"You have been IP Banned."
A young man was sitting in front of his computer screen. He donned a stained white tee and frayed shorts. His disheveled hair covered his face as the fan behind him blew relentlessly. He stroked his stubby beard, pondering his fate. He hadn't gone outside for days, but that was okay.
The man glared at his screen. There was no warning. There was no explanation. But he knew why. He saw it coming.
The man sighed.
Fuck it. They didn't need him. He wondered what they were saying about him.
"What the hell happened to Aryanne?"
"He probably got doxxed, again."
Aryanne was a man that craved attention. And attention was something he always got. He was revered as a "lord of the underworld", a "king of memes", and "The 4th Reich", among other things. But now his power and prestige was revoked, all by one message.
"You have been IP Banned."
The letters on the screen were blood red. The same color he used to paint his portraits.
He contemplated changing his proxy.
Aryanne rose from his chair and approached the blood-soaked canvas to his left. A beautiful face of intricate detail lay before him. It was a portrait of his mother. The color was appropriate for family. He picked up his brush and applied it to the canvas.
But he was out of paint.
Who is John?
John was by no means an extraordinary person. He was obedient, ignorant, and complacent. John was destined to be a consumer sheep. A corporate cow. Like all cattle, John accepted his branding with open hooves. Except John had arms. To John, his branding would represent the beginning of a loving relationship.
Aryanne furiously crumpled up a piece of paper in his hand and tossed it in the trash. How long has it been? How many years? He couldn't tell. Still, he could remember when he first met John. The mere thought brought a smile to his face.
It was a sunny day…
Wait, no. Aryanne ripped another paper in his hands. Shit, he had to start again. He received another piece of paper.
It was a sunny day, except Aryanne was cooped up in his room, as usual. After his untimely ban, he looked elsewhere for his title. Likes, comments, subscribers, followers … anything he could get to prove his worth. Social media? No, that was far too tame. His presence in the under net wasn't welcome, either.
John had his own business that day. He glanced at the screen in front of him. One hundred and eighty two. His followers. Admittedly, most of those members were fluff, but there was a fan base underlying.
John reached for his knife. It was rusty, with blood caked on the surface. It was an old friend of his. John rolled up his sleeve carefully positioned the knife on his forearm, gripping the handle firmly with his hand. He pressed down, applying just enough pressure. Then, with one cut, John slowly drove the blade down his arm. John smiled expectantly, though his hooded jacket obscured it.
To Aryanne, it was beautiful. The precision of the cut. The way the blood gushed out of John's arm, like a majestic river. The calm and almost professional demeanor. Ideas came flooding into Aryanne's head. One hand on his temple, he grabbed a notepad with the other.
He began to scribble on the pad while John continued to bleed, non-stop. John was now looking towards the camera sternly, waiting. The air around John and his thirty-two watchers stood still.
Aryanne would finally have his following. A kingdom. Wait, no. An empire. Fuck yeah. He looked back at his pad. A crudely drawn castle was staring back at him, while John continued to bleed. Aryanne tossed the notepad to the side. How was John still alive?
At this point, John's forearm was coated in deep red. He glanced at his arm, then slowly back towards the camera. He spoke to his audience, with a slouched posture and a raspy voice.
"I'll be back … tomorrow."
John swayed back and forth before slouching back in his chair. He slowly leaned to the side, hitting the ground with a thud. The camera continued to play. It stopped at exactly five minutes.
He was professional, talented and timely. Aryanne could definitely use a man like John.
It was months later. After deliberation over chat, arguments over business, and the fear of being doxxed, Aryanne and John were finally living together. Aryanne was sprawled out on the couch, watching the news.
John walked over in a T-shirt and shorts, sporting a bright pink apron. He shoved a plate of food in Aryanne's face.
"Here. Eat it."
Upon closer inspection, Aryanne's eyes saw pancakes drizzled with syrup and blueberries sprinkled on top. The buttery aroma smacked him in the face. He slowly sat up before John laid out a table in front of him. The clank of the plate being placed on the table rang through Aryanne's ears.
