by Kenneth Burch
The week had been hard enough, this first of May. With the annoyance of problems at the
workplace and the odd stares from co-workers, Keith Manner had found himself at wits end. So
hat evening, while sitting at his computer, he decided to write a letter to himself, a document
if you will, something to use as a reflection for the obvious hard times ahead.
He had just finished taking a sip of beer, and was about to start his introspective letter, when his computer
shut down. Keith sat staring at a black powerless monitor and silent tower and wondered what had happened. He
took another sip of his favorite beer and leaned back into his chair. Seconds later, he decided to power up the
system again, hoping that the result would be different.
It wasn't. Something had happened, something bad, he thought, and while trying oh so hard to
figure out what had gone wrong, a rage hidden deep beneath the surface of what we call normal had quickly made its way up and out.
Keith, filled with an uncontrollable horror, had found himself past a point of no return. A middle aged man
had slipped past reality and had gone completely insane. Dreams began flickering backwards in his mind as he recalled
the various times when his beloved computer had gone haywire at the worst of times. He began recalling the sleepless
nights when midnight hours gave way to haunting thoughts and hopeless answers. Time after time, the result seemed the same. The
end game came to the same point on every occasion, reminding him of the cause of his constant aggravation.
How many more times will he do this? How many more times will he decide and settle? How much longer must he allow the God awful winds of
change to swirl beneath him, working upward and distorting everything solid in his life?
Oh the years, oh the worries, oh my God he thought. It was then, that the man known to some as meek and mild mannered would take form and change.
What was once a quiet man had somehow become something different, not beast like, but very close.
The large dark room was filled with state of the art electronics. Many were prototypes and the public hadnít a clue of their existence. Along the
wall beside the large oak made bed, were several pictures of the family living here. The pictures changed from frame to frame and some even
moved within the frame. That alone would have fascinated many, dazzled more and of course sent most scratching their heads in amazement. But in
this darkened room, stood a stranger in a black trench coat, now dripping wet from the rain outside. He had bought a ticket in the middle of
the night and traveled across the country. He had landed and caught a cab to a nearby town and with only hatred and desire, mixed
with rage he had snaked his way past the very best alarm system money could buy and found himself at this one place in time. And
he was not in the mood for silly things like moving pictures, in picture frames.
In his hand, he held an electronic Tazer. A very nice one, a very strong one and it only took him one day to acquire it from Amazon, his favorite shopping site.
As he stood looking down at the bed with its two sleeping forms, he thought that heíd have done better to have ordered a gun, a big one, a nice one.
But it was too late for that now. He had traveled far and done what seemed the impossible to arrive here, his point will have to be made. Outside in
the rainy darkness, from a mile away, a flash of lightning came, illuminating the room with grayish blue hues and thundering sounds. The sleeping form on
the right was a woman. Her gentle and sleek body curled in a sexy fetal position that would have aroused most. But Keith was not himself and despite
her brown hair the sprayed outward along the pillow, it would go unnoticed by a man whose soul had grown cold as the rain now dancing upon the windows.
Keithís eyes remained fixed on the male figure. This man if you will has caused such anguish in him. The man had
seemed to be the main focus of all that was bad in Keithís life. So many times had he thought of him, and so many times had he cursed him.
He waited for the flash of lightning he knew would bring a thunderous clasp and when it came, he took the covers that had offered warmth and comfort and
pulled them back, waking both the man and woman. In an instant, bright warm colored light glowed from all around the large room and the
sexy woman with long dark hair, gripped in panic. She tried to scream out, but was quickly struck with 10,000 volts of electricity that
jacked into her system and shut down most of her inner workings.
The man also struck with fright, reached for his glasses, trying to lunge off the bed at the same time. He clutched at them, calling
out his wifeís name in a voice filled with sleeping phlegm. "Oh God, please donít hurt her, please I beg you!" he shouted. Outside, thunder shook
the windows and flashed light through the night. "Shut the fuck up!" Keith yelled, his eyes now blazing red with anger.
"You, you motherfucker, you just stay right were you are, we have a score to settle you and I." The man was shaking now, clueless
as a child scorned for taking a cookie when all he wanted was something sweet. "I donít understand," he said, looking over at his wife who
decided to shut down her network and go into a forced sleep. He could see she was alive, just passed out and returned his wide eyes to the stranger in the room.
He adjusted the glasses on his face and with lips trembling said "What do you want? Money, I have plenty and will gladly give it for the
lives of my family, please, tell me what you want?" He was sitting on the floor, his eyes darting at the stranger, pleading for an answer.
