I turned the stream on and held my phone out with the selfie stick, making sure my face and surroundings were high resolution and the connection was strong. There I was, Bulletbull98, black stubble peppering my young face, blue eyes, and long black hair that gave the impression I was a heavy metal fan — soon to be the best streamer on the platform, I would make sure of it.
My taxi drove off and left me alone among the anonymous crowd of people enjoying the Sunderland nightlife. It was a damp October night, chilly air cut through my thin jacket and covered me in goosebumps, and misty plumes of warm breath escaped my mouth. I rubbed my arm and walked down the street towards the bars and clubs in the city center.
The viewer count on my stream steadily increased, two hundred people watching now. I watched the little number at the corner of my phone screen like a hungry eagle, getting a hit of dopamine every time it surpassed levels I had never seen before. My goal tonight was to get over five thousand views. It was ambitious for a mid-level streamer, but I had to aim high, right? I'd never been over two thousand.
"Hey, chat," I said to my phone, smiling, "how we doing tonight?" I had to tone down my northern accent for the international viewers as they frequently complained they couldn't make out some of my words or slang.
A few replies appeared on the bottom half of my phone, "Doing good!" A viewer named Styxy typed. Styxy's message faded out as more replies came in. Others spammed emojis in chat, and one viewer called Spiceapple told me to shave that pubic hair off my face. I pretended not to notice that comment, though I would ban him if he carried on being a funny cunt.
The city center buzzed with young clubbers and students. Hardly anyone wore any coats. Groups of women in short skirts or jeans and low-cut shirts and men in thin t-shirts. There was something about northerners that made them immune to the cold; that trait never got passed to me.
Several people shot me weird looks as I walked past, not-so-subtly staring at my phone held in the selfie stick pointed at my face. This is what it's like being on the other side of the camera. It's easy for the chat to watch, but out here one can still feel so alone, despite the hundreds watching you. It affects people differently; I don't mind and quite enjoy the chat's company. Sometimes I get detached from the outside world completely and forget I'm on my own when I get caught up with the viewers.
"Okay, chat," I said confidently. "We're starting the night in The Porter, where I'll get nicely fucked up and see where the night takes us. Feel free to drink with me." I laughed.
More replies: "Drunkbull98," "This is gonna be cringe," "He'll end up getting slapped," followed by a laughing emoji.
"Get off it," I said.
I walked to the pub. It was jet-black on the outside with its namesake spelled out in bright light bulbs at the front. Dim lights and the TV screens behind the bar playing some football highlights did a poor job of lighting the dark room. It was enough to make out where I was going and get a good look at the bar's patrons, who looked like everyone else outside: attractive women and groups of men ranging from students to people in their late twenties, all hoping to get laid, no doubt.
Three-hundred and forty-three people watching now.
I walked to the bar, got a Modello, and took a seat at an empty table by the window. The yeasty, fizzy beer tasted good through the cold bottle and I knew that after a few of these I would get drunk. Hopefully drunk enough to come up with some good content.
Seeing all the random faces of students strolling by, giggling amongst themselves, or stumbling over (the lightweights) got me thinking back to my own student days. Not that I did much drinking — occasionally I drank was with my flatmates, who consumed enough drugs and alcohol to sedate York.
I did computer science at the University of York while streaming from my accommodation on the side. The streaming started interfering with my work, but the money from donations was just enough to get by, so I felt it was justified. By the second year, I dropped out and moved back with my parents up north. My dad was indifferent towards it, having been a university drop out himself, but my mother never let me hear the end of it. The number of times she called me useless, lazy, a failure, and a host of other unpleasant names could have been enough to turn me into a drug addict. Thankfully I had streaming where I entered another reality with my chat, my army, my cult-like followers, where I was the King. My mother's patience wore thin, and since my dad was as spineless as a jellyfish, he said nothing when she kicked me out. My mother didn't care about the small income I made from my stream and was convinced it was a fruitless endeavor I was wasting my time with, and that I was just using it as an excuse to be lazy and play games all day. I had to move to Harton, a cheap place to live, where I could survive on the smaller income my stream brought in with a part-time job on the side. The income had grown, but not enough, and my work to gain more viewers was relentless.
I downed my bottle of Modello while responding to my chat's various jibes at me or whatever random statements they made. The conversation or topics of discussion was rarely anything meaningful. I already received a few donations, hopefully, I could get enough to pay for my night out. After a few more beers I felt more confident and began my sell-out phase. Where, like an idiot-for-rent, I asked for donations in exchange to do things my chat requested, within reason, of course.
My viewer count increased to five-hundred and seventy-two.
The first reasonable request finally came in from a viewer called Lobo23819, after someone had suggested slapping a girl's ass as a couple walked past, then someone else suggested the bigger the boyfriend the more money they'd donate. I laughed and told them to piss off, clearly not drunk enough to do something as stupid as that…yet. The request I took, for ten pounds, was to do a suicide shot. Innocent enough.
I walked to the bar and slapped my hand on the wooden surface. A young man in a red and black plaid shirt and hipster glasses looked up at me. I asked him to whip up a suicide shot in a cocky manner that said: I'm already drunk.
He poured some tequila into a shot glass, gave me a slice of lime and a saltshaker, and said, "Four pounds fifty please, mate."
I gave him the money, took my stuff, and went back to my table. The chat got more active in anticipation of me doing the shot. Seven-hundred and five viewers. I had to sniff the salt first and squeeze the lemon into my eye before drinking, which was bound to make me gag. I hated spirits.
"Here we go," a message in the chat appeared. "If he doesn't end up on live stream fails by the end of the week I'll be amazed," another wrote. "Bullet, don't be rude, get some for the ladies behind you!" followed by three creasing emojis.
"Ok, chat, let's do it," I said confidently, standing the selfie-stick on the table (it had a tripod feature at the base, very useful for streaming), making sure the phone camera had a good view of me while I did it. I sprinkled a line of salt on my hand and grabbed the slice of lime in preparation.
I ran my nose along my hand and sniffed the salt, and without hesitation, held the lime above my eye and squeezed hard and fast. Then, grimacing, eyes shut, I found the shot glass and necked the tequila.
A whirlwind of pain and flavors flared in my face. My nose blazed. I got a salty taste at the back of my throat, my eyes stung as if my face had been dunked in a tub of acid, and my throat burned. The amber liquid sent fire through my chest. A knot tightened in my stomach and I gagged, trying to hold the alcohol back.
