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FICTION: ARE YOU SMILING NOW? By Sarah Marie  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Soon I’ll be watching your every move.

Don’t bother looking over your shoulder. I’m not right behind you. That’s such a twentieth-century way of doing things. It’s just not necessary for me to be close by - not when I have the Internet and my smartphone. Isn’t technology wonderful, to allow us to look at each other from several miles away? I could be just up the street right this moment, waiting for my chance and laughing because you’re starting to get scared.

You aren’t terrified, though. You’re not paying that much attention to this yet. Yes, you’re reading and thinking that it’s kind of a funny joke. You think I’m making this up to entertain you, or maybe to amuse myself.

That’s not entirely wrong.

I am amused by all this.

But I’m really on my way to you. Don’t forget that for even a second.

And when I find you, you’ll wish you’d never heard of this magazine.



***



Just call me James.

Until two months ago, I was a government contractor. There are lots of us, doing all sorts of things, but my job was to develop better surveillance equipment. The military, the spooks, the fibbies – they all used stuff that came out of my lab.

So, if you think about things a bit, you’ll realize that you – assuming that you’re a taxpayer – paid me to help your own government spy on you. When we were in the lab, we came up with all kinds of improvements and, sometimes, wholly new systems.

One of my favorites was a special blend of ink.



***



When you go to sleep, you think your home is safe. With doors locked and drapes drawn, nobody can see what you’re doing. You can sleep naked, scratch your butt, or pee with the bathroom door open. In bed, you’re as close to being the real, uncensored you as possible because strangers have no idea what you’re doing.

You’re wrong; your home isn’t private at all. Just as soon as I can get there, I’ll be watching you drool on your pillow, pick your nose, and fart into the sheets. That probably won’t be very interesting, but the possibilities beyond it are fascinating. Soon, I can check up on you any time without leaving my seat.

I can keep a very close eye on you up to five miles away from a coffee shop, a parking lot, or some other, safe place. But nothing says I can’t get closer. Maybe I’ll borrow a little space in your attic or your neighbor’s storage shed.

I can be a few steps away from you, hiding behind a newspaper or magazine and watching your every move. You don’t know, and I’m not telling.

There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Look all around – you won’t find me! You’ll be chasing your own shadow, trying to find the bogeyman (or is it woman?) lurking over your shoulder.

I can watch your every move thanks to my phone. It’s a wonderful tool, it really is. You’ve seen spy cameras before; some of them are the size of your fingernail. They can be hidden just about anywhere, really. It’s not hard to make them transmit the images to my phone which, by the way, is an ordinary model you could have bought for yourself if you were in the market for such things.

I have a secret:

I didn’t turn in all of my toys when Uncle Sam fired me.



***

The lab was doing good work. Just ask a soldier if you don’t believe me. Last year, I came up with the ink. My bosses loved it and almost immediately told the spy shops, the military, and all the other government workers all about it.

Then, two months ago, Mr. Talbert came into my office and told me to pack my things; a security guard would escort me out the door in ten minutes.

If you think that was humiliating, you’re right. Everybody in the lab saw me lugging my cardboard box of junk out the door with Charlie right beside me. He wouldn’t look at me the whole time we were walking to my car. He just stared ahead and didn’t say a word to me.

Charlie, who had a good job because of me. Without my work, the lab wouldn’t have had anything to offer the government except a few small changes to stuff that they already had. That ink was all mine. The government loved it, but Talbert fired me as soon as field reports confirmed it really was as good as I said.



***



When I catch up to you, I’ll bug your home so well that you can’t even inhale – take a normal, easy breath – without me knowing everything about it. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. Right after you leave your home, I’ll be in, planting my tracking devices and getting ready to welcome you back after a hard day at work, or the grocery store, or the gym. Wherever you go, even if you only leave your place for a few minutes, I can get in and out before you come back.

Just think: with a couple of button pushes, I can be right there in your bedroom with you. Tomorrow morning I’ll have half a dozen photos of your messy bed head. And if you live with other people, well, I’ll know all about their weird little sleeping habits as well.

Do you have children? I wonder. But I won’t wonder for long.

Are you smiling now? Is this still a fun little story to you? I hope not. I hope you understand what you’re getting yourself into.

You won’t be able to find the dozen or so transmitters that I have in a box on my desk right now. They’ll be hidden in your home. The day I find you, I’m going to move in and get to work on it. You won’t be able to stop it. I have ways of getting in almost anywhere.

