This was the beginning of a successful BreadTube career.
To get the most views, my first video had to excite the audience. I dug out the old binder where Grandma wrote our family recipes in her meticulously neat handwriting. It opened straight to the scrambled eggs recipe. For a moment I was a bespectacled child again, smearing it with ranch and grinding copious amounts of salt and cayenne pepper on top. Yes, that was good. The scrambled eggs would do nicely.
All the top submissions on BreadTube - the best video cooking site on the web - `had crystal clear video quality. Sure, they sold specialized cameras online, but there was no time to waste. The nearest tech store sold a fancy one that came with a rotating mount and lots of features I didn’t understand. It had a sleek black finish. The built-in screen made every color look more vivid than real life. Perfect.
I set it up across from me on the kitchen counter, making sure the stove and tabletop were in clear view. It was at waist height because I didn’t want to show my face just yet. Sometimes BreadTubers did something called a “face reveal” which always got them lots of views.
Then came the hardest part: recording my first video. Actually, making the scrambled eggs was simple. Grandma’s instructions were easy to follow, and I’d made them once or twice before, with some palatable adjustments. But it was difficult to narrate and cook at the same time. I didn’t like how my voice sounded on camera, or how my torso looked from that low angle. I went through several cartons of eggs and multiple outfit changes before I was satisfied.
Next was the editing. I used lots of different transitions between scenes in the video. Some parts - when I wasn’t talking - felt too quiet, so I added fragments of music to fill the gaps. The best part was the cool “before and after” segment at the end, in which first the raw ingredients were shown, followed by my final product presented on the plate. My video closed with a voiceover asking my viewers to kindly subscribe and rate five stars.
When it was finally time to share the video, doubts began to form as my mouse cursor hovered over the upload button. My heart was suddenly racing. Grandma’s recipe would soon be out for the world to see.
I closed my eyes and clicked it.
That evening I found it impossible to sleep. I decided I would avoid checking BreadTube until the morning, when I would see how many views my video got and reply to any comments. It was a shame they couldn’t taste my cooking, because then I would be certain to get lots of both. I lay awake in bed thinking about what would happen when my BreadTube career took off. It was a lot of effort just to make one video. How often would I have to make them?
When my eyes opened the next morning, my brain was already in overdrive. I was sure I’d dreamed about scrambled eggs all night. Bounding out of bed, I sank into my computer chair without bothering to get dressed.
I gasped in excitement. The alert bar had turned red with notifications. You have new views, it said. You have a new comment. You have a new rating.
A comment? Hands trembling, I clicked on my video.
paul991 said: “that looks like dog vomit.”
My mouth fell open. I clicked on the rating.
paul991 rated your video 1 stars.
The world went silent. Dog vomit? One star?
There was no way. He must have commented on the wrong video. I watched it through again, pausing at the end when I showed off my final creation. Dog vomit? Why did he think that?
I searched online for dog vomit and compared the images with my scrambled eggs. They looked nothing alike. Had paul991 ever seen scrambled eggs before? That bastard. I had to tell him he was wrong.
I clicked on his profile forcefully. I wanted to send him a strongly-worded message and a photo showing him what real dog vomit looked like, but BreadTube didn’t let people communicate except via comments. And there was no way to write a comment on one of his videos, because paul991 hadn’t posted any. He didn’t even have a display picture.
His only contribution to BreadTube was a single comment.
The one on my video.
My rage was building. His profile existed purely to make fun of my scrambled eggs, and there was no way for me to retaliate. Unless…
I went back to my video, struggling to contain my anger. I clicked on the reply button below his comment. No it doesn’t, I wrote. Here’s a photo of dog vomit, for reference. I attached one of the photos from online and submitted my reply.
I spent the rest of the day staring at the screen, waiting for paul991’s response, but there was nothing. Night found me still sitting at the computer in my underwear, repeatedly refreshing the page. By then, my video had almost one hundred views, but no one else had commented or rated. Because of paul991, the overall rating was 1 out of 5 - or as BreadTubers called it, uncooked.
My sleep was as restless as the previous night, but for different reasons. I couldn’t get paul991’s comment out of my head. Something about my scrambled eggs must have immediately reminded him of dog vomit. Or, maybe he was being deliberately malicious. Both thoughts made me furious.
Early the next morning I sat in front of my computer again. The alert bar was red. I hurriedly clicked it, but the only notification was: You have new views. There were no new comments, and my rating remained uncooked.
I shook my head. This wouldn’t do. My BreadTube career couldn’t fall flat before it had started. I had to make paul991 delete his comment and rating as soon as possible.
I wrote another reply to his comment, below the photo of actual dog vomit. You have to delete your comment, I said. You’re affecting my views.
The rest of the day came and went without any further notifications. My video’s webpage, with the colorful BreadTube logo at the top, burned itself into my retinas. My back grew stiff and my stomach growled. My hand felt like it was glued to the mouse.
As the room darkened around me, inspiration suddenly presented itself. Tired of waiting for paul991 to make the next move, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I carefully typed “paul991” into Google. The results page spat out a mishmash of accounts with the same username from lots of different websites I’d never heard of. Apart from the top result: an Instagram profile.
This account is private, Instagram told me. Log in to see this user’s photos and videos.