I wiped the acidic citrus juice from my face and took a look at the chat. A stream of the word "pussy" followed by a lot of laughing emojis was all I could see.
"Fuck outta here," I exclaimed and held my arms out triumphantly. "I held it down, I'm a fucking king!"
I heard some giggling behind me. Instead of turning around, I peered into the corner of my phone. As I suspected, it was a group of girls laughing at me. In my blissful drunken state, I didn't care; I found it funny myself. My chat noticed them as well; nothing escaped those fuckers.
The words: "SMASH SMASH SMASH" flooded the chat, along with more detailed messages such as: "Bullet go clap them ch33ks!" and many more I didn't care to acknowledge.
Marwol696 donated twenty pounds, a message appeared on the screen for everyone to see. Donations often came with messages below them, also visible to the whole chat. Marwol696's donation said: "Pussy, that was nothing. Do three more."
I slammed my fist on the table, "Challenge accepted!"
Marwol696 would prove to be the bane of my life.
In my drunken arrogance, and letting the tequila from the last shot get to my head, I went to the bar and asked for three more suicide shots. The bartender raised a brow and hesitated, then took my money.
I took the three tequila shots and lime slices back to the table and sprinkled a small mound of salt and arranged it into three lines on the edge. The first shot went down easy enough, with the accompanying sting in the eyes and nose, followed by the sensation of a pin to the heart as the strong tequila flowed down my esophagus.
I gagged, and with my tunnel vision in the chat saw Marwol696 laughing at my pain, along with the rest of the chat.
Seven-hundred and seventy viewers.
I felt the pain in my stomach telling me to stop with the shots. But my viewer count was increasing. They liked it when I did stupid things.
The second shot stared at me, and I feared I wouldn't be able to keep it down. I glanced at the slowly increasing viewer count and set the fear aside. Snort, squeeze, drink. Down went the second. My face contorted into a grimace, and I slammed my fist loudly on the table, trying to distract myself from that disgusting feeling in my stomach that signaled I was on the verge of vomiting.
The chat cheered like an adoring crowd, egging me on for the third. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, preparing myself for the third. Keep it down, keep it down, I thought.
Snort, squeeze, drink. Down went the third. Tears of pain welled in my eyes, mixed with acidic lime juice. The tequila got caught in my throat as I tried to take a breath. It all happened so fast. I coughed and vomited all over the table.
Rancorous laughter and cheers wailed from behind me. I was in too much discomfort to muster a response.
The barman snarled at me as I wiped chunks of vomit from my chin and mimed "Sorry."
Marwol696 called me a pussy, I gave him the finger, well, it looked like I gave the whole chat the finger, but it was specifically for him. I let him know with my slurred voice.
Before I knew it, a huge tower of a man, bald, ebony skin, had his massive hands on me and dragged me out of the pub.
"Officer, I didn't do anything, you have the wrong man!" I made sure to stream the whole thing best I could. "You are a policeman, aren't you?"
"Hilarious," he mumbled. "Stop recording me, please."
"It's called live streaming, old man," I said. A bunch of derogatory messages calling me cringe or telling me to fight the bouncer came rolling across the chat bar.
The bouncer threw me out of The Porter and I stumbled on my merry way.
One thousand and nine viewers. I needed to keep the momentum.
"Well, chat." I pointed at my phone camera, eyes whirling. "I think we need to go somewhere a tad more intense. Mirage it is."
Warmth washed over me when I got into Mirage, and I heard the music pounding through the main doors. I walked to the receptionist, gave her five pounds, and she stamped my hand, marking that I had paid.
I walked through the main doors, the floor was sticky, and the music amplified by a thousand. Each thrum shook through my bones, and I could hardly hear my thoughts. I screamed into my phone to communicate with the chat, the replies were all pointing how out loud it was. Bright lights of white, blue, green, and red flashed rapidly before my eyes, making the club, and everyone on the dancefloor, look like they were shadowy pictures moving in a flipbook.
"If you have epilepsy turn off the stream now, you've been warned!" I chuckled and walked to the bar. I asked the chat what drink they suggested in exchange for donations.
Marwol696 donated £5: Get 3 Jägerbombs pussy boy.
"Fuck off, you," I laughed. "I'll stick to two."
A sexy brunette approached me as I waited at the bar, "Have you been served?"
I shook my head, leaned over the bar as far as I could, and shouted, "Can I have two Jägerbombs, please?" into her ear.
She nodded and went to fetch the Jägermeister and Red Bulls, her hips rolled nicely as she walked off. She poured the black alcohol and energy drinks into the special plastic Jägerbomb cups and brought them over.
"That's seven pounds, please," she said as she set them down.
I held up my debit card and she shook her head, "Machines not working at the moment."
"Does that mean it's free?" I laughed. The blank expression on her face told me she was sick of hearing that shit joke every night.
I sighed and dug my wallet out of my pocket, fumbled around for change to make the seven pounds, and gave it to her, unsure it if was right. She nodded and walked off. I went to find a table.
Nine-hundred and forty-three viewers. A jolt of frustration rushed through me. The internet has sapped everyone of their patience with its constant stimulation of cheap short videos and games. Even a two-minute wait could be enough to make people turn the stream off. I needed to do something fast. Stupid queues and stupid fucking barmaid making me wait.
I took a seat by a booth that overlooked the dance floor, set my camera down nicely, and took the first shot. The fizzy Red bull masked the vile taste of the alcohol enough to prevent me from throwing up, but it still felt like a punch in the chest. I frowned and coughed, thinking whether it was a bad thing or not that it helped me not vomit. Vomiting and making a fool of myself was good for content, on the flip side I didn't want to be kicked out of every bar and club in Sunderland before midnight.
I downed the second, almost wishing to throw up, or for something interesting to happen. But I kept it down, and I noticed the chat's energy fading away. "This is boring, chat. I'm going outside. I can't hear shit."
With a churning stomach, I left the booth and went to the smoking area. There was always something happening in the smoking area. I walked through the dance floor, holding the selfie-stick up to catch all the scenes. People kept bumping into me, and I had to be careful to avoid them, though in the state I was in, that was easier said than done.
