General Fiction posted April 10, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
Not all conspiracy theories are just theory


by mfowler

'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.'
Herzog stares at the screen. Man that's good. Whoever this FDR character was, he's named it well.
'Wow, dude, that's a great quote, but why are you looking up stuff like that?' McAllister leans over from his module and stares at Herzog's notes. He rubs his tired eyes, and looks again. 'Are you really into that conspiracy bullshit, Herzog?'
Herzog glances at his friend, and shifts about nervously in his swivel chair. 'I am, and I'm not. But, I need to get my head around what's being reported on the web. There's a wave of depression, fear almost, showing up in all the chat-line communities. I want to write a blog article to see if I can add perspective.'
McAllister moves to the coffee machine and pours an aromatic latte. 'Coffee, dude?'
'Nah, I've been hitting the beans all night...don't want to warp my synapses.' Herzog giggles at his little joke, but McAllister interrupts the revelry.
Returning to his computer, McAllister notes, 'I just got off line with Khan-Monster. The guy's bought into that shit, big time. Listen to this: Gotta go. It's got me. I can see my memories of childhood in pixilation. They're floating away. Get out while you can.'
Herzog lifts his slight frame from his chair, and moves to where he can see the message. 'Try him again. See if he responds.'
McAllister types: Hey, Monster Man, what's up? 'He should still be there. Khan's no different to you and me. Surfs the web 48/7.'
They wait for five minutes, but Khan-Monster doesn't respond.
'Do you think we're being a bit paranoid?' says McAllister.
'A little, maybe,' replies Herzog, 'but five minutes is a long time for a dude to stay off line. And he's one of our most reliable sources.'
'Yeah, with Khan-Monster we'd never have found out about that shit going down at India-Cybernetics. Gerry and Gary's Internet Myth Buster's Blog needs people like Khan.'
Herzog's thin lips twitch. 'Geeze, Gary, I hate the way you have to say the whole name all the time. We're a service to fellow geeks in computer-land. It's our job to keep exposing the low-lifes who use the internet as their own evil playground, from doing too much harm.'
McAllister runs his long fingers through his sweep of oily hair. "Oh, Gerry, you take yourself so damned seriously some...Wait! Look, Khan's back.'
McAllister and Herzog examine the message closely. 'Khan's taking the piss,' says McAllister.
'Not his style,' replies Herzog. 'Let's seek him out.'
The bloggists settle into a long session of search and re-search, as the morning sun squints through the cracked louvers which allow the only light into Herzog's basement. The coffee machine works overtime, keeping their eyelids aloft as their fingers travel at almost light speed over their keyboards. They fear the fear which has alarmed web fan-boys around the globe. Herzog has mapped the disappearance of friends and Gooperts, noting times, and data left behind. He's unsure if it's an elaborate hoax, or just one big co-incidence of global inconsequence.
McAllister suddenly turns to Herzog. 'Hell, Gerry, I've found Khan, but you won't believe it.'
'Where, what?'
'Look at this.' Images show twenty two pages of an effeminate-looking Asian boy. Each one shows him in an installation space of some kind. He's posing in selfie-mode, each image showing him in front of a piece of equipment.
'Look!' says Herzog, pointing in manic repetition. 'In every photo, the kid's missing a body part. See that one on the third row. Big smile, no eyes.'
'And in every one there's a logo,' says McAllister. 'I'll enlarge one. Hmmh! India-Cybernetics.'
Herzog paces the space behind their modules. His beetling brows dance above his blood shot eyes. 'Are you sure it's Monster-Khan?'
'That's where the search engine took me. And that's not all. He's got a Wiki page.'
'The page lists Khan as dead, today. Says he's a computer geek from Mumbai who enjoyed curries, retro X-Box games, and snooping. Wait, look, Gary, his image is pixilating. '
They watch in disbelief. The innocent face of the man-boy rapidly exfoliates, streaming one pixel at a time into the side bars of the page.
'Try YouTube,' says Herzog, his speech rapid and loud.
'Here, one video, Monster-Khan.' 
Khan is gyrating wildly, dancing with a colourful array of beautiful young Indian people. They sing an incomprehensible tune with an intoxicating rhythm, and plenty of repetition.  As the bloggists watch on silently, Khan's legs stream off his body and disappear.  The chorus line continue their gyrations and singing, but all that's left of Khan is a mouth lip-syncing.
'He's saying something,' says McAllister. 'It's not the song...Wait...,yes.... HELPPpppp.....................'
Herzog's lips have gone dry. 'Gotta have a double espresso.  This shit is doing my head in.'
