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I leave this story for my parents... you did always call me your creative little muse, mom, I’m so sorry.
“All right, let’s do this...” I cracked my knuckles, ready to start killing some orcs and spirits in the latest expansion of our game. I never thought making an online game would be as fun as playing it.
“Wow, more subscriptions!”
“I can’t believe people actually pay to play this game.”
“Don’t be such a downer, Jade.”
“Tell someone who cares, Topaz.”
“How’s security going, Opal?”
“We’ve had some bots and some attempts at our security, but I’ve dealt with them.”
“Let’s get started... Quartz, have you dealt with any new bugs?”
“There haven’t been any new ones reported,” I responded over the headset. I was the administrator that addressed the members of our online game in the boards. I listened to emerging problems, complaints, suggestions... I’m the people guy. I’m about the most sociable person out of our group of programmers, animators, designers and gamers. We all call each other by nicknames because, well hey, it’s the internet; we can do whatever we want. We may have a little enterprise online but we’ve only really met each other in person a few times. As social outcasts, we prefer machines and really come to life when we’re talking online to each other.
The first time we came into contact was actually on a board... I was chatting up Opal and tons of other people joined the conversation, because TastyBrownies80_05 (Opal) was a skilled programmer (hacker, technically) and was making the board change colours and post lewd jokes that were restricted, which was quite hilarious until someone flagged Opal and Opal was promptly kicked off. I was impressed, to say the least, so I contacted TastyBrownies... I wasn’t the only one.
Topaz opened up his own board on a website he owned so we all could talk together. We chatted and joked and got to know each other... with so many skills and like interests, we decided, why let this go to waste? Let's do something. So one thing leads to another, and we started up a gaming site. We had to use Topaz’s site, but he didn’t mind getting rid of his Livejournal; there are tons of social sites in the sea.
Jade is our best animator; she turns out bloody gold for god’s sake. Talented but not very creative, so she works closely with Pyrite; the guy's got his head in another world most of the time. Amber and Amethyst (I suspect they’re related) are a dangerous duo when they’re programming, and Opal helps out as well. Mostly what Opal does, though, is draw in the crowd... without Opal’s work, we’d probably have no clientele at all.
Being a hacker ( and a very good one to boot) allowed Opal to spam random sites with advertisement, without the owners of those sites finding out who or where the spams were coming from. That spam drew in most of our first crowd. Opal told me that it was just booting out the ads of other sites that pop up in the sidebars and headers and replacing it with our own... mostly it’s just jabber to me.
Like I said, our meetings were very seldom... there are more people I don’t really even know working underneath everyone else, all except Opal. From what I know, Opal works all alone... I met Opal once. We all met at a video game convention before finalizing our decision on starting a gaming site.
I hadn’t been all that surprised... most of us were nerds; Jade recently moved here from Korea, Topaz was pretty emo, Amber and Amethyst were pale and greasy haired and a little on the plump side. Pyrite was a shy Latino with thick glasses and bland clothes, and I myself am no picture of beauty either. What did surprise me was Opal.
She was a shy, slender, platinum blond with deep blue eyes. I think that Opal was partly alienated in our group... she was beautiful, I admit, even I was a little jealous of her, but had a crush for her all the same. The girls immediately treated her with indifference (well, Jade does that to everyone) and the guys eyed her warily, like she didn’t fit in with us. Back online, though, everything was different; we were all the same on the net.
You were beautiful
We were all a team, but the two I was closest with were Opal and Topaz. As it turned out, Topaz and I live lived in the same city, so it was like a weird kind of kinship. And Opal, (well I’d never admit this out loud but I had feelings for her), we were pretty close, always chatting and joking; she eventually made going on the internet to talk to her even more worthwhile than games. So when she started to act oddly, I was the only one to notice.
“Ha ha, yeah I know, you should’ve seen the size of it too,” I laughed.
“Yeah… hey Quartz…”
"What are you afraid of?"
“Heh, that’s an odd question? Why do you ask?”
“I’m just curious…”
I stopped to think about it for a moment, sifting through a variety of real fears and silly phobias. I decided to go with the manly answer.
“Well I’m not afraid of anything, really,” I laughed. I wonder why she asked.
I got my answer.
“ Hah ha ha ha ha ha heh,” her soft little laugh that was usually sweet and comforting made this situation go from friendly to almost creepy... my spine chilled a little.
