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Social Median, The

“The Social Median” Copyright © 2015 Christopher Holmes Nixon

Canadian Intellectual Property Office Reference: 1125526

Hardcopy edition ISBN: 978-0-9948128-6-5

Digital edition ISBN: 978-0-9948128-7-2

Written by Christopher Holmes Nixon

Cover art by Bob and Jelena Gajic at [email protected]

Copyediting by Jeff Suess and Writer’s Digest at www.writersdigestshop.com

Digital distribution through Shakespir at www.Shakespir.com

Produced by FoeHammer Publications at www.foehammerpublications.com

“The Social Median” originally published as part of Beyond Science Fiction Magazine on 30 January 2015.

“The Social Median” is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SOCIAL MEDIAN

Christopher Holmes Nixon

 

“Can I get an amen?”

“Amen!”

“Can I get a hallelujah?”

“Hallelujah!”

“Can I get a good God ya’ll!”

“Good God!”

“I call upon you, my devoted followers, to praise the all mighty median, our Citadel, and bless our sermon here today!”

The man in the elaborate blue suit lifted his arms into the air as he was engulfed by a surge of unrestrained admiration and verbal revelry rising up from the floor of the cathedral.

“Good morning, my followers!” spoke the man in the blue suit, his outstretched arms oscillating with fervent energy. “My name is the Right Honourable Reverend John James Veritable, sociangelist, political and spiritual leader, and conduit for the will of the people… perhaps you’ve heard of me!”

A second wave of uninhibited shouts coupled with a surge of camera flashes filled the confines of the church as Reverend Veritable turned to face the massive projection screen hanging behind him. Displayed on the screen was a live feed of the interior of the Citadel with Reverend Veritable standing in the centre of a stone stage rising up in front of a vast conglomeration of men, women, and children clamouring along the expansive rows of church pews. Set into the bottom right-hand corner of the monitor was a miniature thumbs-up symbol positioned beside a rapidly ascending digital counter.

“Over ten million likes in only a few moments,” said Reverend Veritable as he turned back towards the audience. “I beseech you, is this not connection, devotion, and unity in its truest form?”

“Praise be to the median!”

“Thank you all for coming, my loyal followers, for today is a very special sermon,” spoke Reverend Veritable, clearing the sweat from his forehead. “Today we are here to celebrate our prosperity by juxtaposing our illustrious collective against the misguided souls who seek to keep us divided.”

Cued by Reverend Veritable’s remarks, the aura of collective reflection fractured into an atmosphere of resentment and indignation as enraged shouts of pseudo-profane exasperations resonated throughout the great hall.

“Cull the unbelievers!”

“Calm yourself, my followers!” bellowed Reverend Veritable, laughing as he reached out to sedate the audience with his hand. “The lost children in today’s sermon came to us, and the Citadel has yet to refuse anyone in need of intervention.”

“Redeem yourselves and subscribe!”

“Thank you, my followers, but before we begin with our lost children’s stories of redemption, we need to reiterate the history of our own salvation,” continued Reverend Veritable. “Did anyone forget to bring their Bible with them?”

Reverend Veritable’s inquiry ignited a burst of laughter, and a series of buoyant salutations flared across the crowd.

“I know, I know, a little humour for the minority who have never been to the Citadel before,” said Reverend Veritable, walking over to an adjacent wooden podium and then holding up a black tablet computer. “The Church of Sociology will continue to supply Bibles to all of it’s followers, and please follow along by clicking the hyperlink for the Revised Book of Genesis, chapter one.”

A rumbling of activity spread across the church as the members of the audience collectively obeyed and reached for a tablet computer or cellular phone in unison.

“In the beginning, there was chaos,” spoke Reverend Veritable, gripping the edges of the podium. “Perpetual war, rampant poverty, political infighting, ideological isolation, hunger, disease, and social decay coupled with boundless human ignorance coursed across every nation of the world, streaming through our city streets and seeping down into each and every one of our homes.”

The projection screen towering at the front of the cathedral changed from live footage of the Citadel to a picture of a city in ruin with collapsed concrete buildings, debris, derelict automobiles, and garbage lining abandoned city streets. The projector held the image for a moment before cycling through random pictures of drug addicts, street gangs, crime scenes, terrorist groups, and harsh depictions of contemporary violence.

“Many of us in this room, and likely most of the people watching from their homes, can remember the days before enlightenment,” said Reverend Veritable as the projection screen flared horror and chaos onto the screen behind him. “In all fairness, I’m sure the leaders of the world were doing their best to guide us, but you and I both know that best is a relative term, and the extent of their efforts only served to leave our homes and cities in ruins.”

As he finished speaking, Reverend Veritable slammed his fist down onto the podium and the projection screen flashed to a depiction of dated propaganda from the communist revolution.

“Gods and tyrants throughout human history have tried to link us together, and using the advent of communism as a clear example, we see a political practice with aspirations of unity which ultimately resulted in disaster,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “The problem wasn’t necessarily the assimilation of the means of production, but the inevitable failure of this ideology was the myopic focus on the collective ownership of property and the integration of only a sole aspect of our lives.”

