The Absence of EmpathyMature

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago. Its one of my darker imaginings about the evils of the internet and it's consequences.

Taylor_made619:Hello. I was just looking at profiles, and I thought you looked like you could use someone to talk to.

happyfacemom80:What gave you that idea?

Taylor_made619:No need to go on the offensive, I'm just looking to talk.

happyfacemom80:I'm sorry. I get that a lot.

happyfacemom80:I guess I just get tired of most men just looking at my picture and figuring that I would be fun in the sack

Taylor_made619:I guess that would be a problem for someone as attractive as you are.

Taylor_made619:But in looking at your profile... I dunno--you just seemed like you could use some friendly conversation without a lot of expectations.

happyfacemom80:That's a nice angle.

Taylor_made619:I'm just trying to find someone cool to chat with. It gets pretty boring here at work.

happyfacemom80:You're at work, huh?

Taylor_made619:Yeah. Sometimes the office is just so humdrum, so I login for a while and try to find someone interesting to pass the time with.

happyfacemom80:What do you do?

Taylor_made619: I'm the Operation's officer for the Merle Corporation. It's just a fancy way of saying that I'm the guy they pay to yell at all the other guys. So when things are going smoothly, it gets pretty boring.

Taylor_made619:What about you?

happyfacemom80:Oh, me? I work part time as a substitute teacher, while I'm going back to school.

Taylor_made619:Really? Thats pretty admirable for someone your age.

Taylor_made619:Wait, that didn't sound right.

happyfacemom80:I know what you meant

happyfacemom80:I had a child while I was in college the first time. I had to drop out when she was born. Now that she's old enough, I can get back to finishing school.

Taylor_made619:Like I said, that sounds admirable that you have the tenacity to go back.

Mitch awoke in darkness.  He tried to move, but his limbs would not obey him—in fact he could not even move his head from side to side. He could tell that he was in a sitting position, but that was about the extent of things. He could move his eyes, but without being able to twist, lift or lower his head, it gave him little opportunity to assess the situation he now found himself in. He could tell, that his head was in what felt like a brace—like those ones you wear in the hospital when you’ve sustained spinal trauma.

It didn’t feel like he was strapped in to anything else, but he still couldn’t move.  He could manage a thin moan, but it seemed that he now lacked the capacity even for speech.  His eyes darted back and forth, desperately trying to adjust to the very dim light of his surroundings.  There were sounds, but they seemed muffled. He could hear someone shuffling behind him, sounding unhurried and deliberate. The pace of his heart quickened. The noises in the background were now the only reassurance this wasn’t some kind of nightmare.

He was aware that he was naked from the chest up. Though he was unable to move, he could still feel a draft.  The shuffling in the background grew louder, and he could now hear the footsteps of someone approaching him.  He managed to let out a gasp, but it was now clear that was about all he was going to be able to do.

happyfacemom80:Well?

Taylor_made619:I'm looking at them now.

Taylor_made619:You look great. I don't see why he would think that you were unattractive.

happyfacemom80:He does. It's just that he's always so busy with work. I feel sometimes that he loves his job more than me.

Taylor_made619:Look, not that I'm trying to shoot myself in the foot, but I'm sure that he does.

Taylor_made619:I think sometimes you women don't realize that this is how a man shows you his love--we work hard to make sure that you can have the things that you want.

happyfacemom80:It's very kind of you to say that.

Taylor_made619:It's the truth.

Taylor_made619:You have great legs, by the way.

happyfacemom80:You're a pretty handsome guy yourself.

As the movements grew closer, he felt a lump in his throat and swallowed. Hard.  He felt hands adjusting the harness, his head was now in. He could feel tugs at his shoulders as straps holding him upright were tightened. The dark figure walked in front of him and straps were adjusted around his wrists and ankles, chest and upper arms. He had recovered a little sensitivity—enough to know that he was strapped to a wheelchair.  In the darkness he could make out that the man was large, probably well over 6 feet tall, though from the way he moved he could make out very little about his features, except to tell that he had darker skin with wavy dark hair, close cropped to his head.  As he finished, the stranger turned to look at him.

He had dark eyes that he could make out in the dimness.  He had a full beard and rounded features.  As he knelt looking at him, there was a look of dreadful purpose on his face. Were it not for the situation, he might have even found his features to be friendly—but there was no friendship in his eyes.  The stranger slowly looked him over from head to toe. He could tell that he was being sized up, his captor looking for any sign of strength or weakness in his restraints.

“You’re awake.” The stranger said --his voice just above a whisper. “Good. I was hoping that the drugs would not relieve you of your sense.”

He tried to move his mouth, but it would not obey him.

“It’s the tetrodotoxin, I’m afraid. You won’t regain control of your muscles for some time, Mitchell. I had to be sure that you would survive the initial dose. Most victims who survive the first 24 hours will make a full recovery. If you were going to die on me, then going through with the rest of this would be a wasted effort.”

His eyes held his gaze. “Rescue is an unlikely hope, Mitchell. Or would you prefer that I call you Taylor_made619.  You’re not where you think you are. I know it’s bad form to tell your plan to the hero before you finish it, but you’re not the hero—are you? You are over three hundred miles from where you were, and I assure you your accommodations are very private.”

His eyes widened at the mention of his screen name. Recognition set in almost instantly. The stranger nodded in agreement, confirming what he now knew to be true. From his back pocket, he produced a few sheets of paper, containing chat conversations and held them to his eyes.

happyfacemom80:I can't wait to see you.

happyfacemom80:I've been thinking about us for so long. I'm sure that we'll be happy together. I just feel it in my heart.

Taylor_made619:I can't get you out of my mind either

Taylor_made619:Listen, I can't stay online too much. I think my wife is starting to grow suspicious about this trip. Even though it's for a seminar at work, I think she might go so far as to have people looking into this.

