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UNFRIENDED COMPETITION FINALIST
My foot tapped eagerly on the floor of the internet cafe. I looked at the unattended laptop, then back to the counter. The laptop been siting there, unlocked for over 10 minutes— it would be an easy sell, and I had bills to pay.
As soon as the barista opened the double doors and disappeared into to the kitchen… I went for it. Quickly packing up my belongings, I covered my head with the hood of my sweater and swiftly grabbed the laptop on my way out the front door. My heart was pounding as I jammed the PC into my bag and began my brisk walk home. I couldn’t help but feel paranoid, as if everyone’s eyes were glued to me.
I jogged up the stairs of my stoop, frantically typed in my door code, and hurried into the living room of my condo. I had done it, I was home free. Adrenaline continued to pump through my veins as I opened the laptop on my coffee table. I couldn’t believe it—It was still unlocked. I pondered as to why someone would disable the lock screen and leave a laptop unchecked for five hours. In that moment, I felt like they deserved to have it stolen.
Still, I knew I had to cover my tracks. I placed a small piece of black tape over the webcam, and searched the PC for any tracking or security software. I found nothing. After exploring the applications and hard drive, I concluded that everything seemed pretty basic for the most part. However, one icon in the bottom right hand corner of the desktop caught my eye. It depicted an animated, bright-red demon holing a pitchfork. The text under the logo read, “The Devil’s Playground.”
My curiosity peaked, and I opened it. An auto-filled log-in page appeared:
I hit enter, and my eyes lit up. It was an absolute goldmine. A flood of endorphins washed over me as I browsed the content: thousands of pirated movies, TV shows, games, and music. There were even films that were currently in theaters, and premium TV shows with up to date episodes. All were HD and the streams were flawless.
I was in Heaven.
I went to the refrigerator, cracked open a beer and basked in the euphoria of my incredible discovery. I had just discovered the proverbial Mecca of pirated content. Five beers later, I continued to rifle though the electronic wonderland and queued all of my favorite shows and films. The hours flew by. Eventually, one video intrigued my curiosity. It was at the bottom of every page I visited, and the thumbnail portrayed the same devilish image as the icon. The description read: “Victoria” in bright, pink lettering. As soon as I clicked it, a new window popped up and an image came into view.
Immediately, I noticed it was a live stream video. The camera was pointed on a blue, suede armchair in an otherwise empty, white-walled room lit only by a single, overhead, fluorescent light.
What happened next took me by total surprise.
A beautiful woman entered the bright room. She wore a long, white, silk robe covered in a pattern of golden flowers. Her jet black hair and red lipstick highlighted her breathtaking facial features. She sat in the armchair and stared at the camera as she spoke,
“Who do we have here?… My name is Victoria.” I continued to watch, wondering if the video was pre-recorded or streaming in real time. “You must be shy, is that why you won’t let me see you?” The woman said as her lips curved into a seductive smile. My heart pounded like a drum as I looked at the tape covering the lens of the laptop— a faint green light glowed underneath.
She spoke again, “Maybe if I take off this robe you’ll lighten up a bit.”
Victoria got up from the chair and let the robe slide to her feet. My mouth dropped as I stared at her bare body. “So… are you going to let me see you now?” She said with a small laugh. The alcohol in my blood was doing a great job of limiting my inhibitions. I took a deep breath and tore off the tape. Victoria smiled as she leaned in closer to the camera. “Well aren’t you cute!” She cooed.
“Thanks!” I said with too much enthusiasm. I put my hands up and proceeded bury my face in embarrassment. She laughed.
“You’re beautiful.” I said, full of liquid confidence. It was all I could think to say in that moment. Victoria laughed with delight.
“Well thank you… Mr…”
“Carter” I said.
“Carter…I like that.” She said smoothly as she crossed her legs. “Do you have a last name?”
“Valentine.” I barked like a trained dog.
“Tell me about yourself Mr. Carter Valentine.” Victoria whispered as she sat back down in the armchair.
And I did.
Between all of the beers, her seductive voice, and my inability to take my eyes off of her flawless, naked body—I told her everything she asked for. My name, age, where I lived, how I found her live stream, and more. It all happened so fast— and before I knew it, Victoria got up, put her ivory robe back on, and walked up to the camera.
Her voice was no longer smooth and seductive.
“Thanks Carter, we have everything we need. Also… it isn’t very nice to take what isn’t yours.”
She laughed menacingly as she turned off the camera. The video feed ended abruptly, and the screen turned black. I started to panic at the realization of what had happened. Pacing around the room, I tried to assure myself that everything was fine. Paranoid questions raced through my mind. “Why did I tell her all of that? It’s fine, you’ll be fine… right?”
Just then, I heard the familiar beeping of my door’s keypad and the deadbolt unlocked. My fight or flight kicked in, and my heart pounded. Fight. I quick grabbed the nearest object as a makeshift weapon. Unfortunately, that object was a pillow. The door swung open. To my relief, my roommate Dylan walked inside and eyed me curiously while I held the pillow like a baseball bat.
“Are you trying to have a pillow fight, dude? Because I am not partaking.” Dylan said sarcastically as he trotted down the stairs to his basement bedroom. I dropped the pillow back on the couch, sat down, and laughed at myself for being so paranoid.
