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Dirk was on the West Coast when he got the call. An old
friend at the Toronto police department thought he would like
to fly up and take a look at a homicide which had occurred
the previous evening. He decided to skip the last day at the
World Holistics conference and take the next plane out of
San Francisco.

The flight was bad; Dirk had been hit on the back of the head
by the Newspaper trolley, the drinks trolley, the dinner trolley
and now the gift trolley. When the hostesses weren’t trying to
tear his arm off they pestered him to stop leaning into the aisle
- ignoring the fact that the guy next to him was taking up one and
a half seats. Air Canada used to be the flight which was so
good you just didn’t wanna get off - on this occasion Dirk
would be glad to see the back of the plane and the over sized
alternative comedian wedged into the window seat.

After breathing in a couple of lungfulls of crisp Canadian air
Dirk took a taxi into town. There was a small group of
demonstrators outside the MacDonalds and the taxi driver
insisted on stopping on the opposite side of the street. ‘Don’t
Eat Meat’ the placards read and the demonstrators chanted. A
couple of policemen where stopping the crowd entering the
restaurant itself - one held up his arm and challenged Dirk. A
wave of the fax he had been sent and the policeman pushed
open the door.

There were few customers in the restaurant. Not surprising
really with a demonstration going on outside, half the dining
area roped off with tape and a dead body seated at one of the
tables. ‘Mr Gently sir’ the officer in charge called out as he
peeled one end of the tape off a column ‘We were told not to
touch anything til’ you got here’.

The body of the man slumped awkwardly in a chair. Then
even a dead body would start getting uncomfortable in a
MacDonalds chair after twenty minutes - and this one had
been there for at least eighteen hours. Two back legs and the
tail of a cat hung out of the man’s gaping mouth. Dirk turned
to the officer, ‘I suppose you are going to tell me this is the
darndest thing you ever saw?’

‘Ain’t this the darnd...’. The officer seemed annoyed that Dirk
had second guessed him. ‘We’re removing the body in a few
minutes, so if you can get through as quick as possible’

‘Many people eat cats in fast food restaurants?’ Dirk asked
and without waiting for an answer leant over the table to pick
up an untouched burger. ‘And what’s this?’ he asked waving
it in front of the officers face.

‘It’s a Vedgie Burger’ The waitress, who was cleaning one of
the adjacent tables, shouted across. She walked over to Dirk.
‘We started doing them because of that lot out there’ she
nodded towards the protesters who were pressing there faces
against the windows ‘They’re called Linda McCartney Vedgie
burgers - ever heard of them?’

Dirk suddenly felt faint, perhaps a combination of hunger and
jet lag. ‘This is deja vu all over again’ he thought to himself.
He glanced at policemen - at the badge on his shoulder ‘OPD’
but this wasn’t Ontario this was Toronto. OPD - Officially
Pronounced Dead. It dawned on Dirk what was happening, he
knew what he would see if he looked out of the window. Sure
enough, there it was, the Volkswagen Beetle parked across
the road - number plate 28IF - 28 IF Paul McCartney had
lived. And amongst the lyrics of the song blaring out into the
restaurant he could pick out the words ‘I buried Paul’. Now it
was though Dirk was viewing the whole scene though a TV
screen. This was conspiracy. Not -a- conspiracy, or -the-
conspiracy, but just plain conspiracy.

‘You look faint - are you OK mister? The waitress asked.

Dirk shook his head ‘Probably a bit hungry’ Then to
economise on dialogue took out a pack of cigarettes and held
it out towards the girl. She was about to take one but Dirk
snatched the pack away, held it up to his mouth and drew out
two cigarettes. He lit both then passed one of them to the girl.
It was the closest he had come to a sexual encounter in three

‘Want a Burger?’ the waitress asked.

Dirk looked down at the Vedgie Burger on the table. ‘No
thanks - just a plate of fries’

The waitress walked away and Dirk looked around the room.
Apart from a family seated in the far corner there was only
one other person in the restaurant - and he wasn’t eating. The
guy was about mid twenties and had straggling, shoulder
length hair. On the table in front of him were lots of pieces of
paper cut into squares. Every so often he would pick up a
camcorder and pan it around the room and then, when he was
finished, speak into a microphone which was attached to a
tape recorder. Dirk walked over to where the man was sitting.

