I was walking through downtown Liverpool recently when it occurred to me just how quiet the city was. The familiar hum of the traffic had given way to..well, nothing. I couldn't even hear the birds, there was not a pigeon to be seen. The normally bustling metropolis was seemingly empty, and I pondered on what could be the cause. A cursory scan revealed not even a single Wireless Access Point, let alone one which was unencrypted.
When I left the local hospital that morning I simply hadn't noticed and the sensation of this realisation was most eery indeed. I had been admitted for an operation on a stomach ulcer, the cause of which the consultant was still trying to determine. The operation required a general anaesthetic, and I recall only the moments prior to my going under. When I awoke I found myself connected to a ventilator, itself without power. Deducing that perhaps I ought not be connected to a ventilator, I scanned the room for a time signature of some kind. A clock on the wall had stopped ticking, presumably powered by Alternating Current (AC). An interesting aside is that their power system here is based on a frequency of 50Hz, and not the 60 Hz that is used in the region of North America.
Finding my chinos tucked away neatly in the bedside wardrobe, I donned my original attire and set out to investigate. The hospital was quiet - very quiet. It was as if there were no-one there. This struck me as odd, because hospitals are usually busy. I know - I've been inside a lot of hospitals. As I walked down the deserted corridors, a kind of unreality was surrounding me. Out of the windows I could see only the empty main road and various clues that the city was asleep. I vacated the building, wondering just what could have happened. Walking down that road I could hear only the wind, blowing a steady breeze.
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
And so here I was in the middle of the City centre. I wondered if society really could come to such a screeching, grinding halt that I wouldn't be able to get a coffee, and went inside the nearby mall. The stench of rotten meat was strong, and it was quite dark inside. It slowly dawned on me that the objects which were brushing against the turn-ups on my chinos were explainable and real. They were corpses. In the dim light I could see the strewn, decomposing remnants of many individuals.
Then movement. That was the most disturbing thing - out of nowhere, a silhouette moved. It was a human form, stooped over one of the bodies. After my initial fright, I was actually pleased to see another person at all.
'Excuse me friend, are there any functioning coffee shops nearby? Perhaps one with a wireless hotspot?'
The figure turned around, startled. My heart was pounding. He looked at me for quite a while. I couldn't discern much at that point. And then he screamed. Hard. A piercing, stinging shriek. I immediately lost bladder control, and it pains me to say I did emit a small amount of urine at that moment. I still find it puzzling that my strongest memory of that point in time was a deeply-seated annoyance that I would have soiled my chinos.
Then he charged at me. It was fight or flight. I flew. I ran as fast I possibly could, straight out of the mall, grateful for the flexible properties of my trouser material. But, what in hells teeth was happening? Why did I have a madman chasing and screaming at me? Such rage and yet all I had done was ask a simple question. And he wouldn't let up. He was determined to catch me. I thought he'd get bored, I thought I could lose him but spurt for spurt, he matched me in athletic prowess. I pushed and pushed and pushed, but still he gained on me. Eventually I had to ease off - I was close to having a heart attack. And still he was behind me.
As I hit the deck I could feel his cold hands around my waist. Hitting the ground hard didn't seem to hurt so much - I think it was the adrenaline - and I braced appropriately. I tried to kick him off me but to my extreme horror he buried his face into my stomach and ripped a chunk of my flesh clean away. I was stunned. I felt violated. More violated than merely having another man so close to my intimate regions - I had literally been eaten by another man.
And then the pain. It seared through me as I watched my own blood trickle down his chin - my own flesh hanging out of his mouth like a happy crow with its carrion, and this pain helped me find the energy to resist some more. How could it come to this?
It was the Rage virus. My distant girlfriend figure - Juanita - has previously studied the so-called 'Rage' virus as part of her Women's Studies degree. I remember helping her with 'Gender Issues and Pandemic Behaviourally-maladaptive Contagions' as part of her second year syllabus. And I remembered that there was no cure. The individual who was currently trying to eat me was one of 'the infected' and I was to join him in this fate.
