I should’ve known better. I should never have clicked. I fell down the rabbit hole and got lost. I disregarded all the warnings. I know it was stupid. But the click-bait these days is oh-so-clever. How can people resist?
I should definitely have known. I was intrigued though. My interest was piqued. I clicked on one of those articles about race. It was a kind of provocative title, entirely designed to inflame and cause debate, or maybe offence and hatred. It was obvious. The danger signs were flashing at me but I totally ignored them. So, I clicked. And I read. And I let my outrage rise to the surface. How could they say this? I was offended. Damn my stupid offence. But really? I had to go to the comments section.
That was the step too far. Why did I have to go to the comments section? I could already feel the darkness slithering up my limbs like sticky road tar. If it got to my head… No, I wouldn’t let it get that far, I said. I would just read a little and then I could take a shower. I would be fine. I would just buy some drain unblocker for afterwards. It would be totally OK.
The smell was beginning to burn in my nostrils. I still had time to read. Oh my god, what the…? These people! I started to formulate a response. I figured if I typed quickly I could get it out and then clean off this muck. I was shivering a little now, the cold ooze starting to get to me. Fast fingers, I thought. But they were sticking to the keys.
Someone added another comment before I could type ‘enter’ on mine. It made my blood boil. I was starting to see red but then I felt the black liquid pooling in my eye and it was too late.
Shit! I should have been more careful!
I fell down through the dark abyss and landed right in the middle of the war.
Comments were flying left right and centre. I ran to the side to take cover but my slimy feet slipped and I tripped right in front of some sort of white nationalist. He was hurling abuse with ease and, by god, he was lightning quick. Then I looked down and saw that he had brought a box of comments bombs with him. I ducked and narrowly missed being hit right in the face and then I rushed off to get away from the projectiles.
I ran down the road towards a crowd I could see in the distance. They seemed to be gathered around a woman who was standing on a wooden box. I joined them for a moment to see what was happening. The woman was speaking to them but they were prodding her with giant fingers attached to long sticks.
I shouted out, “Hey, what are you doing?” but one of the crowd turned towards me and snarled. He had a green face with huge, misshapen ears and large pointed teeth. I immediately stepped back and narrowly avoided his large green hands grabbing at me.
“Come on, let’s get out of here!” I shouted to the woman.
She shook her head. “No, I’m not giving up,” she said. She lifted up a bucket and started throwing fish to the crowd. They fought each other to grab the fish, gobbling them up as soon as they could and then carried on prodding with their long sticks. The stench was vile. I wretched and then decided to leave the woman to her own devices.
A little further down the road I could hear music. It sounded like people were having a better time somewhere else. I followed the music, hopeful that it would lead me to some way home and the chance to get cleaned up.
It was from a nightclub. Yes, I thought. Some normality at last. The people here looked like they were having fun, chatting, taking selfies, looking great. Maybe someone here would know how to get out?
I approached a girl with long blonde hair and a very cute outfit.
“Can you help me get out?” I asked.
She looked at me and laughed. “Why would you want to leave here?” she said. She lifted her phone to take a selfie but her chin fell off just before she could snap the photo.
“Oops,” she said, bending down to lift it up. She placed it back on her face, smiled and took the photo.
I looked around. She wasn’t the only one with bits falling off. In the corner a few girls were gluing body parts back together and a guy was trying to replace his teeth into his gum sockets. Another group near the club doorway were helping each other get their asses back together.
This is ridiculous, I thought. I left the nightclub and headed to a nearby park where I could hear someone speaking on a PA system. There was a guy near the gate collecting large sums of money to enter the park. I walked past and on around the park fence until I found a spot where I could sneak in.
On a stage in the middle of the park there were several speakers, all passing the microphone to each other and saying the same things in repeat. Behind them were large neon signs with the words “success”, “abundance”, and “secrets” flashing slowly in bright colours.
“Join my tribe,” one said.
“Join my group,” the next said.
“I’ll lead you,” said another.
The people in front were gathering in groups, laughing, patting each other on the back and then handing money up to the speakers on the stage who were smiling from ear to ear.
I walked up to the edge of the main crowd and stood beside a man who was clapping after each speaker said something new.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can you tell me how to get out of here?”
He turned to look at me, then screwed his face up. “Uh, I think you need a bit of a wash, no offence.”
“OK then, can you tell me where I can find a shower?” I asked.
He pointed to the edge of the park at a small building. “In there, but it might not be very pleasant.” He turned back towards the stage and began clapping again. I spotted some security guards strolling through the crowd and decided it was definitely a bad idea to stick around. Slipping into the shadows I headed towards the flat roofed building at the edge of the park.
I could smell stale urine before I even got to the door of the public toilet. Inside a blue light flickered and I could see some legs sticking out from one of the cubicles.
I stepped inside and pushed open the cubicle door. Jesus, I thought. “Are you alright?” I said.
The woman on the floor murmured slightly but didn’t open her eyes.
“Don’t mind her,” a voice said from in front of the sinks. “She’ll be alright.”
I turned to face the woman. Her face lit up when she saw me and she smiled like the Joker.
“Frances!” she called to the other woman. “You might wanna wake up! Got some goodies!”
Frances murmured and shuffled a bit inside the cubicle.
“I, er… just want to know where the shower is,” I said.
The woman’s eyes flashed to the corner of the room but her expression turned to one of concern.
“But why would you want to shower? Frances! Come on!”
The door of the cubicle opened and Frances began to crawl on the floor towards us.
“I guess I’ll just go on ahead then,” I said, edging my way towards the cubicle in the corner.
The woman grabbed my arm but I pulled away and she lost her grip but some of the black goop was left on her fingers. She licked her hand desperately and then her eyes widened.
“Frances! This is good stuff! Grade A!”
I backed away as quickly as I could and turned on the shower. The woman rushed after me, grabbing my arm again but I broke free once more before she could pull me away. I placed my head under the shower gasping at the coldness of the water.
Frances was on the ground, suddenly finding a second wind and crawling towards me, her bedraggled hair covering her face. She grabbed at my ankle and pulled, almost dragging me to the ground with her but I kicked and made contact with her forehead. I got back under the shower again and started to scrub. The other woman sank to her knees desperately scrabbling at the dark gunk as it fell off my body and onto the floor.
“No!” the woman was yelling. “Don’t wash it all away!”
Frances began to scream and cry. The woman joined her. I stood for a moment, watching two desperate figures try to salvage as much of the dark junk as they could. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, the room went black.
I woke up in a hospital bed to the sound of the slow, regular beat of a heart monitor.
“Ah, you’re awake. I’m Doctor Reed.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I’m afraid we almost lost you.” The doctor lifted up the chart on the end of my bed and made a quick note. She looked at me and smiled. “Lucky for you that we had that electric cut.” She placed the chart back on the bed rail. “You’re going to be OK now, but no more connection.”
“No more connection?” I asked.
“That’s right. No phones, no laptops, no social media. No internet. OK?”
She handed me a card.
Connection Rehab Centre
Getting People Back in the Here and Now
“You’re one of the lucky ones,” she said. “That stuff will kill you.”
The End. © 2017 Lisa Wilton