We sat there a little longer, but neither Tobey's jokes nor sips from my flask could quell my rising anxiety. Not even this journal that keeps my hands busy and my mind occupied can put me at ease. There's something about the pen scratching against the thick textured paper that makes my words take on greater weight. Like their existence must be justified. It troubles me. Online, words flow almost as quickly as thoughts without revision or purpose, the way they do when you're alone, answering to no one.
I needed that back, but all we had were these rumors that were "totally true because it happened to this guy my cousin knows." Something more had to be done. If someone had internet, I wanted it.
"Tobey," I said, while unscrewing my flask for dramatic emphasis, "we're not doing this right."
"I don't know. Knees bent, ass planted, back against the rest... I'd say we're sitting on this bench perfectly."
Much like a 2am text from a drunken acquaintance, I decided to ignore Tobey's joke completely.
"No, I mean, we're looking for information. But we're not getting involved enough."
"Gladstone, I'm not getting into another Digg or Reddit circle. I can't take it."
"No, we need to go deeper. Not self-styled internet reporters and editorialists. We need to get behind the scenes. Hackers. What we need is..." I now took the swig of Scotch. (I really nailed the timing). "4Chan."
"You've got to be kidding me? You want to seek out a bunch of /b/tard hacking imps? Online, they gave us Rickrolls and LOLcats, who knows what they're capable of in real life?"
"I'm guessing nothing," I said. "They did that behind the cover of anonymity. In person, I'm guessing we'll find Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, except not high, and inexplicably bitter."
"Don't disrespect the /b/tards," someone said and upon closer inspection, that someone was Australian. And a woman.
Sitting on the neighboring bench in her boots, torn fishnets and mini skirt was a living hyperbole of retarded sexuality. The pink streak in her hair. The heavy eye makeup and the harlequin nails alternating in red and black all reeked of desperate Hot Topic posturing that spoke in equal parts to 14 year old boys and dirty old men.
I took a moment before speaking, conscious that this was one of those dramatic opening lines that required a clever and witty response.
"Fuck, you're hot," Tobey said.
"Ignore my friend," I apologized "Sometimes, he forgets public spaces are different from chat rooms."
"I'm familiar with that phenomenon. So you boys looking for the internet? Because I could use some help in that area."
"Oh, yeah, we're doing some heavy duty investigative shit," Tobey said. "We hear someone in New York's got it."
"Yeah, I heard that too."
" That rumor's going around Australia?" I asked.
"No, I got it from a Reddit circle in Brooklyn."
"Then why were you already in New York if you hadn't yet heard the rumor?"
"For fuck sake. You try living in Perth without internet."
Her name was Oz, which was apparently short for Ozzygrrl69. Our newfound friend was 23 years old and made her living letting men watch her shower for money. Much like Tobey, the death of the internet meant the loss of her livelihood.
She was all for seeking info from the /b/tards, but didn't know where to find them and was afraid to go alone. I didn't blame her. Overt sexuality without the distance and anonymity of the internet was dangerous. We decided to pool our resources. And that's when I noticed the black ops helicopters. Troops and dogs emerged around the perimeter of the park. Some zombies approached the dogs eager to see a stupid pet trick like they remembered from YouTube or take a pic they could use for a funny caption. They were summarily mauled. New York City, we were told, was shutting down.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
Go to part 4.
Missed the prior installments of Notes from the Internet Apocalypse? Start here. Also, check out Gladstone's article about "5 Famous Artists Who Didn't Create Their Signature Creation," only in the new Cracked.com book. Oh, and his site. You can also follow Gladstone on Twitter and Facebook. Wow, you have a lot of things to do.