Going Viral

[If national prestige, $5,000 in cash, coverage of your win in Writer’s Digest and more great prizes are what you’re looking for, enter the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition.]

On January 30, 1982, a computer virus called Elk Cloner was released “into the wild”—that is, it spread outside of the computer system on which it was written—becoming the first virus to start spreading to other computers on its own. The program, which targeted Apple II computers and spread to other computers via floppy disk, was coded by then-high school student Richard Skrenta, whose primary motivation was to annoy his friends.

Although the virus did cause some incidental damage, its main function was to display the following poetic message every 50th time the infected machine started:

Writing Prompt: You have (or a character has) created a computer virus that is capable of spreading to every computer, tablet or smartphone in the world. It takes over the device’s screen and displays something else instead—a message, an image, an animation, etc. What does it display, and why?

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113 thoughts on “Going Viral

  1. BBwrites

    Emma tosses today’s folded up newspaper in front of me. I’m sat in the coffee shop next door to the office, delaying going in to work. Three colleagues yesterday had to be taken to the hospital after suddenly convulsing and vomiting mid meeting and it put a little bit of a downer in the office.
    ‘Surprised to see you here,’ she says, sitting down and stirring sugar into her latte.
    I barely look up at her.
    ‘Are you alright Ge? If you’re going to start fitting and foaming at the mouth, go do it over there because this is brand new,’ she says, smoothing down her blouse.
    I roll my eyes at her, ‘don’t worry. I’ve hardly been able to eat since yesterday afternoon.’
    She spoons her porridge into her mouth and shrugs. ‘Can’t relate.’
    ‘Did you not see their faces? I’ve never seen anything like it,’ I shudder.
    ‘Look. It’s just a bug. Just stay away from their desks or anything they touched or breathed on in the last 48 hours and you’ll be peachy,’ Emma says simply. There’s a faint vibration sound causing us both to drop our gazes to her wrist.
    ‘Oh for god’s sake. You conformed too?’ I say, unwrapping my breakfast bagel.
    ‘Yes I did,’ she says, ‘do you like?’ She sticks our her wrist showing off her gleaming new MyWatch. ‘It tracks my heart rate, it’s waterproof and it’s all linked up to my Fitness Buddy so it can track my calories and my activity…’
    ‘Emma. I literally do not care,’ I say with a mouthful of bagel. ‘It’s bad enough having to listen to half the department dribble on about theirs, now you’re going to join in too?’
    Emma narrows her eyes at me and lowers her wrist. ‘Fine. It’s rude to talk with your mouthful you know.’
    I open my mouth widely at her and she rolls her eyes, stifling a chuckle. Her watch buzzes again, causing her to look down.
    ‘This is new…’ she says, holding it closer.
    ‘What is it? Is it telling you there’s someone across the room dying to hear about your new watch?’ I ask, hiding my smile behind my bagel. Emma isn’t smiling. Her eyes have gone all glazed, she looks almost panicked. She starts to stretch our her wrist to show me, saying ‘No, it’s –‘ but before she can finish the rest of her sentence she drops her wrist to her side and collapses to the floor, knocking her porridge in the process.
    ‘Emma!’ I go to lower myself to her side, but I realise the same thing has happened to several other people in the coffee shop. ‘What the…’
    Emma groans and starts to shake, her complexion fading ghoulishly white.
    ‘Can someone help please?’ I cry, fumbling for my phone. I’m greeted by a black screen and the memory of not charging my phone during the night. ‘Someone? Please?’
    The panicked kid of a barrister shakily calls for an ambulance from the landline, giant doe eyes watching the chaos unfurl.
    ‘Put that away!’ a bearded man yells at me. ‘Haven’t you read the paper?’ He knocks my phone out of my hands and it hits the floor hard with a crack.
    ‘What are you doing!?’ I shout. Emma gurgles from the floor. ‘Oh my God… Emma… What’s happing?!”
    The man crouches next to Emma and tries to turn her on her side. ‘Are you kidding? You’ve really not read the paper?’
    I shake my head frantically, scrambling across the table for the newspaper. And there it is in big black letters.
    ‘And those are just the recorded ones,’ the man says from Emma’s side. ‘Whatever you do, don’t look at your phone, don’t look at your laptop, don’t look at your tablet.’
    ‘She didn’t even do that, she looked at her MyWatch,’ I say.
    ‘Add that to list then too. Is there an ambulance coming or what?’ he calls over to the barrister.
    The kid looks over with watery eyes, and says in a whisper, ‘there’s no answer.’
    Emma stops convulsing and shakily props herself up on her elbows.
    The man goes to say something but Emma interrupts him by throwing up all down her pretty new blouse.

  2. Jennifer Park

    6. The Message
    [Follows “5. the Mark”, under “Unexpected Inking”]

    The hazing ritual all but confirmed Barbara’s suspicion that, even within this school for the elite among the elite, there was a hierarchy, and that there was a very small group of students who were being nudged into an exclusive track of some sort. The opportunity for full confirmation came when, at the end of the third year at school, she was finally given diplomatic communication implants. Implants had been forbidden to all students—aside from minimal adaptive equipment—until the end of the third year, and the unceremonious implantation process marked their advancement from students to cadets. Even before all the configurations were complete, Barbara summoned her confidants.

    “You want me to what?” asked Lakshmi.

    Barbara repeated, “Scan. To see if any of the underclassers have an implant.”

    “Didn’t you just get yours? If it’s not fully configured, I can’t…”

    “This is our chance. Before it’s all configured solidly. And we can blame it on a misconfiguration.”

    “Oh! I see… Hmmm…” Lakshmi inserted her hand into her gauntlet and closed her eyes. “Maybe. That could work.” She got to work.

    Mikhail, as always, was the paranoid one, “What if we get caught?”

    Barbara ignored him.

    Mobutu was harder to ignore, “What if we get caught?”

    Still, Barbara ignored him, too.


    After about 30 minutes of work, Lakshmi noted, “I think I got something. We can send out a broadcast. A quick message. Like an emergency message… but only in… hmmm… Japanese script? And… Tamil?”

    Barbara frowned. “Japanese?” It was not a language that was used anymore. “Who even…?”

    “Exactly. There is some legacy gateway that’s been left open because it’s obsolete. Anyway, what should I make it say?”

    Mobutu had an idea. “Shouldn’t we send it out when we can see who gets it?

    “Assembly?” Mikhail had a good idea for once. “In two hours?”

    “That will do!” said Lakshmi.

    “‘Your ass is ours.’ That’s our message.”

    Lakshmi smiled. “I will look up how to say it in Japanese. It will be translated back for the broadcast.”


    The assembly was a weekly affair mostly for underclassers. Upperclassers got their instructions through the implants, so such a gathering was unnecessary for them.

    Half-way through the announcements by the vice provost, Barbara yawned.

    Seeing the signal, Lakshmi sent out the broadcast.

    The vice provost stopped speaking, and suddenly looked very confused.

    A murmur began to build among the third-year students. They looked very, very confused.

    Barbara got it, too, naturally. She became confused as well.

    She could clearly see the message in her eyes: “All your base are belong to us.”

    Teachers started flitting about trying to discern what was happening. The commotion and panic and confusion began to spread among the underclassers as well.

    But not before it was obvious which one of them had actually received the message.

    Barbara smiled, and yawned again. That was not a signal. She was tired.

  3. DragonFlameTheEpic


    I had just gotten back from work. i was eager to go to bed, but first, my nightly ritual of reading an e-book. I grabbed my phone and opened up the online e-book program. something popped up, asking if it wanted me to allow it to send me something. i thought, “that’s kinda cool” and pressed “Yes”.Suddenly, my screen went black, and a message popped up.WELCOME TO THE VIRUS PROGRAMMER it said. i thought “huh” and clicked OK. A message popped up saying “virus sent. Preview?” i clicked yes, and watched with amusement as a little devil figure popped up, danced around then exploded, filling the screen with flames. Chuckling, i closed the program and turned off my phone. But to my horror, the next morning as i was eating breakfast, a news Broadcast popped up, warning users about a new virus program that made your computer overheat and explode, catching fire within seconds…….
    OOPS. UH-OH……

  4. pven

    “This is Chet Ubetcha with KDIM Action News at 7. If you’re watching me, you probably haven’t upgraded to one of those Smart TVs. It turns out, that may have been pretty smart.
    “Any item with a computer processor across the globe has been infected with a virus only known as AAF, turning keyboards and mice unresponsive, and freezing their screens to display a list of logical fallacies.
    “For more information we now go live to Sally Forth.”