“That’s what he thought too…”
“Who thought? What? "
“He – nothing, never mind,” she was quickly backtracking.
“No, come on, tell me Opal!”
“I have to go.”
She disconnected from the Skype line we were using. I felt a mixture of emotions... obviously I’ve blown something, and the last few comments were pretty creepy, whatever it was and I wondered if “he” was her boyfriend.
I haven’t heard from you for days.
“Has Opal logged on at all recently?!” I questioned everyone.
“No dude, chill out, I’m sure she’s just busy,” Topaz chided me.
“I bet she’s actually got herself a real life,” Jade’s passive tone came over my headset.
“We don’t really need here anyways, all she does is hacking, none of the real work,” was Amber’s bitter tone. I was worried... Opal hadn’t responded to any of my calls, emails or posts. Why is she avoiding me?
What’s this bad feeling?
Topaz talked me outta my flurry of worry somehow with his “we all need breaks” and “she’s probably busy with something right now” and “well maybe you just pissed her off somehow, don’t worry she’ll come around.”
Why is this happening?
I came home from school one day to find my computer on, a message blinking on the toolbar. I was pretty sure that I shut it off before I left. It was an invite to a chat room with Opal. I had a sudden thrill; I hadn’t spoken to her in a few weeks. I logged in.
Quartz67: Opal is that you?
Opal0103: I’m sorry
Quartz67: About what?
Opal0103: im so so sorry
Quartz67: Opal are you okay?
Opal: iddf sornjfd sorrgjndkf I s rry I RRyso sot5425 Ry o s imsorryimsrrymsorrmsorryimsorryimsorryimsorryisrrysimorryimsorryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrry
I lost control of the program, the chatroom wouldn’t let me type and the computer was freezing and jerking
imsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryims rryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryi msrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsr ryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryi msrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsr ryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrryimsrry
The text kept flying at me, in a moment of panic I pressed the power button trying to shut the computer off.
It didn’t work.
The text just kept pouring in, so in desperation I unplugged the machine. Everything went quiet. I was sitting alone in the computer room. It was a bright and sunny day, but I was freezing in this dark little room. I ran out to the kitchen to where my brother was.
I'm being silly, she’s just trying to scare me. Opal’s a hacker anyways... how else can you turn a computer on and make it go haywire? Hackers can’t effect hardware. She couldn’t have turned on the computer, you need to do that physically, but I was the last to leave the house today.
“Hey, did you turn on the computer at all?” I grasped at the thin hope that someone else could have done it.
“Huh, no, but I think Shelly did,” my brother said, waving his hand. Relief washed over...I don’t even know why I’m freaking out anyways.
“When did she have time to do that, anyways?” I asked.
“She came home early, she felt like skipping, phoned me to cover for her at school… oh but...”
“But what?” There was a strange creeping feeling going up my spine... ‘buts’ were never good.
“She phoned me again a little after that to tell you something… what was it…”
“What, come on, D. What is it?!”
“Dude, chill… um, it was… oh yeah, she said she couldn’t believe a nerd like you had a girlfriend that wasn’t electronic, but sending each other videos is really sad…”
“What, I don’t have a girlfriend!” Video? I didn’t see a video on the computer.
“When was this?! ”
“I dunno, she skipped out at around lunch time.” That was hours ago.
Why did you do this to me?
“Shelly, where are you?” I called, searching the house frantically. My brother gave me a quizzical look but followed after me slowly. I bolted upstairs and ran to her room. She was in there, on her bed, sleeping. I gave a sigh of relief... she was fine. She was curled up underneath the covers, clutching her dolphin sheets like she usually does when she sleeps.
I ran back downstairs and leapt to the computer, plugged it in and booted it up. Everything was fine, and maybe that video from earlier was from Opal... all my prior worries evaporated as the computer loaded up and the desktop popped up. I searched the desktop and spotted a video file. It was your normal average video document except the name was odd, even unnerving. liveforever.avi
Alright then… I double clicked it and it started playing. It loaded up and the video begun to play... it was and 23 minutes long.
I loved you.
I jumped in my skin at the sudden appearance of a ghostly face. It was Opal, sitting at the screen; the only light in the room was from the monitor. The blue light bleached her skin and turned her light blond hair white. The dim light made her blue eyes become deep and almost black... that cold feeling came back. I couldn’t see further behind her because the room was dark, but I could see the windowsill of a covered window and what maybe was furniture farther back.
