It’s never been easier to be paranoid. Shit, them boomers thought the Cold War was bad, being told to suspect and expect that even their neighbor could be a commie bastard (something that sounds great now) threatening the fragile golden thread of capitalism. But no, that looks like child’s play compared to the paranoia potential of the present. As M in Skyfall says, “I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map, they aren’t nations. They are individuals. And look around you—who do you fear? Can you see a face, a uniform, a flag? No, our world is not more transparent now, it’s more opaque.”
And yes, that opacity is a direct result of the internet. That’s certainly what one, Hudson Malomet learned. The hard way, of course. Because, contrary to TikTok belief, not everything is gleaned effortlessly, and it took Hudson one too many broaches with online brazenness to understand how out of his depth he was. That he couldn’t simply partake of things like “social” media and “blogging” (you know, that demeaning term for writing in the twenty-first century) while also trafficking drugs on the dark web without consequence. He was bound to, sooner or later, get wrapped up in the wrong “crowd” (a somewhat non-applicable term considering he never saw anyone tangible). But that would take some time. And, in the beginning, like so many starting out on the internet, Hudson felt secure, invincible even. Like no one could touch him from his perch behind this protective screen.
All of the sudden, a new trend arose. One that got off on finding “internet relics.” In other words, things people said years ago that could presently be used to take them down in some fashion. Furthermore, it has become chic—a sign of wealth, in fact—to have no online presence. Those who would deign to spend their time in a space more “non” than what Marc Augé was talking about in Non-Places are obviously pathetic, poor folk. Not to be trifled with. Or, actually, precisely the ilk to be trifled with. For who cares about them? They’re disposable, so many of them to fuck with, manipulate. Hudson was but a drop in the bucket.
Like most in non-“geek” circles, if you had mentioned the word “dox” or “being doxed” to Hudson in the 00s when he initially became fervent about the “online community,” he wouldn’t have had any idea what you were talking about. It didn’t take long for him to apprehend its meaning though—and this very phenomenon was a key component of why—
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—he was so paranoid of late. It was the kind of mania that kept him awake at night. And since he was awake, he figured he might as well go online and write something incendiary. “Incendiary,” of course, currently means anything that another person might not agree with. Might not agree with it so much that, rather than going the standard route and leaving a snarky comment so long it should just be their own separate post, they’d actually seek out Hudson’s email and write him a long missive about how “wrong” he was, and how everything he said was merely a projection of his own self-hatred. And if his email was so effortlessly obtainable, Hudson reasoned, so would a lot of other things be. Like, the pièce de résistance of all doxing, his address.
When a drug exchange had gone wrong with one of his counterparts in Russia, he invested in another few locks for his front door. The one currently on it was highly unsatisfactory, and a deadbolt was, without a doubt, essential. Granted, he was well-aware that when a person truly wanted to enter a space, they were capable of making it happen. That saying, “How bad do you want it?” doesn’t really apply to achieving life goals so much as the desire to ruin someone else’s life. At least, that revelation comes after apprehending that “life goal-achieving” is for people already born into the privileged circumstances required to ascend to a rung even higher on the ladder of “prosperity.” Nonetheless, the locks made Hudson feel just one iota “safer.” Well, for an all too brief period.
Then, the random knocks and rattlings started to arrive. He would hear them at all hours of the night, which meant he could never really ask any of his neighbors if they heard anything themselves or potentially saw who it was. Whoever was doing it (whether one or multiple parties) was sure to select hours of the night that made certain of that. What made it all the more chilling was that, during every instance when Hudson dared to look through the peephole or partially open the shutters to see who might be standing outside, there was no one. As though whoever might be doing this was a phantom, a spectral avatar.
