Dave was convinced his PC was possessed. He’d gone to get a coffee at ten like usual. The earliest reasonable time he could slip away from his desk without looking like he wanted to slack off. Today was Gail’s birthday. Office rules meant she had bought cakes and he wasn’t going to let Sharon get the best. Dave put the muffin with two mini eggs on the desk to the left of his keyboard, and the coffee on top of his SeaWorld coaster and it was then that he saw it.
The keyboard was typing by itself and not because he’d leant on it – the words were coherent sentences; probably better than he’d have written. The printer whirred and three letters spewed out. He picked up the first and read through looking for a mistake, but there were none. He wasn’t sure what upset him the most – the eeriness of it or that whatever the entity was doing was better than Dave’s best work. He took a bite of the muffin and one of the mini eggs fell onto the floor. At home he would have followed the five second rule and picked it up, but here there were too many watching so he let it roll under the desk.
By the time his mug was empty, the computer had finished his whole day’s allocated tasks. There was no way he was going to let his boss know that. He thought about how he could look busy with nothing left to do. He went to the kitchen to get another coffee It was frowned upon to take two coffee breaks, but no one did anything about it. The extra coffee led to a long toilet break which took Dave almost up to lunchtime.
When he got back from his walk around the block to try to clear his head, he saw that tomorrow’s tasks had been started. Dave hadn’t even known how to access the next day’s task system. He was worried because when the computer was fixed his boss might expect this level and speed of work all the time. If he was going to work this hard, he definitely wanted a pay rise, perhaps he should ask for one now while the system was on a roll. He decided against it, he didn’t want to draw attention to himself in case someone asked questions.
The only thing for it was to call IT and have whatever it was removed from his computer. Maybe it was a high-tech virus although he was sure they were supposed to damage the software and not improve productivity. Then he had a thought that perhaps this was some new artificial intelligence that the company was testing. He would probably lose his job as it was clearly more efficient than he was. No, it couldn’t be that he decided. Any changes at work always involved at least a dozen weekly meetings where no decisions were made.
Dave picked up the phone to call IT, then put it back down again. He remembered that they always tell you to turn it off and back on again so he might as well do that first. The mouse wouldn’t move at first, to close down the applications – it was like he had to wrestle a ghost to gain control. He smiled as he clicked on the red X in the corner of all the documents, ensuring he didn’t save so at least he would have some work to do later. The screen went black and he exhaled, realising that he had been holding his breath for a while.
After staring at the blank screen for what felt like ages, he reached down and pressed the power on button. The welcome screen greeted him and prompted his password but before he started entering his cat Biggles’ name the prompt box filled with stars and then the home screen came on. The problem had obviously not been banished. He called IT and explained that there was a problem with his computer, well his keyboard he thought, but wasn’t too sure.
He smugly told the guy that yes, he had already switched the computer on and off and no it wasn’t a wireless keyboard that needed new batteries. The guy must have exhausted his script because he said he would be down soon. Dave muttered to the office that his computer was on the blink and he was waiting for IT as he sauntered off to the kitchen to get a third coffee. He was a bit worried about having an afternoon coffee as he might not sleep, but he had the new series of Ozark to watch on Netflix, so went ahead.
The IT guy arrived half an hour later. Dave stood up to let him get to the PC. He tried to make small talk, but the guy ignored him. Typical computer geeks, he thought.
‘So, the computer switched itself off?’ the IT Guy asked.
‘No, I switched it off, to reboot it,’ Dave ran his hand through his hair trying to find the right words to explain what the problem was.
‘You sure you didn’t disconnect one of the cables?’ asked the Guy.
‘No, look, the problem is that the machine is possessed or has AI or something? All of my work has been done for the next two days.’
Dave was feeling cross now, this IT Guy was deliberately ignoring him. Of course, it was a weird problem, but it still needed to be addressed.
‘All I can suggest is that you call me if it happens again,’ said the IT Guy as he got up from under the desk where he’d checked the cables. ‘I found this under there,’ he said, holding out a mini egg.
Dave felt a little embarrassed. He should have at least picked it up and put it in the trash earlier. It was bad etiquette and likely to get them banned from eating at their desks. He reached out to take it, but someone got there before him.
‘Oh wow, that’s really sad,’ said Gail. ‘Dave, the guy who worked at this desk. It was the worst luck, he choked on my birthday last year. I gave him the Heimlich manoeuvre, but it was too late. With all the commotion the egg must have bounced down there.’
‘Hey, you don’t think it’s Dave, do you? Turning the computer off to let us know he’s still around?’ asked Sharon.
Gail roared with laughter, ‘Heck no, that lazy fella hardly came to work when he was meant to be here. Not like the new girl here Sue, you’re a real asset to the company. You’ve done double the work he did in a week.’