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Humans are the attempt by an alien race to create perfect, unstoppable beings. They missed the mark on perfect, but they've just found out how unstoppable humans are.
Sangeet woke up and rubbed groggily at the damp spot of drool on his collar, blinking his eyes slowly as he tried to separate dream from reality. He could hear Jess yelling through the door, but her words seemed like mismatched puzzle pieces he couldn’t fit together. She hammered on the door again.
“It’s open, it’s open. Come in, for goodness sake,” he called out and shifted his feet off the desk.
Jess burst through, out of breath and brushing out-of-control bangs that had escaped her beanie back behind her ears, “Sangeet, what are you doing in here?” she said, “are you ignoring me? Dude, you seriously need to see this.”
Sangeet checked his watch – it was late. There would be a dozen missed calls asking why he’d missed dinner again, not that he cared. “What are you still doing here?” he asked.
“Sangeet, man, you’re not listening to me,” Jess said, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice, “You really
need to see this! Fuck, I mean, shit – sorry. Just come and look, I don’t know how to explain it.”
“Jess it can wait until morning, for goodness sake.” Sangeet started to gather his things into the travel satchel his wife had bought for his birthday those few years back. Back when things were good. He’d hated it then and despised it now – ugly, cheap pleather piece of crap that it was.
Jess strode around the desk and grabbed him by the shoulder, hard. “Get. Up. Now. Or we’re both going to lose our fucking jobs,” she hissed, then immediately taken aback at herself added, “Sorry! Just, please!”
Sangeet looked at her slowly – she was close by his side and he could smell her soap; coconut and citrus of some kind. He liked it when she wore those slightly too tight jeans. He rose and savoured her closeness, she immediately backed away.
“Alright fine, what is it?” he asked.
She was already out the door and called out for him to follow over her shoulder. He rubbed at his face and ambled after her.
He found her at her console, and she gestured at screen, holding her breath against the waft of his cologne that always turned her stomach. “Look at this,” she said.
“What? It all looks normal to me?” he said, resting a hand on her shoulder.
She shrugged him off. “Normal! Dude, look
at this. The program’s only been running for like four, no – fucking three hours now.”
Sangeet squinted at the screen, then blinked rapidly. “No. What? Is this that same simulation? But it shouldn’t have even…”
“I know! It’s fucking – sorry, it’s completely wild.”
“But, I don’t understand… I didn’t run the God Script. How is it…”
“Yeah, well about that. When you insisted we run it away, I made a couple tweaks.”
Sangeet wheeled her out of the way and leaned closer towards the screen. “A couple… What does that even mean? Jess, they’re at nuclear stage already. They’re exploring space, for goodness sake!”
“Yeah, well I fucking – sorry – I told you we should have scrapped it! But when you made me push ahead anyway I hacked some script together,” she said, pulling her beanie back off her forehead, “I call it the Survival Protocol – basically, when…”
Sangeet was already walking away. Jess swallowed a mouthful of irritation and got up to follow him, “where the hell are you going?”
“Don’t you see what this means?” he called back over his shoulder, “I’ve done it! I’ve actually done it. The VPs are going to lose their minds. I’m calling Kubota San right now.”
Jess stormed after him. “What the fu – what do you mean you’ve
done it? No, you know what, that’s not the point. Dude this is a big
problem. Sangeet! Listen to me!” She slapped the phone out of his hand and it clattered off the desk.
He glared down at her. “Jess, you know I don’t like to pull this card but I’m your manager. You can’t speak to me like that.”
“Fuck, I mean, shit. I’m sorry. But listen
! We only ran basic code on this one, because neither of us thought this would go anywhere. No other lifeforms, no worlds fully formed once you look at them closely. Nothing. You said, ‘don’t bother wasting time on it,’ remember?”
Sangeet grinned a toothy grin, “Jess don’t worry about that, the VPs won’t care about that now,” he said, reaching out to brush a loose bang from her forehead.
She jerked her head back. “That’s not what I’m saying. They’ve noticed
“How could they have; I haven’t even told them yet.”
“Not the VPs you fucking – sorry, not the VPs! The simulated lifeforms – humans, they call themselves. Only a couple of them right now, scientists, of course. But they’ve noticed it’s not right.”
“Who cares? Go code it now then if it matters so much to you, for goodness sake. I’m calling Kubota San.”
! They’ve started to…”
“Jess, that will be all.”
“That will be all.”
He ushered her out of the small, grimy office and closed the door behind her. Jess kicked a chair and it spun wildly, hitting an empty desk with a hollow clang. Even this late the office would have been full just a few months back. Now it was just her and fucking Sangeet, the incompetent creep. Those cutbacks had sucked, but she should’ve listened to Tej and taken the redundancy when she had the chance.
Just as she slumped back into workstation her phone started to buzz. She glanced at the screen and swore under her breath, now
, Nick – fucking really
? She glanced at Sangeet’s closed door and at the console, before rolling her eyes and picking up.
