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An End To Hunger – page 3

by China Miéville

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by China Miéville

I called Aykan. He was incandescent.

'I've seen the site,' I told him. 'Bit gruesome, isn't it?'

'Gruesome?' he shouted. 'It's fucking sick is what it is. It's fucking beyond beyond, man. I mean, forget politics lite, this shit couldn't be parodied.'
'I keep getting emails recommending it,' I told him.
'Any motherfucker emails you that reply them right back tell them to shove it up their arses till it hits the roof of their mouth, yeah? I mean by shit almighty... have you read the FAQ on the website?' I had not.

'Listen to this. This is fucking verbatim, ok? "Can I click the 'Give Food' button more than once, and keep making donations?" "We're sorry!"' Aykan's voice spewed bile. '"We're real sorry! It's a shame
but you can't do that. Our sponsors have agreed for us to count one donation per person per day, and any more would be breaking our agreement."' He made a noise like angry retching.

'Fuck 'em, bro,' he said. He sounded incredibly sad. 'They tell us we can't be naughty and do it too often?' I didn't tell him I had donated that first time. He was making me ashamed. I murmured something to him, some agreement, some dismissal and condemnation. It wasn't enough.

'This is fucking war, man,' he said urgently. 'This one I can't let go.'

'Run them through your hide engine,' I suggested vaguely.

'What?' he said, enraged. 'What the fuck you talking about? Don't talk horsefuck, man. I want them down and dead. Time for the big fucking guns, hombre,' he said, and put the phone down. I tried to call him back but he didn't pick up.

Two days later I got another email.

'Try visiting you shitting know where,' it said. I did, and An End To Hunger would not come up. The browser couldn't find it. I tried again at the end of the day and it was back, with a small, pious note about how sad they were to be targeted by hackers.
Aykan wouldn't answer his phone.

A week and a half later he called me.

'Man!' he shouted at me. 'Go back to the bastards,' he said. 'I was... you know, I jumped the gun last time. Wasn't particularly clever, right? But it was like a fucking, what do you call it, I was doing a reconnoitre. But go back now, click the bastard button all you can.'

'What did you do, Aykan?' I said. I was at work, and kept my voice neutral.

'I don't know how long it'll last,' he said, 'so get all your fucking friends to go visiting. For a short time only the shitlicking sponsors are going to be making a reasonable fucking payout. Ten bucks a fucking click, my friend, none of this half a cent bull. So go give generously.'

It's impossible to say how much of an impact it had. Certainly for the next day or so I proselytised zealously. An End To Hunger kept it very quiet, when they found out. I like to think that it took the
businesses in question the best part of a day to realise that their pledged donations had gone up by around 100,000 percent.

I wondered when Aykan would get bored of these games.

We spoke for a long time on the phone, one evening a fortnight or so later. He sounded exhausted.

'What you up to?' I asked him.

'Waging war, man,' he said shortly.

I suggested that he was wearing himself out, that he should apply himself to other things. He got angry and depressed all at once.

'It really got to me, this one,' he said. 'It really got to me. I dunno why, but I can't... This one matters. But... I keep hitting the wrong enemy. "Corporate sponsors don't actually care!" "Big business is hypocritical!" That's not news to anyfuckingbody. Who doesn't know? Who gives a fuck about that?

'Do you ever stop to think about them, man?' he said. 'Them in the AETH office. What must that do to your head? Like some kind of ghouls, man. What's that got to do to you?'

I changed the subject several times, but it kept coming back. 'I dunno, man...' he kept saying. 'I dunno what to do...'

It may have been the next day that he decided, but it was a good three weeks before he could make it work.

'Go and visit A* E** T* H*****', the email said. 'Click and send the poor starving masses a present. See what happens.'

I went to the site. Apart from a few minor updates, nothing seemed to have changed. I prevaricated a while, looking for some clue as to what Aykan had done. Eventually I clicked the 'Give Food' button and waited.

Nothing happened.

The usual little message, thanking me on behalf of hungry people, appeared. I waited a couple more minutes, then left. Whatever Aykan had planned, I thought, it hadn't come off.

A couple of hours later I checked my email.

'How the fuck...' I said, and paused, shaking my head. 'How the fuck, you insane genius bastard, did you do that?'

'You like that?' The connection was terrible, but I could hear Aykan yelling with laughter. He sounded triumphant. 'You fucking like it?'

'I... I don't know. I'm very impressed, whatever.'

I was staring at the message in my inbox. The sender was listed as 'Very Hungry Foreign People'.

'Dear Kind Generous Person,' it read. 'Thank you so much for your Generous gift of half a cup of wet rice. Our Children will treasure every grain. And do please thank your Kind Organisers at An End To Hunger for organising their rich friends to throw rice at us - that is the advantage of employing Sweatshop labour and trade union busting. That way they can afford rice for us poor people. Whatever you do, do keep sitting back and not asking any questions of them, keep them happy, don't agitate for any corporate taxes or grassroots control or anything like that which would threaten the large profits that allow them to buy us Cups of Rice. With humble love and thanks, The Hungry.'

'Every motherfucker who clicks the button's going to get that,' Aykan said.

'How did you do it?'

'It's a fucking program,' he said, suddenly irritable. 'I stuck it on the website. It scans your fucking hard disk for what looks like your email address, and sends off the message when you draw attention to yourself by clicking. Try pressing "Reply". 'I did. The return address listed was my own.

'It's very impressive, Aykan,' I said, nodding slowly, wishing someone else had written the letter, made it a bit subtler, maybe edited it a bit. 'You've done a real number on them.'

'Well it ain't over yet, bro,' he said. 'Watch this space, you know? Watch this fucking space.'

My phone went at five the next morning. I padded nude and confused into the sitting room.

'Man.' It was Aykan, tense and excited.

'What the fuck time is it?' I muttered, or something like that.

'They're onto me, man,' he hissed.

'What?' I huddled vaguely into the sofa, rubbed my eyes. Outside, the sky was twotone. Birds were chirruping imbecilically. 'What are you on about?'

'Our fucking philanthropic friends, man,' he whispered tersely. 'The concerned folk over at Feed The World central, you know? They've rumbled me. They've found me.'

'How do you know?' I said. 'Have they contacted you?'
'No no,' he said. 'They wouldn't do that, that would be admitting what the fuck was up. No, I was watching them online, and I can see them tracking me. They can already tell what country I'm in.'

'What do you mean?' I said. I was fully awake now. 'Are you intercepting their email? Are you crazy?'
'Oh man, there's a hundred fucking million things you can do, read their messages, watch who they're fucking watching, bounce off internal memos, keep tabs on their automatic defences... trust me on this: they're fucking looking for me.' There was silence. 'They may even have found me,' he finished.

'So...' I shook my head. 'So leave it alone. Let it be, get off their back before you piss them off any more and they go to the police.'

'Fucking pofuckinglice...' Aykan's voice swam in scorn. 'They won't give it to the fucking police, the police couldn't find their own thumbs if they were plugging up their arses. No, man. It's not the police I'm worried about, it's these Hunger motherfuckers. Haven't you clocked what kind of people these are? These are bad people, man.

Major bad ju-ju. And anyway, man...', he shouted suddenly, as if remembering something. 'And anyway, what the fuck you mean leave it alone? Don't be such a shiteating coward. I told you, didn't I? I told you this was a fucking war, didn't I?' He was shouting by now. I tried to get him to shut up. 'I'm not looking for advice, I just wanted to let you know what was going on.'

He broke the connection. I did not phone him back. I was tired and pissed off. Paranoid prick, I thought, and went back to bed.

Aykan kept sending his obscure emails, advising me of some new change to An End To Hunger. The letter to donors did not last long, but Aykan was relentless. He directed me to their sponsors page, and I discovered that he had rerouted every link to a different revolutionary left organisation.

He created a small popup screen that appeared when the 'donate' button was clicked, that compared the nutritional value of rice with what was rotting in European food mountains.

He kept hinting at some final salvo, some ultimate attack.

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