It was a grisly crime. The kind that required the television reporters to warn viewers that the “footage may be disturbing.” The kind that had all sorts of things blurred in the videos that showed up on the respectable websites.
The fear in the eyes of the two victims. The tears coursing down their cheeks as they pleaded to their captors. The pain. So much of it. And then the blood and the dying. All recorded by the perpetrators and broadcast on-line. Not just broadcast, but live-streamed.
In the initial moments of the live-stream, there were only a few eyeballs on the thing, but as such things are, soon there were thousands watching. Tweets were sent, Facebook posts made. Eventually millions saw it. All of it. The thing went viral, a pandemic of violence that spread around the world, infecting those millions with the anguish of the thing. Regardless of the admonitions and blurred portions on television and in other locales.
Dogged detectives began to investigate, narrowing the location of the crime down to Portland, Oregon. But they couldn’t get any further than that. Tips sent them scrambling from empty warehouses to vacant buildings to dusty, dank basements. They found nothing anywhere. The tracks and trails left behind by the internet dried up, led them nowhere.
The public began to scream for action. There were murderers on the loose. And then there was a coded letter delivered to a Portland newspaper. Well, not really a letter. More like a short note. A very short note. Experts cracked the code quickly. The very short note read, “We will do this again.”
The screams grew louder. Crowds gathered downtown and circled police stations. Mothers showed up at City Council meetings and demanded action. Fathers showed up at the State Legislature and threatened.
Another note was delivered to a local news station. A very short note. It read, “Seriously. We will do it again.”
The din was tremendous. Marchers marched through the streets. White ribbons showed up on trees throughout Portland, and on the lapels and blouses of the city’s residents. Out of the noise grew a sense of purpose. A unity. The city would get through this. The murderers would be found. The crime solved. And Portlanders would care about each other again.
After several more weeks, a video showed up on the internet. It showed a young couple frolicking on a beach in Australia. It was the couple in the video. The ones with the tears, the ones who screamed for mercy. The ones who died. Only they hadn’t.
It was all a joke. A sad, sick, twisted joke.
Unfortunately, not all horrors are jokes. Sometimes, they are all too real. I think you know what I’m talking about. The question is … can we care about each other again?