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On a Wednesday morning, Joseph checked his emails. As he skimmed their contents, he took several sips of iced coffee from his stainless steel tumbler. Most were requests or notices that a loan processor at a mortgage company usually receives. But there was one email that made him sit up straight. It had hit his inbox at exactly three in the morning.

Its subject line read, “YOU STINK!” In this email  was only a hyperlink that, because of its incoherence, Joseph suspected to be malicious, so he did not click on it. Its sender’s email address was likewise gibberish. Joseph marked it as spam and deleted it.

“Now that’s an annoying email,” he said to himself.

The rest of his Wednesday was normal. Nothing strange happened for the rest of that week. On the following Tuesday, however, he was awoken out of the stupor that characterizes his first hour at work by an email similar to the one from last week. The only difference was the subject line that read, “YOU LOOK LIKE S—!”

Joseph also brushed it off. “If this is a prank, it’s a stupid one,” he muttered. He took a deep breath before starting his workday, which went along without anything worth remarking. And the rest of that week likewise passed.

Then, on the Friday of the following week, he came across an email that really chilled his blood and lifted the hairs on his arms. Everything resembled the previous two emails that struck him, save for the subject line. This time it read, “YOU’RE GUILTY, JOSEPH, AND YOU KNOW IT!”

His coworker at the cubicle next door heard his mouse fall hard on the keyboard.

“Hey, are you all right?” she asked, drawing towards him.

“Yes, I’m okay. Thanks,” Joseph responded. “And hey, Francine, let me ask you. Have you received any sort of weird email lately?”

“What do you mean by weird?”

“Um…nevermind. Just been getting so much junk in my inbox lately, you know.”

“Let me know if you need any help, okay?”

Joseph nodded and returned to his computer screen.

After a couple of minutes’ hesitation, he clicked on the hyperlink in this email.

What opened up instantly made him nauseous. It was a picture of him from many years ago. In it, he had one hand over a former Greek fraternity brother, and in the other was a can of beer. The backdrop seemed to be a house party. His eyes centered on the face of the person whom he was embracing.

Joseph rose from his seat. “Francine, if Sarah asks, tell her I was throwing up.”

Francine was caught off-guard by her colleague’s sudden movements, giving him a thumbs up as he departed, and returned to the phone call she was on.


Keven Balderas

Keven obsesses, nearly to the point of madness, over a new interest every two years. So far, his interests have included Latin, drawing, skateboarding and photography.

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