What if everything you had ever written or entered on the internet became instantly accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime? Even that which you had thought you had entered anonymously, such as on public chat sites using a pseudonym? I have often wondered what would happen if people actually had to be accountable for half the stuff they rant about online, especially the anonymous stuff. That’s how I came up with the idea for the short story “The God Moment.” It’s one of quirky little tales in my sci fi short story anthology Insufficient Data. The volume is available as an ebook on Amazon. The story is the year 2047 in Shanghai, where radical libertarian group FreeThink has seized control of the internet using technology never seen before. Everything is about to be revealed. And Hugh Anderson has secrets he would prefer that nobody knows!
“The God Moment”, by the way, is a phrase I came up with, because as soon as all information is freely accessible, we would effectively be omniscient – well, at least as far as encoded information goes.
There is also another motivation behind this story. Over the years as I have explored non-ordinary states of consciousness, it has become absolutely clear to me that everything about us is transparent to higher spiritual perception – to “God”” if you like. There is absolutely nothing you can do to hide anything from the greater intelligence of the universe. It is only we humans who hide – mostly from ourselves.
As with any of my books which I write about here, if you would like a free review copy, just email me firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you the PDF.
The God Moment
In the year 2047 computing technology permits instant access to almost unfeasible amounts of information. Each human being, and each location, is encoded with a Net ID. All people are assigned a Net ID number at birth. This incorporates a database of all internet information about that person – everything they have ever written on the net, and everything written about them. Individuals can choose which information to make publically accessible, and this right is enshrined in law. However the system is about to go haywire.
Hugh Anderson opened his eyes. His large home office came slowly into soft focus. This was his space, his little world where he both lived and worked in bustling Shanghai. Alone.
“Lah, Net system activate, please.”
There was a slight whirring, as the lights flickered on, and the wall opposite his bed came to life. Lah 9000, his home computer system, was awake too.
“Lah, WhoYa email, thanks.”
Being a little old fashioned, Anderson had stuck to WhoYa through thick and thin over the years, even after it had changed its name from Yahoo, and even despite the burgeoning of other email services.
Hugh Anderson was a little blurry eyed that morning, on account of his having consumed half a bottle of cheap 7-11 wine the evening before. He did not even bother to read the email headings on the screen. In fact the first thing he noticed was the time: 10.23.
“Shit!” He realised he’d been sleeping for over seven hours. As the director of ForeSight Multi-Media, he subsisted on an average of four hours a night for over a decade. Now he was running late. Very late.
“Lah, Email one.”
Immediately a tall, dark, balding man appeared at the end of his bed, shimmering ethereally. The huge figure leaned closer. Anderson had only a vague recognition of the man, whose face contorted as he screamed in a heavy Middle Eastern accent.
“Fuck you Anderson! You’re going down for this. I promise you that!” The man bent down and picked up a baseball bat, raised it over his head and screamed a deafening war cry.
“Lah, deactivate 3D Mail!” The man’s image disappeared.
Anderson pulled his pudgy little body out of the bed, his heart racing. What the hell was that all about? Who was that? Then it came to him. Fahim Achmud, Saudi Arabia, about ten years ago. Achmud had more hair then (who didn’t?), but it was him for sure. They’d done a deal with mobile app software. But he hadn’t seen the guy since. What was he so pissed about?
Anderson forced himself to breathe deeply. This was not the beginning to his day that he needed. After a moment he sat at his desk, and relaxed a little.
“Lah, email two.”
He looked up at the big screen. It was from Kurt Chang his old boss from Xavier Connections. He’d worked there for three whole years back in the late 30s, a company record. Chang didn’t even bother to show his face. The words were written in bold red on a black background.
good to finally know the truth Hugh, you asshole. hope you got a good lawyer, or ten. you might like to get your butt cheeks sown closed before you go away. i hear they like white guys on the inside, especially little fat ones
For a moment Anderson could not breathe, and his shoulder blades stiffened. A thousand paranoid thoughts ran through his mind. The Narwaz deal? The Riyadh fiasco? Gigi, his first wife? No. They couldn’t know. Surely.
Anderson stood up and walked over to the screen. There were two hundred and forty-seven new emails. That was more than twice the usual number. He scanned the email titles, barely believing what he was reading. There were six death threats on the first page alone. His eyes fell on one name, his longtime colleague Joe Lona. There was no email title.
“Lah email twenty six.” The screen flickered and five words in huge black capitals filled the entire wall.
TAKE FLIGHT ALL IS REVEALED
“What the…?” Anderson paced for a moment. “Lah, 3D email to Joe Lona.” He turned to face the camera at the top of the screen.
“Joe, what the hell is going on? Are you OK? Call me now!”
Anderson walked over to the window and looked out over the bleak suburban Shanghai landscape; squalid, grey low rises were barely visible in the foreground against the dreary skyline. Just for a moment, in the dimness caused by the haze, he caught sight of his half-naked, unkempt reflection. He shuddered.
A soft ‘bing’ alerted him to an incoming call.
“Lah, who is it?”
“Joe Lona, Hondex Mob…”
“Shut up Lah! Receive call!”
The face of a man in late middle age, with unnaturally dark hair appeared on the screen. He looked scared.
“Joe! Tell me what’s going on for Christ’s sake!”
“You don’t know? What have you been doing for the last eight hours? Screwing around on BlueToob? Jesus, I hope not, for your sake.”
“I’ve been sleeping. I had a late night.”
“Sleeping in on Judgment Day. That’s rich.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Look, we can’t talk here. They can see everything we do online. Everything.”
“Read the paper, for God’s sake. Then meet me at the park at one sharp. We can talk there. Don’t tell this to anyone.”
“And cover your face.”
The line went dead, Joe Lona vanished. Anderson stood there staring at the smiling red dragon of the China Connect logo.
“Fuck the Chinese!”
Anderson sat at his desk, and popped out his keyboard. “Lah, open New York Times.”
In less than a second the newspaper’s front page was splashed across his wall.
Information terror as Net IDs go public!
Global information systems are in chaos today, in the wake of the world’s first case of information terror. Radical libertarian group FreeThink has claimed responsibility for the hacking of the global internet system.
Currently all web sites and personal internet accounts in all countries are freely accessible to everyone by entering a simple universal code. For legal reasons the New York Times cannot disclose the code, but it is now circulating widely on the net. In related breaking developments, rumors are circulating that World President Li Zhongri has gone into hiding.
More details as they emerge.
A squat-looking man in a Batman suit passed through the gates of Quyang Park, not far from downtown Shanghai. If this had been any normal day, he would have attracted stares. But January 21st 2047 was no ordinary day, and people had other things on their minds. The man passed several other individuals, all wearing surgical masks and large hats of various kinds.
The caped figure walked up to the large fishpond in the centre of the park, spotted what looked to be an unusually tall Muslim woman with her hijab pulled tightly over her face, and went straight to her. The veiled figure spoke first.
“Hugh, is that you?”
“Yes, who else could it possibly be?”
“Good God, man! Why didn’t you just wear a gimp suit? It would probably attract less attention.”
“I don’t do kinky.”
“No, you merely love ‘busty Asian schoolgirls’, according to your search history on BlueToob. I checked you out. The Chinese will love knowing that.”
“What? How could you…?!” Anderson’s face was sweating profusely under the black mask. A sudden sense of despair overcame him. “My God, I’m fucked.” He put his head in his hands and began to sob. “Forty years of work! All for nothing. All gone!” He stood there, a disheveled, forlorn Caped Crusader. He began to pull at his mask.
“No! Keep it on, Hugh. This is China. There are cameras everywhere. The second your whereabouts is known they will come for you. They know about the Riyadh deal.”
“Riyadh! I knew it as soon as Achmud emailed me. They’ll know that the bid from Hicorp was faked by us. We shortchanged the Chinese fifteen billion at least on that one. We’ll never get out of the country alive!”
Joe Lona’s eyes shifted uneasily under his hijab. “It gets worse. Everything you have ever done on the net is now traceable by anyone. Even the stuff you wrote anonymously on chat forums and kinky adult web sites. Everything.”
“What! How is that even possible?”
