I had dozed off, again. It was becoming a habit – power napping, so someone had told me once. Still, when it happened, this time, I was ready. The onslaught of flashing lights appeared before me. Yet, despite my readiness, the psychedelic, whirling, swirling bustle of colour still challenged my senses. Each time it seemed the same, yet different; different enough to enthral me.
Was I becoming addicted?
Whatever “it” was, “it” drew me forward. I had no power to resist this inescapable fall though the rushing, gushing river of light. Addiction! “It” carried over the rock-strewn precipice of a white-water rapid. Only there was no river; no rapid…
And when I landed I still found need to pause for breath.
I was not waiting long. The gatekeeper had clearly seen my approach. Again, through the darkness that erupted before me, I sensed the movement. I knew that the blackness would only fade to a dark, impenetrable grey.
‘Hello,’ said the voice; the same squeaky, inquisitive voice as before; ‘…you again.’
You recognised me? I replied.
‘Not difficult, really… if you think about it.’
‘I don’t,’ I said.
‘Most visit here late at night – or in their lunch times at work. We don’t have too many like you.’
‘Like me? You mean my ability to stumble upon you during the middle of the evening.’
‘Yes. When others are either watching peak-time television – all that crap programming…’
‘Tell me about it.’
‘…or messing with their friends on Facebook, or whatever.’
‘Whatever. Those social networks… I’ve tried them.’
‘That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? said my squeaky voiced inquisitor.
‘I mean, they’re OK…’
‘I sense a but…’
‘I was right!’
‘But can anyone really have over a thousand friends? How does that work?’ I said. Then, when my inquisitor didn’t respond right away, ‘…it doesn’t for me.’
‘They can’t… work, I mean. Think about it. It’s a matter of control. And to be a little cynical about it… it’s no more than outsourced market segmentation. He or she who controls a network of contacts has the capacity to influence them. Or to sell that control. The internet is no more than a mesh of outsourced market segments sold on to the highest bidder. Have you ever thought about what you are doing when you sign up to a social network?’
‘Yes… giving away my privacy.’
‘Too damn right, my friend… your privacy and your rights. You have something of value. You lot have your ability to influence others. And you just give it away. Philanthropists… that’s what you all are.’
‘Hypocrite,’ I announced. ‘… and I told you before, you are not my friend.’
‘And I told you, you are talking to me – and here, in this space, that gives me the right to call you a friend.’
I wasn’t going to win that one. A change of tack… ‘Are you smiling?’ I asked.
‘Cool,’ said squeaky, ‘you got that… here in the dark? I am impressed. Maybe you are not like the others.’
‘So, you hypocrite of a squeaky gatekeeper, what are you hiding down here? You still wanting me to join in? I tell you, social networks don’t work for me.’
‘We’re not a social network, they promise nothing in return for your soul… What are you? A writer? Yes, you are, aren’t you?’
‘What if I am?’
‘See, you think these networks are the answer to your dreams… You sell your soul to them… and what do you get? Bombarded by the uninterested and the uninteresting. It’s all “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours”. And there are a lot of back scratchers out there looking for an itch.’
‘Never suggested otherwise,’ said Squeaky.
I decided on attack. A challenge. ‘Go on,’ I started, ‘what’s different about this place? Aren’t you just after my details? You just want me to register somewhere… so you can sell them on? How do you handle privacy issues here?
‘No issue. And no, we just want your soul, David!’
“David”. I rocked back. The sound of hearing my own name squeaked by the unseen hypocritical cynic of a gatekeeper to – well, to God knows what – shook me. I’d been struck dumb. But, gradually, the power of speech returned.
‘How…,’ I was unsure how to respond. ‘How…,’ I stumbled with my words.
‘How did I know who you are?
‘Y y yyes,’ I stammered.
‘You don’t think you found this site by accident do you?’
Go on, you want to know what’s here, don’t you? Whether we can help you or not? You’re hooked! I can tell.
‘I still can’t see anything at all here, it’s too dark’
And suddenly, there it was again. The window opened in front of my eyes. The flash almost blinded me. The same loud unwelcome tune struck up, its discordant notes filling the air. The window beckoned me. It called me forward as the deafening music dulled my senses.
‘Go on,’ said squeaky ‘enter, you know you want to.’
But all I could think of was how the hell had they got my name. I stared in disbelief as my hand reached out. My fingers seemed to hover over the window. Then it was gone. The discordant tones silenced. Relief.
‘Then you’re no friend of mine.’
‘Too late, David, this is my world. Remember, you do not matter in my world, my friend! Do you have a Favourite?’
This was scary. I had not been prepared for this. More déjà vu. ‘I’m not going anywhere I don’t want to.’
‘You are here now. All friends have favourites,’ squeaky added. ‘Just click there, in that little box. Accept me as a friend and favourite. Forget about Facebook… sell your soul to me, David.’
I had to get out of there. How did I do it before… I struggled to remember. A dim source lit an otherwise meaningless swirling darkness. And, in the shade, there appeared the series of stepping stones again. They suddenly made sense. Buttons. Buttons to click on and explore this site further. No.
Déjà vu. I remembered. I took the step backward. Light replaced dark. I could see again. Gone was the dark impression – the absence of light. My focus returned and I could see my outstretched hand. I squeezed the mouse.
To be continued… ;)
Miss Part I?