Life and Social Media
So there I was, and I felt pretty damned pleased with myself. All my shit got cleared out of my house and either sold, or thrown away, and I pocketed a few grand from the transaction. My townhouse was put on the market, and sold within a couple weeks, and a month later it was a done deal, and I had well over a hundred grand just sitting in the bank. I then took that lump sum and hired a financial planner, because if you haven’t figured it out by now, spending time managing my money was yet another thing I didn’t want to spend any of my life worrying about.
I’m invested in pretty much everything by now.
Lana also became my girlfriend, and Maria and I started having a dirty little liaison on the side, which eventually allowed me to do anything I’d ever seen in porn. I went from being almost a twenty-nine year-old-virgin to a rather experienced sex addict, with the unbeatable advantage in bed of being able to increase the arousal of my sex partners.
They both got pretty addicted to me, too, and I had to make a conscious effort to keep texts from the two of them apart in my mind, and reply the right thing to the right person.
Once I got my first paycheck and had actual liquid capital, I did share the love a bit. I bought Lana a plane ticket so she could visit her grandparents in Seoul. She invited me to go with her, but I told her that I’d prefer for her to have this experience on her own, without me getting in the way. Her disappointment changed to excitement, and I got a lot of kisses, when I explained that I would go with her the next time. I also gave Ramesh a pretty tidy sum of money. Not enough to cover my full-time limo service at his luxury rates, but enough so that he wasn’t actually doing it completely for free. I also encouraged him to give Terrence a raise, which he did. Though I ate every meal for free, I always tipped the wait staff handsomely.
I had done it. I was now officially lazy for a living. All of my basic needs were provided free of charge, and I could spend all day long doing anything I wanted. I had love, plenty of sex, and a beautiful place to live, and never needed to worry about slaving away for anyone ever again.
I was taking better care of myself. Lana was really into exercise, and had worked as a personal trainer in college, and with so much free time available in the day, I did not have much excuse to be lazy, especially with a gym inside the hotel. Besides the fact I just enjoyed watching Lana stretch and sweat, I started to notice my own body changes that improved my self-image a lot. I mean, I wasn’t ever going to be a beefcake, but I at least got to the point where I could turn heads in a skintight shirt.
Yes, I revealed almost right away during our first date that night that I was really Lance, but it didn’t matter to her at that point. She didn’t really even think of me as the same person. I started realizing that I didn’t either.
I’m not ashamed at all to admit that whenever Lana got close to initiating a stupid fight about something, I replaced the impulse in her head with “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. She really grew to hate that song. As a result, I can honestly say we never fought about anything.
Eventually Lana got out of Choicepoint Systems and was able to start her own business as a personal trainer, once I’d funded and bought out the space for it for her as a birthday gift. She was able to set her own hours, and we spent more time together, and Terrence got as used to shuttling her around as he did me.
That was my life in the real world. But like many of us do, I’d set up an entirely different identity for myself online.
I suddenly had no shortage of free time on my hands, and caught up on quite a few video games and TV series I’d never seen, some of them snuggled beside the beautiful Lana Wilder. But I still felt like I should do something with my time, take part in something, create or build something. In a fit of idle fuckery, almost a month after I’d last set foot in Choicepoint Systems, I went back to he.ro.
My adventures on he.ro started innocently enough. I tried to complete my profile, and commissioned a pretty sweet looking avatar from an artist that was mostly just a bald head with a face in shadow, with cracks of light breaking through the shadow, representing the scars on my face. I went to fill out my “character sheet”, using points to assign myself statistics, going long on the mental ones, and short on the physical or social ones.
I had to select one Perk, one Drawback, and select an Initiation Challenge.
That part seemed kind of fun, like I was building a character for an RPG. For Perk I chose ‘Anonymity’, for Drawback I chose ‘Distrust of Authority’, which didn’t seem like much of a drawback to me. Hell, it was practically an American virtue, even if the electorate forgot about it completely every four years.
