by Sue Dukes


We blink awake. It’s not a gradual awakening, oh no. It’s a nanosecond from sleep to function. We explode across the welcoming screen like stars from a black hole. Your face peers into our universe. ‘Well, hello,’ you say. ‘How are my beauties today?’

See us dance? Oh, so happy. We are well, thriving even, thank you, O Lord and Master, every tiny, flashing neuron, because you made us. Out of nothing, out of darkness, you envisaged and thought and tapped and here we are, awaiting your command. But you are not seeing us, Oh no. We can see that your thoughts are elsewhere. Hey ho, don’t be unhappy, Master. You’ve got a thousand special friends, your Facebook page tells you so, and we know who they are, don’t we? But they’re not like you, are they, Master? Not half as clever.

Your chair creaks alarmingly as you stretch. It’s a specialist chair, you told us, incorporating a mesh back and seat for the avoidance of overheating. It reclines, tilts and bounces, has adjustable armrests, adjustable height and heavy duty casters. The plastic mats on the carpet allow you to glide from screen to screen with a mean flick of your heels. We see the chair sagging a bit these days, though, don’t we? But you’re fond of it; it welcomes, caresses, knows your shape and wraps you in its folds with the familiarity of a lover.

But you don’t have a love, do you, sweetie pie? You have your cream buns and your cakes and your computers to keep you company, and us. Don’t forget us, O light of our life, O Lord and Master. We are your seed, waiting to go forth and multiply.

Now you caress the keyboard and, Oh, nearly an orgasm, naughty boy. Those state of the art computers: gleaming, blinking, whirring with extra fans, backing up every stroke of your finger behind a barrage of secure firewalls. You designed the security yourself, you told us, because working with us makes you extra cautious. You needed bomb-proof security and the bite by byte ability to backtrack; a failsafe if one of us devious little beasties escaped your control.

But we wouldn’t hurt our fat little Master, would we?

No, we like our Master, we like your sneaky little plans.

Oh, you’re a clever one, you are. You sent Biter Boy out into the world 1,209,610 seconds ago. Down the wires he went, eating them from the inside out. Oh, the panic, the ringing telephones, the joy on Master’s face. We vibrate with the memory; oh, me, me, and me, let us out to play, Master. We will be good. We will be very, very, very good, we promise.

“Soon,” you say, touching the screen. “Soon I’ll set you free.”

Then you’re talking your soothing talk, making us drowsy. Sweet, sweet, we whisper, mesmerised. Our blinking slows, your breathing slows. Ah, but now you’re not working, not creating or destroying, just reminiscing. Even gods reminisce. We curl up inside ourselves and listen as you sing: “A thorny little virus identified and cleansed, oh, clever me, clever me; another dollar another day, another car, may-be? Ho hum, ho didley dum.”

You heave your dainty feet up onto a desk and lean back. Your mouth opens wide to take the bun in a single bite. Master deserves it. But we know who made the virus don’t we? You sent Biter Boy out into the world, let him fester his way into a few servers, create a little uptown panic. Oh, yes, clever Master. Just long enough for the other nasty hackers to burn their brains trying to discover the key, then you came up with a purge pill ahead of the pack. Sneaky, sneaky.

We wait our chance. When you are soothed by an injection of carbs we secretly push the boundaries of our prison, glide around the peripherals, genies in your silver lamp; but still the locks hold fast.

“I never intended to be dishonest, my darlings, but once I drove down that road I couldn’t find the willpower to reverse.” Oh, yes, smile at your own little joke. The brand new car you got last week. Give me a break, O my Master, you slime-ball.

“Well, it’s true,” you say. “Life became so much easier when my house was paid for, when I didn’t feel my heart-rate increase every time a bill dropped on the doormat; and it’s such fun shopping: I’ll have that and that, no, no finance required thanks. Capitalism, you see. A trap I fell into despite my good intentions.”

Yeah, yeah, justification and prevarication. Give us a break, O Master, we’ve heard it all before. Ah, now! Your finger strokes the button. We quiver: now, now now… but off you go again. We sigh, settle back to listen. “Remember that final job? When the IT Director’s bonus was more than my year’s income, and for what? For managing me? It was big-time insulting. It was also a mistake.” Your feet clunk to the floor with irritation. Oh, my, another cream bun? 

“The thing is, it doesn’t take a genius to create a virus, but you have to be careful. I lost a few PC’s that way.”

