Short Stories


The Netwerk

underneath the stairwell smicko

Artwork: James Petherbrid

 

(This short story was printed in Unbelievably Bad #16)

In the dream, I have long hair and I am at the bottom of an escalator. My hair is caught in the escelator’s steel teeth and they are slowly ripping the hair from my head and people are walking around me pissed off at the obstacle I present. I wake up and run for the dunny. As I pass the fridge I grab a can of Reschs and scull half of it before I bang my shins into porcelain. I count to 47 while pissing in the darkness. Then I get undressed, step in the shower and finish off the beer as the hot water washes all the toxins and hate from my weary body.

Every morning it’s the same thing; I curse my stupidity for not grabbing another beer, then I think about taking a shit. There is no use of course, methadone has bunged me up so that I only shit once every few days and that is only because I am a heavy drinker. The fucking liquid handcuffs. I look down at the drain hole for a while then turn the attention to my prick. How long has it been? That is one side effect that I can live with; the complete loss of libido. I never fully appreciated how much my life was controlled by that imperious urge – how everything I did was to fulfil its demands. Methadone is life in stasis, I have resigned from nature.

Then I turn off the shower, half dry myself in the rush to the fridge and crack another can. It’s very cold and the back of my throat freezes with pleasure as I pour it down. I put on the kettle and by the time it whistles I have rolled and sparked up a two paper. Then I sit down at the desk with a cup of Earl Grey and finish off the joint.

Silk Road

This is drug dealing in the 21st century; I plug in a USB then hard-boot The Amnesiac Incognito Live System and log onto the darknet via The Onion Router. The neighbours have no idea that I have hacked their Wi-Fi using Reaver and that I am using it to sell drugs. I have vendor accounts on Silk Road, The Marketplace and Agora Market. I check each one for orders and transfer the customer’s bitcoins to my wallet. Then I save the addresses and order details onto an encrypted external hard drive, un-plug The Amnesiac Incognito Live System and log onto the clearnet using my own connection. As I bounce between Facebook and news.com.au, I print out the address labels from the encrypted drive. I have a Tupperware container in my drawer and I take it out and pop off the lid. It is filled with vac-sealed Mylar packets with measurements written on the front in texta. One. Point-five. Point-two-five.

I fulfil all the orders, slap on the corresponding address labels and seal them off. Seventeen orders for twelve grams of 84% Sassafras oil MDMA. My window that looks out onto the street is dark as summer storm clouds have blocked out the sun. Trees are bending savagely and it looks like the end of the world out there. Then I hear my phone vibrating over on the computer desk. I walk over and spin it around. It’s fucking Smicko.

>urgent Netwerk meeting!!! attendance mandatory severe penalties apply for lateness or non-attendance!!! 10am @ the Netwerk

That’s the morning ruined. The prick is a dead-set psychopath and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if his message is just a ruse to catch out latecomers or no-shows in order to inflict his special brand of rough justice. I should probably clarify; Smicko is my boss and The Netwerk is the dealing enterprise I work for. He is what you call a conventional dealer; contacts with organised crime and all that ugly stuff. Including myself, The Netwerk has four other employees and we each specialise in one product and keep the transactions domestic mail only – no need to worry about customs that way. Smicko takes a percentage of our sales, transferred directly into his bitcoin wallet.

He insists upon perfect vendor feedback, impeccable stealth for shipments and flawless operational security. If I lived anywhere but Australia I wouldn’t need Smicko and would be completely independent. But this is Sydney and international postal drug orders via the darknet have a way of not being sent or getting snatched by customs which makes it difficult to maintain a consistent supply. So in that regard, Smicko is necessary and he also acts as a buffer between myself and the animals involved in organised crime. I have never understood why people idolise gangsters; they are the worst type of capitalists in existence – the ones who use terror and force to get what they want.

I don’t have time to waste, so I finish off my tea and head out the door. The wind is spiralling garbage and leaves into tiny tornadoes and it rushes out of the side streets on Enmore Road like a freight train. I cross to the side that Garden Court Clinic is on and get in step behind a high-panted peach. A few years ago she would have ruined my day as I contemplated the injustice of a generation chasm and my lack of facial hair that vetoed any possible connection. Now, thanks to the liquid handcuffs I couldn’t give a fuck about her or anything else for that matter. I push open the door to the clinic. There is no line up and Ms Lau buzzes me through the security door.

