This is an age in which fight videos are as popular as reaction videos. In both areas there are people looking to make easy money, film something, throw it online. We follow a guy who films fights, posts it, and makes a quick buck. Let's lock him up in a room and make him the cameras subject.
All in Good Fun
by Oscar Lopez Jr.
“What was it this time?” Sheryl dug her hands into the pockets of her blue sweater, breathing a cloud of cigarette smoke. Her head turned towards a mob of people, positioned the purple scarf under her chin, and moved out of the way. “Who’d you piss off now?”
Cliff walked towards her, down the city steps, affixing a broken cigarette between his lips. He was disappointed to find it dangling from the filter, moaned, and flung it into some bushes.
“People these days can’t take a joke.” He brought up the empty cigarette box, crushed it, and leered at Sheryl.
She dug into her pack and handed him an unbent cigarette. “People just don’t know what to make of you.”
“People are lascivious scum,” he lit it, handed her back her blue lighter. “I’m just etching out a living,” he breathed smoke into the cool midday air, “same as anyone else.”
“Anyone else wouldn’t walk around filming strangers getting into fights.”
“If they don’t want me to film it, they should keep it indoors.”
“So you can climb over the balcony to get a better look?” She rubbed her fingers together for warmth. “You’ll break your neck, kid.”
“Don’t underestimate a broke man’s determination.” He walked against the current of people.
“You owe me for bailing you out.” Sheryl followed close behind, leaning into his shoulder.
“I didn’t ask you to—” on second thought he didn’t feel like fighting. He had a long night after getting dragged o that stinking hell—mix of piss, shit, and drunks. “Sure,” he let his smoke cloud choke the passersby, “follow me to the apartment for your money.”
“That’s what I like to hear.” she walked with her hands behind her back, letting an elderly couple by.
“I swear to God,” he checked his camera equipment, “if these philistines scratched my gear—”
“You really that adamant about being put back into a cell?”
“You wouldn’t understand . . .” He held the camera up, “This is my survival right here. With this thing’s 80plus optical zoom I could see an adulterer and his concubine undressing two towns over.”
“Why don’t you go into P.I. work then?”
“That’s not for me.” I don’t want to help people, he thought, I just embarrass them on the internet.
“Well, I guess everyone has their own idiosyncrasies.” She flicked the cigarette onto the street, where a passerby crushed it without looking down.
“Yeah, says the klepto.”
“Says the only friend you have left.” She sighed when he didn’t reply with witty comeback. “What happened to you? You don’t talk to anyone anymore . . . Juliet, she—”
“Don’t talk about her.” That was all he had to say about that. “Not around me.”
“This is how you’re coping?” She ceased following him. “I think it’s time you seek out help.”
“Sure,” he paused, digging a finger into a pouch for a storage chip, letting the cigarette linger between his lips. “I will right after the whole scum-sucking world stops spinning.”
Sheryl didn’t say anything in response, no surprise, as this how their chats always ended lately.
“I’m gonna get some Joe,” she pointed a thumb at the grassroots coffee shop. “You want something?”
“Yeah,” Cliff felt his stomach grumble, “a cream cheese bagel.”
“I’ll tack it on to what you owe me.” She smiled and scampered off, digging her hands into the blue sweater.
He tried not to take it out on Sheryl, what he was going through, but it was hard when she was always around. In his own way he tried to care about her again, tried to care about his friends, but with Juliet gone—
It was best to not think about it, just keep pushing it back, keep repressing it. Yeah, that was so much healthier.
He walked around, studying various people living their lives, snapping shots of them, ghosts in time. He was as oblivious to their existence as they to his. However, when he stared at the pictures, they were immortalized, made real in his own private world. They could die tomorrow, but they’d live on in his files, a stamp on a time and place.
This is what he did for a hobby, convincing himself he was enjoying life through others. It was the only way he could be happy, if the world around him was, and only if he captured it in that moment.
What he did for a living was something else. What he did for a living made him a scumbag in people’s eyes and hearts, but he didn’t care. They were all walking hypocrites, anyway. They were the ones who got into fights, who created the discord, yet he was the asshole for filming it.
