After reading this you’re probably all going to hate me, but I don’t really care what you think, it doesn’t matter any more, nothing matters except that I tell the truth and the truth is that by the time you read this I’ll most probably be dead. So, you know, fuck you all from the other side!
I was an internet troll for almost five years, and by “troll” I don’t just mean some kid with an axe to grind, trawling YouTube videos and trying to pick a fight, I mean that I was literally evil personified. I lived for one thing: to bring unmitigated misery to my fellow human beings….
This is my story.
When my mother died in 2012 she left me a sizeable inheritance, God bless her, which meant I was fortunate enough to quit my job, to not have to work any more, and that suited me just fine. I’m a loner by nature.
I used to work in shipping and even though my job was pretty isolated I still found the infrequent contact with other people distasteful. Something I’d try to avoid at all costs. I was bullied as a child which left me with a deeply ingrained suspicion of people, and over the years that suspicion slowly solidified into an abiding, all-consuming, hatred.
After I quit my job, I found myself going out less and less. These days, technology makes it easier to adopt a reclusive lifestyle, there’s no need to leave the comfort of my house when everything I need can be delivered to my door, so I converted one of the spare rooms upstairs into an office and proceeded to live a life almost exclusively online.
Slowly but surely, I became addicted to trolling. I don’t know where it began, a few arguments on Reddit, a couple of rants on YouTube, and suddenly I was hooked. I’d spend hours engaged in arguments with people I didn’t know, supporting ideologies I didn’t really care about. I didn’t give a shit about anything, just so long as I could get in someone’s face - just so long as I could get a rise out of them.
You probably know my type. I’m the guy who uses Reddit to post photos of car accidents, executions, natural disasters, and then uses the comment section to mock the victims. Not because I give a fuck about the victims one way or the other, but just so I can lure some idiot into a frak (argument). And believe me there are enough idiots out there willing to switch on their “outrage” at a moment’s notice, all you got to do is press the right button and away they go.
I feed on them.
I gobble up their anger like a shark gobbles up little fish, and all the while I’m egging them on, jabbing at them with little hooks and barbs, and the more I poke the angrier they get. I’ve had people threatening to blow my brains out. Hah! I’ve had people wishing I got cancer and died screaming. Jesus, all that pent-up rage and I just soak it up, like a dry sponge. I could say it was better than sex but I wouldn’t know.
My addiction to trolling grew stronger by the week. It’s hard to explain, but I guess it’s like any other habit: at first, you smoke the drug, then after a while, the drug starts smoking you. It’s the only thing that gives you happiness, the only thing that gives you relief from the constant pain, and you convince yourself you’re in control, that you can quit any time you like, but then, as the months pass you begin to realise you might have a problem, that maybe you’re in deeper than you intended.
I’d scour the internet, looking for a hit. I had a bevy of Usernames: DangerMouse52, Prank-Yo-Ma, Nob76, Hungry-Harold, LuciferLuvesU, and on and on, an army of cheap cyber imps, all of them masks that I hid behind, and I was relentlessly cruel, targeting the recently deceased, seeking out their Facebook tribute sites and dropping comments like:
“did this whore really have over 10,000 friends? Or is that her client list?”
Or, “…I can’t believe anyone’s sorry this slut is dead.”
Or in the case of a young suicide victim, “…I sure hope this dude is resting in piss.”
I would laugh at the responses I’d get. It was like stamping on an ant hill when you were a kid and then standing back and watching all the ants come swarming out. People get so frickin’ mad when you attack the dead, like defending them makes up for all the times you weren’t there for them when they were alive.
You can’t understand how good it makes me feel.
To unleash so much rage.
So much hatred.
But it was never enough.
I’d get Andy to hack Twitter accounts so I could use them to spew racist diatribes at other sites and of course Twitter would retaliate against the sites I had hijacked, shutting them down and leaving me free to move on to the next account.
I was like a virus.
I was like a laboratory-bred pathogen.