The small pieces of paper had paragraphs of text written on
them and were stuck to the top of table with blobs of mustard.
Lines had been drawn, some solid some dotted, on the table
top with a marker pen. The lines ran from one piece of paper
to another.

‘What are the lines for?’ Dirk asked, realising straight away
that ‘What the hell are you doing?’ would be more

‘You see’ The man replied nervously ‘The dotted lines are
weak links and the solid lines are strong links. The dotted
lines are things which are happening in the rest of the world
and the solid lines are things which are happening to me. Now
you see I draw over a dotted line, replacing it with a solid line,
when I can link something back to me. Like this’ The pen
squeaked over the Formica and before Dirk could interrupt
the man added. ‘You see I lost my short term memory and, as
a consequence have a very short attention span. I write down,
record and film everything then put it all together later’

‘So’ Dirk interrupted. ‘You filmed what happened here?’

‘Yes, yes, it’s here on this tape’ The man pushed the cassette
across the table. On the label the words ‘Grassy Knoll’ had
been crossed through and replaced with ‘MacDonalds’.

Suddenly the man sprung from his seat. Dirk turned and saw
that the body was being removed on a stretcher. As it passed
the man picked a small object off the edge of the stretcher
itself. ‘This is important’ he said, laying a blood stained bullet
on one of the small pieces of paper on the table.

Suddenly the room was filled with a deafening throbbing
sound as a Black Helicopter landed in the street outside. Two
men in United Nations uniforms got out and collected the
stretcher. Back at the table the long haired man was replacing
all the dotted lines with solid ones. Dirk panicked and began
to walk backwards at some speed. Barging through the swing
doors he stumbled into the kitchen, tripped and felt himself
sink slowly into a large vat.

‘The guys fallen into the batter’ Dick heard someone shout
before he sunk below the surface. He came to sitting in a chair
with the batter solidifying all over his body. He surveyed the
room through two eye-holes someone had cut. Suddenly the
chair on which he was sitting was picked up carried through
the restaurant and out of the building. As the chair was being
lifted and put into the back of a van, Dirk caught a glimpse of
the waitress following him. ‘Your fries mister, your
plate o...’.

The doors of the van shut and Dirk tried desperately to steady
himself as it sped across town. Eventually the doors flew open
and Dirk was flung into the road at which point the solidified
batter shattered and set him free. Standing up he found
himself outside the international departures terminal of
Toronto airport.

In the departure lounge Dirk had time to reflect on the day’s
events. He had got caught up in the conspiracy theories and
the haphazard welding together of pieces of irrelevant
information. It was time to catch the person who was
operating the bizarre cognitive engine which appeared in
front of him like a fairground mirror, distorting any flaw it
could find in his own, fragile, map of the real world.

Dirk leant into the aisle of the plane as it took off for London.
The oversized person next to him swung his arms violently as
he complained about every thing from the supper in a plastic
tray to the state of British politics. With a shaven head and a
badly fitting suit the man looked as though he could have
worked behind the reception desk of the Kremlin. However
when he spoke he did so in a Liverpudlian accent. ‘Me I
blame the Con-serv-a-tive government, me. The Tour-rees.
That-cher. Me. They need a good kicking’ He jerked his feet
forward and struck the seat in front with his Doc Martins.
‘With these. Me Doc Martins. Doctor Martin’s, Doctor
Martin’s, Doctor Martin’s Booots!’ The phrase was now
being sung over and over again as the man writhed in his seat
and clicked his fingers.

Dirk looked down at the boots and thought of the reaction
most people used to deal with the paranoids at the end of the
wire. A nice quick kick. ‘Oi nutter - get some therapy’. This is
the easy way out and perhaps the safest. After all there you
are sat, alone, in front of the screen. No body language
between you some paranoid. No way of telling if he really is
some gibbering psycho. Look at it too long and you be drawn
in. Fall into the tangled database of weird links with him. Who
knows he may be watching you, reassembling and linking your
experiences with his. How sure are you of you own cognitive
threads. After all cognition is only a bug fix for a neurological
system which was designed in a hurry - it’s abused by
everyone from politicians to advertisers. If people really can
convince each other that a bottle of washing up liquid is as
exciting as an orgasm using just television God knows what
they can do with a computer. Better to avoid the risk. A swift
kick. After all if you’re Homophobic you put the boot in
because you are scared of any ambiguity in your own sexuality
- why not be Nutterphobic as well.

Although Dirk would have liked to devoted time to tracking
the culprit down he decided to let it rest. The Internet
changed over the next twenty odd years. A lot of the people
who used it went out and got lives. And those who already
had lives burnt them away. The number of users had dwindled
after someone had invented a C++ program, with truth as a
variable, to deal handle politics and government. Dirk had
already retired from finding old ladies cats with the help of
obscure science when he got another call from Toronto.

It was 4th March 2025 when he booked onto the Air Canada
flight from Heathrow. The silver haired woman in the seat
next to him painted bright red lipstick around her mouth. ‘Of
course it was no surprise to be offered the job after Claire
Raynor retired’ she sneered’ After all I used to be a
psychiatric nurse... Now if Blokes had periods they would

By chance the taxi ride to Toronto mental hospital took him
past the MacDonalds - where the whole thing had started. Of
course it was barely recognisable having become a Church Of
Scientology Vedgie Bar. Police in riot gear kept the two sets
of demonstrators apart. Dirk didn’t really know what to
expect when he got to the hospital. The girl at the reception
desk directed him to a row of chairs in a wide well lit
corridor. There was a strong smell of disinfectant, the
furniture and the carpets were immaculately clean and behind
the rows of teak veneer doors the ‘nutters’ were all safely
locked away. For some reason Dirk started thinking about
CompuServe forums.

A tall blond woman in a white coat approached. ‘Mr Gentle, I

‘Yes’ Dirk replied shaking her by the hand. ‘You’re the nurse

‘Doctor’ She interrupted, ‘Doctor Killfile’ She led Dirk across
the corridor towards one of the doors then stopped with her
hand resting on the handle. ‘Now you know about this person
don’t you?’ and after Dirk nodded she continued ‘Don’t tell
him anything about yourself - don’t let him get into you head.
If he does he’ll screw it up’

The door opened to reveal a frail man sitting in from of a TV
screen. He had a keyboard on his lap and next to the television
was a computer screen. Dirk glanced at the walls of the room
and remembered that his settee at home need upholstering.
The nurse left the room and the man looked up ‘So you come
to my daughters wedding and ask me to kill a man’ he said in
a dry cackling voice. ‘Look’ he continued, pointing at the
screen, ‘I know that man. They’re talking about me now -
listen’. The man stared at Dirk. ‘What’s your name? Are you
one of my friends from the Internet? - Are the lambs still
screaming Dirk?’

Dirk, at first recoiled in horror, then felt a sense of anti
climax. So this is what they hyped up to superstar status on
the back of their own fears of madness. Dirk was reminded of
the film ‘A day on The Beach’ where a submarine had set off
to search a post nuclear World to track down a signal coming
from a remote military base - only to find it was being sent by
a Coke bottle half balanced on a Morse tapper. Outside the
room the nurse waited for him. Because his nicotine craving
had returned - and to avoid an awkward piece of dialogue -
Dirk turned to her and asked . ‘Patch?’

Dirk took two nicotine patches from his wallet the first of
which he stuck onto the inside of his arm. Stepping closer to
Doctor Killfile he opened her white coat and slid his hand
into the opening at the front of her dress. He pressed the
patch onto her leg as close to the top of her inner thigh as
he dare. She took a deep breath and then slowly breathed out.
‘What Bogart could have done with these things’ Dirk
thought to himself.

‘Is he crazy?’ Dirk asked tilting his head back to towards the

‘Who knows’ Doctor Killfile replied ‘We let him type away.
He sees something on the TV in the morning and it keeps him
busy all day. What he types doesn’t go anywhere it just stays
on a mainframe in the basement. It can be read by anyone else
in the building but that’s it. We got them all in here conspiracy
theorists, racists, nationalists. They’ve created a world within
a world really...’ Her voice trailed away and she stared down
the corridor for a while then added ‘So long are two things
are different neither will come to be in the other and so
become at once both one and two.’

Dirk gave her a puzzled look ‘You mean their brains are

‘Fried?’ Killfile smiled at Dirk ‘No that was Plato’. Then the
smile fell from her face. ‘You must remember, mister, plate

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