“Nick, are you OK? Now’s really not a good time.”
She sighed as his answer came long and rambling, heading out to the hallway to talk him down yet again. Those drugs were fucking destroying him.
When she returned 15 minutes later Sangeet was at her desk, tapping furiously at the keyboard. His forehead glistened and his moustache twitched annoyingly.
“Sangeet, what are you…”
“Jess, oh for goodness sake! Where have you been? This is a disaster. An absolute disaster!”
She sighed and walked over, but when she saw what was on the screen her face went cold. She wheeled Sangeet bodily away from the screen and tapped out a string of script faster than she’d ever typed before. “Sangeet, what the actual fuck did you do?”
“They’ve… I mean, it’s not possible. They’ve…”
“They’re hacking our system you absolute cock nozzle. I fucking told you we had a problem.”
“Jess, we need to fix it. Kubota San will be here any second. He offered me… He said I’d be… All that money… We need to fix this!”
The humans had cracked her source code. In the last 15 minutes, they’d completely altered the fabric of their own reality. Now they were coming after Jess’s servers – and they were nearly through the firewall. If this wasn’t such a clusterfuck Jess would have been seriously impressed.
“We need to shut this down, now
,” she barked, not taking her eyes off the lines of code as her fingers strained to hit keys as fast as the symbols were appearing in her head, “Go pull the power!”
“We can’t do that! The whole company would go down.”
“Screw the company. If they get control of our servers they could tank the entire fucking economy. Go. Pull. That. Plug. Now.
Sangeet brushed a palm over his moustache several times as his eyes darted around the room, wide and wild and welling up. He turned on his heel and hurried across the linoleum floor towards the server room.
Jess had never typed this fast. The humans were changing her own code in front of her face. ASI, you clever bastards
, she thought. In the 15 minutes she’d been gone they’d developed an Artificial Super Intelligence and were turning its full force against her script.
“Sangeet, hurry the fu – seriously hurry up dude, I can’t hold them off.”
Sangeet strode calmly back into view. “It’s over,” he said with the airs of a man who’d just saved the day.
“What the actual fuck
are you talking about? They’re almost in!”
“No. I shut the power off. It’s done.”
Jess stopped typing and looked at him. “What did you say?”
“I pulled the plug on everything – you can stop worrying.”
They were in. They’d been in this whole time. It was a decoy. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
“Ahh, Kubota San!” Sangeet crowed as the hallway door flung open, “We had a slight setback, but I think you’re going to be thrilled with the data we’ve collected. A true breakthrough, really!”
The VP strode through the door and clapped Sangeet squarely on the back. They shook hands firmly and beamed at one another.
Jess wedged her face firmly between two fists, her elbows on the desk were trembling.
On screen, a text box had appeared.
“All your base are belong to us.”
Please, I don't know what to do. I've tried to tell my wife about this, but she's a science teacher and thanks to my history of practical jokes, she thinks I'm just kidding.
There is something stalking me. I don't know what it wants, but almost every night since I started seeing it, it has terrorized me. It doesn't touch me, it doesn't communicate in any sort of way, it just fills me with horror. If what I seem to ramble, please forgive me... I haven't slept in several days.
We live in the second floor of a duplex with stairs down the back of the house to the basement where the laundry machines are. There's a door at the bottom of the stairs before the door to the basement that looks out onto our back porch and into the back yard. Six days ago, I was going down to the basement to bring up some laundry and I glanced out the door as I passed. There was a figure standing at the far edge of our yard. Her back was to me, and she was just standing there, looking into the woods beyond our yard. She was dressed in nothing but a light gown. It had lots of flowing material coming off of it that was whipping around in the air slowly. The whole scene creeped me out instantly, but I thought she might be a friend of our downstairs neighbor, so I continued to the basement. When I came back up, she wasn't there.
The next night, I went down again, and as I passed the back door, I looked outside. The woman was back. She was exactly like she was the night before, facing away, not moving. The hair on my arms and neck stood up straight when I saw her. I was even more creeped out when I realized she was in the same clothes as the night before. That's when I did something I shouldn't have... I opened the back door. Leaning out, I called to her to see if she was okay. She didn't respond. She didn't make any sort of indcation that she'd heard me. It was freezing cold, so I shut the door and locked it. Coming back upstairs afterward, I looked out the window and she was gone again.
Later that same night, I was in the bedroom, getting ready to go to sleep. Everything was dark, because my wife had gone to bed before me. Our bedroom looks out over the backyard, and my side of the bed faces the windows, so I have to go past them to get in. As I was doing so, I suddenly got that same deep dread feeling in my stomach that I had gotten the first time I saw the figure in the backyard. Something compelled me to hesitate by the windows. My hands were shaking as I pulled the curtain back a bit and peeked through the shades into the backyard. It was a clear night, so the backyard wasn't shrouded in darkness. The woman was standing in the middle of the backyard, no longer at the edge of the woods, facing the house with her head tilted up to look directly at the window I was peeking from. I jerked away instantly, afraid she had seen me. Her face was covered in shadow and hair, but I saw her chin and nose. A sharp nose and a thin chin. Gray. Her skin looks gray, I think. Her hair is black and long. I was so scared, I jumped into bed and covered myself with the covers.
