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I am Nevin B\, an 8th grader at Dover-Sherborn Regional Middle School. I enjoy reading and coding. My favorite book series is probably Harry Potter. I hope you enjoy my short story!
I used to think my world was normal. Sure, we had inexplicable phenomenons, but those were brushed away with a simple “blah blah science blah blah quantum mechanics”, and we lapped it right up. In the end, they were all lies to keep the truth of the universe secret. Let me tell you how I found out the facts.
I was sipping coffee in the morning, about to go to my job at Oracle, as a lead programmer. I looked out of the window of my apartment in Redwood City and suddenly something caught my eye. The soccer ball that the kid across the street had just kicked hadn't moved an inch, yet you could see the net fly back as if it had been hit. Suddenly, the ball seemed to just… appear on the grass, slowly rolling back. It was almost as if it had lagged behind and suddenly jumped forwards. Perhaps it was just the late hours playing tricks on my mind. I shrugged and went back to my coffee.
A few minutes later, I found myself walking down the street to the Oracle headquarters. All of a sudden I heard the screech of tires and a single piercing scream coming from the street over. I sprinted over, ignoring my tie flapping in the wind and the discomfort of my work shoes. In front of me was a car, seemingly pausing in movement only to speed forwards again for a few meters. As it froze before a lamp post I breathed a sigh of relief, believing that the car would pass right through, giving the driver time to stop before reaching the railroad tracks and got stuck. Just as the car disappeared again, it seemed as if an invisible force slammed into the lamp post, and as the car appeared, wrapped around the lamp post, with steam pouring out of the engine. Around me was a bustle of people, trying to extract the family from the car, calling 9-1-1, and of course, the idiots who just stood and stared, recording the whole incident.
I just stood my ground, shaken. What could have caused the car to move so erratically? What was happening to the world around me? Is there some strange occurrence that is causing everything to… lag? I quickly checked the local news on my phone, only to learn that similar events had been happening all over. I, along with many other of my peers, decided to work from home today, due to the strange activities of the world.
As I hurried back home, it seemed as if the world was jumping back and forth. I neared my apartment. The world suddenly seemed to freeze, then jump forward, almost as if my eye’s connection to my brain had stopped. All that was left was a fading memory of what my eyes had been seeing a moment ago. As suddenly as it happened, the feeling was gone, only to be replaced by pain a moment later. My shoelace had gotten caught under my feet, my body pitched forwards, my head hit the hard concrete sidewalk, and I was out like a light.
Groggily, I shielded my eyes from the bright white light so cool it was almost blue. As my brain started to kick back into gear, I opened my eyes into a slight squint, trying to get my bearings. I seemed to be floating in a pool of water, peppered with spots of light, with what appeared to be small fiber-optic cables connecting them. My eyes opened wider as I saw the lights pulsing steadily, in a heartbeat pattern, sending pulses of light through them. As I watched for longer, mesmerized by the pulses, I noticed the lights slowly drifting around, all around me, and as they moved, the cables would drop away into the darkness below, disappearing into the depths. They drifted towards new beacons, reaching out with tentacles of fiber optics pulsing with new light and latched onto its new neighbors.
I tentatively walked forwards, reaching out towards it. As my hand stretched out to touch it, a cable emerged and slowly reached out, mimicking my movements. As my finger met its cable, the light at the tip of the tentacle seemed to expand to the sides, cutting through the dark like a projector through a dusty room. The light formed strange shapes that seemed vaguely familiar.
Then a thought struck my mind. It was a computer screen! I took a few moments to experiment with it, poking and prodding various buttons, seeing what they do. As I opened what appeared to be the file manager, I noticed that some of the lights started to flicker in the same pattern that cars had been glitching. Was the flickering related to the stuttering and glitching happening? As I realized this, I started digging through the files, searching for some bug or glitch that connected these very strange happenings. My fingers flew across the screen, searching through file after file, reading through line after line of code in an attempt to find the little red squiggle that underlines errors and misspellings in code.
While I searched, occasionally a little tentacle would branch off, gesturing at different folders, guiding me towards the possible errors. While I searched through the never-ending labyrinth of files and folders, I wondered what was happening and where I was. Intrigued, I momentarily looked up from my work and glanced around. As I watched the floating orbs, it seemed almost as if they were weaving into new patterns, then dropping them away and starting anew. As I returned to my search, I felt an idea race to my brain. Was this the fabric of the universe? Jolted by this sudden idea, I returned to my search ever harder, now knowing that somewhere in this web of information, there was an error causing chaos everywhere. On a hunch, I brought up a search bar and looked for a folder called STARTUP. Inside was only one file, one called universe.sh. As I looked, I remembered that a .sh file is a kind of “master program” meaning it coordinated the actions of many other smaller programs. I opened it up in a code editor and started searching through, looking for that tiny red squiggle. I scrolled and read, scrolled and read, like looking for a needle in a haystack.
After scrolling for like what seemed a mile, I finally spotted the little red squiggle, on line 9682, hidden in a long string of code that appeared to be controlling the physics of the world. Once the total amount of humans surpassed 7 billion, it was supposed to cause a disaster that would wipe out 10% of life, to stop this miraculous system from overheating from simulating too many human lives. I realized that by fixing this error, I would be dooming 7 hundred thousand people to death. One of these deaths could even be mine. I realized that no matter what happened, I needed to prevent all those deaths. I found the code that encompassed this line and removed it. I quickly saved the file, then made the system start using the updated version. As I did, the lights around me all flickered out one last time, and as they blinked back on, I closed my eyes at the brightness.
My eyes opened to reveal the sidewalk in front of me, and I saw that no more cars were moving erratically. The world had been fixed. All of a sudden, an error noise rang out in out loud, resonating bell, then the world went black.