“Summer is just around the corner and what better way to get out there and enjoy it than in this summer dress available exclusively at Nymphet’s. Made from one hundred percent cotton, the material allows you to breathe without having to sacrifice your modesty. This coral color will also keep you cool in these increasingly hot days, but this dress also features something that makes it perfect to wear outside: pockets! You won’t have to worry about carrying a purse to keep things in, as these pockets are big enough to not only carry your essentials, but they can also hold things you find during your walks, like interesting rocks, kittens, or—”
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@queerbear: OMFG!!! WTF happened to SunnyCindy2002!? All her pics and vids are gone… EVERYWHERE!!! She just disappeared! This is scary AF y’all!!! #wtf #sunnycindy2002 #whereisshe #missingperson
@ConstantCraving replying to @queerbear: I noticed that too! Do you think something’s happened to her? #wtf #sunnycindy2002 #whereisshe #missingperson
@queerbear replying to @ConstantCraving: IDK, prolly!!! #sunnycindy2002 #whereisshe #missingperson
@FifiEatsBugs: Where r u SunnyCindy2002? Please come back and tell us what happened! #sunnycindy2002 #whereisshe #missingperson
@KayleighsMom4Eva: Hey @NymphetBoutique wheres ya girl SunnyCindy2002??? Wut she do to ya??? Why ya gotta silence her??? #sunnycindy2002 #whereisshe #missingperson #whatyahiding
@NymphetBoutique replying to @KayleighsMom4Eva: We’re sorry to hear that SunnyCindy2002 is no longer available online. As she was never employed with us, we have no information on her whereabouts, but we wish her all the best. For her fans, we have a great deal for you on our Summer Collection. Click this link for more information: …#sunnycindy2002 #nymphetsummercollection
@TruthSeek&Destroyer: SunnyCindy2002’s Disappearance EXPLAINED! Click the link for more: …#thetruthisoutthere #sunnycindy2002 #notaconspiracytheoryifitstrue
* * *
(A title sequence begins with the word “truth” in big white block letters on a black background. Rifle crosshairs pan from left to right and back again, centering on the word. A report of gunfire rings out and the “truth” is riddled with smoking bullet holes. The title card dissolves to reveal a still picture of a svelte young woman with long blonde hair and skin the color of porcelain. She’s wearing a sleeveless silver lamé dress with the skirt ending at her knees, and her head is topped with a purple beret. Red letters appear superimposed on the image: “The Truth about SunnyCindy2002 Finally REVEALED!!!” TheX-Files theme music starts playing as the letters bleed down the screen. The static picture of SunnyCindy2002 is replaced with a montage of video clips of her modeling several types of outfits of many distinctive styles and materials, always wearing a purple beret. While fully dressed, the succession of images strips her of her dimensionality, making her personhood malleable to any narrative. The volume of the music lowers, the video clips are replaced with still images, and a robotic, modulated, voice begins speaking.)
“Greetings, viewers. Today’s video is about SunnyCindy2002 and her sudden disappearance earlier today.
“I’ve long been suspicious of SunnyCindy2002 and have been keeping a close eye on her just in case something like this happened. And it turns out my intuition was correct.
“One minute she’s just another nobody making niche videos on the ’net, one every few weeks or so, and then suddenly she’s a top vlogger, producing hundreds of videos, sometimes twice or three times a week, garnering millions of views, with tens of thousands subscribers, raking in thousands of dollars in ad revenues and donations, not to mention whatever sponsorship deals she’s got—she had—with the various stores and boutiques she got her clothes from. Now she’s completely disappeared without a trace? Something’s going on, and I have all the answers with irrefutable proof. But before I divulge what’s happened, please take a minute to like this video and subscribe to my channel where I regularly post videos that reveal the truth that the mainstream media doesn’t want you to see.
