“I want to be the next internet sensation.”
Bored with Facebook and Twitter, envious of YouTube videos getting in excess of eight million views, Richard pushes his palms against the edge of his desk and shoves himself away from his desktop. The wheels under his chair swivel the chair backwards until it hooks onto the bedside rug behind him. Despondently he wonders when it will be his turn. He is tired of waiting for his fifteen seconds of fame.
He spins around in the chair and looks across his Ivy League college dorm room at Gareth sitting up on his bed, his back against the wall behind him and his earphones plugged into his ears.
Richard leans across the empty space between him and the desk and grabs hold of his substantial and chunky chemistry book. Holding the book in the air above his head, Richard hurls it at Gareth.
The book hits Gareth against the head and falls onto his lap, knocking the mug of coffee in his hand across the bed.
Gareth pulls the earphones from his ears and Richard hears the heavy metal from across the room. Agitated Gareth jumps up from the bed. “What the hell, Richard. What is your problem?” He exclaims in rage.
Richard grins. “I said, I want to be the next internet sensation.”
“And why is that my problem? Look at the mess you made!” Gareth pulls his T-shirt over his head and starts to dab at the coffee puddles on his duvet.
Jokingly Richard explains, “You are the computer geek and together we can make it happen.”
Irritated Gareth scoffs, “Why don’t you go out and sit on the side-walk and wait for someone to get knocked over by a car or a bus and then upload that?”
“No. It must be memorable. I want to be remembered forever as the most infamous internet sensation ever in the history of the internet.”
Gareth glances across his shoulder at Richard and he says tentatively, “I have been thinking about this one thing, but you will have to give up everything else and nobody can ever know it is you.”
Richard sighs exasperated. “What would the use be of that?”
“You will know unless you need the acknowledgement from people, and you cannot just bask in your own glory.”
Richard swivels the chair away from Gareth and looks at his computer screen. He opens his page and sneers when he sees the meagre twenty-five views on his page. It is for a video of Gareth sleeping, and him smearing shaving cream on his face and then tickling his nose. A juvenile, childish prank and it did not get the desired results he was hoping it would get. He sighs long and deeply. “I seriously want to be the next sensation. I want to upload a video that will go viral, and I will do anything to get it.” He hesitates and glances across his shoulder at Gareth. “I will even sell my soul to the devil.”
“If I tell you of my idea, you will have to sell your soul to the devil. This idea of mine is not for sissies.”
Interested Richard turns back to Gareth. “So, are you going to tell me, or what?”
Gareth sits down on the edge of his bed and he leans his muscular forearms on his thighs. His expensive watch catches a glint from the overhead light. His hair is longish and light blond, brushed back casually from his forehead. He is dressed shabbily, but every piece of clothing on his body has a designer brand name.
He looks across the room at Richard pensively, measuring the distance between them and wondering if Richard will have the guts to go all the way with this unique idea. Although he is sure they could make millions of dollars with this idea, it would be too difficult to get their hands on the money. The path the money would have to follow to eventually get to them would be easily traceable, but if they only went for the hits and instant internet fame, it would be more difficult for the police to get a trace on them, especially if he buys and invests in the latest technologies to block his IP address and have the signal jumping around erratically. It was initially his intention to do this all by himself, to be the one who becomes notorious. The one who fools the police for six days, before he disappears into oblivion, and then one day, sixty years from now, when he is too old to care whether he goes to jail or not, he will confess and become legendary overnight. He would be more well-known than the worst serial killer ever.
Richard interrupts his thoughts, “Are you going to tell me?”
Gareth smiles slowly. “You know all the reality shows there are on TV now? For singing, dancing, kissing, damn-well everything?”
“Yeah. Who doesn’t?”
“So, imagine if we got six kids. Let’s say, a high school football star, a homecoming queen, a scout, a junior baseball kid, a geek and an ordinary Joe, the options are endless. We follow and videotape them, but we have to get enough coverage to make a compelling thirty-second video.”
Richard says mockingly, “This sounds stupid. Do you honestly think we would become a global internet hit with such a lame idea?”
The look in Gareth’s eyes turns sinister as he continues, “We abduct each kid and we keep them locked up for the six days, and each day the viewers of the online video must choose their favourite who will advance to the next day. The kids with the most votes will get another chance.”
Richard frowns briefly and looks across the room at Gareth a little more interested.
“After we upload the video onto a fake, untraceable account that I will set up, we post the question: Which of these would you want to see tomorrow?” Gareth’s voice becomes dramatic, like that of a reality show host. “Which one of these six kids do you think should live to see another day? Remember to cast your vote, because the one with the most votes will stay another day. So, be sure to vote for your favourite. If you do not vote, they will be out of the competition, all their dreams snuffed out like the flame of a candle.”
Richard laughs, delighted. “We can make money from this.”
Gareth looks at Richard derisively. “No. The police will be able to trace the money and will find you… us more easily then. The money goes through your bank account eventually, dummy.”
Nodding his head in understanding, Richards starts to smile. “What do you want me to do?”
“Are you sure you want to do this? Once we put this into motion there is no turning back.”
