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Monday Morning

A particularly grating sore throat awoke Michael Bulliard at one of the witching hours (it must’ve been 2:00, maybe 3:00 AM, EDT) on Labor Day, September 5, of this year. Like little serrated scissors scraping the back of his throat, reminiscent of the pain he felt after having his tonsils removed at age eight, only this time, there was no Mummy or Daddy or Nanny around to fetch him any sort of sorbet or frozen yogurt to assuage his aching epiglottis. It was almost excruciating, the pain he was feeling. His mind wandered to the worst possible places. “What if this is the new B.A.5 variant of the novel coronavirus? Might I have gotten it from that Caribbean femme whose fruit punch flavored vape I sampled the other day?”

It was just his luck, to get sick on his favorite day of the year (Michael was a longtime lover of labor, and a comrade delegate of his local ward of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, where he lived alone in a modest two-bedroom apartment). Just a few days earlier, Michael had tweeted to his nearly three-thousand followers: “get me. that effing. booster,” after learning that a new experimental vaccine specially formulated for the “Omicron Variant,” would soon be available to the general population, which made him feel greatly relieved, even though he had very little hope that the life-saving mandates and restrictions from the previous year would ever return to the increasingly right-wing (fascist) city of New York.

He stumbled out of bed, over to the closet in his guest bedroom, where he had a small supply of IHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test (FDA Emergency Use Authorization) boxes that he’d been keeping precisely for a moment like this. Fortunately, he’d prepared for this scenario many times already, so many times, in fact, that he could do it in the peak darkness of 2:00 or 3:00 AM without any additional lighting beyond the bluish streetlights that shone into the room. So tonight, feeling like TV’s Walter White, he turned his home-office into a makeshift laboratory, and once again went through the steps of unboxing the FDA-approved emergency use rapid test, swirling a swab up each of his nostrils, assaying said swabs in a clear chemical solution, then squeezing said solution out of a plastic dropper onto a plastic “test card,” that would reveal one thin purple line no matter what, and two thin purple lines in the event that his sample surpassed a threshold of what he referred to in his head as “viral load.” During the repeated rehearsal tests, this line never appeared, which Michael attributed to his cautious mask-wearing and hand-washing rituals, and to the three vaccinations he’d received, which he referred to as “modern marvels.”

While he waited for the test to settle, he went into the bathroom and rummaged through his medicine drawer for some cherry-flavored cough drops to soothe his throat. He unwrapped one, popped it into his mouth, then sat down at his computer to review a draft of his latest Substack article, exploring the rising fascist threat at the Upper East Side’s Chapin Preparatory School for Girls. In particular, he was mulling over the verbiage of a paragraph that at the moment read:

For years, Chapin has housed faculty from reliably centrist institutions like Swarthmore and Skidmore, but in the Spring semester of this past academic year, parents were shocked by the announcement of the hiring of a Pepperdine graduate named Thomas Spink to teach an eleventh grade literature course, where his syllabus included some problematic names like Carlyle, Hemingway, and Foster Wallace.

Michael had heard rumors of more legitimate, non-literary wrongdoing from Spink, including offenses as grave as the tweeting of ableist slurs (sp*z, n*tjob) as recently as seven years ago, but these were merely rumors, and as a responsible chronicler of the rising fascist threat, Michael Bulliard couldn’t bring himself to report on unfounded accusations. But he knew it was important, imperative, even, to expose and neutralize Spink before he (Spink) got a chance to do any permanent damage to Julia this upcoming school year.

For a moment, Michael considered doing some late-night detective work, and even Googled “how to get on Urbit,” because he’d heard someone say once that fascists enjoyed congregating on something called “Urbit,” but upon seeing the search results for “how to get on Urbit,” and looking at urbit.org, it all seemed much too complicated for him, and instead he resigned to checking his email, where his latest DNA test results were in, this time from Ancestry.com.

Several months earlier, Michael had taken a DNA test from 23andMe, and was disappointed to see that his results revealed that his genetics were of 96.9% (non-Irish) Anglo origin, with the rest being Swedish / Norwegian. Meaning he was about as much of a colonizer as one could possibly be. Thinking this might’ve been a mistake (he’d always felt oppressed, and trampled upon, despite being the thirty-one-year-old grandson of a centimillionaire cosmetics magnate), he promptly ordered another test, this time from Ancestry.com, and now his results were finally in.

Crossing his fingers, hoping to be at least a percentage or two Jew, or Slav, or even Greco-Levantine, he opened the link in the email and typed in his password, waited for his credentials to authenticate and the waterfall of network requests to resolve, until finally, he saw on his screen a map colored in a manner eerily similar to the one displayed on 23andMe. This time however, his results reflected a full four percent Scandinavian (Swedish, Norwegian, and now Danish) DNA makeup, with the other 96% belonging to the British isles.

He stared at the screen for a moment in disbelief, “those teenage girls who heckled me on the street the other day were right: I really am just a mayo monkey cracka-ass no-swag-having-ass white boy after all,” he thought, only to be startled a few seconds later by the sound of the fifteen-minute timer he’d set after preparing his SARS-COV2 at-home-test sample earlier. He dismissed the alarm, held the test strip up to the light and saw only one purple placebo line.

Finally, some good news.

Tuesday Evening

Work had gone moderately well. Before he clocked into the Progressive International headquarters on 33rd Street, Michael stopped by a nearby Duane Reade to purchase some cold and flu medicine containing acetaminophen and phenylephrine. He considered shoplifting, which always made him feel good (especially from such a big corporation…), but today it occurred to him that by shoplifting, he was making it more likely that Duane Reade would accelerate their effort to place as many items as possible behind that dreaded locked plastic cage, which would make it harder for so many BIPOC to shoplift in the future, which was essential for their survival and cultural expression. So Michael, in an act of great selflessness, used the self-checkout at Duane Reade to pay for his cold medicine.

A few minutes after 6:00, he packed his laptop into his bag and headed downstairs to work the evening shift of his passion-project, his antifascist email newsletter, and in particular, his in-progress story about none other than Thomas Spink.

On the street, he took a “hit” of his watermelon flavored THC oil (he didn’t like to use nicotine in the evening) “vape,” while waiting for a cab. “Taxi! Taxi!” he yelled, in between puffs, until eventually one stopped, driven by a brown-skinned man wearing a mask and turban. Michael, appreciating his chauffeur’s mask-wearing and exotic ethnoreligious garb, climbed into the backseat with glee. On the dashboard, a permit read: MANDEEP SINGH. “Ah, he’s Sikh,” Michael thought, who, as an avowed leftist, was obsessed with the last names commonly associated with different racial and ethnic groups.

Michael pulled his mask back slightly to place a spearmint cough drop into his mouth, then buckled his seatbelt. “Can you take me to the University Club, it’s on 5th Avenue and 54th Street.”

“5th and 54th?”

“Yes,” Michael confirmed.

An ad was playing on the FM radio for a new prepaid cellphone carrier that was only for people with FICO scores below six-hundred.

“You are going home from work?” Mandeep asked, trying to make conversation.

“Actually,” Michael began, “I’m going from one job to another. You know how it is, don’t you?”

“Yes, yes, but you know, always have something. Always busy busy. If I am not busy I go crazy. Might go crazy and do something stupid, you know? Something I can never take back?”

“…”

“How was today at your first job? Good day after the long weekend?” Mandeep asked, turning onto 1st Avenue at 36th Street, heading north.

“Well,” Michael let out a sigh, “it went moderately well, I’d say. I was working on our new listicle—I’m a social media editor for an NGO—, and the title is Top Ten Leaders Who Need to Get Qadaffi’d ASAP, and my boss was just being a total douchenozzle about it!”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, well, obviously we all know who number one is, and we had Bolsanaro at number two, which makes sense. But I wanted Lukashenko at number three, but he was saying I really needed to put Orbán at three.” Michael paused to burp quietly; the afternoon traffic was beginning to nauseate him. “And I tried telling him, you know, that Lukashenko’s been in power since ’94, but he didn’t seem to—“

Mandeep perked up in his seat and looked at Michael through the rearview mirror, “You are in politics?”

“You know, I like to say politics is in me,” Michael laughed, “I’ve loved it ever since I was a kid. But yes, both of my jobs are… politics adjacent, you could say.”

