To begin, I think I should explain to some readers the difference between the Deep Web and the Dark Web. The Deep Web was a place that was accessible online by the use of special web browsers such as Tor that contains less than legal things such as drugs, human trafficking, and hitmen for hire. The Dark Web was pretty much everything that was no longer available by conventional means, such as military websites and other sites that have not been incorporated into the current internet architecture. With that in mind, I would like to convey to you all my story of my (accidental) journey into the unknown space known as the Dark Web.
I’m a computer technician by profession. I worked for a company that was contracted by local businesses and private consumers to set up internet connections, install software, and repair any sort of computer problems they can come up with. So, naturally, I got all the crazy stories and problems that these people could come up with. I swear, some of these people just don’t know how to work a computer, even in this day-and-age. Anyway, one day I got a call from a local business complaining that their internet was acting up and that they “must have a virus”. So I shook my head, thinking that someone must have unplugged a network cable or downloaded a Trojan horse accidentally, got up and drove over to the business to address the problem.
As soon as I arrived, the man who called me immediately spotted me and started going on and on about hackers and how much he hated Microsoft Windows and how many viruses it created and all that nonsense that I usually received when addressing business problems. He led me to his computer and I pulled out my laptop and sat down in front of it and began to work. He told me “good luck” and walked away to go do whatever it was he did in his downtime.
I opened up the browser he used (no surprise) and it opened to "about:blank" (it didn’t even have a home page?). So, I tried connecting to "google.com", 404 error. Well, I know that "google.com" definitely existed so there was a problem with his internet connection. I opened his network and Sharing Center to see if I could use the built-in troubleshooter to diagnose the problem, but I gave myself a well-deserved facepalm when I saw that he wasn’t connected to any network at all. So I searched for networks and found a few wireless connections for him to connect to. They’re all WEP encrypted and I was almost positive that he didn’t know the key, so I broke out my laptop and ran a WEP cracking tool to get his computer up and running again.
As I was waiting for my tool to find the WEP key, another network suddenly showed up on my computer, this one unprotected with an SSID consisting of a random hexadecimal string. Now, I was extremely bored waiting for this guy to return, so I decided to connect to it and take a little look around to see where it was coming from. I connected without problems and opened up my toolkit of cracking tools to see if I could find a source for this connection. As I was having my fun, hacking away at this unprotected network, my computer froze up, albeit only for a second or two, but this didn’t happen much and it caught me by surprise. I shrugged it off as the poor internet speed there and kept on going. A couple minutes later, however, it happened again. And a few minutes after that, once again, each time getting longer and longer. “Weird,” I thought to myself, “what’s with this network?” It was then that things started getting really interesting.
After the long string of pauses, my screen flickered a little bit and, out of nowhere, my browser opened by itself. Now I was worried that I had somehow infected my computer with some kind of malware by connecting to this network, and I proceeded to close the browser and began to disconnect from the network before anything worse could happen. But I couldn’t disconnect. No matter how many times I clicked the little disconnect button, my computer didn’t respond, despite everything else on my screen running fine. “Fuck,” I thought to myself, “this is gonna be a long day.” And just as I was about to hit the power button on my laptop to perform a hard reset, my browser opened again. This time, with a little chat box opened…
I stared at the screen for a couple seconds, not quite sure what was going on.
“I want to talk to you.”
Now, I had heard about those AI programs that had these programmed responses to simulate conversation with people, and I was not impressed. This was one nasty virus.
“You need to leave this network now. This is your last warning.”
Hmm. Maybe an automated security program designed to keep hackers out? I’ll have to admit, I was impressed with it. I had never seen anything like this before.
“I’m telling you one last time. Leave now.”
I don’t know what made me do it, but I responded to the program.
The next response scared me more than anything in this world ever had. The program began listing information about me. My name, address, telephone number, credit card information, my parents' names, their address. My heart sank in my chest and all the color immediately left my face. I couldn’t move. I just sat there, paralyzed with fear. But what came next was even worse.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
My webcam was on.