Keith only stood now, looking down at the man and shuffling the pleas and questions, trying to decide the proper course. Keith looked over at
the woman still passed out and back to the man on the floor. Flashes of lightning pasted freaky light across Keithís face, with eyes filled
with anger despite the manís pleas, he answered. "Listen, you shameless money hungry stealing whore, you bitch of a man whose very ideas
have plagued and fucked me over for as long as I care to remember. You have tortured me and those like me with your
greedy ways. You have made my life a technological hell and rendered me helpless with your fucked up ideas. Do you have a clue
what madness you have caused? Do you even know what grief you have created in me? Have you a fucking clue, you mouse of a man you?"
As he sat, leaning against the corner of the bed and wall, his eyes darted and his throat filled with panic and horror.
He had never been in this situation before. Sure he had found himself in close knit jams where a simple call, to a team of lawyers always sufficed. But this
was different, this was beyond a simple call, or was it? Was there something he could say, someplace he could go or something he
could do, to get out of this alive? The more he thought about it, the more he hoped it was true.
Keith walked over to the man, still sitting and wiped the combination of rain and sweat from his face. He lowered himself
to meet the man eye to eye. With flashes of lightning, still adding to a mixture of weird and horrible thoughts, he spoke in a level
of calm that deep down beneath his current state, frightened himself as well.
"I donít think you understand our current situation my idiot of a friend. Iíve traveled rather far for me in order to find you. Now that Iím
here, I want only what is mine and I fully expect to hurt you, hurt you real bad in order to get what I came for. Do
you understand what I mean?" The man seemed even smaller now, with his legs folded under himself, he had taken on the appearance
of a child being scolded by a parent with the intent of killing him, but hiding it with love. A sound very close to a whimper managed
to escape the tightly closed lips. "No" he replied, hands now shaking.
"Well then, arenít you in a sad state of affairs" Keith said. "It seems that with all your know how, youíve managed on such
a rainy night, to pick this night to know absolutely shit. What a waste, what a sad wasteÖ.tisk tisk." He added.
Keith stood up, the Tazer still in hand and pressed the gray button in the back.
Sparks shot out and the smell of burnt wires quickly filled the room. "Sheís a cutie, isnít she?" he added. He
motioned over to where the manís wife lay, still passed out, but now breathing slowly. "Yes, she is, please mister, I beg of you, do not hurt her, please
not my family," the man cried. "Did I say I would hurt her, you fuck?" Did I say anything about hurting her or your family?" He was upset now, the man
could see it in his face, he knew, oh how he knew that some things are best left inside. What was he thinking to have pissed
off a man capable of arriving inside his home, in the middle of the night, past everything, including his security system. This was no normal man he
thought, normal by no means. It would be wise to keep his mouth shut and listen.
"So, even in this wee bit of night hour, you chose to pretend youíre in control, but you're not, not at all. Let me ask you this, how would
you feel if I were to say walk over to where your heart lies, and say reach down. Down to where her sweet little moist spot is.
And maybe, just maybe play with it a little in front of you, would you like that pal? Would you like that old friend? How about
those gentle kids down the hall here, maybe a little attention and some shock action would improve their attention span, what
do you think of that buddy, what do you think of that ole chum? You see, I would bet, that you would have trouble accepting such matters, little
friend, perhaps things would look a tad grim once I finished burning holes in those wonderful precious creatures, you call your own. But
you see, thatís what youíve done you fuck face. Youíve come into my home with your fancy prepackaged items of false promises. You
have backed me into a corner and jerked me off, without so much as a kiss, and you expect me to just sit on a wooden dick and
take it? Who the fuck do you think you are?"
The rain was coming down hard now, beating against the roof and windows as if asking to be let in. "Was he controlling it?" the man thought. "Was he
the one who would deliver my end? Was this how it was to be, alone in the corner of my home, with my wife unconscious and my children sleeping? Dear God, donít
let it end this way, I beg you. Please, not like this." The wind had picked up, and now Keithís eyes widened. Time had played its part and now
ran its old course, action was needed here, pure and simple. "Listen to me you dick face motherfucker Iíve about run out of patience with your
sorry ass, and time is no longer on my side. I have to do something, and do something I will. Answers! You mindless fuck, I want answers! You will
tell me right here and now, what the fuck you have done to my operating system, you will tell me how to fix it and if you chose not to, I will fry
your whole fucking family! Do you understand me now bitch!"
Panic had tightened its grip around the manís throat and balls. Fear had nailed him to the very wall next to his
night stand where a glass of water, was about to tip over. Keith had crossed over, gone was any sense of reasoning, gone were any
chances of return. As Keith walked over to where the young woman now lay, the man was frightened for her, for himself and his children looked on powerless.