Reverend Veritable turned back towards the projection screen and watched as the image transitioned into a mosaic of a holy cross, an array of currency symbols, a line of national flags, a rally of people, and an intricate computer system all layered over a map of the world.

“What mankind needed was for all aspects of life, not just property, religion, or politics, but for all facets of the human experience to be interconnected for us to truly come together as one,” said Reverend Veritable, staring up at the image on the screen. “History is a testament to the fact that no single ideology, philosophical principle, or belief system has ever been able to bring the peoples of the world together, and by failing to unite humanity, our destiny was perpetually fractured between criminals controlling the streets, gluttonous corporations usurping our wealth, corrupt bureaucrats ruling our cities, and false deities contorting our minds.”

The projection screen returned to the slideshow of war, manmade disasters, and infamous atrocities, with the images steadily advancing to shower the audience with historical examples of human malignancy.

“But my brothers and sisters, all was not lost, and there was a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon, a narrow path to lead us to salvation and save us from the broad road to hell,” yelled Reverend Veritable as he held his tablet computer out to the crowd. “Lifebook!”

Instantly the mood of solemn contemplation filling the church dissipated, replaced by a succession of jovial shouts and assertive chanting ascending from the floor.

“Praise to our salvation!”

“That is correct, my followers, and the irony is that the original Lifebook only served as a means to document our own disorder, acting as a mere sounding board to voice irrelevant personal opinions and mirror humanities intrinsically narcissistic disposition,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “Despite Lifebook’s juvenile beginnings, the means for complete information exchange and social connectivity now existed, and just as the nervous system of any newborn child begins to grow, evolve, and expand, a brilliant new entity was created to connect us together as one.”

The images of destruction displayed on the projection monitor abruptly disappeared, and an oversized thumbs-up logo materialized onto the screen. Responding to the symbol, the audience erupted and a torrent of audible veneration coursed throughout the cathedral.

“Lifebook has given us the architecture to truly integrate information, politics, economics, society, and religion, acting as the mechanism to both unify and redeem our dwindling civilization,” said Reverend Veritable, turning to reach up towards the enormous thumbs-up symbol projected on the screen. “As the two millennia of Anno Domini ended and the era of After Enlightenment commenced, so did the social median come of age as the absolute system of systems.”

“The path to absolution is in the palm of our hands!”

“There is power in a question, and since the dawn of time mankind has asked itself how we can slay our demons, purify ourselves of sin, and cast off our insidious nature once and for all!” shouted Reverend Veritable as he turned back towards the audience. “Finally, for the first time in history we have a solution to this question, and Lifebook proved not only to have the answer, but to be the answer itself!”

After running his hand through his hair with one hand and taking a short drink from a golden goblet with the other, Reverend Veritable stepped out from behind the wooden podium and advanced towards the front of the stage.

“The social median has the answer to all of our questions, and we only need to be wise enough to know which questions to ask!” yelled Reverend Veritable, raising his fist into the air. “Question the first!”

“Society!”

“Our past lives have become a fairy tale, and we are now all part of a collective intelligence where everyone is linked in, where we like and are in turn liked by each other in everlasting harmony,” said Reverend Veritable. “All you need to do is compare our past with the present to see that unyielding subservience to the median is essential to our future.”

“I like my brothers and sisters, and in turn I am liked!”

“Follow along in your Bible if you need to, but each of you should have the sacred pillars memorised,” continued Reverend Veritable, raising his hand into the air and extending two fingers. “Question the second!”

“Politics!”

“With Lifebook, we’ve cast out our corrupt political masters as true direct democracy became a reality, and for the first time in history the summation of our political will is both accurately and instantaneously available through the technology that the median provides,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “Again, my children, I cannot stress the importance of solidarity enough as democracy only works when we all think the same way!”

“One man, one woman, one like!”

“The next tenet has always been the most popular of the four pillars,” uttered Reverend Veritable. “Question the third!”

“Economics!”

“The fiscal reality of economies of scale is that there is an inverse relationship between the quantity and the cost of a good, and in other words, my followers, by choosing only one product, one television, one computer, one automobile, the divide between the have and the have-nots ceases to exist by forcing the cost of production as low as possible,” said Reverend Veritable, his voice growing as he paced along the stone edge of the stage. “By relying on the social median for our collective material choices, financial prosperity is within everyone’s reach, we can all afford to live like kings, and the only price that we actually pay is to stop trying to be needlessly different.”

“The median is our shepherd, we shall not want!”

“Do not lurk, my followers, stand up and hash tag your salvation!” shouted Reverend Veritable. “The final question!”

“Religion!”

“Look around you, my devoted followers, and see that our great Citadel has become the new Tower of Babel, once again we can all speak the same language, and not even the false gods of our past can stop us now,” spoke Reverend Veritable, closing his eyes tightly and holding his clenched fists to his chest. “The era of after enlightenment has begun, and the honoured men and women like myself, our twelve social mediators, and the privileged staff of the Citadel will continue to protect the solidarity, security, and compelling future that the median provides.”

“Believe in the median and become one!”