His videos had over 1mil views each, likely from these same ‘better than thou’ types. They preached civility on the streets, but rejoiced in the pain and suffering of others behind closed doors. No one would remember them, would care who they were, and when technology dies, their social media pictures and profiles would be lost forever to the chasm.
He had no love for pain, but even a scumbag had to eat. It was the only thing he could do, that kept him from ending it and letting the invisible demons win. He didn’t care to save the world, or anyone in it. He just wanted to live long enough to witness the collapse.
Cliff saw it, a blink and he would have missed it, but it held his sight. There was some drunken man crashing around in a library across the street. Camera in hand, he made a run for the end of the street, careening past spectators. A car screeched to a halt, the driver cursed him, and took off after he crossed.
He risked his life for his shots, as any one of those people he antagonized could have easily had a gun or a knife and turned it on him. It was worth it, every single time, the adrenaline coursing through his body.
He could have easily got the shot from across the street, but there were too many variables like pedestrians or passing cars. Getting in close was the key, a cleaner shot.
The guy was still thrashing around when he pointed the camera in his direction, filming him knocking over books, a chair, and a table. No one made any effort to stop him, and Cliff was forced to glance around, check if anyone else was seeing what he was.
He caught his reflection in the glass, but zoomed past it. The drunk was not likely to garner a huge view count unless cops appeared and tasered him. If they beat him, that would make for a high view count. Most of his views came from videos in which people were being attacked by cops or people attacking cops—cops being the lure.
He caught Sheryl’s approach in the reflection, looked up, but when he turned back to the shop, the man was gone. He stopped recording then, and Sheryl walked across the street, coffee in hand, brown bag in the other. She handed him the bag, which he took and inspected, making sure it was what he asked for.
“What are you doing over here?” She dug her unoccupied hand into the blue sweater.
“Nothing,” He shook his head, staring into the dim library, “just looking at some books.”
“Alright,” she took a sip, breathed into the cold day, “let’s go back to your apartment. I want to get warmed up.”
“Come on, Sheryl.” He tossed the brown bag onto his bed. “How long have we been doing this?” He was referring, of course, to the work at hand, and her distaste for it.
“I could get you a job,” she brought her phone out, scrolled down a list of contacts, “at like ten different places. I have connections, because unlike you, I talk to people.”
“I refuse to squander my life working in some cubicle, taking shit day in and day out from some unhappily married jerkoff, whose sole satisfaction comes from taking his marriage’s impotence out on me because he’s too much of a shmuck to get a divorce!”
“That was a mouthful . . .” She put the phone away, shook her head, closed her eyes, “You can’t keep doing this forever. Sooner or later, people will stop caring, and what then, what are you going to do?”
“That’s never going to happen,” he fought back, defending his right to make a living his own way.
“How can you be so fucking sure?” She rose from the bed, walked around. “You don’t leave this ‘cave’ unless it’s to go pick fights with cops—”
“They attacked me!” he fought back from his swivel chair, watching her pace.
“Because you provoked them!” she was still holding the coffee, “They were doing their job, and here you come with your fucking little camera!”
“Cops are a big commodity.” He said sullenly, sitting in the chair like a child receiving a parent’s vituperation.
“I read the report, Cliff.”
“That doesn’t mean shit, Sheryl, I could write a report.” He scoffed, slamming his fist into a thigh. “I can put whatever the hell I want in it. I could put that Jesus came down to earth and voted Republican.”
“When this all stops being the fashion,” she held her arms out to her sides, “which it will, sooner or later . . . you’ll come to me and beg me to help you, like you always do.”
“No, not when we live in this world,” he threw his hands out at everything in his room, computer, modem, router, a tripod with mounted camera, television, flash drives, “where everything is digital, everything is instantaneous—fucking a Russian woman over skype, staring at teen tits in one of the hundreds of thousands of porn sites. In the time we’ve been talking, another ten sites have popped up somewhere in the world. We’re all voyeurs. Man is disaster, man is shit, and that old boy will dig the whole deeper with each passing year.” He gave himself a moment to breathe and reflect, “Smut lives, and it will never die. Like prohibition in the 20s, you can take it away, you can make it illegal, but people will go underground to get it. What we can’t have, that’s what we want the most.”
