From time to time I go through my Facebook friend list and perform what I call ‘spring cleaning’. The fake profiles of bikini clad girls I drunkenly accepted, the distant high school buddies who posted endless articles from the alt-right and far left blogospheres, and those whom I can't even remember adding in the first place all get unfriended en-mass. No ceremony, no last profile views, just one little click and they are gone. The feeling that accompanies their removal is on par with the surge of contentment you get when you de-clutter a cramped room.
Jake Lemon was in that latter category of random adds gone unremembered. When I saw him on that list their was no vague recollection, or a ‘that face looks familiar’. As far as I could recall I had never seen either his name or that face before.
His profile image wasn’t a casual selfie, or even a picture with family or friends, instead it looked like a studio portrait, the kind with fake backdrops and excessive lighting. He looked to be in his 20s or early 30s and had short dirty blonde hair combed to the side. His eyes were like the eyes of someone who had stayed up a week but was still amped on way too much caffeine. His toothy smile was even more off-putting. It was unnaturally big with a touch of desperation. If someone put a gun to your head and said ‘smile wide or I’ll shoot’, you would probably be smiling like Jake Lemon.
I didn’t have to think too long or hard. I clicked that damn unfriend button in record time and felt much relieved when his unnatural nervous-energy brimming face disappeared from my list of friends. Obviously if that was that then I wouldn’t even remember the name Jake Lemon today. That wasn’t that.
A week passed and I was mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed the day the figurative snowball started rolling down the hill, careening toward me. It began like far too many real life horror stories do, with an instant message. My phone alerted me I had a new chat request from Jake Lemon. The name I had already forgotten, but when I looked at the chat screen and saw that ghastly profile picture with exaggerated forced smile my stomach warbled just a little.
Jake Lemon: Hi!
Since messenger is a tattle-tell about when a message is seen, I knew that he knew I had seen what he had sent to me. I sighed and slight trepidation I responded.
Kevin Bilcher: Hello
Jake Lemon: I never got a chance to say hello! Then I saw you unfriended me 😦
Jake Lemon: Did I do something wrong?
The question sort of put me on the spot. While initially I zeroed in on his name to unfriend because I didn’t recognize it, it was the creeped out feeling that I got looking at his face that made it such a relief to be rid of him. I couldn’t say that though. I didn’t even know the guy and owed him no explanation.
Kevin Bilcher: Nah not at all man youre good. I just dont know you is all and I was going through my list anyway. Not personal.
Jake Lemon: Thats great to know 😀 !
I got a notification no more than three seconds after he sent that last message. Now, I don’t check instantly each time I get one, I have a real life and try not to get too wrapped up in Facebook, but the second the notification appeared I instinctively knew what it was, and I was right.
‘New friend request from Jake Lemon.’
I looked at the screen a bit unsure what to do. I know that sounds ridiculous, the right thing to do would’ve been to deny it and block his chat right there but a part of me felt that doing that would’ve been rude now that he had messaged. Sort of like saying, ‘I don’t like you or think you are worth knowing’ to someone’s face… well, not quite that blunt but the same ballpark.
He messaged again.
Jake Lemon: I sent you friend request since now we know eachother. I hope I haven’t overstepped my bounds :/
Kevin Bilcher: Nah, its cool man
Jake Lemon: ❤ ❤ <3!!!! I am so glad you feel that way. Friends make the world go round you know 😀
I was getting some serious creep vibes but I also felt a little bad for him. He was obviously very strange and I imagined he didn’t have many real friends. A judgmental conclusion? Sure but from even this short and awkward back and forth I felt it was probably the right one. If throwing him a bone and accepting his request gave him some contentment it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we were Facebook friends.
Kevin Bilcher: Cool. I gotta go Jake. Work. Nice to meet you though
Jake Lemon: Nice to meet you Kevin. TTYL 😉 😀 🙂
I was relieved to be done with the forced conversation, and those emoji’s only heightened the unnerving feeling that chat gave but I still felt some strange obligation. I cycled back to the friend request screen and re-accepted Jake Lemon as a friend. You’re probably thinking this was a big mistake. You wouldn’t be wrong.
