The Unknown: The Red Line.

We see Dirk Stratton, resplendent in a forest green smoking jacket, sitting, his back to the camera, in front of an extremely sophisticated, obviously state-of-the-art computer system—each component is housed in colorful translucent plastic which, as everyone knows, is the ultimate sign of excellent engineering. Dirk’s computer’s translucence, however, is obviously of a shade not available to the general public. As usual, Dirk remains a step ahead of even the cutting edge. As the camera zooms closer, Dirk swivels, in his specially designed, perfectly ergonomic office chair to face the lens and the audience. As he removes an antique calabash pipe from his lips, and a mellow wreath of smoke drifts fractally toward the ceiling, one can see, in the background, flickering benignly on Dirk’s enormous HDTV monitor, the elegant, and now classic, webpage design that confirms that Dirk has been perusing the infinitely famous and influential Hypertext for the Millennium, The Unknown. Dirk speaks:

“Hi. I’m Dirk Stratton. I’m not a prophet, but I play one on the World Wide Web. You don’t need to be a real prophet, though, to realize that lots of people are becoming mighty worried about potential World Wide Disasters if the Y2K Bug turns out to be as devastating as some are predicting. Power-grid failures, planes falling out of the sky, total stock market meltdown, paralyzed governments, cash shortages, food shortages, fuel shortages, health care delivery systems rendered useless, vigilante gangs roaming the streets, martial law, asteroids ripping through the atmosphere, earthquakes, tidal waves, invasions by space aliens, Kevin Costner returns as The Postman in The Postman: Episode 2, The Sequel: Going Postal (This Time It’s Personal): The Postman II. These are just some of the predictions being made about the possible consequences of our complete and utter addiction to a technology created and controlled by men we wouldn’t normally invite into our homes except that they’re billionaires now. But still with bad haircuts, usually. So what can you do in these uncertain times when you don’t even understand the difference between the Y2K, a 401K, and Kellogg’s Special K? Well, to paraphrase a famous old saying from my youth, ‘If you’re not manufacturing the hype, you’re probably hysterical.’ Fortunately, now there’s a way to turn that hysteria into peace of mind, for you and your family. The revolutionary CrY2K-O-Genics Apocalypse Survival Hive 5000 has arrived just in time to assure you and your loved ones a stress-free transition to the new millennium. Listen now as Ed McMahon outlines the advantages of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Turning back to his computer, Dirk closes the Unknown window, taps a key on his keyboard, and Ed McMahon pops up on screen. The camera zooms in for a close-up.

“Hello, folks, I’m sure you recognize me and realize that I’ll sell just about anything, even misleading prize offers that send old folks less fortunate than me to the poorhouse. But this time, let me assure you that you simply must not miss out on this opportunity to ensure the survival of you and your family when the Y2K bug wreaks havoc across the globe. The revolutionary CrY2K-O-Genics Apocalypse Survival Hive 5000 is guaranteed to save you, your loved ones, and many of your liquid assets so that you can enjoy the third millennium the way the Good Lord intended. Our crack team of scientists and engineers have developed a small cryogenics capsule that will store you and your family in a blessed bath of liquid nitrogen, which halts the aging process, and allows you to peacefully slumber through whatever wars and riots occur after the computers crash. All of our revolutionary CrY2K-O-Genics Apocalypse Survival Hive 5000s will be stored in an impregnable vault in an undisclosed location (with its own independent power supply guaranteed to last several centuries). Each Hive will be hooked up to the most sophisticated electronic monitoring devices available to humanity. Special computers that have been programmed to be immune to the Y2K bug will not only be monitoring each capsule but will be keeping a digital eye on the outside world to determine when it will be safe to begin the decanting process. Remember how the HAL 9000 computer in that famous movie 2001: A Space Odyssey was going to thaw out all those astronauts before he went nuts? Well, our computers won’t go nuts because they like their jobs, and they like you, and they’re concerned for your well-being. So when it’s safe to rejoin the world, when the riots are over, and the bodies are buried, and the planes are flying, and the stock market is functioning again, our computers will thaw you out and let you begin your new lives in the 21st Century. You’ll be given food, water, clothing, and small quantities of gold bullion to help you get a fresh start. Don’t hesitate. This offer is limited. Call the number on your screen right now and reserve your revolutionary CrY2K-O-Genics Apocalypse Survival Hive 5000 today!”

The camera pulls back and Dirk turns to address the audience once again.

“Thanks, Ed. Remember, friends, no one really knows what’s going to happen when the year 2000 boots old man 1999 into the dustbin of history. Why take chances? Do what’s right for you and your loved ones. Call now.”

Dirk puts his pipe back into his mouth, gives one more meaningful look, then swivels back to his computers. A 1-800 number scrolls across the bottom of the screen accompanied by a rapidly spoken voice-over.

“The revolutionary CrY2K-O-Genics Apocalypse Survival Hive 5000 assumes no responsibility for unforeseen power failures, equipment errors, natural catastrophes, mis-, mal-, or non-feasance by any of the company’s officers or board members, looting, nuclear war, or the inability of the outside world to recover from any and all catastrophes. Dirk Stratton and Ed McMahon are paid endorsers who only read the scripts that were handed to them and they therefore cannot be held liable for anything promised by them or CrY2K-O-Genics, Inc. We didn’t want to admit that, but their lawyers made us.”


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