Do No Wrong
“Fuck this country!” I yelled as I slammed my fist against a wall, as if to convince myself the act was an intentional manifestation of my anger than the precaution against drunken collapse it truly was. The events of the night were already fading as I stumbled into my home and fell into my old armchair. I frowned at my feet in front of me, seething at the incompetence of my fellow countrymen. “Sending it to Hell in a handbasket - voting in puppets and pigs!” I said, though if anyone had been around to hear it I imagine the words would have been incomprehensible.
I was a small-time journalist of an online post called The Patriot. My scant but loyal base of fans appreciated the provocative rhetoric with which I tackled issues in the United States such as complacent government and the growing globalist movement. I considered myself underrated, but had always chalked up the somewhat stagnant growth of my career to a combination of the relatively low publicity of the journal to which I contributed, and my tendency to stay away from the more passive and broad-reaching buzz-words preferred by my peers, who merely regurgitated the status-quo to appeal to the masses rather than speak from the heart. I looked contemptuously upon such pieces as the work of sellouts.
I sat, thinking of all my words falling on deaf ears, and found growing in myself the familiar spark of rage; the pent-up frustration of hammering a blunt chisel against a hunk of marble that would not yield its ugly form. I surged to my feet, barely holding out against a wave of dizziness, and sat down again at my desktop computer...
I was awoken by a beam of bright light peeking over the eastern mountain range and through my living room window. Squinting and shielding my eyes, I groggily raised my head off the desk at which I had apparently fallen asleep. Eventually heaving myself upright, I began brewing some coffee. I stared absently at the floor waiting on the machine, when the buzz of my smartphone on a nearby counter roused me from my stupor. I rarely paid the brief buzzes of minor notifications any mind, unless I was expecting an important email or some such thing. I began sipping my coffee and sat back down to continue working on my latest opinion piece. My focus, already worn thin by a pounding headache, was broken by a series of further notifications from my phone. I promptly powered it off and continued writing.
The number of comments my pieces received averaged at around 40 to 50. I perused them often and would reply to as many as I could. To my surprise, the piece I had published only the day before already had 51 comments. I smiled to myself that my work had finally begun to garner more recognition. I read the first comment:
I laughed. Hecklers were always amusing to me. I replied: “Thanks for the input! :)” The next few comments were standard praise from some of my readers I knew by name. I noticed the familiar profile picture of RoperRed, who reliably praised everything I published. He wrote:
“I thought better of you. All I’ll say is that it’s in your best interest to come out with an apology soon, and it had better be a good one.” At this I shook my head in confusion. Ah well, I thought. I suppose I said something he didn’t agree with. I replied: “I’m sorry to hear that you’re disappointed in me; I know you’ve supported my work for a long time. But I speak from the heart, I always have, and I won’t apologize for that.” Satisfied that I had stood firm, I continued reading. The negative comments vastly outnumbered the positive. I wondered what it was I had said that caused such a reaction. The piece was one expressing support for the American troops in Iraq, a common theme in many pieces of mine. None of the comments made the situation any clearer; they all merely expressed what seemed baseless and indiscriminate hatred. I began to grow worried that I had become the victim of some slander operation perpetrated by a competitor or offended party. I refreshed the page and found the number of comments had increased to 60. The first one listed was a reply back from RoperRed:
“Shameful. Hardest unsubscription of my life.” Before I could think of a response to this, I heard the front door open. I turned to see my wife, Vinna, who had spent the previous three days on a business trip for the insurance company she worked for as an agent. She smiled wide and let out a sharp sigh.
“Home at last!” She moved over to me and we shared a kiss.
“How was it?” I asked.
She gave that look that told me she had dealt with one idiot too many lately. I frowned my sympathy.
“Did you not get my text?” she asked.
“Ah, I didn’t, sorry. Phone was distracting me so I turned it off.”
She gave me a quizzical look. “Ok, well I was picking up some filets for the dinner we planned, and I sent you a picture to see which you liked the look of more. I had to choose myself as best I could.”
I grabbed my phone and powered it back on. Immediately it buzzed a notification. I glanced at the bar and saw it was from Twitter. I opened the app.
