I work in the wide, wonderful, and worrisome world of online porn. I hope you’ll forgive me for being blunt with this bit; but it is important to my story that I get it out of the way first. If this discussion is not the type for you, I would apologize foremost, and kindly suggest you exit in the way which you came. I do promise, however, that if you are willing; the punch is well worth the wait.
That was a joke, Mom.
My office might be a bit different from yours, considering it sits about four feet away from my four post bed in a cramped alcove of my bedroom. I live in a city, the location of which doesn’t seem necessary. If you were to look at a postcard of this city, my building would be one of many nestled into the backdrop of the not-too distant horizon. If you had a magnifying glass, you might even be able to see it clearly from the others. I am on the eighth floor – one of thousands of perfectly symmetrical 8×10 windows in neat rows. After living here a while, it’s hard not to think of yourself this way; just another ant crawling up and down the hill, praying you are not the one to get stomped.
In that little alcove near my bed, I store all the tools needed for my job. There’s a reclining chair, and a nice oak desk, and I also keep some other work items in the hutch drawer. The blinds cover my 8×10 window at all times, so I have some artificial Smart Lights in different colors decorating my messy bedroom and stained white walls. There’s also a shade disguising my bed, for extra flair.
Nevertheless, my horror story began Sunday.
In my industry, to say that you meet a lot of creeps would be a gross understatement. We live and die by the creeps. Whether you support my life choices at the moment or not, these creeps pay for my groceries and bills. Without them I would be hapless and cramped into my mother’s one bedroom boat-house, or on the street with the few friends I have left. Therefore, it is my job to swim the creeps’ creepy e-water and siphon them of the few tokens verified by credit cards they managed to nick from their parents’ purses, or wherever else. Sounds awful, does it not? A bit judgmental? Unfortunately, you will find anymore sympathy for the consumer here. When my ‘career’ began, I might have had a little more faith in my customers. Now I am so terrified that writing this, to you, is the only relief that I can fathom.
I began Sunday morning in my alcove, reading through the news with a coffee and some Lou Reed. My laptop was propped on the desk documenting the whole thing, as has become custom. My chat was completely empty at the time, save for the usual spam bot advertising her own ‘free’ chat. Still, my particular corner of the Internet block happens to be one of the most popular. If you’re the lucky customer who happens to type “Free Cams” or the like into your favorite search engine, you will likely see my employer in the top five.
Business always picked up at some point later in the day, but we did get a few usual early birds. Sometime after 11 AM, I was a bit frustrated to find that still, no one had joined. As I got older, this became more common. Even still, I have never been the top (or bottom, I hope) pick of the litter. Some of the other models looked like they had been borne right into a photo-shoot. As the stereotypical runts, some of us have to fight for our fame. In some cases, that included creeping through the ‘active’ registered users online with the tasty tokens needed for payday. I shamelessly employed this tactic Sunday morning, targeting a likely coveted TJX1000.
TJ had thousands of tokens. Folks with that kind of money were almost always regulars, but I did not remember seeing him in the user log any time before. So when I sent him a direct message, I was sure that I was one of tens of models who had already tried to grab his attention. Even still, a big fish was worth the work. I dialed up my go to pick up line and dropped my e-line down the well.
MyUser: Hey there, how are you feeling today? 😉
Before I could minimize the window and move on to another, the friendly bloop of a reply filled the room.
TJX1000: I was waiting for you to message me.
If hindsight were twenty-twenty, I would claim that this reply threw me a bit. The unfortunate truth is that it did not – I have and continued to see far worse. In fact, I was excited to see TJ was interested in the first place. My fingers thudded against the keyboard anxiously, my excitement visible to the camera. Before I finished my reply, the friendly bloop echoed in my channel once again.
TJX1000 has joined the room.
I hit enter to finish my response.
MyUser: Well, I did not know if you would be interested in someone like me 😉
My comment was a tug of the line. I had hooked the fish by pulling it into my channel, but if I yanked too quickly I could pull the bait from his mouth altogether. This way, the lock was set just right. It was now up to the fish whether it wanted to bite down or balk.
