I first stumbled upon GenSearch in an IRC chat room.
While most people think IRC is dead and a remnant of the past, it’s still very much alive. The user base has shrunk quite a bit though. Most people moved on to more modern platforms.
I’m one of those people who still use IRC quite a bit. I blame it mostly on a slight case of paranoia. I never trusted the modern tech giants, and after the whole NSA thing, my doubts increased tenfold.
Not that I don’t use Google or Social Media, but most of my time is spent on encrypted IRC servers talking to other people as paranoid as me.
A few months ago, back in January, I hang out on there when I suddenly got a private message from a random user. When I opened it I read the following:
GenSearch is the search engine of the future. Forget about Google. Find tomorrows search results today.
Attached to it was a cryptic link with the string GenSearch in it. At first, I ignored it. This sounded way too fishy. After a while, though I grew a bit more curious.
After all, I knew what to do if it was malware and how to get rid of it.
When I clicked the link, prepared from my system to momentarily evaporate, I was brought to a bare bone website. There was only the name, GenSearch, on it and a simple search bar.
For a moment I considered closing the page, but then I decided to give it a try. After a few seconds, I decided to look up news about The Sinking City. Ever since its announcement I’d been obsessed about the game.
When I saw the search results, I looked up.
One talked about the troublesome launch of a bug ridden game.
Another one talked about the developers not living up to their promise to deliver a bug fix within a week of the launch.
The rest of the results were similar in nature, talking about missed chances and a launch failure.
Wait a second, the game is out already? I opened up steam right away. Damn those reviewers, if the game was out I had to play it! When I searched for it on Steam though, something was strange. It said the game wasn’t out yet and the estimated date of release was 2020. What the hell?
I went back to GenSearch and rechecked the results, but they all talked about the launch of the game. Hell, I even found a review of it.
A bit confused I went to Google to search for the game as well. The results there were completely different. There were no articles about the game’s launch. All I found was information about the games upcoming release, trailers and promos. Why the hell did GenSearch tell me it was out already?
Maybe all the articles on GenSearch were shuffled content to trick users?
I slowly scrolled to the bottom of one of the articles. There was the name of the author and next to it the posting date.
It said the article was from the 2nd of July 2019, but that made no sense at all. That was months from now. Even more confused I opened up another article. Once again the posting date was from July of 2019. By now I was almost sure this had to be some elaborate troll, but how the hell would the thing know I’d searched for the game?
Then I remembered the weird message I’d gotten: Find tomorrows search results today.
I shook my head and laughed. I was being stupid.
I decided to enter the term ‘current news’. What I was greeted with was nothing but news reports from the future. One was from a few days from now, yet others were from months into the future. This was ridiculous.
For a while I sat there staring at the page, trying to wrap my mind around it. Then I got an idea. I searched for news reports in my local city. As I scrolled through mostly irrelevant bits and pieces, I finally read about a tram accident. When I clicked the link, I was brought to a news article about a man who was hit by a tram and had been badly hurt.
I went back to Google, but there was nothing about the accident. Nothing at all. The only accident involving trams that showed up was from more than a year ago.
Well, guess that settles it. Nothing but a content scrapper or shuffler. Quite a bit of work, I had to admit. What I wondered about was who’d go to such length to fuck with people, but I guess that’s the internet for you.
It was a couple of days later that I got a bad case of Deja-vu. During my break at work, I had a quick look at the local newspaper. I’d gone through the first few pages when I read a headline about a tram accident. I shivered when I started to read it. I knew this story. I’d read it before, hadn’t I?
It was at this point that I remembered the result on GenSearch. This couldn’t be. How in the hell was something like this even possible? Had I really found a freaking search engine that showed me… the future?
Once I was home, I did the same thing I’d done before. I looked up news articles on GenSearch. I even took screenshots of my findings and decided to see what would happen.
After a few days, I couldn’t deny it anymore. Every single one of these future news articles came to pass. It was utterly bizarre.
It didn’t take me long for a new idea to pop into my mind. Couldn’t I use this to my advantage?
