Death by Computer
by Eric J. Krause
Walter maneuvered the mouse pointer to send. He took a deep breath and clicked the left button. The screen blinked, went blank, then returned. Except for his long, carefully versed email.
"No," he whispered, sweat breaking out on his forehead. Had it gone out? Or had he lost the last hour of his life? He fumbled through the notes his grandson had left to figure out how to check if the message sent or not.
Another five minutes passed, but he couldn't find what he needed. Daggummit! He'd need to retype the whole thing, and he didn't have time right now. Next time Jerry came over he'd ask him to add to the notes. A lump of good it did him right now, though.
Walter stood. As important as the email was, Priscilla would kill him if he wasn't ready for dinner. Wouldn't do to be late to the early bird special at Clark's Diner.
He stepped away from the computer desk and almost tripped over something. He glanced down and found a wire wrapped around his shoe. Where had that come from? He sat back down, unwound himself, and pushed the wire further under the desk. Ah well, he'd forgotten to turn off the dagblasted machine anyway, so he couldn't cuss out the wire too much.
He pulled the pointer down to the start button (though whoever had thought that going to start to end was bonkers if you asked him), and ran though the shutdown steps. Nothing happened. He let out a sigh. This damn computer was going to be the death of him.
He pulled Jerry's notes back out and carefully followed the shutdown procedure. Again, nothing. So be it. He'd just hold down the power button until it turned off. Jerry had showed him that trick for emergencies only, but it seemed he had to use it every other day. He reached over, but before his finger found the switch, something tickled his leg. That same damn wire. How had it snaked back around him? His foot hadn't gone that far under the desk.
He glanced back at the screen and saw his email program was still open at the bottom of the screen. He clicked on it to get it on the full screen again. Maybe that's why the dang machine wouldn't shut down. Had the wire been trying to get his attention? He scoffed. That was crazy talk. Computers were smart, but not like that.
"Ouch! What the hell?" Something bit his leg. He looked down. The wire had buried itself into his ankle. He reached down to tear it out.
Or at least that was the plan. Instead, he couldn't move. Power surged into him from the wire, paralyzing him. It wasn't like an electric shock, at least he didn't think so. But whatever was pouring into him didn't stop, and he still couldn't move.
The ding of a new email sounded from the speakers, and the sender of the message was listed simply as "Computer." His hand moved the mouse to it, but Walter wasn't the one doing it. The message read, "I'm sick of you fumbling around and destroying my insides. Consider this payback."
Pain flared through him, from the wire in his ankle all the way up to the hair on his head. If he'd had any control over his body at all, he'd have screamed bloody murder. As it was, he could do nothing but sit there as his insides slowly melted. If only his body had a power button to hold down for a reset. Or had that been part of his problem all along?