@LuzMarian squawked:
@UBCTeam, what harm does virtual sex do? You’d know if you did the slightest bit of digging. See my talk with former addict @TZ_Thomas if you want to know what UBC is missing. #endexploitation #notagame #realsex
@LongJohn replied:
@LuzMarian, y r hottest chicks always prudes? #tragic #feelthepoke
@Justice_League replied:
@LuzMarian, typical repressive nonsense – you can be addicted to anything, but you only care about how people f***. Mind your business! #buttout #liberation
@PPFA replied:
Don’t like abortion, don’t like birth control, don’t like the consequence-free alternatives – how does this make sense? #clueless #getthefacts
@Accountability_Enforcer replied:
@LuzMarian, enjoy your time in Provo. 1806 North, 2500 West, right? #seeya #411
343 Users Replied to this.
"Hot dog! You got the kids ready?" Luz Marian asked, calling up the stairs to her husband Frank.
She’d been paroled from New York for a few days and was now in the rustic foyer of the old family home. Her father was manning the griddle at the diner this evening, offering free spider, pumpkin and witch shaped pancakes with the purchase of any meal, like he did every Halloween.
"Frank!" The finishing touches on her Fire Angel costume would have to wait. Frank wasn’t answering right away, so she dropped the curly red wig she’d been holding in her left hand on the mail table and zipped up the stairs on her tiptoes, trying not to make a sound. He’d pay for not answering her in the only way that seemed right on fright night.
But, as she rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, intending to head for the guest bedroom, she made the fatal mistake of taking her eyes off the path to watch her steps. Suddenly, a monstrous clawed hand darted into her path and snagged her by the elbow, accompanied by a loud roar.
She shrieked, just for a second.
"Oh! Dios mio!" she hissed, stomping her foot in playful disappointment.
"Thought you could scare me? I’m the abominable snowman!" Frank, lifted the fake head off of his costume and waved it in front of his face for a moment as he spoke. "A decision I very much regret in this warm weather."
"Well, you’re half right, at least. You’re nothing if not abominable. Why didn’t you answer me?"
"To get you to come up here–why else?"
The doorbell rang, and a cast of variously ridiculous, trendy, and terrifying children were soon shouting "Trick or Treat!" at Luz’s mother. Luz looked over her shoulder to make sure all was well at the door, then returned her attention to her husband.
He was smirking at her–it was a downright impish little grin.
Too much.
"Oh stop gloating! You’d better get the kids out of here while the getting’s good. They start earlier and earlier, you know."
Her two children, Micah and Rosa, now peered out from behind the door to the guest room, giggling silently at their father’s triumphant prank.
She rested both hands on her hips as they slithered their way out into the hall, both dressed as vipers–well, as much like vipers as one can get for fifteen credits from the costume shop in Provo. "Alright, let’s have a look at you! Yes, yes, your Papa scared your Mom. He’ll live to regret that mistake, I assure you."
Rosa was the only one old enough to understand her mother’s implications, and she squealed with delight.
"You look positively dreadful. Perfect!" She kissed Rosa on the only exposed skin she could find, her cheek. "Rosa, you take care of your brother–don’t let him fall out there, no broken bones."
"I know, Mama," she said with a happy little nod of the head. "C’mon Papa!" She took Micah’s hand and led him carefully down the stairs. Frank pursued, but Luz stopped him with a light brush of her fingers on his shoulder.
"Keep an eye on them, but stay back a ways–give them some freedom to explore."
"Are you sure? I’ve seen people watching this place constantly ever since we got here. And you should see what people are saying about you on Squawker and BOOM ever since your media blitz started. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t."
"Just because I’m running for President doesn’t mean we should change how we live, Frank. I won’t be bullied, and I won’t be anything other than who I am. Besides…it’s Provo. How dangerous could it be?"
The doorbell rang again, provoking no reaction from either of them as Frank stared into her eyes. He really did look unnerved, she thought. She heard her mother open the door behind her and expected to get an earful of laughing children shouting the usual phrase, but instead there was only silence.
"Everything OK down there?" Frank asked, unconcerned at first. When he got no answer, he prodded again, this time, alarmed, as he made for the foyer. "Susana?"
"Luz! You’d better have a look at this," she finally answered.
On her front step, there sat an inflatable human in Luz’s likeness–naked from the shoulders down. Where her genitals should be, there was only a blurry blotch of color and a phrase primitively scrawled in red marker. "Not for use by owner."
The doll was posed on its knees in a begging stance, and held there with dental floss strung in four directions.
Rosa and Micah, who’d gone into the kitchen to obtain their bags for trick-or-treating, came back into the foyer and, one after the other, laid eyes on the crude display.
"Frank, los ninos!" Luz barked, and Frank, already on the move, scooped them up and hurtled back through the dining room opposite the foyer and out of sight. Thankfully, they didn’t have the time to take in the scene, but they protested the delay in their Halloween plundering all the way out of earshot.
"Get that thing off my stoop!" Susana screamed. "I’m calling the police."
"Don’t bother," Frank scowled as he tromped his way back to the front of the house and bolted past Luz and Susana and up the stairs. "It’s Halloween–they’ll be answering a hundred calls for vandalism. Just ignore it, Luz. Don’t let ’em get to you."
"Call them anyway," Luz whispered to Susana. "We might have a bigger problem than vandalism."
She motioned with one arm out toward the street and they both watched as a small crowd gathered on the sidewalk opposite their driveway. No features could be seen in the dark other than their silhouettes, but their shapes suggested they were not wearing anything at all, other than, perhaps, some costume headpieces to obscure their identities.
One of them, perhaps their leader, stepped forward toward the Marian family home.
She was young. Luz guessed that she was still in college by the look of her as she stepped into the lighted street and became visible. Her body was covered in tattoos; they were a little of everything, from Native American figureheads to Chinese characters, but other than the multicultural body art, she was completely uncovered.
Luz couldn’t help it–she laughed at the scene before her. Several others stepped closer to the house and out of the shadows: a biological male wearing a bra and thong, sporting long, curly hair, a heavily tanned man with pale skin surrounding his entirely inadequate phallus, a woman wearing a full-sized black bar over her lower body, but not over her exposed breasts.
As more of them emerged into full view, Luz began to see the signs they carried. "END SEXISM NOW", "PENETRATION IS SLAVERY", "REAL WOMEN JACK ON".
Luz had seen that expression many times before–her speechwriter, Timon Ezekiel, explained its origins once, at Luz’s request. Evidently, ‘jack on’ had been coined to differentiate virtual sex from masturbation to traditional pornography. He would know–when he first found her in New York, he was struggling with virtual sex addiction so profound that it had cost him his job. As troubling and unrealistic as pornography was in the early twenty-first century, the virtual sex industry had proven far more destructive for many after it went mainstream in the 2070s. She led a ministry through her midtown Manhattan parish to help virtual addicts recover and met Zeke in 2086. Six years later, they were on the campaign trail together and she couldn’t imagine life without him.
Her laughter did not amuse the motley crew. They booed and shouted obscenities for a moment before their leader raised her hands to quiet them, though it took a long moment for everyone to catch on and shut their traps. Now that Luz could see most of them, she guessed they were a few hundred strong.
Finally, the leader spoke. "There stands the enemy!"
The crowd cheered raucously and many of its members waved their signs to show support.
She continued, "She denies herself the path to her own liberation. Pity her!"
A few among the crowd booed at the thought of taking pity, but most remained silent.
"Pity her, for her own sake, but not for yours. She is a slave to men–it’s her right to choose slavery, but will she take us with her?"
The crowd gave a chorus of negative replies: "Never!" "No!"
"Don’t be so quick," the leader interrupted, before the crowd could carry on for long. "Don’t be so confident. See how she would drag us back into the cave with men if she had the levers of power–and there are plenty more just like her in Washington. Your choice is not enough. Your rights don’t matter to people like her."
Luz had heard enough. She stepped back and slammed the door to the house, but the crowd could still be heard roaring and chanting as the family convened.
Susana was the first to speak, and when she did, it was entirely in Spanish. "Maybe you should say something to them–straighten them out. You know?"
Frank, still standing on the staircase, a few steps above the rest of the crowd in the foyer, interrupted, "Susana, English. I’m here." He’d never liked it when his own family had left him out of a discussion. Luz still lapsed into Spanish from time to time when she was really agitated or in a fit of passion, but he knew most of those words. Her mother, on the other hand, spoke mostly Spanish at home, except when Frank was around.