He remained against the wall watching the dark stranger in the flashing light. The bedroom lights that once produced
vibrant and warm light had fallen dark. Lightning had struck a pole from somewhere nearby and sent the back-up generators, turning. Along
the corners of the large room, yellow back-ups clicked on, a slight buzzing following. The man could see the stranger, only as a darkened shadow now, still
walking towards his wife.
Keith could see her, still lying down, still barely moving. He reached down and touched her hair, almost caressing it in long
strokes, the back of his hand moving slowly up and down her face. In his right hand, a buzzing click, followed by a bright blue spark
brought her back to the waking world, her marked face from the head board, stinging red on her face. "Get up, get up you. I have no bitter feud with you.
Youíve loved that fool of a man and I understand that your wishes are your own. I take no pleasure in hurting you, but I swear, if you try once, only
once to be a hero, I will snap your fucking neck, and Iíll make sure both he, and you beautiful children down the hall, will be watching, do you
understand me lady?" She nods, her eyes darting from her husband, to the shadowy intruder. She nods twice more, praying to herself that
the man, not her husband clearly understands. Keith can see her head move up and down, and feels the soft brown hair on his arm. "She feels nice," he thinks to
himself, and gives her the closest expression to a smile he could muster, considering the circumstances.
Keith turned his attention back to the man, still stuck to the wall of his
bedroom, gripped in horror. As he sits, he watches as this stranger of the night, walks slowly
back to him. With more flashes from a stormy night, dotting the room, he see that the stranger
is once again, in his face. "I have to tell you mister, Iím getting quite bored now. I really hate when this happens, because
things donít turn out right when Iím bored. Iím a nice man fucker, I really am. But when people or companies began
jerking me around, I get rather nasty. I tend to want to hurt and keep on hurting, do you know what I mean? Do you have a fucking clue?"
The tazer sparked and four bright blue high powered lines of electricity danced in agreement. The manís eyes looked away
and his body pulled inward. "IÖI donít understand sir, please help me to understand, I beg you, please tell me what I can do, I
will do as you please, I swear I will. I will give you anything you desire, please just name it and itís yours. For the love of God, please
sir, please." Keith was staring at the man shaking, trying ever so hard to control himself and failing. More thunder pounded
the clouds and shook the walls of this well made home. "Very well then, since youíve asked, I will tell you. What I want from a know it all fuck
like you is a GODDAM WORKING OPERATION SYSTEM THAT WONíT FUCK UP EVERY GODDAM TIME I DECIDE TO ADD, A PIECE OF FUCKING HARDWARE, YOU BITCH!
There was spit and anger on the manís face now. A constant reminder of the state of the stranger, and the
situation he found himself in. He could hear his wife now, her voice horrified that the end had come, that the stranger who had
slipped into their home, had somehow changed his mind, altered his plans and decided to hurt and maybe kill them all, despite his somewhat loose spoken promises.
Keith turned to see a young looking middle aged woman, hands cupped to her face suppressing a scream. She was
doing as he asked, trying to be a good girl. "I will get you what you want sir," the man replied in a shaky voice, now sounding like a
little boy. He pointed in the direction of the other side of the barely lit room, his hand shaking. "If I could show you sir, if I
could be allowed to show you, I promise, I beg you, I have what you so desire, please just allow me."
Keith looked at the man and back over to where the manís wife still siting. He glanced at her hands now to her sides, and could see
she looked to have aged a bit, and he guessed this sort of thing, could pile a few years on a person if done right. Looking
back, he clicked the tazer again. "Oh, and I guess Iím supposed to just let you walk over to that dresser and pull out a gun and maybe, shot
me in my fucking head. Is that how my story ends Mr. Greedy Fuck? Is that what you see in your own private window?" The man was
shaking head quickly NO. "Sir, oh God sir, no. There are no weapons here, IÖ.I donít mean the dresser at all, I swear. I want you
to allow me to access the safe behind the dresser, behind it sir, thatís all."
Keith looked back at the manís wife, in time to see her agreement. She too, pointed her finger towards the dresser. "Okay pal, okay Mr. Tough guy,
I will allow you this one time to make do. Do the right thing, and Iím out of here, fuck up and I swear theyíre be taking you out of here in a
neatly wrapped medical examiner bag, I shit you not! Now, get up. Get up very slowly you dog, and together we walk, understand?" The man motioned yes,
and carefully stumbled to his feet. Another snap of the tazer and the two of them walked over to the solid oak dresser. There was a
keypad, just beside it and after a few pushes, from a shaky hand, the mirror shifted and slowly lowered revealing a wall safe, about a foot wide and high. An
electronic thumb pad glowed green. Keith watched as the man placed his hand up and with his thumb, touched it. The green light turned
blue and there was a thud, followed by an unlocking snap. The man opened the eight inch deep solid steel front door and
went to place his hand in. "Not so fast fucker!" Keith quickly said. He had his hand against the manís
chest, and could now feel his heart pounding inside, trying to jump out and run for the hills, as far away as it could get. Keith
took a look inside the secret mini vault and saw that there was a back up light inside as well.