Like I said earlier, I am not one of those types who live on Facebook and when I want to message a friend, I do it through old fashioned SMS texting. I pretty much only had the Messenger app because my girlfriend Dottie (don’t ask) preferred it for sending me pics, videos and a world of stupid animal memes that were supposed to make me go ‘aww,’ but really only made me groan. So the next day when I found out she was cheating on me I had no desire to read her litany of apologies or tearful pleading. I disabled the app. I won’t go into that story, I owe her a little bit of respect.
I maintained my strength of will for seven days, which really is a feat considering the fact that I am pathetic. Eventually though my resolve broke. I didn’t want to call. I wasn’t ready to hear her voice just yet, but a message would work. I re-enabled the app and saw that I had several missed messages from two friends. One was Dottie Strauss, the other was from Jake Lemon (shudder). I ignored his and opened Dottie’s chat window. I won’t bore you with superfluous details, suffice to say she groveled hard and I was likely beyond transparent in playing it cool. We were to meet the next night and I told her I would have to ‘take it one day at a time’.
After I finished talking with her I opened up the other dialogue. The string of messages made me very uncomfortable.
Jake Lemon: Hi! [MESSAGE RECEIVED SEVEN DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: Hello! [MESSAGE RECEIVED SEVEN DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: Hi! [MESSAGE RECEIVED SIX DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: What are you doing ❤ [MESSAGE RECEIVED FIVE DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: Are you mad at me 😦 [MESSAGE RECEIVED FOUR DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: Hi Kevin!!! [MESSAGE RECEIVED THREE DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: I just baked a cake, I dedicate it to all my friends who cant eat it with me anymore [MESSAGE RECEIVED TWO DAYS AGO]
Jake Lemon: Where’d you go Kevin? I thought we were friends?? [MESSAGE RECEIVED YESTERDAY]
Jake Lemon: It appears that maybe you didn’t really mean it when you said we could be best friends </3 But I meant it and friends don’t give up on other friends. I just made a gift for you. I can’t wait to give it to you :D. [MESSAGE RECEIVED FIVE HOURS AGO]
Three things stuck out to me immediately. One, this guy had no conception of boundaries whatsoever. Two, he had zero social skills and was probably much lonelier than I had thought at first. And three… He wasn’t just creepy… he was a little scary. I made up my mind in that moment to give Jake Lemon the cleansing treatment for the second and final time but naturally just as I was making way to delete him from my life, I got a phone call from Dottie. She apparently interpreted ‘one day at a time’ as an open invitation to continue on as if nothing had ever happened and wanted to talk about all the cute noises her dog was making. Two hours later when I hung up the phone, I had again forgotten about ‘my new best friend’ Jake Lemon.
The next day was uneventful and routine. I worked four hours, shoveled some food in my mouth at lunch, worked four more, came home, watched TV, took a shower and got dressed for my date with Dottie at Il Dulce Vita Italian Restaurant. It was an OK outing and I could have taken her home and not slept alone that night, but the pain of her infidelity was still very raw. I came home alone instead, take-out bag in hand.
It wasn’t until noon the next day that I was forced to remember Jake Lemon; I can be a late riser on weekends. What woke me was the sound of Facebook’s chime coming from my phone. I had two notifications and just like before I already had a suspicion of who was at the heart of them.
“That’s right,” I said to myself “It's time to get rid of you isn’t it?” Before I made to do that however I clicked on the notification tab. I was fully expecting some light-weight creepiness from Jake. I drastically underestimated him.
The notification was a tagged profile post: “Jake Lemon is in Columbus Ohio with Kevin Bilcher.” My breathe caught in my throat and I think my heart missed a beat when I read this. You see, my profile had false information about where I lived. According to my Profile I lived in Seattle, Washington…a world away from my real home city of Columbus. The status update was accompanied by a picture of a road sign saying “Ohio Welcomes You.”
