by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
One day, Jonas, who has recently migrated to the city, discovers that all his records including his assets have been erased somehow. No longer able to get work, buy anything on credit or sell his now legally non-existent car, his life becomes a unique adventure.
Jonas’ good friend Mac was more than a bit surprised to see his old buddy in front of him when he opened the door. He invited him in and asked what brought him to his humble abode.
“It is a long story,” said Jonas.
“It is okay, I got coffee. Do you want a roll with it?” Mac asked.
Jonas accepted the offer with a nod and had a seat by the kitchen table. In a minute, Mac brought forth some coffee and a bunch of rolls on a platter. He poured some coffee in a cup for Jonas, and handed him milk and sugar.
Jonas began telling Mac of his troubles; how he did not get the job because he had been erased somehow from the archives; how his visa card had failed; how his phone was suddenly out of order; how his car was suddenly unregistered and how he was liable to end up on the street in just under a month as he would not be able to afford his apartment and he knew no one in the city that could house him.
Mac listened intently to Jonas’ story. He seemed not to believe a word Jonas was saying. So Jonas said he could prove his point.
“Call me,” Jonas said to Mac.
“On my phone; call me.”
Mac got out his own little phone and retrieved Jonas’ number from the memory. He called him. He got the “no user” error signal.
“It might be a local error with the phone company,” Mac said.
Jonas quickly saw that might as well explain the bit with the phone.
“Do you have an Internet connection?” he asked Mac.
Mac nodded, and went to turn on his computer. A couple of minutes later, he was on the Net.
“Go check out the national archives,” Jonas told him.
“I can’t do that. It’s locked to the public,” Mac informed Jonas.
“Okay. Do you have a home banking service?” Jonas asked.
“Yes. Why?” asked Mac.
“You can access the archives through there.”
“Ah! Of course; I forgot that,” said Mac.
Mac logged in to his domain with the bank, and there, at one side was a little window to query the national archives. He typed Jonas’ full name in there, and double clicked on the little button next to it.
Mac typed Jonas’ name in again, and pressed enter; again, no result.
“Okay. Why is that? Have you changed your name or something?” Mac asked.
“Or something, I believe,” said Jonas. “This happened yesterday as far as I know. And now I don’t exist.”
Mac sat in front of the computer for a moment, thinking. Then he came up with a new approach: he clicked on the archive button again to get a more detailed search. Then he asked Jonas to give him his social security number.
Jonas told Mac his number, and Mac typed it in and pressed enter. As before, nothing happened.
“Okay, I believe you. You have been officially deleted,” Mac said and asked: “What now?”
“I was hoping you could answer me that,” said Jonas.
“I don’t know how this happened,” Mac said. “And you have told the authorities about this?”
“Yes. I told you before; they did not believe me and set goons on me. Then I was arrested,” said Jonas.
“Ah... well, it is a sign that the end of the world is coming.”
“The end of the world?” asked Jonas. “How do you figure that?”
“You know, the book of Revelations speaks of the number of the beast,” said Mac, turning into his explanation mode.
Jonas nodded, although he did not understand.
“It is your social security number: your number in the archives. You need it if you are to buy or sell, to own stuff, to work for money, and most importantly, you need it to exist in the eyes of the state,” Mac explained.
Jonas nodded again. He had heard of this before, but still it meant little to him.
Mac continued: “Most of us are only ever aware of ten digits, six for the date of birth, one for the century, and three are a birth-number. But there are eight more — that represent the country of birth, and the city or region of birth. All these have their number, and these are in front of your date of birth, totalling eighteen letters.”
Mac got a pen and a notepad, and wrote down some numbers: “6+6+6=”
“You know what I mean?” Mac asked, and finished the equation: “18”.
Jonas looked at the notepad.
“The number of the beast, man, you lost it, and now you are in deep trouble,” Mac explained.
Jonas got the “deep trouble” bit. He did not much believe the “666, number of the beast” explanation of his plight though. He was never a great believer in what was written in the bible; especially the stuff in the last books of the New Testament. That stuff all sounded like a bad acid trip to him. But still, there was something, a little tingling feeling in his spine that told him that what Mac was saying applied to him.