'GO TAKE A FLYING FUCK TO THE MOON, BUDDY.'
The infected turned straight around and I looked on in disbelief, relieved to no longer have someone feasting upon me. The saint who had appeared in my hour of need wore brown loafers, and from my prone, laying position my gaze ran up his body and I discerned white chinos...a comfortable, checked-shirt which seemed to be 100% cotton...and a very fine looking Panama hat indeed. He was holding a MacBook (opened), with his DVD drive facing my assailant. I just froze up.
Total Eclipse Of The Heart
He seemed to take aim with his MacBook, and then in one loud 'clack', a DVD flew out at the speed of a bullet. The disc embedded itself into the infected's neck, nearly completely decapitating him. The infected was dead on the ground before the MacBook had even finished the customary grinding noise of it's tray-less ejection mechanism. A most outstanding development indeed.
Once more I emitted a small amount of urine, though this time I was past caring. My stomach was really beginning to hurt now.
'You're a long way from home, Brother. Now answer me truthfully, did that man bite you?'
Realising the dynamic at hand here, I thought I wanted to hide the fact I had been bitten. But when I looked into this mans eyes, I knew I could hide nothing from his constant and true gaze.
'Yes Brother. He struck me in the abdomen and you must now leave or kill me. Ogg bless you for avenging me, please, take my , take it, share it wherever you can.'
I kept my hands over my stomach, braced for the unknown. I remembered that Juanita had told me the incubation period for this virus was amazingly fast - a mere 30 seconds at most. The reader may wonder at this point whether I too succumbed to the Rage virus. I am happy to report that thanks to a potent cocktail of anti-psychotics - Zyprexa (150 mg), Thorazine (275 mg), Haldol (90 mg), Risperdal (180 mg) and Abilify(500 mg) - I discovered that I would not share the fate of those who are infected, although I was now a carrier of the virus.
My new-found companion chose not to kill me.
'For someone who has just been infected, you look remarkably well Brother love. Your PageRank seems strong still.'
I explained to him why I suspected I had survived, and we introduced ourselves properly. The man's name was Michael Crawford.
'The actor and operatic performer Michael Crawford?' I enquired.
'No, Brother, I walk in his shadow on a separate path, illuminated by a different candle.'
We talked for a long time, and it seemed that we had much in common. This day had been an exhaustive series of highs and lows, and on the one hand I had been attacked and bitten and infected, and on the other not only should I be rescued but I was rescued by a man of such uncommonly good taste. But what had happened? My saviour was as keen to know me as I him and we exchanged our common experiences as the sun set on a very long day.
We struck camp in a park, on the outskirts of Liverpool, having walked a great distance. The time I spent with him seemed to fly, and we started a bonfire. He offered me a latté from an aluminium vacuum flask, and words cannot convey how delicious it tasted. He tended my wounds carefully and gently, possessed of an excellent first aid knowledge.
'Your chinos are dirty. Please take a pair from me, I shan't take 'no' for an answer.'
And from his attaché-sized briefcase, he removed his MacBook and from underneath produced a crisp, clean pair of white chino trousers. Suddenly feeling close to nervous exhaustion, I wept and hugged this dear sweet man.
'You are free Brother, it's OK. I am by your side, for I sense that it may not be chance that our paths should cross. Now tell me, how is it you have survived so far? Everyone I know has passed away unto the guardianship of Ogg and yet you seem to have remained safe.'
'I know not. I awoke in the hospital, connected to a ventilator. I had just gone in for a stomach operation. Everyone was gone. I don't know how long I was unconscious.'
'Do you know what today's date is?'
'No. When I went in it was the 2nd of June.'
'Well, I must inform you both that today is the 30th of June and that a great deal has changed Brother. Some very unfortunate developments have occurred during your absence from society. As you are aware, this Rage virus has consumed the country. It is now survival of the fittest. The music's over. And I hadn't even finished OggFrog.'
