June 22 | Phillip Traum


I ducked and huddled inside a narrow alleyway. Luck was on my side, as the typical beam of light that splashed across the cracked pavement was absent, snuffed by a burned out bulb that no one bothered to replace. I heaved in gasping breaths, my heart protesting. Why did I have to engage? I always, somehow, couldn’t help but engage.

My hand slipped into my pocket and felt the familiar jingle of my keys, like a cluster of those ancient things we used to call coins. Not yet hearing their furious shouts approaching, I didn’t bother keeping quiet; staying out of sight was enough for now. I threaded the keys between my knuckles. Not much, but if one of them accosted me, I could maybe rake them across their face, just long enough to surprise them and make another dash for it.

The sprawling rumble of the crowd came closer. “Drain the swamp!” one of them screeched, carrying a torch. “Lock her up!” answered another. As they drew closer, I heard other members encouraging the ones who spat their venomous catch phrases. It was the quickest way to reinforce tribe membership and solidarity. “America first!” came next, punctuated by unmistakable the cock of a pistol. This phrase, most compelling to this particular flavor of mob, elicited something between cheer and a war cry, their fists pumped skyward.

They weren’t the only ones. Some gangs were less dangerous than others. Incels mostly sat on the sidelines, but as a despicable uterus carrier, I was regularly targeted for accusations of Stacy, sometimes asking where Chad was, and why a cunt like me turned my nose up at Nice Guys like them. This necessitated a search on the internet to decipher these ostensible invectives. Terrific. More familiarity with culture turf wars. More rhetoric to engage. I didn’t want to… but like an insect to a cow pie, I could never resist for long.

I enlisted protection from Feminists, which worked for a spell, until I said the wrong words, and was branded a TERF. Subsequently, I was named and shamed, put into a central database of the Problematic  People, harassed, shouted down, threatened, attacked, and canceled.

Not knowing where to turn next, I decided it’d be a wise maneuver to blend in with the Centrists, Unaffiliated, and Apathetic. Somehow, though, their lack of engagement was even worse. One can tolerate only so many snide remarks of “all sides are the same, nothing matters, who cares”. As though being politically agnostic was not only a virtue, but an obvious signal of enlightenment and courage.

I inhaled and froze as the horde passed, their marching footsteps nearly vibrating the street. I was safe. Politics has a way of making people blind and stupid.

It was only a matter of time before the poison from social media would leak into the corporeal world. Billboard-sized screens of screaming, purple-faced pundits polluted every street corner, spewing their hatred and division, all of them grifters, enriching themselves to buy bigger mansions and more street time. Money was power, power came from outrage, and you couldn’t harvest outrage without reaching eager ears.

It won’t last much longer. Maybe this is youthful arrogance, but I’m going to break the spell. Months of toiling, learning to hack, and cozying up to the right people, has put me into a hair’s breadth of accessing the central city power. I’m taking this fucking place down. I don’t care whether it dissolves into riots and murder. Anything is better than this.

If only I could stop. reading. the fucking. comments.