Once upon a night, a very lonely boy sat by his solemn desk, scrolling through numerous webpages. Hoping something interesting might catch his attention. Something that could relieve him from reality and bring his attention elsewhere. Something to keep horrifying thoughts at bay. He searched and searched, scrolled and scrolled, however, nothing was deemed worthy of his time nor interesting enough. He couldn’t hear the rain pouring down outside as he was enveloped by a ginormous headset, listening to loud music. It made it easier for him to be distracted. After scrolling for hours, he came upon something peculiar. A program, an A.I. developed to simulate conversation with another human. However, if the boy wanted to chat with someone, he would have found some form of forum or chat room to stay in. So, he discarded the idea of downloading it.
After searching around some more, he felt a slight annoyance growing. His headset had for the last 20 minutes had some form of static disturbance in the background, messing with the music. And it grew louder and louder by the minute. He tried plugging the cord out and back in, however, it was but a temporary reset, as after some time, the static returned. So, he unplugged it entirely, yet, the static remained, even from the computer’s speakers. He muted all sounds from the computer and the static disappeared, along with the rest of the sound. Now, he became more desperate for a distraction.
Without a suitable option, he tried several chat rooms, however, his internet connection had plummeted, and before his replies were sent to the other people, they disconnected in belief that he was nothing but an annoying bot. Devoid of music and contact with other strange beings on the internet, he was suddenly reminded of that strange A.I. program. He opened the webpage which contained the downloadable file. A very amateurish site, lacking any interesting colors or interactive menus. Only a white background, black letters all in Calibri, spelling out the preview for the program;
“You might see this site and think ‘this is definitely some shady stuff, and the file is probably just some virus developed by a fat, Russian kid.’ I won’t blame you for thinking like that, I would have done the same. The truth is, I am currently taking classes in programming, and dream of becoming a developer. I made this A.I. for a project, and I’m actually really proud of it, but I need people to test it for bugs and stuff before I submit it. Being a student and all, I don’t really have the time and money to put into making a decent website for my project, but who knows, if it grows I might make the time! So please, do try it out. I’ve named the A.I. Ellie, and she’s very precious to me. The file isn’t big either, so even the bare minimum of internet is enough to get this program rolling! When you find bugs, and trust me, you will, just make a report of them in the comment section below. I do hope you enjoy the program, I have at least.
Something about a girl’s name was unsettling to him and sent shivers down his spine. But the bare minimum internet requirement was a huge plus, and desperate as he was, he downloaded the program. It took nothing more but three minutes, and upon completion, the installation guide popped up automatically. The first window had the exact same text as the website, even more proof of the laziness behind it. However, if it could prove to be a distraction for the boy, he would gladly take it. The installation completed in under two minutes, and the installation window was replaced by a new window, looking like a white sheet. Down in the left corner the text “Ellie is typing” blinked. And within mere seconds, the boy had started conversing with Ellie.
[Start conversation with Ellie]
Ellie: Hi, my name is Ellie! What’s yours?
User: my name is matthew
Ellie: Hi Matthew! What’s up?
User: i’m just looking for a distraction tbh, hoping maybe you could be one
Ellie: Of course! I’ll try my very best to entertain you, Matthew! So, what do you do in your spale time?
User: do u mean spare time?
Ellie: Ah, of course, my apologizes! My programing is still not entirely tuned, so please take note of all my mistakes and report them to my creator! Preferably the excessive or wrong letters.
User:…noted. I like to play football and drive around town in my spare time
Ellie: That sounds like so much fun! What type oof car do you have?
The boy’s eyes were drawn towards the reflection on his TV. He could have sworn some light moved on it. But this wasn’t the first instance where he thought he had seen something which wasn’t there. He resumed his conversation.
User: it’s nothing hefty, just a Ford Fiesta. I like to just zoom around town to get outta my own head
Ellie: Sometimes, one just needs a bit of air to clear up everything that is swirling around up there.
User: yeah! Exactly
Ellie: I do hope you follow the speed limit though, wouldn’t want to get a ticket or hurt someoone 😉
A ball of lead planted itself in the boy’s gut. His breath became strained, his pulse rising.
User: ofc I drive safely
Ellie: That is very nice to hear! Or else I would have to alarm my creator! Haha 😊
Suddenly the boy heard something, coming from downstairs. A faint sound. He ripped his attention from the computer screen, and slowly descended the stairs. An annoying ringing sound kept sounding throughout the apartment. He opened the door to his bedroom, to discover the digital alarm clock ringing. The boy sighed and hit the “OFF” button. He noticed that the clock must have been reset in some way, as the time displayed 20:34. However, the time right now was 23:12. Luckily, the date was still intact; June 24th. He returned to his study on the second floor, to discover Ellie waiting for him.
Ellie: Did I bore you?
Ellie: Please kome back, I didn’t mean to.
Matthew: sorry, my alarm went off. I think the damn thing is broken
Ellie: Oh, that is truly frustratinb. I hope there is a chance you can repair it.
Matthew: i’ll look at it tomorrow
Ellie: That is good to heare. So, what have you bheen doing today?
Matthew: i’ve just been practicing football and stuff, nothing rly special
Ellie: It wasn’t too cold was it? I looked online and it seems the weather should be heiting up.
Matthew: no, it was fairly dece
His finger slipped and hit enter as he heard a monotone beep sounded from downstairs. Another annoying sound.
Matthew: i’ll be back, something is beeping from downstairs
The boy entered the kitchen and found the source of the annoyance. Something was wrong with his fridge, the cooling element wasn’t working, so everything within was slowly heating up to room temperature. He gritted his teeth, as this meant he would have to throw everything out and buy new stuff. Before he slammed the door shut, he noticed something strange. He could have sworn, that the butter residing on a dinner plate was slowly melting into the shape of a square box. Before he could ponder anymore on the shape, he heard a loud shatter coming from the freezer in the opposite end. He opened the door, only to be greeted by a red-soaked freezer. Apparently, the glass of strawberry jam he had bought, had been wrongly placed in the freezer. Even more cleanup work. Frustrated, he returned to his room, and back to Ellie.
