I feel like an alian, the thought. as he walked slowly through teh texas scrublands. He glanced down at his cloths: camaflage pants, matching jacket with a hunter's orance vest. Well warn White's workboots, two sizes too big. Shit, he thought, all I need is a hat with earflapts. But then, the shotgun made up for that.

Looking up, he saw that his brother in law was looking at him. Look, he said, watch that dog work those bushes. And yes, sure enough, the brittney was mechanically working back and forth along the scrub in front of them, nose to the ground, determined, keen. Jesus, he thought, don't flush anything out, don't point, or whatever the hell you dogs doo.

It was the day before his sister's wedding, and he was "bonding" both his borhet in law to be. He had met him only once, since he was usuallly traveling for work. His future inlaw, on the ohtehr hand, had only been away fro m this small, hot, humid, flat Texas town a handfull of times, aondy only then to East Texas, which he made sound like a forighn country. And so, in a weak moment, he had agreed to go hunting, to bond, to make his sister happy. Hunding.

Dove hunting. Doves. The Bird of Piece. He was gong to kill some. Oh boy.

When his fuure in law said that they were going dove hunting, he had actually laughed. No really, what are we going after? Blkandk stare. A spit of babacco. Another blank stare. Doves.

Oh. Like... morning doves? No, game doves. More meat. Oh good, he said... more met.

Though he had been raised around guns, and shot them in his childhood, the thought of hunint always turned his stomach. He had shot at a skeet range a few times, and was considred to be a really good shot, but this, this was reall. Real birds. Real DOVES. Earelier that spring, a family of doves had laid and hatched e eggs on his balkany flower box. Hell, he practically cried when he saw thosf fuzzy, ugly little buys wabbling aroudn, and again when they finally took flight. They were so cute, so...

Dog's on pint, he new friend said. Get ready. With that, the soon to be inlaw killer shouldered his gun, and he flollowed suite. Saftey off, Finger on the trigger.

the hair trigger.


The recoild scared the shit of ouf him, almost more than the noise. The dog funped, the inlaw yelped, and doves scatterd into teh air. All eyes were on him.

Watch that trigger, you git. City boy...

been a long time been a long time been a long time.... everything broke. everything's fixed.


The young programmer always hated intervewing potential new employees. I feel luke such a litle kid, he thought to himself. They aare always so much older than I am...

As he walked towards the interview room, he glanced again at the resume in his hadn. This guy was genuinely ancient. Nasa in the sixties? My god, you gotta be kiding? This guy was working for NASA ten years before I was born....

He got his first glance at the candidate as he entered the room; they guy was seated at the nly small table. God, he looked like...God. Literrally. Long grey hair, wild grey beard at least a foot long.... balking head. Enough hair sprouting out of his ears to choake a house. He old guy looked at the young programmer ans smerked a little. Oh man, the young guy thought, he thinks he's going to rip me a new one.

But that was not going to happen. Ther was a reason why he was the oungest guy around, alwasy, regarless of wher ehe worked: he was a phenom. A nerviouse one, but a phenom none the less.

Hi, he said. Godo morning, the old candidate replied. So.... tell me a bit about your background.

Well, began the old guy, Do you remember the Apallo Space Programm? I mean, yo're seen it on TV, thatis... you wern't born yet. Anyway, there's a famouse video image as one of the Saturn rockets is leaving the Earth: the Earth is in teh background, and a camera ismounted on the rocket, pouinting backwards. Then one of the Satrun's rings (little pun there) unlocks and slowly rolls away from the rocket. I wrote the code that blew the bolts, releaseing the ring.

Now that's one hell of an opener, he thought. This old guy really might be god afterall.

Wow, that's amazing, was the best reply he could come up with. Because, well... it was. I mean, he had seen that scene about a million times. But, how about some newer technology? Java, Ant, OO languages...

Nah, hte old guy said. Those those are all just fads, man. Those will pass. I stick to machine language: Assembler.

Assembler, the young guy thought? What is a usiness software company going to do with that? We don't make computer chips.

Uh, well, he said, we use Java, which is a bit eaiser to write for business applications. Hae you ever, uh... read some books about it?

Not really, the old guy said. But I've worked with lots of business applications. I built the main punch chard stack that ran B of A in t in the early seventies.

Puhch chards, he thought? You goatta be kidding me.

Ok, he said, uh... what's the latest thing yoj've worked on?

