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The glowing red numbers on the digital clock’s display read 12:59AM. Daniel kept his gaze trained on the device, silently mouthing each second that passed by while keeping one eye on the dark window of his monitor.
As the time ticked over to 1AM, the offline indicator on the screen jumped over to 'online' and the dark video feed flickered to life. The chat box popped-up and was instantly swamped with messages. Cheers of joy and outbursts of glee and anticipation scrolled by at blinding speed in all-caps. Daniel eagerly joined in on the chatspam, his face split in an ear to ear grin.
bL00dyM@ry: AWYEAAAH HERE WE GO!
J3ffYtK: GO GO GO GO GO!
W@tchingU: THE SUSPENSE IS FUCKING KILLING ME HERE!
TheB!G0ne: !!!!Looking to get all the ladies but have nothing to show? Real, working p3n!s enlargements and performance enhancements can be found here [link filtered] Trust me it works! I tried it and have a new girlfriend every day and night!!!!!
--System notice--: [system namechange user: TheB!G0ne to TinyMolerat]
--System notice--: [advertisement detected. Keep your mini-rat in your own pants TinyMolerat. Warning 1 out of 2. Next strike will result in ban.]
ShadowLurker: RIGHT ON THE FUCKING DOT AGAIN MAN! YOU'RE THE BEST!
TinyMolerat: !!!!Looking to get all the ladies but have nothing to show? Real, working p3n!s enlargements and performance enhancements can be found here [link filtered] Trust me it works! I tried it and have a new girlfriend every day and night!!!!!
--System notice--: [advertisement detected. TinyMolerat has been banned for waving his little D around.]
The chat erupted in laughter and bot-related taunts and jokes until a soft chuckle sounded through the video feed. Daniel inched himself to the edge of his chair when the man began to speak.
"It would seem I need to update my little filters again. Somehow, one of those crawling roaches managed to squeeze its way through my system." Amusement tinted the man's charismatic voice. He had the practiced voice of a public speaker. More than once Daniel had wondered about the identity of The GraciousHost. The man never showed any part of himself on camera. He considered it a shame but at the same time he understood the value of anonymity on the internet. That, and to reveal himself on camera would break the illusion that Gracious Host had created about himself with his stage-persona.
"For now though, server IP has been tracked down. Any one of you feeling like having a little fun causing hell with that bot, go at it." The IP-address popped up in the chat. That server would soon receive all manner of worms and firewall warnings, Daniel knew. The vast majority in the chat were rather experienced hackers and many would find quite a bit of enjoyment in terrorizing advertisement bots. An idea sparked in his mind and his thin fingers danced over the keyboard.
ShadowLurker: You sure you're not just letting one slip in every now and then oh GraciousHost, just to watch us tear it apart?
To his delight, the streamer picked up on the message."Oh you wound me, Shadow. Do you honestly think me to be that bad a monster?! Exposing my poor innocent viewers, especially those that return every single stream, to something as horrendous as advertisements? I may be a creature of the night, but not even I would sink that low.” Daniel's heart felt like it would leap straight out of his chest. His fingers instantly danced excitedly over the keys again.
ShadowLurker: Welp, that's it for me guys. Senpai noticed me.
The corny, and frankly overused, joke earned him some groans in the chat. The streamer ignored it as he continued speaking.
"What I do expose you to however, is your weekly entertainment in glorious, unobstructed HD video and sound quality! I am your mysterious and brooding host, GraciousHost, here again this week to bring you the best of the best. I would like to welcome all the new blood to this stream, and give a hearty welcome back to all returning viewers. Please remember to pitch in with donations if you want to have a say in the poll and to ensure no molerats go without their own nighttime entertainment. Not to mention getting me a much needed new set of curtains." Daniel chuckled slightly and glanced at the bitcoin donation counter. It had gone up by several hundreds of dollars worth of coins since the start of the stream already. Feeling generous, he pitched in with some of his own. If it kept their ‘vampiric’ host from turning to ash and, more importantly, allowed him to continue the regular streams Daniel considered it money well spent.
"And now, without further ado, let’s see what we have here tonight!" A switch was flicked off-screen and the scene in front of the camera was illuminated by the light of several white spotlights. A young woman dressed only in flimsy undergarments lay firmly strapped to the dentist chair, a humongous machine towering over it like an oversized praying mantis with too many spindly legs. With eyes full of horror she stared at the camera and the Host. “Meet the lovely Wendy, our shining star for tonight. Doesn’t she look positively delectable?” The camera slowly panned over her visage, letting the viewers take in every detail of her face. Daniel noted that, though pale and sleep deprived she was rather pretty. Especially with that wide-eyed, terror stricken face. Her beautiful brown eyes gleamed with unshed tears. Her curly brown hair lay in a tangled mess about her, matted with the cold sweat that freely trickled from her forehead. Her lovely full lips were covered with clear tape, keeping her from spitting out the gag. He shifted somewhat on his chair. His pants were becoming uncomfortably tight.
