(Trigger warning: Talk of suicide and self-harm below.)
The social media "game" from Russia responsible for inciting a rash of teen suicides in recent weeks has spilled out into other corners of the internet, raising quite a bit of alarm. The game app, called "The Blue Whale Challenge," has gained traction globally, and has managed to reel in at least 100 victims.
Almost as hair-raising as the number of teens who've been lured into taking part in the game's horrific "challenges" is its eerie sameness to the plot line of a 2016 novel by Stephen King.
In King's novel "End of Watch," the villain, Brady Hartsfield, draws his victims in from a game app called "Fishin' Hole."
The title of the novel's gamealso rings pretty similar to the aquatic theme of the real-life game app, which pulls its name from the theory that blue whales will beach themselves to commit suicide.
While the creator of Blue Whale, Philipp Budeikin, has yet to ever reference King's book as inspiration for his own app, it's hard not to gawk at the similarities.
King's character and Budeikin also share a mutual interest: driving a user to end their life. The app creator told Russian reporters that his app was "cleansing society" of "biological waste," according to the BBC.
Budeikin recently pled guilty to creating the game, which has led to more than 100 teen suicides.
Most of the victims of Blue Whale are teens who have downloaded the app to take part in a trend. Others are simply checking out the noise surrounding it online.
The game takes its grip on users by collecting their private information and using it to blackmail them into taking part in one horrible act per day. Each act increases in intensity until users are ultimately pressured to take their life on the 50th and final day.
Don't treat having a dialogue about Blue Whale Challenge with friends and the teens in your life as a trend.
Temptation to just "check it out" has already killed hundreds and a conversation about it could be a lifesaver.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, text 'connect' to the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or tell someone you trust who can get you help.