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Newton said that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Life is kind of like that. Economic and ecological catastrophes shouldn’t be any reason to stop living the American dream. Just because the world was ending didn’t mean anyone had to notice, at least not right away.
I noticed, in fact I more than noticed, I knew. Something inside me had changed after the sub-arctic methane release event (people on the net started calling it the Canadian Gas Chamber). Almost every living thing for 50 miles of the event died during the gas venting, because this was mostly fish and a couple birds, it was quickly pushed off the front page of Google News by the next massive suicide bombing in Iraq.
I knew this and a lot more, because it was now my job to know these things. “My job” might be a generous description of what was happening to me. I couldn’t help but know about what was going on. It was like some giant unforeseen hand was forcing me forward. I spent days surfing the web, forgetting to eat, forgetting to sleep. The city outside my doors a distant memory.
I sold my car for rent money. The kindly old lady in the apartment above me would bring me food from her meals on wheels cart once a week telling me that I should get out more. The person I saw in the mirror had lost 20 pounds, not an insignificant feat for someone as skinny as I was.
My hair was greasy, my apartment was filthy, and my cloths were stained with sweat. My eyes burned so red I looked like a monster. Through it all I continued to absorb data. Reading, looking, hunting for more, always more. Not just facts but patterns.
Was this madness? Was I going insane? I knew something was happening. I started to see pictures, started to know things before they happened. I can’t tell you how I did it, just that I did it. I wasn’t telling the future, I was reading patterns.
Stuff happened, weird stuff. Winter never came that year for most of North America. I knew it was going to be like that. I predicted things like the burning of Detroit, the rebellion in France, the resurgence of small pox in Africa. If you held a gun to my head and demanded to know how, I couldn’t even start to tell you how I was doing it.
I started to post my “guesses” to an obscure message board set up for a five year old cat food recall. I don’t know why I did it, I just did, something inside me told me it was the right thing to do. This was what I did; this was my life, a sad pathetic little man raving to no one in particular.
What a life it was, glued to the computer 24 hours a day. I couldn’t feel, couldn’t sleep, as the world died outside, I died slowly inside. For an entire year I managed to survive like this. My skin started to turn translucent from lack of sunlight, and my teeth loosened from malnutrition. I was dieing, slowly, but it didn’t matter. Only the data mattered. Only the patterns, the reading, the knowing. If I could just learn enough, maybe I could do something…maybe I could stop it.
Eventually even the love of a mother couldn’t sustain me, and she stopped sending me money. I was quickly evicted, the landlord kept my computer as a down payment on the cleaning bill for the place. I remember him saying, “You’re the weirdest little freak to ever dirty up my place, get the fuck out of here and don’t come back.”
I found myself on the streets, with nothing but the clothes on my back. A ratty pair of jeans, Airwalks, black t-shirt, and an army jacket I had gotten at a thrift store because it had a lot of pockets. My mom wanted me to come home, but she lived half way across the country, and I was in no shape to travel. I tried the library computers a couple of times. They wouldn’t let me sit there for more than a couple of hours. Besides they wouldn’t let you visit all the sites, the data stream was limited, I couldn’t see the patterns.
Drunks will talk about a moment of clarity, a brief window of understanding that changes everything for them. I woke up from one of the few naps I was able to take and realized that I was on a park bench. I hadn’t eaten in days and was on the edge of delirium. The world was falling apart; no one had time to worry about a skinny kid. I hardly had the strength to stand up, but I began walking.
I figured this was the end. I would find a nice back alley some place, lay down under a cardboard box and quietly die. That was before I met her.