'OggFrog? What is an OggFrog?'
He looked at me squarely, his crystal gaze once more piercing through to my very soul and framed in the noble lines of his Panama, and then he told me what OggFrog was. I was blown away.
'OggFrog is freedom. OggFrog is the future. It is the fusion of truly free file formats with the pinnacle of UI design - a compelling synergy. It is very nearly ready for pre-alpha.'
Then his PageRank dimmed a little, and I was moved by his heartfelt sadness.
'Of course, it doesn't matter now. That all changed with the virus. I never want to dance again. My guilty feet have got no rhythm. I suppose all I can do is steal moments - when danger will permit - to remember the music. Might I play for you Brother?'
'If you'll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal and I would dearly like to hear the music which has brought meaning to your life, for after all that has happened today it would soothe me greatly.'
He fired up his MacBook, and as he went about his preparations, I asked him about his lethal DVD drive.
'What manner of DVD drive is blessed such that it could it could decapitate a person? I've heard of 'SuperDrive' Brother Michael, but that is something else altogether ! '
'A salient question friend. It's a little modification of my own design although I fear my AppleCare warranty will not be honoured, should we ever make it to the other side of this mess. It became a necessary adaptation - the infected are everywhere - I guess you could say it runs headless ! '
'Well, 'they' - the infected - do actually, but 'it' - the MacBook - in fact does not run headless because the glossy display is still present.' he added parenthetically, ever-meticulous.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
'As well as a worthy hardware engineer, I see you are also a man of impeccable wit Brother Michael.'
'You are too kind. It pleases me that you should refer to it as my 'wit' - during my stay here I have had far too many opportunities to sample the English 'humour' close-up, something altogether different from the more noble French tradition of 'wit'.'
'I am in full agreement with you Brother Michael. Although they will ascend one day, we must leave them behind culturally and evolutionarily for some time yet.'
'Concurrance. I will perform for you using GarageBand.'
'An excellent choice, Brother Michael. I have found it to be of great utility myself.'
He opened an application called 'GarageBand', which Apple supplies with its operating system, OS/X. GarageBand comes with a large library of sounds, enabling musicians such as myself to make music.
'This composition is entitled 'Emergence'. It is derived from what I consider to be the common PageRank of humanity.'
I can report that the sky at night here takes on a very different form when free of the usually overpowering levels of light pollution this city produces under normal circumstances. Bathed in the contrasting glows of bonfire and MacBook, under a pitch-black sky, Michael Crawford performed for me that night and opened my eyes to the true beauty of . He reminded me of what was important, and I took great solace from his gentle wisdom. This poor wayfaring stranger was my constant companion in uncertain times, and it was a privilege to be in his company.
'Your composition has enriched and humbled me greatly Brother Michael. I would be honoured should you allow me to perform for yourself.'
'All music is free truly Brother love, I wish only to nurture it wherever it occurs, whether it resides in the equations of love or in the tears of a child who has learned of death for the first time in its life. Please, perform for me.'
'My gift to you is 'Recursion', Brother Michael. It is composed of-'
'Forgive my interruption Brother, but did you say 'Recursion' ?'
'Yes Brother Michael, why, have you heard it?'
'Then perhaps the prophecies are true.'
'At the dawn of the age,
Of mans consumption with rage,
The chosen one will speak many times over,
In but one instant,
His words similar, but different,
Heard by the distant,
Who heed as heard.
A sun shall rise.
A son shall fall.'
'How does this relate to myself, Brother Michael?'
'I believe 'Recursion' may prove to be more than you estimate it to be, but I cannot be certain. I'm tired now, and I believe you must be too. You must have had a lot to take in today.'
'Of that I am certain, but tell me, where did you learn of these prophecies?'
'On a Zoolib forum. The PageRank led me to them.'
He put his warm, soft palm on my arm and focussed his commanding gaze once more upon me.
'If I should be infected Brother, you must kill me no matter how tender or heartfelt your feelings for me. I would not hesitate to kill you were you to show the same symptoms as the other infected.'
'It shall be so Brother Michael.'
'Now curl beside me - we must conserve body heat.'
My savant's warm embrace gave me a few snatched hours of comfort and safety, though I could not help but reflect on how amused Juanita would be if she saw me sleeping like a baby, in the arms of another man! As I drifted off I watched the bonfire die out and tried to ignore his sizeable, horsecock-like erection.
I awoke the following morning to the smell of the previous night's bonfire. He was gone, although he had left his belongings by the fire, and I also noticed a note. Drowsy, I stumbled through it:
'Gone to get muffins, Mike.'
'And muffins I found Brother!'
Michael Crawford was stood behind me, grinning from ear to ear. I hadn't heard his approach because he was a very skilled man and it so happened that fieldcraft was one of the many feathers to this gifted mans' bow.
'I have no time for tardiness. I don't live a sloppy life and I don't write sloppy code. Once, at work, I said 'When I talk to those guys about how to write better code I have the sense that their experience of me is like going to church.' They questioned me - they said 'Many people go to church. How many are without sin?' And I said 'But I didn't learn to preach because I studied at the seminary. It's because I was a derelict on skid row until I was saved by...... smart pointers and automated testing.'
Enthralled by his eloquence of expression and the purity of his software development paradigm, I was about to ask how he managed to live his life according to such ambitious and demanding strictures, but Ogg giveth, and Ogg taketh.
I froze with horror - an infected had found us and was charging at great speed. Michael still had his back to the man and I ducked down and rolled towards his MacBook. I fired it up - OS/X standby/resume functions are fast - and Finder indicated that the DVD bay was loaded. I aimed and hit F12 as fast as I could.
'Geerrreeerndiguk'. The MacBook recoiled violently.
The disc had cut deep into the arm of the infected, but it didn't take him down. His charge continued unabated. A small pipe of DVDs was in Michael's briefcase and I dived towards it and groped for a disc. By this point Michael had turned around but the infected was bearing upon him with great speed.
Unflinchingly, Michael stood his ground and raised his palm to the raging man. Serenely, with a composure that was undeterred by fear, I believe he had searched deep within his psyche and was channelling his PageRank at the infected. A beam of intense light shot out of his palm, cutting cleanly through the infected's remaining arm like a knife through butter. It flopped unceremoniously to the ground, but still the infected charged forwards, wailing wildly. Michael turned around to evacuate the immediate vicinity and at that point I had to concentrate on reloading the MacBook. I heard them both drop to the floor, with a small, restrained groan from Michael.
'Jagerrrdiguk. Brrr. Brrr. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr-rrr-rrrr-rrrr-rrr.....'
The disc was mounted.
'Stay down Michael' I shouted.
'Third time's a charm' I hoped to myself, and I preyed to Ogg that my aim would hold true this time.
Ogg had answered my cry, and I had effected a headshot upon the infected.
'Geerrreeerndiguk'. The MacBook recoiled violently again.
As Michael struggled to push the headless torso off of his body, my worst fears were confirmed. He had been bitten.
'My PageRank is.....fading, I must speak quickly Brother. Finish OggFrog for me. Tell Bonita I love her dearly...now...'
He gripped my arm once more.
'You know what you must do. Do it, Brother, do it now. I forgive you.'
He smiled at me.
'I'll see you on the other side, Brother love.'
'Be still Brother Michael, I will do as you ask.'
He started writhing. My heart sank as the certainty dawned upon me. On a clear June morning in the middle of a deserted park, I stoved in the head of the gentlest person the world has ever known with a sizeable chunk of damaged masonry and a sorrowful tear running down my cheek. His legs jerked reflexively, and I cried inconsolably as the blood slowly soaked through his chinos, which would no longer be afforded the graceful motion.