"Figure I'd give you something a little special today."
"Why, is it a special day or something?" Aryanne snorted.
John gave Aryanne a cold stare.
"Don't tell me you forgot."
"Followers, Aryanne! One thousand followers!
Aryanne began eating his pancakes. There was a hint of cinnamon as the food melted in his mouth.
"You could show some appreciation every once in a while." John stated, his voice rising. "After everything I do for you, not even so much as a 'thank you'? That's all I ask for, Aryanne. Would it kill you to do such a thing?"
"I'm sorry." Aryanne mumbled bits of pancake flying out of his mouth.
"Sorry doesn't cut it." John angrily pointed his finger at Aryanne, who was still graciously eating pancakes. His eyes narrowed, judging Aryanne's complacent satisfaction. Aryanne dropped his fork and turned towards John.
"I mean it." Aryanne whispered. John sighed. His eyebrows furrowed as he placed his hand on his forehead. After a few seconds, John spoke.
"Fine. But you're still taking me outside today."
Aryanne sometimes wondered how it would be to continue his old life in the undernet. No, he couldn't. He was contempt.
John and Aryanne hiked along a rocky path. For once, Aryanne could say it was a sunny day. Tall trees lined the sides, while birds obnoxiously sang all around them. The two strolled along as a familiar mountainous landscape came into their view. Aryanne felt a heavy burden on his back. Maybe it was the luggage they took with them. Maybe it was not. He broke into a sweat; his knees buckling as John triumphantly lead the way.
"Are … we … there … yet?" Aryanne panted between words. John offered no reply.
The surrounding woods began to disappear as the two walked closer to the mountain. Here they were. Bitch Mountain.
"John, guess what you are?" Aryanne thought to himself.
John perked up and turned towards him. He leered at Aryanne as he commanded "Get the camera."
The enormous backpack Aryanne carried hit the ground with a thud. He made haste as he scrambled to get the camera, lighting, and microphone ready. Everything had to be perfect. They were trying to get subscribers here.
As Aryanne set up, his mind wandered back to his untimely ban, months ago. He remembered the note, clear as day.
"You have been IP Banned.
- Fedora Man
P.S: Don't try to be so edgy, m8."
Aryanne knew all the admins of the undernet. Some he knew personally. Fedora Man was one of the few admins that Aryanne ever bumped heads with. Their arguments would often span countless of pages, with supporters cramming their opinions between posts. Aryanne was even backed up by other admins (despite not being one himself). Fedora Man dissented with every word that came from Aryanne. He was truly a euphoric asshole in Aryanne's eyes.
Aryanne didn't need the undernet. He had a new purpose in life. With John, he didn't have hordes of people fearing him or kissing his ass. For once, he could live a normal life.
The air began to become stale. The taste of the air was almost metallic, like a rusted nail. Aryanne's eyes grew wide with terror. He dropped a microphone in hand. John quickly looked at him.
"Ugh." was all John managed to say. The air behind him began to swirl. A figure materialized in the midst of the swirling air. A short, stubby man in a trench coat stood directly behind him. John whirled around.
"Who are you?"
The man pointed to Aryanne. He tipped his fedora as he said: "Aryanne, you should know who I am."
Aryanne became flooded with fear and confusion. Wait, what? This makes no fucking sense. He thought to himself. Can it be…
A smirk grin grew on the man's face. "C'mon. My hat. You know it. Say it Aryanne."
"Fedora Man." John spat out. "I know who he is. He's a follower of my blog, Aryanne."
"Intelligent, isn't he?" The Fedora Man replied. "He’s quite loyal, too. Is he your girlfriend or something?" He guffawed.
"Wait, wait. Whoo." The Fedora Man tips his hat, looking at John. "M'lady". He continues to snicker, like a little schoolgirl.
John recoiled in disgust.
The air continued to fill with the man's laughter. After a few moments, the man fixes up his trench coat. His giddy and cheerful tone was replaced a more serious one.
"John. First I'd like to say, thank you for the blog. Quite a … interesting performance, to say in the least. Second, I came here for Aryanne. If you would kindly step forward."