Disbelief crept into his disbelief of all things biblical, and he began to wonder: Could it be? Would the rivers run red with blood and the sea turn crimson, and multi-headed monsters covered in eyes rise up? Nah, thought Jonas and shook his head. But there had to be something to it...
But right now, he needed cash. In bills: at least a hundred thousand this month, to survive.
“I get it, I walk with God now. But, I am broke, kind of, unless I find work; black work. The kind that pays cash in hand, and doesn’t care if I have a number or not,” said Jonas.
“I know a guy,” said Mac.
Jonas looked at Mac. “You know a guy — who?”
“I will introduce you to him if you want,” Mac said. “He can, maybe, just maybe, get you a job. That is, if he likes the looks of you.”
Jonas nodded. “I will see this guy. I must get cash,” said Jonas.
“Okay. Come here at around midnight. I will take you to see him,” said Mac.
“Great. I will be there. Just one more thing...”
Mac looked up at Jonas.
“Can you give me a ride to my car?” Jonas asked Mac.
“Sure. No problem,” answered Mac.
Mac got his jacket, put his shoes on and got his car keys; then he drove Jonas to his car.
“Wow, they arrested you here, brought you all the way downtown and didn’t bother to return you to your car?” asked Mac, when he saw how far away from the police station Jonas’ car was.
“Yes,” Jonas confirmed.
“Hey, it stinks to be a nobody.”
Jonas thanked his friend for the ride and got out of the car. Mac waved to him and drove away.
Thankfully, the old car had not been vandalized while it was there. Jonas had been away for quite a while now, and it was dark again. Still, it had been parked beside a busy traffic street, practically a highway, and perhaps it was to be expected. Nobody would stop and risk personal injury to investigate an old Hyundai by the side of the road.
Even if there was something to steal in it, it would be better to steal it either in the middle of the night or when the car was parked in a residential area. People are expected to enter stationary cars in residential areas. Stationary cars are not supposed to be parked beside a speedway.
Jonas walked around the car just to make sure. Most everything was OK, except that the front plate was still missing. That was almost OK, because the cop took it. That would at least be Jonas’ excuse.
He got into the car and turned the engine on. It started right up, and began to purr softly. Just as it was supposed to. The radio was on, still playing classic rock, Iron Maiden this time, “Number of the Beast.” Fitting, thought Jonas, very fitting.
He put the car in gear and accelerated it down the hill. The traffic had gone down since an hour or two ago, and Jonas had little trouble getting onto the road again. He turned toward his apartment and decided to just sit there and watch TV until he went to his friend’s house and met that guy he knew.
Jonas wondered who it would be. What sort of job he would have to offer. Would he have to mop floors at night? Would he be a builder or something like that? Perhaps Mac’s friend was affiliated with the underground — a gangster.
Jonas wondered what it would be like to work for a gangster. Then he stopped worrying. It could not be any worse than working for the state or the city. Either way, he worked for criminals. At least he would paid less in taxes by working for state-certified criminals.
Jonas took his car around the block once before he went and parked it. He needed that; the ambience in the car. It was more soothing, more satisfying in the car than in the apartment. Only it did not cost 700 KR an hour to sit in the apartment as it did to sit in the car. It only cost about 110-120.
Jonas entered his apartment, turned on the TV, and sat down to watch. He saw that nothing interesting was on, and he checked the refrigerator. It contained hotdogs. Jonas boiled a couple of hotdogs. There was also half a bottle of cola to have something to drink with the hotdogs.
Jonas put the hotdogs on a plate with some ketchup, brought it into the living room and ate it there in front of the TV. It is fun to eat, but it is even more fun to eat while watching TV. That was a part of Jonas’ philosophy anyway, and a very important part. Food and TV: the two most important things for humanity.
In Africa, they reportedly have neither. That is why Africa is a third-world country, thought Jonas. In Asia, they only have food. That is why they are almost a second-world country. In Europe and America, they have both. That is why they have all the money. People leered at Jonas in an evil manner every time he told them this. Either that, or they laughed; that was good. Being too serious is no good. Life is serious enough. It is lethal.
Copyright © 2010 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson