The contest at TWP wrapped up October 2nd and I would like to share the stories that took the top – it was a tie – 3 places!
The rules they were given:
It can be any genre, or mix of genres, and has to include a broken laptop somewhere in the story.
No more than 1,500 words.
Delete by Keldi Hale
We’re finishing dinner and I’m deep in thought about where I’m wishing this relationship would go. He offers more wine and I decline. It’s delicious but I’ve had my limit. I switch to water and as I pick up the glass, I scan the room. His oil painting of the nude has been replaced. I stare. It’s a new painting of a naked woman blindfolded, bent forward, her head on her bound hands. Jesus, it’s me.
“Jesus Christ. What the hell?” I jump up and throw my napkin across the table. I’m furious. How could he?
He looks up at me, stunned. “What’s wrong?”
“That.” I point to the wall. “That’s what’s wrong. You had it painted of me? You took photos of me?
“Photos? Yes, I did. Calm down.” Like it’s something he does every day.
“You can’t do that. I don’t want any photos of me taken. Not like that.” It’s horrific, the pose, the nudity. “Someone saw a photo of me and painted the picture?” My face grows hot, the room spins and I feel bile inching up my throat. “I never gave my permission for you to take photos of me and I want that destroyed. Get rid of it, right now.” I’ve balled my hands into fists and fight to control my emotions.
“Sit down. You need to calm down.” He’s looking at me like I have a third head. An oddity.
“No. I’m not calming down. Stop saying that to me. I’m not going to get calm, not about this.”
“You signed the consent form and it included taking photos of you.” He’s looking smug.
“I did not. I didn’t sign anything that said that. It was just one for identification, right?”
“That and it included others as well. Will you please calm down. The photos are for my enjoyment only.” He’s dismissing me.
“Fuck you.” I stomp my foot down so hard on the tile, the slap of my bare foot echoes off the walls. “Fuck you, for your enjoyment only. I never said they could be taken at all. I don’t care who you think you are.”
He slowly pushes his chair away from the table puts his hands on it and pushes himself up until we’re eye to eye. I stare at him with all the hate I have in my heart for him. Wishing evil on him, I want to do awful things to him. He raises his voice, “Sit down and we’ll talk this through like adults.”
“No,” I’m yelling. “I’m not talking to you about it. I want the photos, prints, negatives, whatever you have. I’m taking them with me. We’re done.”
“They’re digital.” He smiles slightly, obviously finding humor in all of this. “No negatives. They’re in the data base of my computer and I’m happy to show them to you if you’d like.”
“No. I don’t want to see them. I want them destroyed. In whatever form you have them. Delete them now.” It dawns on me he probably took photos of the other women he’s had before me. “Did you take photos of the others?”
“That’s none of your business.” He still has the napkin balled tightly in his fist.
“How many?” I’m so angry, I’m beyond sanity and damn it, he’s going to tell me.
“How many what?” Is he really that dense?
“How many women?”
“I don’t remember.” He takes his seat again ignoring me.
“You’re smart as a whip and organized as hell. You remember. Don’t lie to me.” I’m standing, trying to be as tall as I can, arms rigid, hand on my hips.
“Seven, maybe eight.” He looks at me, righteousness written all over his face.
“You have photos of them, don’t you?”
“Of some, yes.”
“You, filthy bastard. You pervert.” I’m raging and he’s so damn calm.
“I don’t like the name bastard. I’ve already told you that and I’m not a pervert,” he tells me as he abruptly stands up and gets right into my face, causing me to falter and step back away quickly.
“Yes, you are. Now, give me the disc, the prints and take that down now.”
He walks past me to the wall beside the painting, picks up a remote and clicks it once. My photo disappears and the original is returned. “It’s digital. No one saw the damn thing but me.”
I remain standing, stunned. He returns to his place at the table. “Sit and calm down.”
Commanding son of a bitch. “Stop saying that. I’m not calming down.” I stand in defiance while he regains his seat, debating if I should leave right now or stay and make sure he destroys the photos.
“If you don’t calm yourself, I will.”
“No, you won’t. I’m not standing for anymore of this. I’m leaving. Give me my clothes back, right now.”
I turn and start to stride away from the table and him. I’m gaining speed and heading for the front door to get away. I don’t hear him get up from the table but suddenly feel his arms wrap around me. He’s holding me tightly pressed against his chest.
He says quietly into my ear, “You need to stay and talk this through with me. You were hurt before, weren’t you? Someone you couldn’t trust completely?”
I don’t want to go there. He doesn’t need to know all of that.
“Tell me,” he urges.
“You have to open up and talk to me. Tell me what happened.”
I don’t want to bring this all up again. “I’d rather not.”
“Tell me.” Losing his patience, I feel him tense.
Maybe just tell him a little. “There was a boy…when I was a teenager. My first boyfriend. We made out, heavy, but I wasn’t ready to have sex with him. I was too scared. I let him see my breasts and fondle me and he snapped a photo and held it against me. If I wouldn’t go all the way he’d show it around. I didn’t think he’d really do it.” I shift in his arms. I’m uncomfortable still, talking about this years later. “He did. When I wouldn’t put out, he did what he said he would. My parents caught wind of it and I’ll never forget how my dad yelled at me, calling me stupid, dumb. Why in the hell hadn’t I been more careful? He said he thought better of me.” I clutch at him, holding on tightly for dear life. “You could expose me. My dad, God, it would kill him to see me like that.”
