"I love you."
Lilly's heart misses a beat when these words appear on her screen. Okay, she'd love to have a boyfriend, and when Ian sends her a friendship request, she eagerly accepts. He just looks so gorgeous in the pictures. But when she's about to meet him in person, things take a dramatic turn. Who is Ian really? And how far will he go to get what he wants?
3 Rules Against Cyberstalking:
1. Don't accept friendship requests from people you've never met.
2. Don't look at their photos.
3. Don't fall in love.
"Gripping and insidiously convincing, CYBERSTALKER will simultaneously thrill and appal readers, who may start to wonder who might really be on the other end of every Internet conversation." MG Harris, international best-selling author of "The Joshua Files"
Read Chapter One here
Watch the trailer
In this excerpt, we see Lily in the middle of her quest to find love – or to escape from it? She’s woken up in the middle of night, we don’t know why. Has she heard something? Is someone outside her bedroom window, possibly the Romeo she has been looking for? Is that why her heart is racing? Why then must she force herself to turn her head and looks who – or what – is there?
She’s clearly afraid, and she should be. She’s pretty sure it must be Ian, lurking outside to look at her, maybe even trying to make contact, come inside… But she can’t be sure, and it’s almost like she is trying to convince herself that the shadow out there is NOT Ian, because if it really is him, he must be crazy. And therefore dangerous.
And yet, again, it seems that Lily isn’t just afraid of her mysterious admirer, but also afraid for him. It is completely illogical for her not to wake her parents, but she just doesn’t do it. Why? There is no logical explanation. There just isn’t.
What I was trying to convey in this scene is that there really is an element of madness involved when we fall in love. Don’t we all remember at least one thing we did when we were crazy for someone which later got us thinking, “Why did I do that? How could I do that?” Sometimes we even wish we could make those things undone.
Lily’s story wasn’t meant to be a blunt warning like, “Avoid Facebook!” or anything like that. It’s love, or its promise, that drives us to do things that are the stuff for drama. The internet, especially the possibilities and dangers of social networks like Facebook are not the cause. They’re amplifiers, because they give us such a dramatic (and sometimes uncontrolled) opportunity to present ourselves and get in touch with people. When we’re in love, or looking for it, social networks are like fuel added to the fire in which we burn.
I wake up. Everything is dark; it’s deep into the night. Shadows are flickering on the ceiling in the pale streetlight. There’s a gap between the top of the curtains and the window where the curtain rail has been attached too low. Dad’s always meaning to fix it but has never got round to it.
I look at the clock. 03:47.
The curtains move. Someone must have opened the window, probably my mum after I went to sleep. Outside a few crickets chirp. Otherwise it’s silent.
I watch the shadows on the ceiling. I can hear the wind whispering outside. The shadows repeatedly merge and then separate, making figures that sway to and fro.
A large shadow flashes across them.
My pulse hammers in my throat. What was that? Even if I wanted to scream, I wouldn’t be able to.
Something scratches at my window.
I force myself to turn my head in the direction of the curtains, which are blowing in the wind again.
My legs feel like someone’s poured ice into my veins. Even so, I manage to push away the bedclothes and stand up. Slowly, very shakily, I creep towards the window. The curtains are overlapping each other so there’s no space between them, which is good. He won’t be able to see me. If it is him.
And if it’s him, he really must be crazy. If one of our neighbours sees him, they’ll call the police straight away. And if my dad discovers him, he’ll go get his big wrench. Ian is taking a huge risk.
Just for me.
He really must be mad.
And have some serious nerve.
I carry on padding towards the window and stub my toe hard on my desk. It makes a horrible cracking noise and I squeal with pain.
Outside something scrapes on the wall and slides to the floor.
My heart’s beating like lightning.
It really was him. And he’s doing a runner.
I hobble over to the window, though my toe must be broken. I tear the curtains to one side, pull the lever down and open the window. The cold night air hits me. I bend forward and almost expect someone to grab my hand and pull me outside, into the darkness, or a massive shadow to soar over me and into my room.
But the only thing that touches me is the wind, icy on my skin. The front garden looks strange in the twilight, like a tangle of black marks and shadows, all in a bluey grey light. Ghostly fog is creeping between the bushes and up the drive. The hedge next to the garage shudders, branches snap somewhere. I’m covered in goose bumps. Despite everything, I stay still, dressed only in my pyjamas by the open window where everyone can see me, but there’s no one there.
Except Ian. Or whatever he’s really called.
Somewhere down there he’s hiding, in the bushes or behind the hedge, I can feel it. And he can see me. From out of the darkness, he can see me standing here in the cold light of the streetlamp. Like a rabbit in the headlights.
I could wake my parents. I don’t know if my dad would actually go to get his big wrench, but he’d definitely have a look outside. Then Ian would realise that there’s someone looking after me here. But I don’t want to wake them. It would turn into a huge thing and we all have to get up early tomorrow. And what would I say to them anyway? That something scratched on my window and I think the bogeyman’s sitting in the bush. They’d think I was acting like a four year old. And take away my TV.
Finally, after who knows how long of standing there, I close the window, pull the curtains shut and creep back to bed. I curl up into a ball, but I’m too cold from standing at the window for so long to be able to sleep, and my toe is throbbing with pain. I can’t hear any more noises from the window. Maybe the shadow has come back, very very quietly, but I don’t know. I’ve turned to face the wall and have my eyes tight shut.
Maybe I’ll be safe if I sleep.
I’ve always read a lot and started writing when I was ten. Reading and writing have always helped me in my life, and I need both the same way that I need air to breathe. During my time at school I wrote a Sherlock Holmes novel, one horror and two adventure novels, and lots of short stories. My inspirations were Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King and Ray Bradbury – quite a weird mixture, I know. My great mentor was my granddad, who was hilariously funny and inspiring. He read all my stuff and was happy for me, and he also found out that in the early 19th century one of our ancestors, Wilhelm Zahn, produced amazing books about the ancient murals in Pompeii and was friends with Goethe. This provided even more inspiration, as did all those late-night films I watched when I was home alone: mostly old B-monster-movies by Jack Arnold (“Tarantula”, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”), “The Thing from Another World”, and John Carpenter’s “The Fog”. Our old house always creaked and cracked, and that didn’t help. Well, it sure got my imagination going…
Later, while studying at uni I started producing computer software, for example the first language learning software on CD, and guidebooks for teachers about the new media, like the first didactical treatment of teaching film analysis.
On my way to school one morning I came up with the idea for “Granny Gertrude”, which then led to the stories about Tom and “TEAM 002″. I’ve always been a great fan of James Bond, and it’s kind of funny that there even is a Bond story titled “The Hildebrand-Rarity”, which was used as a source for the Bond film “Licence to kill” (1989). So it’s only logical for Tom, the hero of my secret agent thrillers, to admire James Bond. The idea for “Cyberstalker” came about during my work as leader of our team for crisis intervention. It’s more grounded in reality than you would like to know.
I love England, first and foremost our English friends and Dartmoor, where Sherlock Holmes chased the “Hound of the Baskervilles”. The small village of Postbridge has become our second home, and we love exploring the area and sitting round the fireplace, chatting with friends.
At our school, I currently hold the post of Deputy Headmaster. I also coordinate our crisis & counseling team. We endeavour to help our pupils, mostly to make them resilient against bullying, cyberbullying, cyberstalking etc. What’s most important job is creating a good atmosphere at school. We also work within a great network of partners such as other schools and counseling centres.
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