14/11/2021 - Computer Club Corruption
The headmaster of a high school was murdered. The murderer was a teacher in his school. He was killed by her running him over in a junction in broad daylight in front of dozens of people. Others received minor injuries, mostly from trying to escape the steel box of death. Reports from witnesses on the scene said that the headmaster was acting crazy. He was screaming at the top of his lungs about how "they" were coming.
You'd be forgiven for never noticing this story as it was nestled in the middle pages of newspapers. The news TV channels were no different; stories of how the Tokyo power network would be put under extreme strain this winter virtually drowned the story out of the public conscience. With the murderer placed behind bars, that should have been the end of that story, but it wasn't.
Not long after the murder, we got a new transfer student in our class. Haro was his name. He said he transferred to my school as a result of mental trauma associated with the incident. The only other thing he mentioned was that he hoped to join the computer club. His emotionless delivery rattled me a little. When he took his seat, others tried to befriend him. They started asking him all sorts of questions but his short and snappy answers to their questions rebuffed their advances. I didn't even have the courage to start talking to the guy. His expression was devoid of all emotion. He looked more like a mannikin than a human. I tried not to look at him for the rest of the day.
Eventually the class learned that he opened up to members of the computer club. Towards everyone else however, he still remained cold and distant. When I asked what was going on with him to Isamu ‐ a friend of mine and a member of the computer club ‐ he said that wasn't exactly true. Haro spent his time in the computer club mostly asking questions about computer networking. His deadpan expression and monotonous voice had not changed in the slightest however. Isamu still had high hopes that Haro would start behaving like a regular high school student if he was given enough time. On a lighter note, I asked Isamu if Haro had become stuck in the computer club room. Isamu laughed and said yes, just like how I did when it first went bad. You needed to know to pull the door towards the hinge so it would open up properly. When I asked him if there were any plans to get it fixed, he shrugged. He had made the complaint some time ago, but nobody was quick to fix anything in our school. Looked like it would stay broken for a few more days.
After a few days I noticed that Isamu started acting strange. Usually I'd wander off on breaks to go talk to him for a bit, and we'd strike up a conversation but one day he just looked at me from outside my class and he said hello in the most dull tone imaginable before he started walking on. Confused, I went over to him and I asked if anything was up. He quickly told me that everything was fine. I asked him how Haro was and he replied that he was doing well and that I had nothing to worry about. I was so confused by his overnight change in personality that I could do nothing but leave him be. When I returned to my classroom, I was confronted by Haro. He told me that I had nothing to worry about and that I should relax. He didn't wait for me to respond; he took his seat immediately afterwards and he just faced the front. That interaction unsettled me more than anything else. Was he watching me? Had he been listening in? What was up with his strange behaviour? A part of me wanted to confront Haro about this, but one look into his face dissuaded me. I just got ready for the rest of the school day and I tried not to think about it. I couldn't however. I found myself peeking over at Haro infrequently only to find him staring at me whenever I did. The teachers never called him out for staring at me so he had to be doing it on reaction to me glancing at him. I started to feel smaller and smaller in my own classroom.
When the school bell rang and it was time to go home, I made a break for the exit. When I was outside, I still found myself looking over my shoulder just in case he was following me for whatever reason. The crowds of people ensured that there was no way to tell if I was being followed or not. I tried to put it, and my awkward confrontation with Haro, to the back of my mind. Things would be fine the next day, I tried to tell myself.
Things were not, to put it simply. Just as I was closing the curtains, I noticed someone looking into my room. The moment we locked eyes however, I saw him turn around and depart. A part of me wanted to go down and confront the person, but I didn't. Instead I closed the curtains slowly and I settled down in bed, trying my hardest to just forget about what happened so that I could get a good night's sleep. I couldn't manage that however. I was up well into the hours of the night struggling to sleep. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched. Tiredness eventually took over however.
Back at school, things had gotten worse. The class idol Reiko was trying to ask her friends if everything was fine, to which they all replied that everything was well. Reiko insisted that something must be wrong as she was behaving completely differently compared to yesterday, but they all told her that she was overreacting. One of her friends offered her a water bottle to help calm down her down but Reiko rejected it. She sat down alone at the back of the class.
