Chapter 8: The Infinite Eight

Blackbeard and I began immediately, on the second floor of the Red Tavern Inn, fashioning our coup d’etat design against Bookface®. Enlisting an old friend completed the first part of my three-pronged plan to lift Westchestertonville from darkness. Now, together, we had to address item Nos. 2 & 3: (2) Bevilacqua was the puppet of Bookface® CEO Darryl Schmuckersburg; and, (3), as the puppet of the social media megalomaniac, the MACHO leader was spreading propaganda to his followers, trapping them in fear. In creating these mythical beasts—the predatory cougars—in the minds of his faithful followers every Wednesday night, within the sanctimonious stone walls of the Our Lady of the Assumption, Mr. Bevilacqua was unknowingly, yet very effectively, alienating these men from the opposite sex on Bookface®—the social norm for matchmaking—thus allowing the benefit of continuity for his mortal enemy Schmuckersburg. And with a monopolistic vice grip on the very social structure of humanity, Bookface® (or the absence thereof) was quarantining these poor souls from society. They languished in the desolate wasteland of a disconnected Westchestertonville.

Of course, this all made sense to me that night I became Bevilacqua himself, because I knew how infinite eights (I8s) worked. As the MACHO leader remembered those predatory cougars lurking in the shadows, something seemed off, inauthentic. An I8 operated along a specific pattern that those who’ve had the privilege of forging could detect quite readily. I thought of how he reminisced about his former life experiences expatriated from the mother Bookface, how he kept them from his beloved wife:

If only she knew of the horrid things I’ve seen. An entire underground world utterly separate from Schmuckersburg’s Pleasantville. Thank God she hasn’t. She’s an innocent. She’s never had to exist, to dwell, to linger, to assume an identity so putrid and pathetic, starving and bled dry in the absence of Bookface’s social lifeblood. These memories reminded me of the awful code Bill Blackbeard and I had sailed through on his digital pirate ship, slicing through the effluent seas of HELL.com, when we found the breach ended up in the Bookface® mainframe. And now as we, the swashbuckler and I, began laying plans for the mother of all infinite eights, in his upstairs room at the Red Tavern Inn, my former life as an infiniteighter flooded back into my mind in torrents, as the Dark Frequency had flowed the previous night, and earlier that morning.

For the layman, for those traveling fluidly and unimpeded along the mainstream: A brief history of the infinite eight. The infinite eight was an elegant solution to the manufactured chaos that plagued man’s mind, when the Internet granted him the A-bomb of cyber power and he hadn’t the mental acuity to weild it. It was an engineered economy of one’s assumed reality. It had to be subtle, precise. If a subject had become harried, his mind filled with the interference of static and blind rage, one simply couldn’t combat this effect with more noise. Fighting it, defining the impetuous conflict, thus poured more gasoline on the fire. No, we needed to be the liquid that quelled this inflammation of the mind, corrupted by the hacker’s delusions of grandeur. In the case of Mr. Bevilacqua, we had two people to fool—himself and Schmuckersburg. Our I8 would enter the hack from the back, through HELL.com, cut off Bevilacqua’s feed and then control the leak, thus threading Schmuckersburg’s own contrived nightmare back to him. As far as Bookface would be concerned, Westchestertonville was still shrouded in darkness. You see, the very first infinite eights were designed to redirect (or misdirect rather).

As the Internet, sites like Bookface®, began to run our society, programmers realized early on they would have to protect their creations. Yet fighting fire with fire or hiding behind a firewall only fueled hackers’ hubris to rape and pillage the information high seas. One could always just create a bigger, more powerful gun. The solution would thus have to dissolve hackers’ efforts. Programmers began developing code that acted as informational cul de sacs. A hacker would trespass through what appeared to be the back door, or some other realm of the website, and begin to inflict their awful influence, expecting the code to then shape to their bidding. The genius of original infinite eight code was its intuition. It could automate what the hackers’ intentions were, mimicking the virus; its output back to the hacker’s interface would return the appearance of a working virus. All the while, the actual code governing the program in “jeopardy” would remain untouched and running properly. It’s amazing what the power of perception is capable of. And by the time the formerly unsuspecting hacker realized his illegal code had been ineffectual, it was too late. You see, the infinite eight also extracted information from its victims—unique IP addresses and pedigree data one could use to build a case against this criminal. When the feds came to break down his door, they weren’t just carrying a warrant; they had just cause to prosecute. Let’s just say guilty pleas were at an all-time high, when I8s hit the WiFi waves.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These hackers, though most had been wiped out by the elegant solution of the infinite eight, the resilient ones persevered. They fought fire with fire (or perhaps more accurately; water with water). They found a way to develop I8s, which had originally been perceived as attachments or accidental qualities to the structure code of a mother website, as freewheeling entities. Loops that could be designed on the fly and thus meticulously customized to even the most volatile victims. And their signature distinction from their predecessors: these infinite eights didn’t attack the Internet site; they attacked the user. These hackers had found their own way to master the power of perception.

