[BEGIN TRANSCRIPT]

I check in. Of course I check in, sometimes twice in the same minute. I know what’s required of me, after all. Don’t look at me like that. As a matter of fact, why aren’t you checking in right now? There’s really nothing stopping you. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

See, that doesn’t surprise me in the least. Try to accuse me of something, something unpatriotic. Something… disgusting.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Well that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. If you’ll… yes, if you’ll check the feeds you’ll see that I checked in all day yesterday and the day before that too. Look at my toilet cam, I checked in then too, right when I was supposed to.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

I haven’t done anything wrong here. There’s no need to threaten me. Sir, please, this is all a misunderstanding. I reported my son for you. I gave you hundreds of names. Hundreds. I check in every day–post, too. I’d post right now if you’d only loosen my handcuffs. Please? I can’t feel my fingers.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

No. No. I didn’t mean it. I’m sure you check in all the time. You’re just busy is all. Just busy. Please, no! I didn’t mean it!

[LOUD CRASH]

[…]

[WHIMPERING]

I can’t feel my legs. Oh God.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

No no no, I didn’t say God! It was no. Oh no. Please, I’ll check in from now on! I’ll–I’ll post and I’ll share links and I’ll like pictures and I’ll share! I’ll share!

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

That’s not true! He made it up! I would never try to block access! My network is your network, right?! Check my messages! They were all in keeping with the best interests of the network! I’m a patriotic man just like you!

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Please, I need medical attention. My legs.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

I wouldn’t–I’d—no, I would never suggest that. We need nothing but the network. I burned all my books long before it was required. Had a bonfire in the front lawn, made a big show of it. That’s just not true. I’d spit on one right now. Go ahead–bring one in and I’ll spit on it right in front of you. Burn it right afterward, too. We need nothing but the network.

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

No, don’t! I’ll do anything! Kill my family! Please, no! Anything but that!

[HIGH-PITCHED WHINE]

[…]

[END TRANSCRIPT]

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MR. BROWSE

Creepin’ ‘round inside us all’s a man called Mr. Browse.

His goal, you see, is for you and me to laze about like we’re cows.

He’ll wait till you’ve got work to do and say, “Hey! Look over here!”

But internet, you’d better bet, it’s best to not go near.

‘Cause if you do, he’ll smile at you and think, “Hey! I’ve got a rube!”

Then you’re out of luck, ‘cause you’ll be stuck all day watching youtube.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘cause any song you want to hear he’ll find.

But all day of, “It’s Friday!” and you’ll probably lose your mind.

He’ll say, “Hey Matt! Look at this cat that’s stuck inside a box!”

And, “Oh, hey Joe, don’t you want to know what sound’s made by a fox?”

But if you say, “I’ll keep away from him”, though hard it may be,

Then you’re the best, you’ve passed the test of productivity!

So unless it’s true you want to chew on cud just like the cows,

Then don’t be annoyed, be sure to avoid the man called Mr. Browse!

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INTERNET BE DAMNED

Dexter couldn’t get out of bed. He knew in reality that it was more like he really, really didn’t want to get out of bed, but it felt more like an impossibility. If he were to quantify his current motivation on a scale of 1-10, he’d probably give himself a solid 1.5. But now that Dexter thought about it, was he being generous with that .5? If he had to be honest with himself, he’d probably be closer to a 1. That was more like it.

Major depressive disorder was too fancy a term for something so complete, so all-encompassing. It felt to Dexter more like a giant monster that was sitting on his chest, heavy enough to make his heart feel like it might burst. If he had to name it, it’d probably be called Malode or something.

Seriously? Had he really resorted to naming his disorders now? And of all the names he could’ve picked, he chose a dumb one like Malode? What the hell was wrong with him?

A whole lot, Dexter decided. More than he thought humanly possible, in fact. Just as this thought crossed his brain, he reached over to his conveniently located dresser and unplugged his phone. He turned off the screen rotation so he could mindlessly scan the interwebs without even having to sit up in bed.

Dexter moved his thumb to the little URL box, this tiniest of efforts nearly too much for him. Just as he tapped it, his phone decided to lock up. He swiped up and down, left and right, but nothing worked.

He was just about to put his phone down and resort to staring at the ceiling when it happened. The screen abruptly turned black. On its surface, green lettering flitted across. The command prompt looked like it belonged on a dusty old monitor from the ‘90s, not on a brand new smartphone. Even so, there it was.

The words slowly began to float above the screen, separate from it. They rose up to Dexter’s eyes, higher and higher. Dexter pulled his phone away, confused. Still the words approached. Before he could even think, the words swallowed him up and pulled him into the phone.

He was in the internet. He didn’t know how or why, but here he was. The whole thing had the distinct smell of cheetos and loneliness, which surprised Dexter by how much it didn’t really surprise him. There were kittens and a capella singers and pop music and a capella singers holding kittens while singing pop music.

At Dexter’s arrival, every one of the internet’s inhabitants turned to him. There was a moment’s pause in which Dexter could only watch the expectant stares of all the exaggerated personalities that stood before him. The cheetos-stench was almost unbearable.

And then he heard it. Every video he had ever watched, every celebrity impersonator and grumpy videogame player, every song parody and movie trailer, every teenage prankster and how-to video bellowed forth in the loudest cacophonic mess of audio ever conceived. Dexter thought his eardrums might burst from the shrill, piercing cries. No matter how deep he plugged his ears, the sound prevailed.

As the stars of each video called out in ear-splitting discord, their leader stood out amongst them. It was a massive monster, featureless and black as pitch. It didn’t have a face, but Dexter could tell that it was staring right at him. This was it. This was Malode. It was coming for him and it would have its way this time.

Malode marched forth, his army of internet stars behind him. They all had kind, warm looks on their faces as they approached, intent on sending Dexter into oblivion. He stood there a moment, watching them come. If he had to quantify his fear on a scale of 1-10, he’d probably be at an 8 right now.

Seriously? The whole of the internet was coming for him, ready to pull him under for good and all he could do was stand here and ponder arbitrary number scales?

But wait. Fear. He felt fear. He felt actual terror. He felt his heart pump blood through his body in an effort to preserve itself. Sure, it felt like it would burst out of his chest again, but this time it was for an entirely different reason. He wanted this. He wanted to be alive. He didn’t know why, but he did.

He turned away and started running. His footfalls were awkward, as he hadn’t run since sophomore year of high school, but he was moving. He didn’t even feel the need to mentally criticize his sprinting abilities as he went either. He just ran. And ran.

The chorus of the horde behind him grew louder and louder, until it reached a fever pitch. He didn’t think he could take it much longer, but still he ran. Louder and louder still, until his blood boiled and his brain sizzled. But still he ran. SCHSCHSCHSCH…AAAAAHHHHHHH-

Silence. Dexter opened his eyes in an instant, terrified. He was there in his room, on the bed that sat conveniently close to the dresser. On the bed was his phone, right where he’d left it when he’d apparently dozed off.

He looked at its screen, at its empty promise of eternal fun. He held down the power button until the screen went black. The effort of the action was nothing this time. He didn’t feel the fatigue he’d been used to by now. In fact, he felt an inexplicable burst of energy.

Before he could argue the merits of such an idea, Dexter got out of his bed. He reached in his conveniently located dresser and pulled out the gym clothes he hadn’t worn since sophomore year.

Dexter went outside, out into the glowing brilliance of it all and started to run. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know where he was headed. He just ran.

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