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But some people knew and screamed everything they understood across the Internet. Yes, the dead were rising, said the bloggers; yes, they were attacking people; yes, it was a virus; and yes, there was a chance we might lose because by the time we understood what was going on, the whole damn world was infected. The moment Dr. Kellis’s cure hit the air, we had no choice but to fight.

We fought as hard as we could. That’s when the Wall began. Every blogger who died during the summer of ’14 is preserved there, from the politicos to the soccer moms. We’ve taken their last entries and collected them in one place, to honor them, and to remember what they paid for the truth. We still add people to the Wall. Someday, I’ll probably post Shaun’s name there, along with some lighthearted last entry that ends with “See you later.”

Every method of killing a zombie was tested somewhere. A lot of the time, the people who tested it died shortly afterward, but they posted their results first. We learned what worked, what to do, and what to watch for in the people around us. It was a grassroots revolution based on two simple precepts: survive however you could, and report back whatever you learned because it might keep somebody else alive. They say that everything you ever needed to know, you learned in kindergarten. What the world learned that summer was “share.”

Things were different when the dust cleared. Some people might find it petty to say “especially where the news was concerned,” but if you ask me, that’s where the real change happened. People didn’t trust regulated news anymore. They were confused and scared, and they turned to the bloggers, who might be unfiltered and full of shit, but were fast, prolific, and allowed you to triangulate on the truth. Get your news from six or nine sources and you can usually tell the bullshit from the reality. If that’s too much work, you can find a blogger who does your triangulation for you. You don’t have to worry about another zombie invasion going unreported because someone, somewhere, is putting it online.

The blogging community divided into its current branches within a few years of the Rising, reacting to swelling ranks and a changing society. You’ve got Newsies, who report fact as untainted by opinion as we can manage, and our cousins, the Stewarts, who report opinion informed by fact. The Irwins go out and harass danger to give the relatively housebound general populace a little thrill, while their more sedate counterparts, the Aunties, share stories of their lives, recipes, and other snippets to keep people happy and relaxed. And, of course, the Fictionals, who fill the online world with poetry, stories, and fantasy. They have a thousand branches, all with their own names and customs, none of them meaning a damn thing to anyone who isn’t a Fictional. We’re the all-purpose opiate of the new millennium: We report the news, we make the news, and we give you a way to escape when the news becomes too much to handle.

—From Images May Disturb You,

the blog of Georgia Mason, August 6, 2039

Four

Presidential campaigns have traditionally been attended by “pet journalists” selected to follow the campaign and report on everything from the bright beginning to the sometimes-bitter end. The Rising didn’t change that. Candidates announce their runs for the big chair, pick up their little flock of television, radio, and print reporters, and hit the road.

This year’s presidential election is different, largely because one of the lead candidates, Senator Peter Ryman—born, raised, and elected in Wisconsin—is the first man to run for office who was under eighteen during the summer of ’14. He remembers the feeling of being betrayed by the news, of watching people die because they trusted the media to tell them the truth. So when he announced his candidacy, he made it a point that he wouldn’t just be inviting the usual crew to follow his campaign; he’d also invite a group of bloggers to walk the campaign trail with him from before the first primary all the way to the election, assuming he made it that far.

It was a bold move. It was a huge strike for the legitimacy of Internet news. Maybe we’re licensed journalists now, with all the insurance costs and restrictions that implies, but we’re still sneered at by certain organizations, and we can have trouble getting to information from a lot of the “mainstream” agencies. Having a presidential candidate acknowledge us was an amazing step forward. Of course, he was only going to allow three bloggers to come along. All of them had to have their Class A-15 licenses before they could even apply; if you were in the process of qualifying, your application would be thrown out without any sort of review.

Most of the bloggers we know applied, either singly or in groups, and we wanted that posting so bad that we could taste it. It was our ticket to the big leagues. Buffy had been operating under a Class B-20 license for years; as a Fictional, she didn’t need the clearance for field work, political reporting, or biohazard zones, and so she’d never seen the point in paying the license fees or taking the tests. Shaun and I rushed her through her A-level tests and classifications so fast that she just looked sort of stunned when they handed her the upgraded license. We sent in our application the next day.

Shaun was sure we’d get it. I was sure we wouldn’t. Now, still staring at my monitor, Shaun said, “George?”

“Yeah?”

“You owe me twenty bucks.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, before standing and throwing my arms around his neck. Shaun responded by whooping, putting his arms around my waist, and lifting me off the ground in order to whirl me around the room.

“We got the job!” he shouted.

“We got the job!” I shouted back.

After that, we devolved to shouting the words together, Shaun still swinging me in a circle, until the bedroom intercom crackled on and Dad’s voice demanded, “Are you two making that racket for a reason?”


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