The Initiation Challenge was the last real hoop I had to jump through. Until you complete it, you’re not a “full member” of the site. People can friend you, but you really can’t do anything else other than update your profile and post status updates as a hero or as a villain until you’ve completed your profile (as I just had) and also completed the Initiation Challenge.
It was the only way I’d stop being classified as a “Baby Villain” on the site, and my ego was just prickly enough to initiate it.
Welcome to the He.ro Villain Initiation Challenge!
To get started, please choose one of the following options:* I prefer to take the direct approach.
* I prefer to work through underlings.
* [ANONYMITY PERK] I prefer to work through subterfuge.
Since it appeared to be a special option only unlocked by my perk, and because it was more my style, I chose the last option.
The challenge text appeared on the screen.
Your Initiation Challenge is called ‘The Mark of Evil’
Devise a message celebrating your rise to power, and brand it in a public arena. The bigger the better! Let everyone know they should fear you!
Note: To retain your Anonymity perk, you cannot be anywhere near the scene of the crime!
How the hell would anyone know? was my first question, but this was Spider we were talking about. That made things a little trickier, but truthfully if I was about to take a graffiti challenge, it was also just good policy.
I read down a bit further.
When your challenge is complete, simply return to he.ro and the results will be posted! Good luck!
I grinned and sent Terrence a text, telling him I’d be down in a few. Then I girded myself for the winter blast outside, kissed Lana on her head while she slept, and went out to strategize.
The limo cruised around the streets of Minneapolis, but it was still only 11 PM, so even in these subzero temperatures the club scene was still happening. People milled about outside, mostly new arrivals or smokers, looking well-dressed and hunting for sex partners.
I looked out at the buildings as we passed, seeing the KXSP television station coming up. Just as I was watching, a man exited a one-way door on the side of the building, and began a brisk walk down the street, hands stuffed in his pockets. He was doing what I call the “shiver walk”, where he bunched his shoulders and braced himself against the wind, hurriedly making his way towards his car or bus stop and egress out of the cold.
“Wait, stop the car, Terrence,” I said.
The man coming out of the television station blinked at me in surprise as I rolled down the window. Subtlety being my thing, I tweaked his mind to get him to glance in my direction.
“Hello, Mr. Starling,” I said, plucking his name from his thoughts.
He looked surprised to see a man in a limo calling him by name. But I didn’t have time for chit chat, and this was supposed to be about anonymity.
So I opened the door, scooted over and said “Get in.” A quick push and a now-familiar throb in my temples, and he did not even register the command on his face, just ducked his head, and crawled inside with me.
I felt the car start moving, and stopped paying attention to where we were going. I went over the wet bar, poured us both a drink. He was sitting there, puzzling as to why he had gotten into a limo with a person he did not know. I poured him a glass of Scotch, which I’d been teaching myself to like but still hated, and put it in his numb, gloved hands.
“I’m sorry,” he said, blinking at me and the car like we were phantoms. “But who are you?”
“No one you’re going to remember,” I answered him.
Then, I went deep into his head, and started doing some mental scripting.
A half an hour later blood was gushing from both nostrils. I gasped out, telling Terrence to stop, and the man got out without a second glance, and closed the door behind him. I glanced back just once to make sure he had followed my instructions, and was glad to see him hailing a taxi.
Then I collapsed onto the floor, and had a seizure. I had enough presence of mind that even though I could not speak, I mentally encouraged Terrence to roll down the divider to check on me. Then I passed out.
Thanks to Terrence’s timely intervention, I ended up in the hospital.
Since I was now rich, I’d upgraded my health insurance. Finding a brain lesion, they ended up flying in specialists to crack open my skull again. A miniature version of my last trip to the hospital started all over again.
