by Jake Christie

a story.

The website would still send him a paycheck no matter how long he left his webcam on. His employers were all about generating unique content, and as long as they owned the footage that streamed from his camera he could leave it on for five minutes a week or 24 hours a day.

He started with a half hour a day, time that he had put aside to be on the computer anyway. He'd check his e-mails, read the news, watch some videos, and the whole time he'd be aware of the camera, watching him. At the end of the week his check came in the mail.

His second paycheck came with a note that read, “You're cute :).”

There was no name on the note, no signature. He turned it over in his hands. He forgot to open the rest of his mail.

The next week he turned on the webcam twice a day, for an hour at a time. He didn't have enough to do on the internet to fill the time, so he created little tasks for himself. He compared washer-dryer sets by price and consumer reviews. He learned about the Spanish Civil War. He practiced drawing with just his mouse. Little by little he forgot that the camera was on.

After a month and a half, a paycheck came with a note that read, simply, “<3.”

Again, no name. Again, no explanation. He carried the note around with him for the rest of the day. Before going to bed he hung it over his computer – behind the screen, where only he could see it.

He started turning on the webcam in the morning and leaving it on all day. He didn't think about the fact that it was there anymore, that he was being recorded, and instead of creating tasks for himself he went about his normal business. He'd read the news. He'd laugh at videos of cats. But often the camera would be focused on nothing for hours, an empty chair, until he'd come home, sit down at the keyboard, and tear open his mail.

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