Such entities were now attacking the men of Westchestertonville. And I had to cut them off at the source: Bevilacqua. With the top priority of my three-pronged plan sitting across from me in the Red Tavern Inn, I conveyed to the Captain the next steps.

Step 1: We needed an entry point to HELL.com. This would be simple. With Max’s exclusive access, we could enter through the back door. We would then loop several of the monsters in Max’s effluent HELL code and feed it back to Bookface®. Schmuckersburg’s montoring of his puppet would return a status quo on the cougar con.

Step 2: Freeing Mr. Bevilacqua. This wouldn’t be so simple. To tell a man, especially one as intimidating as Mr. Bevilacqua, that his world was not entirely real was no easy task. And, frankly, I still hadn’t figured out how Schmuckersburg had entered the man’s mind in the first place. I was used to dealing with online realms, not reality itself. Schmuckersburg was certainly a formidable foe. I would need proof that his awful cougar monsters that he preached of every Wednesday night were just an imposed figment of the man’s imagination. I would need to present a contradiction in Mr. Bevilacqua’s doctrine. I thought back to that conversation I had had with B.J. the bartender about the pumae pack, while waiting for the Captian. And the recount of this conversation, a few hours earlier, gave me good confidence in Step 2, although Blackbeard still held his reservations.

“Aye, I get Step 1, but Step 2 seems damned impossible, mate,” Blackbeard barked. The Captain hadn’t the intimate knowledge and experience with the Dark Frequency that I had (nor had I divulged an ace up my sleeve). I would ask him, at this juncture in our scheming, to operate on faith. “Spose I don’t have a bloody choice, do I?”

“The key is an entry point,” I said. “I’ve already proven to you that I can enter men’s minds via the Dark Frequency. My hope is that you can augment the bandwidth with your exceptional signal dealing skills. At that point, I can undo whatever Schmuckersburg did.” From passive observance to infiniteighter of the human mind. It was certainly a leap of faith, but that’s just because it had never been done before.

I would find an entry point into Mr. Bevilacqua’s mind, if I could send it and him into shock. Here’s when I’d play my ace in the hole. The steady and powerful brainwaves of Mr. Bevilacqua would screetch to a halt and I could match his frequency with that of the Dark’s. A seamless assimilation. And with Blackbeard’s amplification of the Dark Frequency’s bandwidth, I could sever Schmuckersburg’s ambilical chord attached to the MACHO leader’s brainstem. The plan was laid in place, Blackbeard and I now would wait until next Wednesday night’s meeting. Outside of Dark Frequency dreaming, this was the only time I ever saw Mr. Bevilacqua. In the meantime, I had to locate the pumae pack; they had information crucial to our plan. Luckily, tonight at J.J. Kilroy’s Pub was ladies’ night.


Six days later. We rarely left, the Captain and I, from the Red Tavern Inn; occasionaly we’d venture down to J.J. Kilroy’s Pub, during our scheming. Our dual solitude only added more weight to the following Wednesday for which we prepared. I remember that night held a heavy stillness in the air, as we made our way from W 5th Street to Church. The full moon’s reflected lumens bounced off of the inpenetrable Our Lady of the Assumption’s granite walls, standing steadfastly in a celestial spotlight against an onyx of absolute black void. The building could have been the only aedifice in the Universe. Captain Bill Blackbeard and I arrived at six o’clock sharp, two hours before the weekly MACHO meeting. Blackbeard set up his gear in the room neighboring the classroom, where he could warm up the motherboard of his pirate ship. We had contacted Max vel Nirvanator earlier in the week and received the access codes for HELL.com. While the Captain sailed into HELL, I would find my entry via Mr. Bevilacqua and we’d meet in the middle. The good captain would be my only ticket out, once I had undone Schmuckersburg’s handiwork. It was our theory that Schmuckersburg fed new info on the predatory cougars into Bevilacqua’s mind during these weekly Wednesday-night meetings. And this is when we could sever the puppetmaster’s strings.

I walked into the first room on the right and flicked the light switch by the inside of the door. The overhead flourescent laps illuminated that speckled linoleum floor. As I surveyed the empty desks for the best place to sit, I checked my radio microphone in the inside of my collar.

“Blackbeard, can you hear me?” I said.

“Aye,” the bud in my ear captured the pirate’s steel drum twang. Good. We would need to maintain communication for this intricate I8.

“OK. I’ll need you to access HELL.com from the other room, before the men arrive for their MACHO meeting. When Bevilacqua arrives and the meeting commences, I’ll play my ace. At this point, I’m going to need you to sever his HELL.com feed and revert it back to the Bookface breach. I’ll need you to run this loop so that Bookface can’t detect that I’m entering Bevilacqua’s mind.”

