No one knows how it started. Some people say it was in some of the murkier corners of Reddit. Others say that it came from the Dark-Web. A lot of people believe it was China or America or Russia. Some cyberwarfare project gone wrong. A few people think it was anarchists who just wanted to watch the world burn.
The strangest part is that some people welcomed it. They saw it as a way to clear out the chaff of civilisation. You don’t hear much from them anymore. They keep their mouths closed now that it’s everywhere, not just online, but in your email inbox, in your WhatsApp messages, your text messages, on your Facebook wall, your Twitter feed, plastered all over that annoying search page on Instagram.
I remember when you could go online and quickly get sick of all the baby photos, all the holidays, the meals, the puppies, the cats. Not anymore. It’s desolate now. The world is a quieter place and not just online, not after all the suicides.
I shift uncomfortably in my chair at my desk in my bedroom. I’m staring at my Facebook wall, but there’s nothing on there. No advert for a political party, no announcement of a birth, no opening night invitation. Nothing, except one thing.
It just sits there. Someone has posted it, I barely know her, haven’t seen her in years. It’s just there, a blurred image, like the NSFW stuff that used to be on Reddit. I know if I click that I’ll see the meme. I’ve been warned enough times by the government, by the news, by my family, by my friends. Many didn’t listen.
No one knows what the meme is, whether it’s an image, a video, a gif, a message, or something unimaginable because no one has lived to tell about it. It just appears everywhere. Someone sends it to you, posts it on your wall, on your feed. I don’t know why. Do the senders do it on purpose? Are they trying to kill people? Or does the meme spread on its own? I have no idea, and I’ll probably never know.
I sigh and try and hold back the tears that are attempting to burst from my eyes. I wonder if she thought about this when she opened it? She must have known what was going to happen, but she did it anyway. She left me forever. Why didn’t she leave a note? Why didn’t she tell me?
I close my eyes briefly as grief nearly consumes me and take a long, deep breath and open them again. My hand trembles as I take the mouse in my hand. I minimise Facebook, head to my computer menu and switch on the webcam. I glance at the small camera on the top of the screen, but quickly avert my eyes as I maximise Facebook.
The meme is still on my wall.
Why can’t Facebook control it? Why can’t they stop it? Why can’t any of the other social media sites, or email companies, or search engines? How does it do this?
I shake my head and shrug to no one in particular. It doesn’t matter anymore.
I think about her face and the little dimple on her chin. I think about her hair, her beautiful flowing blonde locks. I think about her hazel eyes and the way they crinkled at the corner when she smiled. I think about her little nose that upturned slightly. I think about her and what she meant to me and why life isn’t worth living now that she’s gone. I let her whole being populate my mind as I lean forward and double click the meme…
“Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”
“Yes, sir. You’ve called Emergency Services. How can I help you?”
“Please! I need the police! He’s on the webcam right now. I think he’s going to open it. I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”
“Calm down, sir. Please, calm down. Where is…”
“Send someone over to his house, please! He’s going to open it! Please do something! Please, please, please, please…”
“Sir, please! I can’t understand you! You need to calm down…”
“Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! He’s walking towards the window!”
“What? Please, sir! I can’t understand you…”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! He’s fucking jumped out! He’s fucking jumped out…”
“Sir, please! I can’t…”
“No, no, no, fucking no….”
Elliot Harper (he/him) is the self-published author of the dark science-fiction novella, The City around the World, and the speculative short story collection, On Time Travel and Tardiness, available from Amazon. His short stories have featured in The Wild Hunt: Stories of the Chase by Air and Nothingness Press, Black Telephone Magazine Issue 1 by Clash Books, and The Protest Issue in Popshot Quarterly Magazine. His short fiction has appeared online in Clash Book’s Black Telephone Magazine, Maudlin House, Neon Magazine’s Battery Pack Volume 4, Horrified Magazine, Coffin Bell Journal, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine‘s #thesideshow, Storgy, Queen Mobs Teahouse, the Ghost City Review, Akashic Book’s #FriSciFi, Back Patio Press, Litro Magazine’s #StorySunday, Selcouth Station’s #2 Food Edition, Dream Noir Lit Magazine, Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones Volume 8 and Riggwelter Press. Find him on Twitter @E_Harper_Author and on his website, www.elliotharper.com. He currently lives in Houston, Texas with his wife, Naomi, but is originally from Scarborough, England, although he considers Leeds his home. He likes to write fiction that isn’t confined by any particular genre, but leans towards the dark, the weird, the transgressive and the surreal.