by Tom Buck
Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing pace. Can it be taken too far?
Trick or Tweet
A Short Story by Tom Buckley
© Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
I'm John Young. My NetLink number is 635769-22-1. I'm all alone now, and I only have a short time left to write my story. The clock on my desk softly ticks away the seconds, reminding me of my destiny.
It's just past midnight, so technically I'm beginning the celebration of my forty-second birthday. However, we haven't honored such occasions recently. I'm not looking for sympathy. I just want to document what's happened to me and my family.
My recall is sharp right now, but that won't last much longer. I spent most of yesterday going through the journals I've kept throughout most of my adult life. I shed quite a few tears in the process, but I've earmarked a number of pages to help jog my memory. Sleep is no longer a friend, so I plan to write until I finish this story.
I'll start from the time I met the most beautiful person I've ever known. That was 17 years ago in the summer of 2009 at a wedding reception. I was chatting with a buddy of mine while I admired my future wife from a distance.
"Did you get a look at that gorgeous girl in the yellow dress?" I asked, looking over his shoulder toward the dance floor.
He turned to see who I was focused on.
"Oh, that's Carolyn Jones," he said after he spotted her. "We work together. She's a nice girl, and she's single. Want to meet her?"
"Sure," I said.
When the music stopped, she parted company with her dance partner and then walked to a table with another girl. My friend started in their direction.
"Hold on a minute," I said. "Be right back."
I walked to the bar, got the bartender's attention, and then pointed out Carolyn across the room.
"Happen to know what she's drinking?" I asked.
"Yep. Cute girl. She and her friend each walked away with a glass of Merlot about half an hour ago."
"I'll take two glasses," I said.
My friend and I maneuvered through the crowd while I balanced a glass of wine in each hand. I felt nervous as we neared Carolyn's table, but managed not to stutter as we were introduced and I offered up my gifts.
A few minutes later, I started to feel comfortable as Carolyn and I stood talking about the wedding. I was mesmerized by her beautiful blue eyes when someone bumped me from behind, causing me to knock Carolyn's wine glass from her hand. I stared in horror while streaks of burgundy wove their way down the front of her floor-length evening dress.
"I'm so sorry," I kept mumbling as her friend, Courtney, tried to mitigate the damage with a handful of napkins, glaring at me every few seconds.
Somehow, I survived the incident. Carolyn forgave me, and we spent the next half hour talking, with Carolyn taking frequent breaks to respond to noises coming from her phone.
"Something important going on?" I asked.
"Just texting with Courtney," she answered.
"But ... she's right there." I pointed at Courtney standing less than ten feet away.
Carolyn looked up and smiled.
After more conversation and a couple of dances, I got up the nerve to ask her out to dinner the following weekend.
"What's your middle name?" she asked.
"Wilson, after my grandfather," I answered. "Why do you ask?"
"We just need to know," Courtney said. She had appeared next to Carolyn with a stern look on her face.
"I'll get right back to you on that invite," Carolyn said. She looked at Courtney and cocked her head to one side. "Excuse us a minute."
They headed toward the ladies' room. I figured they needed to talk about me, so I went for another beer. Five minutes later, I stood at the bar, sipping a Heineken, when something poked my right shoulder.
"You're socially invisible," someone said.
"Excuse me," I said while turning around. The girls were back, and Courtney was pointing her finger at me.
"You are socially invisible," Courtney repeated.
"Then why did I feel your fingernail trying to leave a puncture wound?"
"Are you even on Facebook?" Carolyn asked.
Maybe I was socially inept, but certainly I was visible. I fumbled around for an answer, and finally said, "No."
"Everyone's on Facebook," Courtney said.
"I don't have time. I'm taking over my dad's furniture store business."
"Even more reason to be out there," Carolyn said. "Do you blog?"
I was pretty sure that was a medical condition. At twenty-five years old, I was in excellent health. "No," I answered, with all the confidence I could muster.
The girls looked at each other and frowned.
"We don't date random people," said Courtney. "We need a full profile. You don't even come up on Google. You could be an axe murderer."
I looked around but didn't spot an axe within reaching distance. "I have references," I said, as if interviewing for a job. The girls laughed.
When they finally composed themselves, Carolyn asked, "Do you tweet under a different name?"
She might as well have asked if I were from Mars. "Sometimes," I answered, hoping for clarification.
"How many followers do you have?" It was Courtney again.
I had met my match. "Uncle," I said. "I don't know what you're talking about."
They had another good laugh, and then Carolyn stepped around me to the bar. Courtney and I sized each other up as if we were getting ready for a boxing match. Carolyn broke the silence as she handed me a napkin with a phone number written on it.
"You seem like a nice guy," she said. "I'll meet you next Saturday. Text me the details."
"Sure," I said.
"We've got to go," Carolyn said. "Nice meeting you."
Carolyn gave me a hug. I locked eyes with Courtney over Carolyn's shoulder and made a feeble attempt at a warm smile, trying to melt her icy stare.
I waited until the next day before texting Carolyn. My phone beeped as soon as I put it down. The message read, "See U there." A smiley face followed.
By the following Saturday morning, I had doubts. Everything happened so fast at the reception. Would Carolyn make an appearance? If so, would Courtney tag along? Was Carolyn actually attractive? I did have my "beer goggles" on that day. Maybe it was a joke and Carolyn had no intention of coming. I thought about texting her for confirmation, but decided just to show up.
I had chosen a casual restaurant in a popular part of town. Arriving ten minutes early, I sat at the bar with an open seat next to me and a view of the front door. I hoped I wasn't being played for a fool as I ordered a beer and asked the bartender to have a glass of Merlot ready.
Right on time, Carolyn walked in. I felt relieved. She was indeed attractive. She was wearing a pink and white sundress and had her blond hair in a ponytail. I felt proud as she spotted me and headed my way. While helping her to get seated, I gave the bartender a slight nod. He placed a glass of red wine in front of Carolyn.
"You remembered," she said.
"I have a mind like a steel trap," I replied.
As we made small talk, Carolyn's purse sat on the bar, chirping, beeping, or buzzing every few seconds.
"Do you have a pet in there?" I asked.
"Oh," she said. "Sorry."
She pulled her sleek-looking phone out of her purse and flipped a switch, apparently putting it to sleep. She dropped it back in her purse.
"New phone?" I asked.
"It's an iPhone. Don't you have one?"
"Wow," she said. "Everybody's got one. My niece has one, and she's nine."
Again, I was off the radar screen, not even included in everybody.
"BlackBerry?" she asked.
"Amstel Light." I held up my beer.
"I mean your phone. Is it a BlackBerry?"
"Oh," I said as I pulled my two-year-old cell phone from my pocket and held it up. "It's not fancy, but Sprint gave it to me for free."
After Carolyn had finished laughing, she said, "You can't even get the Internet on that thing."
A cute, young hostess appeared and announced that our table was ready, saving me from further embarrassment.
After another drink and appetizers, I felt comfortable enough to ask what "socially invisible" meant. Carolyn shared that she and Courtney had "Googled" me at the reception and didn't find even one link associated with my name. Therefore, I was "invisible."
"At a minimum, you need to be on Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn for business connections," Carolyn explained. "How else will people know what you're doing?"
"I could tell them." I figured that wasn't the right answer.
She looked up and sighed. "You can only tell a few people at a time. You need a following of people who are interested in your status."
"You mean like single or married?" I asked.
She looked frustrated. "No. Status like your mood, what you're doing, where you are, who you're with. Everyday things. Even Obama tweets."
I painted a thoughtful expression on my face and nodded as if I understood. I was thinking that if I stood on my chair, on my tiptoes, it would all still be way over my head.
"Status," I said.
"Yes," she said, as if she thought I was catching on. "You have to be out there, establishing your brand."
"Do you have a brand?" I asked, trying to take the focus off me.
"Of course. Haven't you Googled me?"
The spotlight was back on me. "Um ... no." I hadn't admitted that my "steel trap" didn't remember her last name.
She pulled the iPhone from her purse and punched at it with her thumbs. Then she turned it toward me. I saw what I assumed to be her name, Carolyn Anne Jones, on a number of Web links.
"Impressive," I said while trying to memorize her name.
"I manage my Web presence," she said. "You don't want anything negative in your page of links."
"I wouldn't think so," I said, wondering if my college diploma was authentic.
Carolyn explained that she used Web sites with odd names, like Adictomatic and TweetDeck, to manage her online image.
By the end of dinner, my head was spinning. She had thrown out more unfamiliar terms than I could keep track of. The good news was that she invited me to a clubhouse party at her apartment complex the following Friday night. My spirits sank when she told me that she and Courtney shared an apartment, but our first date was still turning out to be a pleasant experience. We had coffee and then walked to the parking lot.
"If you bring an axe to the party, Courtney will be mad," Carolyn said. She laughed and kissed me on the cheek before driving away in her bright-red sports car.
Things went well between us over the next few weeks. I found Carolyn to be both charming and intelligent. She became convinced that I wasn't an escaped prisoner. Even Courtney and I got along. They were my first Facebook friends.
Carolyn had a degree in marketing and worked for a well-known company in its brand management department. She was in charge of handling negative comments about the brands on the Internet, and taking actions to protect their reputations. She was an expert at navigating the Web, especially social media sites. Never without her iPhone, she couldn't go more than a few minutes without texting or tweeting. She was always showing me something on the device – pictures, news, Web sites, videos, apps, or tweets. It even played music.
"You need one," she'd say. "The people at Apple are geniuses."
"It's too complicated," was my usual response.
It took some time, but she convinced me that I could learn how to use the new gadget, and promised to help.
"You won't want to put it down," she said.
I placed an order, and it was waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home from work a few days later. It was easy to master, and I didn't put it down. Other than taking time out for dinner, I played with it for the rest of the night. Before going to bed, just before three a.m., I sent Carolyn a text. She replied immediately – "Congrats. Go 2 sleep."
The alarm on my new device woke me at 6:45 a.m., just as instructed. I checked my e-mail and Facebook accounts while still in bed. No need to go to my computer before showering as I usually did. Before leaving for work, I slid my new friend into my pants pocket. The world was at my fingertips. I called Carolyn from my car. "Love it," I said.
Over the next few months, Carolyn and I became close friends. When I could get her away from her laptop and iPhone, I found her to be a fun-loving, warm, and caring person. I held my breath after I told her that I loved her for the first time. My heart jumped when she said, "I love you too."
By the time I proposed to Carolyn in early 2010, I had over 200 friends on Facebook, nearly half that many connections on LinkedIn, and more than 50 followers on Twitter. I could Google my name and bring up links that related to me. But, when I dared to think I was caught-up, Carolyn would show me something new.
While visiting Carolyn on a summer evening, she said, "I made a new friend at work today."
"That's nice. What's her name?" I asked.
"It's not a person. I'll show you."
She went to her bedroom and came back with a device that looked like a cross between an iPhone and a laptop computer.
"It's an iPad," she announced. "Apple's sold three million of them over the last few months. I love it."
"But, you have a desktop, a laptop, and a smartphone. Why do you need that?" I asked as she showed me a trick that the new gadget could perform.
"It's cutting-edge," she said. "Everyone will have one before long."
I couldn't imagine why I would ever want one.
On September 25, 2010, Carolyn and I were married. Courtney was the maid of honor. Our wedding day was a dream come true. It felt as if I were in a trance as I said, "I do." I couldn't believe that I had just married such a wonderful person.
When we got to our hotel room that night, Carolyn fished her iPad out of her suitcase.
"Give me a minute," she said.
"What's up?" I asked.
"You'll see," she said, and then flashed her familiar, knowing smile.
A few minutes later, we were watching videos of the wedding and reception. To me, it seemed like magic.
In 2011, Carolyn announced that she was pregnant. All of our friends, relatives, and co-workers found out at the same time I did when Carolyn tweeted from the doctor's office. She said that she sent me a text first, but the tweet arrived at the same time. The text read, "U R gonna B a daddy."
In early 2012, Carolyn started getting excited about a new version of the iPhone that was scheduled for release that summer. "It will be amazing," she said. "It's going to be faster and we'll be able to take 3D pictures and record 3D videos."
"I'm happy with the one I have," I said. "Why would anyone need more?" As usual, Carolyn just smiled at me.
Our son was born on April 18, 2012. With our smartphones, we were immediately able to send pictures and videos to everyone we knew. Chad came into the world in an incredible era. It seemed as if anything was possible.
"You're a lucky boy," I said as I held him.
The iPhone 5 was released that fall. Carolyn was one of the first to get one. I had to admit that it was well-advanced from anything I had seen before. Along with 3D capabilities, it had face recognition security and it could easily convert voice to text for tweeting. Carolyn explained that there would soon be GPS chips to implant into kids. She said that her new device would eventually be able to track our child's whereabouts. "Killer apps," she kept saying.
I was reluctant to switch, but I had to admit that I was a little envious as I watched Carolyn use her new device and listened to her often say, "I love it."
I was about to give in, but Carolyn was ahead of me. She gave me an I-5 as an early Christmas present. She had set up the basics and loaded it with fun and interesting apps. I felt like a kid as I played with my new toy, which was more compact than my outdated version. I wondered how such a small device could do so much. Technology was incredible.
Once again, I was up late learning what my new phone could do. Before finally going to bed, I checked on Chad. He was asleep in his crib. I sat in a chair next to him for a few minutes, and thought about how well things were going. My dad was proud of my handling of the business. The Internet and social media marketing plans I put into place had all three stores showing strong sales increases. Carolyn was doing great at her job, and we had a healthy baby boy. Life was good.
Overshadowing the build-up and stunning results of the November elections, the big news in the last two months of 2012 revolved around the Mayan prophesy that the world would end on 12-21-12. I hadn't paid much attention, but as the date neared, I became intrigued by the theories proposed by so-called experts. With a month to go, the hype and fear had exceeded the Y2K scare of 1999. The fact that the Supreme Leader of Iran admitted to having an arsenal of nuclear weapons and pronounced that he wouldn't hesitate to "bring Hell to the face of the Earth," had everyone on edge. The price of oil topping $200 a barrel also aroused fear.
Carolyn and I often made comments about the state of the world. But, as we watched a TV documentary that tried to prove that prophesies in the bible also pointed to a disaster of epic proportions in late 2012, I realized that I didn't know her real thoughts on the subject.
"What do you think will happen?" I asked.
"I'm scared," she said. "People all around the world are tweeting about getting guns and stocking up on supplies."
"What good would that do?" I asked.
"They're saying that we might survive whatever's going to happen, but there could be widespread panic."
"Sounds like the same theories people passed around before Y2K," I said.
"This feels different. What do you think?"
"I'm worried," I confided. "But it's probably going to be a non-event." I was wondering how to go about buying a gun.
The 21st of December was a Friday. With a few days to go, panic had set in. Grocery store shelves were empty, and churches were full. There were neither guns nor ammunition to be purchased. Even at seven dollars a gallon, gas was scarce. People apparently took comfort in knowing they would have a full tank when the world ended. Most regular TV programming had been replaced with breaking news stories from around the world. Businesses were announcing that they would close through the weekend, looting was becoming a problem, police departments were overwhelmed, and large crowds gathered. There were rumors of a massive terrorist attack in the making.
The President appeared on TV on Wednesday night, calling for everyone to remain calm. He spoke from an undisclosed location, assuring us that he knew of no pending calamity. That being said, he announced that U.S. borders would be closed until Sunday. "It's just a precaution," he stated. "Air and boat travel into or out of the United States, except for emergency military purposes, will be suspended."
"I think there's something he's not telling," Carolyn said.
"It does sound suspicious," I said, now genuinely scared, and sorry I hadn't bought a gun.
By Thursday evening, things had quieted down. Most people either had retreated to the relative safety of their homes or participated in "End of the World" parties. I sat on the sofa with my eyes glued to the TV screen. I switched from channel to channel as the hours to doomsday, local time, slowly passed. Carolyn sat in her favorite chair and monitored the Internet on her I-5. Chad was asleep in his playpen.
The news was positive, as there was no evidence of a pending apocalypse. The 21st was well under way in some parts of the world. Australians were celebrating as nightfall set in.
I breathed easier as the grandfather clock in the hall chimed twelve times and then returned to silence. Midnight, our time, had come and gone. There was no meteor en route, no cracks in the planet, weather patterns were normal, no missiles launched, and the Earth remained on its axis.
"Going to bed?" I asked Carolyn at 12:15.
"Not yet. Wouldn't want to miss anything. The tweets are coming in fast and furious from everywhere. I'll catch some winks later."
I planned to stay up all night, but I dozed off around four a.m. I woke up a couple of hours later in a panic. It took me a few seconds to get my bearings. The man on TV was speaking in a calm voice. Carolyn was asleep in the chair, I-5 in hand. Chad was awake but content. The world had survived, even though I slept.
I watched TV all morning. Throughout the day, a new variety of experts appeared in front of the cameras. These were the ones who had predicted that the whole thing was a hoax. As Carolyn and I ate lunch in front of the TV, a beak-nosed woman described how the entire event had been orchestrated by terrorists.
"Spreading terror and fear is their mission," she said.
As she spoke, video rolled behind her. There were scenes showing cars being overturned, smashed windows, shots being fired, people fighting police in the streets, and various other acts of violence. I couldn't argue with her theory.
At 5:30 p.m., the networks carried a live statement from the Pope. The interpretation across the bottom of the screen said that he was calling for peace on earth and trust in God. The speech lasted ten minutes. Vatican City time appeared in a corner of the picture, showing that it was 11:40 p.m.
The 21st of December still had a handful of hours to live, so we weren't quite out of the woods. But, I felt relieved as we sat down to dinner at the kitchen table. We turned up the TV volume in the den, just in case. I heard laughter coming from our surround sound speakers as we held hands and said a blessing. Things were returning to normal. Even Chad, in his highchair, was in good spirits. My appetite had returned, and I was enjoying the meal Carolyn had prepared as I looked at her across the table. She had a fork in one hand and her I-5 in the other. All was well. Then ... the lights went out.
It was precisely 6:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. I didn't know the significance then, but I found out later. It was midnight Greenwich Mean Time, the end of the 21st of December, 2012, in Eastern Europe.
We had power outages before, but this was different. I felt uneasy as I groped for my phone, found it, and picked it up.
"My I-5's dead!" Carolyn said.
"Mine too. I'll get the flashlight."
"I'll light the candles," she said.
We had positioned candles around the house, just in case. A large flashlight and a battery-powered radio were sitting on the coffee table in the den. For the past twenty-four hours, I had looked upon them as symbols of fear. They had waited patiently for this moment.
My eyes started to adjust to the dark as I made my way into the den. As I put a hand on the flashlight, I noticed through the curtains that lights were on next door. Maybe we just blew a circuit breaker. I wasn't thinking clearly.