“This concludes the Revised Book of Genesis, and like I said before my followers, I am showing you a path that you’ve already followed and telling you a tale that you’ve already heard,” said Reverend Veritable as he removed a cloth from his jacket pocket and rubbed the sweat from the back of his neck. “What you’re going to hear today is not one, not two, but three stories of lost children, and more importantly, the accounts of their salvation.”

As Reverend Veritable finished speaking, the stylised thumbs-up symbol on the projection screen faded into a picture of a man dressed in a white shirt and tie. The man’s eyes stared out over the audience with a reserved expression of indifference as a pulse of angst ascended from the crowd.

“I know, my followers, but we can’t all be born knowing the median in our hearts,” said Reverend Veritable. “Hopefully with the introduction of our misguided souls, we may begin to see each of them not as malicious villains, but as impending additions to each of our friends lists.”

Pausing for the clamour within the Citadel to recede, Reverend Veritable turned his back to the audience and began to speak to the portrait displayed on the screen.

“Our first story is regarding a man named Jack Freeman, and without even asking, I already know that none of you here have ever heard of this man before,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “The reason that Mister Freeman is so unfamiliar is the same reason that the mediators guided him to the Citadel in the first place, for you see my followers, Jack Freeman only has four friends.”

Reverend Veritable turned back towards the crowd as he was met with a resounding wave of collective exasperation.

“The average devoted follower has hundreds, sometimes thousands of entries in their Lifebook friends list, and your cries mirror my own astonishment when I first learned of Mister Freeman’s extraordinary level of disrespect for our beloved collective,” said Reverend Veritable, bowing and shaking his head. “Such social negligence undermines every sacred pillar within the Revised Book of Genesis, and Mister Freeman has unequivocally identified himself as an individual requiring immediate re-education towards his social responsibilities.”

Reverend Veritable stepped away from the audience, returning back behind the wooden podium before continuing to speak.

“So, my followers, let us continue with our first account of salvation,” said Reverend Veritable, reaching out to grasp the edges of the podium. “Claiming independence and autonomy from our esteemed social order, Jack Freeman lived an isolated life without friends or acceptance, and the solution to Mister Freeman’s lack of faith was to simply find a way to promote him as an appealing acquaintance to others.”

The expansive projection screen flashed to a screen capture of Jack Freeman seated alone in the centre of a small concrete room. Lengths of thick leather straps held his arms firmly against the metallic seat, and Jack stared straight ahead despite a look of extreme fatigue shadowing over his face.

“When the social mediators researched the problem, they found that there is one personality, one character type, one persona that is consistently treasured and beloved by everyone,” spoke Reverend Veritable, turning his head to examine the projection screen. “A clown.”

The image on the screen flashed to life, and the congregation lining the pews of the cathedral focused their collective attention onto the video of Jack Freeman struggling to free himself from the belts binding his arms.

“You can’t keep me like this!” yelled Jack, his voice fractured with exhaustion. “I haven’t done anything!”

Three men in black suits simultaneously walked into the picture and quickly surrounded Jack’s chair.

“Mister Freeman, my name is Agent John, this is Agent Andrew, and this is Agent Nathanael,” spoke the lead man in the black suit as he pointed to his left and then to his right. “We are the social mediators assigned to your case by the Citadel and the Right Honourable Reverend John James Veritable.”

“I know who you are,” replied Jack, leaning back into his chair. “It was you, or at least someone who looked exactly like you, who abducted me from my home last night.”

“That is correct, Mister Freeman,” answered Agent John. “I trust that you know why you’re here.”

“It’s funny that you say that because I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING HERE!” yelled Jack, striking his body forward and wrenching against the leather straps holding him in place.

“You were summoned here personally by Reverend Veritable for being in violation of the Church of Sociology’s strict code of social ethics,” responded Agent John, his voice rising. “You have issues with your popularity, Mister Freeman, presumably due to your anger management issues, a problem which we are here to correct.”

“How are you going to do that, by keeping me tied to this chair?” questioned Jack, looking down at the floor and shaking his head. “I don’t have a problem, and even if I did, I don’t need help from you or anyone else.”

“We thought you would say that,” said Agent John, cinching his eyes down at Jack. “We’ve devised a solution to address your social delinquency, but as with all the cases that we process, we need you to listen carefully and do exactly as we say.”

“Is that so?” answered Jack, raising his eyes to Agent John. “What exactly do you expect me to do?

“I only need you to do one thing, Mister Freeman,” spoke Agent John, motioning with his hand to the other two social mediators. “I need you to hold very, very still.”

The two mediators positioned on either side of the chair reached out to forcefully press Jack down into his seat. As Jack resumed his struggle, Agent John positioned himself in front of the chair and held up a foam red ball in one hand and a long dangling medical suture in the other.

“Hey, what are you doing!” yelled Jack, the sound of audible fear impacting his speech. “Why can’t you just leave me alone!”

Agent John lunged towards Jack’s face, and a deafening scream of absolute pain reverberated throughout the cathedral as the video displayed on the projection screen abruptly disappeared.

