The Facebook Birthday Wish

Claire didn’t mind Stephen. He was alright. She wasn’t sure why she had him on Facebook as they never talked and she couldn’t picture his face without stalking his profile, but he was harmless enough.

But when it came to writing on his wall for his birthday, she just couldn’t do it. It’s not like she wanted him to have a shitty birthday. It’s not that she thought he was unworthy of birthday cheer. For some inexplicable reason, she just couldn’t bring herself to say those two little words.

So when Facebook sent her a notification reminding her to wish him a happy birthday, she thought it was a bit pushy, but clicked off it and got on with her day.

Then during a meeting with Barbara from accounts, she got a text from an unknown number.

It’s Stephen’s birthday.

Sliding the lock on her screen, she leaned back in her chair. ‘Probably just a coincidence,’ she told herself.

After returning home from work, she threw her keys on the kitchen table and headed towards the fridge. Grabbing a jar of pickles, she nudged the fridge door shut, before gasping and dropping the jar to the floor.

Arranged in plastic letters on the fridge were the words ‘WISH STEPHEN A HAPPY BDAY’.

“What the fuck?” Claire said.

Checking her door and window, she closed her curtains and sat on the couch to watch Coronation Street. Her eyes heavy, she felt herself drifting off.

A few hours later, she jolted awake to a curious rustling sound.

Peering over her couch, she watched as a note was pushed under her door.

Her hands trembling, Claire got up off the couch and opened the note.

Do U wAnT to WiSH sTePhEn a HaPpY bIRthDaY?

SEVEN YEARS LATER

Claire had moved to Costa Rica, grown a handlebar moustache and bought some Gucci sunglasses, but The Facebook Birthday Wish had tracked her down.

She was tired of looking over her shoulders. She was tired of running. Of living in motels, paying in cash, and taking on a new identity in every godforsaken town.

As she nursed a double whiskey at the bar in some scummy downtown joint, the bartender called over to her.

“Hey, chica,” he shouted. “Some hombre has left a message for you. Feliz cumpleaños for some Stephen dude. That mean anything to you?”

Claire downed the rest of her whiskey in one burning shot, and pushed some crumpled-up cash onto the bar. She now realised that she would never escape.

Back in her motel room, she booted up her laptop and logged into Facebook.

Taking a deep breath, she clicked on Stephen’s profile and began to type.

*

Under the glare of the streetlamp outside, The Facebook Birthday Wish smiled. Its work here was done.

THE END

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As the door blew open, a blast of cold air engulfed the coffee shop. Customers looked up from their chai lattes in surprise, teaspoons tinkling, biscuits crumbling.

But their surprise soon turned to terror. For the wind had brought an unwelcome guest into their safe little village.

The only person on Facebook who wasn’t engaged or pregnant had left her lair.

Fathers covered their children’s eyes, pensioners crossed themselves and mothers stifled their sobs.

Since time began, the villagers had appeased this evil entity with sacrificial offerings of snacks and a Netflix subscription. Every year, they held a Yankee Candle vigil outside her cave to ward off her malicious spirit. Every Halloween, teenagers dressed up as her and told her chilling tale around a bonfire.

“Many moons ago,” they whispered, “she was a perfectly normal girl in her mid-twenties with an okay job and no insanely gross attributes. But try as she might, no-one wanted to put a ring on it. In fact, no-one wanted to put anything on it. She might as well have sewn up her vagina. Things got so bad, she even tried Tinder.”

But now here she was. She hadn’t sizzled under the sunlight. She didn’t have hairy palms. Her eyes didn’t glow red. All of the scriptures and Channel 5 documentaries had been wrong.

“Can I have a hot chocolate, please?” she asked the cowering barista.

It speaks,” the town busybody spat through a mouthful of brownie.

Families huddled closer together as she grabbed her hot chocolate and a muffin and left the coffee shop. Either to eat children, or join Bumble. One or the other.

 

THE END

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Jessica was sat next to the window on her Cross Country train to Wolverhampton.

She was on the way to meet Josh, her kind-of-but-not-really-because-he-wouldn’t-acknowledge-her-Facebook-relationship-request boyfriend, who she’d met on Tinder a couple of months earlier. It was a cold, thankless journey and with only 7% phone battery left, she was relieved when the train finally shuddered to a halt.

As she jostled her way off the train and through the crowds, a curious sight unfolded before her.

A little boy, perhaps three or four years old, was being pulled along the platform by his father. With one hand clutching his father’s and the other trailing along a grubby toy rabbit, the boy was chattering excitedly. Just as they reached the stairs, his tiny fingers lost grip of the rabbit and it fell to the ground.

Her heart thudding, Jessica had a sudden realisation. This was it. This was her chance to shine. This was the moment her whole life had been leading to.

Everything around her seemed to slow down. She was in a tunnel of clarity, surrounded by a sea of grey, shapeless faces, and she, and only she, could emerge victorious.

Striding towards the rabbit, she called out to the boy. “Excuse me, you dropped this,” she said, as she scooped the toy into her hands and extended it towards him.

“Tha…” he lisped, but Jessica heard him not, as she had whipped out her phone and was logging into Facebook.

Just chased after a little boy who’d dropped his toy rabbit on the train platform. The look of joy on his face when I gave it him back gives me hope #ItsTheLittleThingsInLife she typed.

Her mind whizzed with sums. By her calculations, this good deed would garner at least 57 likes, maybe even a couple of shares. After that, who knew. Her mate Tasha had told a girl she had toilet paper stuck to her shoe in the toilets in BaBas, and she’d gone viral. She’d appeared on ITV’s This Morning with Phil and Holly, released a fragrance and had been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Strathclyde.

But, as with everything in life, there was a catch. It had been decreed that if a good deed was not posted on social media within one minute, time would erase the deed – as if it had never happened.

A bell chimed three times, symbolising that Jessica had 10 seconds left to post her good deed on Facebook before it was reversed.

‘God,’ she trembled, her brow beading with sweat. ‘Smiley face emoji or no smiley face emoji?’

5…4…3…2…

Jessica’s phone died.

“No!” She screamed, falling to her knees.

In the distance, a child’s cries echoed in the night.

THE END