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I started writing a few years ago. Every now and then I get an idea and I'll write a story about it. Feel free to leave a comment :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

4.5/5*

4.5/5*
Date written: April 2015


-I-


All in all, very satisfied.

I invited my college friends over to relax and have a chat at my place a while ago. There were 5 of us in total. These were my better friends from the college that I had attended a few months prior. I would’ve invited more people, but frankly I’d always been very picky about who I spent my time with.

We were talking about the things that most people in their early 20s would talk about for a while. Sex, parties, college and work. Well, I was the only one in the group that had a job. The rest was still attending college. Nothing was much out of the ordinary until one of my friends brought up the subject of the ‘exit bag’. Now, personally I had never even heard of the phenomenon and I was quite surprised about how he got the idea to bring up the subject. So what was this exit bag exactly?

Just imagine being stranded in a desert, in the scorching heat, without food or water and no signs of civilization for hundreds of miles. That’s when you need an exit bag. You know how they warn kids not to play with plastic bags and tell them not to put them over their heads to avoid suffocation, right? In this case it’s exactly the opposite. Personally I think it’s a sick tool and it’s a disgusting way for a production company to make money, but oh well.

This wasn’t quite the thing that sparked my interest though. One of my friends took her phone out of her pocket and started searching for some images of the exit bag. We ended up talking about some products that Amazon had to offer. While she was looking for the pictures of the exit bag, she stumbled upon the Amazon web store. Playfully, or jokingly, she told us that someone wrote and sold a suicide self-help book. At first we all thought that it was a book aimed to help people get rid of their suicidal tendencies, which would be a good thing. But when she started reading through the content summary, we quickly realized that it was quite the contrary.

Someone actually wrote a book to help people pick the suicide method of their choice. What surprised me the most wasn’t that though, truthfully. I mean, sick minds exist, there’s nothing that can be done about that. But the fact that Amazon actually sold them was quite unsettling.

‘No reviews. Average rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars. Not bad,’ Melanie said to me as she turned off her phone.

‘Interesting subject… moving on,’ my other friend replied, who never was too much into weird or controversial topics.

Interesting indeed, I thought to myself.


-II-

I woke up the morning after with a headache. I had one too many drinks the evening my friends were at my place and I only slept a mere 5 hours. But, work was calling so I left home around 8. I couldn’t concentrate much that morning. My head was killing me and I had an odd feeling pressuring my chest.

It wasn’t pain, it was more like a gnawing feeling. It felt like I was urged to do something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly. It wasn’t until lunchtime that flashes of the conversation of the previous night reappeared in my head.

Melanie messaged me on Facebook in the afternoon.

‘Good times yesterday­,’ she wrote.

‘Haha, yeah. I got a bit of a headache. Can’t wait to get off work,’ I replied.

‘Interesting conversations too.’

‘Yeah, what was that all about…’ I said to her.

I looked around to see if people were looking at my screen or in my direction. I remembered after her message that we talked about that strange suicide self-help book. Hesitantly I opened a new browser window and turned on incognito mode. I looked away from my screen again and found that all my colleagues were focused on their own work. After a few seconds I started typing.
The urging pressure that I had felt all day decreased as I typed in the Amazon web address. As the page loaded, I let my fingers glide lightly over the laptop's keyboard. Right…

Suicide self-help books

I noticed that the autofill function stopped working after typing in half of the first search key word. I pressed enter and looked at the product offer. There weren’t many results that precisely matched my search criteria. In total there were 9 products, of which the first one was the book that Melanie described the night before.

I felt nervous as I clicked the link to see the book in detail. I gazed around nervously, afraid of what my colleagues would think of me if they noticed what I was looking at. My heart started pounding faster as I hovered my mouse over the image of the book cover to closer inspect it. The cover didn’t hold much information. It was mostly dark grey, without a title or the name of the author written on the cover.
From what I could gather from the image was that the book was a hardcover without any images to decorate the outside of the book. I selected a picture of the back of the book and it was empty. No picture of the author, no information about the contents.

I looked at the general product information. The book received an average rating of 4.3 out of 5, based on ratings of 247 buyers. It cost €20. I wanted to check out the reviews for the book, but as I hovered my mouse over the review section I got a pop up stating:

---There are no reviews for this product yet. Be the first one to review this product by logging in or signing up for an Amazon account.---

It didn’t strike me as strange before, or at least I didn’t realize it, that a book that aims to help people in their suicide decisions received so many positive ratings.

As I sat there for a short while, simply looking at the page, I could feel my curiosity for the contents of the book increase with every second. All of the sounds and visuals around me blurred out completely during the time I was looking at the grey cover. I felt… mesmerized by it.

