The magician sits at her terminal. She is quiet. She is patient. She is calm.
She clicks open her mailbox. She regards the first spam.
“Herbal penis enlargement,” she says, and consults her manual. “A spam of the suit of drugs—but, ultimately, a spam of ascension. It offers three inches. Some say that the first inch is mene, the second tekel, and the third ufarsin; but I am fonder of the school that has them as a mystical representation of the Holy Trinity.”
“This spam does not speak of my material genitalia,” she concludes, “nor offer to affect them. It tells me of the pillar of the world. These are the inches on which humanity rises from nothingness, to animal, to human, to god. In this reading, it defines me: I am the seeker. I have the power, over myself and the world. I can make things better.”
She clicks again.
“The jack of pr0n,” she says. “Russian wives want to love me up. This is a spam of journeys and unmet obligations.”
She clicks again.
“A virus.” She opens up her Norton Utilities. She flips through her interpretation guide. She begins crossreferencing. “If your mailbox contains MyDoom,” she reads aloud, “first, don’t panic. Many novices assume MyDoom is a bad virus, when in fact the doom is simply a metaphor for loss—data loss, certainly, or an unfavorable transition, but also the abandonment of ideas and principles whose time has passed. This spam means that a few things in your life have to go—starting, of course, with MyDoom, which you should delete now before you accidentally run it.”
She hesitates. “Huh.”
Then she deletes it, carefully, and clicks again. She stares for a time at the words emblazoned on her screen.
“You’re right,” she says to the screen. “I’ve been waiting too long.”
She stands, and takes her coat, and goes to the door.
“Make money fast,” she says, and shrugs.
“Well, I’ve made my fortune. So . . . time to spread it around.”
She goes outside. She stretches. She leaves the door open behind her. After a moment, Discount Jesus comes out into the light. He’s not the real Jesus, or even a real savior, but he was available online and he’s got a convenient moral doctrine. “Going somewhere?” he asks.
“Yup! Be my copilot?”
Discount Jesus nods; so she gets on her motorcycle, and he gets in the sidecar, and she revs up the engine.
“We’re going to visit the spammer,” she says.
“Oh? Did it finally call you?”
She nods firmly. “There’s a voice behind the spam,” she says. “Somewhere out there, someone’s sending this stuff. Someone’s planning it all. Someone’s got a wire right into the universal unconscious and is laying out the truth, plain as day, in the mailbox of everybody in the world.”
Discount Jesus smiles. “You’re an optimist, Celia.”
“There’s a force behind it,” she says. “I can feel it. And it doesn’t feel like people. And . . . well, so it’s time to pay it a call.”
She drives. There’s a wind in their hair.
“It could be some gibbering elder god,” he proposes. “Like in Disney’s ‘Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.'”
“Or angels,” she says. “I mean, come on, DJ; it’s not like you’d know.”
He makes a vaguely hurt face at her. “I’m a spiritual breakthrough developed by a team of fourteen accredited theologians,” he says.
“It’s okay, DJ. I just mean that . . . it’s not like . . . the real thing, you know?”
“It’s 2.3 times better.”
The road is bumpy now, and there’s a building complex ahead. Sprawling above it is a majestic sign reading SPAM.
“. . . huh. No pr0n or ads on it,” she says.
DJ shakes his head. “Just by looking at it, you’ve given them all your personal data and a peek under your shirt besides.”
Her nostrils flare. “Stupid HTML.”
“I could turn it into XML,” he says. “You know, as a miracle.”
A car drives past. Its bumper sticker reads “WWJD?”
“Or try to find some kind of anonymous browsing service,” he adds.
She shakes her head.
Her motorcycle pulls up in front of the building. She hops down. She takes her helmet off and tucks it under her arm. DJ climbs out of the sidecar.
“It could be Michael Moore,” Discount Jesus says. “He’s evil. Spammers are evil. Occam’s Razor suggests that they’re one and the same. Also, ichneumon wasps.”
“What about Britney Spears?”
Discount Jesus shrugs. “They could be in it together. Like a buddy picture. Only with spam.”
Boldly, Celia strides up to the front door. She knocks. The door slides open. Inside, there is a great and empty space; and at its center, a machine; and connected to the machine, the spammer.
“I’m here!” she says, and the spammer turns. It looks at her. Its eyes are wide and blank.
“Oh,” she says, and walks up to it, and touches it under the chin, and holds its face up, and looks into it. “Oh.”
“Cialis is known as Super Viagra,” it says. “It starts working up to twice as fast!”
“I’m sorry,” she says.
“Irene magnumangels honda1 don laddie ruth mazda1 rock romanasdfghjk,” it says. There’s a horrid glottal stop at the end of that last word. It sounds like copperware dying.
“I . . .”
She looks at Discount Jesus. “It’s not a god,” she says.
“It’s not people,” he points out.
“It’s . . .” She looks at it. “It wants to be people. It wants so much to be.”
Its hand reaches for her. It’s a shriveled little paw, both cute and sickening. It scrabbles at the air.
“It wants so much to be.”
“The noise dreams of signal,” Discount Jesus agrees. “They are yin and yang, and each contains the other.”