Before I explain how I came to find my dear old friend Bill Blackbeard, I must make one thing clear: an event like that night, when I became Mr. Bevilacqua himself via the pure dream state, had never occurred before in my life. Sure, I had forged brain patterns over WiFi waves to assume others’ identities, as a looper of infinite eights. Yet this required some heavy-duty circuitry—ethernet hookups and hosted lines hardwired to the common ground of a hyperlinked virtual world. If the Internet was a chessboard, I was Bobby Fischer checkmating the Deep Blue of someone’s defeated hacker inadequacies. In the real world, I was rather benign, restricted to the confines of my own imagination. Until that night. A breakthrough had occurred that I wasn’t quite ready to understand, but nonetheless knew its implications. The stories, or what I had dismissed as tall tales, were, in fact, true. Behind every corner, nestled in even the most minute nooks and crannies, at every discernible point on the four-dimensional axis of our physical reality, there lurked a dark frequency.
Until that point, the Dark Frequency had been nothing more than an old wives’ tale, something my parents would tell me as a kid, at night before they tucked me into bed. And remember: if you break through firewalls and go where you’re not supposed to, the Dark Frequency will snatch you up in your sleep. The late 21st Century’s answer to Don’t let the bed bugs bite, I suppose. Yet as I got older and tested my boundaries, all that I found was loneliness. I recognized the Dark Frequency as no more than a fear tactic engineered to keep sheep in line. I rebelled. Rebellion brought me to infiniteighting. The best loopers were those who strove to push boundaries beyond the limits of mainstream’s wildest imagination; that’s how they trapped inferior minds. From outside the box, I didn’t have to stay one, two, or even 10 steps ahead; I saw every step an unsuspecting hacker took simultaneously. From the outside looking in, the best infinite eights thus let their victims think they made choices on their own. Little did they know, they were making the same moves over and over and over again, ad infinitum. Hell, it was a living, though not a very honest one. And when my conscience got the best of me, I stopped creating infinite eights. Instead of telling people lies, I wanted to free them from their own delusions, the lies we tell ourselves every day. Having disproved the existence of a Dark Frequency and dismissing the legitimacy of weaving an all-powerful infinite loop (robbing people from their freedom now made me sick to my stomach), all that mattered was the truth. I took a job reporting for the Eyes and Ears. And at the height of my prowess as a truth-seeking Es agent, while hitting the absolute rock bottom of my faith in anything beyond my own moral compass, held up in Westchestertonville, the Dark Frequency seeped into my mind. It found me. It allowed me the perspective of one Mr. Bevilacqua. The knowledge that I gained that night gave me insight I would have otherwise never acquired. Who knows? I might have succumbed to his propaganda myself, fearing those supposed cougars prowling behind the shadows. Then died alone in my one-room hole of a studio. No. I possessed the knowledge of Bevilacqua’s propaganda, even if he didn’t. From my privileged situation and with the people I had encountered through unique experiences, I knew what needed to be done, when I awoke on that epiphanous morning. I had to free Bevilacqua’s mind from Schmuckersburg’s hold via my harness of the Dark Frequency, which required no hardwire hookup, only faith, an able mind and the support of my dear friend Capt. Bill Blackbeard. I didn’t know why I was chosen. Maybe my time gene had a unique ticker; Lord knows I always felt a little off in the everyday rhythm. And though the news had recently reported that time was indeed a figment of our collective imagination; that we were in fact all uniquely alone in this world; and that the illusion of oneness in a reality was simply the sympatico tempo of a highly precise biological metronome, only fortified my belief in the Dark Frequency. For it was the only way I could have became Bevilacqua that night. And it was now the only way I was going to find Capt. Bill Blackbeard, who was instrumental in my plan to uplift Westchestertonville from darkness. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… Savvy?! The Dark Frequency churned that tangy iron taste in my mouth, as if I was running at full bore, though I sat still at my kitchen table…