‘Sam! Your phone is ringing!’

I instinctively hit ALT-F4 to quit the browser as soon as my colleague’s words got through to me.

‘Sorry, my bad,’ I replied to him.

‘Stop day dreaming, I don’t want to have to call you 5 times every time your phone rings. Some of us actually do some work around here.’


-III-

What the hell was going on with me? I couldn’t get that book out of my head. After I closed the Amazon website that day, the pressuring urge returned. I began to realize what the urge was exactly. It was the urge to revisit the page, to look at the book again. But why did I feel so attracted to it? Perhaps it was because I couldn’t figure out how it got those ratings. It had to be that. I convinced myself that was the reason I was so interested in it.

After a few days I opened my browser at home and went to visit the book again. To my great surprise, the number of ratings went up by 7. This gave me a slight feeling of discomfort, knowing that there might’ve been 7 people who decided to take their own lives. 7 within a few days only.

Still… How could this book be rated positively? If the help that is offered in the book is successful, doesn’t that mean that there should be no rating at all?

The average rating also went up by 0.1. As I was thinking about this matter, the thought suddenly came to me that I hadn’t opened the website in incognito mode. I cursed to myself and quickly closed the browser.

I didn’t visit Amazon for a few days after that. Yet my mind was constantly with the book. At work I did a lot of research for my job, visiting a lot of websites. After a while I had gotten accustomed to seeing advertisements pass on the side or on the top of a website and I learned to ignore them, or at least my conscious mind did. I’m pretty sure that the subconscious mind however noticed all the ads that appeared and saved them somewhere in my head. Even the Amazon ones. The Amazon ads that are personalized by the purchase history, viewing history, cookies and other data that I agreed to let them place on my computer.

I woke up one night after having a dream where my subconscious had shown me the ads that passed by throughout the days. And I’ll be damned that the book showed up as well. I didn’t even visit Amazon anymore, I tried to ignore the urge that was pressuring me and still the book came back to me. How did I know it was true though? How did I know those ads were actually placed on the websites and it wasn’t just my mind playing tricks on me? I couldn’t know. But I didn’t care.

I jumped out of bed, turned on my laptop and deleted all the browser files from my system. I logged out of my Amazon account, downloaded an ad blocker and ran the system cleaner of my anti-virus system. I must’ve seemed paranoid, but I didn’t want to see the book anymore. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore.

Days went by and I felt more at ease mentally. The ad blocker was running smoothly, my computer was clean and I didn’t see anything of the book anymore. I tried to forget about it as well, but unfortunately, the pressure remained.

-IV-

Two weeks went by in total and I forgot about the book little by little. The pressure on my chest got less strong and I was able to concentrate better on my work and on my life. Until I got the e-mail.
It was near the end of my work day when I noticed that I had an unread e-mail in my private inbox. As I read the subject line of the e-mail, I felt a familiar strange vibe going through my body. That dreaded urge lived up again. I opened the e-mail and read through it.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Sam,

You added 1 product to your shopping cart 2 weeks ago, but haven’t proceeded to the checkout yet. Having trouble making a decision on whether or not to purchase your added product? Allow us to provide you with a 20% immediate discount on your purchase and free shipping! We look forward to welcoming you to the Amazon store again. We hope you enjoy your day and see you soon!

Kind regards,

The Amazon.com team

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How was that possible? I didn’t recall adding anything to my cart. I opened my account and looked at my shopping cart. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How did the fucking book end up there? It couldn’t have been me who added it? Surely I would’ve remembered it… I covered my mouth and looked around the work space. Confused, I got up from my seat and left the office early. As I drove home, the pressuring feeling increased.

When I arrived home I put my laptop on the table in front of me. The urge rushing through my heart, I turned on the laptop and stared at the screen for a moment. The only thought in my head was: I need to buy it. I felt it was the only way to get rid of the burning urge. It had been eating me for long enough. Label me paranoid, label me crazy, but the only way to find out what it was about this book that got stuck in my head was to buy it, read it and throw it out right after.

Average rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 298 ratings. Still no reviews.

The pressure on my chest was heavier than ever before and the palms of my hands were sweaty as I walked myself through the checkout menus. I would occasionally place my forehead on my fingertips and try to convince myself that I didn’t need the book. But it felt like parts inside of me were fighting and I had no control over what I was going to do. As my finger made the final click, the book was ordered and would arrive on my doorstep within 2 – 3 business days.

It was a mere 2 days later that the doorbell rang in the evening. My heartrate increased as I realized that the book had arrived. Perfectly within the estimated delivery time. I walked to the front door and put my hand on the handle. I looked through the peephole, looking for someone holding a package, but there was nobody there. While I kept looking through the peephole, I flicked on the light on the front porch of my small house. But the porch was empty.

