I know with absolute certainty that he will find me. There is no escape anywhere…ever. And I have no one to blame but myself.
I moved from Antioch, Nebraska to New York City thinking, for a while, that there would be safety in numbers. A face in a crowd of millions. How foolish I was. I should have stayed in Antioch and spent my last hours of life enjoying what I most wanted: fame and all its trappings. Now, I could descend into the deepest mine shaft on the bloody planet and still be found. I could spend a zillion dollars to hide at the bottom of a lunar crater…and it would only be a matter of time. Spend another zillion on total cosmetic surgery to alter, most completely, my outward appearance? It wouldn’t help to delay matters for a nano-second. He would see straight into my soul and know me.
So, who do you think I’m running from? A mafia hit-man? Nonsense. A plague? Ridiculous. Death? Good guess, but I’m smart enough to know we all are going to die. That’s for certain. But for what I’ve done, mere death is just the prologue of a play that will be staged until the end of time.
All this for violating one of the Cardinal Sins. Lust? Been there, done that. Avarice? I’m an expert. Gluttony? Not really an issue, I’m fine with my weight, for a man my age. Greed? Bingo! Yes indeed, I wanted it all and then some. But when you play those kind of games, and dance to that kind of music, you have to pay the piper at the end of the night.
I was well on my way with the talent the good Lord gave me. I’m a blogger, you see, and I wanted to be the best…not just a contender. I wanted to be the Mick Jagger of blogs.
You may not know this (if you’re not a blogger, yourself) but we are like rock stars. There are groupies out there reading our blogs and finding ways to get close to us. Being a super blogger is light-years ahead of that Nobel thing. The groupies would email me comments and emails with not-so-subtle messages of what they could do for me. Every man dreams of that kind of attention. I’ve received emails sent by readers with internet names like KewpieDoll21, DawnOnU22, SmokinChick25 and SuzieUNameIt666. And when I opened and read their messages, I could smell Jasmine, Pachouli or Rose Water right through the monitor.
I don’t know how much time I have, so I’ll tell my story to you with haste. No offense, but I may have to leave abruptly.
My mind was working 24/7 on blog ideas. I experimented with various styles, different voices and unsettling paces of narrative. I was growing more skillful with each post. Some of my blogs were extraordinary, if I do say so myself. And I had the numbers to prove it. My Twitter followers grew, my Klout score climbed like a bull market graph on Wall Street. My Facebook friends were getting in line to have me “friend” them. My stats, as shown in bar graph form on WordPress, looked like the Manhattan skyline.
Some of my blogs became legendary. My most popular, in no order, were “The Cat Groomer”, “The Chimney Sweeps of Cincinnati”, “Alpha Males of Coney Island”, “The Urban Legends of Dental Floss” and the groundbreaking, “Hemochromatosis: The NASA Coverup”.
I won “Blogger of the Year” award three times. Hollywood left messages on my smart phone asking for the rights to film some of my posts. I guess it was a heady time, I wouldn’t know, my head was in the clouds enjoying the view from the top.
But I wanted more. I wanted, no, needed more followers. I wanted my Klout score to be higher than Obama and Justin Bieber. I wanted it to explode and go over 100.
Ideas kept flooding my brain. I couldn’t stop.
And then it stopped.
I awoke one crisp autumn day and headed to my MacBook Pro. After four minutes of looking at my reflection on the blue/grey screen, I realized that I had no ideas. I didn’t panic at first. I took a walk stopping only once to stare at a dazzling red maple tree. I headed back to the house, slowing down to smell a fading rose.
Five hours later the ugly truth hit me hard, like the time I asked a bar maid to please open my bottle of Bud Lite with her cleavage. The bleeding stopped in about six hours and the number of stitches equalled my age. But I wasn’t facing a serving girl this time. I was facing something far more serious and harder to control.
I had bloggers block.
After a few days, my Klout scored dropped by ten points, my Twitter followers began to slip away, as did my Facebook friends. My bar graphs on WordPress began to look less like Manhattan towers and more like a cheap motel in Waco, Texas.