My mind began to rationalize after those first few seconds. ‘He probably saw my friends commenting on my posts, realized they were all local to Columbus and made the basic connection’. I thought. ‘But that picture of the road sign… no this is a message, he said he was going to give me something and now I see this.’ Just like that, my heart was began to quicken its beat. If the first notification put ice into my veins, the second one absolutely froze me solid:
‘Jake Lemon is at Il Vita Dulce with Kevin Bilcher.’ This time the picture wasn’t some vaguely menacing street sign, it was a grainy picture of Dottie and I seated at our table, shot through the outside window. It was a god-damned photo of us both! I felt a mixture of surreal detachment and horror induced panic, with a sprinkle of righteous anger. It was time to phone the police. I honestly didn’t think anything would come of it but when a person is tracking you down and sending you photographs of yourself and your girlfriend, saying “get lost” is kind of a neutered response.
I called 9-11 and explained everything to the on-duty officer I spoke to after being connected to the police department. I even sent him profile links via email as I spoke to him. His name was Foster; I didn’t think of him much at the time.
“Mr. Bilcher,” Officer Foster said “We don’t take stalking lightly, or any crime for that matter. Unfortunately the information which you have given doesn’t quite rise to that level. This Mr… Layman..?”
“Lemon” I corrected not liking where this was going.
“Right, Lemon. From your account this Mr. Lemon was breaking no laws. He has the right to travel to wherever he wants and to take photos of public places. The tagged photos do give alarm and on a personal level, I believe that his actions are in-line with typical stalker behavior. But it doesn’t reach the criminal threshold… yet.”
I was exasperated.
“What you need to do Mr. Bilcher is remove this Lemon guy from your personal network and send him a message stating that any further communication from him is not welcome. This is important because if he continues to message you it reinforces your case should this… escalate. Aside from that, keep your eyes open and call us at the first sign of anything.”
‘What do you think I’m doing now!’ I thought to myself in anger and frustration that I had to swallow on the phone line.
A rational person would’ve probably taken the officer’s advice, but I needed to keep my eye out on what Jake was up to. I opened up my Facebook app and pulled up his profile, not to unfriend but to look around. I kicked myself for having not done so already but better late than never.
Jake Lemon had only the one profile picture and although his profile showed multiple photo albums, they must have had restricted access because each album failed to pull up a single pic. He also had two viewable status updates, the tagged ones. There was virtually nothing in his “about” section except for his home-state which was Michigan. Nothing came up under his friends tab. Either he had none besides me or that information had been hidden.
“Jesus Christ,” I said to myself. “You friended a God damned ghost.” I didn’t have time to kick myself for my stupidity. Whatever helpful information I needed to obtain needed to be figured out right away, the fucker was already in town and it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that he was well aware of where I lived.
A message notification popped up on my phone: New message from Jake Lemon. I quickly cycled to it.
Jake Lemon: Hi! 🙂
I cycled back quickly having another idea. I went to google and typed ‘Jake Lemon Michigan’ but I was inundated with thousands of results that I didn’t have the time to sift through. What I needed was a face. I went back to Facebook and typed in his name again, this time filtering the results only to Michigan. There was over a hundred hits but the profile pics allowed me to breeze down the list. What I was hoping for was that at some prior time Jake had another account, one that yielded more information that I could possibly use against him and to protect myself.
New message from Jake Lemon.
Jake Lemon: I can’t wait to see you ❤ !
I quickened my pace But found nothing. I felt helpless. I knew he was closing in and right now I needed something, anything. I typed Jacob Lemon, Jake Lemons, Jacob Lemons; nothing nothing, nothing. I was running in circles and feeling more desperate by the second.
