Friday, August 06, 2004


“I know where we can shelter,” said my buddy and IT guy Chris after coffee, as the storm caught us, unleashing its dark horde of rain, and gusts of wind assaulted the coherence of umbrellas. “The internet.” A sprint and a phone call later, and I’m stood outside a huge building at the corner of a street. No door, no sign, no windows, no name. Just mirrors, a whole building made of mirrors, floor to roof, showing a city under water, with water pouring down them.

One of the mirror-panels has a line running down the middle of it, and a small panel to its side. Chris waves a card over the panel. It opens to reveal a pad. Chris puts his hand on the pad, and the pad flashes green. We push through the door and escape the rain.

Inside is a reception area. No-one is here. No papers on the desk, not files on the shelves. The draws are empty. A silver chair sits behind a silver desk. A telephone crouches on the desk in silence. Two chairs the other side of the desk wait indefinitely. The number “3” is projected on to the wall at the far end of the room, above a lift. The clank of our umbrellas as we hook them round the coat stand is shocking, like something clinking on a Church floor during prayer. Then, again just electricity quietly humming its monotonous song.

“Rare that anyone is ever here,” says Chris.

Another scan of Chris’s hand, and into the lift, a silver cube with four buttons. Up to the second floor. Outside, a corridor. The first door. Another scan. In we go. And there it is – stacked on rows and rows of grey shelves, from ceiling to floor, from left to right the width of the big building – the internet. Little lights are everywhere flashing on and off, endless the hum of electricity, and the faint sound of our human breath.

“We own eight of the shelves,” says Chris. “A fraction of a fraction.”

Strange now, to be typing on an internet page, knowing it is somewhere coded as little flashes of light on boards on shelves, surrounded by mirrors and not quite silent, and immune to rain and lightening. Strange to think of this lumped along with the terrible porn and high-class art-nudes, with the important news and the chatter about Buffy, with bloggers crying out for love and bloggers hitting out with cries, the political pages boiling over with hateful howls and the photo-albums of kittens, with film reviews and first schools, with... with what I know and what I don’t know. Amidst all that stuff existing in unpeopled rooms. Never to be summed as one, never to mean one thing to all people. And of course, whoever you are, you have flicked a few lights amidst those miles of electricity to bring you arbitrarily here, to pass your human eye over a story about sheltering from the rain that happened a couple of days ago, and then to go on, into the unknown, elsewhere.