One day late with new fiction--sorry! This week a quick one that speaks to current events. And remember: I don't only write horror stories. Sometimes I write tremendously depressing stories also.
#ACTIVISM by Gregory Adams
Keith had each step of the abduction planned out to the last detail. He sat behind the wheel of a rented van, stolen out-of-state plates screwed to each bumper, sunglasses and a fake beard obscuring his face. Leather gloves sat in his lap: he’d slide those on when she came into sight. He had the windows down, and when the wind was right, he could smell the ocean.
He had carefully chosen his target: a young woman who worked for the giant tech company that was destroying his neighborhood. She wasn’t an important player in the company’s hierarchy, she was too young, but grabbing her, and if needed others like her, would help bring attention to the San Francisco neighborhood their campus was steadily absorbing. He was prepared to capitalize on the panic the abduction would create. His computer skills weren’t that refined, but he’d prepared several memes and had a hashtag all picked out.
Keith was proud of his media plan. But then, everything had a media plan; competition for sympathy would be fierce. It was so difficult to get attention these days.
Made restless by waiting, his mind again turned down the shadowed, twisted terrain of pros and cons of this act, when he saw her.
Sara Jones: young, pretty, educated white: the kind of person the country paid attention to when something happened to them. Her blonde hair bounced as she moved down the sidewalk in her comfortable sneakers. She looked so happy, coming from her job at the world’s second largest company, her perky shadow etched on the white stucco wall of the seven-story building they had dropped on too small a lot, where there had once been a neighborhood grocery store and a video rental place. Keith realized that he was going to enjoy part of this. Even though he had no intention of harming her, he knew that being tied to a chair with a bag over her head, pleading for help on camera, would take the smile off of her gentrifying face, and many others besides.
She passed the van, and he grabbed her through the side door, pulled her in swiftly and a little brutally, cutting off her scream with a gloved hand. He shouted at the van and off it went, ironically but unavoidably guided by systems developed by the company he was hoping to punish.
They just made the technology so damn accessible.
The first thing she said when he let her talk was “Is this about the sea lions?”
“Be quiet,” Keith said. He didn’t know what she talking about and didn’t want to know. He’d zip-tied her hands behind her back but hadn’t put the bag on her head yet. He kept looking out the back window for signs of pursuit.
He knew the street cameras would have caught video of the van, but as he’d switched the plates (and would switch them back once he was at the hideout), he believed he had a good chance of making a clean getaway. The cops and even the feds would need a warrant to track the van’s GPS, or that of Sara’s phone. Tech giants hated cooperating with the feds almost as much as they hated listening to the concerns of local activists. He didn’t trust them however and had disabled her phone just to be safe.
“We must be getting to you,” she said in a tone that expressed more excitement than fear. “We’re really getting to you! Those sea lions have been on the pier for almost a hundred years,” she said. “You have no right to evict them, you shouldn’t be allowed to change a damn thing, and we’re stopping you.” She caught her breath. Keith was a taken aback by the flash of her eyes as she spoke. She was really worked up over whatever the hell she was talking about.
“I didn’t take you over… what are you talking about? Seals? Like, in the ocean?”
“The sea lions,” she explained. “On Pier 39. A shipping company is restructuring the harbor and will destroy that pier.”
Keith sat in stunned silence, eyes locked with Sara’s. The frustration that had driven him to this point began to swell and seethe like acid from the ulcer all of this was probably giving him. This was the problem, THIS WAS THE GOD DAMN PROBLEM.
He was going to say something, but words failed him. He lurched as the van negotiated a sharp turn. He put the sack over her head, regretting he’d left it for so long. They were almost at the hideout.
The video was impossible to make.
Sara was mostly cooperative; she didn’t struggle or try to escape. She only refused to believe this could be about anything other than the sea lions. When he turned the camera on, she would only talk about the sea lions.
He guessed he was doing a profoundly terrible job of frightening her. He tried to imagine ways to terrify her, but he balked at violence real or even threatened. Instead, he tried to tell her about why he had taken her. He told her what had inspired him, what he had hoped to gain. He poured his heart out to a bound stranger with a black sack over her pretty blonde head, while she critiqued his plans to ribbons.
“It’s not going to work,” she said, listing all the missteps and bad assumptions he had made in his doomed plan. “But it might help the sea lions,” she suggested. “You could say you abducted me because of the seals.”
“Sea lions,” Keith corrected absently.
“See?” she said. “You’re getting on board.”
Keith didn’t feel as if he were getting on board. He felt like a sea lion barking uselessly on a pier that was being smashed to splinters beneath him. But he untied Sara anyway.
“Come look at this,” he said, beckoning her over to where his desktop PC hummed. He scrolled the volume up, giving voices to the two talking heads that shared the screen.
“It’s speculation until demands are made,” the rounder, whiter of the two heads said. “But it’s clear to me, given the timing, the method and the target that Sara Jones was abducted as a response to the President’s rejection of Canada’s new air quality initiative. People care about this, and they are finding ways to make their voices heard.”
“That’s absolutely wrong,” the slimmer, mustachioed head replied. “This woman’s abduction is another blow against the equal pay act for women before the House right now. Someone is saying, women don’t belong in the workplace, they are trying to send us back 150 years and they are resorting to criminal acts to make their point.”
Keith clicked through several more tabs. Sara leaned in over him, silently struggling to absorb the incredible amount of debate her not yet 6-hour-old abduction had caused. “You’re right, people did notice I’m missing,” she said. “I should have kidnapped me months ago.”
Keith didn’t answer; he just closed all the tabs except for Twitter. #Forsarajones was trending. They read three screens worth of tweets, more than two hundred 140-character missives. Exactly one was about the sea lions, and two were about the plight of Keith’s neighborhood. The rest were about anything at all, causes so varied and unrelated as to confound God Himself, if He cared about hashtags.
“Holy shit,” Sara said. “I guess I mostly only look at stuff I care about, you know? Things I’m invested in.”
“Yeah,” Keith said weakly. She dragged her kidnapping chair over and sat beside him. They were quiet for a long time, watching the feed unwind.
“I’m sorry,” Keith said. “I’m sorry this hasn’t worked for either of us.”
“It’s ok,” she said.
“If I hurt you when I grabbed you, I’m sorry.”
She rubbed her calf through her jeans. “I’ll have a bruise maybe,” she said. “I don’t wear skirts often, it won’t show.”
“I can have the van take you home.” His rental was almost up anyway.
“Ok,” she said. “Where’s my purse?”
He stood up and brought it to her. “I dismantled your phone, so no one could track it. It’ll work when you get it back together. Warranty’s fucked. I’m sorry.”
“That’s ok,” she said, not paying attention to him as she typed a hashtag into the Twitter search bar. The screen filled with results from #Savepier39. Keith watched as Sara visibly softened. He was reminded of his now grown son had been an infant, how he had settled when he got the bottle into his mouth.
He thought next of the double decker he’d raised the boy in, now in the shadow of some god-awful tower filled with out-of-towners all working to make the world better.
Keith began to cry.