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Janine Armin

Janine Armin is the co-editor of fiction anthology Toronto Noir (Akashic, 2008). Her writing on books appears in Bookforum, The Globe and Mail, The Village Voice and The Bookseller among others.

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The Other Internet

By Pasha Malla

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

On the Other Internet there’s no “www.” There’s no such thing as URL’s or menu bars or web searches or any of that. You just close your eyes and whisper, very softly, what it is that you wish to browse, and then it appears, broadcast onto the backs of your eyelids, as though they were the screen in the very, very intimate drive-in of your head.

Over on the Other Internet they’ve got a cure for sadness, available for download (zipped files). There’s a 30-day free trial; if you like it you can sign up for life. This also is free. Everything on the Other Internet is free. You will be happy because of this, financially, and also in a deeper, emotional sense because once you register the software you will never be sad, ever again.

Junk mail is rare, but if you do inadvertently receive some it will have the subject, “Sorry, this is junk mail. Please do not open. My bad, yo. My bad.”

There’s only one virus. It’s called “Medic.” When Medic infiltrates your hard drive, it fixes anything that’s wrong with your computer. And, because of the nature of the Other Internet, “hard drive” of course means brain, and “computer” means life. The best part: the Medic icon is not even annoying. When he pops up in your subconscious, you feel only serenity. He is a handsome, kind man with a laconic bedside manner and very, very soft hands. Do you feel the icy touch of his stethoscope? Yes? That is your soul, finally coming alive.

Page load-time is an infinitesimal fraction of a millionth of a second. Video streams so quickly it feels as though you are tumbling into a vortex at the speed of light. Have you seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? The scene with all the coloured bars? Yeah, it’s like that, but less boring, and there are fewer monkeys on the other end. Unless you’re downloading a video of monkeys! Then, yes, of course, monkeys, for sure, in the highest of definition, by all means.

Binary code does not exist. Zero has such connotations of inadequacy. No, on the Other Internet there are just ones and ones and ones, like a very intelligent picket fence or a line of lines, lined up, erect, forever. There is no HTML, Java, whatever. Programming seems to just happen by miracle or serendipitous accident, limited only by one’s imagination and like, all things, the great, mortal crush of time.

Nobody registers for any social networking sites on the Other Internet. Everyone over there is content – contentedly involved, or just as contentedly single, not even looking, thanks, perfectly fine trimming these hedgerows or playing online Scrabble, alone. No, on the Other Internet the social networking sites are just screensavers, whirling emptily around and around.

Server space: unlimited. The gigs, or whatever. There are just so many gigs, a wealth of gigs so vast that it’s like gazing through a very good telescope into the universe, sprawling and infinite. And, get this: for every gig used, a child in an impoverished country gets to go to university, and also, somewhere, one nuclear warhead is disarmed.

You never need to upload anything. Everything you’d ever want, on the Other Internet, is already there.

There is no “Mac-compatible” or “PC-compatible.” Everything is compatible with everything, and everyone is friends because of it. Even those guys from the Apple ads are the best of pals. Every night, Mac holds PC in the moonlight until they fall asleep in one another’s arms, and their dreams are filled with love and laughter that glitters like the stars.

Sometimes you get a free mousepad.

MP3’s are limitless and crystal clear. Never, ever do they sound like the murky, digital soup you might download from some stranger’s lame blog. And on the Other Internet all the MP3’s you want are free, of course. The musical artists are cool with this. On the Other Internet wealth among musicians is measured not monetarily, but by the amount of joy their music spreads. Paul Simon, for example, is a trillionaire.

There are no blogs. Someone tried to start one, once, but the Other Internet SYSOP gently convinced her that her time was better spent doing other things, like helping educate the impoverished, ridiculously bright youth of Eritrea by expanding her website to include more mach-speed-streaming videos of Paul Simon, and monkeys.

Of Firewalls, there are also none. Why build walls and borders when it’s safe to roam freely, to allow the neighbourhood boy onto your property to pick cherries from your tree and make from them some delicious sauce to pour over the ice cream that you and he have milked from pretty heifers and together churned, flavoured and frozen? On the Other Internet, liberty of movement – and trust! – is the name of the game. Everyone’s everything is everyone else’s domain, okay. That’s just the way it goes down over there.

And what of pornography? To new users of the Other Internet, pornography is initially available. Interest always dwindles naturally – not due to the usual guilt, or fatigue of subterfuge, or chafing palms, or the advice of marriage counsellors. The beauty of the Other Internet is titillating enough. You don’t even have to be online: simply by thinking about it, alone at night under the covers, the Other Internet can arouse Tantric rhythms in the loins that result in the most rapturous, sheet-ripping orgasms anyone has ever had in their life, including the ferociously perverse.

The saddest part about the Other Internet is when you open your eyes, and it’s gone. The whole thing will seem to have existed as a dream sequence in a soap opera, all soft-focus and red, red lipstick and milky, pastel hues, and then awaking and, damn it, here’s the real world, and the real world sucks. But the real world doesn’t have to suck. Not with what you have seen, what you know is possible, what can happen and does – on the Other Internet. And whenever, between visits, that you begin to lose hope, simply close your eyes. While the system logs you on, you will hear the bleep and scream of the modem implanted deep within your sub-cortical structures, and then here comes the homepage, and there it is, and you breathe, and you smile, and everything is fine, because you are back online.