by Michael Alan
I seemed to awaken and found myself near a dark wood. I could not think how I got there. A low growl rumbled from deep in the woods. I backed away as a large ghostly dog-like creature crept toward me. A figure appeared at my side and gave the animal such a look that it slunk back into the trees. My new guide said we must leave this place but, in doing so, we would travel through a city of souls in torment. He explained that they were awaiting the verdict of the Grand Moderator. The one thing they had in common was that they chronically submitted comments to Internet websites.
We crossed the water and stepped ashore in the city. The first group of commenters were seated in front of all manner of keyboards. They writhed in agony each time they touched a key, but it seemed they could not stop. Their screams were terrifying. I asked my guide why this was so and he responded:
“These are the ones who assert that their sister-in-law is making $1,700 a week on the Internet. They would do it in every comment section if they were able.”
“What will happen to them?” I asked.
“They cannot stop without permission from the Grand Moderator. They will be busy for quite a while.”
Soon after leaving the first group we heard cursing, screaming and name-calling as we approached a tangled mass of lost souls. They were yelling and spewing green bile directly into one another’s ears, each trying to cover their own ears while screaming into their neighbor’s. I pitied them as I tried in vain to imagine their pain.
“And for what sins have these been sent here?” I asked.
“They are the indiscriminate haters who viciously attacked and threatened those whose ideas they did not like. They will continue in this fashion for eons while awaiting moderation.”
It seemed that, wherever we turned, we found more souls in anguish. My guide explained that they had given in to pandemonium and confusion and so found themselves in a place of utter despair. He pointed the way for us to move on.
We entered a complex of bars and entertainments. Those inside had their mouths sewn shut while they were assaulted on every side by others who explained and harangued them endlessly.
“And who are these who must listen but never speak?” I asked.
“They are the know-it-alls who always knew better. Their sin was painfully obvious to all but themselves.”
“Is there no one to mourn them or remember them in their suffering?”
“I am afraid not,” he replied. “Perhaps a few remember but only in that they are relieved from their oppression.”
I became weary of the hellish place and asked if we would soon find our way through. My guide explained that there was much more yet to see before we completed our journey. I began to despair of ever reaching the end. My only wish was that we would leave this place of suffering and somehow return to the light of day, where the sight of ordinary people would soothe my spirit.
Perhaps my guide pitied my distress, for soon we were back in the boat, crossing the water. Slowly the blackness of night gave way to dawning day. So great was my relief that I began to succumb to sleep.
The last thing I remember was throwing my iPad overboard.