The next day, I played outside in the snow with my four year old daughter. She wanted me to pull her on her sled in the backyard, but just the thought of going back there made me scared again, so I talked her into digging holes in the snow in the front yard. That night, things went from bad to worse. Somehow, I had managed to forget about the woman. Then, in the middle of the night, my daughter started crying. Our bedroom is just across the hall from hers. I thought she might need to use the bathroom or just be having a bad dream, so I went into her room to see if she was okay. She was uncovered, curled into a ball on her mattress. I pulled her covers over her and that's when she whispered to me.
"Daddy, there's someone in my closet."
Instant goosebumps. I turned my head slowly toward the closet door at the end of her bed. Normally, the closet is shut, but now it was open. The woman was standing in my daughter's closet. Not even when it was clear that I saw her did she move or make a sound, just stood there and looked at me through the cracked-open door. My blood ran cold when I saw her.
"Get up," I told my daughter, "Get in my arms, quickly. QUICKLY." she scrambled up and hugged me tightly and I walked backward out of the room, watching the closet the entire time. In my mind I imagined her throwing the closet door open and running at us, arms outstretched. I just hugged my daughter and walked backward into my room. The woman never appeared in the doorway. I heard no movement from my daughter's room. I tucked her into my bed and stood there watching the doorway to her bedroom. I did not go back in, I just stood there and watched and listened. When I finally got the courage to climb into bed, I didn't sleep.
Sunday, I told my wife everything. I told her about the first time I saw this woman, I told her about calling out to her and seeing her from the window. I told her that she had appeared in our daughter's closet. She told me it wasn't funny, that it was my fault for our daughter's bad dreams and that I shouldn't encourage her to be afraid of her closet.
Sunday night, my daughter called to me from her room again. Call me a coward, but I couldn't go back into that room. I called her quietly to come get in our bed, but she cried and said she was scared. I wanted to go and get her, but I was scared too. I told her to pull her blankets up and cover herself. Just cover yourself, honey, and you'll be okay. I prayed that it was true. I lay there, peeking over the sleeping form of my wife and out into the hallway at the closed door of my daughter's room and just kept praying. I heard her cry a while longer, then she went quiet and I hoped that she was asleep.
Monday, I piled toys in front of the door to her closet. By that time, there was no doubt in my mind that this was some sort of ghost or apparition, but I piled things in front of the closet anyway. Like a pile of toys could stop a ghost.
Monday night, my daughter did not cry, but I didn't sleep. I lay there, looking at the ceiling, tense. Around 2:00, I heard her bedroom door creak open and I knew something was wrong. She must be scared, I thought, so I called to her like before, "Just come to me and you can sleep in our bed, Sweety." But she didn't come. I peeked over my my wife.
The woman was standing there in the doorway to my daughter's room. Her arms hung at her sides, her shoulders slouched down. Her gown was dirty, like it hadn't been washed in years, and hung off her likes torn rags. I wasn't breathing, I wasn't blinking, I just looked at her and she looked at me and I thought this is it, I'm going to die. She never moved, never made a sound. I whispered, "Please, go away. Please, leave me alone. Please, I'm sorry." I couldn't look away. If I look away, she will get closer. I was sure of it. If I close my eyes, when I open them, she'll be standing over me, looking at me. At some point, she was gone. It's like I fell asleep with my eyes open. I don't remember her disappearing, just that I was looking at the doorway, and she wasn't there anymore.
Last night, I lay awake, waiting. I asked my wife to shut our bedroom door because the night light in the hallway was keeping me awake. It was stupid. I don't know what I was thinking. Like clockwork, I heard my daughter's bedroom door creak open. I held my breath. Then I heard the floorboards in the hallway creaking and I started shaking uncontrollably. I heard our bedroom door open, and I knew she was standing there, in the doorway, not moving, just looking at me. I didn't look. I couldn't. I did what had I told my daughter to do and pulled the covers over my head.
I am a complete mess. A zombie at work. I don't want to go home anymore. I think I see the woman in other places. A glance while driving and I think she's sitting in the passenger seat of the truck behind me, or standing down the street asI drive off. Just sitting here at my desk, someone passes by behind me and I jump. I'm afraid that if I turn around, she'll be there, waiting for me to look at her. And what if I saw her face? I don't want to see it. I don't want to see her anymore, but I don't know what to do. The only hope I feel is that, for unrelated reasons, my wife is talking about moving. But our lease isn't up until May. I don't know if I can hold out that long.