FICTION – ΔΔΔ ALT-SPECTRE ΔΔΔ, POST # ▀ : iWasteland

Practical hacks from digital occult sophisticates
for the everyday Internet of Ectoplasmic Things,
with your hosts: Mozen and Crowzniak

(by Bobby Dixon and Matt Murphy)

 

Water from the receding shorelines moves through the desert in a pipeline engineered to carry oil, but oil is not the hot resource any more. It is water that brings us to this desert, to shuttle it over the hills, to shade it from the blister maker in the sky, it is water that we live for. It is water that we die for. Seems to me the most compassionate death in this world would be to drown in the middle of a great glacial lake.

The sun heats up the pipe casing and boils the sluice inside, accelerating bacteria culture so fast they have a written language by the time the reservoirs are filled, so they break off into waystations. A place where techs stop on the way to maintain the pipeline (I hide when they get here), where desalination occurs (sometimes I hide in this wing), it is a multipurpose facility (I have hidden three times while composing this). We stay inside most of the time, the temperatures outside are a cruel dare and the sunbeams could render the fat off a chubby baby leg in twenty minutes. If you ever come here, do not bring your dog. That never works out.

There is a porthole outside my office. And when I look out this small window I can see the flat hardpan. I can look out more than a hundred clicks and I imagine friends in the distance, running to me and asking me to ditch work and go find a swimming spot. But our gnarly node skewered by pipe is the only distinct landmark for hundreds of clicks. There are also no friends in my horizon, no friends anywhere. I have an IT body so the idea of swimming with other people gives me hives.

I have a normal job, desktop support, located in the relentless desert whose flatness reminds me that this was all underwater millions of years ago. And at some point life flourished here, there was peace. But we all return to the base cells from where we came.

There is one common item among all my coworkers, pictures of their family. We all work in rig shifts of at least six months — traveling to our station takes at least a month since air travel has become too dangerous. I have a picture of my Corolla next to the section indicator of the commuter lot, parked a month and too much dignity away. There was a cat, but I received an email that she had been put down. I have not looked at a picture of her ever since. The last thing I said to her was, be good and I will be home in a year. She will never welcome me back home.

My social and emotional health is as fecund as the dry grit running through my fist when I go outside for fifteen minutes a day to treat my vitamin d deficiency, I sometimes mumble that I am a walking vasectomy. Sometimes you see the devils winds of the southern cross coming through in ripples of the sand and I stand there like I am waiting to get tickles.

I am so lonely. The caliber of this loneliness either transcends my emotional being like I have pushed to a slot our evolution has not slimed to yet, or devolves me and leaves me like a semi active lump after welcoming the chilled penetration of a metallic pick through the eye. I cannot say that it hurts, but really it just does not hurt anymore. It used to be a lot of pain and I could white knuckle my way through every night and weekend, but I really looked forward to going to work. I did not really like anyone I worked with, but, the mind and body started humming when Monday rolled around, just to be in the kitchen and see another human being.

This started when I went into a manager’s office to work on their laptop. He was nice and assured me he would stay out of my way — I was setting up delegate access in Outlook, something I could have just emailed him directions and he would have taken care of it. But this day I felt like getting really IT and sat down right at his desk, put my hands right on his keyboard. He was off playing on his tablet and it took me less than a minute to add the extra inbox to his plane. I kept my facial expression attentive and focused while I opened up his icloud account and started looking through his pictures — he was sitting across from me, staring at his own gleaming square. I opened up a secure folder that I have access to and saved all the pictures there. Once I was done I asked him to come back around and take a look at his email. Just to make sure everything was to his liking. I was feeling very benevolent and caring, for some reason.

It did not end with him. I eventually did this to everyone who needed assistance over the next four months, which brings us up to last week. A supervisor came up to me and asked me a personal favor, explaining she knew this really was not my responsibility, but her husband accidentally deleted a bunch of baby photos from their icloud — their daughter was a fat baby, not like baby fat,  but her baby looked like like swole ziploc of adipose in the biohazard dumpster. She said she missed seeing pictures of her rolls.

For a moment I thought of my body. How, to scale, I am similar in build to a healthy newborn but with coarse hair. The pipeline technicians and supervisors have sharp turns and straight lines in their body, parts of their bodies live in the shade of their muscle cliffs and I have an IT body.

She wanted to know, was there anything she could do to restore her pictures and that apple support said they were not able to restore these pictures, for some reason I could not understand and I just wanted to tell her she had no idea what she was talking about. But since I have been saving all these photos, I really have developed an attachment to these people, to my coworkers. They have no idea who less alone I feel starting at my gleaming square for hours as their images swish to and from my screen. I have already run through all my vapor juices — we cannot smoke in this dry environ, even paper is contraband.

Is there a way I can restore her baby pics without her knowing my creep levels? Should I crawl out into the waste and let the dirt reiver gangs eat my body? How far would I have to crawl? Would it hurt?

