I discovered the following note in my email inbox yesterday at 3:08 a.m. (Don’t ask me why I was up that late — the internet is a vortex.) The email subject line was: READ THIS TO AVOID BEING EATEN BY SHARKS. It was from one, Father Samuel Persla. It said:
This is not a scam. My name is Fr. Samuel Persla. I am an online scammer turned Franciscan priest who was sucked into the internet against my will. I write to you because your life is in danger.
I must acknowledge that you are receiving this email involuntarily. But unlike most scammers — and spammers — I am not after your money, although I do want your trust. If you grant me this, there is a possibility that it will save your life.
It is true that I once was an ordinary scammer. I tricked countless old ladies into giving me their bank account information, I confess — but those days are long past. I am reformed and repentant. When I converted, I made two resolutions: (1) that it should be my ambition to declare the Gospel of God to all my fellow scammers, and (2) that I should warn those online about the dangers lurking behind their electronic devices.
I studied English grammar, got ordained by the Catholic Church, and immediately set out on my mission to evangelize online scammers. “How did you do this?” you ask. I scammed the scammers. I filled their inboxes with Scripture. I invited them to join the church. I even took it one step further: I showed up at their front doors with cookies.
Now, as you might imagine, a few of my fellow scammers accepted the gospel gladly and were baptized at once. But there were others who became angry with me, for they were profiting off this immoral way of life. Foremost of these was one who calls himself Demetrius (watch out for him, he’s very sly). This former coworker conspired against me.
Alas! But it was my own sin that turned out to be my downfall! Demetrius sent me an email that said: “Thought you enjoy read this article I found: THIS archaeological discovery PROOVES that Jesus Rose from the Dead.” I couldn’t resist! As soon as I clicked on the link, I was sucked into the internet! I didn’t just fall down a long and dangerous rabbit-hole of links and webpages like what you are probably accustomed to, but swallowed up — mind, body, soul, spirit, ALL OF ME! When I regained consciousness, I realized that I was trapped inside my computer.
You can imagine the devastation this discovery caused me. I, who sought to warn the masses about the inherent dangers of the internet, was himself trapped inside of it! The only way I would ever be able to reach those I wanted to deliver from this evil was through the very same medium that brought me such grief! Oh, paradoxes of paradox! I thought I was ruined.
But God is so gracious. At my lowest point he comforted me by reminding me about the nature of the cross. For there, as it is written, “God made him who had no sin to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.” I, like Jonah, was trapped inside the belly of this beast — but not in vain! God desired it so that I would preach repentance here and bring salvation to many.
It’s a fascinating phenomenon that both God and scammers are after the same thing: your attention. In fact, it’s not just the scammers; these days the whole world is fighting for it. It seems that people are beginning to reckon with the fact that attention is a powerful force — more powerful, even, than the internet. For where our attention goes, our spending habits, relationships, even our very souls follow — just look where it brought me!
God sent me here to warn people about the grave dangers of getting sucked into this whirlpool. Of course, there’s nothing inherently evil about it. But when it serves as a distraction and prevents us from tending to things that are most important it puts us in grave danger. Be free because I am not free.
All this to say, you need to get off your phone. The neighbors above you thought it would be a good idea to make their bathroom into an aquarium. They put a giant shark in it and now the floor is about to break. I know, because they are live-streaming the whole thing.
He was right. As soon as I read the end of his email, I took off my headphones and heard the wall crack. I dove into the other room just as a massive torrent of water broke through my ceiling. Don’t ask me where they got the shark.
John Michael Heard grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He currently lives in Kentucky where he is completing a degree in film at Asbury University. His passion is storytelling through screenwriting, poetry, and fiction. His most recent short story “Faster” was published in Issue 16 of Cagibi literary journal.