Thursday, November 28, 2013


By Francis X. Altomare

Six months since the WHO designated the cyphelis cryptenza B virus (family: unknown, genus: unknown, common name: BUG) a world epidemic, scientists still disagree as to the exact time and location of the first outbreak. Some experts locate ground zero at an internet cafe/daquiri bar in Miami Beach, circa late May or early June of last year. Others have pinpointed the epicenter as the Bellagio Las Vegas, then hosting an adult film convention. Most experts agree, however, that the initial encryption took place at an insurance office outside Newark, New Jersey. Regardless of specific details, one fact remains: the jump of virus from machine to man defies all previously touted principles of biology. For that matter, the BUG outbreak raises serious doubts about the fundamental assumptions of computer science, information theory, and plain common sense.

A perfect recreation of circumstances surrounding the outbreak is impossible, but the following hypothetical scenario seems likeliest:

An unmarried, middle-aged insurance salesman—whom the press later dubs Patient 01-B, but whom for convenience we can call Ralph—surfs the web on his lunch break. Ralph stumbles upon a free pornographic website, whose address will remain undisclosed for national security reasons. Covertly, Ralph masturbates under his desk. When he’s finished, he smokes a cigarette in the stairwell and ducks out of work early. On his ride home, he notices an unusual tingling resembling static electricity on his scrotum. By the time he arrives home, Ralph’s genitals are inflamed with a silvery rash that appears to be soldered to his penis. In addition, Ralph’s urine is tinted a mercury color, and he suffers migraines when watching television or using the microwave. Later that evening, his interactions with electronic devices are unanimously met with shortcircuits. Most unsettling perhaps, Ralph misses Conan. Ralph never misses Conan. More disturbingly, Ralph cannot sleep; he cannot focus; he cannot remember. The next morning, he manages to call in sick. Ralph confines himself to his bedroom, nourishing himself on Evian and Wheat Thins. For three days, he applies copious amounts of ointment to the rash, which is beginning to look suspiciously like the guts of a motherboard. On the fourth day, he consults a specialist.

The initial medical report notes a violent and theretofore unidentifiable rash accompanied by headaches, memory loss, increased dermal electroconductivity, and high amounts of trace metals in stool and urine samples. An unknown STD is suspected, but Ralph reports being celibate for almost an entire year, although further research suggests that this is a gross underestimate. The attendant physician prescribes an antibiotic salve and plenty of sleep, preferably alone.

Subsequent laboratory analysis reveals that the virus’s genetic code is, in fact, binary. All ones and zeros. Geneticists and computer scientists alike are baffled. Attempts to analyze it digitally fail: The virus instantly crashes any computer system within range, causing all monitors to go blank except for a single message blinking on the screen in all caps: BUG. Researchers suggest that, after the initial incubation period, the virus causes hosts to emit disruptive EMF signatures. Consequently, after being hospitalized, Ralph had to be quarantined so elderly patients could receive their daily dose of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in the common room without interruption.

Ralph's current whereabouts and condition are unknown.

As is by now well known, fractally spreading across the grid, the first incident ballooned into a full-blown BUG epidemic in under 24 hours. In its patently anxious press releases, the CDC commented vaguely about measures in place to stop the spread of BUG. The only absolutely effective precaution, they say, is abstinence from both sexual and electronic activity, or any combination of the two.

No one listened. No one ever does.

The initial symptoms of BUG manifest immediately. During later stages, patients experience a severe reduction in visual clarity to somewhere between 64- and 128-bits. Auditory problems have also been reported, the commonly reported ringing in patients’ ears escalating to a persistent stream of what can only be described as chiptunes. Those who do not adapt to these perceptual changes inevitably suffer depression, psychosis, and most likely a gruesome and unpleasant death by their own hand.

A campaign is underway to keep citizen morale high.

The final stage of the disease is the most perplexing. Patients report being able to communicate by transmission, thereby bypassing the need to speak to one another. The scope of this final symptom has not yet been determined; this symptom may in fact be hallucinatory in nature. Regardless, the rise in these reports is curiously correlated with a catastrophic drop in social interaction and the unexpected bankruptcy of Facebook and Twitter.

Citizens are advised to go to the hospital if they experience any of the following: paresthesia (i.e., limbs “falling asleep”), electromagnetic abnormalities, lethargy, insomnia, difficulty focusing, irritability, extremely dense stools, difficulty focusing, mercury-tinted urine, ringing in the ears, difficulty focusing, or anti-social tendencies.

As this article went to press, BUG has been found in 90% of the industrialized countries on earth. If you are capable of reading this, you yourself are likely infected.

Pr05spects f0r a cure are grim.

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Francis X. Altomare currently inhabits a stone hut on the shore of Loch Lomond, Scotland, Planet Earth. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared widely in North America, Europe, and the mining colonies of Circinus ESO-097. His diet consists exclusively of smoked salmon, wild mussels, and single-malt scotch.


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