What is it about horror that draws people in? Why is it that when we feel utterly alone and isolated that we dive into this dark genre? Is it because somewhere deep down in everyone, there is that darkness that begs to be released? The darkness that would do things your sane self would never imagine doing? Everyone has this darkness. I’m sure there has been a time or two when a dark and sinister thought has crossed your mind. Even though you quickly shake it from your mind, it is still there; burnt into the back of your brain. But how far would one go to truly forget such thoughts or actions?

It was the middle of September in a small town in Arizona. Students were still trying to shake off the end of the summer blues and desperately tried to get back into the swing of things at school.

Emily Monroe was not your average teenage girl. She had long, coal black hair, fried from the dry heat. She did not enjoy school. For her, it was crowded and much too loud. She would much rather be isolated in her room in front of her computer monitor. Other students tried to get a rise out of poor Emily; often teasing her and calling her names. However, she paid no mind to them. Her mind was often elsewhere, most of the time deep in fan-fiction. Her favorite site was a database full of all different genres of fan-fiction, which helped her escape her lonely reality. Once there, she would imagine herself fighting alongside strong, beloved characters from her favorite books. But those stories began to bore young Emily. They just weren’t enough as she needed something more. Good conquering evil was just not cutting it anymore.

That night, Emily desperately searched the web for something to satisfy her craving. A few results piqued her interest, but nothing all that satisfying. Emily ran her fingers through her hair in exasperation. Needing a break, she went downstairs for something to drink and grabbed a snack. When she returned to her room, the webpage was blank. The only thing was the broken image symbol and a refresh button. Thinking nothing of it, she clicked it; when she did, a new list of results appeared. Her eyes immediately were drawn to the first result.

Emily clicked the link. It took a while, but the page eventually loaded. The site was black with very light grey text. There were a few links on the front page, some of the featured stories. She clicked one and began reading. It was gruesome, and terrifying, and so very satisfying. Returning to the home page, she clicked the next one and the next one, and another. It was official, she was indeed addicted. Emily read those stories for so long that she had completely lost track of time. Suddenly an obnoxious beeping sound startled her and brought her back down to Earth, it was her alarm! She had stayed up all night! She quickly gathered her things for school, then ran downstairs to scarf down some breakfast.

The day seemed to drag on forever. Emily was tired, however, she was oddly awake, wired even. Everything that day was muffled, sometimes muted. Nothing anyone had to say was of any importance to her. Fourth period released, and everyone exited into the halls. The only thing Emily could think about was the stories she had read. She wanted to be home reading more. She had an insane itch that needed to be scratched.

Emily was ripped from her reverie when she suddenly smacked face first into the floor. The halls fell silent, then almost as quickly filled with laughter. Emily peered up through her veil of hair, only to find a tall, blonde, olive skinned girl giving her a taunting smirk. It was Lillian from her health class. She was standing confidently above Emily; hoping that Emily would fight back.

Emily attempted to gather her belongings but Lillian stomped on Emily’s hand as she reached for her notebook. Emily bit her lower lip, withholding her cries of agony. She did not want to give everyone the satisfaction of hearing her whimper. Once she was released, Emily stood up, and began to walk away. Lillian shouted obscenities as Emily walked down the hall. The side of Emily’s face was still stinging from the smack onto the tile floor. Lillian and everyone around her cackled and screamed in pure enjoyment. Emily’s mind was blank, not a single thought going through her head. Her mind remained empty the rest of the day. When she finally returned home, she immediately retired to her room, where she shut the door and locked it.

She sat in front of her monitor, staring blankly at it. It was just as she left it this morning; waiting for her to return to the darkness. Finally, she slowly moused over to the categories section and browsed them. She found a category labeled “Revenge/Murder”. She scrolled through the endless titles, until she stumbled upon a folder, opened it and found many stories by the same user.

She read a few of them, and began to lose herself in the madness once again. All of the stories were centered around bullying and revenge, this resonated deeply within her. She finally began reading one that sounded similar to the events that happened to her that day. The story continued differently than what actually happened.

It went on to say that the girl went into the woods with an older boy. The boy was of age and could purchase alcohol, so the two of them began drinking heavily and, in a drunken stupor, started to wander. They eventually got separated.

Noticing that she was no longer with him, he stopped walking. His head was spinning, he could not make heads or tails of where he was. He attempted to retrace his steps, but he only ended up getting more lost. Then he heard a horrific scream, which immediately sobered up and he tried to run towards the source of the sound.

When he finally found her, he was stunned, stuck to the very spot by the fear of what he saw: the body of his friend horribly mutilated, her chest had an intricate maze carved into it, her forearms and inner thighs were gashed open, her head had also been expertly scalped. He looked closer and could see her torso slowly moving. She was still alive, barely clinging to life.

Emily stopped reading. She started imagining the girl who had tripped her laying there. She shook her head violently to remove the thought. Why was she thinking like this? She did not want this. Or did she?

She continued reading. The girl was rushed to the hospital but did not survive. She was pronounced DOA, dead on arrival. Emily thought it would be best she not read anymore tonight. She closed her browser, shut down the computer, and went to sleep.