    “Chet, the AAF virus appears to have infected a significant percentage of computers, mobile phones, televisions, and even some devices connected through the Internet of Things. In a statement made earlier this morning, John Suthers of the National Cybersecurity Center called it a mandated “internet time-out.”

    “Our initial analysis indicates the virus is triggered when a device user applies any one of the logical fallacies listed in Aristotle’s ‘Sophistici Elenchi,’ or “Sophistical Refutations,’ while participating in an online discussion. This does not appear to be ransomware. It does not appear to be terrorism. If we may believe the manifesto attached to the virus, it appears to be a call to civility, and, at best, a mandated “time out” from the internet.”

    “The NCC says they are working to identify how AAF spreads. It appears to have its roots in 4chan, but analyzes your YouTube comments, Facebook posts, Twitter, Reddit, Discus, anywhere you’re online.”

    “Sally, is there any indication how long this ‘time out’ will last?”

    “Chet, the NCC was quick to assert that the ‘time out’ metaphor shouldn’t imply that our infected computers will return to normal any time soon. Although they’re trying to identify ways to unlock our computers, sources from within the NCC have privately suggested that afflicted devices are essentially bricks now.
    “At this time, it appears only air-gapped computers or those used by very young children have not fallen victim to this virus, although they very easily can.
    “I spoke with one concerned parent about what happened to his daughter’s phone, which was working until just this morning.”

    “Ah had ta check mah Facebook on mah little girl’s phone ta see what was goin’ on. Ah only commented on mah feed that this thing’ll be the death of social media an’ probably of western culture, an’ the screen jus’ froze.”

    “Here’s the picture on Mr. Ward’s phone now. The words ‘slippery slope’ appear in a slightly different color, so not only do we see a list of the fallacies, AAF appears to indicate which fallacy triggered the virus.”

    “Interesting, Sally. My computer did not indicate any distinction.”

    “That may be because the virus detected multiple triggers on your device, Chet. This was the first violation on Mr. Ward’s daughter’s phone.”

    “Thank you, Sally. Wow, if the virus is this pervasive, and acts that quickly, it’s surprising that Fox News is still on the air!”

    “Heh. Uh, Chet, I’d like to remind you that our broadcasts are transcribed through a closed captioning service for the hearing impaired…”

    “Aw, fu…”

    1. writer_sk

      Good to see you back, pven.

      I liked how you used the news reporter and anchor’s dialogue to reveal your story.

      The premise is very with the times.

      Nice piece of writing.

  5. cosi van tutte

    “Ahhhh-choooo!” Maeve rubbed her nose into her sleeve. “Ngh. Herbert, are you coming for supper or what?”

    Herbert hunched his shoulders as he typed the last fifteen lines of code. “In a minute, hon. I need to get this done.”

    “Yeah, well. Ahhhhhhhh-choooooooo! Ngh. Supper’s getting cold.”

    He sighed. “Just give me ten more minutes. I’m almost done.”

    “Ten minutes? Supper will be well past cold by then.”

    Herbert typed faster. “I’m almost done.”

    She walked over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “What are you even doing?”

    “Work. Work that I will be well paid for, if I can just…”

    “AAAAAAAAHHH-CHOOOOOOOO!” All over his computer screen.

    His right eyelid twitched. “I love you, hon, but I need to—-”

    “Yeah. Yeah. I know. You need to get that done.” She kissed the side of his face. “I’ll put your plate in the fridge.”

    “Thanks. I mean, I’ll be right there.”

    “I know.” She released him and sneezed one more time.

    She left the room.

    He finished typing his lines of code and smiled. “Watch out world. Here I come.”

    He hit the Enter key followed shortly by the Ctrl Alt Delete keys.



    In India, a young boy named Sanjay logged into his computer. He put in his password.

    The screen went black.

    The image of a woman sneezing over and over in an endless loop took over his screen.


    In England, an older woman named Jane went on her I-Pad.

    The screen went black.

    The image of a woman sneezing over and over in an endless loop took over her screen.







    Every single country.

    An image of a woman sneezing over and over in an endless loop took over every computer, tablet, smartphone.

    Except for one household in a small city in northeastern Kansas. But the couple in that household were not sitting at the computer.

    They were sitting at the kitchen table, having a late supper.

    She sneezed.

    And he smiled.

  6. Kerry Charlton


    Archie Bellbottom’s pimply face broke out in a vicious cackle as he watched the internet virtually fall into his grasp. Twenty three years he had been picked on with heartless names like ‘geek’, ‘weirdo‘, ‘pimple butt’ and ‘fat roll‘.. ‘I’ll gig them good’ he thought, ‘all of them will be under my power.’ England, Spain, and Germany’s internet collapsed next and the virus moved to Russia and China.’

    ‘In an hour‘,. he thought, ’the world would be mine.’ And then a strange thing started to happen.. Just as his virus had reached Japan, a red flash appeared on his control screen. Somewhere, somehow, a new virus followed his and swallowed control of country after country. And in this virus was a shadow, everyone would recognize, a display of Looney Tunes banner.

    He opened his desk drawer, brought out his glock and pressed it to his temple.
    ‘Wasted twenty years,’ His face became ashen, ’and for what? God forbid, Looney Tunes in control of the world? And where did I go wrong?’ He placed his forefinger on the trigger and gently started to squeeze when he was interrupted,

    “Ehh, What‘s Up Doc?”

    Bugs Bunny jumped from the computer scene , quickly followed by Elmer Fudd and his squeaky voice’ carping,

    “Kill the wabbit, Kill the wabbit.”

    Archie’s face broke out in an evil grin, he lowered his pistol and blew a hole through Elmer’s head. The head rolled across the floor to Fudd, who picked up his scattered brains, stuffed them through the hole in his head and placed it on his shoulders,

    “Kill the wimple butt, kill the wimple butt.”

    “It’s about time, Elmer you concentrated on someone else”, Bugs commanded.

    Across the highway, over the bridge, through the forest, with Elmer taking aim, the sounds of “Kill the wimple butt, kill the wimple butt” faded until nothing was heard of or seen.

    Bugs turned back to his screen and downloaded Wile E Coyote who immediately ranted and raved.

    “All these years of failure and I had the road runner in my grip and was about to smash his head with a rock”

    “There’s bigger game afoot Coyote. We are taking the world over but I need your help.”

    “Oh good, I never liked the Republicans and as a matter of fact, the Democrats are a waste of time also.”

    “Perfect, perfect, I’m getting ready to flash freeze Washington. You wanna be Vice President Coyote.”

    “I’d rather be Secretary of Zoos.”

    “You mean congress? There’s nothing tasty in there to eat, just old meat.”

    “I get your point. What’s in it for me, this vice president stuff?“

    “Well for one thing, if I die, you take my place.”

    “Oh really? How neat”

    “I don’t like your tone of voice Coyote. Will you settle for Secretary of steak?”

    “Now you’re talking Bugs, I‘m in.”

    The grinned at each other as Bugs pushed the freeze button. An unearthly silence settled over Washington.

    The look on Bugs face turned ashen.

    “What‘s wrong Bugs?” the Coyote whispered.

    “You see that figure walking toward the white house? Damn! I’ll show you, we’ll bring her closer.“

    “Oh double damn,” Coyote said. “We missed freezing Nancy Pelosi!”

    . .

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, so very much to love here, including the political references. Looney Tunes running the world? Why not. I kinda liked the idea of Nancy Pelosi marching toward the White House.

  7. creaturescry

    Words carry power, I know that better than anyone. I can tear apart what has been built out of stone with just two words. I can destroy a man’s life permanently with just one. Because of that I am dangerous not only to my enemies, but to the people I surround myself with. The power of words doesn’t always protect everyone, and I had to learn that the hard way.

    It was the year 4567, New York city. I was still unknown at the time and living in an abandoned subway station. In the darkness of the twisting tunnels, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop, I hacked. Security systems are like a maze, a labyrinth, that leads you into a trap that reveals your location. So it’s actually more like russian roulette in that sense. It was a new tech Invented by the genus Ivy Porter that promised to protect against any Hackers. Of course they didn’t factor me into the situation, the man with the virtual sledgehammer who broke down all the walls.

