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…
— OFF THE BOOK —