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The World Of Tomorrow (If They Shut Off The Internet)

United States Senator and occasional Villain Joe Lieberman recently proposed a bill which would grant the President the power to shut down the Internet. This so called "kill switch" would be used to protect U.S. national interests in the event of some kind of Internet emergency, presumably something to do with Skynet or some kind of super Napster. Controversially, this kill switch could be activated unilaterally, regardless of the harm done to businesses or private users in the U.S. and around the world. Obviously the implications of such a plan are frightening, and it would be irresponsible for Cracked not to haphazardly slap together an article which farts around the main issues and infuriates people with its cavalier attitude. We take our lack of responsibility seriously.

To best analyze the implications of this hilarious violation of our rights, we decided that the best thing to do would be to send me, Cracked's hardiest writer, through time, to visit a future where this kill switch had been created and activated. This kind of solution is actually pretty straight forward for Cracked, as we've had access to an operating time machine since 1915, when Cracked family scion Theodore Krakt (and his friend Bill) were visited by a time traveler from the future, who provided them with a time traveling phone booth to help them pass an important history test. We don't use it much though, partly because our powers (making references to 80s toys) are nearly useless in every era other than this one, but also because nearly every person who has stepped foot in it has ended up murdering their grandfather.

Down in the basement of the Cracked Labs I found the phone booth under a pile of back issues of one of our failed magazines. Digging it out, I stepped in, took a deep breath, and inserted a quarter. Punching 2014 into the dial pad, I closed the door and waited. A loud *FLUP* sound announced the opening of the Orifice of Time, and seconds later the phone booth confidently dropped through it. Shortly thereafter, I arrived at my destination, the year 2014. I opened the door cautiously and took a sniff of the air. The odor of burning flesh--but less strong than usual for L.A. Was something wrong?

Creeping up the stairs, I entered the lobby of Cracked Tower. Half of the windows were blasted out, the wind howling through them spookily. Clearly something awful had happened here. I mean, something really awful--twice as awful as the awful things we regularly engineered to happen here. Behind me, the sound of crunching glass. I turned, startled, to see a weary man wearing a beard which looked like it was attacking and subsuming a smaller beard.

"Dan? Dan O'Brien? Is that you?" I asked, staring at him.

He returned my gaze with a look best described as "glassy," before shaking his head. "My name is Xavier. Xavier Thrust. I'm the Chief Editor of Cracked."

"I'm sorry. It's just that you look a lot like Dan O'Brien."

He nodded. "I should. Dan O'Brien was my father."

"Your father!" I blurted, stunned. "What year is this? I thought I set that thing to 2014."

"It is 2014."

"But how?"

"It's The Future. Technology." He waved his hands and fingers in front of my face in a manner which he apparently believed to represent technology. "There've been many changes. You wouldn't understand. Come with me Bucholz. We've been waiting for you."

Xavier led me upstairs to Cracked's main office. The place was a mess. A handful of harried looking people I didn't recognize roamed the halls. There was sadness in their eyes... no, something else. They all looked like they were holding in farts. In one office I saw a man repeatedly throwing a banana peel on the floor and staring at it. In another, I could see an anvil sitting on the middle of a desk, while two men walked around it taking notes.

"What's going on here?"

"This is what Cracked does now." Xavier replied. "We're trying to reinvent comedy with the scraps of information we have that survived the fall of the Internet."

"So the kill switch actually happened in this future?"

Xavier nodded. "The kill switch legislation passed in late 2010, and the system implemented over the next year. In 2012, during the grand opening ceremony, it was "accidentally" triggered by Senator Lieberman, shutting down the Internet. Due to a fault in the system, the whole thing couldn't be restarted for several weeks, during which time the world tried, and failed, to adjust."

"What, you started killing each other with sticks and rocks?" I quipped.

"Ha ha ha! Hey, fuck you, caveman. Are you listening to my story or not?" Xavier snapped at me. I nodded sheepishly. I guess making jokes about a bunch of people dying in front of someone who had watched a bunch of those people die was poor form. Something to remember.

Xavier continued his story. "Imagine taking someone from the dampest corners of the Internet--let's say, Xbox Live--and then throwing them out into the real world. These people, these demi-humans, were completely harmless so long as they were tucked away in the armpit of reality. But then the Internet was shut off, and they began crawling out of their foul nests and into the light. All of them. At once. And do you know what they did next?"

I considered that for a moment. "They started calling people fags?"

Xavier nodded. "They started calling people fags. Everyone. You don't even fucking know. Do you have any idea what it does to the social fabric to have millions of sociopaths suddenly appear out of nowhere, and show up in our parks and our stores and our Arby's, screaming 'DIE JEW DARKY COMMIE FAG!' at every single person they meet? Millions of them. 'I HOPE YOU SUCK A MILLION ASSES IN ACID YOU ESKIMO FUCKER.' I saw a guy yelling that at a crosswalk button. It was insane. There was chaos. There were riots."