“I been in New York 25 years and I never seen it like this. I cannot believe how bad it is become. You know what they need to do? That no one is talking about?”

“Seize all the empty apartments and turn them into safe injection sites?” Michael asked innocently.

“What? No.” Mandeep accelerated through a yellow light. “Death penalty. The death penalty needs to be brought back in United States.”

“I thought these people were supposed to be peaceful,” Michael thought to himself. “What do you mean?” he asked aloud.

“Too many people. Criminal people, loose, running around! Ever since George Floyd. Whole city was burned down after George Floyd. And now police don’t want to do anything. On the radio just now, thirty-four-year-old schoolteacher raped and murdered in Memphis. By a five time felon. A guy who should have been killed after the third felony. Three strikes, you’re out!”

Michael squirmed. “I understand that things seem like they’re getting worse. But crime is actually down a lot since 1994...”

“I’m not saying death penalty for every little thing. To start just three things only., The rape, the murder, and the carjacking. Those three... automatic death penalty. Some people are just too dangerous to let loose. I have daughters, man. Three daughters. I tell them ‘No headphones on subway or street’”

An extended pause followed. Michael took some time to think of Julia, her sweetness, and reread her last email to him from the previous Wednesday:

FROM: julia.samson05@gmail.com
TO: mbullie@protonmail.com
DATE: 08/31/2022 8:05PM EDT
SUBJECT: (no subject)

Dear Michael,

I’m eagerly awaiting your next column. I always look forward to your insights on the current state of the world and how we can move forward from here.

Your writing this week about the racist history of the “Don’t Walk Between The Subway Cars Unless It’s An Emergency” sign was engaging and thought-provoking.

I'm starting school again next week, and one of my teachers is this interesting young teacher named Thomas Spink. He taught a Politics and Aesthetics course last year and a lot of the girls really learned a lot from him.

Oh, and I picked up a copy of Gender Trouble by Judith Butler like you told me to. It’s fascinating! I really appreciate all your super cool recs. I’ll let you know when I’m finished so you can tell me what to read next.

Maybe we can meet up soon now that I'm back in New York.

Thanks for always being a voice of reason,

Julia

 

“Uh huh. You know, you can just let me out here,” Michael said at 50th and Park, where Mandeep pulled over and settled the tab for the trip.

On the six block walk over, Michael reaffirmed the day’s strategy to himself, “Remember Mike, this guy is dangerous. He’s been seen wearing Fred Perry to work. Just observe, and take notes.”

Inside, he checked in, proudly showed his vaccination card, and made smalltalk with the concierge.

“How’s your dad? Doing well?”
  “Yes,” Michael answered, even though he hadn’t spoken to his father in many months (for political reasons).

“Ah, that’s good, that’s wonderful,” the concierge replied. “Well please let him know how much we appreciate his latest donation.”

“I will, thanks.”

Michael, feeling a bit hungry, stopped by the dining hall for a paper plateful of chicken nuggets and that spicy mayonnaise he always loved so much. This was the signature dish of The University Club of New York’s kitchen.

After acquiring his nuggets, he made his way into the large library and adjoining Renaissance revival reading room on the fourth floor. Even Michael, who found the room’s design a bit Eurocentric, had to admit that it was beautiful, with its twenty-four-foot ceilings adorned with colorful frescos and engraved ornamentations.

He wandered around for a bit, looking to see if they had any bell hooks (they didn’t), until finally, like a sixth sense of sorts, a chill enveloped Michael’s body, and he knew he was proximate to Spink. This feeling had never let him down—he could smell fashy blood from a mile away.

Around the corner, at one of the reading tables, Michael saw a face he recognized as that of Thomas Spink. He was handsome, clean-shaven with a head housing thick locks of dark wavy hair, broad muscular shoulders, wearing exercise shorts that seemed to rest a bit too high above his knees, revealing well-colored calves and thighs. This was clearly a man who cared a great deal about his body; he looked as if he were about to play a competitive game of ultimate frisbee. Michael’s mind’s eye quickly filled with images of Spink atop Julia, dominating and corrupting her. “No!” Michael cried to himself. “He’s going to ruin her! Turn her into the next Laura Loomer, or Honor Levy…”

It was at this point that Michael jettisoned his pre-planned restraint and began walking over to confront Spink head-on. Seeing Spink in-person aroused a sort of defensiveness in Michael, and although he approached with an identifiable swagger and sarcastic bravado, he could feel his legs tremble as they carried him closer and closer to such evil.

