In elementary school, I played with Barbie and Ken.
In high school, I played Dungeons and Dragons.
In college, I logged onto Tumblr in between classes to RP.
There are certain roleplaying groups based on specific fandoms like Harry Potter or Supernatural, but I mostly stick to groups where I can create OCs (original characters). The last one I created was named Adriana, a girl around my age with blue pixie hair and a triangle tattoo on her forearm.
I never thought a fictional character could fuck up my life so badly. I never thought someone from Tumblr would be able to find me in the real world. I never thought I’d be woken up by an intruder inside of my double bolted apartment.
“You certainly don’t look the part,” were the first words he said.
My eyes slingshotted open to see the teenaged boy hovering in the doorway between my bedroom and the hall. “What the fuck? Who the fuck are…”
A jolt snapped through my body. My fingers reached for my neck, the source of the electricity, and felt a thick, studded shock collar strapped across my trachea.
He slung a backpack from his shoulders, rustled through until he found a box the size of my head, and tossed it onto my sheets.
I flinched, afraid of what the contents could contain, but it only said electric blue: quality color hair dye. “What the hell is this?”
“Adriana, your hair is supposed to be blue.”
“My name is Kelsie.”
Another shock. Slightly stronger this time.
I peeled the cardboard flaps open with my chipped nails to slide out the bottle and glove. “You want me to dye my hair with this? Right now?”
He nodded. I could tell by the saggy jeans and blond ponytail dangling down his sweatshirt that he was Jayden, another OC character from the RP group. His character had a crush on mine. They spent an evening at her place eating ice cream and swapping stories about their pasts. They kissed at one point but got into an argument soon afterward and it got violent. The night ended with a gunshot, which was common for my RPs. I made my characters badass to make up for how fragile I felt IRL.
I must have paused for too long, or maybe he saw me glance at my phone charged into the wall across the room, because he activated the collar again. For much longer this time. Tears pricked my eyes from the pain.
Seeing no other option, I rose with my supplies and he followed me by the step. When we reached the bathroom, I applied the color and sat in silence. I only spoke to ask permission to retrieve my phone to use as a timer (and to sneak an SOS text to my boyfriend) but he refused. He used the one on his phone instead. His case held a PopSocket with a picture of a bloody handprint across it.
When it beeped, signaling my time was up, I shoved my head under the sink. I debated whether sliding my neck under the water would deactivate the collar or electrocute me to death, but before I could make an attempt, he yanked me by the arm.
“Now cut it,” he said.
He rummaged through his bag for a colossal pair of scissors. “You told me you had a pixie cut, Adriana.”
I cut my hair for Locks Of Love when I was in elementary school and my hair reached my ass, but rarely got it trimmed since. I loved my hair. I wanted to keep my hair. My stylist always had to beg me to cut off the dead ends because I didn’t want to lose any length.
“Okay fine,” I said, reaching for the scissors with a plan to use them as a weapon.
He shook his head. Made a twirling motion with his fingers. He wanted to cut it himself.
I twirled around, the beat of my heart tripling as chunks of hair littered the tiles below. It only took two minutes. Two minutes to destroy hair that took decades to grow.
“Now for the tattoo,” he said. “Then we’re done.”
“Are you out of your goddamn mind? How do you think that’s going to happen? Did you fit a tattoo gun in your fucking Mary Poppins bag?”
He dipped his hand into the sack. This time, he pulled out a thin blade.
I stepped toward the shower window — it was narrow and barely able to fit my head through, but still a window. I could call for help. I could try to squeeze my legs through. I could…
A never-ending shock spiked through my arms, my legs, my torso. I collapsed onto the floor, gasping and writhing. Strands of hair no longer attached to me got sucked into my mouth.
The boy crouched over me and the sensation stopped. I let him grab my hand. Spread out my forearm. Dig a line through my skin, then another and another.
The blood slumped onto the floor, making a trail across my skin. It stung. It felt like my organs wanted to run away from there, even if that meant leaving me behind.
Satisfied with my makeover, Jayden said, “Your apartment is cute. And you’re really nice. Oh wait. Did I get that backwards?” The same words from the RP. I thought they were stupid the first time but hearing them aloud made it worse. A socially awkward psychopath. What a cliche.
“How long is this going to last?” I asked, finding the strength to push myself into a sitting position. “I played dress-up for you. That should be good enough.”
“That’s not your line.”
“It’s time for your lines.”
He actually expected me to follow the script line by line, as if I had memorized our fake conversations. I guessed at what my character would have said in the moment, something about compliments not working on her, and that satisfied him. Luckily, he gave me some leeway. I didn’t have to remember the words exactly. As long as I got the point across and progressed the story in the right direction, he seemed content.
My mind traveled elsewhere as we went through the motions. We ate ice cream. We chatted about our made up pasts. I spoke from muscle memory while thinking about ways to escape. To outsmart him.
I fast-forwarded through the story in my mind. Our characters had shared a few kisses while watching Netflix on the couch. Then he tried to reach under my skirt and I threw a fit about him moving too fast. My character threatened to throw him out of the apartment but he refused to leave, so she reached for her gun hidden beneath her couch cushions (a stupid place to hide a weapon but convenient for my character). He tried to wrestle it from her hands, accidentally pushing the trigger, and a bullet hit the ceiling. They kept fighting for the weapon and then…
I realized we never finished our conversation. Between classes and my part-time job, I barely had time to log onto the RP account, and even when I found a spare minute, I talked to other people first because, honestly, his writing sucked. Is that why he showed up? To finish the story? To see how it would end?
He slid closer to me on the couch, signaling it was time for the kiss. I swallowed my disgust and leaned into him with an open mouth. Even though my character shoved him away at this point in the story, I inched closer to him so I could feel beneath the cushions. I hoped he wouldn’t mind the derailment of the story. I hoped the kissing would distract him for long enough.
When I reached the crease in the center of the couch, my fingers brushed against metal. I was right. It was there. He had stored it there.
With my eyes still closed, I pulled the gun out from the cushions, fumbled with the safety, and then broke the kiss so I could aim. Before he could activate the collar with the device hidden in his palm, I did the only thing that could save me.
I made the night end with a gunshot.