“Mister Freeman did not initially agree with the Citadel’s assessment on how to improve his popularity, but once Jack calmed down, the mediators finally had a chance to complete their work,” said Reverend Veritable, turning back to face the audience. “With the addition of a surgically attached red nose, a multicolour wig, pigmentation alteration, a little botulinum toxin to widen his lips, and an assortment of novelty-sized clothing, the social mediators were able to produce some exceptional results.”

The projector flared and video footage of a birthday celebration launched onto the screen with dozens of small children playing in the backyard of a stereotypical suburban household. Situated against the fence line stood a man dressed in a faded multi-coloured clown suit, his face an unnatural shade of white as he stared lifelessly forward despite the youthful energy surrounding him.

“Mister Freeman!” yelled a voice from off screen. “Now is the time to perform for the children, Mister Freeman.”

The man in the clown suit looked to his left and then to the right, exuding a corrosive sigh before slowly beginning to move.

“Hello, boys and girls, how are you today?” spoke Jack in an oppressively monotone voice. “My name is Freedom… Freedom the Clown.”

Jack began to dance, lifting his arms and his legs from side to side in a listless and apathetic attempt to draw the children’s attention.

“I’m a happy clown, a happy happy clown,” continued Jack, muttering in the same tedious intonation. “I’m a happy clown, a happy happy clown… I’m… I’m… I’M A MONSTERWHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME!”

Jack charged forward, lumbering through the party and knocking over several tables as he clawed at his face. The congregation of children playing in the backyard began to run screaming in all directions, and a rush of black flashed across the video feed as a social mediator sprinted on screen to tackle Jack to the ground. The altercation continued for only a moment before a second social mediator dashed into the picture, drawing a plastic black pistol from the inside of his suit jacket and then kneeling down beside Jack’s flailing multi-coloured appendages. A pulse of electricity coupled with a horrific scream blasted over the sound system before the video clip vanished and the halls of the Citadel became still.

“As you can see, my followers, Mister Freeman continued to object to his newly assigned social role,” spoke Reverend Veritable, pressing his fingertips together. “With time, effort, and additional motivation from the social mediators, the Citadel managed to transform Jack from an outcast into a very popular member of the community and a devout subscriber to the social median.”

The projection screen flashed to an image of an outdoor enclosure canvassed with balloons, streamers, and coloured decorations surrounding an assembly of smiling children arrayed in a semi-circle. Kneeling in the centre of the group and dressed in the identical clown attire was Jack Freeman, and oblivious to his surroundings despite the elated children hanging off his shoulders, Jack stared mindlessly back at the camera.

“This is the time where I turn to you, my followers, and give each of you the opportunity to show your support for both the Citadel and Jack Freeman by liking this portion of the sermon,” said Reverend Veritable, pointing up towards the projection screen. “Also don’t forget to add Jack Freeman, or should I say Freedom the Clown, to your friends list as well.”

The cathedral began to agitate and a tide of camera flashes washed out over the audience as a rapidly ascending number and a small thumbs-up symbol appeared in the bottom right-hand corner of the projection screen. Reverend Veritable watched the counter rise from seven to eight digits, and then turn back towards the audience as the image of Jack Freeman faded into a portrait of a stern elderly man.

“The second tale in today’s sermon revolves around a man named Frank Overton,” said Reverend Veritable. “Similar to Mister Freeman, I can say with absolute certainty that none of you have ever heard of Mister Overton before as Frank has never, at any point in his life, possessed a Lifebook account.”

As Reverend Veritable’s voice dissipated, an eruption of yells, angered shouts, and uncontrolled jeering rose up from the frantic crowd.

“Blasphemy!”

“Indeed, my followers, and like myself, you probably find it difficult to comprehend that in this day and age someone can go through their entire life without a Lifebook account,” answered Reverend Veritable, shutting his eyes and shaking his head. “No amount of friend invitations, active solicitation, or positive social pressure could motivate Frank to join, and in response to his unprecedented level of social neglect, Mister Overton became an immediate priority for spiritual intervention.”

“Seek the median or be left behind!”

“Although Mister Overton is by far the eldest and most mature member of our three chronicles of social reclamation, however, Frank arrived at the Citadel as a mere lost child nonetheless,” spoke Reverend Veritable, placing one hand against his chest. “Why anyone would willingly avoid becoming a productive member of the median still confuses me, and Mister Overton is a perfect example of why we must all remain vigilant for any signs of dissention within our great social accord.”

Reverend Veritable shot his hand up towards the screen, and the projector responded by emanating the image of a metallic featureless room. Positioned on the far side of the room was an imposing television monitor, and a row of oppressive lights running along the ceiling shone down onto an elderly man with thinning grey hair seated behind a flimsy desk.

“By not even taking the minuscule amount of time required to acquire his own Lifebook account, Frank Overton sent a clear message that he was going to be a challenging case, however, the method for overcoming Mister Overton’s shortcomings was readily apparent,” continued Reverend Veritable. “One way or another, Frank Overton needed to embrace the future by becoming part of the median.”

Reverend Veritable turned to look up at the projection monitor, and despite the initial lack of movement, the sound of Frank Overton’s coughs indicated that the image had transitioned to video. After a moment of inactivity, two social mediators entered the picture and halted on opposing sides of the desk.

