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The Friend Request: Alex Ford's Dark Facebook Comedy

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Chapter One

A bluebottle flew repeatedly against the window in a vain attempt to escape. Its wings buzzed as they came into contact with the glass pane. Ordinarily, it would have been an annoying distraction, but David hadn't noticed it, he was transfixed by something on his computer screen. He'd been staring at it for the last forty-five minutes.

David looked like he'd been caught in a freeze frame while sitting at his desk. His face was ashen and cast in the ghostly white light of the monitor. The only movement was his hand bringing a cigarette to his lips. Even though he recently gave up, he quickly reverted to old habits and had already chain smoked ten of the bloody things.

"Oh God," he muttered under his breath, releasing little clouds of smoke.

All the ashtrays were thrown away when he'd decided to stop, so he dropped the dying cigarette into his cold cup of coffee. It sizzled briefly, then just floated there.

He'd done so well to quit, although, all it took for all his hard work to go up in smoke, was a single drag.

It was that message. As soon as he saw it, he craved a cigarette more than anything. His heart was racing and so was his mind.

Something happened when he logged onto Facebook and saw the friend request that set off a major panic attack.

He tried to think back to the last time he panicked like this. It was years - ten, maybe twenty, although he really wasn't quite sure. He looked down at his hands, they were shaking, uncontrollably. In a way, it was like having an out-of-body experience; part of his mind was able to watch as his body reacted in a most peculiar way.

Maybe, he wondered, it was some weird reaction to drugs. Surely though, he didn't dabble enough for that to be the reason. The occasions, when he accompanied a friend to the toilet of a club to snort a few lines off a cistern were rare.

The most involved he ever got was trying to score a gram for his 30th Birthday. One of his media friends gave him the number of a dealer that delivered. Worrying what his curtain twitching neighbour would think, when an unfamiliar man arrived in a silver Lexus and went into his house only to re-emerge a few moments later, David had waited in his draughty hallway the whole night for Pete to arrive. He thought about calling the dealer again, but didn't want to seem too pushy and demanding, besides, he didn't know the etiquette when ordering class 'A' drugs. He doubted it was like ordering pizza, when you were entitled to it free if it took longer than thirty minutes. Drug dealers were just so unreliable.

There had to be another explanation.

Sitting at his desk, he tried to concentrate and work out what on earth was the matter. He just didn't seem able to grasp anything concrete. Part of his brain was trying to tell him something, but the rest of his mind was making pretty damn sure that the message didn't get through.

All this internet networking was starting to get a bit obsessive anyway. David told himself the reason he checked his Facebook homepage every half hour, whilst he was meant to be working, seeing if he'd been poked, emailed or tagged in a photo, was because he had an addictive personality.

He laughed at those 'friends' who were obviously trying to increase their kudos amongst the 'network' - why else bother to add pictures of my new car or my holiday in the Maldives. Although he always made sure that his own life looked as successful and as rosy as possible.

When he first joined, there was an initial flurry of friend requests and he readily accepted them. Well, at the beginning he only had nine friends and that was embarrassing - especially when he clicked on other people's profiles and saw they had hundreds. It made him feel rather desperate and a Billy-no-mates, so he scrolled through the people you might know list, seeing who he could add. It was ridiculous some of the people he listed as friends, there were even a couple of his old school teachers. However, he'd drawn the line at accepting a request from a friend's Chihuahua.

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