1. The Backups

Computer Leon buried sensitive data on his machine, critical histories, whole modes of living. So he decided he should back it up. He purchased a fancy, silver terabyte. It came with all the wires.

He tapped his fingers on the desk as the lights flashed and the disks spun. They sounded like small aircraft turbines. He felt the data move from HD to external smoothly, confidently, like human plasma. As with all users, he could not see the transfer. Could not verify, until needed, but he could sense its tremor and corporeal oscillation.

Months later he turned on the backup. The purple indicator pulsed but nothing happened. He listened for life in the silver case. Light told him one thing, sound another. He waited. Tech support sighed. Backup the backup, Computer Leon told himself. But what’s the depth? How many? Backup the backup then backup the backup. With another backup. Then what?

For a few days, he petted the computer, cooed it with kid’s songs and butter tones. He kept the smooth pad of his pointing finger away from the off button. He did research. Found those lists of multiple stars and user recommendations online. Soon the box came with heavy and solid redundant arrays. But should I have sent for more?

“How should I know?” his wife said.

“It’s sensitive data,” Computer Leon informed her. “Like a baby’s bottom. Like a wedding veil.”

“What do you know about baby bottoms?” his wife said. “How long have we been married?” He ducked from the room quietly.

He hooking things up again, waited, watched the lights, listened to the hums and spins. The data moved from drive to drive, down through the nests. Computer Leon wondered about fault tolerances, distributed symmetry, modernity and data mash. He thought about the smallness of the byte, data imprints, and walls and walls of backup cabinets. He turned his computer off after verifying the process, clicked here, there, and elsewhere. That night he had a dream about fire. Floods. In the city, he saw hard disks lined down the curb in that yellow urban infinity under smoke and noise and the bump of faces and the throng of honks.

He decided to walk. He looked back and found the disks following, hard at his back. Ahead, he saw them forward under the office windows, reflected on scattered vectors, warped subtly like impossible caterpillars in the imperfections of glass above and higher.

He felt pressure at his back, like an impending blow. He started to run. Backups, backups rising to the sky or drilling under the ocean. One of them goes and all the remaining follow, redundancy damned. Lost to where? He pushed through, sprinted from them. Backups, backups and more backups accreting. Data backups, backups of backups of backups of stuff, infinite stuffings of all that should not be lost, unending cases of backups, spinning disks that could escape their compartments and slice through the lanyards that make the knees work or the brain recall and remember and gripe. He climbed and fell. Climbed higher and fell and fell deeper as the disks swarmed and spun at the foot of the mountain or at the ledge of the pit, while he crouched with his head beating like duck wings. And when the light faded and the sound diminished he opened his eyes to a land of slippery yaws, painted imprints on the sides of buildings, small people beneath and lapped around and flipping copies of a blue flower in a cup with a camera. “Soon,” he whispered to himself, rising, “for partitioning, yes, into the wayback, deep and flat and scattered on the surface, food for black holes.”

Then he went home to check for updates.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    This is lovely! Computer Leon is a cool dude. He’s right to ask himself these questions. Thank god he didn’t wonder what would happen to the data if the electricity ever came to a halt. :D If you go into my ‘Documents’ folder, I have a folder called ‘old computer’ which is all the stuff from the old computer that I needed to make a backup of but didn’t want to sort through at the time. But the thing is, in ~/Documents/old computer/My Documents/ there is another ‘old computer’ folder. I need to have all this stuff etched onto a piece of gold some day. I hear they can fit the bible onto a thing the size of an eraser. Nice story, Steve. It got me … right here *points to heart*.

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