Aryanne stepped forward.
"I don't get it." he said meekly.
"It's very simple." The Fedora Man replied. "We want you back."
Wait, what? Aryanne didn't understand. The same man who was the bane of his existence was now welcoming him with open arms.
"You see, Aryanne … You are an attractive individual. That is in the sense that you draw attention to yourself without really trying. What do they call it?" Fedora Man pondered. He spun his hat around his head.
"Ah, yes. The power of attraction. Ha! You are quite magnetic, my friend."
Aryanne's eyes squinted. Friend?
"That is why I came to you for assistance. The undernet is in need of people like you. The admins are crude, greedy politicians. The people distrust them." The man's tone resumed to a more cheerful one.
"But with a fresh face like yours, peace can once again be restored. Think about it, Aryanne. Your fame will be justified. You are the man people can relate to. With all that power, we can give you anything you want."
"Are you serious?" John spat out. He growled.
"Oh, I'm deadly serious." The Fedora Man's eyes gleamed. "Promise not to do another b& incident, and the admin status is yours!"
Aryanne's memories flooded back to his glory days of the undernet. He remembered the rush he felt when he saw his supporters. He remembered the smug satisfaction of being the man behind one of the stupidest memes on the internet. He allowed himself to relish in those memories, for a split second.
"No." John said "He doesn't need you, or the undernet. He's past that now."
The Fedora Man's voice is lowered again as he answers: "I don't believe I was addressing you. I think Aryanne is more than capable of answering."
Aryanne stood rooted in place.
"Huh," The Fedora Man said, "I figured as much. Whatever shall we do?"
"You can start by leaving." John hissed.
"Oh no. That will not do. I will have to convince you, Aryanne."
The Fedora Man begins walking towards Aryanne, shoving John aside. He produces a pistol from his trench-coat.
"Aryanne, please think this over. As an admin, I had nothing against you. I simply cared for the welfare of the people. And besides, think of your former glory."
Aryanne's eyes met the Fedora Man's. He saw small, dark beads. He was soulless. Aryanne's mind was in a whirlwind between his distant memories and his fast approaching fate. What was he going to do? He wanted to move a leg, an arm, something. Aryanne broke into a cold sweat. He was frozen by fear.
"Time is running out, Aryanne." The Fedora Man chuckled. "Don't do this to yourself. Make the right choice."
The Fedora Man pointed his pistol towards Aryanne's face. John immediately jumped in between them.
"Oh, what's this? You're intervening?"
John glared at the Fedora Man.
"Oh, I see. You want to save your girlfriend. Well, you asked for it."
John lunged at the Fedora Man. A shot was heard. Aryanne's vision was blurred, between the dust surrounding him and his eyes beginning to water. The shot left his ears ringing and his head spinning. Aryanne looked up to see flocks of birds hurriedly scattering in every direction. When he looked back down, he saw a body lay dead on the ground.
The Fedora Man was dead. John was victorious. Aryanne's mouth was agape, while John sprinted towards him. John kneeled down next to Aryanne, who was already beginning to position himself into a fetal position.
"Aryanne." John said. Aryanne heard his name mentioned as an echo.
"Aryanne … Aryanne. C'mon, get it together." Aryanne knew his name was being called, but was unsure to answer.
"Snap out of it!" John commanded. Aryanne knew who had called his name. A smile was brought to his face.
"John…" He whimpered.
Both of them were silent for a moment. A soft breeze was blowing behind them. Aryanne could see the leaves blowing around him. He no longer smelled metallic rust in the air.
"Aryanne. You know, if you want to return to your old life … well, that's fine. I'm not stopping you."
Aryanne wanted to say something. A lump was stuck in his throat.
"The choice is up to you." John said.
Aryanne was brought to tears. John himself wanted to cry, but stopped himself from doing so. He held Aryanne close to him.
"I want you, John." Aryanne said between sobs. "But, no homo."
The both of them stood by the foot of the mountains. For John, this would signal the first of his fans.
For Aryanne, it would be his first enemy.