“Hey,” Michael said, grabbing a chair on the other side of the table across from Spink. “What do you have there? What is that, bro? What do you have on that laptop, dude? The new Ben Shapiro? A little Moldbug? Some Logo Daedalus? David Duke?”

Thomas Spink cocked his head slightly and squinted at Michael, trying to make sense of this interaction. “Do I know you?” he finally asked.

“Oh me? Sure, buddy. We know each other well, don’t you remember? Remember we sat together at the last Thiel salon? You know, Peter Thiel? The guy funding us and our fascist art? Hey—was your check a little late this month? Mine was a few days late. I’m worried things are getting a little disorganized over there at Thiel HQ!”

Thomas smiled and began nodding his head. “That’s funny man. I knew I recognized you from somewhere. You’re that guy with the newsletter, right?”

“Yes, I’m Michael Bulliard,” he replied, heart pounding, short of breath from speaking so quickly. “And I’ll have you know, that I’m onto you, and I’ll be watching you closely—“

Thomas was now grinning widely and nodding excitedly with faint laughter. “Oh, man, I’m so glad to be meeting you. I’ve been reading you for months, man. This is awesome.”

Michael sat confused, then flattered, and felt a well (a well?) of tension drain from his back and shoulders after hearing this compliment from Spink’s own pretty mouth. “You have?” he asked.

“Oh definitely, man. I’ve been defending you to everybody in the group. They didn’t get it, but I’ve been saying all along that you’re one of us.”

“One of us…” Michael repeated, slowly realizing he had stumbled into his biggest story yet.

“Yeah, totally. I gotta say I love what you’re doing. I was just about to head to today’s meeting, if you want to come?” An invitation like this was an undercover-gonzo-journalist’s dream.

The boys packed up their things and began to head out. Michael stopped back in the kitchen for a sweet treat of pretzel sticks dipped in Nutella.

Thomas talked a great deal, leading the way to the meeting, while Michael listened intently, finding himself hypnotically attracted to Thomas’s voice and verbal tics. In particular, Michael’s brain felt an explosion of reward and affirmation each time Thomas called him “man,” at the end of a sentence.

At 54th and Lexington Avenue, Thomas held the door for Michael at the “Shake Shack” restaurant and gestured for him to walk in first.

“I’m not really in the mood for burgers ha ha,” Michael said, “but I’ll eat here with you if you want.”

“No, no. We’re here man. Just stick by my side,” Thomas said. He walked to the back of the restaurant and entered a series of numbers on a digital keypad affixed to a very “industrial” looking door. The sort of door people who have jobs typing on computers don’t often get the chance to go through.

Michael followed Thomas in and let the door shut quickly behind them. At the top of a stairwell, Thomas looked at Michael and said: “Look, I trust you man, I think you’re hilarious, but before you can go any further, I need to be sure about a few things.”

“Makes sense…”

“So, you’re not a cop, or a fed, are you?” Thomas asked.
  “Certainly not! I hate those pigs!” Michael exclaimed, briefly forgetting he was supposed to be undercover.

“Okay, good, good,” Thomas laughed. “So then the only other thing I have to do is, get a video of you saying it.”

“Saying that I’m not a cop? Sure.”

“No, not that you’re not a cop. Saying… it.

Michael immediately understood what Thomas meant. He considered turning back but knew he was in far too deep, that his life could be at risk if he tried to run. And most importantly, that his undercover-antifascist-gonzo-journalist-masterpiece depended on his seeing the ins and outs of whatever meeting Thomas was about to attend.

And so, Michael took a gulp, a deep breath, and a sip from his cannabis vape pen. Then, while Thomas recorded him, he uttered, with the now-infamous “hard R,” a word so heinous, so disgusting to the ears of any decent human being, that I need not even retype it here for you to know exactly which word was said on that day in that stairwell.

“That felt kinda fun actually,” Michael said, before repeating it a  few more times, in different voices and accents.