“You really shouldn’t stare, [h3man4694], you might see something you regret.”
Suddenly, the most horrifying images you could ever imagine flashed on my screen. Images of disemboweled humans, human sacrifice, detached limbs, cannibals eating people, video clips of mass suicides and firing lines. My heart was racing, my body was shaking in utter fear of the images I was being shown. They’re seared in my brain; those were things that no one should ever see. I mustered the strength I had left and hit the power button on my computer and slammed it shut. I ran to the bathroom and threw up a couple times. I was drenched in sweat. I could barely compose myself.
It took me about 20 minutes to go back to my computer and, even then, I had a hard time getting near it. I looked over at my client’s computer and it was connected to the wireless network I was cracking earlier. It was working fine now. Just then, my client returned and thanked me for fixing his internet. I didn’t say anything. I just grabbed my laptop and left.
Going down the elevator with my laptop under my shoulder was terrible, I just wanted to leave that place and get my laptop replaced as soon as I could. Fifth floor, fourth floor. Come on…come on… third floor, second floor. Come on, goddammit! Ping! Ground floor. Open up, come on…and just as the doors opened, from behind me, a whisper, “You really shouldn’t stare, [h3man4694].”
I immediately left the office building and drove back to my office; I promptly gave my laptop to my boss, telling him that it had become nonfunctional and that I required a replacement. I told him that someone had accidentally spilled coffee on it during my last trip and that it short-circuited (in reality, I made a pit-stop on my way back to a hardware store and bought the most powerful magnet I could find and ran it over the hard drive several times, I wasn’t risking that thing ever turning on again). So, after a few short minutes of the “keep better track of your shit” speech, he took the laptop and told me that I would get my replacement tomorrow. It was probably the most satisfying thing I could ever hear.
For a few days everything was back to normal, no more AI chatboxes, no more funky unprotected internet connections, no more disturbing images popping up on my screen. I was safe. Until the nightmares started.
I remember the first one I had very vividly, and I shudder when I think about it, but I’ll tell you nevertheless. It began with me walking through a large city. I remember seeing large buildings and people walking up and down the streets on their way to work or shopping, whatever it is city people do. As I was walking, I found myself in front of a very large building, much taller than the rest, and for some reason, I wanted to go inside and take a look. So I walked through the front doors and took a look around. It was a fairly normal office building, people moving about talking on their cellphones and whatnot, minding their own business. I realized that there really wasn’t much to see here so I turned around to leave, but something was wrong. The doors to the building were gone. I walked forward thinking that they were some new type of door that blended into the wall or something but nothing was there. I found myself very confused.
So I turned back around again to maybe ask the receptionist where the exit was. But she was gone too. Everyone was gone. The lobby was empty: No sounds, no people, no furniture, just an empty white room. Now I was scared. I began to panic and pace around the room, looking for any way out but there was nothing, nowhere to go. So I began to run at the walls, trying to break them down but all my attempts were futile. After about four or five bum-rushes against the walls, I sat down, out of breath, looking down at the floor. It felt like I was there for hours, just staring at the ground, when, suddenly, I heard a small whisper. I looked up to see a black silhouette of a man, facing me. He stuck out his hand and whispered ever so slightly:
“Trying to leave?”
For some reason, I trusted this figure. Don’t ask me why (dream logic?). But I felt like this figure was going to show me the way out, somehow. So, I took his hand and got up and said, “Yes, can you show me the way?”
“Of course, follow closely.”
He turned around and began to hover away from me, so, I followed. I don’t know how, but he began to create hallways and staircases out of the room I was trapped in, leading me all sorts of ways as if through a giant labyrinth. We climbed up and up and up until we finally reached a hallway that had a door at the end of it. It was then that he stopped moving and turned back toward me. I could make out a faint smile on his face as he pointed toward the door.
“Is this the exit?”
I was so happy to finally get out of this place, so I grabbed the door handle and began to turn it as he placed his hand on my shoulder. I turned to look at him and his words made my heart race to this day.