Jake Lemon: When you see me I know I’m going to make you smile 😀
‘Lay man.’ The officer's mis-pronunciation repeated in my head. So I typed in Jake Layman, none of those listed with this name bore any resemblance to Jake’s profile photo. But I did see something near the bottom that caught my eye. Towards the bottom of the list the results always show profiles that don’t quite match your query but are close. Two names up from the last I saw ‘Jacob Lehman’ from Kalamazoo. I paused. There was no forced monstrous smile, there were no crazed wide-open eyes, but the picture I saw was undoubtedly Jake. A Jake you might see in some alternate universe where he is just some normal looking guy, he even had a hint of cockiness to his affect. I was getting new messages but was so entranced I ignored them. I clicked the profile.
Jake Lehman’s last post was over a year ago, it was a picture of him holding a beer in one hand and pointing to it with the other while making a goofy face. It had over two hundred comments.
“I will miss you. This world just got a bit darker” the first one said.
“I don’t even have words,” read the second.
“Rest in Peace buddy.”
The messages went on and on like this. I was beyond feeling in that moment. I was in machine mode. I went back to Google and typed in ‘Jake Lehman Kalamazoo Dead’ but already had the puzzle put together in my head.
The top result was a news article written about how the body of Jake Lehman, age 27, had been found September 9, 2013 at 6:15 a.m. in the empty parking lot of a local grocery store. The article went on stating that his body showed signs of extreme torture. Lehman had been missing for three months and his time of death was roughly a few hours before he was found. Just as chilling, the words ‘BAD FRIEND’ were carved on his chest. The marks consistent with claw incision.
With a blank face, blank mind, blank feeling in general, I just sat for seconds that passed like minutes. The terror and the surreal nature of this situation had hit epochal proportions and my body responded by turning everything off. Even after the notification sound alerted me again, all I could do was sit there immobile.
The front door came crashing in.
I jumped straight up into the air just like in one a cartoon. Before I could even respond a figure came through its now open space. But it wasn’t Jake… or whatever his real name was. It was a police officer.
With his gun drawn in ready pose, he gave me a quick nod and proceeded further inside, two other officers close behind. They quickly searched my house but there were no figurative monsters lurking in the corners. When the search was over the officer sat me down. The policeman turned out to be none other than Officer Foster.
“I told you on the phone that I believed you Kevin and I didn’t feel right letting you just wait there like some bug on its back,” Foster said. “I called Officers Philips and Sylvia in to watch your house and I looked into that profile link you sent me. I… recognized the victim… every Mid-West cop worth his salt knows about the god-damn Lehman case. I’m just glad we got to you before it was too late.”
I asked him if he needed my phone for evidence but he said they could just pull up the Facebook conversation records from their end. I don’t know why but I activated the phones screen while he spoke to me. I had two unseen messages.
Jake Lemon: Dotties hair smells really nice, like cotton candy. She kept crying but I made her smile real quick. She says she will be my friend. Know whats better than two best friends? THREE!
Jake Lemon: I thought you were my best friend. I was going to make you smile… but you called the police. They can’t see me, but I can see them. I guess we will have to hang out later </3 I was going to give you this:
There was an image attachment. I didn’t notice but Foster had pulled up behind my shoulder while I tranced-out reading the messages. He was saying something urgently over his walkie talkie but I didn’t hear anything.
The attachment was a drawing. On the left was a depiction of me, detailed down to the barely noticeable scar that ran along the cleft of my lip. Only, I didn’t smile like that, and my eyes in the picture resembled saucers more than anything natural. The figure on the left was far more crude and looked as if a child had drawn it, there were no definite lines, just a scribbled and strangely proportioned humanoid shape with long arcing talon shaped fingers, a pair of gigantic eyes and a zig-zag toothed smile that encompassed half of its head.
It's been two years since that day. I was monitored by the police for about six months before they finally stopped. Dottie… was presumed dead quite some time ago, and I honestly hold no hope of her ever resurfacing. It took a while but normalcy has crept back in my life and it's become more and more rare that I ever think about Jake Lemon.
That was until today. I am writing this all out right now for the world just in case I wind up disappearing. Earlier this afternoon I received a friend-request from someone called Kevin Pilchered. He has no profile photo yet.