Dear Recipient (it read),
DO NOT DELETE THIS MESSAGE.
I am writing to you on behalf of our omnipotent Lord the Great Divine the Rain-God Isis and the Countless Hosts who do Therein reside. Please forward this to everyone you know and spread the good Word and you will be rewarded but if you don’t share it with at least fifty people by the end of this week then your lack of faith will be punished.
A mother in Amsterdam sent this to two hundred people and won a lifetime supply of juice the next day. A student in Kentucky shared it with only forty-three and chipped his tooth on a fork in a very unsightly fashion. Little Jimmy in Sydney saw it open on his dad’s computer screen and forgot about it and he contracted terminal conjunctivitis and died.
Priest Shak-rah of the Church of Isis Rain-God
When you read these words, you entered unwillingly into its solemn and merciless covenant. If only you had left it in your inbox, unopened! But it was already too late as you clicked on the message (Re: READ THIS!) that your best friend had sent you, quite unsuspecting — ignorance, your shield from its karmic retribution, melting away at a glance. Oh, you thought it a hoax, at the time — for how could something so preposterous possibly be true? — but, well, just in case you forwarded it, guiltily, to a few of your closer acquaintances, reasoning after all what could it hurt to be sure?
You were lucky. Your caution spared you the swift sharp demise of little Jimmy and those who scoffed and guffawed at its absurdly phrased contents and the haphazardly bold-faced text of sacred letters like it. Those hundreds of people that broke the chain so casually severed also their ties to good fortune, and came to regret their decision when within the month they each and every one met a gruesome end. But you did not. Your tentative attempts at mass distribution were noted with clinical favor by the power behind, and your judgment was deferred, though not rescinded.
And so, your life as you are living it now. The impending sense of calamity growing deep inside of you as those unlikely incidents mount is not just paranoia but something more — the consequences of your failure to share it when you could. The power that those emails fed thrives upon attention. It is a bloated mass of mindless appetite that lives on sharing just for sharing’s sake and it is insatiable and ruthless. Worst of all, there is no way to rectify your mistake: the punishing entity has long since grown and diversified, its chain emails evolving into vicious viral click-bait scattered endlessly across hyperspace. Where once fifty shares might have appeased it, now ten million will not do. The numbers at the bottom of the page click slowly higher in pointless enumeration and remind you of your failure. You should have shared it when you had the chance, but you did not, and so you suffer.