“How you today?” She asks as she adjusts the dispenser level.

Someone has carved the word ‘cunt’ into the wood counter top with an arrow pointing inwards.

“Much better now that I’m lookin at your beautiful face, Betty.”

She smiles and hands me the sickly sweet syrup in a little plastic cup and I toss it down my throat. Who would’ve thought that the Ludivico technique would taste so sweet?

Outside again, I turn right up Enmore Road, cut through the Newtown Professional Centre, jay walk across King Street and shove open the doors to the Town Hall Bottle-O. I buy two longnecks of Reschs to kick in the dose and get the fuck out of there. I scull-walk down the street and am finishing off the second longy as I turn into Knight Street. I pound at the door to Smicko’s warehouse and he buzzes me in.

Smicko is pacing like a caged tiger with a gutful of bad speed. He looks at his watch and sucks at his front teeth, “cuttin it close, mate, cuttin it fuckin close.”

As usual the place is a bloody sauna with hidden heaters slow cooking everything within the walls.

“So what’s the occasion?” I ask.

“All in good time, mate, just waitin fa one larst straggler.” He hisses through clenched teeth.

I feel sick at his answer, it looks like he has been up for days and is in one of his sadistic moods.

He has on his favourite Frangipani sarong and the jail tatts that cover his torso and arms make his pasty white skin look sickly and opaque. Garish gold chains hang from his neck and wrist and he has the requisite mug-lair gold sovereign rings on most of his fingers. His small, close together eyes impart a subnormal disposition, but his intelligence is predatory and cunning. I sit down next to Cheese Burger (cocaine). On my right is Tone (heroin) who looks like he has let his habit get the better of him, which is exactly why I put my hand up for selling MDMA. Sitting next to Smicko’s empty seat is the token sycophant of our crew, Heinz (ice), so-called because he gets around with a can of baked beans in a shopping bag as an improvised weapon.

On the other side of the table is Joyce, Smicko’s Thai wife, it looks like she has been up for the bender as well. As usual, she is smoking a Marlboro and her eyes peer out from the thickly painted divots that pass as her eye sockets. She does just as much ice as Smicko but her body betrays none of the usual signs as it manifests solely in her savage temperament.  She looks as calm as a Hindu cow as she surveys us with sneaky eyes.

“Ullo, Dean.” She says and the evil stench from her rotten teeth reaches me across the table; years of chain smoking Marlboros and the dry rot of ice-mouth has left her gob a fetid sewer.

It’s not much to ask really, put up with Smicko and Joyce’s psychotic behaviour and be able to live a relatively straight forward life without the usual risk associated with narcotic dealing. Then the telecom goes off. Smicko looks at his watch and his mouth twists into a grin. Then he jumps up, marches over to the telecom, stabs the button and barks “Ya fuckin late, cunt!” into it. He sits back down and grinds his teeth.

Damo (weed) comes shambling up the stairs and launches into an apologetic speech before Smicko cuts him off with an upheld hand. Joyce glares at him and spits, “You lucky me not boss, Damo.” She stabs a nail at her chest, “If me boss, I cut you fuckeen arm an leg all off an tro you in bathtub of runny shit to drown.”

Smicko flashes his wife a toothless grin and pushes a bowl of grapes that is in front of him into the middle of the table.

“All members of The Netwerk are required to eat a fuckin grape.” He demands.

We do as we are told and stuff grapes into our mouths, Damo snatches half a dozen and shoves them in his mouth all at once. Tone is off in nod land and Joyce pegs a grape at him that bounces off his forehead.

“Huh?” He says, as he emerges from a deep nod.

“You boss tell you to eat grape, so eat fuckeen grape.”

“No thanks, don’t like grapes.”

Joyce stands up, “What wrong wit you – you go faggot? You eat four grape now, cunt, maybe then you not nod off on heroin an you lissen to boss!” She shoves the bowl of grapes across to him.

As I bite into mine, it tastes like I have chewed a Panadol and then my mouth goes completely numb.

“What the fuck?” I ask.

