October 05, 2015

It's the Computer's Fault
by Terry Petersen (short, PG)
Cover image.
Image credit: Terry Petersen. More info.

Welcome to October 2015, and BIZARRE Month in the Piker Press! Keep an eye on your computer, strange things can happen there...


Peel Jasper didn't blink throughout the entire class period. Strangest kid I have ever had as a student. Sure he looked the part of a high-school junior. But the last paper he handed-in nailed it -- this was no ordinary kid. I tried to pick up my briefcase and leave the classroom before he got to me. Something like thinking a hound won't catch your scent when you are ten feet away.

He barely touched my arm. But I could have sworn his fingernails passed through my sweater and left a mark on my skin.

"No way that I deserve this grade. I had my fingers on the wrong keys. I can do it. You know, the old-fashioned typing thing. Anyone who can type more than ten words a minute has had the same experience."

Lunch curdled in my stomach even though I had only eaten half a sandwich. This moment was inevitable.

Franklin, you're losing it. I looked at a section of blank wall to the left of him so that he didn't know I wasn't looking into his eyes. Although maybe he figured that out anyway.

I looked at the paper he held in his hands with my suggestions in red, feigned as if I thought he actually had chosen to do the assignment. Sure, the first page followed my requirements. It offered no more: dull sentences: factual, lifeless, and boring as the inside of an empty cardboard box. Gradually the tone changed. A sinister, non sequitur quality appeared. The topic dissolved like aluminum foil in pure acid.

He warned about how change in the system could result in areas of the school erupting into flames. Profanity appeared mid-sentence. He predicted an earthquake followed by rioting.

I had graded his paper based on superficial errors, on the assignment's guidelines -- as if an inherent warning didn't exist. I hadn't reported the incident. I got as far as making a copy of the paper and suddenly felt as if I were being strangled, as if a rope had been placed around my neck. As soon as my fingers touched the copied printed words the invisible rope tightened.

Peel's insistence now on the wrong-fingers-keyboard theory frightened and confused me. Nevertheless I tried to respond with as calm a voice as I could manage. "Your work started off adequate, but then ..." How can I say you stepped off into lunacy, dangerous at that? And I'm a total wimp for not reporting it yet.

When the dean of discipline just happened to walk by my classroom I was glad that the door to my classroom had been wide open.

"Mr. Crave, could you please come in for a moment?" I said with the last bit of saliva in my mouth.

"Sure, Mr. Franklin, what can I do for ..?"

The dean took one look at Peel and stood motionless. He didn't need to say a word. I knew he also had experienced something peculiar because of this young man.

I handed the dean the paper and pointed out the offending lines, not difficult to locate, something like searching for lightning in a thunderstorm.

Crave paled visibly.

"Peel claims he simply had his fingers on the wrong keys: the laptop is at fault."

"That's Mr. Peel Jasper," the student replied. "My name is M-i-s-t-e-r Peel Jasper."

"Uh, yes, Mr. Jasper," the dean said. He looked as if he were trying to control a nervous tic. "No disrespect for any of our students. But ..."

"There are no buts," Peel interrupted. "One moment. And see how calm and respectful I can be." He went to his desk, moved a leather jacket from the surface, and picked up a laptop case underneath the coat. "The culprit is inside."

He handed Mr. Crave the case. "A gift. From me to you. Or call it evidence against me since a copy of my assignment is saved inside. Easy to find. I'm very organized."

"Why would you do this?" Mr. Crave asked as he held the case with as few fingers as possible.

"To prove a point," he answered.

Neither Crave nor I stopped Mr. Peel Jasper as he stormed out of the room. I suspect he was just as glad to see him leave as I was.

Too bad that wasn't the end of the story.

* * *

Well, it's been three days. They know by now. No doubt about it. Franklin's last name should be wuss. So easy to maneuver. I scarcely needed to whisper a spell to keep him quiet, give up on spoiling my plan.

It was soooo nice of Crave to show up the way he did. I expected a lot more maneuvering before I got that laptop into his hands. Such an ass! Thinks he is in control of the world. Big punishment for minor infractions. You dropped garbage in the hall, young man! This is payback time.

I wonder how big his eyes got when he tried to work the keyboard. I know he did. It was part of the plan. The urge to begin pressing one letter and then another is irresistible. Far more compelling than nicotine or chocolate. I have no idea how much trouble he is getting himself into. But then I'm not going back to that school.

Mom and Dad agree that private school isn't right for me. But then I learned my skills from my parents. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And they grow the kind of witch-and-wizard plants that could convince Eve to make the same mistake all over again.

Most of what I predicted in my report was pure BS. But the part about the burning school? Well, I have this funny feeling it's going to be traced back to a certain dean of discipline. Framed? Well, yeah. But it's all in a day's work.

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Article © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.


BIZARRE! Strange things happen in writing and in October -- don't be too surprised by anything you read in the Piker Press this month...

In This Week's Press:

~ It's that time of the year again: time to gear up for Mes de los Muertos -- and this year, something more bizarre...

It's the Computer's Fault -- Terry Petersen
~ Welcome to October 2015, and BIZARRE Month in the Piker Press! Keep an eye on your computer, strange things can happen there...

Imagination -- Allison Grayhurst
~ "...lost in the open space of possibilities..."

THE ODDS 162 -- Bill Harvey
~ Especially when his wife makes dinner for him...

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 40 -- Lydia Manx
~ What looked to be a major battle between the witches and the demi-god gets derailed fast when Delilah's best friend walks through the door...

Enhanced Life 2 -- Gary Beck
~ The Enhanced Life Foundation does some interesting research involving blood -- which is not too unusual except that they are vampires. But someone is trying to destroy their research facilities. Maybe attacking vampires isn't the brightest thing to do...

Going Hungry 23 -- Sand Pilarski
~ Two days off? Two days to prepare for the whole next week, but at least the Meltons will have some family time. Really?

The Martian: Movie Review -- Bernie and Sand Pilarski
~ Bernie and Sand finally return to the theater, just to go to Mars.