Newspapers fell to the floor as he tapped away at the keyboard, his fingers gliding across the keys while his eyes remained locked on the screen to what many mothers would agree was an unhealthy degree.
They darted back and forth at times as windows were opened and software booted, but they remained fix on the screen – rarely pausing to blink – robotic and uncanny when paired with his mouth left hanging ajar.
The fluttering of the newspapers as they fell to the floor did nothing to break his concentration. Not only was Jason on quite the mission at the moment, but the sound of newspapers landing on top of piles of other newspapers isn’t a particularly jarring one.
Ignoring the sound and mostly uncertain that he had even heard one to begin with, he shot one more quick glance up at the calendar, nailed to the tacky wooden wall of his basement-level apartment. It depicted SPORTS LEGENDS OF THE 1980s IN FULL COLOR, according to the cover. The third of the month was circled in cliche red ink with “Harvest, CA” written in the box in Jason’s handwriting. Just above that box was a photo of Keith Hernandez, who was March’s legend, evidently.
Jason didn’t know who Keith Hernandez was, nor did he particularly care. The calendar had come from the thrift store that shared a parking lot with his apartment in Madison, Wisconsin and was dated 1985. It had cost $0.22.
What he cared more about was making a quick, but laborious purchase without a remote possibility of anyone knowing he was doing it.
That – the lattermost portion of the above sentence – was primarily why he was in the midst of firing up his VPN and double, then triple checking its connection, and then doing the things that you need to connect to the Dark Web, the instructions for which certain authors are too lazy to look up.
He navigated – via standard Dark Web navigation methods – to the silk road, where he had planned to make said quick purchase. Unlike the good majority of the individuals who go down this route, Jason hadn’t come to purchase a human body part, social security number, or mass of potentially dangerous explosives/drugs. This was his sixth time on the Dark Web, and he was remarkably nervous about accessing it. He scrolled past the hearts, the lungs and a large array of very differently shaped and size penises, pausing for just a moment to marvel, before he finally reached his destination: the domains.
Sweet, sweet top level domains.
And not just any top level domains. What he had come for were the .edus – in this case, HarvestColllege.edu. Dot-Edus were the top of the top level – perhaps second to .govs – the precipice of SEO and authority, the nectar coursing through a bee and the cocaine coursing through a financial advisor. And HarvestColllege.edu was quite the goldmine. Unavailable to the general public, .edus were reserved for, unsurprisingly, institutes of higher education.
But there was no verification process and no accreditation on the dark web, nor any sort of reservation system.
It was important to note – whether you chose to do so or not – that there were, in fact, three L’s in the domain name purchased and used for the entire four year existence of Harvest College. The domain had been acquired via a typo by the college’s secretary, who was also the Dean’s uncle Mack, and was deemed “not worth the price” to change.
The financial shortcomings meant Harvest College stood out as an easy target for the likes of Jason. And Uncle Mack’s bulbous fingers meant it was very unlikely that anyone would want to buy their domain back. It was the perfect, boat-rocking storm of technological incompetence and oversaturation of higher education that Jason hoped would tip and spill its contents into the ocean, where the important folks would drown and he’d be there to scoop up the valuable flotsam.
To make things simple, the plot – Jason’s plot that Harvest College and Uncle Mack unwillingly participated in – was as simple as it was genius. He waited for a university to go under for one reason or another – a buyout, a merger, or closure due to lack of attendance/aggressive bird flu – and would purchase the then-expired domain once the grace period ended.
The domain would allow Jason to get a .edu email address. He figured he’d do Sam@Harvestcolllege.edu, to be safe. And once he got full, unbridled .edu access, he’d be sitting on a goldmine of discounts. Spotify Premium, Amazon Prime Student – the possibilities and payoff were mildly endless.
It was a small-time con, but Jason was a small-time con man. Actually, he wasn’t even a con man, he was barely a man at all. He was 19 years old and occupied the basement of the home his grandmother had lived in until she had stopped living entirely.
He wondered if maybe he could use this domain to somehow whip up a fake degree. Herpetology, maybe. That sounded interesting. He made a mental note to look it up what it meant later.
A few clicks and a Bitcoin transaction later, James was the proud owner of HarvestColllege.edu. A few more clicks and he was likewise the owner of Sammy@HarvestColllege.edu.
And, with just a few more clicks he was receiving discounts left and right. Forty percent off Amazon Prime Student! Five percent off all Apple purchases for life! Marginally cheaper Brewers tickets on certain nights!
Jason leaned back in his chair. His job was done. The job was done. And now he was set with discounts for life – 90-year herpetology degree at a non-existent college be damned, Jason had beat the system.
Jason’s home was raided by police 8 days later, and police found six human penises in his freezer. He is currently serving 3 years in prison. His Spotify Premium account remains active.