Picture This By Vincent Vena Cava

Picture this.

900,000 people are reported missing every year in the United States alone. You heard that number correctly. Don’t believe me? Look it up: 900,000 people. A staggering 2,300 people are reported missing daily. Now, let’s be clear; many of these cases are solved relatively quickly and I’m not talking about bloated corpses found floating in rivers or dismembered bodies turning up somewhere off the Jersey Turnpike.

Of the 900,000 people who are reported missing annually, around 850,000 of them are kids. Most missing children tend to fall into one of two categories: runaways who eventually return home safely or family abductions. The latter of which occurs when either the mother or father runs off with the little ones because of a domestic dispute or divorce.

As far as adults go, a large portion of missing cases typically involve people who are suffering from drug or alcohol abuse. These addicts have a tendency to go on benders, disappearing from their friends and families for days on end while they pump their bodies full of booze and illegal narcotics. A surprisingly high number of reports are concerning senior citizens suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s. You’d be surprised how often they wander away from their caretakers and get lost. Usually it doesn’t take very long for the police to locate the disoriented old-timer and bring them back to the nursing home.

Given these facts, we see the number of people (both children and adults) who are abducted by strangers is actually relatively small. Only about 150 of these kinds of abductions are estimated to occur in the United States annually.

Now picture this.

You were an artist – a painter who specialized in Impressionism.  

You loved art all your life. You saw a coffee table book when you were 12-years-old that had a picture of “Blue Dancers” by Edgar Degas and you couldn’t look away from it. You were mesmerized by the colors, the brush strokes, the way the girls in the painting contorted their bodies. To you, they didn’t even look like dancers – they were a meadow of Morning Glories swaying in a gentle breeze. You knew right then and there that you wanted to create something as gorgeous and spellbinding as that picture.

You studied the greats: Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, and of course Monet. When you turned 15, you started taking art classes after school at the local community college, but you never shared your passion with anyone – not even your closest friends and family. You were afraid of what they might say. What if they laughed at you? What if they told you that you that your paintings were sloppy or ugly? What if they told you that you didn’t have talent or that you’d never create your own “Blue Dancers” one day?

So you hid your passion from everyone you knew. Whenever you finished a piece you tossed it in the garbage because seeing your art in a dumpster was better than the possibility of hearing your friends make fun of it.

You wanted to study art in college, but society told you that only morons do that. Instead you opted for an engineering degree. Your parents were happy. You graduated from school and got a job where you sat in a cubicle and made $55,000 per year. You spent all day every day musing about what it would be like to wake up each morning and do nothing but paint. You tried to keep up with your art, but you never had the time. Your boss asked you to work weekends every chance he got and when you did have a second to yourself you were too tired to do anything but watch TV or surf the web. You started to hate yourself for being so spineless – for not pursuing the only thing in life that ever made you feel good. You fell into a depression.

Picture this.

An estimated 1 in 10 adults suffer from depression. That means there are at least 31 million people in the United States who feel lost. Who feel hopeless – who feel like the world would be a better place without them and you were one of those people.

You wore a mask in front of your friends and family. That part was easy. You had been hiding your passion from them all your life; you could hide your depression too. Nobody at work could see how much you were hurting, but when you got home you lay in bed and you cried. You thought about downing an entire bottle of aspirin, but you were afraid of what people would say if you survived. You stood on the edge of your bathtub with one end of a belt looped around your neck and the other fastened to the metal rod of your shower curtain while you weighed the pros and cons of suicide. You spent hours surfing the Internet, visiting forums, looking for a way to save yourself. You even went so far as to post questions anonymously, pleading for help.

Then you got the piece of advice that you believed you were searching for – from Reddit of all places, a website famous for stupid cat pictures and bastardizing the word meme. It came in the form of a comment in a thread you made about feeling suicidal. You didn’t see the commenter’s username, in fact, you were so excited after reading their advice that you closed your browser’s window before checking where it came from. It didn’t matter who they were in real life anyways, as far as you were concerned those words were sent straight to you from your guardian angel, watching over from heaven.

Try finding a creative outlet, your web-surfing savior said. I picked up painting as a means to channel my depression. Whenever I’m feeling down, I grab a brush and get to work. It helps to serve as a fantastic distraction.

So picture this.

You took that guardian angel’s advice and ran with it. You swore off suicide, called your mom and dad and told them you love them. The very next morning you woke up and headed to the library where you spent the entire day reading about your favorite artists – the painters you had idolized your entire life. For hours you looked at photos of their works and it made you feel young again. Then you stumbled upon a book with a picture of “Blue Dancers” and you found yourself awestruck, just like that time when you were 12. It was that moment you decided to quit your job and follow your dreams.

Your mom and dad weren’t happy, but they understood when you told them about your depression. They always thought art was just a mild hobby and had never actually seen one of your finished paintings before. It took all of the courage you could muster to show them a piece you prepared for them. After all, it was more than just a picture to you. It was your heart, your dreams – it was a piece of your soul. It went better than you expected. The painting made your dad smile and your mother tear up. Since you had no job, they let you move back in and turn your room into a studio until you could figure things out.

And picture this.

You turned back to the Internet for advice, only this time you weren’t looking for someone to talk you off a ledge. You wanted tips on color blending and assistance on applying primer. You started posting pictures of your work to various forums looking for guidance, but you got more than you bargained for. You began receiving compliments – total strangers telling you how much they loved your art.

A few people even commissioned pieces from you. You sold your first painting for $300 to a newly wed couple in Minnesota who said your art would be perfect for their new home. It was surreal. All you ever wanted to do was paint and now people were paying you for it. You opened an online store, started a blog, and even built a website with links to all of your social media accounts. You began to rack up followers on Facebook and Twitter. A couple of your paintings were blogged around the Internet thousands of times. An art enthusiast magazine even did a feature on one of your pieces. It wasn’t on the cover or anything, but it was an honor just to get a tiny blurb.

Eventually, you made enough money to move out of your parents’ house and get a small apartment of your own. You certainly weren’t rich, but you got to wake up and do nothing but paint every day, just like you always dreamed.

One morning you opened your eyes to see a half finished commissioned piece staring back at you from across the room. Rays of early morning sunshine shimmered in through the window, falling on the partially completed painting. It glimmered in the daylight. You thought about how lost you would have been if not for that guardian angel on the Internet who convinced you to paint your sadness away. You smiled to yourself – the first time in a long time that it wasn’t forced because you knew that you were finally happy.

But picture this.

When one begins to receive admirers they also start to attract critics – people who question how or why you got to where you were in your career. Some of them were jealous. They wanted what you had. Many of them were artists in their own right who didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention you got. You found their hate silly. After all, it’s not like your paintings were touring museums around the country. You were barely scraping by, but they couldn’t support themselves with their art so they hated you.

Some of your other detractors weren’t artists at all. They were trolls who couldn’t stand to see another person happy so they did their best to knock you down a peg. They used the cloak of anonymity to message you through Twitter just to call you names. They told you that your work was “crap”, but when they said that they weren’t just insulting your paintings, they were insulting you. Remember, your art was a reflection of your heart, your dreams – it was a piece of your soul and these sorry excuses for human beings, hiding behind idiotic user handles, were shitting all over it.

And then something strange happened. You no longer heard the praise and the compliments. They were still there, but almost muffled in a way – suffocated and drowned out by a vocal minority who only wanted to see you fail.

You fought to prove yourself – to paint something that would make even your most overly zealous hecklers change their minds about you, but the more of your heart you poured into your work, the harsher their words became. The closer you got to creating your very own “Blue Dancers”, the more hate and vitriol they spewed at you.

It began to consume you. It was all you could think about.

Picture this.

Hacking isn’t nearly as difficult as Hollywood would have you believe it is. You don’t need to be a zit-faced computer whiz that spends 18 hours a day in a dark basement eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew to learn how to do it. You don’t even need to know how to get around firewalls or disassemble code. All you need is patience. Patience and the understanding that people, even anonymous Internet trolls, get a little too comfortable and give away personal information without even thinking about it.

Now picture this.

The haters kept coming for you. Every time you posted a picture of your work or announced another sale on Facebook, there they were, popping up like a rash of puss filled herpes sores. One commenter in particular really got under your skin. His username was Dark_Painter97 and every remark he made on your art blog was rude and spiteful. “Overrated”, he called you – “unoriginal” and “uninspired” as well. You could see the resentment seething out of every comment he left underneath your posts.

You had grown sick of his cyber-bullying. Part of you wanted to see what this keyboard warrior looked like in real life so without thinking you clicked on his username. The link directed you to the profile page of his blog, but he didn’t have any pictures uploaded to it. However, a caption in the “about” section caught your eye.

It said: Follow me on twitter @Dark_Painter97.

You checked out his twitter account to see if this anonymous jackass had posted any photos of himself. He hadn’t, and his profile picture was just some stupid cartoon character, but you did notice he was very active on his account. He went back and forth, tweeting jokes with one particular user quite frequently – a teenager whose user handle included his real name with a very clear face pic. They appeared to be good friends. You realized then that the “97” in Dark_Painter97 was most likely a reference to the year your tormenter was born. It made sense. It takes a certain amount of immaturity and free time to cyber-bully someone and teenage boys have both of those in spades. You performed a Facebook search of his friend’s name and found him pretty easily. His profile page had the privacy functions disabled so it wasn’t hard to poke around.

This teenager only had about 125 friends on Facebook so you began filtering through his list, looking for boys who were born in the year 1997. It only took about an hour of sifting through profile pages until you found something that struck a chord with you. It was a boy who fit the bill. He was a smarmy little weasel who looked like he hadn’t been outside a day in his life. Everything about his face irked you: from his bird’s beak of a nose, to the pair of bulky, camouflage print Oakley sunglasses he was wearing in his profile pic. You wanted so badly to smash his smug smile into paste.  

Then you looked at the info section of his page and you felt the light bulb in your head slowly begin to brighten.

Likes: Gaming, Manga and Painting

Ok, that’s a check, but liking to paint doesn’t automatically make him the culprit.

Birthday: June, 26 1997

Double check.

And of course…

Follow my art blog @Dark_Painter97

Checkmate, bitch.

You had him. You knew what that insufferable little troll looked like, where he lived, you even knew what high school he went to. In just over an hour and a half you had learned everything you could ever want to know about him. But what were you going to do with your newfound information? According to his Facebook, he lived a state away. That’s a long way to go just to tell someone off. You told yourself that driving over state lines for the sole purpose of yelling at some idiot kid was crazy, but you couldn’t stop yourself. It was like someone else had taken control of body. Before you knew it, you were on the Interstate, halfway between the teenager’s hometown and your apartment.

You stopped off for a burger when you hit his county and looked his parents’ information up on your cellphone. Finding their home address was easy. The time was around 4:00PM when you pulled up to his house. According to their Facebook pages, his mom and dad both worked nine to five’s so you figured they wouldn’t be home yet. You could see the little brat through the window fiddling around on his computer, probably leaving another disparaging comment on the latest picture you uploaded to your blog, either that or looking at porn. Things had worked out too perfectly for you. You had come too far not to give him a piece of your mind so you pulled your car into the driveway and knocked on the front door.

You could tell he was confused when he answered it. He had no idea who you were, which was something you found funny. If you had spent as much time as he did harassing someone on the Internet, you figured you’d at least recognize them if they were standing at your front door.

You opened your mouth to speak. You even pointed an accusatory finger at him, but his entitled little face made you so damn angry. You blacked out.

When you came to your senses you were standing over him in the foyer. Now that arrogant look on his face was gone. Instead, it appeared as if a cherry bomb had exploded in it. His nose had been mushed into pulp and his left eye was completely swollen shut. You were taken aback with yourself. How had it happened? You weren’t even a violent person. In fact, you had never planned on causing the kid any sort of physical harm.  

You looked at the grandfather clock against the wall; it was 4:30. Where had the time gone? Who knew how long you had before his parents got home? Charges started to rattle off in your mind: aggravated assault of a minor, burglary. Who knows, maybe even attempted murder? If they caught you then you’d do the next 15 years in prison for sure. Goodbye art career. Then you had another thought. If you just ran off, the snotty little shit might be able to identify you once he came to. So you panicked.

You slung his unconscious body over your shoulder and carried him outside to your car. Lady luck must have been on your side because there was no one else in sight. You dumped him in your trunk and backed out of the driveway as fast as you could before speeding off to make your getaway.

Only about 150 people get abducted by strangers in the United States annually. Now this kid was one of them and he was locked in the back of your trunk.

Picture this.

One in every 15,000 people is murdered in the USA each year. Doesn’t that number sound high? It’s true though. Don’t believe me? Look it up: one in every 15,000 people. Calculate those stats over a 75 year lifespan, and that means there is a one in 200 chance that someone will try to kill you.

It’s a terrifying thought, really. In comparison, your chances of getting hit by a car are only one in 600, which means you’re three times more likely to get gutted by a knife wielding maniac or shot by a jaded ex-lover then you are to get run over by a minivan whose driver was texting while speeding through an intersection.

Now picture this.

You made it back inside your apartment with the kid. It was late so you were able to smuggle him up to your unit under the cover of darkness. To your knowledge, no one had seen you. You were safe for the moment, but you were sick to your stomach about what had transpired. You remembered the warm fuzzy feeling you got after reading the advice of your guardian angel and you were pretty sure the mixture of emotions that were now brewing inside you was the exact opposite. You wondered what kind of guidance that anonymous angel of the Internet would give you this time. But what were you going to do? Start a thread on Reddit about it?

TIFU By Assaulting And Kidnapping A Minor

The kid was bleeding profusely from the mutilated chunk of flesh hanging off his face that used to be a nose. You placed him in your bathtub to prevent him from gushing all over the floor of your apartment while you thought about how to rectify the situation.

Tears began to well up in your eyes once you realized how screwed you were. You were no criminal; you were an artist. But artists don’t beat their critics to within an inch of their lives.  

“I’m sorry!” you cried out to the kid, whose body, a broken pile of pulverized meat, lay motionless in your tub. “I never meant for this to happen.”

You feared he would die in your bathroom before you could muster up the courage to call him an ambulance. You knew you had made a terrible mistake and needed to own up to it, but you were so afraid of going to prison.

Between your sobs you heard a whimper. You peered up to see the kid begin to stir. The eye that wasn’t swollen shut made contact with yours. His sclera was as red as a dog’s dick and you could tell he was straining to focus, but he was staring right at you. The teenager’s whimpers transformed into something that resembled a low gurgle – almost as if he was drowning on the blood that had pooled in the back of his throat. But you realized he wasn’t drowning, he was laughing causing your concerns to give way to confusion. He forced out a few grunts in an effort to say something, his voice whistling through the broken teeth, jagged shards of bone that you had shattered with your fists.

“Y-you’re that fucking shitty artist, aren’t you?” he groaned.

His gurgling laugh began again and you understood it was directed at you. He had won. With nothing but an Internet modem and a laptop he had successfully derailed your career and he knew it too. You were going to spend the rest of your life in prison. With that thought, a fiery rage swelled inside your chest. You didn’t deserve what the little shit had done to you. All you wanted to do was make art, to paint your own “Blue Dancers”, and this entitled piece of trash had taken it away from you.  

There was no blacking out the second time. You were fully aware of what you were doing when you mounted his body and began to pummel his face. With each blow, you could feel his cheekbones collapse more and more underneath your knuckles. You clawed at his eyes like a rabies stricken animal then forced your hands inside his mouth and pulled at his jaw, popping it from its hinges. And when your arms got sore, you stood up and let your boots take a turn at the kid’s cranium.

Picture this.

It takes 200 pounds of pressure to crush a human skull.  

By the time you had finished wailing away on the teenager his head looked like a plate of pink and purple mashed potatoes. One in every 15,000 people in the United States is murdered every year and now the kid whose brains were currently spilling down your bathtub’s drain was the newest casualty of that statistic.

You washed his blood off your hands in the sink and tried to calm down a bit. After looking back at the headless corpse in your tub you realized you were a little frightened with yourself, but it wasn’t because you had just murdered a teenager in cold blood. It was the sensation of ecstasy washing over your body that worried you. It felt amazing, like you had just lived out a fantasy. Not a sexual one – stomping the kid’s skull in didn’t get you off, but it was more than a little empowering. The snotty turd deserved everything he got, but now you had a new problem on your hands.

It didn’t take a criminal mastermind to know that keeping the kid’s body in your tub was a bad idea, but getting rid of it wasn’t as simple as chucking it down the trash shoot. You were an artist though, and artists have creative minds. So you did what creative minds do. You got creative.

Picture This.

On average, 75 people are arrested in the United States for having sex with the deceased every year. Don’t believe me? Look it up. 75 people. This is especially concerning considering there are four states, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and North Carolina, where necrophilia isn’t even against the law.

Of the 75 people arrested for making love to the dead annually, nearly half of them work in mortuaries. Given these facts, one can assume that funeral homes are a magnet for necrophiliacs. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, it seems like the dream job for someone who indulges in that kind of fetish.  

Many psychologists believe that only a small fraction of these people actually have sexual attractions to dead bodies. Most engage in necrophilia due to social anxieties. It’s the fear of rejection or the body’s inability to perform under pressure that causes people to stray down this path. Corpses can’t laugh at the size of your penis or roll their eyes if you can’t get it up so people find comfort and safety in the dead. It is for that reason that a staggering 94% of necrophiliacs are men.

Just like any sexual fetish, necrophilia has its own dark little community on the Internet. If one looks hard enough, they’ll be able to find forums where users anonymously trade pics and tell stories of their latest sexual conquests. Well, I say anonymously, but as I explained before, when it comes to the Internet, people have a tendency to get a little too comfortable and give away their personal information without even thinking about it.

So picture this.

You opened up your laptop and did a little digging. Google is magic; within minutes you were perusing a forum full of cadaver loving freaks. An hour or two of browsing and you stumbled upon a thread that sparked your interest. In an off topic, throw away comment, one of the perverts claimed to regularly visit a pizza joint not more than five miles from your apartment before engaging in his morbid sex-capades.

After scanning his comment history you saw that he often bragged about how his job supplied him with an endless stream of what he called his “real love dolls”. It turned out he was a mortician who really enjoyed the alone time he spent with the corpses he was supposed to be beautifying.

You created an account and messaged him, claiming to be a 19-year-old girl who was really into watching guys screw stiffs. When he asked for verification you scrounged up some pictures of your friend’s little sister and sent them to him. People are gullible when they want to believe something and this guy really wanted to believe that a cute coed was interested in perverts who fuck dead bodies.

He sent you a face pic. When you preformed a reverse image search it directed you right to his Facebook page. The idiot had even messaged you his profile picture. His Facebook page did indeed confirm that he was a mortician and even listed the name of the funeral home he worked in. You smiled to yourself when after looking the place up you read that it had a crematorium. However, there was something else you found out about him after digging through his information – something you found very useful. The pervert had a family too – a wife and an 11-year-old son.

You sweet-talked the mortician through the night, encouraging him to tell you about the disgusting things he does to newly arrived cadavers. He said that he wanted to fuck you on top of them. It turns out he was one of the few necrophiliacs that didn’t have a fear of performing. This sicko was just genuinely attracted to dead bodies. You told him all the nasty things you knew he wanted to hear. When you asked for a dick pic, he was more than happy to oblige. The picture he sent you was a full-body nude with his erect cock and face clearly visible in the frame.

The two of you made plans to meet up at the mortuary after hours for a little ménage et trois with a 24-year-old model who had recently died from a coke overdose. For some reason, he always seemed really excited to tell you how his “real love dolls” had passed. You assumed it was part of the fetish.

You showed up at the funeral home the following evening with a manila folder full of hard evidence. He broke down and started crying when you explained to him that he’d been duped. You presented him with the photos he sent you and explained to him that you had screenshots of the previous night’s conversation saved and backed up. The mortician begged you not to show his wife. Apparently she had caught him once on top of a 17-year-old girl who had perished in a car wreck. His wife was pregnant at the time and only stayed with the mortician for the baby’s sake, but she had informed him that if she ever found out he was doing it again, she’d call the cops and take his son away from him forever. He tried to make you go away by writing you a check, but you refused the bribe. You hadn’t come for money.  

You explained that you needed him to help you make a body disappear. The plan was simple. The funeral home had a crematorium and all you needed was access to it. The mortician reluctantly agreed to help you in exchange for keeping his revolting secret under wraps so the two of you headed out to your car and hoisted an oversized duffle bag containing Dark_Painter97’s body out of your trunk. You carried it inside, but when you asked the mortician to direct you to the crematorium he waved his hand.

“I’ve got it from here,” he told you. 

You shot him suspicious look and informed him that if he was planning on going to the police, your evidence would be in his wife’s inbox the next day.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re safe. The kid will be ashes by the end of the night.”

He asked you how the teenager died so you told him your story.  

“Wow, I get murders from time to time, but that sounds especially brutal,” he responded after hearing your grisly tale.

When you were finished, you thanked him for his help and started out the door.

“No, thank you,” he said.

His remark left you puzzled. It wasn’t until after you started your car and pulled out of the parking lot that you realized what the mortician was showing his appreciation for. You had delivered him a new play toy – a “real love doll” and he was going to have some fun with it before he sent it off to the incinerator.

Picture this.

Roughly 85% of the country’s population has access to the Internet. That means approximately 270 million people in the United States alone are connected to the world-wide-web. Of that 270 million, a little over half have profiles on active social networking sites, which makes the number of people using Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Tinder, and all the other flavors of the week tally somewhere around 135 million.

You were one of the 135 million. So what did you do after having just gotten away with murder? You hopped on social media to help yourself forget about the past couple days. The problem was, images of Dark_Painter97’s caved in skull kept flashing through your mind. Even worse, you couldn’t help but picture what that perverted mortician was most likely doing to the partially headless cadaver you had brought him.

Your thoughts turned back to your guardian angel. You hadn’t logged back into your Reddit account since that hero of the Internet had rescued you from your depression. It wasn’t necessary. Up until a few hours ago, you had believed yourself to be relatively happy. But the day had been a traumatic one so you decided to check in on the cyberspace superman to see if he was still crusading around, searching for lost souls to save.

It took a minute for you to remember your password, but once you logged in you navigated the site to find the old suicide thread you had made. It stung more than you thought it would to reread the post. It reminded you how black the world seemed back then. You scrolled down the thread, looking for your guardian angel – the one person on the planet who seemed to understand you.

The comment was still there and you began to read it, hoping that you would again be able to pull something useful from the sage advice that had once saved your life, but you stopped halfway through. You had seen something that made your heart rise in your throat because for the very first time, you had read your guardian angel’s user name. 


You rubbed your eyes and looked again just to make sure you weren’t hallucinating, but the text on your monitor hadn’t changed. You came to a realization that made you feel physically ill.

Approximately 135 million Americans are active on social media sites and you had murdered the only one that had given you a reason to wake up in the morning.

It was utterly ridiculous. How could a human being be so sympathetic and understanding one day and such an obnoxious little twat the next? It was like a bad dream. You felt as if a war for your sanity was being waged inside your head. Part of you wanted to laugh at the irony of the situation. Another part of you wanted to cry. You ended up spending the entire evening staring at an unfinished piece leaning up against the wall of your apartment, not even able to remember whom you were even painting it for. Did it matter? It was like the whole damn world had lied to you.

It wasn’t until morning that reality started to sink in. Perhaps the sun helped to burn off the fog that had been shrouding your brain since your revelation, but for whatever reason you no longer felt helpless. You realized that all this time, you had been using your guardian angel as a crutch – leaning on their words of wisdom whenever you felt like you couldn’t stand on your own. Unfortunately, it turned out you had been worshiping a false idol. In reality your champion had been a chump all along – just another jealous wannabe who only cared about seeing you fall. The sick part was, you knew Dark_Painter97 was just the tip of the iceberg. You had other critics. Worse ones – and they deserved everything he got. Maybe even more. That strange feeling of ecstasy had once again returned only this time it didn’t make you feel frightened. It made you feel unstoppable.

Picture this.

Every avalanche starts with a single snowflake. Contemplate that for a second. It’s a crazy thought, but it’s absolutely true. The fact that a force so deadly and dangerous can come from something so innocent and harmless is remarkable.

