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By Christopher M.

I’m only fourteen years old, but I’m very tech-savvy. I enjoy hacking computers and even building them from time to time. One of my more recent and morbid hobbies has been exploring the deep web. Before you get the wrong idea, I don’t go there for the dark stuff. Well, I do, but not the kind of stuff you’re thinking about.

I explore the deep web for the joy of finding new websites. Brand new, off-kilter, bizarre ones. I find them and catalog them for my own personal enjoyment. It feels like I’m actively discovering new parts of an ever-growing planet. Or at least the dark side of one.

Despite it being the deep web, most of the sites I’ve come across are mundane and uninspired. For instance, a 9/11 conspiracy site, a dating site for white supremacists, and site dedicated to assassinating the president.

BORING.

But then there’s the more interesting ones, like a marketplace for selling various serial killers’ belongings, a site for worshiping a strange cult called the “Clan of the Red Wolf”, and a Hitler fan-fiction site (violent, hyper-sexual fan-fiction) to name a few. These are the kinds of sites that either pique my interest or make me laugh, giving them a spot in my catalog of oddities.

While on my usual hunt for the unusual, I came across a site called Parent Snatcher. The layout was overly simple and looked more like someone’s tumblr page rather than a deep web website, but I wanted to see what it had to offer. In reading its contents, I found little to placate my hunger for the strange and obscene.

It was just a list of pronouns and numbers, coupled with links to ebay listings on the surface web selling furniture.

HER, 37 – [ebay listing, love-seat, $14,356]

HIM, 28 – [ebay listing, sofa, $11,467]

HER, 42 [ebay listing, drapes, $12,569]

HIM, 40 [ebay listing, ceiling fan, $2997]

HER, 32 [ebay listing, dining room set, $2997]

The setup confused me. Doing a little more digging, I found various number sequences embedded into the background of the site. Being a fan of encryption, I wondered if it might be a code of some sort.

I took down the series of numbers and ran it through one of my many code-breaking programs that I had on my computer. After an hour or so, it popped out a message.

“Welcome to Parent Snatcher. Need a new mom or dad? Not satisfied with the one you have? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Follow a ‘HER’ listing for a mother unit and a ‘HIM’ listing for a father unit. Ages are included in description. Once payment is received by ebay user, we will send you your new parent! All of our human products come with a lifetime guarantee. We monitor the bonding process 24/7 for quality control. They are equipped with a tracking chip and video surveillance, making it impossible for them to escape. We here at Parent Snatcher desire your full satisfaction above all else. Enjoy!”

Now, that was weird. I’ve certainly never seen anything like that on the deep web. This was certainly getting a special place in my catalog, whether it was fake or not.

After saving the site into my collection, I wondered. What if it actually worked? This is going to sound stupid, but I always wanted a dad. It’s been me and my mom for as long as I can remember. She says he left when I was young, but I don’t recall him ever being there. As such, I would often fantasize about him returning home, seeing me all grown up, and wanting to be a part of my life again. Like I said, it’s stupid.

Still, I really wanted to know if the site worked. I tried a thousand different search engines and asked around on forums on both the deep web and surface web. Not a single mention of Parent Snatcher anywhere. I finally ripped my eyes from my computer monitor and looked over at the clock. It was nearly three in the god damn morning. I’d been searching for information on this one site for several hours. And for one reason or another, I couldn’t let it go.

Maybe it was my need for a father figure, or perhaps it was the sleep deprivation. Either way, I found myself walking upstairs to my mom’s bedroom. Once there, I snuck past her asleep on the bed, and reached into her purse located on one of her nightstands. I grabbed her wallet and quietly walked back downstairs to my room. I grabbed one of her credit cards, followed the cheapest dad listing on Parent Snatcher to the surface web, and clicked on the “Buy it Now” option for a ceiling fan. I typed in all of the credit card information required, and then paused for a moment.

