Internet: The monster stalking us all.
On Halloween eve, the writer was planning a column about the scary times and how the world was changing fast and why everyone had started making fun of his hat and why he still didn’t have a cellphone. The writer walked and walked and walked, thinking of his column, when he found himself standing under a single flickering streetlight, at which point a strange beast leapt at him from the bushes shouting in a cold and terrible voice:
“I … AM … THE … INTERNET!!” The beast reached out for the writer, grabbing him by the throat and BUY COMPLETE STORY FOR ONLY $2.50.
The writer told The Internet that of course he wanted a drink of water as a single scary light hanged from the ceiling of the single scary room. After The Internet left, the haggard book publisher and the nearly insane record company executive talked about what they’d seen from the window of the van and how The Internet would listen to a little bit of one song on one station before turning the dial to another, something they agreed reflected just how attention-deprived their captor was. The writer theorized that maybe The Internet would lose his focus, giving them a way of escaping, but the record company executive kept saying “No way out, no way out,” while the book publisher quietly wept.
“C’mon, we can’t give up!” shouted the writer. The Internet burst into the room, threw the writer’s water glass against the wall and yelled, “This is what I get for helping you!” The writer stood up to argue, but was pulled down by chains cuffed to his arms.
It was true: the record company executive was in bad shape. At one point, he vomited and a terrifying hold of old Laura Branigan cassettes poured forward, nearly filling the cell. “I fear all of those Spin Doctors CDs may come next,” said the book publisher, at which point the writer asked him if he was fond of ’90s retro. “Fond?” asked the publisher. “In 1994, we published Long Shorts and Dreadlocks: The Story of ’90s Hippie Funk and it sold 300,000 copies. Nowadays, we’re lucky if Torquil Campbell: The Unauthorized Biography sells 3,400. It’s just terrible what The Internet has done to us.”
“You’re lucky,” said the publisher. “You writers have so many new ways to be read: blogs, websites, online magazines.”
The writer looked at him. “If I’m so lucky, what am I doing here?”
The publisher admitted that he had a point. “Well, I did hear something,” he said. “It was about a Halloween column you’d written in which you said BUY COMPLETE STORY FOR ONLY $2.50.
It wasn’t until the book publisher said he’d stop publishing and the record executive promised to retire that The Internet told them they were free to go. The writer, he said, had to stay, because the writer didn’t quite understand that the only way to for him to go forward in this modern life was to ditch the stupid hat, buy a cellphone and get hip to the world of online readership. The writer pleaded with The Internet — who had grown a hip little patch of hair between his bottom lip and chin and wore large black-rimmed glasses — arguing that he wasn’t anti-online, nothing of the sort, and that all he wanted was a world where things like books and records existed as well alongside the digital world.
“Record and book stores!” shouted the writer. “We need these things! Just ask these guys!” he said, pointing to his cellmates, both of whom had fled as soon as The Internet had opened the basement door.
The Internet shook his head. “I don’t think you understand,” he told him in a voice like a screwdriver across a blackboard. “I’m not a person. I’m a thing. I have no regard for the past or even the present. It’s about the future: it’s about what’s coming. And anything that stops me; well, it’s my job to take care of it. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Besides, like I said, I’m not all bad. You can’t say that I haven’t helped you.”
The writer looked at The Internet. “I’m not saying you’re entirely bad,” he told him. “I’m just saying that, you know, these changes are frightening. Used to be if you wanted to hear a song, you went to the record store and bought the record. Same with books, movies and newspapers. Now it’s all free. All you have to do is click on a story and it’s yours. It costs you nothing.” The Internet sat on the floor, cross-legged and said, “Oh, is that right?”
The Internet poured himself a tall glass of water and handed another to the writer. “I’m gonna let you go in a moment,” he said. “But first, there’s something you should know. I hope it makes you happy but I can’t be sure BUY COMPLETE STORY FOR ONLY $2.50.