As Herzog leans against the bench and tastes his coffee in slow sips, McAllister types frantically, flipping from site to site like a cyber card trickster.
'We have to find Khan, any of the missing guys,' says Herzog thoughtfully. 'Somehow that India-Cybernetics' superbug has got something to do with this. Khan's information was limited, not enough for a full exposé, but we know they were working on something big. Something that could capture data from well protected sites...Any luck?'
Herzog watches McAllister's keystrokes from his position near the coffee machine.. Man, that dude is an asset, he thinks. But, McAllister's not answering. Too damned engrossed in the hunt, I should imagine.
After finishing his espresso, Herzog pulls at McAllister's shoulder and spins him in his chair. 'Can't you hear...?'
Herzog's jaw drops. McAllister's face has disappeared. Only his body exists. McAllister's remains turn to the computer, and it taps wildly on the key board.
A series of YouTube videos appear in the menu to complement the one playing. They're all the same. The subtitle reads: Hacker dies in quest for glory.
Herzog's skin itches, and every fibre of his body tenses as he watches. He can make out McAllister's gangly body and long pony tail. His head is laid on a block, only the block is a computer monitor.  His hands are secured behind his back, and he's kneeling. An executioner in black robes and hood, raises a large, double-edged axe and slices McAllister's head off at the neck. It rolls with a clunk-clunk-clunk audio impression to the front of the camera lens. Herzog sees the face. There's no face. Suddenly, a hideous laughter comes from the speakers.  The executioner has removed his mask and Herzog recognises the killer. It's Julian Asange. He's sure of it. But, then, each video scrambles in a blur of black and white snow, and disappears.
Herzog, his face distorted beyond recognition, turns to his friend, but there's nothing left of him, save a wallet containing one thing. A membership card to India-Cybernetics Gaming Swapmart.
What to do? Police...nah, they wouldn't believe me. Probably have me sectioned. Gotta think. How do I do this?  Herzog's mind is as scrambled as the video clips. His espresso comes up, and is spewed across Gary's module. Think, think, dude! It starts on Wikipages. Maybe, they can tell me how to get Gary back. Nah! What have I got to lose? Go with what I know best.
Herzog sits at his machine, mind racing through a myriad of possibilities. OK, I'll type in McAllister.
Only one listing. Herzog holds back. His palms sweat and his stomach continues its swamp-like, gaseous burble. What the hell am I doing? Where are you, buddy?
Wikipedia opens up. A page entitled, Gary G. McAllister, appears. The image shows only hair and shoulders in bust pose. Herzog winces when he reads: Gary G McAllister (2001-2023) was a bloggist on the notorious slush site "Gerry and Gary's Internet Myth Busters' Blog", which became defunct in March, 2023.
Herzog suddenly feels empty, alone. His life-long friend is gone. But where? And how? He owes it to Gary to at least look into it further.
Herzog feels his energy draining. Coffee has long lost its impact during this marathon shift. In fact, he feels sleepy, and reading each page becomes increasingly difficult. Returning to McAllister's Wiki-page, he sees something new. Recently updated, he thinks, then reads: Gary G McAllister (2001-2023) and Gerry Herzog(2000-2023), his best friend, were bloggists on the notorious slush site "Gerry and Gary's Internet Myth Busters' Blog", which became defunct in March, 2023.

The new version unnerves him further. The image shows faceless Gary with his arm around a picture of him, only he has no arms or face. Herzog's heart beats like an African drum as he looks at his hands. They've gone, and the remainder of his arms are pixilating, then flying towards the monitor like a swarm of retreating flies.
HELPPpppp......................>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> is what Mrs Herzog sees blinking on the screen when she comes to bring the boys their dinner.
Messy sods, she thinks. Leave without saying a word, and I've prepared such a nice bolognaise.
She surveys the mess on the seats, floor and module desks. Miniscule dots of what look like soot, cover the area.
Messy sods, she says dusting it up. She tries to switch off the computer, but an image of Julian Assange beheading another geek plays on the screen.
Silly sausage, she thinks, as her arm pixilates, and streams towards the monitor.
A YouTube clip suddenly plays on McAllister's screen. It's old footage of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Horror Story Writing Contest contest entry


Surfs the web 48/7: spends way too much time on the computer

Gooperts: expert Googlers

web fan-boys: devotees of the internet
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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