Thursday, May 5, 2016

5/5/16

A Cable Through His Nose
By Austin Malcome


Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, Miriam?

Miriam screams and throws crayons at me. She likes to pull her hair out in chunks; I hope she doesn't, they'll sedate her again. I try to explain.

My family's home is insured for $48,000. That's enough to lay three feet of deep sea communications cable. That's what I do, Miriam; lay cable. Everything relies upon those cables; fiberoptic bundles of hope buried beneath the seabed, tying our lives together. They 're the internet's umbilical cords.

Last year I spent 359 days away from my wife and kids, 359 days laying cable so perverts could drool over web-porn while soccer-moms sold Avon through social media.

I know it's sparking, leave it alone. I'll fix the TV, I promise. Sit down.

You know what I hate, Miriam? Sharks. They attack the cables, dig them up from the primordial silt and chew on them. We don't know why; it might have something to do with electrical currents. A few years ago we started wrapping the cables in kevlar to shark-proof them.

Which didn't matter at all.

All of the undersea networks have a finite number of backup cables, called 'dark cables'. I was on a boat in the Pacific in June. We pulled up another cable, same as the last one. Severed clean, six feet of cable missing entirely. We had to light up another dark cable. We lit up thirteen out of twenty four dark cables this year. Those cables should've lasted twelve years but they didn't last twelve months, it'lll be six months just replacing half of them, and dear Lord it's expensive, costs us man hours and equipment fees, and here we find another cable with this same impossible wound.

July, near the Philipines, I get a call from an engineer working on the WHOLENESS lines. They're down to nine dark cables.

An email from Hanna, on the MERCY project. Sharkproofing failed; any suggestions?

A text from Martin Garret, CEO COMNETRON, please call at my earliest convenience.

Convenience. I have time now, Marty! Would you take my call now?

Everything in the world depends upon the internet. The cars you drive, your phones and TV's. Everything's connected. Everything depends upon that intricate mesh of cables, thick snakes sleeping in the sea slime, you see? Everything is connected.

It's not the sharks, Miriam. I'll show you. Look—I have the nurse's cell phone! I swiped it at med-check. I'll show you a trick. A very special trick. Watch the TV, Miriam.

She wants out, but I've barricaded the door; the day room is ours now, no way in or out, not now, not when I'm so close.

The hospital bills my insurance $3,949 per day. This is week two, that's $55,286—about what it cost me to build my fishhook. Two lights, four cameras, in a box beneath the sea, watching, recording, broadcasting.

I saw the Leviathan once, Miriam.

A shadow—such a shadow! So big, Miriam, this creature with teeth sharp enough to bite through kevlar like licorice. One eye, I saw; one eye, and in that one eye, I understood. It knows me, Miriam. It knows what I do, it knows about the cables, about humans. It hates us.

It's not a shark, oh my no.

I'm prepared now. I'm going to catch it! I'll broadcast those horrible eyes through the very cables it wants so badly to destroy. They'll understand when they see it. My wife, the kids, the doctors.

The TV lights up again. It worked! The phone is tied into the fishhook so many miles away. I shunt the feed into the TV. On screen, yellow beams of light rape the oceanic darkness, streaming through clouds of tiny unidentifiable bits that remind me of the sea monkeys I had as a kid.

The orderlies batter at the door, but I ignore them. Miriam's gnawing on my ankle now, thank god she has no teeth. My fishhook continues it's lonely broadcast, clamped to an Almighty Lifegiving Cable. Once again, I keep vigil, hunched over my fishhook, waiting for the thing to bite.

Keep your eyes on the TV, Miriam. And don't worry. The internet's safe—I'm here.


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Austin Malcome is a writer living in Casey, Illinois. He is the creator of the Spes Mortis Requiem roleplaying game, which no one has ever played. He really likes instant ramen.


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