“I’m not doing this with you again, Cliff.” Sheryl started to walk towards the door, still facing him. “I hope one day when you see reason, you think of me.” she let the words linger in mid-air. “You’ll wish you would have done as I asked.”
“Oh yeah?” He blurted heatedly. “Ever since we were kids you’ve done everything short of fucking me to get your way.”
“That’s not happening.” She gave a wry laugh, and disappeared through the open door, without closing it. “I’ll see you around, little brother.”
“Good fuckin’ bye to you too.” Cliff snarled, slapped it shut, and returned to his desk. He attached a USB cable from the camera into an available port. “Time to see what we have here . . .”
It took a moment for the computer to boot up.
“She’s right, but I can’t stop.” He glanced at the door one more time. “There’s no point in trying anything else.”
The DMIC folder appeared finally, covering up his background picture of a young Margaret Sizemore in the role of Lilith Obel, holding a six-shooter, caked in blood, blonde hair disheveled.
That was another thing he felt he should have mentioned when he had Sheryl here—this is also a time in which one of the richest women in the world’s twin brother raped her regularly, kept her stupid so he could get away with it. When she wised up, she killed him, but not before having twins by him. This is also the same world in which there exist places where desperate people can play life or death games for a few hundred bucks. The crematorium in the back where they burn the bodies, it makes everything within a mile of those places stink.
Welcome to the future, where everything is hell, and we’re all dying to get out.
He searched his files, but couldn’t find the one of the guy, the sickly drunkard in the library. He slipped his bag open, searching his other SD chips, till he found a greenish one. He popped the USB cable out, not remembering changing storage chips, but slipped in another one just in case; still nothing.
He searched through camera pictures and videos, a handful of pictures of people, a video of the cops arresting him, another the video he was shooting when the cops started giving him trouble. Then he found it—only problem was that the old fart wasn’t in the video.
“How the hell is this even possible . . .” he watched it, advanced the video some, but still he was absent from the feed. “Where the fuck are you, old man?”
His computer monitor took to blinking between white and black, and then the screen went completely black. White lines started shooting all over. The video cut on and cut out, and then it started playing the instance of him being arrested.
He hit the ESC key, but nothing happened, ctrl alt delete didn’t do much of shit either.
“Sir, we need you to stop recording.” A tall black cop approached, hand on his belt. There was a white guy at his side, watching the gathering spectators.
“Come on, guys,” he further provoked, “I’m well within my rights.”
“Sir,” he could tell the black cop was getting heated, him challenging the guy’s authority in front of all those civilians.
“It’s all in good fun!” He shouted at the cop before cutting the video, dropping his phone into his pocket, and immediately flipping both officers the bird.
It cut back to the desktop, back to the picture of a bloodied Lilith Obel standing triumphant with a six-shooter pointed downwards, a window behind her, and a silhouette beyond that of a tall tree.
The rest of the afternoon into evening, Cliff spent at his computer desk, monitoring his website—thehardtruthofdepravity.com.
He ate the cream cheese bagel, not hearing his phone go off once. Sheryl usually called in the evening to see how he was doing, but it seemed she decided to leave him alone. It must have really gotten to her, this new conversation between them. Early tomorrow she’d likely be at his door or on the phone, checking in.
He ended up adding some more of the videos, the one of the fight before being arrested and the one of him being arrested. He started feeling a weird sort of sensation crawling down his arm, and then realizes the tripod-mounted camera facing him.
It usually faced out to the kitchen, but he figured Sheryl moved it, as she put her hands on everything within the apartment when she came by. It did wonders for his OCD. He turned it away, went back to checking on the progress of the uploading videos, irreverently captioned: HILLBILLY THROWDOWN and ME GETTING ARRESTED!