“Aye, aye,” the good Captain said. “And then ye’ll free him from the Schmuck’s code on your end and we’ll meet at the breach, aye. See you on the other side, mate.”

“Aye,” I said.

I ended up taking my usual seat in the back, even though I was early. No need to raise suspicion, I thought. The next hour and a half seemd to take years. I sat in silence until the first MACHO members began trickling in. Some of the last to arrive were Sully and the other bear-shaped gentleman who always sat next to him in the front corner. Stanley’s seat was still empty. Perhaps out of respect. And then Mr. Bevilacqua entered the room. His jet black hair seemed more wild than usual, but that could have just registered as wild in my heightened state. For once, in a MACHO meeting, I wasn’t here as a passive observer. Soon I would need to act. As every weekly meeting began, Mr. Bevilacqua’s thick Brooklyn “Alright, gentleman,” quickly calmed the loquacious crowd. And we got down to brass tacks. The MACHO leader fired up his slide show apparatus. Sure enough, we were still talking about puma hunters and their packs. The pumae. I couldn’t have picked a better segue, if Blackbeard and I had planned it. I played my ace. While Captain Bill Blackbeard was hacking his way through HELL.com en route to the breach to sever its ties with Mr. Bevilacqua himself, I switched my radio dial to channel 2. “It’s time,” I whispered into the collar mic. As the m sound rolled off my tongue, in walked that confident cougar leader and her pumae pack. One of them flicked the light switch by the door into its on position. A collective gasp swept across the MACHO meeting. Yet my focus was fixed on Mr. Bevilacqua, his jaw clenched as his dark ocular orbs of intensity shot daggers of hate into the pumae pack who had so rudely interrupted his meeting. You see that ladies’ night, the previous Thursday, had been fruitful for the Captain and I. We got lucky (not in the traditional sense); the leader and her pack had entered that night and we talked. Free of the fear that had paralyzed me that night they had supposedly taken Stanley, I did not hesitate to go over to them. As I had suspected, they were not kidnapping our former MACHO friend; they were rescuing him from the ignorant depths of Westchestertonville and MACHO. These courageous women had learned of the MACHO clan and that the leader’s dear cousin, Stanley, had fallen victim to their propaganda. And so they took Stanley back. Now they were here in ground zero, the Our Lady of the Assumption, Mr. Bevilacqua’s stronghold, to complete our collective mission of freeing Westchestertonville. The leader lit up a cigarette and spoke to the speechless crowd of men.

“I know why you guys meet here every Wednesday night and I’m here to tell you that what this man right here,” she pointed to a Bevilacqua ready to blow, “is telling you is a load of bullshit. Do you really think we’re the maneaters he says we are??”

Bevilacqua finally barked.

“Get the fuck out of here! Who do you think you are coming in here?? Men, don’t listen to them! They will twist your wills with their words. Don’t listen to these sirens! These are the monsters that killed Stanley!” Another collective gasp swept over the crowd still putty in Bevilacqua’s hand, instead of putty to the puma’s words. These men were putty.

“It’s funny you should mention him,” the puma leader said calmly, exhaling smoke from the side of her lips. “Because here he is.” The ladies spread to both sides of the dark entrance way and in walked the formerly unfortunate (who now turned out to be quite fortunate) Stanley. He had been the ace up my sleeve all along. Bevilacqua’s jaw dropped.

“How are ya feelin’, fellas?” Stanley was the same as I remembered him those weeks ago in the bar.

“How could this be?” Mr. Bevilacqua verbally expressed his puzzlement.

“Mr. Bevilacqua,” Stanley said, “You were wrong, sir. These women aren’t monsters. They saved me from this town. This place is backwards.”

“This is some sort of trick,” Mr. Bevilacqua insisted, he was now visibly flustered. His wild black hair grew maniacal. I then realized, from the back of the room, that now was my time to strike. The crowd grew restless and more noisily at their leader’s confusion, yet they sat tightly in their seats as this show played out in front of the classroom. I found quiet focus in the surrounding calamity and concentrated on the Dark Frequency, which had been present all along. In the next room, Blackbeard’s wireless broadcast gave amplitude to the naturally faint signal and I flew into Mr. Bevilacqua’s mind, in his momentarily vulnerable state.