“Mister Overton,” spoke the mediator position to Frank’s right. “My name is Agent John.”

“Well, if it isn’t the big man who likes to kidnap old men and young women in the middle of the night,” said Frank, raising his head to look up at Agent John. “It’s hard to tell you apart, but I’m assuming your associate is the same guy that slugged me in the back and then kicked me while I was down.”

“It’s nothing personal, Mister Overton, Agent Andrews and I have been assigned to your file and are responsible for your re-orientation,” responded Agent John, returning Frank’s stare with an apathetic gaze. “We will also be the ones who will safely return you to your wife, your home, and your life, as long as you do exactly as we say.”

“Oh yeah?” questioned Frank, leaning back in his chair. “I’m genuinely afraid to ask, but what exactly does the Citadel and your friend, the right honourable reverend lunatic, expect me to do?”

Agent John nodded to Agent Andrew who responded by reaching into his suit to extract a slim portable keyboard and a small computer mouse, leaning forward to place the computer equipment neatly onto the table. Agent John dropped his hand into his suit jacket pocket, withdrew a small device, and then lifted his arm towards the monitor at the front of the room. The screen immediately illuminated to display a domineering thumbs-up logo positioned above a multitude of blank registration fields petitioning for a diverse array of personal information.

“The solution to your problem is simple, Mister Overton,” answered Agent John, raising his hand to indicate the Lifebook login screen displayed on the monitor. “All you need to do is join the social median and become like everyone else.”

“Well, is that all I need to do?” questioned Frank, nodding his head mechanically. “I’ve made my decision then.”

Frank picked up the portable computer mouse, extended his arm to his side, and then dropped the plastic mouse down onto the floor.

“My father once told me that it’s better to be a shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea,” spoke Frank, looking up to smile at Agent John. “I’ve seen what Lifebook does to people, and I’d rather be alone than pretend to be friends with a bunch of fake people.”

“I see,” responded Agent John, looking down at the shattered computer mouse. “I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that you’ve opted to take that course of action.”

“I will never, ever, join the social medi…” spat Frank, his voice cut off.

Agent John surged forward, extending his arm to strike Frank in the jaw with his clenched fist. Frank’s head jolted unnaturally to one side, and a dull thud echoed throughout the cathedral as the video feed on the projection screen vanished.

“The staff of the Citadel used many adjectives to describe Frank to include determined, persistent, and of course stubborn, and Mister Overton’s relentless, and I must say pointless, sense of defiance began to test the resolve of our diligent social mediators,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “For his suffering to end, all Frank Overton needed to do was to finally join the system with the rest of his brothers and sisters.”

An acute cracking noise reverberated throughout the Citadel as the projector returned to the image of the metallic room. Dressed in wrinkled white shirts, Agent John and his associate glared down at Frank as his head swayed impassively over the desk in front of him.

“All you have to do is begin by entering your name, Mister Overton,” spoke Agent John as he exhaled sharply. “What possible harm could that cause?”

“I’ve seen what Lifebook does to people,” murmured Frank, rocking forward in his chair. “I never want to end up like that.”

As soon as Frank finished his sentence, Agent John reached out to callously lift Frank’s head up by the hair and then rammed his opposing fist sharply into Frank’s nose. Agent John took a step back and adjusted his tie as Frank collapsed forward onto the table.

“You’re doing this to yourself, Mister Overton!” shouted Agent John. “All you need to do is become part of the system, and all of this will end.”

“Saying that you hit like a girl would be an insult to girls,” choked Frank as he attempted to push himself up from the desk. “If the social median is what we’ve become, then there’s no place left in this world for me.”

The two social mediators looked over at one another, and following a sharp nod from Agent John, Agent Andrew stepped forward to the edge of the table. Raising his clenched fist over his head and releasing a guttural roar, Agent Andrew swung his fist down onto the back of Frank’s head as the video feed cut to a blank screen.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Mister Overton’s refusal to conform ultimately outweighed the limits of his physical strength, and alas, Frank Overton is no longer with us,” spoke Reverend Veritable, lifting his head to stare up at the elaborate ceiling of the Citadel. “Frank’s unrelenting determination and personal fortitude would have been an asset to our great collective, but instead he joins a unique demographic of people who now serve the median by being permanently removed from the flock.”

Reverend Veritable’s voice was immediately replaced by the distinct sound of a woman crying. The image on the projection screen returned to present multiple rows of rounded grave stones expanding across an immaculate green meadow, and a single towering oak shadowed down over an elderly woman dressed in a conservative black dress.

“You killed him!” shouted the woman, rubbing at the tears streaming down her face. “You sick monsters, you killed him!”

The woman stood over a grave stone marked with an evergreen wreath, her uncontrollable cries filling the Citadel as a small thumbs-up logo and a digital counter emerged in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

“I can tell you that Frank’s wife isn’t the only one who is not impressed, as so far this portion of the sermon has only received four million likes,” said Reverend Veritable, frowning up at the screen. “Frank would have lived if he would have just listened to us, and presumably he would have at least one more like than he does now!”

