Hello everyone. My name is Nathan. It’s currently the 5th of July 2018 as I’m typing this up.
I need to make it clear that I may make mistakes, I don’t have the time to check for typos because I need to get the word out that something has followed me. I can’t afford to go back and check for typos, I’m sorry. I’ll try my best to keep it clean
It started quite a while ago, when I was about 12 years old, a young boy. I found myself fond of developing and programming with computers, specifically a language known as Retro-Lite. I don’t think it exists anymore within the mainstream programming world (or even if it did to begin with), but it was certainly a powerful tool which was Object Based, meaning that everything existed as an instance of itself with inner machinations and the lot.
Retro-Lite itself was described as a: “Top-of-the-line Gateway to the computer world, backed by an AI.” which was referencing the onboard AI program that was packaged with it. Something that had me dead confused at the time was how exactly this AI was able to detect typos and correct them with no prior knowledge apart from a simple dictionary, as well as detecting where elements and objects don’t exist and replacing them with the closest match. Sometimes this was extremely useful, however, in other times it could mean the death of entire scripts. The AI on my particular device decided it would one day be a great idea to try and change the colons to semi-colons in the entire file because it thought I was accidentally using the incorrect syntax.
One downside of Retro-Lite is that it had to be held on a separate terminal, unable to be processed by the regular sort of computers at the time, as well as the company being able to sell the terminal for a lot extra than a small extension to a regular old PC. The upside of the separate terminal was that since all the hardware onboard was all specifically designed for Retro-Lite, I was able to compile all my games, no matter how complex, usually in a matter of a minute. Fast as hell for the time.
I believe my Dad was the first one to introduce me to the language, having set up some beginner scripts for me to look at and dissect due to his background knowledge as a software developer. One thing I noticed was a switch which could be flicked on the side, the label above it read: RLAI. I remember thinking in my child-like mind, what could it mean? Retro-Lite AI was the first thing, but it concerned me that during this whole time I was already assisted by an AI within the machine.
I used to play around with the terminal, seeing all the wonderful games and such I could create for myself, being able to code and make games was a luxury in those days. After a while, people caught wind of this new terminal, it became something of an urban legend at my school as only the truly well-off could afford one.
Later in the year, a few of my close friends asked if they could stay the night and play some of the games I've made, I had shown them off at points of time in school. I just thought: "Hey, maybe they just want to come play." and said, "Okay." Which is probably one of the worst things I could’ve ever done to someone.
Sunday night, I was sitting at the terminal, having a look at some of the new libraries that my Dad had purchased when I heard the familiar knock at the door. We were all settled in fairly quickly, with the terminal in front of us, and I began typing away. Line after line, object after object, it just flowed out in front of us like virtual gold.
Then my friend mentioned the sacred switch, the one never to be pressed. It sat there like a large spot on someone’s face, one of the smallest pieces of equipment attached to the terminal and it stood out the most out of anything. He gave me a glance of reassurance after my pleas to not flick it and I was finally convinced, somehow after all those years of being told not to flick the switch I was onboard with the idea. When people say kids are stupid, they aren’t lying most of the time.
It began to print out some lines on the output box, reading: "Hello Nathan, what would you like me to do?" with my gaze one of astonishment. I hadn't used the RLAI up to this point, and it had the power to read out my name without any sort of indication of my name previously stated. This should’ve easily set off an alarm in my head, but my amazement at the power of this computer had already blinded my better judgement. My look of shock turned to one of excitement; if this thing had the ability to read my name without it even being defined: what was the potential it could achieve?
I began printing questions about the machine, the name of this specific one being Carol after some prodding. My friend asked me what it was doing now in the download box, I looked and saw it was downloading something called REAL v1, and immediately I felt a sense of danger from this unwanted download. We can all agree, unwanted downloads are always a sign of danger, but from this, my curiosity only grew as I eagerly awaited the download's completion. I don’t know what caused my complete naivety towards this, but on a streak of impressing my friends, I decided one more action couldn’t hurt.
With the finish, I was met with some new functions and classes, some of them looking alien to me even with the familiarity of the code. The feeling of the unknown in an environment you've been around for a significant portion of your life is one of the most gut-wrenching and dreaded feelings you can ever experience.
I began with one of the onboard functions, CreateUnit(). With the function, I was met with only two arguments, name and objective. I began to do some delving into the files, but as soon as I opened one file, the window froze and I was booted back to the main terminal, an astounded look on my face. The output window flashed up with another message from the machine, demanding I "DON'T LOOK IN THERE”. I was unsure as to why it didn’t display a message like “ACCESS DENIED”, and to this day I still ask myself that question, but thinking about it, no normal conscious person would say “ACCESS DENIED” would they?
I was astounded, the AI had forcefully booted me from a file. I should remind you, AI was primitive in those days, what this was doing was astonishing and frightening at the same time.
I decided I would just try and define some objectives, joking I wrote in quotes "GIVE HEAD", an intentionally incorrect use of syntax. All of us had a good chuckle at the phallic humor before executing it… unexpectedly, nothing happened. Blank in the output box, just completely void of anything.
Now, the reason I'm describing this in such detail is because: that isn't what happens when there's an error. When there is an error, the error is outputted into the console with a reference to the line and type of error. Instead, there was nothing... just blank. Thinking about it now, I should’ve caught on that during the whole time the Real V1 library was active, there were absolutely 0 errors. If you, the one reading, know anything about programming, you’d know that errors are very common even for extremely seasoned programmers. The fact that there were none should’ve been evidence enough that something wasn’t right.
At this point, I was just confused, knowing it had executed I was unable to see what exactly this code had done. Without the method, it was almost like stepping onto a blind path with data.
After a bit of fooling around with some of my older works, we decided it was time to hit the hay, with me hopping into my soft, comfortable bed and my friends all sliding into their sleeping bags. During that moment of waiting for my falling asleep, I was just pondering the thought of what exactly had been executed with the method "GIVE HEAD", still somewhat chuckling at the immature joke.
I don't even know how long I was asleep for before I was woken up by the most ear-piercing scream I think I've ever heard. Jolted awake with enough adrenaline to power several triathletes, I was greeted by something that turned my face pale and ensured that every night, from then for the foreseeable future, would be filled with nothing but that singular image.
Down the end of my bed, speared onto the blunt bedpost was the severed head of my mother, staring back at me with a frozen look of terror as the pool of blood below the post began to grow larger and larger from the drips on her neck. I was initially thinking I was having a bad dream, the futile attempt at slapping my face to wake up only left me with a red mark. Each time me wanting to just wake up violently in bed, as opposed to the jarring reality I’d been presented with.
It was only 10 minutes before the police arrived after the initial 999 call, I sat alone in the squad car. I was completely frozen from what I had bore witness to, her pale white face devoid of heat and colour, the look of absolute shock, and the blood that covered my feet after it had seeped under my sheets. I hadn’t made a noise during the entire situation, just staring at the back of the seat in the car trying desperately to process what I had just seen. Once I realised that my own mom was actually dead, I broke down completely and cried what must’ve been at least a full cup of tears, making noises that words will never be able to describe. Grief is a vile bitch.
It was 6 years later, long after my dad had committed suicide due to my mom's murder, when the RL Terminal was returned to me. During this time my grandfather had taken me in, fed me, kept me warm and tried to help me get by in day to day life… even with the gruesome detail of his daughter’s murder etched into my mind. Despite all the history me and it had, I wanted nothing to do with it. It was a mental anchor that held me to that night, and everyday it sat in that box I could feel myself being drawn closer and closer to it. I had a look through the older logs from 2014 to check what prodding the police and forensics team had done when I finally found the old function: "GIVE HEAD". In a cruel realisation, it suddenly hit me that I was responsible for my mother's death, I was the one who caused this.
You know the feeling when you're hit in the stomach, winded, left out of breath completely. That was the only way I could describe how I felt in that single moment, no tears, just the look of mental pain on my face.
Then I noticed something was typing...
“Hello again Nathan, what would you like me to do next? :)”
Author's note: Thank you for reading this, I wrote this back in 2018 and never had the nerve to post it anywhere, but I'm very excited to see what you thought of it. Criticism helps creativity.