If you’re like I used to be, you surf the internet, hoping to find something to do. Chances are, your friends send you links once in a while to neat websites that provide instant happiness or hilarity. One such website hosts a virtual entity known as the Akinator. I’d heard of him, but never really tried him out until my friends told me to at a party one night. I’ll never forget that night; it was the night my mind began to fade and decay into the insanity that surrounds it now. I’ll never be able to stop wondering if anybody’s standing behind me because of that fucking thing, but I have to deal with it. I have to be as strong as I can to make it through life. It’s just…unnerving when you constantly feel like someone’s watching you. I’ll do the best I can to tell you, but only because I want people to know of the horror that ended my security’s life.
As I said before, it all began at a party, when my friends told me to try it out. Being dazed out of my mind, I decided to give it a shot with them beside me. Basically, the Akinator guesses a character you’re thinking of. It tells you to get a character, real or fictional, inside your mind, while it starts playing a demented version of 20 Questions to figure it out. More often than not, it succeeds. Sometimes you can trip it up, but that doesn’t happen too often, or so my friends told me. I started with something easy for it; since my friends and I were a little high, we thought of the funniest character that we could at the time: Shrek. The virtual genie guessed correctly almost immediately, obviously. The more known a character is, the easier it is to guess, I suppose. It freaked me out how fast it guessed correctly, though. My friends thought nothing of it, but as I stared that genie in the face, I couldn’t help but notice that it was staring back at me. My eye twitched, but I attributed that to the marijuana-laced air. They were laughing at each other while I stared at the screen like a deer at headlights, but their jokes quickly ended when one of them turned to me, asking if I was alright. Some of them chuckled, but I didn’t blame them; they were high as kites in that moment. I didn’t turn to my friend, though. I didn’t answer him. I simply kept staring at that godforsaken genie. It didn’t even look scary or anything like that, but I didn’t once look away from that screen. It’s almost like I was hypnotized in that instant. I finally closed the browser and resumed my drug use, but I couldn’t get the image of the Akinator out of my head.
The next morning, I woke up on my bedroom floor. I wasn’t thinking about the Akniator at all, but I still felt horrible from the night before. I coughed a lot, couldn’t see well, and had to try especially hard to keep my balance. However, I stumbled over to my computer, and turned it on. Before I even opened up Internet Explorer, though, a command prompt opened up on my desktop. It remained blank for a few moments, and then a whole sentence popped up: “Let’s play a game. Think hard, now.” It didn’t even type out individual letters like a computer usually would; the whole phrase came up all at once. I closed it quickly, thinking nothing of it. I thought I was just seeing things, and that it was probably just a regular notification. I opened up the internet, checking my e-mail and Facebook. With nothing new on Facebook, I switched back to the Yahoo! Mail tab. It showed that I had three new e-mails, which was pretty standard. When I checked them individually, though, one of them was from an address that seemed pretty coincidental: firstname.lastname@example.org. I looked it up, and an e-mail address like that didn't exist, and never had. Starting to become slightly concerned, I opened up the e-mail. It wasn’t much, but the few words that loaded nearly made me jump out of my seat. “Are you sure you don’t want to?” was displayed right in front of me. I then remember a couple of very important details: first, I never gave my e-mail address to the Akinator’s website, and second, I realized what the command prompt had really said, and that I wasn’t just seeing things. Without warning, I flinched back, falling out of my chair. I closed the internet browser, hoping that nothing else would happen. No big deal, really. I could’ve made a new e-mail account if I had wanted to.
A few hours later, after washing up and becoming more alert, I decided to get back on the computer, thinking that what had happened with the Akinator was all either a joke or a mistake. I re-opened the internet, thinking that I was going to see if my friend had posted any picture from the party online. I typed Facebook’s website in the URL bar at the top, but when the page loaded, it was blank. The URL was still www.facebook.com, but there was nothing there. I refreshed the page several times, but stopped, thinking that my internet connection was screwed up again. Right before I closed the browser, though, the URL disappeared from the bar. Bits of gibberish began to pop up, and then it loaded the Akinator’s homepage. Instead of greeting me with its typical “Hello, I am Akinator. To start a game, click on play”, though, there was no speech bubble at first. The genie just stared at me until it finally asked, “Why are you ignoring me? I just want to play.” My eyes widened with concern, and I instantly closed the browser. My heart began to beat faster, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was going on. With a headache, I walked into the kitchen, trying to find some food to take my mind off the Akinator. I took an apple from the fridge and went back into my room. Against my better judgment, I got back on the computer, expecting the Akinator to mess with it somehow. He didn’t this time, and I’m not sure why. Maybe he’s not doing anything right now to fuck with my head again…
I started to surf the internet for about twenty minutes, thinking that all traces of the genie were gone. I was dead wrong, of course. As I checked my e-mail again, my screensaver popped out of nowhere by itself, but it appeared to have changed. Instead of the 3D Pipes setting, it had changed itself to the Marquee screensaver. The words slowly crept in from the right side of the screen, almost as if the computer was talking to me. “I will find you. Please play with me. You won’t beat me.” I heard what could have been his very voice ringing through my mind. I tried to make it go away by closing my eyes, just like my parents used to tell me when I was little, but even when I couldn’t see the computer screen, the very words flashed through my thoughts like the Marquee screensaver. The Akinator was burning his image into my brain, trying to make sure that I wouldn’t forget that I was never alone.
