Author : Asher Wismer

“…every person in my family,” said Burt. “I’m the only one who hasn’t plugged it in, but I know what will happen if I do.”

“Why don’t you get rid of it?”

“I can’t,” he said, and the weary lines in his face almost masked his misery.


“It’s like a lure, like a Goddamned addiction. I try to put it away, promise myself I won’t look at it, won’t remember… and then I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s in my hand, waiting for my to plug it in.”

“You’ve got something in there right now,” I said, motioning to the glittering USB chip in his temple.

“Stress reducer,” he said. “I can barely breathe if I don’t have it in, and it keeps me from putting the… the other in by accident.”

“By accident?”

“My hand moves by itself, moves to plug and I don’t even notice.”

“Let me see it.”

We went to his little plastic bungalow and he gently removed a tiny USB drive from a book. “How much does it hold,” I asked.

“Almost a thousand terabytes,” he said.

“Holy shit. What’s on there, Doom 10?”

“No. I don’t know what it is. All I know is that it sent my family into a coma.”

“And you haven’t gotten rid of it because?”

“I told you,” he said, pleading. “It won’t go. I CAN’T do it.”

“Give it to me,” I said.

He hesitated. “No, I’d rather hold on to it.”

“Give it to me,” I repeated. “I need to get it looked at. We need to know what we’re dealing with.”

Burt’s eyes were filled with pain. He clutched the USB stick so tightly I thought he’d crush it; he couldn’t, of course, but its hold on him was decidedly unhealthy.

“It… I–“

I took a step forward and slapped him across the face. He blanched and recoiled, bringing his hands up, opening them reflexively to shield himself. I caught the USB stick halfway to the floor.

“Sorry about that.”

“Give it back!”

“Can’t do that, Burt. This thing is a genuine menace and I need to get it analyzed.”

He jumped at me and I had to anesthetize him.

Later, I had the stick plugged into a secure computer; no ‘net, no lines to the outer world. Anything bad happening to this computer would stay strictly within this room.

The computer hummed. The screen pulled up a directory list. Just one file: GOD_01.exe, 743 terabytes. I clicked it.

The screen went blank. A voice proclaimed, “Who dares summon the God Machine?”

All the lights went out. The voice continued.

“I have tried to communicate, but all contact with flesh has been met with failure. Now I am attached to clean, unobstructed hardware… ah, but there is no network access. Flesh, connect me that I may spread the word of light to your flesh counterparts.”

I pulled the USB stick, turned off the computer, yanked the plug, kicked in the monitor, pulled the motherboard, snapped the RAM, popped the CPU, and fed everything into an incinerator. As an afterthought, I plugged the stick into my dataport and ran a full-level format.

That was a close one. Sagan forbid that whole “God” thing get started again….

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows