THE screen is blank.
I have just finished writing 2000 words. I was pleased with it. Then I did something with my fingers and the monitor emptied.
It is staring back at me now with its large Cyclopic eye, inscrutable as a Zen master. I asked it was it thought it was doing but it didn’t answer.
I want to hit it with a wrench.
I am a clumsy typist. Years of pounding a keyboard have not given me the fingers of a concert pianist. They have given me a set of little hammers with the sensitivity of baseball bats.
Did I hit the full stop? The caps lock? Both? Or some diabolical combination of keys that have inadvertently opened the gateway to another dimension where my prose — decoded by a race of aggressive and paranoid Star Trek look-alikes — is even now the cause of a galactic war that will obliterate 12 planets and the billions of creatures that inhabit them before they have a chance to blink their six eyes.
Not that I care. I just want my 2000 words back, no questions asked. It is a well‑known fact that you can’t ever write it as well the second time.
We’ve had road rage and telephone rage and gambling rage. I am now offering computer rage. They should provide counselling. I’m sure computer rage can destroy marriages. Even lives. It can certainly destroy computers.
Do you remember the Brer Rabbit story with the tar baby? How the buck-toothed nitwit couldn’t get an answer out of a dummy made of tar, so he resorted to physical violence and ended up stuck to it?
Well, I’ve spoken to my computer firmly. I’ve coaxed it and threatened it and screamed abuse at it. It just stares back — the tar baby of the new millenium — and I think I’m stuck to it.
And it’s got my 2000 words.
Maybe not. Maybe it’s just washed its hands of them (even though they were good) like some electronic Pontius Pilate and they’re wandering about out there, tossed on a storm of electric signals, looking for a port.
They’ll probably reappear thousands of kilometres from home on the screen of a pimply 12-year-old who will be hailed as the new literary genius of the 21st century, dammit, while I continue to starve in my garret with a terminal that has terminated (my wife says I’m exaggerating if I think a study with a coffee machine and a view of the ocean is a garret, but that’s not the point).
The point is my screen is blank and my work has gone. The best work I ever did. I’ll never get it back again.
And I think my mind’s going blank, too. Maybe this is how it works. It robs us of our minds, opens the gateway to some electronic hell, and the forces of darkness pour through and destroy us all.
I had this idea that the end of the world, like the beginning, would be heralded by something more cataclysmic than some fool waving his fingers over the wrong keys, but perhaps not.
Maybe that’s exactly how we ended up with this mess in the first place.