Before I could follow this train of thought my phone started to ring. It was my good friend Thomas. Wondering what he wanted I answered the phone.
“Erik, I’ve got some amazing news! We finally did it, we got our first big gig!”
“Holy shit, are you serious?”
“Yes, and it’s at the Factory of all places! This is going to be huge, really huge! You want me to put your name on the guest list? Fuck, this could be our big break man, this could be it!”
For as long as I can remember Thomas and his band were trying to get booked in one of the bigger clubs in our city. Until now all they’d gotten were rejections. He was right though, if this went well, it could be their big chance. The Factory was pretty much the most popular club in our city. If they could make it there, they had a bright future ahead of them.
Once he hung up, I looked at the search bar of GenSearch again. For a moment I hesitated, but then I looked up the name of his band and the club.
When I looked up at the search results one stuck out to me right away.
‘Live Event at The Factory Canceled – Band Member Severely Injured after Traffic Accident’
What the hell? When I started to read the article I learned that the band got into a terrible traffic accident. The bassist had to be hospitalized, and the event at the club had to be canceled.
Holy shit what the hell was this? A freaking traffic accident, but how? There was nothing else mentioned in the article!
For the next two days, I was all pins and needles. Was this even real? Was something actually going to happen? And if so, what the hell could I do? I used GenSearch again and again, but I found nothing else. I thought about warning Thomas and the band, but what should I tell them? That they weren’t supposed to go to their first big gig? Yeah right!
Once Saturday arrived, I couldn’t calm down. Thomas invited me to hang out with the band before they went to the club. Instead of drinking and chit-chatting with them, I was completely nervous and still trying to come up with what to tell them.
“Yo, an hour till we’ve got to get going guys,” Thomas called out, “Mark, you’ll drive, right?”
“Yeah sure, only got two drinks, I’m pretty much sober,” he answered laughing.
I almost jumped up when I heard this. Was this how they’d get into the accident? I had to do something!
“Wait, no, you can’t drive!” I called out nervously.
Everyone in the room turned to me and eyed me with a mixture of confusion and annoyance. Shit, now I’ve done it.
“Eh, I heard that the cops started to crush down on drunk driving recently. Ever since that accident a couple weeks ago they take anyone who drinks alcohol before driving straight to the station. If they stop us, there won’t be any gig!”
“Fuck man, don’t be such a pussy, it’s only two drinks. Not like anything will happen,” Mark the drummer spat at me.
“Tell that to my friend Stefan,” I started to make up a story. “He did the same thing and got into a lot of trouble. They kept him at the station until morning. What if they-“
“Fuck your friend and fuck your stupid story. Who the hell even are you to-“
“Alright guys, calm down,” Thomas started. “We’ve got all the equipment at the club already, right? Why do we have to take the car anyway? If Erik’s right and the cops really are up to something like that, let’s not jinx it.”
After a bit more arguing with the rest of the band, and a few angry glances into my direction, the issue was settled. We’d take the tram to the nearest station and walk the rest of the way to the club.
Once we arrived though, we had to walk a good ten minutes. By then we were in quite a hurry to make it in time.
“See, that’s the reason I wanted to take the freaking car, asshole,” Mark called out to me once more. I didn’t reply anything. Instead, I kept my distance from him.
It happened five minutes later. By then we were all pretty drunk. We were crossing a street in front of a taxi when Andrew the band’s bassist tripped. He fell down right in front of the path of the approaching car.
The taxi driver hit the brakes and tried to swerve the car, but he still ended up hitting Andrew. The bassist came to a crashing rest a meter or so in front of the car. He didn’t move at all.
For a second silence descended before all hell broke loose. While everyone, including the taxi driver, rushed towards Andrew, I froze.
No freaking way. There was no freaking way. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This was precisely what I tried to prevent, so why? Why did it still happen? Don’t tell me it’s because I did…
“Fuck, are you listening, Erik? Hey?” Thomas called out to me, but I was still in utter shock.
“This wasn’t supposed to,” I started but broke up when Mark came up to me.
“It’s because of your goddamn idea! If we’d just taken the car, then none of this would’ve happened!”
“Say something asshole!” he screamed at me. Then he hit me right in the face. As I stumbled back, he stared at me.
“Shouldn’t have listened to your shit! It’s because of you that Andrew is… Fuck!”
The ambulance and the police arrived a few minutes later. It was pure luck that Andrew had survived the collision and he was taken to the hospital right away. The rest of us was ushered to the police station to give our statements.
To be honest, I can’t remember what I told them. Most of what happened after the accident is a blur. There was only one thing on my mind. Did I cause this to happen? Was it because I tried to prevent the accident or was it… because I searched for it to begin with?
The next day I couldn’t do a thing. I sat in front of my computer, merely staring at the screen.
What the hell was this page? I opened it up once more and typed something into the search bar, but couldn’t bring myself to hit enter. No. What if I was causing something else to happen?
And then another thought hit me. I thought about all the bad things I’d read in articles on there. Had I been causing all of them? Without another second I closed the damned page. There’d be no more tinkering with it.
Yesterday, for the first time in months I went on it again.
An old friend of mine from high school, Steve, was in the city and we’d decided to hang out for old times’ sake. We had a few drinks and talked about old times when Steve suddenly went to the computer.
“Got to show you something.”
With that, he typed the name of one of our old classmates into Google. He scanned the search results but then frowned.
“What are you doing?” I asked him a bit puzzled.
“Hold on, Google’s a bitch, need to use Bing for this.”
He opened up Bing and entered the name again.
“Hah. Look at this! The guy’s name comes up in this weird fetish forum! I always knew he was into some weird shit.”
I couldn’t help but laugh a bit, but then I shrugged. “Why the hell would you look him up?”
“Dunno, it’s a bit fun to see what people are up to nowadays.”
“You know you could just add them on Facebook or drop them a message.”
“Nah that would be boring. Want me to do you next? I’m sure you got some weird stuff out there as well.”
A bright grin showed on his face.
“Go right ahead, you won’t find a thing. Got to go to the toilet anyways.”
While I was on the toilet, he called out to me.
“Hey man, what’s up with this weird search engine you’ve bookmarked? The dates are all messed up!”
“Wait, what are you…? Dude leave that alone!”
“What? I can’t hear you out there!”
Goddamnit Steve, I cursed as I made my way back.
“Yo, this is freaky! Look what kind of stuff comes up when I search for you!” he called out to me again.
No way. He didn’t. I rushed back to the computer, but when I saw the screen, I knew he was on GenSearch. And there, in the search bar was my own freaking name.
Below I read the title of a search result that Steve was now pointing at.
“Mysterious Death of Young Man Puzzles Authorities”
Before I could do anything, Steve clicked the article.
“The death of young Erik M. puzzles authorities after the body was found-“
“What the fuck are you doing?!” I screamed at him and pushed him away from the computer. “Why in the hell did you go on that page?!”
“Hey calm down, you said I wouldn’t find a-“
At that point, I freaked out and pushed him again, this time harder. I was about to scream at him again, but then I looked at the screen. I scrolled down until a picture came up. There was no doubt about it, I was staring right at my own face.
“You know what, it’s just a sick joke. Maybe one of those band guys you told me about put it up? Look,” he came up and pointed at the screen, “Just scroll down here and-“
“Get the fuck away from the computer!” I screamed at him again.
Steven backed away and gave me a hard look.
“You know what? I didn’t come over here for this. You got some serious issues, dude. To get so worked up over something like that.”
With that, he turned around and left the room. I didn’t go after him or say a word when he left. I was still staring at my screen.
This couldn’t be real. Why did this article exist? Why was I in it?
I’m now sitting here in front of my computer. I read the article over and over again, but there are no specifics about my supposed death three days from now. Nothing at all.
I’m freaking scared now. If this thing truly shows you a future you can’t prevent, then what can I do?
What the hell can I even do?
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