by Damon Nomad
A cautionary tale for Writing.com, an online writer reacts to negative reviews.
| Killer Comments|
by Damon Nomad
Kevin opened the front door to the two-story townhouse; he could hear the muffled sounds of cooking in the kitchen. He hung his jacket in the closet and peeked into the kitchen, "Mona, I'm home, it's Friday, a quick dinner so I can get to it."
She shook her head, "I know, you and your stupid game, it's sick Kevin."
"It's not a game, it's an experiment." He scurried away and headed up the stairs to get changed.
Kevin quickly changed his clothes; he loved his few hours on Friday and Sunday nights torturing the idiots on Bookster. He had never admitted it to anyone, even Mona but he had always wanted to be an author. Last year he found the website for Bookster, a bunch of posers who thought they could write. He was sure he could do better if he had the time. He had even started a novel years ago, but it sat half-done on the laptop hidden in a folder labeled Muscle Cars. Users sign up for free accounts on Bookster, posting their stories, some people just read. Some writers have fans that follow their work, sometimes even making donations for a work they thought was particularly good. Kevin didn't post any writing he didn't even really read; he spent his time posting public comments. Nasty hurtful barbs. He avoided curse words and certain language; he knew that would get him kicked off the site. He had fine-tuned the art of the hurtful critic, based on a quick scan of a short story or novel chapter.
Kevin headed down the stairs and hurried into the Kitchen. Mona was just finishing the burgers and fries. He grabbed the plates and set the table, "I hope Asimov's Brother has something new, he is a lot of fun." Asimov's Brother was the user name for an intense sci-fi writer on Bookster.
Mona frowned with a loud sigh as she sat down, "I don't get it. You're a cyber stalker or lurker. You probably really hurt some of those people. I really don't like this side of you. Find another hobby for your online time, watching porn would be better than this, it's just mean-spirited."
Kevin shrugged. "They shouldn't take it so seriously, a bunch of amateurs, who think they can write. It's just a few hours a week, it's interesting to see how people respond, a study in human nature." His mind wandered as he gnawed on some fries, was Mona right? Was it a dark compulsion, driven by jealousy of people pursuing his secret passion? He snapped out of it; no, it was harmless fun. He would post comments on Friday and Sunday he would check in to see the reactions, giving the fragile egos most of the weekend to stew over his jabs.
Kevin finished cleaning and putting away the dishes and headed towards the stairs, Mona was watching TV in the family room. Kevin tapped his fist lightly on the banister, "No more than three hours."
Mona grimaced, shaking her head in disgust, as she channel-surfed looking for something to watch. She muttered to herself, "Isn't there anything with clever writing anymore?" Crap I sound like Kevin.
Kevin settled into the small study down the hall from their bedroom. He logged on to Bookster, his username was Critical Reader. He saw his first victim right away, a new chapter from Asimov's Brother. He quickly scanned the chapter. Kevin knew the guy was a pretty good writer but his profile was just so pretentious, said his goal was to write full-time as a professional. Kevin's profile said he had a master of fine arts and had been chief editor of the literary journal in college. He had an undergraduate degree in accounting and didn't know if his university even had a literary journal.
He took a sip of soda thinking of the right barb. He put the soda bottle down and started typing in the public comments. The flow and structure are adequate, however, your weak verbs and adjectives still need work. What is most lacking in this piece is a compelling storyline. Why would anyone keep reading? Try harder.
Kevin snorted a laugh as he moved on to other victims, like a shark prowling the deep ocean.
Kevin was just about ready to log off when he saw a new user had joined Bookster. He smiled, mumbling to himself, "Hmm, a newbie, got to take a look." Kevin read the profile of Allan Poe; said he writes crime thrillers. Kevin rubbed his chin slowly, what a presumptuous username, this guy might be fun. He continued reading the profile, Alan Poe will be posting short stories and expects to publish novels, wants to make the best sellers list. Kevin felt a tingle of excitement, this guy was a perfect specimen for experimentation.
Kevin clicked on the first story that Allan Poe had posted, his immediate reaction was the graphic violence in the first paragraph. He kept reading and quickly spotted several grammar and spelling errors.