I shoved my way through and went out the back doors to the tacky smoking area. Plastic cups and cigarette buts littered the floor. A cold breeze crawled over my skin, but it didn't bother me as much as normal since I was drunk. The door closing behind me muffled the thundering music, and it felt like a weight had been lifted from my eardrums, allowing me to think clearly again amidst the low chatter of the people in the smoking area. Clouds of smoke blew lazily into the air, exhaled from the mouths of all the smokers in the club, as well as the social smokers who only did it to fit in or look 'cool.'
The poisonous grey haze filled my nose and I coughed, wiping it away as it drifted by.
Nine hundred and two viewers. My heart rate increased, and a minor sense of panic flooded through me. I was losing them.
I stumbled over someone's shoe as I approached the stairs at the back of the smoking shelter. They led to an elevated spot that was covered by a roof in case of rain.
I turned around and said, "Sorry."
The shoe was a white high heel, attached to a smooth tanned leg; a short white dress ran over it. The young woman was blonde with dark gray eyes, thick black eyelashes, and a face gleaming bronze with makeup. A cigarette hung from the corner of her mouth, unlit.
"Nice shoes," I said.
She looked at me, "Thanks…"
"That's not what I wanted to ask, actually."
She sparked a lighter and lit her cigarette. "What did you want to ask?"
"Can I borrow a tab?" I fumbled my pockets. "Left mine at home, duh." I didn't smoke.
"No problem." The woman and her friends were all sat on the stairs. I took a seat next to her as she scanned her handbag for her cigarette box.
She fished one out and handed it to me, smiling, "Here you go."
"C-Can I borrow your lighter? Left that at home too." I laughed awkwardly. Was she buying this?
"You're not asking for much, are you?" She chuckled and passed over the lighter.
After struggling to bring the lighter to life for a few tries, I lit my cigarette and inhaled. The burning acidic sensation felt revolting down my throat and into my lungs, like a burn in my chest. "Th-Thanks," I choked, trying my best not to cough my guts out.
"No problem, hun," she laughed, pretending not to notice me struggling. "Are you recording?" her brow raised.
I glanced at the chat, seeing a lot of the words, "He doesn't smoke LOL" and mocking comments telling me I can't smoke for shit. I angled the phone away, hoping the text was out of her vision.
"I'm live streaming," I said triumphantly.
Her face lit up, and she waved happily at the camera. "Hi everyone, I'm Jessica!" She turned to me, "How many viewers are there?"
I checked the number in the corner, "One thousand and six." A smile curled on the corner of my lip, and my anxiety perished in a tide of relief. I took a draw off the cigarette, more used to the smoke now. I felt my head spinning more and more as the cigarette smoke and all the harsh chemicals gave me a strange buzz, mixing with the alcohol as if I had taken another three shots.
Jessica's friends took a fascination with the stream as well. I swear they all looked different and the same simultaneously. Their faces were distinct, but they all had the same shiny bronze makeup and thick eyelashes, the same wavey locks, and all wore similar dresses, just in different colors. I figured they liked the attention and the thought of a thousand people watching them. We small talked for longer than I could remember, generic drunk talk, such as one of Jessica's friends complaining about the state of the NHS, or the Tories. I nodded with them, of course, not wanting to alienate them now.
Marwol696 donated £10: Don't be rude Bullet buy them a bottle of Grey Goose!
In my drunken ecstasy, and like a monkey dancing to a tune, I accepted the proposal. I was careful not to refuse too many requests from the chat. A lot of them were ridiculous and could be cast aside, but if I refused too many requests, people would stop donating, and my income would vanish
"You're actually getting Grey Goose? Isn't that, like, expensive?" Jessica said, surprised.
"Yeah, chat paid for it," I grinned. Plenty of people left small donations, which built up nicely.
"HE'S SIMPING!" was the new stream of words rolling across the chat bar. They all copied a certain insult or phrase like sheep. "Bullet tryin to SMASH LOL" was another.
"Why?" Jessica laughed.
"Because they're idiots who throw their money at me, ain't that the truth, chat?" A degree of cockiness towards the chat never hurt for entertainment either — they parroted the word 'idiot' and other phrases along those lines back at me.
"Fair enough. We have a booth if you fancy sharing that vodka." She bit her lip. "What's your name, anyway?"
Jessica's face contorted in confusion.
"That's what my stream calls me," I clarified. "My real name is Geoffrey."
"Who's still called Geoffrey?" She mocked. "I prefer Bullet."
"So do I."
We both laughed. Jessica and her friends got up. "You coming?"
I followed them back inside, the music booming through my bones, and went to the bar while they went to their booth. I ordered the bottle of Grey Goose, and a worry overcame me that I may be going too far. Alcohol had a way of tipping you over a certain point where you start drinking more than you should without fear, and I was about to cross that point.
You need content, a voice in my head told me.
At what cost? Being ill? Losing your dignity? Getting kicked out and ending the night, which could mean the end of the stream?
I looked at the doors to the exit, contemplating just walking away and doing something else. Toning it down a notch. My head spun, and I felt sick, and then the barmaid put the bottle in front of me. I chose content. I fetched out some notes and handed them over, not waiting for the change like I was some kind of baller.
I found Jessica's booth and held up my bottle of vodka with pride as I approached. They let out an audible cheer, as audible as could be with the stupidly loud music in the background. I popped the bottle open and held it in front of my phone for the chat to see and took a large swig. The powerful ethanolic taste seared my throat, and I choked, almost vomiting again. God, I hated spirits.
I quickly passed it to the girls, tactfully hoping they could finish most of it so I wouldn't have to touch anymore. The bottle came back a few times, so I took a few more (small) swigs, and in due time I felt the alcohol rushing to my head.
We drank the bottle down to dregs faster than I would have liked, and the girls got up to dance. Jessica grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the booth to the dance floor, a scent of vodka clung to her.
The smoky dance floor felt humid as warmth radiated from the bodies bouncing and dancing in all directions, rapidly changing from silhouettes to glowing clubbers as the lights flashed about them.
Jessica clutched my free arm. I made sure to capture the scene on stream.
One thousand one hundred viewers.
"Damn Bullet might actually lose his virginity now!" A cocky message in the chat said — and the crowd parroted the sentiment for a good two minutes.
We danced, well, if bouncing around like an idiot could be passed as dancing, then yes, we danced. I was never gifted with it like I saw some people on the dance floor, practicing what I thought must have been well-rehearsed moves. Moving their hands and legs so elegantly in sync, that couldn't be improvised. I just stomped my feet about and waved my hand, still held by Jessica, in the air. She seemed to be following my rhythm.
The blurry experience brought me back to the time I met Aaron Barker. An aggressive chav if ever there was one. The type that spent his monthly dole money on a pair of Nike Airs and some Armani joggers. Shaved hair, and always stunk of ganj. He had a pizza face, too, but you never told him that. No one ever told him that unless they wanted the shit kicked out of them, or worse, get cut up. He stabbed someone over a verbal insult once. But I couldn't remember if he did time over it.
My run-in with him happened because of a place like this, a night club. I had just turned eighteen, and there were a few months left before the final year of college was over. Me and my friends went out in Redcastle, where a lot of people from our college also went out when they turned eighteen, or if they had fake IDs. One such person who had her eighteenth birthday early into the second year was Shauna Stott, Aaron's girlfriend at the time.
My friend Kev got talking to one of her friends, and our groups became mingled in the club. I got speaking to Shauna. She was ordinary, average looking with black locks and a slim figure, except for some purple markings around her eye. I could tell she'd tried to gloss over them with make-up.
Shauna had been relatively quiet that night, but still drunk, possibly to drown her sorrows now that I looked back. She cheered up in the company of my friends and spilled her feelings on the dickhead Aaron Barker. Beatings from Aaron were commonplace for her, whether it was over drugs, money, or control. One of those reasons always came to the forefront every other week or so for Shauna, and with it the bare knuckles of Aaron Barker. The badly brushed over bruises on her face from that night were because Aaron had lost his watch whilst on a two-day bender, and when he got home, he asked Shauna where it was. She said she didn't know but he insisted he'd left it in the house, and his word was final. When she repeated that she didn't know, he took her for a liar, and went a step further and accused her of stealing it. After she was accused and unable to procure the watch, Aaron beat her bloody. Someone had to answer for the watch.
I gave her a valiant speech about how she deserved better, all the while wondering why she put up with him at all. Not like she was his slave. Shauna wholeheartedly agreed, and with a big smile, the first time I'd seen her smile that night, we went off to the dance floor and danced around like idiots, much like I did now.
I remember it so clearly. Sweet Caroline blasting in the background, everyone cheering "DUM DUM DUM," in unison. And finally, Shauna kissing me, pressing her body against mine. I held her tight, and let my hands drop slowly to her arse — that's when the strong, sour odor of marijuana invaded my nose, and two hands clasped my shoulders and pulled me to the floor.
I knew it was Aaron straight away, even though I couldn't see him. At the time he only looked like a shade, with a trainer attached to it, repeatedly kicking my head in. A shade that smoked a lot of weed. He booted me in the chest, enough to knock the wind right out of me, in the stomach, covering it in a purple bruise for five days, and mostly, in my face, breaking my nose and drenching my face in hot coppery blood. Thankfully, this altercation happened inside, where he didn't get the chance to slash me up; I'm certain he had a knife on him.
Shauna left the club with him and didn't spare me a glance. I was too scared to leave out the front door since I knew he was waiting for me outside. I evacuated out of an emergency fire exit round the back of the club, cupping my hand over my gushing nose, ignoring a staff member's protest that I wasn't supposed to be back there. I never spoke to Shauna again.
I decided after that cowardly display that I would always fight for what I want, and always fight those who try to take it from me.
Jessica tapped my shoulder and brought me back into the moment. Our eyes met and she moved her face close. I thought she was going to kiss me, and I got vivid flashbacks of two hands grabbing me and throwing me to the floor. She leaned into my ear and shouted, "Fancy a key?" and she dangled a small plastic bag with white powder inside it.
I looked into my phone at the chat, making sure to have the cocaine on film.
Marwol696 donated £1: DO IT. GO CRAZY.
The rest of the chat followed suit, or so I thought until I spotted other donations.
Guy_Azur donated £3: Bullet, I love your content and have watched since you started. You're going too far and I think you should stop this.
I thought about Guy_Azur's message, and it felt like it was my own voice of reason typing it. But they didn't have content to create, and views to gather. The viewers who wanted me to do it far outweighed the ones who didn't, and the alcohol gave me the confidence, or lack of sense, to carry on.
"Yes," I shouted back. "Where should we go for it?"
"Just do it here, pussy," Jessica sniggered.
She huddled close to me and checked over her shoulders. The room was too dark, the dance floor too crowded, to be noticed by anyone — and anyone around us wouldn't care anyway. Jessica crouched to hide her head in the crowd and dug the key into the bag, scooping up a small mound of coke. She sniffed and did it again, then passed it to me.
"Hold my phone and point it at me. And don't drop it!" I screamed and took the key and bag. I crouched slightly and scooped some cocaine out and sniffed it up, then I repeated, taking a bigger scoop to make sure I'd be high as a kite.
I took my phone back and gave her the bag and the key. After a few minutes, I felt a sharp metallic taste clinging to the back of my throat, and my right nostril went numb.
One thousand three hundred and eight viewers.
My excitement grew and I found myself becoming very focused on my goal of attaining more viewers, and my high mind came to the conclusion I would probably need more drugs. The chat had already paid for it through donations, so money wasn't an issue.
I told Jessica I'd be right back and went back to the smoking area to see if anyone had any drug dealer's phone numbers. I kept getting caught up in random conversations that groups of people were discussing like global warming, football, what shitty meme was popular this week, and watching people recite jokes I'd seen on the internet, trying to pass them off as their own. I laughed along as if they were the funniest things I'd ever heard and told someone he should be a stand-up comedian. From my conversing, I'd secured a few phone numbers, and as luck would have it, I ran into a short sketchy looking fellow with long hair, like mine, and a malnourished face. He was eager to get rid of his pills, but I insisted on cocaine, and he coughed a bag up. I had to transfer the money via bank app since the club had sapped me of any cash.
The chat got excited as I held the bag at the camera. One thousand four hundred viewers.
"Bullet!" A woman's voice called from behind. I turned; it was Jessica. "Beth just got invited to a house party, and we can bring friends! You fancy it? Could even get another bottle of Grey Goose for the journey."
I dangled the bag in front of her, looking out for bouncers as I did so. "Better than vodka?"
She grinned, "Definitely. You coming?"
I turned to my phone. "What do you say, chat?" After all, for entertainment purposes, I was their servant, in a way.
"HE GONNA SCORE!"
"She'll ditch him for someone with a bigger cock LMAO."
The consensus was to go, so I went.
The party was in East Hetley, about twenty minutes in the taxi from where we were. I had lost about a hundred viewers in the car and kept insisting the taxi driver step on it. The more the viewers left the more anxious and aggravated I got, like a ticking time bomb ready to throw the taxi driver out of the car and get the rest of the way myself.
The estate looked rough and trashy. Dank streets were full of dark narrow turns. Overflowing bins spewed rubbish that drifted lazily along the pavement. Shards of glass lined the top of the concrete walls of each back garden.
Music thumped from one of the houses, which I assumed was our destination. The girls led the way, and I followed. When they opened the door, the pungent stink of marijuana oozed out amidst the grey haze inside the house. A chill crept up my spine, reminding me of the beating I got from Aaron Barker. I stepped in after Jessica.
The music got louder when the door shut behind me, and I blew away the toxic cloud of cigarette/joint smoke that hung over the house as best I could. I scanned the open kitchen and the living room of the house, small groups of people congregated in both. The girls all looked overdressed and too caked in makeup to be gathering in such a run-down council estate house, but the men gave me bigger concerns. They all reminded me of Aaron Barker, joggers, and shirts, or hoodies with a big sports brand like a Nike or Adidas logo on them.
A bulldog faced fat man stood by some decks in the living room rapping a song so fast that I couldn't make out the words, and the fast beats to the backing track felt akin to a knife in my ear.
"What a shithole this place is"
"Come on Bullet you can do better than this"
"Tell the fat cunt on the mic to shut the fuck up"
"Why you carrying round a selfie stick, mate?" A red-haired girl asked when I walked into the kitchen.
"Live streaming," I said. "About a thousand and a few hundred viewers at the moment, more or less."
"Ohhh, get you!" A short black-haired girl with ratty features jeered.
I turned and laughed, confident from the coke and alcohol. "It's pretty cool, they're like my little minions, aren't you, chat?"
"Yeah right," some typed.
"Fuck off," with some laughing emojis.
"WHATEVER YOU SAY BULLET LOL"
Most of the replies were laughing emojis.
"Watch. Give me your Instagram's and I'll tell them to follow you."
"Becca underscore O," the red-haired girl said. I told the chat to follow her and before long her phone started blowing up with notifications. Her jaw dropped as if she had just witnessed a magic trick. The other girls said their names, with similar results. Before long, their phones started getting anonymous phone calls.
"Who's this?" one of the girls said.
A muffled voice spoke through the phone, I couldn't make the words out.
"Er, fuck off, you freak!" The girl shrieked.
I sniggered, wondering if they'd made the connection that someone from the stream managed to find their phone numbers — but they weren't very bright.
The chat laughed, asking each other who was ringing who.
One thousand five hundred and sixty viewers.
A lad with short brown hair, joggers, and a silver chain entered the kitchen. He reeked of cigarettes. "There she is," he said, pointing to Beth, Jessica's friend. "You bring that coke, babe?"
"No, but Bullet has some," she replied.
"Who the fuck's Bullet?" He scanned the room and his eyes landed on me, the only male here who could possibly be called Bullet.
"That's me," I said with a cheeky grin and showed him the bag. God, I was so high.
"Nice one, lad!" He went to shake my hand, then hesitated. "Why you recording?"
"He's streaming," Jessica said. "He got everyone more followers, and they bought him alcohol and coke."
The bloke bellowed, "No shit! Wicked craic that mind, see if they'll sort me some, lad." He cackled.
"They might," I said. "Got to get through this bag first."
"Howay then, mate." He patted me on the back and led me to a room upstairs, Jessica and Beth followed.
I found it amusing how easy it was to buy their affection. I, a complete stranger, walked into this house full of no one I knew with a stream and a bag of coke, and I'd made about five new friends already. Friends was a kind word for them, but they gladly welcomed me, all so cheap.
They told me the lad's name was Spinner when we got upstairs. I didn't care to know his real name. Spinner took us into his room, I figured it was his house. There was a small, unmade bed in the corner. Scales with faint white powdery marks on them sat on his desk next to grinders and some knives. It wasn't a pleasant sight, but the cocaine drowned out any fear I may have had.
"Whack this baggy open, mate." Spinner's eyes widened as I handed him the bag. "Fuckin' hell, it's a few gram that."
"Fuck yeah," I cheered.
We all laughed, and he tipped the powder onto the desk in a small mound. "Shit, I need something to sort the lines with, the knives don't do it properly," Spinner said.
Before asking anyone, he opened his drawers.
My eyes widened with shock at what I saw. A pistol sat in the first drawer, and the second had an Uzi with several magazines crammed around it.
"Jesus Christ," I snapped. "Are those real?"
"Too right mate," Spinner took the pistol out, grinning, and held it in the air, flicking his hand to show me both sides. "Get a good look at that, fuckin' lethal, mate. Beretta and a MAC-10." He spoke more to my phone than me. I only now realized he had a few teeth missing, and the ones that remained were black with rot.
My chat went crazy, almost as much in shock as I was at the guns. The MAC-10 looked a lot like an Uzi, but I took Spinner's word for it.
One thousand seven hundred and two viewers. That worked like a charm.
Spinner found a battered old bank card in one of his drawers and used it to separate the mound of cocaine into fat little lines for everyone. Jessica rolled a note up and we took turns stuffing our noses.
I tried to restore the euphoria I felt earlier with these fat lines, but I knew it wouldn't work like that. I only did it for the content.
My throat felt dryer than a baking desert and had that horrible metallic taste stuck in the back of it as if I'd swallowed iron powder. I could kill for a drink right now, and to top it all off my bladder was ready to burst, reminding me with a throbbing pain in my side. "Spinner mate, am I good to use the bathroom?"
"Aye, pal, just outside and down the hall." He sniffed another line, and I left the room.
I entered the door at the end of the hall. "What a night so far, ey, chat?" I undid my fly with my free hand and hushed my voice, looking straight into the phone camera. "Ahh yes, spending my night with a bunch of retards, and I'm not talking about them lot out there," I laughed.
When I finished pissing, I set the phone down on the selfie stick tripod and washed my hands, then took as many massive gulps of water from the sink as I could manage. The cold liquid felt refreshing against my arid throat. I could have drunk two gallons if I wanted.
I must have been gone a while because Spinner's room was deserted when I opened the door. A glass smashed downstairs and whoever was on the mic stopped signing amidst an uproar of shouting and thrashing.
I widened my eyes at the camera, "Looks like there's ructions downstairs, shall we go see?"
This was what I needed, a fight on camera, everyone loves that.
I shut the door to Spinner's room and —
Marwol696 donated £10: Don't be stupid, go and pinch his gun!
I paused, chewing on the thought. More shouts and thrashes picked up downstairs and I looked back at his door. I could still record the fight but stealing the gun would be more nerve-racking and also make for good content. And it would be hilarious if he found it missing. Though I'd probably have to fight him if he suspected me of stealing it. Heh, I could take him, or I could just run off into the night. Also good content.
The chat mostly agreed with Marwol696. "DO IT PUSSY." And a few variations of that message appeared.
I grinned and turned for his door, "Fuck it, if he comes up, I'll knock him clean out." That was probably the cocaine talking, but I felt exhilarated all the same.
I shut the door behind me, and my heart started pounding. The risk, the content, it filled me full of thrill and adrenaline.
One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two viewers. I was doing it! I would get over two thousand. And who knew how much I could get after that?
The prospect of more viewers, the cocktail of drugs in my system, and the adrenaline coursing through my veins pushed me onward. I took the MAC-10 out of his drawer and feasted my eyes.
"How do you even use this thing anyway, chat?" I didn't wait for them to respond and fiddled with it while I could. It had a collapsible stock that I fumbled back and forth, playing around with the magazine, clicking it in and out of the gun.
Starlander donated £5: You should stop, Bullet. You're not a thief.
Some of the chat echoed this sentiment, most called him a bitch.
The drugs had made my conviction so absolute that I brushed aside the voices of reason. "You think Spinner's doing community service with this thing, bud?" I said to Starlander. "Trust me, I'm doing the world a favor."
Footsteps came dashing up the stairs.
My heart leaped and I froze, ready to hurl the gun out of my hand and fight someone.
They went past the door and over to the bathroom. I felt like a fifty-kilogram weight lifted off my chest. I breathed and shoved the gun under my shirt between my trousers and took a few magazines and put them in the inner pocket of my jacket.
"What do you say, chat, shall we go to a forest and shoot at some trees? Could even try hunting. Though this thing will probably shred any animal caught in its sights." I chuckled and went out the door, shutting it behind me.
One thousand nine hundred and seventy viewers. So close to breaking my record.
A wave of excitement rose in the chat, they were eager to see me use the gun, all the more dangerous since guns were highly illegal in the UK, punishable by a life sentence.
Mryorkie donated £2: This will end terribly bro.
"Don't be daft. It'll be fine, but thank you for the donation." If I kept a low profile, I would be ok. Ironically, I've never been one to draw attention to myself unless I need to.
"I'll just need to get a taxi and go to the countryside or something. But I'll get another drink or line in me. God knows I need it for something as mad as this."
The commotion downstairs died down and I went to see if I could catch the aftermath of whatever went on. Jessica and her friends were in the kitchen. "What happened?" I asked.
"That was a long piss, I swear you've been gone about fifteen minutes," Jessica said as she mixed some vodka and orange juice. "Some lad called Mark started arguing with Nicole over where his lighter was, I don't know her, and some of her friends got involved and started hitting him. He hit back, and the other lads from the sitting room piled on him. I was caught in the middle trying not to get shit spilled all over me!"
"It was mental," Beth interjected. "They were all pua smacking each other and I seen a knife fall onto the floor. Ee my God," she sipped her drink. "Spinner just told them both to chill or fuck off."
"Where is he? He still has my coke. I want a line," I said, firmer than intended.
"Alright, Hugh Hefner. He's just outside talking to Nicole, I think," Beth said.
I stepped out of the front door. The chill night air felt like a cold stream as I inhaled, compared to the smog inside Spinner's house.
Spinner was standing beyond the front gate talking to the girl who I presumed was Nicole, and another lad, who must be Mark.
The shriek of an angry Nicole's voice echoed through the night, "I swear to God if that prick gets lippy with me again I'll — "
"I've told Kyle to piss off, but yous can't be going on like that all the time and smacking every cunt just because yous had a fight, okay? Mate, I get it, if they jumped on me, I'd have slashed the cunts up but I just want a chill night." Spinner scooped some coke out of my bag with a car key and sniffed it. The fucker had used up most of the bag.
"Aye mate fair enough, but the cocky cunt shouldn't have got up in my face when I'm just trying to sort shit out, you know what I mean?" Mark said.
"Of course, pal. Here have some of this, lad." Spinner passed him the key.
"Alright, Spinner? Can I have some of that before it's gone," I joked.
Nicole's face twisted into a grimace, "Get ya own you scrounging cunt, we're having it."
Not backing down, I scowled, "Fuck you, It's mine."
The chat found the confrontation amusing.
"Lol that's you told Bullet"
She snarled and hissed, "Who the fuck you talking to, you cretin. And why the fuck are you recording? Get that phone away before I fucking smash it." Nicole dropped her drink and made to grab my phone.
I lurched back. I would sooner die than let her at it.
Two thousand and sixty-four viewers. I did it. The chat went crazy.
Spinner and Mark looked on the scene, smirking amongst themselves, the useless pricks. Mark spoke up lazily as he scooped some of my coke out with Spinner's car key, "Chill out, Nicole."
"Nar, he's being a cheeky cunt." She pushed me against the fence and got up in my face. Her ratty features became more apparent, goofy teeth and an underbite. Black hair matted from her fight. "Trying to nick our coke then telling me to fuck off! Aye fucking try being cheeky now you daft cunt." Her breath stunk of bile and cigarettes and then she slapped me across the face.
Spinner laughed, "What have we just been on about, man?" Not taking it too seriously as he tried to get at my coke.
