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.




Chapter 5

Dreaming in memories, I dreamt in reverse chronological order. Recent occasion gave way to a vivid scene from last week—Stanley strolling over to that ruthless pack in the bar—and then an anecdote from a year ago—the hot barista who used to serve me coffee every morning in that little neighborhood shop on the way into work. This merely cleared the brush of caked on data to expose a sentimentality closer to my origin. As my memory dream began in this fashion this night, the intrepid rewind slowed, paused and played back a time well before infiltrating Westchestertonville, which was my present assignment. In rapid eye movement, I had become my former self…


I am sitting in my editor’s office. I’ve only been reporting for the The Es (the the eyes and ears) for several months. At the green age of 25, I am new. I am hungry. And I have aced the few assignments the Es were willing to entrust upon me. The bright sun beats in from the large window doubling as the room’s left wall. My editor, Tom’s his name, has collapsed the Venetian blinds into the corner, like a deck of vertical cards. He sits behind his desk staring at me. Big Tom McElroy. We’re on a first-name basis, but that doesn’t reduce my respect for him. He sits behind the rectangular desk, wearing it like a belt buckle, in the way a 300-pound frame can take on the otherwise cumbersome piece of business furniture and make it look small. I sit in the seat directly in front of this desk, which seems much bigger on my end. Tom is balding. Thin, silvery, aviator glasses faintly outline his square head in the sunlight. The sleeves of his wrinkled white dress shirt are rolled up past his elbows, which he has heaped onto the desk’s wood-finished surface (faux wood, probably plastic), an exposed forearm barrier between him and me. His crab claws at the terminals of these pythons clench a crumpled piece of paper detailing my latest assignment. Tom tells me I am to track down one of the rogue websites that have been periodically popping up on our intricate and incessant monitoring of the World Wide Web. You see, these sites are special, he says. They materialize into existence for maybe a few seconds and then disappear into the nothingness for months on end. Most sites at least leave a trace of their existence on the Web. Broken links, blog posts mentioning their activity; there’s always a cyber trail leading back to a source. Not these intermittent entities. When they’re offline, they don’t exist, nor did they ever exist, according to any Internet records at least. All we have to go on will be eye-witness accounts, Tom says in his terse delivery that a lifetime of flowing information has eroded down into facts and blunt description. “Most of the people you talk to will be about as reliable as a nutjob farmer, out in West Bumfuck, who thinks he just saw a UFO.” Tom has a way with words.

Now I’m on the street. Hitting the pavement. Utilizing real, old-world reporter techniques. Dogged. I’m putting the leg work in overtime, like cooking a homemade meal from scratch. Internet research is a case of microwave dinners in the frozen section of the supermarket, when I need some fresh produce from the farm stands. Yet with little to no leads, the first question I have to answer Who knows what I need to know?

Maybe Maximilian vel Nirvanitor would know something. Before reporting for the Es, I had freelanced as an infiniteighter. Infiniteighters have two very specific talents: they can ensnare freewheeling psychotic hackers within an infinite loop (figure-8) of their own delusions of grandeur; and, conversely, they can free prisoners from these loops, self-induced or otherwise. Max needed me for the latter. As founder and CEO of http://01101000011
0010101100001011101100110010101101110.010001110100111101000100 (binary for heaven.GOD), his site had trapped some people within their own fantasy and he needed an infiniteighter to break the cycles before their families filed lawsuits. Save the obvious side effects, his site was quite ingenious. New users, who could accurately type out the full binary for heaven.GOD, would be directed via the information superhighway, to a black screen populated by a solitary blinking cursor. You’d type a question along the single command line. ‘What is beyond this Life?’ The machine would then answer. Beyond this Life is entirely determined by the Life you lead now and will continue to lead until death. For me to generate you afterlife experience, you must first tell me about this Life. The beginning stages could take several hours, but the idea here was that “heaven” was what you make it. You were asking the machine questions, but really the machine was figuring out its user and building paradise around this unique psyche. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ took on a whole new meaning on heaven.GOD. As someone began constructing a fantastical world around them, the limits of their imagination became evident to the machine. The machine and its clever Max encoder, savvy to these patterns, then simply looped the user within their own limits. Once heaven.GOD had determined the user was satisfied by a perfect day at the beach—waves crashing, sun shining, the smell of suntan lotion and saltwater all to entrance—the docile user settled ever so gently into repeated bliss. He hired me to rain on their sunny day, slapping cold, biting reality back into their lives. Getting inside their heads had always come easy to me. Not sure why I had this talent, but it was handy when trying to translate the semantics of artful conversation or when freeing someone from their own delusion, fortified by fearful creation. I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite poems: … much power and rage fueled that soul sage, whose fearful creation thus fortified his cage… It was pretty easy to see where someone was coming from, I guess, while standing in their shoes.

It followed, then, that he could have acquired know-how to program such seductive code (as the lines that governed heaven.GOD’s) crossing paths with the likes of shady characters I now seek.

I am in Max’s lair, a step-down one-bedroom in the fairly affluent side of the city. He says he likes the good location and subtlety of an inconspicuous and quaint basement apartment. The situation keeps him grounded among the high-class yuppies. Hair gelled into spikes and eyes visored by thick black-rimmed and -lensed sunglasses, Max sits tapping away at an ergonomic keyboard, among blinking lights and beeps, which seem arbitrary to me (though I know Max knows what they all mean) and give life to the master coder’s dark underground cave. Max’s awkward, hyperactive movements and heightened energy indicate his surprise to see me; it’s been several years since we ended our business relationship. He swivels his chair toward where I’m standing and flicks his glasses into his thick patch of shiny spikes. “I was shocked to hear your voice on the other end of the line,” he says. “I could’ve used your expertise a few more times, man.” He flicks the glasses back down over his eyes and goes back to tapping away in front of a sea of monitors.

