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How to disappear without a trace
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Once, a long time ago when my brother and I still chased the Ice Cream Man and the summer sunlight tanned our faces the color of roasted chestnuts, I remember finding an empty seashell on the beach. I held it over my ear, shut out the brilliant July sky and listened to the trapped echoes. Ghostly sounds of unseen waves crashed upon an unknown shore, vast and desolate...

My eyes opened to watch the endless march of the pacific ocean as it pounded the land just a few yards from where I sat, and picking up a handful of sand, I strained the tiny grains through my fingers.

I thought of all the people in the world, all the billions who had come and gone. Each one would have a life of their very own, a destiny held tight by the short leash of Time. I wondered what it would be like to be someone else, if only for a day? Was there a way to erase my past and begin all over again? How does it all get started in the first place?

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is X. I have other names that I am known by in distant parts of the world, but for reasons of my own I have chosen to recreate my identity, which is something that everyone has thought about at one time or another, even you. Remember your life carefully over the years.

Wasn't there one time in the past when you wished you could be; a rock star, a princess in a lofty tower, Batman, the joker, the Lone Ranger, James Bond, Hercules, a cop (God help you), a porno star, or a thousand year old vampire stealing sweet hot blood within the safety of Eternal Night? Even in dreams the subconscious will reach out and turn you into a strange person doing strange things in strange places.

Our society idolizes those gifted human chameleons who can change themselves effortlessly, who can conceal their real features and slip on an impenetrable mask. We sit in the dark of movie theaters and wait for DeNiro to emerge on the screen, completely absorbed by his latest role, and we are amazed. Yes, you have fantasized about becoming someone else. This I guarantee.

But there you are everyday, the same face in the mirror, wearing the same clothes and known by the same people. Like a magnet passed beneath soil, you have gathered particles that cling to you and define your image. You think you have found your niche, that you have surrounded yourself with a net of security and control, but this is a foolish illusion, because nothing remains constant.

Control, my friend, true steady control, is something that is possible for only a few, brief moments at best. I should know, I've spent a lifetime studying such things and I can tell you: Love & Hate are merely states of Mind; thoughts and prejudices travel on their own, and that Good and Evil are two sides of the same flipping coin.

Most people live on the insides of heads that twist one eye backwards to stare at the ashes of the past and use the other to blink blindly into possibilities that they hope and fear lie ahead. Your job is here today but will be gone with the setting of a future sun. The apartment you live in has been occupied before, and strangers will call it home long after you have gone. Think about what you have really done that is truly lasting and you will perceive the truth of my words.

The one thing about you that will endure is something that, for the most part, was out of your control. Your record.

On the day you were born the date was recorded along with a name, weight, and the identity of at least one parent. From then on you were tagged and labeled. Until the day you die some government or agency is tracking your progress through life.

You will exist on social security accounts, credit reports, voter rolls, police records, hospital records, school records, employment records, motor vehicle records, college transcripts, bank accounts and insurance policies. Your pictures are in family albums, yearbooks, wedding albums, team photos, identity cards, passports, mug shots, home movies wallets of various friends and family.

Your name and/or signature is on rental applications, employment applications, paychecks, phone bills, contracts, mass-marketing lists, tax forms, credit card vouchers, personal checks, and countless other articles of documentation that have passed through your hands over the years. There is no way to erase your past, because it came into existence before you had a voice in the matter. History cannot be changed.

And yet... it is possible to remove yourself from the thickened dossier; to detach from the past and begin all over in an empty folder, with a new identity and the opportunity to live the greatest performance of your life... as someone else. I pass this on to you because knowledge is power, and my wish is to see others empower themselves as I have done. The information you require is both simple and inexpensive, and very, very available. All you require is a set of motives, and I won't waste time speculating on what those might be.

The first item you must get your hands on is a birth certificate, but I'm not referring to your own. Birth, death and marriage certificates are public records, as are driver's license records in case you didn't know. That simply means that anyone can gets their hands on a copy as long as they know some pertinent information, and have the money it costs to get the Public Recorder's Office to crank it out for you.

Now, before I explain the process there are a couple things you'll want to keep straight. First, the person whose name you're going to assume Must be dead! Second, had they lived, they would have to be approximately your current age. And third, the name on the certificate must not contradict your ethnic appearance.

If you are 24 years old, blond, fair-skinned and tall, you can't pass off a document that names the bearer as Shinaffi al Akbar or Makoto Hayashi, born in 1953. When you piece together your new cloak, the fit must be as close as your own shadow, the better to conceal yourself inside.

