VCO: Chapter 25

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Chapter 25

One million square feet of space can hold a little over 17 American football fields. Joselyn heard back from Hans that we were approved to purchase ten million square feet of undeveloped land for database warehouses.

One issue: before DPZ gets absorbed into PPL on paper (we’ve already made the change on the site) we have to sort out the compensation for our initial business partner: Marcus. 

The last time I spoke to him was around the time I was waiting to hear back if Morgen was going to have me approved. In the small potholes of my mind I fall into reflection, as if I am inhabiting my old body in an older time. But that younger self’s body feels old to me.

With the funds we were able to hire 200 people. Only five are needed to run the data storage warehouses, one of which is over custodial duties. The other 195 do administrative work we produce on the spot when we need something, and otherwise they have to find something productive to do. Imagine having 195 assistants. Staffing every age, gender, or disability. A place where people who want to work can find it. And go figure: we started making money lickety-split. 

We hired on a strict referral basis starting with people we knew from the local coffee shops. We monitored subverted political movements in the titles of videos. Did our best to keep calls to violence (CTVs) out of the chatrooms. We took over the empty McClatchy building downtown where the newspaper used to be before they stopped printing.

I learned Joselyn would not step foot in the building because there is an ultra high pitched frequency straddling the border level of human hearing and would oscillate between hearable and not hearable at terrifying speeds. Like when you get in a car wreck.

Everhet says we’re changing the name on the same piece of art over and over again so we can experience it in new ways, not because we’re manipulative and lazy. But I think we’re recycling our media because we make too much of it. Either way, PPL is doing spectacular.

Most homemade videos were ripped and reposted by Butler’s bots. Each video acted as a node in a digital spider web where we got at least fifty offshoots using the same footage. Same thumbnail and length. All directed at different audiences simply with a change of the title beneath the thumbnail.

Example: GIRL FUCKS STEPBROTHER is reposted as GUY FUCKS STEPSISTER which is then reposted as CHEATING BF BANGS EX

The A/B format was too interchangeable to stay sane.

Depending on if the video is from the POV of a man the video could fall under a litany of titles like DAD BANGS STEPDAUGHTER since you can rarely tell how old someone is if you only see their penis.

Almost everyone one in the PPL office could get a job as a copywriter since we spent hours developing naming conventions for different videos. AI was good, but Butler had issues giving it a poetic license. Didn’t know how to say it. Things that resonate subconsciously seem to only happen when other humans make them.

I miss when it was illegal. It was more fun then.

Now it was a think tank, where discourse on the psychology of users was commonplace in any location of the room. Each area has its own niche version of the same conversation. Any given day you could walk in and find the younger people huddled around Everhet at the center of the bullpen while he gave an impromptu lecture on the poetic merit of the video titles like SUCK THE CUM FROM MY FRESHLY FUCKED PUSSY. The old DPZ days. They may as well be back in another life. The dive bars we used to do premieres up and down the East Coast where Everhet would hold court. Now he looks semi-insane, rattled the way you would be if your dream came to life and outperformed anyone’s expectations. 

“Dox me baby.” Rings in my ears.

Marcus’s venture capital firm had many offshoots of different specialties, one being a talent agency. With whom Lugnut was a client. 

Lugnut interned for us for a while, at Marcus’s request.

We purposely gave him a three-month internship so that we could get rid of him without cause or guilt in case he sucked. 

We didn’t know how people would respond to him being there. His online alpha persona had grown uncomfortably borderline with the same values of extremists. As if the Far Left and Far Right tips of the political spectrum touched to form a circle, and that’s the line he danced with. Truly a controversial celebrity. Fallen angel.

Marcus was his agent now. Everhet had sent Marcus submission tapes years before him and I met. After two, Marcus stopped sending notifications of rejection, and instead ignored him entirely. Once traction built with DPZ, Marcus was more open to the idea of Everhet, and began to generate innovative ideas of how to commodify such an entity. Market research and intuition led Marcus to agree to take on Everhet as a client for a percentage of DPZ. And Everhet accepted without talking to me.

Lugnut’s content may be causing static, but we’re still a media outlet that subscribes to NCM practices as one of our core values. A proven NAA resource, with NTA certification.

