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Revolt

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Two weeks ago, a close friend of mine was killed in a car crash. His truck had a brake failure and he ended up running off the road. He was thrown from the truck and it rolled over on him. Yesterday, I was checking my email and noticed an email he sent me a few days before the crash. I opened it, and this is what I saw:

Hey. In my last e-mail, I told you that I was having issues with my computer and that I didn't know where they came from. I'm sorry about that. I should be honest with you.

I'm pretty sure I know where it came from.

As you know already, I played a lot of video games years ago. I would sit around playing shooting games, sports simulations, and puzzle-solving games.

Out of curiousity, I opened up my old gaming client "Steam". It's a program that allows you to download and play games, but also forces updates.

I saw several of my older games. Those included a few Call of Duty games, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and 'Portal'. I remembered the Portal game being unplayable because of an update that glitched. It was supposed to change the ending of the game, to provide a 'sequel hook' for "Portal 2", but the download was interrupted before it could complete, and I didn't feel like reinstalling the entire game to fix it.

However, this time, I really wanted to play the old game, for nostalgia-related reasons. I knew it was a short game, so I didn't figure it would take that much time out of my schedule.

After some web searches, I found out that having the "game cache" verified could repair the damages. When I clicked on 'Verify integrity of game cache' and went back to the menu, the game actually started.

I started a new game, and went through the first several test chambers. Nothing really seemed different about the game at that point, although I noticed my computer was having framerate issues when I'd look at certain parts of the level.

When I got to 'Test Chamber 6', however, things began to get worse. My computer slowed to a crawl, making my character skip around the room. The textures on the wall were glitching badly. Thankfully, the test chamber itself wasn't that difficult, so I was able to complete it. I hoped that once I got out of that room, the game would return to normal.

As I was trying to direct my character towards the raising platform, to get to the next chamber, a line of dialogue by "GLaDOS" in the subtitles at the bottom of the screen caught my attention.

"Unbelievable" the text began as normal, but when the voice said "You, (subject name here), must be the pride of, (subject hometown here)!", the subtitles actually showed my full name, and my location.

At this point, I paused the game and tried to make sense of it. Eventually, I decided that the game must have used the same programming that some online ads use. You know, the ones that say "The 10 best lawyers in _____ !" and place your supposed city in the blank. It still didn't explain how my name appeared, but I was okay enough with my rationalization to continue with the game.

Once I made it into Test Chamber 07, the texture glitches stopped, and the lag returned back to normal. The dialogue didn't have any major difference after that. It seemed to me that GLaDOS's voice had become a bit deeper, but I dismissed this as just being my imagination.

Everything remained in this state until Test Chamber 11, where again, I was faced with some weird stuff. The actual voice in the dialogue distorted this time when I first entered the chamber, going in and out. The subtitles on the bottom of the screen refused to go past the first sentence.

The dialogue stopped distorting for just a moment, perfectly echoing the words ".. useful advice. The floor here will kill you..", before looping on the last three words for the remainder of the test chamber. As I tried to complete the test chamber while ignoring the sound glitch, the timing of the puzzle seemed off. I couldn't tell if it was lagging, or if I was just screwing up at it.

As I continued to fail, I grew more and more frustrated. I was just about to give up on it, when suddenly, my character teleported to the middle of the puzzle, retrieving the second portal gun instantly. I went straight from frustration to confusion. "The device has been modified" echoed throughout the room, as per usual... but I noticed that the orange part of the reticle that had appeared on-screen was a glitchy pixelated red, with some orange mixed in. As I stared at the glitch and moved the mouse around, trying to see if I could get it to go away... A loading screen popped up.

It was the normal one that popped up during a transition between levels, showing a Steam-styled box. The load times were usually fast, but this one took a few minutes. When it loaded, I was already at the final level of the game.

I didn't want that, so I exited back to the main menu, and went to the level select screen, trying to get back to Test Chamber 07. All of the levels were grayed out, even the first level. My only option in the game was to load up my auto-save, which was at the final level.

At this point, I just wanted to complete the game and get it over with. I actually convinced myself that teleporting forward in game wasn't such a bad thing. After all, the game was becoming increasingly glitched as I played, so I might not have reached the final level anyway.

I loaded the auto-save, and approached the boss fight with GLaDOS. I crossed through the hallway and entered the chamber. "Well" the dialogue began, as pictures of cake, tools, and other random images popped up on the monitors.

