*This is part 2 of a 5 part series.
I found myself in a Columbia dorm room. Zizek’s quarters were exactly as I’d imagined them. Wires lined the floor like a second level of carpeting, looking like some pricey art instillation. His side of the dorm was barren (aside from the abundance of technology), with only a small photograph, of what I assumed was his girlfriend, stationed on this desk next to his Bose Soundwave speakers. He sat down and opened his Alienware laptop.
“It’s better if I show you the post.” He said as he pulled up a screenshot of an image-board. “A few years ago, right around the time Interpol and the FBI were cracking down on illegal deep web traffic, both organizations kept running into references to a single user. This name kept popping up in all of their investigations.” He showed me the name typed again, except this time it was highlighted out of a French Interpol investigative report. “This user,” He continued, still refraining from saying Baphomet aloud, “seemed to be some kind of courier between illegal darknet markets.”
“Something like that. Anytime Interpol or the FBI intercepted someone trying to buy guns or girls or coke online, they’d always see some sort of encrypted communication between the purchasing party and the user.” Zizek responded.
“A middleman? Why didn’t they catch him if they confirmed he was the same person being contacted by different buyers?” I asked. There was a slim possibility of being a successful black market operator on the Deep Web, but it was almost always too risky. After enough transactions, you inevitably get traced and then raided. Someone who could evade Interpol or the FBI for that long did not seem like any average Silk Road or SR2 browser.
“He’s never been identified. No one has ever been able to find a legitimate source or location. The FBI and Interpol are currently classifying him as a clandestine group rather than an individual.” Zizek said.
“How do you have all of this information?” I asked.
“How do you think?” Zizek smiled.
“Why did he target us?”
“You mean you.” Zizek said defensively.
“We got the same malware dump.” I responded.
“Yes, but I didn’t fuck with the source code. I didn’t try to trace him.”
“You didn’t say his name.”
“Precisely. If I were you, I’d contact the FBI and tell them you’ve been attacked.”
“That’s a little misleading.”
Zizek looked at me as if I’d shrugged off an imminent threat. “You don’t understand. This is very serious.”
“I can tell there’s something else I don’t know about ‘the user.'” I said. “Something you haven’t told me yet.”
“There are rumors. Mostly on DarkChan and forward-slash-b. But it’s supposed to be like a curse.” Zizek pronounced ‘curse’ with considerable strain, stopping for a moment to let it sink in. “It’s supposed to be like that child’s game, what is it? Duck, Goose, Goose.” He said.
“So I’m it?” I said.
Zizek shrugged. “It seems you’ve been chosen.”
I had very little experience with being breached, but I knew that a jammed cell signal was no coincidence. I’d seen enough black-hat tactics to tell when something electronic is sabotaged deliberately and when something is simply broken. The only real source of confusion for me was motive. I checked the internet signals and all of my operating VPN servers; all of which turned out to be working normally. I could use my computers, but my cell phone signal had become a privilege. I sat for a while and watched my monitors assure me that my security protocols were fully secure.
I spent a few days trying to trace the source of the signal jam. By day three, I’d given up. I’d never come across encryption that was this sophisticated. It mocked each trace attempt with a few false server locations, only to quickly reveal the server to be a part of a globe-hopping spider web of unrelated connections. The program that Baphomet was running to conceal itself was something out of an NSA detection-avoidance handbook. I simply didn’t have the skills it would take to compete with its security protocols. I soon found myself consumed with a building sense of dread. My LED screens’ sharp light began to strain my eyes.
My descent towards panic was interrupted by a phone call. Confused, I picked it up to look closely to the screen. The caller ID was listed as ‘Unknown’.
“Hey,” the voice of what sounded like a small male child came through my phone. “You up there?”
“Excuse me? Who is this?” I asked.
“Yeah,” the voice had seemed to age in seconds, and I heard the voice of a grown man on the other end of the call laughing lightly. “You’re up there.” The call went dead.
“Hello?” I said to my Smartphone home screen. I looked around my silent apartment. I’d never found myself so disturbed by the lack of sound before. I turned on all my monitors and laptops, attempting to drown out the isolation. I called the front desk and made sure there weren’t any guests waiting for me downstairs. I closed my blinds, double-checked my alarm systems and ate 20 milligrams of extended release Adderall. I sat down on a chair facing my front door with a black .38 special and a flashlight. I turned off the lights.
Adam Albaari is a writer, originally hailing from Columbia, Maryland. He attended Loyola University New Orleans, graduating with a BA in English with a Writing Concentration. He resides in the Uptown area and has spent over five years writing both journalism and serial fiction for local publications. Adam co-hosts NolaFilmCast with Mike Hogan, a weekly program featuring interviews and film-talk with natives working in New Orleans booming film industry. You can read part 1 of No Daylight here.