No content moderation.

Non-addictive algorithms.

No targeted advertising.

We had no interest in using our collected data to make guesses. The data was only organized using nominal, numerical, or ordinal stratagem. No recommendations. Ever. Fuck that. Think for yourself.

We’d heard from Marcus during one of his weekly verbal drone strikes on the landline, that Lugnut had gotten fired from Rosetju because of an incident that happened in the bathroom in the early hours of the morning and that he didn’t know any more than that.

Now, every time Lugnut went up to use the bathroom Everhet and I would both be looking out of our shared office. Him peeking over my shoulder like a cartoon.

Lugnut is as much of a traditionalist as Everhet is except he comes from the minimalist pornhaus school. He won’t stop saying people just want the truth straight up. 

“The name should be. Straight forward. Undiluted.” Lugnut karate chopped his own palm when he spoke. This school of thought has its merit in moderate doses. Lugnut says, “Just say what it is. They know what they want.” 

Eye-rolling purist.

Everhet was chewing too much gum while chugging gallons of soda lately in the bathroom. 

Then one morning around 11:12 am, Everhet was gathering all the niches together in the center. He treated it like a premiere and let everyone sit while he presented the video with its title and then we’d all watch and applaud at the end like most days. For this particular incident, the title Everhet proposed was: HOT MILF GETS ALL THREE HOLES FILLED.

Chef’s kiss.

We all watch the video. And after the lights come back up Lugnut whipped his face side to side like he’d just woken up and didn’t know where he was. Then Lugnut yelled up to Everhet and said, “She never did anal.”

The room becomes airtight.

Everhet clasps his hands together gently. Proceeds to rub them together for warmth. And without looking up from his hands he says, “What?”

“She didn’t do anal.” Lugnut says, “She just sucked his dick and they fucked. But they never did anal, Everhet.”

Everhet’s voice doubled in decibels when he unclenched his hands. He went, “Okay?”

Lugnut flung his arms. An aggressive non-verbal response.

“Well. That’s lying, Everhet. That might be someone’s kink. They could want to let a load off and that’s the one thing they need to just get them through the day. And they watch all 17 minutes of that and don’t ever see the thing they need…I mean you gotta think about that man…some people are wound up tight. And guns are still legal. So…”

People standing next to Lugnut shuffled away from him. 

Everhet’s glassy eyes rolled to the ceiling, he drew in a wet deep breath through his nose. Slightly wobbling he says, “What do you mean by 17?”

Lugnut’s chin dips forward and down while remaining level, “What?”

Everhet fired him for insubordination that afternoon. It was a Monday. 

I remember it was a Monday because the next day we were in our QA meeting together which is always on Tuesday, which Morgen and Joselyn took over the phone from the drawing room back at the estate. Everhet made his first appearance, christening the meeting by talking about integrity and how we could really market it.

About how honesty is the key to subscriber retention. 

All of Lugnut’s ideas repackaged to fit our brand. 

Morgen and Joselyn were very interested.

Then on Wednesday Marcus liquidated three quarters of his control stock in a private placement transaction which we took as his informal resignation. 

After the meeting, when we get outside and the downtown area is screaming with honking cars and construction of new apartment buildings, I grab Everhet’s arm and feel the sinewy and grossly thin remnants of what I think used to be muscle. He was licking his teeth so aggressively his tongue got stuck in a few spots.

I say, “You just fired a guy for saying the exact same thing this morning.”

At this point Everhet is laughing maniacally until a glob of phlegm got caught in his throat, at which point he held his stomach and each uncontrollable laugh was converted into a cough. The coughs became more and more violent until he tried to suppress it.

I say, “Just do it.”

Then he vomits all over the ground. 

Stands up and wipes his mouth and chin with the back of his shirt sleeve. 

Then nods at me with a smile and walks away.


James Jacob Hatfield is a displaced engineer, a painter, and many other contradictions. His work has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Barely South Review, Chaleur Magazine, Havik, and others. His ekphrasis poem “torrents of lahar, No. 36” was anthologized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a Sterling Fellow and a Weymouth Fellow. He is the creator and curator of the Gemini Sessions Substack. He lives in Durham, NC.

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