Monday, July 14, 2003
WAR OF THE TROJANS
64290 viruses are currently listed on my virus scanner, most of them worms, trojans and macros. I would love to profess a naïve and romantic notion of mankind, but instead have inherited my father’s suspicious nature. My dad harbored an obsessive fear for burglars, and made it his practice to safeguard himself with an iron bar hidden beneath his bed.
A recount of an incident which happened to me when I was about eleven years old lends a telling clue to his obsessive behavior. One Saturday evening in autumn at around 8.30 PM, my parents; one of my brothers, and myself were sitting in the living room watching TV. The remainder of our family of six was absent due to Saturday night entertainment in the city. My father, as usual, was sitting in his lounge chair reading. Although he had no great interest in watching TV, his chair was positioned so that he could keep track of both the ongoing conversation, or join in for documentaries or sports.
“Walt, get me a beer” he snapped. “Damn, there I go again” I thought. “Another one of my trips to the pit”. It was my father’s habit to sent us out for errands: mostly cigarettes or beer. These excursions would always take place in the evening, directed either to the cigarette automat or to the neighborhood café.
The café situated near the railway line was smelly and dark; a green slime infested fish tank dominated the entrance, situated in direct view of the bar, habitually occupied by a trio of ancient men, smoking Lexingtons, and drinking gin. Being timid and tiny, I viewed the café from a frog’s eye perspective, making me invisible to the men. Sneaking past the barstools, and rounding the Bar; wide as a ship, I mumbled my order to the bartender, who had become familiar with my tepid antics. Since alcoholic spirits were prohibited for minors, he handed the bottles to me in a paper bag, obscuring the explicit cargo from view, and hurriedly sent me off back into the street.
That night however the cafe scenario was not due. My father happened to have secured a little stash of beer in the “cellar”. The cellar of our home was one of a kind, a dark, spacious and intimidating cavern which materialized all infantile fears.
The cold had set in early that year, and our house, old and spacious, was sparsely heated with coal stoves. For economy sake all the lights except for the living room were dimmed. The “route” towards my father’s clandestine booze cabinet, would pass through the corridor, kitchen, and scullery, where the cellar entrance was located. Since I was the only eligible for the job, I got up quickly, wasting no time to distract me from watching the TV program.
As I shuffled through the pitch black house, entering the scullery, while holding out my arms in front of me, I reached for the door handle, turned the key and opened the door. To my right at the top of the staircase leading down to the cellar’s floor, I probed for the light switch, flipped it on, and … BEHOLD!!!
A high pitched wail emitted from the cellar’s portal and reached the awestruck TV lounge.
In the dim lit cellar portal, in front of my mortified body, watched by my perplexed face, stood an old woman with a mop of mustard colored hair cascading down over her shoulders. Her skull-like face, pallid and grayish, featured a hooked nose, and deeply sunken eyes. To conclude the horrifying scene; she appeared to be dressed in a white sheet!
My father’s paranoia, and all combined ghost stories known to me, had merged into the Gestalt on the cellar’s treshold. In a flash, the image convinced me that nightmares can become reality, witches do exist, the dark is forbidding, and ghostly appearances do occur!
My scream had swiftly mobilized my father. Immediately he came rushing towards the scullery, taking care to flip on all the light switches while on his way, the other kin following him close behind. At seeing the old woman; who stood perplexed much like myself; my father pulled me away from the cellar’s entrance, pushing the door shut with all his weight.
At that time my father was a short tempered, impulsive and skinny man. While trying to bar the woman from venturing further into our panic stricken home, he failed to notice that she had put one of her legs forward to stabilize herself. As he tried vainly to slam the door shut, the woman’s right foot got stuck.. An infernal holler ensued, prompting my father to put even more force into his vigilant posture. The horrific noise though, made by her, seemed to restore his cool: shortly he allowed the woman to recoup her bloody shin, and pull the damaged limb back into the dark.
My father bolted the door securely, took all of us back into the living room, and called the police.
The woman so it appeared later, when the police and hospital staff had come to evict her from her inhospitable location, was a German. She was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of the General Hospital in my hometown, where she was being treated for schizophrenia. The woman had a history of nocturnal escapes, whereby she would walk out of the hospital to wander through the surrounding neighborhoods. Sometimes she would slip into homes, or sleep in backyards. The woman, called Frederika; was an essentially harmless person, who had managed to enter our home via an open window in the cellar. She could not make her way back out, so had waited patiently for someone in the home to open the door.
Since the incident I came to understand my father’s suspicious nature a little better. He had been enlisted in the Dutch Army and served as a B-25 Mitchell gunner, by occasion of which he would fly patrol flights from bases in Indonesia and Australia. When he was stationed in Indonesia he witnessed metaphysical phenomena which had occurred to him and his comrades. Ever since his return from military service in the late 40s, he was given to bouts of paranoia and spates of professional mistrust.
My father had no interest in technology. Trojans and worms would be the least of his worries. As fears have migrated into virtual space, I have become his successor; an unwilling guardian to the dark realm of Cyberspace; since my father died two years ago.
Apart from the fact that computer viruses are a pestilent and recurring trait of Internet hooliganism, I have to conclude that the authors of binary agents appear to be a disparate and troubled community. While checking the virus encyclopedia, a barrage of names and labels often rooted in social exclusion, science fiction, gaming or cinema passes by. Some of the virus authors seem quite aware of the nature of their mischief: labels like “Silly” and “Trivial” or “Showoff” speak for themselves; irony however is a scarce commodity among the many virulent, macabre and prophetic epithets.
From the virus encyclopedia I picked twenty such ID’s:
Portal of Doom
I asked myself how I would have labeled my triumphs, fears, or resentment? Or for that matter, those previously held by my father? I spent some time on it and devised a list of my own:
Stuck on You
Against the Groin
A Room with a View
posted by Walter at 7/14/2003