Listening to me, he’s been rubbing my back while I’ve told him the most hurtful memories of my life. He says softly, “I’m not that guy. I’ll destroy them.”
I sigh with relief, burying my face in his chest.
“It’s over, let it go.” He cradles me until I’m calm then breaks our bond and crosses to his library. Returning shortly carrying his laptop, he sets it on the dining room table and comes to gather my hand in his and leads me to stand over it with him.
“They’re really special. You’re beautiful in them. Sure, you don’t want to see them?”
“No. I just want them gone.”
“A terrible loss.” He shakes his head as he opens the laptop and waits for it to come on. It doesn’t. He pushes the start button impatiently. Nothing. I watch him push it again. And then again. “It’s not working.”
“Since just now.”
Highly unlikely, I think to myself.
He continues to fiddle with it, picking it up and giving it a good shake. He’s frustrated with it and I’m even more frustrated with him. He continues to push buttons, open and closing it, checking the battery.
I can’t watch anymore of this and slip toward the front door. I steal his suit coat off the back of the chair and drape it over myself.
“Hey, where are you going?”
“No. Wait. Just give me a few minutes. I’ll blow the son of a bitch up if I have to.”
“Forget it. Forget me.” I slam the door.
The computer had eyelids by Chris Galvin
The camera built into the laptop blinked. At first, Jackie didn’t notice it. She was too busy typing up notes. ‘Remember to hit save’, she thought, ‘don’t lose anything.’ Then she realised that something felt off and as her eyes darted to the camera above her screen, it blinked again. She yelled, pushing herself back out of her chair. The camera continued to blink, two small human eyelids around it. She peered at them, wondering just what the hell was going on. As she watched, the cursor moved and opened a new word document. The same word was typed out again and again in quick succession.
Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help Help
If that wasn’t enough, a big fat tear welled up between the eyelids and slid down the laptop screen. She felt nauseous watching the tear as it made its way down to the bottom of the screen. She dared not wipe it. She was terrified.
The water pooled at the bottom and seeped into the speakers. There was a crackle and hissing sound, then smoke rose from the laptop. The machine shut down, but not before it emitted a strange electronic scream from within. The eyelids closed and faded away.
Her laptop was broken, effectively dead.
She carefully reached out to close it over when a strange blue spark shot out and connected with her finger. Jackie felt a tingling sensation flow through her body, followed by the sounds of popping and cracking and then a digital darkness.
When she woke up, Jackie felt cold and numb. Her eyesight was blurry. She forced herself to focus and discovered she could only see out of one eye. And what she saw puzzled her. In front of her, at an upward angle that made her feel dizzy, was a middle-aged man in a white vest. He was sitting down on his bed and she was sitting on him? That felt weird. Because she couldn’t feel anything at all. Except perhaps fear. The man looked down at her and then up to someone out of her sight.
A female hand handed him over a newspaper, a headline splashed across the front read ‘New Supernatural Computer Virus Terrifies Nation.’
“Shocking stuff this,” he mumbled as he read the front page. Then he looked down at her again.
“Oh god,” he gasped as he leaned in, staring straight at her. “It’s eyelids… I can see eyelids!”
Jackie blinked, trying to wipe away tears she couldn’t reach. She couldn’t look down or move her head. She felt like she didn’t have a head anymore. She couldn’t talk either. Any idea of a mouth long gone. She wasn’t sure where she was, but she knew she wasn’t in her body anymore.
The man started shouting, calling someone named Maria to come over. A woman, not too far off his age appeared in Jackie’s view. The woman, Maria, stifled a scream.
Panic overwhelmed Jackie and she tried desperately to communicate with this strange couple in front of her. She felt words. Words were being typed. She could see them. On a laptop screen. Asking for their help.
Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me Help Me
She realised she was now nothing more a cold empty eye in someone else’s laptop. Her vision blurred as a tear formed and made its way down, what she could only assume was the front screen of the laptop, not her cheek.
The couple yelled and screamed and shouted and Jackie sent out a message, a warning.
Don’t Touch Don’t Touch Don’t Touch Don’t Touch Don’t Touch Don’t Touch Don’t Touch
But the man kicked the laptop off the bed and she went spinning through the air before crashing to the ground. A crack appeared in her vision, then the sound of shouting, and a hammer appeared. Confusion and fear gripped Jackie and didn’t let go as the hammer descended.
The last thing she ever thought was ‘I forgot to press save on my notes.’
Flux by Jack Van den Berg
Wandering around the auction sale, I spotted the laptop sitting there, a very old model, with a broken screen, scratches on the metal housing but it was otherwise perfect. It was exactly the model I was looking for. I am an old Laptop collector and currently have some two hundred old and outdated computers in my collection. It is all part of my bent in history, especially computer science. For a long time I had been waiting for a particular piece of hardware to come along and when it finally appeared on the market in the catalogue, I knew I had to get there and obtain it.