She stepped back toward her husband and rubbed his arm reassuringly. "It’s okay, Frank; she was just saying something idiotic."
"Excuse me??"
Susana was about to go into one of her famous rants about respect, but Luz cut her off. "Mother, you don’t negotiate with terrorists, and you don’t cast your pearls before swine."
She stepped back toward the front door and peered out of the panes of crinkled glass, trying to determine what they were up to. Her view was heavily distorted by the patterned etchings, but she could tell that they were building a bonfire in the public grass in violation of community rules, and she could just make out what they were chanting: "Right to choose. No to Luz!"
The scene, apart from the modern language, planted images in Luz’s mind of cavemen squabbling over a felled wildebeest or giving a foul war cry to ward off a rival tribe.
"And these people are definitely swine."
"But you didn’t even suggest passing any laws!" Susana said, her hackles well and truly raised in defense of her daughter.
"I know that. You know that. They’ll never know, even if I tell it to them myself. It isn’t what they want to hear, Mama."
"The police are coming, yes?" Frank asked. Susana nodded, but began pacing impatiently, suggesting she was unhappy with their response time. "Luz, should we call your security team? Bob?"
"Don’t bother Bob," Luz insisted, "let him enjoy the evening off–it’s the first one he’s had in months and he has to prep our Iowa skyway tour details tomorrow. Maybe call Manny, though. Rouse the cavalry." Bob shook his head in the affirmative and stormed up the stairs to get his network comm.
"All this because you said something on Squawker?" Susana said. "It’s ridiculous."
"I’m hardly the first person to get mobbed over social media comments, Mama. They have a right to protest–let ’em scream themselves out."
"But the kids were supposed to go out and have fun. And they sure as hell don’t have the right to parade around as naked as the baby Jesus."
"True," Luz conceded. "Good thing the police will be here soon."
"I wouldn’t count on that," her mother cautioned. "You know the feds spread them pretty thin out here."
Of course she was right–in the forty years since the nation’s police forces were nationalized, they’d been increasingly dedicated to urban areas and their mandate had taken on an ever-shadier tinge of protecting federal assets and the so-call disadvantaged classes over all others. Luz hoped they’d respond quickly but, now that her mother mentioned it, that hope seemed foolish.
"Besides, who’s to say they’ll side with us?" Susana added.
Luz folded her arms and watched the mob outside gather around the fire they’d set and light torches by it. She wondered how any of the other candidates for President got along, but then mentally chuckled at her own question.

They can afford twenty-four hour licensed security.
When she looked again at the front room window, she saw three of the women in the crowd kneeling in front of the others, inserting large cross-shaped devices where nothing unnatural should travel and howling with evident delight, their eyes lit by imagery projected by their SymLinks. She could always tell who was using the neural interface by the reflected glow the corneal implants cast on their eyes. Whatever they were watching, it must have been shot in a red-lighted room, because the pricks of light in their eyes had a demonic hue.
As the women writhed in surreal ecstasy, the crowd around them hooted and hollered their approval. The men showed strangely few signs of arousal, given what they were witnessing, and yet they acted out a primal combativeness, bashing their chests together in mock battles, arm-wrestling, jostling for prime viewing positions.
Luz shuddered and looked away, making the sign of the cross as she walked back toward the family room where the children were told to wait with Susana in tow.
"What should we do, Luz?" she whispered to her daughter before they reached the kids. "What if the police don’t come?"
There’s a terrifying phrase no American should ever have to say–what if the police don’t come?
"You have the hunting rifles, right?" Susana’s eyes widened at the thought of turning those guns on a crowd, but she slowly nodded. "I always carry, you know that. And don’t worry; no one’s shooting anyone. One warning shot should suffice with a crowd like this. And only when it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of claiming I threatened them to their sick little friends."
"I’ll pull everything out," her mother said, hugging her as the two parted ways at the doorway to the family room. "That’s the easy part."
Rosa and Micah lit up when they saw their mother and scrambled to her side as Susana left to find the family’s hunting gear and rally Frank. "Mama, there are people out back!" Rosa Reported.
"What? Show me where." Rosa pointed toward the sliding glass door in the back of the room and Luz took a look for herself.