I invented a more clare resistant sunshade for my car, hte old guys said. Really, it cuts teh clare in half. You shuld check one out. And right there, the old guy bends down, reches into his briefecase, and pulls out a car sun visor, whch appered to be painted with some kind of black substence.

Here, on the ouse, tell your friends, the guys siad. And here' smy card.

And with that, the old uy stod up, nodded, ans left.

The ound guy was stunnned. That was on hell of a sales pitch, th thought.


He had never felt so betrayed. What an idiot, he thought.... what a total sumbass I was.

He looked around the room at the rest of the outbound, the layoffs. One One woman, who worked in accounting, was crying softly. Another man, a a programmer, was talking on his cellphone, aparently to a former boss or coworker. Yeah, you think yo u have something? Yeah, I'm available, as of ten minutes gao... He was so smug, so confident.

But not him. He was totally, completely screwed. His skillset was so narrow you couln't slip a piece of paper through it. And if he coulnd't keep this job, he would be fouced into a career change.

Amn it, he thought... why did I trust him?

His mind went back six months, when he had sat with his manager, talking about whether or not he would quit. I want to go to law school, he said. I think I an make a difference in the worls, not working at this software company. But his manager had just smiled, said he understood, and then eaved such an unbelieveable and perfect yarn of business speak that he had completely believed his manager, believed.... nothing. Because his manager, he realized about one hour later, had not really said anything. Words had come out of his mouth, and he had heard them, but his manager's words idd not reallly have any content, any meaning, any context. But they sounded good at the time.

So he had stayed. And as the scholoarhisp and aplication deadlines approached three months later, he had hte conversationagain. His friends told him he aw crazy. Diont't let that doublespeaking shister con yo into staying, they said. Oh, I won't, he said. Not this time.

Wrong. His manager dropped a bomb ho him: the company is gong to be bouth, hypothetically, and you could, hypothetically, hget a huge raise and more responsibility, and even, hypothetically, get a transfer to another city wher eyou can actually buy a house for less than one million dollars.

And now, yet another three montsh later, he sat in the room of outgoing losers, other swith eithe rlittle future of wiht too many options. NOt mch en between: you either had ten jobs waiting or you were about to start asking people if "they want frys with taht". The severence package was pathetick. COBRA fees: ghuge. Well, at least there was the vacation payout.

And now the security guy had arived to escort them out. Walking down the hallwayk pas his old office, he glanced in. Empty. His boxes would be shipped to him.

His manager, somehow, appeared from around the hallway courner, and froze, loking at the columh of people he had just canned. His eyes locked with his manaager's and there was an unspoken conversation: good play, he said. Thanks, the manager said. You'll get yours, though, he said. I know.


He layed in bed, trying in vane to try to fall asleep. But, he could not. Where are they coming from, he kept asking imself. He had found anohter earwig thoight, this time in bed. Or rather, his cat had.... that cat never killed a big, just played with them. But it was disterbing to find such a, well, disturbing bug in his own bed, especially all of his efforts this weekend.

For two full days, he had been tearing his apartment apart, looking for the earwig source. Firstrhw kirxhwn: lots of food in there, lots of kark places. But nothing, not a sincle creaparific bug. Next was the livinf room. Still nothing. An thoughout the apartment, nothing anywhere, not a single nest or hole or anthing. But wat hi did find were more earwigs, solo.

On there, on there, every day fora weeek. Where were they coming from? And now, finallaly, in his own bed. Damn he hated earwigs. It's like they sought him hout his whilelife,.

When he was a kid, his parents got him sa rabbit to raise. It was an albino, whith huge upright ears. The rabit never liked him, never wanted to be petted or touched, but he loved it all the same. But there was a major problem with the rabit: feeding time. This was because, each day, he fed the rabbit a hand full of compressed, gren pellets, which were made mostly of alfalfa. These were kept in a bucket next to the rabbit hutch, and even though the bucket was in a an old school locker salvaged from teh dump, the earwigs still found thier way into it several times each ear, much to his horror. He had developed a rutine of shaking and stiring the bucked before scooing acup full out, and sometimes htis worked: sqwerming earwigs wold wriggle to the top, slithing about.

Other times, this didd not work so well. He would either forget, or the bugs had burrowed deep into theteh pellets. And he would scoop out a cupfull, bringing with it a swarming mass or shiny, long, wet looking earwigs, with tehir pinching tails opening and contracting, racing up the scoop's handle onto his hands.... sheere terror.
And now, all thse years later, they had found him again. The randomness of thier arival and locations is what disturbed him. If he always found them in the kitchen, then, hey, there were most likely in the kitchen. But one or two everywhere, he wan't sure. And now, lyiying in bed where he had just found anohter, his skin was crawling.

