Category Archives: Short Stories

Algorithmic Echo Chamber

It began with a mystery. After the fire, the residents moved back home to find all of their pets gone. They had expected some to run away and some to perish, and these hard people had resigned themselves to that. But that’s not what they found. They didn’t find skeletons or broken collars. They found missing cages and carriers, and no pets of any sort left, not even goldfish. Had someone taken their pets?

The residents weren’t sure, but at first they were grateful. Whether it was an act of God, or an act of their neighbors, surely most of their pets had been spared a terrible fate. So while the religious among them prayed to God and asked for his forgiveness, the more practical minded went over to the neighboring towns to offer their thanks.

But, lo and behold, the neighboring town did not have their pets. Furthermore, the neighboring town didn’t even know where their pets could be found. The neighbors had ran away from the fire as well, although the inferno had ended up stopping at their gates. The neighbors’ pets had not been taken, and so had formed a thriving temporary society during the absence of their masters, besides the parakeets, who were massacred in cold blood by the tabby cats.

So the residents of this town, let’s call it NoPetsville, were stuck. Their pets were gone, and their neighbors had no idea what had happened. The religious ones  insisted that it was still an act of God, while the non-religious tried their next rational act, and went on the news. They asked whoever had taken their pets to kindly return them, and added that it was very nice to have saved them from the fire, but that they certainly should have asked before doing so.

Nothing happened as a result of the news broadcast. That is, until someone linked to it on Twitter. Then it went viral, and before the NoPetsvilleans knew it, they had received a response in the form of a strongly written anonymous essay. The essay stated:

Dear NoPetsvilleans,

We have your pets. We found it disgusting that you were willing to abandon them to a fire, so we organized ourselves through the Internet to rescue your pets. They are now living happily with us, even though they are in therapy because of abandonment issues. Still, day by day, on the average, they’re quite happy, and so are we. We are still disgusted by your heinous disregard for the lives of your fellow creatures, however.


The saviors of your pets

Well, now the non-religious and the religious NoPetsvilleans had something to agree on. This offense could not stand. Sure, they had in fact abandoned their pets to a fire, but they had barely any warning before the fire had raged through their village. It appeared certain to be headed eastward, then, as all of them were going about their day, buying milk and such, the message had flashed on their phones: Fire heading this way! Evacuate evacuate evacuate! So they all did.

These damned treehuggers didn’t care that they all had almost died, or that they had lost their homes. Instead they dared to lecture them about their pets. So the NoPetsvilleans composed their own letter and posted a link to it on Twitter, where it was somewhat popular.

Dear STEALERS of our pets,

We hope you are proud of yourselves for depriving some innocent townsfolk of their pets. Do you have any idea of how much pain we have gone through not having our pets? Do you care more about animals then people? I bet you do. Well, this is America (probably, it’s a metaphor of some sort), and you stole our pets. Return them or we will be forced to call the cyberpolice.


Real people

This letter made a much bigger impact once it ended up in a Buzzfeed article summarizing the drama. Then the country, well, the Twittersphere, became divided. On the one hand were the animal rights activists and the communists, who supported pet stealing for different reasons. On the other hand, or side, were conservatives, who hated both groups, and then random soccer moms and whoever else spends time on Twitter. The two sides raged at each other over the Internet for days, with casualties and collateral damage on both sides, spilling over onto other social networking sites.

At last, when the dust cleared, the people of NoPetsville still did not have their pets, because there was really no way of identifying the people who had taken their pets. Instead, they bought new pets, and the world continued on as it had before.

The End.