A rumble of laughter cascaded across the crowd as Reverend Veritable calmly walked off to the side of the stage. Placing his hands on the lapels of his suit, Reverend Veritable watched as the projection screen transitioned to a close-up of a young woman’s face, and despite her calm demeanour and appealing visage, the jubilant spirit within the cathedral instantly dissipated into a tempest of frenzied rage and collective discontent.

“Yes, yes, my followers, as I’ve mentioned most of you have likely never heard of Jack Freemen or Frank Overton before today, but in contrast, our final lost child comes with a heightened level of notoriety attached to her name,” continued Reverend Veritable, raising his voice to speak above the deafening roar. “Our final story of salvation for today concerns a Miss Patricia Manners, and as I can already tell, most of you recognize her from her online handle, Princess Veritas.”

“The great deceiver”

“I hear your cries, my followers, and just so there is no ambiguity, I can personally attest to the fact that the devil walks amongst us spreading lies, disinformation, and deceit about our great collective,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “Patricia’s infamous claims, which she disseminates on her multiple unsanctioned webpages, includes the allegations that the social median has destroyed our privacy, that our reality has become distorted by an obsession with our online personas and a dependency on virtual popularity, and that Lifebook serves to eliminate independent thought by acting as a means of social oppression and control.”

“Dislike!”

“Miss Manners is responsible for staging an information operations campaign against the Citadel, attempting to incite a revolt amongst our most devout followers, and waging her own personal war of propaganda under the guise that she is spreading the truth about Lifebook and the reality of the social median,” continued Reverend Veritable as he stepped back behind the wooden podium. “Patricia is a very special case, to say the least, and her presence at the Citadel was a necessity to both dispel Princess Veritas and to finally guide Miss Manners back into the loving embrace of the social median.”

Reverend Veritable punctuated his sentence by slamming his fist down onto the wooden podium and the massive projection screen lit up once more. Displayed on the screen was the sterile interior of a hospital room with high white walls surrounding a meticulously polished floor, and a barred window directed a single beam of light down onto a small wooden table positioned in the centre of the room. Seated at the desk was Patricia Manners, her arms wrapped around herself as she stared back at a man dressed in a long white lab coat seated on the opposite side of the table.

“Similar to Mister Freeman and Mister Overton, Patricia fervently resisted all aspects of her re-education, but like any good teacher we ended up learning something ourselves in the process, and in this case, the staff of the Citadel quickly realized that the simplest answer is often the best solution,” said Reverend Veritable. “Patricia simply needed to stop resisting and become like everyone else.”

“Hello, Patricia,” spoke the man in the lab coat. “My name is Doctor Fraus.”

Patricia remained silent, breaking eye contact with the doctor and gently rocking back and forth in her seat.

“You don’t need to be afraid of me, Patricia,” continued Doctor Fraus, placing the palms of his hands down onto the table. “You can trust me… I’m a doctor.”

Patricia’s head shot up, her eyes swelling with palpable resentment.

“Last night, a trio of your overly-dressed thugs abducted me from my mother and my home, then Reverend Veritable, who I know from my work is evil incarnate, decides to have the old man standing beside me beaten senseless concurrent to giving me a lecture about the world according to lunatics, all before I was shot in the back with a taser and then dragged down here into this asylum,” said Patricia, her voice intensifying with mounting anger. “So excuse me if I don’t entirely trust you, or anyone else who works for the Citadel.”

After a protracted pause, Doctor Fraus smiled unnaturally, turning to his side to lift a black leather briefcase up onto the table.

“I see why you might be upset,” spoke Doctor Fraus as he rolled the combination locks on either side of the briefcase with his thumbs. “But I assure you, I am here to help.”

The locks on the briefcase clicked open, and Patricia watched as Doctor Fraus reached underneath the lid of the briefcase, withdrew a large stack of white cards, and then returned the case onto the floor beside his chair.

“In order to decide the correct method of treatment for you, Patricia, we are going to commence with a diagnosis in the form of a series of questions,” said Doctor Fraus, placing the pile of cards neatly onto the table. “When you respond with the correct answer the card will be placed onto the left side of the table, and for incorrect answers the card will be placed on the right… the process is very simple, so let us begin.”

Patricia watched as Doctor Fraus drew the top card off the deck, turning the card to face Patricia.

“Question number one,” said Doctor Fraus, his eyes jeering over the top of the card. “Do you like the pink bunny rabbit?”

Patricia stared blankly back at Doctor Fraus.

“Patricia, even though you might not know it, you are extremely sick,” spoke Doctor Fraus. “I said that I am here to help you, and this exercise will determine the next step of clinical treatment to finally relieve you of a horrible illness.”

Patricia paused, leaning back in her seat as she methodically examined the room around her.

“I’m guessing that you’re not going to let me out of here until I play your little game,” responded Patricia, reaching up to rub her forehead. “So yes, I like the rabbit.”

Doctor Fraus’ eyes sparkled, his mouth bending into a mechanical smile as he placed the card down onto the left side of the table.

“Very good, Patricia!” said Doctor Fraus as he reached for the next card. “Now what about this?”

Doctor Fraus held up the card between his hands, and Patricia leaned forward to examine the picture.

“I don’t know what that is,” answered Patricia, squinting her eyes at the diagram. “What am I supposed to be looking at?”