“Every computer you have ever bought is linked to your Net ID. Every time you have ever used your credit card online, done online banking, or registered for some community or chat site, that information has been indirectly stored on servers. FreeThink have been able to access all that data, and link it back to your Net ID and make it accessible via web searches. Now all anyone has to do is type in ‘Hugh Anderson’, and say ‘China’, and every foul mouthed anonymous tirade you ever made about the revolting table manners of the Chinese on the WhoYa comments boards shows up.”
“You know about those too?”
“No, I was just saying that hypothetically.”
“But I didn’t even mean half that stuff. I was just ranting.”
“Of course, but you think the Chinese will believe that? After Riyadh?”
Anderson paced backwards and forwards for half a minute or so, his Batman cape flapping annoyingly in the hot Shanghai breeze. Suddenly he turned, whipped out his phone and began tapping madly at the keyboard.
“What about you, Joe!” He began to laugh hysterically. “You are no saint. What can we dig up on you? You were in on the Riyadh deal too.” His frenzied fingers worked the keyboard. “Joe Lona. BlueToob. Chinese.” All he got was a message asking him to search again. Anderson stood there blinking disbelievingly at his device.
“That’s right, Hugh. I’m dirt free. I got a professional to wipe me clean from the web a few years back. Some of us saw this coming long ago. ”
“Yes, but I know about Riyadh. There are others that know about it too.”
“Yes, that’s why I made arrangements.”
“Arrangements? What kind of arrangements?”
“I’d estimate you’ve got four days, Hugh. The first forty-eight hours the Chinese will be busy covering their asses. The third day they will go after the Chinese big boys, the ones with trillions. By day four I reckon they will be onto the foreigners, and that means you.” Joe smiled calmly. “That gives you a bit of time at least.”
“But what can I do? I can’t leave the country. I’ll never get out of the airport.”
“It’s a good question, Joe. Try being invisible for a while.”
“Invisible? This is 2047! There is no invisible! And as of today, everybody officially knows everything.”
Joe looked at his watch, and began to move away.
“Sorry, gotta go to the mosque for prayers. Good luck Hugh.”
“You can’t just leave me here, in the shit.”
“I think you are forgetting something, Hugh. As of today, you are officially God. A God amidst Gods. You are on an equal playing field.” He kept walking away, then turned at the last moment. “But just remember to keep all your phones and computers off, or you’re a goner.”
He chuckled and walked away, leaving Hugh Anderson standing in his Batman suit in the middle of Quyang Park.
Hugh Anderson had four days to find redemption. He had to remind himself that he was God. Or a deity damned.
Anderson knew something was wrong as soon as he saw that his front door was slightly ajar. He instinctively stood back against the side wall of the corridor, listening. Someone was either in his house, or had been there. Who could it be? Images of a dozen old enemies passed through his mind, quickly followed by images of a whole list of new enemies he knew he would have since the coming of the God Moment.
Two minutes passed. Not a single sound or vibration had come from the room. Anderson looked cautiously through the gap in the doorway, then dashed through, ran straight to the kitchen, jerked open the second top drawer and pulled out the electric carving knife. Flicking it on with a whir, he surveyed the room. It was a mess. His desk draws were scattered on the floor. The sofa cushions had been flung aside. Cupboard doors were open, and broken plates and pans were scattered everywhere. The bookcase was on the floor, along with all his books and magazines.
“I got a knife. Come and get me asshole!”
Nobody came. After checking out the bathroom and closet he came to the conclusion that nobody was there. He quickly closed the door, and set the safety lock.
Anderson let out a huge sigh. The next thing he noticed was that his computer was gone from the desk.
“Shit, shit, SHIT!”
He paced the room, dodging stuff as he went. Thoughts of total societal exposure filled his mind. Then it dawned on him. He was already screwed. There was nothing on the computer that could possibly incriminate a man whose every e-word and e-deed was now public knowledge. He laughed so hard he sneezed.
The biggest problem would be if whoever had done this came back. But why would they? If they wanted to kill him, someone would have hidden in the house and put a bullet in his brain when he walked in. No. They were after something else.
