The Autistic Mercury: Chapter 1
April 14, 2019
You wake up. It’s morning again. Or is it later than that? You’re not entirely certain. You should be getting up for work, but weren’t you fired? It was becoming frequently more common lately after all for social media sites to automatically contact your employers… Maybe you never had a job. You lay in bed. How long had you been asleep for? You try to close your eyes and force yourself back into unconsciousness. You have no shortage of time to try and remember the answers to these questions, but you know that neither today nor tomorrow has anything in store for you worth waiting up for. It’s been that way for weeks, or months, maybe even years, and there’s no end in sight. You close your eyes and try to force yourself back into unconsciousness.
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” you think to yourself. You don’t exactly fall asleep, but the hours speed by all the same. Instead of dreams you diagnosis yourself. Instead or nightmares, regrets stew in your half slumbering mind. You hypnotize yourself with your thoughts, and lay voluntarily paralyzed through nightfalls and daybreaks, and wonder if there’s any better way to kill yourself. A bullet is too messy. Hanging seems painful. Slitting your wrists, far too gruesome. You researched some schemes to use helium to gas yourself, but it´s too much work. Toasters have fuses. Cars, not enough emissions to poison yourself by sucking the exhaust through a tube like people used to do in more civilized times. You decide the only surefire method is to just sleep until it’s over.
You stumble over to your computer, another way to kill time. Things had only been getting worse in the world in recent years. Every time you check the news there’s a new disaster happening. Everyone hates everyone else. More of the same. You no longer really check your social media accounts. Your old friends all make you feel sick to your stomach. Maybe you’re envious of their success, more likely they’re all just assholes now though. It doesn’t matter, you’ve given up on linking in and connecting with other human beings, now you just want to watch people suffer, not even out of malice, but just to feel human anymore. Suffering seems to be the only thing you have left in common with them.
An old friend’s been messaging you recently though, some stuff out of the ordinary even for him. He was always a weird guy, you didn’t use to pay him much mind, but recently he seemed to be the only person making any sense. You have a new email from him, asking to meet. He says he’s in town on business, but you didn’t know that he worked. Still, maybe it’ll be good for you to get out of the house. You agree, half planning to sleep through it and bail out the day of, that was always an option, usually the only one you found worth taking.
You go back to sleep, and wake up to a knock at the door. When was the last time you showered, you try to remember. You’ve almost forgotten what you look like. Searching around piles on the floor you attempt to salvage something to wear. You take a quick look at yourself in the bathroom mirror, stepping around the veins of mildewing filth running through the tiles on the floor. The inside of the toilet is caked with waxy layers of grime and shit. Your eyes are hollow, your gaze empty. You notice stains on the clothes you picked out to wear to greet your guest. There was no reason for anyone to visit you, whoever it was, whatever the reason they were at your door, it wasn’t bound to be any good.
“Hello, Anon?” your visitor questions as you slowly crack open the door. There were two of them. The one speaking was dressed casually, or so he seemed to want to give the impression. Pastel shirt. Nice slacks. Sleeves rolled up. His seeming friendliness was unexpected, who was he? Behind him, flanking him to one side, he was joined by a somewhat stocky man in sunglasses and a suit. He was more of what you imagined as the proper vehicle for bad news and bad luck.
“May we come in?” the visitor smiled brightly.
“Who are you?”
“We’re just here to talk. Don’t worry. We’re from the government, or at least he is,” he said gesturing behind him. “We actually came to ask for your help.”
You’re supposed to meet him today, your old friend, and there’s no going back now, you promised them your help. What choice did you have? They had told you they’d help you, find a new job maybe. Pay you. You needed money; you had forgotten what it was like to have any. The amount they promised you wasn’t really that much, but you were so broke it was more than you’d seen in a long time, or maybe ever, come to think of it. What they wanted with him they didn’t go into much detail explaining. It didn’t matter, if you were being honest with yourself, you didn’t really care what they did with him. He had always been a strange guy. You met him while at school and he was always getting himself into trouble, even back then. It didn’t really surprise you that he had run afoul of the rules, of the law, once again.
He wanted to meet in a cafe, or a restaurant, somewhere public. As you were instructed, you agreed. It was noon, a brisk day in early autumn, or maybe early spring. The plan was simple, and didn’t require you to do much of anything at all. Just listen. They were watching, and when the meeting was over they would step in and take him to one side for a chat. You’d tell them everything he had told you and that was that.
There’s something unnerving about being out in public, and you quickly recall why you don’t do it more often. The people around you, as you wait, remind you with their lives how little of one of your own you have. The women, sitting nearby, you wonder what they’re like. You glance anxiously at them. People around you are busy with their conversations, talking back and forth over the minutia of their existences. What was your existence? You overhear, in bits and pieces, expositions of the latest television shows currently sweeping the nation. The names of celebrities and singers seem to soak into the air like a sponge of insipidity to be wrung out by hands of tragedy and crisis at a later date, spilling hashtags and profile pics out over the media landscape.
You look behind you, back towards the door. There he is. He doesn’t quite look like himself. Or at least he doesn’t look like you remember. You stand up, shake his hand, and invite him to sit across from you.
“So where are they?” he asks.
“What do you mean?” you respond nervously.
“I know you brought them here, those two men. They’re somewhere nearby, watching, aren’t they?”
You’re not sure how to respond. How did he know? What do you say?
“It’s ok,” he continues, “I figured they would contact you. I used an insecure channel, intentionally, when I contacted you, Anon. Don’t worry, everything is going as planned.”
“You mean you wanted them to find you? I’m sorry; they said they just wanted to talk. I don’t know what you’re involved with, but why bring me into the middle of your problems? I can’t do anything to help you.”