“Hello Quartz,” she said in her quiet little voice.
“I didn’t mean to do it, but you must understand what I’m afraid of, what were all afraid of...” she whispered; it was crystal clear, like we were face to face.
“You're very important to me... more important than anyone has been in a long time,” she sighed, but it was light and almost emotionless like everything else about her. She hardly moved, just kept staring straight at me, those black pools never moving.
“I’m a hacker, I’ve dug through every network and site, been where even hackers don’t even dare to go. I was afraid and turned to the computer for my answer... everyone’s left me except this net... even you will leave me.” She spoke quietly, but it sounded like she was yelling to me...every other sound in the world had gone, even the buzz of the computer. It was just me and her.
“I found my answer. I was afraid of dying, we all are, even you,” I was beginning to freak out a little. It wasn’t so much what she was saying, it was that she was complete static, only her mouth moving slightly.
“They said that taking your picture with a camera steals a little of your soul, they’re right.” What?
“An image holds life... every image does, and even my image now does. It others you, you can feel me, I’m looking at you right now, and I can see you.”
“When you see an image and your spine tingles or your skin crawls, that's the image looking back.”
You left me.
“But I found a way... a way to live forever.”
“I’m so sorry,” a black tear slipped out of her eye, vacant, empty, rotted. I rocked back away from the computer, she was so pale and lifeless, and she looked like a corpse. She is one.
That’s it, this sick joke is over, I’m done. I grabbed the mouse and shot it across the screen, and froze. I was about to hit the pause button on the video when my blood ran cold. The video had never started. The time said ‘00:00/00.23’. I looked up at the video window... Opal wasn’t there anymore, and I could see what had been hidden behind her... it was a bed, a bed with dolphin sheets.
I kicked the chair back and ran upstairs, stumbling and crashing into my sisters’ room. D turned and stared at me; he was sitting down at the computer that faced my sister’s bed right by the window. I ran to Shelly and grabbed her shoulder, she didn’t move. She was cold.
I was numb and sat heavily on the corner of the bed, she was cold, she wasn’t moving, she was dead. Tears rolled down my face.
“Stupid thing, just shows you, don’t trust a Mac.”
“What…” I looked over at my brother.
“This thing's taking a really ugly video of us.”
“Yeah, Macs got these built in cameras in the screen that take shitty videos...”
As D. was speaking, the video gallery popped up. I ran over to him and shoved him out of the way. The gallery had two videos, one from a few moments ago, and one from several hours ago. I played the latter.
It was a video of my sister talking to herself, like a video blog. She was talking about her day until she glanced to the side and froze. She leapt to her feet and pressed herself against the wall.
“MORGAN, NO, you’re… you’re… NOOOOO--”
The video ended with her screeching and the video twisted and rolled like the screen had been knocked over. The screech quieted to a gurgling moan to silence. There were still five minutes of the video left. Frozen, I sat there and stared at the black footage. The last few seconds played, the screen shifted and was placed back up on the desk by bleached white hands. It ended.
“What, D…?” I whispered.
“What was the other video you got about…?”
The other video, downstairs, un-played. My heart broke to just leave my brother alone with our dead sister but I need to see. I stumbled down the stairs, my legs were blocks of lead but I forced myself to the computer, and played the video.
It was of a moderately sized house standing in the sunlight, with a neatly kept lawn. A short nerdy boy with shaggy hair and glasses ran up to the house, threw open the door, and disappeared. Not a minute later, that boy’s younger brother walked into the house. The footage remained the same for the next 20 minutes; a shot of the house sitting there until a car pulled up and an older woman and man got out of the car and entered the house. A scream erupted from the house, long and agonized. The video ended with the older women stumbling out of the front door wailing and falling to her knees, the only audible words being “my children”. I looked at the computers clock... I got home at 3:27.
Only five minutes to go.
This note was found typed up on the family computer of the Aldergen’s [now referred to as Morgan] saved at 3:57pm March 23.
Update of Evidence Log: Computer Technicians uncover that the note had been alter, the altercations are the words that are Italicized, motive of addition unidentified, note edited at 4:20 pm March 23 after the discovery of Benjamin Aldergen’s body.