Maybe I’ll slip in while you’re at work. I don’t know yet. But when I make that plan and put it into action, you’re in deep trouble.

I’m smart enough to get into your home and plant any devices I want, anywhere I want. You can check for wires and little camera eyes. You won’t find them, no matter how hard you look. The camera can be almost microscopic because it’s only sending a signal to a remote transmitter. This transmitting device, I assure you, will be hidden someplace you’ll never look. And even if you do, you won’t find anything. Isn’t technology wonderful?

I can’t wait to find out who you are! The first step – getting you to read this story – is almost complete. When you’re done, I’ll be on your trail. Just give me a couple of hours and I’ll have every piece of information I need: your name, address, phone number…I can even get into your high-school records if I want to read about you snoring through detention or blowing an exam.

Maybe there will be a few photos of you on my wall soon. I’ve done that with some of the other people I’ve followed, but not all of them. That way, I can go to sleep looking at your face: memorizing every detail so I’ll immediately know you when we meet.

Uncle Sam wasn’t grateful for the fact that I gave him tracking devices concealed in ink. Yes, ink: the same substance all over the magazine in your hands. We tested it on a newspaper in the break room; I painted the dot of a lower-case “i” and asked Charlie to take the paper to the recycling bin for me.

Every second of the trip, I knew exactly where Charlie was, all because there was a small piece of software on my phone telling me.

Charlie had no idea, even after I got the paper back and asked him to see if there was anything unusual about it, that I’d done something.



***



It doesn’t take much ink to dot one “i” – a character in the magazine you’re holding right now.

But first, I have to get this story published. That may take time, but I’m patient. Because I was so excited to try this the first time, I took out a classified ad in the local paper’s “lost and found” section. According to my three-line ad, I was looking for a missing dog: a cute little terrier that answered to “Uncle Sam.”

When the classified ad was published, I dabbed a bit of my special ink on a copy sitting on the front desk; I’ve been staying at various hotels, you see, because I don’t remain in one place very long these days.

You’ll like the pictures I took. I’ll be sure to show them to you when we finally meet.

That worked so well – the classified ad – that I did it three more times. Karen. James. Burton. Thom. Their pictures are right here on my phone, where I can enjoy them whenever I want.

But that’s too easy, and I always wanted to be a writer anyway. This way, you know I’m coming. It’s a challenge, and the small check the magazine’s editor sends me will be a nice memento.

It may take some time to get this into a magazine. There’s not much of a market for this type of story anymore, I’m sorry to say. I wonder if you’re old enough to remember when magazines like this crowded out the rest of the publications on the newsstands?

But that’s all right. I still managed to get it published, obviously. Quite a few people will see this story. Many of them will laugh it off and toss the issue aside; it’s just a big joke to them. I hope they enjoyed this little tale; I certainly had fun writing it. I guess that, if the feds ever figure out that these creepy little stories are actually pre-crime confessions, they’ll really appreciate all the clues. But in the meantime, you should be careful.

When I get the call saying this will be published, I’m going to wait for my nasty tale to go to publication. I’ll be there, at the bookstore near the hotel I’m calling home right now, waiting to browse the magazine section.

And I’ll have some of that special ink waiting.

But I won’t be there when you buy the magazine. I’ll be busy getting ready to come find you.



***

I’m not going to tell you any more of my plans. All you really need to know is that I’m coming after you … and that, in person, I’m not a very nice human being.

You’re probably convinced that this is part of the story. Or, if not that, you’re most likely thinking that some other loser got the copy with the special ink.

I wouldn’t stake my life on those possibilities. That’s not very smart at all. The odds are in your favor, sure, but remember one thing:

If it is you, then you certainly aren’t getting out of this alive. That wouldn’t be very exciting, especially for me. Uncle Sam fired the wrong person, and I’m going to prove that.

If you’re smarter than the other people I’ve tracked down, you’ll look for a strange person: someone who doesn’t really belong in your area. You probably think I’ll be easy to pick out of a crowd. Some people really believe that killers look like crazed lunatics, that we can’t blend into a group of people.

But that’s wrong. And you don’t know what to look for anyway. Am I a man or a woman? Did I publish this under a pen name? Is my hair long or short? What if I look so ridiculously normal and boring that you don’t even notice me reading a newspaper or driving up your street?

I hope you’re smarter than the other people I went after before you. They weren’t very amusing. None of them even noticed me – not until I was in their homes and had my nice, sharp knife against their throats.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 2:52 AM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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