With her no longer surrounded by her entourage, some of the guys in my class took their chances and they tried to ask her out. She rejected all of them without even glancing at them. The others in the class all moaned that she was thrice as unapproachable without her friends than with them. Soon enough however, when all else had failed, they asked me to try asking her out. I protested, but they just shoved me towards her and left me on my own. She didn't even look at me before telling me to bug off. This would have been the point where all the others gave up, but I sat down next to her and I asked her if everything was alright. When she looked over at me, I could see the despair in her eyes. She went on about how all of her friends had suddenly changed overnight; their old behaviour and mannerisms had completely vanished and all that remained was a blank slate. I then turned around. I could see a few of the students staring at us. Some of them were the guys that had egged me on but I could also see that some of them bore a vacant expression. I asked Reiko if she wanted to go outside to talk for a bit. She agreed.
Everything felt lighter outside despite the overcast weather casting a gloomy atmosphere. It looked like it could rain at any moment. While we were outside, I started telling Reiko what was happening to Isamu and how it was similar to what was happening with her friends. I tried to play it off cool, but reciting the details made my hairs stand on end. She asked me if I knew what was going on, but I didn't know. Her face brightened up as she told me that it was nice to know that she wasn't alone. Truth be told, I felt the same way too. But such good feelings left a bitter aftertaste. I started to wonder if this thing was starting to get out of hand. I would soon get my answer.
Kondo, one of the athletic club's brightest stars, was having a go at another member of his club. One look at that member sent a shiver through my body. That person too bore the emotionless face that I had seen throughout the school. I looked around and there were more students blankly staring at Kondo. With their attention focused on him now, I thought that maybe I would be out in the clear. I was dead wrong. Haro appeared out of the blue and asked us if we were alright. His sudden appearance had spooked Reiko to the point where she gasped and clutched her heart. Before she could say anything, I told him that all was well. He nodded before moving towards Kondo, probably to ask him the same thing. Reiko asked if I knew he was coming, but I shook my head. I hoped that I would never have to interact with him again.
I still had my English after school club to get on with when the bell rang. I could barely concentrate on it, what with everything going on around the school. When club activities came to an end, I was left to do the final clean-up. I watched as dusk turned to night as I put everything away. With everything cleared up, I started to make my way out.
The hallway was eerily quiet. The only things breaking the silence was the sound of raindrops beating against the windows. Suddenly from behind, Haro emerged. Taken off guard a little, I took a quick step back before I asked him how the computer club went. Rather than answer my question, he told me that I was wanted in the computer room. I raised an eyebrow. I wasn't a member of that club. Why would they want me? Haro had little patience however. He grabbed my hand and he started dragging me there by force. I was confused for a bit before I shook him off.
When I got to the entrance, I saw a wall of familiar faces blocking the way to the entrance. They all shared that blank expression that was going around the school. "You're wanted in the computer room," they all said in unison. It was so unnerving that I couldn't even move. Then a couple people grabbed my arms. I turned around. One of the members of the athletics club and one of the teachers had me. They started dragging me away and I started struggling, but my attempts to break free were futile.
Along the way I saw another bunch of students dragging Kondo towards the computer room. His face was no longer filled with the confidence he exuded on a daily basis. Panic and despair were plastered on his face. The moment he saw another member of his club, he started pleading with him to snap out of it. His screams fell on deaf ears as the two of us were dragged away in silence. There was another voice too. After Kondo was dragged into the computer room, I heard Reiko screaming at her friends. She cried out for them to let her go, but they dragged her into the computer room too. I was not saved from this fate.
Once we were thrown down to the ground, those that had dragged us in left us and they shut the door behind them. I took a quick look around. The entire room was darkened. The lights were off and the blinds to the windows were shut. A dim red light from the teacher's computer was the only way that I could see Haro and Isamu standing by the computer, watching over us with their blank expressions. The long looming shadows that were cast by them multiplied the terror tenfold.
Haro started working with the computer as Kondo got up. He asked what was happening. When Isamu grabbed him and told him to sit back down. Kondo's rage exploded. He started beating on him relentlessly. He punched him in the face, kicked him in the groin and he threw him to the ground, but Isamu got up every time as if pain didn't exist. Despite his valliant struggle, he fell to the ground exhausted. Isamu grabbed him. "You will help us," Haro said as he continued mashing away at his computer. "You heart and your body will become one with us, then you will help us." Kondo started thrashing about violently, asking what Haro meant exactly.