'I'll see you on the other side Brother Michael. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, it would seem.'
The Final Countdown
All searches for wireless access points of any kind had so far proved fruitless, but I was determined to try and get the word out to the authorities about what had happened here. Without Michael's guidance and reassurance I felt so alone and uncertain. Web 2.0 had never seemed more distant as I hit reload on Safari - a browser supplied with OS/X - only to be told I was not connected to the Internet. I knew I needed to think outside of the box to solve this communications impasse. If I could have accessed the Internet, I could have drawn deeply from the latent PageRank of the blogosphere, connected with like-minded individuals and warned mankind of impending doom.
I wondered whether anyone - or anything - at the local police station could be of use in establishing communications with the outside world. I reasoned that it was in all likelihood deserted, and if I remembered correctly, wasn't too far away. I set course without delay, taking care to present a minimal attack surface at all times, working methodically through the street plan. I kept Michael's MacBook loaded and ready, and Ogg was kinder to me that morning. On my way I raided a shop for provisions - mineral water and bagels - always taking care not to be detected.
I found the police station to be abandoned, much as the rest of the city. It appeared to have been reinforced by a military presence at some time in recent history - there were sandbags piled to form an outpost by the entrance, although there were no weapons left anywhere. Or bodies even. Inside the entrance I could see only darkness, and I stole myself to take my chances inside.
In one corner of the public waiting area a small emergency light was still in working order, providing a small glimmer. As my eyes adjusted, I could discern a long bar of some sorts - I imagined it would be where the police officers would stand and deal with the public under more normal circumstances. To the right, a corridor, again lit by an emergency light. So far I had seen no-one there, and I crept slowly up the corridor. After following it for a distance I could see the cells. All of them were unlocked, and much like the rest of the station, were uninhabited. After the cells, I found myself standing in another large area, and there were several rooms leading off from that.
There were no emergency lights working in this area of the police station, so I opened the lid on my MacBook and used it as torch. I wanted to conserve the power in Micheal's modded MacBook because I wasn't to know when I would need the services of it's tricked out DVD drive next.
'Oh Michael, why now?' I wondered to myself. Overtaken with sentimentality, I picked up his MacBook and held it close to me. I could still smell his gentle Old Spice musk, and his words washed over me once more.
'The chosen one will speak many times over,
In but one instant,
His words similar, but different,
Heard by the distant,
Who heed as heard.'
What did Michael mean?
I searched the first room. It was small and I could make out a sink - it might have been some kind of kitchen. Nothing there. I searched the second adjoining room - it was full of helmets and batons - useful to be sure, but I was looking for CB radios and the like.
I opened the door to the third room. Score. In the room there were three CB radios and a stack of megaphones. Excited, I turned on one of the CB's. It crackled with a low-level static. I pressed 'Talk' and announced my presence.
'Is anybody receiving? I implore anyone in authority to heed my warning. The populace of Liverpool has been overtaken by a behaviourally-maladaptive contagion, but there are survivors. Anybody, please respond, over.'
Great. Tired and dejected, Michael's words washed over me once more.
'I believe 'Recursion' may prove to be more than you estimate it to be, but I cannot be certain...'
What did he mean? Certainly, it had proved to be most versatile composition in my recent history, having guided a lost whale and made peace with Emo kids on two distinctly-seperate occasions previously.
'The chosen one will speak many times over,
In but one instant....'
'The chosen one will speak many times over,
In but one instant....'
Stood in a daydream, Michael's obtuse words gave me vital inspiration just as I was about to throw the towel in. The megaphones would prove to be instrumental. They were what he meant! And 'Recursion' ?
It all made sense. When she studied her 'Gender Issues and Behaviourally-maladaptive Contagions' course, Juanita wouldn't let me practice Recursion in her company. This may seem baffling to the reader, but in fact she had sound reasons for doing so. She had nearly failed an assignment previously because I unintentionally damaged her laboratory samples, which she had to study as homework. We would often spend many long hours working together into the night on our separate projects - I on my composition, she on her homework, incubating and studying this Rage virus at home.
