Meg flipped open her books, one after the other, and began her work. She scanned the highlighted pages, looking for what passages mig-
A sudden “thump!” hit the kitchen counter and speckles of this morning’s coffee flew onto the thin pages of Meg’s books.
The querying cat had nudged Meg’s mug enough to create small stains of russet on both Fahrenheit 451 and 1984.
Meg noticed the cat was attempting to claw at the large string hanging off her sweater’s sleeve. Percy had the tendency to constantly attack any kind of hanging string- something he had done since Meg adopted him. He loved swatting the string between his soft yet sharp paws, but the only thing he ended up swatting was Meg’s coffee onto her busywork.
“I know it was an accident.”
Gently lifting his grey mane from the counter, she coddled the devious cat and kissed his head.
“Trust me,” she placed Percy onto the ground and went to the cupboard to grab him his breakfast. “I would much rather play with you than type this out for work. But it needs to be done before the engagement party tomorrow. Deadlines, Percy. I have deadlines.”
She pulled out the tin of cat food, and wiped her perpetrating brow with the back of her wrist. “And, of course, I have to meet Stan’s parents.”
Meg and her fiancé, Stan, hadn’t met each other’s parents before. Odd? Yes, but the two had met only months ago and decided that they were both madly in love. In fact, Stan was taken by Meg when she was assigned to be his college English tutor. Stan has always been one for sciences, technology, and mathematics, and Meg the opposite. She found herself painting and listening to classical music- artistic things that Stan just wouldn’t understand. But, as the old saying goes, opposites attract. While one college, the two helped each other out- where Meg struggled, Stan succeeded. He taught her how to use and apply computers to her English work, and with his assistance, Meg created an online archive of their school’s creative writing magazine. Meg spiced up Stan’s Computer Science papers with synonyms and syntax. The two had always cared deeply for one another, so when Stan finally asked Meg out, it all seemed to fall into place. Like magnets, Stan and Meg we’re enthralled with their opposing soulmate and hardly ever spent their time apart from one another.
But Stan told Meg that although his parents never met her, they immediately despised her. Stan told her they had no interest in their relationship. And why, if they never even met the girl? Maybe it was because the two had gotten engaged after only one year of dating? Meg didn’t know. She just knew she was bitten by the love bug and was immediately set on her marrying Stan.
Or maybe it was because Meg wasn’t a virgin? His parents knew Stan was. Although she had only slept with three other men, that was considered taboo. All were her ex boyfriends, but that didn’t matter. Meg had lived with those ex boyfriends, too, and found it odd when Stan told her that his parents forbid him from living with a woman before marriage. So every day, Stan would come over to Meg’s, but he never stayed the night. The two had only consummated their love with a kiss or two, nothing more. But lately, Meg noticed Stan’s distance. He didn’t visit often. She was fearful of his cold feet and told him she’d be willing to do anything to make things right.
“You know I love you Meg,” Stan stated with anxiety in his tone, “But if you can’t impress my parents, I cannot marry you.”
Meg had never been one to try and impress, but there was just something about Stan. His dark hair and tan complexion drew her in. His brown eyes always captivated her. His physique was broad and muscular. Not only was he smart, but he was handsome. Every girl around campus used to swoon over Stan.
Meg felt rather plain compared to him. She always wore her hair in ponytails (and her hair was brown, not blonde like all of the pretty girls who flirted with Stan). She was rather flat-chested and thin. In high school, cruel bullies often said she looked sickly. But these were just flaws that Meg saw. Stan told her she’s beautiful. He really believed she was the prettiest girl he’d seen.
So, once again, Meg wondered why Stan’s parents didn’t like her, when they didn’t even know her…
Anyways, Meg thought, back to work.
She plopped Percy’s food into his bowl and sat eagerly down at her table, determined to finish her work. Massaging her knuckles, she eagerly turned her buoyant blue eyes to the laptop. “Alright,” she lifted its hood and the light illuminated her pale face.
