Albert woke up in a hospital gown, on the floor of a small white cell. Rather than try the door, he sat up in the lotus position, waiting for the world to boot up.
Rubbing his eyes, Albert looked to the fluorescents, then to the shadow cast by the mattress. The brightness didn’t shift. Smoothing the pillowcase, he waited for the white balance to change. The fabric stayed beige.
Albert tapped his temple. When the H.U.D. didn’t show, he tapped it again. This had happened before he just had to remember how he’d fixed it.
Pinching the air, Albert waited for the search field to appear. The memory interface drew a blank. There were no folders, no windows, not even a floating pinwheel of death.
Turning around Albert wasn’t shocked to find a wall length mirror, but rather what he saw there. The lights in his eyes had been reduced to two tiny sparks, the same bland color as the florescent on the ceiling. There were no notifications, no pending messages, no emoticons. This was the first time Albert had seen the natural color of his eyes in a long time. The windows to his soul were wide open and what he saw was unsettling.
Despite the size of his cell, the world seemed so much larger than it had before.
Dr. Locke entered the viewing room behind the mirror. “What do you think?”
Dr. Walton shrugged, “He’ll be crying out for tech support in about five seconds.”
Once a year, my demon seeds rise from the soil to corrupt the innocent and harvest the souls of the damned, and once a year they’re persecuted for honoring tradition. They return to the pit telling stories of houses with lights out and signs saying, “No trick or treat this Halloween.”
As a practitioner of the ancient rites, I’m sad to see the PC police sanitize the season, safety-proofing torture chambers, and whitewashing the blood spatter off of everything.
Gone are the pillars of goat skulls, livestock bonfires, and mile long threads of chicken’s feet. They’ve been replaced with scented candles, costumes for cats, and Chia pet zombie heads. Gone are the jars of deformities, the spirit boards, and seance tables dripping with ectoplasm. They’ve been replaced with bobblehead banshees, slime flavored fruit drinks, and friendly ghost cartoons. The Casper-fication of the season leaves no room for demons.
Time was there were cloven hooves leading to every doorstep, robed carolers chanting incantations on every lawn, and wicker men filled with philosophers burning all along the horizon.
Now pagan deities pace abandoned shrines, kicking the dirt, waiting for a sacrificial offering to wander across their altars, only to be stood up by their once loyal followers. Your plane of existence used to be the best party in town. Now you’re casting our idols out of your schools and town halls. Macy’s ignores the season entirely, rolling out the tinsel and mistletoe long before it even starts to snow.
Maybe I’m looking at the bronze age with ruby colored glasses, or maybe people just don’t build effigies like they used to. Call me old fashioned, but those pagans knew how to make an entity feel welcome, filling our cauldrons with the ashes of their loved ones. These days demons are lucky to get Pixy Stix as an offering.
Humans keep removing the curses from the occasion. Not too long ago people proudly displayed captivity scenes on their front yards, where wise men chained up the innocent. They decorated trees with toilet paper, decked their halls with cobwebs, and strung crime scene tape from mailboxes to rooftops.
They turned CPR dummies into disemboweled corpses, gluing cereal to rubber abdomens, painting the flakes red to look like scabbing. They smeared kayro syrup along plastic pipes, laying them out like entrails, leading to trenches filled with dry ice that never stopped smoking.
They hung ornaments of eyeless dolls, severed limbs, and good old fashioned asphyxiated corpses.
My little hellions skipped up driveways hungry for poisoned candy corns and apples filled with razor blades. That all changed when people started giving them dental floss and teeth whitening gum. None of these Saccharin sweets had passed through witch’s hands, been soaked in virgin’s tears, or dipped in the bowls of unbaptized infants.
People need to put the heresy back into Hershey’s, the necromancy back into Nestlé, and blaspheme back into Cadbury. They need to taste the mark of the beast in their Mars Bars, black magic in their Blow Pops, and sorcery in their Sour Patch Kids.
Every year candy bars keep getting smaller. They’ve gone from “King Sized” to “Fun” to “Mini.” Now all that’s left are tiny droplets that give a vague hint of chocolate. My demon brethren keep pumping rock music full of subliminal demands, but it doesn’t seem to be getting top 40 rotation. What we want is either chocolate or blood. It’s not in your interest to keep narrowing our options.
One house gave my little hell spawns baby carrots, claiming it would help improve their vision. These people were oblivious to my children’s glowing eyes with their healthy red bioluminescence. As if vegetables weren’t bad enough, one house dared to give them raisins. Raisins, that’s one grape state away from the holy sacrament. They might as well give them garlic bulbs, dipped in holy water, with silver crucifix centers.
What the hell is wrong with people up here?