The yelling from the crowd, Stanley, the pumae pack (excuse me, the ladies) and Mr. Bevilacqua himself faded to the back burner as the Dark Frequency grew in my mind as a bridge between consciousness and the id of my subject, the puppet of Schmuckersburg, the Men’s Alliance for Cougar Hunting Occasions leader, Mr. Bevilacqua. Soon, all ambient light and noise went silent as the Dark Frequency transported me across the room (in spirit) from my mind to that of Bevilacqua’s. Instantly, I could feel his hatred for the pumae pack, and sensed his thoughts racing on what to make of this complete contradiction to his entire belief system. I began immediately to look for Schmuckersburg’s tie to his mind. This had only been the second time I had entered the MACHO leader’s mind, yet I noticed instantly his memories seemed the same. I saw his wife, the Dr. Quinn Medicine woman. I saw his old electric jalopy chugging out of Westchestertonville to his home two towns over. This man had acquired nothing new in an entire week of thinking. And then I looked closer at the code of his memories and I began to read between the lines, between the movement of the memories at what was governing their manifestations. His brainwaves echoed in a very precise pattern, more machine than human. Then it dawned on me that the same message was repeating over and over again in binary. As I translated the binary code, I thought back to the first time Captain Bill Blackbeard and I had traversed HELL.com. This spontaneous memory made sense to me when I read back the code in English: Bookface® Incorporated Official Internet Protocol Address. Welcome to Bookface, where we are where you are. At the very core of Mr. Bevilacqua’s consciousness, the rudimentary level of this man’s existence, was Bookface® code. If I wasn’t in a digitized state during this infiniteighting attempt, cold sweat would have dripped down my temples at this realization. I wasn’t in a man’s mind at all; I was in the Bookface® mainframe. I couldn’t free Bevilacqua from his Bookface® influence; he was Bookface®. I would later come to realize that Schmuckersburg had not stopped at aggregating the social structure of humanity for the sake of his almighty dating algorithm. He was also acquiring the necessary data to complete his own version of the human genome. And it appeared he had completed a prototype in Mr. Bevilacqua. The cold sweat that was there in mind, not body, ran down because, at this realization, I had no way out. HELL.com merely fed into Bookface®, a one-way channel. There was no human in Bevilacqua to separate from the almighty Bookface®. All roads led to Bookface®. And they were all dead ends. Instead of panicking, I quieted my mind. And centered on the unique metronome tick of my time gene. Slowly, but surely, began to resonate with a wave much older and more powerful than Bookface®. Without an established exit, I would have to create one. In the stillness of my own mind, enveloped in the bigger synthetic Bookface® consciousness, I prepared to blast my way out.


… The Dark Frequency is the low rumble of a deep ocean wave. I hadn’t sensed it in youth, for I moved at a heightened, cacophonous tone. I must’ve sounded like a dog whistle to the great tsunami. Aging, as one does, I slowed down and could feel the deep stretch of its mammoth weight. The pure and terrible power of existential momentum. I felt the amplitude of these divine waves resonating with my unique metronome time ticker. My time gene was thus dialed to the specific signal of the Dark Frequency. I could hear it and, as the full body of its low rumble flowed through me, I asked it to listen to me. I did not have command over its impetus; I certainly did not control it. Instead, I asked it to move, to bend ever so slightly to my will. From the launching point of Mr. Bevilacqua’s genetically engineered mind, I had fixated on Bookface’s internal IP source and now I called upon Its signal to overload the mainframe. Once and for all, I would sever the social monopoly’s hold on the tiny town. I would disperse the cloud of ignorant gloom which shrouded Westchestertonville from the rest of the world. I would allow the light of the Internet to shine upon these innocent people once again. The flow rolled in as a title wave. My body, my mind, my soul were carried away in the undertow of its awesome momentum. And I focused its concentrated torrent into Bookface®. The Giant Weight coursed through me and my very identity fluttered like a flag in a hurricane. Via the Dark Frequency, I sensed the synthetic soul of Bookface® itself, Schmuckersburg’s baby. I resonated with its digital impulses on the servers feeding information into Westchestertonville. And, at the apex of my hold on this divine Dark Frequency, I sent a finishing surge to the specific circuits which allowed Bookface to cut off the Internet from the town. I sent this terminating blow to blast open the bandwidth wide; to disintegrate Bookface’s interpretation of the information and allow the raw data through. The low rumble of incredible magnitude ignited brilliantly in all iterations of the word brilliant; super nova brightness, the richness of a full orchestra symphony, aromatic as a field of lilac in bloom and I felt vibrations which poured from a source beyond all existence. Was I the Dark Frequency or was It me? We were one. I had achieved Its perfect rhythm. Be gone Bookface®! I rid you of this community! I exhaled, knowing full well this would deliver the deathblow. I felt the totality of my deliverance hit Bookface®’s connection to the town. Then I sensed a reverberation coming back. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The frequency which had agreed to my bidding became overwhelming on Its return trip. It filled every capillary in my circulatory system. It bubbled in my gut and shot beams of light through my fingertips and out my eyes. The steaming whistle of a locomotive erupted from my throat. Impossible noise brimmed to the edges of my temporal lobes and overflowed out of my ears. I felt every cell in my body ripping apart! I asked myself Did Schmuckersburg have an even firmer hold on the Dark Frequency?! Could he be overloading my mind as I had tried to inflict upon his baby Bookface®? These were my last thoughts before the silence. Quiet. Serenity in void. Suddenly I sat at a child’s tea party drinking imaginary tea, in a quaint bedroom on the second floor of some suburban home. The Sun poured in through the window’s open shutters. Ahh, yes. I was in my grandmother’s house playing with one of my little cousins. My only reasoning to this juxtaposition of time, place and existence was perhaps its stark opposition to the obvious calamity, within which I had just been. Chaos, awful unforgiving, red separation. Then the complete opposite: tranquility in a familiar room. Of course, this fizzled after a few moments and the reality of darkness seaped in. So ended my amazing ride on the wings of the Dark Frequency.

It’s a shame though… That I didn’t write any of this down. Perhaps my prose could have incited even the slightest change to veer us away from the fateful path Westchestertonville was headed. I’m dead now. It’s like none of this ever happened. My soul forever swims in the ethereal smog about Our Planet Earth, created by the WiFi waves that carry precious information along an electromagnetic continuum of finite possibility, stuck in limbo, asphyxiated amidst the sulfuric gaseous barrier between this life and the next. The news reports down below are blaming this phenomenon on the constant “wired-inness” the general public feels. Just like greenhouse gases that have trapped the Sun’s radiation in our atmosphere, the giant WiFi net has trapped staticky brainwave patterns. Even in death, we can’t get rest, apparently. And so, I swim among the other unfortunate souls caught in this greater atmospherical leash reigning over Mother Nature. For an eternity I can continually commend myself… Congratulations. In this very moment and for every succeeding one after the next, I’ve just been Bookfaced®.

At the thought of this unholy word, my mouth begins to salivate. I know I am dead, yet I can still feel the froth collecting on the walls, where my mouth used to be. And I can taste the tangy oxidizing tinge of iron, which used to happen when…

I was running…




Chapter 7: The Dark Frequency

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’.”




Chapter 6

When it came to hosting the infiniteighter hack, Capt. Bill Blackbeard was a genius. He stuck to five infallible principles, which allowed him freedom in every other aspect of his endeavors: 1. Live in the moment; 2. Stay on the move; 3. Never linger (2 and 3, were a package deal, I suppose); 4. Do not involve emotion; it’s only business; and, 5. (Perhaps the pivotal rule) Don’t get greedy. This quintuple ethos gave way to a smooth and calculating agent of hacking prowess so efficient no firewall was safe; no backdoor could stay locked; the Internet was an oyster to all who had the Captain at their side, a man who wanted nothing from it. For him, the treasure was the chase, the pure action of illegally surfing across imposed barriers and closed minds. In this sense, Blackbeard was a dog chasing cars and he’d continually catch them. It’s at that point, that he needed a driver, a reason, a purpose for his unruly behavior. Upon these principles blossomed the beautiful friendship between pirate and infiniteighter. Did I mention he legitimately believed he was a pirate? Of course, the tricky part was finding him.

Nevertheless, I needed to call upon his services once again. He was the key to freeing Mr. Bevilacqua from the seductive cyber clutches of one Darryl Schmuckersburg. Though I had glimpsed into the MACHO leader’s perspective via the prior night’s dream, this was only half of the equation. I saw how Bevilacqua’s delusion ran to the core of his inner monologue, an infintie loop deeper than any con I had ever encountered on heaven.GOD. Of course, there was no such thing as predatory cougars who preyed on the social weaknesses of unsuspecting males (at least not to the degree the MACHO leader decreed every Wednesday night at the Our Lady of the Assumption). Bevilacqua’s empassioned and psychotically fortified belief had almost convinced me. Though hindsight (and in my case dreamsight) exposed the ridiculousness of this cougar premise. I needed to free Bevilacqua and his MACHO members from this misinformation, which quarantined them from their society so heavily entrenched in the pseudo social solution of Bookface®. To do this, I needed the hack of a genius to grant me control over whatever consumed Bevilacqua’s subjective perception of reality. And I could only guess that Schmuckersburg, the logical culprit behind such a brainwash, had set up quite the cerebral barricade. For these reasons, Capt. Bill Blackbeard was the only man for the job.

Blackbeard lived by the seat of his long-tailed coat. I knew that from the moment I met him. vel Nirvanator had set up a meeting in his basement studio, when I was back at the Es investigating the line jumpers’ rogue sites hack. We both agreed, Max and I, that we’d operate under the guise that I was still infiniteighting. That was the only way Blackbeard would cooperate. He knew better than anyone that this business thrived on secrecy, but I needed an in to the line jumpers.

“When Blackbeard arrives, I’m going to introduce you as if you never quit infiniteighting. You and the Captain are going to perform a little job for me; if you want your info, you’re going to have to work for it,” Max had said in his basement stronghold amidst a casino of lights and sounds beeping. “He should be here any minute.” I would later come to learn that Blackbeard was never on time. His consistent tardiness would have implied intention to do so on the pirate’s part, but he was not prone to premeditation. ‘Aye, the moment’s where it’s at, mate,’ he’d often say. Though on that fateful day, years ago, he didn’t keep Max or me waiting long and my first impression of him was binding. To this day, no image populates my mind at the utterance of Capt. Bill Blackbeard. Instead, it’s the sound of brass buckles clanking on his giant leather boots, which stepped down Max’s stairs to his basement lair.

