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If The Internet Disappeared: Staying Off The Grid

The following is the eighth entry we've published from a journal found in a dumpster in Bayside, New York. Little is known about its origin, but judging from the title "Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, 2013," it comes from the future. Oh, and Gladstone wrote it. We do know that. But the Gladstone we know or future Gladstone? It's almost impossible to say. Nevertheless, it is reprinted here as a cautionary tale ...

DAY 50: THE INTERNET MESSIAH

Sometimes you just do things without knowing why. When Jeeves dubbed me the Internet messiah, I started running. Maybe it was because he had seemed so collected and self-possessed moments before and now was gasping for words and pointing at me in spasmodic fits. Maybe it was the hunger clawing out from the sunken eyes of the YouTube zombies. Or maybe it was the crippling attention of Central Park. But I ran as fast and as far as I could, and Tobey and Oz, either possessed by the same spirit or just trying to look after me, followed.

It wasn't hard to outrun Jeeves. He started coughing and spitting after only a few steps, but from the bouncing blur of my peripheral vision, I could see inquisitive pedestrians take his place. They turned and pointed and joined the herd one by one. Oz kept pace with me, dressed more functionally today in a pair of a jeans and Doc Martens. Tobey was hauling ass a few steps behind with a huge grin on his face.

"You think this is A Hard Day's Night or something?" I called over my shoulder.

"I don't know what that is."

"I hate you, Tobey."

We ran past the joggers and baby strollers. The hackey sackers and caricaturists. The lovers taking walks and married couples washing off dropped pacifiers with bottled water. But by the time we got to the dude selling Tweety Bird ice cream pops out of his push cart, the YouTube zombies had started closing in. Tobey reached down for a fallen branch without breaking stride and swung it around across the zombie's face. Everything froze before the crack had even stopped reverberating through the Park. Oz and I watched to see what would happen next as did the chasers slowly circling us.

The zombie, on all fours and bleeding from the mouth, made a horrible groan as he reached up and out. Tobey brought the remnants of the branch down on his head and was about to swing again when I screamed out.

"What are you doing?"

"What?" Tobey replied. "I gotta destroy the brain!"

"You realize that's not a real zombie, right? It's just an expression."

"C'mon! Is this the Internet Apocalypse or what?" Tobey asked.

"He's not the undead," Oz explained. "It's just an Internet-addicted human who-"

Just then I kicked the zombie hard in the face.

"Gladstone! What the fuck?" Oz screamed.

"Look," I said. There, on the back of the unconscious zombie was a T-shirt reading "Fred Rules."

Oz shrugged off her concern. "Fair enough."

Unfortunately, in the time it took to down one zombie, 20 more had surrounded us. And then there were the fifty more Park visitors all closing in.

"Will you bring us Facebook?" a 16-year-old girl asked.

"Twitter first!" her friend demanded. "I have no idea what Ashton Kutcher's been doing."

The requests became too many.

"When can I stream Netflix again?"

"I had my high score on Starcraft. Can you bring it back right at that point?"

"Why are you here? Shouldn't you be getting the Internet? It's been months," someone said.

"Please!" screamed a man in sweatpants. And then in a whisper, "... I can't afford the Rule 34 club."

"I can't help you," I said. "Any of you. I'm not this Internet messiah. I'm just some guy looking for it."

"He's lying!" a Digg Zombie called out. "He wants it for himself. It's a conspiracy!"

"Yeah, himself and corporate America!" a Reddit zombie agreed.

"Show us!"

The group closed in as if I could produce the Internet from my inside coat pocket if they just pressed hard enough. This would end badly. Especially since no matter how hard they beat me, I would never be able to give them what they needed. I simply didn't have it to give, and more than the fear of being torn apart by a crowd, I couldn't bear to see the disappointment in their eyes. Another promise broken. I had to find a way out.

"ZOMG," Tobey cried and pointed off in the distance. "Look!"

I couldn't believe Tobey was trying to fool an angry mob with the oldest trick in the book. It was probably because he didn't really read books. But then I saw a hundred faces turn, and what's more, it wasn't a trick at all. As if proof of some higher power, there, in the middle of Central Park, was a kitten dressed as Lady Gaga trained to dance to Bad Romance while its owner, a shapely burlesque dancer in a leopard print bikini, Betty Page wig and heels danced along behind. It was the ultimate living Internet meme and the masses flowed to it like moths to a flame or Web reporters to secret gay sex.

Oz and I stared in disbelief as the crowd thinned one by one, leaving us alone. Then we noticed Tobey leaving too.

"Tobey!" I hissed.

"Dude," he said. "Do you not see this shit? Look at it."

"Yeah, it's great. Do you mind if we run away now because getting devoured by zombies sounds like a drag."

Oz and I slowly edged toward the Columbus Circle subway, and Tobey reluctantly followed. Just as we broke into a run, I could have sworn I saw Agent Rowsdower peek from behind a tree, but I wasn't turning to make sure. I needed to get to the hotel as soon as possible. A room with a lock sounded like the greatest thing in the world.

Day 54: IDOLATORS AND THE DEVOUT

For the second time in a month, I have spent days holed up in this hotel. The local news picked up the Internet messiah story and it spread to cable news. It might have died there, but Jeeves gained too much credibility from his FOXnews appearance. Two days ago, he recounted all his Internet messiah prophesies to a skeptical Bill O'Reilly.

"Um, Mr. Jeeves, if I have to call you that, why should I believe any of this?"

Jeeves was unfazed. "Well, Bill, I don't really care whether you believe me or not, but for everybody else -- who won't be dead tomorrow -- I am telling the truth."

O'Reilly died on his way home from the studio that night, apparently killed by a drunk driver speeding to an anti-abortion rally. Since then, Jeeves had become more than a local celebrity, and the world was looking for his messiah. It wasn't the first time people believed a 30-something Jew would lead them to salvation.

Being trapped here actually wouldn't be so bad if Tobey weren't sticking around too. I had barely been with Oz since our first time together, and Tobey didn't seem to notice that the dynamic had changed. He did ask, however, why Oz had stopped wearing fishnets and if she'd had a boob reduction.

"No, Tobey, but thank you."

"Well, something's different," he said. "Why do I want to fuck you less?"

Oz was diplomatic. "Well, you can only suppress your latent homosexuality for so long, Tobes. But I'll tell you what, if you run down to Starbucks and get me a tall latte with heavy cream, I'll be sure to wear something sexually retarded for you tomorrow."

Continued on page 2 ...

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