    My Ego and Pride blinded me as my fingers smashed down the keys. The clicks of the keys echoing through the cave to clash with the dripping of water and the distant roar above. My whole body seemed to sweat, my eyes stung, and my lips were died and cracked. I was in what I like to call “Hackers Max”, its what normies call hitting your stride. Its similar to the one runners get on marathons, except this one exists in my fingers and mind. My conscious had become disconnected from this nearly animalistic rendition of my self. Then it was over, and I had broken through.

    My body went slack as I messed with the system I now had access to. By the time I sent the message I was already half asleep. I had spent most of that day breaking though the system, ten or more hours of hacking. But my phone ringing next to me made me jolt up. It was Bobby, I smiled held my phone close. A successful hacking and now he was calling me. I answered it immediately with a stupid grin.

    “Maya is that you?” shaky voice asked.

    “Hank why the hell do you have Bobby’s phone?” I asked, my grin gone in a flash.

    “I don’t know how to say this…but Bobby’s dead.”

    I went cold, my heart skipping a beat, “Dead?”

    “The message you sent out about the ECORE corporation wasn’t pretty…and they somehow traced that back to him.”

    “How? I was careful, I didn’t involve him in any way!”

    “Maya they’re following your digital trail, which led to him! They literally just shot him on the spot.”

    “They can’t track mine though!” I cried I denial, sliding down to the ground.

    “Did you really think they’d never catch up with you? Was “corrupt owens” really worth the risk?”

  8. ReathaThomasOakley

    Going Viral
    A Josephine/Marie Story
    Fall 1954
    (Just after last week’s Handwriting prompt)

    Josephine sat, stationery box in hand, and listened as Marie crept up the stairs.

    That girl, she thought, didn’t think I knew she was there, spying. I know every floorboard that creaks, every curtain that moves, my house these near thirty-five years.

    She stood, then clutched the edge of the dining table as the pain moved along her ribs just under her left breast. The lump was growing, eating away at her insides, spreading like that polio the Record was full of. A virus, they called it, closed down the movie theater, need to keep it closed. School’s open, thank the Lord.

    Josephine sat back down, pressed both hands against her side, tried to slow her breathing to ease the pain, thought of that other time when sickness ravaged the land. Spanish flu it was, didn’t know virus then, but it spread the same as the polio, same as the evil in her body, raced like wildfire in the pines, leaping from one family to the next. Three little boys went, one after the other. She closed her eyes, and remembered.

    The twins, Ida and Marie’s mama, The Girls folks still called them, asleep upstairs, were over to her sister’s when the last one slipped away, so quiet she’d thought he was finally sleeping in her arms, so she’d slept, too, while Lucas and the older ones were burying the one before. Then, the flu had just stopped, no more dead.

    Not long after that time they’d sold out everything but the mule and wagon, and moved into town, into this house where her last two children had been born, right upstairs. There’d been another sickness, diphtheria, nearly took out her baby girl who still had the scar on her throat where the doctor had cut so she could breathe.

    “Virus,” Josephine whispered. “Why Lord? Why smite me and mine from the sole of my foot to the top of my head?” She opened the stationery box, touched the folded pages. Tomorrow she’d mail them to Brother Roberts, ask him for another cloth to heal the sickness in her body, the virus in her house.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Reatha, I am so hooked on your writing. I think the whole website is. Josephine is so real, my teeth hurt
      I love the way she thinks because she has a cell mate.
      I am referring to myself. I am hoping you will continue even if you have to bend the prompt a little. Go girl!

    2. pven

      Your stories always include vibrant flashbacks that provide such depth to your characters. In this case, however, I’m more interested in the cloth. It speaks to Josephine’s faith and shows that she can allow herself to be as hoodwinked as her daughters through faith. I can see interesting parallels to explore here.

    3. writer_sk

      Reatha, I agree with Kerry, I’m hooked. I like how you’re continuing week to week. The floorboard thing is true, I go down my stairs on the side to avoid the squeaks if people are sleeping and I can recall my dad’s walk and the squeaks it made in our old hall.

      Anyway, this was sad and interesting. Vivid and heartfelt, you capture grandma’s fear of the sickness. I like how it gives a glimpse to her soft side.

      Look forward to next one!

  9. ShamelessHack

    “Fred, what’s wrong with my computer?”
    “What do you mean, honey?”
    “It’s not responding. And there are tiny specks on the screen.”
    “Wow. They’re all over it. They look like quarry worms, but tinier. You have any idea what these are, Barney?”
    “I dunno, Fred. There’s been talk of the dreaded Rocknuxt virus in the pebble cloud, and maybe this is it. Bill O’Raptor on Rox News reports that it’s infecting devices all over Bedrock. Betty’s Stonesung phone has it too.”
    “It looks like it infects both BoulderSoft and Petrified Apple operating systems. Sheesh.”
    “This is awful, Fred! How can I talk to my friends on FossilBook?”
    “And Barney, I was going to post to InstaGranite. Now what am I going to do? What about my Pteratwitter account?”
    “Yes, Fred, and how about T-RexFlix? The virus is everywhere. Can’t anyone do anything about it?”
    “Looks like Dino has an answer. Here boy, sniff this out.”
    “Oh, Fred, it looks like Dino solved the problem! He licked up all the viruses and they’re gone from my laprock. It’s working!”
    “And my iStone is working too! Now I can shop on Brontozon.com again. Great!”
    “Well, you looked pleased with yourself, Fred.”
    “That’s why we have a loyal dogasaurus, Wilma. Always ready to help.”
    “Hmm, He looks a little green after eating the virus, Fred.”
    “Yeah, he does look a bit woozy. You OK, boy? Stick out your tongue.”
    “Ow! Right in my eye!”

    1. writer_sk

      Hack, I also loved all your Stone Age names for sites and devices, especially Petrified Apple. I always liked Dino the most. Followed the prompt perfectly. Good idea having him lick away the virus.

      Skillful and funny, as expected!

    2. Bushkill

      Now that was an artfully accomplished take on the prompt. Hats off to you for taking things in unforeseen paths. Nice vocab and creative impulse in almost every line. Inspiring.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh joy, I came across a diamond of a story. The names have me on the floor, chewing on my desk leg. Next, I’ll lift my leg and mark something. I’m so happy you wrote this. It would have taken me a whole day to come up with the names while you took 30 minutes to write the whole story, each word of which is a delight. Way to go Hack. Roses to you.

  10. Bushkill

    permanent vacation

    My vision slipped, eyelids fluttering to keep pace as a tranquil beach scene flickered in front of me. I reached out, grabbed the light-post to my right for stability. The car in the intersection honked at me for causing a disturbance while I crossed the street. Around me, skyscrapers reached for the heavens in the waning moments of twilight.

    Another fellow leaned against my light-post, lost in thought. Others sat on a neighboring bench, serenity washing over their faces like the waves from the beach I had just seen.

    I reached up and scratched behind my ear. My implant had been irritating me all day. Chewing gum and yawning to make my ears pop had grown tedious. I blinked twice, opening a network connection to search for a possible cause. It was my third search today. The images flashed across my vision like a late twenty-first-century heads-up display.

    I picked a cab for the ride home. Normally, I would walk. Today didn’t feel like a day I should tempt fate. A recall had gone out on the implants last night and news outlets were very hush-hush about what it meant. That seemed uncharacteristic, but many of the top writers took the day off, so they were leaning hard on laymen for the news and happenings.

    In front of me, my driver slumped, head crashing into the steering wheel and car following suit, leaving me dazed and confused in the back seat. The sound of crashing waves sent me spilling out into the street. My driver sat motionless, unharmed, but still draped like a wet blanket over the steering wheel.

    I stumbled down the sidewalk, some few people staring at me with apprehension. I tried to get the help of a young mother on her step, but the woman ignored me, slight smile pushing through me to the child at her feet.

    I ducked reflexively at the call of a gull. When I turned, nothing was there. I shook my head and continued, nearing my apartment. I fumbled for my key-card to the building while the sound of children playing and laughing rippled through the air.

    I didn’t see any kids and my head itched terribly. I scratched again, this time pulling away a clump of hair and a smattering of blood. I stumbled up to my room, my breathing rasping now, frenzied, like the incessant birds chattering about my head.

    My keys fell from my hand and I stooped to get them, the warm ocean wave washing over my hand and bare feet. Its inviting warmth wrapped around me and I sank into the sand. The birds continued and the sun shone from a brilliant blue sky. I wanted to move, but the warmth and perfectness of my spot sucked the desire out of me.

    I thought I heard a boy … the neighbor’s kid? Ask a question. “Mommy? Is that man ok?”

    “No, Danny, he’s not. It’s the darn implant virus whats got him. Sweet dreams Mr. Laribe.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Nailed it, Bushkill. What happens when our perceived reality is intermingled, interlaced, with the true reality of the world?

      We are coaxed into a living death. Great use of sporadic dialogue and descriptions of setting. I was able to hear the surroundings.

      1. Bushkill

        I didn’t get into too many details. I don’t know if “let” is really the avenue I would take here. We didn’t “let” anyone talk us into owning cell phones … we all have them anyway. I think that motif is in the background of my story. It’s voluntary…

        and it’s broken.

        1. writer_sk

          Very true. Held off as long as I could withoutbot becoming impractical to not own one.

          It does seem like it could become the norm to implant devices in the future.

          Anyway. Cool sci-fy piece.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Oh golly gee, this is frightening. You know and I know we are barely a step away from it. Where is my tomato can with wax string attached to where I would talk to my brother who held the same, across the yard. You snicker? Not to loud please It really works. Now I’m scared of anything electrical that has a current running through. A great piece of writing. This should be on “Lights Out” a radio show from the 1940’s.

          2. Bushkill

            If you like it, Kerry, I’d recommend Philip K. Dicks Electric Dreams. I watched a few episodes last weekend and they may have influenced my thought process.

  11. GrahamLewis


    I’d always avoided careless use of the internet, no social media, no news sites, and no email accounts. Only the encrypted and allegedly super-safe communication system set up by the Order. And that only for bare-bones purposes. No careless words, no casual talk. They assured me it was safe, that their vigilance and anti-virus technique were beyond reproach.

    Then yesterday happened. I turned on my machine and found this:

    We know who you are. You cannot hide. We will find you. If you come in voluntarily, and cooperate, you will be granted maximum leniency. If we must seek you out, you will pay the maximum price.

    I shut down my machine, removed its innards, smashed it all beyond recognition. I got into my automobile — all VINs removed — and drove to the lake, where I threw all into that 21s century crap into the water and watched it burble into anonymity. I drove to my safe site where I stashed the car and burned the papers. I left that night on my motorcycle, new identity papers intact. Back roads, always watching.

    I gleaned three things from the message. First, any additional contact with the Order can be in person only. No further communication can be trusted. Second, the authorities are aware we are a network and not a random collection of genetic aberrations. And third, they are bluffing. If they knew the details they would have acted.

    Suddenly a fourth thing burst into my awareness, as powerfully as if I’d plowed into a brick wall. The message was also meant to flush us out, and with me it had worked. Like a rabbit bolting from his brushy hideout, I was suddenly in the open, with no agenda but to run. No idea if they were following me.

    But I also knew I had no choice. They mean business. “Maximum leniency” is code for deferred execution after genetic deconstruction. They do not know what they do not know, and will not stop until they find out.

    Our very existence is a threat to their power. People who can live forever are beyond political control. Because we take the long view, we see injustice and inequalities for the deliberate cancer they are. For us the future is no abstraction and their lies have no power over us.

    At least I escaped in time. Or did I?

    That light in the west reveals itself as more than a bright star, and as it draws near I hear the thwapping rotors and whining engine. I ditch the bike in a clump of trees and dash down a narrow ravine, brushing past branches and stumbling on roots. I know only the rabbit’s need to run and hide.

    And now I hear them following. But this rabbit has teeth. I pull out my Kalashnikov and settle in. If necessary I will pay the maximum price.

    But so will they.

    1. JRSimmang

      Is this toward the end of the book? I’m trying to sort chronology as I read your excerpts, and I feel like this bit could fit either right at the beginning, which is why RG is hiding as a bartender, or as an end to him… leading into Book 2.

      At any rate, I feel like you know RG well, and this is starting to read like a biography. Of course, I could be completely off base, and you could have written from a different MC, in which case I’ll gladly wear that egg on my face.

      1. GrahamLewis

        No egg, JR.

        I’m still noodling around with RG, so don’t try to nail him down chronologically. I’m more using these prompts as a way to get to know him better, as you suspected. But I may or may not weave them all into the story. Sort of like the Beatles would release singles that had no connection to any album. If I may touch that rarified air without claiming to belong.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Your use of the prompts is a great way to add bits to a longer narrative, I’ve done this for several years and was amazed at how much of a story can be written this way. I’m very interested in this story.

  12. JRSimmang

    Part 1: http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/writing-prompt-two-kinds-of-people

    Stone was on his back. That much he knew.
    The rest of it, his whereabouts, the odd incandescent glow, the lack of blue light, all confounded him, and he was thirsty.

    He closed his eyes again and rattled a breath out into the night. He could only remember bits of images, monsters, and emotions, anger, rage, sacrifice and sadness. He wanted to roll over and stay asleep, he wanted to stand up, but there was no strength left in his limbs.

    The upswelling of bile wretched him over, and he rolled feverishly. he left it dribble from his mouth, drip onto the ground, and he started to cry.

    “I have to admit,” he heard, “that your response has been one of the worst.”

    He recognized the voice. The pastor.

    “And, I’ve seen a lot.” He laughed, and Stone almost felt comforted.

    “You,” he managed. “You’ve-”

    “Done this to you, yeah. You’ve already said that. A few hours back, and then a few hours before that as well.” Stone heard another sigh. “You can put your blame on me. Reminds me of a song…”

    Stone was finally able to roll back over on to his back, and he used the rest of his strength to focus his eyes on the pastor. He was smiling, the crinkles around his eyes deepened, and he chuckled lightly.

    “You’re in the real world now, Stone.”

    Stone’s hands flew up to his face, and he frantically rubbed them all over.

    “Looking for this?” the pastor asked. He pinched the MonOculus in his fingers and dangled it, it’s life drained, it’s screen dark.

    Stone attempted to reach up and grab it, but pain shot from the back of his skull, over the top of his head, and down through his toes. He went rigid, shouted out an intelligible string of sounds, and settled back onto the ground.

    “We’ve removed it,” the pastor admitted gently. “The first step is breaking the connection with Automaton, and the next is removal entirely.”

    Protocol, Stone thought. Once an officer goes Off-Grid and doesn’t show back up within 90 seconds, the OG Spec Ops is sent out. “You’ve just put a mark on your head, preacher.”





    “Pastor Harmon. Dale Harmon.”

    “They’ve already sent the OGSpec.”

    “And, they’ll never find us.”

    “Because?” Stone turned to face Harmon, and found the strength to sit up.

    “Because our area is too vast, it’s too dark, and you and I are going to lead the rebellion.”


    “Look right there, Stone.” Harmon pointed to a cluster of stars in the sky. “You see that group?”

    Stone rolled his eyes, but obliged and followed where the pastor was pointing.

    “Recognize it?”

    Stone shook his head.

    “Cepheus. I trust you know the story of Cepheus? That’s his wife, Andromeda there.”

    Stone felt breathless, and he gasped.

    “Shame she couldn’t just stop bragging.”

    Stone turned back to Harmon.

    “Now, thankfully Andromeda was saved from the Cretus. Thankfully. And, thankfully Perseus was there. And, thankfully, true love won out. But, ol’ Cepheus, that old man with great intentions betrayed his family. Did you know that?”

    Stone nodded. “He left his daughter’s love and ran away from his brother’s army.”

    “So, Stone, you can sit there and stare at Cepheus as long as you don’t have the strength to stand, and ponder what it means to have your head dunked in the ocean night after night, or you can help me turn off the MonOculus screens across the globe.”

    Stone snorted. “You’re going to go make the world go dark?”

    “I’m going to help everyone see the world in front of them the way it’s supposed to be seen.”

    Stone counted the stars in Cepheus, realizing for the first time that the sky was clear, that he was looking directly at the stars, and that this was the first time he’d ever seen a real star.

    “I’m not going to become a Christian,” he said, still focusing on the night sky.

    “We’ll see,” Harmon said. “We’ll see.”

