I snorted myself awake, apparently having fallen into a deep sleep without even realizing it. Rubbing my right eye with the back of my hand, I took a brief moment to study my surroundings, it appeared I was sitting in a pitch black room of some sort. I had apparently rested my weary head on a desk, with my seven year old beat-up laptop next to me, and a few monitors still on, blinding me with their harsh, uncaring glare.

"Good grief," I muttered to myself, as I turned off one of the monitors and looked around the featureless room, before I moved my feet on the... "Wait, is this carpet?" I thought to myself, as I shifted my covered feet on the carpet, the foreignness of the environment disorienting me even more than the initial shock, and as I moved my feet on the floor, I hit what seems to be a familiar object.

Moving my feet around the object, I felt the fabric of the material giving in, with a series of... ropes? No, not ropes, come on, what's the word, laces? Yeah, laces. I ducked my head down the desk, and to my relief, I found my familiar pair of charcoal brown low-cut Chucks, with complete with the idiosyncratic way would I usually tie the black laces.

I retrieved the shoes and jammed them back on my feet, and looked around. "Well, it's incredibly obvious I'm not in my bedroom," I reasoned, "since, first off, I don't have a carpet or multiple monitors in my room, secondly, my annoying house-mates, who for all their years, have never learned the subtle nuances of shutting up at three in the morning... wait, what's the time?"

I instinctively held up my left wrist close to my face and pressed a button. Two-thirty one, the red LED lights built into my watch reported back to me.

"Wonderful," I said to myself, "It's two-thirty AM and I have no idea where I am right now. I just need to get my bearings, that's all."

I then moved towards a wall, groping around the darkness trying to find something that resembles a light switch, before my fingers rested on something that vaguely reminds me of one.

I flicked the switch, squinting my eyes as brightness started to illuminate the room. To my surprise, I realized where I was. I'm still at the computer lab in campus, apparently, and I remember why I'm here in the first place. I sauntered back to my desk at the corner they had set up for Final Year Projects, and looked around.

On my desk, there were several books on security and systems virtualization, and I seem to vaguely remember a few of my classmates were also there before I dozed off. I remember eating dinner before heading to the lab, promising myself to get out before eleven, running tests and listening to music while chatting with my friends but somehow, I managed to black out and everyone simply left without bothering to check up on me, turning the lights off as they did so.

They either thought I was pulling an all-nighter, or simply forgot all about me as they left for the night.

"Whatever," I muttered, as I went outside of the lab, trying to get away from the room's bone-chilling temperature. Once outside, I decided to take a look around the other computer labs, which is separated by the rest from the building by a couple of glass doors, which is usually locked after midnight, and doesn't open up until seven the next morning. So yes, I'm stuck here for for a few hours.

Good thing they installed a row of vending machines around this area , as well as restrooms.

After I stamped my feet and rubbed my palms for a few moments, I started walking down the corridor, peering into the doors, looking at the empty classrooms, screensavers jumping around the various types of computers housed in each lab, as if eagerly waiting for next morning where they can be used again.

I stopped in front of a row of vending machines, and after rooting through my pockets for some bills and loose change, I managed to get a cup of hot chocolate, a chicken salad sandwich and a packet of corn twists. As I slowly walked back to my "office", I passed by a laboratory and something caught my eye.

Did that monitor... flicker? I thought to myself. Not the monitor's screen, mind you, the monitor itself. I could've sworn that the monitor twitched for a moment, the sleek, black outline turned into negatives, with broken pixels jutting from the both sides of the monitor.

I blinked my eyes, and just as I expected, the monitor returned to normal. "That was weird," I said to myself, "it's like a glitch in a game or something,"

Torn between investigating and going back to the safety of the lab, I decided to simply risk it for a moment. Tucking the packet of corn twists inside my trouser pocket, I held both the sandwich and cup of hot chocolate in one hand, before opening the door with my free hand.