Taylor_made619:I don't want you to be a part of this. It's almost time for me to tell her its over. I've been talking to a lawyer and he's pretty sure that it won't be messy. I'm going to get us an apartment in DC.

Taylor_made619:That puts us both far enough away from both sides to make our lives easier

happyfacemom80:I'm kinda scared. Bob's not a bad guy. He's devoted to me and the kids...

happyfacemom80:I just feel so stifled

happyfacemom80:And I'm hoping that this isn't just some game you're playing with me. I've got such hopes for us

Taylor_made619:I know baby. We're going to be special together.

“I guess you were expecting to keep her on the hook far more than just that one time, or could I have been mistaken?” The stranger sighed heavily. “I guess we’ll never know, now will we?”

The stranger took a hypodermic needle from his coat pocket.  He reached for him, and pushed the tip into the IV Drip that was already in his arm.  As he pushed the plunger down, Mitchell slipped from consciousness.

He awoke with a start. This time there was absolutely no light whatsoever.  His body ached, but he could feel his limbs. He tried to move them, and they grudgingly obeyed. He had been slumped in a near standing position, and he tried to raise himself up to his full height. His knees felt wobbly, but they were strong enough to hold him. He felt around in the darkness. His feet informed him that he was standing on a grate of some kind.  He tried to move around. A step left, right forwards or backwards revealed that he was surrounded on all sides by a cylindrical wall, perhaps three feet in diameter.  He could feel things in the wall, what seemed like a slit in the wall-- very thin, barely the width of a dictionary and perhaps 18 inches across.

He thrashed wildly, banging at the enclosure. He could tell by the dull thud, that it was solid. What little echo there was, seemed to be contained within the cylinder. He let out a shrill scream as he realized that he was now entombed within it.  What little strength he had faded quickly as he became dizzy and had to sit down. Wedging his knees against his chest, he sobbed uncontrollably.  His ears adjusted, and he could hear sobbing and wailing that was not his own, echoing from above him.  For the first time, he could tell that he was completely naked.

Light flickered above him. He looked up to see that it was a Small Monitor hidden behind a Plexiglas plate on the inside of his prison. As it flickered on, he could see the face of his captor.  The light of the screen was enough to show him that he was not just in a tube, but the bottom of a cylindrical shaft, perhaps 30 feet deep, with sides honed smooth. There was one riveted seem along the inside of it, but there was nothing with which to gain purchase.  The stranger casually looked on at him.

“I wish I could think of something truly villainous to say to you at this point, Mitchell. I really wish I could. But I think the surroundings will do an adequate job of making my point.”

“You took my whole life from me, Mitch. I hope you don’t mind that I call you by your first name, but since you’ve had my wife—I guess that puts us on intimate terms.  I’m a Christian man, so I couldn’t break my word to God and kill you.” He leaned closer to the camera “I wanted to… I REALLY wanted to. You took away my whole world, Mitch.  I thought to myself what could be retribution better than taking your life from you.  After you slept with my wife and dumped her—she changed. You crushed her spirit. After you had your little conquest, the worst thing you did was to stop talking to her.

For a year, I watched her deteriorate after that. She stopped talking with me. She stopped talking with her friends. She quit school. She quit living.  It wasn’t soon after that, that she tried to take her own life. I was helpless to stop it. No matter how much I tried to reach her, she withdrew even further.  Not only did it affect our marriage, but it affected our child as well.  She has special needs—and with her mother in such a state, she soon followed.  She’s nearly catatonic these days. All this you did to stroke your ego.  I bet you didn’t give a single thought to your actions, did you?

You fucking bastard. You’ve ruined my entire world. Those two were the most precious things I had in the world. But I guess that doesn’t come into your mind when you’re just thinking about getting your dick wet.  Was it worth it? Did it make you feel like a stud? Did it give you a single moment’s pause to think what would happen if you did this? There was nothing I wanted better than to see that ridiculous look on your face before killing you—like the one you had just before I put you here.

I wish I could claim this idea was entirely my own, but I can’t take credit for it. Someone else built this place, especially for guys like you.  I had bought a gun and was all set to just kill you, but he showed me another way.  I was approached when visiting the men’s group that helps guys like me cope with the loss of family. He talked me down from getting myself arrested and thrown in jail. You see, if I’d killed you, I’d be just like every other guy who lost it. I’d probably be cooling my heels in a cell right now—though it would certainly be bigger than yours. He talked me down from there—taught me a better way.

I’m not going to kill you Mitch. Killing a weak piece of shit like you would only be a stain on my soul.  I now know how much better it is to share my own personal hell with you.  Your tomb is designed to keep you alive. Rations will drop from the slit twice a day. There is water so you won’t dehydrate. Your urine and feces will fall through the grate where they will be processed, and used to keep the habitat and power the monitor. And I can come and visit you when I want to. No, Mitch. You’re going to live a long time, unless you choose to end your own life. This mountain cavern sits on private land and is kept hidden by its location in this deep crevice. If anyone were to find this place, the tunnel is rigged to collapse in on itself, sealing everything inside. 

Your only company is going to be the other men like you. The men like you who prey on other people’s weaknesses and insecurities to feed your own ego.  I’m sure you heard them already. But I want you to hope. I want you to hope day in and day out for rescue, because it’s not going to come. While my life will never be the same, neither will yours. Best of all, your own words are going to ensure that no one comes looking for you. Police will find your chat logs, because you were too stupid to erase them, and figure you found your ticket out of your relationship and just took off.  Your wife and children will eventually move on. All the while you will be here, and I’ll be content in the knowledge that every minute of the rest of your life will be spent here—in your own personal hell on earth. Goodbye Mitchell.”

The screen went blank, leaving him in darkness.

The End

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