“But remember, [h3man4694], you shouldn’t ever stare.”
My eyes widened as his face began to morph into that of a horrible horned creature. His teeth became like razors and his mouth was filled with fire. I threw him off of me and opened the door, only to find my worst fears behind it. Dead people were hanging from the ceiling and blood covered the room like wallpaper. I screamed but nothing came out. I turned away from the room and ran as fast as I could back the way I came. But it was not long before I realized that I was hopelessly lost in this labyrinth that the demon had led me through. I ran and ran but couldn’t find the way out. There was no way out. I was trapped in this nightmare. I started hurling myself at the walls in an attempt to leave this evil place but nothing was working. I thought I was going to die here, and that was when I awoke.
I was drenched in sweat, my heart racing and my breathing was heavy. I looked around and it took me a couple of minutes to realize that it was just a nightmare, a horrible, horrible nightmare. I got up out of my bed and walked over to my bathroom to wash myself of all the sweat I had just doused myself in. As I washed my face, I noticed something in the mirror; a small light coming from my room. I turned around and I saw it, sitting at the foot of my bed. My personal computer.
I slowly walked over to examine it, thinking I had accidentally left it on before going to bed, which I rarely do. So I bent down and picked it up. Command Prompt was open, but it was blank. No prompt or anything, just that little black box with the white cursor flashing at me. It was then that I remembered that I didn’t even use my computer before going to bed. In fact, I had left it in the kitchen…
My webcam light turned on.
Command Prompt began to type.
“What’s the matter, [h3man4694]? Bad dream?”
Now, immediately after seeing what had appeared on my screen, I did what anyone else would’ve done. I removed the battery from my computer, threw it into a safe that I kept in my bedroom, and locked it tight. I didn’t sleep the rest of that night. I just sat on the edge of my bed, staring at the floor, paralyzed with fear. This was no ordinary nightmare, this was real.
For the next few days, I had the same nightmare every night. Each time as traumatizing as the first. And worst of all, each time, after waking up, I could hear my laptop fan inside that safe. I knew what it was doing, but I never looked. I didn’t want to see that message again. I didn’t want to scar myself even further.
After three nights of experiencing that terrible nightmare, I stopped sleeping. I couldn’t see those horrible images anymore. I couldn’t face that demon anymore. It was too much for me. I kept myself up with caffeine and vitamin B. My motor functions declined and my cognitive ability deteriorated after the second consecutive night. I was so weak, so tired, so afraid.
On my third day of self-induced insomnia, my boss walked over to my desk and gave it to me straight:
“You look like dried up dog shit, man. Go home, get some sleep.”
I looked up at him. I wanted to tell him so badly, but I know if I did, he would just tell me to get my shit together and come back tomorrow. So I nodded my head in agreement, picked up my stuff, and walked out.
As I was driving home, I turned on the radio to help keep me awake; I had not slept in almost 60 hours. But instead of my favorite tunes, all that came out of my car’s speakers was static. Just a bunch of white noise. I started changing channels but everything was the same. Static. So I turned it off and drove home in silence.
As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed through my front window that there was a flickering light coming from inside my house. It was my TV. I left the damn thing on before leaving to work. I wasn’t surprised though, not sleeping for two consecutive nights was definitely taking a toll on me. I put the car in park and started to pull the keys out when my radio turned on again. More static. Was I hallucinating?
“Christ, I’m losing it.”
“No you’re not.”
I almost shit my pants. Did that come… from the radio? Either I’ve gone nuts or that was extremely coincidental.
“I’m still here, you know.”
This time I was sure, that deep, static voice just came out of the speakers of my car. I looked at my radio to see what station it was tuned to but the screen was just a bunch of random symbols and letters that didn’t make any sense. I started to panic. I immediately turned the car off and almost ran into my house. No, they couldn’t follow me everywhere. I locked my computer in my safe! This couldn’t be happening to me.
