Cassie Swenson had always struggled with her weight. She had come to terms with it, and her group of friends were supportive. But moving to a new town and starting at a new school filled her with a dread she hadn’t felt for a long time. She recognized and remembered the fear of meeting an entirely new group of students.
She stood looking up at the school building, dreading walking inside. She forced a smile and began to walk up the stairs. You can do this, she said to herself as she reached for the handle of the door and hesitated.
When she was inside, she went to the principal’s office to get her class assignment and then walked slowly towards the room indicated on the list where her history class was located. She looked through the small pane of glass and saw the class was deep in discussion already.
With a deep sigh she opened the door and the entire class turned and looked at her. She walked up to the teacher and handed him the paper. Mr. Wilkins looked at the paper then at her and smiled slightly.
“Ok class, we have a new student. This is Cassandra Swenson,” he said almost too happily. She leaned in and whispered in his ear that she preferred Cassie. He smiled back and stood back up. “This is Cassie Swenson, please welcome her and make her feel at home.”
“Hello Cassie,” the entire class replied with much less enthusiasm.
“Hmm, very good,” Mr. Wilkins said blandly. “Umm ok, Cassie, please take a seat and feel free to join in anytime.”
She walked down the aisle to the only seat available towards the middle of the classroom as everyone watched her. She felt instantly like she was on display and hated it.
“Ok we were discussing the possible theories regarding the disappearance of the Jamestown Settlement, who has any new ideas that haven’t been addressed yet?” Mr. Wilkins asked brightly.
Debbie looked at Cassie and raised her hand. “Maybe they got eaten,” she said coldly. Everyone in the class laughed when they realized what she meant. Cassie turned away from her and shrank further in her chair.
Later in the cafeteria, she waited online when Stacy Beacham waved her over as she stood with Debbie closer to the front. “Here,” she said slyly, “you look like you need food more than we do, just try to save some for the rest of us.” Everyone on the line laughed as Cassie turned and walked away feeling totally humiliated.
After the day was over Cassie went straight home and ran up to her room. What a horrible day, she thought as she collapsed in her chair and looked at the blank screen. She quickly logged in and looked up ways to deal with bullies at school.
As she looked at the various websites that came up on the list, one stood out from the others. She hadn’t ever seen a web address like this before and the difference intrigued her. She hesitated for only a moment and clicked on the link. Her screen blinked and crackled for a moment. A warning came up on her screen from her virus protection. You are about to enter the dark web. Please be careful what information you share.
She thought for a moment and was about to click the button to close the website when her phone vibrated. She picked it up and looked at the message. There was a new posting on the school’s website.
Since the school is looking for a new mascot, it began, we have a proposal. There was a link to a picture underneath, and she instinctively clicked on it. The pic was very familiar. She recognized the features immediately. The shoulder-length brown hair, the glasses. The face was hers, but the body had been photoshopped into a pig’s body. We will name the new mascot Swineson, the caption under the picture read.
Her heart sank and her eyes welled up. She knew a new school would be hard, but she never expected this after just one day. She tossed her phone down and held her face in her hands trying to fight back the emotions.
As she removed her hands from her eyes, she glanced back at her computer screen. The warning was still flashing on the screen but behind it she saw the words, tired of being bullied? We can help. Without caring about the virus threat any longer she closed her security warning and clicked enter on the website.
Welcome to Bullyproof appeared on her screen in bold red letters. She entered her information to sign up as a member. As usual, she skipped over the fine print agreement. Those things are all the same, she scoffed as she clicked next.
A new screen came up asking her to choose her level of protection. A circle with a red line through it labeled standard, asked if she wanted to simply monitor any references to her name. Under that was a lightning bolt with the words next to it, delete any references to your name as soon as they are identified.
That’s better she thought to herself, but I don’t know. She continued to read and at the very bottom was a skull with the words next to it, Delete Posters.
Hmmm, she thought. Deleting the poster from my social media is probably the best way to deal with it. She clicked on the skull.
Her phone vibrated almost instantly. She picked it up and looked at it. The new app icon was right there in the middle of her main screen.
Bullyproof, you have selected maximum protection click to activate. She clicked on the icon and a scanning bar appeared. It began to fill up very slowly as the app scanned the internet for what it was looking for. It moved very slowly and underneath were the words, this may take a while.
After about an hour, she decided the day had caught up with her and she went to bed.
