Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Deleted

I'm really putting myself out here today, fellow challengers! Below is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago entitled, DELETED. It's a funny but dark tale about revenge and Facebook. There's a bit of swearing, so please be forewarned.

I apologize for the length of this post and promise it will be the only really long one I do during this challenge. I hope you enjoy it :-)

Kara Leigh Miller

Wednesday, October 5th
8:15 a.m.

He had his usual steaming cup of coffee, cooled only by the five tablespoons of cinnamon hazelnut creamer he added to it. The highlight of my day, he thought as he took a bite from one of his three plain donuts. A slow smile spread across his face as the familiar shades of blue blanketed his computer screen. His long, bony fingers breezed across his keyboard as he entered his login information. A sigh of content escaped past his lips. Ah, the glory of Facebook.
He maneuvered to his profile page. And just like that he was staring at himself. He took a moment to contemplate his profile picture. Winter was just around the corner, and he really should change his picture. The one of him standing in front of his friend’s boat in nothing but a Speedo was getting old. His gangly, ghost white legs mocked him, and his absurdly hairy arms made him look like he wrapped himself in a monkey. Maybe he should take some new ones to post. Like one of him standing in a pile of leaves. Or maybe one of him on a snowmobile. He shrugged, took another bite of his donut and decided to deal with the picture later.
Clicking on the dialogue box that read: “What’s on your mind?” he typed the following status update:
Eating donuts, drinking coffee, and contemplating changing my profile picture. Should I or shouldn’t I?
He clicked the “post” button and just like that, his words were published not only on his personal profile, but on the News Feed of all 23 of his friends.
How could anyone not love Facebook? Where else can you have two dozen people tell you how grateful they are that it’s Friday or how much they despise Monday mornings? Personally, he didn’t mind Monday’s. He actually welcomed them because Monday’s were meatloaf day at the college dining hall where he worked. And he made it a point to share this information on his wall every Monday morning.
And where else can a guy go to learn what his friends were doing every minute of every day? With a few clicks of his mouse, he knew what his friends were having for dinner, where they were going to drink beer, what kind of beer they were going to drink, when and where they were going on vacation, and he was always up to date on his friends relationship statuses.
To Joel Waterman, Facebook was the greatest invention since sliced bread and microwave ovens. He lived for Facebook. He was always obsessing over how often to post status updates and how to word them just right so as to get the maximum amount of responses. There was no way around it. Joel was a Facebook fanatic.
Like he did every morning, he began to systematically go through his friends list. He’d visit their respective profiles and greet them with a “Good morning” and a smiley face. While he was at it, he gave each of them a poke, just for good measure. He was very pleased with himself when he logged out and shut his computer off. What used to take him over two hours, he now had down to less than forty-five minutes.

Wednesday, October 5th
12:30 p.m.

     It was time for his lunch break and he was super excited. Not because he was hungry or because he wanted to sit down, but because he had a whole half an hour to spend on Facebook socializing with his friends. He hurried across campus, found an empty computer in the library and quickly logged into his account. The walk had cost him a full eight minutes, which meant he had to allot another eight minutes for the return trip. He was down to only fourteen minutes of Facebook time. This didn’t make him happy. He really should invest in one of those smartphones with internet access.
     Without wasting another moment, he went straight to his profile. There were nineteen comments on his post from this morning. He was excited. Unfortunately, his excitement was quickly dashed when he realized that four of his friends hadn’t responded to his post or replied to his friendly, personalized greetings. It didn’t take him long to figure out who the perpetrators of this blatant disrespect were: his very own sister, Kim; his old college roommate, Aaron; his ex-girlfriend, Jen and his co-worker, Bob.
     Something would have to be done about this. But what? A carefully worded Facebook message pointing out the error of their ways? Or maybe a display of public humiliation by posting a rude comment on their walls? No. None of that would work. He needed to do something drastic. Something that would make these people realize they couldn’t treat him like this.
     This wasn’t high school anymore. He wouldn’t stand for this kind of treatment. He wouldn’t allow people to ignore him and treat him as if he didn’t exist. Nor would he allow them to make fun of him for how he looked or how he talked. It wasn’t his fault he had early onset baldness. That was his mother’s fault. Or that he had such severe social anxiety he became paralyzed with fear when talking to people face-to-face. That was also his mother’s fault. She never let him have regular play dates as a child. The only playmate he had was his sister, and she was a bitch.
     So, what could he do to show them that he was no longer going to put up with this behavior?
He would delete them!
     Yes! That would show them. With a shaky hand, he decided to start small. He’d start with his sister first. He never really liked her anyway. She was always teasing him, calling him a dork and a loser, telling him that no one liked him and that he’d never have any real friends. But, who needed real friends when he had Facebook friends? And so, without another moment’s hesitation, he did it. He deleted his sister from his Facebook. It wasn’t really that big of a loss---he still had 22 other friends.

Wednesday, October 5th
7:42 p.m.

     Joel rushed into his tiny one-room apartment and snatched the ringing phone off the hook. “Hello?”
     “Oh it’s so horrible, Joel!”
     “Mom? Is that you? What’s so horrible?”
     “Kim is dead!” she blurted out.
     Joel slumped down on the couch with a look of horror on his face. “How...I mean, what happened?”
     “She was found dead in her apartment. A brain aneurysm.”
     “I...I don’t know what to say, Mom, I’m sorry. I can’t believe...” And then he hung up. This explained why she hadn’t responded to him on Facebook.
     Which reminded him; he had three more people that needed to be deleted. He stood, went to his computer and fired it up before going to the kitchen and getting his drink of choice: an ice cold glass of Mountain Dew with a shot of 5-hour energy. It was going to be a long night—-he had to delete people, say good night to his remaining friends, and update his status with the news of his sister’s death. He was giddy at the thought of how many comments he’d get from that status update. 