After months of this harassment, Hudson, appearing particularly bedraggled thanks to spending so much time on his computer that there was scarcely a spare moment for quotidian things like showering and shaving, couldn’t take it any longer. He started to type a message to the very person he had been seeking to avoid, ready to “pay the piper” in whatever way that might entail when, while staring into the internet abyss, he had his first encounter with the invasive pop-up ad for Para-No! When he tried to look it up on Google, no search results correlated to any such entity. He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised…Para-No! was likely just one of many wonders of the dark web. Or so he told himself. Hudson was telling himself a lot of things these days, as there was no one else around to. It was scenarios like these that occasionally made him wish he had some kind of “lady friend.” Someone to trust. Someone to suck his cock without him having to pay for it (meaning a cam girl, because that was “tactility” nowadays). But these were perhaps twentieth century conventions that could no longer be attained.
He had to forget about such “dreams” as: a woman who could still love him in spite of his “profession” as both online instigator and pusher of synthetic drugs. He knew he was disgusting. He had embraced it a long time ago. He just didn’t think that even the most disgusting of dregs on the “net” would also turn on him, too. In some sense, a person comes to count on their fellow online monomaniacs. Thus, to be betrayed so casually was something of a blow to Hudson, one that pushed him all the more toward finally purchasing a bottle of the Para-No!
The one problem with receiving it was actually taking a risk on opening his door to go to the mailbox and being instead maimed or killed by whoever had doxed him. He knew that he might have tried killing himself in a cruder, more analog way, but Dorothy Parker was the one to call out how messy that could get. He didn’t want to take any chances or risk losing his nerve at the last second. The Para-No! was the antidote, the surefire method the “infomercial” had promised. So he took the chance…on going outside. It was broad daylight, which was of some comfort to him, for it gave him the false sense of security that whoever was after him for what he might have said or done from the “safety” of his own home would not be as brazen with the sun shining down on them to illuminate the person’s intended abuse.
His heart was racing as he removed the package from the mailbox and practically sprinted back inside. The internet, despite being deemed a place where cowards retreated to vent, was no milieu for the faint of heart when one took into account all the true risks of using it so willy-nilly. Hudson, like many of his generation, didn’t think about all the things he had put “out there” that might come back to haunt him if arbitrarily found in the grip of a search engine ready to spit out so many reasons to condemn someone. Even take what they “spouted” so personally as to go to the time and trouble to find out all there is to know about said person and then “come for” them in a way more literal than what is meant by the “slang” version of the term.
Hudson was hoping to say, “O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick” upon sucking down the “medicine,” but he found that, no, in fact, there was nothing quick about whatever was happening inside of him. He felt a strange kind of ill. Some mixture of the sensations elicited by flu and pneumonia, but still, death would not come. He writhed away in agony all night long, and if anyone came to the door this time, he was too busy focusing on his pain to notice. Hudson maintained that, at the very least, he would be dead by morning, and his feelings of paranoia would at last be gone forever.
The following day, however, Hudson awakened to find just that: he had awakened. What the fuck? he had to ask himself. Not only was he alive, but he actually felt…fantastic. What kind of scam was Para-No! running? And just when he went to open his computer to demand that very question, he heard the same form of ominous knocking as from all the other nights. Before he could gather his bearings and figure out if he should finally answer or simply pretend not to be there once again, an all-out assault on the house burst forth in the form of raging gunfire. The walls were blown to bits and, yet, at the end of the jag, Hudson was somehow still left standing. Without anyone needing to tell him, he suddenly understood that Para-No! provided some source of immortality…almost the same way that using the internet did. For everything that one said, as well as evidence of what they did, would live on forever, even after that person’s demise. In some sense, Hudson realized he had essentially “drunk of the internet” with whatever it is he was sold. And that’s when, at last, he decided to embrace the paranoia, let it flow through him like a conduit, along with all the other practices he had learned from the “mechanism” called the internet.
In a blaze of fury and pent-up contempt for what society had reduced him to, all at once, Hudson released a barrage of negative and hurtful comments from the tips of his fingers. The text was sharp and pointy (and all caps, to boot), lethal enough to kill. They landed against the bevy of armed men no longer separated from him by any walls. Dressed in head-to-toe black and wearing ski masks, the gun-toting ilk was immediately waylaid by the comment assault.
It was then that, out of nowhere, Hudson found himself inside of an ad, not remembering where he was or how he got there. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was:
See? With Para-No!, you can go up against anyone who might dox you and show up to your home to harass or harm you in some way!