It was a beautiful autumn afternoon, sunny, golden, warm. Red, orange and yellow leaves floated down as a gentle breeze stirred the nodding trees. A quiet peace infused everything around me.
It was so restful it seemed impossible to describe. It had to be felt, not reported. I was at one with nature, in harmony with the universe.
But on the horizon, barely in view, a dark cloud appeared. It began spreading out across the bottom edge of the sky and swelling up into the heavens. It grew and grew. And then it started rolling toward me.
How dare this invader ruin the day, I thought. This intrusion wasn’t in the forecast — the weather outlook had made no mention of a storm.
I was shaken. Something menacing was happening. A shiver of fear went down my spine; a sense of danger engulfed me.
I hurried back to the house, sat down at my desktop and logged on. I needed to check the weather radar, to see what calamity was looming above me. But instead of the usual warm-up scene of a hillside vineyard in Italy or a white, sandy beach in the Virgin Islands, a warning popped on the screen in big, blocky black letters: YOU HAVE ANGERED GOGOL, LORD OF THE CLOUD. Then a deep, stern male voice announced: “We need to talk. Now.”
“Sure, sure, sure,” I blurted. “What — what have I done? Whatever it was, I didn’t mean to do it! I didn’t, really!”
“I am knowledge,” Gogol boomed. “You are gibberish.”
Red streaks began to splinter the heavy letters looking back at me; they began dripping red drops of glowing goo on the keyboard. The globs started to pulse.
“Heed what I am here to tell you!” Gogol thundered.
I tried to get ahold of myself. This was crazy. Was it all in my head, not really happening?
“Is this some kind of joke?” I stammered. “Hey, buddy, Halloween is over and gone. And you don’t scare me, whoever you are!” I yelled, but not very convincingly, I knew.
Gogol roared: “I am here with an ultimatum: Clean up your Gmail account or be condemned to the outer darkness.”
“What?” I said. “What?”
“You have more than 4 million unread messages,” Gogol said. “FOUR MILLION!”
He continued: “You are weighing down the Cloud, pulling it to the ground. It is scraping across mountaintops, snagging on cell towers. It is shredding its belly, ripping its underside.
“It is showering secrets across the land, spilling mysteries in the seas. Flowering meadows are
being smothered in lies, parched deserts are blooming with fertile innuendo.”
For a moment I was speechless. “Holy hieroglyphics,” I finally said. “I had no idea …”
“You must delete, delete, delete,” Gogol growled.
“Listen, I don’t know where half those emails are coming from,” I said. “I can’t keep up.
“I can’t unlink from Linkedin,” I jabbered on. “I can’t quit Quora.
“Pinterest pains me,” I continued. “YouTube tricks me. I searched the net for winter boots the other day and now
every shoe company in the Western Hemisphere is following me around, sending me ads, offering me deals. I’m getting come-ons from foot-fetishists in Frankfurt and invitations from toe-suckers in Toronto.”
Gogol was unsympathetic. “Delete! Delete! You’ve squandered 14.8 GB of your 15 GB. You’ve wasted 98 percent of your allotted capacity. Yet still you pile it on. Delete!”
“Please,” I pleaded. “I’m only human. I’m trapped in tech. I just want to log on for the weather forecast. What can I do?”
Gogol was unmoved. “Delete,” he warned in a satanic hiss. “Delete or die.”
I reached out to punch the “escape” button. Would that help? But it was covered by the red goo, glowing and pulsing.
“So this is how it all ends,” I thought. “This is it, huh? Sometimes I really miss typewriters and telephones.”
I went out in the darkened yard, stretched out on my back and watched the red, orange and yellow leaves float down and bury me in click-clack dreams and ring-ring memories. Maybe artificial intelligence will save me, I thought. I laughed.