Flashback – The Workshop

I am a night owl. I always have been, and I think I always will be. I struggle with sleeping, and for most of my life, I’d just scroll through the internet as the early hours of the morning crept closer, looking for something to entertain me. Now, my late nights have a purpose. I am going to find the people behind The Workshop, and I am going to make them pay.

I found The Workshop on Reddit two weeks ago. I flicked through the front page, bored and longing for tiredness when I saw a thread that piqued my interest.

It was a voice recording from some guy who was convinced his daughter was being tortured, live on the radio by her fiance. A few of the comments were mocking him, laughing and acting like he was faking it, but there was one, right at the bottom, that seemed to take him seriously. All it said was “Sounds like The Workshop. Just sent you a DM.”

I clicked through to his account and noticed that almost all his posts and comments were about The Workshop, but provided little to no information on what it was. Reaching the end of the short rabbit hole, I clicked away from his profile and went back to the front page, scrolling again and seeing nothing that took my fancy until the computer pinged, and I noticed that I had a new message.

“They’ve seen you looking.” It was the same user who’d left the initial comment about The Workshop. I stared at the message for a moment, unsure of how to respond, or if I even should respond. I hadn’t left a comment, or interacted with the user at all, so it freaked me out a little that they’d contacted me at all, but it was late at night, and I was a strange mix of bored and tired, so I ignored my hesitation and shot them a message back.

“Who saw me looking? And how do you know?” I only had to wait a few moments for a response, but the short seconds seemed to stretch out and took a quick glance around the room, laughing at the impossibility of their claim but unable to push down the anxiety that was rising through my body.

“The Workshop. I heard them mention you on the broadcast. Look out.” I jumped up from my computer, rushing over to the front door to check it was locked. I checked the windows too, unable to stop myself running through the whole flat to check every entrance, and when I was assured that nobody could get in, I returned to the computer, gulping as I saw another message from the stranger. “They’ve selected you to be tonight’s witness.” I looked at the screen in silence, unsure of what to make of it, and slightly regretting responding to the first message. They sent a link, with a follow up message, and that was the beginning of my nightmare. “They have your sister.”

I didn’t think about it at all, I just clicked the link. It opened a webpage with a video player in the centre, with a busy and buzzing live chat to the right.

“She’s so pretty.”

“What price does the bidding start tonight? I want her.”

“Are we going to get to see the cutie from earlier again?”

“Her brother is the witness lol.”

The video player jolted into life, showing a grainy CCTV image of a dark looking room. There was a girl at the centre, tied to a chair and seemingly unconscious. She didn’t move as the room filled with hooded figures who circled her, wordlessly. All I could hear was the shuffling of their feet against the floor as they walked around the chair.

My computer pinged again, but I couldn’t look away. The camera zoomed in and I could see a clearer image of her face. It was Sarah, my little sister. Undeniably. The computer pinged again, almost insistently, and I switched to the Reddit window, opening the messages, with the video window minimised in the corner.

“They got my little Cousin last year, so I’ve been following them for a while.” I kept one eye on the video player as I kept reading their messages.

“She was only nineteen.” As I finished reading, the computer pinged again with another message from the stranger. “I want to take them down.” The shadowy figures circling my sister began to step back, dispersing as one stepped forward.

“Where are they? I need to call the police!” My fingers shook as I typed. I watched a man step towards my sister, removing his hood. The rest of the crowd knelt in a circle around them.

“The police can’t help you.” They responded as I watched in terror, my eyes darting between their messages and the video player. “The gas gets them ready for him.” She suddenly sat up, conscious and aware of her surroundings. My heart plummeted as I saw the panic on her face. “We can’t save her, I’m sorry.” Tears sprung from my eyes as I saw the terror in Sarah’s eyes as she struggled against her bonds. “She’ll live but she won’t be the same afterwards.” Sarah looked terrified, and I wanted to tear my eyes away but they were frozen in place. “He needs her soul.” The camera zoomed into Sarah’s face, and her tears fell as fast as mine did, fear etched all over her face. More messages flew in from the stranger. “When you watch or listen, it makes him stronger. You need to look away.” I wanted to, more than I could ever express but I was stuck, glued to the spot and staring in horrified tears at the screen.

“I need to help her.” I typed through my tears, minimising the video player, but instantly opening it again, unable to stop myself.

“You can’t. She will live, but you can’t stop this. I’m sorry.” I felt sick, watching the man round on my sister as the camera zoomed out. “He never normally turns this quickly…” I couldn’t understand what was happening, or how it had happened, and as the video feed continued to play, it became clear that there was so little that I’d understood. “He fed earlier though, the radio broadcast you read about.” The word ‘fed’ pushed my nausea over the edge and I ran to the bathroom, stumbling towards the toilet and vomiting. For a moment, I stayed on the bathroom floor, considering whether it was just a strange dream, or a nightmare, but it all felt so real, and as I struggled to my feet, wiping my face, I could hear my computer pinging relentlessly, and I rushed back to my computer.

