[Note: Click here for part one.]
I rode passenger in Clint’s Mitsubishi Mirage. We’d been driving for I know not how long. Time blurs somewhat when one is wearing a hood that looks suspiciously like a hood one saw on the news more than once about 13 years ago. Clint was unclear as to where he got the hood.
“I buy them in bulk on Amazon.” Never mind then. “But you can only buy them in bulk.”
Clint took the time to elaborate his thoughts about the King of Posts. I was unsure what to make of them. His reverence and awe towards him shifted gracefully into rancor and envy before circling back again. I could not tell if the King of Posts was a cherished mentor to Clint or an equal with whom he had a falling out. Over Michael McDonald’s greatest hits at low volume, though, his accounts resembled a love letter written two years after the fact, when every high and every low can be taken into account, at their most confusing but also at their most objective. “Nothing prepares you for when you meet a man like that,” was Clint’s only insight about him that seemed really salient. Most of the time he talked as if he was wallpapering his real thoughts with thoughts from other memories or half-assed Zen koans. “Nothing prepares you for knowing your weaknesses better than you know … your own secrets.”
“Can I take this off, your constant U-turns are making me dizzy.”
“In time, child. In time.”
As soon as Clint abruptly stopped for what seemed like the final time, he pulled off the hood, and I adjusted my eyes to … a pristine cul-de-sac of newly built homes. Getting out of the car I was overcome with silence, and realized that most if not all of the homes were unoccupied. The one we parked in front of looked no more active.
“So where is this place?” I asked.
“This is an enchanted realm, where up is right and left is down, and where magic is as free and easy as candy on Halloween!”
“My phone says this is Bernardsville.”
“Enchantment has many names.”
“Okay, but the King of Posts lives in Bernardsville? That’s closer to me than you are!”
“Will you just shut up and follow me?”
Clint knocked on the door. We heard some steps and a creaking noise from below. The mail slot was opened.
“Who goes there?” The voice asked in a sleepless, robotic deadpan.
“It’s Jared, I’m with a protégé. We’re here to see the King.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Of course not.”
“What time is it?”
“Oh come on, man, it’s me.”
“No exceptions. What time is it?”
“Fine. It’s time for some game theory.”
“We do two-factor authentication in this household.”
“Oh go impale yourself on a barre rail, Maurice.”
The door opened, revealing an unshaven, unkempt young man of about college age. He was scrawny, with stringy blond hair, pink-framed reflective sunglasses, white Ked mules, and an oversized white t-shirt with EUNUCH #2 custom printed on it. I did not see any shorts. “Right this way, gentlemen.”
The house was sparsely furnished and erratically adorned. There were no personal pictures but many impersonal knickknacks of an office arts and crafts party quality: squiggled abstract finger paints and watercolors on the walls, jagged wooden humanoid figurines on the tables. One table in the foyer had a sizeable mountain of overdue notices from God knows how many previous occupants that looked vulnerable to the slightest breeze. The living room had a recliner and two ergonomic office chairs. The dining room had a card table and some folding chairs.
“His highness will be with you shortly,” Eunuch no. 2 assured us. “You look hungry, would you like something to eat? Bagel Bites perhaps?”
I hesitated, but Clint nudged me.
“Don’t be rude,” he huffed.
“Sure,” I said.
“We only have fish sticks,” he replied automatically, as if rehearsed, and walked upstairs.
“Are … are you gonna make the … okay then.”
Walking over to the dining room, I looked through the sliding glass door and over at the half-painted deck to spot a mound of earth and several shovels laying about it. “Looks like they have a big landscaping project going on.”
“What? Oh don’t mind that.”
“You know what that is?”
“Yeah,” he said walking up to my side. “That’s the Pit of Deletion. It gets deeper every day.”
“Deletion? Deleted what?”
“Deleted accounts, what do you think?”
“Deleted accounts go there?”
“Yeah, what do you expect happens when someone deletes or gets suspended? They go on with their lives offline with their jobs and their families and their corgis and all that? No, that’s not how this works. It goes: all of it.”
“Corgis are buried there?”
“No stone gets left unturned, Chris. Something to think about before you see the King.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Gentlemen,” Eunuch no. 2 said from behind us, “his highness will see you now. He’s waiting in the den.”
The King of Posts’s den had the same stuck-in-time look as Clint’s office. In fact it looked as if the remodelers just didn’t bother to go downstairs at all. The floor was carpeted with bile yellow shag, and was cratered in the center by a conversation pit, fit with cushions and pillows with seagulls, hearts, and sentimental sayings on them. On the walls were printed out portraits of many the accounts Clint had mentioned and a few others like so sad today, da share z0ne, and Nein.
We stood at one end of the pit facing Eunuch nos. 1 and 3 in much the same attire and condition as Eunuch no 2. Eunuch no. 3 was at my left, lurched over with an electric guitar around his shoulders and an amp. Eunuch no. 1 stood at attention on the other side, appearing to be the most competent, or at least the better postured. In between them was a large rectangle obscured by a tarp.
