We got home from the funeral and there was a Facebook post from Uncle Stanley. Whose funeral we had just come from. The post read, Thanks for coming to my funeral. Really enjoyed the music.
We didn’t think much of it. Probably Luke had put it up. Dad thought it was in fairly bad taste. But Luke denied it. Only him and Aunt May had access, though, and Aunt May doesn’t know anything about anything when it comes to Facebook.
More posts came. Feeling lonely. Watching over you. Luke denied it. We found later that it couldn’t be him, because he was laid up in bed with the fever and Aunt May swore up and down he never touched a computer.
So we decided it had been hacked, and asked the tech guys what we could do about it. They didn’t have anything much.
When Luke was better, he changed all the passwords and began setting it up as a memorial thing. But the strange posts kept on coming.
Then my sister barged into my room with tears running her pale face, and her phone in her hand.
“Uncle Stanley messaged me,” she said. “Through Messenger. He – he – he said -” and she burst into tears.
Once she’d calmed down, she told her story three times, once to me, then to Mum and Dad, then to Luke and Aunt May. Turned out she’d been getting shut out by her friends at school. Some drama over a boy. None of us had known. But Uncle Stanley had sent her a message telling her to ignore her bullies.
“Are you sure it’s not just someone trying to hit on you weirdly?” Dad asked, uncertain. “The person who hacked the account probably knows all about us.”
“He used names, Dad. He quoted them. Look, he said here, only an idiot would call someone ungrateful when they’ve shared their Geography homework with them. How would some rando on the internet know about this?”
“Maybe the hacker’s one of the girls at school,” Luke suggested.
“Or maybe Uncle Stanley’s still watching us,” my sister said.
“Bec,” I said, “that’s crazy talk.”
She shrugged. Luke deleted the account, and set up a completely new one with the same name. They let him do it once he told them he’d been hacked.
One week later, I got a message from Uncle Stanley. You’re going to regret not taking chances in life, Tom.
I knew Luke wouldn’t do this as a joke, not after what happened with Bec. Who the hell are you, and how did you get this account?
You know it’s me, Thomas. I was the one you came to when your heart was broken on Valentine’s Day, 2001.
I stared at my phone. I’d been eleven. Teresa Allen had turned me down. She was a year older and beautiful. I was lucky. Some boys had tried to ask for dates in public and humiliated myself. I’d just given her a flower while we were alone behind the lockers, and she’d been real gentle. It had hurt, though, and I’d gone to Uncle Stanley that afternoon. Nobody else could have known about that day. Uncle Stanley promised to keep that secret, and he kept his secrets. Kept them to the grave.
And perhaps, beyond. How is this happening?
Hard to explain. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there again. But Sheila likes you. I know. I’ve been watching.
I didn’t reply. I thought about telling my family, but I didn’t really want them to know about Sheila and Teresa Allen. I didn’t talk to any of them about that stuff. I didn’t talk to anyone about anything much.
I waited a fortnight, then as Sheila and I walked from Calculus to Senior English, I asked her out. She blushed and stammered and said yes.
When I was studying that night, a message popped up on my phone, from Uncle Stanley. Good job, mate. Life is for the living – don’t waste it.
I knocked on Bec’s door. Mum and Dad were out.
“Hey,” I said. “How’s it going with those girls at school?”
She looked up from her homework. “It’s better now. I signed up for Chess Club so I didn’t have to sit every lunch alone. Met some cool people there.”
I sat down on her bed and handed over my phone. “Check this out.”
She scrolled through my messages with Uncle Stanley. “So, Sheila?”
“I asked her out today. She said yes.”
“So you think so too, right? That it’s really him.”
“I think so. But, Bec, I was just thinking. Why don’t we tell each other this stuff, or anything really? Why don’t we ever talk to Mum and Dad?”
“Mum and Dad are always working,” Bec pointed out. “But each other…” She made a face at me. “I guess I couldn’t stop thinking of you as the annoying big brother who spoilt my fun all the time.”
I made a face back at her. “So who are your friends at Chess Club?”
“There’s Carl and Janet, they like to watch Doctor Who. Although Carl likes the classic more.” She rolled her eyes. “What’s Sheila like?”
I smiled. “I think you’ll like her.” And we continued talking into the night.
Uncle Stanley stopped posting after that, publicly anyway. I wondered if any of the others had gotten private messages. If they did, they never told us. He never messaged me again. There were times, bad times, when I wanted help, and I picked for the phone to see if he might be there. But each time, I reached out for Bec instead. Life is for the living, after all, and we’ve got to make the most of it while we’re here.