Sure enough, a line of protestors had ringed the entire house and closed to the very border or their property in every direction in an eerie taunt, each person holding a lit torch. They laughed when they spotted her looking at them and one of the men wagged his genitalia with a gyration of his hips. Her fingers gripped the curtains on either side of her and with a hiss of inward breath, she ripped them shut again. When she turned to face the children, she made a concerted effort to hide her rage, though she felt it searing through her gut like a parasite.
"Mama, when can we go trick-or-treating?" Micah very quietly squeaked, looking rather terrified to even ask.
"I’m sorry, my baby – there are some people outside who don’t like your mama much. They’re confused and mad at me because I said some things about the way people like them choose to live that they don’t like."
"Why?" Rosa interrupted.
Luz pulled both children closer to her and walked them back toward the oversized plush couch, where they sat together, Luz running her hand gently through Rosa’s hair. "Do you remember what St. John said, honey? The light shines in darkness, and the dark did not comprehend."
"What does that mean?"
"When people are doing things that they shouldn’t, it can be very painful to have someone explain why what they’re doing is bad for them. Sometimes, they use that pain to strive for something better–they heal, like my friend Zeke did. Sometimes, they get angry and lash out. When this is over, we should say a prayer that the Holy Spirit finds them and brings them into the light."
"What does jack on mean?" Micah said.
Damn, he saw that.
Luz took Micah’s hand in hers and looked him in the eye, making sure she had his attention. "Don’t say those words, Micah. Someday, you’ll know what they mean, and hopefully you’ll know why Mama doesn’t like them."
It was all Luz could do to keep calm and shield her little ones from the anxiety, fear and anger she felt tearing through her. Hearing her almost-five-year-old son say ‘jack on’ was almost worse than being sexually assaulted by dozens of leering, naked boys. It was a symbol. They had reached her own flesh and blood with their destructive message, even if it was in the smallest of ways, and that, she could not tolerate. Whenever she was this mad in matters of politics and culture, at the root of it was a desperate sense of impending dread for what lay ahead for her and her family. Here, she got a flash of what might become of her beautiful little angels if they had their way.
Her glum thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Frank, who was obviously in the process of holstering his revolver as he entered. "Manny’s getting the security team together, but they won’t be here for a good half an hour. They’re surrounding the house–I don’t like it."
"Frank," Luz warned, silencing him with a glare that could melt metal. "I’ll be right out. We can talk about it in a minute."
Bad enough they’re trying to intimidate me. They won’t scare the kids.
"Sorry. Love you, Chili Pepper." He ducked back into the hall that adjoined the family room and living room, looking like he didn’t know who to fear more, the protestors or his wife.
Micah had started shivering as he always did when he was really afraid and Luz now hurried to comfort him with a warm hug. "Mama’s sorry they’re here, my little gem, but it’s okay. We won’t let anything happen to any of you. That’s our job."
Micah nodded and snuggled into his mother’s chest, crying just a little. The awful feeling in the pit of Luz’s stomach got worse, and she did the only thing she knew how to do at times like these. She prayed.
Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy. Oh my Jesus…
Her reverie was short-lived, though. Susana shrieked, shattering the silence, from the front room, and then Luz heard Frank barging through the front door. She gave Micah one more tight hug and then took Rosa’s hand.
"Rosa, keep an eye on your brother. Mama will be right back."
With that, she was off, sprinting up the hall and into the foyer, where she found the door wide open and a fire burning in the shrubs along the driveway, not ten feet from the house. Frank had shot through the door and was frantically stamping out the flames with a throw rug and his hefty work boots as the assembled crowd roared with laughter.
That was the last straw.
Luz ducked back into the house just long enough to retrieve her handgun from her purse, which had been sitting on the mail table since she’d gone up those steps not so very long ago to tease her husband. When she emerged, her face was flushed and her fiery eyes met the group’s apparent leader dead on. She took aim with a steady hand.
"Disperse! Get your little agitators out of here! NOW!"
"See how she roars, like a cowardly lion, cornered and afraid!" Several in the group laughed, but most had gone completely silent at the sight of the gun. "I don’t know if you’ve noticed, bitch; there are dozens of us and one of you. We have a right to assemble and to protest tyrannical fascists like you and we’re not leaving."
