Taking a break from Flickr Stories, this is a short piece I wrote a while back that was inspired not by a picture, but by a color. For days I’d had the color of sand stuck in my head and eventually the color turned into this story. I’ve always liked it and I hope you do too. Feel free to share and comment, I’m eager to hear your thoughts.
I stood looking out over the vast expanse of desert before me. The sun baked sand stretched as far as my eyes could see. Dunes rose and sank in a haphazard pattern. Somehow, I managed to find this oasis to shield me from the brutal sun. I leaned against a palm tree wondering what to do next. The prospect of going back out into the desert didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. As far as I was concerned, I could stay here forever. I had shade, there were a few plants, and I think I saw an insect or two. Surely I could live off of that.
My inner man, the one that often kicked me into gear, told me to forget it. I knew he was right, I just tend to act like I can’t hear him at times. Who wants to always acknowledge they are wrong to someone else? But when it came down to it, he only had my best interests at heart. Damn him!
I turned from the brown sea of sand ahead of me and sat down at the base of the tree. I had a backpack full of basics: a cup, some matches, a small rope, some extra clothes, and a bible. Of course, I carried a large bowie knife that stayed on me at all times. I learned the hard way to never let it out of my sight. The heavy canvas olive-drab military backpack held all I possessed in this world. I was lucky. Most everyone else these days have far less.
It must have been several months, maybe a year back that it all went to hell. I honestly can’t say when. I lost my watch, my cell phone died a few full moons ago and I have no idea how many days have actually passed. I stopped counting the sunrise and sunsets some time back. And it’s not like there’s internet access anywhere near here. I suspect it might not be available anywhere…not anymore. I guess that’s for the best since that’s how it all got started in the first place.
Hunger follows me everywhere I go. I thought I was closer to civilization now, but by the looks of it, I’m far from it. I haven’t had a decent meal in weeks. I’ve lived off of bugs and assorted vegetation. As long as it’s not rotten, I’ve eaten it. I’ve had to. My once svelte thirty-four inch waist is now much smaller. If I had to guess, I’d say I’m down to Beiber size. Things have gotten way out of hand. Never were we supposed to get this way.
I need water in a bad way. I’ve started hallucinating. I think I see zombies wandering the desert or other times I’ve seen Washington crossing the Delaware, but the river is sand and Washington is Hulk Hogan. I’ve seen bizarre things out here. If I do make it back to the real world, I hope my mind decides to join me there.
I looked around and watched the green plants slowly fade away. The tree I leaned on winked out of existence and I fell to the hot sand. Another hallucination. I need to get out of here quick. If I stay much longer in this wasteland, I’ll end up a part of it and no one will know the truth. I have to get moving. The sun was not yet fully overhead, which meant I had time to walk before the real heat kicked in. Once it reaches its peak, there’s nothing to do but hide under my backpack and ride it out. That’s a way better option versus spending what energy I have left fighting the brutal sun.
My inner man always has energy and he uses it to get me up and going. One day I’d like to either beat him to a pulp or shake his hand. Maybe both.
I stood on shaky legs, slung my backpack over my shoulder, and walked. I had no specific destination. All I knew was to go east. Why? I can’t say. I figured I’d rather have the sun at my back if I needed to walk in the late afternoon. It’s as simple as that. As much as the world went haywire, I knew that the sun still rose in the east and set in the west, so with that logic, I followed the direction of the rising sun, allowing it to get behind me as I traveled east.
As a way of getting my mind off the numbing blindness of the desert ahead, I ran through the events of the last days in my head looking for the moment it spiraled out of control and forced me to this blasted desert. I focused most of the blame on the “program.”
You see, the world got to a point where we were connected with everything. Phones, computers, cars, watches, and things as innocuous as toys and groceries, all these things were controlled and manipulated through our interconnectedness. You could say the internet became like veins and arteries, giving and taking blood to us, the people, and taking it back to the heart, which, of course, wasn’t a real heart but a network of supercomputers that were created to regulate everything. All commerce tied back to this array of computers. All financial, social, and medical systems did as well.
We didn’t know this at the time. All we knew was life was getting “better” with each and every new version of our gadgets. We eagerly plopped down money to finance our own enslavement.
I belonged to a loose knit underground organization bent on exposing this network. We knew a little about the engineering behind it and we worked tirelessly together, though anonymously, to find a way into its infrastructure in order to tell the world about it. Our goals were noble. We didn’t want to hurt anyone, just free us all from this blindness, from the slavery we had unwittingly put ourselves into. We had no idea we could topple governments, or crash stock markets, or incite international war. All we specialized in were computer programs. We knew just enough about this network, at the time, to introduce a small trojan horse virus to the system with the intent of tracking it to its source.
One of our guys, he went by the name “Snoopy”, let loose a program intended to piggyback along the communications pathways of the main supercomputers to find their location and share that with the world. Our main goal was just to expose how much we’ve allowed computers to rule our world, not to harm the system but to enlighten people on the inherent dangers of putting our fate at the mercy of machines only able to process the living world in 0’s and 1’s.
Well, that simple program had a bug in it that caused a catastrophic failure of the entire network system. Governments couldn’t function, banks shut down, people panicked, weapons systems went on the fritz. The world went crazy.
It’s funny when you look back at it. All those so-called “Third-World” countries actually held out longer than the rest. Since they didn’t have the infrastructure to be “modernized” like most of the world, they suffered the least amount of upheaval. That changed when the “modern” nations went to war and the smaller nations became collateral damage inside the carnage. All because of a mistake in computer code.
I don’t know Snoopy and I don’t know where he’s at, or if he’s still alive. Before the end, he lived in Singapore. I don’t know if Singapore is even there anymore. I guess it doesn’t really matter.
I need to keep moving to the east. Eventually I’ll find my way out of here. The sun is getting hotter and higher overhead telling me I need to rest. I need to save what energy I have left.
I must continue because someone needs to know. We didn’t mean it. It was nothing more than a glitch in computer code.
Until then, I’ll just be laying here under my backpack for a while.