X – For the Unknown
Predator by Dhivya Balaji
I have stayed true to the theme of this edition of A to Z Challenge, discussing only characters from published works despite handling an average of two full length novel manuscripts every month that come to my desk for editing. Even for the letter X, I could have chosen characters from published works, but this time I am going to use this chance to talk about something close to my heart, for various reasons.
I began my career as a writer, and then as a reviewer, finally moving on to becoming a full time editor. Though there were many changes in the core position I find myself in, throughout the times I have always been a writer, and a creator. Even if it was a short story or a flash fiction, I write something new once every week, exercising those particular muscles that encourage the writing flow.
And it was during one such exercise that Predator (the short story) came into existence. It was born after a collective absorption of news articles, newsfeed gossip, new speculations about the dangers of the online world, and stories of personally affected people.
The internet was created with a purpose to make things easier and bring the world closer, which it does, true to its name. But like every good thing used maliciously, the anonymity it offered also gave rise to a new breed of humans who inhabit the damp underground of the internet world. The predators – those who lurk in the shadows and work in ways that are despicable and downright scary.
The internet made it possible to see the face of someone miles away.
But it also made countless people faceless, so you are never sure if they are near or far away.
The digital world gave us countless bytes of memory to store our messages, photos and videos that would have otherwise required a physical medium and occupied tangible space in our houses.
But it also gave way to those faceless, nameless strangers to store, misuse and abuse the data we ‘share’ online, especially the photos, videos and voice notes (commonly) and in some extreme cases, our check-ins and reviews of public places.
The GPS trackers and habit tracking apps made our travels and life (in general) convenient and much easier.
But it also had all the data about our movements marked permanently for people to access, track and docket.
Digital footprints – the inevitable trace that all our digital activities leave – can be as convenient as getting us relevant, faster answers.
But in a moment, it can become the very thing that brings uninvited visitors to our personal space, that too without our knowledge.
In a world that is growing by leaps and bounds, we are evolving faster than we can manage, and the viruses come first, followed by the anti-virus definitions that combat them.
So what if there was a predator out there, a Mr. X (or a Ms. X) who tracked all your movements and collected so much data about you that you are not even consciously aware of, and all that you thought was innocuous actually developed into a multi-headed hydra…
So what if, amidst all the good wishes from the US and the happy thoughts from Switzerland that were brought to you by the internet, lurked a nasty undercurrent of men and women you befriended, who were trying to find a way to bring it all crashing down?
So what if that Predator, that despicable creature, was someone you knew?
What if the Predator was that guy who waved in your inbox when you repeatedly ignored the messages on WhatsApp? Or that guy who texts you with a WYD when you leave him on ‘read’. Or maybe that guy who makes a dossier out of your casual comments, tracks your habits, and passes off his confirmation questions as ‘care and concern’?
What if, all your casual comments online were just material that someone had observed, unlearned and relearned so they could collect details about you that you are not sure you really revealed.
If it was someone you did not know, how would you find it out?
What if the fine lines between what you revealed and what you thought you had hidden blurred perfectly, leaving you disoriented and confused.
What if, ultimately, you are the prey?
The human mind does not fear the dark. It fears whatever might lurk in the dark.
It does not fear heights, but it fears falling down.
It does not fear the known, but the unknown facets of what it thinks it knows.
What is the dark net? What constitutes 70% of the internet that we do not know? What has the world come to, by becoming ‘closer’?
What masks the ugly, gory side of the internet behind subnet masks?
The questions, the answers and the stories of everyone you know, in that book that was formed out of a million pixels built together.
Predator – the ultimate digital mercenary.
The protagonist, antagonist and centre point of the story that is now a full-fledged novel.
Written by yours truly. Releasing this June.
P.S.: This is not a promotional post!
The soundtrack I dedicate to this character: Hans Zimmer – Time (Inception)
Because this fits my idea of the Predator I have created from my brain.
He is inside your head, inside your computers, inside your life…