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Signals

Jack Davidson sat at his desk in a darkly painted office. He signed the last of his paperwork and stacked the papers in a neat pile on his desk. He was finished for the day, but he had a faint feeling that there was something that he still needed to do. He shook his head to clear it. No, he was certain that he had done everything.

He ran a hand through his hair distractedly and stood up from his chair, paperwork in hand. He left his office and walked down the hallway, absently mindedly saying hello to the people that he passed. He was still somewhat preoccupied with trying to figure out what he had forgotten to do. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind and concentrated on delivering the paperwork to various offices. After he had finished, he quickly walked through the lobby and out of the building, ready to go home. It was getting late; he had been a little behind on paperwork.

After a short drive, Jack arrived home, pulling into his empty driveway. The door of his house opened silently as he entered. A flip of a light switch revealed a minimalistic living room, composed of a gray sofa and matching chair. There was also a simple TV sitting in the corner and few photos of family hanging on the wall. As he glanced at the photos, he muttered to himself, “Could I be forgetting do something that has to do with my family?”

Jack started a bit at the thought. The feeling that there was something that he needed to do had returned again, stronger this time. He had no idea where the thought was coming from, however. Reaching the decision that he was just being paranoid, he again pushed the thought to the back of his mind.

Walking into the next room, he approached the table to put down his briefcase. With a sudden jerk, he remembered a piece of paperwork that was sitting on a shelf in his office. In his haste to leave, he had forgotten to give it to someone. That must have been the thing that had been bothering him. With resignation, Jack stood up to return to the office. Hopefully the person he was looking for was still there. He left the house and began to drive, taking the same road that he had taken home.

There was a nagging feeling in the back of Jack’s mind, however, that delivering the paperwork was not the thing that he needed to do. He had forgotten it, yes, but it was not what had been bothering him. Still, he again tried to quiet the feeling by hiding it beneath other thoughts.

Despite his attempts to stifle it, the feeling continued to plague Jack as he drove. In fact, it began to grow stronger. It had begun with barely a whisper, a faint feeling. Gradually, however, the feeling strengthened. It was no longer just a feeling that he needed to do something. Now it was absolute knowledge that he needed to.

The feeling was no longer responding to Jack’s attempts to suppress it. As he reached the next intersection, his hands slipped on the wheel, causing him to turn left rather than continuing forward on the road that would have taken him to the office. He was aware of what he was doing, and his movements felt natural, as if the actions were his own decision. Still, he could not turn back to approach his office. The thought did not even cross Jack’s mind. It was simply not an option. The feeling that had been consuming him had morphed. He no longer felt as if there was something that he had forgotten. Now he felt as if he was already on the path to doing what needed to be done.

Jack continued making turns as if he knew exactly where he was going, but he was taking roads that he had never been on in his life. The roads were deserted, without streetlights to break the night, and his headlights were the only light in front of him. As he drove, the feeling in him got stronger and stronger. He briefly considered returning home, but he quickly dismissed the idea. He knew that he could not turn around, he was too curious where he was going.

Eventually, Jack saw a building. It was only one story, but it was large, stretching into the distance. The walls of the building were a clean, pale white that almost seemed to glow against the dark backdrop of the night. Its roof was flat, and the walls held no windows. It appeared empty, but it was in no way dilapidated. If anything, it looked to be in great condition. Jack had no idea how he had gotten there, and he did not how he would find his way home, but now that he had discovered his destination, he was ready to return home, his curiosity fulfilled.

Instead of leaving, however, Jack got out of the car robotically. With a feeling of horror, he realized that he was walking toward the building with no control of his jerky movements. He struggled against the pull, but his body was outside of his control and his mind was consumed by a need to reach the building. It was what he had to do.

As he approached the building, the door slid open before him, allowing him admittance. Jack imagined that there should have been an alarm system, but as far as he could tell, no alarm went off. Either there were no alarms or they were disabled for some reason. Jack’s legs continued to move forward while his mind screamed at him to go back.

He walked through the empty hall, whitewashed walls surrounding him. The minimalistic hallway made his simple house look like a palace. There was nothing but the white walls and the gray tiled floor. Every so often, the monotony was broken by a gray door, the same color as the floor. Jack did not know what lay behind the doors, but he guessed that it was either something equally as empty as the hallway or something appallingly horrific.

