copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
We came into possession of this manuscript in a quite mundane way. It was emailed to us by an associate. It so happens that we have a far-flung worldwide network of correspondents who are constantly combing the globe for, um, important stuff, some of them in places as remote as Canada.
This particular email purports to be the tale of a traveler in the most remote reaches of cyberspace. Those who confine their cyberspace travels to the familiar lanes of commercial sites and such may not be aware that the friendly confines of cyberspace's most trammeled routes eventually give way to strange, wild places, places where the most incredible sites may be seen, sites that would lead even an educated and stable man to the very brink of madness in short order.
Let us not speak of what such sites might do to a woman.
Some cyberspace travelers, unheedful of warnings and unmindful of dangers, venture to such places. Sometimes they make it back, safe and sound. Sometimes they make it back, but changed in weird and unspeakable ways that leave them shunned by decent society for the rest of their unnatural lives. And sometimes, they are never seen again in the company of beings that we would dignify with the term "human" -- though they do show up at cons now and then.
The document you are about to read purports to be the tale of one such traveler, J. Randolph Thrintwhistle, who ventured into the wilds of cyberspace and returned. Did he return whole and sane? We reserve judgment, preferring to allow the discriminating reader to make up his or her own mind. So wild are the allegations made by Thrintwhistle, so strange and bizarre the phenomena he encountered, that we had to overcome considerable reluctance to post them to our site, for the speculative thought which they might well inflame could do damage to the good repute we have built up in the highest reaches of science, philosophy and government.
TESTAMENT OF J. RANDOLPH THRINTWHISTLE
Call me Randy. I am a young man of good breeding, scion of a renowned pioneers of science, a family whose hegemony goes back to the very Age of Enlightenment, which counts among its members brilliant botanists, mathematicians and soldiers who have advanced the cause of reason in the world.
I was inculcated with the brilliance of my family's legacy from an early age, and found it an attractive and agreeable legacy from the beginning, and so was not at all prone to venture into the dark realms of the world. Why should I, when every evidence showed that my natural inheritance was to be a prince of the light realms?
But I fell under the spell of the dark realms, largely through my inclination toward computer studies while at university. Computers, with their beautiful binary arrays of ones and zeroes at the base of all their processes seemed to me to be the very apotheosis of the light of reason. I took great satisfaction in learning all that I could of them.
This of course led to forays on the Internet. It seemed safe enough at first. But the sheer cornucopia of sites offered by the Internet had a siren song of its own, and I found myself devoting larger and larger amounts of my time to exploring this wealth of ideas, opinion and babble. I also ventured off the well-beaten pathways. Yahoo, Excite, and MSN were safe enough, but the sites they linked to beckoned, as did the sites they linked to, and the sites they linked to. Soon enough I found myself using Google, and without any filters!
I told myself that it was safe to do so, that I was the possessor of a superior intellect and well-developed morals. Thus have many slid down the road to damnation and destruction, assured that they can venture where others dare not on the basis of superior moral capital which does not in fact exist.
Soon enough I was visiting sites such as the nameless University which resides inside the allegedly harmless doors of Lorelei's Bedroom, which conceal knowledge of such weird horror that no sane person has ever received a degree from said University.
I found myself thirsting for more such arcane wisdom. I plumbed the depths of the Castle of the White Lord, slipped into the dank basements beneath Moraxion's Mansion, and plumbed the depths of the arcane volumes stored in the secret library of Mr. Irony.
Even the volumes stored in the dank rooms beneath the nameless palaces of brutal pre-Mongol emperors in the blasphemous plateau of Yling have nothing on the strange lore to be found in the Net, for in its brief existence it has become so vast and extensive that even the Elder Gods themselves have had to scooch over to make room for it.
You may well imagine the effect that such hidden knowledge had on my psyche. It was not just that the sites themselves were weirdly unknown and strangely unusual. But the knowledge I got from such sites INFORMED my awareness of other sites, and in deeply disturbing ways. I found that now when I returned to sites that might well have been considered normal and everyday, I saw things in ways I had not seen them before, in fact, I saw things I had not seen before.
It was not a single website visit that too me over the edge. It was the confluence of two visits that finally drove me to the stark, staring limits of madness and my own humanity.
The sites that did it were two innocuous sites that would not ordinarily have disturbed me, at least, not in the way that they did. Playboy.com is a pleasant site dedicated to ogling naked women and now.org is a serious site dedicated to advancing the status of women in society. You wouldn't think they'd have too much in common, and you'd be right.
So when wandering through these sites I came across a confluence of opinion, I was surprised.
Now, this was not a minor confluence of opinion. Playboy and NOW have many points of agreement: that rape is bad, that women should receive equal pay for equal work, that a woman should have control over her body. But these were "sky is blue" agreements that anyone might share with anyone.