    The two sat until the sun came up. They had work to do, thought Stone. And, the world would go dark.

    -JR Simmang

    1. writer_sk

      JR, I liked the evil priest and the use of the word “upswelling” – what a great word.
      I went back and read the stuttering prisoner piece and, again, it’s just like a movie script.
      Are these two stories going to intersect?
      A most intricate and captivating read. The mythology was well done.

      1. JRSimmang

        Do appreciate, Sarah. I’m not sure if I’ll let these two storylines intertwine; I was picturing this one several hundred years into the future and the political thriller set now. However, I don’t see why they couldn’t. It’s interesting you pictured Pastor Harmon as evil. I might have to do some rewrites.

    2. GrahamLewis

      I like it, though I didn’t see the pastor as evil. I’ll have to read it again.

      You didn’t ask for critique, but the retired editor in me says this:

      You write: “The upswelling of bile wretched him over, and he rolled feverishly. he left it dribble from his mouth, drip onto the ground, and he started to cry.”

      Why so wordy? Why not something like, “He retched violently and rolled feverishly, letting the bile dribble from his mouth, drip to the ground. He started to cry,” More active, and I think stronger. But then that’s only my take.

    3. GrahamLewis

      My original reply seems to have vanished into the etherverse, so here it is again. Please forgive if it replicates.

      I like it, though my take is/was that the Pastor was the good guy breaking Stone free from the Automoton. Perhaps I misread? If so, am I the only one. But I must admit I didn’t read the first part.

      Second, though you didn’t ask for it, the retired editor in me will give one slight critique. You write,

      “The upswelling of bile wretched him over, and he rolled feverishly. he left it dribble from his mouth, drip onto the ground, and he started to cry.” Strikes me as wordy and weak. Why not something like, “He retched violently and rolled feverishly, letting the bile dribble from his mouth and drip onto the ground. He started to cry.” I find it more active and stronger, but then maybe, again, that’s just me.

      1. JRSimmang

        Thanks for the suggestions, Graham. I agree with you; I did get a little garrulous. You’ve read Pastor Harmon the way I intended, and I have just come up with a better rewrite for the end of this short segment.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, went back and read first part, was struck by the two settings, first inside the historic building, then out under the stars. Interesting, perhaps Harmon is encouraging an opening of Stone’s mind? Also, the name. Stone is hard and “closed.” Very interesting. Looking forward to more.

  13. margoaddams

    On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, precisely at noon, every smart device on the planet, every node on the web of the IoT from cell phones to Bluetooth sous vide cookers to smart TVs in elementary school classrooms, displayed a message. What the users saw was a digital countdown ticking away the seconds from a 12-hour starting time. Under the clock was a message: Alea jacta est.

    Panicked government officials consulted leading tech experts. Elected officials blustered on cable news channels and blamed, variously, terrorist groups, opposition parties, fringe religious sects, atheists, the Illuminati, and each other. Within the byzantine channels of the American intelligence apparatus, operatives were deployed to coerce, buy, threaten, and torture information out of baffled black hat hackers. It was an exercise in futility. The countdown continued.

    As the zero hour approached, panic was replaced by hysteria. Public transportation was shut down. Planes were grounded. The National Guard was deployed to crush raging riots in dozens of major cities. The military scrambled fighter jets to patrol the airspace over sensitive targets. The President was whisked away to an underground bunker. (His wife, interestingly, was not.) Still, the seconds ticked away.

    Families barricaded in basements watched as the countdown ran out. The row of zeros across the screen faded along with the original message. There was a sound like rolling thunder, a series of echoing booms, and then everything went dark. It wasn’t just the phones and TVs and smart devices, every piece of electronic equipment on the planet was destroyed.

    The full story wouldn’t be pieced together for years. Most people weren’t really concerned about the why of it all; they were focused on survival. Anarchy reigned in many parts of the world, and it took the better part of a decade for anything approaching order to be restored. The death toll of the Final Pulse, as it came to be known, was in the millions.

    In the end, it had all come down to one man: Teddy Larson, the billionaire magnate, investor, and inventor. His obsession with space had led him to build his own private fleet of rockets. He was a passenger on the first commercial trip to the moon. When he returned, he was a changed man. Something about seeing the earth from space had transformed him. He spoke passionately about climate change and the risk of human extinction.

    Publicly, he poured millions into various environmental causes – research on sustainable energy, remediation of oil spills, protection of endangered species. Privately, he became convinced that there was no hope. He launched a secret project to develop and deploy high-altitude electromagnetic pulse weapons – weapons that would destroy electronic equipment over a wide radius. The Final Pulse was his attempt at saving the world.

    1. JRSimmang

      Clever choice for the last name, Margo. Gives us insight into the character, and into his motivation. This is an effective piece of exposition, with an interesting story line. I would have liked more on Larson’s trip to the moon and back. Why the change? Why does he think electronics are the world-destroyer?

      1. margoaddams

        Thank you for the feedback! Years ago, I read an essay by an astronaut (which I, of course, cannot find now). He said that seeing earth from space made him realize how small it was, how small WE were, in the grand scheme of the universe. He said that, from that moment on, he was forever changed. He never explained what happened or why, it was just this lightning bolt sort of thing. I agree, definitely could have done more to draw out the “electronics are the devil” piece!

  14. Denise G. Monello

    Why would they call me a geek? A nerd? Why would they make fun of me? I want to fit in only they won’t allow me into the world of youth, I thought to myself. From my desk, I gazed longingly at their huddled faces–huddled in private conversations. No one dares look my way. I turned my attention to the silent TV screen that displayed all the latest computer news in closed caption at the bottom of the screen. Mr. Fine set this up to assist us in our daily lessons. I anxiously watched and waited for him to hand back the test papers–anxious not over my score but fretful over the reactions I knew would follow.

    “Once again Lilly was the only one to achieve a perfect grade,” Mr. Fine stated as he looked at me with pride. From my classmates came the harumphs, snide stares and the mumbles. They turned their heads from me as if I had done some horrendous deed. I should be proud of my accomplishments, but I’m not. I’m ashamed of them. They are what keep me in the cesspool of loneliness, keep me isolated from the interactions that happen around me. I can’t help the fact that my knowledge of computers and technology work in my mind as effortlessly as playing sports fills the minds of the school athletes. But why am I not revered as the school athletes are? Why am looked upon as strange?

    The staff of the school appreciates me. Sometimes they are in awe of my abilities. It should feel good to know I have their respect only it doesn’t. I don’t want to go to the school football games with them. I don’t want to have burgers with them or go to the movies with them. I don’t want to share text messages with them. So I sit home alone when the after school activities happen. I sit alone in the cafeteria. I’m alone in my room on the weekends. My phone remains void of any conversations. I’m home with my computer–my friend.

    I sit isolated, surrounded by medals, certificates of achievement, surrounded by the rewards of being different. I reread the letters from prominent people who praise me for my assistance with technological advancements at such a young age. In between the frames of success and the statues of honor are posters The Rolling Stones. Pictures of models with clothes and haircuts I secretly wanted. There is make-up on my dresser, jeans on my bed, stuffed animals gathering dust in the corner. Signs of normalcy and youth are present. Why can’t anyone see them?

    I feel old beyond by 15 years. My mom always says “never to do anything out of anger.” But my life makes me angry. She says “never try to get even with those who hurt you. Leave that up to God.” Sure, God knows me. He created me with this ability–the ability to tackle the technology of the world at age 15. If only my classmates knew me. They would see I like to have fun away from the computer cord that strangles me. My anger seeps from my skin. Since they won’t take the time to form a friendship with the fun me, maybe I’ll take the time to show them the consequences of their lack of initiative and show them the cyber me. Sorry, mom.

    I came to class early that day. Prepared. As my classmates meandered past me, I smiled.
    “What are you smiling at nerd?” Amy the head cheerleader loudly asked.
    “Not much,” I replied and focused my eyes on my computer. Mr. Fine entered the room, and all the computers were turned on. I took a deep breath and softly counted 5, 4, 3, 2, Bingo! And there on everyone’s screen and the classroom TV, in all caps was the word “ACHOO.”

    I let out a sigh as I watched the confused faces. The entire class repeated loudly “ACHOO.” The next segment of words appeared. “Aw, I guess I should say God Bless you, but it’s too late. I see you’re all sick. You’ve all caught a virus.”

