Ghost in the Machine happened.

This is the part that will test your credulity to the limit. I know how you feel because if I heard myself telling this story then I wouldn't believe me either, but you'll just have to trust me. It's lucky really I have such a stupid-looking face. Can this face lie? Surely not.

Still, so far so mundane. What's so special about my shameful debacle in the queue? Dull dull dull, right?


There was a cash dispenser near the door. So near that I had, in fact, to pass close by it on the way out. Now, the sweet old lady who'd been in front of me in the queue, doddering fussily with her purse and the many strange items contained therein, had just finished with it and was moving away.

 Without her purse.

That's right, she'd forgotten it, had left it on the floor for me to stumble over. I toyed with the idea of just taking it. Anyone would. If you're telling me the thought wouldn't enter your mind then you are a liar. I'm only human. Of course I wouldn't have done it. It was just one of those momentary impulses. Besides, there were people watching.

I picked it up in a bold, fearless way that I hoped spoke of a boy scout about to do a good deed. Probably I didn't look anything like that, what with my stupid-looking face and all, but it worked in my head.

So, I had the strap in my hand and was rising, when my eye happened to fall on the tiny, scratched and dirty window this company saw fit to describe as a user-friendly interface, and on the little slot where you feed in your card. You know, where you have to push it in about fifty times and it chokes and spits your card back at you in a sulk.

Not only had the old lady forgotten her purse, but she had walked away without taking out her card. And, as far as I could make out through the pitted, grimy trenches on the screen, the weirdest message had come up.

My arm rose, my hand reached, my fingers met and I drew out the card. I wasn't even looking at what I was doing, I was trying to make out the strange symbols and patterns, but as soon as the card was out...





The End

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