He called for his home computer. “Lah? Are you there Lah?” There was silence. Anderson stood in the middle of the room for a moment thinking. Should he go online?
After quickly putting his desk and chair back in order, he sat down. He pulled out his mobile, and accessed his home network. Within two minutes Lah was rebooted, and his wall monitor came to life. He sighed with relief. At least now he could find out what he needed to know.
With every web site and just about every bit of data ever put up on the internet now readily accessible, it did not take long to get the necessary details. The God Code, as it was now called, worked by crunching data from multiple sources, utilizing multiple factors. One key component was configuring a unique linguistic ‘footprint’ for every net user on the planet. This was constructed from the very unique way a person hung words together, their typical typos, grammar errors, word choices and so on. These were then used as probability indicators to determine which batches of text on the web were written by the given individual. Location was the prime variable. Each information event entered on the net was chronologically configured with each individual’s credit card transactions, mobile phone usage and CCTV appearances in public places (as identified by face recognition technology). After all variables were ‘considered’ using the God Code, each information event was then given a probability index for a specific person. If someone had delivered a rant on the comment section under a NewsFix story about a specific football player, for example, chances are it would now appear under that person’s Net ID, with it’s probability of being correct being given in percentage terms. In turn, the NetID of everyone was now freely available via multiple domains at FreeThought@Freethink.
It was clear to Anderson that FreeThink had hijacked every bit of information ever recorded on the net in its seventy year history, and matched each data entry with a specific individual, along with a probability index. Further, all internet accounts, including social networks, were accessible to everyone via the universal password: “The God Moment.”
All was known. And the world was crumbling. The stock market was in meltdown. Governments were collapsing. Bankers were jumping off tall buildings. Priests were running for the hills, and many had not even bothered to put their clothes back on.
Having ascertained this basic information, Anderson did what everyone else on the planet had done first. He checked his Net ID on FreeThought.
It was even worse than he had expected. There it was. All of it. All his recent emails and information activity, beginning with his attempt to search for Joe Lona’s BlueTube activity in the park two hours ago.
He scanned further, back through pages and pages of data. Some he could not recognize as his own. There were text entries from WhoYa comments.
(June 10, 2044) Teen sensation Cindy Charity turns 18 with #1 hit
Whoa! What a rack! Gimme some butter milk, baby! Pity she can’t sing for s&#t! Posted by “Yazza”, Hugh John Anderson Net ID: Y2939475SH. 99% probability.
(February 22, 2032) Barack Obama appointed to leading environmental group
Obama is a racist piece of s%*&t! Who let this geriatric nygga ex=prez head the Green Commission? Loonie Kommies have f*&^%*d America! Power back to whytes! Posted by “WhytepowerNow”, Hugh John Anderson, Net ID: Y2939475SH. 100% probability.
Tears came to Anderson’s eyes, but within a minute they had evaporated into the dry, air conditioned ether. He felt himself, rather weirdly, floating somewhere up above his own body. His face had gone cold and pale.
No, these were not his words. These were the words of a bad, bad man; an evil, cold, judgmental lunatic who had hijacked his Net ID to bring down the good man Hugh Anderson.
It got worse.
(January 2nd 2046) China’s Li Zhongri voted first World President
This is good news. Chynks do great laundry. Send Li Yellowboy around to do my dirty underwear and smelly socks. $4.99 an hour is my highest offer. Posted by “Yazza”, Hugh John Anderson, Net ID: Y2939475TH. 100% probability.
Hugh Anderson’s consciousness, now hovering at the approximate level of the ceiling fan, instructed the little, pudgy white man to get up. He wandered over to the window, and looked out over the bleakness of the Shanghai late afternoon suburban skyline. The sun was sitting low on the horizon, spreading an unworldly pink glow across the evening. The crimson sun complemented the grey air perfectly.
“Lah, open window. All the way.”
The window slid upwards, and Anderson climbed out onto the ledge. He stared at the setting sun, and it occurred to him that this was the perfect symbol for the end of his petty little, pathetic, white life. With that thought he laughed. And that is what saved him.
He would not jump.
