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Simulation Over

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Stealing a panicked look behind me, I bolted towards the corridor where the nearest elevator could be found.  I kept glancing behind me.  Mercifully, this corridor was empty, unlike the last ones, which crawled with… what do I even call them?  Until a few hours ago, they were my colleagues.  Now, deformed, grotesque creatures had taken their place; their misshapen bodies an amputated mass of flesh and metal that seemed to have escaped from some horror movie.  It seemed impossible that they could be alive, and yet here they were, roaming the corridors, slaying everything in their path.

Although I could not fathom what their objective might be, I was determined not to stick around long enough to ask them, so I raced along the long corridor.  In my haste, I turned the corner without pausing to check it out first, and crashed into a middle-aged man in a white lab coat.  A sweet-looking girl tailed him; she cried out in alarm as my momentum hurled us both onto the ground.  I jumped back up in horror and raised my fists in a gesture dictated by millions of years of evolution.  It took us a few seconds to realize we posed no danger to each other, and a few more before we mumbled our introductions.

“I’m Mark,” I said.  “Maintenance.”

“Dr. Fulham,” the heavy man replied, trying to determine where his glasses had landed.  “Head of the medical sector.  This is Joanna, my secretary.”  He motioned warily towards the handsome young woman in a short skirt and white blouse.  Joanna picked up his glasses and handed them to him with trembling hands.  She seemed to be fighting a losing battle to remain calm within this nightmare.  The doctor looked as lost as I felt, but had the air of someone with great determination and self-confidence.  Clearly, a man born to lead.

“Are there other survivors?” I asked in hope.

Fulham cleaned his glasses on his coat, avoiding my gaze.  “The entire sector was sealed off behind us.  I doubt anyone survived.” 

“Do you know what happened?  What were you eggheads doing over there, anyway?”  My voice sounded more hostile than I wanted it to, but the doctor shrugged off my implied accusation.

“Nothing,” he said calmly.  “Nothing that can explain… this.  One moment I was checking my emails, the next these creatures appeared out of nowhere.  At first I thought it was a Halloween party or something, then they slaughtered my secretary right in front of me.  They cut off her…”  He glanced towards the girl, now white as a ghost.  “My other secretary.”  He gave the girl an apologetic look.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered and put his arm around her shoulder.  She glanced at him in stunned silence.

“We should probably keep moving.  The creatures are everywhere,” I reminded them.

The doctor nodded towards the elevator.  “We’ve been waiting here for ages, but the damned thing doesn’t seem to work.  Nothing does.  Perhaps they’ve already destroyed the central computer.  Or taken over it.  I saw people get slaughtered because of doors suddenly locking before them, or lights dying on them as they entered a room.”

My jaw dropped.  “I thought the central computer was invulnerable!  For protection against terrorists, espionage and such.  Anyway, are the creatures that smart?”

He shrugged as I pondered the new possibility.  Quite a few buildings were partly controlled by computers nowadays, but ours was the first one with an Artificial Intelligence running everything.  Even the sinks were fully automated.  A ridiculously high level of security was supposed to make accidents or sabotage impossible.  Unless the creatures were more intelligent than we realized, and had taken control of the building.  But how?

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement outside.  I rushed to the window to look down.  Dozens of cops crept around the large flower pots that decorated the patio.  Their car lights were reflected on the windows, lighting up the building like a Christmas tree – or perhaps Halloween, given the circumstances.  The many floors separating us from them made the scene surreal, reminding me of the toy soldiers I used to play with as a kid.  “I’d give anything to be down there,” I whispered. 

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