01 Feb WE FEW ARE MANY
Just the concept alone was enough to draw me in. “An internet underneath the internet. The dark web,” is how my old friend Kyle described it to me. It wouldn’t be until he gave me a list of links that I would truly understand just why people referred to it as “dark.” Months before his passing, Kyle had become progressively darker in nature. Empathy seemingly vanishing from him. He would later go on to tell me that it all started with his dive into the dark web. He stumbled upon a site so twisted, that it could make even the most kind-hearted person into a demented parallel of their former self.
After almost a week of talking with him about the dark web, Kyle finally agreed to share his secret stash of links with me. He told me never to share even one of the links with anybody. This statement made me uneasy about what I was getting myself into, but my curiosity was clawing at the edge of my brain, ready to jump out of my skull. I had to see this for myself. To do so, I would need to meet him the next day at the old library in the center of town.
The next day, I was exhausted. I had stayed up into the early hours of the morning, scouring the internet for more information on the dark web. I found videos talking about underground drug trade sites, and people who claimed to have first-hand experiences that scarred them for life. Hearing of these kinds of things might turn away a normal person, but I wasn’t one of them.
It was almost nine when I arrived at the library. Kyle and our good friend Justin were waiting for me, sitting on a bench just outside the front doors. Justin smiled, happy to see me, and got up to give me a hug. Kyle remained seated, but also seemed happy that I had arrived. We spent the morning hanging out, grabbing a bite to eat from our local coffee and bagel shop. From there, we made our way to what Kyle referred to as, “the nest.” This was a wooden fort we built years ago, located in the woods behind the local supermarket.
Upon reaching the nest, Justin and I noticed that Kyle had done some “redecorating” of sorts. What had always been just a plain wooden fort, was now completely covered by black tarps. His said that he had been spending nights out there and didn’t want any homeless people to stumble across the place. Unusual, yes, but it was clear that Kyle was troubled. We didn’t want to interfere with his way of coping with whatever it was he was going through.
We all sat down on old chairs that I’d found in the dump a while back. Kyle reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He opened his note app and asked if I was sure I wanted the list. I said that I was. He copied the list, pasted it into a text, and sent it to me. He told me not to open it until I was ready to begin my dive into “the endless cavern that is the deep web”. I agreed, and the text was sent.
As if he had forgotten about something important, Kyle abruptly stood up and then left. Justin and I asked where he was heading, but he was sparse in his reply, saying he had some business to take care of. Shrugging this off as another one of Kyle’s quirks, Justin and I spent the next few hours just sitting and talking. He told me about how Kyle had helped him find this app to meet people on, and how he now had a date with a girl the next town over. I was happy for him. He was a good guy, but never had any luck with women. I asked him if he remembered our awful first kiss back in second grade. He laughed and gave me a love tap on the shoulder. Since then, him and I had become good friends.
When I got home in the early afternoon, my mom was asleep on the couch. She had worked another double. I grabbed a blanket off the loveseat and draped it over her to keep her comfortable. I made my way into the kitchen to grab a snack and headed up to my room to begin my journey into the uncharted waters of the dark web.
From videos I watched the night before, I learned that I had to download a special web browser. It was one of the few ways to access this part of the internet. As it installed, I opened up Kyle’s text and quickly scrolled through the links. He had sent me a good fifteen or so to peruse.
After the install finished, I opened it up, and entered in the first link on the list. It took a moment to load, but I was eventually greeted with a welcome page to an underground video share site. I spent a few minutes scrolling through the videos, looking for a good one to watch. There was one title that caught my eye… it was a video from our local McDonald’s! Quickly, I clicked and watched.
Once loaded, I realized I was watching security footage, dated just three months ago. I saw my friend Katie, who worked overnight there. She was standing in the middle of the frame, slowly backing away from the counter. It was hard to make out exactly what was going on at first, but after a moment, the footage became clear. She had rolled up her sleeves, seemingly freaked out at the appearance of her arms. I noticed movement underneath the back of her shirt, as if a gust of wind had swept through the eatery.
Further into the video, she was reaching into the ice cream machine. The footage went fuzzy for a moment, then became clear again, showing Katie bolting out the door. She had gone missing a few months ago, and I wondered if this was the last time she was seen. The whole town thinks she killed her father, because he was found dead at their home the same day she disappeared.
Freaked out, I exited the browser and sat silently for a while. After gathering up the courage, I reopened the search engine, and typed in the next link on the list. I was directed to a site that contained live feeds from what are known as “red rooms”. I clicked on the first stream and watched as a hooded figure beat a woman strapped to a chair. I quickly left the site when the man looked directly into the camera and pulled out a knife from his pocket. I didn’t want to see what would happen next.
Continuing through the links, I came across more and more disturbing sites. One of hacked baby monitors, a child trafficking site, and one containing a list of classified federal cases. The first one was titled, “Noir Family,” a name I distinctly remembered hearing on the news before.
Finally, I entered in the last link. My monitor turned pitch black. After a moment, a small flashing line appeared in the middle of the screen. Assuming something was wrong with the link, I attempted to exit the page, but the screen was locked in place. Words then began typing themselves out in front of my eyes.
“Hello, Jamie. We are the silence. We are the solitude. We few are many, and soon you might finally wake up.” Who was doing this? How did they know my name? Two buttons appeared on screen under the text. The one on the left read “Join”, the one on the right read “Exit”. Officially freaked, I darted my cursor to the exit button. I was met with a small pop-up message informing me that exiting was not allowed.
Random images appeared, too fast for me to focus on any single one. When it stopped, I was shown a live feed of myself. My webcam had been turned on. In horror, I tried to turn off my computer, but to no avail. It remained on no matter what I did. A demented lullaby then played through my speakers. I sat there for a moment just listening to it, confused and anxious as to what was going on.
At the end of the tune was a loud scream. Startled, I got up to run from the room. I heard what sounded like the front door of my house being kicked in. I screamed for my mom as I ran out. I heard her scream, along with the sound of a man telling her to shut up. When I finally reached the base of the stairs, she was being dragged out of the house. Another man stood, just staring at me, frozen at the bottom of the staircase.
“Who are you?! What do you want?! Where are you taking my mom?!” I shouted, dashing at the hooded man in front of me. I was met with his fist. I hit the floor hard and passed out. When I came to, I was in what looked to be an abandoned warehouse. My hands were bound behind my back. I struggled, trying to get myself free but couldn’t. I looked around and found my mother tied up just a short distance away. I shouted to her, desperately trying to wake her. She remained unconscious.
My ears rang, as if someone had clapped their hands right next to my head. With tunnel vision, I tried to scream, but couldn’t even feel my vocal cords vibrating to make a sound. When my vision returned, a creature, whose appearance I cannot for the life of me remember, was floating above the ground a just a few feet in front of me. Though its appearance escapes me, I do recall it staring at me, its eyes a bright fiery orange. It held its hand to me and I began to float too. My bonds became loose as I hovered towards the creature. It wrapped its hand around my face. The feeling was indescribable. Through its fingers, I could see a light emanating from within; something leaving my mouth, being absorbed by the beast. When this glow faded, I blacked out.
When I came to a second time, I was at home in bed. Frantically, I hopped up and scanned the room. Kyle was sitting on the chair in front of my computer. My mother was knocked out, laying on the floor next to my bed. I was still terribly afraid, but also angry at Kyle for what I’d gone through. I shouted, begging him to tell me what the hell was going on. He stood up slowly, walked towards the door of my bedroom, and looked at me. When he spoke, it was with no emotion.
“We few are many, and soon you might finally wake up. Congratulations. You survived the first trial.”