“Hell yeah!” Richard cries out. “Of course, I want to do this. I cannot wait to sit here and see the view numbers on the computer screen roll over into the billions.”
Gareth smiles cruelly. “And I can guarantee you the numbers will reach far into the billions. We will be the internet buzz for six glorious days.”
Doubtfully Richard asks, “We aren’t actually going to kill any of them, are we?”
“Now why would people bother to watch the second day’s video if we do not show them the proof that one of them are dead? We will videotape and upload the losing kid’s last screams.”
Richard says perceptively, “That is why nobody can know it is us.”
“So, let’s make a list of all the things we need to do.”
Gareth pulls a chair closer to Richard’s desk and then with their heads bend over the A4 sheet of paper, torn from a notebook, Gareth scribbles in his slanted handwriting the to-do list.
“Firstly, what type of contestants will we have?”
Richard rests his head onto his palm and taps with his index finger against his temple. “For the sympathy vote, we should have a girl of about seven to eight years of age.”
Gareth writes it down onto the piece of paper. “To make our list ethnically correct, we should have a black kid as well.”
Richard nods his head in agreement, and Gareth writes it down onto the list.
“I liked your earlier idea of the high school homecoming queen.”
Gareth smiles as he adds it to the list. Under that he scribbles another contestant idea.
Richards smirks. “Almost forgot all about the all-important jock, the high school football hero.” He laughs suddenly. “To make the list properly correct, we will have to have a disabled contestant.”
“Brilliant, Richard. I never even considered that one. Then, for the contestant against all the odds, the ugliest kid we can find.”
Richard laughs heartily. “I am loving this idea.” Abruptly he remembers, “Where are we going to keep them?”
“My dad has a hunting lodge an hour from here. This weekend we should go there and fix up the basement. It is quiet out there and there is not a living soul nearby for miles and miles.”
Richard sighs exaggerated, a small smile playing on his lips. “Is this going to involve manual labour?”
“I will go to the hardware store and buy drywall, chains and anything else we could possibly need.”
“We want to lock them up separately. You do not want them to gang up against us. If they manage to escape and run to the police, you can kiss your chemical engineering degree goodbye.”
“So, when do we start?”
“I will have to get some new gadgets and a new computer. Also, I will have to get some anti-tracking set-up. That will take me at least a week and with exams coming up it is going to be a tight schedule.”
Enviously Richard sulks, “Your dad won’t get suspicious with you spending so much money?”
Gareth laughs derisively. “He is out of the country and when has he ever cared?” Gareth gets up from the chair and drags it behind him back to his side of the room. He pushes the chair under his desk and then he turns back to Richard threateningly. “There is no turning back, do you understand?”
Richard feels a chill down his spine when he looks back into Gareth’s lifeless eyes.
Gareth drives down the suburban road slowly, with the top of his car down. Richard follows a few cars behind in a nondescript white panel van. The windows of the panel van have been tinted; it is the only distinguishing factor.
He watches the girl as she walks across the road at the pedestrian crossing, and he is immediately interested in her. The dimple in Gareth’s cheek deepens as he smiles pleased.
Gareth slows down when he reaches her. He leans his one elbow across the door of his wine-red Mercedes, and he gives her his most seductive smile. Girls usually like him. He is rich, his hair is blond, his eyes are blue, and he is every girl’s dream boyfriend.
He says, friendly, “Hi.”
She looks across her shoulder suspiciously, but Gareth sees her defences drop away when she notices him. She smiles prettily and replies, “Hi.” She stops walking.
He stops the car along the curb and gets out. After he closes the door, he leans against it, half sitting on it. He says invitingly, “I have to do this social project to determine what makes the perfect teen, and I was wondering if you would mind taking part.” He sees her hesitate, so he adds quickly, “We can do it right here.” There is no reason why she would not trust him. He is only two or three years older than her; he is well dressed, and he can see from the expression on her face that she does not perceive him to be a threat.
She smiles shyly and her hand comes up timidly to touch her tousled shoulder-length brown hair.
He asks expectantly, smiling invitingly, “So, can I get my camera?”
She giggles nervously. “I suppose it will be okay.”
He smiles as he pretends to be relieved. “Thank you. You are a lifesaver.” From the corner of his eye, he sees the panel van parked a short distance ahead of his car. He walks away from the girl toward the back of his car and she turns to look at him. Her back is turned to the panel van.
From the trunk of his car, he gets his expensive video camera and then as he focuses the lens on her, he switches it to record.
Embarrassed she laughs. “What am I supposed to say?”
“Tell me your name.”
“Sarah. Sarah O’Neil.”
“How old are you Sarah?”
“Where do you go to school?”
She looks across the road at a passing car. “I go to school at G.W. High School.”
“Tell me about your hobbies.”
“This is silly.” She giggles again.
He laughs with her. “Okay, then just tell me what makes you the perfect teen.”
“I wouldn’t say I am the perfect teen, but I like to think I am pretty close to being perfect.”
“Are you a cheerleader?”
Sarah blushes. “Yes, actually cheer captain.”