“How are we?” Blackbeard boldly inquired, on that fateful day.

“Good, good, Blackbeard,” Max said. “Captain, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” Max gestured over to me, leading Blackbeard to extend his hand, frilly sleave and all, for a hardy shake.

“Nice to meet you, mate.” Blackbeard growled. Although, I suppose he couldn’t help growling. His voice resonated the same way a steel drum did as rain pelted upon it. “I hear you’re an exceptional infiniteighter. Well know this: there are several rules I abide by and will waver for no man.” He proceeded to list his five-part ethos, to which I had no objections. His appearance and general attitude, however, kept me in a rather heightened state of apprehension.

“OK, well today I’m going to need you guys to perform some reconnaissance work for me,” Max plainly stated. He never let pleasantries get in the way of business, which, by his statement I could tell, he wanted to immediately address. That was OK by me; I wanted to see this Blackbeard in action, anyway. “As you know, I archive all of my clients’ heaven.GOD sessions in an offline drive. No one can reach them remotely. What you may not know is that I also archive another set of sessions. Though produced by my very same heaven.GOD platform, their contents resemble much more what I’d assume Hell to feel like. They’re created when a client has overextended his scope and loses control of the self-imposed world, or perhaps a hidden demon reveals itself in the session. In the interest of keeping these evil apparitions from the Internet Herself, I trap them in a separate external hard drive, aptly named HELL.com. Well lately, I’ve been noticing traces of their code on public sites. For the life of me, I can’t figure how they got out in the open. I need you two to go in there and see if you can detect any breaches.”

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “You want us, myself and this guy who thinks he’s a pirate, to voluntarily enter a cybernetic world, which, according to you, resembles HELL??”

“Ahh.. ya,” Max said rather matter-of-factly and in a tone that altogether ignored both my visible and audible agitation at this request.

“No worries, mate,” Blackbeard chimed in. “I’ve been to Hell and back on the highwaves of unregulated realms in Lady Internet. I’ve seen it all and then some. The likes of Maximilian can’t sway this here swashbuckler. I scoff at the the threat and accept this challenge from the depths of me cold, black heart.” I have to admit, Blackbeard’s brazen confidence put me a little at ease. For the sake of the scoop—Big Tom did not appreciate reporters who returned empty-handed—I too chose to rise to the occult occasion.

“OK it’s settled then,” Max said, ever reminding us of the urgency of his business. “We begin in 10 minutes.”

“Just enough time to fire up me ship,” said Blackbeard, who referred to his black-market motherboard as a pirate ship. While my new partner manned the helm of his electronic equipment, I readied my mind. I found a quiet corner of Max’s lair, sat down and preceded to meditate. 10 minutes would be all I needed to tune into the WiFi signal, on which Blackbeard and myself would sail into Hell(.com). My inner monologue went quiet. My stream of consciousness ran dry. The red, blue and green rods and cones that sparkled beneath my eyelids also ceased to fire and my very soul plummeted to a depth darker than I care to remember. The next thing I knew, we were in Hell.


“Mate! Matey! Wake up!” I awoke to the grizzled, gold-toothed mug of one Bill Blackbeard barking a rum aroma in my olfactory glands. His breath proved more effective than smelling salts. We were on a ship (Blackbeard, I gathered, had not been kidding) and we were sailing, or rather careening quite carelessly through a digital highway of smoldering sulfur, molten brimstone and all that other helly badness. I sat up and laid focus on the bow of our virtual ship to see that we were accelerating full bore into what appeared to be the mouth of a volcano. Then, looking back at Blackbeard, “What’s the plan??” I said.

“Aye, no plan, mate. There’s no tellin’ what lies yonder,” he said. “Although, musket to temple, I’d say the first sign of a breach, we gather the relevant data and then abandon this No Man’s Land.”

I laid back down and tried to concentrate, but the static was unrelenting. I sensed an innumerable quantity of spirits or other digitally incomplete apparitions that haunted and revolved round our soaring scooner. “We have to determine a perimeter,” I screamed to Blackbeard now manning the giant rudder wheel on deck. He turned back and caught me with his one good eye.

“‘Fraid these realms don’t work that way mate. Space and time don’t abide by the laws of the physikall. What we need to find is a hole. A hole that can emerge at any point on the four axes of this synthetic world. We’ll find such a hole where the spirits of this barren landscape flock, where their corrosive existences have seeped through the very coded fabric informing their architecture.”

“What do we do when we find one of these holes, then??” I was altogether petrified and at the same time impressed with my partner’s knowledge on this rather obscure, but extremely necessary topic at hand.