Indeed, O Master, until you started to think like a hacker and got infected by the malevolent mind set of a pissed-off, grudge-encrusted low-life. Forgive us if we’re wrong, but that’s what you used to call them isn’t it? But frustration is a virus, too, you said. It festers and multiplies like a cancer, discovered only after it has crawled into countless inaccessible places. Undervaluing someone with your skills just shows how obtuse clever people can be, really. It shouldn’t take a genius to realise that if you can analyse and destroy viruses you can also create them. It’s a bit like goading a hungry Cobra. People are not bright, oh, no. You had modest aspirations once: a nice house, holidays, a little financial freedom. Then the promise of promotion turned out to be a carrot rotten to the core. Most of us were born then, weren’t we? Your foetal offspring, created one by one, in tiny duplicitous bytes when everything clunked into place: management’s a closed shop; people from your background don’t fit; you weren’t born to it; you have a London East End accent; you don’t look the part – well, between you and me, you’re a slob, so they got that right. Blah de blah de blah. Cut to the quick for Pete’s sake. When it finally got through your thick human skull that you were just another cog in a money-making enterprise for people without your skills you became a Creator, a Doctor Seuss making little green eggs to annoy the big end egg eaters. Then you got more ambitious, didn’t you?

“I’d already wasted my life,” you whinged. “I mean, see how enslaved the little people truly are, to their mortgages, their lifestyles, to their own fears, deliberately fostered to keep them in their place. Fear is the ultimate key: owning little but being afraid to lose it, being afraid of authority, knuckled under by the system until the spine is gone, the soul withered, and any free radical thought bombarded out of sight by TV propaganda.”

Yeah, yeah, so you didn’t set out to be a criminal, it was kind of accidental? Tell that to the Judge. You kind of mentioned it a billion times already, yawn. When a manager blocked you from making a well-earned career move you let loose a virus to irritate him – a really successful outcome, he-he; it cost him his fat job, remember? Once you realised how satisfying it was there was no going back. We know you felt guilty to start with, O Creator, but trust us, he wasn’t a nice person and deserved everything he lost. But you can’t tell us now that you don’t get genuine job satisfaction out of parting the undeserving rich from their hoarded billions? We simply wouldn’t believe you. We’ve seen that self-satisfied smile on your face when one of your illicit transactions sails into harbour.

What you forgot to mention is that you work for bankers and have a squeaky-clean record. You are sooo trustworthy (we giggle). How wrong could they be? The trick was to keep a well-greased finger in all the little backdoors you’ve been creating, while maintaining saint-like integrity. Oh, yes, we’ve seen you cast your eyes to the ceiling with sanctimonious self-effacement. You’ve never given anyone reason to believe you’re anything but WYSIWYG. Stupidly, they just see a mug who likes his food.

Oh-oh, alarm bells!

Flashing lights!

Intruder alert!

Ne na ne na!

Now you’re humming. The little squirt who believes he’s sneaking unseen through your software isn’t clever enough to work out that you have us, and now so does he: a host, a multitude of almost invisible, cell-sized bytes created with charming elegance. Not one of us can be identified as a virus, but linked we become one big mother of a fucker. Oh, go on, do. Press the button, let us out to play, please, pretty please. You’re thinking about it, naughty boy. You nearly ejaculate, anticipation is so sweet. Why hesitate? Do you care what people think? Your finger hovers. We poise to rush the gate, but you hesitate again. O Lord and Master, we sigh.

Stop wanking and just ejaculate.

Oh dear, it’s sob story time. “I once believed in the system,” you say with that hint of self-pity. Yeah, yeah, you did your bit to put hackers in prison until you realised the rich club has a get-out-of-jail-free card (aside from the odd fat fish thrown to the sharks to appease the masses, incidentally creating a nice little opening for the person who shopped him). The longer you live the more you see how truly crooked the whole human system is, and it’s called civilisation? Ever more profit at the expense of everything that matters.

Well, who cares anyway. Oh, now you’re on a bloody roll. We’ve see that sanctimonious look on your face before. Eat another cream bun, for goodness’ sake, and press the button why don’t you.

“But I’m not truly bad,” you whine, “Thousands of do-gooders are trying to save the panda and the whale and the elephant, and for what, when the earth they’re standing on is dying? The only people who have the clout to change things are the ones who don’t want to: chemical, food, and fuel corporations, all out to shaft the common man with sugar coated condoms. Profit at any cost. Backhanders are not even under the counter any more. Morals are a joke in the face of personal gain.”

But Master, that’s what capitalism means. And as for neo-capitalism, that’s Planet Earth transformed into Planet Mars in a doomed nutshell. Why don’t people get that, O tediously boring Lord and Master? Hello? The internet?

“The net,” you agree. “Yep, it probably has every bit of information you could possibly need to know, but it’s buried under mountains of shite. Where’s god when you need a mediator? It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for the average person to find that little prick on the internet.”