Thursday, October 6th
9:20 a.m.

     Joel walked into work with a smile. He refused to let his sister’s death get him down. He never liked her anyway. He remembered when Mom and Dad had brought her home from the hospital. All she did was cry and she always smelled like poop. Joel had tried several times to “accidentally" lose her when he was left in charge or to invoke a tragic “accident” that would result in her death. He never succeeded, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. At least now he wouldn’t be teased by her all the time. In his mind, justice had been served.
     He was almost half an hour early for his shift, so he grabbed the newspaper off the counter and flipped open to the obituaries. The color drained from his face when he saw two familiar names: Aaron Brock and Jen Folds. His old college roommate and his ex-girlfriend. Aaron died from a massive heart attack and Jen was mauled by a pack of wild dogs while jogging in the park.
     “Joel, man, you okay? You look whiter than an Eskimo on the beach,” his co-worker, Dan said.
     “My sister died last night.”
     “Whoa! That’s heavy dude.”
“And now two of my friends are dead.”
“Maybe you should go home or something.”
     “Yeah, maybe.” Joel crumpled the paper and walked out of work. He walked all the way home in a daze and it didn’t really dawn on him what was happening until he had his hand on the doorknob to his apartment.
     “Nah...” he said aloud.
     But there was really only one way to be sure. He’d have to delete someone else and see if they died. There was only one person left: his co-worker. He hadn’t deleted Bob last night because he figured he had to work with the guy so it was best to keep the peace. But Bob was a fat, lazy, jerk who always gave Joel a hard time. He hated working with Bob.

Thursday, October 6th
3:26 p.m.

     “Hey Joel, its Jim. Can you come into work?”
     “Yeah, why?”
     “Bob hasn’t shown up for his shift, and he’s not answering his phone.”
     Joel bolted upright off the couch. His heart raced, and he felt an unfamiliar tingle of excitement. “Is something wrong with Bob?”
     “I don’t know, but its spaghetti night and we’re swamped.”
     “Okay, yeah, no problem. I just gotta make one stop, and then I’ll be right in,” Joel said before hanging up.
     He grabbed his jacket and raced out of his apartment. He arrived at Bob’s house in twelve minutes flat. Not bothering to knock—-there was no point for manners, he knew that Bob was already dead—-he barged into the house and found him sprawled out on the kitchen floor. It appeared that he choked while eating peanuts. 

Sunday, October 9th
8:18 a.m.

     The last two days were a blur to him. He’d been systematically deleting people from Facebook. Anyone who’d ever teased him, bullied him or been mean to him was deleted. Without remorse. And within twelve hours, every person he deleted was found dead. Always from “natural causes” of course, but he knew better.
Monday, October 10th
2:49 a.m.

     He couldn’t sleep. This newfound power had him flying high and he was busy on Facebook looking up all his old high school classmates. He was going to friend them, and then delete them. They would all pay for making his life hell. Karma had a new name and it was Joel Waterman.

Monday, October 10th
10:37 a.m.

     One hundred and eighty four friends. Yes! All of his requests were accepted. Now it was time to get to work. Of course, he wasn’t heartless. He’d take the time to visit each of their profiles and post a friendly greeting. And if any of them responded or offered an apology, he might spare them.

Tuesday, October 11th
1:52 p.m.

     Joel rolled out of bed, threw on some clothes and walked to his computer. He visited the websites of the local papers in each town his “friends” lived. Every single person he’d deleted was dead. A slow smile spread across his face.
     Who else? That girl from the salon who wouldn’t give him the time of day...his former boss who’d fired him...his high school gym coach...that rotten guy who was his Big Brother in high school. He needed to make a list. Grabbing a pen and a sheet of paper from his printer, he sat down and wrote. 
     Carefully setting his completed list next to his computer, he walked over to his CD boom box and popped in a disc. His tiny apartment was flooded with the sounds of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Extending his arms straight out and letting his head fall back to his shoulders, he began to spin around in a circle as he thought about the macabre manner in which his “friends” had died.
     Sarah drowned in her bathtub; Tony fell off a ladder and broke his neck; Regina was hit by a bus; Brittany tripped and fell into a bed of roses and bled to death; Rob had a massive stroke; George was shot while walking home from a poetry reading; Mike was stung by jellyfish while vacationing in Hawaii; and Todd---well Todd was an idiot. He crashed his motorcycle into a guard rail while trying to text and drive.
     “YES!” he shouted.
     His blood was pumping. His heart was racing. He’d figured out how to commit the perfect murder. He was untouchable! 
Friday, October 13th
11:18 p.m.

     Over the past two weeks, he’d friended and deleted over two hundred people. He felt good. Powerful. And for the first time in his life, he felt important. The eleven Facebook friends he had left were good friends. They cared about him and what he did and what he had to say. These friends greeted him every morning, commented on every post he made and wished him a good night every night. They were his personal fan club. He didn’t need or want anything else---not even his job; which he quit last week. More than half of his co-workers were dead anyway. It just wasn’t fun to go to work anymore.
     Yet...something was bothering him. He knew he wasn’t the smartest person and it hadn’t taken him long to figure out what was happening. So, what would stop others from figuring it out, too? What would stop his friends from deleting him?
     The thought terrified him.
     He knew there was only one option. He had to quit cold turkey. He had to give up Facebook once and for all. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he allowed himself to think the unthinkable.
     Would deleting his own Facebook page result in his death?
     “Don’t be ridiculous. Facebook is a tool for revenge, not suicide.”

     And so, with this thought firmly planted in his head, he deleted his Facebook page.