I nervously pressed a button on the flashlight and was rewarded with a broad beam of light. I grabbed the radio and went back to the kitchen. Chad was crying. I comforted him and then turned on the radio. I found nothing but static on AM and FM.
"John, what's going on?" Carolyn asked as she appeared with her face aglow above two lit candles.
"Something's wrong," I said. "But, Mark and Gwen have power."
"They bought a generator. Remember?"
"Oh, yes." I did remember. Carolyn had tried to convince me to get one, just in case.
"What about the radio?" she asked.
"Nothing but static," I said. "I can't imagine what's happening." I could imagine a number of scenarios, but I didn't want to scare Carolyn any more than necessary. "Maybe I should go next door and see what they're saying on TV."
"Hurry. I'm afraid. I wish this thing would work."
In the dim light, I could see Carolyn shaking her I-5. I felt for mine in my pocket. It was there, but the rest of the world seemed far away.
I started for the front door with the flashlight beam leading the way. I stepped outside and looked around. The north wind chilled me more than it normally would have. A few lights shone from the house next door, a couple of other houses up the street had lights, and I could see a few faint lights in the distance. Otherwise, it was dark. The only sound was a soft purr coming from Mark's generator.
Mark and Gwen answered the door quickly after I rang the doorbell. Their two young kids stood behind Gwen, holding on to her dress.
"I was wondering what they're saying on TV," I said after we greeted each other. "There's no power at our house."
"Darndest thing," Mark said. "TV won't come on even though we have power. The radio works, but there's nothing on."
"I know. Just static."
"Jesus is punishing the sinners!" Gwen exclaimed, way too loudly.
"Calm down," Mark said. "We'll get to the bottom of this."
"There has to be a reasonable explanation." I said.
"Always is," Mark replied. "And, it ain't nothin' about Jesus." He looked at Gwen then back at me. "Go get the missus and your kid. It's gonna get cold overnight. We're well-stocked, and I could use a level-headed man to help me figure this out." He glared at Gwen.
Gwen's expression gave no indication that she supported the offer. But, I decided that it was better than sitting around in candlelight, shivering from cold and fear.
"Okay," I said. "Be right back. Hopefully, we'll have power soon." I had no such hope.
As I walked in, Carolyn said, "Our house phone's dead and my iPad won't work even though the battery's charged. What's causing this?"
I told her that we were going next door to sort things out. It didn't take much coaxing to convince her to go. We grabbed a few things and headed out. A car pulled up in front of Mark's house just as he opened the door for us.
"Your folks are here," Mark yelled over his shoulder.
I assumed that he wasn't referring to Carolyn and me. He let us in and then walked toward the street. As I was unfolding Chad's playpen, an older couple followed Mark into the house.
"Them I-ranians are behind this!" the older man exclaimed.
"Gwen, come get 'em," Mark called out.
Gwen appeared and escorted her parents to the back of the house.
"Joe's nutty as a fruitcake," Mark said. "But, they're okay. I told them to come over if anything happened."
The doorbell rang. This was not going to be a quiet evening. It was Randy and Fran from across the street.
"Can Fran stay awhile?" Randy asked Mark. "I'm going to the police station to find out what's happening."
"Good idea," Mark said. "She can stay. I'll go with you."
Off they went. Fran sat down on the sofa with Carolyn and started babbling about the moon. I sat in a chair next to Chad. "Everything's going to be okay," I said as I reached into the playpen and stroked his head. Somehow, it had to be.
By force of habit, I pulled my I-5 from my pocket, having forgotten that it was useless. I pushed the power button. Nothing happened. I looked over at Carolyn. She was holding hers, no doubt hoping that it would miraculously return to life.
It was hard to believe that just twenty minutes before, we were well-connected to everything happening around the globe. Now, we were starving for information. I was deep in thought when a loud rapping came from the front door. I waited a few seconds before deciding that Gwen wouldn't be coming to answer.
I opened the door and found six adults and two kids standing on the porch. I recognized most of them from neighborhood gatherings.
"Can we come in?" a man asked.
I hesitated, and then said, "Sure." I hoped Mark would approve.
I waited as the group paraded by. A tall man that I didn't recognize brought up the rear. He was wearing military fatigues and carried a large gun stuck in a holster. This wasn't going to be a typical homeowners' association meeting.
After introductions, the men went to the dining room and sat around the table. The women and kids joined Carolyn, Fran, and Chad.
Someone was trying to convince us that God was behind all of this, when a thunderous "boom" rocked the house, causing dishes in the china cabinet to rattle. All of the men stood up at once.
"Sounds like something exploded," one of them said.
The man with the gun headed for the front door. Three of us followed him to the street, looking around as we walked.
"Look!" someone shouted, pointing over Mark's house.
"Oh my God," I said as I turned around. A bright orange glow shimmered against the bottom of an otherwise dark sky.
"Looks like something happened a mile or so from here," someone said.
A few minutes later, we were back inside speculating about what might have caused the explosion, and trying to decide which of us were going to go investigate, when the front door flew open, and Mark and Randy charged in. Mark didn't seem to care that his house was now crowded.
"Police don't know much," Randy said as he tried to catch his breath. "Communications are out, planes are crashing, and somebody said they heard a rumor about nuclear bombs going off. We may be at war!"
Everyone reacted as if the rumor had come straight from a gospel reading or a CNN twitter feed.
"I knew it was terrorists," shouted a bald, fat man wearing a Homer Simpson tee-shirt. He stood up and slammed his fist on the table.
"Oh God, nuclear bombs!" Fran yelled. "It is the end of the world."
"Calm down," Mark said. Four women now stood behind him. "They said they're not sure of much."
Gwen and the old folks joined the crowd in the hallway between the dining and living rooms. Everyone was talking at once. A child was crying behind them.
"Somebody's at the door," someone yelled.
Mark opened the door, and a tall man joined the group. He immediately addressed the crowd.
"It's aliens," he said. "They've put an electromagnetic field around the Earth. My car won't even start." A woman let out a piercing scream.
No one seemed to question where the new arrival had obtained this information. The conversations turned from terrorists to extraterrestrials.
Mark took charge and restored order. The women and children were moved to the den in the back of the house. The men stayed in the dining room. More chairs were brought in as another handful of people arrived. Someone reported that there were riots downtown.
"The Psychos will be attracted to light like moths to a flame," a man said. We closed the blinds, duct-taped the curtains shut, and dimmed the lights.