The clock next to her bed read 1:18 am, when her phone buzzed. The app has finished its scan. Preparing to initiate safety measures, the screen flashed. Instantly the signal from her phone contacted the satellites in orbit and bounced all over the town reaching out to any device that had a connection to any posting about Cassie. It found only two and accessed their information.
She woke in the morning and had almost forgotten that her phone was still searching when she grabbed it to check for any messages. The app indicated it had one match identified. She clicked on it and the picture of the pig came up and her heart sank again. Under the picture was a name. Posted by Deborah Stratton.
She thought for a moment, that was one of the girls in my history class. The name glared out at her and made her angry just seeing it. Click apply to delete poster, the app read under the name.
Without even thinking she clicked on the button and the skull's eyes lit up bright red. Poster scheduled for deletion. It reached out across the electronic connections all over town and linked with Debbie’s phone.
Debbie stood in front of the principal’s desk waiting for him to say something as he read the report Mrs. Applewhite had filled out. “Well Miss Stratton,” he said with a sigh. “Since you like having fun in the cafeteria, you can help Mrs. Applewhite restock the freezer after school today,” Principal Lewis said stamping the paper on the desk in front of him and smiling
“Umm, it’s Friday,” Debbie snapped defensively.
“Very good, Miss Stratton, now that you know the days of the week, we’ll have you up to months of the year in no time,” Mr. Lewis said sarcastically as he handed her the paper.
“Ughh” she sighed. “My dad’s gonna hear about this,” she snapped and snatched the paper out of his hand. She quickly turned and stomped out of the office, slamming the door behind her. Mr. Lewis shook his head disappointedly as he watched her leave.
In the cafeteria, Debbie was watching Mrs. Applewhite stack the boxes on the shelf in the freezer. Suddenly the door closed causing Debbie to jump slightly.
“Don’t worry about that, it’s programmed to do that, so the cold doesn’t get out. But don’t worry, it won’t lock,” Mrs. Applewhite smiled. “This is a new state-of-the-art freezing unit, best in the district.”
“Ughh, I’m sure it’s the greatest if you have nothing else going on in your life,” Debbie sighed and rolled her eyes.
Mrs. Applewhite’s smile disappeared. “I know you’re young and think you’re very hot Miss Stratton, but that’s no reason to be so cold to people,” she said as she pushed the door open to get more food.
Debbie followed her out. “Can we please skip the ethics lesson and get this done so I can get out of here?” She asked impatiently.
“I have a better idea,” Mrs. Applewhite said with a smile returning to her face. “Why don’t you finish this, I’m going to go start my weekend. I don’t have to waste time on this kind of thing with a person like you. Finish this and then you can go,” she said grabbing her purse and walking out in a bit of a huff.
After about 20 minutes she looked at her watch, “Ughh, 6:30?” she sighed. She grabbed more of the boxes and walked into the freezer and was stacking them on the shelf when she heard the door close again making her jump again just a little and drop the boxes. “Stupid machine,” she said angrily as she picked them up and placed them on the shelf.
Her cellphone sprang to life on the counter outside and connected with the freezer unit. The lock was easy to access and was reprogrammed so it activated.
Inside the freezer, Debbie finished stacking the boxes and rubbed her arms to get some warmth back, it felt colder for some reason. She pushed on the door handle and expected it to open just as it had done so many times before, but it didn’t budge. She pushed again this time harder but still nothing.
Outside the freezer, the digital temperature reading was accessed by her phone and began to lower. It was now 0 degrees and was rapidly going down. It passed -10, then -20, then -30.
Inside the freezer, Debbie was pounding on the door but there was no one left in the cafeteria to hear. She was screaming as the temperature got colder and colder. She grabbed anything she could find to try to break the glass, but it was too thick. She saw ice crystals forming all along it and they began to obscure the view to the outside.
By the time the temperature reached -60, her hair and skin began to get covered with frost and the temperature still fell. She sat down getting very tired from the cold and before long fell asleep.
Within minutes the temperature reached -90 and her internal body began to freeze.
Saturday morning, Mrs. Applewhite walked in and found the rest of the boxes stacked on the counter. She shook her head and cursed as she saw Debbie’s cellphone on the counter. “Stupid girl,” she said grabbing the boxes. She pulled open the freezer door, which had previously returned to its original setting, and walked into the freezer.