Kevin grumbled to himself, "I really could write better than this, like shooting fish in a barrel with this new kid." He quickly typed in the public comments dialog box, The violence is in poor taste and the piece is so riddled with spelling and grammar errors that people will not take you seriously.
Sunday evening Kevin settled into the study with a cup of coffee and his laptop ready to reap the rewards of Friday's work. He started reading the public messages and responses from the wounded victims. He could not help feeling a guilty sort of pleasure. What did people call it? There was a word for it. Schadenfreude, that was it. He suspected Mona might be right, this was not a healthy habit but he couldn't control himself.
Kevin sipped his coffee before he opened a private message from Allan Poe, the new kid wants to cry in private. He clicked on the message. Never comment on my stories! Do it again and I will blow your brains out.
Kevin sat up straight, a bit startled. Why am I worried he doesn't know me. He stared at the bold hyperlinked text at the bottom of the message, YOU ARE HERE.
Kevin clicked on the link as curiosity got the better of him, if it was a virus his security software would take care of it. The browser brought up a new tab, ISP search result on email link for Critical Reader, Kevin and Mona Bosley. Below their names was a small map with a star, and their address. Kevin's pulse quickened, and he felt a bit anxious.
Kevin picked up his mobile phone, to see what his brother Keith thought about the threat. Keith is a cop and lived about three hours away. Kevin went through a quick explanation of what had happened, worried this guy might come after him.
Keith sighed, "Kevin why are you doing this? You are just inviting angry reactions; it doesn't sound healthy."
"I didn't call you for a lecture about morals, should I be worried, what should I do?"
"I don't think it's a serious threat, anyone can track down an ISP like that and find your name and address, a database, and some online software. What are the odds that this Allan Poe lives close enough to even come after you? He could live a thousand miles away for all you know. He's not going to attack you for commenting on his stories. Just don't use him as one of your lab rats anymore. Even better, just stop doing this and try and write something yourself, when you were a kid you said you wanted to write stories."
The next Friday Mona was out of town, visiting her mother after minor surgery. When Kevin got home from work, he decided he would get an early start on Bookster. He grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge he would order pizza after he got a few jabs in. He scampered up the stairs and sat down at the computer, he saw it as soon as he logged in, a new story by Allan Poe, he would just take a quick look.
He finished the first beer as he scanned the story, he started to comment and stopped, why provoke the guy? He smiled like a mischievous child, why not? Keith was right, the guy probably lives a thousand miles away. He opened the public comment dialog box, typing quickly. Please stop posting this rubbish, to save you from looking it up, rubbish is the same thing as garbage. He moved on, ripping through several Friday victims as he finished off another beer. He slouched back in the chair, picked up his mobile phone, and ordered a pizza. He headed downstairs and grabbed another beer from the fridge. He plopped down on the sofa to watch a ballgame on TV as he waited for the pizza.
As Kevin was sitting down to watch the game his mobile phone quietly vibrated lying next to the laptop in the study, a text message from Keith. Checked into the person behind the Allan Poe writing handle. The guy is dangerous. Served ten years in prison for manslaughter, he beat a man to death with a tire iron. Lives across town from you; Steer clear!
About twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang. Kevin jumped up off the couch, that was quick. He grabbed some money and opened the door, a gun staring him in the face. He never heard the shot.
Homicide detective Evans listened to Mona as she described what her husband did on the Bookster website, she knew his username was Critical Reader. It was the only thing she could think of that would make people angry at Kevin. She sat across from Evans at the kitchen table, wringing her hands, eyes reddened from crying, "Have you ever heard of this website, can you find who might have been angry at him?"
Evans nodded, "Yeah, I know about it, we can see if there are any leads." Evans had been on the site for years, he wrote sci-fi as Asimov's Brother. "We might find something, but it could take some time."
As Evans walked back to his car, he felt a twisted sense of relief, no more steely knives from Critical Reader. He felt bad for Mona, but he had a backlog of other cases. This was probably nothing more than a simple robbery. No one would kill over negative review comments, would they?