“Look man, I just don’t feel comfortable writing about a Deep Website at all,” Jerry said into his iPhone. “The fact that it’s basically the black market for the internet is kind of scary. I don’t like that people can just buy and sell whatever the hell they want on this thing.”
“You are a freelance writer, right?” The voice on the other end of the line sounded as though it were in a metallic room with the phone on the opposite side causing a hollow, distant effect in tone of voice. “I’ll pay you anything you want. I just need this to get out.”
“Fine,” Jerry eventually responded after a moment of silence. “How about ten thousand? Like I said, I hate the idea of the Deep Web so even mentioning it makes me uncomfortable.”
So, the deal was struck. Jerry agreed to write an article for Entity Magazine. They were willing to pay a large sum and he had an entire month to get it done. This’ll be a breeze for me! Jerry thought. He was still not totally sold on the idea, but Jerry was a pretty good writer and had a solid portfolio that suggested he would be able to accomplish any task set before him.
Jerry started his research later that evening, very distracted because the thought of telling his fiancé about the project had him a bit aroused. He had no clue where to begin. Google is always a great place to start, he thought. He learned a lot that night. He learned that a tor app must be downloaded to the computer to even access the websites. Luckily he had one already for streaming music and movies for free. Jerry sat exploring the Deep Web finding crazy websites. He found many sites to purchase weapons on the black market. There some political news sites that made outrageous claims about some scandalous topics regarding presidents both past and present. The most worrisome sites were those where you could purchase people. He only dared read about these, too frightened to click the links. Most of the links were well made sites, showing that some competency was needed to even access them in the first place.
After a few hours Jerry’s fiancée walked in. She was wearing her purple scrubs and hospital nametag still. Jerry loved her. Even in her tired state Jerry noticed that the purple accented her dark skin very well. Her long curly hair encircled her perfectly structured face. She had been a model throughout college, only to help pay her way through med school. Her intelligence is one of the things that Jerry found so attractive. She was a goddess in his eyes. Her lilac eyes gave him butterflies anytime they met his. Jerry was absolutely enamored with Lillian.
“Hey! Please help me with these groceries,” Lillian requested.
“Sure babe. How was work?”
“Super busy. There was a wreck on I-8. We had to treat all six people. Thank God, everyone ended up being okay. What about you? Get any new jobs?”
“Actually yeah! I got offered a few shitty ones from some small-time news sites, only offering like fifty bucks an article, but then I got a call from Entity Magazine for an article about the Deep Web.”
“What’s the Deep Web?”
Jerry explained that it is the websites you can’t find on Google. Google just had stories about the Deep Web. He explained that the sites are untraceable to their source and that that it is what people call the ‘Black Market.’ Anyone could buy guns, drugs, sex, and anything else you could possibly want. He didn’t delve into the darkest parts: the way you could buy hitmen, put up bounties for people to get killed, or that you could buy and sell people to each other. That would have been too much information for Lillian. She was a bit more idealistic in her world views. She always wanted to help people and never recognized the bad in the world. “The best part is they’re paying me TEN THOUSAND dollars.”
“What the hell? Why so much?”
“They said they’ve been trying to get an article like this published for a while now, but nobody really wanted to take the job. So, I threw out an outrageous number. And like chumps, they agreed. I guess they expect a huge following from this kind of article or something.”
“Seriously Jerry, this is a huge deal! That kind of money could pay off the last of your medical bills.”
Jerry hated to think about the bills. He hated the events that led to them even more. The bills were from when he was a senior in high school, 6 years ago. He and his best friend, Andre, were leaving a party. They were both a little drunk. Andre and Jerry were just celebrating the homecoming victory that was a true testament to their friendship because Jerry had just thrown the game winning touchdown to Andre. Andre was in a worse state of inebriation than Jerry, that’s why Jerry was driving. They got t-boned in an intersection. Jerry thought it was because the other car went out of turn, the police said it was his fault. The alcohol in their systems did not help the situation. They were both in the hospital for weeks. Jerry recovered after a month in the hospital getting physical therapy the whole time. Afterward, he was left with a pretty significant case of paranoia. But Andre died after two weeks in a coma. Andre was Lillian’s brother. Andre had introduced Jerry and Lillian to each other to begin with. She swore she didn’t blame him, but Jerry was still extremely hard on himself. Lillian was the only one that had been able to keep Jerry in the right mindset. Her docile nature kept his spirits up, and help deter the paranoid mindset that would sometimes afflict Jerry so powerfully. She was so positive that he knew he had to recover for her. She became more reserved in social situations following the incident, but still very willing to help. It was during this time Lillian told Jerry about her decision to become a nurse. She wanted to help, especially after seeing how well the nurses had treated Jerry and her brother, the two most important people in her life at the time.
“I know, right! Lills, I got us something to celebrate!” Jerry said as he pulled out the champagne he had picked up after getting the job.
A week later, Jerry’s alarm began going off at 8AM. He planned to wake up and make breakfast for Lillian and himself. It was just what he did for his routine when he had a writing assignment. His routine was strict in that he would start his actual writing at noon after breakfast, a workout, and showering.
