Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
Henry had gone missing in Mexico weeks ago, and Lois kept getting these bizarre letters in the mail.
She had assumed the first four envelopes she’d received in the first four days of the month afterward were to the wrong address or a mistake. However, the fifth envelope contained a blank sheet of paper with a word that would haunt her for weeks.
“Husband,” is what it said.
Lois felt her blood run cold.
The first four notes had read, “I,” “Will,” “Return,” and “Your,” respectively.
The sixth one was ominous.
“Only,” it read.
After this, Lois got online to search how to contact the Mexican authorities, running into little luck. Her conversations with police and her representatives went the same, and all led to dead ends. After the message reached “if you can correctly guess,” Lois was beginning to lose it.
* * * * * *
“I will return your husband only if you can correctly guess what I will do to him,” was the terse message that was spelled out with newspaper clippings. The nature of the words being on separate sheets of paper seemed unnecessary if this was the message the entire time.
On the back of the final sheet of paper – reading “him” – was a web address reading, “http://www.analogbrowser.com” – and that was all she had to go on.
The website was unimpressive, nothing more than a series of images and logos, with a small link in the center. When she clicked on it, the “Analog Browser” began to download onto her laptop, along with a Word document.
In the document was a web address, with a notable difference in the domain registry.
The address was simple; “you.analog.”
After the program was finished downloading and running, the browser – reminiscent of Opera – emerged on her screen and Lois entered the address into the search bar.
A red chat room appeared on her screen. Before Lois could even begin writing a message, a series of bobbing dots appeared in the text field, preceded by the words, “[USERNAME] is typing…”
She froze, her eyes locked on the small red box.
The dots continued to hop up and down.
The text “[USERNAME] is typing…” remained.
Seconds went by.
The world outside the glowing white square with the red box inside of it became discolored and grainy as Lois stared holes into her laptop, as if trying to “will” her husband’s kidnapper into action.
And still, the bobbing continued.
The dots had all but replaced her very thoughts when a series of characters popped into existence.
Lois wrenched her chair across the floor and dove face-first into the laptop, guzzling the words on the screen, which read, “I will return your husband only if you can correctly guess what I will do to him.”
Lois’s left eye twitched involuntarily.
The text “[USERNAME] is typing…” returned to the screen.
The text that replaced it seconds later read, “And I cannot lie, whether you guess correctly or not.”
She was about to answer, but hesitated.
What if he would not return Henry?
As Lois went to enter this inquiry, she hesitated again.
Then that would mean he was lying about…
The reality of the situation began to dawn on her.
Lois didn’t understand why this was happening. She thought, “If he is both simultaneously lying, and telling the truth, then there has to be a third option.”
The third option couldn’t be that Henry was the man writing the notes, and had faked his own kidnapping. His car was out front.
And when she’d dropped him off at the airport, he said he’d call her when he landed – and he didn’t.
Furthermore, if this person – had it been possible he were Henry – were simultaneously lying and telling the truth, then he couldn’t be Henry to begin with.
That left her with an oddly-terrifying answer.
She wasn’t really here, Henry wasn’t really there, and this situation was the result of a repressed memory.
Lois went back over the events in her head. Leaving the house with Henry. Driving to the airport. Dropping him off. Getting the call about the laptop being on and not to look at it. Seeing the Red Room on the browser. The argument. His second call. And then her waiting on the third call that never came.
It was all bizarre to be sure, but one thing that stood out to her upon analyzing the days’ events was the Red Room. She recalled multiple times stopping to get a time-stamp, but each time pulled further and deeper into the horrific website.
That’s when it hit her.
She couldn’t remember what day it was.
She didn’t even know what time of day it was.
Not even day or night.
She’d imagined going back home.
She’d imagined it was his business trip, not hers.
She’d imagined it was his laptop, not hers.
She’d imagined she was home, but she was not.
She’d imagined it all.
To distract… her…
To distract from the pain.
She didn’t get a good look at the room before she died, but she knew one thing.
It was red.
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