“The first question I want to answer is: who is SunnyCindy2002? By doing a little hacking and digging into archived files of her social media, I’ve been able to reconstruct her identity. SunnyCindy2002’s real name is Cindy Gomez and she was born in 2002. She lives—or lived?—in Sunnyvale, California. It’s all right there in her screen name and is obvious once you know all these things.
“Now that we know her identity, let’s take a closer look at the evidence I’ve collected.
“This is her last video, posted just a few hours ago. There are a lot of clues here that I think need to be examined very closely. First, we see a very tall and skinny girl. She’s a little too skinny, don’t you think? Of course, it’s not uncommon for models to be skinny, whether it’s natural or not. But when we compare this video with some of her earlier ones, we can see that she’s lost quite a bit of weight in a very short time.
“Next, notice here how she never once looks directly into the camera. This is a telltale sign of something bad. And her smile looks forced and insincere. In all her other videos, she always looks into the camera and talks to her viewers directly. It’s as if she’s going to great lengths to hide something here. And while we’re on the topic of her eyes, look at how glassy they are. As you can see in almost all her other videos, her eyes are normal. There can be any number of reasons for this, but her glassy eyes and the way she’s not looking directly at the camera is proof that she’s under the influence of something. And given how skinny she is, I’m guess it’s probably cocaine or meth. But that’s not all!
“When we focus on her skin, we see a few odd things. First look at her neck. What are these marks? From being choked, no doubt. Now, look here… here… here… and here… and here. What are those? That’s right, bruises. Notice they’re not in obvious places: the backs of her arms and legs. Why does she have so many of these bruises? Where could she have gotten them from? Is she being beaten? Or are they track marks? Or both? This is obviously a clear indication that she’s in an abusive relationship and that she takes her drugs intravenously. And judging by the paleness of her skin, she doesn’t get out much, like maybe because she’s locked in a dark room all day. It’s also possible that she’s contracted hepatitis, or something worse, from dirty needles.
“Here, we see her twisting and twirling and spinning around. This is not uncommon in her videos. But look at the way she’s doing it. Look at how stilted her movements are and how uncomfortable—or afraid—she looks. She’s looking off camera—at the cameraman? her boyfriend?—as she moves, like to check if she’s doing it right, to check if he’s happy or not and fearful of being punished. Or more like she’s being forced to make these movements. And we can see by the way the camera is so jerky that this is an amateur filming her, or it’s more like someone holding the camera with one hand. What’s in her boyfriend’s other hand? A knife? A gun?
“So what can we conclude from all this? As I’ve shown, she has—had?—a serious drug problem and is—was?—the victim of domestic violence. It’s not surprising really. This eventually happens to every celebrity, no matter how big or famous they are. So, she was being forced by her drug dealer and pimp boyfriend to make these videos to fuel their drug addictions. He had a short temper, so when she didn’t do good, he hit her and forced her to do more takes. Whenever they weren’t making these videos, he locked her up in a dark room and instead of feeding her real food, he fed her drugs. Now that she’s disappeared from the internet, I don’t think we’ll ever hear from her again. She’s probably OD’d or was beaten to death and her boyfriend is covering his tracks by deleting all her online content and accounts.
“There you have it. When we look at one or two pieces of the puzzle, we might think something innocuous is going on. But when we put all the pieces together, this is what we get. There can’t possibly be any alternative explanation given all the evidence. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do with this information but share it with you. It’s my job to expose the truth. What other people do with this is not my responsibility.
“That’s the end of today’s episode. If you enjoyed it, please don’t forget to like and subscribe. If you have any tips or if there’s anything you want me to investigate, leave a comment.”
* * *
(A bespectacled boy with earnest blue eyes and blond spiky hair is staring at the screen, dwarfed by the ergonomic gaming chair he’s sitting in. His elbow is resting on the desk he’s sitting at, and on his closed fist he’s propping up his head and the weight of the world. He’s perfectly framed and lit to give a clear image of himself and to provide a view of his background: a bookcase where completed Lego sets perch and a poster of Tupac Shakur smoking a blunt. After some seconds, he adjusts himself through practiced movements to speak clearly. His melancholic countenance makes him look like a little old man, but the illusion is shattered by the unmistakably prepubescent squeakiness of his voice.)