“Injected each grape with a fifth of a gram of my best coke.” Smicko says proudly.

Joyce laughs like a firecracker and I try to talk without biting my tongue off, “Why didn’t ya tell us? I would’ve swallowed it whole. ”

Smicko laughs viciously then stops abruptly and his face sharpens. “Enough bullshit, now which one a youse cunts as eard of a vendor called OzDMT?”

Heinz reaches in for another grape, “the name rings a bell, vends acacia DMT I think.”

My heart is pounding in my eardrums but I reach for another grape despite myself. Free drugs are free drugs. Smicko is in his element; this is what the cunt lives for.

“Anyone else eard a im?”

We look at each other and shake our heads.

“Well, you clueless fuckwits might know nuffink about im but e sure knows about us.” Smicko starts handing around printouts.

The second grape was a mistake; the left hand side of my face is completely numb and despite the ‘done and beer, I am starting to get paranoid. I accept the sheet of paper and have a read, there is an email printed on it.

——-

>>>ATTN NETWERK

i am trapped in the mariana web – it exists – there are entities down here – massive fucking things from deep space – we have opened a portal in darknet – they MUST not breach clearnet – this is not a joke – check my vendor profile – OzDMT.<<<

——-

underneath the stairwell dark netIt looks like the half dozen grapes have hit Damo hard. He drops his paper on the table and with his jaw grinding wildly yells, “OBVIOUSLY A FUCKIN JOKE MATE, EVERYONE KNOWS THE MARIANA WEB IS A MYTH.”

Smicko looks at him askance, “What ya yellin for mate? I’m right ere. Now naturally, I would’ve dismissed the fuckin fing without hesitation but it was sent ta my Tor Mail address, known only ta the inner circle of The Netwerk. So the question is; which one a youse cunts doxxed me?”

We look at each other and I have to remind myself to blink.

Cheese Burger leans into the table, “Makes no sense…dox ya for what end, brah? Nah…more to it I reckon…some cunt is playin games wif ya.”

Joyce screws up her face and glares at Cheese Burger, “You know all about playink game don’t you Cheese?”

I can’t tell if it’s the coke grapes or Joyce just being a tweaker cunt but there seems to be something going on between her and Cheese.

Heinz clears his voice and breaks the tension, “What is the Mariana Web anyways?”

Smicko shakes his head violently, “cunt, that is like livin in Redfern an not knowin where the Block is. Deano, you wanna fill im in?”

I pick up another grape and chew it – my mouth is completely numb anyway, “It’s all hypothetical, just a name for the deepest part of the darknet – y’know, after the Mariana Trench. There are other names for it; Virus Soup, The Fog, the Primarch System. It is the deepest layer of the darknet an no-one really knows what is down there or how to access it.”

My oration is cut short by Damo shrieking like a banshee. It looks like he is struggling with an invisible snake, then he falls to the ground writhing and kicking.

“Walter Cronkite! Walter Cronkite!” He bellows.

Joyce is up on her feet, “Wha is wrong wit cunt? Who Walter Cronkite?”

Damo starts jerking around like an amputated limb so she kicks him viciously in the ribs. Cheese Burger steps in.

“Fuckin chill, Joyce! Cunt’s obviously in coke psychosis.”

Joyce stabs a grizzled finger with a fake nail at him. “You shut you mouth, Leb cunt. I stab you in heart wit apple corer filled wit dog shit if you talk to me like that!”

Cheese Burger puts his hands up but Joyce isn’t finished.

“That right, you fuck up! Silly cunt who look like Paul Keating…no woman want to fuck wit you lookin like dat!”

Smicko claps loudly and we all turn to him, he nods at Damo, “Tone, you take care a that pussy, bring im back ta your place an get some gear inta im. The rest of ya’s find out who this OzDMT cunt is an how e got me Tor Mail address. Netwerk dismissed!” He pushes his chair out loudly.

Outside, me and Cheese Burger march up King Street eating grapes.

“What the fuck was Joyce goin orn about no woman wantin to fuck ya – where the hell did that come from?” I ask.

“Ah! Hell hath no fury.”

“She tried it on?”

Lis-sen, ya don’t tell no cunt, but yeah, she did.”

