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Cemetery by P.D. Cain

Some think it is a despicable virus, to others it is a Trojan or a worm, but it is none of these.  It derives from a young computer genius who produced a virtual reality application.  Once downloaded and opened, it completely takes over your life – literarily.  The only person with the knowledge to stop it is its creator, but he was the first victim!

Tommy Winterbottom began devising computer programs and games at the age of nine, and by the time he was a spotty, long haired, underweight sixteen year old, he had already developed a search engine called KENSAKU, so named after he discovered it meant 'search' in Japanese.  At the age of eighteen, he was hired by a top games company to produce virtual reality games.  He did not expect the pressure of producing such sophisticated programs, which the company demanded of him, to be so intense.  Originally, he found that taking the odd 'recreational drug' helped him to come up with fresh, new ideas, but this inevitably led to harder drugs, and once, after injecting himself with heroin, he almost died.  The 'near death' experience enabled him to come up with a computer game called ZOMBIELIFE.  Its phenomenal success heaped more pressure on Tommy for a sequel, and it wasn't until he went through another 'near death' experience that he came up with ZOMBIELIFE II.

It seemed that each time Tommy Winterbottom diced with death; there was some invisible hand behind him helping to write the programs.  The drugs inevitably took their toll.  He looked three times older than he actually was, and yet he was expected to come up with an even more outrageous, addictive game.  He felt trapped and realised that he could not go on with the life he was leading.  To escape, he would need to write the ultimate addictive virtual reality computer game to surpass all others.

Tommy had a little cottage in the country, left to him by his mother, Carol, who had died some twelve months earlier of lung cancer.  She in turn inherited it from her mother, Tommy's grandmother, who had simply died of old age ten years previously.  The cottage served as a bolt hole, where he had complete privacy.  Escaping from the buzz and pressures of work, he travelled to it one weekend.  He sat in front of his computer with a trouser belt looped around his neck and the end of it was tied to his chair.  He put a needle into his arm and injected his beloved drug.  He leaned forward.  The belt tightened.  Tommy struggled to breathe.  Just at the point of losing consciousness, a seemingly invisible hand from behind helped him to type in computer code.

The next thing Tommy knew, he was on the floor.  The chair on which he had been seated was on its side, and the belt was hanging loose around his neck.  On the computer screen was the program he, or rather the invisible hand, wrote.  He loaded it onto his tablet and opened it.  A picture emerged of a crooked entrance gate with 'Cemetery' inscribed over its arch.  Tommy placed his finger on the tablet's screen and slid it forward so as to pass through the gates, but he was stopped with a message "Input data of deceased" and below it was a form with two simple questions "Name of Deceased" and "Relationship/Occupation".  Tommy first thought of his grandmother and input "Hannah Townsend, and then, Grandmother".  He was asked to input another name, and so he added "Carol Winterbottom, Mother". 

The gates opened and Tommy slid his finger forward and he entered the cemetery.  Inside there were a number of small marble headstones.  On them were engraved various names, including those of his grandmother and mother.  The others were inscribed with the names of functions that were inbuilt into the program, like "U. Search, "D. Calendar, E. Mail and I. Help".  He pressed on 'D. Calendar', and up came the dates of his appointments, meetings and birthdays.  He pressed on 'E.Mail' and up came all his email messages.  When he exited each of the functions, he automatically returned to the cemetery.  He pressed onto "U. Search" and this took him to his KENSAKU search engine which operated with voice recognition.  He spoke a couple of words and phrases to test that it worked.  Satisfied that it functioned perfectly, he exited and returned to the cemetery. 

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