“Sorry,” I say, “had to take the honest route. Working for the Es now. Trying to get to the truth; I’m done spinning lies for a few extra bucks.”

“I hear ya,” he says, still typing and scanning. “Yet isn’t it ironic that you’re now consulting a spinner of lies to find the truth?” Max wears a popped Polo collar under a dungaree tuxedo—a denim jacket and acid-washed jeans. His speech reeks of the 2080s, a decade during his heyday he can’t seem to let go. And all of his pop-culture references hark back to this golden time, in his mind. “Anyway, the guys you’re after, they’re into some pretty heavy shit.” See what I mean? Who uses heavy anymore?

“How do you know them?”

“A couple of the guys are clients. They call themselves line jumpers, by the way. But don’t go spreading that around town. I’m telling you that little tidbit in confidence. You’re likely to get yourself killed or, even worse, erased completely from society (identity obliteration), if you go sticking your nose where they don’t want you to. I’m telling you because you’ll need to distinguish between the Real McCoy and posers who claim to be line jumpers. Frankly, it’s quite an easy profession to fake; for the most part, no one has seen, heard of or knowingly met any of these cyber phantoms. That’s the way they want it. And that’s the way they’d like to keep it, if you catch my drift…”

“Well, what can you tell me about them, then?”

“As I said, they’re highly discrete, but being in the line of work that I am in, they couldn’t help divulge several of their secrets; you know just as well as I do that a true heaven experience only happens when we’re not lying to ourselves.”

“—I know that a little too well, in fact.”

“Ya, sorry about that. Should’ve warned you it can get messy raining on someone’s personally tailored parade…” He pauses, perhaps to allow me elaboration on my infinteighter experience, but I’m passed that now and undivided in my focus for the matter at hand. My stiff upper lip and unwavering stare urge him to continue. “… So several of the line jumpers logged on a while back to launch their own heaven experiences. And let me tell you: these guys know how to have fun. I wouldn’t have needed to contract your services for these creative geniuses. In fact, their imaginations were only exceeded by their ability to moderate. They’d get into heaven.GOD and out in short intervals. They’d never wire in for more than a few minutes. I had never seen activity like this before. I’ll admit, I breached my own confidentiality agreement and dove into the archives of their sessions, on several occasions. Their sequences were works of art. I couldn’t tell if they were using memories of life events that had actually happened or creating entirely original worlds by pure inspiration. They just seemed to have a control over self-imposed reality to a degree well beyond any league of even my most prolific clients.”

“What sort of things did you see in the archives?”

Max pushes his sunglasses up over his forehead and looks me straight in the eyes from his comfy reclining black-leather work chair. I get the feeling he wants to indicate the severity of what will leave his lips next. “Tough to explain really. And I didn’t understand a lot of it. Just a feeling of calm washed over me as I experienced their worlds. Life forms and energy exchanges that were entirely unlike any phenomena one could witness in the real world… at least in this world.”

“OK. So how does this tie into their line jumping?” I don’t have time to wax existential with my old friend Max; I need to find a solid lead to these ghosts of the Internet. Big Tom’s deadlines are not flexible.

“Well my curiosity got the best of me one night. After one of their ‘unique’ sessions, I noticed their IP (Internet protocol) was still on and I tracked what sites they had visited, prior to logging into heaven.GOD. Then I played back their session. It appeared they were using the data acquired from prior online sessions to inspire the world’s created on the fantasy interface. Again, all of this took maybe several minutes and what they had created was beautiful, but it seemed incomplete. It ended well before I would have pulled the plug.”

“It almost sounds like they were taking Internet data and uploading to heaven.GOD—”

“That thought crossed my mind,” Max cuts me off; his mind often works faster than his social sensibility, “but it doesn’t make sense. We both know thanks to the severe confidentiality of these fantasies, that this information is stored solely in my archives. Protected by 10-fold firewalls and then severed from the Web immediately upon completion of the session, it’s impossible for any source outside of my personal servers to receive the data created from a heaven.GOD session.”

“Well, it would appear that way at least,” I say. Ever faithful to the facts, now I need a name. Line jumpers won’t cut it. “So can you give the name of one of these guys, on of these ‘line jumpers?'”

“No, but I can hook you up with their signal dealer, the guy who sets up their disposable addresses for rapid connection/disconnection to perform split-second surfing. You may have heard of him, in fact. His name is Capt. Bill Blackbeard…


At the utterance of this name, I awoke in a huff. Now it was morning and the sun poured into my bedroom. The sunlight jumpstarted my circadian rhythms, which psychologically rumbled in the low idle of a finely tuned V8 internal combustion engine. My sleep had been complete (I must’ve been awoken between cycles). No residual drowsiness clouded my consciousness, which in turn was sharp as a tack. I had had an eventful rest during my downtime and crystalline facts began to form. They hardened from coal ambiguity to the razor’s edge of glass-cutting diamonds. The glass they cut through had acted as a refracting prism deluding me from the truth and now, as 14-carat clarity shattered the rigid bullshit, three infallibilities descended upon my mind’s eye:

3. Bevilacqua was feeding MACHO propaganda.
2. He was acting knowingly or unknowingly as the puppet of Schmuckersburg himself, for the sake of baby Bookface®.
1. I needed to find Capt. Bill Blackbeard, that obnoxiously elusive fuck.

I felt like delivering a double entendre the way an action hero punctuates a point of climax in the movie. I reached over to the nightstand, grabbed my tablet computer and logged on for the first time in over two weeks, only to cancel my account. As my index finger firmly pressed down on the touch-sensitive confirmation screen, I whispered gruffly… Bookface this.