“Crazy bitch! She might tell Smicko, but turn it around.”

“He knows, brah, e was there. Those two are full swingers, invited me round on some pretext-ya know how they are. Joyce comes out lookin like a lump of gristle in lingerie with a face like a bulldog chewin a wasp and goes, ‘hallo Cheese, you wan for me to show you pussy?’, I couldn’t get out a there quick enough.”

I laugh all the way up to the Townie where Cheese Burger grinds to a halt.

“Gotta go in ere for a sec, mate.” He says.

“Date with the mechanical girlfriend?”

“Just a quick slap, feelin lucky tonight.”

I leave him to his secondary addiction as I stride home to indulge mine.

For the next week I only leave my apartment to mail out orders and get dosed. I spend the days smoking dope and playing Battlefield 4 online. I looked into OzDMT, seems he was a legit vendor on Silk Road selling Acacia extracted DMT freebase and Changa. Probably made it himself. His account has been inactive for over a week which could mean anything – including a bust. One let up in op-sec and you left yourself wide open for a visit from the AFP.

I am waiting for another map to load on BF4 when my phone starts vibrating. It’s Cheese Burger.

“Come meet me we gotta talk about some heavy shit.”

“Can’t ya tell me over the phone?”

Lis-sen! This is heavy.

I’m a red cunt hair away from stir crazy so it’s a good excuse as any for me to get out of the fucking flat, “Righto, are ya at the pokies at the Townie.”

“Nah, mate.”

“Pokies at the Shakie?”

“I’m not fuckin gamblin, cunt! I’m at Ching Yip’s in Haymarket.”

“Fuck’s that – some Bing Lee shit?”

“Yeah, nah, coffee shop. Second floor a Dixon House Arcade in Haymarket.”

underneath the stairwell ching yipThe design and decor of Dixon House Arcade is straight out of the 80s. I get the escalator up to the second floor where all the shops are; Chinese medicine practitioners, travel agents and massage parlours. I am fully expecting some sort of bullshit coke drama as I walk into Ching Yip’s Coffee Lounge. Cheese Burger is sitting at a table by the window.

“This ya latest hang out, mate?” I ask as I sit down.

Lis-sen, this is as hidden away as it gets.”

“Who ya hidin from?”

The waitress comes and stands at our table with a notepad and pen in hand.

“Two Hong Kong tea, please.” Cheese holds up two fingers and she walks off.

“So…” I ask.

Cheese leans across the table, “Bro, ya not gunna believe this, but I bin talkin ta OzDMT.”

I shrug my shoulders. “Didja arsk im how e got Smicko’s Tor Mail?”

“Who gives a shit about that cunt.” He pulls a piece of torn off newspaper from his pocket and smooths it out on the table top. “Read this.”

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Internet drug dealer found dead in flat.

Redfern: Marcus Hay was not known to police, yet he was one of the largest dealers of the hallucinogenic drug DMT in Australia. Marcus represented a new breed of drug dealer, those who operate on the so-called ‘darknet’ – a shady online world that exists below the ‘clearnet’ and is a haven for arms dealers, paedophiles, drug dealers and terrorists. It is a world that is proving shockingly difficult for police to infiltrate and if it hadn’t been for Marcus’ death last Tuesday, his involvement in this illicit world would have been unknown. He died from a massive heart attack. A large quantity of DMT was found on the premises. AFP

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I slide the clipping back to Cheese Burger.

“So e’s dead an someone’s impersonatin im?”

“No-one’s impersonatin no-one, I bin talkin ta OzDMT – Marcus Hay.”

Coke psychosis, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Lis-sen, I know what ya thinkin, but I tell ya, e is just as real as me or you sittin ere, cept e is in the darknet now.”

The waitress comes with our tea. I take a sip, it is very fucking milky.

“So…how ave ya bin communicatin with im?” I ask, more to humour him than anything.

“Tor Mail – e responds ta all me queries.” Cheese withdraws a paper fold from his wallet and dumps the powder contents into his tea. I point at his cup, “ya don’t reckon it’s that shit that is respondin ta all ya queries?”

“Don’t patronise me, cunt, I know what psychosis is like an                    this is completely different.”

