This time it was in a local newsgroup that I received my wake-up call. Another damaging conspiracy was at hand, and very few people could've known about it. Even the person who received the letter didn't understand its significance...
But I'm getting ahead of mys'elf. The whole thing started when a post on the newsgroup mentioned that somebody had received a letter about ostrich meat. Specifically, a supermarket had written to thank the person for their recent letter, and assure them that the supermarket's ostrich meat was produced in a humane manner. The only thing is, the person concerned had never written to the supermarket over that issue (or indeed any other).
Now, you might think this simply indicated that a so-called friend of this guy had written to the supermarket under their name as a practical joke. Seems obvious, right? All too obvious, if you get my meaning. I decided to look into this a little deeper.
What did we have so far? An unsolicited letter. About ostrich meat. But perhaps the subject was unimportant and it was unsolicited mail in general that was the key point here. Ring any bells?
I'm sure you receive plenty of internet junk mail. A few seconds of your morning routine is taken up by simply hitting "delete" on a few porn site adverts and make-money-fast pyramid schemes (all "absolutely legal", of course).
The thing is, do you know anybody who reads this mail rather than just deleting it? Do you know anyone who sends money to an address simply because they get email from an unknown conman telling them to? Of course not.
So there must be a deeper purpose behind all this unsolicited mail, ostrich meat and all. There must be some reason for it.
The only clear achievement of junk mail is that it gets people used to throwing things away without reading them. Already, you probably scan through the "From:" lines and delete email whose source you don't recognise. You probably sort through letters received at your house, instantly discarding any with "Urgent", "Reply within 14 days", or "You have already won $25,000" printed.
And haven't you, maybe just once, accidentally thrown away something that you actually wanted? An email from your boss, a letter from a long-lost friend? Maybe you have done but don't even know about it. Or maybe you haven't, yet, and you need to be desensitised further by the continuing onslaught of junk mail, until your "delete" key has a hair-trigger action.
This is what They are trying to achieve. And why? Well, letters and emails (and telephone calls - how many people leave their phone calls to an answering machine that's never checked) are all forms of communication, and communication that's being gradually but effectively disrupted.
What's a common tactic in time of war? To disrupt communication lines.
I don't know who's behind this. Aliens, the Chinese, power-hungry politicians, Texas; it could be any of the usual suspects, or even some new grouping. But one thing is for sure. There's a purpose behind the junk-mail onslaught, and you'd better stay on your toes in order to defeat that purpose.
Alternatively, you could ignore the threat. And bury your head in the sand.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. That is, apparently (I had to look it up) the third commandment, straight outta the Bible. Why was I looking? Am I worried about my destination after death? Trying to crawl back up the slippery slope? Any of that?
No, of course not. I just saw that commandment mentioned on a sign.
Not too remarkable an event - after all, the sign was on a church noticeboard, and read "What's in a name? The third commandment." Underneath was the name, presumably, of the person giving the sermon - Peter Marshall. I probably wouldn't have noticed this sign, except that that's the name of my father. But for that, a conspiracy would have gone entirely undetected.
Because the next day, I passed the same sign (it's on a convenient walking route between the computer lab and a shopping centre), and it had changed. With no announcement, no explanation, and not even the briefest acknowledgement of a difference, the name had changed to Colin Marshall. Clearly, there was some secrecy involved here.
What could the explanation be? Well, the first and most straightforward possibility was that the third commandment had been directly applied. The name of the Lord had been taken in vain. Clearly, this church was part of a strange group of cultists worshipping a god known as Peter, and the use of such name for a mere mortal was blasphemous in the extreme; the offender changed his name immediately he realised.
That was the sensible and obvious explanation, but sometimes you have to look for the truth behind the truth. If you don't take care to do that, you might be thinking what they want you to think. In this situation, it seemed possible that the Peter-worshipping cult was simply a front for something far more sinister.
After all, like the sign said, what is in a name? Letters, right. But the suspicious thing here, in all this biblical-related jargon, is a slightly analagous book of the Bible. You figured it out yet? It's called "Numbers". Letters and numbers... now what does that remind you of? I'll give a clue - you're looking for an acronym.
M. I. 5. That's right. The British spy service is recruiting from a little supposed-church in Cambridge. Oh, I'm sure they'll run genuine church services every Sunday, after all, they're professionals; but the real business is the espionage business. Everybody knows they've long been recruiting spies from Cambridge University, and a sleepy little church in the town centre, hidden with ambiguous signs, is just the place where their operation can remain undiscovered.
Of course, now I've revealed this national secret, there are some worries about my personal safety. I might have to hide out and change my name. Maybe to "Colin".