Adventures in the Heart of the Darknet


Poor Marge has had a rough week. It wasn’t bad enough that late Aunt Gertrude — the hoarder — left her what seemed like a metric ton of old clothing that she’ll need to sell to pay the funeral costs. Now her 17-year-old nephew, whom she is pretty sure is going through a phase because he insists on being called “BitTerrorist the Magnificent,” has gotten her into this big kerfuffle and, for reasons she doesn’t completely understand, the government is now involved. All this over an A-line skirt with a bourbon stain on it.

The other ladies at church were all excited about this thing called eBay, where you could sell things and actual strangers would buy them from you, although heaven knows why anyone would want any of Gertrude’s old clothes. Still, it seemed like an easy way to get the piles of girdles and other detritus out of her living room, so she turned to BitTerrorist for help. Maybe he’s going through a difficult age, but it’s so good for a teen’s self-esteem when you make him feel useful.

To be honest, Marge wasn’t entirely sure what BitTerrorist was proposing; it sounded like he said “the other side of the Internet” or “dark something,” but the end result was that the clothes would be out of her living room and she would get paid, so that sounded just fine to her. In exchange for a plate of her chocolate chip cookies, which he called “munchies” — such a cute name! — he either uploaded or downloaded something onto her laptop, and pretty soon she was on a website called Silk Road, which sounded just lovely, especially because Aunt Gertrude always loved silk. He might have an antisocial side to him, but when you got right down to it, BitTerrorist was really such a thoughtful young man.

In fact, Marge was amazed at how quickly he set up a whole shop for her, right there on Silk Road. Now all she had to do was put photos of the clothing she wanted to sell in her shop and wait for people to buy. If only housework was that easy.

The first item she offered for sale was a plaid skirt from the 1970s. It was ugly as all get-out, really, but there’s no accounting for taste, as her mother always said. No sooner had she pushed the button to publish the photo than a buyer messaged her. This was going to be easy!

<crystlfiend123>: How many grams?

<margeinMN>: I’m sorry, grams?

<crystlfiend123>: In the lining. How many grams you got in the lining??

<margeinMN>: Well, it’s winter weight, but I don’t think it’s that heavy. You’ll probably use up the better part of a stain stick to take out that mark on the front, though. Aunt Gertrude always did love her bourbon.

<crystlfiend123>: [Abruptly signs off]

OK, maybe it would take a while to get used to selling things on the Internet. But there was really no excuse to be rude like that. Fortunately, another buyer popped up soon after:

<whistlblowr999>: Thank God I found you! When can I get my new identity? I’m not safe here anymore. Everything’s been compromised!

<margeinMN>: Well, hello to you, too, dear. Do you like the skirt? Aunt Gertrude practically lived in it. Until she died, of course.

<whistlblowr999>: OMG THEY’RE KILLING PEOPLE??! What am I going to do?! Help me!

<margeinMN>: Well, now, I can’t say for sure whether the skirt will make a good disguise, but …

<whistlblowr999>: [Account Deleted]

This was harder than BitTerrorist made it look. Maybe it would be a good idea to “vamp up” what she wrote about the skirt. Lord knows it wasn’t not something that would sell itself, you betcha. Shoulder to the grindstone, Marge. You can do this.

<fetishlovingcarl>: Is that latex?

<margeinMN>: Oh, heavens no. I think it’s wool. I’m not sure I’d want to wear a latex skirt, ha ha.

<fetishlovingcarl>: No, you wouldn’t. You’d probably struggle, and then I’d have to —

<margeinMN>: [DELETE]

Heaven above, what had BitTerrorist gone and done? Oh, dear, here was another one:

<nottheFBI>: Ma’am, is that your skirt?

<margeinMN>: Well, technically, I suppose it belonged to my Aunt Gertrude. But she’s gone now, rest her soul, and I’m selling it.

<nottheFBI>: So what you’re saying, then, is that you’re trafficking in stolen merchandise after committing murder?

<margeinMN>: NO! That’s not what I said at all.

<nottheFBI>: Stay in plain sight, please.

And that, Your Honor, is how poor Marge wound up in court.

Is there something weirdly popular on the Internet that you’d like explained? Write to Deb Amlen at and let her know. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@debamlen).