Bidding began in earnest and I was waiting for the right moment to jump in on the bidding, as I knew that not many people knew much about this particular one in particular. I had first come across mention of it in an obscure article many years ago. It was clunky and was in fact an ugly piece of computer history. There was a very heavy base, a very thick screen and as for storage, it was a very primitive hard drive that was housed in it. There was something that nobody else actually realised though, it was actually a secret prototype that had somehow slipped out of the military’s hands many years ago.
Now was my opportunity to get my hands on it. I put up my hand in an attempt to get my foot in the water. My bid created a stir among the people in the room as they all turned to stare at me with my bid of two hundred. It had been muddling along slowly and had been at one fifty when I had sprung the two hundred bid. I smiled back and tried to appear bored, yet my inner excitement was boiling over, it WAS the computer i had suspected. The bid jumped to three hundred by the tall skinny man in the dark suit. I counter offered with four hundred and fifty. The bidding rose, excitement mounted as finally the man shook his head with my final offer of one thousand and ninety.
Reaching the cashiers desk, I pulled out my wallet and began counting out the money, slowly and deliberately so as not to betray my shaking hands. At last, it was the final piece I was looking for. Behind me I heard a loud ‘harrumph’ and turned to see the skinny man, eyeing me with ice cold eyes and a very disapproving look on his face.
“I had no more money and you beat me to it but I could offer you so much more if you let me have it for the lower price,” he said, his voice low and sharp.
“No.. no, it is not for sale, it is the final piece in my collection that I have been looking for for many years now. I am sorry but if you wanted it that badly, you should have brought more money,” I replied, smiling at him in an attempt to make peace.
“You don’t understand… it is not safe, not safe at all. I have been looking for that piece of equipment for many years as well. You see, I was military as well and it is important to me,” he explained, “please reconsider. I will make it very worth your while.”
“When you say worth my while, what do you mean exactly? If you have no money, then how can you make it worth my while?” I asked loudly, hoping he would go and leave me to pay in peace.
“Your life is worth way more than that piece of junk. Trust me on this.. I know exactly what I am talking about,” he replied harshly, “it is not what you think it is.. it is.. Not safe. That is all I am going to say. If you are adamant, then please don’t say I did not warn you!” and stormed off, angrily shaking his head and at the door, turned and shouted out, “I tried to warn you. It is on your head, you will be sorry!” Just as security from the auction house dragged him away, all the while resisting futilely.
Getting home after the drive, I looked at the old laptop type device and examined it carefully, looking for the one place I knew would hold the proof of what I held. Opening the underside carefully, revealing the proof, I smiled in astonishment. Yes, it was the device, the one thing I had always know that had started everything. Carefully checking everything out, I attached an adapter to the external monitor port, plugged in my computer monitor and checked to make sure that it was indeed receiving some voltage. Needing to power the beast, I had looked carefully at all of the connections and realised that I could easily get power to it through normal household power. Smiling, I sat down and got together the bits that I required for the connection. It sat there, the blank monitor quietly humming away, the soft glow emanating from it.
Finally the power cable was ready, just awaiting the connection and switching on of the unit. I braced myself, plugged the power cable in and leaned forward to tap the power switch. Nothing. I sat there, stunned, absolutely horrified, thinking the worst things imaginable. My lights flickered and dimmed suddenly, and my thoughts immediately realised it was a power outage. Cursing, I hit the desk with my fist and suddenly the machine beeped and came to life on the monitor. My heart jumped at that, realising that something must have gotten knocked loose or made a connection. Sighing with relief, I smiled and sat back in relief. That was when it happened, the flash of light and my body being flung across the room, causing me to hit my head.
Waking was the hard bit, the bitter taste of copper was in my mouth as I struggled to sit up from the cold steel floor. ‘Cold steel floor?’ I thought as I finally managed to get my elbows under me enough to lift up to see… a grey metal room, complete with a bunk, basic chair and desk and… ‘Grey metal?’ I came fully awake as I managed to stand at last. ‘Where am I?’ raced through my mind as I stared at the device on my desk. Staggering toward it, I looked at the screen attached to the box and stared at the numbers flashing on it, counting down. ‘Down? To what?’ I wondered, as the ‘whoop whoop whoop’ of a klaxon sounded throughout the surrounding area. “What the hell?!” I murmured softly, as I stood and made my way to the door and opened it. More gray paint, and some metal stairs. Looking at the device, it read thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight; then I realised I had to get out, see what was going on.
Moving quickly to the stairs, I climbed quickly and went up them to the open doorway above them. The Klaxon repeating constantly. Getting out into the dark night, I made out a figure running toward me.
“I warned you, you idiot. Now we have to try stop you again. This time I WILL get the device and stop you from turning it on,” he screamed. “We are on the Philadelphia Experiment, The USS Eldridge.”
“Oh God! Realising at last what he had meant, dropping to my knees, it all came flooding back, the time loop we had created, thanks to the broken laptop-like device. We would be forced to relive this again, just as the static burst over us and we blinked back out of existence.