I swore loudly. I didn’t have an Instagram account. I was planning to wait until my BreadTube career took off - then I would make one and get lots of followers all at once. If my viewers liked my videos, they would definitely follow me on Instagram. Apparently, all the popular BreadTubers had large Instagram followings.
Unlike his BreadTube profile, paul991 - if it was indeed him - did have a display picture on Instagram. He looked in his fifties or sixties, sported grey hair with a matching moustache and beard, and was smiling into the camera with some form of dazzling landscape behind him. It was hard to tell where, since the photo was so small. The Grand Canyon, maybe? Was he from Arizona, then? Did they not have scrambled eggs in Arizona?
I didn’t like his face. Anyone could see there was a latent malice hiding beneath that fake smile.
As usual, the internet conspired against me, and there was no way to send him a message without creating an account. Another disappointment. I thumped my fist on the desk and went back to the search results, then opened the second link.
A mossy website unfolded before me, the title stark in big green letters: THE GARDENERS’ FORUM. The link had taken me to a profile on the website which appeared to be paul991’s. There was no display photo, but I could see his "Interests" listed there. Perennials, native flowers, casual gardening. No mention of cooking or eggs.
Aha! There was the option to send him a message. I hit the button, but the website prompted me to make an account first. Once that was done, it supplied me with a large text box to write my message in. I felt my rage building further as I summoned up everything I wanted to say.
When I finally submitted it, the blood roaring in my ears quietened and I could hear birds chirping their morning tunes outside my window. The message had gone through many iterations, and was constrained by the character limit enforced by THE GARDENER’S FORUM, but I was sure I had got my point across to paul991. He would definitely delete his comment now.
Back on BreadTube, I looked at my video. There were even more views - almost two hundred - but I was still uncooked, and paul991 remained infuriatingly silent. I wanted to scream at the screen.
I wrote another reply to his comment: Stop hiding from me, paul991. I know you live in Arizona and you like native flowers. Delete your comment now or we’ll have a problem.
I spent several more hours clicking through the rest of the Google search results, but tiredness began to cloud my focus. There was no strength left in my body to get myself up and back to bed, so I must have fallen asleep where I was sitting, my head resting back against the computer chair.
When I woke up again, it was dark. But the alert bar was red. You have new views, it said.
You have a new comment.
Still half-conscious, the animal part of my brain guided my hand to the mouse and clicked on the notification. At first I squinted at the screen with bleary eyes, but they quickly widened when I saw who wrote the comment.
paul991 replied to your comment: “ur so fucking weird. you can't cook, ur scrambled eggs look like dog vomit, and ur never gonna make it on breadtube. im not deleting my comments. btw i dont live in arizona. fuck off”
I read it three times before I believed what my eyes were seeing.
Then suddenly I was alert again. My mind was clear. The rage I’d felt before had filtered down from my brain and was now smoldering inside my ribcage.
I knew what I had to do.
In the garage there was a large cardboard box. I fetched it and put it beside my computer desk. Then, I ripped out the computer and monitor from their sockets and tossed them in. The keyboard and mouse followed.
It was a struggle carrying the already-heavy box into the kitchen. I went through the cupboards one-by-one, emptying them of every utensil I’d used to make Grandma’s scrambled eggs. In went the frying pan, the measuring spoons, the knife and fork I’d used to eat it. I tossed in the bottle of ranch and the carton with the remaining eggs. The bottle of powdered cayenne went in too.
Once the box was full, I lugged it into the boot of my car and deposited it next to the empty gasoline container. Grandma’s old binder went in there as well. So too a spade I retrieved from the garden.
The drive would not be a long one, yet out of necessity I stopped at a gas station and filled up the container. I passed suburbs and industrial parks on my way out of the city and into the countryside. My destination was only a short distance out of town.
When I got out of my car it was a nice day. The sun was high and out of sight, but I could feel it on my skin and deep inside my chest. Gravestones stretched far as the eye could see. Lots of different headstones, in all sorts of shapes and sizes, arranged in neat rows. At least I knew where to go.
It took me two trips to carry everything to the headstone. It was a glossy black, just like the new camera that I’d also tossed into the box. I picked up the spade and went to work.
The sun had just dipped under the horizon when I exposed the entirety of Grandma’s casket. It was made of dark brown wood and looked in good condition. Pulling myself out of the hole, I grabbed the cardboard box and effortfully emptied its contents on top of the casket. I picked up her binder of recipes and placed it on top. Then I grabbed the container of gasoline and poured it over everything inside the hole, making sure every inch of the casket was wet. The stench of gasoline mixed with rotten eggs and ranch made me dry retch.
I tossed in a match and it ignited instantly. Flames rose up to lick the sky and melt away the fire in my chest. I had to pull away from the grave to avoid choking on the smoke.
There. All trace of it was gone.
Grandma’s scrambled eggs never existed.
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Hi Shuvayon! I liked how you captured the obsessive feeling that comes with social media / online personality today. It's all about that next follow, that next comment, how many likes you have, and the notification button. Your narrator's angst was palpable throughout! Looking forward to reading more from you!
Thanks mate! Likewise! Always appreciate a read and comment. :)
I had to find out how this story would go with a title like this. You’ve captured in a very entertaining way the hazards of engaging with the online world. But poor Grandma! That was a tough consequence 😂
Hey, thanks for the read and comment! Glad it was entertaining :) Congrats on your well-deserved win last week!