 

CROWZNIAK1: First off, my condolences for working in a shithole of a hell-mouth.  Sounds hot, like my scrotum sweat would never stop streaming through my already gross jeans if I worked there.

Before I address your immediate issue, I’m going to perform a holistic IT-worker wellness consultation.  I’m going advise you to improve the gestalt of your workplace-happiness in Hell; particularly in response to your stated (and immediately believable) loneliness.

I’ll roleplay that I’m a corporate drone (again) for a moment, and conceptually synthesize what you guys probably desire during work hours, and cross-stitch it with some behaviors that will make you vaguely likeable.  Note that your likeability will not come from the reflection of authentically likeable traits, but from the obvious effort you’re putting into mutability for the sake at least not being hateable, which is the best start.  People simultaneously respect and loathe the imitation of likeability, but they at least acknowledge the meaning of the gesture.  Here goes:

 

  • Ask people how their weekend was, and don’t look at your phone.
  • I recommend that you wear Hawaiian shirts on Casual Friday, and learn to be aggressively and visibly happy about it.  Will yourself into this alien pleasure.  Reclaim it.
  • When crises are shoveled onto your cookie-crumb-littered desk, say “hey guy, I just work here… but seriously, I’m on it” and laugh; solve your challenges with the armor of faux-quirky dignity; this is your only real consolation anyway, aside from the reasonable pay grade you should have negotiated
  • I advise you to listen to Jimmy Buffett (through earbuds) at your desk while support tickets flood in, and learn to like it, though you should admittedly otherwise probably hate it, or at least dislike it.  Make sure people know that you listen to it, but that you are also not making them listen to it.
  • Talk about fun alcoholic drinks with your co-workers; especially those that talk about it on their own, elsewhere.
  • Drink tropical cocktails on your breaks without getting being obvious and getting fired;  Use a tumbler, and brush your teeth mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Maybe also chew gum, keeping one of those car-cup sized gum containers at your desk.
  • To expand re: last point – this also gives you a chance to offer people gum when they visit you, which will simultaneously make them wonder if you are insulting them and also consider that you are just being nice.  Keep your co-workers guessing a little.

Also, on that note: yes, you’re a creep-dawg for stealing your co-workers’ photos.  We’ll be looking for you periodically in sex offender registries, but no judgement I guess.  Shine on, troll-diamond.  Maybe it comes from a good place?

Regarding your particular challenge, I can dilate non-holistically.

Since you are already balls-deep in criminally liable dishonesty, I recommend you go further.  Redeem your humanity by being the nice IT-undesirable, who uses his boundary-violating powers for good occasionally. I’ll explain how to do it below.

First, come in after hours, and plant the photos on the user’s workstation. You’ll need to do it in such a way that obscures and diffuses the otherwise obvious and suspicious re-appearance of the precise set of files your co-workers just happened to have been looking for. Work on your guile, brah; it’s a survival tool in your industry.

Step by step details:

  • In the user system folders, make a previously hidden (I’m using Windows file-visibility nomenclature here) folder.
  • Title it with a seemingly obfuscated gobbledygook foldername
  • Make other subfolders just like this within your first folder, and distribute a few other layers of subfolders within these subfolders, as randomly as possible.
  • Sprinkle in a bunch of other totally unrelated files that are already located elsewhere on that user’s machine (especially other innocuous non-personal images).
  • Do the above step recursively.  As in, do it within the root bullshit folder you created, and do this in all the subfolders you created.  Distribute them randomly, and non-identically.
  • Place the iCloud photos randomly within this labyrinth of bullshit folders, a few fictive subfolders deep.
  • Rename the images with random strings of numbers and letters; as if it had been uploaded through a web CMS backend and renamed automatically by the built-in upload scripts
  • Try to forget exactly where within the subfolder labyrinth you placed these images; this will be handy for verisimilitude later.
  • Rename all those other unrelated individual files/non-personal images with random strings too, just like you did with the “recovered” iCloud photos
  • Zip the root bullshit folder and all its bullsiht subfolder contents within an archive titled “Automagic_Script_DB_BAK_[a date reasonably backward in time, before iCloud disaster].zip”.

Next, during office hours, “discover” this folder together with your coworker, seemingly by accident.  Details

  • Say something like, “I want to try one last thing before we close the ticket on this; I had an experimental prototype for batch backup scripts that I ran on some user accounts before we updated our archiving policies a few quarters ago…”
  • Examine the contents of the folders together, one by one, until you “find” the jackpot.
  • Extract these iCloud files, and then permanently delete the overarching fake archive without explaining that you are doing it.

This last step can be tricky.  if pressed for explanation re: archive deletion, explain that there was — reliably — some other corrupted content that you don’t want backed up ad-infinitim; say that you could tell immediately just by looking at it.  Say it confidently.

If pressed further, say that some of the surrounding files may have even had a bit of inert malware that went unpurged, and suggest that — by the way — the user should scan these photos in an antivirus program if they want, though it is “…probably fine”.