There are three good ways to find what you are looking for. You can begin by going to the library and searching through old newspaper obituaries that are kept on microfilm. It's a little time consuming and not the most efficient way, but if you keep at it long enough you're bound to come upon a "John/Jane Smith" who was a few years older or younger than you when they 'checked out'.

The information you are looking for is the date and place of their birth, because when you request a copy of their record you must give them this info so a retrieval and reproduction of the certificate can be done. Most municipalities will only carry the records of births/deaths/marriages that occurred within their jurisdiction.

If you find out the guy was born someplace else, you'll either have to go there, or send there for a copy. You can go straight to the recorders office and use their computers, where available. Access the death records file (listed by day/year) and find out who died on, let's say, May 3, 1987.

The death certificate will have to include the date and place of birth, so you can find out if copies will be on record at the office you're at. But if it's somewhere else, no problemo. Call up the Recorder's office there, give them the name and place of birth, and they'll tell you how much money to send them and how long it will take. I find that in may cases a credit card will have the thing in the mail the next day.

They make it that easy in the good ol' US of A.

Or, method number three is a little more personal. You can just go out to a cemetery and cruise the headstones and markers, looking for a suitable name and the inscription "born 1972", or somewhere around then. It also helps if the person died while they were an infant, or before they reached 3 to 4 years of age. Why? because that means that the parents probably didn't have time to apply for many social documents.

Now, a word of caution here. Getting a copy of someone else's public records is NOT illegal. Using someone else's documents in order to assume their identity IS! I'm not recommending that everybody should run out and do it. All I'm saying is that it's easily done and within the capability of anyone to do it. Now, with an authentic birth certificate and some social security papers, you can go and get a... driver's License!

You may want to create a story about why you're 24 years old and are just now getting behind the wheel of a car. Maybe you were brought up by rigid environmentalists who convinced you that cycling was the only decent way to travel in these pollution conscious times.

Maybe your brother was killed in a head-on collision when you were 12 years old and it's taken you this long to get over your fears of cars and driving. Think of something plausible in case the clerk asks. And make sure you don't use your own address, so government snoops can't trace it down.

When you get these forms of identity in your possession, apply for a couple of back up IDs, like a library card under your new name, or a bank ATM card. And get used to your new name. If you were born Richard, but your assumed name is Michael, practice looking in the mirror and calling yourself Michael, Mikey and Mike. You must practice.

Remember, if there ever comes a time when a quick getaway becomes absolutely necessary, the chances are good someone will send the bloodhounds on your trail, waiting for you to make the slightest screw up in your carefully prepared plans. It might be a cop, it might be a bounty hunter, it might be a private investigator.

Whatever his agency, whoever his employer, he'll have his eyes and ears underneath every rock and peeping inside every spider hole, spying on all your known acquaintances, using any means at his disposal to find you. He will count on your not being able to resist visiting your old hangouts and calling on your friends and relatives. And it is very difficult to leave it all behind, but unless you have the will power to mentally kill your old self and cut all the ties that bind you to others, the odds are stacked against you.

One investigator who advertises regularly in the New York Times claims that he can find anyone, anywhere. A detective told me he once located a missing person by using an old employment application. See, the guy in question listed bowling as one of his hobbies, and to make a long story short, they finally yanked his hands off the ball and slapped on the cuffs. But hey, if you're gonna be wasting your life in a bowling alley, then you deserve to get caught.

It is my advice to you take a couple days off and visit some new city where no one knows you. Take a motel room there, and use your fake ID to check in. And then, seriously consider whether you have what it takes to begin all over again.

Of course, maybe you don't have much of a choice. Maybe there's several outstanding warrants for your arrest. Maybe that guy you burned on that deal is coming after you with two of his friends and a body bag. My suggestion to you is to act without further delay.

If your problems are that big, the time will come when you will be wishing with every bone in your body that you had taken my advice. Believe me, I know of friends who waited around, hoping their day of reckoning would never come, and when it did they were the sorriest people on earth. For them it was too late. If you're reading this and able to follow my procedures, you still have time to escape.

And if you ever find yourself riding the Outbound Midnight Express, hide deep within your cloak, and remember that when all is said and done, all we really have is ourselves.

Peace & obscurity.

- As this article was originally published in Sin Magazine, some of the details might be out of date. The internets really has changed everything!

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