E. Jay O'Connell
There's nearly something for everyone on-line--no matter where one's interests lie.
************************CONGRATULATIONS********************** You have reached the Serial Access BBS! This phone number will be good for one week, and one week only. Next week's number can be obtained in the NEW ACCESS NUMBER area by VALIDATED users only. We've found it necessary to move around a lot. Lurkers are welcome--even crybabies. In fact, we *like* crybabies. Cry, cry, cry! But remember, babies, by the time you try to find us, we'll be gone. It takes a while to subpoena a dozen different anonymous servers. In a dozen different countries! If you would like to join us, please fill out the validation form that follows. The first question goes without saying--but we'll ask it anyway! To the best of your recollection, exactly how many people have you killed? Dear Strangehack, Thank you for your completed validation survey. We've noticed, sadly, that nothing you've said on-line really *proves* anything, one way or the other. You must realize that we maintain an electronic newsclipping service. All your info feels more than a little... canned? Confess. It's from the newswire, isn't it? This number expires in just 48 hours. Still time for a Fed-Ex'd validation. We're very sorry to have to be so strict, but surely you can understand our position. ACCOUNT *STRANGEHACK* SUSPENDED PENDING VALIDATION GO KILL SOMEBODY AND HAVE A NICE DAY Congratulations Strangehack! The Ziploc received at this week's post office box scores you next week's number. To whom did (does?) this belong? You see, the part contained isn't (strictly speaking) essential. It may very well be your own. You know, Van Gogh, and all that. Anyway, while it shows some spirit, it doesn't rule out the mortuary trade. It could be the product of simple self-mutilation. It doesn't count unless you did it to someone *else.* We're not impressed by masochists. Please send us something a little more... essential. We're giving you another week. We would like a newsclipping to accompany it--so don't procrastinate. We will forward said part to the proper authorities, with due credit, of course. Remember the tree falling in the empty forest. People die all the time, sometimes quite suddenly, sometimes messily. If you don't take credit, the act is worthless. Meaningless. At any rate, you've been admitted into the file downloading areas. I'd look at the '80s CIA interrogation manuals at the very least. They're not hard to find. A little dry, I know, but crammed with information. We'll not see their like again, alas. Not from the wimps currently in power. But I'm getting political--I hate politics, really, but feel free to participate in the on-line discussion of socialized medicine. I know, it's everywhere! It's been going great guns since we started over a year ago. Would you believe that, even here, there are whimpering tit-suckers who defend it? Strangehack, Congratulations! I must say, your latest package really cuts to the heart of the issue, eh? :-) I know, I know! I'm sorry. Couldn't resist. It's a small one, isn't it? And the newsclipping. So poignant. The mother too--and first, of course. Yet... she was "homeless" (how I *hate* that word!), wasn't she? Again, not to get political, but there are those of us who find such victims... easy? Again, whom do you wish to frighten? This may be a purely personal thing, but really, in a certain light you're doing society a favor. Nobody wants all these "people" underfoot, decreasing property values, catching tuberculosis, creating excuses for National Health, etc. Doing them is like killing whores. A public service. Bottom line, it's *banal.* But it'll get you into the real-time chat areas. These are our most sensitive feeds. A certain type of Very Technical Person *might* be able to trace some of calls back to their original sources. If you weren't the right kind of person, that would be very, very bad. You're in, Strangehack. You're in. Welcome to the club. Strangehack, We're sorry to have to interrupt your service, but even by our standards, you seem quite insane. There is, quite simply, nothing to your threats. You cannot 'crawl down the wires and suck the eyes from our skulls like pamentoes [sic] from olives.' You cannot trace us. I have friends in this industry--good friends--and they've informed me that the technobabble you're spewing is gibberish. We're terminating your account. Still, congratulations of a sort are in order. You have taken the lead. Over 20 in less that 2 months! Aren't we the busy one? And to think I leaked your first message to the press! It is really quite sad, to kick you off. But you're making an ass of yourself. We can't tolerate this kind of rudeness. Psychosis is forgivable. Incoherence is not. Your spelling and grammar are abominable. It is common courtesy in this community to use a spellcheck. Never mind. You're history. Strangehack, Touché. You seem to have more than one account on this system. I've hired a consultant to come in and thoroughly clean this machine. His English is poor. And he is being paid very, very well. So don't even think of trying to talk to him. Good-bye. We won't be speaking anymore, away. Oh, and one more thing. Eat shit and die! You're stupid, and you take very poor candid photos. Murky