“Are you sure? I mean…”
“Dude, I heard it was amazing - and it’s free! Go on.”
Tim put his fingers to the keyboard, but still hesitated. He took a breath.
Tim glanced over and saw James looking at him with what he would have called derision, had he known the word. He only knew the look James was giving him was making him feel very un-cool, and he just knew James thought he was being a pussy.
“We don’t know what this is,” he said. “It could be a porn site. What happens of that shows up in the History?”
“You’re stalling. We can just wipe the History like we have a hundred times before - when we were looking for porn. Go on. If you won’t, then I will.”
James shifted, as if getting ready to supplant Tim at the keyboard. Spurred on by thoughts of how this story would sound when (and Tim knew it wasn’t if, but when) James shared it around school, Tim quickly typed the web address: Hell.com.
He pressed ENTER before he could think.
The page went blank as the cursor became the small swirl that meant ‘thinking’, and ‘sending request’ appeared at the bottom of the page. Seconds went by, and Tim found himself hoping they were about to see the ‘DNS Look Up - Failed’ notice, that the whole thing was just a stupid high-school story. Then the screen filled, and James’s voice came from beside him again, reduced to a rough whisper.
Fire bordered the screen - not stylized artwork or a still-shot, but a moving, high-quality rendition of flames so realistic Tim could almost feel the heat. Centered in the frame was a box bracketed by two women … beautiful, curvy, and above all, naked women, who were smiling and crooking fingers, beckoning them closer. As they watched, the gesturing became more forceful, the women lifting their breasts toward the camera in an obvious offering . Again, seconds went by and Tim was wondering when the loop would re-start, had begun to think that maybe it wasn’t a loop at all, when James nudged his shoulder.
“Go on, join! This is just the gateway page, I gotta see what’s really in there! Join!”
Tim’s eyes refocused and he saw what James was talking about. He’d been so distracted by the women he’d missed the contents of the box.
The cursor swung across one woman’s jouncing backside and hovered over Join.
“What could it hurt? We’ll probably get stopped when they ask for a credit card, but maybe they show more on the sign-up pages. Just do it!”
Tim clicked Join and the box changed. The women still writhed and gestured, but Tim got the impression they looked somehow…. happier. As if they approved.
Tim felt another nudge.
The box now held questions: Username, password, verify password, all the stuff he’d expect to find when setting up a new account, except…
“It doesn’t ask for a credit card,” said James in surprise. “They don’t even ask our age or anything! Oh, we are so in!”
Tim filled out all the fields, clicked SUBMIT and the screen changed. Now there was a list of membership levels, from Economy, which automatically charged 1% per month, all the way up to ‘Executive: Full Access!’, which cost a flat 75% with ‘No Monthly Fees!’
“Percents?” Tim wondered. “Percents of what?”
“Dunno,” said James. “Try that.”
His finger tapped the lower corner of the screen, where Tim now saw the words ‘Methods of Payment’. He pointed. He clicked.
Hell.com deals only in Souls or portions thereof,
payment to be made immediately upon agreement of contract.
“What the Hell…” Tim whispered, then blanched.
“It’s free?” James was incredulous.
“That’s not what it says,” Tim began, but James cut him off.
It’s imaginary crap, like monopoly money!” He saw Tim’s expression. “Fine. Go for the ‘Economy’ then. You can always cancel it later.”
Tim clicked on the word ‘Economy’. Was it his imagination, or did he feel a small wrenching? A little chill?
Thumbnail images filled the screen, each showing a tiny woman (or women) performing various acts. Some were with men, some were with women, and some…
“Dude,” James whispered as he touched one of the thumbnails marked at 5%. “Is that a… a pony?”
Beneath each small picture was a percentage - the cost. One percent, three, five, all marked out and (apparently) payable immediately. Breathing rapidly, Tim clicked the ‘Sign Out’ in the corner of the screen.
“Dude! What are you doing?”
“I don’t like it,” Tim shuddered.
“It’s not real! It’s like play money!”
Tim knew he was right, but there was something…
“I still don’t like it.”
James blew out air. “Get out of the way and I’ll start my own account.” He pushed past Tim and filled out the form. He hesitated at the ‘Membership Levels’ page, then chose ‘Economy’. The page of thumbnails came up, and James started clicking.
They saw many things that day. The cost tally box stood at 21% when James clicked on the image containing the pony, and that one turned out to be too much for Tim.
“I’m getting a snack,” he said to a mesmerized James. “Be right back.”
“Dude,” said James, his voice strangely flat, “There has to be more. I’m going to upgrade.”
“Whatever,” Tim said, and was back five minutes later, sandwich in hand.
“Hey, you know what I—”
He stopped dead. James sat in the chair, head thrown back, mouth and eyes open wide.
James didn’t answer. Didn’t move. Didn’t breathe. Tim stepped forward and the screen caught his eye. The sandwich dropped, unnoticed, to the floor.
Executive Membership Upgrade Complete
Current Total: 101%
Thank You for Joining Hell.Com
Tim looked from the screen to James, and back again. Sudden words flashed across the screen in his mind: 1% per month, deducted automatically.
“Oh my God!”
He needed to cancel his account! He was breathing fast as he grabbed the mouse and clicked ‘Sign In’. The screen went blank for a moment.
Sorry, the Website www.Hell.Com can not be found.
Tim checked the address, then hit ‘Refresh’.
Sorry, the Website www.Hell.Com can not be found.
He looked at James, cooling in the chair. He thought about the wrenching he’d felt. He clicked ‘Refresh’ again. He tried to figure out just how many years 99 months added up to but was crying too hard to think it through. He hit ‘Refresh’ again.
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