A few folders and thick filled envelopes were piled up inside. Keith was about to back away when he saw what looked to be a
stainless steel DVD case. He paid it no attention and looked back at the man, giving him the all clear.
A shaky hand reached inside. What came out, was the metal case.
The man handed it to Keith and lowered his head. "What the fuck is this, mouse man? Some kind of trick, you pulling, better not
be boy, no time for tricks pal, my patience is long gone." The manís head remained lowered, but spoke loud enough for Keith to hear.
"What you have in your hands sir, is a life long dream. Inside that case, is 30 years of technology, half a century ahead
of time. I present to you sir, "Windows Alkara" the worlds first and only self taught, self-thinking operating system. No updates, no drivers and
absolutely, no crashes, the system uses Biorhythm technology and conforms to the user's wishes without question. Voice activation is self-implanted, from
the first vowel, and uses bio memory and no motherboard. What you have in you hand, could change the world sir, put simply, it is beyond software sir.
There inside that little metal case, is a working computer, a true hydro-drive unit with biosynthesis and conforming liquid links. The manís head
remained down and Keith could see his shoulders slump, as if everything his was, had been compacted in this case. A life long dream, now in
the hands of a stranger. "And I guess, little old you, was going to just sit on this fucker while the rest of us continued to pay you in our own blood huh?"
Keith took the metal case and smacked the man up side his head with it, his wife shrieked!
The man made no attempt, to block future hits. He slid slowly to his knees his world ruined and despite the darkened shadow of a stranger before him, and a loving
wife pleading in whispers, it was now his turn to cry. Keith stood looking at the man who had made his life a living hell. So long had he
wanted this moment, had he wanted to confront the very creator, of a system hell bent to drive him mad. Had it? Had this life he choose, driven
him to this? Had he gone too far, was he ever going to be able to forgive himself, for what he has done? These answers would come only in time. For now, he
needed to leave. To separate as much of himself from the madness now curled at his feet. Keith turned to the wife of the man, her
face drenched in sorrow. She wanted to be near him now, wanted to hold the man, her husband and she looked at Keith with eyes that
kindly asked him to leave. "You have what you want, and for that I hope your happy, now please, I ask as my husband has before, leave us, leave us to be a
family again, and please, I beg you never to return." Keith looked at her, in her eyes there were tears awaiting their orders, to fall.
Silence had settled in the room and neither a word was spoken. The man remained at his knees and all Keith could now hear, was the breathing, broken
but strong. He turned and quickly looked one last time around the room. It was large, very large and although Keith was no
interior designer, he recognized style and taste, when he saw it.
Placing the metal case in his now damp coat, he walked out.
Just as quickly and quietly as he came, the stranger disappeared between a flash of lightning and the booming sound of thunder.
Bloodshot eyes opened to the warm early morning glow of a small room. A cat sat quietly staring at Keith while licking its paws, awaiting the start
of yet another day. Keith sat up in the chair and after wiping away at the crust of dried drool that
had slid down the right side of his face. He rubbed his hands in his hair and looked around at his modest
surroundings. His head was throbbing and the worn blue tee shirt he had put on yesterday, was now covered in sweat. Sharp pain
rocketed up his back like miniature daggers as he staggered up and out of the room, to the bathroom down the hall. A quick glance
in the mirror told the tale of a very rough night. He tasted metal and cotton, his tongue seemed fixed to the roof of his
mouth. Blinking several times at his reflection gave him the odd feeling that the man in the mirror, was not himself.
Back down the hall and to the right, was a small kitchen. In it were the required stocking of supplies from the local grocery, inside the
refrigerator were cases of beer along with potato chip dip and an old jar of pickles that Keith thought he had thrown out. Keith reached in
and took out a can of beer. "Breakfast of Champions," he thought to himself and tried to smile, despite his still throbbing headache. Popping the
lid, he downed all twelve ounces at once, the icy cold liquid soothing his desert, dried throat.
Seconds later, he belched and walked back into the room, where his computer sat quiet, his cat still performing his morning grooming.