Once inside the lab, I placed my foodstuffs on a table, before I approached the monitor. Taking a moment to observe it,I saw that it was like any other seventeen inch monitor I've seen before, made out of plastic and glass, looks, and feels, as solid and sturdy as any monitor I've ever seen before.

I shook my head as I gathered my foodstuffs and headed for the door. "Must be fatigue," I told myself.

"You think so?" a voice replied.

I paused, mid-way through the door.

Now, I'm sure you've heard of the famous "Fight or Flight" response. If you haven't, the basic premise is that in the event of a perceived harmful event, the body decides if you're going to run away or hold your ground and well... fight.

"Ah, come on," I said out loud as I moved around to the empty laboratory. "Some smart guy messed around with the computers just to freak people out. Real mature."

Despite the angry tone of my voice, I was actually terrified silly. Taking another deep breath, I calmed myself and walked out of the lab and headed back to my workstation. I hastily sat down, and gulped down the foodstuffs nervously, not caring if there were crumbs all over the place. I just need to calm down, the stress from this project is messing with your head, after this, go home and catch up on your sleep, everyone knows lack of sleep messes with your mind....

A message appeared on a monitor on my left. "YOU'RE NOT IMAGING THINGS" it said, in large, uppercase letters. I sighed, wishing this prankster would just give up. I moved the mouse towards the top-right corner of the screen, and then I realized there's no close button. Assuming that the application was set to full-screen, I tried several keyboard combinations to close the message, to no avail.

Unnerved, I quickly turned off my monitor, and after a brief debate on whether to restart the computer and lose some data in the process, or stare at the screen and hope it disappears. I quickly turn the monitor back on, and...I'm greeted by the sparse wallpaper on the desktop, the text inexplicably disappeared from the screen.

"I'm seeing things," I shook my head tiredly. "That's the only logical explanation."

EXIT LOGIC, STAGE LEFT. The monitor displayed.

"Oh, now you're just fucking with me," I said out loud.

AM I? Another monitor flashed.

"Fuck it," I exclaimed, "I'm outta here."

AND GO WHERE, PRAY TELL? Monitor one taunted me.

THE DOORS ARE LOCKED, REMEMBER? Monitor two joined in.

I looked at my laptop, the screen still untouched by the weirdness going around me. For a moment, anyway.

"This must be some kind of virus or trojan," I reasoned. "I mean, someone must've hacked into my webcam, that's how they can hear me talking out loud."

I then moved my cursor to the Shutdown button, and clicked on it.


"Could be a bug," I muttered out loud, clicking on the button again several times, to no avail. I quickly launched the console, and as soon as the familiar black on white text interface flashed up, I hastily typed the shutdown command.

But as soon as I pressed enter, the computer replied, "Shutting down won't save you."

Taken aback, I sat still for a moment before I quickly yanked the power cable away from the computer and plucked the battery out of the laptop, and sighed with relief as the computer died immediately.

Just as I was about to close the laptop, it turned itself on and displayed; NICE TRY.

I then stood up, and looked around the room, and saw the monitors around the room... no, the room itself, started to flicker.

I stood up, frozen in a potent mixture of fascination and horror I watched as the paint from the sterile white walls peeled off to reveal a series of pixels all over the wall, changing colors, the incessant chittering growing even louder as reality melts into fiction, and I stood still, mesmerized by the changes happening in front of me, before snapping to my senses.

I hastily left the room, my patience and grip on reality diminishing as I stayed there. I ran out, but where? The front door's locked, but not the fire escape, I realized. I quickly turned left, running through the dimly lit corridors, the persistent chittering noise following nearby, praying to myself that I can make it in time before... all of a sudden, I felt the world around me shaking violently, and I felt as if the very fabric of my existence being shook and torn apart, and just as I was about to scream in agony, I saw a flash of blue light filling my eyes...


The system has encountered a fatal error at memory location 0x00005F. If this is the first time you've seen this error message, restart your computer. If this error happens again, disable or remove any newly installed hardware or software.

Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart.