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   One cold Friday night inDecember, I sat in my warm house at my computer. I love being there, but afterwhat happened that night, I have learned to be more cautious.

"Bye,Mom!" I had yelled. Grinning, I winked and asked, "When will you behome?"

"Around 11 o'clock. You know how they like to stretchthings out."

As soon as she and my stepfather were out the door, Iran to the computer and flipped on the switch. As I ran my fingers through myhair nervously, I waited.

"Oh, finally," I murmured as I pushedthe connect icon. I could hear the pleasant tune the computer plays as I loggedon to the Internet. "Come on! Go faster!" I said. Are any of my friendson? I pushed the Yahoo Messenger icon. "Aww, man, Andy promised he would beon. Now who am I going to talk to?" I pressed the chat icon and looked atthe topics.

"Religion, no, romance, definitely not, friendlychatting, that's okay." I typed hi and immediately got a response from threepeople. I clicked and responded with a friendly hello. I finally left the chatroom because there were too many people to talk to. That's when a name came up onthe screen, "Zampathaz." It was a little strange, but I said helloquickly and talked to someone else.

Zampathaz IMed (instant messaged) meback, asking for my phone number. I was not dumb enough to give out my number tosomeone I didn't know, so I told him a fake number and left because I thought hewas a creep. He IMed me back a few minutes later, mad that I'd given him a wrongnumber and asked for my email address. I gave it to him without thinking.Normally if I give anyone I don't know my email, it's an anonymous one. Byaccident, I gave him the one with my profile on it.

Ten minutes passed. Iwent back in the chat room and was talking to someone. All of a sudden, my phonenumber was posted on the chat room screen over and over and over. How did someonefind it? I received an IM from Zampathaz, saying he looked up my number in someYahoo files. He also said he was going to call me. I flipped. I did not know whatto do.

I quickly got off my computer and started pacing in thehall.

"Emily, what's wrong with you?" my sisterasked.

"Nothing!"

"But your face is white and you'reacting strange." Katie reached for my hand. "Your hands, they're cold!What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing!" I insisted oncemore.

Suddenly the phone was ringing, but I could nottalk.

"Oh, I'll get it, Emily," she said.

I jumped up andyelled, "No!"

"Why?"

Thinking what could happenI spoke, "Let the machine get it."

When the answering machinepicked up, nothing was said. "Thank God," I muttered.

A minutepassed, and the phone rang again. Many things were going through my head. I ranall the way to the other end of the house so Katie would not hear. I picked upthe phone and spoke, "Hello?"

A strange, whiny, high-pitchedman's voice replied, "Hellooo, Emmiiilllyyy."

I quickly hung upand grabbed my sister, "Katie! Go to the basement, now!" I ran throughthe house and turned out all the lights so it would look like no one was home. Iquickly grabbed a phone and went to join her in the basement.

As Katie andI sat in the dark basement with only the glow of the TV screen, the phone rang.The machine would pick up. Then the ringing would start again. I did not knowwhat to do. What could I do? Once the ringing stopped for a split second, Ipicked up the phone I had brought with me and called my friend Ashley, who livedjust down the street.

As I was talking to her, call waiting was beeping inthe background. Ashley insisted on coming over so we would not be home alone. Sheknew I was scared.

Soon Ashley came to my rescue. We made a plan to goback on the computer, back onto Yahoo. There the name came back on the screen,Zampathaz. Ashley sat down at my computer and did the talking for me because Iwas too scared. He asked why I hung up on him and why I would not answer thephone. We said that we were scared and did not want to talk to him. He asked why.We told him that if he called again, we would call the cops.

That was it.That was the key to getting rid of him. Finally he left. The nightmare was over.At least that's what we thought.

Sunday, two days after the call from thatstrange man, I was in my room doing homework. Again Katie and I were home alone.The phone rang, and Katie answered it. "Hello?" shesaid.

"Hello" said an unfamiliar voice. "May I speak withEmily?"

"Yes, I'll get her," she replied .

I tookthe phone and listened. "Hello, Emily?" he questioned. I hung up. Itwas him.

The next week at school, I told all my friends about the horriblething that happened. I also told Ashley that he called again. When I came homefrom school that day, I went on Yahoo Messenger again and got an IM fromZampathaz. He told me he was going to call. I was about to get off the computerbut I thought about something. The next thing I said to him was, "I am a13-year-old girl. Leave me alone before I tell my parents!" Then I put himon ignore and got off the computer. When I looked him up on Yahoo files, itturned out he worked at a computer company, was 45 years old and lived inCalifornia.

I was lucky, I never got a call or an IM from him again, buthe still could be out there with my phone number in hand. I learned a veryimportant lesson that night. Never let anyone learn too much about you. The samenight I changed my profile on Yahoo so no one could get to know me.

The Internet can be a dangerous place. On the Internet people can be whomeverthey want to be. They can lie about themselves and no one will know. That is thescary thing about it. My advice: Never let anyone on the Net know too much aboutyou, or you could get hurt.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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