But it wasn’t enough.
I’d go on eBay, secure the winning bid on a product and then fail to pay for it. I’d give businesses a bad review just to lower their rating. It was like I drew strength from hurting people, even if they weren’t aware I was the one doing the hurting. I was happy just so long as someone was having a worse day than me.
And then one day it all caught up with me.
Signing into my personal Facebook account about three weeks ago I found a message waiting for me.
Hey, Charlie, can you see me?
The message came from a user called Black Volga, which was unusual given that most Facebook accounts used actual names and not aliases. The message was accompanied by a blurred photo. I studied the photo for ages but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Eventually, I copied and pasted it to PaintShop, magnifying, shrinking, rotating, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make out what the picture was about.
Can you see me, Charlie?
It didn’t matter what account I was using, what name I was using, every time I made a comment this Black Volga person would turn up and type the same shit right beneath it.
Hey, Charlie, can you see me, man?
And each message came with another blurred photo, only each time the photo was a little less blurred.
I started to panic.
Someone knew who I was.
That had to be a troll’s worse nightmare, to lose their anonymity. I felt naked. Like one of those dreams you have when you’re standing in a public place and you realise you don’t have a stitch on.
I called Andy up. Apart from Sarah, he was the only friend I had, and like myself, Andy was a dedicated troll. We’d met in an online chatroom, both of us trolling the same girl, some black chick who proved to be an easy target on account of how fucking sensitive she was. Sometimes, Andy and I hunted together, tracking down what we liked to call “feebs”, people with feeble minds and a delicate disposition.
‘I think someone’s stalking me,’ I said as soon as Andy answered the phone. ‘They know all my accounts, and they know my fucking name, I mean how the fuck do they find out my name?’
‘Are they threatening you?’ Andy asked.
‘Not yet,’ I said, ‘but I’m pretty sure they will, why else would they bother contacting me?’
‘Blackmail?’ Andy suggested.
I frowned. ‘You think?’
There was a pause, and then Andy said, ‘Sure, they would have reported you by now if they were legit, fucker probably thinks you’re an easy pay check.’
I swallowed hard: ‘So, what do I do?’
‘Turn the tables,’ Andy said, ‘I’ve got this friend, black hat, one of the best, if anyone can find your stalker, he can.’ I sent Andy screenshots of my account pages. He said he’d get back to me.
I spoke to Sarah after that. Sarah had a cold and she spoke in a nasal tone, like her nose was clogged up. She wasn’t a hardcore troll like me and Andy, she was just a very confrontational person, very argumentative, and would wind up getting into a lot of online drama. She’d gotten kicked off a whole slew of social networking sites and it was Andy who was always finding a loophole to get her back on again. Andy looked out for Sarah. Andy was a good man.
When Sarah heard about my stalker, she said maybe I should cease all activity on the net. She didn’t like the sound of this guy. She didn’t like the fact he knew so much about me.
I told her Andy had a black hat friend who was going to find out who this guy was. I tried to sound tough. I tried to sound like we had this covered, but Sarah kept insisting I lie low for a while. She sounded scared so I asked her whether she knew more than she was letting on.
She said the name of my stalker, “Black Volga”, sounded familiar for some reason, like maybe she’d heard it before somewhere.
I told her she worried too much.
I told her to take some vitamins, it would help with her cold.
I ignored Sarah’s advice. I know it was meant in good faith but I couldn’t just go cold turkey. I couldn’t suddenly stop trolling, that was like asking a heroin addict to suddenly stop using.
I’d recently taken umbrage to this woman on YouTube. Her name was Sixteen-Sweet and she’d posted a video in which she laid out reasons why she believed the earth was flat, which, as far I was concerned, was a red flag to a bull. I loved all these fringe theorists, they were fucking easy to provoke, and so I started posting a lot of insulting comments on her vid, trying to get a reaction from her.