There was no sign of anything that had to do with a delivery. No van, no delivery person, just an empty street. I didn’t open the door. It might have just been the kids from the neighborhood who were up to some mischief. I walked away from the door and looked through my windows to see if there was anyone hiding next to the door. But no, everything was okay. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I realized that it couldn’t have been the delivery, it was impossible at this hour. I looked at my watch and noticed that it was close to 9 in the evening.

I felt disappointment. I shouldn’t have felt disappointment. I didn’t have a need for the book, it’s not like I ordered something I truly wanted. I convinced myself that the feelings I had were just because I had to wait longer to get rid of the book and the influence it had on me. Reluctantly I moved away from the window and went to lay in my bed. I put my laptop on my nightstand and watched some videos before going to sleep early.

-V-

I woke up in the morning to the sound of my laptop’s vent blowing. I slowly opened my eyes and gazed at the green light on the laptop that was illuminating a very small part of the room. I must’ve fallen asleep browsing the internet. I moved my hand over the touchpad to get the laptop out of energy saving mode and while covering my eyes I let them slowly adapt to the wall of light that the screen started to emit.

It took a few seconds for my view to become less blurry and I could see a familiar webpage opened. I couldn’t wrap my head around how it appeared on my screen, but the only explanation I could find was that somehow I opened it last night because I wanted to look at the book. The moment the feeling of disbelief faded away, the feeling of a certain attraction lived up. There was no fear, not even discomfort. The urge in my chest was gone and I felt some sort of enjoyment watching the empty cover.

The mysterious object. I got out of bed without closing the website and instinctively walked to the front door. I looked through the peephole without knowing exactly who or what I was looking for. After a few seconds I opened the door and walked out. As I was looking into the distance I didn’t realize that there was something placed on my doorstep and I tripped over it, face first on the wooden porch.

I turned over and sat down on my knees to check out what it was I tripped over. The Amazon logo that was placed on the package by sticker was reflecting the light of the morning sun. I quickly pulled the box towards me and started unpacking it, impatiently like a young kid who had just received his first Christmas gift. As I removed the packaging material from around the book and held the product in my hands, the mesmerizing feelings I had felt before returned, but even stronger. I looked at the grey cover and I could’ve sworn that the colors started changing. Slightly, but noticeable. I touched the cover with my fingertips, turned it around several times and quickly flipped through the pages.

I don’t know at what time I got out of bed, or how long I sat there, simply looking at my purchase, admiring it, but after a while I went back inside the house and put the book on the table. I was late for work already. I wasn’t worried. Every once in a while employees at my company ran late without consequences.

I left the house again and jumped into my car. As I sat behind the wheel, I gazed at my front door for a short while. I felt quite good. Better than I had felt in weeks. My chest stopped aching and I felt what I could only describe as a feeling of euphoria. When I arrived at work, my boss asked me why I was late. I gave him a simple excuse explaining that I had an alarm clock malfunction. He actually laughed about the way I put it and just like I expected he wasn’t pissed off at me.

Melanie called me later that same day. She was worried about me. She told me that I hadn’t replied to her messages on Facebook in quite a while and wasn’t picking up my phone until that moment. I didn’t know what to say to her. I would’ve wanted to tell her that I did in fact read and had replied to her messages, but the truth was that I couldn’t remember much from the past weeks. I couldn’t recall doing or not doing it.

As hard as I tried to remember what I had done those past few weeks, I couldn’t. All I could remember were the things that had to do with the book. I told Melanie that I wanted to see her and talk about what I had done in the time we didn’t speak. I apologized to her and we agreed to meet that same evening. I figured that was the best way to deal with the situation. I could blow off some steam by talking about everything that had been going on and show her the book. Perhaps she would like it as well.

-VI-

‘So talk to me please, because I’m worried about you,’ Melanie said as she sat down on the couch.

‘Hm well, there’s nothing to be worried about, really. I’ve just been really busy.’

‘With work?’

‘Nah, not really. Just some other stuff.’

‘Like what?’ she asked.

‘I’ll show it to you. Do you remember that night you and the others were at my place? I think it was like 3 weeks ago or something.’

‘Yeah?’

‘You searched for this stuff on Amazon, remember? Well look what I got!’

I pointed to the book that laid on the table in front of the couch where she was sitting. Her eyes moved to the grey object and she took it into her hands.

‘What is this?’ she asked as she tried to find out the title of the book on its cover.

‘You don’t remember? It’s the book we found. I bought it. I haven’t read it yet, but I wanted to show it to you. I've wanted to buy it for a long time now and…’

She cut me off in the middle of my sentence.

