Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Programmer's Curse

David's fingers were stiff and painful as he typed, the tips felt raw with every press of a key.
But he couldn't stop.
It had been days since he had moved from his desk, since he had even stood up. His legs tingled from the bad circulation and, had he been in a fit state, the stench of stale urine and faeces was over powering. The desk itself was littered, as it always was, documents and food wrappers. A half eaten sandwich lay at his elbow, spores of mould colonising it freely.
He noticed none of it. The screen and keyboard was all there was.

The doorbell rang, some time later it rang again.
His mobile phone kept blaring out the same three ringtones he had downloaded the week before; one for mum, one for dad and one for Jean.
Somewhere, in the back of his head he realised that something was wrong. That it wasn't normal to do this. But he also knew that, if he didn't get this code done, something terrible would happen.
It was the longest piece he had ever worked on and he had no idea what it was for. He had no idea where it had come from.

The mobile went off again, mum, at the same time the landline let loose it's high pitched shriek. Then came the doorbell and the shouts. They were banging on the door, kicking it.
"Almost done!" he called, his tone distant but cheerful. "Down in a minute!"
His fingers typed faster, sending blood drops flying in all directions, as the banging grew in intensity.
"David! David, are you okay? Oh God let him be okay." That was mum.
"Darling, please come out." That would be Jean, pleading.
There was a crash as the front door broke inwards. That would be dad.

David's dad reached the office first, the smell hitting him like a wall, making him gag. His son sat hunched over his keyboard, dirty face illuminated by the lines of code racing across the screen. In the electric glare David's wide grin looked horrifying.
"Be right with you dad, just gotta finish this off. Really proud of this one dad." The mundanity of his tone caused his father to pause.
"Are you alright David?" Behind him, David's mum and fiance stood in the hall, hands over their mouths trying not to gag. He edged his way forward, trying not to startle his son.
David's fingers flew over the keys, faster and faster until his dad was at his shoulder then he stopped.

A fog lifted from his head, the smell and the pain battled for his attention. He let out a small scream and turned to look at his dad, bloody hands held out in front of him. "Dad? What's going on?"
David's dad looked at his son with tears in his eyes, when something else caught his attention. On the monitor behind David things were still moving, swirling in strange patterns. Words popped up, or rather, strange mixtures of letters making nonsense words. The small, red sprayed speakers started to emit a keening tone.
David turned to the screen and his dad watched as David's hand fell one last time to the keyboard.
The speakers screamed and the screen started to bulge.

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