Lillian was already awake. She had made them coffee for the morning, but she left the actual breakfast cooking to Jerry out of respect for his routine. Jerry appreciated this, it slows him down to have things go out of order when he had work. Thus, his ritualistic breakfast preparation began. First the eggs, then the bacon, lastly the toast. He made the food and set it in front of Lillian who was watching the daily rerun of Victorious that aired on TeenNick. He knew she didn’t like watching the news because it was “too depressing” she had told him.
“When you go in Lills?” Jerry asked.
“10. I work a full 12-hour shift today though, so don’t wait up,” Lillian said. “Oh wait, you’re writing, so you’ll be wide awake when I get home anyway.”
“Oh, you know me so well.”
“Well, what do you expect after 7 years?”
“I guess that’s a good point,” Jerry said as he shoveled food into his mouth.
They spent the entire morning together. Not doing much. Just hanging out and watching TV before they had to work. Jerry loved this time before they had to part ways to go to work. He knew they both had to do it, but he really wished they could just hang out like this forever. That was unrealistic though. They had bills to pay and jobs that had to be taken care of. Jerry hated that Lillian had to work the hours she did. She was usually at the hospital with a particular doctor that seemed to have a crush on her. This really bugged Jerry. He would occasionally show up to eat lunch with her, not only because he wanted to be nice to her, but because he didn’t trust that other doctor. Jerry was always worried that he would try to make a move on Lillian and that made him so insecure. Or maybe it was just paranoia. Lillian always told him the doctors only had a work relationship and they didn’t even talk on their lunch breaks. She assured him at least once a week there was no shot of her even taking a liking to the guy because he was such a narcissist. Jerry still was a bit unsure.
After their relaxing, Jerry began to set up his office. He plugged in his iPhone to a charger and speaker system to play some relaxing music to help him set the mood to work. He liked to listen to classical music to help concentration. He had research to do. He checked out some blogs about the Deep Web. Some were telling horror stories that were pretty entertaining, others were incredibly terrifying. He found a few stories of people finding some of their significant others cheating. These were usually audacious and felt quite unrealistic.
Jerry was nervous about trying out some websites himself, so he decided that he should start small. He found a website called richkidstuff.red.tor. This could be a safe one to start with, he thought, expecting nothing more than the unnecessary crap kids have now.
Clicking the link was actually nerve racking for Jerry. He was worried about getting some sort of virus that the local Office Depot would not be able to clear out. But it turned out, his fear was unrequited because it was just a website that made fun of the typical “rich kid stuff.” He got a few chuckles from some of the images. There were some rich kids dressed in fancy clothes posed next to their high-end yachts. Each image had a comment section with anonymous usernames poking fun at the rich kids.
Jerry looked up at the clock. It read 4:34PM. Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere. Jerry thought as he began to look for some whiskey. His liquid courage would also help him explore the more controversial sites he was more worried about. Jerry was a bit concerned because the alcohol always seemed to increase his paranoia.
The first sip was all Jerry needed to decide he HAD to look at the other sites. Not only was it part of his assignment, but he was curious. He didn’t understand why people would make sites that were untraceable. He was curious what these sites could even be hiding. Could there be some weird government secrets? He thought. Or maybe just some dirty gossip he would love to read about.
He scrolled through a list of Deep Websites he had found linked to a very brief article about the Deep Web. That was when he clicked on one that seemed way too obvious to be real: humantrader.nyc.tor. Jerry could not believe his eyes. It was just too obvious to actually be anything serious.
“Holy shit!” Jerry yelled as his heart dropped in to deepest pits of his stomach. The site he found had things he wished he never would have seen. It was a human trafficking site. There was no doubt about it.
Jerry tried to control his breathing which had become erratic. He was incredibly terrified by what he was seeing. As the page opened, a 10-second GIF began playing on screen depicting what happened to who was sold. It showed a masked man behind a man looking at a computer. The masked man jabbed a needle into the unaware man’s neck. The victim passed out and was dragged off screen. The video just kept restarting over and over. Jerry was stunned. He didn’t know how to react. Jerry just kept watching the video over and over, too stunned to truly react.
What the hell can I do? Jerry thought. I already know that these sites are untraceable. Damn what have I gotten myself into? Maybe I should just be done for the night.
At that moment, he heard the door open and was washed in relief as Lillian walked in their apartment. This meant he could stop for the night. He really needed some rest after this disturbing scene.
The next night, Jerry glanced at the clock again. 6:20PM. This calls for another drink. Jerry poured another, his third of the night. He was not a heavy drinker and usually stopped after just two, but this human trafficking website had him so unnerved that he couldn’t take it.
His heart pounding, Jerry began to scroll down the page. There were just images of people with names underneath their pictures to claim ownership. There were prices next to the people’s names, and bid timers next to those. That was even more unsettling. The grey background contrasted the full color images. The images depicted people in just normal clothing. As he scrolled, Jerry saw a person he recognized. The name read “Trevor Rite.” He had worked with Trevor on a joint project a few months ago. They had written an article together. Trevor was a good man, Jerry never thought he could do anything that would have him on such a serious website like this.