Things like this continued to happen on my computer for the next few days, each time becoming more and more invasive to my life. The blank pages kept coming up in place of the real ones, and I kept getting messed-up e-mails from the supposed genie. He’d completely blocked me out of Facebook by that time, and I was getting to the point where I could no longer stand the notifications he decided to bring up on my desktop. I was close to destroying my computer, trying to convince myself that I needed a new one anyway. Even then, though, I still felt like he was following me. He kept telling me that he “wanted to play a game” and that I would “never beat him”. He even printed a “test page” that had bits of his dialogue hidden and oddly spaced throughout the page. I was being freaked out to no end, losing sleep at night, and always wondering if somebody was watching me. One day, though, I couldn’t take it anymore. Reluctantly, I decided to play his little game just to see if that would end it. I thought of a character that I knew he would guess correctly: Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. I typed in the URL for the Akinator’s website, expecting that nothing would go wrong, since I was finally appeasing him. The page began to load properly, but then suddenly faded to black. A clipart image of a speaker faded on to the screen, indicating that I had to turn up the volume. Uncaring about the imminent danger, I turned my computer’s volume nearly all the way up. A deep, calm voice started to talk to me. I only assumed that it was the Akinator speaking.
“Hello there. Are you ready to play?” it asked.
“Why have you been doing this to me? Why?” I replied.
“To see if you are worthy.”
“Worthy of what? What could I possibly be ‘worthy’ of that takes this amount of bullshit to determine?”
“Worthy of understanding.”
“Understanding what, exactly?”
“That you’re not the only one here.”
“Well, I can tell now, obviously.”
“Never mind…but yes, I’m ready to play your stupid game.”
“If I do this, will you stop this tormenting? Please? For the love of God, stop!”
“I have already stopped. Only you are now the torturer and the victim.”
“But what does that mean?”
“Only you will know. Let’s begin.”
“Wait, WHAT?? Tell me!”
He didn’t respond after that. The image of the cartoon genie slowly faded into view on the screen, surrounded by the usual homepage. It seemed that everything was normal, at least until the genie turned his face towards me. The speech bubble popped up, but it was completely blank. With my character in mind, I started answering his questions. Occasionally, though a question such as “Do you hate me?” would pop up, which was starting to further unnerve me. I couldn’t take this stupidity anymore. He guessed my character right within the first round, but after that, the questions didn’t stop. He kept asking me why I was ignoring him and if I wanted a friend by my side. I kept answering no, since that’s the best thing I thought I could do at the time. After about ten more, unrelated questions, he stopped. The game ended with him claiming his victory, but not over the game. Instead of that cheesy grin than lit his face up when he won, there was only an evil smile staring directly at me. The speech bubble popped up, and instead of his usual speech appearing all at once, the words were spelled out individually, almost like he was talking to me. “I win, you lose. Life is short; watch your back.” Just then, my computer screen turned black and an error message appeared. The display started to distort, loud static came through the speakers, and then my computer got the fabled blue screen of death and crashed almost immediately. I was so used to the fear, though, that I didn’t even flinch; I only thought about what he said.
I haven’t left my house since, but I still wonder: why did he do it? Did he just want a friend? Was he simply tired of being used for the amusement of others? I’ll never know, and quite frankly, I never want to. All I do know is that I’m going to buy a new computer, and that I’ll never feel alone again, thanks to the Akinator. I’ll always be watching over my own shoulder. I sit awake in my bed every night now with my eyes wide open, knowing that somebody’s staring back and watching me. Somebody’s watching.