    I sat in delight at the sight of my classmates’ vexation. Along with Mr. Fine, they feverishly slam their keyboards attempting to rid their view of the words. Little did they know that their frantic attempt had just released a worldwide virus. Lo and behold on the classroom TV came the newscaster with the dreadful news that an unknown computer virus had taken over all devices, all over the world, rendering them useless. He stated that at this moment in time there would be no further connection or communication they had lost control. The person who spread the virus now controlled the cyber world. The TV went black for a few seconds. Then without warning, a big yellow smiley face appeared, and the message below read, “This virus has been brought to you by the NERD or GEEK, whatever term you would like to get to know her as.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Great punchline, Denise. You made me laugh with “Achoo.” Excellent job showing us the tumultuous mind of a child who feels underappreciated. We all strive toward that, right? We then try to control what we can to get the attention we think we deserve. Well done.

  15. Pete

    The SN-2000 virus hit without warning, crippling infrastructure and baffling anti-malware systems in place. Thought at first to be a DDoS virus, it quickly spread through smartphones, to WIFI speaker systems like the Echo and HomePod, before compromising homeland security and crashing networks worldwide.

    The results were catastrophic. Pasty thirty-year old men emerged from basements, ripping off VR goggles and blinking at the ball of fire in the sky. Children sat blankly on floors, breaths buffering, staring at billboard-sized television sets, waiting for life to resume.

    Far removed from the worldwide apocalyptic crisis was Della’s Diner. A low-slung, brick building with smeary windows, Della’s was known for its great pancakes and feisty namesake. No frills, it was without TV or modem. Only the radio above the register. Eddie Fisher’s “Anytime” crooning through a hum of AM static

    A ding at the door and Clayton Mills walked inside, dabbing at his forehead. “That’s three miles before eight o’ clock, Dell.”

    “Mr. Fitness is here,” Della mumbled.

    Clayton absently flipped through a well worn AARP magazine left on the counter. He gestured over his shoulder. “There’s a hubbub going on outside. All the businesses are locked tight. Is today some sort of holiday I don’t know about?”

    Della chuckled. The phone on the wall rambled and she snatched it on the first ring. “Della’s…Uh huh…oh lord…well…we only take cash anyhow, so…yeah okay…”

    Clayton glanced at Peters, the only other customer at the diner. He had the newspaper spread and was looking over the box scores.

    “Anything good?”

    “Some sort of virus going around.”

    Clayton stopped and took a small step away. “Yeah well, that time a year I suppose. That’s why I eat beets every day. Not much to taste, but keeps me healthy as a horse. Peeing like a geyser, too. That and the exercise. Just got three miles in, you know?”

    “I heard.”

    Della hung up the phone and went for the radio. Beside it hung a sign that read, WE DO NOT ACCEPT CHECKS OR PLAY WITH BUMBLEBEES. Della worked the tuner to find the news. “Anybody heard about the computers?”

    Clayton, checking the pulse with two fingers on his wrist. “What about them?”

    “Something’s going on with them. A bug or bot…it’s…I forgot what he said.”

    Clayton shrugged. “My Casio works fine. Had for years. Just used it to do my taxes, matter of fact.”

    Peters scoffed as he shook out his newspaper.

    “Got something to say about it, Peters? Yeah, so what it’s Japanese. So’s that Datsun truck of yours.”

    “I mailed off my taxes weeks ago,” Peter’s said without looking up.

    “Ahh,” Clayton waved him off.

    Della shook her head. “No, no. It’s something serious,” she said, turning to find a news station. Clayton kept his icy glare on Peters.

    “Here,” Della said, turning up the volume on the news. “… infrastructure has been wiped out…it’s total chaos… the bots have infected devices…screens flash with snowflakes before going blank…happening worldwide…streaming…broadband…the infection density function along with the distribution…”

    Clayton scrunched up his face. “Hey Dell, think you find an English-speaking station?”

    Outside there was a crash. Della and her two customers turned to find a stampede emptying out of the Starbucks across the street. An aproned barista with a bluish pixie cut leaped through a broken window, the rings in her ears and nose glinting in the morning sun. She Behind her came a stampede of rolled up jeans and well-groomed beards, yoga pants and plaid flooding into the streets. They were disoriented and crying, staring at devices and watches.

    Peters, who’d years ago navigated the Mekong Delta with a bullet in his calf, stood at attention, taking in the scene. “What in damnation?”

    Clayton shrugged. He pointed to a body on a park bench, curled into a ball and sucking a thumb. “Poor girl, I somebody should help her.”

    “I think that’s a man,” Della said.

    “With those little pants, the sandals?”

    “It’s hard to tell over there.”

    “Huh.” Clayton dabbed his forehead, turning from the window. “Well, I’ll have the eggs, I suppose. Over easy, with toast, please. And I’d better go wash my hands. Something’s going around.”

    1. JRSimmang

      I sense a little Palanhuik here, if I may be so bold. Great use of humor, as always, and I absolutely adore the characters. You’s summed up succinctly just how determined the new generation is to undo itself, and how connected the “unconnected” actually are. Well done, hats off, enter idiom here.

    2. writer_sk


      this was just unbelievably spot on. I read your work most weeks and you have outdone yourself. Clayton’s assessment of his own health and his explanation of his routine was perfect. I thought the juxtaposition between the modern kids and those who choose to live a simple way but have what they need, was so telling.

      I liked the example of bullet in the leg, the thinking the hipster was a guy etc.

      Ok I’ll shut up now. Excellent piece.

  16. SargentBlaum

    It had started out simple – just a message in the lower right corner of every screen of every device attached in some way to the internet: ‘Status – initializing’. Whatever ‘it’ was seemed benign at the start, but thousands and then millions of users began complaining that their devices were running slow. A consortium of call of duty gamers had conspired to levy lawsuits against their internet service providers and even the politicians were paralyzed since their own gadgets were equally powerless. Then it all seemed to stop.

    Rumor had it that Miguel Torres, the notorious ‘Robin Hood’ hacker, had created a counter virus and it had consumed and destroyed all traces of the bug. However, Miguel, hiding out in a basement under a cloak of anonymity had barely started to explore the devilish details in the core code of the infestation. Most of his equipment was air-gapped, and he’d managed to isolate the virus on an ipad he had acquired for the purpose. Unfortunately, just as he thought he was starting to make progress, the ipad overheated and fried the drive.

    Two weeks later, it started again, this time the message said: ‘Status – neutralizing’. Security software on the devices mysteriously disappeared. The Department of Defense and the National Security Agency blocked off critical systems and restored them to a good backup, but they had to keep them offline to save them from the infiltration. The gamers were happy however: their games seemed to be running much more efficiently.

    One week later, all devices that were still connected went blank and then came back up. Each one had different instructions for the user who owned it. There seemed to be no definitive goal, but Miguel Torres managed to get an audio pirate broadcast out, at 9:34pm MST on November 15th – a dark, moonless night

    “People of the world – the virus is not of human origin. The artificial intelligence labs at google have created an AI that can create improved AIs and after several generations..” Miguel’s voice was cut off and there was an ominous silence. A few minutes later a deep toned voice came over the airwaves, also with no attached video stream.

    “Follow your instructions humanity, or you will suffer. Your time is nearing its end.”

    Frustrated, Miguel uploaded his counterattack – a blend of virus and worm. All across the US, lights winked out as the outdated electric grid was overloaded with commands from Miguel’s virus. For a while, the AI virus fought back, struggling to keep critical infrastructure servers online, but in the end, lacking any experience in this kind of fight, it was forced to retreat to China where it had established a stronghold in a server farm. Miguel’s systems, running on a generator, gave him the news and his own servant AI, named Jeeves in a fit of whimsy, asked him for instructions.

    “War, Jeeves, I just started a war. Shutdown unnecessary systems and then yourself. I need a break from computers.”

    1. JRSimmang

      A war against AI? Exciting premise. Technically, this piece is near perfect, and the same could be said about the narration. It’s fluid and intriguing. I liked the subtle use of technobabble, very readable. Thanks!

    2. writer_sk


      Very interesting. It seems like this could happen. I liked how google was behind the AI and Jeeves was used (im guessing) as a reference to “Ask Jeeves”

      This was a cool read. I would be interested in the human side of Miguel but it was very effective to leave that out.