“Twenty-four years old and in the prime of her life!” GraciousHost announced cheerfully as though he was advertising fruits and vegetables on the market. “She studied something or another at a local university. As far as I could tell she was doing well too! So much promise in one so young, but someone had a little too much fun on the internets on one of her days off. She poked around where a fragile little flower like her should never wander.” His voice took on an audibly darker tone. Cruel amusement veritably dripped from his every syllable as the camera zoomed out to show her full, restrained form, “And now she finds herself right here. The internet really is the most expansive catalogue in the world. So many different flavors just a single click of the mouse away. But I digress, you’re not here to listen to me gushing over the wonders of human innovation. You want this.”
The camera then panned towards the monstrous machine. Twelve lanky, robotic arms hovered over the chair and its occupant, giving the appearance of a gargantuan spider ready to ensnare its prey. The camera slowly focused over every tool, giving them their own moment to shine before the show itself. Their host had set the lighting up perfectly to display the beauty and lethality of his prized tools. Every sharp, spiked, and serrated edge gleamed menacingly in the illumination of the spotlights. Once again the chat erupted with joy, shouting out their little nicknames for each individual tool as it came by and begging GraciousHost to use their favorite this time. Eventually the camera’s focus returned to its central position. Wendy struggled in her bonds, desperately attempting to escape.
“Oh how I would love to get a taste of that lovely crimson underneath that delicate skin, but I really shouldn’t. She’s here to entertain you guys after all, and me indulging myself would make for a rather boring stream. NOW!” GraciousHost snapped his fingers audibly and the video-feed switched from the camera to a spreadsheet with twelve options. “It is time to select the tools of the craft! As usual, last week's tool is not available this time to keep things fresh. That means no votes for the knife, people. If all my lovely donators would please select the instrument for tonight's show.”
The poll popped up on Daniel's screen. Every tool had a small description on how it was used along with an estimated show time. GraciousHost was brilliantly skilled with the remotely controlled machine but the human body could only withstand so much. After some consideration, he selected the blowtorch. He could already imagine the sweet, sweet sound of her cries and he wanted it to last. To his glee, others had a similar idea. The torch was by far the most popular. GraciousHost let out a dark chuckle as voting came to an end.
“I see you guys are ready to kick back for a long show tonight. No consideration for me having to sit through the smell at all huh. To think they call me cruel.” It almost sounded like a whine but since their Host said something similar every single time the viewers chose a tool that didn’t cut, Daniel simply sniggered at the recurring quip. “Very well, the torch it is!” The machine whirred softly, and eleven arms retracted slowly to leave the softly burning torch hovering over the woman. The feed switched again, this time to the small camera mounted on the machine's arm that operated the torch. Daniel almost held his breath in anticipation. This was what he loved most about this stream. No human interference once the show started. Everything was remote controlled and the camera was mounted straight on top of the tool to allow close-up views of everything. The first thing to go was the tape on the woman's mouth. The hot flame of the blowtorch melted it away. Her sweet screams were everything that he'd hoped them to be. Daniel let himself get wrapped up in the thrill of watching the woman writhe and squirm as her skin was assaulted time and again by the machine.
He was almost ready to lose himself at the sight of her red scorched skin beginning to blister away when he spotted something in the chat.
Anony916: This is fucking disgusting! How can anyone watch this?
Anony916: You're all monsters! You're all just watching that girl die and you're ENJOYING it?!
Daniel froze in his seat and glared at the chat box. Just what he needed, a white knight coming in to crash on his party. Talk about a turn-off. Fury washed over him and he grabbed his keyboard.
ShadowLurker: Take your preaching somewhere else asshat.
Other chatters chimed in similarly, taunting and in several cases threatening the anonymous viewer.
J3ffYtK: This is the big boy net kid. Go to sleep before your mommy finds you!
W@tchingU: You better keep your trap shut and leave quietly or we're going to have a few words for you.
bL00dyM@ry: Words? Hah, I'd give him a one way ticket to our GraciousHost! Watch him preach then!
The taunts put the user on the defensive, and he reacted accordingly. Daniel's eyes narrowed as he stared at the text.
Anony916: Fuck you assholes, I'm calling the cops.
--System notice--: [System protections lifted from user: Anony916 for misconduct.]
