01 Feb The part of the DEEP WEB that we aren’t supposed to see Part 3
I’m currently on a plane headed to Scottsdale, Arizona. I haven’t actually been out of state in six years. I thought I would eventually, just… didn’t expect it to be under these circumstances.
Anyways, let me back up a bit first. This is what happened:
Right after I disposed of the laptop, I heard my lock being tampered with. Somebody was trying to pick it. Now, I’ve never been great under pressure, so you could imagine how I was feeling. But the human mind is an interesting thing. When you think you’re at the end of the line, your will to live really ramps up.
The balcony. I thought. Only way out of this. Without hesitation, I ran out and climbed over it. Fortunately, I was on the second floor, so I didn’t break my legs. Now came a decision. Run or hide? Both didn’t seem too promising. Shit. I thought. I was panicking. That’s when I spotted salvation – a cab parked on the other side of the lot. I bolted for it.
I tapped on the window, startling the driver. “Mr. Horvat?” He asked.
Well, no it wasn’t. But I nodded anyways.
“You said 8: 40, didn’t you?” He looked at me in confusion.
“Finished early. Let’s go.” There was anxiousness in my voice, but I tried to hide it. Last thing I needed was for this guy to think I was a lunatic and drive off.
I got in, told him the address and we got out of there. As we left the lot, I looked back. The two men I saw coming out of the car were now on the balcony where I just was. I could tell that there was a dead stare directed right at me behind their sunglasses. Despite all this, relief washed over me. It was short lived, however.
I relayed the message I got in my head. “Do so before this text gets intercepted.” That meant I was still on the clock. If they don’t know where I’m headed yet, they will soon.
We finally got to the place about fifteen minutes later. As soon as I got in, I rushed into the locker room. It was mostly empty. I kept repeating the combination in my head. This was the only thing I had. I didn’t really care about getting answers before, but… it seemed like I had no choice now. I finally found the locker. Don’t know why this guy chose such a massive place. 12 left, 27 right, 33 left. I swung it open.
Sitting there was an older blackberry model and an envelope. I opened it up to find a plane ticket, 2000 cash and a sticky-note. In horrific penmanship, the words “CHECK PHONE, PASSWORD: SNAKETRACKS” were scrawled across it. I obliged and booted up the ancient device. I remember being slightly amused. I always begged my parents for one of these when I was a kid. This was a far cry from that.
I took a quick look through the phone. It was mostly blank. No apps downloaded, no pictures, nothing. There was only one contact, bluntly named “CALL ME”. So I did. After just one ring, a voice answered. There was a sense of tentativeness in his tone. Somehow it sounded familiar.
“Who is this?”
“Uh…” Well how the hell was I supposed to answer this? Should I say my name? “I got your message.” I finally responded. There was a brief pause. His response caught me off guard.
“What’s your religious affiliation?” His tone had gotten a lot more aggressive. Why the hell was he asking me this?, I thought. I didn’t have enough energy to question him, though.
“Raised Protestant but now Agnostic… I guess” was my answer. He seemed to breathe a quick sigh of relief. Then he cut the line. Well, shit. Is this guy nuts or something? My thoughts were interrupted as I got a message. He’d sent me an address and a room number. “MEET ME”, was the only other thing he’d typed. I looked at it for a second before coming to my senses. I’m an idiot. I should have just taken the stuff and bolted.
I heard the door to the locker room swing open. Then footsteps coming towards where I was. Sprinting, actually. I flipped shit. I shoved the stuff into my pockets and started looking for a way out. Again, there was really only one option here. I started making a break for the pool entrance. As I ran, fucking gunshots started ringing out behind me. I could tell they were using silencers, but boy that doesn’t do a whole lot when you’re only forty feet away. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my side. I saw a bullet penetrate a locker right up ahead. God, that didn’t miss by much. I ran faster than I thought I was ever able to. I almost slipped into the damn pool as I stumbled out. The life-guard shouted after me as I burst out the emergency exit.
I couldn’t stop there. I hurried along, making turns every minute, looking over my shoulder the whole time. It’s a good thing I was downtown. I blended into the sea of people easily. At one point I saw a pair of policemen. I considered telling them, I really did. But what’s that going to do? They’ll search for those two guys, turn up with nothing, monitor my house for a couple of days and then call everything off. It wasn’t going to solve anything.
I finally ducked into a hair salon. I couldn’t run anymore. The barber just looked at me like I was insane. Screw it, I thought. Might as well make myself less recognizable while I’m here. I got him to shave it all off.
I spent the rest of the day making various purchases. A used laptop, new set of clothes, some bandages and a pair of shades – at least something good came out of this. The flight was supposed in a couple of hours at this point. I called a cab and made my way there.
And that’s where I am now. I’ve got a long trip ahead of me still. Let’s see what happens next.
As I made my out of the airport, I recoiled at the heat. God, its November. How does anybody live here during the summer? I called another cab. Got to the address. It was a holiday inn. I laughed to myself. How ominous, I thought.
