Carl Jason had been wandering in the woods for three days when he saw the lights through the trees. He’d gone for a hike away from the camp and became disoriented. He had a knife, so he cut fir branches to cover himself at night so he didn’t freeze as he slept. He knew something about the local plants, so he at least got some small amount of nourishment.
The lights, it was near sunset and he might have missed them in full daylight. As the trees thinned and he stepped out onto a grassy field, he saw it was a complex of buildings, like a business park or something. He hoped there was still someone around. He needed to phone home. His brothers and Dad must have gotten frantic when he didn’t return to their camp.
It was an annual tradition. Carl and his brothers Mike, and Dave, all lived in different parts of the country. The only time they could be sure to reconnect with each other and Dad was during their yearly autumn camping trip.
Carl was stiff and cold. He’d tripped yesterday and collected some scrapes along with a twisted ankle. He could walk on it, but he limped and he was slow.
“Hey!” Carl saw a few people in the distance walking between two buildings. “Hey there! I need help!”
As he staggered closer to them, he saw there were two young women and a man. They stood stock still as if they had never seen another person before.
He was within a few yard of them and they were still staring. “Hey. I need help. Can you help me? I’ve been lost in those woods for three days.”
Carl collapsed on his knees at the feet of the trio.
The woman to his left, a young blond girl wearing a down jacket bent over him. “I don’t believe it. It’s one of them, here.”
Carl looked up at her. “What do you mean ‘them’? All I want is some rest, food, and water. I need to call my Dad. Let him know I’m okay.”
The woman to his right who was taller and had red hair, motioned the other two toward her and whispered something to them. Then they separated and the guy, tall, longish hair obviously dyed a deep violet, smiled at Carl.
“Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll help you out.” He offered his hand to Carl and helped him to his feet.
Carl leaned against the guy’s shoulder. “I’m Carl, Carl Jason. What’s your name.” Carl was grateful for the friendliness and discounted the group’s earlier odd behavior.
“Kenny Phillips. Pleased to meet you, Carl.”
The blond moved ahead and opened the doors to the building they’d originally been heading for.
“What sort of place is this?” Carl found himself in a hallway. It kind of reminded him of the Trade School he’d gone to after he graduated High School.
“It’s a university, an exclusive university.”
Carl turned to the red headed woman who had spoken. “Must be pretty exclusive up in these mountains. It’s got to be fifty miles to the nearest town.”
“Sixty-eight actually,” replied the redhead. The tone in her voice made it sound like she thought Carl had said something stupid.
Kenny guided Carl into a room. It looked like a small lounge. Kenny helped Carl down onto a sofa.
“You rest here. We’ll get you something to drink.”
“I’ll get it.” The blond turned and left the room, even though there was a soda machine and coffee pot on the counter to Carl’s right.
Carl looked up at Kenny who was standing over the hiker, appraising him. “Do either of you have a cell phone? I’d really like to call my Dad and brothers and let them know I’m okay. By the way, where am I?”
“We’ll take care of everything soon, Carl. Just relax.” The redhead was starting to give Carl the creeps. So was Kenny for that matter. There was something “off” about them both.
The blond returned with a cup that looked like it had coffee. “Hope you don’t take anything in it.” She handed it to Carl.
“Black’s just fine. Thanks.” He took it. His hand was shaking. He gingerly took a sip to test the temperature, then took several more.
“Thanks, now if you could…” The room started to spin and Carl dropped the cup of coffee. The three university students stood there not reacting. The lights grew dim and then everything went black.
Carl woke up with a headache, a full bladder, and a slight feeling of nausea. He opened his eyes and his vision was blurry for a few seconds. He felt cold. His clothes were different.
Finally, he could see. He was strapped to a chair and couldn’t move. A large screen TV was in front of him. He was in a different room, but his head had been immobilized like the rest of his body, and he couldn’t look around.
“What’s going on? What the hell have you done to me?”
“Typical toxic male. Certainly not ally material.”
“Now don’t be so discouraging, Shawna. He hasn’t been properly conditioned yet.” Just out of the corner of his eye, he could see Kenny talking to the redhead, to Shawna.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Carl was beginning to panic. He could feel a small amount of urine wet his pants, he felt like he was wearing shorts and maybe a vest. There was something around his throat.
“Listen, Carl.” The blond had leaned down toward his left ear while Kenny and Shawna were at his right. “You are a toxic male dog from a misogynistic, partiarchal, racist, homophobic society. We came up here to get away from your kind, but since you wandered onto our campus, we’re going to have to indoctrinate you. See if we can turn you into something civilized.”
She stood up and walked away from Carl a few steps. “Turn on the video, Kenny.”
Kenny pulled a remote from his pocket and aimed it at the TV. “This should really help clear your head, Carl.”
“It certainly helped our little Kenny quite a bit, didn’t it?”
“Carol, let it be.” Kenny seemed annoyed at the blond’s, at Carol’s teasing.
“I’m just saying that all males are born toxic and then made worse by being raised in a patriarchal culture. All men need to be purged. Some more than overs.”
Then Carol bent down over Carl again. “Isn’t that right, Carl?”
The TV came on. The title of the film was The Mask You Wear. It was the most benign of the tapes the three would force him to watch over the next twelve hours.
Carl had wet his thin shorts several times. Then, when he was completely exhausted, they released him from his bonds. He was too weak to fight back. The thing around his neck was a collar. Shawna attached a chain to it and took him for walks in front of the whole student body the next day. Everybody had fun playing with the dog.
I read an article called Students told term “be a man” represents toxic masculinity. It’s the story of Gettysburg College freshmen being lectured by campus leaders about “toxic masculinity.” It’s a form of social indoctrination, much safer than my wee fictional tale, although the YouTube link I inserted in the story is a trailer from the movie these young men were compelled to watch.
I posted the story to Facebook which attracted the attention of what is sometimes called a “Social Justice Warrior” who is attempting to convince me that men and women have identical, interchangeable roles in society and in their families. This is something I disagree with, and I also disagree that simply being born male automatically makes you bad.
I injected some stereotypes into my story and grossly exaggerated human hostility in order to make a point. Carl, his brothers, and his Dad like to have an annual “male bonding” camp out. There’s nothing wrong with that, but by his clothes and the knife that was on Carl, he was identified as a “toxic male” by the isolationist students who have withdrawn from society to form their own enclave.
I’ve sometimes written stories about people isolating themselves from the surrounding culture for one reason or another, but it’s usually conservatives trying to escape progressivism. I’m not saying progressives are sadistic as I’ve depicted Kenny, Shawna, and Carol, but there is a very short line from being victim to oppressor.
Yes, I know this story will probably draw some criticism. It’s fiction and tales from the dystopia.
Oh, I found the image at the top of the page on YouTube.