A Mind of its Own

Your computer won’t shut down when you are getting ready to leave work at five. Instead, it is looping a message, and then attempts to tell you something. What is your computer doing? Write this scene.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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475 thoughts on “A Mind of its Own

  1. Mojowritin

    Over the word limit, but I’m posting it anyway – Melanie clicked the ‘shut down’ command and waited for a few seconds, glancing around the office, then at her watch. The computer seemed to be taking an age to turn off, the light from the screen the sole point of illumination on the floor. Mel clicked impatiently, trying for any response and getting none, just the shut down screen, stuck doing nothing. Wrapped in the Simons account she hadn’t realised she was already an hour later for her mother’s birthday party.
    She cursed, thumped the keyboard, shook the mouse, clicked several times and gave a sigh of exasperated relief. There were a couple of clunky noises from the hard drive, a momentary blank screen swiftly replaced by a black one with a command prompt. In frustration, Mel yanked the plugs out of the wall and bent to pick up her bag. The little white cursor was still flashing.
    “How are you doing that?” she muttered, then remembered her laptop had a battery. Not particularly tech savvy at the best of times, Mel allowed herself to accept that explanation and concentrated on rummaging through her bag for her phone. Her mother was going to kill her; at least if Mel rang, made some work excuse, the blow might be softened.
    ‘Stay low’
    For an instant, Mel didn’t believe what she was seeing. She re-read the words on the screen several times, but could make no sense of it. Feeling extremely stupid, she bent over and replied.
    ‘Why?’
    ‘He is on your floor’
    Melanie dropped behind her desk, wondering why she was doing what a computer told her, and attempted to lean around the partition to get a look down the central aisle. The third floor was laid out in blocks, four desks facing each other, a partition, then a side-aisle, followed by more desks, all connecting to the wide aisle running down the centre of the office. Her heart raced as she leaned slightly around the partition, flicking her eyes back to the computer.
    ‘Do not move. Stay low’
    Before her hasty withdrawal from view, Mel was sure she saw a figure at the far end of the room.
    ‘What do I do?’
    She typed softly; terrified the clacking keys would bring the unknown into her world.
    ‘Wait for me’
    ‘Who are you?’
    ‘Mike, in the closet’
    That one threw Mel. Mike had to be Michael Dewson, tech whizz who worked on the floor below, which would explain his talking via the computer system he’d designed and installed, but why was he in a closet? What closet and where?
    She was about to type again and ask when she heard furtive shuffling from a couple of blocks over. She froze in place, certain this unknown ‘he’ would hear the thundering of her heart. She shoved a hand over her mouth as she released a gasping breath, unaware she’d been holding her breath, and then stilled again. Ears straining she thought, maybe, she heard something further away, like a door hinge. Mike? Maybe he’d seen the ‘he’ and dived into the closet where they kept the printer ink and general supplies. Maybe that was him trying to reach her.
    She desperately wanted to lean out, try to catch a glimpse of him, or at least check the mystery person wasn’t as close as that shuffling had sounded. The flashing prompt caught her attention.
    ‘Coming up the left aisle. Don’t make a noise when I get there.’
    Seconds later, Mike came round the partition on hands and knees. Mel grabbed him, yanked him close and whispered in his ear.
    ‘Who is it?’
    ‘Someone with an agenda. He has a package and he’s been going floor to floor looking at all the desks. Our guess is he’s looking for someone in particular.’
    ‘Our guess?’
    ‘People have been informed’
    ‘People? What people?’
    The room suddenly flooded with light. Stunned into immobility. Melanie flickered a glance at Mike and realised he was smiling, trying desperately to hold back laughter. He rose, despite her flapping her arms trying to semaphore him into staying down, and drew her up. He spun her around and she came face to face with Paul, her boyfriend of three years, also grinning like a fool. Beyond him stood the majority of her family, friends and even a few co-workers. Paul dropped to one knee, thrust a ring box at her and gave her his best puppy dog eyes;
    ‘I’d like to see you occasionally. I reckon a husband might have a better chance of prying his wife away from the office on a regular basis. Marry me, Mel?’
    Caught between incoherent rage – she should have realised something was up; Mike was Paul’s best friend – and overwhelming surprise, Mel nodded, a roar of approval coming from the gathering.
    ‘You will pay for this some day, Paul Grayling’ she chuckled against his ear as he slipped the ring onto her finger.

  2. demonic-potato

    It had been a pretty average day. With the normal horrible conferences and the meetings with bosses from who-knows-where. Honestly everyday was a nightmare. The kind of days you would get every once in a while that would make you want to rip your hair out and just-sit-on-the-floor-doing-nothing kind of days that you would get every so often. Those days I would get practically every day.
    All the adventure and excitement of a lifetime happened around 5 when I started to pack up to go back home and drink the pain away. Instead of logging off like normal, my computer started acting oddly and a message flashed on the screen. SORRY. SORRY. SORRY. Over and over again. I regarded it as just super weird and strapped my bag on my shoulder and turned to walk out of the office, eager to get away. (Having seen enough horror movies I thought it best to get away now.) I walked out of the doors onto the crowded streets of New York. It was winter time so I pulled my jacket around me tighter and trudged through the deepening snow.
    I walked past the crowds of people quickly and then the first person did it. As if in a trance, a person would stop mid sentence or mid walk and turn towards her and say, “SORRY”. This happened 8 times in about 5 minutes. If I wasn’t scared at first hen I was thoroughly scared now.
    I ran into my small apartment building, happy to get off of the streets. I climbed up the old, mold covered stairs into my apartment on the 4th floor.
    I shut the door with a snap and dropped my bags at the door. I crossed the room and checked my answering machine that was blinking madly. The robotic voice told me that I had 13 new messages. Wow. I NEVER get messages. No one to talk to I guess. I listened to the first one and all it said was a single word, “SORRY.” The next one was the same. And the next one. And the next. All 13 messages said the same word. SORRY.
    I didn’t know what to do.
    I was so scared.
    I turned my back on the phone. Immediately, a high-pitched ringing sounded around my room. With a shaking hand I turned around and picked up the phone, “H-hello?” “SORRY. SORRY. SORRY. SORRY. SORR-” I hung it up quickly. Then about two seconds later the phone rang again, “SORRY. SORRY-“ “THIS ISN’T FUNNY LEAVE ME ALONE!” I screamed at the odd voice that sounded neither male nor female.
    I ran into my room and shut the door and locked it.
    The phone rang.
    I heard something coming from the street and I looked out the window. People were lined up on the street screaming at her window, “SORRY. SORRY. SORRY. SORRY.” A continuous chant.
    I fell to my floor crying.
    The door to my apartment was broken down and I could hear people inside. “SORRY. SORRY. SORRY…”
    Then they turned to my bedroom door and quickly broke it down. People flooded into my room, “SORRY. SORRY. SORRY…”
    Then suddenly they all stopped and one person came out from he centre of the crowd of people now inside of my bedroom. The person was caring my computer from work. The message on the screen said, “SORRY FOR WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO YOU.” Then the cursor hovered over a button on the screen. SHUT DOWN.

  3. Amala

    It was my usual day at office; of course I have a boring desk job, a 9 to 5 job. I was planning to quit, get into some writing classes and wanted to become a writer though. I’m more of a free spirit; no desk job can hold me down. But, the pay was holding me down, since I had some debts to pay.
    So, it was a usual boring cubicle, with the same old colleagues beside me, doing none other than stare at their computer screens. Me, on the other hand, was doing two at once: staring at my watch and looking at the computer .Staring , wondering when my clock will turn 5, so I could leave for the day and grab some snacks on my way back to the car , enjoy my long drive to my home and practice some writing. .
    ‘Well!! Come on ..Please turn 5’, I hear myself saying to the inanimate thing on my wrist. Out of the blue, my nosy colleague suddenly crept up beside me saying loudly, ‘Wow. I know what you are doing..You are checking your email..Instead of doing your work!!’. What a pest!! My manager was sitting just behind me and my team lead was beside me. I was like ‘What the hell is wrong with you ’. Who the hell recruited this person, and why on earth should be sitting beside me? I wanted a change..like a change of my seat at least.. All my leads are on my bay, and the world’s most irritating person is sitting next to me !! .
    I looked at my watch. It was 5.01 pm. ‘Ok..time to leave ..we’ll deal with this pest and my managers tomorrow’, I thought. Ok..time to shut down my system. But what is this??? Why is my mail not closing? Ok..let me see whether there are any open mails. But, no all of them are closed. I received no prompts. Must be some bug. But all of our systems are protected by the latest technology.
    Wait..I see something coming up on my screen. It looks like a command prompt of some kind. I don’t remember any of us having such a software. Suddenly, all of the below words came up one by one : ‘Starting’, ‘Initialising,’Connection established’, ‘Ready for communication’, blah ..blah ..blah..I was curious. Maybe , all of my colleagues are getting the same message too !! I looked around me, but most of them had already left, even my team lead and my manager. I turned to the other side to see whether the pest was there. He too,it seemed had no issues with his system. He winked at me, and left. I turned to my system ,and yes the same blah..blah..
    I wanted to leave. I quickly had a glance around me, and noticed that just one or two of us were present. I started feeling lonely. I turned to face the system again and I had got a message ‘Hello..We are from the planet Zerbergo. We tracked your IP address. We know you are there. You are the first of your kind we are making contact with and we want to know whether your planet is friendly and habitable ’. I was like ,’must be some stupid hackers, how the hell they managed to hack into such a good firewall ?’
    I wanted to report the matter to some of my security counterparts. I called them , and then after some 10 minutes they came by, but none of them were able to find the source of the hackers.
    The next day, in the newspapers, I found some UFO sightings were there near my area, complete with a picture. I remembered the other day. Maybe, some real aliens tried to communicate with me ! I was
    shocked .

  4. Amala

    It was my usual day at office; of course I have a boring desk job, a 9 to 5 job. I was planning to quit, get into some writing classes and wanted to become a writer though. I’m more of a free spirit; no desk job can hold me down. But, the pay was holding me down, since I had some debts to pay.
    So, it was a usual boring cubicle, with the same old colleagues beside me, doing none other than stare at their computer screens. Me, on the other hand, was doing two at once: staring at my watch and looking at the computer .Staring , wondering when my clock will turn 5, so I could leave for the day and grab some snacks on my way back to the car , enjoy my long drive to my home and practice some writing. .
    ‘Well!! Come on ..Please turn 5’, I hear myself saying to the inanimate thing on my wrist. Out of the blue, my nosy colleague suddenly crept up beside me saying loudly, ‘Wow. I know what you are doing..You are checking your email..Instead of doing your work!!’. What a pest!! My manager was sitting just behind me and my team lead was beside me. I was like ‘What the hell is wrong with you ’. Who the hell recruited this person, and why on earth should be sitting beside me? I wanted a change..like a change of my seat at least.. All my leads are on my bay, and the world’s most irritating person is sitting next to me !! .
    I looked at my watch. It was 5.01 pm. ‘Ok..time to leave ..we’ll deal with this pest and my managers tomorrow’, I thought. Ok..time to shut down my system. But what is this??? Why is my mail not closing? Ok..let me see whether there are any open mails. But, no all of them are closed. I received no prompts. Must be some bug. But all of our systems are protected by the latest technology.
    Wait..I see something coming up on my screen. It looks like a command prompt of some kind. I don’t remember any of us having such a software. Suddenly, all of the below words came up one by one : ‘Starting’, ‘Initialising,’Connection established’, ‘Ready for communication’, blah ..blah ..blah..I was curious. Maybe , all of my colleagues are getting the same message too !! I looked around me, but most of them had already left, even my team lead and my manager. I turned to the other side to see whether the pest was there. He too,it seemed had no issues with his system. He winked at me, and left. I turned to my system ,and yes the same blah..blah..
    I wanted to leave. I quickly had a glance around me, and noticed that just one or two of us were present. I started feeling lonely. I turned to face the system again and I had got a message ‘Hello..We are from the planet Zerbergo. We tracked your IP address. We know you are there. You are the first of your kind we are making contact with and we want to know whether your planet is friendly and habitable ’. I was like ,’must be some stupid hackers, how the hell they managed to hack into such a good firewall ?’
    I wanted to report the matter to some of my security counterparts. I called them , and then after some 10 minutes they came by, but none of them were able to find the source of the hackers.
    The next day, in the newspapers, I found some UFO sightings were there near my area, complete with a picture. I remembered the other day. Maybe, some real aliens tried to communicate with me ! I was shocked .

  5. sebastiansdgva

    One day, when i was playing Minecraft with my sister and brother, my mom and dad came downstairs and told us we were going out to eat brunch at Soup plantation. I insisted on five more minutes but my mom pulled me out the door and slammed it shut. I said i didn’t shut down the computer so she let me back in.
    “Make it quick!” she yelled
    When i tried shutting down the mac, all it did was flash letters over and over at me. It said S-T-O-P M-U-R-D-E-R-E-R A-H-E-A-D-!
    I told my dad about it when i came outside and started to get in to the car but he said i must have been lying or something but i tried telling him. That was the one mistake to breaking our family up forever.

    1. sebastiansdgva

      ———–continued————–
      When we were at brunch, there was a man with black pants, a black and white tuxedo, and a white rose with red splotches all over it as if it was blood. It was hanging out of his pocket along with a gun. It looked like a pearl handle revolver but i knew it must have been my eyes playing tricks on me so i just shrugged and walked over to the blueberry muffins.
      When i was done eating i was ready to use the restroom so i did that. While i was washing p, the man burst into the room holding my brother in one hand with the gun in the other and it was pointing directly at his head. He spoke something in lunacy but i couldn’t understand him.
      “w.. what? I said as i searched for words.
      “I SAID, what is the farthest distance?!!!” said the man
      “I don’t know!!!” “please stop!”
      “Answer the question idiot or ill blow his brains out!”
      Ummmmmmmmmmmm…………………
      1…
      2…
      3!!!
      The next couple seconds were torture; meat everywhere, blood on the ceiling……. I should have died of shock and depression right then…
      The man said “Ok” “lets try again” in his scratchy but deep voice.
      “Whats the farthest distance from you??”
      “The other side of the earth?”
      NOPE!!!
      *bang!* another fatality this time my mom.
      That’s it! I said in a mix of anger and discouragement.
      Go to hell!!! i said as i charged him reaching his gun.
      When i made contact with the man, i brought the gun up to him and pulled the trigger!

  6. sebastiansdgva

    One day, when i was playing Minecraft with my sister and brother, my mom and dad came downstairs and told us we were going out to eat brunch at Soup plantation. I insisted on five more minutes but my mom pulled me out the door and slammed it shut. I said i didn’t shut down the computer so she let me back in.
    “Make it quick!” she yelled
    When i tried shutting down the mac, all it did was flash letters over and over at me.

  7. sebastiansdgva

    One day, when i was playing Minecraft with my sister and brother, my mom and dad came downstairs and told us we were going out to eat brunch at Soup plantation. I insisted on five more minutes but my mom pulled me out the door and slammed it shut. I said i didn’t shut down the computer so she let me back in.
    “Make it quick!” she yelled

  8. Doug Langille

    CAUGHT
    ======

    I waited impatiently for my computer to shut down. It’d been a long day of meetings and Brenda called several times.

    I reached down to press the power. I heard a ding and looked up to see a message.

    ‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.’

    Alice? I clicked.

    ‘Always speak the truth, think before you speak, and write it down afterwards.’

    I clicked again.

    ‘Copyroom. Now.’

    Being Friday, the office was a ghost town. Who? We were so careful.

    Brenda stood furiously, hands on hips, a stack of papers with a blue corner tucked under her arm. The jig was up.

    “How long have you known?” I asked my wife of twenty years.

    Her icy voice was controlled. “Does it matter? I’m not arguing with you, Dean.”

    With a mix of guilt and relief, I let out the breath I’d been holding. “Where do I sign?”

  9. Observer Tim

    It’s way late, but I have to catch up. Obsessive-compulsive and all…

    SAVING

    Andrew pulled on his coat and closed his briefcase, then glanced back at the computer screen. The message was still there. ‘Saving…’

    “Come on,” he mumbled, “the spreadsheet isn’t that big.”

    But Andrew wasn’t the type of worker who could comfortably walk out on that kind of message. The economy wasn’t in the best of shape, and this was not the time for him to be looking for a new job. He stood and stared at the screen, glancing at his watch every minute or so and thinking about the bus schedule.
    A secondary window opened on the screen. In big bold letters it said ‘LISTEN’. A moment later the window vanished.

    Andrew listened. It wasn’t like he had anything else to do while he waited. As he strained his ears he heard a faint sob from somewhere in the cube farm. It was followed by an incoherent growl of frustration, which was enough for him to see the top of a head about a dozen cubes away from his. Somebody else was having trouble too, from the sound of it.

    He walked up the aisle and found a woman he didn’t know. She had her coat on and was staring at the screen. The status window was familiar: ‘Saving…’

    “You too, huh?”

    She squeaked and started, then turned around. “Who are you?” She clutched her purse in front of her like a shield.

    “Andrew Stevens. I work over there.” He waved in the vague direction of his desk. “My computer’s doing the same thing.”

    “Oh. I’m Tanya. Tanya Meier. Do you know what’s wrong?”

    “Not a clue. Mine’s being doing that for a good ten minutes. And I don’t trust the network enough to just leave it.”

    “Me neither. I’ve only been working here a couple of weeks, and my document is due first thing tomorrow morning.”

    “For the Ops meeting?”

    “Yeah. You too?”

    Andrew nodded. They both stared at the window and the little swirling icon for a few minutes. Finally Tanya spoke.

    “Come on, network, I want to get out of here today.”

    “You have plans?”

    “No, just me and the TV. How about you?”

    “The same.”

    They watched the screen some more. The progress bar moved a few pixels, just to taunt them. Finally Tanya looked at his watch.

    “Well, that’s my bus gone. It’s an hour ‘til the next one.”

    Andrew checked. “Me too. You want to grab a bite to eat when we get out of here? I know a good deli that should be open.”

    Tanya smiled. “Sure. Provided this ever ends.”

    As if on cue, the progress bar advanced to 100% and the computer began its shutdown sequence. Andrew went back to his desk and saw the same. The last window open read. “Saved.”
    ___

    Years later, when the kids asked, Andrew would swear that a window had flashed up for just a second during shutdown, saying “You have your chance. Don’t let her get away.”

    1. jhowe

      OT, I don’t know what’s worse, you posting this on May 1 or me responding on May 6. Either way, I really enjoyed this computer Cupid story. It’s nice to see a happy ending once in a while.

  10. aGuyWhoWrites

    My first short story ever! from an absolute beginner. Forgive me, I’m not 100% on how to handle dialoge….tons of fun this was.

    After sending the rest of his team home early Richard stretched out of his chair. He reached his hand out to shut down his computer and noticed the Start button missing. Just missing! It wasn’t that it was garbled with graphic glitching that could indicate the video card going bad. It was like an illusion where a magician places their thumb over a spot and just wipes it right off! First order of trouble shooting…. Just reboot. Richard pushed the reset button and nothing……………. With a graphic flourish, the desktop image vanished as if being flushed down a drain; the screen went black. Richard’s mouth dropped open with ‘deer-caught-in-the-headlights’ authority. Scrolling across the middle in blood red: ACTIVATED. Richard’s scrunched face fell in the palm of his hand as he played out the possible scenario of having to clean out a virus. This was not how he intended to spend his weekend!

    Then everything started to unravel. He noticed the mouse was starting to glow. As he slowly reached out his hand to pick up the mouse he felt excessive heat radiating from it. Just before he made contact, his hand slammed onto the mouse like they were magnets. Startled he jumped back and the mouse came with him. His “freak out meter” was at an all-time high about now as he started to violently shake his hand. The mouse cord started to wrap itself around his arm, working itself up to his neck. At this point Richard screamed, “Someone help me!” Tobi heard the cry from the open window in the parking lot where he had been talking with Jessica.

    “Richard?……..Richard? Tobi panted, already in the building.

    “ahhhharrg.. in hear” Richard wheezed.

    Tobi ran into Richard’s office and peed his pants, “what the…..” Every possible cord that is or in this case, was………attached to the computer is now around Richard like an octopus having a bad hair day.

    “The scissors, the scissors” Richard gasped, “In the lower draw… hurry up!”
    Tobi fumbled with the draw.

    “Get it off meeeeee….get it o………”

    “Hon!” Michelle grabbed his right shoulder and shook, “Hon….wake up”

    Richard responded with a drugged “huh?”

    More shaking, “wake up!” “You’re just having a bad dream” Michelle now fully awake, “I told you not to eat all of that cheesecake!”

    Yeah whatever! Richard shrugged, not in the mood for a lecture as he vigorously brushed both sides of his arms up and down. He took a deep breath, held it in then slooooowly exhaled thankful that it was only a dream.

    “Go back to sleep” Michelle whined.