I glanced at my chat, which was a bunch of laughing emojis, and suddenly I felt humiliated. That I was enduring this from a little skank just because I asked for the drugs I bought. That my drugs were being stolen, that I was being beaten by this skinny creature in front of my own stream, which was growing by the second. A burning rage brewed up in my stomach. I no longer felt the chill in the air, I clenched my free fist and gritted my teeth, trying to restrain myself best I could. I looked down at my phone as I desperately tried to keep it out of Nicole's reach.
Marwol696 donated £5: Fucking blast this bitch.
I knew it was the wrong thing to do, and yet at that moment my anger, also mixed with the confidence and certainty given to me by the cocaine, screamed that it was the right thing to do. And finally, the content. I would have more viewers than I knew what to do with.
Nicole smacked my phone and it fell to the ground. My rage erupted like a volcano, that was the final straw. All rational thought left me, and I acted on pure emotion. I would never let anyone take from me what was mine, like Aaron Barker did all that time ago, and left me crying in a pool of my blood.
I took the MAC-10 out from under my shirt. Nicole's eyes widened and she shut her trap, that was all she had time for.
I squeezed the trigger and the gun cracked loudly in rapid bursts, bright flare bursting out of the nozzle. It kicked back violently and shot upwards since my grip was off and left a series of gory gashes in a curled streak from Nicole's abdomen to her jaw as if I'd just slashed her with a chainsaw.
Nicole flopped to the ground, red seeping into her white dress.
"What the fuck, that's my gun!" Spinner screamed and ran at me like a frenzied crack head.
I held the gun with two hands and filled him with lead. He fell next to Nicole. Mark tried to run off and I sprayed the gun in his direction. He fell onto the hood of a car and tumbled to the floor amidst a speckle of bullet holes in the ground — the gun clicked, signaling the magazine was empty.
Now my time was very limited. Everyone within a mile radius would have heard that. Without hesitating I picked up the car keys Spinner dropped and grabbed my phone. The screen was cracked from the corner where it hit the pavement, but the stream was still on.
The chat was in an uproar, and I got a glimpse of Marwol696 cheering me on as I acted on his suggestion.
Two thousand nine hundred viewers. Jesus, that worked well.
The door to Spinner's house opened and the girls screamed. I saw Jessica behind Beth, both pale as ghosts. I pointed the gun at them. "Stay the fuck back and shut that door!" I roared. Hoping they would take the bluff. They did.
I noticed a white twinkle on the ground. My coke. I snatched it up and clicked the unlock button on the car keys. The lights of an old Renault Clio across the road flashed yellow and I ran to the driver's seat.
Three thousand five hundred viewers. The booming number of viewers was like an injection of ecstasy every time I looked at it. I didn't think it was in any danger of slowing down now.
The chat went absolutely insane.
"HE KILLED THEM WTF!"
"For real?" the newer viewers, who I was unknown to just a few minutes ago, said.
"Someone call the police!"
"No way this has to be fake"
"How is it fake it's a live stream you fucking fool"
"Don't be spoilsports, pussies," I snapped and twisted the key into the ignition. The car purred to life and the tires screamed against the road. I saw people emerging from Spinner's house as I pulled out of the street.
"Now I'm in shit, right, chat?" I laughed. At that moment, I honestly just found it funny, my own moment of triumph. I slaughtered those who tried to take what is mine and smashed my viewer goal out of the park.
Four thousand viewers. Yes!
The journey out of East Hetley went by in a blur. I drove through narrow estates and onto the dual carriageway where I could head to the countryside and figure out what to do. Going home was no longer an option. I tried to balance my phone in the passenger seat as best I could so it could get a good view of me, never forgetting the needs of the stream.
The carriageway was damp and empty under the midnight sky. I went down it full throttle. Spinner's car could do about 120mph, not bad. I finished the remaining coke in the bag, it became more of a prescription now than for views considering my situation. The MAC-10 gleamed in the seat under the fluorescent streetlights shining on the carriageway, I remembered to reload it while I had free hands.
Eight thousand viewers.
I came to a large three-lane roundabout on the carriageway. It's traffic lights flashed red. "Watch this chat, best you can." I pressed my foot to the brake slightly, ignored the lights, and drifted around the bends.
Two lights flashed in the rearview mirror and a loud, passing beep rang in my ear and faded quietly as I drifted past. I stuck my finger out of the window and went full throttle out of my exit. The surrounding area turned from thousands of twinkling lights into a sea of darkness, the countryside.
A loud ping popped in the car. The red signal that indicated the car was low on fuel flashed on the dashboard. "For fuck's sake," I sighed. Just my luck for this to happen now, and for that stupid chav to not keep his bloody car filled up. My dad always said that if the fuel gauge dropped past the halfway point, you refill it, and I religiously stuck to that rule since I could drive.
Luckily, carriageways tended to be littered with petrol stations, and before long I would be upon one. I checked my mirrors frantically in case police cars were around, surely they'd been informed by what had happened by now. The thought occurred to me that they can see my stream if they knew where to look, or if someone sent it to them, they could track my device. I considered turning it off, then I saw the viewer count, ten thousand one hundred and twenty-four viewers. It was like another drug, more addictive than any I had taken previously.
It would be safer to turn it off, but there were no police around me yet, and the viewer count skyrocketed. If I could just keep it going, just to see how far I can get, and get a bunch of new subscribers, then I would turn it off. Only then…
The sky was the limit right now, how much could I achieve by the end of the night? Twenty thousand? Forty thousand? Or even one hundred thousand? I licked my lips with a primal hunger at the thought.
I have a VPN on my phone… that should count for something, right? I didn't know the answer to that question, it was more a comforting thought than anything else.
"To all my new fans," I said cockily to my phone and laughed. "Do me a favor and drop some donations, as you can see, I'm in quite the pickle, and I may need to leave the country!" A plethora of thoughts raced through my head. Would I need a fake passport? Fake ID? Craft a new identity? I could start by shaving my head and going clean-shaven, and even go a step further and get reconstructive face surgery. Anything is possible with the internet and money. And I had a stream of over ten thousand people, ten thousand potential bank accounts at my disposal.
The donations, of course, had been flowing steadily all night, but a nice fat injection of cash would do me good. I'd probably have to shift the money into different accounts. It was all making my brain ache.
I saw a petrol station in the distance with a big glowing sign sprawled across the top. Thank God. Just quickly stop by, fill the car, pay, perhaps buy some water and snacks for the road, all high protein and fat, healthy food.