‘I’m sorry, but what? You bought that weird suicide book?’ she started flipping through the pages.

‘Why would you buy a sick thing like this? she continued as she looked upon me.

‘Don’t judge the book by its cover, Melanie. Really, I think it’ll be a really good read. I haven’t read it yet, but there’s something about it. I’m really curious about it,’ I replied to her as I was walking around the room enthusiastically.

She didn’t say anything for a short while, she simply stared at the book.

‘Melanie?’

‘Seriously though, why would you buy this? You don’t need this shit.’

‘That’s what I thought at first too, but there was something about it that made me buy it. It has a certain attraction to me. You don’t think it’s cool? I was hoping you’d want to read it too.’

‘Are you like… playing a joke on me?’

‘No, I’m not, seriously. I was going to read it tonight and when I finished it you could’ve borrowed it if you wanted to so you could read it too! You don’t think that it’s a good idea?’

‘No… No, Sam. I don’t think that it’s a good idea and I don’t want to read it. And you shouldn’t either. What is this bullshit about this thing having an attraction towards you? You’re not sounding like yourself.’

I stopped walking around and looked into her eyes.

‘You’re not feeling the attraction? Just look at the book. Look at it and tell me what you feel. No wait, I’ll go first,’ I said as I sat down next to her and took the book from her hands. I stared at it for a moment, then closed my eyes and felt the pages.

‘Hmm…’

‘Sam, you’re scaring me. You’re not behaving like yourself…’

I reopened my eyes and looked at her, irritated.

‘I’m the same person I was a few weeks ago. Maybe it’s you who’s not behaving like yourself.’

She got off the couch and grabbed the book from my hands. I got up as well and stood in front of her.

‘I don’t know what this shit is doing to you, but it’s a sick book and as your friend, I’m not going to let you read it. Who knows what you’ll do to yourself.’

Confused as to why she was behaving this way, I tried to grab the book from her hands.

‘Give it back to me. You can’t keep me from reading it. It’s none of your business.’

She tried to keep the book away from me.

‘If you want to be like this and not read the book, that’s your problem then, but you’re not going to determine whether or not I read it,’ I said to her, angry at that point.

‘I’m leaving now, Sam.’

‘Fine! Leave then. But you’re not leaving with the book,’ I said and I managed to grab it from her hands. I let my gaze slide towards the cover.

‘Now get the fuck out of my house.’

I saw her eyes tearing up as she grabbed her coat and walked towards the door. Before she closed the door, she looked at me and wanted to say something, but it looked like she couldn’t find many words.

Through her tears she managed to bring out a few final words:

‘Please don’t do anything stupid…’ she uttered before she slammed the door shut.

I stood still for a few moments, staring at the door.

‘You know what? Good riddance. At least I can read in peace now,’ I said to myself.

I sat down on the couch and opened the book. I took some time to read through the index to see what kind of help the book would be offering. The Japanese method… The Mexican method… Methods from ancient times… This should be good.

The anger I felt before disappeared and enthusiasm took over as soon as I flipped to the first page of the first chapter. Never before had I been looking forward to reading a book, but this one was different. Eagerly I read page after page, as quick as I could, storing all the information it offered in my head. I lost all indication of time and place as I let the pages take over my mind and body.



-VII-

I finished the book within a day.

But I’m not going to spoil anything about its contents. I think that the experience will be different for every person who reads it. Because of the large variety within the pages, there will be something for everyone. I will say however, that "Chapter 27: Slow acting poisons" was a real eye-opener for me.

I feel it’s quite an honor to be the first person to review the book. I had a very special experience with it. As you could've read, at first I was quite skeptical about it. Yet at the same time I felt some sort of attraction to it. I thought that I didn’t even need the book, but I ended up buying it anyway. I read it and I have to say that honestly, I found it very convincing, certain parts more than others.

Don’t judge this book by its cover, is one of the things I want to point out most of all. That’s what I said to my friend Melanie as well (that’s not her real name, I changed it for privacy concerns). Unfortunately she didn’t find it as interesting as I did. Perhaps she’ll change her mind later when she sees the effects it had on me.

I guess I can kind of understand why there weren’t any reviews for this product yet. I probably wouldn’t have had any time to write a review either if I chose differently.

Hopefully my story of the last few weeks will provide a good idea of what you can expect to get when ordering the book. You might think that you don't need it, but don't let that idea keep you from buying it and reading it anyway. It can really change your life.

To make a long story short, because I don't have too much time left, I’d just like to say:

A very good product. Would recommend. 4.5 out of 5 stars. All in all, very satisfied.

Pros: Good content, good value for money, life changer
Cons: No author listed

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