She blocked me from her YouTube Channel, but I continued to attack her on Twitter and Facebook where I found out her name was Danielle West from Yorkshire in England. I used a variety of accounts so it looked like a whole mob of people were attacking her, and I got Andy to attack her as well because he had so many accounts he gave the impression an entire army was coming after you.
Andy and I like to play a very specific game, if we can make it look as though a person is getting a shitload of online hate then other trolls will start jumping on the bandwagon. See, trolls are a lot like sharks, they can smell blood in the water and when they hear a victim thrashing about in desperation they get excited, they start moving in for the kill. We call this “the tipping point”, and it marks the particular moment a private vendetta becomes a public lynching.
That’s what happened to Danielle West aka Sixteen-Sweet; at first, it was just Andy and I laying into her, calling her things like “…Fucking wacko…” And “…Brain dead cunt…”, but after a couple of weeks of this the whole thing blew up and I shit you not it was like feeding frenzy at the zoo, suddenly, every wannabe troll was laying into the bitch, it was a beautiful sight to behold, like composing a poem that suddenly becomes a number one hit song.
She took her life a few weeks ago.
Sometimes, the pressure will do that to a person. That was the holy grail of trolling, to force someone to commit suicide, I was freaking ecstatic, I was floating on air for days on end, in the world of trolls I had now been elevated to elite status, I had scored my first kill.
But I wasn’t finished with her yet. That night I went on Danielle’s Facebook page. It had been turned into a memorial page by her mom and there were videos of candle-lit vigils and images of wreathes and stone angels and commiserations and inspirational quotes by the truckload, and of course, I pulled down my digital pants and took a well-aimed dump all over the page.
Do Flat Earthers go to Flat Hell when they flatline? I wrote from one account, whilst from another account I wrote, So glad this bitch put us all out of our misery.
After that, I sat back with my mug of coffee and waited for the shit to fly.
A moment later a message appeared right beneath my comment. I leaned forward and squinted as I read it:
Hey, Charlie, missed U, man – hope U missed me.
The message was accompanied by a blurred photo.
The sender was Black Volga.
I jerked back in my seat and let out a wheezing gasp, my heart trip-hammering as I stared at the screen. Who the hell…? Who the hell…? Who the fucking hell…?
How did they know me? How did they know my name? What did they want?
I felt violated.
I felt like puking.
I felt as though someone was poking my guts with a hot sausage skewer.
I clicked on the name: Black Volga.
I was taken to this FB page with no content and a single black and white photo of an old-fashioned black limo.
I went back to the FB page I had been using and studied the photo that had accompanied the message.
I studied it until I felt my eyes were going to pop out of my head.
It still didn’t make any sense.
Who the fuck was this guy?
A new message popped up.
It said: Can you see me, Charlie
The message was accompanied by yet another blurred photo.
Who’s that…? I typed.
Someone who really likes what you do.
I don’t know you, I wrote, typing those words so hard I was in real danger of damaging my keyboard: don’t contact me again.
I shut my FB page.
A second later my What’s App signalled that I had a message.
I picked up my phone.
The message said:
…But I know you, Charlie, I’m your biggest fan.
I sat back. I was breathing hard and I was officially shitting myself. After a while I typed: If you keep contacting me I’m going to report you.
Ok, Charlie, btw, I love your pink slippers, man, real trendy.
I stared down at the slippers I was wearing. They were pink and fluffy and that’s when I started to panic hardcore. I was breathing like a herniated bull. How could he see me, the curtains were closed? How could this guy see me? Was this a prank? What the fuck kind of prank was this?
Fingers shaking, I typed: Who the fuck is this?
There was no response.
Nothing. Whoever it was had gone.
It was a day later and I had to give Andy’s hacker friend remote access to my computer. I hated giving up control of my computer, hated seeing this guy’s prompter moving around my screen, like he was flashing his dick in my face, dragging up files, collapsing windows, making things happen that I wasn’t privy too, and it wasn’t too long before I started getting seriously peeved.