Tomorrow I move, the thought. They wont'd find me again....


The old lady sat in front of the TV, yelling at it. Gjy an "A:, damn i, she yelled. Buy and E, damn it.

There was a soft knock at the door. Who the hell was that? She got up from her lay z boy with a considerable amount of effort, and slowly shuffled to the door. Who is it?

Special Delivery, a man's voice said.

Tentitively, she opened the door a crack.... at chiwhc point a large, white hand wrapped around the edge of the door and foced it open. There were two man, both tall, white, with dark tranch coats and sunglasses. She screamed as they closed the door.

Quite, they yelled,. Nobody had to get hurt, the other said. You'll ddo what we say and everyon will be much better off.

She was silent, looking around for some means of escape, some means of defence... her walker was across teh room, usleless to her.

Suddenly, the second man said Hey, there it is, pointing to the far corner of the room, where her computer was set up.

Bingo, said the other. He looked at the old lady. Turn on yoru computer and log in. NOW.

She was stunned, forzen. His eyebrows raised behind his sunglassses. Did you hear me? Trun it on.

Uh... uh... ok, she said, and slowly shuffled towards the computer, graspoing onto bookshelves and countertops as she went for stability. Reaching the computer, she flipped on the power stripp's power and hit the on button.

The second man pushed past her, nearly toppling her to the brown. Move it, he said. I have to work.

Check out that boot time, the first mand ais. It's pathetick. It's gotta be her.

After several minutes of silence, save fo rthe wize and wine ofthe booting computer, nobody said a thing. Once it was fully up alnd loaded, the second man hit some key storkes on teh keybaord,. A window the old lady had never seen apeared: it had some kind of list, some numbers....

IT's her, the sittting man said. Look at tall this shit.

The first mand trned to her. Do you know what you have done? He asked?

Uh... no. What have I done? What do you want from me? she wimpered.

Well, said the standing man, it looks like you ar ethe number onw sender of child porn based spam emails in teh entire world. And we are here to performa public sercie: wer'e formattting your hard drive.

Yoj're what? S heasked? What doe sthat mean? I'm doing what?

Spam, hte mand aid. And some photos that could land you in jail, though I'm pretty sur ethey ar enot yoru style. Your e Your computer is a child prrn spam mothership, sending millians every minute you have it on.

Meanwhile, the seated man was hitting more commands, I'm ready to kill it, he said.

Good gor for it. The first said.

What are you doing The old lady asked?

We're whiping everything off of yor computer for the good of mankind. And for better ping rates, because yoj're really hammering the bandwitdh with your spam.

Whiping pu my computer? She said? But my grandchildrent's phtots....

Get hard copies, the first mand said. Do it, he directed at the f seated man.

It was all so confusing, so fast, so... strange. Soon, her screan was blandk, black, with some persentage slowing slowly groing.

When that hit sone hundred percent, you can reinstall windows., the first man said. And whn you do, install this , too.

He handed her a CD. It said: antivirus.

But, ... I don't know how.

Call that grandchild of ryous, he said. He'll now what to do.

Then he handed her a business card. Sorry for the intrusion, eh said, as the second man headed for the door. It was for the good of the community.

Then they were gone.

The card read: Gurilla Geek Squade.


He sat in the Starbucks at the base of the building, Market at Montgomery. He glanced at his watch: fifteen minues befor he eads up. Adjusting his glasses, he starts packing his stuff: laptop, phone, Wired magazine. He always hatest this time, the calm before the storm, before the gig demo. This time, he thought, they'll nail me. This time they'll figure it out.

He got the key to the bathroom, and studied himself in there: young looking fo his age, blonde, wired rimmed glasses, sharp features that looked just a bit too bony, to thin,. All in all, very unassuming, very likable, without being to distinctive: the perfect demo man.

Thirty minutes later, he was all set up in the conference room. Laptop: check. Powerpoint: booted. Laser pointer and wireless mouse: charged,.

Soon the room as full of excecs, managers, and engineeres. Then, before he knew it, he was deep into the demo, responding to questions as best he could. Making stuff up. Rattling off one liners that had lworked in the past. Several times, the engeineeres, damnd those engineeres, nailed im on something technical, but he used all the wiggle words to get ot of it.