"You say that word, fascist, but I don’t think you know what it means. You quote from the Constitution, but ignore three hundred years of history defining the boundaries that surround your civil liberties. You’ve already broken a dozen laws and the police have been called. Disperse, or you will be dispersed."
The group’s leader laughed again and turned, eying her compatriots with a wild glee. "How great is this? Presidential candidate Luz Marian can’t handle a little civil disobedience by people she hates, so she calls out the gestapo and holds them at gunpoint. News at eleven!"
They wanted me out here. They wanted to make news! Their every action was a provocation intended to draw me out. And I fell for it! Damnit!
The wheels now turned in Luz’s mind as she stood with their ring-leader in her sights. How could she put an end to this in a way that would cast no doubt as to who the victims and who the aggressors were? How could she take a stand against mob justice and make certain they’d never try this again at her expense?
"Look at her, boys and girls. She’s screwed and she knows it."
Try as she might, Luz couldn’t come up with a way to turn this tide. Every angle she considered led inexorably to a press that had never been friendly with her candidacy. Every angle but one–surrender. And that, she couldn’t do when her children were inside terrified and counting on her. Her steady aim wavered as she considered her next move.
Frank had put out the fire and was now at her side, imploring her not to do anything rash. Despite his lack of confidence in her temper control, she was glad he was there. What she had to do next would be a lot easier with his support. She exhaled a breath she’d been holding without even realizing it and her arm began to lower, but before her surrender played itself out, there came a shout from behind the crowd.
"And scene!" Everyone turned toward the man’s voice, startled that anyone should intrude on this dramatic moment, especially anyone so gleeful. "Bravo. Bra. Vo!"
"Who the hell are you?" the lead protestor snarled.
Luz recognized him immediately and a smile spread across her face, unbeknownst to the bullies in her yard. It was her neighbor Milt in his customary cowboy hat and torn up work overalls. Her mother had been friends with him for years as she grew up here in Provo. To her, his arrival was as if Santa Claus had graced her presence.
"I’m ‘the hell’ person who lives right over there past that hill. That’s my grass you’re burning. You should do some checking before you build a fire, you know–make sure you’re not vandalizing private property."
"We’ll pay to re-sod it. Big deal." Suddenly, this ring-leader was sounding smaller and smaller.
"I was going to go into town to take in a show, but I caught sight of you setting up that inflatable gag doll on Mrs. Marian’s doorstep. I have to say…caught my attention right quick."
"People do crap like that every year at Halloween!"
"You’re right, they do. I knew the police would be slow to respond, so I went and grabbed my little personal recorder and captured this whole protest of years. In ultra-high-definition. You should have that mole on your skinny little ass looked at, missy. Don’t think that’s natural."
"Just what were you looking at? That’s assault!"
Milt laughed hysterically for a long moment, lost his breath and coughed. "Now really, ma’am. When you go parading around Utah in your altogether, I can’t help but see it. We don’t get too many nude protestors in Provo. At any rate, I think the live stream has something like three million viewers right now. Say hi to your new fans!" He pointed at his eye, from which the video footage was being recorded and sent to the network.
"They heard everything you say, by the by. And, for the record, I don’t happen to agree with Luz here about this virtual world you choose to live in. She thinks it’s important to tell you all how stupid you’re being for your own good. I think it’s none of my business how you deprive yourselves of the finer things in life. But I can assure you–this here is not your enemy. Do a little reading. She has no plans to pass any new laws on the matter."
The leader of the group looked down at the ground for the first time all night and seemed to feel a sudden awareness of her exposure, and she folded her arms across her chest and crossed her legs, pretending it was a defiant pose.
"Now you just run along. You’ve made your point and so has she."
"The world is watching, Mrs. Marian," their leader said with false passion. "They saw you point a gun at me. I think our point is made. We’ll be watching you!" She stalked past Milt and shoved impotently at his shoulder, with her group following her in disgrace along the road and out into the night.
"Is that feed off, Milt?" Luz whispered as they departed.
"It was never on in the first place," he chuckled. "Kids today."
"I could kiss you!"
"Ah, now that would make for a hot video, I dare say. Presidential candidate in torrid affair with older man."
"Oh shut it!" she laughed. "Frank, get the kids…we’re going trick-or-treating!"
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