These mates be cheatin’ me I assume. The Captain need not be swindled. I’ll show them. I’ll install a dummy host and then avast these swine. No man shall pull the fast one on Capt. Bill Blackbeard. I could see through Blackbeard’s dark and calculating eyes. He appeared to be conducting business with some blackmarket business partners. Perhaps they were those line jumpers Max had told me about. After all, Blackbeard was the only one I knew who had worked directly with them. The captain be sick of dealing with these here shady characters. They piss through IP signals as if I can simply conjure them from the ether. They’re on- and offline quicker than the fuse of a canon. These were indeed the line jumpers. Blackbeard and his questionable business associates—three expressionless white men who dressed in the drab attire Marxist communists would wear; earthtone sweaters and corduroy pants—had set up shop in the back room of what looked like a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen. I could feel the power of the Dark Frequency growing inside of me and my senses awakened to Blackbeard’s. The distinct aroma of MSG-enriched, fried chickenfinger batter filled my nostrils as it filled Captain Bill Blackbeard’s. And the four, three line jumpers and their scoundrel signal dealer, were getting ready to upload a session. I don’t trust these scalawags. They keep uploading data to the likes of heaven.GOD only to interrupt the session right when she gets warm. I can’t see the point of these sessions; vel Nirvanator has told me that, more often than not, their sessions end up as scraps in HELL.com. Beautiful at first like a bulb that burns bright and then out in an instant. And what remains is the charred filaments of forgotten dreams, now nightmares for the likes of vel Nirvanator’s netherworld. If they didn’t pay so well, I’d chock the totality of these sessions as an utter waste. I’ve seen what these failed creations look like in the realms of HELL.com and I will no longer be privvy to the conception of their virtual atrocities. Once the line jumpers log in, this here Captain is abandoning ship! Blackbeard was about to commit something bold for even him. I was still learning to harness the full bandwidth of the Dark Frequency and, though its signal had flowed as a river of information igniting my five senses fully, I could feel it waning now. Apparently, longevity was sacrificed for the pure surge of the Dark Frequency. Yet, I needed to hold out for just a little longer. Once Blackbeard committed this treason on his unsuspecting associates, he would surely have to fly on the lam. And I needed to know his hiding place, a destination surely no one else on this Earth was privvy.
‘Alright matees,’ I say, keep the grin wide and show them the gold, ‘why don’t you log on first and I’ll follow up with this here signal. We’ll convene on the other side.’ Once they’re online, I’ll have maybe three minutes to make my escape. I must move quickly. The signal was fading; I needed to know his destination. I began thinking of all the places I held as safe: a church, my grandmother’s house, a serene meadow in the middle of the woods, anything that could possibly coax the Captain to think of his own safehaven. I’ll have to hide out in one of the dead spots, where Lady Internet rarely rears Her head. I can cover my tracks in that little place gone dead on the grid. A little old town called Westchestertonville. I hope I can get that same room in my favorite dive over there, the Red Tavern Inn above J.J. Kilroy’zzzzz… I wouldn’t have to go to Blackbeard…
… Blackbeard would come to me. At that, I consciously returned to my kitchen (though physically I had never left). The dewey morning filled my nostrils, where MSG-rich batter’s scent had just occupied. The early-hour scene out of my window overlooking Westchestertonville brimmed more vivid now that I knew the Captain would soon be here. And in place of the iron taste on my tongue smacked the irony that Blackbeard thought this town was the farthest place from those line jumpers. They were the ones who had led me to this little microcosm of ignorance, the likes of which Bookface® had forgotten. Thanks to Max and his scant tracings of the line jumpers’ sessions, Big Tom and I had tracked these Internet ghosts’ activity to this dark corner of the World Wide Web. He, Big Tom McElroy I mean, had planted me in this town to get the low down on the mysterious backlash of their activity in the small town, namely MACHO, to which effect I had drawn more and more parallels to Schmuckersburg himself. And I had been offline and off the radar for several months with these unfortunate MACHO members, cut off from society’s forgiveness. Though they had become friends of mine over time spent in this bald spot on the scalp of the collective consciousness, I remember thinking it sure as HELL.com would be nice to see a familiar face once again.
It was Thursday, which meant Blackbeard and I would have approximately six days to prepare for the next MACHO meeting, the next opportunity to see Mr. Bevilacaqua. We would need all six of those days, the swashbuckler and I, to complete our plan against the Goliath Schmuckersburg. It would have to be done inside of this time; any longer and the line jumpers would surely be hot on Blackbeard’s trail. He was elusive, but not that elusive. Six days’ time would have to suffice for an infinite eight, the likes of which the World had never seen.