All too quickly, her alarm blasted, waking her. She felt around for her clock to shut it off. She rose lifelessly from bed, and stumbled downstairs. Her mother worked the night shift cleaning office buildings, so she was still sleeping when Emily had to get up. Emily prepared herself a quick breakfast and switched on the television. The morning news was the only thing on. A news anchor droned on and on about pointless dribble.

Emily stopped eating abruptly as the anchor grabbed her attention. She stared at the television in pure horror, when the news anchor mentioned that a body was found late last night in the woods, close to Emily’s high school. They said the body was horrifically mutilated, but the victim was still alive. Emily mouthed the words "dead on arrival", just before the anchor said it. Cold sweat formed on her brow. She was no longer hungry. She cleaned up her mess and quickly got ready for school.

All day, Emily thought about the story she read the night before, and the news report the following morning. She could not get the images out of her head. Did she do this? Imagining that girl, reading that story, did she make it all happen somehow? She held her head in her hands. It was just a story, just one big coincidence. She wasn’t a murderer. She didn’t have superhuman powers to make this happen. She was in her room all night, so she couldn’t have had anything to do with the incident. Again ripped from her reverie, she felt a sharp pain in the back of her head. A boy had punched her and began shouting.

“What did you do, freak!?” he exclaimed. 

When she did not respond, he hit her again. 

“What were you doing in those woods!?” he screamed.

She did not respond. What did he mean? She was home all night. He hit her over and over until the teacher came in and removed him from the room. Emily sat silent all day. Again, when the day ended, she returned home, retired to her room, and sat in front of the monitor, black and lifeless.

She debated turning it on for a while. Finally, she turned the computer on and brought up the browser. The user had a new post. Hesitantly, she opened the file. This story followed the same pattern, someone is bullied, and the bully is murdered. Again, events similar to the day at school. Emily read on. This time the bully was a young boy who ventured into the woods to investigate his friend’s death. Wait, something didn’t feel right. Something about this was too much of a coincidence, but she couldn’t stop reading. The boy was subjected to even more torture. The story described him bound in a thorn bush, his wrists were bound with rusted barbed wire, on his chest were nine interweaving slashes, all while being misted with a chemical similar to Drano. It said he cried out for hours, each time softer than the last. After about five hours, a runner nearby heard the cries and ran in. He called 911, and the boy was rushed to the hospital; but it was too late. Emily stopped, and closed the browser. She shook her head, and kept saying to herself, "It isn’t real."

The next morning, Emily woke up before her alarm clock. She went downstairs, and switched on the television. She watched the news anxiously. Nothing about mutilation, or missing teens. She exhaled a huge sigh of relief, got ready for school and headed out.

Her relief was soon shattered when class had started and the boy who had assaulted her was not there. After class, she spoke with the teacher, and asked where the boy was. She assured her that he would not bother her anymore. He had been suspended for the next week, and was moved to another class. Emily nodded, and proceeded with her day.

When she got home, she switched on the television; only to find her worst fears had been realized. The story predicted exactly what she was seeing. She immediately called the police, and told them that she knew who was killing the victims. She explained to them all about the site, and the user she had been reading. They said it would be investigated, and thanked her for the anonymous tip.

She tried to steady her breathing, but failed miserably. So instead she went to the fridge to make herself a snack. There was a note on the fridge, her mother had an interview for a new job, and had to leave early. Emily sighed; she was alone once more. She decided it would be best not to get on the computer. So she got her snack and sat down to watch some TV. 

A few hours later, the phone rang. She answered it, confused; it was the police. The officer was hesitant, but finally he spoke. He told her that they tracked the IP address of the user. He paused for a moment, then told her that the IP address was traced to her computer. Emily froze.

How could that be possible? She didn’t write those stories. She had only first visited the site a few days ago.

The officer suggested that she stay somewhere for the night. She explained to him that she had nowhere to stay. He did not argue with her, but assured her that he would send an officer to watch the home. She thanked him, and hung up. Emily dropped the phone. Her heart raced; she needed to see what was going to happen next. She went up to her room, and pulled up the browser and went to the user’s profile.

Her skin felt cold, and her mouth fell open. There were no entries, no matter how many times she refreshed. Nothing. She sat staring for a while, then refreshed again. She swallowed hard, there was one new entry. None of the other entries had titles, this one however was titled, “Emily”. She wanted to run, run as far away as she could. But she knew it was too late. She had come this far, she could not quit now. She began reading. The more she read, the sicker she felt. She approached the end, and her body went numb. This story was in real time, the last passage read:

“Emily, horrified at what she had just read, froze in pure fear. She heard soft footsteps behind her. How could anyone get in? she thought to herself. She had locked the door. Too scared to move, she remained deathly still. The footsteps stopped. She could hear soft sobbing behind her. Emily finally got the courage to turn around; only to find herself standing on a chair, a rope around her neck. But this version of her was drenched in blood, and her hair hid her face. Emily wanted to scream, but had no voice. She wanted to run, but her legs would not move. Tears swelled in her eyes. Who was this girl in front of her? Then, the room fell deathly silent."

The next morning, Emily’s mother found her daughter hanging from the beam on her ceiling. And in Emily’s blood, written on the wall was this:

“I’m sorry, Mom. It was me.”