He glanced over at the camera on the tripod, and it was facing him, red light on, recording him. He gave it a long look, went over, and shut it off.
It was time for bed, so he turned out all the lights and set his computer to standby. In the shower he jerked off to a memory of Juliet, when they went out of town to Missoula, Montana, and spent the weekend in some shithole hotel.
When the shower was over, he shut the bathroom door and clicked the kitchen light off, headed to bed.
Cliff awoke to find his computer on, and everything with recording capabilities faced him. The camera’s red light was on.
His first thought was that Sheryl came by, and just to mess with him, turned all his on equipment. He sighed, dropping his head back onto the fluffy white pillow, and pulled the covers from his pale chest, wearing only a pair of striped boxers.
He left the computer on, but turned the camera off, went into the rest room to do his business. When he came back, he dressed and went for the front door only to find it jammed. He pressed into it, shoved it, locked and unlocked it, but it still wouldn’t open.
He stared out through the peephole, considering that Sheryl might have been holding it shut or pressed something heavy against it. There was nothing but endless hallway carpeted in red, the walls a dull brown.
His closest neighbor was an eighty-year-old woman who listened to the T.V. way too loud because she couldn’t hear it. She had several cats that usually got out when she opened the door, and had tasked him on separate occasions with going out and fetching them. The woman was one of the few pure people he had met in this city—docile and sweet.
If the poor old lady knew what he did day to day, what he was, she’d likely never ask for his help again. Part of him liked that she thought him useful, good for something better than making a living from the misery of others.
Even if she happened out of her apartment at this moment, and he asked for her help, she’d likely forget the exchange on her way down the steps to get help. She didn’t have a cell phone, didn’t believe in them, and the landline in her apartment was a rotary dial. He doubted it worked and if it did, it would take her till next week to make the call.
She was a receptionist most of her life, fingers clacking typewriter keys day in and out, until she got a bad case of the arthritis. Her trembling fingers working at dialing, it would take some time.
The next apartment was empty, had been for some time, and he heard some of the other tenants making up stories that the room was haunted. They spread rumors that some junkie girl O.D.’ed in there. Another story was that some guy hung himself because he was brainwashed by a cult. The craziest of the stories was that a Mexican guy lived there, like a ‘Brujo’, and he used to do all sorts of mystical shit in the room. One day he disappeared and left chicken bones behind, pictures smeared with blood, symbols on the walls made in coal. There was apparently even a smell of rotting meat, but a search of the room turned up no bodies, neither chickens nor human.
Despite the room being empty, he sometimes heard ruffling come from within as he passed it by, going down the hallway. Part of him assumed someone used it as a fuck room, some of the other tenants, easier than getting a hotel room. Or perhaps someone finally moved in and was even more of a recluse than him.
His room was at the end, so he had a full view of the old woman’s apartment on the left, and the empty one on the right. Two other apartments were further down, the gossipers, though, they were nice enough. He didn’t doubt they had rumors articulated about him, but it didn’t matter, he didn’t really care.
Cliff walked to the window, only to find that it was also jammed. He attempted to phone the buildings super, but his phone had no reception. His last ditch effort was to e-mail his sister, as he didn’t have a social media page, but the Wi-Fi was down.
The fridge still had some food, so he figured he was in fair shape if he had to wait awhile to be freed from this ensnarement. There was pizza in there, some bread, a beer from back when Juliet was still alive. He could boil some tap water if worst came to worst.
When he opened the fridge, the pizza box was gone, the bread was moldy, and the beer was in the back of the unit. It’d been there for months, no way in hell it was still good, so he closed the fridge door in disappointment.
The sink was the next thing he tried, only to find he had no running water.
He came back into the living room/bedroom to find his monitor displaying ‘DAY 1’ in white letters over a black screen, below that in smaller white font it read, ‘1 viewer’.
“What the fuck?” Cliff stared at it, tried to ctrl alt delete, but nothing happened. He pressed down on the power button for a time, but it wouldn’t turn off, and when he looked at the camera, it was facing him, red light on.