I whipped around to look at my television, which I had forgotten was still on. I swear, I wished that the goddamn Teletubbies were on. In fact, I wish there was ANYTHING on. But there wasn’t. It was just static.
No sound, no signal, just static.
I almost fell over backward in fear. The television’s sound came in with a huge bang and the static was very audible. White noise filled the room. I could feel my heart pounding as my hands began to shake. “No, no. Please no.”
The static began to get louder and louder until I couldn’t even hear myself think. I covered my ears and began shouting to myself, “STOP IT. STOP IT NOW. PLEASE!”
And it stopped.
I looked up slowly at my television. Nothing. Black screen. It was off. I stood up slowly, still shaking from what had just happened. I walked slowly toward my television, fearing that it may turn on again and blow my eardrums out. I got right up next to the screen, reached behind my TV, and unplugged the power cord. I stared at it for a couple seconds, hoping I had stopped them from gaining access. I backed away slowly, breathing more evenly now. I stopped it. And that’s when I saw that face on my television screen. That black silhouette from my dreams. It was here. It was real.
He smiled at me with the most evil smile you could possibly imagine and I couldn’t look away. I was too afraid to move. And suddenly, he began to speak in the most frightening voice imaginable. It was deep and booming, somewhat distorted as if he was speaking through a voice masker. It sounded like ten voices in one, all as evil as the other.
“DO YOU FEAR ME, [h3man4694]?”
I couldn’t move.
“I SAID, DO YOU FEAR ME?”
My body was shaking uncontrollably.
“DO YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE?”
The next images I saw were the most traumatizing images in my lifetime.
I saw pictures of my family, my friends, people I had met throughout my life. He had them… this couldn't have been happening…
“I TOLD YOU NOT TO STARE!”
And, probably out of sheer adrenaline, I snapped out of my paralysis and picked up a small glass bottle sitting on the table next to me and hurled it as hard as I could at the TV. Sparks went everywhere, shattered glass covered the floor. I looked up at the TV and it was broken, the screen had cracked and it was no longer functioning. The demon was gone.
I mustered what strength I had left and walked up to my room. I was so tired…
I fell to my knees and began to cry when suddenly, I heard it. My laptop fan. I slowly raised my head and there it was. Sitting on the edge of my bed. Command Prompt open, webcam on. The screen read:
“That wasn’t very nice, [h3man4694].”
I screamed as loud as I could:
“LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!”
And picked up my laptop and threw it out the window as hard as I could. This was going to end today. I walked over to the window I had thrown my computer out of to make sure that it was shattered; I wanted nothing to be left of it. But as I looked out the window, I didn’t see any broken laptop.
I saw him. Looking up at me.
I backed away slowly from my window. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t comprehend anything at the moment. He was real. He was here. I backed up into my room, slammed the door shut, and sat on the floor, trying to formulate some kind of plan of escape from this thing - or, more importantly, how to rid myself of this demon forever.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
I immediately stood upright. He was knocking at my front door.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
Again I heard it. He wanted in. I heard him knocking over and over again. Incessant pounding on my front door, always in threes. I began thinking frantically. What was I going to do? Should I stay in here? Should I get a weapon? Should I call the police? I didn’t know. And the knocking continued. I was pacing my room, desperately trying to think of what to do. My heart was racing, my body purely running on adrenaline at this point. And suddenly, as if perfectly on cue, the knocking stopped. I stopped pacing. Was he gone? Did he just decide to leave? I had to be sure.
I slowly opened my door and looked around. Nothing. I moved out of my room and toward the stairs and peeked down. Still nothing. I slowly moved down the stairs and saw my broken TV and the shattered glass on the floor. Was it over? As I made my way into the living room, I began to feel cold, very cold. I looked around to see if I could find my thermostat when something else caught my eye. My front door. It was wide open.
