I always was a big fan of writing cryptic messages into stories, and this is no different. In fact, this one is so cryptic, I actually don't know what it is myself.

Piles of litter strewed the floor of the empty little cabin. Heaps of cabling ran across the room, twisting itself into places it could never hope to go if kept tidy. Parts of machines were scattered haphazardly, broken. Never to be fixed. Screens were smashed, cables lay un-insulated, resistors and transistors and tubes and pipes and circuit boards and coils; all added to the chaos of outside, recreated inside. Oddly, a small pile of paper - perfectly arranged - was on a desk, left completely clear of all this madness. The paper contained strange characters: letters, numbers, symbols of a forgotten age. Next to this paper, on the desk, was a small screen. Black, except for a tiny bit of green writing at the top left corner.


And a small blinking line afterwards, expecting something to be done. Judging by the insanity of disorganisation, you would think that no one lived there, except that somebody did. He ambled in through a curtain of wires hanging from the ceiling and muttered something about a brute-force algorithm, then shuffled into his usual place in his makeshift throne of rubbish in front of the screen. He looked behind him, as if he was expecting something. He was not, although he had seen some ghosts pass through a few days ago, and was still convinced they were gone. He looked at the paper, looked at the screen, and began typing.

> Hello.

He often liked to have conversations with the machine, as if it could talk to him. Perhaps one day, he could make it so it could have a conversation back. And they would be able to chat to one another for days. This would not bother him, he did not mind having only a machine to talk to, he managed just fine with himself.

> Just checking you are working.

> You appear to be.

> mount C C:\Conversation

> C:

C:\> chat.exe


> Hello.

Illegal command: Hello..

> reply: "Hello"

How are you?

> reply: "I am fine, how are you?"


The man stared at the screen. For a split second, he thought it was a human at the other end. For a short, brief, fleeting moment, his life was complete: he had a companion. Ever since he was locked here with the purpose of building this machine, he had had no human contact. God knew how long that was. He certainly didn't. There was a time when he tried counting the days, the feeble attempt still rung on the wall. 3 small scores in the plaster, now covered in creepers of wiring, crawling down into the undergrowth of machinery below. It was hard to tell what time it was when there was no sunlight. So he made the machine do it for him.


> 06.23


> 09/10/42

The time is 06.23 on 09/10/42

A minute later it said the same thing, he could never work out how to do it properly.

At that time the completely unexpected happened. Twice, in fact. The first being that the door, coated in a cascade of technology from ages ago, opened, letting the first beams of light him the man's face for four years, although he was not to know that. The second was that the computer inexplicably turned itself off. The odd thing about this is that the only way to turn it off is to pass a turn off command, so the fact it did it by itself was rather odd. Nevertheless, that small detail is not important, or at least it was not to the man. He was staring, wide-eyed at the door. Slowly opening. Light, then air, then smells, flooded the tiny chamber, almost sweeping the man away in the flow. He managed to get a hold of himself, and move towards the light, covering his eyes from the blinding nature of the first light in years, and what felt like decades.

The light from the screen turned on again. A small blinking light after one tiny character, imperceptibly unimportant in the grand scheme of everything going on outside. The man stepped outside.

            "Well done. You will be remembered," a voice whispered to the man outside.

> Thank you.

And with that, the screen went blank again. Forever. The door shut, closing over the world the man had left behind him. Somehow, it was all going to be better.

The End

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