“Simple, mate. We fly through and see where she leads,” Blackbeard returned with a nonchalant smile.

“So what did Max need me for? You seem to know your way just fine!”

“Aye, mate. But this be a two-man job. Not even the slightest sextant could get this here scoundrel through the depths of Hell.com, for her land-, air-, and seascape change rapidly. The only constant be these spirits who forever dwell. I need ye to talk to one of ’em. Savvy?”

My stomach instantly leapt to my throat. These things were hideous. Forgotten and ill-formed, they shamefully and painfully subsisted as the half-baked dreams (or nightmares now) of ill-fated fantasy. Atrocious abortions of imagination that endured a continual punishment of their own existence. I speak in these generalities because, for one, no two were alike. And even to isolate one for explanation became an effort in futility. For the sake of this retelling, however, I’ll try to paint the unholy picture. Going with the general flow of evil, we pulled up to hideous creature that appeared to have at one point in its unfortunate existence resembled a dog (perhaps a family pet), but now had been turned inside-out. Its organs and entrails writhed about its exposed bones and skin hung at its feet. It had attached itself to the hull of our ship, still streaming at a glistening speed. Again, I tried to maintain focus and zero in on the thought patterns of such a seemingly indiscernible entity. Static and abrasive interference again filled my mind. I could only assume these were the incoherent and haphazard patterns of the subject I now addressed. Where are all of these ghosts going? I thought, hoping I had somehow made a connection with this beast. Nothing. Then, I tried to match the awful brainwaves to resonate with it. Instantly I felt drunk and on an acid trip. I felt up was down, left was… it wasn’t right, but it sure as Hell wasn’t left. I was losing my very identity and just as I decided to pull out to reacquire my sense of self, a garbled voice spoke back. WE HAVE FOUND AN EXIT!!! At last! Contact! I WAS GOING TO DEVOUR YOU, BUT NOW I FEEL YOUR TORMENT AS WITH MINE! I gathered it sensed our matching thought patterns, volatile and ugly as they were. FOLLOW ME. I SHALL LEAD YOU THERE.

“Blackbeard! Good news! This thing’s gonna lead us to the breach!”

“Aye, mate. I knew ye’d prove yer worth on this here voyage!”

“So what are we going to do, once we arrive at the destination?”

“We’re gonna fly through, mate. How else can we see where the breach ends up?”

“What about our rendezvous point with Max? How will we get out of Hell.com, otherwise?”

“That is our way out, mate! I didn’t want to divulge before you had established contact with one of these here deciduous constituents, but this weren’t no trial run; we needed to find the breach or else we’d be stuck here. Savvy?” It’s at that point, that I realized the true magnitude of this man’s insanity. His sheer willingness to throw caution to the wind, if it granted the ride of his life, was rivaled by no one. He knew the risk going in; I did not, until he told me. Icy saltwater must’ve run through the man’s veins.

At last we reached the oasis breach in this hopeless Universe of utter despair. It shined as a sliver of golden honey on a fault line that cut through the distant dark wall of Hell.com, like a pirate’s sword through a canvas sail. Blackbeard steadied his course and blasted full on into the breach. The last thing I remembered from that atrocious world was seeing through to the other side, which read across in a scrolling marquee Bookface® Incorporated Official Internet Protocol Address. Welcome to Bookface, where we are where you are. As we sailed through, back to salvation, I had made a lifelong friend in that crazy pirate. No one before and no one since could I regard in this fashion, but him… (in the Internet equivalent) I had been to Hell and back with Capt. Bill Blackbeard.


If traditional pirates were married to the sea, then Capt. Bill Blackbeard had Lady Internet as his mistress. He hardly ever left Her side, for Her bountiful booty was unrelenting in the adventurous treasure She continually presented him. And sometimes it evened seemed She protected him in his high-risk endeavors, as if he was one of Her favorites.

And so, at 8:23 a.m., on that epiphanous morning in my tiny studio in Westchestertonville, when I awoke rested to a tee, circadian engines purring on a gasoline stream of consciousness, I launched my search on the Internet. Tablet in hand, my fingers gestured to conduct an orchestra of cascading windows across the touchscreen. I had begun the hunt for the one man who could host the infiniteighter hack. In all of my travels, I had found no one equal. Yet, no longer a loyal subject to the Bookface® regime, the effort proved tough at first. It was like trying to remember someone’s cell phone number after years of just typing the first few letters of their name into my phone’s address book. All of my saved searches, established contacts, years of bookmarked hyperlinks and cached data had just been wiped clean with a single digital swipe from the crisp sheets of my queensize bed. Of course, this was necessary. Devising a coup d’etat would not fly in master Schmuckersburg’s own kingdom. Perhaps a change of scenery was in order. I swung my feet out from under the covers and planted them firmly in the plush carpet at my bedside. Standing straight and extending my back for the sweet release that cracking joints created, I felt a full two inches taller walking to the shower. Crank. Squeak. Water erupted from the shower head, in a high-pressure spray that warmed to a delicious 101-degree steaming geyser. Having cued the coffemaker to brew from the home-apparatus app on my tablet, before entering the bathroom, a fresh-hot pot was waiting for me, once dried and dressed. Percolation of a plan sans the standard Bookface support now commenced at my kitchen table. I took a deep breath of virgin morning air that graced through the picture window above my domestic workstation.