The conversation in the dining room turned to survival. Thanks to everyone stocking up on everything, we had plenty of toilet paper, propane, food, water, guns, ammunition, and miscellaneous supplies. We decided that we could last a few weeks, as long as things didn't get worse. It was agreed upon that we would all stay in the house until it was light outside.
By the next morning, nothing much had changed. At daylight, two men left to drive around and hunt for information. Randy brought over a TV set that still worked, but no stations were broadcasting.
"A tweet! A tweet! My kingdom for a tweet!" someone said.
When the expedition returned, the hunters were excited. "A jetliner crashed into the Baptist church," one of them said. "That was the explosion we heard last night. It's chaos over there. Most emergency vehicles won't start."
"Someone told us they picked up a signal," the other man said. "We found it on the car radio. It's right around the middle on AM."
Mark jumped up and soon came back with a small radio as a crowd gathered in the living room. He set the radio down on the coffee table and started carefully turning the dial, searching for a signal. After a minute or so, we heard someone talking. It was faint but understandable.
"Quiet," Mark said.
From what we could make out, power and communications had been knocked-out all over the world. A few radio stations were coming back on. The one we found was broadcasting on generator power from 200 miles away. They didn't know much, but they said that the President would be addressing the nation as soon as he could.
"That idiot," someone shouted. "If he knows something, he needs to tell us now."
A heated discussion followed. We had all become information junkies and were suffering from withdrawal.
Later, word came that the President would be addressing the nation at around midnight, when the radio signal was strongest.
Late that night, we circled around a large radio that someone brought over.
"Just like old times," Gwen's dad said.
No one made a sound as the President started speaking. After a few opening statements, including giving condolences to the many who had already lost loved ones, he blamed the whole event on a computer virus.
"Ridiculous," someone yelled. "He's covering something up."
"Shut up," someone else shouted.
The President promised another report when there was more information available and TV coverage as soon as possible. He noted that any TV set that had been hooked up to cable or satellite probably wouldn't work. His last words were, "Stay calm."
"Easy for him to say," someone retorted. "He's probably a mile underground with a bunch of supplies. There could be nuclear fallout around us right now."
Another commotion followed as everyone tried to get their opinions heard. It was hard to "Stay calm" with so few facts available.
Two days later, on the small TV set, we watched a fuzzy picture fade in and out as the President gave the latest update. The sound quality was good enough for us to follow along. He confirmed that the crisis was the result of a terrorist attack of unimaginable proportions. It seemed that while we were watching our physical borders, our cyberspace borders were wide open. Anything that had been connected to the Internet at any time over the past six months, in any way, anywhere in the world, had been rendered useless. Power grids were down, computer programs erased, servers wiped clean, and electrical circuitry fried. Virtually every computer was dead and almost all information stored on computers or servers was gone. Nearly half of the planes in the air at the time of "The Attack," as it came to be called, had crashed because their computer systems went down. Later model vehicles that had recently been in the shop were infected and wouldn't start.
"We're entering into a new age," the President said. "We've been dealt a terrible blow, but we will recover. We'll come out of this a stronger nation, but it will take time."
There was disbelief and suspicion, but what the President reported was later confirmed by government agencies.
It was an ingenious plot. A single signal, sent via satellite, at a predetermined moment, had done the damage. No one has ever been prosecuted. It seemed that we had taken "hacking" too lightly. Even when super-sensitive sites were hacked, someone created a "patch" for the problem and declared that it was fixed. I won't go into details about The Attack; the history books are loaded with facts about how it was accomplished. I recommend reading The Day the Earth Really Stood Still.
We were fortunate that we lived in the suburbs with a wall around our subdivision and that we lived in the Sunbelt. We were also blessed by the fact that we had very capable leaders in our group, including Mark. His garage became our command post. In our early meetings, we focused on our short-term and long-term needs. Stores had been looted clean within twenty-four hours of The Attack. A day later, there was no water coming from our faucets.
It was the afternoon of Day 2 when Mark opened our first meeting by leading us in prayer. He then promptly got down to business.
"Food and water is our number one priority," he said. "Security is second. We also need to keep our generators running and stockpile wood for our fireplaces."
There were 35 of us in attendance. By the end of the meeting, we had formed seven teams, with each taking responsibility for some aspect of our survival. We agreed to meet every afternoon at 3:00 p.m.
My team was responsible for making trips to our local police station to get information about what was happening in our area, since we had no local radio or TV stations broadcasting.
On the morning of Day 3, I had a long talk with Carolyn centering on the fact that I would be leaving for a short time.
"Please don't go," she begged repeatedly.
"We all have to do our share," I said.
She gave in, and I readied myself for our first trek.
"I'm so afraid," Carolyn said.
"Me too," I responded.
We held each other tightly for a few seconds. Then I hugged Chad before heading for the front door.
I walked across the street to where Randy and the rest of my team were getting an SUV ready for our trip. We headed out shortly thereafter. We weren't expecting trouble, so only two of us carried guns.
Soon after we arrived at the station, we learned that we had no police protection.
"You'll have to defend yourselves," the person in charge told us. "We're understaffed, most of our vehicles are useless, and we have no way to communicate. Right now we're focusing on the gangs that are roaming the city. And, we're going to have to release most of the prisoners from the jail. It may get really ugly."
We did learn that we were faring better than those in some parts of town. Evidently, the downtown area was in shambles.
On the way home, we stopped at the local hospital to see how things were going there. We could sense that something was wrong as we approached the glass doors leading to the emergency room. As we neared, a man in a white coat waved us away from inside. He was carrying a shotgun. We started to back away, and then Randy moved forward.
"Hey Frank, it's me," he yelled.
The man held his hand against the glass and peered out. He then unlocked the door and stepped outside.
"Hi Randy. I didn't recognize you," he said.
"What's going on?" Randy asked.
"We're not accepting patients. All we have is a skeleton crew, and we have no power. Our generators were tied to our computer network. They're shot. On top of that, we were robbed of drugs and food last night by a heavily-armed gang. We're releasing as many patients as we can and driving them home."
Randy gave the man a quick update of what we had learned at the police station, and then we moved on.
We reported to Mark as we got back. "Let's go see Jim," Mark said.
Jim Miller had significant military experience and was the head of our security team. We briefed him and then headed to our neighborhood meeting.
Mark's garage was overflowing as he called for order. I estimated that there were nearly a hundred people present.