When Haro spun the computer monitor around, my skin went pale. Cryptic sigils and incomprehensible items flashed on the screen so fast that I couldn't make them out. My instincts were telling me that only bad things could happen from here on out. Reiko crawled over to me and she asked me what was going on. I told her that I had no idea. Then she grabbed my arm so tight that I could feel the warmth in my arm dissipate. Suddenly the room turned blood red. The monitor stopped flashing and it vended a solid red image. I started to slowly creep away from the centre towards the door. Then I could hear the sound of something like a liquid from within the room.
The computer started to bleed. I was so taken aback by what I was seeing that I couldn't even breathe. Kondo was frantically asking what was happening but he got no answers. More of the liquid started to pour onto the ground, turning the pool of blood into a deep red blob. Still more of it poured out. Kondo started screaming. He yelled for Isamu to get off him but he did not listen to his commands. He then made a desperate plea for help to me for help. I tried to get up and do something, but Reiko kept holding onto my arm. Before I could start shaking her off, the red blob latched onto Kondo's face.
Isamu quickly let go. Kondo started writhing about in a desperate attempt to pull whatever was attached onto his face off. Reiko let out a shrill scream moments before the sound of thunder rattled the room. It started dragging Kondo towards the monitor. His attempts to shake it off were futile. We could only watch as Kondo was dragged inside, writhing and thrashing about until we could no longer see him. After that was a long period of silence.
A sudden slam broke the silence. From within the computer monitor a hand emerged. Then we saw Kondo's head on the screen. His head then poked through the computer screen before the rest of him stumbled out onto the ground. When he picked himself up, he looked at the two of us dead in the eyes with that same blank expression that everyone else shared. My blood ran cold. I told myself that I wasn't looking at Kondo but it looked exactly like him. His unyielding energy wasn't there however. It was as if something was pretending to be him. Then the red liquid started pouring out of the monitor once again. Either me or Reiko would be next.
I tried to open the door but it just would budge. It was stuck. Reiko, seeing my desperate struggle, started to join in herself. She threw her shoulder at the door with all her might but the thing refused to budge. "You cannot escape," Isamu said. "In a moment, you will not want to escape. The door will not let you out no matter how hard you try." Upon hearing that, Reiko fell to her knees and she began to sob. I remained undeterred as I knew that wasn't true. I had been stuck in that room once before, but there was a way to get the door open. Isamu's words echoed through my mind until it triggered my memory; all I had to do was pull the handle towards the hinges to get the door unstuck. When I got it open, I pulled Reiko out of the room and I started going to the entrance. Behind me however, I heard an otherworldly yell.
At the entrance, the students that I saw blocking it once before were still there. When they saw us, they let out an otherworldly screech at the top of their lungs. Without so much as thinking, I turned around and I tried to go to the courtyard entrance. There were more of them out there and they were all coming towards us. Suddenly Reiko let out a yelp, pointing behind me. I turned around. The students that had once blocked the entrance were coming for us too. On instinct, I made my way to the stairs.
No matter what floor we found ourselves on, there was always a group of students and teachers that was enclosing on us. Panic was driving my every action. Whenever I saw them approaching, I made my way up the stairs until we got to the roof where it was raining profoundly. We were drenched immediately when we stepped outside. Reiko's arms fell down in despair as she announced that we had nowhere else to run to. We were stuck there. I still had hope in the police. Maybe they would be able to get us out of there.
I rang the emergency line and told the operators everything that had happened. I started from the strange behaviour of some of the students, I went on about what took place in the computer room and I told them about the predicament we found ourselves in. The operator told me in a deapdan tone that I was overreacting and that I should keep the line free for actual emergency calls before he hung up. My arms fell weak all of a sudden. I almost dropped my phone down on the ground. When Reiko asked me if help was on the way, I shook my head. I walked over to the edge closest to the school entrance. A bolt of lightning illuminated the entire area. I could see countless of these soulless drones slowly trudging towards the school, victims in hand. They were all struggling to get away but none of them could break free. At that point despair engulfed my body. This was sure to happen to the rest of the city and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
All of a sudden the door to the roof flung open. A swarm of students and teachers came out and they started walking towards us. We backed away from them until our backs were against the fencing. In a blind panic, I started screaming at the top of my lungs for help. Maybe someone who wasn't changed could hear my voice. Reiko joined in too. We screamed our lungs out as the soulless drones approached rapidly. They slammed into us, crushing us between the fence and each other and ending our attempts to get help. Even though our backs were to the wall, they still kept pushing us. Then I heard the fence creak behind us. Another bolt of lightning illuminated their expressionless faces which were drenched in torrential rain. As their pushes grew stronger and stronger, the fencing behind us buckled and bent. Eventually it would give way and we would plunge to our depths. I didn't want to look down so I focused all my efforts in trying to struggle and break free no matter how futile. The end was in sight and I didn't want to see it.