She screamed as soon as she saw Debbie’s frozen body in the corner.
Cassie came down in the morning and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. It was 10:30 and she’d slept late since it was Saturday, and it was such a rough week. When she walked in her mother immediately hugged her tightly. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry,” she said with her voice trembling.
Cassie looked confused for a moment when she noticed the news on the laptop on the table. A picture of her school surrounded by ambulances and police cars filled the screen. “What happened?” she asked pulling away from her mother and getting closer to hear what was being said.
“Police still aren’t sure how the girl became trapped in the freezer, but it is being called a tragic accident,” the reporter said. “The unit was installed a few months ago and appears to be working fine at this time but it will be shut down until more extensive tests can be done. A candlelight vigil is being scheduled for this evening at the school. Once again repeating 16-year-old Deborah Stratton was found this morning frozen to death in a freezer at…”
“Oh my god,” Cassie shrieked and backed away from the screen. “I knew her, she’s in my history class and..” she caught herself when she remembered the app on her phone.
She raced upstairs and grabbed her phone and opened the app. User Deleted came up on the screen. She tossed the phone down and covered her mouth to hold in a scream. Oh my god, that’s impossible, she thought frantically. It must just be a coincidence.
Most of the school turned out for the vigil that evening. Cassie walked through the crowd, who largely ignored her now with everything that had happened. She noticed Stacy at the front of the line with tears running down her face.
“Stacy, I’m so sorry,” Cassie said as she reached out her arms to hug her for support.
“Ugh, get away,” Stacy said bitterly as she recoiled. “How can someone like you get to live and a beautiful person like Debbie dies so horribly.”
Cassie listened and couldn’t help feeling totally rejected. Inside her pocket, her phone sprang to life as the microphone picked up every word Stacy had said. Cassie turned and walked away slowly with her head hung. Maybe she was hurt and just lashing out, but maybe she was just always a mean person she thought to herself as she pulled out her phone to text her mother that she was on her way home.
She instantly noticed the 1 on the corner of the bullyproof app and clicked on it. The screen lit up with the display and played the recording of Stacy’s voice. One post discovered, the app read. Press apply for deletion.
She looked at it long and hard and listened to the recording again. The words stung more than before, but what if this app did have something to do with Debbie’s death, she thought.
She closed the app and shoved the phone back in her pocket and continued walking. After a few minutes, the phone chimed again and the 1 appeared back on the app. She opened it.
You are tired of being treated so badly, you do not have to stand for it, press apply for deletion, The app wrote.
Cassie thought about it and said “no, no one deserves to die just because of what they say”, she said aloud to the phone.
It will not stop, she will continue, press apply for deletion, the app responded and played the recording again.
Cassie’s blood began to boil. “It would be nice to not have to deal with it anymore,” she said softly.
Press apply for deletion, the app displayed.
She clicked on the skull and the eyes glowed red again as the app reached out and contacted Stacy’s phone. Cassie smiled slightly and shoved the phone back in her pocket and continued home.
Stacy left the vigil and climbed into her car and began driving home. As she approached the railroad crossing, she stopped as the lights flashed indicating that a train was coming. She sighed and waited impatiently.
Her phone sprang to life and connected with her car’s onboard computer. It quickly bypassed the braking system, and the car began to slowly roll forward. In a fit of panic, Stacy reached for the door handle just as the locks went down and sealed her inside. The car continued to roll onto the tracks as she struggled to get out.
She looked out the passenger window and noticed the train lights approaching from around the bend as she struggled to break the glass to get out. The engineer tried to apply the brakes as quickly as he could, but he had no time to stop by the time he had seen her car on the tracks.
The train slammed into her car at 50 MPH dragging it along the tracks in front of it before it finally burst into flames.
Cassie woke in the morning and came down for breakfast only to notice her mother white as a sheet. “I just can’t believe it,” she said as she looked up at Cassie. “Another girl from your school died last night after that candlelight vigil.”
“Once again,” the reporter on the screen said, “another girl, 17-year-old Stacy Beacham was killed last night when her car apparently stalled on the train tracks at Madison Street, this just after 16-year-old Deborah Stratton’s body was discovered at the town’s high school frozen to death in a freezer. Both are being called tragic accidents.”
Cassie looked at her mother, “oh it’s so horrible,” she said. She turned to go back upstairs and smiled a slight smile as she patted the phone in her pocket.