I went to church and lit candles, not for the memory of my long deceased family members, but for ideas. I sat in a dimly lit booth of a dusty strip club with my pencil and paper and waited for an idea…a grain of something. All I got from the night was a bill for six Coors and two shots of schnapps (peppermint).
My spirits began to darken. I grew listless. I was restless and agitated and depressed and angry. So I took a walk.
I passed under the last street lamp (there were only three in this town) and walked along the road. Even in the dark, I could sense the clouds were building. Then came a blinding flash-bulb of lightning and a clap of thunder that sounded so close that my hair stood up with the static and my ears began to ring.
I reached the crossroads and stopped. I took a leak behind a small tree and then found a small dirt mound to sit on. The rain was holding itself in the clouds above my head, but the wind came in short sharp gusts.
Then another flash of lightning, so bright I had to close my eyes. The thunder nearly deafened me. When I opened my eyes, I saw that I was not alone.
At the opposite corner stood a man wearing a black rain coat and fedora. He was staring at me. I saw no sign of a weapon so I didn’t feel fear for my physical being. But something dark and dirty was covering my soul like used motor oil. He nodded to me and began to walk to my side of the road. I had an overwhelming sense he knew me and could see deep into me. When he got close enough, I noticed an odd odor about him. Something familiar. Something unpleasant. Something foul.
“Good evening Mr. Blogger,” he said.
“I hear you have some problems finding words,” he said with a voice that was a mix of Johnny Cash and Richard Burton.
How did he know this? I told no one about my block.
“Your Klout score will soon be a single digit,” he said, without seeming to mock me. “Need help?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Things like this happen once in a while to us bloggers. Ideas don’t grow like lawn grass, my friend.”
Despite meeting such a strange guy out here at the crossroads,the shock had worn off somewhat. I felt more confident.
“I can help you,” he said with a certainty that took me aback.
“You want to be on top again, don’t you?” he asked. I felt he knew the answer.
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, mister.” I said.
“I’ll make it simple for you, okay? I know you’ve had a long night and you’re tired. I’m kind of an advisor to people like you, people who need a little boost once in a while. I provide services and goods, whatever you need, and you need an idea. You’d like more than one idea, but I can assure you that I can give you the only idea you’ll ever need. It’s the ultimate idea. I’m kind of like the genii, granting wishes. The exception here is that I need to grant only one wish to you. I can give you what all bloggers seek. I can save you months of toil and stress. My friend, I can give you the Perfect Blog. It will be unequalled. No one will ever, ever match it. You will go down forever as the creator of the Most Perfect Blog in History. But, only you and I know that I was the one who gave it to you. What do you think?”
“Yeah, well what’s the catch? What’s your stake in this?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t call it a “catch” really, but there is a fee of sorts. Nothing is free as you know. As far as my “stake”, well let’s just say I’m not interested in the fame part of this thing. I don’t need fame…of that kind. Interested?”
“So, this ‘perfect blog’, where do I get it and how will I know it’s ‘perfect’?
“I’ll keep it simple, for you, Bailey. After you publish the piece, I’ll guarantee you 1,000,000 followers on Twitter, they’ll have to reset the algorithms on Klout to accommodate your new standing.
Now, this is the talk I wanted to talk. All I had to do was find out how I was going to walk the walk.
All this will happen before midnight tomorrow. When you reach that number on Twitter, I will have fulfilled my end of the deal…and I get my payment. You did read the fine print, I hope?”
“So, if I get you the numbers, I’ll give you about two weeks to enjoy the new position you will hold. You will be the Greatest Blogger in the World. Then, sometime soon after that, I’ll come to you to accept your payment. By the way, I don’t accept American Express or any plastic for that matter. The cost to you will not be coming from your wallet so don’t worry about being scammed for a few bucks. That’s not the kind of person I am. Have a good evening, Bailey. Oh, I almost forgot, if you don’t get what I promise, our deal is off. You can keep your numbers to enjoy. I’ll just move on to someone else.”