Jack laughed at himself then, a bit hysterically. Here he was, walking through a hallway as if possessed, and he was wondering what lay behind the doors. He should be worrying about where he was going or why he had lost control of his body, not what lay behind the doors that he passed. He choked down the laughter that bubbled up in his panic, but the brief sound echoed loudly in the silence, reverberating off the white walls.

Soon, the hallway broke off into two identical passages. Jack took the right fork without hesitation. Every so often, the hallway continued to branch off in different directions. Again and again, he chose a fork unfalteringly, unaware of why he had chosen it. He just knew.

After what seemed like hours, Jack found himself outside a gray door. It was identical to every other door that he had passed, but he knew with absolute certainty that it was the door that he was supposed to enter. It was hidden deep within the labyrinth of hallways, and he knew that he would not be able to find his way out of the building, even if he somehow regained control of his body. Afraid of what lay on the other side of the door, Jack tried to hold his hand stiffly by his side. Although he shook with the effort of attempting to control his motions, his hand reached unsteadily for the doorknob. Fear gnawed at his brain, but he could not stop his movements.

The doorknob turned beneath his trembling grip, and his feet carried him through the doorway. The medium-sized room that met his eyes greatly resembled the hallway with its whitewashed walls and empty interior. There was one main feature that differentiated the room from the hallway, however. There was a computer sitting against one wall.

The room was silent except for the sound of the computer, humming as it processed information. It was large, and reached halfway up the wall with a width of almost four feet. Its metallic color contrasted with the white wall behind it. Numbers and words flickered across the black screen, so quickly that Jack’s eyes could not even register them.

Jack felt himself being drawn toward the computer like a puppet on a string. He shuddered as he fought to keep away from it, although he knew that there was nothing he could do. His jerky movements brought him closer and closer to the computer. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he struggled to stay away, but his feet carried him closer. He did not know what would happen when he reached the computer, but he could not hold back the terror building within him.

The computer was only a yard away, only a foot. Now tried yet again to keep his hand by his side, but like his struggle to avoid turning the doorknob, it was a losing battle. His hand slowly moved upward. It was only an inch away from the computer now, only a centimeter. One finger touched the monitor.

Suddenly, his entire hand was pulled against the computer and held there, as if by a vacuum. The computer grew louder as its hard drive sped up, preparing to process information. Jack’s fingers began to tingle as if pure energy was welling up beneath them. Pressure began to build up inside him like his soul was being condensed. The pressure began to pool and rapidly poured out of his fingers and into the computer. His soul, his mind, his very essence were being transferred into the computer. Time slowed in the face of the unbearable pain and a scream was ripped from his throat.

As the process drew to a close, there was a brief moment when Jack was a part of the computer. All of its information was within his brain, and his thoughts shared the same rapid speed. There was so much information within the computer, Jack saw. It was the ultimate source of knowledge, and it held all the information there was to hold. It contained the history of the world, political plots, and secrets that were documented nowhere else. After analyzing all of this data, however, it had concluded that there was only one vital piece of information missing from its database: human emotion and the working of the mind.

That was why the computer had sent out the signal that had drawn Jack to it like a bee to honey. Its signal had hacked into his brain and taken control of his body, giving him no choice but to find the computer. It had disabled the alarms around the building as well. It wanted that one piece of information, the working of the human mind, with a fury that usually only characterized living things. When the government created the computer, they did not expect that the endowment of so much information would virtually give it a mind. They had hidden it deep within the recesses of an isolated building, trying to protect it from people who would steal the information. They did not know that they really should have been protecting the people from the computer.

Jack’s empty body crumpled to the floor with a thud, completely devoid of mind and soul. The process was complete: the computer had finished draining it. A moment later, the body disappeared as well, vaporized by one of the computer’s various signals. There was no longer any evidence of what had taken place, and the computer’s database was on its way to completion. The computer could finally begin to analyze the innermost workings of the human mind, now that it possessed one. The computer returned to its analysis, numbers and letters flickering across the screen again, although now there was no one to see.





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