The screen on the smart device turned from black to sunrise orange as the sultry female voice of its artificial intelligence began to whisper her alarm.
“Rise and shine sleepy head it’s 13:00 hours, time to get up.”
The figure under the duvet stirred and pulled the cover over his head.
A groggy voice called out from beyond the warm plush bed cover, her soft voice rising slightly in volume with each successive alert.
Like a corpse rising from the grave the young man sat up, yawning and stretching.
“Alegra, cancel alarm. What’s the twenty-four-hour weather forecast for today?”
“Cloudy with sunny spells with a thirty percent chance of rain at 16:00 hours.”
Her voice was cheerful as always.
“Thanks for that Alegra.” He replied sarcastically.
“Happy twenty-first birthday Robert.” Alegra said, bursting into an awful rendition of the Happy Birthday song.
Robert sat on the edge of his bed smiling at the cheesiness of the song, scratching his head with one hand and rubbing one eye with the other.
Heading to the bathroom, he sat on the toilet and urinated; the first wee of the day always sprinkled on the floor. Better sit than piss on the nice clean tiles, he thought.
His home was beautiful; he was a successful influencer and made millions from his YouTube channel.
Twenty-one and a multi-millionaire; he had the ‘X factor’ and knew how to create interesting video content.
With over one hundred million subscribers his content had given him a lavish lifestyle.
TV promotions, book sales, and sponsorships had netted him a very handsome income; he wanted and needed nothing.
His life was perfect.
Perfect, apart from the leeches and spongers that hung onto him for what they could get.
He didn’t really have anyone he could actually call his friend.
They thought they were friends – he just saw them as users.
Heading downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast and coffee, he could see that the mailman had been by. On the floor lay a pile of envelopes; he guessed some were birthday cards, maybe a few bills and the normal junk mail.
Picking them up, he scanned through them and placed them on the kitchen island and made himself coffee and French toast.
He clicked the remote and the TV came to life. He switched it from the news to a music channel; he hated the news – all doom and gloom.
Sipping his coffee he started to open the morning’s post. The blue envelope was a card from his mother, the pink one a funny card from one of his so-called friends. Two brown ones were bills and a white one was from another company offering a sponsorship deal.
The last one was a red envelope. There was no stamp, no address or sender details. It was completely blank.
It appeared it had been hand-delivered. But how?
His property was completely secure with high walls and razor wire, complete CCTV coverage, an alarm and electric gates.
How did they get to the front door?
Only the postal service had the entry code.
He opened the envelope and slid the card out. The front of the card was plain; it had no picture or birthday greeting.
Opening the card, Robert looked down on the message within.
There was no normal handwritten message. It looked like a ransom note made from letters and numbers cut out of magazines and newspapers.
All it read was:
Dropping the card, Robert coughed and choked on the French toast he was chewing. It must be some kind of joke, he thought.
The television turned itself off as Robert glanced up at the black screen.
Reflected in the shiny blank TV was a figure standing behind him.
Everything went dark as a baseball bat smashed down on the back of his skull.
When consciousness returned, Robert’s arms were yanked behind the back of the chair, his wrists secured by handcuffs. His legs were bound with restraints similar to those used by lovers of bondage and in his mouth was a ball gag.
He could not move or speak; fear racked his trembling body as wave after wave of tremors cascaded through him.
Snot and mucus dripped from his nose and tears welled up in his terrified eyes.
Trying to communicate with whoever his torturer was, he mumbled incoherent words as he dribbled and choked on his saliva.
Where was his assailant?
A rubber-gloved hand came down and rested on Robert’s shoulder.
His screams were stifled by the ball gag and terrified, he urinated on himself.
“Relax now Robert, the show is about to begin.”
The computer screen booted up and the figure opened the YouTube website. It was already signed into Robert’s account.
The rubber-gloved figure selected GO LIVE, and the camera and microphone activated.
Standing behind Robert was a figure all dressed in black; a red gimp mask covering their face.
“Coming to you live via the magic of YouTube and the wondrous wicked web…
with our birthday boy Rob Robbie Robert.
Goes to show any talentless fucker can get rich and famous these days.
On the show today…
The masked sadomasochistic figure laughed and danced around the chair holding Robert prisoner.
Something metallic flashed and glinted under the studio light. In the right hand of the psycho, a large hunting knife reflected the red gimp mask.
From the zippered mouth hole of the garish red face, a tongue flicked over the mirror finish of the blade’s stainless steel.
“So, so very sharp…”
One quick incision cut across Robert’s forehead as screams filled the room and rivers of blood flowed down his face.
Holding their hand high to the camera – and the hundreds of subscribers watching – they gestured with Robert’s scalp.
It dropped to the floor with a sickening shlop.
Bending over Robert, the figure went to work cutting around the circumference of his face, removing it and placing it over the top of the bondage mask.
The figure then picked up the scalp and completed the ensemble, screaming out a maniacal evil laugh.
Returning to Robert’s mutilated head, the sadistic tormentor then severed his tongue, placing it between his own teeth before going to the camera for a close-up.
Turning quickly, the fiend slashed ferociously at Robert’s throat. An arc of blood erupted from his jugular vein, covering the computer monitor.
Blood ran down the lens of the camera, obscuring the gory scene.
A shadow moved in front of the camera as a cloth wiped away the ichor from its glass.
The sadistic monster peered through the holes where Robert’s eyes used to be, his severed face worn as he mocked the now dead young man.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROBERT!”
“FOREVER TWENTY ONE!”