4:03 pm: The traffic light turns red, the crosswalk sign lights, and the crowd mills across the street.
4:04 pm: The crosswalk begins to empty, but for one man.
4:05 pm: John Doe has wrapped a tourniquet around his right arm and doused it with kerosene.
4:06 pm: As traffic resumes, John Doe sets the rag on fire.
4:07 pm: John Doe is tackled to the ground, the fire extinguished, and the police are called.
4:18 pm: John Doe is taken to the hospital. He is unconscious, and his wounds are treatable.
4:19 pm: News media begins dissecting the situation and determining the cause of the incident.
Channel 6 Broadcasting 5:00 pm:
“At the scene of the incident earlier today, we go to Garth. What do we know so far, motives or any of the finer details, Garth?”
“That’s right, Jan. We’re still discovering new information about what appears to be some form of protest. We have yet to confirm a motive, but with our victim, or rather, lone protester currently on his way to ICU, we might still learn more tonight. What we do have for a potential motive right now is hard to say, but eyewitness reports claim he had a speaker on hand that played a song by the Beatles. What connection might be made of this is anyone’s guess. We’ll be keeping you up to date on the hour as updates come in. Jan.”
“Thank you, Garth. Coming up, are gender-affirmation activist groups targeting your children? Our chief reporter was on location this past week to see just how big a threat these groups are to our nation’s youth.”
“Perhaps the incident on 4th and Marshall was predicate but just such issues. But first, to Robert with the weather. What do we have coming this week, Bob?”
News11 with Jamal King 5:35 pm:
“…What was that? It appears, ladies and gentlemen- It appears we have an update on the incident that occurred just hours ago, a few blocks from our studios. They have identified the culprit of the attempted arson on 4th and Marshall as a one Hector McCullen. There is still no clear-cut motive to this act, but we have reports of various items found on his person upon arrival at Southwood Memorial Hospital. On location, we have Lana Hall. What can you tell us, Lana?”
“Yes, Jamal, authorities are still parsing out what of the personal effects might connect this crime to a larger narrative as of yet, but I can give a concise list of what was found and offer a bit of speculation. First, we have a green bandana found in a coat pocket. Many biker gangs use these as markers for gang colors as well as rank. It may also have been used previously as a pseudo-mask amid the pandemic. Secondly, we have his phone, which investigators are still trying to access. It’s possible they might make a connection through his messages or phone records, but that is to be determined. Among other personal effects are photographs found in the man’s wallet, possibly targets of further assaults, several receipts, some of which include possible articles used to make explosives, as well as a pocket journal with several notes taken. As stated, we currently don’t have a solid motive for this crime, but considering some of the relevant information, it is safe to assume the target sought was one of the businesses at the crossing of 4th and Marshall. Back to you, Jamal.”
National News Network 6:15 pm:
“Returning to our coverage of the incident earlier today in downtown Spring Grove, we have a flood of new information. The person of interest in the case, Hector McCullen, has been linked to the far-left activist group known as ANTIFA. This discovery was made just a short time ago by investigators who had found on McCullen’s partially scorched vest a litany of designs ranging from patches to pins stating anti-authoritarian, anti-police, and anarchistic sentiments as well those demanding equity and with pro-Afrocentric ideals. What the act was meant to direct attention to is unclear at the moment. Looking further into McCullen’s record, we find he also has ties with various worker’s unions and strikes. Photos of last summer’s protests for better conditions and pay across the board show McCullen at the scene of various gatherings and even a few where he can be seen at the head of some groups. McCullen is currently in stable condition at a local hospital and will, with any luck, be recovering almost completely in time. We’ll be sticking with this story as new developments come along. Coming up next, are athletics getting in the way of education? We’ll hear from a university professor who may tell you otherwise.”
The Hot Minute with Jordan Parker, 7:00 pm
“Now, before we really begin to unpack the events from earlier this evening, I’d like to introduce tonight’s guest, Doctor Patrick Westing.”
“Thank you, Jordan.”
“Now, I know we brought you on to discuss your new book, The Degenerated Man: Big Pharma and Soy Theory in the Modern Age, but I’d like, I think we’d all like, your take as a professional on the events that occurred in Spring Grove this afternoon.”
