26 Nov HAX
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Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Friday night, it’s the end of the long work week. You decide to wind down in the evening, watching a video your friend recommended. It’s about the history of cartoons. Something happy, and interesting to watch before bed. The music during most of the film is one of those catchy tunes that gets stuck in your head. Near the end of the video, it pauses, seemingly to buffer, even though the bar is completely buffered. On the screen, one of the characters has been paused and blurred. It looks sort of like a green and blue figure, looking almost as is if it was trying to dance. The video continues and it is past midnight when you decide to shut down your laptop, place it next to your bed and get some sleep.
As you are about to fall asleep, you hear that same tune from the video you had been watching earlier. Perhaps it was stuck in your head? Trying to ignore it, you attempt to sleep again, only for the music to get louder. That is definitely not in your head. You see the light on your laptop, which indicates power, shining. You open the thing, going to switch it off. The music is definitely coming from the laptop. The screen remains blank. You press the power button, keep it held down. The light on the laptop turns off. Good. The music starts up again. The light remains off. You take the power cord out of the laptop, not like that would do much, but the music still continues. Sick of hearing it, you take the battery compartment out of your laptop and set it down, completely unpowered. It begins to play again, even louder than last time. Frustration kicks in and you start to wonder if you are actually asleep. You are so very tired… The last thing you remember before falling asleep is that music, looping over and over again…
The next morning, it’s quiet. That music you were hearing had stopped. Maybe you had been dreaming all along? You head out to the kitchen and get some breakfast, start washing some clothes and open the blinds. It’s a Saturday, a day off for you, seems like a good day to just laze around and not do much at all. You go back to your room and put the battery component back in your laptop. After last night’s restlessness, maybe a funny video or two might help. You watch some of your favourite funny videos on Youtube, and you’re soon relaxed. You put one on that goes for a good ten minutes, and half way through it pauses to buffer. You look over the paused frame as you wait, the comedian on stage pulling a ridiculous face. You’ve seen this video ten times already, of not more, and something is off about this paused frame. You see something in the bottom right hand corner off the image. You look closer. It looks an awful lot like that image that the video last night paused on. Narrowing your eyes, you let the rest of the film play on.
Later that afternoon, after you had actually decided to clean up some around the house, you go back to your laptop. You turn on some silly cat movies, they’re always good for anyone who’s bored. You start to realise a pattern, each video pauses, even if it a thirty second one, they are all starting to pause. Everything else is loading as normal, fast. You sigh and look at the frozen frame of a cat in the middle of yawning. You pause in your actions, too, bringing your face closer to the screen. It couldn’t be… That same little blurred character from last night, it’s on this frame, too! The same one you saw in that other video. You close the tab and stare at your screen, something isn’t right. Something is going on. You decide to avoid any more online videos for the night.
Sunday, your last day off before work again. After going for a walk to get a few groceries, you go back to your laptop again. It is slower than usual to start up, and the speakers are turned up louder than they were yesterday. You had gotten a phone call earlier that morning from your work colleague to send in a group photo for your company’s promotional poster. As you wait for the computer to load up, it froze. The screen going blank. A single word, the word ‘HAX’ types itself across the screen. The computer returns to loading and the desktop loads. What was that? It had never happened before. You are starting to think your laptop has a virus. You have protection, it usually worked very well… You open the photo your friend had asked for, sighing, better get this sent off before the computer karks it. It takes an unusually long time to load up. When it does finally load, that’s when you realise something is very, very wrong. That same thing, the one that was in those videos that had jammed up, it was in the background of your personal file. This was most definitely some sort of virus. Perhaps like the retro harmless viruses? That flashed an image onto tour screen at random. Yeah.. That had to be it. With your nerves settled, you email the photo of and get back to putting your groceries away.
You decide to have an early night, work always starts earlier than it says. You turn off your lights and crawl into bed. The laptop next to your bed starts to make beeping noises, it starts to get quite annoying. Definitely a virus. You take the battery out again and lay back down. The noises stop for a while. But before you fall asleep, you hear a long digital buzz. You’re too tired to deal with it and nod off.
You are woken, startled by a loud, horrible electronic screech coming from your laptop. The battery is still out. You open the screen, across the screen, the word ‘HAX’ has been typed out so many times it has formed a text wall. The laptop makes one loud DING and shuts off. It’s four in the morning and you cannot get back to sleep, not after that. You watch your laptop wearily until six in the morning when you finally get up for work. The day went by rather quickly, and you were exhausted. After hours, you arrive back home, having gotten some takeaway on the way back. You sit down to eat and turn on the television. You feel a little more perked up after eating something, and notice that the family portrait above the armchair you are adjacent to is crooked, it sticks out like a sore thumb. You go and lift the photo off it’s hook, looking down at the smiling faces, you smile back, but… SMASH. You have dropped the photo all over the floorboards and stare down at it. You don’t want to believe what you are seeing. Right in the top left corner of the photo sitting on the floor, that… that thing, the thing that has been plaguing your computer, that little green and blue blur. It is inside of your physical family picture. You look back at it over and over, it’s still there. Irrationally, you stick the photo under the cushion of the armchair as to not look at it anymore. Another sleepless night awaits.
You call in sick the next day and manage to get some sleep during the daylight hours. Last night had been filled with fear, fear of the supernatural, what was going on was far from normal. After sleeping until the evening, you finally get up, sighing wearily. Curiosity the better of you. You pull the family portrait out from underneath your armchair cushion and look over it. It’s still there, it’s larger than it had been last night, now sitting right above your brother’s head. You shove it back under, feeling a lump in your throat, your anxiety rises and you put on a favourite movie, on the television, to get your mind off it. You are just that exhausted, you fall asleep to the movie, waking up later that night just to go crawl into bed and sleep some more.
Wednesday, you head back to work, a long, weary day. You try to talk to your friend about what’s been happening, but you are just laughed at, “Yeah right!” But you’re not joking, this is something that is really, really worrying you.
You go home, unable to think of anything except the unwelcome figure in your photo. Getting home, you let your curiosity win, again. You really shouldn’t have, this time. You stare, and stare at the photo. Your brother isn’t there anymore, the… thing has replaced him, completely. You stare some more, confused and afraid, nearly jumping out of your pants when the phone rings. “…Hello?” The shaky voice of your mother is on the other end of the line. She tells you that your brother has just been killed in a freak accident. After the awful conversation had ended, you rush over to the family portrait. You wish this wasn’t happening, you really, really wish this wasn’t happening. It is sitting above your own head.