When Sluggo cruises online chat rooms, he isn’t looking for a hook-up; he’s looking for love. But love has a way of being elusive, especially when you’re not being honest. Presenting himself as “Sir Raven,” Sluggo promises his chat room cohorts he’s the “master of the night.”
And then he meets someone who challenges him -- someone who claims the title “master of the night” as his own. TepesAllure’s enigmatic and flirtatious messages to Sluggo start out as fun banter, but quickly turn to eerie disquiet.
As the night unfolds, so do the advances of TepesAllure ... and even when Sluggo tries to escape, he finds that getting out is not nearly as easy as getting in.
NOTE: This story appears in the author’s collection, Unhinged.
Suddenly, Sluggo’s spine stiffened as another shiver washed over him. But this was no chill as the result of the temperature in the apartment lowering because of a thermostat. No, this one -- Sluggo could swear -- had the feel of icy fingers caressing, just barely grazing the raised bumps of his spine, like long fingernails moving down his back. He took a quick glance around the tiny office, wondering where the cold came from and then glanced up at his screen, where the instant message from seconds ago still remained. The cursor blinked at him, almost as if waiting for his next move. And then his heart almost stopped ...
The words “bespectacled piglet” jumped out, as if highlighted. The description, unflattering as it was, was true nevertheless. Suddenly, the lack of spit in his mouth impeded Sluggo’s attempt to swallow. A trickle of cold sweat ran down his spine. “Do I know you?” he typed, fingers beginning to tremble, causing him to have to key in the simple query three times before getting it right.
“We’ve spoken in your dreams.” The words, innocent enough on their own, hung suspended on the computer monitor. Somehow, when strung together, the words took on an eerie menace.
“Seriously,” Sluggo pleaded in his electronic voice, the one he thought of until this moment as throaty and seductive. The game had suddenly lost its allure, its humor, if it had had any to begin with. Now he realized his voice was wheedling, whining, a little too low pitched and dense to be heard distinctly. “You seem to have picked up certain of my physical characteristics and I wondered if you were just a good guesser or if you’re someone I know.” Sluggo racked his brain, trying to recall who at the bank he might have told about his after hours “social life.”
And came up blank.
“I told you. We’ve spoken in your dreams. For the last several months, I’ve visited you there, in that gossamer world, where I found the two of us to be highly compatible.” The fine hairs on Sluggo’s neck stood up.
“And why is that?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“What can you tell me?”
“I can tell you that I can see your worth.”
“Wonderful,” Sluggo keyed in, rolling his eyes.There’s no reason to be afraid. This is simply someone playing with you, someone intuitive, and they’re having a good time at your expense.
“Would you like to know more?”
“Knock yourself out.” Bed -- with its lack of Internet connection -- suddenly seemed like a more viable alternative to what he was doing.
“I don’t think you take me seriously.”