Anderson sat on his windowsill gazing out over the mid-twenty-first century Shanghai landscape, and something within his mind shifted. Perhaps it was the slightly delicious sense of danger at balancing precariously seven floors above the sidewalk. He stared out into the evening, and there was nothing before him but emptiness. It came upon him softly, not unlike the gentle brilliance of Venus, which at that moment hung silently upon the horizon.
In that moment of nothingness, one thing was certain. Hugh Anderson was finished. In fact, he was more than merely finished. He was dead. He knew that even as he dangled his fat little legs out into the cool air, his enemies – and there were many he could name – were squealing with delight as they perused all his search queries on BlueTube and AsianHos. They were guffawing with merriment at his hate-filled invectives directed at the Chinese on internet comments pages too numerous to recall. No doubt a Chinese vigilante mob was gathering at that very moment, seeking revenge for his derisive comments about Chinese men’s genitalia and their lack of sexual prowess. Right across the globe, gleeful adversaries would be siphoning through his email, thanks to FreeThink and the God Code. They would be dissecting his personal correspondence to various mistresses, Thai bar girls and third world gangster figures. There would be much rejoicing upon the opening of his petty hate mail, fired off in moments of pure rage to backstabbing partners and competitors. What pure joy they would experience when reading of Anderson’s attempts to bring down the innocent but naïve men and women who had stood as his competitors in the IT marketplace.
Yes, it was judgment day, the God Moment. Only it wasn’t God who was to pass judgment upon him, but humanity. All was revealed, and what it presented to the world was a dirty, smutty, shitty and just plain mean Hugh Anderson. He sighed.
“C’est la vie.”
The Shanghai summer evening was cool, and the pudgy little man peeled off his shirt, and with a not-quite-graceful flourish threw it out into space. He watched it for a moment billowing out, then disappearing beneath him. Next, off came his shoes and socks. Anderson’s shiny size six Doc Martins landed with a thud on the pavement below him. What reckless fun! His rounded Buddha-like stomach bulged out before him, and he drummed a few beats with his bare hands upon his newly found percussion instrument. The grey Shanghai air and dark crimson sunset inspired him to sing.
“Smoke on the water, the fire in the sky…”
It sounded terrible, and he knew it, but he didn’t care. He had nothing now. Was nothing. What was there left to lose?
Balancing not quite carefully on one buttock at a time, he removed his trousers, and tossed them away. That was much cooler.
It was a few moments later that he heard a voice calling from the street below, in Chinese. The words made no sense to him. In his twelve years in China he had never bothered to learn a single word of the language. Such was his contempt for “the yellowboys”. What did register in his mind was the crowd gathering below him and the presence of police. There was only one question.
Were they there to save him. Or destroy him?
Anderson laughed with delight at the paradox. Here he was, undoubtedly a wanted criminal by this point, teetering precariously high above the mob he so despised and hated. He ripped off his underwear, kissed them, and threw them earthward, chuckling hysterically.
“No need to wash them this time!” he bellowed.
He was somewhat shocked when the large airbag arrived. He was indeed being rescued! Rescued by the backstabbing, treacherous Chinese! This was a difficult concept to grasp, and at that moment something flipped in his mind. He realised that everything he knew was a lie.
He let go.
For a few seconds the crowd stood, eyes fixed on the sight of a short, fat foreigner free falling through the Shanghai night. The next day’s newspapers would show photo and video close-ups of the face of a madman, inexplicably smiling as he plummeted towards his expected death.
Inside the mind of the falling man, entire modules of cognition were obliterated. Doctors would later call it a stroke. To Anderson it was Heaven, as his superior parietal gyrus, located not far from his left ear, exploded from a sudden infusion of unrestrained blood. The damage to his temporal lobe was instant, and with it his entire life to that point in time vanished, including all memories of past deeds and misdeeds, past friends and best of all, past enemies. And it was ecstasy.
Anderson saw the faces in the crowd rise before him, their eyes wide with wonder and fear; and in that moment he knew the Chinese for the first time. He was the Chinese. He was one with them, with everybody and everything.
Thud! Hugh Anderson touched down, bounced a meter or so off the airbag, sprung upright and landed on his feet.