“Sorry, mate, but put yaself in my shoes.”

“I know, I know-it sounds fuckin insane. But look, e sent me all this shit via post.”

underneath the stairwell oculusCheese picks up an old DJs shopping bag from under the table and places it on top. I have a look inside; there is an expensive looking headset with ‘Oculus’ written on its front.

“What the hell is it?”

“The beta model of an Oculus Rift – ya can’t buy em yet, y’know – virtual reality.”

“Oh, shit! I ave heard about these.” I pull it out of the bag.

“This one is hacked ta fuck, Marcus sent me the mods – years ahead of its time.”

“Why did e send you this?” I try it on for size.

Cheese hisses through clenched teeth, “e wants me ta go an visit im down there.”

I pull it off my head, “what the fuck? Are ya gunna do it?”

“There’s a problem, ya know how I can’t do hallucinogens?”

I remember a teenaged Cheese Burger on mushrooms, rolling around on the ground at Central station moaning like a retard and shitting himself.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Well, there’s a few other things ya gotta do if ya wanna get down there apparently. He showed me how ta set up an emulator for a Quantum processor on me computer and had some DMT an moclobemide sent ta ma house.”

“Fuck’s moclobemide?”

“It’s an anti-depressant from the 50s, a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor, y’know so ya kin orally digest DMT.”

“Yeah, yeah; pharmahuasca. So what ya sayin? That with Oculus, a quantum emulator and DMT ya kin actually visit the Mariana web like it’s a physical place?”

Cheese purses his lips and slaps the top of the table.

“Spot on.” He raises his eyebrows at me and finishes off his tea in one greedy slurp.

He doesn’t say anymore, just sits there smiling at me. The prick knows full well that my favourite book is Neuromancer.

Cheese Burger’s place in Surry Hills is absolutely spotless; you would be hard pressed to find an errant speck of dust in the place, which is more a testament to his coke fuelled insanity than anything else. He has air purifiers humming away in the corner of his lounge room and the temperature is kept at a constant 18 degrees Celsius. We walk into his computer room; there is a Franken-machine on his desk that wasn’t there last time I visited.

“Fuck’s that?” I ask, pointing at the monstrosity.

“Dark Blade machine, Marcus ad it delivered to me door. Done some eavy mods orn it from blue-prints he sent me too. All configured ta run a Quantum processor emulator, cheggitout.”

He switches it on and it hums like it is about to take off.

“Water cooled!” He says like a proud parent.

The machine is running Linux and Cheese sits down and starts typing. Then he plugs in the Oculus Rift headset and hands me a sheet of pills.

“Take the MAOI first then balloon the DMT, machine shoulda warmed up by the time the shit hits ya.”

So I take the pharmahuasca and me and Cheese shoot the shit for an hour or more. We are reminiscing about an all-girl punk band from the early 90s called Clit Hornet when I start feeling kooked on the DMT. Then it surges full force and I become convinced that Cheese’s flat is a vessel in deep space heading for the heart of the sun. So I sit on his couch and he fits the Oculus Rift headset on me. I can hear him typing away on the keyboard and Linux commands appear in front of me in mono-chrome green.

“Loggin onta darknet, hold onta ya arse.” Mutters Cheese.

Then the world disappears and a confusing electrical storm takes over my brain. Neon flashes and electric spirals of burning code sear my eyeballs to the cortex as I plunge at terminal velocity past programming languages that cascade like a raging waterfall. I recognize commands in C++ and Javascript then it all shatters into machine code that reassembles with occult speed into animated sprites that start swarming towards me, like iron filings drawn to a magnet. I clamp my eyes shut and things go completely silent. An animated sprite of a white rabbit hops into my mind’s eye and I fear for my sanity. This world is beyond physicality, beyond sight. The rabbit stops and scratches itself, a shimmer of a glitch running through it as it repeats the loop. Then it hops away from me and I find myself following it. Disembodied, I float in the void as the rabbit turns this way and that. Then it hops down an invisible hole and is gone. I watch as a room starts to materialise. First the walls and ceiling shimmer into existence going from opaque to solid. Then the floor spreads out in an electronic matrix of light and fills in. Low-boy style video game cabinets morph out of nothingness and my hearing comes back, thrilling to the sounds of a 1980s video game arcade. Pale holograms fill out until the arcade is packed with people playing the games. It stretches out in all directions to infinity. The place is as real as anything I have ever experienced.  Then it dawns on me, this is it – I am in the darknet.

underneath the stairwell all your base are belong to us“All your base are belong to us!” Someone says from behind me.

