It's been nearly two months since we cancelled our Internet subscription. I'm not sure how much longer we can hold out. Water is becoming scarce, there is an increasing number of wild animals watching our door, and I'm fairly certain the cats are dead. I've poked them repeatedly, they never flinch.
* * *
We moved out of town to a temporary rental out in the country in mid-June. The year is 2016 and, if the markings on my wall are accurate, it is July 23 nearing mid-day. Oh, wait. It must be the 22nd, then. One of the lines on my makeshift calendar was a dried piece of spaghetti, no doubt left by my young son nearly two weeks ago before he chased that wretched butterfly into the tall grass; we haven't seen him since.
Oh, and turns out cats tend to sleep. A lot.
Things have been a real mess since we've been "excommunicated". In the minutes just before our relocation outside of the town boundaries where high speed Internet is still not readily available (I know, right?), we tried frantically - oh, Lord knows how we tried - to consume as much digital fare as we could before zero hour. Netflix doesn't yet allow pre-downloading of its files for enjoyment at a later date, so we were relegated to binge watching during the two weeks leading up to the big day to satisfy our unhealthy movie lust. Toothpicks were used to keep my eyelids pried open so that I wouldn't waste any of my available television time on worthless activities like sleep. I managed a constant twenty-four hour vigil for eleven straight days and nights perched in front of our glowing Samsung, catching up on months of backlogged movie picks I just couldn't make the time for before then.
(An unexpected side effect of nearly two-weeks' worth of uninterrupted screen time is the nearly two-weeks worth of vivid hallucinations one gets to enjoy afterward, completely free and without the use of precious cell phone data.)
Living as we do on the northern (read "moosey") side of Canada, the options outside of urban townsites for Interweb providers are less than stellar. One company, which specializes in these kinds of rural shenanigans, charge something like Spain's annual GDP for the initial setup fee (including wire setup, satellite dish install, and satellite launch into lower-earth orbit). There is also a satellite remote control option which, if you buy into, will enable you to fire teeny little missiles at foreign countries, undoubtedly sparking a few harmless diplomatic wars for your entertainment dollar. The missile option will run a guy an extra $5.35 bi-weekly on top of the regular rates, but I suppose if you're determined to spread a little international chaos the extra fee might be worth it. Regardless, for the mere three months we would be residing in this out of town rental home, the initial setup fee alone priced us out.
A competing cell phone provider could offer us high speed Internet via the magic of cell towers, but it would be structured just like a data plan where, again, it would be cost prohibitive. Not to mention that after probably five hours of streaming Netflix videos with our credit cards maxed out, the cell tower would likely explode, resulting in an unexpected charge on our monthly bill.
"Uh, hi, yes, uh...I'm calling about an extra charge of $875,000.99 on last month's bill. Maybe it's a typo?...Oh, I see. Yes, I suppose watching the first four Police Academy movies in succession would be a bit of a strain on any cell tower, let alone just the first one. Ya gotta love that guy with the sound effects though, am I right? I mean-... Well, no... Yes, I suppose your concern is justified, the demise of a Mark IV cell tower is certainly no laughing matter... So, how much again?...Wow, almost a million clams. No secondhand ones on ebay then, I guess?... MmHmm... Do you take first borns, by chance? You do?! Great, expect the little guy next Wednesday... Well, no, not fully potty trained... Yeah, okay, that's understandable. I'll just go rob a bank, then...No, no problem, I understand, just doing your job an' all... Thanks, you too. Bye now." *click*
So, for weeks, we were reduced to using our phone data to supplement our digital diet with light entertainment snacks from the Internet. We did increase our data plan prior to embarking on this godless pilgrimage, but still it isn't enough.You know how it is, right? You start digging around online to try and identify a particular spider bite, then you start looking at gross spider videos, then YouTube suggests some jaw-dropping shark footage off the coast of Cameroon you just can't resist and, before you know it, you've downloaded the brochures and promotional videos for a luxury yacht and oceanic maps for treasure hunting in the southern Atlantic. Consequently, by that time your leg needs to be amputated because of the three-day-old spider bite.
Now, with no more available data, we're out of touch with the world. Well, even more so than before. As we wait for our next month's data cycle to replenish, we rely on updates from our neighbors concerning global events. They tell us things are fine, then quickly blurt out nonsensical phrases like "There's a Charizard past the next ridge on PokéGo, I just know it!" then quickly speed away from us. Judging by the crazed look in their eyes it must be some kind of code, seemingly afraid that someone could intercept their communications. The evidence just overwhelms us. We have long since believed (Tuesday) that THEY are watching and listening to us all.
It must be chaos out there.
We've locked ourselves in our home, afraid of the unknown dangers that may, no, certainly are out there. The grass and plants have been left to return to the wild, so overcome with fear for my family that I dare not leave them even for a moment to trim the yard. I regret this decision now, of course. Had I managed the ongoing care of the lawn around the home at least, we might not have lost our young son to it that fateful day when he joyously bounded after a crimson butterfly into the overgrown grass and weeds. When the night grows dark, we hear the gentle rapping of wild chamomile and lemongrass blades against our door, undoubtedly clamoring for more human flesh. I try to console my wife with the idea that our little boy may have survived, might even learn to master the wild world beyond our walls and return to us one day, delivering us from this Hell. Dutifully, she plays along, though we both know we are alone.
I worry about our food supply. Attempting a desperate assault on the garden is unthinkable, our lives would most assuredly be forfeit upon opening the door. Our canned provisions are dwindling, and the level in the fresh water well in our sub-basement is no longer replenishing as quickly as it once did; there hasn't been any rain in several days. I have shut the communal water line coming from town weeks ago for it is surely poisoned by those who now control the township's utilities infrastructure. For obvious reasons, I have not paid last month's utility bills to make a point that we feel poison to be an unnecessary additive which we never agreed to pay for in the first place. Yet, we continue to enjoy the life affirming glow of electricity, it seems, despite not paying that bill either. We are convinced it is a ploy to lure us outside, possibly even into the town-site itself, hoping to fool us into thinking that continued electrical service means that all is well. Thankfully, we know better.
We also know that before long, they will change their tactics in order to eventually "collect" us, but until then, we are grateful for the electricity to power our TV and game console, our only distraction from the unimaginable horrors silently awaiting us outside. Once we complete Mario 3D for the tenth time, however, we might be in trouble. It does take considerable time to collect all the stars in every level, so perhaps with some luck we will starve to death long before we grow tired of our single game.
If this letter reaches you before August 10th - at which point our phone billing period would refresh for another month - please, please share your data with us somehow so that we can learn of the situation outside. It is only through the wonder of feline fastidiousness (what? It's a word.) that we managed to communicate at all; I taped this handwritten letter to my cat, gave him an ounce of catnip, and sent him off to find the nearest internet café. He's surprisingly adept at a keyboard.
God bless, and please send h-
*Theme song from Ghostbusters emanates from a nearby cell phone.
"Uhh...helloooo?... Oh, hi mum. Oh, you know, hanging in there. We lost the kid in the grass at some point in the last few weeks, can't remember exactly when... Yeah, it sucks, I know... Well, she's pregnant with another one so, y'know, ya win- ya lose, right?... Yeah. So, hey, how's the world doing, out of curiosity?... No shit? Well, fuck me sideways... Mom, just, uh, hold on a sec, 'kay? Thanks."
Yells across the house, finger pressed overtop the mic.
"Did you know you can still talk on these things even without data?"
Tyler the turtle says "Like and Share!"
Can't argue with a turtle.