It’s not quite dawn yet. The moon still reigns dominion over the land, casting more shadows than light across the dark surface of the earth. Well, at least here on this side of it.
If you’re not in deep R.E.M. through this patch of darkness, lord help ya.
You might think it’s just an innocent bout of insomnia. Or maybe that insomnia is the result of your guilty conscience or a foreboding fear of what’s to come when the day breaks. If only you could duck your demons and never have to confront them.
After counting more sheep and staring at the ceiling for longer than you can even estimate, you finally decide to exit your bed, which went from your one safe haven to a joyless, oppressive dungeon and kept you trapped with the one person from whom you most wanted to escape: yourself.
You could watch something light to help the time pass—some rich kid opening presents on YouTube, or maybe a few episodes of that comedy you’re re-watching. You could watch something depraved—like some of the weird porn that you like, or maybe a few episodes of Tiger King. You could catch up on emails, delete old files, try to write something, or maybe make some junk beats with GarageBand.
You head, instead, to some dark tunnel of Reddit, or worse—some hideous blog, owned and staffed by people whose invisible souls are coated in a heavy, sticky substance, closest in texture to all the human excrements combined.
In the afterlife, if there is one, everyone who touches the blog’s operation will stink of themselves. But here on solid earth, especially at this hour of the morn-night, they are odorless and free and operating lucrative businesses, paid for by ad dollars of more reputable businesses, patronized by quietly depraved consumers who don’t bother asking questions or following the money or tracking the outcomes.
A.K.A. all of us, right? Because, especially at this hour of the morn-night, we’re all secretly power-hungry losers whose parents bothered to love us enough to pretend to be decent. But we all have our ugly vices. Our grotesque fixations. Our shame.
Insomnia is nothing more than consciousness, when you should be asleep. Awakened to the futile wish that this shame show didn’t entertain you. That you had the willpower to avoid this pointless, destructive black hole. That your superego was as awake as your wicked little id at this hour.
You pick an article, a story, a post about something that, at a later hour—when more eyes are open and the sun is looking over your shoulder—would make you blush or shut your computer or navigate elsewhere. You probably open it in a private tab.
You read the whole thing, drinking up every wanton detail, clicking through to the photo galleries, the cross-linked references, the suggested reads for “People Who Liked This,” which you can’t even admit describes you. But it does, doesn’t it?
You’re already at the bottom of the page, the writer having nothing more to add to the story. Fresh out of content.
Keep scrolling. Down there. More words. Shorter words, with no punctuation or capitalization or structure or evidence of thought. You read them. They are even worse than you thought possible. They are angry and toxic and profane and mean. They are worse—and therefore better—than this hell you imagined.
Something you’d never admit to doing, even under oath. Even for a million bucks. Even with a captor’s loaded gun to your head.
You type your own words. Hideous, disgusting words. Words you didn’t know you could write. Words that you’d never sign your name to, so you make one up. Something generic or abstract. Something no one could possibly link back to you.
You type searing, virulent words that could bring down a large animal, one with thick skin and precious ivory. You didn’t want to go over to the dark side, but these late hours, which got the best of you. You couldn’t help yourself.
You click “Post,” or “Publish,” or ultimately what you truly did, which is “Submit.”