Finally, do whatever you can to make this seem like a favor you are doing them; that you helped them despite their abuse of company equipment for their personal crap. You can even insinuate that they owe you a fruity cocktail of some kind, but that might be pushing it.

Make sure to end this bit of shady tech support by celebrating momentarily with said co-worker.  Do this only after putting on your stern IT-troll mask for a very brief moment and saying something like “of course, we hardly need another reminder to backup our files regularly, right?” Then maybe gently smile and/or chuckle a bit, so you aren’t so completely nailed down as the barely-tolerable / typically-unlikeable tech support asshole.

Actually, on that last note, try smiling more often, you fucking saddie.

You can probably rely on the fact that said coworker’s relief will overshadow and eclipse their desire to ask any other questions, particularly about your trollish motives.  People get emotional about losing their personal photo shit.  I’ve seen meltdowns in corporate settings when digital family galleries (which should never have been on the corporate dropbox) were deleted, though it was trivial enough to fix.

Optional flourish: you could also mention something about how Google Photos recently provided unlimited storage, and seem like even more of a hero.  I don’t know.

As an additional aside about your last question re: crawling… you can actually learn some fairly athletic techniques that may help you turn back the the tide of your IT body’s unwanted bloom.  Don’t be a heatstroke liability in the desert if you can help it; particularly if your company’s health insurance policy is shitty.

 

1Mozen here, hiding in the footnotes. I am away for the week at a electronic writers conference. Currently under a table in the reception hall. Participated in a hangover divination to locate my lesser angels and I am afraid I cannot stand any font size bigger than a footnote at the moment.

Yes you violated privacy conventions of polite society, but you are literally in a wasteland, so you have maintained a lower bound of decency. Your reintroduction to normal society after this job is going to be fucked up. I fully expect you to be covered in shit —  your own, anothers or TBD — inside two weeks of being stateside. Do not worry, there is a freedom in this kind of sadness we never indulge while happy. Enjoy the smell of shit. But do not enjoy it too much. But this situation reminds me of our distant past.

When I first met Crowzniak, he still had his original adult teeth. I even remember what color he originally was. But we have phased away from those meat vehicles, vaped away our teeth and are technically manufactured at this point. Although we differ on some lesser points — Crozniak prefers the plastic surgery, born out of a battlefield surgeons love for gore and transformation, while I get tattoos, a noble and ancient craft — you will find zero decisive moves countering anything Crowzniak offers in what passes for my reply.

Crowzniak had a youtube video blog where he made weird sounds with his mouth, spastic edits and zero sponsors, begging for clicks. He was interent arrested and we met in rehab — I migrated all the digg users to reddit, that was how I got busted. Thinking back on his videos, maybe his eye made weird little squeaks too. Rehab was really nice. We were in a big house and there was cable, no internet though. There was a pool, weight room, smoothie fountain and it went straight from the third floor to the fifth floor.

The general manager interacted with the residents and kept quarters close to the house a few nights a week. We came in from doing some inversions in the sun, among the rocks and soft dirt blowing to grit in our sweat, when we saw the GM tossing every room in the house. Boots to the ground inspection. Some polaroids of her family were missing. They also found our weed and slim jim stash — we were supposed to be vegetarian in rehab. Crowzniak told the GM there was no real meat in a slim jim. Then he smiled like a normal human being for the first time in his life. He had good teeth.

Concise history of human smile: in not too distant past, teeth were the last thing we saw before being gobbled by something else, be it bigger, same size and smarter or by a bunch of little things. This was life as nascent bipeds stuck in the prey zone. At some point our peanut brain went malignant towards kindness and eventually we smiled to show that we both have teeth to chomp your flesh and to also say, we are not going to bite this time. This smile was some odd but honest evolutionary parallel to pulling out. We can relax. Ditto re handshakes: instead of grappling or pinching, we put our mitts into a welcoming sweaty paw.

After rehab, Crowzniak always dressed up and comported like he was a rich fucking christian. The well dressed man who does dirty deeds is one of the better tropes. I thought he was playing dress up. But we all play dress up. The mask we wear, etc.

Before I saw his first non deviated smile, Crownizak went pale when they dumped his sneaker bag that day. He thought the pictures would dump out with the weed and meat pipes. But no one saw any pictures. He assumed the pictures were under all that weed and sweet sweet grease of the sun, the american slim jims, which were disposed of in the human pulverizing machine later that day — onsite crematorium. He never knew I found those polaroids earlier that day and ditched them before they were discovered. I knew what they were and I knew he was just feeling weird about being in rehab, that he would have no excuse and feel awful about it. I never told him what happened. But I guess he knows now. I wish you could have a friend like me in your situation, which makes this a little sadder.

They are starting the sacrifice on the altar they made out of office furniture. How much fun is that. Let us have Crowzniak finish this up.

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Matt Murphy

I awoke one day, pointed to the heavens and the Earth and said "above and below, there is nothing quite like my simulacra's simulacra"... ...and I did some other stuff in between then (my birth) and writing this bio.

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