I heard one of the bolts in the fence come off and fall down to the ground as Reiko sobbed. She was begging for her life as her friends were more than happy to push her off to her doom. A final bolt of lighting came down, only this one was different. Sparks flew up into the air as a nearby power line came crashing down to the ground. Within moments the students and teachers that once surrounded us fell to the ground, their blank expressions still plastered on their faces. I was so stunned by what was happening that I couldn't even move for a short while. While I sat there for a moment asking myself if the nightmare was truly over, Reiko was trying to resuscitate her friend. She tried everything through tearful eyes, refusing to accept that she was gone. Eventually I had to tell her that there was nothing more she could do for her friend. At first she rebuked me, but her tune rapidly changed once I started walking away. She even asked if I could walk her home. I accepted and the two of us came off the roof.
Walking through the school was thrice as unnerving than when I was in a blind panic. Bodies lined the darkened hallways. We tried to use our phones to find our way around, but there would always be one body just loitering beneath our feet, ready to trip us up. There were even more corpses outside. Flashes of lightning briefly illuminated everything. None of the people outside were from the school. Their potential victims had long since run away. It was just me and Reiko walking through a sea of the dead. I went down to take a closer look at one of them, but Reiko pulled at my arm. I left them alone.
Inside the city, spread across barren and blackened streets, more signs of the dead could be seen. Police sirens filled the dark streets with moody red lights while their tape prevented us from seeing everything. I wanted to stay away from the officers thanks to the phone call I had with one of them. When one of them saw the two of us I froze in fear. As soon as he advised us to go home as quickly as possible, I felt a sense of relief. He sounded normal.
Reiko was incredibly grateful when I took her home. She thanked me for everything. Her legs were still shaking but I wasn't sure whether that was because we just walked through nothing but heavy rain or if she was still feeling the fear. The last thing I would do that night was walk home alone. Being alone at night was discomforting, but I somehow managed to get home without a scratch. Sleeping was the real problem however as I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. That thing had come from a computer, so it stood to reason that someone else would be able to activate that program and restart the nightmare. My duvet felt much colder then that at any other time in my life.
Electricity returned to the city the next day. "The Blackout Incident," or so the government called it, was quietly placed between news reports about numerous blackouts that arose as a result of the storm. The casualties were quietly dismissed as accidental deaths that arose as a result of the sudden blackout. School didn't re-open for a long time. When it did, I couldn't look at the place the same way. I was checking everyone's faces to see if they hadn't been replaced. I know I spooked a few people, what with me staring at their faces for so long, but I had to do it. I had to know if it was happening again. I also had to check the computer room. The door had been fixed and the old machines had been replaced. Even with the new coat of paint, my body got colder and colder the longer I stayed in there. The events of what happened on that fateful night started to replay in my mind. The room itself was repulsing me and I had to leave.
Reiko approached me when I left. She heard that I was behaving a little strangely and she was worried for me. I told her what was plaguing my mind. She tried her best to put on a smile and she told me not to worry about it. "It won't happen again," she stated. Her words brought some comfort, but that comfort was short lived. Within moments another member of the computer club came over to me. He apologised for what happened with Isamu and he felt bad, but he also couldn't stop himself from going on about Haro and his networking work. I couldn't stop myself from asking what Haro was doing there. According to the person, Haro never divulged much, but he did talk about all kinds of computer and mobile networks and how malware can spread across devices. At that moment I clutched my head in despair. Reiko asked if everything was alright but the nightmare was not over. It still isn't over. It can happen again. It can happen any time, any place, anywhere. I just don't know if we'll be lucky to survive it twice.