This is not a story. This is simply an explanation.
My name is Joe Kaserinski, and I am a former employee of the X-NAD Corporation. I say former; I was permanently removed from their employ on September 7th, 1998.
This was following an incident in their corporate headquarters, at Redmond.
I was involved in a team coordinating the live testing of a newly coded version of windows 98. Due to the secrecy of the project, we jokingly codenamed the project windows 99.9. This version of windows would go on to form the base plate for many of the next versions of windows, right up to 2007. Some destination files are hidden inside the operating systems of your computer right now, provided you are using windows, which are mistakenly called windows 99.9. You can find them if you look hard enough.
I was sitting in the mundane jungle of the second floor of Redmond headquarters, tracing the shadows of raindrops down the thick panes of glass, when I got the call. It was a call that would change my life. The phone insistently beeped at my dry ears until I yanked it off the hook and put the receiver to my pasty cheek.
The sound of rattling breathing echoed down the crackly line, and I waited for the rasping sound of speech to scrape my ear drums patiently.
"Hello?" An uncertain voice cawed out, from the phone head.
"Hello, Windows live testing section. How can I help?" I tried to sound as cheery as I could, despite my boredom.
"Hello, it Mike Carroll, I'm a tester for windows..." There was a thump, and a ruffle of papers from down the phone "...Windows 99.9"
"What is the nature of your call?" I spat down the line through gritted teeth.
"I'm experiencing some problems with the operating system."
"What nature of problems?" We had done a training seminar on talking to customers recently, so I was pretty good at it.
"The welcome screen is upside down, and I'm getting a bunch of...strange error messages." He laughed down the phone. With the wind howling outside, and rain smattering against the glass, it sounded a little forced, and more importantly, nervous.
"I'll be happy to send someone round to take a look." Once again lying through my teeth; that someone was me, and I was most certainly not happy to go round and take a look.
The dark swirling puddles crashed around the mud guard of my van, as I pulled up into the dingy suburban street that Mike Carroll made residence on. The houses looked dark and empty, sitting dilapidated in the shadows. I strolled up the street, looking for the brass number seven nailed to the peeling paint and rotting wood of a door that would tell me I was in the right place.
After stalking through the rain for a good minute, I saw the sign I was looking for. The house was an old brick pile, looking worse for wear against the furious might of the storm. Water ran out of the gutters that were jammed full on sodden leaf mulch, pouring onto the concrete path in rivulets that I deftly sidestepped as I approached the door. As I got closer, I came to a cold realization. The door was slightly ajar, and flapping gently in the wind, letting the thick droplets of water stain the threadbare carpet inside. There were no lights on either, which caused a lump to knaw at the base of my stomach; a growing pit of dread that was sucking at the bottom of my cerebellum.
Pushing open the door with a creak, I took a step inside.
"Hello? Mr. Carroll" Fear took hold of me. This was just like some shitty horror movie, and I didn't like it.
"In here!" A friendly voice split the silence in two from elsewhere in the house, clearly the same man as one the phone.
"Your front door is wide open Mr. Carroll" No response came from above, so I gently closed the door, and started to mount the dilapidated flight of stairs.
Thirteen steps of creaking later, I reached a shabby landing. Here a bare bulb light was fleeting illuminating a pair of dark wooden doors, and a third smaller door further down the landing to my left. I uncertainly started towards the first door, when the cheery voice of Mr. Carroll beckoned me into the furthest one instead.
I strode across the squeaky floorboards, and pushed at the door. A pasty light was washed across the sagging bookshelves of the office. A dark lump rose from the carpet, shrouded by shadow. As I took another step in, bile rose in my stomach. I saw that the lump was the comatose body of Mr. Carroll. The bright light was coming from the computer screen, which was completely white, and set as bright as it could go. It scathed the retinas just to look at it. I panicked, and dropped to my knees to feel a pulse on the body. It was stone cold to the touch, and clearly no longer alive. Along it's face was a horrific burn mark, skin sizzled like bacon, popped and cracked into a brown sinewy mass. I jumped back immediately, brain racing to find an explanation for what was happening. Nothing came. He had clearly been dead for hours, how could he possibly have made that phone call, let alone called out to me just a few seconds ago.
In futility, I turned to the computer, clicking at the mouse while shading my delicate eyes from the unbearable light. Finally, I got a result. The bright light disappeared, and was replaced by the welcome screen. Sure enough, it was upside down, exactly as the caller had described. My heart skipped a beat, and color drained from my face when I looked closer at the upside down screen
66'6 was what I saw. The number of evil.
Maybe it was a coincidence. That was the most likely explanation. Just a coincidence. My heartbeat slowed down, and I continued my crusade for answers. The welcome screen was replaced with something else. it was the desktop, but it was running a program i had never seen before. In the corner, I saw it was labeled "IN_HERE.MP3". Gulping, I hit a button labeled in bland text 'play file'
"In here!" The cheery voice of Joe rang out across the room, emanating from the tinny speakers of the computer. I blinked in disbelief. Panic was closing on my heart, my lungs, my muscles, but I was determined not to let it take me.
"Oh God..." I whispered almost to myself, fear rising in my tight chest. What if someone had forced Mr. Carroll to record that then killed him. They could easily have got me up there my simply playing that every time I shouted something up to him. Could they still be in the room?
My panic was interrupted by the error message sound booming from the computer. I turned and saw a message box on the screen. It read:
'File: Mike_121.zip is corrupted, and has had to close. All data related to file has been removed.'
I clicked around, but nothing further came for a good few seconds. Suddenly, another message arose on the screen.
'File: Joe_616.zip created. Directory not found'
Joe. My name. Could this all simply be a coincidence still? The corpse on the floor implied otherwise.
'File: ESCAPE. Zip is corrupted, and has had to close'
I felt my chest tighten at this message. I felt like I needed to leave, I needed to leave now.
The screen flickered to black, then to white again. The same bright, pulsing white as before, except this time it was brighter. It spread across my vision, closing in from all sides. I felt my skin begin to heat up. A sharp buzzing was emanating from the computer. The glow consumed my entire field of vision, no matter how much i tried to turn away. My skin began to boil. It peeled off, and spread out into a vapor. My mind felt like it would crack, the glowing flooding every crevice of my darkest thoughts, every memory floating away into the pure light. The beautiful light. My body dissolved into the glow.
So beautiful, so warm, so peaceful. Nothing bad could happen to me here. Sleep was closing onto my weary frame, senses dulling, and eyes closing. Becoming aware of a whispering near my left ear, I twitched and swatted at the air, not wanting anything to disturb my rest. Barely listening to what the whispering was saying, I just heard snachets of the voice occasionally crackling across my consciousness.
"Are you..." Followed by unintelligible words
"...He doesn't want to know..."
"...I am now your..."
"...I will control..."
The very last bit of my mind not devoured by the hungry light was panicking. The last bastion of awareness would only hold out for a matter seconds if something wasn't done. Sensing this fear, I began to violently thrash out at this prison of light, limbs contorting in futility, trying to find my way out of the ever-present golden light.
Thump. I felt myself crash down to the bottom of the stairs, my bizarre fit over. The light was still clawing at the corners of my vision, but it was rapidly being placed by the dingy hallway of Mr. Carroll’s house, door still flapping in the furious wind. My stomach clenched as I looked down at my body. My clothes had been torn away, and I was covered in hundreds of tiny lacerations, like needle pricks, all across my body. They did not draw blood, but instead itched like a nest of ants crawling around on my skin. Vomiting, my thick green bile poured onto the wraith of the carpet. Barefoot, I ran out of the house, out of shear terror, and sprinted down the road exposed towards my van.
I swallowed in relief when I reached it. Still fully naked and covered in wounds, I ducked inside, fleeing from that thing. The thing inside the computer. My breathing began to settle, and I swallowed, and turned the key in the ignition. As the van coughed into a reassuring rumble of life, I looked back at the house where it resided. With no little apprehension, I saw it was being licked from within by bright tongues of flame, a huge flood of smoke billowed into the dark sky, the fire burning bright against the storm. As soon I turned the corner in my van, I was passed by a fire department vehicle, all lights and blaring sirens.
After a nerve shredding 23 minutes of driving, I finally pulled up in the parking lot of my apartment building. I sprinted across the soaked tarmac, and up the litter strewn concrete steps that took me to my floor. Fortunately, I didn't see another soul on the way in, and I breathed a massive sigh of relief when I pushed open my door and sprawled down onto the sofa.
As I was pulling on some closed, my mind raced with plans. What could I do? That thing. That thing. It needed to be destroyed, I saw that now. When the seemingly innocent code of windows 99.9 had been typed out, some kind of entity had been created, or perhaps released. It was inside all the computers with windows 99.9 on. Fortunately, that wasn't that many. We had an office of about 32 back at the Microsoft headquarters, and 16 testers situated around Washington State. With Mr. Carroll’s computer destroyed in the fire, which left only 15.