“I’m a business man of sorts, so I’ll have to have your signature on this,” he said, holding a yellowed sheet of high-quality bond paper. “Just here.”
Before I knew it, he had produced a strange-looking quill-like fountain pen. He did something with the nib and it came to me with a drop of red ink hanging and ready to fall to the ground.
“Just go home now and sit with your laptop…it’ll come to you like an erotic dream,” he said as he faded in the drifting mist. I had failed to notice the fact that we were surrounded by a patch of fog as dense as cotton candy. As I walked away, the taste in my mouth was anything but spun sugar.
I sat in front of the laptop for two hours and nothing was coming to me. I began to drift into a neck bending nap. I must have gone straight to REM because I began to dream. I was standing on the steps of a great Victorian mansion. A beautiful woman came out of the dark and climbed the stairs. Her look, her scent and her eyes all spoke wordlessly to me. She was inviting me up to her room. I followed like the lap-dog I had become. I never realized that her price for her time was to cost me so dearly. I would wind up gazing through her keyhole while I was down on my knees.
I roused myself. My fingers were already working away on the key board. I proceeded to write the “Perfect Blog”.
My instincts told me that it was indeed ‘perfect’. I put my finger on the PUBLISH button. I knew that once I hit the key, I would be releasing a million black ravens out of my window. I would never be able to call them back and re-cage them.
The instant I pushed PUBLISH, the room darkened…just a little, but just enough for me to notice that it was now different. I felt like I was lying on a beach and a slick of oil from a foul leak in the seabed was washing over me. No soap existed that was going to cut through this black fetid grease. I was polluted beyond cleansing. My head fell back against the leather of my Windsor chair and I fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
I awoke at noon the next day with a neck that felt so painful, I could totally relate to Linda Blair. I checked my Klout score. It had risen by sixty points. I went to Twitter and saw that the number of followers had jumped to well over 900,000. I had twelve hours until the deadline of midnight, when my deal would be fulfilled.
I went out for a beer and a tuna fish sandwich. When I returned, my Twitter followers numbered 966,989. I took a nap just to kill the time. I went out for several more beers in the early evening and had a light dinner of fries, double cheeseburger and key lime pie. When I returned to my apartment, I checked my numbers. Twitter came with 986,666. An hour later it was 994,567.
Okay, I think it’s time I came clean. I’m not a stupid man. I read widely and know a lot of interesting things about the world. And, I’ve read enough theological books to know something about other worlds, too. You see, I knew exactly what I was doing all along. I knew who was offering me the sweet deal and I knew what the cost was going to be. If you’re not with me here, read Goethe’s Faust.
If I wasn’t so smart, so very clever, I would have been in deep trouble. But I knew how to outwit the old guy. I would cancel my post on WordPress a few minutes before midnight thereby stopping the publication and halting the growing numbers. Hey, over 900,000 Twitter followers? I’m not greedy. I’ll take what I got and run with it. I was in a win-win situation.
So, at 11:55 pm, I clicked delete on the “Perfect Blog”. I checked Twitter. I was somewhat impressed to see that the total was now 999,998. I was cutting it close but I was smarter than Mr. Darkness, himself. I grabbed my jacket and headed for the door and intended to go out and find me some blogger groupies and get some action.
But, something went very wrong. At the WordPress office, the guy whose job it was to obey the commands from the bloggers, was, at the stroke of midnight, in the office supply room having his way with the new intern. By the time he got back to his control panel, it was too late.
Four seconds after I closed my apartment door, a guy named Sid in Dover, Delaware read my blog. That was followed by a young graduate student at NYU, named Debi and a teen hacker, who goes by the name GodFree14 from La Mesa, California. That put me over the 1,000,000 mark.
About 8:00 am, after I closed the door behind Monica, and checked Twitter, I realized that I had lost.
I’ve been on the road for a week now. I’m trying to find a place to hide from him but I know, in the end, that’s impossible.
He’s been right behind me for all these miles.
I can feel bits of my soul drip away like the end of an icicle’s life in spring.