    “I will in a bit” Richard said firmly, “I need to walk this one off.” Still shaken, he wanted to check on his computer downstairs. I know silly right? He peaked inside the office all was calm and dark. He chuckled as he headed out the door. Unfortunately he failed to notice the blood red word ACTIVATED scrolling across the computer screen as it reflected off his office mirror.

  11. Althea

    NOTES: Curse words in the story; Set in Bel Air, Maryland, not Bel Air, California.

    Rolling across the computer monitor in all caps was CALL LISA NOW. CALL LISA NOW. CALL LISA NOW. What the f—. I pulled my phone out like I was calling 911 because my ass was on fire.

    “Babe, where you at? You outside?”

    “Hi, Baby!” I heard the smile on her face. “I’m three blocks away on South Main Street, about to cross at Courtland. I love Downtown Bel Air. It’s so quaint. Are you ready for the party?”

    LOONEYS. LOONEYS. LOONEYS. LOONEYS. LOONEYS.

    Have her meet me at Looney’s? Or keep her away from Looney’s? Some shit is always happening at that fuckin’ place. Puke, stupid shit, and cops. All in that order. Alcohol made my old lady act crazy. That’s why I don’t touch that shit. Forget what my friends think. But now this “computer-with-a-brain” was making me wish I was drunk. Lisa was walking north, away from the bar. It was two blocks behind her. I sat down, sweating. Either this computer, or someone else, was messin’ with my woman, or with me. None was okay with me.

    “Meet me at Looney’s. Turn around and meet me there. I’m on my way.”

    “What are you talking about, Mick? You don’t drink. Why would we meet there?”

    “I’m headed out. Stay on the phone with me. Do not hang up. I’m leaving now.” I couldn’t turn off the computer. LOONEYS continued to loop across the screen. White letters across the sky blue screen. Just like clouds against a perfect blue sky. I looked outside over my cubicle. A day just like…fuck.

    Looking back, I wish I had said something to my co-workers. Crazy or calm, me saying something would have been better than saying nothing. Maybe this shit wouldn’t be weighing on me so hard if I’d tried to save them.

    Lisa was the only person on my mind. Grabbing only my keys, I tore out of there. “Babe, listen. Something is about to go down.”

    “Mick, what are you talking about? We’re supposed to be at my mom’s retirement party in twenty minutes.”

    “Turn around. Meet me at Looneys.” I loved her family. I didn’t even curse around them. “Fuck” became “Frig” whenever I went to her parents’ house. “Frig” had even eased its way into my daily vocabulary. Her family was the friggin Real Housewives of Atlanta, minus the catfights, while mine were the fucking black Honey Boo Boos, including the pigs pooping on the kitchen table.

    Running past the charming architecture of Bel Air’s Main Street, I didn’t think about being a black man high tailing his ass down a street full of white folks. Or even the idiocy of me trying to decipher a cryptic computer message. Only her. Hoping to catch up to Lisa, I asked, “What are you wearing?”

    The blast went off at the moment. It left me deaf in one ear.
    (end) 482 words

  12. Marc Ellis

    Way over 500 words, but I wanted to get something posted before the next prompt. Unfortunately, I’m late.
    —-

    Lee Samuels flopped into his office chair and let it spin two times before bringing it to a stop facing the desk. The chair, the desk, and the office had once been his father’s. Now he was at the helm of the industry leader in artificial intelligence technology.

    David Samuels, Lee’s father, was an intellectual giant with doctoral degrees in both computer science and psychology to accompany his immense commercial success. He pioneered AI technology that was now present in nearly every computer driven technology on the planet.

    Prior to his father’s stroke, Lee had been working as an engineer in the research and development division of the company. His resume wasn’t nearly as stellar as his father, but David had always planned to leave the company in the hands of his son. His dad said that Lee had something that many in the industry didn’t–heart.

    Samuels’ Intelligence was the primary vendor for AI technology for many the nation’s largest defense programs. Lee had just left a meeting where he was sure that his company had lost an $8 billion contract and his best engineer. Lee knew his father’s greatest fear was coming to fruition. He doubted that heart was going to be enough.

    Samuels’ AI technology now made it feasible for unmanned weapon systems to make autonomous targeting and attack decisions—something his father never wanted his creation to provide. Holding to this moral code, Lee walked away from a business deal that would have fueled work and strong profits for the next 10 to 20 years. Yet in his gut he knew it was already too late.

    His top engineer, with the government’s support, could replicate and expand the technology as they desired. There was little Lee could do from a legal perspective. Though the technology was proprietary and had every legal protection possible, the authorities could modify or bend the rules in the “best interests of national defense.”

    Lee pressed the keys to shut down his computer and gave himself another spin on the chair. There wasn’t anything he could do today, and he wanted to go home. The computer was taking an unusually long time to shut down, so he gave the chair a couple more spins and then noticed a message in white letters on the dark screen.

    “If Lee Samuels is at this terminal, enter your secure access code.”

    “What’s this?” Lee thought. He stopped his spin with his toes and typed the code.

    “Lee, in 2011 I started a pet project considering the integration of termination mechanisms into our systems. While our aim was to deliver superior tools, the risks of this technology used inappropriately or getting into the wrong hands would prove disastrous. If you are seeing this message, this protocol has been activated by aberrant activity within our products.”

    The screen went dark. Then more text followed. “Lee, you are the failsafe. I knew you would make the correct decision when the time came. I knew you would choose right over profit. You have an asset at your disposal that can never be simulate–a conscience.”
    Another dark screen was then followed with a single line. “Terminate Samuels’ Intelligence? Y/N”

    Lee couldn’t believe what he saw. Had his father really planned for this? Lee leaned back in the chair and stared at the prompt and blinking cursor. Then the large flat screen monitor on the wall across the office turned on. It displayed a video feed of a man he didn’t recognize walking through the hallway outside his office. The video angle switched and now he could see the man approaching his door. The man was clearly holding a pistol at his side. Lee heard a fist pound the door.

    The computer screen went blank. Then another line of text appeared, “Protocol overridden. Initiating shutdown.”

    The video screen now showed the man throwing his shoulder into the door. Then a video of Lee’s father appeared.

    “Lee, you are in danger. You must leave the building. There is a secret exit under the desk.”

    Lee slid the desk across the carpet. With the weight of the desk removed, a small trap door opened exposing a small hole with a ladder.

    The video started again. “Lee, take this ladder to the parking garage. You will find a black Lincoln Town Car near the exit. The car will unlock as you approach. Get in the car, and the onboard computer will tell you what to do next.”

    Lee quickly climbed down the ladder and found a “No Parking” sign hiding the exit. He pushed it aside and immediately identified the Lincoln. As he turned toward the car, he saw three men out of the corner of his eye running with weapons raised in his direction. He could hear bullets fired and the lead splatting above his head on the concrete wall next to him. He ran to the car and dove into the driver’s seat closing the door behind him.