“Hey, homies. It’s your boy NerdyChad69 coming at you from the three three oh. Unfortunately, I don’t have an unboxing and build video for you today. Instead, I want to respond to the video I just saw about my good friend, SunnyCindy2002, made by my other good friend, TruthSeek&Destroyer.
“TruthSeek&Destroyer and I go way back. Sorry, but I can’t reveal his—or her—true identity, so don’t ask. But I know that they are an upstanding person. They wouldn’t post anything if they knew it wasn’t true and it’s really hard to find any flaws in their analysis. As you know, I’m a pretty hardcore dude. I’ve seen a lot of R-rated movies. So, you can say I basically have firsthand experience when it comes to drugs and violence. Based on my experience and TruthSeek&Destroyer’s masterful video of pointing out all the evidence in SunnyCindy2002’s videos, there really is no other explanation for what happened to her.
“This is really sad for me. It’s true that we’ve never actually met, but the vlogging community is really tight, and we’re basically best friends. In fact, since I know her better than you do, I’m allowed to call her Sunny Cindy. You can also imagine how betrayed I feel that she didn’t come to me with her problems. I might’ve helped her find a way out of her terrible situation. Now it looks like things have escalated as they always do in cases like this. Her life has obviously and irrefutably become consumed by drugs, fed to her by her controlling and ultraviolent boyfriend. Since she’s no longer online with us, we can only assume the worst and—I gotta say it, even though it’s painful—she’s probably dead now.
“Anyway, I don’t know what else to say about this. I never thought I would have to make a video like this. As you can see, talking about this has made me very emotional. Stay safe, my homies. And don’t forget to like and subscribe.”
* * *
@HeatherSinclair: SunnyCindy2002, you’re my best friend! I love you! You saved my life through your videos and I would do anything for you! You’re so strong! if you’re not dead, I know you’ll get through this! #savesunnycindy2002
@CatsNTats: If you can read this, know that we’re with you, SunnyCindy2002! Everyone loves you! Don’t ever forget that! Hope you’re not dead! #savesunnycindy2002
@HeIsTheWay: I have been praying for you ever since I saw the news! I hope you’re okay! Stay strong! Thoughts and prayers! #savesunnycindy2002 #godhasaplan #thoughtsandprayers
@WOKEassassin: Just another tragic example of the depravity the liberals have foisted on our once great country. You can be sure that if I were there with my guns, I’d find SunnyCindy2002 and save her in no time. #savesunnycindy2002 #goodguywithagun #communismwillneverwin #donttreadonme #gunsdontkillpeopleido
@noblesse_oblige: Hey @SunnyvalePD, a young and beautiful girl is being drugged and beaten to death. why don’t you do your f—ing job for once and #savesunnycindy2002! #acab
@SunnyvalePD replying to @noblesse_oblige: Thanks for reaching out to us at @SunnyvalePD! Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to investigate every tip we get online. Our hands are tied until something happens or someone files a police report. But domestic violence is something we take very seriously! Click here to find a list of resources if you or someone you know is facing this terrible situation: …#sunnyvalePD #toprotectandtoserve #domesticviolence #nojoke
@TomKarma: I saw SunnyCindy2002 was trending and wanted to put everyone at ease. I just got off the phone with her. Yes, she’s alive and she’s doing fine. She’s just going through a hard time right now. I don’t want to reveal anything she asked me to keep private. But she asked for your prayers and that you check out this social experiment video I made that shows how sexist our society is against women. The link is right here and don’t forget to like and subscribe:… Peace out! #savesunnycindy2002 #thoughtsandprayers #socialexperiment #atomkarmaproduction
@MyNameIs_: New SunnyCindy2002 video just dropped! She’s safe! Good job, everybody! We did it! Check it out here: … #savesunnycindy2002 #wesavedher #notallheroeswearcapes
(SunnyCindy2002 is sitting in a chair at a dining room table, dressed much more casually than in any of her previous videos, a t-shirt covered by a pink cardigan, and her trademark purple beret. She smiles easily and is in full possession of herself. The cheerful lilt in her voice increases the volume to just above a whisper.)
“Hi, everyone! I decided to make this video after my sister showed me all the things that were being said about me online. I thought I should clear things up and explain why I went offline. It’s very flattering to be trending and thought of by so many people! But, I promise you, nothing bad has happened!
“The reason I deleted my stuff online is because I was just accepted to the nursing program at the community college and I wanted to start fresh. My time on the internet was fun and I enjoyed making the videos, but now it’s important for me to focus on my real career.
“As far as the rumors I’ve heard, I don’t have a boyfriend and I never do drugs. And as you can see, I haven’t overdosed or anything like that! It’s really weird that people said that! It was such a beautiful day when I made that last video, so I decided to do it outside. Unfortunately, my allergies were really acting up so you could see my eyes were a little weird. And it was my mom’s first time directing, and my first time being directed by someone else, so it was a little bit awkward for everyone.
“And I know there were some questions about my skin and the bruises you can see on me. But I am naturally this white—I know I look like a ghost compared to most other white people!—and I bruise easily because I’m anemic. Yes, I really am that clumsy! I always try to cover up my bruises whenever I can before I make a video, but there are some places that are hard to reach.
“And the reason I’m so skinny isn’t because of drugs or because I’m starved or anything like that. It’s because I’m vegan and I have a high metabolism. I’ve actually been trying to gain weight!
“I hope that clears things up. I want to thank everybody for watching all my videos! Because of you, I won’t have to take out any loans for my nursing degree! And thanks to all my generous sponsors, I have many cute outfits to wear when I go to school!
“Love you all and take care!”
“Um, this video is obviously totally fake, lol. It must be AI or something. I know everything about SunnyCindy2002. First of all, I know for a fact that she doesn’t have a sister. Secondly, she never talked about being a nurse before. If it’s not AI, it must be some kind of code.”
“This video is totally weird. What does it mean?”
“Maybe her boyfriend made her make this video. I think I can see his reflection there in that glass cabinet door.”
“Are you really okay? Blink twice if you need help!”
“I’ve been following this story all day, and this is how it ends? SunnyCindy2002 goes to college? No dead body? No homicidal boyfriend? Lame!”
“Show your feet please.”
“I don’t get it. Why did she make everyone think she was being drugged and abused? Was it a PR stunt? Or was it just for the attention?”
“She clearly did this all for the attention and all you sheeple fell for it! LMAO!”
“Why is this the first time I’m hearing about college?”
“You wouldn’t be anything if it weren’t for us! We gave you our support and money and you think you can just leave whenever you want to? WE OWN YOU!”
Commenting has been turned off on this post due to violations of our Community Standards.
James Heald is originally from California but has spent the last twelve years teaching English all over Asia and Europe. He currently lives in Poland with his cat. In addition to writing, he is interested in just about everything. He has previously been published in Scarlet Leaf Review.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Influencer”:
We like the unusual and different. Back in our October 2013 issue, we published “A Tragedy in Three Apps.” That one, like author James Heald’s piece here, used contemporary communication media to tell the story.
“Influencer” takes the format a step further into the realm of online social interaction. And in doing so, it shows instead of tells. We get the range of opinions and speculations about what’s really going on. And in the end we’re still not sure, which adds to the mystery in the reader’s mind as well.
This is also one of those rare pieces that never answers the main question it poses yet successfully gets away with it. Who is SunnyCindy2002—a real person or an AI bot? Is there any way to know for sure?