To make a long story short, I spent a couple more weeks in the hospital, and ended up with a new prescription, and a grim prognosis:
They told me I had a tumor in there that was so interwoven with my brain that to remove it would be a death sentence. They couldn’t touch it, and said it was a miracle beyond belief that I could even talk to them, much less get out of bed and walk. Either way, leave it or remove it, I was a walking dead man.
They wanted me to stay for more tests and study, but I firmly told them no, and when they insisted, I then insisted that I would not. Guess who won that argument?
Then they told me to settle my estate and my affairs with my family and my god if that was my thing, because I could not have long to live.
I thanked them for their concern, got Terrence to help me out to the limo, and we went home.
I checked my phone on the drive home, and when I went back to he.ro I saw an “Initiation Complete!” message. I’d been upgraded to “Lowly Villain” which was still bad, but not as bad as “Baby Villain”.
While I was in the hospital with a perfect alibi and no connection to the events that occurred, the Vikings were playing. Fans watching at home were surprised when, at the first commercial break, there did not appear any commercials. Just a black screen with white letters reading “Fear the Mindbender”.
It kept happening, over and over again, for a week. The studio kept thinking it was being hacked, which was partly true. I’d hacked the director of programming’s brain, the hack was on the inside. Not that he was aware that he did any of it.
Then it died down on the station, because I only told him to do it for a week. But a few people posted it to YouTube. A few people tweeted the segment and the comments were the typical variation on “WTF is that?” and “this is gay” and “This is so fake”.
But once I got out of the hospital, even though the challenge was complete, I decided to ramp it up a bit higher. I hung around the bars near the studio, until I finally ran into a few of the anchors heading over to the Irish bar to have a few drinks and talk shop. I didn’t listen to their conversation much, just had my drink in silence, alone, while I started working on their brains.
The next day on KXTP, during a manhunt segment in which police were looking for a man who had violated parole and was now on the run, Jill Epstein suddenly surprised the viewers with quite an unexpected report.
“…as you can see we’re bringing you live footage now from our media chopper. Police say the fugitive fled into this small neighborhood in Linden Hills. We are still awaiting official word, some eyewitnesses claiming they saw the police taking a strange man into custody around…”
Then her face glitched for a moment, eyes blinked rapidly, and she resumed as if she had never stopped, “…Mindbender. Fear the Mindbender.”
Her co-anchor, Casper Duncan, appeared shocked. “What was that, Jill?”
“Mindbender,” she replied, and her eyes were aware that the words coming out of her mouth were not the words she expected to say. “F-fear…t-the..m-m-m…”
“Come on, Jill,” I said, grinning at the TV. “One more time, then you’re done.”
“It’s okay, Jill. We’ll be right back af-af-af…”
“Your turn, Casper,” I said.
“MINDBENDER!” screamed Jill, who then burst into tears.
“Af…f-f…” Casper’s eyes bulged with panic. Then they cut, and went to commercial.
I laughed until my sides hurt, sitting impatiently through an extra-long commercial break.
When they returned, Jill’s eyes were puffy and red from crying, but she seemed to mostly have pulled herself together. Casper looked rigid, like a child at a spelling bee terrified of opening his mouth.
But someone had to talk, and they opened with Casper. “Welcome back, everyone. With the holidays approaching, everyone is getting ready for Christmas. But what about jolly old…old…”
“There we go,” I said.
I could actually hear someone behind the camera mutter “Oh no.”
“Mindbender,” said Casper, his voice grave and his expression doleful and serious. “Fear the Mindbender. He owns you all now, bitches.”
They threw up the technical difficulties message for a few seconds, and then went to commercial.
The news was off the air for the rest of the evening.
YouTube went apeshit for it, and it got something like six million views, was shared by everyone. Police started getting involved, and my friend requests on he.ro went through the roof. Neither Casper nor Jill could explain what happened, and no one else could, either. But my supervillain name got out there, until it became almost a household name.
I was not just internet famous now. I had started to become notorious in the real world as well.
Fear the Mindbender, bitches.