Photo by Siarhei Nester (Pexels)

The Internet Strikes Back

Michael Kerr

The Internet trolls were waiting when Adam returned home. They were two feet tall. Seven of them scampered across the chairs and tables. They squealed and moaned.

Adam told them to go away.

Their leader stepped forward.

“We are the spirits of those who have been harmed and insulted on the Internet,” he said. “We have been harassed and tormented. We want revenge. My name is Alaric, and I demand an apology.”

Adam was an influencer on the Internet. He had 350,000 enemies and only two friends, according to his own estimate. He had never met his enemies. He was anonymous. He was an electronic silhouette among the digital shadows, a ghostly presence. But he never complained. He led a charmed life. He explored the electronic passageways. He existed among an infinite series of electrons that vibrated endlessly in the world’s collective imagination.

The trolls began to rearrange the photos on the mantelpiece. The pictures were out of date. Adam had been divorced for years but kept the mementoes. One of the trolls started the vacuum cleaner and worked on the carpet. Another troll pulled out a tiny handkerchief and dusted the tables. The trolls were small, but each of them was as solid as a miniature refrigerator, a sturdy appliance with legs.

Adam had never seen the trolls downtown or in the neighborhood. Maybe they were conditioned to stay indoors. They wore tiny earpieces to give them Internet access. Their miniature hands reached toward their small ears from time to time and made an earpiece adjustment. They might go insane without the Internet, Adam thought. But that was also true for Adam and everyone else. Internet deprivation was worse than losing an arm or a leg. The Internet offered vital nourishment and it was the necessary antidote to boredom. Adam could go through an entire day without a moment of boredom.

The trolls moved with professional efficiency. There was no need for one troll to talk to another. All communications were relayed through the Internet in a nonstop electronic babble. That was Adam’s guess.

“We want restitution and retribution,” Alaric said. Every syllable was enunciated to perfection. Alaric’s formality was in inverse proportion to his size. He spoke in a loud, clear voice. He stood about ten feet from Adam and looked up as far as Adam’s knees. Like the other trolls, Alaric wore a red jacket and puffy slacks about a size too large. “We want compensation and consideration,” he said.

“I don’t know you,” Adam said. “I’ve done nothing to hurt you.”

“You spend the day in your electronic cave and issue threats and insults while you are hidden and safe. You refuse to confront your enemies. You have more than one alias, but we know how to strip away the digital veil. We will turn your veil into a shroud. You can’t hide from us. We live in the secret dungeons. We are relentless.”

Adam wanted a deeper, more powerful Internet, an entity that extended into the far corners of the universe, an alert, watchful force whose purpose was to bring power to people like Adam. Five or six people, working together, could make this happen. He imagined an auxiliary principality with universal connections, a hidden government. He would help to expand the electronic passageways where the bristling electrons shuddered outward into deep space. His own thoughts, transformed, would be the power source.

“I can help you,” Adam said.

“You are a trickster,” Alaric said.

The trolls were a single, powerful, whirling consciousness. Something had happened in their earpieces. They erupted into a frenzy with their vacuum cleaners and dust cloths. The room began to shine.

“We are more powerful if we work together,” Adam said. “We want to control the world. What is the depth of the Internet? Is it infinite?”

“As I have explained before, it extends into all dimensions,” Alaric said.

“How many dimensions?”

“Infinite. You should join us.”

Alaric had it backward. Alaric should join Adam, who would become the leader. Adam would rule the Internet.

You should join me,” Adam said.

“I was present at the creation. The early years of the Internet were like a shootout in the Old West. The young gunslingers took control in secret. I was one of them. I am older now and smarter. I have seen through all the techniques of deception.”

The doorbell rang. Alaric made his way to the front of the house and opened the door and picked up a package left on the steps.  The package was as tall as Alaric, but he managed to carry it into the living room, where the other trolls gathered around it. They produced scissors from their pockets and cut the tape to open the package.

A kit or model was inside. A do-it-yourself spaceship kit. The trolls began the assembly. They knew what needed to be done. They wielded their tiny screwdrivers and pliers while another troll, standing nearby, read the instructions. They examined each component, checking for flaws, as the construction progressed.

In a matter of minutes, they built a spaceship to the precise specifications required by trolls. There was enough room inside for seven or eight passengers.

“The universe and the Internet are a single entity,” Alaric said. “The two are identical in all their aspects. The Internet is a force of nature. This is the primal essence of all things. The Internet is eternal. It existed before we did, but it was undiscovered.”

“I believe in the Internet.”

“We need you for your influence,” Alaric said. “We want you to accompany us on our journey. Your influence will expand into uncharted dimensions of time and space.”

In the next instant, the trolls were on board the spacecraft. They laughed.

“No,” Adam said.

Then he was transformed. Then he was gone. He glided into the spaceship with the other trolls. He was only two feet tall.

Michael Kerr is a technical writer and editor in Dallas, Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Texas. This is his first publication.

X: @michaelhkerr