I set out for the Red Tavern Inn around 11. I had to be sure to get there before Blackbeard’s arrival; once he booked his room, the man could squat under a randomly generated pseudoname, for days, without leaving. He knew how to draw as little attention to him as possible. Within 20 minutes I had arrived at W 5th Street, where the Red Tavern sat above J.J. Kilroy’s. I walked straight up to the conceirge and said this:
“If a man checks in today, who looks and sounds like a pirate, I want you to give him this message:
‘Meet the man you’ve been to Hell and back with, at the bar.‘”
The man—a slight, lightly built gentleman—gave me a puzzled look and perhaps thought I was fucking with him, but I followed the note with a rolled up 20-dollar bill, which I inconspicuously placed in his palm while our hands shook. And I looked him straight in the eye. Then I pulled up a stool downstairs to my usual corner of J.J.’s bar. B.J. was tending and drying glasses with a rag to kill time during this off hour.
“You’re here early,” he said.
“Ya, just waiting for an old friend. I’ll just have a cranberry juice.” I swiveled around in my stool and surveyed the empty bar room. The stench of stale cigarette smoke sparked an image into my mind. I saw the leader of the pumae pack, who walked with confident swagger into J.J. Kilroy’s that night several weeks ago (I hadn’t been in the bar since). And then exited quietly with my former MACHO compadre. I swiveled another 180 degrees.
“B.J., have you seen a group of women, four to be exact—three followers and a leader—come in here recently?” I said, as B.J. polished a freshly washed brandy snifter..
“I see a lot of women in here,” he said. “All single too, which I find odd. The men never go over to them. It’s like a middle school dance in here most nights. Odd. Very odd.”
“So you can’t help me out, then?” I said.
“Right now? No. No one specific rings a bell. Yet, you’re in luck; tonight, every Thursday night, in fact, is ladies’ night. We get the most female patrons in here on Thursdays. Since no guys every buy them drinks, Thursdays are the only nights they can drink for cheap. Not only was Blackbeard a good signal dealer; he was a great wingman. At that thought, he entered
“Well if it ain’t me old partner in crime,” Blackbeard said. “Never thought I’d see the likes of ye in this rank establishment.”
“Hey!” B.J. interjected.
“He’s OK, B.J.,” I reassured my dealer of drinks. “He’s just kidding.” Then I turned back to Capt. Bill Blackbeard, my dealer of signals. “We have to talk.”
We relocated to a secluded booth at the outskirts of the bar. We were among the only people in that place at this early drinking hour, but I wanted complete privacy. We were operating now on a need-to-know basis and even B.J. the bartender didn’t need to hear what I was about to divulge to Blackbeard. It was for his own good. (B.J.’s that is.)
“So what are ye doing here, mate?” Blackbeard opened up the conversation.
“I know it’s been a while and that I’ve been off the radar, but I need you for one more job.”
“How’d ye find me??” Blackbeard shifted in his seat as a feeling of unease painted his face, particulary uncharacteristic of a man usually in control of even the most extraordinary situations. “Ye haven’t been spying on me, have ye?”
“Not exactly,” I said. “It will all become clear, when I explain why I need to call upon your exceptional services once again.”
“In that case, I’m all ears, mate. Barkeep! Bring a bottle over. Carribean rum if you please!” Blackbeard turned back to me across the table. I glanced over at B.J. who rolled his eyes at his new patron’s request, but nonetheless fished a fresh bottle out of the cabinet and grabbed two shot glasses. And then I looked back at Blackbeard.
“Ahh… Where do I begin? Well, I work for the Es now; I’ve since hung up my infiniteighting cables. I’ve been trying to go the honest route, seeking out truth in seemingly the darkest places. That mission has led me here, to Westchestertonville, one of the darkest places I’ve encountered in recent history. Remember those line jumpers?”
“Aye, still been doin’ business with them, in fact. Well, until just today, when I baled on those caniving scum.”
“That’s why I’m here, actually. They’ve had quite the negative influence on this small town and I was sent here by the Es to investigate.”