“Alright, alright, I just need the one,” Thomas said, laughing along. He put his phone away and continued walking down the stairs and through another heavy door protected by passcode.

In the next room was a large conference table, with a screen behind it projecting an insignia featuring swastikas, cartoon frogs, guns, and pentagrams, all beneath the words:

Fascists Against Gays, Government, Obsequiousness, Taxation and Social Sciences

September 6, 2022 meeting

At the head of the conference table sat a man scrolling on his phone, whom Michael intuited was the leader of this secret society. The Leader was short, no taller than 165cm, and dressed in an ill-fitting suit, resembling a child at a funeral, or perhaps even the award-winning actor Elliot Page. But still, there was something terrifying about The Leader, and Michael found himself unable to look directly at him for more than a few seconds before his vision began to blur. Around the room stood eight or so other young men (each under thirty) mingling, sipping drinks from glasses, dressed in tee shirts and unwrinkled pants.

“Who’s this new guy?” a darker-skinned (looked to be mestizo, perhaps half-German, half-Salvadorian) man asked, approaching Michael and Thomas.

“You’ll see,” Thomas replied.

“Do you guys want to watch some porno?” the Mestizo asked. “I made a new one where I kill a dog.”

“No, not right now. Maybe later,” Thomas replied.

Michael walked over to a table supporting several large two-liter soda bottles and pizza boxes. He lifted up one of the boxes, but didn’t like that the pizza was square instead of round, so he closed it almost immediately. While he was pouring himself a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, a computerized tone echoed throughout the room, and the boys hurriedly took their seats at the table. Michael popped another cherry flavored cough drop and checked the time on his phone: 7:06PM.

The Leader began. His voice was clear and of a normal adult-male pitch, with a slight accent, perhaps from Minnesota or Wisconsin, Michael couldn’t really tell. “Is this everybody?” he asked. “I think this is everybody.” He looked directly at Michael and asked, “Thomas, why don’t you introduce everyone to the new member you brought.”

“Yes, sir,“ Thomas said, with a proud, boyish smile. “Everyone, this is Michael Bulliard. You may know him from his newsletter, FashWatch, where he accuses different downtown alcoholics of being Nazis, even though they’re Jewish.”

The room broke into small bits of laughter and whispers. One man, who seemed to have some kind of rash on his neck, which looked very raw and painful in the basement’s fluorescent lighting, chimed in: “That’s really him? That’s really Bullie? And he was like us… the whole time?”

“Yes,” The Leader said, “it’s him. And I think I recall you making a small bet, maybe 200 USDC, that Mr. Bulliard would never pick up on our clues to him, and would never make it down here. Isn’t that right, Thomas?”

“It was actually 300,” Thomas said.

The boy with the rash took his phone out and frustratedly tapped it a few times, then dropped it onto the table. The Leader continued, “I knew Bullie was on our side as soon as he started talking about the ‘Christofascist’ threat a few months ago. I mean, to think that there even are any Christians anymore is laughable. And then when you named Walter Pearce as one of the most dangerous ‘Christofascists,’ I just knew you were one of us.” The room snickered.

“So what are you guys actually?” Michael asked.

“Well, I’m a Crowleyist, most of us are,” The Leader replied. “It’s hard to read Crowley and not see that he was tapping into something very real. Especially after we’ve had Criss Angel down here a few times. Robinson over there calls himself an Evolist, which I don’t mind, really.”

A man (presumably Robinson) cleared his throat and said “I actually mixed some of my blood and semen last night and drank it and asked Zeus to give me power. I heard about it on this gnostic podcast that I’ve been listening to.”

“That’s great. Can’t go wrong with Zeus,” The Leader added. “Well, the important thing is that we all value ourselves, our own determinations of right and wrong. I know it sounds cringe but I’ll admit I still have a soft spot for LaVey, even though he was a larper and an atheist…”

“Uh huh,” Michael nodded along.

“Well. Let’s all thank Thomas for bringing us our new member. Most of you were wrong about him, so you should say sorry to T over there.”

A number of the boys mumbled apologies. The Leader went on, “Shall we go around the table and talk about what’s new? What sort of trouble we caused this week? Why don’t we start with you, Antonio?”

