Del–uhh, mark as unread. Probably should open that one later, thought Lawrence.
At age 27 in calendar year 2019, the only people that still communicated via email with any sense of meaningful importance in Lawrence’s life were his co-workers, the utility companies that provided gas and sweet sweet electricity to his apartment, and Amazon – to provide order receipts. Most of these were promptly deleted, with the exception of those coming from his co-workers, which were marked as unread and left unanswered for a few days.
He paused for a moment at a “Recommended Item” email from Amazon, suggesting that he purchase a refill of the Glade Plugin air freshener he had purchased about two weeks earlier to rid his house of a faint mothbally smell. It hadn’t worked.
Del–oh Jesus. When will this stop, thought Lawrence, his eyes, glassy from the glare of the computer screen, coming to rest on the email marked with seven “FWD:” tags. As it turned out, there was one more person or corporate entity who regularly communicated with him via email: his grandmother.
In her old age and relative technological incompetence, Ethel McGovern had only just found her way to the World Wide Web. And what a discovery it was!
The jumbled email musings of a woman who had tried to summon police by typing “9-1-1-” into Google when she saw a man with a turban outside her neighborhood!
All of it was sent to Lawrence by way of the forward button, an oft-forgotten feature of email by most people, yet a technological marvel to Ethel, who never passed up the opportunity to set aside 15 minutes of her evening flipping through her handmade “How to Forward an Email” walkthrough she printed from WikiHow.
With a few minutes spent reading, a few minutes spent navigating, about a half hour spent accidentally closing and reopening windows, and two final clicks, yet another “FWD:” tag was added onto the list and the email was blasting through cyberspace on its way to her loving, caring grandson’s inbox.
Recently, she had gotten into short horror stories, often called “creepypasta” by misguided people who still think that’s a funny and trendy thing to call them. Six of the last eight emails she had forwarded her grandson’s way had been of the horror variety, one dealing with a man with pointed teeth spotted eating children in Tennessee, the other five had been directly related to either methamphetamine, ghouls released from Hell, or people with dark skin spotted “lurking” near cars in a suspicious manner.
Lawrence knew this not because he read them and gave a diligently researched, fact-checked, yet nurturing response to each, but instead because the titles were always the same.
“FWD: FWD: FWD: ARABS TAKING OVER MORGANTOWN??”
“FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: TWO INNOCENT WHITE CHILDREN EATEN BY MAN! ONE ARAB ALSO EATEN.”
“FWD: FWD: FWD: OBAMA RELEASES MORE HELLSPAWN”
Fortunately, the original senders’ relative straightforward attitude towards subject lines and entirely unveiled racism made them easy to spot and delete without being opened.
“FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: MURDEROUS MAYHEM IN MORGANTOWN, READ AND FORWARD” read the subject line. Not quite as descriptive as usual, but the articulate application of alliteration was admirable.
Never one to pass up on a story that utilizes literary devices, Lawrence clicked the email and prepared himself to explain to his grandmom that a man wasn’t eating children in Tennessee, no ghouls were released from Hell by Obama, and that 81-year-old retired nurses were a fairly low-priority target for Al Qaeda.
“PLEASE READ, THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!!!!” read the opening line. Good, good, Lawrence thought to himself, perhaps aloud, deciding he ought to grab a snack before he sat down to read this one.
He quickly hopped to his feet and walked into his vastly underused kitchen. He made a beeline to the cabinet to pour himself a bowl of cereal–a specialty of his that he found often paired well with another sort of bowl. As he crossed the kitchen, a very distinct scent registered in his brain, one he hadn’t realized he had been smelling since he exited his mothball-scent addled bedroom.
“Dear God there are cookies,” Lawrence thought to himself, this time certainly aloud. His eyes happened upon a plate of perfectly cooked sugar cookies on a baking sheet, feet from the stove. Finding food you had prepared when high was always a treat, Lawrence had come to find. Like a present to his future self, only accidental and often poorly prepared. Next to the cookies sat a glass pipe, its contents split evenly between marijuana and marijuana-derived ash.
Realizing he loved past Lawrence far more than any iteration of present Lawrence he had ever encountered, the latter grabbed the pipe and the cookies, and headed to his room, shedding his pants on his way back.
Reaching his desk, Lawrence sat down, kicked his feet up, and prepared to demolish a plate of cookies–which he found to be perfectly cooked and, incredibly enough, still warm–and immerse himself in his gamgam’s likely racist and certainly misguided email.
“Very creepy true story please warn your children!” the next line said, nixing proper punctuation in favor of emphasizing the truth with a touch of bold.
“Just last week, a story has surfaced in the real news about a murderer on the loose.” it continued. “The killer has already struck four times, twice in San Diego, once in the San Francisco Bay area, and once in Los Angeles. The murders have been grizzly, according to police reports, each victim mysteriously asphyxiated after a stealthy breaking and entering.”
Damn, these cookies were good.
“All three victims,” the email continued, “have been young males in their 20s or 30s, each in their own homes, sitting at their computers when the attacker struck.”
“Oh bravo,” said Lawrence. “Hitting us email readers at the core. Very creepy. Very well crafted.” He continued on, taking another bite of the cookie and reaching for the bowl to his left.
“When police, FBI and Homeland Security combed through the men’s computers, they found numerous emails from their Gamgams that had gone unanswered.”
“Seems a little invasive to have checked their inboxes after their death,” he thought. He wondered what authorities would find if they combed through his email after his death. He wouldn’t want anyone knowing that surrounding gamgam’s emails in the “unread” portion of his inbox were a series of emails regarding his recent purchase of a Japanese sex toy that had, in his experience, been worth each and every one of the $128 he had spent on it.
“If you don’t answer this email and forward it to at least ten people, you’ll meet the same fate as those sweet young boys,” the email concluded. Lawrence unleashed a massive yawn, accompanied by a robust stretch, and went to delete the email.
“Wait,” he thought, his attention snapping back to the last few lines of the email. “Well that’s a little specific.” His hand hovered over the delete button, his heart starting to race a bit while his marijuana-addled mind continued chugging along at about 15 below the speed limit. He began to feel woozy, shifting a bit in his chair as his vision fell out of focus. His limbs began to tingle, first lightly, then more severely.
Lawrence looked around and felt a sense of paranoia wash over him. Just as his mind began to make the connection that it was likely just the weed making him both terrified and dizzy, he felt the unmistakable feeling of something caressing, then quickly tightening around his neck.
“This is, unmistakably, the feeling of something caressing and quickly tightening around my neck,” the synapses in his brain said via a series of pulses. His hands – beginning to go numb – shot to his neck, fruitlessly flailing to get what felt like the thin leather strap responsible for cutting off his breath off of the part of him primarily responsible for breathing.
As his vision faded to black and the fate before him sunk into his brain, Lawrence tried to turn around. If he wasn’t going to fight off his attacker, he’d at least like to get a good look at him. A streak of white hair was all he managed to catch a glimpse of before his eyes closed.
What felt like hours, but was probably just minutes later, Lawrence awoke. His neck was sore, rubbed raw from the attempted strangulation, but he was alive and notably less high than he had been. Near death will do that to a man.
As he shot glances around his room, he noticed a bright red streak on the wall above his bed. His vision began to return to normalcy and he was able to make out that the red streaks were not just streaks, but letters.
“Call me more, I miss you snookums,” read the note in…blood? No wait, it was red lipstick. Still unsettling, but perhaps a bit less so. “I hope you enjoyed my cookies. P.S. Gamgam saw what was in your inbox, you should be very ashamed of yourself.”