"I want to thank those who have volunteered so far," Mark said. "But, we're going to need all the help we can get. Securing our neighborhood is going to be of utmost importance. We have things that other people need. Jim's going to go over our plan."
Jim had a very serious look on his face as he hopped onto the makeshift stage dressed in a desert camouflage jacket. "We have armed guards stationed at each of the two entrances to the subdivision," he said. "And, we've blocked entry with vehicles. We've already had some negative interaction. We're going to reinforce our guard posts and have a person stationed every hundred yards around the perimeter. They can fire a warning shot if they see or hear anything suspicious. This is no longer a volunteer situation. This is life or death. We have ninety-seven homes and families to protect. I want every able-bodied person doing an eight-hour shift every day."
"Nonsense," a man in the back yelled out. A buzz arose from the crowd.
Jim stood stone-faced while Mark got the group quieted down.
"That was you Phil, wasn't it?" Jim asked in a loud voice.
There was no answer.
"What about your wife and your two daughters? Are you going to defend them by yourself if all hell breaks loose?" He paused for effect.
"Maybe a few more facts will help those of you who aren't getting it," Jim said. "Our information-gathering team just got back from the police station. The word is that we're on our own. There are armed gangs out there, homes are being invaded, and prisoners are going to be released. The death toll is already mounting."
Those statements got the crowd going again. By the end of the meeting, all of the men and most of the women were in line waiting to sign-up. A team was assigned to go door-to-door to recruit neighbors who weren't in attendance.
On Day 4, our drive to the station proved harrowing. We were fired upon and had rocks thrown at us. We managed to get there safely, and shortly thereafter we were informed that the facility would be closing.
"We have to consolidate our forces," a man in a yellow POLICE tee-shirt said. "It's already bad, and it's going to get worse. I'd stay home. If you have guns, don't be afraid to use them."
As we were leaving, I ran into a friend who served on a church committee with me.
After we updated each on what was going on in our neighborhoods, he asked, "Your wife was good friends with Courtney Jenkins, wasn't she?"
"She is good friends with Courtney," I answered. "Why?"
He got a sad look on his face. "I guess you haven't heard," he said. "She and her husband were killed in a carjacking a couple of days ago. They lived right down the street from me."
I was terrified on the three-mile drive back to our neighborhood. We exchanged gunfire twice with groups that tried to stop us. Luckily, we were all armed this time. We agreed that we wouldn't venture out again until order was restored. It was hard to believe that things had deteriorated so rapidly.
My hands were shaking as I unlocked the front door to my house. I approached Carolyn as she sat on the sofa in the den holding Chad.
"I have bad news," I said as I sat down with a tear rolling down my cheek.
Carolyn stared at me with a blank expression on her face. For four days, bad news had been the only news.
"Courtney and Steve are dead," I said, wishing I could have come up with a more gentle way of breaking it to her.
Over the next few hours, I did my best to console Carolyn.
"What's happening to our world?" she kept asking.
I felt sad that I couldn't answer her question.
Carolyn finally regained her composure, and we spent most of the evening reminiscing about the good times we'd had with Courtney. Late that night, she broke down again after asking, "Can we go to the funeral?"
I just squeezed her hand, knowing that she already knew the answer.
Our meeting on Day 6 focused on a group we called the "Apartment Dwellers" who lived in a series of apartment complexes that bordered our neighborhood. Our guards had reported that they had been threatened on two occasions.
"They seem to think that things are plentiful in our neighborhood," Mark said.
Jim followed him by stating that we would be beefing-up security.
On the morning of Day 7, I was on my shift at the main entrance when a group of over a dozen men approached us.
"We've eaten everything," the man in front said. "People are getting sick from spoiled food. One of our kids died. We know that you have food and water. We want our fair share."
The man pulled a pistol from his pants pocket. One of our sentries shot him in the shoulder with a hunting rifle. They all turned and ran.
The next night, we had a fierce gun battle with the Apartment Dwellers. There were a number of casualties on each side. I was scared to death, but I knew that I was fighting for my family's safety. We held our perimeter.
I never would have imagined that the loss of our technology would result in us having to defend ourselves from our fellow citizens. It was as if we had regressed hundreds of years in just one week.
As each day passed, we became more organized. Necessities were rationed and, for the most part, everyone cooperated. On Day 10, we calculated that if all of us were still alive, we would run out of food near Day 60. Reports on the radio gave us no encouragement that help was on the way.
On Day 13, we had another encounter with the Apartment Dwellers. This time, they were better organized and more desperate. They managed to get inside of our walls after throwing Molotov cocktails onto the roofs of a number of houses. I had to shoot a man who came at me with a hatchet. Again, we prevailed, but our losses were heavy. Mark and I had to break the news to Fran that Randy was killed.
The overwhelming sadness tugged at our hearts constantly. It seemed like every day brought another tragedy. We depended on radio and TV to keep up with what was going on in the world, but until Day 30, all of the reports were negative.
On that day, we heard that our military forces were leading the effort to restore order and distribute supplies. Our troops had been brought home from every corner of the world. We finally had reason to celebrate.
Another few weeks had passed before we found out that help had arrived in our city. We started hearing the sound of aircraft in the distance. We prayed as fervently as our food supply dwindled.
Finally, on Day 65, a crisp, cloudless day in late February, a large, black helicopter circled our neighborhood and then set down in a cul-de-sac. The marines had landed, with water, rations, and medical supplies. They told us that ground support would be forthcoming, including military police, doctors, and nurses.
"You did a lot better than most of the neighborhoods we've visited," a young officer said. "Congratulations."
At our meeting the next day, we took stock of our situation. Our original census showed 265 people in our compound. We lost 33. They were all buried in our neighborhood park, along with some of the Apartment Dwellers. In addition, we had 12 who were in dire need of medical help. We had a procession to the park and then spent nearly an hour praying for those resting there and for the future of our world.
The marines had taken care of our basic necessities, but more importantly, they gave us what we needed most – Hope! We believed that we were going to survive.
The indirect death toll from The Attack was estimated to be over 1.5 billion people, roughly twenty percent of the world's population. China was hit hardest, with over 200 million casualties; the United States was second, with just under 50 million. Third world countries fared better, due to minimal dependence on technology. The Attack was said to be the greatest disaster in the history of mankind.
There was no exact casualty count, since records were gone and communication crippled. Causes of death ran the gamut. People starved or froze to death, killed themselves or others, perished in plane crashes, suffered heart attacks from stress or over-exertion, or died from lack of proper medical care.