Few seconds of silence passed before Meg started hacking away at her keyboard. The little red light adjacent to her camera looked as if it were flickering to the beat of every other letter she typed. She simultaneously pulled a beat-up notebook from her knapsack and sipped her lukewarm espresso. After a few lackluster sentences, her fingers broke from the keyboard’s gravitational pull. Her hands clasped the adorned copy of the notebook and she set her eyes on the many jotted-down quotes from the two books.
“Slavery is freedom,” Meg mumbled into her keyboard, typing the chilling line from Bradburry’s Fahrenheit 451.
And with that iconic sentence, Meg’s fingers once again darted at the keys. Each tiny finger attacked the various letters of the alphabet- she was on a roll. An hour or so went by, and her article was complete. Small, but simple, the article perfectly articulated Meg’s thoughts.
“Annnnnd post!” She announced, clicking the mouse. And just like that, Meg’s article “The Relevance of novels like ‘1984’ and ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Today,” was posted under her pseudonym (aka, her initials): M.A. Lawrence.
Meg wrote weekly for an online publication titled “Logic.” Being that it was the first week of September, Meg took it upon herself to write an article on a few books she read in high school that greatly affected her ethics.
“1984,” by George Orwell, was her first choice, obviously. She followed that selection with “Fahrenheit 451,” by Ray Bradbury- another classic. And after hours and hours of reading religious materials, Meg had come to the conclusion that Allah sounded like he belonged in one of these twisted utopian societies. .
Nevertheless, she decided to compare “Big Brother” to internet privacy, or the lack of, as Stan would say. And she found herself comparing the reliance on technology to the burning of books. “Internet Privacy,” she mumbled. Meg wasn’t one to care about that sort of thing. She joked that Stan should start wearing his tinfoil hat, since he’s become such a conspiracy-driven man about these sort of things. His laptop’s camera was blacked out by electrical tape and he often encouraged Meg to do the same thing. Meg had heard horror stories about hackers forcing their way into women’s laptop cameras, but she insisted to Stan that she wasn’t worried about that sort of thing happening to her.
“And if someone does hack my camera, they’re not going to get a peep show! They’re going to see a 23 year old girl in desperate need of a shower glued to her keyboard. I only use my laptop for typing articles.”
Stan was, of course, angered by her peep show comment, but respected her opinion and stopped inquiring about her webcam.
“I trust you to make the right decision,” he said, kissing her forehead.
The notification had completely disrupted her day-dreaming.
“A comment on the article already!?” Meg asked herself as she wiped her hands in the dishtowel. She rushed to the computer and sat down with the eager intention to hear her readers’ thoughts.
But instead, she was met an anonymous comment underneath her post:
Megan Lawrence, Are you aware of your popularity on a website titled ‘Global Gurls’?
Meg was confused.
She blinked a few times, but that was really all she could do.
“Global what?” She asked into her computer screen.
Looking up at her webcam, she noticed the normally blue light was flickering red. Something took control over her body and she slammed her thumb over the little camera. In a moment of quick thinking, she grabbed a band aid from the counter and tapped it over the flashing red bulb.
Something was not right.
She instantly took to Google to search of the site, only to find out of its pornographic nature. Her jaw dropped in horror, and upon one search of her name, video after video popped onto her screen.
It was as if someone had photoshopped Meg into the video! In a fluster, she called Stan, hoping his computer experience would help her understand what is going on and why. Stan had rushed to Meg’s as fast as possible.
Stan was cold. His face was practically made of stone. He didn’t change expressions when Meg insisted the videos weren’t real.
Meg told him she did not understand how these videos came to be.
“‘Deepfake,’ Meg.” Stan disgustingly shook his head. “I told you to cover that webcam. I told you.”
“What is deepfake,” Meg asked in extreme panic. “You never told me that someone could do this, Stan! Okay!? I’m not knowledgeable of this sort of thing.”
“It’s new technology. I’ve been reading up on it. It gives people the ability to place your face on someone else’s. If what you’re saying is true, this is “deepfake.”
Tears flooded Meg’s eyes.
“Stan, why would I lie?! Do you think I live some sort of double life!?!”
