Chapter 1: Vigilante
I scratched my chin at my desk.
“You know,” I said to myself, “It’s probably best to never post this online.”
The page for Archive Of Our Own was open, and my cursor hovered over the Post button. I took every precaution when I first made an account. A new e-mail account, a new alias, a new identity without the bounds and obligations of real life. No one to know who I was.
“It’s fine. I proofread this ten times over.”
Maybe it’s embarrassing like I tried too hard; maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I sullied an unspoken reputation in the community, but I didn’t have a real reputation to fear for. I wanted to do it anyway. It was like my way of letting the world know how I thought about the series and fandom I follow. A niche old sci-fi series and in the fandom, I felt like the only one who didn’t just want bondage rape porn of the main characters.
Everyone used to say “anything that goes on the internet stays there forever.” Now, it’s as though everyone’s scrambling to archive what transient culture they could come across and preserve. Still, one click had an irreversible significance to me. My finger slowly teetered down, and the deed was done.
“Well,” I said to myself. “Time to go to sleep.”
The digital clock on my desktop read Saturday, 5:53 AM.
When I woke up in the late afternoon, I opened a web browser to browse social media. Usually, I expect zero notifications, zero messages, and a timeline full of dumb memes, watermarked image macros, and screenshots that I wouldn’t recognize a day from now. I didn’t have the personality to accrue hundreds of followers, so everyday was a slow day on there.
Apparently, social media is a hit thing in the modern internet life, but for what it is, it’s lonely and overrated. If friends were closer than acquaintances, then acquaintances were closer than followers. Being online there was like being surrounded by stars in the night sky. Everyone was really out of reach.
Marking the page was a red circle that encapsulated the number one. One message— something that almost never happened. I opened it with optimism.
sjw1992 (Offline), one hour ago Do what I want or I will leak your gay fanfiction to your friends and family.
Who the hell was this fucker. I wrote in my response.
Me, just now Piss off. I never did anything to you.
The grey dot never to the username suddenly popped green. The guy was invisible the entire time.
sjw1992 (Online), just now You ate at Chick-filé, you closeted homophobic bigot. Do as you're told or I leak your gay fanfiction to your friends and family. Me, just now Screw you. You don't know me.
“Fuck him,” I said as I ate a chicken nugget. A white bag with red line art of a cartoon chicken was on my desk. “There’s no way he knows where I live.”
The next morning, I woke up and headed over to the bathroom. I filled a cup with water and squeezed toothpaste on to my brush.
“Honey,” my mom walked over to the door, “Is there something you need to tell me and your father?”
Toothbrush in my mouth and an awkward vocal blob, I uttered, “Uh, no.”
“Your father is having a harder time about it,” she continued, “but I’ll always support you no matter what.”
When I finished brushing, I walked over to my desktop for a quick check for messages I got online. I leaned to operate my mouse and keyboard, while not taking a seat.
My mail reader had a red dot meaning I received new e-mail messages, which I always took as good news. I clicked the icon, and the window took a longer time than usual to come on screen.
“God damn, this shit always hangs like this when I leave it on for a few days.”
After a few seconds of no response, I could tell the program was just going to be slow until I restarted it, so I sat down. Not wanting to re-enter all my passwords for different mail accounts, I just waited.
The first was being @’d on social media.
sjw1992, 5 hours ago @(You) is a chicken nugget eating, sexist, white supremacist, gamergate supporting, FreeDSB using, gun owning, Republican voting homophobe.
“Who cares what these people think, but wow. How the hell did he get 521 retweets?”
The second was a notification from the social media service itself.
Account Termination - Code of Conduct Violation Reason: Homophobia
“Bullshit.” But I didn’t care about that account anyway.
The third message was a notification from AO3.
[AO3] Comment on your fanfic
I faced an 800+ word wall of text, but it made my day. The person never set an avatar and had a gender neutral username, but I always had a hunch it was a girl. She always left these massive comments, but she definitely paid attention to what I wrote.
“Alright,” I said as I copied the text wall into a text editor and readied my fingers at the arrow and Enter keys, “Time to make sense of this.”
By lunch hour, I finished drafting my response. I had broken up the wall of text, quoted each segment, and placed my response after.
“I think this response might bug out AO3 one way or another,” I thought. It probably went way over the character limit. “I wish AO3 had a preview option for comments.”
Then the doorbell rang and my buddy came over with two bags of Ins-And-Outs.
“It’s lunch time, my dude,” he said, “Charge your phone some day.”
We ate at the dining table closest to the front door.
“Man,” my friend said. “I proofread your shit and know your main characters are fags, but you didn’t need to gay them up so hard.”
I recalled the draft I gave him. It had slight cheesecake and almost-sexual fantasy in a dream sequence, but it was way better than having the character say “Hi, I’m gay” like an introduction from a bad video game. I wrote as a hobby, but at least I had better sense than to write things that way; I internally sighed.
“They’re based on canon homo characters. I can’t change that much,” I said.
“Whatever man. I’ll just ignore that chapter.”
Way to overreact to one page.
Then my dad walked in the room.
“Boy,” he said. “I’m not telling you who you should love, but you should remember there are some things another man can’t give you.”
“What the hell are you talking about.”
“Someone on the internet told me you wrote a gay love story is what.”
“Oh.” I chewed and finished my french fry. “That guy is lying about me.”
“Well, nevermind then,” my dad left the room.
At the end of the day, I was again at my computer. The site I was on was the kind of internet bulletin board system as though the year 2005 never ended. You could say its look was dated, dull, or boring, but the lack of trendy glass aesthetics, rounded rectangles, and Easter egg colors meant it didn’t eat half of my desktop’s memory.
“Everyone hordes over at social media, but I get way more responses from real people here,” I said to myself.
The topic of discussion was anime and manga, and an hour after I made my post, I got a response.
Anonymous, just a minute ago >>385512 (You) >yaoi Neck yourself you cock guzzling degenerate.
I had to write my own.
Anonymous (You), just now Fuck you too.
“Man,” I sat back in my chair. “Fuck my life sometimes.”