I get up groggily to the sound of an obnoxious alarm clock. I have a bad habit of putting my clock on the opposite side of the room. I’ll be forced to get up and turn it off that way. Walking across my rather small room, I pick up the clock and fiddle around with it for a few minutes. Failing in turning the machine off, I toss it behind me, a loud crack filling my empty room. At least it’s off. I can buy a new one later.
Moving to my closet, something on my dresser start vibrating, making the most disturbing sound. A mixture of a distorted scream and broken bells breaks the lovely silence. I jump slightly at the sound my own phone was making and quickly silence it.
Getting dressed in nothing but a small t-shirt and jeans, I head to my living room and breathe in a breath of fresh air. As I exhale I feel a breath that clearly isn’t my own near my neck. I instantly snap my head around and see nothing but the hallway to my room. Ignorance is bliss as they say, so I continue my daily routine.
I take a small glance at the empty room before starting up the pc I always keep housed on my desk. I work from home as a teacher; my students email me about any problems they might have and I in turn respond, usually answering their question. As my family would say, my life’s pretty straightforward, but I like it that way.
I begin this part of my day as I always do: check my email and start making new courses for the online students. No new emails right now, gladly. Occasionally I get numerous ‘prank emails’ from my students, trying to spook me or trick me into buying something online, or even prompt me to download something that’ll mess up my pc. The life of a teacher is a stressful one, for me at least.
Opening up numerous tabs in my favorite browser, Chrome, I start surfing the web, filling out grades for failing students and watching some commentaries on YouTube. A good bit through my work, I decide to check the news only to find nothing interesting enough to hold my attention. I wait for what seems like an eternity for an email, and soon my mind starts preoccupying itself with more important matters: food.
Getting up from my small nook I head to the kitchen, dragging my feet on the ground as I go. I make it one stride onto the kitchen floor when I hear the ever so quiet sound of a door closing behind me. I must have left some window open. I fix myself a bowl of cereal and toast and eat them there in the kitchen. Soon I head back to my laptop to find the tabs and windows I left open closed out. A distorted and red colored inbox in their place.
I attempt to open a new tab and close out of my email to no success. Irritated, I shutdown my computer and restart it. Seconds later It turns back on without showing me the usual Windows login screen I’m so accustomed to seeing. I begin to suspect there’s a virus on this old piece of junk, despite me paying for programs to prevent this. I hear a soft bell tune, my on screen notification going off, indicating I have one unread message.
I check to see who it’s from, only getting a name I assume to be a fake in return. “Lifehacker”. Some kid playing a prank on me perhaps. Grunting heavily, I hover my mouse over the now glowing “Inbox (1)” icon, clicking it and reading the message carefully. There must be an explanation for the childish joke.
To: Kevin Vastwood
Subject: (no subject)
“Would you like to save a life?”
I check for more content to the strange email and find none. What kind of joke is this, what does this even mean? I begin my reply back to “Lifehacker”, pausing a moment before I begin typing again. Snapping my head towards the direction of my room, I study every nook and cranny I see. I swear I keep hearing footsteps from this direction. Peeking through the doorway, I see the barely outlined silhouette of a man holding something in his hands. I instantly turn on the lights, but as quick as it appeared, the silhouette vanished. It must have been my eyes playing tricks on me. I hope it was. I turn off the lights and leave the door cracked behind me. Sitting back down at my desk, I begin my response for a second time.
Subject: Re: (no subject)
“Who are you? Tell me your name and the reason behind this ridiculous prank.”
I push the send button almost immediately and start to close the window when a bell tune chimes in the background of my computer.
One unread message.
The sooner I get to the bottom of this the sooner I can get this day over with. I open the email I received from the troublesome person. Inside it is a link to a website I never heard of before along with a message. I start to read outloud.
“Click this link and you will save a life. You have until the end of today to decide. Lastly, ignoring people is considered rude.”
Not for a second did I consider clicking that link. It could be virus infected or bugged for all I know. I move the entire thread to the trash. As soon as I did, my pc started to heat up, the cooling vents running faster than usual. I quickly tried closing the email tab, finding I have control over my own computer again. I wait for several minutes. I don’t think this guy’s going to say anything else. Good.
Halfway through the day, I’m finishing up the last bit of my work. I’m grateful that’s over with. Now I can finally relax-
The soft chime of a bell breaks my thought.
One unread message. I take a very quick glance at the subject line.
I decide to ignore it and close my laptop, not wanting to deal with anymore spam emails, and head back to the kitchen for a midday snack. Again, I don’t manage one peaceful step into the kitchen when I hear a loud thud coming from behind me. I turn around and shout angrily. “Show yourself!” After what I believe to be five minutes, no answer.
I make my way back to my computer where my phone is charging nearby, ready to call the police, but instead I find myself stopping dead in my tracks. In place of where my computer should be was a package. How the hell did this package get here, and where’s my computer? I run to the kitchen and grab the sharpest thing I could get my hands on and do a quick and thorough search of my house. No intruders or signs of breaking and entering in any room.
Frustrated, I arrive back in front of the mystery box and slice it open, digging through the protective styrofoam padding, pulling out a thin, black computer. I study the computer a bit more before opening it. On the screen there was a small prompt, the screen behind it faded, but not enough that I can’t make out the image of two eyes. I ignore this image and continue on.
“Insert key from email 3, or press continue to skip.”