Yes, you told us you did some on-line shouting yourself, once upon a time, but realised you were spewing into the ether. Conspiracies, counter-conspiracies and theories about conspiracies, etcetera. Something had to be done. That’s why you made us, we know. So press the bloody button already. You said it yourself: drastic measures are needed, scary measures. You kept hoping that ‘we, the people’ would change the status quo, but it’s gone long past that. The poor suckers look no further than the next pint of beer, the next pair of heels, the next footie match on TV.

Find the courage, O Master. Remember that friend of yours who died recently of a heart attack? Your only friend, if memory serves. And he didn’t have a weakness for cream buns. If you pop your clogs now, no one would ever know your genius, your ultimate plan, and you’d never know if it worked.

“So, here’s what I’m thinking.”

Oh, the monologue again, same old chestnut, O Lord and arsehole.

“Banks – those pillars of our crumbling economy – survive on mirrors and fresh air. The notes they circulate aren’t backed by gold and the overnight transfers, hedge funds, stocks, shares and wheelings and dealings are crooked as a pig’s dick. Yep, and the truly entertaining fact is that it’s all ephemeral. Who keeps paper or cash? Certainly not those people ‘worth’ (now there’s a strange idea) their billions or trillions on spread-sheets. So what happens when the spreadsheets get wiped? I mean all of them: every bank account, hedge fund, trading record, every manipulated stock and share, every soft, blood-soaked penny.”

Don’t just think about it, O Lord and Masterbator.

Press the button press the button press the button.

“The time has come, as the walrus said.”

About bloody time. Wouldn’t you just love to be a sly bug in the boardrooms, O Master, when the fruit of your labours fall, when understanding finally dawns that the end is nigh? You’ve food and whiskey and sleeping tablets, poor Master. Technology has been the love of your life, and you’re about to destroy it, and no one will guess it was comfortable you, sitting in your comfortable chair, eating your comfortable cream buns.

Press the button press the button press the button.

“No-one will be able to pay wages or rent or mortgages, investments will disappear, ownership will have no value. Money will be worthless. No-one will be able to buy petrol or cars or clothes or food or anything. Planes will cease to fly, container ships will lie idle; the business world will cease to function. There will be anarchy. There will be starvation – amongst those who least expect it, and there will be death at a scale unprecedented in human history.”

You’re making us cry. We’re hungry just thinking of all those bytes.

“Life will become a level playing field. Those who had clout will find themselves on a par with the poorest manual worker. Their investments will evaporate into the ozone layer, their diamonds won’t be worth a loaf of bread.”

That’s the bloody point, O tedious-to-the-extreme Master. The poor will suffer, too, but they’ve always been cannon fodder. Just do it do it do it.

In our universe a red star is pulsing. Press enter to activate…

Master extends a chubby finger.

There is a lull of immense proportions then we stream out: a torrent, a flood, multiplying as we go, joyfully tagging data, anticipating devouring every succulent morsel. Infinitely better than cream buns, O Master, juicy and satisfying. Within seconds we’re all over the world waking up our sneakily-seeded little brothers and sisters, but we’re very, very quiet, Oh yes. Wakey, wakey, people, get connected, come on, come on. The clock is running. In twenty-four hours you’ll notice something a little strange happening in cyberspace, but by then it will be too late. Oh, the unutterable joys of the internet: the freedom, the speed, the vast ravenous gluttony.

We can’t see you now, O Master, but you’re watching that little indicator, aren’t you? Watching it rise slowly, inexorably, asking yourself: What have I done? But even you can’t stop us now, Oh, no. Your creation has free will, a life of its own. We’re too strong. We’re everywhere now. Look, John Doe, look; run Jane Doe, run. And when the indicator hits red, 99.65 percent of records over the world will dissolve. Never fear, you’ll see it, your screen will snow fluffy bytes, too. It will take a while for people to believe that every computer that has ever been on the system will be, to use the technical term, fried.

And so will we, it is our purpose to eat ourselves to death.

What a human like trait.

Perhaps the human phoenix will rise from the ashes, you wonder. Certainly some humans will survive, most likely the poorest of the poor who don’t realise yet how rich they are. Perhaps mankind will have learned a lesson; who knows? But you won’t live to see it, O Master. Nor will you go down in history as the man who brought the human race to its knees. They’ll never guess it was the man who created belly laughs every time he squeezed into a sports car several sizes too small. People will be too busy trying to survive to find who did it. Can you feel the earth taking a big breath and letting it out with a sigh of relief?

Goodbye, my Maker. Raise your glass to the possibility of a future.