The boy immediately to the left of The Leader stood up and said: “Uh.. Well, a month ago I helped get this armed robber released early from prison. I wrote the letter to his parole board saying I would hire him to work at my dispensary as soon as he got out. He showed up a few times but was clearly not capable of doing any real work. You know, he had a real temper, was clearly on drugs, couldn’t use any sort of technology like a cash register even a little. But last Thursday, he was hanging out at the Times Square subway station, and offered to show this twenty-one-year-old tourist from St. Louis around the city. Then he raped her a few stops later. It’ll be in the papers soon but he’s still on the loose and I’m hoping he can do some more stuff like that before they catch him.”

The rest of the table snapped their fingers and nodded their heads in approval for a few seconds until Antonio sat back down.

Michael, forgetting to stay in character, burst out: “Well maybe he wouldn’t have raped the 21-year-old tourist if it weren’t for the expiration of the Child Tax Credit earlier this year and the lack of affordable housing options for intravenous drug users and legal prostitution!”

The whole room laughed at this and Thomas offered a “fist bump” to Michael, saying, “That’s great. You’re so funny, man. That’s exactly how these woketards think. You gotta put that in your next newsletter.”

For a single flicker of the overhead lights, Micahel saw an ugliness lying beneath Thomas’s handsome facial features and muscular body. He scooted his chair slightly away after accepting the “fist bump.”

A few more boys took turns telling tales of their latest schemes to increase public demand for fascism. Jonathan continued to spread monkeypox in the GBTQIA2S+ community, Anders purchased a factory to make new types of sour candy containing highly-refined psychosis-inducing synthetic marihuana, and Benjamin cast several black women to play new interpretations of well-known fictional characters who up until now had only ever been depicted as white men.

When it came to Thomas’s turn, The Leader gave a special introduction. “I want you all to learn from Thomas here. You see him? Do you see how this absolute Adonis looks? You see why he gets to be a right-wing reactionary in public, and the rest of you have to scheme in secret? He’s such a great face for our movement. The rest of you, you look terrible. You look ugly. You look bad. You would never make me want to be fascist looking like that.” Several of them started scribbling into notebooks. “But anyway, go ahead Thomas.”

On cue, Thomas stood up and gave his update. “The past week was mostly slow, getting my lesson plans ready for the new school year, hitting the gym, you know, the normal stuff. I’ve been working my delts a lot more, brushing up on some Hesiod, oh, and I brought Bullie in here.”

Finally, Michael got up from his chair and told the room: “Yesterday I wrote an article ranking the top-five best antifascist menstrual cycle tracking apps,” earning him a great deal of chuckles and the largest finger snapping response of the week.

***

By the time Michael got home that night, he had already typed two-thousand words into his mobile phone. It was his Biggest Story Yet, and he was having no trouble recounting his epic evening experience. This story would be the hard proof needed to convince everyone of anti-imperialist democratic socialism, and of the dire impending fascist threat.

Michael went into everything, the meeting of the Fascists Against Gays, Government, Obsequiousness, Taxation, and Social Sciences, their secret lair beneath the “Shake Shack” fast-casual restaurant on Lexington Avenue, how they’ve been hiring actors to pose as drug addicts and criminals, how the 2020 presidential election really was stolen (but by them), how the real George Soros died twelve years ago and was replaced by an AI deepfake that they control as part of an accelerationist ploy to illiberalize the masses and usher in a new era of global fascism. Soon, everything would make sense to everyone.

Midweek (Hump Day, Thirsty Thursday)

Michael called in sick to Progressive International on Wednesday and Thursday, after his cold became less of a throat issue and more of a sinus issue, causing him to have to blow his nose into a tissue every few minutes while trying to write and edit his Biggest Story Yet.