Staring at his blank powerless monitor, Keith shook his head. He was trying to recall what went wrong. He knew he had set everything right
and was enjoying his current game Sidewinder. "Then the damn thing had just clicked off, shut down and wouldnít boot up," he thought to himself.
"Canít be the video card, canít be. I donít remember changing anything, drivers or otherwise, fucking thing just stopped on me," he continued.
He shook his head again and looked over at his cat. Franklin looked up as if to say, "Donít look at me,
Iím not allowed to touch the thing myself, besides, my paws are too small and I canít sit and reach the keyboard!" Keith smiled at Franklin
and got up to get another beer. He didnít care what anyone said, 6:30am was a completely perfect time to have a beer. After a wild night
of heated anger and heavy drinking, not to mention that crazy fucked up dream he had, this morning was starting out to be a beer day if ever there was one.
He took two more sips from the second can and tried to recall what had happened. Each time, he
drew clumps of dream segments that when placed together, made no sense. He shook it off again and tried to think
of places to take his computer in for repair. "God only knows how much this is going to cost, this time," he thought to himself. Franklin had finished grooming and had
walked out of the room, and down the hall. To Keith, it was as if his cat had grown bored of the mumbling and ranting, of his hair lifted master.
"Sure Franklin, just walk out on me as well, seems everything is breaking around here, why not join the selected few!" he yelled out.
With nowhere left to turn, Keith stood up and tried to gather his clothes that had found themselves twisted halfway around his body.
He decided to hell with them and walked out of the room and to the refrigerator once more for another comfort drink. While inside, he picked up the
telephone and placed a call to his job, informing them, that he wouldnít be in today. He gave them a line about a stomach virus and didnít really give
a shit if they bought it or not. "Fuck them!" he said "I got lots of sick days, and will use every damn one of them, if need be." Franklin, who was
walking up the hallway towards Keith in hopes of a morning stroke, thought the better of it and turned around. No way was he going to deal with this shit.
Keith stepped into the shower and tried to rinse off the mass of confusion now making him feel sticky and unclean. He even thought
about shaving, and decided against it. "Too much work," he thought. "You hear me Franklin, its just too damn much work!" he shouted. From the
other side of the bathroom door, Franklin began another round of grooming, probably wishing Keith would just shut the fuck up.
After a clean set of clothes, deodorant, and hair gel, Keith walked out of his bedroom and towards the computer room. He wasnít
sure what could be the problem and was still running ideas through his head, while putting on his shirt.
"Canít be the motherboard, fucking thing is only a year old, and I swear that CPU is fine, six months tops. Damn, I
just canít figure out what the fuck it is," he thought.
Another cold comfort beer in hand Keith walked in and sat down at his computer desk. Feeling as if he was
seeing things, he dropped the can of beer on the rug below. His beloved precious computer, which had shut down the night before, had
suddenly come on by itself. There was no sound save for a slight humming and there upon the screen, written from left to
right on his monitor, were the words "SYSTEM ACTIVATED: AWAITING VOICE RECOGNITIONÖ..SYSTEM ACTIVATED: AWAITING VOICE RECOGNITIONÖÖÖÖÖÖ
Okay, Iím obviously having a little fun here. Its been awhile since my last batch of stories and this one came to me only
after my dear friend had a major batch of computer woes. Heck, as of this writing I think Kevinís shit is still down. I had a bad run
of computer breakdowns myself, taking me out of the gaming world for well over a month! That is some fucked up shit let me tell you. But
Iím back now, and my hunting buddy is too. Yea, I admit during my shut down I somehow managed to fuck up her computer as well. (Sorry Roe) but
in the end, we all got our machines back up and running, hers better then before, thanks to a few good super geeks! I mean that in a
very nice way. As for the story, I have to admit I enjoyed writing it. Iím sorry if it went a bit longer then most short stories I write,
but I really was having a ball. Do you have any idea how hard it is to write about a fucking stranger in your bedroom, and keep
it interesting for almost nine pages, with my sorry ass writing skills? Itís hell I tell ya, down and dirty hell. But here I am, adding
my authorís notes and feeling rather good about the outcome.
I can only hope my computer friends will go a little easy on me about the obvious fictional computer lingo. I made most
of it up and was just trying to toss in my own spin on what would or could be the next stage in computer evolution, who the fuck really knows? I
know I donít but I sure had fun making my own.
Any chance that the characters in this story may have reminded you of a certain person or persons or even a
pet was done on purpose, I can assure you. I find a wonderful fondness in all of my friends, and care for them deeply. I hope
you enjoyed the story. There just may be another one coming, very soon. Keep your fingers crossed. (Smiles)
Thanks for listening.