The Keystroke Dispersal






Those of a more conservative bent had been warning of the devastation that would be wrought by the continued centralizing of government functions. A few communitarians chimed in over the loss of local control. I understood that (though I never understood the conservatives who were quite happy with central government control of surveillance against certain undesirable groups–but I digress).

Well, they got what they wanted, because when Keystroke hit, it hit hard and scattered all “authority,” all decision making down to the lowest level: neighborhoods, and townships, and even streets. We all became localists then because it was the only way to survive.

Of course, we also got local forms of fascism and authoritarianism that had previously been concentrated in that one guy at the top. At least we felt we could control him. But when that shit goes local, you have a real fight on your hands.

We did.

And if it had not been for the infighting among all those local warlords–mostly drawn from the ranks of former military, or cops, or judges, or even a few ministers, more might have died. Too many did anyway.

But I have to step back to how it all started.

Q-Anon was the world’s first alternate reality multi-player game that spilled off the web into the real world, and the conspiracies it spawned were no joke. They were deadly.

It seemed there was no way to reign it in until Keystroke. Like Q-Anon themselves (itself, himself, herself?), no one knew who Keystroke was. But we knew what they wanted.

Their manifesto jumped to every chyron on every channel and swamped social media. It was not long, and it was crystal clear: Keystroke existed to bring Q-Anon down.

Those of us of a liberal bent were on board immediately, though it was not immediately clear how they would do it. But then Keystroke started issuing releases and challenges–competitions if you will. It began to mimic Q-Anon itself and turned itself into a righteous alternate reality multi-player game, except that its reality was going after Q-Anon.

In the beginning, it rewarded anyone who would debunk thoroughly and convincingly, any posting by Q-Anon itself. And the results were amazing. Part of it was the rewards; they were high quality and frequent. Part of it was that people got stoked doing the research necessary to debunk those fools. The competitions were egalitarian, and everyone laughed a lot at the expense of the Q-Anons.

And they doubled down. And every time they did, more Keystroke devotees jumped in to debunk. It was a war, and more and more people were involved.

Phase two (though no one ever called it that), had Keystroke asking people to write their conspiracy theories to match and confront each Q-Anon one coming out. The idea was, you had to write a conspiracy similar to the latest Q-Anon drek and create an entire historical backstory to back it up.

That was when things took off. Some of the best alternate history sci-fi short form stuff ever written appeared in those days. And everyone clamored to get in. Keystroke started helping people write. That’s right, they supported people by helping edit their documents, make more persuasive arguments–basically be better writers. I assumed it was all AI because you can’t mobilize that many people and still hold cover. We will never know.

Schools jumped in. Teachers started assigning Keystroke for their writing assignments, and the prizes kept coming. Keystroke also started teaching coding so that students could search more profoundly and scrape the web more efficiently for fodder. The coding courses were the best around and, again, teachers, and even some university professors used Keystroke for coding classes.

I don’t know much about any of that myself, but it was awesome to watch. I have often thought since that Keystroke could not have worked without the virus. I mean, the real one circulating in the world (and has not gone away even now). Kids couldn’t go to school, schools had to get hotspots for everyone, Keystroke took kids “away” for hours (something parents wanted), and they were writing like never before. Parents took short breaks from their Zoom meetings to join in the fun on the company devices. There were multiple Keystrok apps to aid in searches and writing. It was a moment in time.

The coding got more sophisticated, the writing more comprehensive, and Keystroke put out the word in mid-July that they were going after Q-Anon once and for all. The second “manifesto” was even shorter and said: “We will reveal who Q-Anon is on August 11. And we will destroy them. Get your Keystrokes ready.”

There was a buzz, and not all of it was positive. IT experts started worrying where this was all going. Virus checks expanded, and warnings went out from a few that Keystroke, while very cool, might present some security risks. Nothing was found, and the naysayers were accused of being closet Q-Anons.

In the lead up to August 11, the estimates came in saying over 750 million people worldwide were active in Keystroke, and over 1.5 billion had dabbled in it at least once.

Keystroke sent out their last message on August 10 at 8:00 am Australia time (what?–was that a clue?): On August 11, every devotee was to be at their computer to code one last bit. This one would add their names (nom de guerre, nom de plume, or real name) to a compiled list–to be made available online–of every person who helped bring Q-Anon down.

And that’s what happened.

And then nothing happened.

For 10 hours.

Then at 6:00 pm Australia time (?) Keystroke sent out one last message–the last one it ever sent. It said, cryptically:

“There is no Q-Anon. Q-Anon will not harm us any longer.”

And then a list of names of every person who had helped bring Q-Anon down started scrolling across every screen everywhere.

I wish that had been the end. A cool game that wound its way down. Kids learning to write, and, hopefully, Q-Anon gone for good.

It all came apart just six hours later when every networked system in Australia crashed. The crashes followed the morning across every nation, and every continent as the day went on. Nothing worked–think electricity grids, wastewater treatment, and your computer, phone, and networked fridge.

Everyone expected a ransom request from Keystroke–knowing now we had been had. But none ever came.

And by the time the crashes hit the West Coast of the US, no one–I mean no one had a clue where this was going. We sheltered in place for two days. No electricity, no water. The weakest died quickly, and the lucky ones were those who lived by a water source.

Nothing came back online. Was it the coding–somehow complied in that last Keystroke of August 11? I have no idea. Not sure anyone does.

All of us realized just how networked we all were in the time of the virus. From what we heard, each time a “restart” was tried or new hardware added to the old, the infection just kept spreading. I don’t know how. It is almost as if Keystroke lived within the fiber optic cables themselves, in the satellite feeds, in the coaxial cables that fed our homes. Nothing would come back.

That was almost two years ago. The dispersal, as I think of it, was swift and comprehensive. We banded together the best we could, and bad people swept in to claim power in every place where life-giving resources existed. The first year was the worst–at least here. I don’t know about anywhere else–the rest of the world has disappeared.

Like everyone, I lost friends and family, and I will never touch a computer or a networked fridge, or cell phone, or whatever again. We are all Luddites now, I guess, though we have no idea when any of those things will ever come back.

And Keystroke? Who knows. They set out to destroy Q-Anon, and they did. But they did not bring down Q-Anon; they just wiped out the ecosystem in which thrived.

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