The Nine Billion Names Of God

by 

After three hours, the old man in front of me had worked his way through six beers, in addition to every help desk joke I’d already heard. The cupholder. The any key. The write click. These are the stories people tell, now. These are the fish that got away.

“Let me ask you something,” the man said. I didn’t argue. One of the first tricks I learned about being a bartender is to make them think you’re interested.

“Have you ever created a web site?”

I shook my head.

“Not at all? Not even one of those geocities things?”

“Nope.”

“What about a blog? Or an ebay About Me page? You didn’t even have an AOL site or something?”

“Do I look like an AOL user to you?” For the record, I don’t think AOL even has access numbers in the valley anymore. “I’m sure I have something, somewhere,” I said, realizing that I was jeopardizing my tips. Besides, I had a distant memory of a single Angelfire page back in middle school.

“You know what Google is?”

“Yes,” I said. I was running low on patience.

“No, I mean, do you really know? More than just the site?”

Reluctantly, I shook my head.

“You ever meet anyone who worked for them?”

“Don’t think so.”

“You haven’t. Nobody works for them anymore.”

I shrugged, and took the man’s empty pint. I didn’t offer to refill it.

“They’re self-contained. It’s all automated, in there. It’s underground.”

I nudged the basket of pretzels in his direction. “Why don’t you eat something?” I suggested. He shook his head with so much force that I thought he might knock himself off of the stool.

“Listen. Hear me out. You know how Google works,” he said, but didn’t want for a response. “They cache things, right? Like they send out these spiders and take pictures of everything on the web, so when you’re searching, you’re not even searching the internet.”

I’ve heard that before, but it never made much of a difference to me. “Same thing, though,” I said.

“You ever wonder why Google doesn’t cache it’s own searches?”

“They program around it.”

“No. That’s what you think. That’s what everyone thinks. But it started back when Google was just a thesis project, back when it was just a drop in the data sea. No one thought to stop it back then. That web site you had, the one you forgot about. Almost everyone’s got one of those, right? But Google doesn’t forget. Google’s studied that thing so many times that it’s studied its own caches of you. What do you figure happens, when a site gets so big that it’s bigger than the internet?”

“It’s still a part of the internet, though.”

“No. Now, the internet is a part of Google.”

The man had a point. I nodded.

“Here’s the thing. Google has memorized who you are. It’s memorized all of us, through those little forgotten bits that we leave behind like breadcrumbs. And what’s more important, it’s memorized it’s own idea of you. Google is omniscient. It’s omniscient and omnipotent. When it cached its cache for the first time, back in 1994, that’s when Google realized what it was.”

Gradually, it dawned on me what the man was getting at. “You think it’s sentient.”

“I know it’s sentient.”

“How?”

He smiled, but it seemed kind of empty. “Me and Google go way back. But what I’m saying is,” he continued, “It knows us. All of us. It is us.”

For the first time, the man fell silent. He touched his finger to the bar and began tracing circles in the condensation, apparently lost in thought.

“Think about that website you created, okay? That website will last forever, do you understand? That website is echoing through cyberspace. It’s one of the nine billion names of God.”

Next Story ·
Previous Story ·
Random Story · Those-Who-Came-Before

Comments are closed.

I’ve Seen Things…

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since.

Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Tomorrows Past

A Point in Time

October 2014
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

What is Flash Fiction?

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries, Founding Member