I made my way up to the room and knocked on the door. A billion thoughts were running through my head. What if it was a trap? I actually thought about just running away for a second. But I realized that wouldn’t accomplish shit. After about a minute, the door opened. A wave of surprise washed over me. But in retrospect, this is exactly who I should have been expecting.
It was the other guy that came to my house that night. The one that didn’t get strangled. He didn’t look great, however. He had a black eye and a busted lip. And just looked tired in general. He looked me over before gesturing me in. He had a slight limp as he walked.
“Nice haircut.” He muttered softly.
He sat down on the bed and I sat on the couch across from him. There was a long silence. The whole time, he just stared at the ground. To be honest, I didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing. He finally spoke up:
“Might as well let you know what’s going on.”
He then proceeded to let it all out:
“About 4 years ago, there was an incident in the Paris catacombs.” I got chills after hearing this.
“Four teenagers decided it would be a good idea to wander off during a tour. I guess they got lost or something cause they weren’t there at the end. The police pretty much swept everywhere. No sign of them. Eventually, the government decided to set up infrared cameras all around the place. Just to see what would turn up. One day, one of the cameras picked up movement. Nobody anticipated what they were gonna see next. It was hell manifested. An abomination of writhing limbs somehow stuck together squirmed across the screen. There were four human heads stuck to the top of this thing. You can guess who they were.”
I was beyond speechless. I thought about that video of the catacombs. Glad I didn’t stick around for the grand reveal. He continued:
“They decided to send ‘elite’ forces down there to exterminate it. Apparently it took out 12 men before they put it down. Now the question was what they were going to do with the video. They couldn’t just get rid of it. But they didn’t want anybody to see it either. And this was around the time the whole Snowden thing was going on, so they didn’t feel comfortable with just using government servers. So this is where that website you saw comes into play. They got the most seasoned technical experts they had to bury it somewhere deep in the internet. And I’m talking about as deep as they could go. Nobody was supposed to know about it, nobody was supposed to find it, and nobody was even supposed to know what to look for.”
I wracked my brain over this. Sure, I knew my way around, but there was no way in hell that I was on par with government experts. So how did I find it? He continued:
“And it worked well for a while. They made a pact with governments world-wide. Anything they deemed unfit for public knowledge went on that site. There were even precautions. For every real thing on there, they posted four fake ones. For the select few that actually managed to find it.”
“Wait, what?” I couldn’t believe this. He just chuckled.
“Yeah. Most of that stuff you saw was bullshit. Most. The videos are harder to fake.” I didn’t know how to feel about this. I was slightly relieved, I guess. Just slightly. He kept on:
“The logic behind this was that once people found these things, they’d look further into them. However, since they were fabricated, nothing would come up and the page would be disregarded. Just a gag site. At least that was the idea.”
I knew where he was getting at. “What about the people that started looking into the real things?” He sighed.
“Look, nobody would have given a shit if they started spouting it off to their friends or on the internet. People would think they’re crazy. It’s the damn people that just have to go and find proof. The ones that plan to publicize it. Yeah, they get silenced.” I was about to say something. I think he noticed because he cut me off.
“Look, don’t put that moralistic shit on me. They didn’t have to do it. It was their choice, they were committing a crime. Do you really think public knowledge about any of these things would help anybody? No, it wouldn’t. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, alright?”
To be honest, I had to agree. “But here’s where things really went to shit.” He went on:
“Before, there would be maybe two breaches a month. And then it skyrocketed up to twenty. And then fifty. They looked into it. Apparently there were rumors circulating around the deep and dark web. A rumor about a page that held secrets nobody was supposed to see. They decided to find out how easy it really was to access this place just from reading forums and shit. It took the experts about twenty minutes to find it, just by solving weird fucking riddles and then following these concealed links that would spawn from them. And then there was the final prompt. ‘What do you seek?’ You’ve seen it, no?” I nodded.
“Apparently, there’s a lot of different answers that could work. Anyways, it didn’t make any sense. Everybody that was supposed to know about this was grilled. Somebody had to be doing this, right? Nobody fessed up. Honestly, everybody seemed genuine when they said they didn’t do it. They knew the consequences. After a brutally in-depth investigation, nothing was resolved. And then it hit them. Back in 2010, they had also finalized an experimental AI. I’ll spare you the details, but it went off the rails. Nobody could control it. As soon as they thought they could corner it into a virtual trap, it just disappeared. It didn’t come up again. Until now”. He paused after that. Like he was waiting for me to connect the dots.
“So, you think that this AI resurfaced and is now directing people there?” I asked. He said that he doesn’t think that’s the case. He KNOWS it is. “It’s the only feasible explanation.” He stated.
“I don’t know.” He responded. I was starting to get a hunch now. About why this was happening to me.
“These people… they aren’t after me because I saw those links, are they?” He just nodded.
“It’s what I saw after. And you think this AI has something to do with it?” Another nod.
“Well, what did I see?”
He took a second before speaking. “I couldn’t tell you. There’s some things that I don’t even know about. All I can tell you is that there are some groups, some people out there, beyond any government that are after this kind of stuff. This forbidden knowledge. And somehow, they know that you’ve seen it. And they want to know what you know.”
“And they came after you as well?” I asked.
“Yeah. They know we talked to you.”
A wave of guilt came over me. Did I get that guy killed?
However, that guilt quickly turned into frustration. “Well, what the hell am I supposed to know?! I don’t what the hell it was I saw!”
A dry chuckle came out of him. “Well, they don’t care, do they? They’ll jump at anything.”
“And who do you work for? The government?” I finally asked. The question had been on my mind since I got here.
“Sort of” Was all he responded with.
He got up, taking out a pair of car keys. “We gotta figure this out. We gotta go.”
“Go where?” I asked.
In any other situation I would have been ecstatic.
We went outside and he led me to an older, beat-up Sedan. “Inconspicuous.” He said with a smile. I could tell he was just trying to lighten the mood.
The drive was long and arduous. We barely spoke. My brain was fried at this point, so I didn’t bother asking more questions. I did remember one peculiar conversation we had, though:
“Listen, if anything happens to me, there should be a file on the blackberry named “contingency”. Everything you need to know will be there.”
I remember feeling flustered.
“What? What could happen to you?” I responded.
“I don’t know. Just in case, I guess. Don’t lose that phone.”
In reality, I knew there were a lot of things that could happen. I just didn’t want to admit it.
He woke me up when we arrived at McCarran. I was confused.
“You have plane tickets?”
“Don’t need ‘em.” He responded. He got out of the car and I followed him in. What happened next was strange. He just walked past everyone. The check-in, security, everybody. They didn’t even pay attention to him. Not to me, either. That’s when I started to wonder who the hell this guy really was.
As we walked past the various stores and restaurants set up near departures, he took a sharp turn. I stumbled keeping up. He walked towards an unassuming door set up right between two shops. He swung it open and I followed. We walked down a bunch of corridors, turning every so often. Various men in suits passed us but didn’t seem to acknowledge our presence. We finally got to another door. This one required a key card. He took one out and scanned it.
I didn’t realize how huge this place really was until I thought about it after. We must have passed at least 15 other hallways. Anyways, the door opened up to what looked like a long flight of stairs. We trekked down for about five minutes before we got to what looked like another terminal. Now, it didn’t look futuristic or anything. Just a regular damn terminal.
“Surely there’s no planes taking off here.” I asked. He said I was right. That’s when I noticed the train tracks.
“Now we wait.” And he sat down on a bench. Well, great. I’d given up trying to piece this together in my head so I didn’t even bother asking what this place was. Let’s just see what happens, I thought. But as I’d soon find out, things are just not that simple these days. I spotted a washroom sign towards the back and I headed for it.
As I was washing my hands after finishing up, I noticed what looked like a card stuck into the side of the mirror. I plucked it out and looked at it.
It was standard business card size. Just plain white with black text. But here’s what it said:
“From far and wide, we search for meaning,
As seconds pass, since the time of weaning,
Our destiny is sealed, we’ll face the wraith,
We don’t need hope, we have our faith,
We will not stop until we’re dust,
All for God, in whom we trust.”
Creepy, I thought. And then I turned it over. In big bold letters, was “FOTLG” No idea what that’s supposed to be. However, in that moment I felt that something just wasn’t right. It’s that creeping sensation you get when something just feels off. I needed to tell him, whoever the hell he is, about this.
I opened the door and he was gone. I searched around the terminal for a bit, but he was nowhere to be found. Hell, there was nobody else here. The place started rumbling slightly. The train was coming. Well, I sure as hell wasn’t getting on by myself.
I looked around a bit more before I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Great. I thought. He’s back. Then I realized it wasn’t just one pair of steps. There were multiple. Instead of seeing a familiar face, I was greeted with four of what I assumed to be men. I couldn’t tell because their faces were covered with a burlap sack that had eye-holes carved out. Kind of like the one Scarecrow wears in Batman begins.
The only difference was a symbol that seemed to be spray-painted on where the forehead should be. It was simple. A vertical semi-circle with angular arrows going through it. As I recall, the rest of their get-up was normal. Just plain street-clothes.
I was frozen. And then I realized that one of them had liquid dripping off his glove. Dark liquid. The next few moments were a bur. I remember the train pulling up and those guys starting to run towards me.
I started bolting for the train. It was a weird one. Only one section and one set of doors. I don’t think I saw a driver. As I ran up to it, the doors opened automatically. I remember frantically looking for a shut button but there wasn’t one.
I just stared in horror as those freaks got closer and closer. As they got within about ten meters, I closed my eyes and just prayed for the best. I opened them when I heard kicking and banging at the door. It wasn’t opening up for them. I watched their crazed eyes follow me as the train started moving. I was safe. But only for now.
I turned on the phone again and took a thorough look through it. Sure enough, the text file he mentioned was there. Guess I’ll read it soon. After I’m done with this.
Now I don’t know where I’m going, and I don’t know what’s waiting for me there. My head’s pounding. All I know is that I should have just stayed on google.