I swear I almost had a heart attack. Was he inside? I had no way of knowing, but the first thing that came to mind was that I had to close that door in case he wasn’t. So I quickly moved to the door and slammed it shut. It wasn’t cold anymore. I slumped down, back against my front door, I was unbearably tired. I needed to sleep. More than anything in this world, I just needed to sleep. My eyes began to close. My muscles began to relax. My breathing slowed. And right as my eyes shut and the shroud of sleep began to cover me, his face, right in front of me. My eyes snapped open to see his face right up against mine. He was staring at me. Smiling. I had no strength left to do anything about it. He slowly stood up, and reached out his hand. He said to me in the evil whisper of his:
“Get up, I want to show you something.”
I shook my head in disagreement. There was no goddamn way that I was following him. He was going to force me to live that nightmare. He was going to finish killing my mind before he was going to destroy my body.
“I said, get up. You have no other choice.”
All I could do was look at him. I stared into his amorphous face, as if looking right through him.
“You know what I can do. Now get up.”
He wasn’t going to let me die there. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. He wanted me for himself. He was right, I had no other choice. So I raised my hand up, and grabbed his arm.
Somehow, as if my legs were moving by themselves, I began to follow him up my staircase. He’s going to torture me…
We started walking toward my bedroom, the door was shut…
As we were in front of my room, he pointed at my door handle, looked at me, and smiled.
I knew there was no way out. I had no strength left to run. No strength left to think. No strength left to feel. So I grabbed the handle and opened the door…
When I looked inside, expecting to see dead bodies and burning flesh, I saw something that caught me by surprise. It was my laptop, the one I had thrown out the window earlier. It was sitting on my bed. The demon walked into the room, stood at the foot of my bed, looked at me and said:
“Come, you need to use this device.”
So I walked forward once again, as if not by my own will, sat down on my bed, and picked up the computer. Nothing was open, just my desktop with the regular icons. Nothing strange; this, now that I think about it, was probably the strangest thing of all.
“It has been a very long time since I have spoken with a human.”
I was too tired to respond.
“I forgot how fun it was to distort your world and watch you break down in fear.”
Somehow, I managed to say, “What do you want from me?”
“I could ask you the same thing, you were the one who brought me here in the first place.”
I was so confused. So tired. I just wanted him to kill me.
“I’m not going to kill you, [h3man4694]. There’s no fun in that.”
I knew what he was saying, and I tried to feel something, but there was no way. I was too depleted. Just an empty shell.
“I’m going to give you two choices now. Two very important choices.”
I looked at him with the most lifeless stare.
“Listen closely. Your first choice is to live the rest of your days with me. I could have great fun torturing you the rest of your life.”
I had no response.
“Or you can choose to send me to another, because I would love a change of scenery.”
All I could do was stare at him. Then, out of nowhere, I found the strength to say, “I hate you.”
He smiled as I said this. He leaned down, put his face next to mine, and whispered, “Make your choice, human.”
And suddenly, a window opened on my screen. It looked like a sort of VPN client. Some kind of network was being hosted on my computer. For some reason, the SSID was permanently seared into my memory:
For a few minutes, nothing happened. I was the only one on the network. Then, out of nowhere,
A message box appeared that read:
“Someone has joined the network! Would you like to welcome them?”
The demon began to smile. Once again, he said, “Make. Your. Choice.”
I clicked the “OK” button. A little chat box opened up. I began to type:
Following that night, the demon that had been haunting me left my life. He vanished as soon as I sent that message, along with the computer sitting in my lap. I wanted to feel remorse for what I had done. Hell, I wanted to feel anything. But all I could do was close my eyes and sleep. When I next awoke, I looked at the clock and discovered that I had slept for 26 hours. It was the first night of sleep I had gotten in three days.
It had been several years since my experiences with the demon and I've been using a public computer to write these stories because I was too afraid to own my own again. And it has taken me that long to muster the courage to tell my story to the people of the world. To warn them of that demon that was likely still out there: Torturing people for his own amusement, forcing them to pass him on to more people through their internet connections. Beware, he was out there somewhere, and he gave no mercy.