A Painted Serpent
All your life, you have been a motivated young woman. It was not your doting mother or your devoted father that motivated you. It was not even your siblings with whom you have shared almost all your waking hours that motivated you. Your motivation came from that overriding emotion that has the ability to petrify you sometimes or quicken your spirit at other times. Whenever you had to decide between two courses of action, that emotion was always at the back of your mind prodding you to take the safer route, and you took that route almost all the time. Or did you? It was an overriding fear. Not fear of failing or fear of criticism, but an overwhelming fear that your parents who have loved you so much and given up so much for you, may one day perceive you as a failure or criticise you as such.
You picked up your cell phone, absent-mindedly ran your forefinger over the fingerprint sensor, and the screen lit up. You half-expected that the image would not be there. But there it was seemingly staring back at you. The image and the message that came with it was the sum of all your fears. You blinked as tears blinded you. How could you not have seen this coming? A picture of your unclad self? You stared at it and wondered where it came from. You didn't recall taking such a picture of yourself. You tried to determine when the picture was taken. Surely, the image was real because you were intimately acquainted with your own breast, your belly, your body. The smile on your face was genuine, you were happy.
You tried to think back to the time you owned that t-shirt that laid by your side but your mind was blank. Whoever sent the picture must have known that the room in which that picture was taken was too much information to be allowed to show in the picture so that was covered with a huge emoji, leaving just your naked body with that smile on your face. But you had an earpiece in your ear, a white earpiece. Maybe you were face-timing with someone when the person screenshotted your image and waited until this moment. Your hopes rose. If that image was obtained from a video conversation you had with someone, that meant a fewer number of suspects. Who did you allow to see your naked body over the Internet? you thought. That was a concise list indeed, but you could not even remember ever showing your body to any person over the Internet. Why was your mind playing this trick on you? You are not accustomed to forgetting the things you should remember.
"Relax. Relax," you told yourself.
There have only been two guys with whom you have been in love, all your adult life. Love! It could make you do crazy things. You read the message that came with the picture again:
You have been a naughty little girl, haven't you??
I have some assignments that I want you to do.
If you fail to do any of them, I shall forward this picture to your father.
After that, I will start posting them on your facebook wall and tagging all your friends and family so they can see what little whore you have been.
Or, perhaps I should add you to a Facebook Group for little whores like yourself and make you really popular? I can barely decide. You have a date. See you at 9 am tomorrow.
You thought about it: the Facebook profile that sent you that message was familiar to you, too familiar. It had the name of your present boyfriend. You knew instantly that it was not him. He would be shocked to learn that a human being can be that cruel. But why did the blackmailer use his name? You thought about it and decided to call him. He answered after the first ring.
"Hey baby, what's up?" he answered, being his usual cheerful self.
"I'm alright. Good morning," you lied. How would you begin to tell him that you have messed up yet again? You kept quiet.
"Baby, are you there?"
"Yes, I am here."
"Okay, you weren't saying anything and I am just driving out of the house. Can I call you back later?" he said.
Typical him! He always preferred texts to phone calls. You could not keep this load on yourself any longer. You had to share it with him as a matter of urgency.
"Do you have a second Facebook account?" you blurted out.
"Yes, you know I have another Facebook account, but I abandoned it years ago. What's up?" he asked.
"What's the name on that old Facebook account? Someone sent me something from an account bearing your name."
"Please screenshot it and send to me. That way I can check if I know who it is, but it definitely isn't me. Alright?"
"Okay, I will. Bye," and the line went dead.
That's odd, he thought as he swerved the car into the dual carriage way. He knew that something must have had you worked up.
After the call, you felt better that you had someone with whom you could share the burden, someone who would not judge you, but the problem did not go away. Your father had just returned home from the hospital due to health issues resulting from a rise in his blood pressure. You knew that he did not need this picture to add to his worries. You were frustrated. You did a screenshot of the sender's name and sent to your boyfriend, then you decided to send him the message and the picture that came with it before you had time to change your mind. You did not know how the news would make him feel, but you have to trust his equanimity.
You needed to vent your frustration somehow. You picked your phone again and typed:
"What do you have to gain by doing this?."
Almost immediately, the response came, "What do I have to lose?."
"What assignment were you talking about?."
"Nine AM tomorrow. Don't rush me, b!tch!"
You stared at the response in disbelief. You were then sure that your boyfriend could not have anything to do with this person because you had never heard him swear or call anyone names. You had noticed him almost cringe away when someone else used the words in his presence. You wondered who could be tormenting you, but your mind came up blank.
Your phone beeped again, another message, but this time it was Ugo.
"Could you come over tomorrow night? We need to decide what to do about this?."
"Okay. I will. Are you angry?."
"Of course not. This is not your fault," he replied.
You breathed a sigh of relief: he was with you on this. For a minute, it seemed that the problem had gone away until you remembered the irreparable damage the picture could do to your father's weak heart. You wondered how that lowlife knew to use exposure to your father as leverage. It must be someone that knew you very well that was behind those antics, but who?
You could not sleep that night because all you could think of was what would happen if those images were sent to your father. You thought of stealing his phone and deactivating his Facebook account, but the man kept his phone close, besides you did not have the heart to go through with it.
It took forever for 9 AM to arrive. You did not expect him to keep to time, but he did.
"First assignment: Go to your page and write 'I will not be a whore anymore because it is costing me my happiness'."
"Second assignment: Buy bitcoin and let me know when you do so. I will send you an address to which to send it."
You did not know what to do, but you knew that you were not going to send the blackmailer any money and that meant that you were not going to capitulate to any of his demands.
You called Ugo and informed him of the development. He did not seem worried about it.
"Do you want to pay him off?" he asked.
"Good. Then just ignore him completely. You can deactivate your facebook account if possible, but ensure that you never respond to him ever again," he said.
"But he will send the picture to my dad and he claims to have a video," you lamented.
"So, do you want to pay him off?"
"So ignore. But you have to tell your father," he said, as calmly as before.
"Oh, no. I could never!" you said
"Did you take a nude picture?"
"Did you make a nude video?"
"So what exactly are you afraid of? The only weapon the lowlife has is that he feels he is in control of the narrative. But you can take the narrative and write it how you will. If you tell your father that some lowlife has doctored images of you and is threatening to send them to him, I believe you can convince him not to open such an image. You can leave Facebook for good and we can take down any site he publishes pictures of you. But I am confident that he has only that one picture."
You thought about it and realized that you did not have to worry after all. Talking to your father was not as easy as he made it sound but it turned out better than you thought when he handed you his phone and asked you to delete facebook from it.
That was when you realized that the dark cloud that hung over you those days were mere gases and the threat that made your life hell was just a ghost story, a painted serpent. You reported the fake account that the blackmailer used to contact you and facebook blocked it. You set your account such that people who were not friends could no contact you. You had no doubts that the lowlife had not given up, but you knew that you had taken away his biggest gun.
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