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It was one of those boring nights. I’d already finished my homework for the weekend, and my friends seemed to be occupied with things far more interesting than me. So I did what I always do when I’m bored: I went on Omegle.
Now, if you don’t know what Omegle is, it’s essentially a random anonymous chatroom where you talk with strangers. You can do this via text chat or video. On the video chat, you can disconnect at any time, and the site will randomly assign you to another video chat partner automatically.
In my time on the site, I’ve seen some weird folks. Besides the ten million penises that you never wanted to see, there’s people who pretend to shoot the person next to them, or ask to spread Nutella on you, among other things. Being a girl on Omegle comes with its risks.
In any case, I put in my headphones and opened the site. The first person appeared, a white man in his mid-twenties, attractive enough. I waved. He immediately asked me to take off my shirt, so I disconnected. On to the next one.
This man was Indian, a very common occurrence on Omegle. He told me I was beautiful and that I should show him my tongue. Not the weirdest thing I’ve heard, but I disconnected nonetheless.
The next partner was a girl. As soon as she saw me, she disconnected. Also a common occurrence.
Finally, I found a young man who was willing to just talk. We talked for quite some time, perhaps half an hour. We chatted of video games and books, movies and our schools. But eventually, he informed me that he had class in the morning, and we disconnected.
Normally, I get off the site once I’ve had a real chat with someone. But for some reason, I felt compelled to continue this time. I clicked the “New” chat button.
Sitting before me was a white male, perhaps fifty years old. His skin was pale, and he was very thin. He was so thin that his flesh seemed to be painfully stretched over his face. It made him appear to have the translucent property of skim milk. Paired with this sallow skin was his dark, lank, greasy hair.
Now, most people wave when they see the other person. Not this guy. He simply stared at me with a strange, small smile. Despite his thin body, his lips seemed thick and overly large. They were an uncomfortable shade of sickly red. And his stare wasn’t at all friendly; his eyes seemed as though they weren’t just looking at a computer screen. It was like he was looking at me from across the room.
I waved, hoping that he would break that strange stare and say something. But he just continued to look at me, the smile growing wider. By this point I was feeling fairly uncomfortable, so I disconnected.
Relieved as I was to be done with that chat, I proceeded to look for other people. After only finding a few 12-year-old boys and some frat gatherings, I found the man again.
With some 40,000 strangers on the site at one time, it’s very rare to find the same person twice. I did not think it was terribly strange that I should find him again; I simply felt terribly unfortunate that this was the person I would have to look at twice.
But it was different this time. He still sat stock still for a time, but his expression seemed angrier, more malicious. That smile remained. Then—and perhaps this was only my imagination—it seemed as though he was leaning in closer to the screen, little by little. There was something about the way he stared directly into the camera that made me scared. Oh, what am I saying? I felt terrified! It was definitely time to disconnect. But right before I clicked the button, I thought I noticed something about his eyes… There seemed to be no irises whatsoever.
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why didn’t you just get off the site and go to bed?” A valid question. However, I simply felt too scared to go to sleep, as though I would see that man’s face staring at me above my bed. I proceeded to the next chat person, in the hopes that it would calm me down.
But when I disconnected, his screen went black, and then he was suddenly there again. I tried the button again, and the same thing happened. I was completely paralyzed with fear. A part of my mind told me that the site was simply faulty… But the rest of my horrified mind was telling me that he didn’t want me to disconnect.
I simply sat there, frozen, staring at the screen. He stared right back. Then, for the first time, his body moved. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a paper plate, of all things. Then a pair of scissors. I watched as he crudely cut out two small circles and then a larger half circle into the plate. The entire time, he never took his eyes off me.
When he held up the plate, I realized what he’d done. He’d created a mask. Those eyes, those eyes with the enormous pupils, stared at me through the small holes. His nefarious, horrifying grin could be seen through the half circle. I began to whimper in utter terror, and his responding cackle is a sound I will never forget. It was a dry, mirthless sound, a sound of insanity. It was like a mosquito buzzing in your ear.
My whimper became a wail at the sound. I had had enough. I could take no more of those eyes, of that leering grin. I moved to close the internet window. But before I could do so, a single word appeared in the chat box.
I have no idea why I paused.
He held up an old polaroid camera, and I saw a camera flash just as I closed the window.
I sat there, panting, tears streaming down my face. The familiar kitten background of my desktop made me feel better. I began to calm down, and my terror, pure and unadulterated a few moments before, started to seem foolish. After all, it was just another freak on Omegle.
Once I felt I could stand, I closed my laptop and went downstairs. My mother was sitting on the couch, watching Conan.
“Hi, hun. You look pale… What’s the matter?”
“Oh, nothing. I think I might be coming down with something.”
I felt much better now, though, and I went to the fridge for a snack. I got out a piece of cold pizza and perused the refrigerator magnets, flyers and photos.
And then something caught my eye. A polaroid. A view of myself from the back, sitting in my room and staring at a blank computer screen. And in the mirror above my desk could be seen a man. A man wearing, strangely, a paper plate mask.