Author : George R. Shirer

“Well,” murmured Agent Dumphy, “you don’t see that every day.”

Brillson didn’t reply. He was too busy squinting at the luminous graffiti covering the alley wall.

“How many people do you think have seen this?” asked Dumphy.

Brillson pursed his lips. “Back here? Bunch a winos and some garbage men. Maybe some delivery guys.”

“That’s atypical,” said Dumphy. “Usually carriers tag someplace busy, with lots of eyes, to maximize the spread.”

“I think it knows we’re on to it,” said Brillson. “So it’s getting sneaky.”

“Well, crap.”

Brillson nodded. The command had been tracking this conceptual lifeform ever since the Beijing Disaster, when its ideogram had appeared on several skyscrapers, cunningly shaped by office lights and window shades. An estimated three million people had been infected, leading the Chinese to nuke their own capital and blame it on Hong Kong dissidents.

Since Beijing, the Text had gone underground, popping up on random websites that folded as quickly as they appeared. It had somehow infected a fashion designer in Milan, who had integrated the Text’s ideogram into his show, infecting hundreds of the rich and famous. Then it had infected a window display designer for Macy’s at Christmas, infecting hundreds more.

“What do you think it wants?” asked Dumphy.

“I don’t know,” said Brillson. “Maybe it doesn’t want anything. Just ‘cause it’s alive doesn’t mean it’s sentient. It could just want to reproduce and spread like a regular virus.”

“But if it’s getting sneakier, doesn’t that suggest intelligence?”

“Maybe,” said Brillson. He shrugged. “It’s really above our pay grade. You got the paint?”

Dumphy nodded, hoisted an industrial-sized can of spray paint.

“Do the honors.”

Grinning, Dumphy shook the can and then directed a blast of midnight black paint across the luminous ideograms.

Command had discovered they could neutralize the transmission medium by defacing it. How they had discovered it, Brillson didn’t know. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Just like he didn’t think he wanted to know how Command had worked out people with achromatopsia – people like Dumphy and he – were immune to infection.

Thank God for small favors, thought Brillson. Otherwise they’d be in a quarantine camp, undergoing tests to chart the psychological and neurological changes the Text imposed on its carriers. Carriers spent their days doodling the infectious ideogram on everything they could between bouts of Tourette-like outbursts.

Not a pleasant existence at all, thought Brillson, as he watched Dumphy deface the graffiti.

Command was working on a weapon to kill the Text, a sort of memetic bullet they would release via the Internet. Brillson was certain they’d work it out, sooner than later. Command wasn’t about to let some random, viral thought-form take the world.

“After all,” murmured Brillson, to himself, “we were here first.”

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