What I found weird, unnatural and horrifying was that NOW opposed BDSM as a sexual practice. That was strange when you thought about it -- an organization that claims to advance freedom for women PROSCRIBING a sexual practice from them! This did not seem to be maximizing freedom, this seemed indeed to be restricting it.
As these thoughts flipped through my mind, a vague apprehension of what lay before me flitted through my thoughts, and I shivered for my very sanity. An old and powerful organization so completely at odds with its own goals was a site to fill any mind with ominous forbidding, and the knowledge I had acquired in my Net forays made me all the more prone to such foreboding.
Still, although my forboding was great, my mind remained sound. After all, the implications of this insanity on NOW's part was surely overblown.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself on Playboy's site, seeking the calm restorative qualities of sexual sanity that the organization was noted for.
Then I read it. It was concealed in an innocuous-looking press release about the decision to run the movie "Taken" on the Playboy Channel. Taken has as its theme the kidnapping of a woman for sexual purposes. Playboy bragged that they had forced the excision of twenty minutes of the movie which comtained sexual bondage imagery, because they "promoted violence against women."
Needless to say, my brain was transfixed by a whirling fountain of fantastic apprehensions upon reading these words! The weird, uncanny echo they produced in relation to NOW's opposition to BDSM ululated through my mind like the distantly heard roar of some antediluvean beast. Once again, an old and powerful organization which purported to advance the cause of freedom was acting as, of all things, a CENSOR to strike down BDSM imagery!
Oh, the irony! Playboy, a censor! Playboy, apparently forced by an aversion to bondage imagery to become the very thing it had been so oppressed by, and which it so despised.
I was so amazed that I momentarily forgot to be overwhelmed with terror at this prospect. But then I remembered, and was horrified beyond belief. What strange and unnatural forces were causing these powerful organizations to renounce their very principles for the chance to denounce what was ultimately just another way adults could enjoy sex?
My mind staggered as it suddenly apprehended the image of these two primeval giants groaning and snarling in insensate fury, heedlessly trampling truth and reason under their elephantine limbs as they fought a battle that had been raging since before the dawn of time (or the 1970s, whichever came first). Perhaps in the length of the battle, the heat of the engagement, all sense of what the two combatants once were and had stood for had been lost, in fact, all semblance of humanity had been stripped away, and all that remained were glaring eyes and bared teeth and the need to use this thing called BDSM to spill the others' blood.
Perhaps if I had had the sense to draw back at this point I might have been able to return to the calm sanity of my ordered existence. But I could not. I had to know why these organizations had been reduced to insensate horrors grappling in the dankest confines of cyberspace. That same drive and intellectual curiosity that had put me on the path of becoming a leading scholar in my field now led me to the very brink of madness.
So I checked the links. How could I not? I checked the links relating to each item on now.org and playboy.com and through those links I discovered an entire world of hideous monstrosities to whom the matters of truth, reason and fairness were of absolutely no concern.
I found such sites as the Republican National Committee, the Free Republic, GOPUSA, Talon.org, and the Fray on Slate where I beheld sights that drove me beyond the limits my poor human mind could comprehend. I saw vast hordes of gibbering monstrosities who lived to fight, slavering in the echoing vastness of cyberspace, with but one thought in their tiny, overheated brains -- to destroy their enemies. Truth, reason fairness -- these were just WEAPONS to these depraved monstrosities. If they could get their enemies to pay attention to such abstractions, it gave them an advantage in their battles, since they themselves were beyond such concerns.
In fact, the worst of these evil regurgitations of the primeval slime displayed their contempt for truth by adopting names that ran exactly counter to their actual natures. For example, instead of calling itself "Unguessable Horrors of Foul Nightmarish Corruption," Donald Wildmon's minions call themselves "the American Family Association." And instead of calling itself, "Hideous Unblinking Nightmares of Demonic Frenzy," Pat Robertson's legions call themselves "the American Center for Law and Justice." Let us not speak of the shuddering, crepuscular weirdness from beyond space and time that calls itself, "Concerned Women of America."
I gibbered in eldritch horror at the prospect of these sick, depraved monstrosities from beyond the pale of adult humanity doing their dark, unspeakable deeds in the hidden reaches of cyberspace. My mind swarmed with dark visions of their savage fury. It was too much. Still gibbering, I swooned and collapsed atop my keyboard, finding grateful release from the horrors that filled my mind in unconsciousness.
. . .
Here, readers, the manuscript ends. The party who sent us the manuscript informs us that Thrintwhistle was found huddled in a corner of his room by a friend, babbling insanely, repeating the phrases over and over, "Just Say No. Cthulhu Dub'ya! Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too! Remember the Maine! AIEEEEEE!!!"