I waited and smiled, posing. This was not unusual. A buyer surveys the product before purchase.
TJX1000: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.
The fish nibbled.
MyUser: Tell me how I can help you, baby.
TJX1000: Don’t call me baby. Call me baby again and I’ll drag you outside like the animal that you are. Would a baby have access to a fucking Mastercard?
I didn’t flinch, offering a cute pout to the camera in reply as I typed away. Once again, this type of language wasn’t unusual.
MyUser: Well now, if you’re going to be rude, I can boot you from the channel. But I don’t want to do that if you’re…
Before I could finish my reply, my company issued buzzer vibrated through the hutch drawer.
TJX1000 has tipped you 25 credits.
I relaxed; stupidly, and gave the camera my best fake grin.
MyUser: I think I know how I can help you. Let’s go private.
TJX1000 has invited you to a Private Chat.
I was reeling in now, so I thought. Private Chats charged an absurd 25 tokens a minute – and a small fifteen-percent chunk of that went to the models directly.
The one drawback of Private Chat, however, is peer-to-peer video chat.
Which, for what it is worth, I will never understand. The user is coming to my employer directly to see the models, but we do not necessarily need to see the customer. Some people like to have some sort of eye to eye consent that could be either psychological or erotic, which I understand. But why have it by default? Nevertheless, judgement is not in the job description.
The moment I joined, I heard the crackly static of a radio echo through my speakers. TJ was on video chat, but his monitor was black. Again, not unusual. What was unusual was the song that cackled through his microphone. It took me a moment to realize, but it was the exact same one I was listening to on video. At the exact same part.
In surprising unison with my thoughts, TJ spoke in the peer-to-peer chat.
TJX1000: I’m sorry I was mean my love. Do you like the song?
TJX1000: Listen to the words.
He played it again, start to finish. I sat silent for the full two and a half minutes thinking I’d just made the simplest $10 of my life. The words were simple, old ones I’d always known and shouted at concerts for years.
TJX1000: What a life it would be, if you would come to mine for tea…
I smiled. But after a slow morning, small talk had lost appeal.
MyUser: What would you do to me, if I did?
The keyboard on the other side of the video rattled angrily in rhythm with a low grunt. The monitor was still black.
TJX1000: Don’t fucking talk like that bitch, I told you once.
MyUser: Okay, I am very sorry for that.
MyUser: I can be stupid sometimes. Maybe I need some punishment.
He paused again. I heard the shuffling of feet in the background and a chuckle.
MyUser: Is someone with you?
TJX1000: Yes, he’s here to fulfill that punishment, Jamie.
Jamie is my real name. I caught my breath as my speakers screeched with feedback.
This time, I heard the breaking of glass and a gut wrenching scream. Without warning, a piece of paper was pulled from the video camera. The darkness was replaced by the color red, and it was everywhere. Blood was gushing from a pair of very, very red wrists.
I screamed and cut the feed.
The first thing I did was call my manager. Paco, as he asked us to call him, was a stubby little Portugese man in his late forties. Corporate considered Paco to be the point contact between talent and themselves, and for all his insecurities he certainly tried to act the part. He wore the same khaki button up shirt, sans top buttom, in any video session I’d had with him, and his slicked black hair was always gelled and sprayed to the thinnest intertwined angle. I knew a few models who had after-hoursessions with Paco, but that was left designated to the hush-hush for fear of reprisal. The little guy did have some power, after all.
The procedure itself is not an unusual one – I wasn’t the first model to see something they should not on vidchat, and I won’t be the last. It works the same each time, we call Paco; Paco blocks the IP and reports it to the cyber-crimes division we have on speed dial. Every incident we’ve encountered has started and began there.
So on Tuesday morning, when I sat in front of my webcam with a bagel (fuck it) and a coffee, TJX1000 was one thousand miles from my mind. In fact, I already had my sights set on another fish who had just paid my phone bill.