“I sent it as a text, babe, not a tweet.” Vinna laughed.
I slowly moved my finger towards my notifications.
I read the first thing that was written on my profile:
“FUCK AMERICA, FUCK AMERICANS, AND FUCK SOLDIERS FOR DEFENDING COWARDS AND PIGS”
My eyes briefly widened in horror before I remembered suddenly the previous night, and all the anger I had felt. Vinna read over my shoulder.
“Don, did you actually tweet that? What were you thinking?!”
I paused a moment before answering. I actually went and said that... I didn’t always get angry when I drank, but all the times I could remember when I was most furious, alcohol was always involved. I was so angry, but... I shrugged. “We both know this country’s headed towards a bad place, Vin. I just wanted people to start waking up.”
Vinna was silent for a moment, then said, “Did it blow up?”
“Then you need to apologize! This could ruin your career!”
I chuckled. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity, dear. I’m more well-known than ever because of this. I didn’t get to where I am by cowing down to a few hecklers. I’m standing by it.”
The home phone began to ring. I snatched it up and answered. “Hello?” I said, annoyed.
“Hello, Don.” Came the reply whose voice I recognized as Joan’s, my editor.
“Oh hey, Joan! What’s up?” I asked, nervous as to the reason behind this call.
“The Patriot’s in trouble, Don. We’re getting bombarded by media outlets.”
I buried my face in my hand and responded. “I... I’m sorry. I’ll delete the tweet, put out an apology, do whatever it takes...”
“You’ve made this rather difficult, Don. It seems you’ve already given your statement; that your words were spoken “from the heart.”
“That was- I-I didn’t know at the time-”
“That hardly matters now. The hard truth is, there’s no longer a scenario where you make it through this with us and we aren’t portrayed as supporting the message you gave. It’s been decided - you’re being let go.”
My whole body went numb. I let the phone drop from my hand. I heard Vinna begin to cry.
“Today on TNM we have Mr. Don Cowper, a former journalist for the online news site The Patriot, whose controversial tweet has sparked outrage.”
I sat facing the camera, dressed presentably.
“The first thing I want to ask you, Mr. Cowper, were you of sound and sober mind when you tweeted this?”
The woman hosting the news show paused for a moment, as if expecting me to say more. She continued, “Ok, and given all that has happened to you this past week, with the harassment and the loss of your job, do you regret what you said?”
“I... I regret how people reacted to it. I’m a passionate American, and I just believe a little fiery language is what’s necessary to motivate people these days.”
“Now hang on, Mr. Cowper. In the same sentence you just referred to yourself as a ‘passionate American’ who supports the message ‘F America.’ How does that work?”
“I only meant that America as it is now is something rather shameful compared to what it has been in the past.”
She laughed. ”‘America is shameful.’ I think I understand the kind of person you are, Mr. Cowper. I just have one question left. What are you going to do next?”
“Find a job where writing like mine isn’t silenced, if a place like that exists.”
She laughed again, harder. “Given all that’s happened, ‘silent’ is the last word I would use to describe this situation. Well, Mr. Cowper, we’re out of time. Thank you for joining us.”
I nodded curtly.
I lay in bed that night, sleepless. Vinna had to see to an emergency with one of her clients, so I was alone. I had since deleted the tweet; the replies were full of threats of death and violence. One even listed out my full home address. I heard the creak of the front door opening and rose to meet my wife. To my horror, the figure standing in the doorway was not Vinna.
The woman who had invaded my home stared with blank eyes that looked through me rather than at me. I glanced around. The best weapon within reach was a half-empty bottle of wine, which I took up. “Who are you, and why are you in my home?” I asked, trying to sound calm.
“You...” she breathed. Her head trembled, and her jaw worked wordlessly. In her hand, I now noticed, was a long kitchen knife. “My son... your fault.” A tear streaked down her face.
At this I grew terrified, and angry. “You’re talking nonsense! Get out of here before you get hurt!”
“I TOLD HIM NOT TO GO!” she shrieked. “THE LAST THING HE SHOWED ME BEFORE ENLISTING WAS WRITTEN BY YOU!” She broke into sobbing.