I was about to not only break my mom’s trust and spend a boatload of her money, but I was also doing something potentially dangerous. What if the man I purchased wasn’t nice? What would my mom say or do when he got here? What if there would be no man at all? What if the site was just a carefully orchestrated scam, designed into swindling unsuspecting kids out of their parent’s money? I asked myself these questions, but they barely made a dent in my curiosity. I hit enter and finalized the purchase.

After sneaking the card back into my mom’s purse without being noticed, I waited. Days passed. Those days eventually became weeks. I had to put up with my mom arguing on the phone with her credit card company as well as ebay, over the mysterious $3000 purchase made with her card. She never once suspected me of doing the deed, even venting to me about it from time to time. That made me feel guilty. My guilt, however, was no match for my excitement. I could not wait to see if Parent Snatcher was legitimate.

The weeks that passed eventually turned into a month. This is when I started becoming weary of the site’s claims. I began to accept the fact that I was a dumb kid, fooled by a master con-artist. I was left feeling hopeless, and like an idiot. I had been fantasizing about a scenario in which the site not only worked, but sent me a nice man to be my dad. He would meet me, meet my mom, and they would fall in love. We would be a family. I knew the chances were slim, but I still hoped. I was a fool.

One night while on my computer, searching for more deep web gems, I heard a loud bang. It sounded like it was the front door. A burglar perhaps?

I jumped up from my computer, and grabbed the baseball bat I kept under my bed. I was ready to fight off any would-be intruder. After getting into a fighting stance, I heard someone shuffling around outside of my bedroom. My adrenaline was through the roof. I stood my ground, and wound up the bat, ready to swing. My bedroom door swung open.

It was a man, wearing all black – including a black ski mask. He looked me up and down, apparently sizing me up, before speaking.

“Are you the one who placed an order with Parent Snatcher?”

Struck with confusion, I nodded. The man then bolted in my direction and grabbed me. He put his hand over my mouth and pulled me out of my room. I struggled, but he was too strong. Just before he could get me out of the house, I attempted to bite his hand through the leather glove he was wearing. I clenched my teeth as hard as I could and managed to get a reaction.

The man groaned in pain. That’s when I was able to wiggle my way free, and run towards the stairs, all the while screaming at the top of my lungs for my mom to wake up. The man caught up quick and grabbed me again, but my cries for help were effective. My mom showed up at the top of the stairs, just in time to see what was going on.

My mom screamed and leapt down the flight of stairs, faster than I’ve seen any person move in my life. She began bashing the guy’s head in with her fist, making it nearly impossible for him to hold on to me. He threw some punches back, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with laying his dirty hands on my mom. I stretched my leg back as far as it would go, and kicked him so hard in his nether-regions that he fell to the floor. He still tried fighting back, but my mom and I had the upper-hand. He eventually ran for the door and fled from the premises.

It’s been a few weeks since that man broke into our home. I can only guess that he really did work for Parent Snatcher, but the site wasn’t what I hoped it was. It seemed that its goal was not only to make money, but also to kidnap kids. Once they have a billing address, they probably canvassed the area for a few weeks and make sure the house in question actually harbors a child or teen.

I didn’t figure all of that out on my own. If I was able to think that far ahead, I wouldn’t have wound up in this mess to begin with. I told my mom the truth, as well as the police. They figured out the rest. Unfortunately, the site was taken down, and the perpetrators were never apprehended. The cops are still on the lookout, though, and offered my mom and I a police detail and new security system. So, despite the ordeal, we sleep well.

What would “Parent Snatcher” have done if they had actually captured me? The police wouldn’t offer me insight on this, but I’m sure they told my mom. I already have a good guess anyway. I more than likely would have been integrated into some kind of child-trafficking ring, perhaps sold off to the highest bidder on another deep web website. From there, I’m sure you can gather what would have happened. Lucky for me, I wasn’t captured.

So, all in all, I’ve learned a lot from nearly being kidnapped, and one thing is for certain:

I will never ever visit the deep web again, for as long as I live.

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