    The car spontaneously started its engine and began driving itself out of the garage. Bullets were slamming into the rear of the car; however, the damage was limited. The car must have been armored. The onboard screen lit up, and David Samuels’ face appeared. “Lee, your family has been warned and evacuated from your home. You will rendezvous at the Centennial Municipal Airport. Tickets have already been purchased. When you arrive at the airport, take the iPad that is under the passenger seat. You will receive additional instructions through this device.”

    With the garage and his assailants far behind him, he retrieved the iPad. He looked back at the screen, and his father’s face was still there. “Lee…I’m proud of you. God Speed. I love you.” Then it went blank.

  13. Critique

    Disappointment is like a rebellious virus threatening the human spirit – my spirit. I kept myself busy during the week but had to admit, it dragged interminably. It was past closing time on Friday. I stayed late, hoping. I’d heard diddly squat.

    I struggled resigning myself to the fact that Round 2 wasn’t in the cards for me.

    Plan B for my life wasn’t materializing.

    Yep. For the first time that I could recall, I was bummed-out. I slung my jacket over my shoulder and clicked the off button on my computer. Nothing happened. I fingered the switch and noticed a fluorescent reddish design looping across the screen. Goose bumps rose on my flesh. I sank back into my chair.

    It took a several minutes to decipher the encrypted message. My heart started jack hammering in my chest and I fought to steady my breathing.

    “Congratulations you have passed to Round 2. Our team of experts is pleased and excited to continue this exploratory process with you. We believe you have the qualifications we are looking for and the potential to reach the final rigorous training for this great adventure. Our selection committee would like to meet with you this evening at 1900 hours. Please bring all the necessary medical documents.”

    I let out a series of whoops and hollers that threatened to bust out the windows in the thirty story building. I did a manic dance around the office. I pumped my fists into the air. I shed a few tears – and I never cry.

    It would have been nice to call someone and share the good news. I would not be calling my Mother, or my younger brother and only sibling. They would not understand the fire in my belly, the enthusiasm, and lust to experience the unknown.

    The possibility that I could be chosen as a candidate for a human mission – one way flight – to Mars dominated my thoughts.

    Bring it on!

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Nice kick-up answer. What an adventure. To fly the unknown on a historic space venture. Lots of good internal dialogue here, moves the story nicely. You generated a lot of excitement in so few words. I wouldn’t tell anyone either, till I passed the bar. One way mission bothered me personally but then the idea of companionship made the thought easier. Nice venture into a mind bogelling experience.

      1. Critique

        Thanks Kerry. I got the idea from Mars-One, a one way flight to Mars. You can google it. The one way part bothers me too even though they will be going in groups.

    2. agnesjack

      I don’t know why, but when you wrote, “bring the medical documents” I knew it was the one-way trip to Mars. It’s probably because there is a part of me that would have loved to try for it. You really captured the gnawing essence of a deep disappointment, then the relief and joy that dispels it. Nice story.

      1. Critique

        Thank you agnesjack. It will to be an amazing historical adventure and I thought the fluctuating emotions of the MC suited the extreme nature of the mission.

  14. Amyithist

    The end of the day couldn’t have come any sooner. I was tired; frustrated about the changes my company was making, and ready for my long vacation. Three weeks in Cancun. Who could ask for more? I sighed as I began the arduous process of shutting my computer down. I had just pulled my purse up and slung it over my shoulder to leave when my computer flashed at me. Blue, black, back to blue, then green. Suddenly a video started to play. A video of a plane. Flight 477 from Delta. That was the plane I was taking to Cancun…
    Without warning, the video glitched and when it came back up, the plane was nosedived onto a tarmac with flames sprouting through the windows, the cockpit, the doors… My heart started to pick up in speed. What the hell was this? The video glitched again. The screen blacked out, flashed, then went to another video. This feed showed bodies lined along the tarmac. The sheets blew slightly in the breeze, lifting just enough to show the faces of the deceased. As the camera panned to the end of the row of people, my blood ran cold. I suddenly felt as though I were having a heart attack. There, on the tarmac, as the blood-soaked sheet lifted in the breeze, I realized the two people gaping back at me with their lifeless stares were me and my husband.
    My purse thudded to the floor. I stared at my face; cold and grey and lifeless. The camera honed in on me, focusing in on my eyes. They were wide open but they saw nothing…I was dead. I turned, grabbed the trash can and vomited. “Who…who are you,” I groaned.
    The computer flashed. Black, blue, green, then black again. I waited for a few moments but the screen remained black. I eased into my chair. The office was empty, with the exception of the cleaning lady a few yards down the hallway. The hum of the computers and florescent lights etched into my mind. I watched, still waiting for the screen to flicker once more. Ten minutes passed. Twenty.
    Finally, when nothing happened I stood and slung my purse back over my shoulder. Trembling, I made my way out to my car. The image of me and my husband dead scorched my mind like a wild inferno. I closed my eyes and gagged. What was I supposed to do?
    I picked my phone up and dialed my travel agent. She answered on the fourth ring. “Emma, what’s going on,” she asked.
    “I need to switch my flight. Anything but Delta Flight 477.”
    I could hear her fingers tapping the keyboard. Tap, tap, tap, tap. The distinct sound of the ENTER key being struck. “I have a Flight 423 leaving an hour after Flight 477. No layovers once you get to Dallas.”
    “I’ll take it,” I said quickly. “Thanks, Lena.”
    “Sure thing,” she replied.
    I hung up and leaned against the seat. My stomach still churned like a rough sea. I took a deep breath and started my car. Tomorrow I’d be on Flight 423 to Cancun… I could only pray that the video I’d seen earlier wasn’t going to come true no matter what.

    The next day, after a long flight to Cancun and five cocktails, I stumbled into the airport. My husband, Daniel, was equally sloshed and we were looking for the nearest restaurant to balance ourselves out. When we passed a TV, the scene playing out on the news nearly made me faint right there. Flight 477 from Dallas, TX to Cancun, Mexico had crashed…killing all on board.

    1. pinkbamboo

      this was very eerie and spooky especially it hit close to where I am from with the missing flight. you sewn the words perfectly to create the feel and emotions of the story.

    2. Critique

      Well told. I liked your prompt very much. A spooky foretelling that she heeded. I’ve heard of things like this that actually happen. They were the lucky ones. The question arises: why are some warned and they live and others not?

    3. Reaper

      Perfectly graphic, leaving just enough to the imagination while giving the details to fuel it. The horror of it summed up in your last paragraph. You have written a character that feels like she is following a whim when changing her plans. The kind that would think later, nobody believes in that stuff. I was just being nervous. Then she is confronted with the reality and I see her reeling, spending time and possibly money with the guilt of surviving when all those others died and wondering if she could have done anything to save them. In other words I read her as a perfectly accurate human being. This is a thing of beauty.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I wish Rod Sterling had made you story on The Twilight Zone. He did make one similiar about a monster walking the wing in flight trying to tear the metal away from the wing. You hit the bar high with this response.

  15. kahtymeridiah

    Come on, Flint, I thought you’d fixed this. Really? Yesterday, it was details of the last patient assault incident I wrote up that wouldn’t clear from the screen. Now, it’s the 3 page complaint I drafted against that stupid, idiotic supervisor! It’s not like I can leave it here for the next shift. Well, I suppose I could, I’m sure they’d just add to it anyway.

    The computer constantly repeating over and over and over again, ‘do it right this time, do it right this time, do it right this time’ doesn’t help. How did that get in there? No, Flint, you wouldn’t do that, would you? Well, if not Flint, then who?

    Let me see, who has access? ‘Cause right now, I don’t care what time I leave as long as this gets resolved before I leave. And resolved for the last time.

    The nurses’ station door opens, it’s Flint. “Flint, come on over here, what’s going on with this frggn computer? It’s just like last night. Five o’clock comes around and the damn thing won’t shut down. I’ve got places to go, things to do, people to see…”

    Flint marches across the floor, scowling, I get up and let him slide into the swivel chair in front of the computer monitor to check it out. He minimizes the screen, logs into another, one with a bunch of computer speak green font gobbled-dy-gook.

    “Let’s see here, who’s on your computer, and where are they?” Flint mumbles quietly as if to me, with a smirking grin, eyes focused on the screen. “Yeah, just as I thought. It’s Camilla. It doesn’t have anything to do with you and your stuff, she’s after me. She knows I can’t leave with your screen open like this. What a bitch. I think I can close the documents you put in and then finish it up,” his fingers tapping keystrokes all over the board.

    He pulls up my ‘complaint document’, closes it, then attempts again to close down the system.

    And when it doesn’t stop it’s spewing of ‘do it right this time, do it right this time, he does what I always wanted to do.

    Pulls out a big long handled green hammer from behind his back, smashes the screen again and again and walks out the door.

    “See you at Applebees!”

  16. Dennis

    John gave a big sigh. Three more weeks and the project would be done, but that seemed like an eternity. So many late nights and missed outings with friends. And after that what next, another project? He wasn’t sure how he was going to endure climbing the ladder to reach his goal as partner. Somehow he needed to endure.

    He began to shut down his computer when a scrolling message appeared across his screen
    DID YOU FORGET WHAT DAY IT WAS?………………………………

    John stared in amusement not sure what to make of it. He thought at first maybe someone was playing a prank, like those guys from IT, so he waited for what would happen next. Periodically the message was top and blink before going back to scrolling.

    As the scrolling message faded a new one appeared.
    HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU KID.

    John’s lips slightly trembled as his teary eyes read the words. He confirmed the date and began to silently weep for a few minutes. Today marked the second anniversary of the passing of his wife Clara. They were big movie buffs and their first date together was Casablanca. It became their favorite movie, quoting lines whenever they could.

    John wiped the tears from his eyes. He remembered now why he set that prompt on the computer. He always wanted to be reminded of Clara’s struggle with cancer. Not to continue to morn, but because she continued to be the strong person she always was right to the end. The beautiful light that shone in her eyes was there until they opened no more. Last year he had forgotten the date with all of the extra work he was doing and vowed never to forget again.

    The computer finally shut down. John smiled, feeling a sense of renewed life in him, the legacy that Clara gifted him. On his walk home from the subway he noticed the local theater was showing Casablanca and thought, what a great way to spend the evening.

  17. idspeck

    Come on its Friday give me a break and dam tech support is already gone for the weekend. The hell with it I’ll leave it until Monday. Then looking at the screen again it first it looked like gibberish just a lot of dots and spaces and then I noticed a pattern. No it can’t be but yes it is. It is Morse code. (… — … … — …) SOS. Then in Morse code it says do not go home, run they are coming for you. What who is coming for me? This has to be a joke the hell with it yes that must be it; John must be playing one of his annoying jokes. Then in code it says to late they are already here, you should have ran. As I turn around I see them but it is too late.
    Monday morning they find his body still sitting in his chair and across the screen of his computer they see, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you,
    SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you, SOS they are coming for you,

  18. theduke192

    Technical Guidance

    =========================================

    It had been almost a year since she died. Life seemed almost not worth living, but Will knew that Sam would want him to keep living. With his heart broken, he trudged on. Just sitting at his desk, he saw it was five minutes to the weekend. Another weekend of nothing. Will wished that his boss would ask him to stay, but Mr. Phillips never asked anyone to stay, he was the boss everyone wanted.

    Five o’clock hit and everyone started packing up to be with friends and family, but Will would spend the weekend alone. He could think of nothing to keep his mind busy, but when his computer would not shut down it only irritated him.

    “What now?” Will asked looking at the screen.

    The screen turned blue and he just rolled his eyes as he started trying to work out the error. As he worked, everyone left the office including Mr. Phillips. Will had to push him away twice before he finally relented and left him to work.

    He was ready to give up three hours later when the blue screen went black. Feeling like he had won the little battle he started packing up when white letters appeared on the screen.

    “Are you alone?”

    Will got up looking for the jokester, but all the cubicles were off except for the security lights. He looked back down and said, “Yes.” He reached to type it in, but the computer started without him.

    “It’s been a long time.”

    “Who are you?” Will asked and then shook his head, “What the Hell am I doing? I’m talking to a computer.”

    “LOL,” appeared on the screen, “You always knew how to make me laugh.”

    He froze as her laugh echoed in his mind the last time he saw her smile, “Sam?”

    “Yes.”

    “How?”

    “Of all the questions that brilliant mind of yours can come up with, you ask that? LOL!”

    “I’ve missed you so much,” he said near breaking down in tears.

    “I know,” the computer typed back, “I have always watched you, but you must move on.”

    “How am I supposed to do that?” he asked.

    “Our time together was amazing and you must never forget it,” the computer said, “But sadly, our destinies were not forever. You will always be my one and only, but yours was never me. You are destined for greatness my love.”

    “Excuse me anyone here?” Will heard from down the hall. He stood up and Rachael from accounting was looking frantic.

    “Can I help you?” he asked.

    Turning around and the brunette’s green eyes went from sadness to hope, “Yes please. My computer seems to be having problems and I need to get home. The babysitter is going to charge me a lot for overtime.”

    “Of course,” Will said and looked at his computer and it was off. Shaking it off as if it was nothing more than a daydream, Will headed down to Rachael’s cubicle.

    She smiled and said, “I have no idea what is going on.”

    “Neither do I. I think you need a new babysitter,” Will said sitting down and Rachael laughed at his comment.

    He looked at the screen and saw she had accidently triggered a security initiation. He started running through the security prompts and fixed the problem.

    He hit enter and the screen shut down with a successful turnoff. Rachael shrieked with joy and said while grabbing her coat, “Thank you so much. Would you like to meet for coffee tomorrow? I kind of owe you. Here is my number, give me a call when you are free.”

    Will thought about the boring weekend ahead and said, “That would be great.”

    “Again, thank you so much,” Rachael said and hugged him before running out the door.

    With a slight smile which he had not done for months, Will headed back to his cubicle. His computer was still off and he grabbed his coat and headed home, but looked back at the unresponsive computer. He smiled and said, “Guess it’s time to live again. See you again one day Sam.”

    After he was gone, his computer kicked back on and it said, “You were mine for a time, but you were always hers. Goodbye William.”

