The stylites perched atop their brainframe pillars feverishly coding as the throngs below prostrated themselves and wailed in supplication.
“Hear me, Allenadis. Expel the demon from my device. Free me from the torment of this hacker’s avarice that my soul shall survive.”
“Simeon, throw down a piece of your soiled clothing, or strand of oily hair. Brush your rank dandruff my way. Let your being provide a charm against the patent trolls seeking to rip the flesh from my back and gorge upon my labors.”
“Oh, oracular Bradatus, lay hands upon me. Heal my hunched and carpal-tunneled form. Design and provide ergonomic peripherals so that we may continue to serve the Cloud’s most high.”
“Intercede, Theoderet. Intercede. Strike down the oppressive tyranny of numbers. Lift up a new interface. Launch a new app. Free us from kludgy workarounds.”
So, the laments and prayers went. The stylites took little heed, knowing that should they fall from their towering perches they would be ripped to pieces, their clothing and body parts becoming instant relics hoarded in cubicles and work stations across Binarytium.
Once shunned as eccentrics and lunatics, the stylite sect of hermit coders were now all the rage. Seeking to program on a divine level, the stylites, coded twenty feet atop their quantum computing pillars day and night, year in and year out. Programming and sleeping on their six-by-six square, rain their only drink, scraps thrown from below their only food, they punished their bodies and minds in the belief that physical suffering would wear away the veil between the analogue and binary. They believed their extreme asceticism would give them direct access to the metanet.
Mortification of the flesh transforms, they believed. And their coding proved it. They became more flame than flesh. Conduits of universal code. A divine source.
None dared challenge their ascendancy. All craved. Though none truly cared. Until a child called up to Allenadis one snowy day.
“Oy, ain’t you tired? Me mum says you’re setting a bad example for me and my lot. Take a load off and come have a bowl of chowda.”
Allenadis looked down upon the boy. First among the stylites to ascend his pillar, he had not spoken in seven years. “Say again?”
“Come have a bowl of chowda. Warm you up and clear your mind.”
Allenadis shuddered. “My work? I am your connection to the metanet. Who will preserve you?”
The boy shrugged. “Not a worry for today.”
“Tomorrow?” Allenadis pleaded, unsure.
The boy shrugged again. “I’m talkin’ about today. Warm chowda.” He made a snowball and threw it to the top of Allenadis’s pillar. “Come on, have a go.”
All the stylites were now watching, as were the amassed pilgrims and suppliants. Light snow whirled around them. A beautiful scene really, but for the chattering of teeth.
“Are you a demon?” Allenadis called down.
“Me mum says I am from time to time,” the boy answered matter-of-factly. “Calls me an angel, too. Guess I’m both.”
“Both,” Allenadis murmured. A switch closed. A circuit completed. An uncertainty principle resolved.
With a whoop, Allenadis back-flipped off his pillar and landed in a soft bank of snow. The crowd surged towards him, but the young boy took him by the hand.
“Here, now. Let’s get you some chowda.”
Hand in hand, they pushed through the crowd leaving bold footprints in the snow.
“What’s your name?” Allenadis asked.
“Billy. Billy Gates. Mum says after your chowda, you’re gonna help with me homework. I gots a question or two for you.”