“Hey,” Eunuch no. 2 altered his co-eunuchs, “these guys are here to see the King.”
“Okay,” Eunuch no. 1 said. He threw his shoe at Eunuch no. 3, who plugged in his amp and pressed his guitar against it, emitting membrane-searing feedback. “All hail the King of Posts.”
“ALL HAIL THE KING OF POSTS!” the eunuchs cried in their unison drone.
Eunuch no. 1 pulled the tarp away revealing a fortune-telling machine, but with a George W. Bush Halloween mask placed over the head.
“Will the tributary approach the pit?” he commanded. “Will the tributary bend the knee?”
“WHY HAS THIS NORMIE TWERP SUMMONED THE KING OF POSTS?” the machine asked in a static and guttural bellow like an impatient drive-thru operator. Through the mask I could still see the eyes light up each time it spoke.
“Um, hi … your highness,” Clint sheepishly interjected, “this is Chris, he’s a client of mine.”
“YOU BROUGHT ME ANOTHER LOSER, JARED? WHEN WILL YOU LEARN?”
“We’ve been working together on really upping his online presence.”
“UGH. WHAT IS HIS FOLLOWER COUNT?”
“Almost 700,” I unhelpfully added.
“HAS HE GONE VIRAL?”
“A few times, your highness.”
“A FEW TIMES? A FEW TIMES? WE’RE REALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN HERE. BUT YOU CAME ALL THIS WAY, AND I AM VERY BORED. I WILL SEE WHAT I CAN DO.”
“Thank you, your highness.”
“BEFORE YOU CAN BE PRIVY TO MY WISDOM, YOU MUST ANSWER ME THESE QUESTIONS THREE.”
“BUT BE WARNED! IF YOU GET ONE WRONG, ONE OF MY EUNUCHS WILL CRACK YOUR PHONE SCREEN. IF YOU GET TWO WRONG, YOU FORFEIT ALL YOUR PASSWORDS TO ME. AND IF YOU GET ALL THREE WRONG, YOUR ACCOUNTS GET DELETED. ARE WE CLEAR?”
“Yeah … sure.”
“VERY WELL. FIRST QUESTION: WHAT DID THE LONELY SPARROW ON THE LOWER BRANCH ASK THE POPULAR DOVE ON THE HIGHER BRANCH?”
“How’s the weather up there?”
“CORRECT! SECOND QUESTION: WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS?”
“There’s a right answer for what my dreams are?”
“THERE IS NEVER A RIGHT ANSWER PER SE, BUT ON OCCASION THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER.”
“I had a dream once.”
“Not long ago, either. I had a dream where I was respected. Not just by unseen onlookers but also by everyone whose respect I explicitly sought out. I remember feeling it very distinctly. I can only assume it was the feeling someone has after not having mapped out their life history with a road paved of hurt and error. It was as if I got every achievement as easily as getting items in a grocery store. It was as if every opportunity fell to me at the right time. I couldn’t remember whose respect it was that I sought, nor could I remember the achievements I owned. But I felt the accomplishment and contentment and I felt that I deserved it. I was sitting in a lawn chair as I felt this. But I was not on a lawn. I was in a very dark room. There were no light sources except those that were behind the walls, which pulsated every few minutes in different colors: red, purple, green, orange, all that. I couldn’t tell you what the colors meant, but the lights revealed that I was not alone. In fact I could hear that I was not alone, a certain clacking and writhing. The right hue, though, could reveal a precise outline of an arachnid creature—many arachnid creatures, actually—about the size of a pizza. And then came the whispers. I couldn’t make out what they were saying until one of them was right in front of me, its legs grasped at my knees. When the wall lights glowed just right I could make out its face. It was of a girl who lived down the street from me when I was a boy, she moved away to Texas or something early on and I didn’t know her well. I think her name was … Meredith … or Diane. Anyway, the girl arachnid looked at me and just said ‘W’ and put a magic marker in my hand. Then other ones came to me and gave me more letters: S, C, O, T, E, D, another T, I, P, M, two more E’s, etc. It was implied that I was to write these letters on the wall. So I did where I could find space, and each time they would crawl up behind me and whisper a new one. After a while they stopped. And so when I had a wall with letters all over it, I turned around and asked what I was to do with all these. By then they were all piled onto one another in the corner, as if they were feeding. I moved closer but stopped when I stepped on something. Through the lights I could see it was a pair of glasses not unlike a pair I owned many years ago. Then I saw a hand twitching out from under the pile. Then I woke up.”
“NOT INCORRECT! THIRD AND FINAL QUESTION: WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE EXTREMELY ONLINE?”
“Because I hate myself and life has no meaning.”
“CORRECT! I SEE THE SPECTACULAR JARED HAS NOT COMPLETELY WASTED YOUR TIME AND MONEY. AND NOW I SHALL RENDER UNTO YOU MY DECREE. EUNUCH. EUNUCH!”
