By DAWN DANIELLE D. SOLANO
Note: This article is a work of fiction as part of The Flame’s Photo of the Week.
Sprawled on my desk were my color-assorted sticky notes and highlighters. The faint light coming from the lamp post outside my bedroom window shone over the last page of my tear-stained reviewer. While I memorized the names of the scholars and their theories, I rubbed a cold vaporizing ointment over my stiffened shoulders.
I sat in the dark of my room, staring at the white screen before me. It was that time of the year where I hunch over my battery-drained laptop, trying to squeeze in a week’s worth of lecture into my brain. More importantly, it was that time of the year where I functioned on two hours of sleep and five cups of coffee. Boy, do I love college.
My phone lit up. There were three messages from mom telling me to reheat the chicken soup we had for lunch if I was hungry. It will take her a while to go home, she said. The hospital she works in just admitted ten new patients, and they needed a few more hands on deck. Sighing in silence, I realized I was home alone on the evening of October 31st.
Tuh-dung! Discord’s notification sound snapped me out of wallowing.
I remember that I had not left our friend group’s Discord channel. It has been an hour since I told my friends that I would be pulling an all-nighter for the finals, and it would be nice if they joined me.
“Finally, someone’s willing to study with me for tomorrow’s test,” I said, unmuting myself on the voice channel. However, a shower of embarrassment fell on me when I realized it was only a Discord bot with the name xyxy.
Usually, I would move on from this awkwardness since no one had heard me talk to myself. Just as when I was about to close the Discord window, a shuffling sound from the other end of the line stopped me from clicking the exit button. I scratched my head as deep folds appeared on my forehead. “Hello?”
A fizzing sound was heard from the bot’s box, and its borders glowed green at the noise.
“Hello?” I asked again. “Come on, guys. It is not funny. Who is this?”
No response, still; just the sound of low breathing on the line.
One could guess how much coding skill was put into creating this bot, yet fail to realize how this was no artificial intelligence.
Something was on the other end of the call, and it might have finally caught up with me.
I began to feel a burning sensation as if something was drilling a hole in the back of my neck. Every muscle of my body tightened as the air inside the room grew colder. My skin broke out into goose-like flesh, and my eyes, unblinking, locked themselves on my laptop’s screen.
The green surrounding the bot’s icon stopped glowing. However, I could still hear the breathing.
I gulped, knowing that it was no longer coming from my laptop’s speakers.
Fear gripped my throat as I refused to acknowledge the air that blew aggressively on my shoulder.
It turns out I was not home alone all along. F