Gareth cannot believe his luck. “So, tell me about yourself, it doesn’t have to be anything personal, it is just for this stupid project I have to do for my Social Economics class.”
“Okay.” She smiles again. “I love to party, and I like to listen to music. I don’t really have a favourite band, but I like anything on the top forty charts. I am doing well at school and there is no doubt that I will be homecoming queen this year.” She stops talking embarrassed as a flush spread across her cheeks.
Gareth looks away from the camera and directly at her. “Is that it, Sarah? If you had to say one thing to describe you, to make people like you, what would it be?”
She says without hesitation, “I am pretty.”
He lowers the camera and switches the recording button off.
Smiling at her friendly, he says, “Thank you, Sarah. You were terrific.”
Gareth glances past her at Richard and nods his head unnoticeable. This is Richard’s signal and he runs forward from the point where he was standing a few feet behind Sarah, just out of view of the camera. He pulls the black cloth over her face quickly and before she can yell or fight, Gareth grabs her legs. They lift her squirming body and then push her into the back of the panel van roughly. From the moment Gareth lowered the camera and said thank you to her, it took only fifty-seven seconds to grab her and to get her into the back of the van. They can hear her flailing around in the back of the van, but Gareth had painstakingly made the entire back area of the van soundproof. She can yell to her heart’s content, but no-one will hear her while she is in the back of the van.
Delightedly Gareth gives Richard a high-five. “Well done, that was not bad for your first kidnapping. I say, we are born to do this.”
Richard laughs loudly and then turns away from Gareth. “I’ll see at the lodge.”
“I’ll be right behind you.”
As they drive out of the city, Richard increases the volume on the car stereo so that he is unable to hear the banging coming from the interior of the van behind him.
When they arrive at the lodge, they drive up the dusty, unpaved lane to the wooden shack hidden behind a curtain of large, dense leaved trees.
They stop behind each other and then they both approach the back of the van cautiously. Richard stands ready to stop Sarah should she decide to make a run for it.
Gareth unlocks the back doors and as they swing open, Sarah lunges at him. He punches his fist and hits her straight in the face. His knuckles connect with her eye socket and with a gasp she falls back onto her back.
Sarah feels the pain shoot through to the back of her head and she feels dazed.
Gareth shakes his painful hand next to his side and he exclaims, “Bitch!” He grabs her by her leg and he pulls her out of the van. Her head bangs loudly, agonizingly against the fender and then mercifully she blacks out.
Richard, who is built sturdier than Gareth, picks her up off the ground and hurls her over his shoulder roughly.
Gareth looks around nervously, although he knows there is nobody within miles who could witness what they are doing. He follows Richard to the cabin, and then he squeezes past him to unlock and open the door.
The door swings open and a waft of stale air floats out through the door.
Gareth pulls his nose up in disgust as he mumbles, “Would think after the last two weekends this place has had enough air.”
In silence, Richard carries the unconscious Sarah across the room, past the stone fireplace and then down the stairs to the basement.
In the basement, he and Gareth have constructed six cubicles with drywall over the last two weekends. Although the previous weekend, every aspect of the manual labour was left to Richard to complete, because Gareth was setting up the elaborate electronic equipment, which they have positioned in the lounge area of the cabin.
When Richard walks into the basement, he looks around pleased. He is thrilled with his handy work, and even if he has to say it to himself, he did a good job.
There are no doors on the cubicles, but he put the drywalls up in a way that their captives will be unable to look at each other across the small passageway which runs through the middle. There are three narrow cubicles along each side of the dark, dank basement.
Unceremoniously he drops Sarah onto the cold cement floor of the first cubicle. She lands with a thud and it is with satisfaction that he hears her head bang against the floor. He pulls her by her arm and then he cuffs her wrist to the metal ring he plastered into the concrete floor.
She is still knocked out, so he fills the plastic dog bowl with water from a big container in the laundry area, and then he places it on the floor near her head.
Silently, he turns away from her still body and he walks back up the creaky wooden stairs to the lounge, where Gareth is waiting for him.
Gareth is sitting in front of the large screen, between large, humming boxes and cables lying haphazardly all over the desk. He is uploading the video he took earlier of Sarah and working on creating a unique logo for their online reality show.
Richard stands behind him silently and he watches Gareth work his magic with the computer. He is impressed, but after ten minutes he becomes bored, so he turns away and walks toward the kitchen area. He opens the fridge and bends into it to pull out two cans of beer. He pulls the tab off the one and then he takes a long swallow. He smiles disturbingly as he considers what hard work kidnapping is. It takes a lot of pre-planning and physical exertion.
Distracted, he puts the empty beer can on the counter next to him, as he leans with his back against the cupboard behind him and he opens the second can of beer. He sips the beer from the second can slowly as he looks out the window at the back garden of the small log cabin. The trees are gathered closely together, and he watches as the shadows grow higher and higher.
He stands mesmerized as he stares out of the window, his mind blank. When Gareth suddenly speaks behind him, he jumps in his skin. “All done, we can go.”
Richard moves away from the counter. “One down, five to go.”
Copyright © Stephen Simpson (published by Fiction for the Soul). All rights reserved.