One click and you’re done
When the thin line between cyber-bullying and a real-life nightmare is breached
A ray of sunlight broke through the mullioned window and cast a checkerboard of brilliant morning light across Tashi’s bed. She raised a hand to cover her face, her eyelids fluttering for a while, then opening. She sat up on the bed and stretched her arms, taking in the familiar sounds of the cooing pigeons nesting above her window. For a moment, she couldn’t quite place the strange heaviness in her heart, but then bits and pieces of the happenings of the previous night came back to her.
In her sleep-deprived state, she allowed herself a small hope that maybe all of last night was a bad dream, the product of her paranoia.
She held her breath and checked her phone. The last email on it was “If you don’t listen to what I tell you, I’ll mail your naked pictures to everyone who is even remotely connected to you professionally. I’ll destroy your career.”
Suddenly, the walls of the room felt like they were closing in — blurring her vision, leaving her no room to breathe.
In a gush, all the terrible memories came back. She began sobbing, arms wrapped tightly around her shivering body.
There was nowhere to go — no place to hide her shame at this intense and unexplainable situation. She curled up in bed and faced the wall.
What was happening to her? How could she make it stop?
She took a breath. “Who the fuck are you?” she typed, pulling out the faintest wisps of courage and weaving them around her conscience like a shield. “I am not letting you blackmail me; do you get it? Do whatever you wish, but I swear I’m going to see you behind bars.”
She sent the message on an impulse, but the words sounded a lot braver than she felt.
Within seconds of sending her reply, she had a new email waiting. “If you try to contact the Police, I will bring you down with me. I might be behind bars, but the whole world would know what a shameless slut the innocent-looking Tashi Chotten is.”
She felt disgusted by his choice of words. Who was he to make such comments about her body, about the choices she had made in the past? What gave him the right to call her a slut when he himself hid conveniently behind the mask of anonymity? Anger bubbling on the surface of her emotions, she typed furiously. “Fuck you. You can’t do anything so extreme with just one picture. You’re bluffing — I know you have nothing more on me.”
His reply made her shiver. “If you want to take chances, first see how high the stakes are.”
Attached to the message, was a screenshot of an email draft addressed to all her colleagues in the company she worked. Seven of her naked pictures were attached. The subject read “Sluttiest employee of the month award goes to…” The mouse pointer was hovering threateningly over the “send” button.
“Just one click and you’re done,” read the accompanying text. “If I don’t have a full-frontal nude of yours within five minutes, I will hit send.”
Her breath caught in her throat.
She looked away from the screen, filled with terror. There were hot tears of shame running down her face. All her façade of having kept him satisfied with the selfie earlier came crashing down. This time, the consequences are real, she thought. This time, I cannot get away from this.
She felt violated, bitter at the thought of being used for somebody else’s perverted pleasure.
Her heart was pounding violently against her chest. It was as if wave after wave of fear assailed her entire being and her stomach fell flat to the floor. There was a sharp pain shooting down her legs. She got so afraid that she sat down on the bed and took several deep breaths to calm herself.
The whirring of the fan above was uncomfortably loud in her ears — she shut them with both her hands and screamed in frustration, tears running down both her cheeks.
The time on the phone caught her attention. She had only two minutes left.
Tashi felt suddenly cold, as if she had ice running through her veins instead of blood. With trembling hands, she fumbled to undo the clasp of her dress at the back.
In a single, fluid motion, her nightgown fell down. It settled around her legs in a crumpled mess, leaving Tashi naked.
What happens next?
Does Tashi succumb to the blackmails of the anonymous sender or does she fight back?
Most importantly, who is the person behind these threats and how does he have so much information about her?
The novella— What did Tashi do? — is a spine-chilling suspense thriller depicting cybercrime in India. I will keep posting bits and pieces of the story on my blog, but if you are impatient, you can order your copy here. For today, the book is available for only $0.35.
It is available as an ebook that can be directly downloaded onto your phone or e-reader. The novella is only 80 pages long — you can finish reading it in two hours.