Atheist Jihad

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Harold poured a bag of frozen mozzarella sticks into the microwave and set the timer for three minutes. Laying back on his bed, he surveyed his prefab home.

Exposed pipes and wires, laundry and sketches for inventions, mail tacked on a notice board (both junk and the more threatening kind), sci-fi memorabilia, game systems, and other crap made overseas. No women ever set foot inside, except an exterminator once.

Harold devoured his breakfast off a paper plate. At the moment he was free.

It took a while to fully wake up. He had dreamt he was a dream character of the person he was dreaming about. Most dreams were technically nightmares, unending obstacle courses or tedious chores, always falling behind. He often woke briefly with his mind blank. His earliest memories were of bleak despair: an unbearable evening gloom at the end of everything.

When he heard rain falling on the roof of his trailer-like shack he cheered up. For desert, he poured coconut sprinkles on chocolate pudding. Death was still years away.

Time to go to work! He didn't know what day it was, but had a busy schedule. Harold might not get paid, but he claimed to be working hard.

First, he adjusted his cutting-edge curving screen to fill his field of vision. Getting this prototype had been one of Harold's few extraordinary achievements, not counting the ones only he recognized. The official beta testers wouldn't get their screens for another month.

It projected a keyboard representation as his fingers moved in midair.

A minute to access his neighbor's wireless connection and go online. Then he checked his bank account.

The few people who knew him assumed he lived off disability, but he depended on a 1300-member law firm in Atlanta to send him bi-weekly settlement deposits.

Time for the showbiz news. Harold religiously followed several beautiful female celebrities. Had they known he existed, they would probably have held him in contempt, which would have been an improvement. However, masturbating had become more difficult after having gained thirty pounds.

He spent an hour on a board criticizing the spread of traditional Islam. Allah (or any other god) either needed to prove his existence to mankind, he claimed, or religion should be mocked as useless. He had participated in many epic online arguments.

He read about the unspeakable horrors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, making it to the eighth photograph.

The 5-meter Sagan Telescope (ironically cross-shaped) had just finished scanning ten thousand distant galaxies, looking for a glimmer of alien megastructures. Apparently there were no aliens.

Studying plans for a false vacuum bomb that could destroy the whole universe, he had no idea if it was pseudoscience.

Harold spent the rest of the evening composing a lengthy anti-government screed.

This time he targeted union rules preventing mass-produced housing (his own trailer was not in great shape). The bureaucratic opposition went as far back as the NTOP proposals during the Nixon Administration.

He completed another brilliant rant, but it wouldn't earn him any money. Fiendishly hard to make a living online. All his efforts so far had failed.

Harold's main effort had produced even less. He had invested six years in trying to design a framework for something he called Borgware. That software would learn everything about its user in an effort to take over their lives and their minds, and turn them into something completely different and better.

He needed someone with programming skills to help out. Crucial insights remained missing.

During that time he had considered joining a new religion, the Destiny Group. They tried to calculate the ultimate nature of reality and how to influence it all.

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