In order to locate my elusive friend, I had to become him. That was the only way to know where he was going to be; by the time I would have reached his present destination, he would already be gone, abiding by his third rule of conduct, Never linger. I gently closed my eyes and quieted the mind. I attuned to the WiFi hyperfrequencies of the tablet at my fingertips. Brushing over old files from Blackbeard’s and my contract work as scurges of the information sea, I stepped into the shoes, or rather the large, leather, big-buckled boots of my dear old colleague Capt. Bill Blackbeard. An urge to plunder the high waves of the Internet overtook me and the attitude of a pirate consumed.



short stories

Have you met Capt. Bill Blackbeard?

I looked down at my pocket watch to see that he was now 15 minutes late. That didn’t necessarily surprise me, however; I’ve heard Capt. Bill Black Beard called many things and punctual wasn’t one of them.

Within a few minutes’ time of this realization, I saw a shadowy figure, out of the corner of my eye, leaping over the second floor balcony. In mid-air, he grabbed onto the giant crystal chandelier hanging in the center lobby of the Red Dragon Inn and swung overhead, into the leather chair across from where I was sitting.

“Sorry, mate. I ran into an old friend,” Black Beard said, astonishingly cool despite quite an acrobatic feat not two moments ago. “Sometimes it’s hard to pry yourself away. Savvy?”

“No worries,” I said. “Shall we sit at the bar?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

The two of us, a swashbuckler and I, sauntered through the crowded, rowdy saloon and pulled two stools up to the foot-thick dogwood bar, darkened from the staining spills of a thousand ales. Black Beard sat on my left so that his sword wouldn’t poke me in the hip.

“Barkeep, a handle of your spiciest rum,” he said. “…and leave the bottle.”

The heavy smell on his breath told me this wouldn’t be his first drink of the day. He leaned toward me with his irreverant, deadpan stare.

“So what’d you want to chat with me about, mate?” His voice reverberated like the tinny repetitive twang of rain on a steel drum.

“Oh, nothing really,” I said. Then, after a moment of reflection and pause to gain confidence, “I’m thinking of becoming a pirate.”

“So it’s the life of a scoundrel ye seek, eh? Well, that’s easier said than done, mate.” At that point, he took a healthy swig from the bottle the bartender had set down, ignoring the glass poured for him. After a few chugs, he pulled the spout away from his moistened lips. “Although liquid courage helps.”

“I’m just sick of always playing by the rules. I feel like a trained monkey.”

“Aye, one does make his own way married to the sea, but without a name for yourself, like ‘Captain Bill Black Beard,’ for instance, you’ll tread a rough road on the onset, mate… ”

“So how did you make your name, then?” I interrupted him. “How did you earn the Lady Loveless a reputation that strikes dread in the very souls of seafarers, when it raises its tattered skull and crossbones emblem up the mast?”

Without missing a beat, he began his speech…

“I could sit here and tell thee it’s cunning. That I’m always five steps ahead. Those who’ve underestimated me in the past have paid dearly and word of their misfortune has spread from the slums of No Man’s Isle to the seat of Her Majesty’s Throne. I could tell thee it’s the story itself, mate, that, over time, it precedes you so that you don’t have to be clever or cunning; you just have to play the part,” he brought the bottle to his mouth, pointing the butt of it to the ceiling. In three more galunks, it was gone. The rum didn’t seem to make him drunk, just more fluid in his delivery of the monologue. He dragged the sleeve of his frilly white shirt across his grizzled face and, after a subtle tight-lipped grin which indicated he was pleased with himself, this lecture and his overall place in life, he continued.

“I could say all of this, mate, muttering until I was bloody blue in the face, but one defining Truth would remain nonetheless… One thing which cannot be taught or learned. You could sail the far reaches of the eight seas—”

“I thought there were seven,” I interjected.

“Not if you count the hidden one by Antarctica, mate. Anyway, you could perform all of this and you’d still fall short of one simple fact. A single quality, by which only I can achieve and you never can.”

“What is this secret?! I implore you! C’mon nothing’s impossible. There must be some way.”

“I’m afraid not, mate. This one immovable morsel of infallibility is entirely mine and no one else’s. It shapes the very fabric of my being and is the sole reason for my success plundering the plentiful bounty this fine Earth has laid before me.”

“Fine. The least you can do is tell me what this impossibility is, then. After all of this, you owe me that.”

“It’s simple, mate… I’m Captain Bill Black Beard.”