I spin around. A short, middle-aged man in brown corduroy trousers is standing there with a cup of tea. He adjusts his glasses and coughs wetly.

“Are you Marcus?” He certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a DMT user or dealer.

Was, Marcus. Welcome to cyberspace.”

“You said there were entities from deep space down ere that were tryin ta break through ta the clearnet?” I look around.

“Yeah, nah. I am the only entity down here, mate, just wanted to get your attention.”

“Well it worked. This all seems so familiar, is this a memory or something?”

“You should know – it’s from your mind.”

“But it seems so real.”

“That’s because it is.”

“Nah, this is like a hallucination or something.”

Marcus kicks me sharply in the balls and I double over in pain.

“Fuck me dead, cunt! What didja do that for?”

“It doesn’t get more real than a kick in the balls, mate. Now stop ya whinging and let’s get fucked up and play some video games.”

He marches over to a vending machine and I limp behind him. He twists the turnkey and two cold cans of San Miguel drop into the chute. He cracks one and hands it to me.

“Things never get stale or boring down here – after we get a good buzz on, I’ll take you through the Primarch System; a skyscraper of neon data.”

The beer tastes it should and I feel myself giving into my new environment. The strange thing is it feels like home. I have a sense of belonging that I never experienced IRL. Marcus hits the two player button on a Black Dragon game and hands me a joint. I take a draw and taste the chemical tang of heroin in it. A woman in high boots walks past, flicks her brunette hair and gives me a smile that speaks volumes. She stops at a pinball machine and starts playing it with maximum feeling. Marcus loses a life and notices me staring at her.

“What a peach.” He says.

“She is like the girl of my dreams.”

“That’s because she is the girl of your dreams.”

I laugh and he takes the joint off me.

“This is fuckin unreal.”

“Nah, mate, it’s surreal.”

I finish off my beer and walk back to the vending machine to grab more. In the back of my mind I realise that it is all just an illusion; the physical manifestation of a teenage memory, but even the smell of the place is perfect; hot electronics, new carpet and cigarettes. As I bend down to retrieve another can from the vending chute, something scuttles past me on the floor and darts behind the vending machine. I experience a jolt of synthanaesthesia and smell the damp slime of evil. A shiver electrifies my spine and my bunghole puckers up. I don’t want to look behind the machine, I don’t want to ruin my perfect world. But I look behind the game anyway. There is a beetle black spider the size of a small dog covered in foul smelling discharge. It is crouched with its skinny, gnarled legs bunched up like black sticks and is chewing on something, manipulating it with its pincers. I lean over to see what it has in its mouth. It is a baby’s tiny arm with pink little fingers dangling limply off the end of it.  I am filled with a vicious loathing at the obscene thing and peg my full can at it. It jumps away and drops the arm, I kick the arm out from behind the machine, it just doesn’t seem right to leave it there. The spider gathers its senses then makes a move for the arm. It rears up on its hind legs and extends its fangs to their full, terrifying length. Situated as it is the spider comes up to waist height and starts to screech a terrible hissing sound that causes Marcus to come running over. He grabs me by the shoulder and pulls me away. The spider advances and fills the air with the stench of a rotten corpse.

“Back away!” Marcus yells.

I give in and let him pull me away and watch in horror as the spider snatches up the arm and scuttles away with a nightmare speed.

“What the fuck was that?” I scream in his face.

“That was a physical manifestation of CP. There are so many rockspiders on the darknet that their presence sometimes overlaps with ours.”

The fact that paedophiles lurked on the darknet and employed the same op-sec and encryption that I used for dealing had never sat well with me. Marcus claps loudly three times.

“Anyways, fuck that shit! Let’s check out the Primarch System.”

The arcade shifts then dissolves into chemical smoke and then we are floating upwards through infinite, opaque databases.  Marcus’ face glows with blue neon, “how’s this for some Tron shit, mate?”

