Thursday, October 01, 2009

A question of progress

On April 30th, 2008 Salman Rushdie was killed.

Alfred Metzger sat cat-backed as usual, resulting in many future back problems, staring through the bright reflection of the computer screen on his glasses. He had come to know, having observed the phenomenon for hours, that one’s general conduct around and towards one’s computer has the determining influence on its personality. Some people just couldn’t do computers right. He could. And that’s exactly what he was doing tonight. The machine hummed in ecstasy. The keyboard was like a clitoris, his mouse strokes sublime penetration. Maybe his hardware wasn’t theoretically capable of running the programs he wrote for it, but it did not complain. He was not fat, but not strong either. His arms would sometime sit there, limp and cold, dead flesh for minutes. Or he would lazily type with one hand, and rest the other under his chin. He was no good typer. But what he lacked in finesse, he made up for in genius. Nobody could touch him, when he was on the internet. His machine recognized that too.

The things he was capable of! The potential corruption he could wreak on the system scared him sometimes to tears. He would occasionally scream in short bursts for what seemed like no reason. But he did his job. He had earned this level of access. People trusted him. He had every clearance recognized by the government. Private corporations put all the keys in his hands. He had also contemplated it, and he was mostly certain that he could ignite revolution. Manipulation of mass opinion was literally at his finger tips. One can imagine a man going crazy in such circumstances.

He shut it all down, went upstairs and entered another world. Naked women, extremely beautiful, lay all around, dozing or chatting or otherwise occupied, on big, gorgeous pillows and sofas of satin. The dominant colors were red and deep gray; vibrant blue and green showed up as vase or lamp in the soft, decadent light. His decoration was gaudy but sensuous, sexually exciting. He was showing off.

The decadence was, however, misleading. With barley a word he climbed another set of stairs and found his dark room. Upon entering he could smell himself. The sheets were unwashed, his clothes all flung about. If this room were his soul then he was a monster, but a delicate kind. He washed his hands in the sink in the corner, took all his clothes off, crawled into bed, clapped the light off, and turned on the tv.

The news was the same: everything is falling apart. New structures are being erected. We’re all going straight to hell. He flipped the channels. One program caught his interest, it was: “the one year anniversary of the death of a genius, Salman Rushdie remembered.” He remembered that story. Some crazy lady had killed him and then killed herself. One less genius in the world. They can’t survive here, not anymore. The climate’s all wrong. Could he change that? Could he create more geniuses? More like himself? Maybe not. He farted loudly. He would probably stay up for a few hours, maybe watch some of his favorite series. No rush. Then sleep.

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