The online encounter was bizarre, but I concluded that it could’ve been much worse. Victoria didn’t ask for my credit card or social security number. She knew my name, where I lived, and a few less important details. As my panicking subsided, figured I would relax and watch TV in my room. I went upstairs to, closed the laptop, and set it in my nightstand.
There was nothing on TV, as usual. I went back to the laptop and decided to browse the plethora of videos on the newly discovered web page. I clicked the devil icon and logged on. That’s when a new menu option caught my eye, it simply read “Fun.” I wished I hadn’t found it. As I clicked and browsed through the content, my stomach turned. The page was full of gruesome gore and torture videos. I didn’t dare to watch on any of them. My Mecca had turned to Hell. Disgusted, I closed the laptop once again. I decided I would anonymously drop the laptop with the police, with instructions on how to access the preloaded dark web portal in the morning. It wasn’t worth the easy money.
My phone chimed. I looked at the screen, and saw that I had a text from Dylan. God forbid he come up the stairs for any reason.
Dylan: “Hey aren’t you supposed to be dog sitting or whatever?”
I cursed as I read the text. He was right, I promised our friends down the street that I would stay at their place this weekend to look after their dog. I quickly packed a few belongings, as well as the laptop, and walked over to their building.
I awoke the the sound of my cell phone chiming. I had another text from Dylan.
Dylan: “Click the Devil”
A wave of confusion washed over me. Was he talking about the dark web site I discovered today? How did he know?
I responded, “What?”
Dylan: “Tell anyone, and Dylan is dead.”
I quickly realized that this was NOT Dylan. I frantically grabbed the laptop and opened the webpage. There was a new ticker scrolling at the top of the page reading, “Live!—Click now!—- Live!”
I clicked the link and froze.
It was another live stream video. The screen showed two huge, metal, cellar doors leading into the ground. The camera panned to the left. Dylan’s horrified eyes met the camera. He was gagged and his hands were bound behind his back.
Two men in devil masks opened the cellar doors, and two others prodded Dylan forward– down a flight of stairs leading straight into the ground. Whoever was filming, followed closely behind as they led him down the decent into darkness. I reached for my phone to call the police. Just before I dialed, I remembered the ominous text warning me of the consequences. All I could do was watch. Dylan reached the bottom of the stairs, and I read the familiar words written in red above the threshold of the dark, underground facility: “The Devil’s Playground.”
Once again, the masked men pushed him forward and down the hall. Horrifying sounds echoed throughout: Bloodcurdling screams, drills, engines, and maniacal laughter. I was able to catch glimpses of the rooms though small the glass windows of the doors as the camera passed by. Tears filled my eyes when I saw them: Horribly mangled bodies chained to the floor, gore-splattered walls, and twitching bodies atop blood-stained operating tables. At one point, the camera passed the familiar white-walled room with the blue armchair from Victoria’s live stream.
Dylan was ushered inside a pitch-black room near the end of the hall, and shackled to the stone floor. The door behind him was slammed shut, leaving the video feed in complete darkness.
I started to hyperventilate.
Dylan’s sobs filled the room. A few moments later, glowing firelight slowly illuminated the area as large torches were lit. I studied the room in horror. A dozen figures in black robes stood still, surrounding a wooden altar. Behind a black pulpit near the back of the altar was a familiar face— Victoria. In the center of the room was a massive stone box. It appeared to be ancient and was covered in unfamiliar markings. An unsettling thought came to mind, and I feared it would be Dylan’s final resting place.
The camera panned to Victoria as she looked down and began reading from a large book resting atop the pulpit. The unfamiliar latin words rolled off of her of tongue as the hooded men around her whispered rapid, incoherent prayers. The camera pointed back to the center of the room, and I stared in disbelief.
A hand appeared from within the sarcophagus. It’s rotting, black skin hung loosely from it’s bones. The creature slowly pulled itself out and stood on the stone floor to face Dylan. An inhuman screech escaped it’s mouth. Victoria’s Satanic preaching bounced from every wall.
I refused to believe what I was seeing, yet I couldn’t look away— I was petrified with horror and disbelief. I can only describe the creature as an eyeless, decomposing corpse awkwardly stumbling from it’s tomb. At that moment, I knew why Dylan was there. He was an offering, a sacrifice, to this… thing, this demon. This was The Devil’s Playground.
The bipedal creature stood up, walked towards Dylan, and crouched down. His sobs turned to screams and the camera zoomed in. The reading and whispering had stopped, all eyes focused on the unfolding situation. After what I can only assuming was the creature smelling him, it sunk its teeth into Dylan’s neck, and tore his flesh away.
Blood pulsed from his open wound, and he thrashed in agony. A few moments later, he was still. With impossible force, the demon pulled the shackles from the wall, and dragged Dylan’s lifeless body to the sarcophagus as the video feed cut out.
I went for the laptop. I needed evidence to give to the police. I drove as fast as I could to the station. I slammed the laptop on the counter, frantically rambling about all that I had just seen. When a detective attempted to load the webpage, it wouldn’t work.
“User denied. It isn’t very nice to take what isn’t yours.” Was the exact error message that appeared on the screen.
CREDIT: J. Speziale
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