A year ago today, the US government revoked Edward Snowden’s passport as he attempted to flee the country. Snowden, as we all know, had just leaked thousands of classified documents detailing the existence of global surveillance programs far more intrusive than previously thought.
As writers of poetry and fiction, how do we address current events without sounding too heavy-handed? Without losing our claims to art?
Daniel Hornsby’s short story “Metadata,” is one example of a successful crossover. Published in issue 54 of Hayden’s Ferry Review, the piece comments on global surveillance, even as it aestheticizes it.
And so, in honor of Snowden’s quest for asylum, one year ago, we’ve decided to publish Hornsby's piece again—this time online.
NSA be damned.
by Daniel Hornsby
At 20:03.55 on 13 April, A. places a call to B. lasting a total of two minutes and twelve seconds (00:02.12). This call is shortly followed at 20:07.02 by a similar such call, the contents of which may not be disclosed, but can be said to have clarified certain ambiguous aspects of the information conveyed within the previous call. This call, the second, lasts a mere fifteen seconds, ending at 20:07.17.
C. calls D. at 20:41.19 on 26 May, but the call itself last no longer than four (0:00.04) seconds, a duration which, given the time necessary for a phone such as D.’s (Class P, V0000582) to receive the signal and, subsequently, ring, makes such a response on D.’s part impossible. Minutes later, D., likely seeing the missed call from C., again attempts to contact C., but this call, too, ends in a matter of seconds, terminated by C.
On 17 June at 23:54.01, E. exchanges a series of messages with F. from a device located at 40.18120128N, -85.38917542W, at an address associated with G. Later that same day, from 40.18500454N, -85.37072182W, at an address associated with F., E. exchanges a series of messages approximating the same length (some 122 bytes) as those shared with F. earlier, but in this instance directed to G. On the following day, E., at 40.17992255N -85.37557125W, alternately messages both F. (40.18500454N, -85.37072182W) and G. (40.18120128N, -85.38917542W), as well as one H., located at 40.18125431 N, -85.38967843W.
I. calls J. who, shortly thereafter, calls K. and, minutes later, L. The following day, at 11:49.33, L. calls M., who, immediately following the conversation, places a call to I, which lasts only ten minutes and twelve seconds, but is itself quickly followed by another call from I. to J. lasting some two hours. For several months to follow (7 July to 15 September), no such calls from I. to J. are made.
N. calls O. at 22:53.12. N. calls O. at 00:01.23. N. calls O. at 00:12.45. N. calls O. again at 00:33.59. In this final instance, O. answers, and the subsequent conversation lasts a mere eighteen seconds (00:00.18). Minutes later, N. calls O. at 00:45.02 and receives no answer. The next morning, N. receives an email from O., sent in response to a series of previously unanswered emails sent from N. to O. in the past week (02 March to 09 of the same month). An hour later, N. calls O. and again receives no answer. The next day, N. calls O. only to find the number has been blocked. A year later, N. calls O., but it is P. who answers, and N. hangs up.
Q. places a call to R., which, at 19:43.11 on 4 January, goes unanswered. S., from the same location as Q., also places a call to R. shortly thereafter, which R., does, in fact, answer, and which lasts from 19:51.06 to 20:47.59. At 20:49.22, Q. again calls R., but R. does not answer.
T. places a collect call to U. at 22:15.06, 19 October, a call which U. accepts and lasts, after repeated payments, a total of fifty-seven minutes and fourteen seconds (00:57.14). Exactly two months later, from 40.18120128N, -85.38917542W, T. places another collect call, which U. again excepts, though this call lasts a mere two minutes, this time without renewal of payment by U. allowing for continued conversation. Three months and twelve days later (21 March), T. again places a call to U., also collect, which U. answers but, after a brief exchange with the operator, does choose to accept.
V. and W. both call X. in quick succession from the same approximate location, but X. makes no response. Y. and Z. make similar entreaties via email, and these too go unanswered, as do a series of text messages from A., B., and C. Days later, the University of M. library messages X. informing him that books 838 R573O J12, 838 R573O A58ri, and 838 R573O R585 have yet to be returned and will now be considered late. Three days later, a similar message is sent, this one informing X. that the books previously described are now considered late. Later that day, X. receives another message from I., as well as an anonymous email sent from a server located at 184.108.40.206/22—all of which go unopened. That evening Z. calls, but is quickly informed that the number he has dialed has been disconnected, please hang up or dial your operator.