Ch 53. Hacked
After an extravagant afternoon at the Oligarch’s dacha it was time to head back to the city. Jesus Josephovich had not accepted the Oligarch’s deal to join be his political puppet, but the foreigner’s host wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“Before you make any more decisions about whether you will join me or not, I want you to meet a friend of mine,” the Oligarch said.
“I’d be happy to,” Jesus replied.
“Good,” the Oligarch stated. “He’s a very talented computer programmer.”
He paused to see if the foreigner understood what that meant in the former Soviet Union. He obviously didn’t.
“As you know, you are in this country illegally. You don’t have a passport,” the Oligarch stated matter-of-factly. “You could be thrown out of the country at any time.” The statement was clearly a veiled threat, but the hostility in the Oligarch’s eyes failed to elicit a response from the illegal alien. Jesus simply smiled pleasantly back at him.
The Oligarch cleared his throat. “It also means you can’t be elected to public office. But that won’t be a problem for us. This man can make all those problems disappear… if you join us.”
He stared hard at Jesus Josephovich so the full reality of his situation would be clear. “But don’t think about that now,” the Oligarch added. “You can make your decision after you meet my friend.”
They got back into the black Bentley with windows tinted so dark they looked like they’d been painted over with tar and they headed to the other side of the city. “The Hacker”, as the Oligarch kindly referred to him, was a man who specialized in all things pirated and illegal. His friend lived in a small dark apartment in a neighborhood that even the staunchest Babushka would think twice about walking through at night.
The Oligarch left Jesus Josephovich alone at the man’s door. Jesus knocked, and after a few strange sounds and an awkward shuffle, the door was opened by a very skinny man with large glasses and a medical device crudely wrapped around his leg to help him walk.
“Come in,” he said barely glancing at the foreigner. He moved aside so his visitor could enter, then quickly shut the door and immediately headed back to his computer ignoring all decorum. He seemed afraid to leave his computer screen for more than a few moments.
The man’s room was dark and filled from floor to ceiling with computer parts and electronic equipment. Two computers were running, and there were several monitors around a large desk crowded with papers and half-filled coffee cups. The room smelled like coca-cola, potato chips, and sweat.
The hacker sat down and typed away on various programs, talking to his guest without looking at him. He seemed to be carrying on about half a dozen conversations on chat programs simultaneously. He communicated online smoothly and without emotion.
“What’s your name,” the hacker asked.
“Jesus Josephovich. Nice to meet you.”
The hacker paused his typing momentarily and took a long look at his guest for the first time. He wasn’t sure if this was a joke or not.
“You want me to write “Jesus” as your first name?” the hacker wondered as he pulled up an official looking document.
“Unless you have a better idea,” the foreigner replied.
“It’s not a Ukrainian name,” the hacker warned.
“What is your name?”
The hacker laughed. “My name is Kolya. But you cannot have my name. It is obvious that your name is not Kolya.”
“What do you do here?” the foreigner wondered aloud as he scanned the cable-filled room.
Kolya smiled. “Everything,” he answered as if it was no big deal. “Anything and everything.”
“All on these machines?” Jesus questioned.
“Of course,” the hacker sighed. “Our whole lives are controlled by these things now. You have no idea how powerful I am on these machines. I bet I could do some pretty crazy things even where you come from.”
Jesus grinned as he thought about home. “So you’re pretty good then with these computers?”
“Good? No, good is not strong enough a word,” the hacker argued. “I’m God with these things.”
Jesus Josephovich raised an interested eyebrow.
“I can send an email to ten million people in ten minutes,” the hacker bragged. “I can start a new website with the click of a button, and I can destroy a website with a single file. I can do it all,” he said confidently. “One time I even hacked into the – well, actually I can’t tell you what I did, because it could get me in big trouble. But let’s just say, I can hack into anything. Anything.”
“What are you going to do with me?” Jesus asked.
“I’m going to bring you into existence,” the hacker said. “I’m going to give you an identity. A Ukrainian identity.”
“I wasn’t aware that I didn’t exist,” Jesus said.
“Not in Ukraine you don’t,” the hacker replied. “First we need an ID card, then an international passport – ” he clicked a few buttons and several windows began popping up on his screen. “Plus I need to create you a bank account, a credit history, a university diploma, a drivers’ license, a city registration and some email addresses. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Jesus Josephovich’s eyes grew wide. “I need all of that to exist?”