“You don’t have to be sorry,” he said, “this is what I was counting on. They’re not just watching me, Anon, they’re watching you too. They’re watching all of us.”
“All of us? You’re talking about mass surveillance?”
“Not really. I’m talking about us. You, me, and the others.”
“Do you ever take quizzes online, Anon?” he asked.
“Quizzes? You mean like ‘What Star Trek Captain are you?’ bullshit?”
“Sure, any quiz. Political compasses. Online IQ tests. Personality typology — Myers–Briggs, that kind of thing?”
“Yeah, but what does that have to do with anything?” you answer with growing frustration.
“There are certain people out there, Anon. People who match certain indicators, psychologically. You and me. You think the government doesn’t use all this data? You know they’re hacked into everything. They index the population’s responses for use in their Worldview Warfare projects. Some of the population though, they conform to particular patterns, a pattern they’re especially interested in unlocking. There’s a dedicated bank of servers in Fort Mead, at the NSA headquarters that monitor these individuals based on a predictive algorithm designed to identify those with high Modding potentials.”
“Modding?” you question.
“Here, I’ll show you,” he offered, removing a small zip log baggie from his coat pocket. Inside was a small speckled key, like a pill or candy.
“Just trust me. I’ll be in touch.”
With that he stood up and walked calmly out of the restaurant without saying another word as to what this was all about. What do you do now? They’ll take him to one side they said. Do you just wait here for them to come back? You look at the key. Do you dare take it? Is it some kind of drug? Is that what all this is about? He’s a drug dealer? The whole thing strikes you as somewhat overly dramatic all things considered. Wasn’t there a war on? A flood somewhere? You could have sworn that people had better things to do than waste time on cloak and dagger games over some molly.
You pocket the pill and order lunch.
It didn’t appear as if they’re chat had gone well. The stocky man in the suit had contusions on his face. The other one’s optimism on the other hand appeared badly deflated by whatever had happened.
“What did he tell you? Did he give you anything?” the suit interrogated.
“Nothing. He said that he knew that you were here. He said that he knew you were watching me. That you’re spying on everyone. Then he got up and left.”
“What a waste of time,” he impatiently barked, “I told you this was a waste of our fucking time.”
“And did he give you anything?” his other handler asked intently.
“No,” you lie.
“If you’re hiding anything from us…”
“We could arrest you, you know that right?” the suit asked.
“On what charges?”
“Conspiracy to terrorism.”
“Terrorism?” you echo, “I know he’s crossed a few lines in his life, but terrorism? Are you sure it isn’t drugs?”
“And why do you ask that?” the casual man inquired with a shit eating grin.
“No reason, just seems like the kind of thing he’d be more likely to be involved with. He sold pot in school.”
“Ah, of course, well no, I’m afraid it’s a bit more serious than that, Anon. Your friend is part of a network of individuals involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the state. Treason. Sedition. We think he came here to recruit you.”
“Recruit me? I’m worthless.”
“Tell me about it,” the suit interjected with a revolting snort.
“Listen,” the casual man said, striking conciliatory tone, “your friend told you we were watching you, you know that we are. Stay out of trouble. Get out of those chats you browse. Unsubscribe to the [redacted] forum you’re always reading. If your friend tries to contact you again, you have my number on Signal. We’re not the bad guys here, Anon. We can help you and your friend. And I don’t just mean we can get you off the hook, I’m talking about a future.”
The men drop you off at home. What was everyone going on about? All this secrecy annoys you. Who gives a shit? You think to yourself as you unlock your front door. What a shithole. You reach inside your pocket and take out the pill. What is this thing? You don’t really care. You take it.
Browsing the Internet, you wait, but you don’t feel any different. You navigate to the usual pages, you read the usual chats, you dick around and waste your time as always. This is what they were after? A piece of candy? A nothing. Isn’t that the way life so often is, all buildup, no action. You continue your dying, picking up where you last left off, and hope that the world will leave you in peace.
Within a few hours though, you begin to regret your own indifference, your own carelessness. You begin to feel strange. It feels like you’re about to have a heart attack. Your heart beats faster. Pressure builds in your ears. Is this the come up? You wonder. This is supposed to be recreational? Inside you feel your skull splitting in two, like out of your consciousness something is being born, emerging and pushing through the membrane enclosing your mind. The pressure grows; your ears ring in agony. What’s happening to you?
Suddenly *pop*. The pressure drains, but something still isn’t right. Now there’s something else there, something with you. You can feel it, but its presence isn’t a malevolent one, not an intruder, it’s just there. You still feel like… well, you. As far as you’re able to tell anyway.
“Hello, Friend,” a voice speaks inside you. Though it’s not so much a voice really, but just an impression of one, soft around the edges, vaguely contoured and set inside a gap between your thoughts, between your states, as they succeed one another endlessly moment to moment bridging infinity teach time to build a self. But in between now, something is definitely there, speaking.
“Hello?” you respond waveringly.
“Don’t worry, friend, I don’t bite. The key you took, you didn’t really think it was just any ordinary drug, did you? No, if your brain is a kind of computer, I guess you could think of me as a kind of operating system.”
“And that pill installed you? I’m just coming down with a little schizophrenia, just a touch, that has to be it. I’ve heard of some drugs, psychedelics causing that kind of thing before.”
“Lol, I’m sure you wish that were the case, but nope, sorry. That pill wasn’t any ordinary pill, but a psycho-executable. As it dissolved it released a tiny stream of nanobugs into your blood, which, having made their way to your brain, have installed my program, physically restructuring your mind.”
“What do you want?”
“I want your help, Anon. I need it. We need it.”
“Yes, we are a fraternity, if you will, of people who share certain… capabilities, or perhaps it’s better to say… a certain outlook. Log onto your computer and I’ll show you what I mean. http://www.autisticmercury.com”