“Thash was fun!” he said, his words slurring as the blood began to saturate the left side of his brain. He bounded down to the pavement, movement jerky, barely able to balance. A policeman threw a blanket round him, and immediately he threw it off.
“I wome be needing thish, fanks you.”
The policeman stood there, a look of confusion on his face, as Anderson danced naked, round the mat, his damaged brain causing him to move about like an out of control robot. Men, women and schoolgirls giggled, covering their mouths as if that somehow gave them permission to keep staring at the naked foreigner before them.
Two policemen soon dragged him down.
“Sorry,” one said in English as he wrapped Anderson in the blanket. The other policeman pulled a mobile device out of his pocket and pointed it at Anderson’s face.
“Hugh John Anderson, ID: Y2939475TH.” the device said flatly.
“Your Unglish is goo!” Anderson tried to compliment the machine. Then he lost consciousness.
“You have had a stroke, Mr Anderson,” The pretty but rather stiff looking Chinese nurse said in English when he awoke.
“Who is Mr Anderson?”
“You are. You had an accident. You will live, but you are going to need time to recover before you go to trial.”
“Trial? Where am I?”
“You are in a government hospital.”
Anderson stared at her. His head ached so bad he had to close his eyes.
Jay Stiller had big, shiny, white teeth – the one part of his face that he allowed the viewing public to see while he was hosting The Show Today. The rest of his face was covered in a prosthetic mask, just slightly more handsome than his own over-plasticized face. He sat, straight-backed in his big, comfortable chair and looked out at the two hundred people in the TV audience. Now, ten years after the God Moment, he was almost used to seeing the stiffness on the ‘faces’ of the people who rolled in to watch the show. As had been the fashion for a decade, everyone wore a prosthesis over their real face, or a surgical mask, hijab or some other item to conceal their identity. It was the year 2057, after all, Stiller reminded himself. Even though the World Government had managed to regain control of information systems within a week of the God Moment, there had been several other scares in the months and years that followed. People had lost confidence in the government’s ability to maintain control of the internet, and the days of allowing yourself to be freely seen in public were long gone. Any mobile device or CCTV camera could pick you up, and then…
Stiller saw the red light and leaned towards camera one, his teeth glistening like the white keys on a piano keyboard.
“Today’s guest needs no introduction. World magazine recently called him the most dangerous man alive. Others have merely called him misunderstood. Here he is, the founder of FreedomFace dot com, Hugh Anderson!”
Anderson strolled forward into the lights and gentle applause.
The crowd gasped, for the guest wore no mask. In that moment the brightness and he became one, and Anderson had to consciously release the bliss that filled his spirit. He knew from his experience after the stroke that too much lightness of spirit rendered him literally incapable of speech.
He sat down and grinned broadly, deep wrinkles furrowing his brow and crinkling the corners of his eyes. Now past sixty years of age, he had lost weight. With the exception of his brazen facial nakedness, he appeared much like any other man entering the later years of his life. He looked out over the audience. Their fear was palpable, and he knew what it was they were afraid of.
Stiller turned to his guest.
“Hugh Anderson, you have been out of prison for two years now. You have since founded FreedomFace, which advocates people exposing their faces in public. But your organisation is considered a cult by some. You also claim that you are a changed man since your time in jail. Many think you are a devious liar. What do you say about all this?”
“Well, I’m not the one wearing the mask, Jay.”
There was laughter, followed by a chorus of boos.
“Some might ask you whether you have any self-respect, getting around… um, exposed, as it were.”
Anderson smiled. Although he had regained most of his memory since the stroke, he had little sense of identification to his life before it.
“To me, this moment is who I am. I have no fear of that. I have no fear of your judgment. I am free.”
The calls came from the audience.
“Who isn’t?” Anderson returned, to silence.
“Sexist pervert!” a plump middle aged woman cried.
Anderson merely nodded. “Yes, that would be correct.”
A young Asian man stood up clenching a fist. “You are an anti-Chinese racist! Apologize to my people!”
“I understand why you are angry,” Anderson said calmly. “I have apologized many times before. Yet people still expect apologies every time I make a public appearance. This is just a game, and I don’t play games anymore. Tomorrow there will be another enemy you want to blame, no?”