I have no idea what sort of key is needed, so I skip past the prompt. On the computer itself was only file upon file, each one with different notes, each named something different. Hovering over the file results in the unsettling sound of glass breaking and screams… my screams…
Slightly bothered… I hover over a file named “Note Instructions”.
I clicked on the note and started to read outloud.
“Hello. You, the borrower, are using a laptop that doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to me, as does everything this computer touches. Including you. For each person around you, they are represented as a pixel on this screen.” The screen began to glow a dim blue as small pixels moved vertically across the screen. Intrigued by this, I continued to read, despite hearing soft breathing from the other room.
“Click on a pixel and type a command for that pixel to follow. Every command ends in death. Keep in mind, for each pixel you manipulate your own life will either increase by 1 day or decrease by 1 day. When you run out of days, I will come for you.” I click away the prompt box and start to assume this thing’s either some twisted prank or some twisted game someone developed. It’s the 21st century. Either option is completely possible. I decide to play along and click on a pixel, only to be greeted by another prompt.
I click it away and continue, effectively manipulating the poor computer generated object. Next door, I hear a gunshot, followed by a video file appearing with a loud, disturbing ping on the screen of the thin computer. Praying that shot was just some tv up way too loud, I click on the video file and see my neighbor abruptly stop what he was doing, putting his hunting rifle to his head and pulling the trigger, blood coating the wall behind him as he slumps over, lifeless. A prompt comes up.
“Hack successful. (1) life saved.”
Petrified, I try to move my hands away from the keyboard and scream, finding that I can’t, my efforts to stop typing in vain. I click another pixel and manipulate it. And another. And another. By now I noticed every time I do so, shortly after the pixel in question turns black, signifying their death. A horrible feeling still trapped in my gut, I move my fingers at inhuman speeds, feeling my bones break at the sheer force of which I was hitting them on the keyboard.
“(10) lives saved. (28) lives saved.”
I start to moan in pain from the pain and dread of killing so many people. Echos of my fingers typing and clicking nonstop. Around me sounds of metal scraping against the walls of my house fill the air. Footsteps being louder than ever. I then see the shadow of the man who was never there, holding something in his hands. What did I do to deserve this?
Another prompt appears. This time, it froze the entire computer. I regain the feeling in my hands but not being able to move them off the keyboard. I take a deep breath and read the prompt.
“Insert lifehack code:”
My heart begins to sink as I recall never opening that email. My fingers start to move again, the prompt slowly disappearing. No… not again… not this again, I’m not a murderer!
From the shadows of the deathly still room the outline of a man crept closer until all I could make out was a blood red trench coat and silver eyes. I heard the most eerie monotone voice I ever had the pleasure of hearing in my life.
“You had one unread message.” I remain silent as the man started to smile and laugh, his teeth a sickening pale color. “I told you it was rude to ignore people.”
As my fingers started twitching I remember hearing that somewhere before… in the Lifehacker emails. This man in front of me is the demonic b*****d doing this to me.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t do it. I wanted my old, simple daily life back.
I don’t know what I did to deserve this. I yell in frustration at this Lifehacker. “Why are you doing this to me? What the hell are you? Answer me!” I wait for an answer as my finger ache from the constant typing.
Finally after what seems like minutes, he responds. Walking closer to me, I see he isn’t a man at all. He looks the age of a teenage boy, 19 at most. In his hands is my own computer and a picture of my family. “I’m doing this to you because I enjoy it.” As he said that, he shatters my family portrait in his hand like putty, frame and all, and started smiling the demonic grin he had earlier. My stomach drops. He starts to laugh for a while, then stops and puts on a serious face.
He slowly reaches for his computer, the one in my hands, leaving mine on the opposite end of the table, and pulls it away from me. His voice is slow and steady, but not one word I can make out. My hands remain still as he starts typing slowly on the thin computer responsible for so many murders. As he finishes, he looks at me with a solemn stare and slides the computer back in my hands for me to see. I start to look at the screen and see exactly one pixel, along with my inbox opened in a small window the color of blood.
I have one unread message. I look back up at Lifehacker, who urges me to continue with his stare alone. I hover the mouse over the email, about to click it, when I see something that makes my heart drop. At the bottom of the screen is a lone little pixel, my name right beneath it. That pixel was turning black, the symbol that I was dead. My body freezes up, I don’t really know what’s happening right now. I don’t want to know. I just want it to end.
The boy in front of me starts laughing, a deranged laugh that would shake any soul as my vision start to dim. I look slowly at Lifehacker, tears in my eyes. “Am I dead?” I ask him. He stops laughing quickly and looks at me, his silver eyes piercing through me, his voice the same neutral tone I’ve been hearing.
“You’ve been dead. The moment you missed one message.” A smirk outlines his face as a look of horror forms on mine. “But if you want our fun to end so soon…” The corrupted thin computer starts glowing an eerie red, my inbox appearing in a window on the screen. “Share. The more people know about me… the easier I can get to them.” Lifehacker starts to turn and walk into the shadows, all the demonic sounds and steps following him through the veil, leaving nothing but his silver eyes watching everything I do.
I decide to do as he says, to end my own suffering. I look down at my figure, a little disfigured and red all over from god knows what. Starting to type, I share my experience. As I do, my body starts to fade. First my hands, then my arms…
I finish typing, my body nearly non existent.
To anyone reading this, you’re soon to be joining me. He’s probably already watching you. Making the breaths that aren’t yours. The sounds of footsteps from behind you.
His piercing silver eyes visible from the darkest shadows of your room.
My story is done, my life black.
Yours is too, it’s best to get it over with.
You have one unread message.