  19. agnesjack

    I stare at the computer screen. The heading “A MIND OF ITS OWN,” is typed at the top of the page, but below it there is nothing but white nothingness.

    Wait… Nothing but nothingness? THAT’S what my brain comes up with? I’ve lost it. I can’t write anymore. After thirty-three prompts, I’m done. Washed up. Creatively kaput. Not an inkling, iota, kernel of an idea. SEE?!?! Kernel of an idea? Really? Oh my God.

    I’ve written about talking cats, talking furniture, talking dolls, even talking baubles. I’ve written about cowboys and angels. I’ve written about frozen fathers and sword-less sword fights. I’ve waited eagerly for each prompt. Ah, but my mind was so young and fertile then. I was fifty-nine. Now I’m sixty. Is that the problem? Or is it this muttering nonstop to myself when I think I’m alone? There’s a guy on my commuter train who walks from one car to the next, stopping at each bay of doors to mutter a few words to some invisible person. He’s a well-dressed older man. He does not appear to be homeless. Is that where I’m headed? Will that be me one day?

    Oh great, I’ve just spent ten minutes muttering to myself about the guy on my train who mutters to himself. Think, Nancy, think….

    Prompt: “A computer at work won’t shut down and has a message for you.”

    Usually, the most annoying message my computer has for me is “Not Responding”. It tends to do that when an attorney is hovering over me, waiting for his revised brief, and my Word has crashed. Microsoft laughs as us, you know. They know that if something goes wrong with their lousy software, we have nowhere else to turn, so they sit in their mansions in Silicon Valley and laugh. It’s so cruel.

    This is ridiculous. It’s Monday. The new prompt will be posted tomorrow and once the new prompt is posted, there’s no going back. No one ever goes back.

    I decide to use one more cliché and throw in the towel. Maybe I’ll do better at home, where I can relax with a nice bottle, I mean glass, of cabernet. I can’t concentrate on my personal stuff at work anyway with all the annoying interruptions.

    I right click on the icon for my flash drive and choose “Eject”.

    The computer screen says: I can’t do that.

    “What does THAT mean? Come on, Eject!”

    I’m sorry. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

    “O.K. Hal, or whatever your name is, I need to take my flash drive home, so LET GO!”

    My name is Bob.

    “Bob?”

    Now you’re going to make fun of my name?

    “No no. Of course not.”

    You made fun of my software.

    “Software? Who ARE you, the Microsoft imp?”

    You hurt my feelings.

    “Oh. O.K. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Can I have my flash drive now?”

    Yes.

    ***

    I sit hunched up in a corner seat in the back of the commuter train. I’m miserable and muttering to myself, because for the first time in eight months I fear that I won’t have a story to post for the prompt. Ah, well. C’est la vie, mes amis.

    1. jhowe

      That was very great Nancy. You had me laughing through the whole thing. I’m glad you finally posted today, because you’re right, no one ever goes back. And I also agree with the annoying things you have to do at work that interfere with personal tasks. I thinks that’s the best non-story I ever read.

      1. agnesjack

        Thank you so much, jhowe. If I had you laughing, then I have succeeded, because I think you write some of the best humorous stories on the forum. I really struggled with this, but I just couldn’t skip it. I’m working my way up from the bottom, so I hope I get to yours soon. Come back tomorrow!

    2. Kerry Charlton

      Hi Nancy. I just hit reply to you and I lost the web site. I’m back and the imp better leave me alone while we talk. Sixty, well, I’ll bet you’re a knockout. Try seventy seven. You walk into the bathroom and forget why you’re there. Brush your teeth maybe, no. Comb hair? No. Oh now I remember.

      I loved this. I really mean it. You can certainly smoke most of the youngsters here. I wait for your responses. Wondered where you were this week? Run off with the cable guy? No. Well was it a young attorney you set your ideas on? Probably. I won’t tell if you won’t. Keep playing coy and innocent. Gets them everytime. A woman that speaks French, has my heart. Cheers!

      1. agnesjack

        Oh, Kerry, you are so so kind. Thank you.

        As for not remembering anything… my sister, who is four years older, said this to me many years ago: “Remind me when I’m eighty that I couldn’t remember anything when I was thirty.”

        As I said to jhowe, I always read up from the bottom so I’ll get to yours soon.

    3. jmcody

      Even your idea of a non-response was still well written, entertaining, insightful, and made me smile. I am in awe of how long you’ve gone without missing a prompt. Last week I wrote a response and didn’t post it because I didn’t like it, and I can’t believe how unhappy that made me! And I’ve only been doing this for two months! I admire your refusal to give in, and your creativity. You have inspired me to be braver, and to just post it anyway! Maybe I’ll also try the cabernet next time.

      1. agnesjack

        jm, you made me smile. Thank you. I read somewhere that when you feel that you have nothing to write about, to just write anyway, even if you’re writing about not having anything to write about. That was my inspiration for this prompt.

        You are so creative, jm. I’m sure it you had posted your story last week, it would have had wonderful qualities. One thing of great value that I’ve learned from posting here, is that the stories don’t have to be perfect — they just have to be. I find this forum to be the most wonderful place to play and practice. It’s such a great group and there is so much inspiration and support.

        So… I raise my glass of cabernet to you, jm. Keep writing. 😉

    4. Reaper

      This was awesome. I believe I also read the statement about writing anyway and think you held true to letter and intent of that law. Thank you for sharing this walk through the garden of your mind. I do note that the Microsoft millionaires have mansions in Redmond and North Bend rather than Silicon Valley, but as this seemed pure stream of consciousness that is an unimportant detail.

      1. agnesjack

        Thanks, Reaper. You’re right, of course. I really had no idea where the Microsoft millionaires live, but I know they are laughing nonetheless. 😉

  20. AlexHarryStone

    My phone is ringing for the hook. She’s getting impatient. And my wife will be home in a few hours. This paragraph can wait.
    I’m inspecting my desk one last time to make sure I’ve left no clues as to where I’ll be and then I’m saving my project and shutting down my computer.
    But wait. It won’t go off. A new document opens up. A message is typing itself up, over and over and over and over: “You’re insane.”
    The phone rings again. Now my office phone rings, too. The computer is making an error ping now; the message is typing too fast.
    In a panic, I knock over my beer and the bottle shatters on the hardwood floor. There is now a banging on my front door in addition to the ringing phones.
    The beer falls and shatters again. But that just happened. I swear I saw it. I decide to answer my cell, maybe if I tell her I’m on my way, she’ll let up. Maybe I can explain.
    “Hey! I’m on my way! I just need to deal with something first!”
    “You’re insane. You’re insane. You’re in-“ I throw my cellphone across the room and it shatters against the wall. I jump when I hear it ringing in my pocket again. I jump again when I hear the beer bottle fall and shatter.
    I see the cellphone shatter against the wall again. But its still ringing in my pocket. The beer bottle falls once again. My bookshelf topples over. The knocking is at my office door, now, but also at the front door. My computer’s screen has turned blue, with the error ping ringing so fast that it is basically a constant tone. The message “You’re insane.” still scrolls across the screen.
    My bookshelf topples over again. I reach into my desk drawer for a my revolver. I point it at my face. Before I can pull the trigger, the barrel starts talking to me: “Not you! Her!” before contorting and twisting itself away from my face.
    And then it all stops. My wife comes in through the front door. Everything on my desk is where it should be, including me.
    “Hey honey, did you get a lot of work done today?” I can hear her yell this through the house.
    “Sure did! I wanted to show you this passage I’ve been working on! Could you come in here…”

    1. jmcody

      All work and no play makes Jack a homicidal maniac.

