Now we can honestly say, summer is over. As a parting farewell in written form, I have a cautionary tale just for you. I think I’ve heard it at least three times in the span of a decade, with the most recent recounting from my new pedicure lady who spent her vacation in Egypt this past summer. To maintain her anonymity, let’s call my chatty storyteller Ana.

Ana and her friend booked a week at a private tourist resort. They indulged in various activities, they did not say no to clubbing either. One night, Ana’s friend shared a story about her acquaintance (of course, it’s always a story about a friend of a friend) who also went to a night club where she met a charismatic local Egyptian. He charmed her and managed to steal a few kisses during their dancing. As the night wore on, he tried to persuade her to go with him to his place. To keep the party going… Despite his charm and the fair amount of alcohol consumed, her friends, who had accompanied her to the club, convinced her not to leave with the handsome stranger. Thus, she was left with fond memories of a romantic night spent dancing with him.

Ana continued her story with all seriousness how the friend of her friend returned to Slovenia and, soon after, noticed a strange rash developing around her lips. Which was odd, since she had never had herpes or any skin issues before. When it seemed that the condition wasn’t going away on its own, she visited her primary care physician (luckily, she had one to go to). The doctor prescribed a cream and, just to be cautious, took a sample from the affected area (I don’t know how, don’t ask me) and sent it to a laboratory for testing.

A few days later, the woman received a call from an unknown number. An official voice on the other end claimed to be calling from Interpol (undoubtedly, this is when the story gets extremely serious). They said they were contacted by the laboratory that had examined the bacterium affecting her face. The bacterium, they said, could only be found on decaying human bodies. Without much ado, they asked the victim for all the information about the suspect she had been in contact with on that fateful night abroad. Before she collapsed to the ground, she told them everything. Even his address, which she had saved in her notes on her phone. The predator had, trusted her with it (how lucky!) in a last-ditch effort to persuade her to visit him on her own.

A few more days passed, during which she successfully treated her skin condition. She received another phone call. Her pursuer had been arrested. In his apartment, they discovered a horrendous crime scene. Multiple bodies of young girls who hadn’t managed to escape him were kept at his home. What he did to them… enough to transmit the bacterium to an unsuspecting Slovenian woman who returned from Egypt. Alive.

This urban legend serves as a warning about strangers and continues to circulate. As I mentioned before, I’ve heard it from various sources, slightly different each time. I’m sure you’ve heard it too. Maybe even passed it on. Was it your friend’s friend? A distant cousin? You won’t believe it, but the story spreads in all languages. The nightclub is always “abroad,” I think I’ve heard of one vacation stay in Morocco too, and the Interpol phone call sprinkles just the right amount of drama on top of this haunting cautionary tale.

Without revealing that it’s an urban legend, I shared this story with Tamer the other day. I really laid it on thick. I successfully left him in shock. But unlike in Ana’s case, I did admit to my husband afterwards that I heard this story for the first time more than ten years ago. With this letter, I’m sharing it with you as well. So, you won’t be picking up your jaw upon hearing it and then pass it on as a “you won’t believe what happened to my friend’s friend/cousin/classmate” true story.

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