Compulsion brings them, calls to a borehole vacuum within. Some unsubstantial notion that here in the Tech Hub will be the long yearned-for salvation of kinship is their last fraying thread of sustenance. Near-miss-chic posters flap languidly under roughly churning air-con vents, strangely endearing. The outside world is not so forgiving.

No, out there in the drizzle beyond the glass storefront preen the Shoreditch elite: tight trousers wrapped like flayed denim skin around Wednesday legs; plaid socks protruding from tan, faux-laced loafers, pulled up high on one leg and bulging with fabric; corduroy jackets pulled over faded casual shirts, tucked, in turn, succinctly over skinny bellies and under pictureframe belt buckles; lank hair, cropped at the sides, belying savage black stubble. Bluetooth crowns sporting winking sapphire jewels like electric fireflies. Sticks and heels, both morose affectations, drum-roll the ground with the clatter of discarded cell phones. Though invisible, their chins are splattered with greasy trails of chicken flesh, their hands stained arterial crimson.

Godless mystic barbarians. Progenitors and pushers of a thuggish, unmerciful, unforgiving, cynical, sanctimonious, solipsistic cult of death. A man whooshes by on a single-gear bicycle that cost slightly more than the iPhone banded to his head. The water thoughtlessly cast up from his passing splats against the glass, and two blocks down an ambulance cries out pitifully at the stupidity of a superbike in the rain.

Inside, a sorry little line has formed in the grubby foyer, poor empty bastards hoping for burnt-out neurons to snap on and the conversation to flow. Here’s a desk and a ponytailed man consulting a table laden with clipboards, taking names and running a slender finger down crisp printouts.

“Our system’s down,” he says by way of apology. If he understands the queer symmetry between the technological and social failure of his people, he makes no show of it.

I pen my name carefully in green ink on a card thrust at me with preening hands. There’s very little I can do in order to blend in – these people are clearly on to me, peering over black scaffold spectacles and leaning low into gruff neck beards in order to hide their appraising glances. An instinctive defensiveness colours the room with mustard gas penetration as I pick a seat near the back.

They're not like the predators outside, who are stupid and boorish and rude. No, a wit and charisma, though unnurtured and underdeveloped, radiates from them. The men are shaggy and spindly, or husky and rotund like mother goddesses, all floppy collars and keen glinting eyes; the few women are bright and cheerful, and though they might come off awkwardly in the high society of the Eloi, here they are elegant and beautiful and beloved, mixing into the crowd easily.

As the others seep in, a transformation is occurring. Nerds in beggars' robes, haunted by the metallic drone of alert tones, are casting off their street personalities with their discarded overcoats. Even with the daunting stacks of free beer barely even touched, the sense of relief is palpable. As the engineering of the mismatched seats is tested, glass screens flick up everywhere in the seating grid: sleek MacBooks and sticky iPads, Android handsets and Blackberries and iPhones. Glowing icons forging ahead like searchlights. Two hundred windows into hopeful, app-building worlds. Blank-cheque prayers made out to foppish, billionaire gods.

Is it Facebook itself that brings them in such numbers? For the socially encumbered, it must have been a bright beacon in darkness, and a start contrast to the hilltop gallows that line the horizon of the miscreants in this room. Online, they are unassailable to the black hole pressure of cliquedom and conformity, and I wonder if, to them, this is a covenant of secrets, unravelling the arcane mysteries that constitute the foundations of the digital continuum.

Could that be what this is: a reptilian power play, snakey little brutes commandeering the digital infrastructure, twisting it to their will. I shuddered then, and they all knew it. One of them, tall, balding, his eyes oddly close together, raked his squinting gaze across my face. The room had turned ugly. Rags of silver tape, partial adhered to the skeletal grid of roof rafters, flapped in silent mockery; irregular swatches of intestinal cabling looped horribly on the walls, sticking with tiny insect feet; at the head of the centre isle, a ViewSonic projector flickered maddeningly.

I am outside of myself, looking down through dark glass as the scene of my ritual murder. Little pieces of shed pupae float everywhere in corkscrew patterns, catching the light in awful lurid patterns. Old skin is being cast away in favour of something porous and unknowable. A little splatter of something like saliva lands near my shoes, and I without looking I know it has dripped from a mouth much too large and distorted to be called human.

Pizza fractures the tension, drawing the unconscionable things away from me. Two tall stacks of flat white boxes have appeared on a side table, tended to by a very large and terrified looking man. The partially transformed humanids lapse into slavish anarchy, fighting their way to a sweet-smelling bounty. The slurping and satisfaction of the kill overpower their subhuman grunts, as someone announces that there is free beer. Madness. I seize the opportunity to move to a seat closer to the exit, then wheel it slowly and discreetly out into the dark void at the back of the room.

I don’t remember what happened for the next hour. Little black scratches harried my vision and fragments of technobabble invaded my ears. It was as if I could hear someone speaking in the next room with a door or a wall between us. The voices were distinct and definite, yet totally incomprehensible. I felt completely separated from my body, and though I could place my surroundings, there was a long, spinning tunnel between the physical universe and myself. At one point a girl who had somehow matched her eyeshadow to the free Facebook t-shirts given out at the event said something to me and I replied. The words sounded like mine, but they were not. Some unconscious automatic response system had kicked in, holding the front lines until the general returned. But from where, and how long would this last? I couldn’t even remember how to get back to the station: geometry had ceased to be a physical reality, and had been relegated to a signified but only symbolically understood expression, like complex math.

The penultimate speaker must have stepped out of sight the instant before I came to. The feedback whine of a microphone too close to a speaker lingered in the air like a cloud of mosquitoes. The host, who had earlier manned the reception desk, assumed his position and announced the keynote speaker, a man from the dark heart of Facebook itself. He pronounced the name slowly and carefully, as if it were a thing of power. Knowing that it would slip out of my mind instantly, I tried to write it down, but my hands were aphasic. Paralyzed and dazed, I could do nothing but stare at the man sauntering from darkness before me.

He was tall and broad with shaggy ginger hair and an unkempt beard that spread over his face like bloody moss. When he spoke, his accent was Transatlantic and immutable, his biceps flexing as he gripped the microphone. There were bright coils of methylated insanity in his eyes, and he was slathered with jet-lag sweat. Mighty freckled fingers hammered down on unseen keys as he worked his awful magic. A true acolyte of Facebook, he presented confusion and determination at the same time, conceit and humility swilled together in mighty dragon’s breath. With a thunderstorm voice he rendered the fabric of the universe itself, exposing a torrent of personal data in neatly arranged markup, and then, with a simple gesture and a rattle of keys, he imploded the universe into a single block of code.

I crashed out into the street and the unforgiving rain, sinuses streaming and mind reeling. On my knees, I wretched, and finally something horrible and lurid splattered into the gutter. I stayed there for a while, focusing on deep breaths, knowing that some time very soon I would have to run. One of the Eloi strolled past in black jeans that made his legs seem thinner than his wrists. He wore brown leather shoes and no socks. Had I been able to speak, I would have cursed him. Instead, I silently wished he would drown in his own vileness.