I nearly cost her her assignment because of a strange freak of nature. Prior to my playing the piece, her samples would all contain high densities of the virus and her dishes would be thriving with potentially lethal cultures. However, it turned out that whenever I played Recursion in the vicinity of her samples, they would all die off. I never did get to the bottom of 'why' but we did establish that I would no longer perform around her laboratory samples.
That morning I made the connection. It was a resonant frequency. That must've been what it was. A certain resonant frequency - naturally occurring within Recursion - would destroy the virus. The delivery method?
'The chosen one will speak many times over,
In but one instant.'
Thankyou, Brother Michael. I scooped up as many megaphones as I could stack, with new-found energy and resolve. I slipped the CB radio into a spacious pocket of my chinos, and ran out of the police station keen to enact my solution.
I theorised that, using as many megaphones as possible, I could arrange them into a pyramidal formation, creating a cascading sound wave that could break down the virus. I had seen Bart Simpson perform a similar feat with megaphones in the popular TV cartoon 'The Simpsons' (although to very different ends!) and the science seemed to be sound.
There wasn't much time to lose. Despite my best efforts, it seemed I had been followed, for as soon I was back at the entrance of the police station I could see many, many infected converging on my position. Giving myself over fully to my plan - it was all or nothing - I put Michael's MacBook away and opened up my own. Waiting for it come out of standby properly, I hastily started to arrange my megaphones.
With a fearful scene of pale, blood-streaked angry bodies making its way towards me, from quite a distance, it occurred to me I had a very special audience indeed that day. I stole my resolve as best I could, remembering Michael's quiet dignity in the moment prior to his infection.
I commenced playing 'Recursion'. My fingers danced over the excessively warm keyboard of my MacBook, GarageBand responded to my touch excellently and I let forth a dazzling volley of notes.
A third of the way through. They were still charging.
Halfway. Still charging. I estimated them to be around 500 metres away and closing fast.
Two-thirds through. Would there be contact? I tried, hard, to ignore them, and concentrate on my playing.
At less than 100 metres their fearful screams yielded, and I watched them stumble over, dazed, tripping over each other and flailing on the ground. I wet myself again with relief. They writhed slowly on the ground, and appeared to pose no further threat.
I slumped on the ground, laying exhausted beside my MacBook, and thanked Ogg many times over.
My prayers were interrupted by a crackle on the CB. I jolted upright
'This is the Royal Canadian Air Force. Is anyone receiving? Over.'
I fumbled for the radio and responded.
'Yes, Brothers, you are being received. I bring you happy tidings from the City of Liverpool. I have a cure for the infection, it is imperative you land here so I can show you how free music...'
'Free music? What's that all aboot then? Over.'
'Heh, all in good time Brother....'
That morning I was evacuated by Royal Canadian Air Force, and I had never been happier to leave Liverpool behind me. I recommended to them that they should aerially bombard Britain using Recursion and some form of enhanced P.A. system, and I remember the tears of laughter, sat in the back of the helicopter, as I told my immaculately-dressed kinsmen of my unlikely exploits.
It is said that Paul Simon considers to 'Graceland' to be his finest song ever. I beg to differ. As I write this now, I do so in Vancouver, in the heavenly confines of a coffee-shop. They do such nice coffee, and they make transcendent cheesecake - the finest I have ever tasted. Lastly, I must note that their musical choice is beyond reproach. The hairs on my back are stood on end, and rightfully so, for in the background I can hear I consider to be the true nadir of Paul Simon's output - 'Call Me Al' - from his seminal 1986 album 'Graceland'.
Beside me sits a muffin that will never be eaten. It is dedicated to Michael Crawford.
I never did get round to finishing OggFrog.