“Yup,” Kolya replied.
“You can do all of that on this computer?”
“Not yet,” the hacker said with considerable disappoint. “A lot of our national systems aren’t computerized yet. Some of our friends in high places will have to get you official stamps and paperwork, but I’m going to put your name and information into these databases and get the groundwork going.”
“A few stamps and a few emails and you can create an entire life?” Jesus Josephovich said.
Kolya smiled. His work was finally getting some due attention. “And I can do more than that,” he claimed. “I can make you rich or poor, young or old. I can make you whatever you want to be. I told you, here I am God.”
“But it isn’t real. It’s just words and numbers,” Jesus Josephovich suggested.
“It’s real enough. It gets me what I want. And it will get you what you need – a Ukrainian passport.” He continued typing feverishly as various forms appeared and disappeared from the screen.
“What is it that you want?” Jesus asked him.
“What everybody else wants,” Kolya answered. “Money, peace, to have some fun. To be left alone.” He stressed the last word as if it were applicable to the current situation.
“Are you happy?” Jesus Josephovich questioned further. “Has this machine given you what you want? Have these words and numbers fulfilled you?”
“I enjoy what I do,” Kolya answered honestly. “The Internet is my universe. In the real world I’m a skinny guy with a bad leg. In here I am a king.”
“Do you ever get lonely?”
“I have hundreds of friends online. I chat with people all the time on Odnoclasniki.”
“What’s that?” the foreigner wondered.
“It’s like Facebook.”
The hacker turned around stunned and glared at the foreigner. “Man, where are you from?”
“I’ve spent most of my time in the Middle East,” Jesus Josephovich answered.
“My god. Do you still live in caves over there?”
“If we need to,” Jesus replied matter-of-factly.
“And you think my lifestyle is strange?” the hacker joked.
“No,” Jesus laughed. “I’m just wondering if you have as much power as you think you do.”
“I mean, what would you do if you really could do anything? What would you do if you really had no boundaries?”
Kolya laughed at the idea. “I’d do whatever I wanted. Whatever I felt like.”
Jesus leaned forward and looked past the monitor towards the window. “But what if those boundaries that disappeared included your body and your mind and all your feelings? What if you could ignore them all, if your feelings and emotions, your hungers and desires had no effect on you? Then what would you do with your life?”
The hacker stopped his typing and looked at the foreigner, confused. “What do you mean, if I didn’t feel anything? Like if my life was a video game?”
“In a way, yes,” Jesus Josephovich nodded.
The hacker laughed. “That would be great! I guess I would just play and enjoy myself,” he said.
“Do you want to try it?” Jesus asked.
Kolya stared back at the foreigner and squinted his eyes. “Wait, are you some kind of engineer?”
“Some might say that,”Jesus Josephovich admitted.
“If you have something like that, I’d love to try it,” the hacker said enthusiastically. “I’m also as good a gamer as I am a hacker.”
“Okay,” Jesus Josephovich said as he touched the young man’s shoulder.
In an instant Kolya felt the sensation of weightlessness. He thought he was falling, but when he looked down he saw that he was rising above his body all the way to the ceiling. For a brief moment he was terrified, but the awkwardness was quickly replaced with a sense of complete calm and peace, as if he were invincible.
He tried to look at his hands and feet, but he didn’t have any. He looked around for anything that he could describe as “himself”, but there was nothing there. He was simply an observer. His body was still 6 feet below him typing on the computer.
He did a double-take, surprised to see his fingers hitting the computer keys without his direct intent, and he thought that it should stop. Immediately his body stopped typing.
Without notice, dozens of thoughts began to fill the air, like they were being played on speakers all around him. But these weren’t like ordinary thoughts. They had no power over him like his thoughts usually did. These were his body’s thoughts, and he was simply observing them. They didn’t make him feel anything.
He ignored the spinning thoughts and decided to test his new telepathic ability to control the body below him. He thought that his body should stand up, and it stood up.
Jesus Josephovich looked up at him and smiled. “You can talk you know.”
Kolya realized he hadn’t tried speaking yet. “This is amazing,” he thought, as his body spoke the words to Jesus Josephovich. “It’s me, but it’s not me,” he said looking at his body.
“You can do anything you want,” Jesus Josephovich explained. “Nothing can stop you. Whatever you want to happen will happen. There is no fear or pain to stop you. There are no boundaries.”