The period following the military rescue was still trying. It was six months before we had running water, electricity, phone service, and stocked grocery shelves. Supplies were scarce, and medical care was inadequate. I lost my business. Carolyn lost her job, as did most people, since the whole economy collapsed like a house of cards. Our monetary system went haywire. Cash and barter were the only means of getting necessities. Unfortunately, it took ten dollars in cash to buy what one dollar could have bought before The Attack.
The stock market crashed, so to speak. It actually just went away. The blow to businesses and the economy did the damage.
Most state and local governments failed. The federal government shut down the remaining few and took over. The name of the country was changed to The Federal State of America, or "FSA." The "states" kept their names, but would be called districts. Of course, there were protests, but most people finally realized it was for our own good.
The Government got things going again. But, as the former President predicted, it took time. It was amazing how dependent we had become on technology, especially the Internet.
Since most computers were rendered useless, The Government confiscated those that hadn't been looted from stores, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities. Most of them worked. They took over production of all computers and computer-related devices.
In late 2013, things started to stabilize, at least in the FSA. The Government had taken over health care, most large industries, and all schools in an effort to get the country back on its feet. Everyone was entitled to a free laptop computer. We couldn't connect to anything, but at least we could use them for basic functions.
By early 2014, Carolyn was working for The Government as a public relations manager. I started a career as a writer. We were getting used to the fact that we couldn't keep up with our friends and relatives very easily. But, people still talked about "the good old days" of Facebook and Twitter. I had to admit that even I missed being able to "Google it." Carolyn didn't say much, but I could tell she was having a hard time.
On August 7, 2014, our second child, Megan, was born. That was right in the middle of Baby Boom Two, as it came to be called.
Later that year, Carolyn came home from work one day with exciting news, at least to her.
"The Internet's coming back," she said. "We had a meeting about it today."
"Is that good?" I asked.
"Of course," she said. "Don't you remember how much easier things were, and how much more fun we had?"
"Sure, but look at the trouble it got us into."
"It's going to be safe this time. The Government's going to control it."
As we entered into 2015, I was enjoying life. Things were slow, but that was okay because I had more quality time to spend with Carolyn and the kids. I was starting to sell some of my writing to newspapers and magazines, and I was working on a novel. I didn't miss the fast-paced and well-connected lifestyle we had before The Attack.
Rumors about the Internet's return became the featured news story in early 2015, but it wasn't until March when the big announcement came. Carolyn had managed to get herself transferred to the department that would be handling publicity for the project.
"It will be called the G-net," the President said in a statement on national TV. "It will be safe and available at no charge." She went on to explain that The Government would cover all costs and monitor all activity in the FSA. "We expect to be ready by mid-year," she said. "G-sites can now be submitted for approval."
Carolyn's mood brightened day-by-day, as she stayed busy on the project. She came home one day in May with big news.
"It's going to happen on the Fourth of July," she said.
"What's going to happen?" I asked.
"The G-net's going to be turned on. And, we'll be able to tweet right away. The Government's been working on sites that will be better than Twitter and Facebook."
I was glad to see Carolyn happy, but I wasn't excited. I had lost my desire to be constantly connected.
A few days later, "breaking news" stories confirmed what Carolyn had reported.
We spent Fourth of July at home waiting for the big event scheduled for that evening. We had already installed the free computer program that would allow us to access the G-net. We also got our NetLink numbers for the four of us. Carolyn was ecstatic. I had to admit that I was getting excited.
Just after seven o'clock, the President came on TV. She stood in front of a large control panel, with lights flickering behind her. She spoke for a while and then pointed over her shoulder.
"When I pull this switch," she said, "you'll be able to enter into a new world. It will be bigger, better, and brighter than anything you've ever seen."
Carolyn and I each sat with our laptop in front of us on the coffee table waiting for the big moment. We had already entered our NetLink numbers. After a countdown, the President pulled the lever. It was amazing. I was connected in a split-second.
Carolyn was typing with one hand and tapping the screen with the other as she said, "Tap the You & Me link on the home page."
I found it and pressed it with my finger. A new page popped-up. I saw that I had a friend invite from Carolyn. We were quickly connected. I suddenly missed Courtney.
Six hours later, we were still finding friends, answering invites, and tweeting. The Government had done a fantastic job. The technology was smooth and fast. No parental controls or security was needed. Nothing objectionable or unsafe was allowed in the system.
I finally went to bed just after three a.m. Carolyn stayed up all night.
Over the next couple of years, life not only returned to the way it was before The Attack, but we caught up to where we most likely would have been had that event not occurred. Social networking was back and more popular than ever.
In 2016, The Government introduced the AZ-com, so named because it could do everything from A to Z. It made the I-5 seem like a toy. Taking videos became popular, since a camera the size of a pinhead could be planted virtually anywhere and could send recordings to an AZ. I had one in my eyeglasses; Carolyn had one in an earring. Everyone was recording everything, and most people started tweeting by video. Privacy seemed to be of no concern, even though most people knew that The Government had access to everything.
It was in early 2017, when Carolyn showed me a news story on her AZ. The headline read Government Implants Computer Chip into Human Brain. It went on to explain that the microchip actually connected the brain to the G-net through the AZ. It seemed impossible, but technology was moving so fast, anything was possible.
"Isn't it fascinating?" Carolyn asked as I finished reading the article.
"Yes, but it's scary."
"It's exciting," she said. "Imagine the possibilities."
My imagination came up with a number of negative scenarios.
A few months later, 20 test subjects had the implant. First reports were positive. Then something went terribly wrong. Rumor had it that George Johnson, the first to receive the implant, had become violently ill and then suddenly died. Updates on the program became hard to come by, but it was eventually reported that of the 20 patients, 16 were dead, 2 were in comas, and the other 2 were "hospitalized." The project was put on hold for nearly a year and then a report was issued by The Government.
"Brain Overload" was the diagnosis. Scientists determined that the human brain did not have the unlimited capacity that it was thought to have. The incredible amount of information that flowed into the minds of the test subjects proved to be overwhelming. The good news was that a solution had been found, and the amount of information downloaded over any given period of time could be limited to a safe level. More test candidates were recruited.
By late 2018, the "Johnson Project" was deemed successful. All who had received the new version of the implant were doing well and were frequent guests on talk shows. What had seemed to be impossible had become reality.