They’ve turned their backs on their heritage. They’ve taken the occult out of their culture. Costumes celebrating gruesome grotesqueries have fallen out of fashion. This will sound like a cliché coming from a demon, but I blame the children. Human children have lost their imaginations. They don’t have the attention spans to let their nightmares in.
Kids get their costumes from cartoons, rather than the Boogeyman in their closets (who ought to know something about fashion, considering where he spends all his nights). Kids wear cheap plastic smocks with pictures of who they’re supposed to be on them.
There was a time when they were all ghouls and goblins. I used to have trouble picking out my kids from the ferrel bands of blood crazed humans. These days they’re all princesses and super heroes, trailed by chaperones in big puffy coats. It’s only college kids that go out alone, and their costumes don’t leave room for demons to hide their exoskeletons. It seems like only succubi stand a chance of blending in.
People have forgotten the reason for the season is Satan, and to a lesser extant the elder gods that came before him, but really the old ones don’t even bother anymore. Cthulhu sleeps through it without so much as lifting a tentacle to hit the snooze button, and Dagon only gets up to catch the latest Tree House of Horror episode of The Simpsons.
Halloween is under siege by progressives. They want to pacify this time of possession. They want to cast out our dark sacraments from the halls of government, claiming a need to separate church and state, but debauchery isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy.
Their agenda to secularize the holiday knows no shame. They want everyone to start saying, “Happy Harvest Festival.”
It’s Happy Halloween! With a hard H. H for Heathen, H for Heretic, H for Hellfire. Just because you rebranded something doesn’t mean it will protect you from my offspring. That’s them ringing your doorbell right now, with pumpkin pales and flaming bags of poo in their hands. You can try to civilize them, see if that gets them off your lawn, but my advice to you is just give them what they want.
The following is a work of satire. I’m leading with this disclaimer, because many of these examples of Facebook’s attempts at mind control sound a little too believable.
Phase 2 of Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study
This week, Phase 1 of Facebook’s emotional manipulation experiments came to light. Having altered their Data user policy to include “research,” Facebook performed a study to test its influence on users’ psychology.
Positioning positive posts in the first test group’s feeds, the social network manipulated users to make merry messages of their own. Satiating some in sullen cynicism, they found these users were prone to mope and moan. Inspirational influencers led to delighted updaters, while pensive peers led to cocky contributors.
In his article Digital Market Manipulation, Ryan Calo believes companies “will increasingly be able to trigger irrationality or vulnerability in consumers.”
Like the copywriter in the Film Roger Dodger says, “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad… you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void.”
There’s speculation Facebook implemented these studies to appease its shareholders. These suspicions would make sense, had evidence of Facebook’s second study not surfaced. It turns out these early experiments were the tip of the iceberg.
Phase 2 Experiments:
The Relationship Status Randomizer
Toying with eagle eyed ex lovers and potential stalkers, Facebook implemented the relationship status randomizer, listing married users as single, turning their private phone numbers to public, then posting “Feeling lonely” as their status on the hour every hour.
The Bogus Baby Broadcaster
Since baby announcements get the most engagement, Facebook posted pregnancy news on behalf of couples who weren’t expecting, pulling random ultrasounds from Google image search. The Bogus Baby Broadcaster asked family friends to vote on children’s names. The most popular choices were: Link McFly Skywalker, for boys, and Buffy Ripley Croft, for girls.
Open House Mode
Taking advantage of their Oculus Rift acquisition, Facebook started mapping real spaces for Virtual Reality. Rift owners have reported early access to a feature called Open House Mode. Stitching architecture together from users’ pictures, Open House Mode allowed beta testers to go on virtual tours of their friends’ homes. Rendering intimate living spaces, complete with exteriors from Google Street View, Open House Mode points out structural vulnerabilities like flimsy locks and windows that can be pushed open. When pressed for comment, Facebook’s lawyers said this feature was for users who wanted to throw surprise parties for one another.
The Celebrity Death Generator
Attempting to stir up grief, Facebook filled users feeds with links that falsely reported celebrity deaths. A candlelit vigil, for actor Steve Buscemi, caused a twenty block traffic jam in downtown Atlantic City. The show runners for Boardwalk Empire had already hired Digital Domain to create a CGI stand-in, by the time the real Buscemi appeared on set, hungover, but still breathing.
Promoting posts containing the words “hand soap, linen towels,” and “quilted tissue,” Facebook found an uptick in geotags to ‘home thrones.’ Once users were in their bathrooms, Facebook blasted them with footage of kayakers going over waterfalls, three story fountains, and animated gifs of lemonade flowing from bottles. This drew criticism from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, fearing the effects a mass flushing incident will have on the nation’s sewer systems.
