Code Red River | Chapter 5: Killing a Story

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Written by: Kevin Gatti

SHORT SERIAL FICTION

Genre: Horror | Thriller | Suspense

STORY MODE: DARK | LIGHT

After Mick kissed me without warning, I said nothing in returned. He smiled at me and said nothing back. It was an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable moment. I didn’t know what to do or how to react. There was a brief moment of silence in the room before Mick began engaging in random small talk. Our conversation ended soon after with nothing else worth noting.

Over the next several months, I quickly moved into Mick’s inner circle as an accountant. He made me one of the organization’s top financial handlers. I was trusted with a lot of money and information on the organization’s assets and movement of funds. I loved the role and increased responsible. It made me feel like I belonged and that my work had a worthy purpose. Of course, that purpose was for the greater good of the Love Thy Self People, even though I’m still to this day not fully sure what that actually was.

I would have never had questioned Mick’s sexuality before he kissed me. I would have assumed that he was straight. Homosexuality was forbidden in the Love They Self People. Mick deemed it a very serious sin and would strongly warn against. I never questioned Mick making an advancement towards me and giving me a kiss. We were also taught that Mick was above sin, and that exceptions were made just for him. To this day, I have no idea how or why I fell for this.

As we got to know each other more and more, he would want us to hang out as just the two of us. For while, nothing sexual or intimate would occur, only an occasional kiss on the lips and a big smile by Mick. I never told anyone about what occurred between Mick and I in private.

I’ll never forget one night when it was just Mick and I in his bedroom. Mick had a very large bedroom in a private quarter of the ranch. He had multiple rooms filled with high end furniture and décor. No one was allowed in this area unless you had special authorization from Mick himself. I remember his bedroom was significantly nicer than all the other rooms. Everyone else living at the ranch had a basic small room with just a bed, a nightstand and closet. A small bathroom accompanied each of the small rooms. The difference in living space was never questioned because we all believed Mick obviously deserved more.

While in Mick’s room, the two of us were going over recent finances when he started to kiss me. He then put his hand on my arm and massaged it slowly. He looked at me like he wanted more. I was confused and a little scared. He had never looked at me like that before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted more, but I knew that wasn’t my decision. Luckily for my nerves, there was a sudden knock on the door.

Mick was instantly annoyed. He walked away from me and made his way over to the door in the large bedroom. He stopped just about two feet from the door and yelled, “Who is it? What do you want?”

It was clearly Gloria. I could tell by her voice. She said, “I have something important you’re going to want to see.”

Mick quickly opened the door and said pretty bluntly to Gloria, “What is it? This better be good.”

Gloria cautiously walked passed Mick and into the room. When she saw me in the room, she was shocked and gave me a quick dirty look before turning her attention back to Mick. “Another article has come out about us and it’s not good.” She stated with great concern.

Mick immediately look as if this was the last thing he wanted to hear or deal with. “Are you serious?” He said as he started to pace the floor.

Gloria continued, “Yes. Do you want to know what it says?”

Mick walked over to a mini bar he had set up in his room and started to make himself a drink. Obviously, only Mick was allowed to have this and only Mick was allowed to have a drink from it. Once he had made himself a drink he turned to Gloria with the drink in his hand and said, “Go ahead. Tell me the damage.”

Gloria nodded and then proceeded, “The headline reads: Who Is Mick? Meet The Suspicious Love Thy Self Leader… It’s an expose. It talks about how mysterious you are, it alleges that you’ve committed money laundry and that you have many sexual partners. There is an undisclosed informant that says they left The Love Thy Self People. This undisclosed informant also accuses you of sexual assault.”

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I remember thinking to myself at the time, “Who would make up such horrible lies about Mick?” The irony of me thinking that was the horror that would have happened to me if Gloria didn’t knock on the door.

There was a moment of silence in the room after Gloria said that. I think Mick needed to process. After a couple minutes, Mick looked up at Gloria and said, “Code Mute Confusion. You know what to do.”

Gloria immediately looked as if she was up for the task and nodded.

As she started to walk towards the door, Mick said to her as he pointed to me, “Take Simon with you. Show him how it’s done.”

Gloria looked at me and just stared as I quickly grabbed my things to follow. At that moment, I was both excited and nervous. I had never experienced a Code Mute Confusion. I only knew what it was in theory. I had no idea how it would be executed.

It was the late evening, but that didn’t matter, because it’s the 21st century and therefore information doesn’t sleep. Gloria made it very clear that there was no time to waste. We had to go around and wake everyone up. It was all happening so fast as we rushed them all into rooms filled with computers. I remember the members of Mick’s inner circle and myself were yelling for everyone to start turning the computers on. It was a frantic scene as no one really knew what was going on.

Suddenly, a large monitor in the front of every computer room came on and it was Gloria on the screen.

Gloria began to speak, “ATTENTION! ATTENTION! We are now in a Code Mute Confusion. A negative article about our beloved leader has come out. You can find this story in your email. We must create a distraction and kill this story. We’re breaking up into teams and each room will be a separate team. Room One, you are to create three social media accounts each and pollute the comment section with nonsense spam of every place this article is posted. Room two, you are to write five different outrageously false, but non-controversial stories about Mick and use five of our own undercover news sites to post in order to confuse. Send the stories to me for approval before posting. Room three, monitor the social media trends and make sure Mick and The Love They Self People stay off it. Make the other stuff trend. Create multiple accounts if you need too. Room four, you have perhaps the most important task. You just received another email. It is dirt on a U.S. Senator. You are to share this with the mainstream media and press them to share it as soon as possible. Once they do, let me know.”

I later learned that the dirt on the US Senator was about a scandalous affair and abuse of power. The Love They Self People had discovered evidence of this as they were snooping into the life this Senator after learning they were working with a former member of The Love Thy Self People to investigate the organization. That former member was also believed to be the undisclosed informant of the expose. Releasing this dirt to the mainstream media was being used as both a distraction and as revenge.

As we went through the overnight hours and into morning, it amazed me how easily we were manipulating the online conversations. We had teams who had studied algorithms and always seemed to know exactly what buttons to push. I sat in a centralized room with Gloria and others monitoring the operation as we made decisions on how to proceed. Looking back, it scares me how easily people can be fired up or completely distracted from a topic. This was warfare, but it was all online.

Finally, shortly before noon, one of the mainstream media outlets broke the news of the U.S. Senator we had shared with them. Immediately, Gloria had all the teams putting complete focus on pushing the Senator news story. Within an hour, it was the top news story and nothing else really mattered at that moment, especially an expose on some organization that most never heard of.

Gloria walked away from everyone in the room we were in. She stood by herself in a corner and pulled out her phone. I knew she was calling Mick. After a moment of waiting for him to answer, I could hear her say, “Code Mute Confusion is a success.”

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