She had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes, a flawless complexion, delicate white-girl features, a teenager's narrow waist and curvaceous hips. She had slender thighs and even more slender calves. Her feet were precious. I'm partial to precious feet. Especially little white-girl's feet.
"How you doin', honey?" I asked.
Little White Girl wailed and shuddered. She was doing a lot of that. She was tied to her bed in her own room, no clothes on, her wrists and ankles in leather cuffs chained to the bedframe. I had used her panties and bra as a makeshift blindfold; her mouth was held open by a mouth-ring.
"You know what's this for?" I taunted, tapping the ring in her mouth. She wailed some more. "Thas' right," I said. "Keep on you' cryin', honey."
I had picked her out last week, shopping at Wal-Mart. She was with her mom. Mom was a looker herself, forty to forty-five years old. Little White Girl here had her hair and her eyes. A real momma's girl, ya know.
I ran my finger down the center of her chest to her belly-button. I laughed at her comic shuddering and her moaning. She'd give just anything--anything in the whole wide world--not to be here right now. Maybe I'd give her that chance.
"Little white girl?" I said.
"Wahhh," she wailed pathetically. Her tongue wagged behind the mouth-ring, wet and slug-like. I leaned close and blew on her tongue. She recoiled.
"Listen to me, now," I said. "I'm gonna take this whoo- jiggy outa you' mouth. You behave or it goes right back in. Ya understand me, girl?"
She nodded miserably. I undid the strap from behind her head and took out the mouth-ring. Spit had run down her cheeks and into her hair. Her nose had run. She started blubbering right away: "Please!" "Leave me alone!" "Don't hurt me, mister!" "Let me go!" All fit in between miserable little sobs.
I grabbed her chin. "Little white girl! You're not listening to me!"
She caterwauled: "Let me go!" and I put the mouth-ring back in.
* * *
She was a college girl. She came home at four o'clock most days, got outta her car and went directly into her townhouse. Her momma's townhouse. Sometimes she checked the mail. Today I started the van and drove down into her court and parked in front of her place. The van read Hughes Cable on the side. I had done the lettering and the paint job myself. It was outfitted so's a cable repairman--much less a cop--couldn't tell the difference.
I opened the door and went around back, swung open the panel doors, and just as natural as you please grabbed out a coil-box of wire. Carrying the coil-box and a tool belt over my shoulder, I approached the front door. The front door opened.
"Oh!" she said, blinking and stepping back. She looked all around, the way white girls do faced with a black man. "Um, what do you want?" she said, then excused herself for her rudeness.
"No problem," I said in my educated black man's voice. "Didn't mean to scare you. Are you Mrs. Vanders?"
She looked around again, then shook her head. "She's my mother," she said. "I'm Jessica."
"Well, Jessica, are you alone? More importantly, are you twenty-one?"
She shook her head again.
"Well," I said, "if you're alone and you're not twenty- one, I can't come in." I pulled out a fake work order. "It's a service upgrade, so I'll have to come back later."
She looked fretful now. "Couldn't you, like, do it on the outside or something?"
I shook my head. I smiled patiently at her. "An upgrade means fishing cable up through the floor and into the bedroom walls." I held out my box of cable.
Now she looked confused. "I already have cable in my bedroom," she said.
"The upgrade is for digital. You have digital cable, Jessica?"
"Well, no," she admitted. "I don't think so."
I explained digital would let her see what was playing on the different channels, give her a dozen or more movie-channels she didn't have, let her start an On Demand movie and then pause it to leave the room, or-- and this really got her attention--pause it to answer the telephone.
Really?" she said.
She looked around one last time, then stood aside.
"I can't," I said, "Unless you're twenty-one."
"Pretend that I am," she said.
I walked in.
* * *
"Ready to try again?"
She made mewling sounds and yanked at the cuffs. "Eease eh ee oh!"
"I'll let you go when I'm ready," I said. "Not before." I pulled up my chair and sat down next to her. I said to her clearly, "Listen now. Nod if you understand me. Do you understand?"
"Are you going to listen to me?"
She nodded again.
"You gonna be quiet?"
"I'm taking it out again. If you make trouble or start bawling--" I slid my hand beneath her rear end for emphasis. "--I'll turn you over on this bed, take off my belt and beat you until you bleed. Understand that, little white girl?"
She sucked in air and blew it out, then nodded again. I took out the mouth-ring.
"What's your name?"
"What's your fuckin' name?"
"Where do you live?"