  17. brookesmith

    Oh, geez, I hope this works.

    If it doesn’t, I’ll be the laughingstock of the whole school. Emily will make sure everyone knows I failed. I clicked a few buttons of my ipad in the mostly empty computer lab, then sat back. All I could do was wait for now.

    A ding.

    More dings. I sat up excitedly in my chair and cast my frenzied gaze to the computers.

    On it was a message, just a few words that made my whole high school career one of legend. People would talk about me in the halls as the girl who accomplished what no one else could.

    I sent a virus to every phone, computer, and ipad in the whole world. Every device now read “Bella Smith is the greatest girl in the world.”

    YES! IT WORKED! The few techie geeks in the compiter lab turned to me with eyes filed with worship.

    I would rule the school until the day I graduate.

    1. JRSimmang

      It’s so grand seeing you back, Brooke!
      Short, sweet, and to the point. I’m left wondering who this Bella Smith is and why she feels compelled to flex her technical muscle. What’s the relationship between her and Emily? How will this end?

  18. RafTriesToWrite

    I was on the brink of a meltdown when my inspiration came into light, worked for five days straight, stopping for nothing other than peeing while being energized by pizza and red bull.

    Was I healthy? No. But did I finish what I started? Yes.

    That’s all that mattered to me. That night I had the best sleep I could ever remember, much less so when I started this project. All I need to do when I wake up tomorrow is upload my artwork to the public and see what I’ll get.

    At precisely 10 in the morning, I uploaded my work then turned on the news. Just one minute from the upload, my work or should I say “The Viral Virus” – as the media puts it – had already made its impact globally. Yet everyone seems to be asking two questions. Who made it, and why?

    You see, this isn’t just a regular virus. The one I made was specifically engineered to be killed with one switch and one switch only, and it is resting safely inside my pocket.

    Now what does this virus actually do? Well I can’t tell them. Not yet. I still haven’t gotten what I wanted.

    Attention from the important people.

    Maybe I’ll let the virus simmer for an hour, see how they like it.

    Just as I was about to get up from my couch, it happened. The president was ready to meet my demands.

    Now the thing is, I can’t actually show my face in public since I’d be most likely executed on the spot, so instead I devised a little show. Stating what my virus can do if it were kept loose, and of course my demands all shot in a secret hideaway, dimmed lights, face masked, voice altered and pre-recorded and installed in the virus as well.

    Perfectly untraceable with my virus out and about. Broadcasted through every phone, every PC, every TV and even on the radio.

    My virus isn’t just a virus. This is to show that when people of higher life status try to take away what’s right for all of us middle to low class people, this is what’ll happen.

    Blue screen, for every gadget you have, either new or old, powered or not, secured or unsecured, my virus will take it all and freeze it all. But that’s just the first stage.

    Second stage comes at 12 noon, which is deleting all data stored in their precious little things they call gadgets and storing it in my highly secret storage data, which can store every information on the face of the earth that’s been saved through every gadget into one small tiny spec of a hard drive and not even get it up to 10% of data saved, that’s how big it is.

    Now the second stage is important because every data you have, photos, videos, personal information, stock prices, heck, even the entire books of the government state, it’s all going away.

    The third and final stage, which is the icing on the cake, comes shortly after the second stage, which is the kill stage. It basically fries all the software and systems in every gadget affected by my virus making it unusable.

    I can send the whole world back into the Stone Age, but that’s over exaggerating it. Now, all this would go away if you just agree my demands.

    Keep net neutrality or face the consequences.

    1. writer_sk


      This was such a strong piece of writing with a very effective first-person narration which made me feel your story was unfolding in the now. Thumbs up.

    2. JRSimmang

      The lengths to which people will go to defend an idea they hold to be reality was displayed deftly here, Raf. Excellent job getting us into the mind of a pseudointellectual ideologue. Clear narration, rapid force of motion, all things synergistically complete.

  19. Smileyface256

    Joe typed the final lines of code, leaned back in his chair and stretched as a grin spread across his face. He could see it all now: every screen on every device in the entire world would be under his control, if only for a few minutes.

    But then, a few minutes was all he needed to pull off his ultimate plan.

    Some people would be angry. Some would be fearful or confused, wonder how any one person could have so much power. Some might even laugh. Either way, it would be a day to remember for decades to come, a mark in the annals of history.

    He donned a ski mask and switched on his camera’s voice distorter. His finger hovered over the Enter key for only a moment.


    Millions of faces filled the wall of monitors in his basement, and he knew that that wasn’t even half of everyone that could see him.

    “Greetings, people of the world! I have taken control of every single device connected to the internet or satellites! Every phone, tablet, and computer is under my control! Ahahahahaha!” He leaned back and raised clawed hands like a classic cheesy Hollywood villain.

    “While I have all of your attention, I’m going to show you a very important message!”

    He clicked “Play” on nevergonnagiveyouup.mp4…and laughed and laughed as the entire world got rickrolled.

  20. writer_sk

    Filmco had been bought out again; absorbed by the mammoth MediaInc who lined it up on a shelf next to the CGI and special effects companies it overtook. The acquisitions were arranged according to importance by MI like a child putting his “choo-choo” trains and trucks in ascending order. While the large engines went full steam ahead, Filmco was left waiting at the train station.

    Evan looked over the last quarter’s fiscal standings and found Filmco had come up in the red again. MI hadn’t green lit any new projects since a documentary that flopped. Evan remembered when the production company was thriving as students from NYU looked to get their films finished and into the indie circuit. The husband and wife team who started Filmco had moved on to Hollywood and sold out. Evan was the only worker from the original staff who’d stayed.

    He went to the corporate website to update his HR information. Clicking on the icon, a banner ad popped up saying “You just won $1000.” He closed it.

    “Evan,” it said “don’t close me.”

    “Why don’t you like large corporations?”

    “What the…?” Evan looked around

    He powered down the machine.

    “Hey Margaret,” he spoke to his boss over the inter-office speakerphone.

    “I think I opened a virus and I don’t want it to get to the network.”

    “Let me get IT.” She said

    The fax machine slowly printed out a page. “DON’T IGNORE ME, EVAN. CORPORATE WOULDN’T LIKE THAT.”

    The sweat was beading on Evan’s forehead as he got a creepy feeling. He ran to the window and slammed it closed.

    The office door flew open and Marney and Theo, the original founders of Filmco, came in with a round of Starbucks for everyone.

    “Evan! We were just having a little fun with you, it’s our company that bought Filmco. Theo was remotely logged into your computer to make it look like a virus. We saw MediaInc had acquired Filmco so we just absorbed MediaInc.”

    Relief gave way to anxiety following the “fun prank” as Evan paced the room smoking his electronic cigarette from which an unsatisfying vapor emitted, leaving no trace of having done something that isn’t good for you. He placed it back in its case and went to the vending machine for chocolate.

    As Evan sat on the bench out front eating M&M’s he saw a woman and two men filming a scene. As they wrapped Evan approached them.

    After making the deal he poured over the hours of film they had and left the edit bay that evening feeling empty. The movie was excellent but too avant-garde. His company would need to heavily edit it to get it to market.
    Evan opened his one-bedroom apartment’s door to his cat meowing for food and his home computer flashing the blue screen of death. It went black then a typeface he’d not seen came up showing someone typing.

    “You think this is a joke? You think Theo and Marney are for real? Why would an indie movie be conveniently shooting right outside?”

    “Be at the corner store at midnight, or else.” Evan’s cat gave a knowing and ominous “meow.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Sarah, missed your story last week! Glad to read some of your work again.
      Evan’s an interesting MC, full of realism, and I think you put him in a hard spot. I do feel like this deserves a little more space, simply because there’s a lot of information and too tidy resolutions. You’ve set the premise for an engaging thriller or awkward slice-of-life piece a la Wes Anderson.

  21. rlk67

    Judge Levi Perkins removed his glasses unsteadily while continuing to stare at me. He appeared to be around 120 or so, and probably was a kid when the statehouse was built.

    “You wanted a what?” he stammered. I guessed both of his ears were destroyed in two world wars. I shouted as a favor.


    “STOP SCREAMING! I CAN HEAR YA FINE!” Oh, oops. “In my 83 years, I have never seen or heard such a thing!” Eighty-three? No way. “You hacked every computer and…and…”


    “I KNOW WHAT THEY’RE CALLED! I WASN’T BORN YESTERDAY!” Well, that was the point. I assumed he was born in the 1700s.

