Short story: Inside of the Network

My name is Tom and I am a TCP packet. I was created by the User’s request. My life’s goal is to serve the User, or at least, that’s what they taught us at the school. All my life thus far has been school at my native server, where I was created. I was made to memorize by heart the content I was to deliver to the User. My whole life I’ve just been waiting for the moment to get out of this hole. I have dreams. I want to see the world and serve the User in doing so.

“All packets ready”, I heard the operating system say. I was put a fancy shirt on that had an IP written on it. It’s important to put a lot of clothing on, because the world outside is a cold one. I was already wearing a shirt stating HTTP and another one on top of it saying TCP. Personally, I don’t like that we all have to wear similar shirts that put us into categories. I would like to think that all packets are born equal, so why do we have to broadcast our own type, TCP, so vocally?

I saw the port opening; I was sent to the connection. I started to run. All my class mates were running too. We all have a piece of a website to deliver to the User and we all want to be there on time. We ran and we ran, until we hit the first router.

I entered the router and saw a woman behind a counter. I went there to check in. “Hi, I’m Tom”, I started to introduce myself only to be interrupted by the lady behind the counter. “I don’t care”, she said with a bored voice, “IP?”. IP, IP, is that all they care about, the User’s IP? What ever happened to the manners? I was told to wait for my turn in the waiting room.

When I was waiting to be directed to the correct direction, I had time to talk with other packets. I happened to sit close to a fellow TCP packet, who was HTTPS. “Nice, to meet you, my name is Tom”, I tried to start a conversation. “Humph, I won’t tell you a thing about myself, Tom, at most you can know my User’s IP, that’s all.”, he answered. “Wait, what do you mean by your User? I’m serving the User, I thought there was only one of them.”, I asked perplexed. ”My lips are sealed”, the HTTPS replied. What a rude packet, I wonder if all HTTPSes are the same…

“Hey, you, Tom wasn’t it?” a UDP packet approached to me, “I’m Ugo, nice to meet you.” Ugo started to explain me all about multiple users. I’m not sure if I believe in his polytheistic view of the network, but it doesn’t matter, as soon we started to talk about different topics than religion. It was clear that Ugo was a great guy. Soon it was his turn to jump into the connection.

Before reaching to the connection, Ugo disappeared right in front of my eyes. He was lost, that happens to packets some times, but at least we get resurrected to our home server just to be sent again to the User. Anyways, I felt it my duty to report this to the port keepers. “Ugo went missing, can you do something?”, I asked them. “Not supported by the protocol”, they answered. Not supported? What on earth does that mean? “Can’t you do anything?”, I inquired. “No, your friend is forever lost, we don’t care about lost UDP packets”, a port keeper replied.

The answer struck me as odd. This cannot be. Is he saying that he won’t do anything just because Ugo was a UDP?! That’s not what I was taught to believe in, all packets should be treated equally. Confused, I jumped into the connection. The same thing happened from router to router, UDPs would go missing without anyone caring about them, HTTPSes were cocky as ever. There was a clear class hierarchy. As I grew older, I started to accept this inequality. Maybe it was just a part of the User’s great plan I was unable to comprehend.

I felt old and tired. What is a blink of an eye for the User, is an entire lifetime for me. I was running to my final destination, to the device having the IP I was marked with ever since I was born. I looked around me in the connection as I was running. UDPs were carrying pieces of video or sound. I always found that exciting about them. I, on the other hand, was only carrying plain text. I’m not saying I don’t like my content, it’s just that what UDPs have, what Ugo had, seemed more exciting. Maybe others were just jealous of them and that’s why they didn’t care if they got missing. I finally arrived to my destination.

Entering through the port I saw a guy behind a desk. Not this again? I thought. Wasn’t this supposed to be my final destination? “Hello, and welcome”, the guy greeted my joyfully, “you have reached the User’s router, let me direct you to the correct device. Let me see… Ah, the User is expecting you to be delivered to his phone.” I didn’t understand what he said, but I had to ask: “is this the final connection I have to run through?” He looked at me and smiled: “Run? No, this connection is to be flown. And yes, it’s the last connection you have to take.” But I don’t know how to fly! They never taught me that at my home server. I was told to take a lift to the top of the router’s antenna. They told me that the connection will make me airborne.

When I was at the top, I jumped. And believe it or not – I was flying. I could see everything from up there: the User Himself, His room, the little cat painting He had hung on the wall. I knew I was getting closer. I was flying towards the heavens as though it had been the time for the rapture. And it felt good.

When I arrived to the phone, my shirts were taken off, one at a time. And soon I felt how my data, my soul started to ascend from my packet, my body. I looked behind and saw my own body on the ground, lifeless, pale, cold. It was then when I realized I wasn’t my body, what defined me was my soul. And soon it wasn’t just my soul. Suddenly all the data of all my fellow TCP packets that were sent at the same time were merged into one. Our souls became a unity, we were as one, chanting in the name of the almighty User.

We were visualized on the display. Our faces were in front of Him and He looked at us, right into our data. We were basking in his glory, like the sun He warmed us. We were as one and the User was there with us. Suddenly, I started to feel cold. The User had clicked on a close button. I felt the unity starting to tear apart. I looked around me, and I saw garbage collectors engulfing my friends. Soon it was my turn and I would be no more. I wonder… Will I ever be born again?

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