      This was a horrifying portrayal of your MC’s precipitous spiral into madness. I am left wondering what caused him to snap like this. Still, I liked the dizzying pace and I thought the repetition was effectively insane.

  21. pinkbamboo

    got my out a little late than usual. any resemblances to the alive and dead are purely coincidental. not a piece i’m excited or proud of but wanted to give it a try.

    ****

    I glanced at the clock. One more minute. I’m supposed to meet Anne tonight to discuss about the party tomorrow night. While Mark is away in Singapore, I decided to throw him an advanced birthday party right when he returned. I smiled with satisfaction when I saw the email from his sister confirming her attendance for tomorrow. Oh shit, I’m running late. Time to shut down.

    [Are you sure you want to shut down?] yes, yes.

    [I know what you did last winter] the message appeared on my screen in blue bold fonts. There’s no box to click or something. Is this some virus or bug?

    [You built a snowman, you built a snow fort] I suddenly felt chills.

    “How did you know?” I whispered as if I’m talking to the computer. This is crazy. I’m going crazy.

    [Hello Beth] This is probably just some virus that went crazy. It has to be. I stood up to look around to see if anyone can me handle this. To my surprise, the office was empty. Really? I’m on my own? I’m just going to go off and call IT support to take a look on Monday morning.

    Another message popped up.

    [Don’t go. I’ll miss you. Stay with me] my hand trembled as I started crying. Could it be? I turned around and called Mark. It doesn’t matter what time is it there.

    “Mark, my computer is being weird. It kept flashing me weird messages”

    “Beth, are you still in the office?” he sounded sleepy.

    “Yes, Mark” I turned around to see new messages on my screen.

    [Remember when you said you love me] I frowned. What the ..

    [You are my life] I took a sharp breath. Ken?? It can’t be Ken. Ken was gone long ago.

    [You took my heart]

    “Beth, are you there? Beth!”

    “Yeah, Mark. Sorry, I got distracted. I’m calling IT support” then I hung up.

    Yes, Ken. I took your heart literally. What are you going to do about it? Suddenly I stood up trembling.

    “What do you want Ken?”

    [I love you]

    No, you don’t. I closed my eyes and remembered the yelling, the stabbing, the tears.

    [I need to ask you something]

    I don’t want it to end like this, I wiped the tears streaming down my face and looked at my hand. At one point, it was covered with his blood. I had to, Ken. I’m sorry.

    [Turn around]

    Will he be the normal Ken or the Ken that I last saw? I gripped my table and slowly turned around to see Mark standing there with a bouquet of flower. His grin was replaced with a frown when he saw me.

    “Beth, what’s wrong? Did I scare you that badly? I’m sorry, I thought you liked horror movie so I decided to surprise you with my own horror” he came forward and hugged me.

    I hugged him back with relief. What happened between me and Ken will be a secret forever.

    “Well, you managed to scare me. Why are you home earlier?”

    “I wanted to surprise you and asked you .. Beth, you are my life. Will you marry me?”

    “Of course I will. I shouldn’t after that stupid computer prank but I will”

    Mark gave me my ring and a kiss as I hugged him again. That huge burden off my chest, my hands were still shaking from the scare.

    “I love you” I pulled away from him and looked at my computer.

    “Now how do I turn this off”

    Suddenly the screen went blank and words started forming in red.

    [Why did you let me drown?]

    1. Kerry Charlton

      For someone that doesn’t like their own story, this is fabulous, scary and frightning. Can’t wait to see what others say. Your writing is polished to a fast gleam. When I read the first sentence, you set the hook deep and there was no way I would stop till I finished It. Don’t worry about this one. Sometimes, the harder they are to write, the greater the story. I wouldn’t have missed it for life, Pink.

      1. pinkbamboo

        I reread my story and I still didn’t like it. Lol. I felt like the flow is a little too rigid and not as smooth as I like it. I was contemplating between something sweet or sinister since I’m afraid of horror and had to settle for something more subtle. Hope to be more inspired for the next prompt.

      1. pinkbamboo

        I actually had no idea how to end it until I ended it. Thanks for reading. I’m not sure what you guys meant by the first sentence and getting hooked though.

    2. jmcody

      That was crazy good — like the tell tale…what? Hard drive? Stabbed and drowned too, huh? Pinkbamboo, your name speaks of sweetness and good luck, but oh those treacherous villainesses you concoct! Masterfully done.

      1. pinkbamboo

        The thing is, I am actually the sweetie bear in real life LOL *ahem* I like to write sweet gooey stuff and I can’t write any evil type of stories until I found prompts which enabled me to just scribbled some within 500 words and publish. No messy details and elaborated scenes to go into. It just unleashed a little bit of the darker side of my imagination which is still pretty tame.

    3. Reaper

      pinkbamboo you are your own worst critic, but in that you are not alone here. If the others are anything like me they mean your opening sentence is simple but powerful. It is short and speaks of a story I can consume in bite sized chunks, but for that simplicity is an action that speaks volumes. We have all had that experience, looking at the clock almost always signifies I do not want to be here, but I sure want to get where I’m going. I suddenly wanted to know where the character was going. I will admit that I found the first paragraph a bit choppy between the first sentence and the last but it was the only place the flow seemed off to me and I barely slowed down to notice it.

      This story scare the hell out of me and I would love to see more of it. I think Mark has a painful death coming for stirring up ghosts with his little prank. I just don’t like that guy, and yet I withhold judgment on the MC as she might have a good reason for killing her ex.

      Honestly though, I am playing armchair psychiatrist based on a book I am currently reading. I have noticed that the stories you don’t like are deep and dark. You are stepping out of your comfort zone and that is scary for any of us. However there seems to be something in you that wants to right horror and villains. It almost seems like you feel you can not be a horror writer and a sweet person. If that is the case I wouldn’t worry about it. You know you’re a sweetheart and you should listen to the voices here, because you’re damn good. If that’s not it sorry for spouting nonsense.

      1. pinkbamboo

        Hi reaper, thanks again for your comments. Really appreciate your input. It’s not that I don’t feel like I can write both genre at the same time, it’s more like normally I can’t feel the emotions or be inspired to write about the dark side cause it doesn’t hold much interest to me. Just that with these prompts, I don’t have to think too much about the settings but just dive into action with the 500 word limit. I like to leave readers with a little tug on the heart and I never get to try that with the dark side until now.

        Btw, the story is up for interpretation, it could be ken who typed that or it could be mark himself. Is ken mark? Or did ken possessed mark? Or mark is totally innocent? Did not write mark’s reaction to the last bit was the open ended question. I was going to push this into the gory side but decided not to cause I still chickened out lol.

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