politics, short fiction

The Man Who Sold The World

The town I grew up in died slow. Large stretches of land where people used to live and work, made their dreams, small as they were, into something you could reach out and touch. Each boarded up window was a headstone for a dream and soon we were experiencing the acute joy of adolescence in a dying town.

 

Places which make you angry as you grow older.

 

My mum would rather suffer in silence before asking for help. There were days she didn’t eat so I could. She pretended she wasn’t hungry, but it was the same day every week and I was not a stupid child.

 

She worked two jobs and fasted one day each week so I had a hot meal every day.

 

Does that sound like an economy which works for you?

 

This is the point in the story where I tell you a goofy anecdote about an early science project which caused widespread panic, like an electromagnet which kills the electricity to everyone on the street, something like that.

 

It would illustrate I am smart and also human. Everyone relates to a child, don’t they? I mean, there’s the Macaulay Culkin movie, where he is an evil kid and even when he dies, you’re led to feel upset about it, aren’t you?

 

It also establishes my credentials as a scientist. The mad variety, which if you’ve read a book or two, you might learn is more common than you think.

 

Harry Harlow raised rhesus monkeys in isolation chambers and made surrogate mothers out of wire to test maternal separation and dependence needs.

 

Sidney Gottlieb slipped LSD into people’s drinks without their knowledge and recorded the results.

 

Giovanni Aldini electrified corpses for large crowds via a metal rod inserted in a place you never want a metal rod.

 

Well, some of you anyway, I’m in no position to judge.

 

I did nothing like it.

 

You’re welcome.

 

If you say the s-word again, I will have you killed.

 

Not socialist.

 

I’m not anything you can quantify. I am, post-political, not post-modern. I grew up looking at these people who got into power and did nothing but get elected, get rich and leave office. They started wars to be fought by people I grew up with. Jeff Gulliver lost his leg in Fallujah and he couldn’t tell you what he was fighting for. He shot himself last year and I went back for his funeral.

 

Anyway, I’m qualifying myself.

 

My girlfriend says I do it when I am nervous.

 

Plus if you built crazy giant shit, you had people come after you.

 

I’ve never been to The Sphere. It is a prison designed to use people like me. It is seldom at maximum occupancy because the mortality rate for our kind is high. You don’t get the luxury of due process when an eighteen-year-old who can phase through walls traps your head inside a metal railing.

 

That was the fate of Mickey Francis also known as Proton.

 

When you’re exposed to a blast of two thousand degree celsius from the eyes of a thirty three old failed actor and your head melts in a pink and black torrent down your shoulders.

 

Adios, Lady Death. Poor choice of name.

 

They got sponsorship deals, spoke at the united nations and got television shows. We got murdered, crippled or sent down for life. I decided I would not go down either path.

 

The s-word I hate is super villain.

 

I could breed giant lizards or build death rays but it changes nothing.

 

I rigged an election so things could be better. I didn’t corrupt democracy.. I came from the places it fucked over repeatedly.

 

Free will is a measure of incalculable value.  I did not want to invent a cure for cancer or develop free energy. I wanted more opportunities for those things to happen regularly. There was no such thing as a free lunch in any capacity, everything had to be paid for and I knew my efforts in those directions would change nothing for the people I grew up amongst and the town I lived in.

 

I studied the great engines of our society.

 

Ah, you thought I would say physics or chemistry. The latter would have been smart. I watched Breaking Bad, figured out the recipe from what they left out in the cooking scenes in five minutes.

 

Marketing.

 

Advertising.

 

Social Media.

 

Business.

 

I stole identities and gathered intelligence., Hired people to run departments,  with legitimate jobs and established places of business where they worked on the project. I achieved more tracking social media metrics than I ever could with a death ray. They had health insurance, performance bonuses, generous vacation packages and college funds set up for their kid.These things made their lives comfortable and when you looked at Julian Assange living in a cleaner’s cupboard in the embassy or Edward Snowden hiding in Russia, comfortable is a good reason to keep your head down and not ask questions.

 

I made groups on Facebook. Muslims For America. U.S Pride. The South Will Rise.

 

In one room, I had groups of people having arguments with each other across the internet as they talked about their plans for the weekend. Real people joined in and we put our messages across.

 

I bought space on US servers, installed VPNs and studied the metrics like they told the future. We learned what content causes people to react, the semiotics and images which provoked the responses we needed to generate.

 

You saw our advertisements and sponsored content, read the stories and posted something insulting to a comment one people made. We hid in a haystack of LLCs, moving the money between them and spending it where we needed it to go.

 

I put adverts online for actors to stage protests and got footage online within minutes. Above my head, men with capes and bulletproof skin punched one another whilst I sat in a massage chair and watched the country bend to my will.

 

My strategy came from the one game Mom and I played all the time.

 

Even when she would fall asleep during the games.

 

Go was a game invented by the Chinese. It’s been played for two and a half thousand years on a continued basis. We played on a 9 x 9 board but my mom taught me the same principles I used now to build a world where she wouldn’t have had to work herself to exhaustion.

 

She nodded off at the wheel driving home from her third job. She wouldn’t take my money because she figured out where it came from and it felt worthless if I couldn’t make her comfortable.

Go has several strategies available to it. The opening one is the hardest for professional players which is why I spent time on it and then let the tao of the internet do the rest. I nudged them along.

My achievement was in using what was already there.

I didn’t weaken your press so everything they said was mocked over being investigated.

I didn’t make you dependent on marketing and advertising.

I didn’t make you derive validation and identity from social media.

Our democracy was corrupt and money-serving long before I was born. The big crimes they committed were nothing compared to what I did.

I was Jesus kicking the moneylenders out of the fucking temple.

 

Except people were paying me for advertising space on the social media pages.

 

I had people fighting in the streets over the opinions I gave them.

 

I chose the presidential candidates. Eliminating the ones I had no interest in was easy enough People can be talked out of their vote, and third party candidates were sinkholes  people poured their votes into.

 

I chose the president.

 

I’ve never met her. It would be pointless when she knows what her agenda is for the next four years.

 

Eight, if she can get Universal Basic Income in before the Christmas break. Weed is the next one after it because I’ve got plans to establish farms for it back home. I can generate jobs and rejuvenate the economy in six months. It was too late for my Mom and Jeff, but I decided it was worth trying to get someone in charge who would do what they promised to do.

 

Ecbert the first King of England united all the kingdoms in twenty five years. I did it in twenty five months.

 

I’ve seeded both House and Senate with enough votes to ensure the bills pass with enough resistance to look plausible.

 

The Mighty Tiger can’t fight legislation which requires mandatory training or face incarceration. I’ve established a new market for superhero insurance which is why Proton and Lady Death’s families are living well. The CDOs on it were unpleasant but there are people doing serious time for it now so that’s good. There’s only room for one bastard here and it’s me.

 

I built a house on a large stretch of land. I have room for animals, my own water supply and grow vegetables, keep some livestock. I have a converted barn where I run everything although these days it is more massaging than running. My girlfriend isn’t ready to move out here yet, so it’s me and the dog as I point my country to a finer world on the horizon.

 

They blamed the Russians which is a change from the usual targets when things go wrong, immigrants and poor people. I grew up one of the latter and for once; I wanted to give the fuckers a reason for it.

 

Just once.

 

Up in the sky, I see figures flying towards me. I pet my dog and send it back to the house as the black helicopters emerge behind them. I hear the vehicles driving down the dirt track and put my hands behind my head as the end game begins.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Man Who Sold The World

    • Thank you. The inspiration for the story was quite interesting, and the implications frightening enough to make it a good story for me to tell. I’m in need of a good editor, or even a bad one 🙂

      Like

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