a short story by Michael R. Lockridge
Thomas McGuffin had been excited when writing the program. The power of programming was intoxicating for this otherwise small and unremarkable young man. He had been frightened by that power, when he released it into the Internet and it did his will. Millions of machines irreparably damaged. Billions of bits of data lost forever.
Elation. Intoxication. Fear. Deep emotions for an otherwise stunted personality. Tommy was overwhelmed by what he had done.
So was the world. Headlines called out the nature of his crime. The populace was irate. People called for him to be flayed, salted, drawn and quartered. They wanted him to suffer and die.
He was hiding in his smelly little room, eyes locked onto his computer monitor, when the voices called out and the door was kicked in. He did not resist when they dragged him away. He sat numbly in his solitary cell, coming out only for showers and court dates. He was finally sentenced.
The populace was angry. Only twelve years in federal prison for his crime. Twelve years! They wanted his hide.
Tommy just wanted his computer back, and access to the Internet. His life of confinement was empty without access. He thought he was dying inside.
Now, here he stood. Naked in front of some non-descript officer.
“Open your mouth. Lift your tongue.”
Tommy did so. A light shined into the resulting cavern.
“Lift your arms over your head.”
Tommy lifted his arms.
“Now lift your balls.”
He did so. He had done it enough times while in the county jail that it was no big deal.
“Turn around. Bend over. Spread your cheeks.”
Tommy did so. He could almost feel the invasion of the light from the officer’s flashlight.
“Lift your feet so I can see the bottoms.”
Tommy did that.
“Get dressed. Grab your issue and follow me.” said the officer. The voice was flat. Unemotional. The officers had all been polite, but distant.
Tommy got dressed in his prison garb. Non-descript blue cotton clothing. Sturdy. Cheap. He picked up his blankets and other issued items and followed the officer. Another officer followed.
They made their way through a warren of cells. Tommy heard but did not listen to the catcalls that followed him. He had heard them before, in jail and on the street when being taken to court. They were just the background noise of his new life.
The officer stopped. He snapped the key ring from his belt and produced a cell key. He did it with the automatic familiarity of many years handling keys. Tommy knew that the officer could probably put a man on the ground with similar ease and familiarity. Tommy would not test that. He was not built for physical drama.
“Your roommate is named Lars Vextman. He hasn’t been here very long.” said the officer.
Tommy started to move into the cell. The officer stopped him with a finger in the middle of his chest.
“Let me tell you about Lars.” said the guard. “He apparently became angry when a computer virus destroyed his collection of midget porn. Lars boasted to me that he had the most complete collection of midget porn in the world.”
Tommy swallowed. It was hard to do. His throat had become quite dry.
“He went on a rampage of crime. Assaults. Vandalism. Arson. It was the three bank robberies that got him put in here.”
Tommy began to quiver. A plastic cup shook loose from his issue and bounced across the floor. Someone down the hall called out, “Wino!” The guard bent down, picked up the cup, and put it back into the pile of issue in Tommy’s arms.
“Lars is not the only one who suffered due to that virus.” said the officer. Then he smiled. It was not very encouraging.
The officer motioned toward the cell. Tommy went in.
“Oh. We took the liberty of telling Lars you were coming.” said the officer, as the door closed with a resolute clang.
Tommy stood in the dimly lit cell. As his eyes adjusted he could see some kind of mass on the bottom bunk. A great, hairy, hulking mass. A great, hairy, hulking mass that shifted a bit. It farted.
“Make up your bunk.” said a surprisingly gentle voice. The sound emanated from the huge being huddled on the bottom bunk. It seemed incongruous. “Make up your bunk, and when you are finished, we shall discuss reparations for certain crimes against my person.”
Tommy trembled. It was going to be a very long twelve years.