But we were interrupted by a new user slightly after eleven.
232315Main has joined the chat.
As in, my home address.
I froze in place. Users pinged the room anxiously awaiting my replies, but I could not move. It was something that should be impossible… and with that long an address, was in no way coincidental. I was speechless. After a moment of gaping, I heard the friendly bloop of Instant-Message chat.
232315Main: “I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go.”
I fumbled for my phone off camera, dropping it to the floor like a fool before i pushed the speaker button and muted the mic on my computer. I dialed Paco and the phone rang for what felt like an eternity.
232315Main: “I’ll pick you up at half past three, and we’ll have lasagna.”
Paco finally answered in a half mumbled hello.
“Paco, please he’s back. Block the IP. Block the fucking IP Paco!” I shouted into the phone.
He coughed and asked who.
I caught my breath, realizing I was still on vidchat for TJ and everyone else’s display. I calmly explained to Paco that the exact same psycho from Sunday was in my channel with a username that was my address. I heard the zip of pants, and Paco mumbled again that he needed to get to his computer.
232315Main has invited you to his video share at the rate of 25 credits per minute.
“Fucking auto-agree Paco, block the fucking feed for TJ!!”
The camera or the lights behind it flicked briefly, and within a moment a gagged older man was standing in front of the camera with a knife to his neck. His hands and wrists were covered by what looked to be cotton stuffing from the inside of a pillow. Before I could even force out a scream, the knife ran across his neck and opened it like a cut seam.
Paco filled in my breathlessness with a high pitched scream of his own. He was watching on his machine. After what felt like a minute of watching the man die, the IP was blocked and the video cut out.
232315Main has left the chat.
“Paco what the fuck is happening?”
He mumbled frantically that he didn’t know, pounding away on his keyboard as he dropped his phone and spoke to the police on speaker.
1271990 has joined the chat
“Paco… my birthday… Paco… MOTHERFUCK PACO.”
1227990 has left the chat
He screamed that he was trying. Police were on their way. He banned the IPs for every user that joined my channel, but more kept coming.
Digsy has joined the chat.
Digsy has left the chat.
JamieIFoundYou232315 has joined the chat.
JamieIFoundYou232315 has left the chat
JamieImComing has joined the chat.
After that user, Paco cut the entire Site.
11:15 AM on Tuesday, FreeVidChat went dark. Sometime after 11:30, I quit my job. Not that it mattered, the site will be down for the foreseeable future pending investigation.
Last night, I couldn’t stand to sleep at my home former office.
So last night I put my pride in the trunk and drove to Mom’s, which it killed me to do. I did not have many friends in the city, and her boat-house was just across the bridge and a short drive into suburbia. When I got there, the salty air felt like a rush of queasy memories. She ridiculed me about not helping and visiting her as usual, so I made up a story about a surprise visit from the exterminators. In the end, I felt safe rocking back and forth on top of the waves, underneath the roof of a different address and boatyard security system. And I think every person feels a bit safer with their mom sleeping next to them.
In the morning, I left for the city feeling rejuvenated, with a plan to clear out my stuff from the apartment and start over somewhere else. When I climbed the steps all the way to the eighth floor I felt more clean that I had in months.
So when I went inside my apartment, I didn’t see the specks of blood on the door handle, or the slight break in the frame. I must have been in there for an hour, packing up things from my kitchen and living room before I even looked at the work station. If I had, I probably would have seen the knife on my desk, or the note pinned neatly underneath. But it wasn’t until later that I picked it up, read it, and saw my mother’s home address written in impossibly perfect script.
I have called the police, and my former home and former office have become a crime scene in a matter of a week. My Mom took her boat on vacation this morning, and I could not think of a way to tell her what had happened before then. Without any other options, I have decided that I am returning to my apartment tonight, and sleeping there for the temporary future.
So Mom, if something happens to me, this explanation is for you. I am telling you now.
I love you, and I am sorry for what I did.