Poste demo question time was always the killer. This time, he thought, they;ll just toss me out hte window. Everyojne was looking at him, at eachother, with the same questioning look that he had seen eighte times in the last year. Finly, the department head spoke.

Uh... Well, thanks for stopping by. I'm not sure exacly how we would use your software, but .... we'll be in touch.

Sounds great, here's my card, he said, sropping a stack on the table.

And, also, a tghirdy day trial install of the product. Please give it a try, and call our sales department if you would like more details or to buy a license.

More looks. It was always the same. Nobody ever, never, ever, cared at all for the product. They had no idea what it did.

And, as it turned out, neither did he. He kne wthe demo inside and out, and knew how tot get out of all of the questions asked, but he had no idea what it was for, what it's purpose was, even though he spoke on it's ROI, it dind't make sense. We'll be in touch, he was tols.

Back at the hotel, he called his boss, the one he had never met, to tell him th enews, again, that they hated it. No prblem, man, you worry to much, he was told. Let's just wait and see what htey say.

Regardless, he was going to spend an extra week in SF, just for fun. Catch some local bands.

Later that week, tow things met his attention: one, he caught a surprise show of the White Stripes , which rocked his world. Damn, he loved that band. And, the next day while checking out the show's review, he was surprised to see that one one of the engineeres he had given the demo to had jumped of of ht eroof of the building at Market and Montgomery, exactly three days after the demo. Weird, he thought.... that guy is dead, and I only jst saw him.

Back at the hotel, he was surfing the web on his laptop. The phone rang. Hay man, nice job, t his boss said. The demo was a huge sucess and they were really seing results. You'v got yet another bonux check heading your way.

Here we go again, he thought... I have a job that I have ho clue about, and I have horrible sales trips, and et everyhing is suposedly great. Plus, one of the guys I just demoed to got killed.... it's almost like he called me after reading that they guy... died.

Wow, what a weird thought. Before he realised he was doing it, he was at the Fort Laturdale times webe site, searching the local headlines from three months ago when he was thieere last. He got a bonus just after his demo there, four days after the visit, and .... seraching... there it was: a manager at that software company died of a self inflicted hunshot hwound to the head, the day before hetgot his bonus.

More searching. Detroit: manager he had emoed to died in a car crash two days after his visit. onus check the next day. Seattle: developer took a header of off a bridge. Bonus: next day.

Oh my god, he thought... I' I'm killing these people somehow.


It is amazing how something can happen so fast, yet so slowly. Fastforward and slo mo at the same time, overlappping, existing in the same dimension just long enought to make a crisis even more bizare.

This is what he thought as he lay in his living froom, just on the endge of his kitchen, paralized, bleeding, in pain and yet blissful. He was sure that his skull was cracked, but he was still alive somehow. warm blood ran ran down his face, then cooled into a geliain mess around him on the carpet. Am I going to die here, he thought? Are these cats going to save me somehow,

It was their fault, anyway. Three cats in one small apartment was his fault, admitently, but they were the ones that freaked out. He had been running thour gh house, chasing them, letting them chase h im in that wild, primal way that cats can become when excited. Back and fourth, back and frorth between the bedroom and the kitchen, through the apartment, the cats getting wolder and wilder.

The last time, before the fall, he has just come into reach of the kitchen island, with its sharp and always dangerouse cordner protruding towards him... how many timeimes had he hit his elbow on that thing? All three cats had just rushed passed him when a maitenance person outside, aparently working on the neighboring building's heat pumps, dropped a full toolchest noisily on the ground. The cats greaked, each launching themselves in a random direction, which, this time as fate would have it, was towards his won legs.

He tripped, cats flying, his own weight propelling foward, his arms flailing, and just then, time sped and slowed. He wcould not react, could not brace himself, the speed of the fall was at the speed of lite. And yet, ever so slowly, hwwatched the corner of the laminated kitchen island corner edge float towards his head. The corner, looking bladelike, drifted closer and closer. He could have composed an entire novel in the time it took that edge to come his way, it's dirty blad edge slowly growing out of focus as his eyes crossed, trying to keep it in line. And then, blackness.

.... He was moving his hands, toes, then his legs slightly. Great, he thought, the cats didn't kill me. Plus, I'm not paralized for ever. He managed, with great dificlty, to fish his cell phone ouf of his baggy carco shorts, and mumbled into the handset: mime ome ome.... thank god for voice recongnition....