I pulled up in a hurry and got out. Being outside, not moving, made me feel so vulnerable and naked; like I could be cornered at any moment. The freezing night wind howled and covered me in goosebumps. I turned quickly and yanked the petrol pump out and went to open the fuel cap. That was when I saw a white Vauxhall Corsa parked just behind the petrol station. It's luminescent blue and light green patterns made my insides turn to liquid, a police car, parked so discreetly and at an angle where I didn't see it coming in.
No, this can't be the end of the road, not yet. I squinted, looking inside the car. Empty. What could be done? I couldn't risk walking away from my vehicle. Maybe I could pump fuel and just leave. I came here intending to pay for it like a good law-abiding citizen anyway, but stealing didn't matter to me at this point. Petty theft would be a relief after what I'd done so far.
I was stuck in an analytical paralysis, the car staring at me with those dead headlights, paralyzing me with fear. Where were the fucking policemen? Sweat beaded on my forehead and I started panting. I wanted to leave, but the thought of leaving after standing here for a couple of minutes with a fuel pump in my hand aggravated me to a ridiculous extent. All that precious time wasted, this precious opportunity to refill would vanish, and I'd risk running out of petrol on the road. I could just stop at another petrol station —
In the time I was frozen with horror, staring at that empty police car, two police officers came out of the petrol station with some soft drinks and snacks in their hands. One of them glared at me and patted his buddy on the arm. Still frozen like an idiot with my fuel pump doing nothing, I glared back, then one of them fumbled a radio on his chest.
I slowly turned, my body tense as a steel rod, and returned the fuel pump to the station and went to the passenger seat. Did they know who I was? What vehicle I was driving?
"Excuse me, mate!" One of the officers shouted as I opened the passenger door. Under the cover of darkness, I unclasped the MAC-10's collapsible stock and pressed it against my shoulder.
I spun around with the gun in hand. The officer's eyes widened, and he cried, "Oh shit!" Most of the alcohol had worn off, so my motions and wit were a tad steadier, and the cocaine helped me focus.
I peppered him with bullets as he dropped his items, he fell to the floor like a ragdoll. His buddy ran over to his car. I took aim and sprayed, shattering the windows of the Corsa in a hail of bullets and killing the other policeman. I didn't care to check he was dead, only immobilized. I hopped back in the car and drove off, failing in my mission to refuel and feeling like I had painted a giant target on my back.
I drove off the carriageway and started down the country roads. Dark, twisted, and bumpy, they provided me with a greater sense of security since they felt more closed off. I was still in danger of hitting someone since I was going at about eighty miles an hour, with no intention of slowing down.
The chat asked what I did, who I killed. I told them about the nosey policemen and his acquaintance and left them on the notion that I was in very deep shit. A mixture of sad and concerned people as well as sadistic psychos who enjoyed the violence now mingled in the chat. Some calling me evil, twisted, horrible, and saying I deserve to die or to rot in prison all my life. Some others just laughed along and, like Marwol696, encouraged me to do more. I told the naysayers to go fuck themselves, a vein bulging on my temple.
"Should have shot the gas station!" a viewer by the name of Shenti_39 had suggested. I pictured it now, recording the place going up in a bright orange flame, the smell of the burning fumes. That would have been great for content, a lone streamer wreaking havoc. Part of me had a mind to turn around and do it, but my primal self felt the need to keep fleeing and find somewhere to hide. Somewhere to catch my breath. I laughed at the suggestion and kept driving.
The echo of sirens in the distance kept me alert. I was deep in the countryside by then, twisting and turning. Dodging trees, potholes, deer, and god knows what else, far away from urban civilization, it felt surreal to remember where I started my night, where I started the stream.
I jolted when someone on a smaller vehicle, a bike, I think, materialized from the night right in front of my car. I swerved hard to the right, almost flying off-road to my certain death. I was lucky to avoid any injury at all.
I was too anxious to stop for petrol again and chose to drive till the end. Maybe I could take someone else's car if I happened to come by one.
The car stopped by a tree on some ominous country road, I got out and hopped over the hedges to have a piss in the river. Everything was pitch black, weird how I used to take streetlights for granted. I looked at myself on stream, a white ghost-like face in the darkness.
"Well chat, we did it," I said triumphantly as I looked into the night sky, twinkling with millions of silver stars so many light-years away. Finally, the coke was wearing off, and my eyes stung for sleep. Yet I couldn't help but appreciate the beauty of the dark fields under a blanket of stars. Crickets chirped, and I felt completely at peace. How minuscule all my problems felt as I looked up into the heavens and pictured a universe bigger than my imagination could comprehend. How many billions of stars out there, how many more billions of planets… how many more like our Earth? For a moment I wished I could travel to one and live alone in the cosmos. Then horrible guilt overcame me —
"Hey!" A voice barked from behind.
A jolt of terror shocked me, and the selfie-stick holding my phone slipped out of my sweaty hand and plopped into the river and washed downstream. I felt my entire life shatter in that second.
"NO!" I roared. I pulled my jeans up and turned to the voice, which left me seething. A silhouette stood in front of me.
"You're on my land, kid. This is private property. Saw you swerving all over the place from the house and came out on the bike to see what was up. You nearly hit me on the quad bike when you came back down the road and I spun the thing into a tree, you owe me for that," he panted. "And I bloody well nearly had a heart attack running up here, you — "
Teeth clenched, I pulled my MAC-10 from under my shirt and squeezed the trigger with all my strength. The man toppled to the ground and I kept my finger on the trigger until the clip was empty, it didn't take long.
I threw the gun at his corpse and screamed. My stream was gone, I had zero viewers. I brushed my hands through my hair and then clawed my face; feelings of terror, guilt, and shame overcame me. As soon as that screen vanished from my sight, I fully realized the horrible things I did, the combination of drugs, and an unyielding thirst for more viewers, to go viral. I felt more alone than ever now. My viewers weren't going to help me, and why would they? I'm just a guy on the internet, and I only existed to entertain them, sick as it was.
I got a headache and screamed again. I sat for God-knows-how-long wallowing in my well of negative emotions, drained from the drugs exiting my system and the lack of my stream. Blue lights flashed in the distance and I heard the distant wails of sirens.
Zero viewers. I cried.