“Yes. I’ve been looking this situation over since the news first broke. Of course, hardly is any of the news genuine or without its slant. Digging in deep, I think we have one of two situations developing here; either this Hector McMantus, is a victim of the same blight all of us face, the constant interweaving of unnecessary chemicals into every aspect of his life, or a man trying to make a statement against the constant abuse of our government. Hardly can I approach discourse regarding the overreaches of our government in an attempt to stem our own civic authority in both times of crisis and peacetime, but I can speak about the poisoning of our society by those in charge. You see, in every aspect of our life, we are being bombarded with screens and chemicals. This young man, without a doubt, has been victimized by the fluoridation of our water, the toxification of our air and environment, and most importantly, likely the victim of our society’s ability to carelessly throw people away without the slightest concern. This man, if all I have gathered from the brief research I have done, is in the position I believe him to be; he is the victim mainstream media, popular social media, and our government not only ignores but looks down their noses on.”
Multi-media Public Radio, Jared Hoffman, 8:42 pm:
“Well, now we have a real problem. Far-right extremists and their handlers dug into the Deep State have come out to defend the heinous act committed this evening in Spring Grove. The suspect in question has been cited as an ardent racist and homophobe. One eyewitness report claimed that mister McCullen shouted obscenities and slurs directed at the LGBT+ community, targeting foremost those of transgender affiliations and lesbians. Investigations through the man’s internet history show that he is a frequent user of the site known as 4chan. For those not in the know, 4chan is a hate website designed to target and attack minority groups by manipulating ignorant young men desperate for sex and control in society. Currently, efforts are underway to force the man’s arrest while he is still recovering; however, law enforcement, as might be expected, has taken the side of this lone lunatic, stating that, ‘The only injured party was mister McCullen himself and a motive has not yet been reached.’ Word of this injustice is spreading quickly through the LGBT+ community, and efforts are being made to rally at the hospital McCullen is currently held at. When interviewed about the situation, Jillian Cortez, a spokesperson for the rally, had only this to say.
“We are a bright and brilliant target for a massive network of hate. We will see that justice is done, and this bigot is put behind bars before he can hurt anyone else.”
Channel 6 Broadcasting, 10:05 pm:
“Coming up, we have Derek in downtown who has been on location all week getting the opinions of you, the viewers, regarding the growing crime rate and abandonment of large factories and corporations from the area, but first, we have a news flash with Kendrick Marzan. Kendrick.”
“Yes, Jan. We’ve received word in just the past hour that the person of interest in the incident on 4th and Marshall has woken from surgery. Medical officials are hesitant to allow open interviews at this time; however, we have been informed, due to the nature of this event, a few select outlets are being permitted in the room with law enforcement for an initial interview. Stay tuned because, in about thirty minutes, Connie Ell will be live on the scene with the first words from Hector McCullen.”
Spring Grove 2nd Precinct, Sargent Raymond Bosch 10:20 pm:
“I’m sure everyone in the media has heard our earlier statement. At ten-thirty, at Southwood Memorial, a short interview will occur between two of my first responding officers and mister McCullen. Currently, we are not pursuing any charges though a motive has been established. The details have not been forthcoming, and as of yet, we cannot delve into the finer points of deductions, but in time this info will be made available publicly. I can take a few questions not directly pertaining to motives.”
“Did mister McCullen have any accomplices?”
“Currently, there is no evidence of any other parties involved. Next question?”
“Is there any connection between the person of interest and the unsolved hit-and-run murder of Ramon McCullen?”
“No. That appears to be all the time we have for questions.”
Room 308 Southwood Memorial Hospital, 10:36 pm:
“Before I answer any follow-up questions I’m sure you all have, I’d like to say something. In less than eight hours, less than the average work day in America, your news cycle has painted me in every shade of villain and victim. Doctor Johansen has informed me of some of the rumors around my motives for what I did today. Simply put, I’m disgusted. You’ve called me a racist and a victim of corporate abuses, one afflicted by government overreach and a bigot. Well, to dispel every last blemish done to my own name and this act itself, I will tell you the truth. This afternoon, when I went out into the road and wrapped my arm with that rag, doused it in kerosene, and set myself on fire, it was for exactly this purpose. It was to show, and you check the notebook on my nightstand at home, how the media distorts reality until they can push what narrative they need to, they want to, to sell to their listeners and viewers. My purpose was simple: to put on display the ignorance and anxiety of the old media, not to mention the slew, I’m sure, of social media influencers calling me whatever they so choose. I have a dozen reasons I could have done what I did; I happen to care about the environment, I worry about what direction our government is heading, I want for peace among all people in the world, I want war not to march up to anyone’s door and knock with nuclear arms. Yet, I did all of this to show the fallacy of our news networks and the immediacy of placing blame without cause. I wasn’t fully expecting to live, but now I’m glad that I can look into your faces, into your cameras, and be in the homes of thousands, reminding them that you are all human, able to make mistakes and make amends, but also so easily deceived and misguided by your own beliefs. I had almost rather died, though, because the truth of the matter is, even now, change is not coming. Tomorrow there will be a fire, a bomb threat, a shooting, and every last one of you will mismanage your concerns and conflate the situation into everything it’s not. And just like the victims of a shooting last spring, a drunk driving accident last fall, or a child abduction last month, the point of all this as well as my own life, will be forgotten in the clutter of fingerpointing and blame placing. But perhaps, maybe just a small smidgen of hope, a seed planted in inhospitable ground, will be able to fight forth and produce a crop for the future.”
From the journal of Hector McCullen:
I’ve seen enough, and I’m too tired to let the biased debates continue without proof that we can change. Marina Abramovic was a genius to stake her life on the grounds of one performance. Why shouldn’t I be so bold? If I don’t make it out, this will serve as proof of concept. I don’t know yet how I should do it, but at the end of the day, if every tongue is still but for the reporting of facts, then I’ll be happily proven wrong. However, suppose I’m right, and every single news outlet that catches wind puts its own slant on it. In that case, it might be suffice to say that our society is in a nose dive that even the willful death of another human, public and well documented, doesn’t wake the masses, we are lost. I must preface to anyone who might read this entry, my prior grievances and statements on the shape of our world and outlook towards the future may have some influence over my decision, but this answer to a question I fear I might be the only one willing to ask is the make or break of it all. If we are to break, then everything else I’ve poised myself on working for is for not. And if it’s all for not, I’m sorry.
Oh God, It’s Late! with John Tate: Monologue, 11:00 pm
Earlier today, in the town of Spring Grove, there was an incident. Did you see this? Have you heard about this? Evidently, some arrogant young man paraded himself into an intersection after setting himself on fire. I tell ya what, this viral marketing for fire sales at LaMarr’s Furniture is getting a bit absurd. But no, really, we got people out here with shirts condemning our president, saying this guy didn’t light himself on fire but was set on fire by local BLM supporters. What’s next? Are they going to say he also had a private island and connections with the Clintons? Really though, folks, those people talking about ‘Big Pharma’ are right. All these drugs have wild side effects. My late uncle regularly took Viagra, and I tell ya what, after the fire that started the last time my aunt touched him, it was a closed casket.
Spring Grove Tribune, June 19th edition:
Performance Stunt Prove Fatal
On June 18th, at the corner of Marshall and 4th, a scene unfolded that confounded everyone in the vicinity and the media. Entering the crosswalk amid a red light, Hector McCullen, age twenty-five, immolated himself as part of a performance art piece gone wrong. Initially, the media surrounding the event were uncertain of motive or purpose, only to be told directly by the man himself, late last night, that it was, in fact, meant as a piece of performance art. Though McCullen was stable enough in the evening to give interviews to the press, it would appear in the night he succumbed to illness and passed suddenly in the early hours of the morning. Due to confidentiality reasons, we are not able to disclose the finer points and await a coroner’s report, but we have found that McCullen was found to be in league with several groups anti-vax groups. McCullen is the last of his kindred to pass, having lost his brother in a car accident last summer and his parents as a teenager. What prompts a man to such lengths is still a mystery, but we can only hope now he rests peacefully.
Thank you if you’ve made it to the end of this short story of sorts. I had an idea for something experimental, and though I feel it comes off a bit preachy, I also think it does a decent job of lampooning the topic and the outlets involved. I don’t think this is a format or topic I would write on again, but it was maybe something of a flushing of emotions and thoughts. I hope someone out there likes it.