Eunuch no. 1 elbowed the side of the machine. A small card fell into the front slot, he instructed me to take it.
“OBSERVE ITS DIRECTIVE WISELY.”
I looked at the card and read it aloud: “‘Everything will work out because you are a good person even if you really kind of aren’t.’ What the hell is this?”
“YOU ARE WELCOME, GOOD LUCK IN ALL YOUR FUTURE ENDEAVORS.”
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
“You do not question his highness’s guidance!” Eunuch no. 1 sternly retorted. “Be gone.”
“No way, I’m not going anywhere until I get a—”
“WHAT IS THAT?”
“What is what?”
“IS SOMEONE SMOKING?”
I look back and lo and behold, Clint indeed was imbibing is nicotine habit indoors yet again.
“THERE IS NO SMOKING PERMITTED INSIDE, PLEASE USE THE DECK.”
“What the fuck?” Clint said as he bent down to his right ankle where a holster was concealed. “No one tells me where I can and cannot smoke.”
He took out a small pistol and shot several rounds into the King of Posts, which emitted sparks and smoke, setting off alarms and sending everything into general disarray. Out of the corner of my eye, a tuxedoed man ran out from a door in the back of the room, along with numerous cats that attempted to defend him by vomiting on our shoes. I looked inside and saw an elaborate audio setup and a laptop counting analytics that were off the fucking charts.
“Clint, this son of a bitch has been podcasting this whole time.”
“Are you serious?”
We ran up after him, dodging equally evadable cats and eunuchs. When we managed to escape the house we found our tuxedoed foe standing statuesque on the front lawn, just waiting for us. Though it turns out he was no ordinary foe.
“Woodrow Wilson?” I asked in astonishment, which was greeted by a severe slug in the groin.
“That’s Governor Wilson to you, shithead.”
While I struggled on the grass, Clint was understandably more overcome.
“I knew it!” he finally said.
“Yes,” the Governor replied with a slight but friendly smile. “I’ve been looking over you for some time.”
“Oh no.” Clint fell to his knees and grasped at the Governor’s jacket. “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. I’ve failed you conclusively time and time again. No, actually, do not forgive me. I deserve none of it. I am worthless. I am a worm. A plague upon mankind.”
Governor Wilson remained silent, but placed his hand on the side of Clint’s face, and wiped a tear with his thumb.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Wilson said. “You have done all I have wished of you and more. You’ve brought joy to countless people, you keep an adequate home, and you fill this wretched earth with wonder.”
“I … I do?”
“Yes, Jared. You have earned your place beside me, with all the others. Will you join me?”
“Yes!” Clint said exalting to the heavens. “By God yes!”
“And so it shall be done. You may rise.”
Clint stood up to face him. Governor Wilson’s eyes began to glow a deep red as they met with Clint’s, and beams came suddenly shooting out from them. (I swear this is true.) Clint’s entire body started to glow and he laughed maniacally. Then came a bright, loud blast, and Clint’s material frame had, so to speak, been broken out of.
“Well, that takes care of that,” Governor Wilson said as he dusted off his hands.
“You could have fucking told me to stand back.”
“Hey, language. This is New Jersey, not a pigsty.”
“So what about me?”
“What about you?”
“You’re King of Posts, right?”
“Oh, that. Um … good posts are the friends you make along the way.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“The freshest #content came from right here all along.” Governor Wilson pointed to his chest.
“These are dumb memes, not advice.”
“Oh grow up, asshole. This stopped being about you like three hours ago. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a franchise to consolidate.”
The King of Posts Governor-for-Life of New Jersey rifled through what was left of Clint and managed to fish his keys out of the mess, and while I struggled to pick bone fragments out of my hair and off my sweater, he drove off into the Garden State night to only God knows where, “What a Fool Believes” fading in the distance.
ME: So what do you think?
WEB DEVELOPER: About what?
ME: About my mission statement.
WEB DEVELOPER: Oh. I guess I’ve heard worse.
ME: I really need something that strikes right at the core of prospective clients. I need it to make them say, “I am looking for X-type of attitude in fulfilling my needs, and Chris R. Morgan Marketing Solutions, LLC has just that attitude!”
WEB DEVELOPER: Well … I mean, usually mission statements contain words like optimize or dynamic or retrofficient or, like, Ravenclaw.
ME: Hm. I guess you’ve got me there.
WEB DEVELOPER: So, while I have you, I’ve been meaning to ask about my invoice.
ME: What about it?
WEB DEVELOPER: Just this part here where you added “in Bagel Bites” next to my flat rate.
ME: Ah, yes. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. Gosh, this is so embarrassing. I still haven’t figured out where the Bagel Bites are so it will have to be fish sticks. I need to Google, but the exchange rate should be only a few very slight percentage points less.
WEB DEVELOPER: Yeah.
ME: Very, very slight.