“It’s a bottle of Huracan brand hot sauce,” said Doctor Fraus, turning the card sideways to examine the image. “The caption reads that it burns with the fire of a destroyed civilization.”

“Oh,” responded Patricia, slouching back into her seat. “I wasn’t expecting a commercial.”

“Yes or no responses only please, Patricia,” said Doctor Fraus, tapping the card on the table. “Do you like or dislike this product?”

“I’m genuinely totally and completely indifferent,” answered Patricia. “But if I have to pick, yes, I like the picture.”

“Good,” said Doctor Fraus, placing the card onto the left side of the table and then drawing the next card. “What about this one?”

“The Unstoppable Adventures of Blake Bishop and Friends?” questioned Patricia, grinning back at the photo. “My two-year-old niece watches that show.”

“Does that mean that you like or dislike this particular television program?” interjected Doctor Fraus, gently waving the card. “Yes or no?”

“Yes,” answered Patricia, smiling and relaxing her shoulders. “I like the show.”

“Very good, Patricia, you are doing quite well,” said Doctor Fraus, dropping the card onto the left side of the table and then jolting back to draw the next card. “What about the government, Patricia, do you like the government?”

Patricia froze, her smile dissipating as she dug her fingernails into the arm rests of the metallic chair. Glaring back at her from across the table was a digitally constructed photograph of a faceless mass, with each member of the crowd holding a cellular phone up towards a stylized thumbs-up symbol rising into the sky.

“I’d like to be able to say that we have as much time together as we require, but truthfully you are not my only patient,” spoke Doctor Fraus, breaking the silence. “So I’ll ask you again, Patricia, do you like the government?”

“There is no government!” snapped Patricia, her eyes glassing over with obvious torment. “There is just Lifebook spewing out lies and telling everyone what to think!”

“I see,” said Doctor Fraus, placing the card onto the right hand side of the table. “Hopefully we will have better luck with this one.”

Doctor Fraus reached down and picked up the next card. As Patricia’s eyes focused on the image, she exhaled sharply and looked down to stare at the floor.

“You nearly had me,” spoke Patricia, shaking her head. “For a brief moment, I thought that I had met someone who wasn’t totally and completely indoctrinated.”

“What makes you say that?” asked Doctor Fraus, shaking the card in his hands. “It’s a simple question.”

“The Citadel?” questioned Patricia, wrapping her arms around herself and anxiously rocking back and forth. “Concurrent to being my own personal prison, this building is both allegorically and literally the heart of the evil empire, and you’re asking me if I like it or not?”

“I’ll take that as a no,” responded Doctor Fraus, placing the card down onto the right side of the table. “That’s two incorrect answers in a row, Patricia, so please think carefully before responding to the next card.”

Doctor Fraus picked up the next card off the deck, and after pausing to inspect the card himself, Doctor Fraus turned the image towards Patricia.

“No!” yelled Patricia as she recoiled away from the table. “He’s the devil himself!”

Doctor Fraus closed his eyes, shaking his head as he placed the card marked with a photo of Reverend Veritable calmly down onto the right hand side of the table.

“Three dislikes in a row, my followers,” spoke Reverend Veritable, staring up at the picture of himself displayed on the screen. “The more the social mediators and the Citadel staff worked with her, the more we realized that Miss Patricia Manners suffered from an incurable mental disease, and that her pervasive illness would require an equally radical cure.”

Reverend Veritable’s voice was instantly replaced by the penetrating sound of a woman screaming in terror.

“No!” shouted Patricia, her voice cutting through the air. “Oh my God, no!”

The projection screen returned to life and assailed the audience with the image of Patricia’s face outlined by an oppressive white light reflecting off a polished metallic headrest.

“Patricia, listen to me,” spoke the voice of Doctor Fraus. “You’re very sick, and you need our help.”

“Let me go!” screamed Patricia, her voice accented with rage. “I don’t want to be like you!”

“For one dislike I would have recommended regular exercise and some light corrective Lifebook training, and for two dislikes a few months of re-indoctrination here at the Citadel would have been sufficient,” said Doctor Fraus, speaking intermittently between Patricia’s piercing yells. “But for three dislikes… for that many sequential dislikes your sickness is obviously systemic, and I’m afraid that we have no choice but to prescribe a more suitable treatment.”

Two hands simultaneously extended down from the top of the screen on either side of Patricia’s head, one hand grasping a heavy titanium hammer and the other holding a long thick needle with a glistening sharp tip.

“Mother, help me!” screamed Patricia, shaking her head violently and screaming with renewed vigor. “Please, someone, help me!”

“Agent John, if you would please,” said Doctor Fraus. “We don’t want her to injure herself any more than she already has.”

An additional pair of arms clad up to the wrist in a black suit jacket extended onto the screen with one hand reaching underneath Patricia’s chin and the other clutching over her mouth.

“At last we can say goodbye to Princess Veritas, and finally welcome you into our collective,” spoke Doctor Fraus as he softly stroked Patricia’s hair with the tips of his fingers. “I have no doubt that you’ll like everything much more than you ever did before.”

