By chance I stumbled into the kind of secret world that you only ever read about or see on TV. I was in the right (wrong) bar complaining to the right (wrong) bartender, and as I went to pay the tab I found a matte black business card with gold writing between the check and the platter.
The words printed on the front of the card were a web address, which linked to a contact form. There was no header to indicate an organization of any kind, no footer to link to FAQs or an “About Us” page. Two words appeared in bold type at the top left: “The Deposit.”
The boxes were already filled. My name, my age, my address all appeared pre-entered. Attempts to change or delete this information were fruitless. Only one box contained anything new to me. It was the last in the list, labeled “Sponsor,” and it contained the name of the man tending bar the night before. The man who had slipped the card to me.
I could have closed it all down, shredded the card, and forgotten all about it. But instead I pushed the little button with the right-facing arrow at the bottom of the screen. One step further down the rabbit hole I found a similar contact sheet but all of the fields were blank. A word at the top left identified it as “The Withdrawal.”
Twenty four hours later I received an email from a daemon, the kind you get when an email address cannot be reached. But rather than announcing a failure to send, the subject read: “Quid Pro Quo.” Within the email was another link, which opened another pre-filled contact form. A “Withdrawal” for a complete stranger. No text appeared to clarify, no accompanying instructions followed. Still I knew. Quid Pro Quo.
The Withdrawal was a loan officer at a bank in a little suburban pocket about a dozen miles away. It was the act of withdrawal itself that gave me clarity in the moments which followed, and I found that I no longer had any desire for this. My quarrels seemed so insignificant, and the list of grievances which had fueled my hate disintegrated along with the flood of adrenaline.
Back at home I tried navigating back to the first contact form, hoping that I’d find some salvation there. Page not found. I found the email from the daemon and typed out a fast response. “Please,” I begged, “the withdrawal is off.” Hours passed with no response. There would be no intervention, no undoing it.
So I waited outside of my withdrawal’s house, with deadly intent to prevent events that I had so willingly set into motion. He was in there with his family, I could see them silhouetted by the lights against shear curtains. Where before I’d felt nothing but a blind rage I could now feel understanding for everything, and in that there was forgiveness, a desperation to move forward.
One hour turned into two and then three, but the lights stayed on and the silhouettes remained motionless. Anticipation turned to dread. I entered the house through a front door that was already unlocked.
Upon returning home I found an envelope slid under the front door.
“Recommend us to a friend?”
Inside was a black card with gold writing.