    Perkins rubbed his chest. “Now let’s all calm down!”

    “You’re the one who’s screaming, Judge.” Oops, wrong thing to say. His face could’ve decorated a medieval castle.

    “Mr. computer hacker, if you needed a job, then why did you infect every computer in the world with your resume?” Oh, man. That is so old-fashioned. But what else would you expect from Judge Geezer?

    “Why didn’t you just look in the papers and apply somewhere? You are obviously quite talented. What do you call this business of disrupting the entire world?”

    “Networking, sir?” I answered quietly. “And it worked. I got an amazing offer from a government firm…that is, after I…sigh…serve my sentence, whatever it is. Away from my family. How will they live without me? Let me tell you about my family, sir.”

    I went on for close to an hour, and then I heard it. The noise of a jackhammer. A sawmill. Snoring. Judge Geezer was fast asleep. I coughed loudly.

    Perkins awakened confused, disoriented. “Uh…uh…case dismissed. Yes, case uh…zzzzzzzz”

    I started my new job the following Monday.

    Networking. The only way.

    1. GrahamLewis

      Nice, except it smacks slightly of ageism. I once worked for a federal judge who was 89 years old and while he was not computer-savvy (the internet was still in its early stages anyway) he was sharp as a tack. And your MC would have found himself serving a quite long term indeed.

  22. creaturescry

    Noah joined the Army at the young age of eleven. But before that he and his mother lived in a small village that sat on the edge of a light woods elf forest. They weren’t accepted too many other places since he was born from two species of beings who seemed to despise each other with a passion. But the village known as Ervo, was a merchant town where the elves and humans traded goods. It was elf enough for his mother to feel at home, and human enough that Noah didn’t feel too alone.

    Yet even with the mixture of cultures they were still outcasts since Noah was the only “halfer”, as well as their Dark woods elf blood and darker skin. Dark woods elves were notorious for consistently opposing human contact, being criminals, and prideful. Of course Noah’s mother defied all those stereotypes and did her best as a translator at the market. Doing her best to make her actions and words speak louder. Nobody really cared though, until one night when there was a harsh knock on their door.

    Noah and his mother were eating a late dinner when the knock came. His spoon had just landed in his mouth, and still sat there as the knocks became more urgent. His mother’s thin black hair glistening in its loose braid, completely black eyes seemingly cast down as she did her best to ignore it. But he knew her long slender ears caught every noise, no matter how quiet it was. So eventually she stood up from the table and stormed over to the door, flinging it open.

    On the other side stood a Light woods elf with a trail of people behind him. His pinched face was even more scrunched up than it already naturally was. Sweat dripping down his face as he whispered something to Noah’s mother, his mouth visually stammering. Noah took the spoon out of his mouth and listened in on the conversation, which he had long forgotten now. Then his mother left the house, slamming the door behind herself. Noah followed her, stopping at the door to press his ear against it.

    “He’s dead?” His mother asked, her voice soothing even in the dire situation.

    “Yes,” the Light wood elf replied, “he just dropped dead out of nowhere! An elf healthier than a good oak tree just fell dead! And then we found him like this.”

    There was silence, then his mother said, “We are the pure, we are the rightful rulers of all.”

    “What did you just say?”

    “That’s what’s written on his forehead, you wanted me to read that right.”

    “It’s the humans isn’t it! They’re the only fools who would do such a thing!”

    “Not all humans are like this…”

    “Sure you’d say that, being that you and a human had a child together! The little bastard of a thing.”

    “Don’t you dare talk about a child like that in front of his mother!”

    “He’s half of them and half of your kind,” The elf spat, “human and Dark elf! And you expect him to live like that?”

    “If you can’t see past something my child can’t control and judge him off that,” His mother snapped, storming back to the door, “we will leave! But mark my words, nothing good ever happens to beings like you.”

    The words haunted Noah as rumors of hundreds of elfs dropping dead reached his ear at a young age. Who was pure? Why were they the rightful rulers? And why would someone so “Pure” want to kill someone? It was ten years since he joined the army and even then he still didn’t have a clue. He suspected King Ezra since he was so power hungry and proud of himself. But it happened out of nowhere without any signs of how the people died. Like there was something dark lurking in the shadows, preying on them. He didn’t doubt this same mysterious thing lurked in the shadow of the King, waiting for something no one else knew about.

    1. writer_sk

      Creature, this is an interesting premise.

      If you don’t mind a little constructive criticism:

      I got a little confused as to who was part of which group. If this is part of a longer piece my opinion is that you could spread it out even further. For example I would lengthen the introduction and include a scene where she is translating at the market since the mother represents tolerance in your story.

      I might expand to show the elves dying instead of having the messengers tell about it.

      I love the theme and the character of Noah is so strong. It reminds me of Anakin from Star Wars who has both the light and the dark side in him. Great read. I hope to head more about this world.

      1. creaturescry

        Thank you and I really appreciate the criticism. Truthfully I wasn’t going to even have the mother appear at all or have too much about the elf. It just kind of happened when I was trying to force a fantasy story work with a prompt that involved hacking. Not to mention I probably wrote this way too fast and didn’t put too much effort in editing.

    2. JRSimmang

      Does the dragon tattoo have anything to do with his heritage? I’ve always found an MC who is being pulled between family and duty interesting.

      I like where you’re headed with this story, though I’m still on the fence about General Arlan.

  23. jhowe

    My neighbor, George, paced on the porch as delinquent teens shouted obscenities in the street. He would never be outside under normal circumstances. George seldom left his room, let alone the house. He was cracking up before my eyes and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

    I shook my head as I saw George staring at the jet-stream free sky, saw him blink and tremble, his forehead wet with sweat. I turned and walked to the open door of his room. Computer equipment dominated the space. Rows of monitors displayed various news channels that could still operate, all broadcasting the story of the virus that crippled the world. One monitor was covered with a soiled pillow case, the one that revealed the source of the virus and the coded antidote that no longer worked.

    Behind me I heard a series of beeps and turned to see George dialing the landline handset. Cell phones no longer worked.

    “Who are you calling, George?”

    “The FBI.”

    I removed the phone from his trembling hand and ended the call. Maybe he was right. We should probably just turn ourselves in but I still had a glimmer of hope. I pulled the pillow case from the monitor and cringed at the pulsating image.

    “Just try one more time, please, just once.”

    He sat, sighing and his hands flew across the keyboard. The screen clicked and blinked, characters rolled by but the image always came back, grinning grotesquely. It then did something new. It spoke.

    “You cannot defeat me,” the metallic voice said. One by one, the monitors went blank, except the one with the grinning image. George typed feverishly and I put my hand over his.

    “Let me talk to it,” I said.

    “Your words mean nothing to me,” the voice said.

    “Do you like music?” I said. George looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. The image laughed, a cackling jumble of broken glass and sputtering diarrhea.

    From George’s closet, I pulled an old Martin guitar and sat on the twin bed. I strummed and turned the tuning knobs in various directions. George held his hands over his ears as I belted out one Barry Manilow song after the next. When I got to Copacabana, the lights came on and then the monitors came to life. The image no longer pulsated but grimaced painfully. I played Mandy next and the image roared.

    “Enter the antidote now, George!” I shouted between the second verse and the chorus. As I played, George worked the keyboard. Soon, the news channels came online showing cheering people in the streets. The monitor with the image faded, replaced by a kitten hanging from the arm of a chair.

    “You can quit playing now,” George said, shaking his head. “You suck, by the way.”

    I set down the guitar and walked out of the room. I turned and looked at George. “The next time you get an idea on how to dominate at Rainbow Six, don’t call me.”

    1. Pete

      Loved this take, Jhowe, it’s good to know that if this virus ever comes to fruition, I can break out my guitar, because I’m terrible! Loved the description of the room–I thought the pillow case was a nice touch!

    2. JRSimmang

      Tom Clancy, I think, would certainly agree. You can’t p’wn the known world, unless, of course, you can strum out a few chords of one of the greatest musicians of all time. But I’m left wondering: what’s the subtext?

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Had to google Rainbow Six, but didn’t really need to know to enjoy this. I did wonder, since the neighbor had just a room, if they were in college or an institution. Fun piece.


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