It was Tuesday, which meant that today Jack was going to the coffee shop down the street. He liked going to this particular place. Not because the coffee was that good, the smell of it was actually better than the taste. But in this particular coffee shop, the air swirled with aromatic dreams. Jack had a thing for the barista that worked on Tuesday. She had colourful green embedded in her natural black, curly hair. The coffee shop was packed with young people, all preoccupied with their Macbook. Jack wasn’t an exception; his MacBook opened the moment he sat down, even before he ordered his coffee. Black, just like the barista’s hair. On rare occasions, one of them would look up to hold an actual conversation with the person in front of them. Even for just a brief moment. Maybe the air of aromatic dreams was what attracted the writers, the poets, and the scholars to this place. Jack knew that people lived their lives through the screens of their electrical devices. He did too. He lived his entire life online. It was the only place where he felt safe; where he could let out his true self.
Jack used this time to surf online forums. Leaving comments on anything that needed his opinion. If someone didn’t like what he had to say, he would keep going strong. Until the other person just gave up. Either out of frustration or because they realised there was no stopping Jack. On occasion, he pissed off the wrong person and it escalated to a full-on internet war. But Jack was never afraid of them. He felt safe behind his screen of anonymity. So he kept going, pissing more people off. Every Tuesday, for the past two years.
Two years ago, he discovered the online forums. Whatever he was interested in that time, he went looking for a forum to vent his frustration. The moment he won his first argument online, he felt invincible. Little did his opponent know what a monster he had created. Jack knew that technology was the curse of reality, but he couldn’t live without it, not anymore.
Jack was sitting at a table near the window. He loved watching the people outside, living their actual lives. He always wondered how fast it would take him to find them online. With some people, he even wondered how long it would take him to destroy them online as well. He had just finished his first coffee of the day, minding his own business. Typing away on his brand new Macbook, typing away in the comment section of this week’s forum. He only got up to order another coffee. The barista already knew what he liked to drink, but Jack never really talked to her. He was afraid, shy even. Yet for some reason, he had created a fake Facebook account and added her as a friend. That was the only place where he dared talking to her, pretending to be someone else. It was never his plan to catfish her. But he desperately wanted to talk to her, even under the false pretense of being someone else.
When he went for his third cup of coffee, the door busted open. A young man stormed inside, almost ripping the welcoming bell from the door. Every person in the coffee shop turned their heads, looking at what caused the commotion. The young man was looking for someone in particular. And when he saw Jack standing at the counter, he walked over to his table. Jack saw him leaving a note on his table, and then quickly moved towards the exit again. It all happened so fast that he wasn’t even able to see his face.
The rest of the people already focussed their attention back to their screens. Jack took his coffee from the barista and walked back to his table. That’s where he saw a handwritten note on his table:
“You’re in danger! Trust no one! We’ll speak later!”
He looked around and saw the young standing outside the window, looking at him. Their eyes locked and that’s when he started running. Jack left everything behind and ran after him. It didn’t take long before he was able to catch him.
“What the hell was that about?” he asked.
“Look man, I don’t have much time to explain, but someone is coming to kill you.”
“What? Are you kidding me? Why would anyone want to kill me? I’m a nobody.”
“Well that’s not really true now, is it? You’re Anonymous420, aren’t you?”
Jack was at a loss for words. Never did he think someone would find out his true identity. This was the first time someone confronted him in real life. He felt a cloud of emptiness coming over him. He didn’t answer the young man’s question. But he didn’t need to. The young man knew who Jack really was, but he offered to help him.
“Look, I can help you. We just gotta get you home and lock ourselves indoors. Avoid all contact. That’s the only way I can protect you.”
“But I don’t even know who you are, how I can trust a stranger to protect me?”
“That doesn’t matter. Let’s just say, you didn’t only make enemies online. Some people believe in you, who stand behind you.”
Jack knew he didn’t have much of a choice. He wasn’t sure someone was actually planning to kill him or not, but he would feel safer at home. So he decided to trust the young man.
“But what about my family?”
“Just tell them you’re going offline for the rest of the week. A digital detox or something. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
“Okay okay, just let me grab my stuff and we’ll be on our way.”
Jack urged the young man to wait for him there while he went back to the coffee shop to grab his stuff.
Since he was a regular at the coffee shop, the barista watched over his stuff. He was one of their best customers and they couldn’t risk losing him. Jack thanked her and packed all of his stuff.
For a moment, time seemed to stand still in the coffee shop. Everywhere Jack looked, people were frozen. He was the only one that was able to look around. Almost as if the rest of them were moving in slow motion. In the blink of an eye, everyone’s attention went to Jack. They were all looking at him now. Jack inspected everyone as if any one of them could be a potential killer.
He had hurt so many people online, anonymously he thought. He wasn’t safe here anymore. He had to go home. And quick.
He ran back to the place where he had left the young man, and together they went back to Jack’s house. His house wasn’t that far from the coffee shop, but getting there seemed like an eternity. Always looking over his shoulder to see if someone was following them. This was the first time in years that he felt so paranoid.
The keys in his hand trembled as he opened the front door. He still wasn’t sure about the young man’s intentions, but what if he was right? He could use him to keep him safe, especially if he warned him in the first place.
Jack walked in first, took off his jacket and hung it on the coat rack next to the door.
“How did you know? That someone was going to kill me” he asked him.
Right after he said that the young man slammed the front door shut. Jack jumped up, not knowing what was going on. He saw the young man pulling something from his jacket.
“Let’s just say I got it from a good source.”
The last thing Jack saw, was the reflection of light that pierced through the blade of a knife.