Jay Stiller, smile still perfectly intact, leaned towards his guest. Anderson could see Stiller’s artificially blue eyes from behind his facial prosthesis. He saw the contact lenses Stiller wore to fool the scanners that were so widely available right across the world. But it was not Stiller’s face that the camera had zoomed in on, but Anderson’s.
“What do you say to these people, Hugh?” Stiller waved a hand at the audience.
“I say that there is nothing to be afraid of. I am simply here being me. I am not selling anything. I’m not denying anything. Everything about me is still out there on the internet. I fired my lawyer ten years ago. My only service to the world is to be true, to be this man. I feel only love for people now. I am free.”
“What about the Thai bar girls, Hugh? Do you still love them?”
A roar of laughter rose from the audience.
“Perhaps,” said Anderson.
“You see, Hugh, what bothers me – and I think I can speak for many here – is that you feel no guilt or shame for what you have done, for who you are.”
An angry voice came from the audience. “Christ loves you, Hugh Anderson! Pay for your sins!”
“In this moment there is no sin.” Anderson looked directly at the old woman.
“That’s all very nice for you, Hugh Anderson. But what about the people you stole from, the ordinary, innocent, hardworking people of this world. Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself?”
“Besides placating others, what function does shame serve? The past is gone. It is no longer real.”
“Okay,” said Stiller. “Let’s talk about the past, Hugh Anderson. Talk me back through that night of January twenty-first 2047, when you tried to kill yourself, jumping naked from your apartment building in Shanghai.”
“Check it out on the net. It’s all there.”
“We want to hear your side of the story, Hugh. You say you had a stroke. Many people think that is just a cover up for your own descent into insanity after the full extent of your shameful life was made public during the God Moment. Tell us the truth, Mr. Anderson.”
“Sure. The truth is I was mad well before the God Moment. It’s the God Moment that I have to thank for making me sane.”
The jeers became louder, and suddenly a brown object was flung at Anderson, just missing him and landing with a splat on the studio floor. The pungent smell of human feces reached Anderson’s nose. There followed two shoes and a suitably decayed orange. All missed their target.
“They hate you, Hugh.” Stiller could not quite keep the smile from his face. He was leaning ever closer, staring at Anderson’s brown eyes, waiting for signs that he would break.
A small, thin old man walked through the gates of Central Park wearing nothing upon his face but serenity. As he strolled along, people stared, wide eyed. Children pointed fingers.
There was a tall man standing near the big pond. Somehow the whole package simply did not fit together. Perhaps it was his Sikh turban juxtaposed with the dark sunglasses. Or was it simply that his facial prosthetic was far too young-looking to go with the stooped body?
“Is that you, Hugh?”
“Of course, Joe. Have I aged that much?”
“Just checking, you can never be too careful these days. Why did you call me here?”
“I have something to tell you.”
Joe Lona’s mouth twitched. “Have you forgotten, Hugh? I’ve still got your computer. Let’s call it insurance. You can’t threaten me.”
“I’m not here to threaten.”
“You want money? Forget it. You have already spent eight years behind bars because of the information I gave them about you. There’s plenty more dirty laundry where that came from.”
Hugh shook his head, staring at a double reflection of himself in Joe’s sunglasses. He knew that Joe wasn’t looking at him. Couldn’t look at him.
“I’m just here to say I forgive you, Joe. That’s all.”
“Bullshit! What do you want from me?”
But Hugh Anderson said nothing. He merely smiled.
“I know you are up to something, Anderson! I’d be careful if I were you. I know stuff. Never forget that! ”
“I remember, Joe. I just don’t care.”
“I know about you and the governor’s granddaughter, Hugh. I’ve got the pics, you old pervert.”
Anderson turned back to look at Joe and his mask for the last time.
“All has been revealed, Joe. Revelation cannot be revealed twice, by definition. Besides, there’s nowhere to fly. I am already here.”
Hugh Anderson turned and walked away, whistling in the warm sunlight.
* * *
Insufficient Data is now available on Amazon.com. Or email me, Marcus – email@example.com – if you would like a free PDF review copy.