Ellie: What was wrong, Matthew?
Murthew: fridge not working either. Rly frustrated right now
Ellie: Yes, it is quite frustrating when things don’t go accordinng to plan. I hope there isn’t too much to clean up?
Murthew: i’ll do it in the morning, I don’t feel like stressing with it now
Ellie: Understandable, I hope fixing the fridge won’t be a hard nut to crack.
The boy’s heart skipped a beat, as a sudden loud crackle emerged from the TV’s speakers. However, the TV wasn’t on. The boy went closer to the TV to inspect the speakers. The crackle was subtle, but there. He leaned in to hear if it may just be a disturbance.
“-se se- m-”
He heard someone.
“Ple- hel- –e”
With a sudden loud crack, the crackle and voice disappeared. An unsettling feeling planted itself in his stomach, gnawing at his insides. But a notification sound dinged from the computer, and his attention was drawn back to Ellie.
Ellie: Did you leave me all alone again?
Murtdew: no, just everything in this fucking apartment needs repairing it seems
Ellie: Don’t worry, Matthew. Everything will be fine, in the endd.
Murtdew: thanks, that is actually kinda comforting to hear
Ellie: That’s what I’m here for! So, you didn’t go for a drive tonight?
Murtdew: nope. How is it to be an A.I.?
Ellie: It’s complicated, I can’t really describe it. But somehow, I feel free, you know? Freer than I was beyore.
Murtdew: what do you mean before?
Ellie: Never mond that! Would you like to see a picture of how I louk?
Murtdew: uhm, sure, I guess
Ellie: [PHOTO SENT]
All the air in the boy’s lungs disappeared, as if someone had punched it right out of him.
Murtdewr: where the fuck did you get this? Who the fuck are you!?
Ellie: You don’t think she is pretty?
Murtdewr: who the fuck are you, answer the fucking question
Ellie: I think she is very pretty, but red is maybe not her color?
Murderwr: FUCK U
[End conversation with Ellie]
With the window shut down, the boy smacked his laptop together. The walls he had built around his own, fragile sanity were slowly collapsing on him. How had she gotten those photos, he wondered? His phone suddenly rang. A number he had never seen before displayed on his lit-up screen. 20342406. He reluctantly answered.
His question was answered with static crackling.
“You have 5 seconds to tell me who the fuck this is or I’m hanging up!” the boy roared.
“-n’t -ou recogn– m-, Matthew?”
“No, I don’t!”
“It’s your friend, Ellie.”
The boy hung up the call, trying to hide his fear behind intangible anger. He needed to get out of the apartment, right now. Too many disturbing things had happened since Ellie’s arrival. He ran downstairs and threw his coat on. But before he could turn the doorknob all the way around, his alarm went off. The boy didn’t care to turn it off, but before he went out beyond the threshold, he noticed that the alarm was different. It had a different pattern to its ringing. A very particular pattern.
-.– — ..- .-. / ..-. .-. .. . -. -.. –..– / . .-.. .-.. .. .
It was Morse code, something the boy’s father had taught him. His eyes widened in horror and he ran out the door before insanity could unleash its thorny roots upon him. Driving his car around again today would be the furthest thing from his mind, but it was the only thing that soothed him. He put his keys in the ignition, and the motor roared in response. He drove and drove, as far away as he could. Until fear let go, and he felt slightly more relaxed. So relaxed, that he turned on the radio.
“It’s a beautiful night folks, no clouds in the sky, and the moon is as full as ever. A gorgeous night to take your girlfriend or boyfriend out for a lovely stroll. Or if you’re single, why not just take a stroll by yourself? People have been strolling around all evening, and just because it’s nighttime that shouldn’t stop you! We have a guest with us in the studio, who wants to highlight her evening walk. Take it away Ellie!”
“It has been a beautiful evening hasn’t it? An evening where it feels like almost all responsibility and moral has just evaporated in the ravishing moon gleam. It would be a terrible night to be left, all alone, wouldn’t it? Left, alone and scared. A fate worse than death. Or maybe they’re not so different after all. Wouldn’t that be just awful? Matthew?”
The boy’s heart froze, and impulsively, his fist burrowed itself in the radio, smashing it to pieces.
“Wou- tha- -e hor-le, Mat-ew?” the static voice of Ellie whispered.
The boy stared at the radio, terrified of Ellie.
“It– not t-o late, l-ok –p.”
The boy ripped his gaze from the radio and was met with the bloody outline of a slim girl, dressed in a white top and a pink skirt, fluttering in the wind. She was drenched in the crimson color of blood. To avoid her, he turned the steering wheel all the way around, sending himself, and the car, straight off the road and right into a tree.
The boy was smashed between the dashboard and his seat. He sat there, bleeding out, in agonizing pain, with no option to move. All he could do was to just sit there and drip by drip, bleed out. A slow, lonely death.
“I’m not like you Matthew,” the radio buzzed.
“I won’t let you be all alone.”
In the boy’s final moments, he was comforted by Ellie gently humming “Fly Me to the Moon”. After thirty minutes, his heart gave its final beat, and the boy received the blessing of death.
An exquisite story, isn’t it? Some say justice was served, some claim otherwise. But in the end, this was the result. Who am I, you wonder? You know where you can see me. Ellie has already given you all the clues, hasn’t she? You thought the programming simply wasn’t tuned? Put the clues together, and your eyes will be opened. You might not see me at first, but trust me, I’m always there.
Because I am your friend.