As I was trying to swallow what had happened to me, I absent mindedly switched on the TV. It was set to the local news channel, and I found some comfort in the familiar face of the anchor.
"...A bizarre raft of arson attacks has struck Washington State today, with a total of 16 homes catching ablaze in what the police say appears to be a coordinated attack. 3 people have been killed in the fires, while 7 remain in critical condition. One of this brutal rampage's victims was just minutes ago identified as computer programmer Mike Carroll. Police on the scene say the blaze started on the first floor of the house, possibly in the bed room or office, but no word yet as to the cause of these strange but viscous attacks. Police are searching for a man seen leaving the scene of in a white Ford Transit, identified as witnesses as Joe Kaserinski..."
This caught my attention. They were looking for me. Shit. It was strange seeing my face plastered on the screen like a common criminal. There would be no going back after this, my ordinary life was over. How long before they came here? It would be minutes, at most. I couldn't let them stop me, interfere with my mission. I had to kill that thing, that entity, before it was to late.
Then it came to me in a flash, a bright blinding bullet of inspiration straight to my brain. The central network server at the windows office. If I could destroy that, then all the windows 99.9 computers would be wiped out the next time someone connected to the server. My ponderings was interrupted by a fearsome knock on the door. They were here.
"Open the door Mr. Kaserinski!"
I hesitated. If I let them take me into custody now, I would be too late. When I had been in the light, I heard the word soon repeated over and over. If I didn't stop it now, it might be too late. The knocking stopped, and was replaced with a ferocious thump. So desperate to stop my mission, the police were battering in the door. Well I wouldn't let them. I would do my duty. I pulled open the sash window in the bathroom, and dropped down into the alley between mine and the next buildings. The alley was a tight fit, and I had to squeeze past a rat infested skip to reach the open air of the parking lot. I threw a smirk at the police cordon as a passed it down the street, the fools couldn't stop me from committing my holy duty; I had God on my side to defeat the beast within the machine.
It took me thirty minutes to walk to the Microsoft headquarters, but when I got there it was a relatively simple matter of using my employee key code to open the back door. Everyone but security and the cleaners would have left by now, and they wouldn't have seen the news yet, so I was safe. I passed up a flight of stairs, and into one of the main offices. The central network server was in the next office along. Muttering a hello to the cleaner, I pushed open the door, and jogged eagerly towards the terminal situated next to the massive server bank, and logged on. After the windows 99.9 files were booted up, I opened the main file. A message flashed up. It was a JPG file of a skull; a goats skull. Below it read:
'I am Lucifer the fallen, the blood of the tyrants is on my hands, the army of the devourer shall rise from the pit, and make war unto God."
The screen started to flash, black and white, extremely quickly. I looked away, not wanting to hurt my eyes. A sound file of a male voice screaming loudly, as if in rage, played out of the rooms surround sound speakers, while I covered my ears. The screen cut to the bright white from earlier, and was quickly joined by all the other monitors in the room. They merged into a single mass of light, as the roomed seemed to bend forcing my vision around. I ran straight and true and with all my might, for the door. Self preservation instinct kicking in. But I felt my feet fall away from the ground, up wards. I was running in the air, caught in the grasp of an invisible beast. My limbs were torn back behind me, and the glowing light once again engulfed me.
"You have sinned against me Joseph." The voice called mockingly.
"Fuck you!" I shouted, trying to sound as brave as possible.
"You must be punished for your sins."
I saw the speaker emerge from the light. It was the image of a goats skull, made entirely of lines of code projected in front of me.
"You released me from the pit, but now you must suffer in it yourself" It continued sinisterly.
"No..." I whispered hoarsely, my mind quickly fading into the void of light.
"Soon, Joseph, I will be released onto this earth, and I shall make an army, and rise upon God."
I said nothing, cold in the knowledge the end was near for me.
I breathed out a final sigh, as I felt all the bones in my body twist and snap, tearing at my skin.
An almighty roar from behind me threw me forwards; it was the shockwave of an unholy explosion in the server room. The light flashed off, as all the computers instantly went dead, and I fell to the floor in the burnt ashes. The entity of code flickered forms, first the goat’s skull, then a tall winged man, a child with deer antlers fused to it's skull, and finally a snake suspended in the air.
"I am the SERPENT!" It roared finally into my already battered eardrums, before flickering away.
I was left on the floor, burnt, and completely paralyzed except for my left arm and hand.
I thought that day that the evil was over, but every time I see a windows computer, I become sure that lurking deep within the code, is a sliver of the entity, a sliver of pure evil, and I'm sure it is willing to do anything to get out...