Independence is a 500-word, horror flash fiction allegory about cellphone and internet addiction.
Content Warnings: Addiction, blood, death, and violence.

Independence lifted her phone in front of her and admired her filtered visage reflected on the phone's screen. Digital, transparent hearts floated around her radiant face, and she puckered her lips in imitation of the ways she'd seen beautiful women do on Instagram. Her head turned to the side she considered best, and the camera's square reticle narrowed its focus on the rose-red of her made-up cheeks. Independence hit the digital button at the bottom of her screen, and the screen went black for a few seconds before it lit again. When the screen brightened, her face in the image was eyeless and bloody, and huge pieces of sharp glass stuck from her skin at every angle. Independence screamed and tried to throw the phone, but she couldn’t. Instead, it clung to her hand, and she watched as her skin burned into a sticky adhesive against the pink bejeweled case. Her screams failed as smoke rose from her immolated hand.

              Suddenly, a false gravity pulled at her face. She sobbed and tried to look around the room for something to save her, but her head wouldn't turn from the glowing screen or the grotesque image. Her face drew nearer and nearer to the phone, and the force intensified with every inch lost. Her eyes squirmed in their sockets until one breached and swirled on a vine of gore toward the screen, flattening into the bubbling glass. She saw with her left eye the right one cave into white, viscous goo.

              Her face nudged closer to the screen, and the winding strings of strained tendons, void of their empty head socket, pulled and pulled and pulled. Soon her white, highlighted face touched the warm surface of the screen and met the gore of her lost eye, and white became red. She wailed and tried to pull away but couldn’t. An unknown weight thrust the back of her head, and the screen cracked and shot into an array of trembling colors. Glass shards twisted into her soft skin. Her face cocked up at once, and the broken grind saw of the screen split her mouth apart. Independence became still on the ground as she melted into the screen's hissing black surface, and errant sparks clicked as electricity shorted across the conduit of fresh, flowing blood. Her body convulsed and didn’t understand its own death.

              The image of her debacle posted in every online forum that accepted it, and people responded with hearts and the upturned thumbs of happy praise. Comments admired the realism, the intensity, the shock of it all. They wanted more. Strangers shared the disaster in direct messages and across scrolling digital walls. YouTubers posted reaction videos, and their faces spread from confusion to dismayed and uncomfortable laughter. The photo went viral, immortalizing Independence within the tangled sutures of the web, and it created a movement of copycats and imitators.

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© 2020 Joshua Aaron Crook (I probably don't have the money to sue you.)