When you first started snooping around that annoying Internet troll’s twitter account you couldn’t have had any idea what it would lead to. There was no way to predict that mere hours later you would be passing off his headless corpse to a mortician with a fetish for the dead. There was also no way to anticipate the other murders it would lead to, but after discovering that you had killed your guardian angel, you felt like there was no point in simply ignoring the rest of your critics.

So you sought them out and made them pay for every hurtful comment they ever messaged you. You started with those who only lived a day’s drive away. Like a predator hunting its prey you’d stalk them, laying in wait for the perfect time to strike. Their deaths were usually agonizing ones. You made sure that each and every one of your victims suffered painfully. The mortician was in your back pocket. You still had the ability to blackmail him. He feigned frustration with his predicament, but both of you knew he was happy with the arrangement. After about the third or fourth “love doll” you brought to him, he began making requests.

“I’d really appreciate it if the next one you brought in didn’t have teeth,” he would say to you. “Can you get me someone who maybe has a genetic birth defect?”

You entertained his bizarre fetish. After all, it didn’t matter to you what happened to the bodies you were bringing in, as long as they were a pile of ashes in the morning. The mortician had a network of people like him – hardcore cadaver humpers across the country. Many of them also worked in funeral homes and had access to their own crematoriums. Things probably started to snowball out of control when you found yourself going on vacation just to off another critic.  

Painting had become secondary to you. It no longer thrilled you the way murder did. You only kept doing it and posting photos to the Internet as a means to find more people to kill. You no longer strove for perfection in your art – “Blue Dancers” had drifted further away than ever. You started to purposefully make mistakes in order to attract more negative opinions. After a while, you didn’t even care if the people you were hunting were offering genuine constructive criticism or not. No one was safe.

But even an avalanche finally reaches the bottom of the mountain.  

One day a detective showed up at your apartment and started asking questions. He was trying to connect the disappearance of two of the people you had killed. You could tell by the look in his eye that he didn’t consider you a suspect yet, but you knew that he was smart. It would only be a matter of time before he put the pieces of the puzzle together and realized what you had done. 

So picture this.

You packed up your belongings, emptied your bank account, and left town that night. You didn’t want to rot in prison so you moved to the other side of the country and changed your name. With a haircut and a pair of colored contact lenses (you always wanted hazel eyes) you started a new life for yourself.

In a few days you would read about yourself in the news – an up and coming painter who suddenly disappeared without a trace. 900,000 people are reported missing every year and now you were one of them. A few days after that you were the main suspect in the deaths of the two people that detective had questioned you about. The cops were never going to find you though. You were too smart for them.

But there was a problem. People still needed to die. Laying low for the rest of your life just wasn’t an option, but you knew the police would be looking for a painter so you picked up a new type of art, one that was sure to attract its fair share of critics – writing.

Given your actual motives, you figured horror was an appropriate genre to publish in. You created new social media accounts under your fake name, and even used photos of a guy you went to high school with who had died in a motorcycle accident for your profile pics. People seemed to enjoy the stories you posted on the Internet and after a little while you began to get popular. Your tales were read on forums, translated into other languages, some of them even received hundreds of thousands of views when narrated on Youtube.

Now that your work had become well known, you began to do little things that you knew would encourage criticism. You used run-on sentences and purposefully made small grammatical mistakes in hopes that someone would try to correct you. From time to time, you even wrote stories in a second person narrative, knowing full well just how polarizing it can be for readers.

You stayed connected to the mortician and his network of perverted funeral workers. Your trap had been set and now all you had to do was lie in wait for critics to come along who couldn’t resist tearing your work to pieces – and along they came. Like a moth to a light bulb, people were drawn to the flaws you had engineered into your writing. They pointed them out, under the cover of anonymity, but the masks they wore were as flimsy as papier-mâché.  

There is no privacy anymore – no way to truly remain faceless. If someone wants to dig hard enough, they can learn as much about you as your closest and dearest friends.

So let me ask you a question. One that I’m sure a lot of you will laugh off once you realize whom this story is about, but one that you’d be wise to take very, very seriously next time you post to the Internet.

Are you picturing it yet?