Reddit Reveal

Another Sunday, another afternoon scrolling through the infinite streams of stories, discussions and investigations that flow out of Reddit. Raiden had become quite addicted to this website whenever he got his own personal computer for school work a year ago. This place of curiosity, horror, and anonymity drew him in like sundew to a defenseless fly.

He vaguely wondered if he should stop coming here, because, at the moment, it’s distracting him from his sophomore English essay and his geometry homework. But the thought drifted away in the data stream. His eyes currently rove through a series of threads under r/deepestsecrets. He knew that over half the “people” on here were bots, and he could usually spot their posts based off the username or thread title. After listening to his mother rant about all the fake news that constantly spews from the rancid depths of the internet, he too has grown bored of things he believes to be false, unreal, or fabricated. She works as a secretary in the office of the Mayor of Raiden’s hometown, Sandwich, MA, and fell pretty deep into politics as a result. The additional hormones from her pregnancy have not helped.

A thread finally caught his eye. It’s title reads, “I have a secret family.” He read on. “I’m an American in their late-30s, and I’ve been married to my current spouse going on 10 years. Our anniversary is in a month as of writing this.” Raiden glanced at the post date. It’s about a month old, and he exhaled a laugh, “What are the odds?” His parents’ anniversary happened later this week. His dad already told him about the romantic dinner he has planned.

Raiden brushed off the coincidence and continues reading, “However, for the past year or so, I have been cheating on my spouse with my coworker. I know everyone will judge me for this, but that’s what the screen name is for. There was always this magnetism between us ever since I started working there, especially since we started at the same time, and one day, after an inebriated office party, the flood gates opened. If I had any moral fiber in my body, I would’ve ended it there. But this affair continued after that night, and now we’re expecting. The stress of keeping this from my spouse and son has been doing a number on me.”

Raiden heard the front door shut. His father had just arrived home from his therapy session. Although it’s company-mandated and paid-for to maintain good mental health, he seems to have going more often lately. Raiden wasn’t sure why, but was too nervous to ask. It was impossible for him not to notice the distance growing between his parents ever since his mother got pregnant, which happened not too long after the mayor was elected. She spends more and more time at the office even though she should be resting. She’s about ready to pop! He’s asked his online friends about the normality of his situation, but none of them could give him any confidence. He was sure either a divorce or something worse was on the horizon.

With a little more trepidation in his heart, he read on, “I just want to end my marriage. My lover is not yet financially stable, and I know I will not be able to support them along with my other children. I’m at a loss for words. My son told me about Reddit since he surfs it regularly. He assured me the internet always has good answers to tough problems. So, does anyone have any advice?”

At the end of the post, Raiden stopped. He shook his head, refusing to believe the random thought that crossed his mind. “No way! I’m not the only teenage boy on Reddit.” He sighed, and knew looking at the comments would be playing Russian roulette. He took a deep breath and began scrolling further. There were the expected hate comments: “KYS”, “You’re a terrible parent!”, the works. But there were some well-wishers, and one strange response seemingly advertising an oddly specific divorce lawyer.

Raiden wracked his brain for this name. Where had he seen it before?! Then it hit him: he saw the ad on the kitchen counter! It was tucked between some newspapers and magazines but the name was unmistakeable. But… just in case it was mistakable, Raiden set his laptop over on his bed, leapt up and headed for the kitchen. He feigned the need for a glass of water as he surreptitiously glanced through the mail splayed across one side of the counter. There it was. He swallowed hard as he felt his stomach bottom out.

At the moment his mother sat on the couch, watching the news, occasionally growling at the “bullshit!” Meanwhile, his dad emerged from the bedroom in his bathrobe and shorts, looking relaxed but not remotely well-rested. He goes to pour himself a cup of coffee even though it’s almost dinner time. Raiden found it difficult to keep a straight face as he clutched the newspaper clipping. He quietly sipped his water for a minute, contemplating his next move. Then he jumped when a hand suddenly waved in front of his face.

“Hey, Raiden! You home, buddy?” His dad said. He turned around to grab a towel because Raiden had accidentally spilled his cup of water all over himself. Raiden moved stiffly to set his glass down and accept the dish towel. Before he could, however, his mother came waddling over to dab him dry, “Oh sweetheart! You’re all wet!”

His dad noticed his other hand, “Whatcha got there?” He snatched the half-soaked paper before Raiden could say anything, and he felt his stomach clench. Is it true? Were all those coincidences just that? Coincidences?

Raiden’s father took one look at it, then crumpled it up, “Just some piece of trash.” He looked up at Raiden with a smile, but Raiden watched as he slipped the wad of paper into his back pocket. “What do you say, bud? Wanna watch a movie tonight? Or the ball game?”

Raiden saw the light dim in his father’s eyes as it took longer… and longer… and longer for him to respond.

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