I laugh but it sounds tinny and strained. Then a memory stabs me in the brain.

“Marcus…you’re dead.”

He falls back laughing into a wall of light that covers him like water.

“Join the club, cunt!”

Then I can see my Facebook homepage in all its garish glory. Condolences from people that I hardly knew clog up the feed with saccharine lamentations, their feigned closeness to death giving their hollow lives some sort of meaning. The words scroll past into nothingness; an electronic sentinel as pointless as my life. Then the vision is gone and I sense an aberration in the environment, a cancer with roots creeping deep. On the periphery of my senses, a Lovecraftian beast is trying to escape my attention. It slithers away as I sense it with my mind and change the world to block its retreat. It turns like a massive deep water squid and flares out black tentacles as I surround it with a cage of neon machine code. Realising its confinement, the abomination shoots a torrent of corruption at me. I collapse the Primarch System with my mind and the beast thrashes in resistance. The world fragments and shatters as security systems implode in slow motion. In its death throes, the creature vomits all the filth of the world, every byte of child porn reduced to machine code explodes out of it; a tidal wave of data documenting every single heinous crime. Instantaneously, I transmit all the names of the people who created it, viewed it, uploaded it, downloaded it, streamed it or traded it. I transmit their IP addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers and Facebook profiles to every police database in the world. Then my mind glitches as supernovas of data blossom before my eyes.

Cheese Burger is yelling from far away and I just want the fuckwit to shut up so I can sleep.

“Wake up, cunt, fuckin open ya eyes!”

I can smell tobacco on his fingers as he paws stupidly at my eyes. I inhale sharply and if feels like fire in my lungs, so I spring off the couch and onto my feet. Like a new born foal, I stumble around a bit before finding my legs.

FAAAAAARK!” I yell.

“You was gorn, mate, stopped breathin and everyfink!”

I sit back down on the couch hyperventilating.

“How long?”

“Once I plugged ya inta the darknet it wouldna bin no more than ten minutes.”

“I saw him.” I rub my eyes.

“Marcus?”

“Yeah, he is down there. He is alive.”

Cheese Burger flops down on the couch next to me.

“Fuck, bro! This is he-avy shit.”

“Ya ave ta get rid of it, smash everything.”

Re-lax, bro, I’ll give ya some xanies.”

“Fuck ya xanies! We gotta plug up the hole!”

“Whattya talkin about?”

“I fought a monster down there, Cheese! The worst monster in the fuckin world, it wasn’t a trip mate, I wasn’t hallucinating.” I put my face in my hands.

“So it worked, you was actually in the darknet?”

I look back up at Cheese and I can tell what he is thinking. The fuckwit wants to try it.

I stand up and before Cheese can stop me, I pick up the Dark Wave machine and throw it on the ground. It smashes and hisses, fans whirring dementedly. Cheese Burger drops down next to it as if he has lost a child.

“What…what’ve ya fuckin done?

Then I am out the door and running down the street. I run as fast as I can, realising it has been years since I have. I can smell the dirty city as storm clouds spit in my face. I run until I taste blood in my teeth. Then I slow down and walk aimlessly for a while wondering what the fuck to do. So I walk into the Clock Hotel and order a jug. I sit at a table in the back away from all the people and start sculling. I check my phone out of habit. As I expected, there are several missed calls from Cheese Burger. I scroll past them and click on a text from Heinz.

>>>Internet fucked can I come over and use your connection?

Next one is from Smicko.

>>>N E 1 FOUND OUT WHO THIS OZDMT CUNT IS YET?!?

Then my phone vibrates to an incoming message. There is no name attached to it – I click on it.

>>>all your bases are belong to us – global clearnet outage -massive data overload – will last 24 hrs – expect mass suicide when clearnet resumes – you have purified the stream – exposed the underbelly – the darknet says thankyou – visit anytime – OzDMT

The jug has straightened out my thinking and I can clearly see my future now. It is electronic and infinite and never sleeps, it is an androids dream of electric sheep, it’s the sub-sonic hum of circuit boards under a video game sky. All I have to do is shrug off the meat-dream and embrace the electronic abyss.

 

underneath the stairwell cicada