I could easily imagine that. I'd been on Xbox Live once in my life, and had more than12 people tell me that they were going to find out where I lived and shit on my head and murder me. The only reason I was still alive was that none of these people had any motivation to actually leave their houses. If that changed...

"Martial law was declared. Which didn't go over too well. The government nearly fell. A lot of people ended up dying." Xavier looked at his feet. We'd reached the office which used to be Jack's. I noticed the large tombstone in the corner, with his name on it. My eyes welled up, a mixture of grief at the loss of a colleague and friend, and happiness, knowing that he would have been absolutely furious at the idea of being buried here.

Xavier sat down at Jack's desk and continued his story. "Eventually things settled down a bit. We've got a new government now. A slightly firmer government. It was decided that these riots were a sure sign that the Internet was a cancer of society. And like cancer, the only known treatments were harsh. Parents, all parents, were deemed unfit to raise their children. Every child in the country was relocated away from their parents to special child-rearing camps."

"And is this how you were born and grew up to be an adult in four years?"

Xavier sighed. "I don't really want to talk about that."

"No, no, no, I insist," I continued, staring him down as sympathetically as possible.

Xavier grimaced. "My father was at the Lawrence Livermore lab in Berkley researching an article on the Incredible Hulk, where he ended up having sex with a small nuclear reactor. I am the entirely predictable result."

"And when you say DOB was your father, does that mean?"

"Yes, he's dead. But not from that. He was actually quite famous for awhile because of that."

I nodded, easily imagining that.

"No, he died some time later. With mom."

"The nuclear reactor?"

"Yes," Xavier said through clenched teeth. "They were drinking... well I guess dad was trying to get her drunk." Xavier shook his head. "I don't know what happened. An explosion? A lot of people died. The police ended up calling it a 'domestic dispute' but I think they really didn't know what to make of it."

"I'm sorry," I said, falling off my chair laughing.

Xavier glared daggers at me. He really was a Cracked editor. "If I can continue?"

"Please do," I offered, clutching my sides. Xavier waited patiently until I retook my seat.

"Anyways, with order somewhat restored the government decided that the Internet was too much of a threat to start up again. Most other forms of technological entertainment were banned as well, or sharply regulated. Television, electric handjob machines, video games. The only thing even resembling a video game any more are horrible 'Edutainment' creations. The world's leading software developer is now PBS."

I shuddered. "This government. Is this thing elected, or what? How does that work now?"

Xavier shook his head. "The riots forced Obama to postpone the election. He didn't really have a choice, but when it was delayed, well that just made things worse. That's when the government nearly fell. Supposedly we'll have elections again soon. That's what Uncle Joe says."

"You don't mean"

"Oh yeah."

"Oh wow. Sorry future, that's really shitty." I paused, thinking. "You said you were waiting for me? How?"

"When you left in the phone booth in 2010, we knew when and where you'd arrive. We've been anxiously awaiting your arrival for years."

I frowned. No one ever seemed to care when I was or wasn't in this office, much less eagerly await my return. "We're disappointed to see you Bucholz" was a phrase I recalled in particular. They put that on my birthday cake once. It wasn't even my birthday.

"And why were you waiting for me?"

"Because we know you can help. I'm sorry my father isn't here to ask you himself. I know you two were close."

I stared at him blankly.

"He often spoke highly of you. Said you'd do anything for him."

I glanced at my watch.

Xavier narrowed his gaze. "With your column, you have a direct line to the most awful people on the Internet. More than any other columnist, you attract the worst that humanity has to offer."

It was true. You could catch a disease loitering in the comments section of some of my articles.

"We want you to start turning the tide. Use your column to spread good through the world. Teach your readers important things, like when to not yell at bus drivers, and how to order a sandwich without offending four different cultures."

I frowned. "But by doing that, won't I change the future? Won't you cease to exist? And if you cease to exist, how will we have had this conversation? Will I then go back to writing William H. Macy snuff-fic? And otherwise keep making the world worse with everything I do?"

Xavier shrugged. "Honestly? I don't think it matters. Do you really expect people to read your stupid time travel column that closely?"

I nodded. Xavier's lack of respect for the audience impressed me. He really was a natural Cracked editor. "Deal." I spit into my palm and extended it to him. He looked back and forth between me and it with disgust etched into his face.

___

So, after visiting the archive of horse race results which Cracked has always kept on hand for visiting time travelers, I returned to my phone booth and *FLUP*ed my way back to the somewhat-earlier 21st century. And now that I'm back readers, please, heed my words!

Be good to each other! People who disagree with you are not necessarily fags. And if they are, that's actually not that remarkable. Using racial slurs to describe people you dislike is incredibly ignorant and hateful. It makes you a measurably worse person, and you will eventually cross someone who will stab you in the throat for it. Most people should never and could never suck a thousand burning dicks. It's dangerous and basically unfeasible. Almost everyone's mom is an OK lady, and even if they're not, you should get to know her first before making any bold claims about her. You can make a difference, so long as you never try to get a small nuclear reactor drunk.

___

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Chris Bucholz

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