Manufacturing outrage, Facebook posted updates as ESPN, tricking users into believing the Washington Redskins were changing their names to the Washington Yellowskins, replacing their native American logo with that of a crude cartoonish Samurai. Soon after, the hashtag #YesAllShoguns started trending.
A petition to ban penicillin emerged, after Facebook made an article linking the antibiotic to childhood obesity trend. Medical authorities flooded the net to refute the claim, taking over the conversation in a matter of hours, but not soon enough to prevent media personality Jenny Mccarthy from endorsing the original findings. In the aftermath of the incident, Orange County has reported an outbreak of typhoid fever.
The Title Lengthening System
Some users awoke to find the phrase, “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next” tacked onto every link in their newsfeed, others saw, “… is the worst kind of discrimination.” Some reported seeing each link wrapped in the phrase “What… did is genius.” Everyone exposed to this title lengthening system reported feeling disturbed by the trend, as if they were the only ones noticing it happening.
Businesses, sports teams, and families reported finding phantom images of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, in their photos. In each image, Zuckerberg appears to be interacting with people, bringing his hands in for a team building seminar, hitting a beer bong at a keger, even wrapping his arms around someone else’s grandmother. Those who noticed the phantom CEO, said he appeared immediately after they uploaded their pictures, as if he’d been there all along. One group experimented with the feature, pointing to a camp fire in mock horror, posting the photo, they found Zuckerberg emerging from the fire.
Facebook’s Milgram Experiment
Members of the psychoanalytic community were horrified when the social network conducted it’s own interpretation of the infamous Milgram Experiment.
Testing blind obedience, the Milgram Experiment urged subjects’ to commit actions at the expense of their conscience. Subjects took on the role of a teacher administrating electric shocks to a learner, an actor who was in no real danger. Every time the learner failed to answer a question, a man in a lab coat would instruct the teacher to hit them with shock treatment. Ignoring the actor’s cries, this authority figure would tell the teacher to up the voltage. The goal was to see how many of the subjects would protest, halting the experiment before the lethal jolt was given.
Facebook introduced a virtual version of this experiment. Believing they were administering electric shocks to prison inmates, users became executioners by way of an application. The app gave users a video stream of both a researcher, commanding them to move forward, and a prisoner writhing in agony.
Stanley Milgram found that 65 percent of his participants administered the lethal dose. Facebook, on the other hand, had a 100 percent success rate. In fact, the only user to report distress, was a man in Texas, claiming to be “bummed out” when the app disappeared from the service.
As social networks become more prevalent in our virtual lives their effects will be felt in the real world. If the cost of connecting means surrendering control of our bowels, most of us will pay it. If the price of admission is submitting to a full body scan, most of us will jump right in. We’ll accept, that if Facebook wants us to be happy, we’ll be happy, and if we’re sad, it’s because Facebook willed us to be. The social network works in mysterious ways.
We’re just guinea pigs, hitting ‘Like’ to get more food pellets, wandering through this maze of messages, looking for meaning. The all seeing eye of Zuckerberg watches us share pictures of our plates on first dates, engage in political debates, and when we think our cameras are off, he watches us masturbate.
Ours is not to question his reasoning, but to trust in his plan. We must open our minds and accept his influence.
When director Zack Snyder released a photo of Ben Affleck, looking somber in the new Bat suit, Photoshop savvy netizens inserted him into sorrowful scenarios, and the Sad Batman meme was born.
When the studio released a photo of Superman from Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice they put rain droplets in the foreground, preventing enterprising satirists from developing yet another meme. They underestimated the power of Photoshop. May I present Sad Superman: cut out, with the droplets removed, and polished to perfection. I even threw in a colored version Sad Batman, with feet and a cape I’d added on.
Copy the PNG files and send these characters out on your own adventures.
To see more of the crazy things I’ve done with Sad Batman, take a look at my article on the perils of Living with Batman Syndrome, and don’t forget to check out my Design Gallery to see other comic book and movie parodies.
Ever have that dream where you stumble into the middle of a black mass with nothing to sacrifice? Ever crash a red ritual with nothing but casserole? Ever realize you’ve entered a black robe and hood affair when it’s too late to go home and change? That’s dream logic for you, never sure whether it’s more important if you feel afraid or embarrassed.
In the dream, cultists chant incantations with midwestern accents. Beneath their masquerade masks, they might just be your friends and neighbors. Perhaps that’s the little league coach drawing a propane pentagram, and the leader of the Boy Scout troop setting it aflame. Perhaps that’s the head of the PTA, drawing a dagger from her sleeve.
Your subconscious got tired of high school settings, of locker rooms and hallways, it wanted try it’s hand at a new landscape.
This is a story about what happens when your subconscious forgets its plotting a nightmare only to resort to the oldest dream cliché in the book. Come for a scare. Stay for a punchline.