parasocial.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

an exsperiment to see if i could sit down and write a short story in one sitting where almost nothing happened.

Sitting on his couch, this is Basel Walker. He has just woken up and sits scrolling through his notifications on his phone. They amount to several likes on social media from people he has never met and a message that he has an appointment on Friday with his therapist. He rubs his eyes, trying to get the night's dreams to leave. His poor shape laid back. Black circles like halos to terrors unknown wander around his apartment. When he looks in the mirror, those rings around his eyes always bother him.

 

He lives a sad life, but he is content. Living a life like this would bother most but, he feels he knows people deeply through the novels he reads and the videos essays he watches.

 

He loves the tube and the multitude of voices it brings to his world. The novels he enjoys are anything from old pulps to paperback originals from the nineteen seventies and eighties. However, it's is the tube where he hears voices—the ones of other human beings.

 

During the month, he goes to the store every other week and pays his rent. It is a good life. That is something he will not argue with.

 

"I would be homeless if I did not have SSI; this is true." He thinks it one way then another, rephrasing the words looking for any failing of his logic. He finds there is none and feels satisfied that while mentally ill, he is functioning.

 

The apartment is a glorified closet, with the dolls he makes and paints sitting on a shelf barely visible in the morning light. They sculpted from Super Sculpey and wire; he planned to spend his life making stop motion films. Now he makes the dolls. They are painted pale white and bright red. Hollows of eyes painted black above rosy cheeks.

 

They look like skulls, not without charm. But similar in their way. He used to for several years sculpt them till the silence wore him down. The silence is a negative to the auditory hallucinations that chased him with voices unknown. Voices of God? Possibly. Though that is to be doubted. There is no reason in this world to think that God needed to speak to him.

 

He told his therapist once, "it's like that scene in evil dead two where even the lamps are mocking ash. I was afraid to turn on the radio. Afraid to watch a movie. There was an overabundance of meaning but somehow no purpose to it. It was as if the ghosts of the world were found, but there was no order or God to focus them. No structure, only the voices of the dead and the need to be heard."

 

So instead, he locked himself away from fear that he would be caught off guard one day when they found him again. When they knew he was vulnerable, weak, and ready to be devoured.

 

"the world has passed me by? no. it is I who relinquished myself to myself as a kind of sacrifice for wisdom." He was thinking in spirals, like biplanes preparing to crash.

 

Once Basel had started his channel on the tube. He would talk about the films he wanted to make. Rambling, he often felt he was mocking himself by the very act of sharing them. He would get a thumbs down now and again. Why do this to yourself? He thought. Why not? He would tell himself. Reaching out back to those personalities that enriched his life maybe what I need.

 

It did not last long. Several sarcastic comments were enough for the sensitive welp to funnel back on himself. There was not much thinking left in him. The energy he was born with had played itself out, and his engines were running on fumes.

 

He often thought of the algorithm as a god of sorts—a way to funnel the negative information back to him.

 

"It is just a process; the truth can't be trademarked. Anything I agree to as being the truth is the truth. At least for me. It always comes back to paraphrasing. Say it your way. We are a species of discovery, but if every idea was a landmass, then not all the pilgrims could be the ones to plant the flag though they live there. Building civilization for all of us. I didn't invent the wheel, but I can own the car."

 

While scrolling meaningless memes, people are sharing things they did not make to create their identity. Allowing for instincts to decide one thing than another, but it all comes back to yes and no.

 

The algorithms that feed us the nightmare fuel are often like us—simple ciphers of the idea space. Basel often felt like he was in a great dialog with something purer than a shadow. It showed him what he needed, other people even if they did not need him. The content creators need us to carry their gospel. The good news is that they pay their bills, but the bad news is it's our money.

 

That would be the dance if Shakespeare wrote the plays we are actors on his stage. But our stage is now social media, and influencers write our play. There was something lonesome in seeing yourself cast back in recommendations. In trying to know why you are trying to sell me this, what have I done that tells the search what I need?

 

"you're overthinking it," he tells himself. Then he sits the phone down, but he is haunted by a video the algorithm recommended him about AI that wrote an obituary. It turned out to be fake, but he started to laugh then whispered, "it is only because I am still alive."


Submitted: October 25, 2021

© Copyright 2022 dharmadischarge. All rights reserved.

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