Here is the chat log for the 2014-04-15 writing exercise.

Topic: A familiar item is unexpectedly present. Words: "39th" and "java".

Topic by: MετάEd

Contributions from:

  • Neil Fein
  • MετάEd
  • Lauren Ipsum
  • Pravesh Parekh
  • Mr. Shiny & New 安宇

3 Answers 3


My contribution:

“There! Did you see it? I swear I just saw it.”

“No, Jack, I keep telling you. You’re imagining things.” Betty smiled as she leaned over Jack’s shoulder to reach his computer. “I uninstalled Java from this computer weeks ago. The Java update can’t possibly be running.” She slid the mouse from under his fingers, clicked a few times, and showed him a list of processes. “See? None of those is the java updater.”

“I’m telling you. When you’re not here, it comes out of hiding,” Jack grumbled. “I’ve been keeping track. This is the 39th time this has happened. I think you should give me a new computer.”

“There is no IT budget for that. Still, let me take a look. Why don’t you go eat lunch, and I’ll play around here just to be sure.” Jack got out of his chair and stood up. He looked both ways out his cubicle door before stepping into the aisle.

Betty sighed and shook her head as she watched him go furtively to the lunch room. She sat and turned to face the wayward computer. She methodically began looking for signs of problems, checking its filesystems for corruption, looking for malware, and finally manually inspecting the system. There was simply nothing wrong that she could see. In fact, for a guy who knew very little about computers, Jack was surprisingly careful about what he did with it, and never installed dodgy programs or clicked on suspicious attachments.

It wasn’t until she’d been sitting there for 20 minutes that she noticed the screen flicker a couple of times. Curious, she looked at the list of running programs. Her diagnostic tools had kept a trace of everything that ran. One thing stood out. She dug around a little and discovered the problem.

“Hey, Al,” Betty called to the man across the aisle. “Is this your work?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Al quickly.

“This little batch file that changes Jack’s wallpaper to a screenshot of his desktop, with the Java Update notification showing.”

“Uh, can’t talk now, busy running tests,” muttered Al as he turned his back to Betty.

Shaking her head, Betty locked Jack’s computer and headed down to the lunch room. She was halfway there when she heard screaming. She started running.

The lunch room was a chaotic scene. People were calling 911 on their phones, others were taking pictures or consoling shaken coworkers. Jack lay on the floor, his blood mixing with coffee as it pooled slowly.

“What happened!” Betty cried.

“Jack came in, his usual paranoid self,” explained one of the bystanders. “Someone joked that he should switch to decaf. I dunno if he heard it or not, but he went straight to that brand-new coffee machine and made himself a coffee, but when he turned, he slipped on a sugar packet, fell, and somehow knocked the machine onto his head. That machine was just installed today.”


The basement door was open and the light was on. The man at the top wondered who had been paying the bill. Any more, people who lived in the 39th precinct were mostly squatters. As he descended the stairs, he counted them automatically. By the numbers, he thought. Numbers never fail you.

The floor was damp. The room smelled of mildewed clothes and dirty oil.

That was when he saw it. A golden figure with wings lay sprawled against the water heater, a knife in its right hand. It was still radiating light, but the man could see it was fading. There was blood on the floor; lots of blood.

He counted the steps again as he left the basement to find a cup of java.


The flame was steady. The night was still. She sat in the semi-darkness thinking of what she had lost. It's really stupid of me, she muttered under her breath. The flame flickered. A mosquito was toasted in it. She thought about the 39th line of the long piece of code that she had typed. There was a bug there but before she could even finish reading the error message that Java had thrown up...snap! Power cut! And with it was lost...all her ambitions and all her code. Bloody hell...why can't I remember to save my code every once in a while, she silently screamed in agony. The code was to be sent by midnight and now there was no hope for it. She let her mind wander off...

She thought of a similar night a few years earlier. She remembered writing a letter in candlelight; the glint of the flame on the drying ink on the paper. Oh how she loved writing letters. But who do I write it to now? she mused. She had no friends. Her boyfriend had left her. She remembered writing love letters in the old fashioned way. Perhaps that is why he had left her in the first place. He found her too old fashioned.

She thought again about the lost piece of code. She had hoped to receive a good payment for this code. I would have bought a new battery for this rotten laptop, she thought. That should have saved everything. Now it was lost in the ether of the night...floating away like the traces of a dream upon waking up. Only this was no dream...another day in my life...everything that happens to everyone everyday...only something that shouldn't have happened tonight...

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