“What are you? An escaped mental patient? I-”
“You didn’t even believe...” She took a wobbly step towards me, and I retreated, holding the wine bottle threateningly. “You didn’t even believe in what you made him think was right! You’re a monster!” She made to lunge with the blade, and I smashed the bottle across her cheek. The knife fell from her hand, which I quickly grabbed, and brandished in front of me.
“It’s over. Get out now, and I won’t call the police.”
She looked up at me, bleeding from jagged wounds made by the broken glass, and shook her head weakly. “I’d already lost his father to cancer. I have nothing now.” She advanced, and leapt with sudden ferocity to grab the hand in which I held the knife. She dug hard into the veins on the underside of my wrist, forcing me to let go. Retrieving the blade, she then pinned me down with strength belied by her thin frame. As she prepared to bury the knife, I scrabbled nearby for a shard of glass, and thrust hard at her neck. Her jaw seized up, she produced a sickening gurgle, and blood began to stream. I pushed her off of me and sat up. The grisly scene swirled before my vision, my traumatized mind hardly capable of cognition. For awhile I simply sat there, only faintly aware of just how much the life I had known had been shattered. I glanced at the woman’s body. In her hand was a slip of paper. It was a newspaper clipping that read:
“In honor of our fallen soldiers, we regrettably but respectfully list below the latest reported casualties in the ongoing war:”
One name stood out to me.
The Endless Fog
Time passes faster when we are asleep. It is for this reason we strive to come as close to sleeping as possible during our day-to-day drudgery, only remaining aware enough to get by. Once time is finally ours to spend as we please, what do we enjoy doing most after a long day in the haze?
Sight Without Sight
Feel an object. Build it in your mind by touching it with your hand. Craft mentally its edges and texture, and all its dimensions. Now, imagine being able to gather this data without touching anything at all, simply being in its presence sufficing. This is Sight, and its an ability that also allows one to gather data from an object touching it cannot. This data is Color. Color is nothing beyond what you already know about objects, only an additional feature applied to them. It is the quality that allows two objects that are exactly the same, two objects of identical size, weight, and texture, to differ, and be separately recognized.
Only One Possibility
Many people underestimate the power of infinity. If infinite time truly is, all things will occur. Every organism that could possibly exist, every planet that could ever be, in any arrangement conceivable, will eventually occur. If time is infinite, then there are not infinite possibilities, only one.
A Celestial Proposal
Shining Sun, Rugged Moon, Gentle Earth.
An eternal dance
Of life and mirth.
On rare occasions, to show their affection
A band of starlight, jewel inlaid,
From celestial unity made,
Dazzling in our eyes' reflection.
Shining Sun with light to cleanse
Forged in atomic fire's burning
Tempered by countless miles' journey.
Pilgrimage to our waiting lens.
Rugged Moon with crag and spire.
Battle scars from long ago
Used to shape the light we know
Into a ring of Heaven's Fire.
Such a jewel in drape of night,
Darkness whole and edges bold.
Illuminated ten thousandfold
By the great contrast of light.
Moon and Sun who now align
To give the Earth a Diamond Ring
Befitting one such as a king,
But shall we see a ring this time?
For such a gift to be viewed
We must gather, friends, in August soon
To witness the Heavens' wondrous boon
And show the skies our gratitude.
Show Heart's love to all good things.
Be kind to others, earn our worth.
Honor the name of Gentle Earth
To look upon the Diamond Rings.
Imagine if you took a snapshot of the Universe, documenting the position, energy states, vectors, rates of atomic decay, and any other factors of all of the particles within. Then you waited for ten seconds and observed what happened. If you were to reset each and every particle to its original position, energy state, time in its half-life, etc., would the exact same thing occur another ten seconds later? If so, would the two instances ever deviate from each other? If not, imagine this: Take the birth of the Universe as the snapshot, and all that has happened afterwards the result. If reset exactly as it was all those billions of years ago, would we find ourselves here again, doing the exact same thing? Would there be again a galaxy dubbed "The Milky Way" by the intelligent primates inhabiting a planet christened "Earth?" Is all we do and all that has happened simply the product of every influence we encounter, from the most devastating tragedy to the faintest tickling of wind on our cheek? Is there really any such thing as free will?