Episode 12: The NoS
The filthy studio apartment in the basement had one small window looking out to a busy sidewalk. The view was of the feet that went by and the raindrops that collided with the pavement. It smelled like a sewer and rotten food inside, with everything covered in dust and grime. There was a tiny refrigerator, a microwave, a couch, a crate used as a coffee table, and a wall of expensive computer servers and other equipment. A closet of a bathroom with no door was in the far corner.
The rest of the space was filled from floor to ceiling with stacked cardboard boxes. Inside the boxes were hundreds of carefully packed goggles with circular frames and leather side shields. They looked like a cross between vintage aviator eyewear and something out of steampunk art. Bastian had replaced the lenses in each with dark blue ones.
The goggles and replacement lenses were stolen from a warehouse six blocks from his apartment by a few devotees who had found each other, and NoS, on Blue Universe. Yet another devotee picked up the boxes of goggles twice a week and shipped them to various other devotees across the country. Those people left goggles in public places and posted the locations on the Blue Universe bulletin board for others to find.
Initially, NoS talked about the goggles as a way for them all to feel connected to each other outside of Blue Universe. They were to be a symbol of unity within a common experience, and to be a visual emphasis on being different from everyone else. A way to take pride in the outcast label.
The description gradually changed over time with the emphasis more on separating from the rest of society, until NoS began to depict the goggles as a uniform and the need for them to show a collective power. NoS hadn’t written the words exactly, but it was becoming clear the creator of Blue Universe was creating an army.
NoS was one man with the technical aptitude to glide freely through the cyber landscape undetected and completely anonymous. He was Bastian to people he interacted with in the realms where his physical presence was necessary, including the in-person exchanges with Blue Universe devotees. In cyber, where he felt he was the most sincere him, Bastian was NoS.
He was a gangly young man barely twenty-three, with straggly hair that always hung greasy over his eyes. Behind the beard stubble, which only grew fine blond in sparse places on the chin and lower jaw, was a babyface that didn’t look old enough to drive a car. He wore long sleeves, even on hot summer days, to hide the track marks.
Bastian didn’t see blue. It was a lie. And he was too young to have lived that fateful date in 1987. He had found a pattern emerging, as tiny as it was, on help websites and social media that would have barely been a blip on the screen next to the billions of interactions, if not actively looking for a unique kind of hurt. Once Bastian identified the similarities among what appeared to be hundreds, he used complex algorithms to target them and falsely adopted their unique affliction.
He didn’t hook them all, however, the ones that did come were the willing, lost in despair.
The scam was no different than a money-draining pyramid scheme, or a false-faced preacher, or a fear-mongering politician, or sex masked as love, or the word truth given to ideas meant to manipulate. The intent for all was to gain followers who were desperate to feel whole, and to exploit the need for selfish purposes. Bastian wanted followers. Unlike other scams, the desired outcome strayed from the typical. Not for money. Not for power. Bastian wanted chaos.
He sat back on the couch with his laptop. The antique cherrywood cigar box that held two syringes, a spoon, and five tiny baggies of heroin took the spot next to him. His feet were propped up on the coffee table crate that was cluttered in fast food and candy wrappers. He ran a program to search the web for photos of people wearing the blue lensed goggles. In seconds, the hits flooded in – selfies, images that were caught inadvertently in the background, on busy streets, in dark night clubs, parks, stores. All sorts of people wearing them, the kinds of people who would have blurred into the crowds without it. The sort of people easily forgotten.
Pleased with the progress, Bastian turned to Blue Universe to watch the chatter. Two nights earlier, he had posted a manifesto and by that morning, the majority of the Blue Universe users signed the declaration. Not with their real names, of course. Blue Universe was built for anonymity. They signed with their sign-on, their unique user name that gave perhaps some indication of the person each one was. Tif, PaintedMe, Lost4When, MissyBluesky, Q, Dead-Inside-Me, Rage8-14-87, NoS. to name a few. Over two hundred virtual signatures.
The rest, the minority, signed off for the last time, refusing to be a part of it regardless of how much they desired for answers and wanted desperately to know who and what they were, and maybe even in agreement that there were secrets out there kept from them with no intention of ever allowing light to be shed on their distinctive affliction.
A few let their feelings known before leaving Blue Universe, the only place they felt like they belonged.
Truth87 began to post, then changed his user name to Crispin: Not using a pseudonym. This is reckless and will get you nothing but loss and more despair. I beg you to choose another path.
NoS: A wondrous reckoning it will be. Let’s agree. The day of understanding is long in the rearview mirror, my friends. We have given them a chance. Opportunities are gifts and THEY have shit on your gift. No longer will we be the nameless.
Sentinel: This is scary beautiful.
Lost4When: Luv the NoS.
NoS: There is no NoS. The Nos is us. We are Nos. We are the reckoning.