I called Andy. ‘What’s this guy doing?’ I demanded.
‘He’s going to track your stalker.’ Andy sounded busy.
‘Jesus,’ I said, ‘you know I’m not comfortable with this, I mean I don’t know this guy.’
‘He’s a good man,’ Andy said.
‘I only have your word for that.’
‘That’s all you need.’
‘There’s no other way?’
‘No other way,’ Andy confirmed.
I kept getting the messages. Every time I used my computer he was there waiting for me.
Charlie, aren’t you going to troll anyone today? I really think you should troll someone today, Charlie, you’re very good at it.
What if it was the police? What if they were deliberately provoking me? Trying to build up enough evidence before they made their move.
Charlie, can you see me yet?
What if it was a prank?
I’m your biggest fan, Charlie. You inspire me, you really do? What if it was a psycho?
Talk to me, Charlie.
I shut my computer down. My head hurt. I wanted to get out of the house but I was trapped by my own innate terror of the outside world. I was full-blown agoraphobic by this time. I hadn’t left the house in months and the thought of stepping through the front door brought me out in a cold sweat. I was convinced that if I left this house I’d never find my way back again. The internet was my window to the outside world and now I felt threatened by it. The only thing that brought me comfort had been compromised.
I started sobbing.
‘Why the fuck did it have to be me?’
The next day Caleb, Andy’s hacker friend, called me on Skype and said, ‘He has sunshine eyes.’
I’d forgotten I even had a Skype account and the sound of it startled me. ‘Hello, who’s this?’ I demanded.
It was some skinny guy with blond stubble on his head and huge bug-eyes. I thought for a moment it was Black Volga and my heart missed an essential beat. There was no Caller ID and that made me think this guy was some kind of hacker.
I was right on that score.
‘I’m Caleb,’ he said in a slow, weird voice, ‘Andy’s friend, I’m the guy who’s trying to find your stalker.’
I frowned. The guy sounded like he was on drugs: ‘Ok, uh, you found him yet?’ I asked.
Caleb leaned forward, staring straight into the camera with those fucked-up eyes of his. ‘He doesn’t want to be found, Charlie,’ he said, ‘not yet, not until he’s ready.’
I didn’t like the way he was staring at me. ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ I demanded, ‘And how the fuck did you get my Skype number?’
‘He’s got eyes, man – they can see right through you, like black light….’
‘Are you on drugs?’
Caleb kept staring at me: ‘He lives inside-out,’ he whispered, ‘sees right through us, like God Almighty.’ He cracked a wide grin that creeped the hell out of me. His eyes were windows into madness. ‘I don’t want to die, Charlie,’ he said and hung up.
I stared at the screen.
Slow fingers of dread were working their way up my spine. What the fuck was wrong with him?
I called up Andy but he wasn’t answering his phone so I sent Sarah a private message on her Facebook.
It took a while to get a response.
Yeah, I wrote, how’s it going?
There was a long pause before Sarah’s message came back to me.
He sees through us, Charlie. She wrote: he sees our every sin.
It’s been four days and I can’t get in touch with Andy. His phone rings and rings and no one picks up. All his accounts have gone dark. Zero activity. I’m scared. Every time I go online there’re more of those messages from Black Volga waiting for me. They’re everywhere, flooding my accounts, my email inbox….
Can you see me, Charlie?
You inspire me, bro.
I swear to God, man, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.
Can you see me yet?
I can see you.
He wasn’t lying. Wherever I went in my house I could feel his eyes following me, that creepy sensation you get when you know you’re being watched.
I’m going mad, I haven’t taken a shower in days, I’ve barely eaten. I’ve sealed the windows. Blockaded the doors. I’m walking from room to room and up and down the stairs and I’m constantly checking over my shoulder because I can’t shake the feeling something’s creeping up on me.
I’ve stopped trolling.
Do you know how hard that is?
