One year. 100 articles. So we're having a Reader's Party. Come along to Upsidecrown.
There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence
18 June 2001
I know you.
I first found you by chance, going about my usual business, sifting through seemingly endless files, numbers, spreadsheets, reports, following my normal daily routine, noting anything of interest, use, or future value and passing it on to the relevant interested party, and so on ad mausoleum, and without noticing it at first, I smiled.
Reading on, seeing the graceful interactions of the data in front of me, finding links where I wanted them and being surprised and even further intrigued by unsuspected twists in your story (I like to call them stories), that warm tightness began that starts just below your heart when you know you have perceived perfection, and ends in a dry tear when it hasn't immediately disappeared.
I knew then.
Your data that I had just seen had arrived through our normal channels. Information you had given in forms when registering for various sites, new email addresses provided the basic name, address, phone, job etc (even the cute net aliases you use when you don't want junk mail. There is always a link, somewhere, and once you've used it once, then it can be traced). All useful, but relatively colourless stuff.
What passwords you use and when you use each one provide a more curious insight, as passwords are chosen as something that no-one else knows about you. These are generally the very first things I look at when I read a story, before even the confirmed real name. Yours were picture-perfect, were the sparkle that first alerted me to you.
I got more.
Alongside all the basic 'dry' information we put in your file, we pack in all the 'moist' data and patterns our suppliers collect. These are your search patterns, your surf habits, favourite sites, banner ads used, products purchased, discussions read or entered, and, of course, emails. The normal use for these is to create a complete consumer 'desires and needs' profile, which can prove very useful for our high-paying clients. But to my weary eyes the collective parts of your existence, as laid out before me, became alive with such utter flawlessness that several times I cried aloud.
And then I started hungrily on the 'darker' data - snapshots of behaviour, possibly unconscious, that can be monitored and stored. Every time you hovered your mouse pointer on an image, tracing a curve or an outline, every word of text highlighted, every comment entered but then hurriedly deleted on second thought, is collected and displayed before me. Yet another gasp, and it all suddenly dawned on me.
So I began.
Where I am there is no such thing as inaccessible data, and so I began to piece together all the connected, but incomplete picture I already had of you. Certain other information was required for my purposes, from many different sources. Account information from banks was my first port of call. I had access to already quite detailed information, statements etc, from your use of net-banking, so I could note habits, where you bought food, lunch, that you travel to work by Tube, etc.
I took upon my first responsibility by making sure that your favourite lunching establishment never ran out of your favourite sandwich (pesto, goat's cheese, salami and sun-dried tomatoes on olive ciabatta) on the days you would choose to go there. By tracking the shop's inventory, and following the chain through their suppliers, I was able to run a script that would stop any exceptions spoiling your precious chain of events.
I can't wait.
After weeks of gradually ensuring that nothing would cause you the slightest material frustration, and growing ever more intrigued with you (I realised that no matter how much information you have, even the most personal secrets, text and pictures are poor translators of a true experience), I wanted more than mere aloof influence.
I know your address, I know the last time you changed your locks, and who supplied them. I know the code that relates to the exact cut of each of the keys to your cosy flat. I know who has keys (you, your live-in girlfriend, your upstairs neighbour), and I know who need to give authorisation for new ones to be cut. So I get a set of keys to your house, and your car.
I've seen you.
The first time I visited your flat, I admit, it was not quite as I expected. Mind you, things never are, like watching the film after reading the book. The colours are all either brighter or dirtier. But so much was familiar. Your books, music and videos, the food in your fridge, the bass guitars, the pictures, they were all as I knew them, and I hugged myself with joy.
But I did not actually see you then. I saved that for the next night, when I had sorted out the necessary chain of events for your food to be slightly laced with a sedative. These things are easy when you have my experience. Later that night, I used my keys to your flat again, and crept in silently to meet you for the first time. That wasn't your lover stroking your hair in the night while you slept.
I love you.