“It would appear this scoundrel can’t run from his problems then, mate. I was just dealing with those shady specters this morning and I fled the scene. And now you tell me they’ve followed me here?”
“No, they’re presence has been here for a while, or rather their effect I should say. I’ve been secretly reporting on a conroversial group who’s risen in the backlash of their activity, namely MACHO or the Men’s Alliance for Cougar Hunting Occasions. Yet I can’t seem to tie the two together. All that I know is that they are bound somehow in much, much more than coincidence.” Blackbeard’s eyes went wide.
“I’m not sure of the MACHO clan, but I do know a good deal of those unholy line jumpers, having done business off and on with them over the years. You remember vel Nirvanator’s site heaven.GOD, savvy?” I nodded without hesitation. Dreams so vivid the prior night, not only did I remember that platform; I had just been there. Blackbeard continued to fill me in on information the Dark Frequency had not divulged. “Then, you remember their unique, flash in the pan sessions. Regardless of how beautiful their renderings of heaven were in the beginning, this was not their ultimate goal. Turns out they launched these sessions only to have them burn out in a glorious blaze of awful effluence, which Max would capture in HELL.com. And remember that breach we found on our first mission, mate? They’re feeding their inverted spawn through that pathway to their apparent master, the king of Bookface®, Schmuckersburg himself. What he does with these apparitions, I haven’t the slightest, but I’m guessing you can pick up where I’ve left off, mate… and you still haven’t told me how you found me!”
Of course, it was so clear now. Schmuckersburg needed those line jumpers to create his awful cougar monsters in the mind of Bevilacqua. That was the only way he’d believe such a ludicrous premise: if they were real in his mind. And a natural leader such as Mr. Bevilacqua would have no trouble convincing a troop of ready and willing followers, who were already vulnerable in their withdrawal from Bookface®. This was how Schmuckersburg would keep his outliers at bay, by attacking their minds via a seemingly sage MACHO leader. They never had a chance. Fear, via MACHO propaganda, had in fact ensconced these men’s Universe; to them the microcosm of Westchestertonville represented the whole of existence, a world where eligible women were predators. Schmuckersburg had thus insulated the fray of his failing algorithm with imposed ignorance.
“I can answer how I found you in three words,” I said. “The Dark Frequency.”
“Bullocks,” Blackbeard barked. “I don’t believe it.”
“Believe it,” I said. “I know that you were in the back room of a Chinese restaurant earlier today. I know that the room smelled like chicken finger batter… and if you think these are lucky guesses, I can even tell you what you were thinking the moment you decided to make your escape.”
“Try me, mate,” he whispered.
“You thought smile, and show them the gold teeth.”
“Either this is some good rum, mate,” Blackbeard slugged back a double shot at 11:33 in the morning. “… or ye be speaking truth.”
“I am. That’s how I located you today and that’s how I know the MACHO leader, Mr. Bevilacqua, is spreading propaganda to the unsuspecting men of this town. Based on what you’ve said of the line jumpers, I can only deduce they’ve fed their HELL.com voodoo into his mind. He, in turn, has transformed this fear into an entire movement swaying them far away from ever logging on to Bookface® ever again. We need to free Bevilacqua’s mind, Blackbeard. If Schmuckersburg can do this, via his line-jumper lackies, to an entire town, who knows what else he is capable of. We have to stop him! And killing’s not option; his plans have already been sent into motion, cells like Bevilacqua working independently. We have to undo what he did. We have to loop him, loop his motives, his dreams and his unrelenting desire to control all of humanity in an infinite eight. That’s the only way to contain such a dominant force on this planet. And I can’t do it alone. I need the best signal dealer I know. Blackbeard, are you with me?”
“Mate, I’ve had quite a bit of rum at this point and don’t totally comprehend everything you’ve just spat forth to me, in this booth, nearing high noon in the dankness of this here pub, in this even seedier Town of Westchestertonville. But I’ve squashed my steady pay check in the line jumpers and they’ll no doubt be after me soon. If you say the activity’s as hot as it is in this here town, then they’ll be here in no time, indeed. The Captain sees no other option. Just like that time when we faced Hell(.com) head on with only one way out at the breach. I trusted you then and I trust you now. I gather we should get to plannin’.”
— OFF THE BOOK —