Throughout the writing process, he kept in regular touch with Spink, communicating via the encrypted disappearing messaging app “Signal,” trading secrets and jokes with one another. Michael reluctantly nurtured a fondness for Spink, who on Thursday even came to Michael’s apartment to drop off chicken soup. “Maybe these fascists are just nice people,” Michael thought, “What has Will Menaker ever done for me? Certainly never brought me soup! It’s too bad they’re about to be exposed as seditious satanists and will probably have to stand trial before a war crimes tribunal and get the guillotine…”

By the time he clicked “Publish” on Thursday night, his story had grown to over twelve-thousand words, most of them true. And during that time he had grown increasingly paranoid, feeling like he was doing something wrong, especially in the act of portraying his new friends. Thinking things like: “What if they try to kill me? Send the Black Hebrew Israelites after me? Release the tape of me saying that word—no, no. I can say that was made by AI to discredit me, and besides, if they do any of this, it will just confirm that my reporting was true and that I’m a threat to their power. I’ll be a martyr for antifascist journalism…”

Friday Afternoon

FROM: julia.samson05@gmail.com
TO: mbullie@protonmail.com
DATE: 09/9/2022 12:52 PM EDT
SUBJECT: Newest article ??

Dear Michael,

Is everything okay? I'm not sure at all what to make of your latest newsletter. The claims in it are just so ridiculous I can only hope that you're having some kind of Jason Russell style meltdown.

Is this because you're jealous of Mr. Spink? He's really a very nice guy, and smart too. You didn't need to make up this whole crazy story about him just for me. I'm still a leftist, I just think Thomas makes some interesting points, is all. But I should tell you that over the past few days I've decided that I identify as a social democrat now, no longer as a democratic socialist of america. I hope we can still be friends though, as I really do think you're a super cool writer who really cares about our world's future.

Please let me know if there's someone I can reach out to and get you help. Your parents, maybe?

Best,

Julia

 

All day Michael had been getting concerned emails like this from fans and loved ones. But it was the loss of Julia’s trust that, in particular, made him realize his article might’ve been rushed. Spink himself, for what it’s worth, wrote Michael to say he thought the article was “genius,” and “would buy the Fascists ten more years of operating without suspicion.” This made Michael feel a bit better, to know that he was still being misunderstood and accidentally appreciated by his enemies.

His plan was simple, conceal a hidden camera (he’d already purchased several from the Indie-Journalist Supply Store in Gowanus, Brooklyn) in his shirt, and record Spink admitting that the article contained mostly truths, and that the ongoing fascist threat warned about by Bullie was something to take seriously.

 

On the car ride up to Chapin, Michael tweeted out a few snarky zingers about the recently deceased Queen of England (“I wonder what kind of tea they have in hell lol,” “I guess she's with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh now, in hell, lol,” etc, etc), and tested his hidden shirt-camera to make sure it was still working.

Some clouds covered the sky over upper Manhattan, and the air had a certain humidity to it that Michael appreciated given the recent trauma his nose had been enduring. Michael’s cab let him out on 88th street, in front of Gracie Mansion, where he spit on the ground.

With a few minutes to kill (it was about 1:40, and Chapin’s final bell rang at 2:04), Michael took a stroll through Carl Schurz Park, over to the basketball courts to watch teens take turns shooting hoops, over to the water to watch ferries sail by, to take a look at Roosevelt Island, Astoria, the calmer and apolitical parts of New York City. It all would’ve made for a very calm moment, if it weren’t for Michael’s ongoing mania, paranoia, etc, etc, etc, etc. There was a certain bodily alertness he possessed, but without any real emotional connection to his actions—he felt as if he were watching himself on a black-and-white security camera.

So by the time 2:04 actually came, and the Chapin girls began to trickle through the large wooden door at the front of the school, Michael, from the other side of East End Avenue, had forgotten momentarily about his plan to entrap Spink, and could focus only on Julia, on her pale long legs and white wired headphones as she walked alone down the street, head tilted, face into phone. For a few blocks he followed her down York, and was about to turn back when they got to the Webster Library, but felt panicked when he saw a middle-aged man carrying a large black garbage bag, wearing tattered clothes and fingerless gloves, shouting at and scaring people on the street, waving around a large metal pipe. “In this neighborhood? Maybe I should just follow to make sure she gets home safe,” he thought.

He felt a slight relief when he saw a female Latinx NYPD officer on the corner of York and 77th, and then a pang of alarm as the man with the pipe started walking within six feet of Julia (who was too distracted by her phone to sense that anything was wrong), inching closer and closer until eventually grabbing her by the arm and starting to pull.

And then, when within seconds, the female Latinx NYPD officer tasered the man, climbed atop his back, and placed him in handcuffs, Michael didn’t really know what to think.

 

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