“He’s the same guy that the man in the post was talking about. The fiance” My eyes scanned through the messages, confused and frightened. “He’s getting ready to turn, then he’ll feed and it will move on to the auction.” I put my hand across my mouth as my stomach turned again. “I’m really sorry man.” The tears continued to fall as Sarah fell still against the chair, the figures surrounding her throwing back their hoods to display a crowd of men, all joining in on a chorus of laughter. “It’s almost over, just don’t look.” I had to look. “Here he goes.”

The man at the centre of the circle was standing before Sarah, and he removed his cloak, throwing it behind him with a flourish. He then turned to look at the camera, his eyes seeming to meet with mine as a few of the other men surrounded him, seeming to fuss over his hands and arms. He didn’t break my gaze, seeming to know that I was watching. “They make us show the witnesses.” My mysterious friend typed. “I had to infiltrate them, so I had to play along. Do you understand?”

I closed the message window and opened the video player to full screen, watching as the crowd of men backed away from their leader and the camera zoomed down towards his hands, dripping with blood, glowing, and, to the disbelief of my tired eyes, expanding into sharp, slender claws as the seconds crept by. My phone began to ring but I ignored it, my eyes locked on the leader as he reached his claws up to his face, with a wicked, wide smile and began pulling at the flesh. I recoiled in horror, watching him scratch and peel at his skin, throwing it around the room with a gleeful laugh, as the others laughed. He pulled himself apart, until his true form emerged, pale, almost blue skin, an emaciated body, almost nothing but flesh and bone, sharp, slender claws, and staring back at me were his dark, stony black eyes.

The phone rang again, but I couldn’t take my eye off of the monster before me. He knelt over my sister and pushed his lips forcefully onto hers as the room began to fill with a warm, orange light. She began to lift from the chair, her body surrounded by the light as she floated free of his grasp, a small white wisp escaping her lips and falling down towards his open mouth. As he swallowed, she fell to the ground, the room erupting into sickening laughter as the men began shouting out numbers amidst their laughter.

“Let us start the bidding at £5000 for the brand new Workshop wife.” The hideous creature exclaimed. “She’s soulless, subservient, and all yours if you win our little auction.” He teased, jeered on by the laughter and hooting of the men that surrounded him. “She’s like a toy that never breaks.” He snarled, turning back to the camera, with a sly wink towards me as the feed cut out.

I sat silently in my waking nightmare, staring at the blank screen as my phone rang again. I wasn’t sure what I’d just witnessed, or what would happen next, but I knew that my life would never be the same.

I stayed staring at the screen for an hour, motionless and in a state of shock, with the phone ringing incessantly as I did. It was after an hour that I finally noticed it.

“Don’t ask how I got your number, but it’s me, from Reddit.” I just stared at the screen. I couldn’t find the strength to speak. “A wealthy lawyer from the city got her in the end.” I nodded, unable to think of anything else to say. “He’ll look after her, these guys pay so much because they want a wife that will last.” I broke down again, overwhelmed with everything I’d seen. “She’ll be alive, I mean. She won’t be the same, but she’ll be alive.”

He was right. We talked long into the night about The Workshop, and he helped me find the lawyer. I managed to track down Sarah a few weeks later, and it was like part of her had been stolen. She was alive, and she smiled, but it never seemed to reach her eyes. She didn’t answer back. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t have any interests. She didn’t speak unless spoken to. She was like a robot.

I tried to get her to leave, but the lawyer flashed me a glare, with similar black eyes to the monster, and I knew I couldn’t save her.

That’s what they do. They take girls that laugh, and argue, and fight, and take stupid selfies. They take regular girls, and they let that thing have their souls. They worship him like a good, because he gives them an endless supply of young, beautiful women that don’t fight back. He takes those girls from their lives, their families, from themselves, and sanitises them until they only exist as part of some guy’s life. A trophy. An afterthought.

Not just one girl a day, but several, I’ve seen it, and you’ll see it too. It’s why I stay up all night. I won’t rest until I save every girl that they have their eye on. It could be your daughter. It could be your sister. It could be you.

I’ve called the police, and they just laughed. Like the laughter I heard that night, cruel and mocking.

I talked to my parents but they were convinced by him. They think he’s a nice guy. Nobody believes me, so I’m on this journey alone.

You can find where the girls go after, but I need to find The Workshop. I need to stop them for good. I don’t know why they picked my sister, but one day, they’ll regret that they did. Every man in that circle, that monster that took her away from us, every freak and loser in the chat room, and even my little anonymous friend on Reddit.

I’m going to make them all pay, for Sarah.

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