Patricia’s muffled screams intensified as Doctor Fraus placed the metal needle over the corner of her left eye, and as the hammer rose up the video feed abruptly cut off and Patricia’s cries finally dissipated.

“With some additional tutoring, guidance, and by surgically disconnecting the pathways between her prefrontal lobes, for the first time in her entire life, Miss Patricia Manners let go of her misguided beliefs and truly embraced the social median into her heart,” said Reverend Veritable, closing his eyes and swaying his head side to side. “This story has a profoundly happy ending, and the social mediators returned Patricia to her home and mother as a devoted, productive, and model member of our great collective.”

The image on the projection screen returned to display the interior of a conservative living room with an elderly woman standing beside an immense computer monitor anchored to the wall of the home. Seated behind a small desk positioned in front of the domineering screen was Patricia, a blank maniacal stare covering her face as she raised her hand above her head, extended her pointer finger downward, and then dropped her hand callously down onto a keyboard.

“Look, Mommy, I like Reverend Veritable, I like the morning news, I like soda, I like our judicial system, I like discount travel packages, I like the social mediators, I like self-stirring coffee mugs, and I like the government,” blurted Patricia as she repeated the overt pecking motion with her hand. “I like telling everyone where I am and what I’m doing, I like popular wars, I like commercials, I like our country, and I like environmentally friendly automobiles, I like smartphones…”

Patricia’s digressive rambling and incessant button clicking was met with the sound of the elderly woman’s uncontrollable sobbing, and the video displayed on the projection screen slowly faded away as the great hall of the Citadel fell silent.

“With the departure of Princess Veritas and the conclusion of our final story, I turn the sermon back over to you, my loyal followers, for one last opportunity to show your support to both the resolute efforts of our social mediators and the miraculous transformation that you’ve all witnessed here today,” spoke Reverend Veritable. “My followers, raise your cell phones high, and give Miss Patricia Manners the emphatic send-off that she deserves as she departs on her glorious new beginnings.”

Reverend Veritable stepped out from behind the wooden podium and calmly walked into the centre of the stage, flashing a thumbs-up sign to the crowd with his left hand and pointing up towards the screen with his right. A portrait of Patricia, a thumbs-up logo, and a counter appeared on the projection monitor causing the audience to explode into shouts of approval and approbation, drowning the stage with unrestrained verbal reverence and relentless waves of blinding camera flashes.

“Twenty million, twenty-five million, thirty million likes and still climbing!” shouted Reverend Veritable, shaking his arms in the air with enthusiastic energy. “Never have I seen such an expression of admiration and devotion!”

Drawn towards the fanatical energy, Reverend Veritable advanced towards the edge of the stage and shot his arms out in front of his body, extending his thumbs towards the audience.

“I anoint thee!” screamed Reverend Veritable, shaking his fists and outstretched thumbs at the multitudes crowding the interior of the church. “I anoint thee all!”

Instantly the men, women, and children standing in the first several rows of pews collapsed backwards, falling over onto one another to form a haphazard tidal wave of intertwined human appendages.

“My name is the Right Honourable Reverend John James Veritable, and this concludes our congregation for today, my followers, and my sincere thanks for the continued support to myself, our devout social mediators, and the Citadel,” said Reverend Veritable, rubbing the sweat from his forehead. “I can undoubtedly tell you that this has been the most successful sermon that the Church of Sociology has ever conducted.”

Halting along the edge of the stage, Reverend Veritable raised his arms out towards the skewed mass lining the floor of the church as a composite photo of Jack Freeman, Frank Overton, and Patricia Manners slowly materialized onto the massive projection screen.

“Remember what you’ve witness here today, my followers, and let our three stories of redemption inspire you to embrace Lifebook and remain both vigilant and subservient to the consummate communal will.” Reverend Veritable extended his thumbs high into the air as he glared out over the audience. “Never forget that we are all one mind connected in harmony by conformity, and our reality, relevance, and prosperity is utterly dependent on casting off irrelevant individual thoughts, uniting our collective awareness, and swearing eternal allegiance to the social median as our lord and savior, the divine network of our righteous will, and the ultimate system of systems.”

“Amen.”


Social Median, The

“The median is our shepherd, we shall not want!” This Sunday, join the Church of Sociology as the Right Honorable Reverend John James Veritable delivers his most charismatic sermon to date. Streaming live from the Citadel, follow Reverend Veritable as he guides us through the Revised Book of Genesis and the four sacred pillars of the Social Median. Watch, listen, and believe as Reverend Veritable introduces three lost children, Jack Freeman, Frank Overton, and Patricia Manners, and recounts their miraculous path to salvation. Join us! #ChurchofSociology #RevisedBookofGenesis #ReverendVeritable #TheSocialMedian “The Social Median” is a work of horror and dystopian science fiction in which social media forms the nexus for technology, politics, economics, and society to assume control of all aspects of human life in the form of a new religion. For more works by Christopher Holmes Nixon, please visit www.foehammerpublications.com.

  • ISBN: 9780994812872
  • Author: Christopher Holmes Nixon
  • Published: 2016-11-27 10:35:10
  • Words: 7994
Social Median, The Social Median, The