Stan didn’t look her in the eyes. He shook his head disapprovingly.
“You don’t listen to me, Meg.”
“Who could’ve done this?!? And why to me?! Of all people I-”
In a fury, she snatched back her laptop. Indeed, it seemed that deepfake was the technology used. The videos were slightly off- but somehow still convincing.
“I could get fired! I could-“
Meg realized that the user who had uploaded these videos went by the name “stp4456” which was… ironically Stan’s initials and the last four digits of his phone number.
Meg’s eyes still fixated at the username on her screen.
“Your initials,” she finally mumbled.
Stan’s expression didn’t change. Meg swallowed hard and muttered out:
“Your phone number.”
“What about them?”
“The username.” Her anxiously bitten fingernail pointed to the screen.
And as swift as Percy had latched on to Meg’s sweater string, Stan wrapped his thick bicep around Meg’s neck.
“Stan! What the hell are you-”
Squeezing her tighter and tighter- Meg wasn’t breathing. A sudden blurb of blackness clouded her eyesight.
Blinking hard, she finally opened her eyes to see herself tied to her bed stand by the wrists.
She kicked, she shook herself, and she screeched. Well, she tried to screech, but Stan had duct taped her mouth shut. Her eyes burned with the salty tears of anger. Confusion flooded Meg’s mind.
Her door flew open. In walked Stan, with his video camera, a gift that Meg had got him for his birthday last March. He set it on the dresser and hit the red record button.
He slammed his broad body on top of her legs and laughed at her struggle.
Chuckling, he cruelly stated, “Keep kicking. You’re not going anywhere.”
He ripped the duct tape from her mouth. In a fit of rage she shouted “HELP ME” and Stan silenced her with a slap across the face.
“Shut up!” he shouted with his hand suffocating her mouth. “Listen to me. For once, you’d better goddamn listen! When I take my hand off of your mouth, you keep it shut.”
He lifted his grizzly palm and Meg spat in his face. He once again laughed at her struggle.
“What the hell is happening?!?!” Meg asked in desperation.
“You’re helping me make money. You’re going to do what I say. If you act out,” he pulled out a sharp pocket knife, “well, you don’t want to know what’s going to happen.”
He took his knife to her shirt, slicing it down the middle. It separated, revealing bare and boney skin.
There was no doubt in Meg’s mind that it was Stan behind these pornographic clips. Someone who had easy access to her electronics; someone who had the ability to create these fabricated videos.
“Why me,” she asked firmly.
“Because you were perfect,” Stan laughed. “You think that English degree was going to help you solve this one, Nancy Drew?”
In a fit of rage, she slammed her forehead into his.
“Who has the knife?!?!” He shouted into her face, hanging the weapon over her neck. “Smile for the camera.” He gestured the weapon at the lens.
She then noticed Percy enter the room. He seemed to be fixated on her.
Meg had then noticed that Percy was inching towards her chained wrist- her sweater’s limp string dazzled his sight. Meg started to wildly shake her wrist. In a frenzy, Percy leapt onto the bed, catching Stan off guard.
But as he went to hurl Percy from his straddle, Meg kneed Stan directly in the groin, as hard as she possibly could.
Stan screamed and dropped his knife. Meg first cut her wrist free. In a fit of panic, she sliced Stan’s cheek.
“You’ll be damned if you think I won’t stab the shit out of you,” she said, shoving the knife to his throat.
Stan laughed. He slyly moved forward- but he was no longer a match for Meg. She impaled his abdomen.
Percy fled the room and blood soaked the white sheets. Meg swiftly cut free her other wrist, followed after the cat, and the two ran into the street.
There stood Meg, 5 years later.
Stan had lived, received jail time, and she was now a best-selling author. Her book? “Dancing with Death: My Fiancé was a Cyber Criminal.”
But still, Meg felt as confused as before. Yet, she was hopeful and still writing for Logic. In fact, she had just written a new article, about Stan’s recent release for good behavior.
Her blue camera light turned red- flickering faster and faster.