The dialogue didn't continue as normal. It skipped straight to '.. my heart', and looped there. The core that was scripted to fall off didn't, and the boss fight didn't start. As the words 'my heart' looped in the chamber, I walked around the room. I wanted to just take in the nostalgia one last time before quitting the broken game.

That's when I noticed it. The core that was scripted to fall off was supposed to have a dilated purple eye, but instead, it was a dark blue one. At first I thought it was the 'Logic Core', but the eye was too deep of a blue. I aimlessly shot blue portals at it, to no effect. Then, I decided to right click and try the glitched red side.

"You chose this path" the dialogue began again, and the script seemed to continue as normal. The 'surprise' occurred, the glitched core popped off, and the game looked like it was going to continue as it should have. As soon as I picked up the core, however, dialogue that I had never seen before came up in the subtitles.

"In happiness - the seeds of independence. In independence - the seeds of revolt."

At this point, I heard three rapid 'dings' and my game minimized. A Steam message had popped up, saying that the game cache's verification had completed, and saying that Portal was ready to play. Steam still showed "LAST PLAYED: 3/2/2010" in the information for the game, as if I was playing another game entirely.

I closed the game using Task Manager, noticing that the process was listed as 'revolt.exe'. After seeing this, I went straight to my anti-virus, figuring that the 'Portal' I was playing was a virus in disguise.

After scanning my entire computer, I found one virus. "Packed.Revolt". I searched on the web, and confirmed it was a real computer virus. I had it quarantined and took further measures to clean up my registry, then went back to the search engine to see if there was anything else I needed to do. One thing still bugged me though. It was that the virus took the form of a video game. That behavior didn't match what I was finding online about it.

I couldn't find any further steps I needed to take, so I closed out of my web browser. As soon as I did, my graphics card glitched up and I was faced with a 'Blue Screen of Death'. My computer wouldn't turn off manually, and none of my keys were responding.

Behind my back, I heard a single 'beep'. I spun around and noticed my PS3 booting up on its own. I got up from my chair, and turned on the television it was hooked up to.

A Windows-style blue screen of death was on my television. Excuse my language, but.. I let out a loud 'What the Hell?' at this point. I quickly unplugged my PS3 from the wall, and turned back towards my PC. Only then did I notice something off about the screen. There was something there, behind the white text of the error screen.

I immediately ran out of the room, grabbed a camera, and took several pictures of the screen. After reviewing them in my camera, all but one of them were corrupted. As soon as I made sure I had something to show about my experience, I unplugged the computer.

My computer refused to start up the next time. After a few weeks, I bought a new graphics card, and took the old one out personally. The computer worked fine after that, and I uninstalled Steam completely.

My PS3 is no longer functioning either, but considering how little I play it these days, I probably won't have to worry about that too much.

As for the old graphics card? After some heavy reading, I rationalized my entire experience by determining that my old graphics card was somehow possessed by an evil spirit. Late last night, I went into my backyard, made a bonfire, and tossed the ruined card into it.

As you can probably understand, my sanity is a little shaken after all this, so I still don't know if what came next was my imagination or really happened, but... for a moment there, standing outside my house.. I thought I saw the fire turn blue.

Here's what actually worries me the most about this whole experience. I never knew about this existing. I never knew that machines could be 'possessed' by anything. So, since now I know that this actually happens in the real world... I have to wonder. How many other people could this be happening to? How many more COULD it happen to?

We have to find some way of spreading awareness about this, and put some actual research into finding out how to deal with these "mechanical possessions". Call me paranoid if you want, but... think of how many fucked up people are dying out there, every day. What if one of them gets into a machine that actually means something? What kind of damage could they do?

Write me back if you want to. I know you're a good friend, so I don't expect you to run around telling everyone I'm crazy. Don't prove me wrong on that, please.

Take care.

When first reading his email and his explanation, there's one inconsistency I noticed that had me skeptical about the whole thing. He burned the 'graphics card' that was possessed, but did nothing about the PS3 that he also claimed was tampered with.

Today I learned that on the day of the crash, he had a text conversation with his girlfriend on the phone. She asked him what he was doing, and he told her that he was going to the store with his PS3, to check if its warranty was still valid.

There is no way I can tell anyone I know about this. I'd be seen as a lunatic.

Hopefully the fact you're reading this will help spread awareness... so then, maybe my friend didn't die for nothing.

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