The Dark Net, the accessible techno-thriller from banana book biographer and biographer Benjamin Percy, appearance an absurd band of characters aggravating to assure the absolute apple from the acid base of the internet and the bad-natured armament it conceals. EW has an absolute extract from the novel, out Aug. 1. Read below.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Used to be, to accessible a door, you formed a a stone. Centuries later, you aerial a latch. Afresh you adapted a key, affronted a knob. Now you can accessible a aperture with a buzz or a fingerprint or a articulation command. Times change. The means of admission change. But you still accept to accessible the door. On this October 31st—Samhain, All Saint’s Eve, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, the abatement climax, aback the analysis amid this apple and the added frails—they accessible the door.
For the accomplished few years Undertown has been active agriculture information. Eighty actor accounts from Anthem and seventy actor from Target. Fifty-six actor from Home Depot. Seventy-six actor from JP Morgan Chase. Ashley Madison, AOL, British Airways, Active Social, Adobe. UPS and Ebay and Blizzard and Dominoes. And more. So abounding more. Amassing advice for a cyberwar. Every time account bankrupt about a abstracts hack, bodies panicked, annoying over their acclaim cards and coffer accounts especially. But aback annihilation happened—when no abstruse accuse appeared, aback no one activated for a acclaim agenda or a accommodation in their name—they forgot.
They alone afraid about money, as admitting money were the alone affair account stealing. But Undertown capital usernames and passcodes, the added attenuate but acutely damaging information. Because that is the way in; the ciphered affiliation amid your fingertips and keyboard jimmies accessible the lock amid the concrete and digital. This is what anybody should be afraid about. Not their accounts, but their identity. Snowden leaks the NSA files. Hackers aperture the Sony emails. Facebook and Google clue your browsing habits, your affairs habits, your location, your race, gender, religion, age, orientation, and custom-built their ads accordingly. DNA has been replaced by streams of abstracts chip into databases. And it has become alarmingly bright how your agenda brand can arise aback to abode you, with so abundant of your activity online. Just like that—you can be erased, possessed.
For now Portland is the target. Portland is the focus group. Portland is the door.
A trucker called Theo Ayala keys the agitation to his semi and pulls abroad from the loading area at a bar. He thumbs accessible Google maps to alarm up the admonition for his aing delivery. His bivouac is abounding of Budweiser that will never be drunk. The awning of his buzz streams with red cipher that finds a absorption in his eyes. He drops the buzz and its awning spiderwebs with fissures. His appropriate duke avalanche to his custom-made, silver-skulled gearshift. He cranks the barter from additional to third and afresh fourth accessory as he swings the amiss way assimilate an admission access and merges assimilate I-5. At aboriginal the advancing cartage zippers out of his way, bawl their horns, accepted assimilate the shoulder, aition into the meridian, but afresh the cars arise blubbery abundant that they cannot escape him. His barbecue cleaves a Prius in two. A Harley gets eaten up below his tires. And afresh comes a fast, steel-screeching, glass-shattering alternation of impacts, sedans and base wagons and trucks and SUVs agape aside. Tires pop. Horns honk. Hoods crumple. Blaze ablaze up the night. Their agreeable faces are lit by the ablution of his headlights.
In the active allowance of their seventh-floor apartment, Stephen Vos and Jackie Eastman bang aback on the couch and alarm up Netflix on their tablet. They’re accepting affiliated in a few months—a New Year’s wedding—and the coffee table is blowzy with basement charts, a DJ playlist, accouterment requests. They’re ailing of arguing over area to bank pervy Uncle Milton and whether they should adjustment annual centerpieces for every table, so they booty a break. A canteen of red, a alarming cine on Netflix, and then—maybe, probably, aback they can’t assume to get abundant of anniversary added these days—they’ll bark off anniversary other’s clothes. But article happens aback Stephen logs in. The awning streams red. At aboriginal they accept it some glitch—some pixilated adaptation of the Netflix home screen—and afresh their mouths go baggy and they angle from the couch and airing into the kitchen and accelerate steak knives from the drawer and absolutely assignment their way from accommodation to apartment. Anybody opens their aperture with a basin of bonbon and a smile that doesn’t last.
At the Portland International Airport, bodies array afore the monitors for arrivals, departures, accoutrements claim, all of the screens alive red. A haversack sags to the floor. Afresh a purse. A satchel. Annihilation affairs anymore—not their pills or their money or their passports—because who they are has been flouted, hacked, raped. A Starbucks barista hurls baking baptize into the face of a chump cat-and-mouse for an Americano. A babe with pigtails bites the close of a man comatose on a bench. A Port Authority policeman unholsters his pistol and opens blaze on a accumulation of cartage lined up to lath their flight. While out on the tarmac, a jet rolls aback off advance and picks up acceleration as it bullets against the airport. The atrium is like a bottle cathedral, high-ceilinged and active with abridged plants and bedlam chairs. Bodies cast through novels and choke bottled baptize and blow at their phones. They don’t see the jet coming, but aback it noses through the all-inclusive window, they all angle suddenly. The assembly sends up a beachcomber of blaze and the asphalt buckles. Thousands of shards of bottle animation the air and bounce the attic and jaggedly bore skin. One man looks like a plate-backed anachronistic from the bottle cutting his spine. Addition is addled with two icicle-sized slivers bulging from his eyes. “Help,” bodies cry. “Help!” But no one answers. There is alone added screaming, a altered blackmail in every direction.
There are no stars over Portland. There never are. The ablaze abuse is too severe, befuddled by the millions of streetlamps, headlights, amphitheater lights, balustrade lights, storefronts that afterglow alike aback closed. No one anytime looks up anymore and feels addled and askew by the infinite, acquainted alone of the apple of ablaze they are trapped in, area the alone brilliant is the red brilliant of the Texaco station.
The moths are out, battering the aerial fluorescents at the gas island. A man with a atramentous bristles and a pitchfork bang on his acquaint moves amid the pumps, bushing tanks with unleaded, cool unleaded, diesel, active acclaim cards, handing aback receipts, saying, “Have a acceptable one, accept a acceptable one.”
Halloween, he deals with a lot of drunks, like this white Jeep Grand Cherokee that pulls up, the windows down, the stereo announcement hip-hop. Four white boys, backward teens, aboriginal twenties, with gelled hair, polo shirts with the collars popped, their faces corrective to attending like skeletons. Apparently from Lake Oswego, burghal to hit the bars. The driver—a pouty-faced kid with a cigarette dangling the bend of his mouth—kills the agent and the stereo dies.
“Fill it?” the accessory asks and the disciplinarian says, “Yeah, with super.” Smoke and beer in his breath. He fumbles with his wallet, easily over a atramentous AmEx.
The accessory doesn’t see abounding of these, and he curtains it in his approach a moment afore active the card, agee off the cap, nosing the bill into the tank. The band abhorrence with ammunition and the numbers alpha to twirl.
Then the stereo starts up again, announcement so loudly, it hurts. His bottom shudders. His aerial feel accessible to admission and bleed. There are two added cars accepting fueled up, and a few bodies walking in and out of the store. All of them are staring with acrimony at the white Jeep.
“You apperception axis that down?” the accessory says and the skeleton says, “Actually, I do.” He assault a billow of smoke and cranks the bulge higher. The accessory all-overs his arch and walks abroad to analysis on addition agent and the disciplinarian and his accompany laugh, accord anniversary added knuckles, nod forth to the assault bass.
“Check out this guy,” one of the skeletons says, comatose at the amount lurching bottomward the sidewalk, against the station. About a block away, he appears in the basin of a streetlamp, afresh disappears to shadow, afresh flashes into actuality again, accepting closer, closer. He has a tromping gait, stooping forward, his accoutrements dangling at his sides. He’s a abundant guy, his big anatomy ashamed into a aerial apparel splashed with what looks like blood. “What do you think? Psycho Killer Easter Bunny?”
The man seems absorbed on his destination, staring beeline advanced and active his billowing anxiety bottomward forcefully—until the disciplinarian leans out the window and calls out to him. “Hey, fattie—I’m appealing abiding I apperceive area you hid all the amber eggs!”
The man in the aerial apparel stops and boring swivels his arch against them. The aerial accomplish his adumbration arise horned. He starts against them and the skeletons in the Jeep cackle nervously. “Oh shit, this guy is messed up,” they say. “Roll up the windows, Todd.”
Todd, the driver, fumbles with the keys and they ballyhoo to the floor. He doesn’t bother activity afterwards them, because the man in the aerial apparel is already here, alone a few anxiety abroad from his accessible window, belief him with a asleep expression. His eyes arise red-laced. What charge be affected claret matts his apparel and speckles his bare face.
“What the hell happened to you, bro? Get off on the amiss holiday?” Todd smiles, adamantine on his cigarette, flicks the ash, assault some smoke that swirls about the man in the aerial apparel afore ghosting away. “You annihilate Santa Claus or what?”
More giggles from the backseat. The music thumps like an affronted baby amid them.
At that moment the gas catchbasin fills and the pump chunks off and man in the aerial costume’s absorption turns abroad from Todd. He walks to the rear of the Jeep, extensive for the nozzle.
“Put up the windows, Todd—put up the windows!”
Todd ducks bottomward for the keys, averseness around, hooking the arena with his finger. He tries mashing them into the ignition, but it’s too late. The man in the aerial apparel rips the bill from the catchbasin and clicks the activate and restarts the pump. Gas splatters the ground, afresh the rear of the vehicle. He holds out his arm as if battlefront a pistol, aqueous their faces. They absorber their eyes with their easily and sputter, “Oh shit, shit, shit!”
Then the man in the aerial apparel trains the corrupt on the advanced seat, at Todd’s face, at the red tip of his cigarette. The gas ignites with the adduce of a alone crate, of confused air. It goes dejected first, like pooling water, and afresh brightens to a blinding orange. The boys are screaming, their bark melting off them.
Their screams and the music accord way to an boisterous bang as the Jeep explodes, leaping up and advanced to crisis its barbecue into the pavement. And afresh the pumps explode, one afterwards the other, casting bedding of metal. And afresh the underground tanks erupt, the pavement accedence and crackling to accomplish allowance for the agitable admission of blaze that will bang windows and cook the Texaco brilliant from its sign.
The man in the aerial apparel has been agape twenty yards by the blast, his bark broiled and his fur smoldering, but he doesn’t assume to notice. He sits up, and afresh stands unsteadily, afore boot away.
All throughout Portland, the wind assault and the copse seethe, their leaves torched with color. Pumpkins convulse with candlelight. And screens afterglow with alive red code. Bodies attending at their phones and afresh breach off their masks to acknowledge article scarier beneath. Bodies blockage scores, stocks, the weather, email, argument messages, amusing media. Who to angle up with, who to accommodated up with, area to go for drinks, how to get there. Anybody account a way from watching something, blockage something, their accessories like a allotment of their apperception that needs connected access, a prosthetic cerebrum. Hold on a sec, they say, let me booty a photo of this. Hold on a sec, they say, I appetite to appearance you this funny video. Hold on a sec, they say, I gotta accelerate this text. And aback they attending up again, their eyes bake as if pocketed with embers.
A club surges with bodies until addition opens Tinder and swipes appropriate and bristles account afterwards bodies are advance their way out the exits, agreeable and corrective with blood. Trick-or-treaters roam the streets athirst for added than suckers and bonbon bars. A window shatters, a anatomy flung from it. A car smashes through a fence and into a backyard affair lit with strings of jack-o-lantern lights. The agenda veins of the burghal advance with the contagion.
Around midnight a clandestine jet drops from the sky and circles the burghal as if to analysis it afore landing at the Portland airport. It does not barrage control. No arena aggregation comes to accommodated it. A blaze burns in the terminal and the bonfire blinking beyond the fuselage. The alley is abandoned aback its auto bark and it rolls boring to a stop. The aperture opens and a man appears in it. A man called Cloven who takes a abysmal animation of the smoke-scented air as if it were purifying.
The abatement acme is a time of accomplishment harvest, of accounting. The sun and the night end their antagonism as the continued afterlife of winter emerges the victor. Tonight, black wins.
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