"At--you know where I live!" she wailed. Then, "Sorry! I'm sorry! Please don't put that in my mouth again."
I repeated: "Where do you live?"
"1804 Wyoming Court."
"T-Tavenner," she said.
"Tell me your number."
"307-926--my telephone number?" she wailed in panic.
"Yes," I said, grinning.
"Where are you now?"
"In my bedroom?"
"Good," I said, having calmed her down. "Now listen to my proposition."
* * *
"I can't!" she wailed, terrified again.
She began to bawl. "Please! Please let me go! I won't tell anyone. I prom--"
I grabbed her by the nose.
"Owwwwww!" she squalled at me.
"Yes! Let me go! Please!"
I let go her nose and wiped my fingers on her bed sheets. What I had offered her was this: Get her best two friends on the telephone, invite them over, watch me tie them up and rape them. Simple.
"No!" she pleaded again.
"You can do it," I told her.
I picked up her backpack, emptied it on the bed between her legs and looked through the stuff.
"What are you doing?" she sobbed.
I found a designer-purple electronic organizer with pink flowers on the case. Perfect for a fifth grader, I thought; the girl was nineteen. I thumbed the On button and looked inside.
"What are you doing?" she sobbed again.
Her list of friends was eighty-five names long, the organizer's limit. I scrolled through each entry, picking the two most likely based on comments she'd made--Forever, next to Kelley Otstott; The Best, next to Bonnie Meekins. I said their names out loud.
"No!" she pleaded. "You can't do this to me!"
I said roughly to her: "It's five o'clock now. Momma gets home at six. We either do you now, or we do you're friends later on. Make your decision, little girl."
She yanked at her restraints, wailed and shook her head back and forth. "No!" she began to howl. I forced the mouth-ring back in her mouth, secured the ends behind her head and told her, "Then let's rock and roll, baby."
She began to scream.
* * *
She began to scream.
I jumped up and yanked the headset off her ears and stood back. She looked wild-eyed around the room, sucked in air and screamed again.
"Easy," I said, trying not to fall on my ass. "You're home, Jess, safe. No one's going to get you."
She stared frightfully at me a moment, then with dawning horror, then with outrage. "You son of a bitch!" she hollered. "How could you do that to me!"
I sat down on the chair. I took off my headset. "I warned you, babe. I told you not to do it. You wouldn't listen to me, would you?"
She sputtered unintelligently at me a moment, examined her wrists and ankles, sat up and flipped me the bird. "You prick. You son of a bitch. You moron! How could you do that to me?"
I began to laugh.
"You were raping me!"
"No one was raping you," I said. "It's only a program."
She looked daggers at me, then at the computer, then flipped the computer the bird. "I am never," she said, getting up with a huff and stomping toward the bathroom, "having sex with you again."
* * *
I'm despicable. Low-down. A dog. But in the tradition of the best horror films, the heroine got away clean. What more can you hope for in a horror flick?
"You made this for them?" she demanded. Her head stuck out the bathroom door. She shook all over. I shrugged and she hissed, "You're more despicable than they are," and slammed the door again.
Who is Jess? My girlfriend. Who am I? Not a cable repairman, I can tell you that. I develop computer software for the government. What Jess experienced was the latest interrogation method of . . . well, not the CIA. They're too civilized, the CIA. The people I work for don't exist.
In 2001, I helped put online a super-secret, super- expensive simulation program for the DOD. The simulation ran on the most sophisticated super-computer ever built, comprising a real-time simulation populace. Like the denizens of The Thirteenth Floor, the sims suspected nothing. They went about their daily electronic business, polishing their electronic apples, screwing their electronic partners, not suspecting for a moment what comprised them was electrons. A test population on which anything could be run. That was three years ago. I have made it better since then. I made it interactive. I made it available to the People Who Don't Exist.
She came out of the bathroom again. Her hands were clenched. Color had returned to her cheeks. "You miserable bastard," she said and stomped back into the bathroom again.
All things considered, I shouldn't have done it. Never thought it up, not proposed it to my boss, never pushed my agenda. I should never have let Jessica peek at the interactive version, but as she said: I'm a miserable bastard.
* * *
Today it's just a story. Our kids are safe from psycho- mayhem at the hands of hacker-rapists. Tomorrow, once the technology hits the street, once the game developers package it and sell it and put it in the neighborhood outlets: Best Buy, Comp-USA . . . Wal-Mart . . little stands between us and the scenario described above.
Think it won't happen?