I’ll quote google news, shall I?:
"Andrew Harris, a 43-year old computer programmer from Wilson, Pennsylvania, was found murdered last night in his midtown apartment. His landlord discovered him sitting at his bedroom desk. He had been hit from behind with a heavy instrument, probably a hammer…."
That’s as far as I got.
I can’t read the rest.
I keep calling him. I think maybe if I call long enough and hard enough he’ll pick up. But he never does.
I switch my computer on for the first time in five days.
On my FB page, I type: what do you want?
The answer is not long in coming.
I troll the flesh. Black Volga types back.
You killed Andy, didn’t you?
I just want to reach into you and eat your pain, Charlie. Can I come around? We’ll talk, I promise we’ll just talk, you and me, ok, is that cool with you, can I come around, Charlie?
Leave me alone, please, what the fuck did I ever do to you?
You hurt me, Charlie – I died and you cut me open and made me die all over again, but that’s ok, I forgive you, I know you didn’t mean it. Can you hear me? Can you love me, Charlie, the way I love you, man?
Go away! I was sobbing, typing those words over and over again: Go away! Go away! Go away!
There was no response for a long time.
I sat staring at my screen.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
At last a message appeared.
Hey, I’m in your kitchen, Charlie – I think you’ve run out of sugar.
A crash came from downstairs.
My heart gave an enormous spasm, like a hand had just reached into my chest and squeezed as hard as possible – I leapt to my feet and stood glaring at the door. I couldn’t move. I was horrified.
At last, I rushed downstairs, baseball bat in my hands, a strangled scream issuing from my throat.
The kitchen was a mess. There was shit scattered all over the floor and the back door was swinging on its hinges, letting in a cold blast of wind.
I closed and bolted the door and searched every room in the house but there was no one there. At last I returned to my bedroom.
There was a message on the screen.
I visited Sarah tonight, I was trying, man, I was trying so fucking hard to express myself, you know, the way you express yourself, Charlie, to just let it flow, tell her how I felt about her, but I guess I had all this shit to get off my chest and things went wrong and I’m so fucking sorry, I can’t tell you how fucking sorry I am.
The monster was coming for me.
I knew it in my heart.
All that rage I’d let loose upon the wold, all that black hatred, it had become sentient somehow, it had taken human form and it was coming back home to its master.
I called the police but they weren’t interested. I screamed at them. I told them someone was trying to kill me, but you know what the cop said, you know what the dirty little fucker said?
‘We all die sometimes.’
My fucking tax dollars at work.
She died the same way Andy died. Blunt force trauma to the back of the skull. They found her sitting at her desk. Like she’d been waiting to die. Like she knew what was coming.
I’m all alone.
God forgive me.
Charlie, I’m coming around tonight – I’m coming to eat your pain, brother, I’m coming to wolf it down.
I’m sorry, I typed: I’m so fucking sorry for everything I’ve done, I don’t want to die, please don’t kill me. Please. Please. Please. Please.
I love you, Charlie. Put the kettle on for me, man, I’m coming over.
A strangled scream was wrenched from my throat as I got up from my desk and then I staggered sideways and collapsed against the wall of the bedroom.
I must have blacked out.
When I woke up, it was dark outside.
I scrambled to my feet – I was leaving, I was getting out of here, I didn’t care where I went, it was all relative, I couldn’t stay here any longer, waiting to die like the others.
But the instant I slipped out of my bedroom I knew it was too late.
I stared at the staircase.
A voice whispered up from the darkness below.
‘Charlie, I’m here.’
I staggered back into my room and slammed the door shut. Footsteps coming up the stairs, getting louder the closer they came.
I was wheezing, heart booming against my chest, blood pounding against my temples.
A knock at the door.
‘Let me in, Charlie. I’m home.’
I’m sitting here now, writing my final confession – its sitting in the corner, waiting for me to finish and then it’s going to kill me, just the way it killed the others.
It doesn’t have a face, Jesus, help me, it doesn’t have a face, just eyes that stare and stare, and I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die, please, please….