After further testing, The Government announced that the device would be available on the open market, but the cost would be high. A number of ultra-rich people signed-up immediately. It was more expensive than a vacation on the moon. Many of those who were implanted became overnight celebrities.
"I told you this would be a great advancement," Carolyn said. "I heard that the President's getting the implant."
"That doesn't sound like a good idea to me," I said. "It seems like things are moving too fast again."
By 2020, the price for the implant had come down to a reasonable level, but demand was so great that there was a long waiting list. Because Carolyn worked for The Government, she was able to get a discount and get on a shorter list.
"Do you really think it's a good idea?" I asked.
"Are you worried that I'll be smarter than you?" She flashed that smile again.
Two months later, Carolyn had her appointment. She counted off the days and then the hours. The procedures were being done around the clock, and Carolyn's appointment was at 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I tried to nap on the couch while she was gone but couldn't manage to doze off.
At about two-thirty, she walked in the door.
"I love it," she said as she sat down next to me with her AZ in hand and a big smile on her face.
"Did it hurt? Are you okay?" I asked.
"It was simple," she said as she showed me a small mark behind her left ear. "Virtually painless."
"Does it work?" I asked.
"Yes. It's amazing. The microchip is linked to my AZ. Anything I download will be fed immediately into my brain. Watch."
On her AZ, she pulled up a G-site for world news. She got a strange look on her face.
"Wow," she said. "I know everything that's happening around the world."
"Did you feel anything?"
"No, the knowledge is just there. Kind of like how I know what I had for dinner."
I watched as Carolyn downloaded more information. After a few minutes, my AZ beeped, indicating a tweet. I picked it up from the coffee table and saw that it was from Carolyn. It said, "Love you."
"How did you do that?" I asked.
"I just sent a thought to my AZ and told it to tweet you."
Even considering all I had heard and read about this new technology, it seemed like science fiction. After another hour, I went to bed, but there was no convincing Carolyn to come along. My head spun as I closed my eyes. I wanted to get on the implant list.
The sun was peeking through the bedroom curtains when Carolyn woke me. She looked tired, but was still excited.
"Did you sleep at all?" I asked.
"No. I'll catch up later. The kids are waiting on you for breakfast. I cooked a special meal from recipes I've downloaded."
I knew that "downloaded" had taken on a new meaning.
Not only did Carolyn prepare a great breakfast, she entertained us by letting us test her knowledge of the Bible. She had downloaded the whole thing just before breakfast, and she knew it word for word. Chad and Megan were fascinated.
"When can I get one?" Megan asked.
The three of us got our implants together six months later. By that time, the cost was subsidized by The Government and everyone was getting connected. My first download was the entire English language dictionary. Although we only had access to information that The Government allowed, it seemed like there was no limit to what we could learn.
In 2022, The Government announced that the implant would be mandatory for school-aged children. School sessions were cut to one day a week. Facts could be learned through the implant, but there were things that needed to be taught face-to-face, such as learning to speak foreign languages properly. Children were limited by their level of maturity, but it was said that most could finish school by age 16. It was fun watching Chad and Megan learn about the world they lived in. He planned on becoming a space scientist and she a nuclear physicist.
IQ tests became obsolete. People became so-called geniuses overnight. Science and technology moved ahead at an incredibly fast pace, with up-to-date information at everyone's fingertips. Cures were found for most diseases. Life expectancy was to increase significantly.
In 2024, the implant procedure was simplified to an injection into the bloodstream. It had something to do with nanotechnology and electrolytes. We didn't even need the AZ to be connected. Our brains were plugged directly into the G-net. We were not privy to the details of how it worked, but that didn't seem to bother anyone.
Another significant breakthrough came in 2025. The implant could be administered by means of a pill. It was called the "Smart Pill," and it wasn't long before every country had the technology. Missionaries traveled to the far reaches of the globe, using Smart Pills as a means of "saving" everyone.
It was also in 2025, when The Government required, for security reasons, that everyone be implanted and be assigned a NetLink number. With an implant, The Government could find a person anywhere at any time. A reward was offered for turning in "Renegades," although there was really no place to hide. Scanners were everywhere.
As I sit here wrapping this up, on September 12th of 2026, I know that this will be the last anniversary of my time spent on Earth. I've been trying to focus on positive memories, like how beautiful Carolyn looked on our wedding day, the kids laughing and playing in the yard, and the good times we always had at holiday gatherings.
Through the window above my desk, I've been glancing at a beautiful, full moon slowly floating upward. It almost seems like things are normal, even though that's far from the case.
Early this year, what was first diagnosed as a flu virus spread rapidly around the world. The experts didn't associate the trouble with the implants right away. By the time they did, it was too late. Everyone with an implant was infected with a computer virus. The lessons learned in 2012 had been long-forgotten. Our addiction to technology has proven to be fatal. It's estimated that 98% of the world's pre-virus population will be gone before long.
Theories on the cause range from another terrorist attack to God being angry because we pushed things too far. The Government doesn't seem to know for sure. Some people have even speculated that high-ranking government officials from various countries had been plotting this for years as a means of lowering the Earth's population to a reasonable level.
Carolyn went first. That was extremely hard on me and the kids, but I'm glad she didn't have to watch them go. She looked as beautiful as ever as I stroked her forehead during the final hour before she drifted into a coma. Her last words were, "How did this happen?" I felt heartbroken that I couldn't answer the most pertinent question of her life.
Megan passed on a month later. Chad lasted two more weeks. He died three days ago. It doesn't seem to be painful. The process is kind of like a computer failing, with one system after another gradually shutting down.
I still get tweets from each of them. The experts say they're not real. Something about the electrolytes having a life of their own and repeating past messages. It's hard to handle. I cry whenever I get tweets like "Thinking of you!!!" from Carolyn, "Love you, Dad" from Megan, or even just "Hi" from Chad.
It seems like they're just lost somewhere. I hope to see them all in Heaven, but God only knows what we've done to disrupt His plan. I'll find out soon enough. The first symptoms are setting in. For one thing, my memory is slowly fading. I'll most likely be in a coma soon. After that, I should be gone within a week. No one has lasted long once the process starts.
I am relieved that I was able to finish my story. I felt a strong need to get some of it down on paper before I go. I'm going to print this out and leave it neatly stacked on my desk. If you've found it, and took the time to read it, thank you. Please pass it on. Maybe there's a lesson or two yet to be learned.
God Bless Us All
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