Part 6 of The NetCromancer by M.J.Miello
I asked every upperclassman I knew about Christopher Carpentieri. No one was eager to talk about him. The lab techs especially resented my asking. It was like I was reopening their wounds. But I did find out that he was an Italian kid from the Bronx. He was a poet and a programmer.
A lucky guess led me to his work in the school’s literary magazine. I hadn’t read much poetry before—but I loved what I read. Collectively the pieces were a love song, not for a person, but for a life— for his life.
Through his words, I could see the Bronx. It was his obsession. He was taken with it. Its soul. Its food. Its strife. Its churches. Its street names. Its history. One poem was seven sections of adoration for an indoor market on Arthur Avenue. His descriptions of the bread, the pastry, the balsamic vinegar, and the smell of freshly rolled cigars were almost erotic. His words were infectious, chaotically arranged. Manic in their devotion.
In my childhood, the Bronx seemed only a frightful wasteland that surrounded Yankee stadium like a moat. But he made me wish I knew the Bronx better. He seemed passionate in a way I had seldom had the occasion to feel.
I wanted to know more about this person who lost his life at such a young age. Each time one of the email’s came I felt as if the decoded message was intended for me alone. I felt a strange kinship for this other Christopher from the outer boroughs as if he was some newly discovered cousin or another version of myself from a parallel universe.
Then one day when I again needed to use my special lab privileges, I was seated behind the help desk. There, thumbtacked to a cork-board was a photograph of several students in the lab. Two were currently lab techs, but there, in the front, smiling widely was a face I instantly knew was Christopher Carpentieri. His dark hair was long. He wore a narrow mustache and goatee. He had multiple piercings in each ear. His fingers were held out in a sideways peace sign. His wide eyes were alight with a laugh frozen in time, a moment of reckless enthusiasm.
Through out that semester, the emails continued about one every two weeks. Each one required a more complex transformation, and each message could only be decrypted by passing it through each of the subsequent programs. With each challenge, his personal messages also grew in length, becoming more encouraging and more bizarre.
“Praise the almighty Woz! Wake Master Gates from his cybernetic sleep! The programmer has come that will lead the wayward flock out of the desert and into the electric promised land! Yes. Yes. Yes! You feel this glory, don’t you? It’s lingering just beneath the keys. Let it pass through your fingertips and slip silently into your blood. Remember that! Remember that with each line of code you write, you take an idea out of the mind of God and make it manifest on earth. The enemies are coming for us. They will swell before the wall. But every program you write is an arrow in your quiver. With them you will keep stagnation and mediocrity at bay. Remember that oh writers of the sacred glowing text! Think on this well when you craft your final challenge.”
One week later the last email came. This one was not forwarded from CCarpent but only from the M461@BAC address. There were no words of Christopher Carpentieri to congratulate me. This email promised something very different.
“4r3 y0u r34dy f0r 7h3 n3x7 l3v3l?”
This was followed by a date, a time and an address as well as the word, “up5741r5.” It was signed, “M461.” There were no more programs to write for CCarpent. Instead, it was an invitation. I was being summoned to meet the BAC.
Thanks for reading!! New posts come out on Mondays and Fridays. There are 25 sections in all.