as hell. Your GIFs are among the worst I've ever seen. Get a flash, buddy! And try using JPEG! <grin> Strangehack, I've begun to wonder about you. You've found us again and created your own account. I showed some of your technobabble around again. This time, the verdict's a little more... gray. Yes. Well, the system will be down for about a week around Christmas. Such a busy season! We'll be rid of you in the new year, I expect. I've forwarded all your calling data to the authorities--all your bragging, threatening, misspelling, everything. Our phone number changes as of now, and you won't find it again. I imagine they'll catch you soon. Someone with as poor a grip on the language as you can't possibly be all that smart, computer monkey tricks aside. I've been watching the television psychologists. One of them suggested that you may have had your itty bitty little penis cooked off in a botched circumcision (it happens!). It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. Strangehack, You win. You've found us again. Well. It's time for a short, shameful confession. I've never killed anyone. I run this board, but I've never hurt a fly. Not that I wouldn't love to. Not that I don't dream of it. I think I will, someday. I started this to get going myself, you see, but somehow--well, I admit, I've been living vicariously through you. A few of the old-timers gave me a few credits, left my calling card. I'm a fraud, Strangehack. But you said that all along, didn't you? I've been studying you all for so long. I found a few of you in various places on the net, filtered through a million poseurs to collect *you*--the real McCoy. Flattery will get one everywhere, eh? So I invited you into my home. And you were charming, strange, witty, fascinating, banal, obsessed. Fun. But it's gone too far, and I'm shutting this system down. I must say, I'm fascinated by you, Strangehack. I would like to meet you. Would you really do all those things to me? But I'm not afraid of you. Not afraid in the slightest. What would it be like, do you think, to be one of them? The victims? What goes through their minds as you strip the life from them? A stupid thought. None of you ever seems to think it, I've noticed. But I guess I'm just a poseur, when it comes right down to it. Good-bye, Strangehack. It's been interesting knowing you.[The following message was posted anonymously to the USENET newsgroup alt.murder.phun]
Strangehack, Because of you I have abandoned my life--my clothes, my books, my computers, (almost) all of my souvenirs. A liberating experience. I was watching TV in a bar across town, when I saw them going through my apartment. I thought Dan Rather was going to cry! Oh, the humanity! I'd say it was luck, that I saw it on television and escaped, but there is no such thing as luck, is there? Only destiny, and the Will of God. Not to get religious or anything. I'm posting this because I simply must talk about what it was like, meeting you. As per your instructions, I went to the little booth in the back of that loathsome Vietnamese place. The grinning slant served me something that looked like a pile of sticks and slugs, and I had to pretend to eat it. I sat on the right side, facing the mirrored wall, like you said, and waited. It took me over an hour to realize that you were already there. I saw you, and oh, the chills up and down my spine! Pity about the ear. The tiny black hole winked at me from the still-pink ring of scar tissue. I guessed right, eh? Still, it got your nerve up, didn't it, to know you could do it? That you could ignore the rather incredible pain, and slice through human flesh, you, who had been squeamish about deboning chicken breasts. That you could slice through living flesh, even if it was only your own. You're a dangerous fellow, aren't you? All the papers agree. All the newscasters. You must be stopped. You're a brilliant programmer. A brilliant murderer. A brilliant sociopath. A brilliant victim of multiple personality disorder. I saw you in the smudged mirror, and the bright surge of fear, the sweet shock of recognition nearly made me come in my pants. Psychologists are pinheads. Our penis works fine and is the statistical average, size-wise. Good-bye, Strangehack, and good luck. You will always have the heart of a small child. In a jar, in your briefcase. Yes, I know, I stole that from Robert Bloch. Such a small thing, the heart--such a big thing. She was so beautiful, so tender. She screamed so sweetly. I can hear it still. (Of course, I've got it on tape! We posted the .snd file, as I recall.) Virginity--such a wonderful thing. But we all lose it, and there's no going back. Looking forward to reading about you in the funny papers. They'll never catch you, will they? I appreciate all your efforts. And for the ones still to come, well, as they say on-line-- Thanks in advance. :-)
E. Jay O'Connell (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives and writes in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife and the obligatory cat or two. A graduate of the 1994 Clarion West Writers Workshop, his work has appeared in Aboriginal SF and other publications. (Bio last updated in 1994.)
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 5 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 E. Jay O'Connell.