Thank you for showing me your world isn’t entirely boring, Ralph.’
She’d idled in the doorway, looked back at me for a pause. ‘You’re not afraid to take a chance. I like that about you. Don’t give that up. Someday you’ll take a chance which will change your life forever.’
She winked at me, twisted on her heel, and with that, left me there staring silently after her as she made her way down the small driveway outside my house.
That was the last I’d ever see of her. Esther completely vanished from tinder after that, and despite my best efforts, I found no other trace of her.
I decided to take Esther’s advice, though I’m not sure it was in the way she intended me to.
I returned to cursed tinder. At first it was because I was searching for Esther, but I admit, after a while, it became just as much to find someone, anyone, else with whom I could hope to recapture the amazing night I spent with her.
Francis was right. The danger and horror of using CT were totally worth it. I’m sure of that now.
Since meeting her I’ve gone out with six different women from CT. Some of the dates went well, others… Not so much. But, you know what? I’m happy with my choice, and CT remains my go to dating platform to this very day.
I guess you could say this has become my newest form of thrill seeking, but it’s a lot more than that, really. Through the women I’ve met there, I feel like I’ve found something I didn’t even know I was searching for. Like that special thing Esther was speaking about before she left.
I called Francis to tell him about my incredible experience, and to apologize to him for the things I’d said during our last argument. I also wanted to thank him for helping me, and in a lot of ways, turning my life around.
So far, he hasn’t responded to any of my attempts to try to contact him. I haven’t heard from Francis in quite a while, actually.
I’m starting to worry something might have happened to him.
Those otherworldly tinder dates, they can get quite nasty sometimes.
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