Jerry watched as Trevor’s timer ticked down to zero. His stomach was churning, worried about Trevor. He decided to call Trevor to check on him.
Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. “Hey you have reached the phone of THE man Trevor! If you would please leave your name and number–” The voicemail rang loud in Jerry’s ear. He hung up before the salutation was even finished. He sprinted to the bathroom to throw up in utter disgust of the possibility of what happened to his friend.
Back in his office, Jerry clicked refresh on the page and saw that Trevor’s image had disappeared. There was only one way Jerry could justify this to himself: somebody was playing a joke on him. A very cruel, and not even kind of funny, joke. He slammed his laptop closed, grabbed his drink, number four, and went to the living room to try and relax.
Jerry flipped on the TV and tuned in to some show on ESPN. He had the updates on his phone, so he had no interest in leaving it on this channel. He just used it as a distraction and kill time till Lillian got home. He would have to tell her about this now. There was no way he could hide it.
Lillian walked in the apartment to hear Jerry’s muffled crying. This meant something was seriously wrong. Jerry hadn’t cried since Andre had passed away.
“Jerry? Are you okay?” Lillian asked.
“I – I really don’t know.” He choked. He went on to explain everything to her. All the darkness of the Deep Web, and how it had possibly taken his colleague.
She stood there. Stunned. “That’s enough of this damn article. You don’t have to do it. We can figure something else out. You should call the magazine tomorrow to tell them.”
“Yeah Lills you’re right. I will call in tomorrow.”
Jerry slowly ambled into his office around noon the next day. As he walked through the door, he saw his laptop was open, back on the web page. Jerry’s heart started racing. He was sure he totally closed the laptop and exited out of the page before closing it last night.
He had to figure out what was going on, so he began analyzing the page. His heart pounding against his chest like a drum. The whole page was just a picture of him and…Andre.
“Oh my God. Lillian! Come look at this!”
“What could you possibly want now–” She was saying sarcastically, but was cut off as her eyes drifted to the page. She burst into tears, “Why is that on the screen Jerry? Why would you call me in here to see this? This is just sick.”
Jerry looked at it a second time to confirm what he saw, but it had changed. Andre was no longer the regular Andre he remembered, but had holes where his eyes should be. Then words came on the screen and they simply said: “Watch Out.”
Jerry had no idea what to say, so he told her the truth. “It was just on my screen when I walked in. Lills I’m worried about this Deep Web stuff. It’s like there’s someone just doing this shit to mess with me. I have to call Entity Magazine and drop the article now.”
Then the fear that someone may have been in their apartment! He was so sure he closed his laptop. Someone had to have been in the place with them. That was the only explanation for what just happened. He decided to check the whole place out. He grabbed his 1911 pistol for safety, just in case. The whole apartment was clear.
Jerry called Entity Magazine. The same hollow voice answered on the third ring. “Hello, this is Entity Magazine, how may I help you.”
“It’s Jerry Sanders. I was asked to write the Deep Web article. I wanna talk to whoever it is that’s in charge of writing to me pull out of the assignment.”
“I am afraid that is not possible Jerry.”
“What? Why the hell not?”
“You made a commitment. You must follow through on it now.”
“Yeah, well, some stuff came up and I’m out now.”
“No, Jerry, you aren’t. I can’t allow you to do that. Your worst nightmare will come true if you try to get out of this.”
“You’re nuts man. I’m not writing the article, and I’ll go to the police if you think you can threaten me into it.” He clicked off the phone, but became a bit apprehensive of what the hollow voice had said. What did he mean my worst nightmares? Jerry thought. It’s ok though. It has to be ok.
After the call, Jerry was beginning to worry about what else was, or who else was on this website. He thought of his beautiful fiancée that he would hate to lose more than anything. He loved her and didn’t know what could be on the site that he didn’t know. He began to scroll through the list of people. That’s when he realized what the voice was talking about. He saw his worst nightmare come true. There in the middle of the page was a picture of his fiancée.
Lillian had just gone to sleep. It was about 11 at night now. Jerry had been coping the only way he knew how, alcohol. He was erratic and terrified. His thoughts were racing. He had been staring at the same webpage watching the clock tick down on his fiancé’s timer. He knew only one thing, no matter what Lillian would not be taken. He knew that there was only one job for beautiful women in human trafficking. He couldn’t–wouldn’t allow his fiancée to be sold as some sick sex slave or something. The thought made his skin crawl and he began to actually feel sick to his stomach.
Jerry was beginning to panic as the timer got closer to the inevitable zero. Jerry knew of what horrors would await his beloved if she were sold off in human trafficking. Especially because of how beautiful she was. Jerry just knew that she would end up in a prostitution ring where escape was impossible. His heart ached at the idea alone. There was just an hour left. He was going to take care of this the only way he knew would work for sure.
© 2017 Josh Whitworth