Kolya was entranced by his new power and decided that he wanted to do a backflip. He had always wanted to do a backflip but he had always been too scared to try it. With his injured leg Kolya had assumed he would never have the chance – but the foreigner said anything was possible. Before the idea was even completely in his consciousness, his body had done a backflip. Unfortunately, he had done it too close to the desk and his foot caught the edge of the desk and sent him face first into the floor.
He laughed and his body laughed. He knew his body was in some pain from the fall, but it didn’t effect him in any way.
“How do you feel?” Jesus asked, as Koyla’s body picked itself up off the floor.
“This is unbelievable!” Kolya said. “It’s like I’m playing a video game of myself. But it’s better than that. It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.”
“It’s not a feeling,” Jesus said looking up at him from below. “Your body is there. Feelings come from the body and mind. You are neither right now.”
“What is it then?” Kolya wondered. He already knew the answer before the question passed through his consciousness.
“This is the truth,” Jesus said. “This is reality. This is what you really are.”
Kolya couldn’t believe it. But he didn’t have to. It was true. There was nothing to believe or not believe. It simply was.
In this strange new realm there were no questions, only answers. Before he even thought of a question that answer appeared before his consciousness. There was no delay. There was no time. Everything was spontaneous and full. Every moment was more wonderful than the next, yet each moment seemed like it couldn’t possibly get any better. Even the slightest actions, typing on a keyboard, standing up, looking around the room, contained a deep pleasure, the feeling of connectedness with all things. Everything was possible. The universe was his to play with.
Jesus called his attention back to his body.
“Now that you have no boundaries,” Jesus mentioned, “What would you like to do.”
He knew the answer before Jesus finished the question. “I want to make someone happy,” Kolya’s body said. “I want to help my mother.”
Jesus Josephovich smiled.
Kolya looked around the room. “And I want to clean up this room. If I were affected by smells, I would not enjoy the smell of this room.”
Jesus Josephovich nodded his head slightly, not disagreeing. “What else would you like to do?” he asked.
Visions of an entire life passed before his consciousness. All the things he knew in his heart that he needed to do but had always been too lazy or afraid to do suddenly seemed crystal clear to him, as if he had already accomplished them. Fears and worries were present, floating around the brain in Kolya’s body, but for the first time they were of no consequence. From his elevated perspective he could clearly see that they had no real bearing on his life. They were illusions and he could completely ignore them. The emotions and sensations swirling through his body couldn’t stop him any more.
Kolya envisioned himself helping his family clean up and remodel their apartment to make a better life for his parents and grandparents. He saw himself doing selfless deeds all over the city that improved the lives of others, especially children and the elderly, making people happy everywhere he went. He saw himself eating healthy and exercising so that his body was clean and fit inside and out, and he saw his mind being sharpened every day with reading, prayer, and meditation. He saw himself outside spending more time in nature, disconnecting from the imaginary digital universe in exchange for a life of real impact on real people in the “real” world. He saw himself happier than he ever could have imagined, filled with a deeper peace than he had ever dreamed possible.
He explained all these things through his body below him to the foreigner, who appeared well pleased.
“Remember these things,” Jesus Josephovich said. “And remember who you really are.”
Jesus touched the Hacker’s shoulder once again and his spirit floated back into his body, looking out at the world from just behind the eyes once again.
Koyla slumped down in his chair in amazement. The thoughts and feelings swirling through his body which moments before were nothing more than whispers on the wind suddenly hit him with their full physical force. He was overwhelmed with emotions and began to laugh and cry at the same time.
“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for showing me.”
“Thank you for being willing to see,” Jesus Josephovich answered.
“I still want to do all those things,” Kolya promised, “But it feels so much harder back in this body. How do you do it?” he wondered.
“Just ignore those thoughts and feelings like you ignored them before. Remember what they really are. They are not you. It is more difficult in your body, but you can still do it,” Jesus Josephovich assured him. “Like anything, it gets easier with practice.”
Kolya spun around in his chair and began typing frantically. He hit a button and a printer loudly revved up and began printing forms. When they were finished he tore them from the machine and handed them enthusiastically to Jesus Josephovich.
“What are these?” Jesus Josephovich asked.
“There are your official documents. They’ll make you a Ukrainian citizen.”
The foreigner looked at them with interest. “What name did you give me?” he wondered.
“There was only one name I could give you,” Kolya said. “Jesus.”