(Author's Note: the website reddit has a subreddit called Writing Prompts. Users suggest a topic and writers write. I decided to try it. The prompt for this story was:
I realize now that I didn't fully read the prompt or fully remember it. Doesn't matter, I wrote this below.
4th Grade Cult Status
I wasn't trying to avoid the six work emails I had to write. But I was finding other things to keep my mind off not thinking about thinking about it. So the bills were paid. Desktop clean. Computer desktop clean. Fuzz from mouse removed. Into the bin. Trash bin emptied. Computer trash can emptied. Email maintenance! Delete and sort. Sort and delete. Hey... the junk email folder. I don't think I've ever cleaned that out. Open.
1,500 emails. Hours of work avoidance!
The junk emails seemed to be from many of the same websites, so sorting by FROM made it easy to get rid of 85% of them. For a moment, I almost clicked on DELETE ALL, but I didn't and kept sorting through. I found an email with a code for a game I hadn't played in months. No expiration date... move to INBOX. Already this was worth it.
That email looked important. I'm not sure why my junk folder swallowed it. It was dated from eight years ago! Scanning, my eye caught the word "tits" in the username "TitsMcG33." My computer sees tits and it goes right in the junk folder.
The email said that my account on some website had not been used in four years and my account would be frozen. I did not recognize the website, though I do remember that TitsMcG33 or some variation of it was my go to username when I was younger. I did the math in my head. And then I did it again. Twelve years ago? I would have been in 4th grade? That seems awfully young to be using the word tits. Now I was curious.
I clicked the link and it failed to open. I went directly to the website and it was like seeing a 90s movie version of a website. Three colors. Lots of text. No images...
And then it hit me... fourth grade. That would have been when moved to the new house. Mom and dad were gone for work a lot then and grandma watched us, or didn't watch us, as we had free rein all over the internet. My brother got busted downloading music and the computers were locked down with parental software after that. That might be why I didn't log back into this site.
On a whim, I searched for "titsmcg33" in the area that had the only photo on the site, a magnifying glass.
Three million results. Three million plus results for the word titsmcg33.
I clicked the first one: "I'm not sure what I would have done without him."
Further down the page: "Hero doesn't even begin to describe him.
What guidance will he provide next week?"
Later: "The answers were hidden right in front of me, but he made me see them."
Result after result. Hero. Genius. Savior? Some dated from ten years ago. Some from last week. Each one praising me. Idolizing me. After reading through some of the comments, I noticed they were referring to me as TMG33, probably to hide the tits part. When I searched for TMG33 on the site, there were eight million more results.
This was insane.
It finally hit me to sort by date, and in the oldest results I found my posts. There were five of them. A list of words in each one. They all went something like this:
Reading them now, the words seemed like some cryptic poetry. Each set of words, some kind of secret roadmap to happiness. I re-read the words and did start to feel their hidden meaning. That maybe things weren't so bad. That I could be a better person if only I tried harder. There was some kind of greater good in the world!
Panthers. Panthers? What deep meaning did this word have with all the others?
And then I remembered. Panthers was our grade school mascot. And in grade school, in fourth grade, when I didn't know any better and didn't have really anything to say on the internet, I posted my spelling words on a website. And without an explanation, people created their own meaning.
And I became a god.