--System notice--: [Attempt to disconnect by Anony916 detected and denied.]
--System notice--: [Security protocols initiated. Securing data and rerouting new connections.]
All hell immediately broke loose. Daniel was sure he could hear the Host chuckle in an amused manner as the torrent of hate continued. The users laughed at Anony916, and the threats poured in with much more malice now. Daniel's own words joined in the tirade. Within minutes, there was a eureka in the chat. An image file popped up with a name. The image was a little grainy due to poor lighting and webcam quality, but Alex Smith's face was still very visible with its dirty blond spiked hair and gray eyes as it stared in horror at the device. One more image followed, this time showing only a desk chair. Shortly after Anony916 vanished from the user list.
L33tZ0rs: Aw man, I think he unplugged his computer.
Crawler: Doesn't matter. Got his name and IP. Idiot only had one bounce in it. Childsplay. Digging up his address now.
“Feel free to share it with us when you have it,” GraciousHost's voice came purring through the video-feed. “I do require a new star next week. Having one delivered would be just....perfect...” His voice trailed off in soft, merciless laughter. The sound made a chill travel down Daniel's spine. “The system left a mark on the little crasher's computer. Just turn it on and it will notify me.”
The hacker was more than happy to oblige. It took him mere minutes to narrow down the possibilities, first to five, then three and finally only one full name and address remained. Daniel stared at the address and felt an elated grin creep back on his face. That was in the next town over. His gaze returned to the video still displaying the slow mutilation of the young woman. In his mind's eye he could already see that little brat there on the chair. Who knew, perhaps the Host would allow Daniel to operate the machine for a moment as a reward for his assistance. Yes...Yes, he was going to do this! As the woman breathed out her last breath and lay still, he got up and grabbed all he thought he would need. Gloves, his trusty crowbar, rope, ductape, and his car keys. Stuffing everything in a bag, he left his apartment behind. The grin hadn't left his face the entire time.
- - -
It was strange, Alex mused, how one's brain responded to fear. In small amounts it gave a burst of adrenaline. In large, continuous amounts it simply numbed the brain. Even if he hadn't been bound and gagged, he was sure that he couldn't bring himself to move or even utter a sound. Not anymore. The situation was hopeless. He was going to die a slow and painful death for the entertainment of others, just like that young woman. The stench of her burned hair and skin filled his nostrils and the basement around him. Alex listlessly lifted his head as his tormentor spoke in the small microphone clipped to his shirt.
“And with that dear viewers, I bid you all farewell. Despite that little bout of interference we had, I do hope that you all enjoyed yourselves.” He dropped his voice to a conspiratory whisper. “I know I sure did.” The man let out that vicious, bone chilling chuckle again. Alex could practically feel the blood freeze in his veins. Involuntarily he started to quiver in his seat again. “I sincerely hope to see each one of you again next week. You do not want to miss it. This was GraciousHost, your friendly neighborhood killing vampire, signing off!” The Host calmly moved about between the three different computers he had set up, killing the router first before taking meticulous care of ending the various programs running on the computers. Once his machines were secured, he turned around and casually sauntered over toward Alex. He passed carelessly in front of the still recording camera as he walked, though the desktop hooked up to the device only continued to show the chair, corpse, and machine.
“And how did my special guest enjoy tonight's show?” GraciousHost mocked, crouching down to meet Alex's eyes. His fingers played with the picture he’d taken days earlier of the young man and had hung in front of the webcam once he’d lifted server security. “Nothing quite like a front row seat in person, wouldn’t you agree? Much better than from a monitor.” Alex instinctively tried to shrink away in the chair. “By the way, I believe I haven't thanked you yet have I?” Cold fingers gently brushed over the young man's cheek. “I am ever so grateful you delivered yourself straight to me after the last showing and then even granted me use of your wonderful basement for this stream. I know I have been a very poor guest but you needn't worry. It won't be long now.” GraciousHost's smirk grew wide, a pair of vicious fangs glinting in the white light. “Our next host is on the way, and next week I will make you a star.” Sharp fangs dug their way into Alex's neck. Seconds slowly ticked by as the young man felt himself weaken even further.
The sound of the front door being forced open made GraciousHost pull back and glance up. Faintly, a voice echoed through the house as the intruder called out; “Come on out Alex, I’ve got a little message for you!” A cruel grin spread on the vampire’s face. “Already here? Such a marvelous delivery service.” Silent as a shadow the creature left the basement. Before the door closed behind him, the barely conscious Alex heard him utter one last sentence; “I fucking love the internet.”
Written by Nachtrae