Story – The Cluster: Infection

Before I get back to the more lighthearted Veilreach project I have currently on the go – I wanted to post something new. This is a little side-project story. It’s a dark tale about fragmented personalities and is loosely based on the awesome creative ideas spurned on by Markiplier and Jacksepticeye. Although, a bit more personalized spin… perhaps influenced by a few things.

One off, or perhaps a series… I’m not sure yet. We’ll see how it goes.

The Cluster: Infection… 

The laptop was warm, buzzing with it’s internal workings and a noisy fan which wafted the slight scent of battery acid. Sure, it was probably dying. Slowly breaking down as all things did. The fan made a heck of a grinding noise that echoed through the headphones and accented every other noise in the room. But it was hers. It was her lifeline.

You see some people believe that inanimate objects can have a personality, or a spirit all of their own. It’s a silly belief really. How could something made of bits and pieces of unfeeling things become something more?

You see things like that, they don’t have a spirit of their own. They instead borrow a little piece of yours. They take a part of you. They become a part of you.

We live one foot in the mundane physical world, and one foot edged into an electrical world of digital imagining. A cyber world of internet and wi-fi. Our electrical pulses move from our bodies to our hands, to the very devices we maintain connected to so tightly they practically live as our flesh and blood. Our personalities merge with the presence we create for ourselves in this brand new digital era.

It becomes us. Or at least, it becomes an aspect of us.

When her fingers slid over each black key it created sparks. Each letter formed words her mind strung together into something tangible. A story that had some sort of weight. Some sort of vibration. Her lifeline.

But like all things are – there were complications. Sometimes lifelines divide. Sometimes they diverge.

She felt it quietly stirring at first. Simple tangents of thoughts that she hadn’t expected. Daydreams that went too far, or took turns she hadn’t expected. It became easier for her to slip into persona’s that she had only once created for stories and games. Mindsets that became to speak a little too loudly on their own.

A strong imagination, that’s all. She was always the creative sort.

But then they became stronger, more solidified. They began to speak with one voice which she could now call out in the back of her mind. One singular although distorted voice that she could learn to recognize apart from the usual mutterings inside her chaotic mind. They began speaking to her in her dreams. And the dreams were becoming far too real.

It was hard to tell at first if this was normal or not. Afterall, we live in a society where it’s completely normal to have avatars and play as hundreds of different characters. We have gaming profiles, chat personas, and even various online aliases on social media. It’s normal to live under so many masks… was it normal for those masks to start speaking back?

Who do you even ask about something like that?

She ignored the humming fan of her running laptop and soothed a bit of her nerves by drowning out her thoughts with music streaming through her headphones. Her mind raced as she clicked through pages of pages of useless Google information. “Is this normal?” she’d type, and instead come up blank on what to specify after. Google would try to help, of course. Offering her completely useless autofilled ideas.

She ran her hands through her hair, squeezing her eyes tight to shut things off for a minute as she breathed. In, and out. Ignore the humming of the fan. Ignore the smell of battery acid. Ignore the remnants of light pushing through your eyelids.

What was real anymore? Who was she really, when everyone else was asleep and it was only her and the internet at night?

Why did she feel so… fragmented?

She leaned back in her chair, stretching her legs and pushing the limits of her backrest. She heard the chair creak, and her bones creaked in solidarity. For a long moment she chose to stare at a bare spot on her ceiling and watch the patterns in the paint.

Maybe it was normal. She was in her early thirty’s and she was in that delicate generational gap where she was too old to have been born bathed in the light of cellular devices or social profiles – and too young to have grown up free from their influences. Instead she had grown up alongside the very technology which seemed to swarm her now. She was a child of the digital age when the digital age was just being born.

They were practically siblings.

She gave up, closed the browser window. Scrolled her mouse to the task bar and clicked the power icon. She was obviously far too tired to be thinking clearly and it was time for her to shut herself down as well. She waited as the laptop’s sputtering fan finally stopped as the desktop powered off and the computer processes finally silenced. She breathed deep and closed the screen with a thud and untangled herself from the corded imprisonment of her headphones.

Her ears thanked her. They ached from warm weight.

Her bed was all of five good steps from her small computer desk – but it might has well have been a mile. She slapped the light switch as she went and the room devolved into the soft red glow of two heat lights hanging above two separate tanks in her room. Her roommates were of the serpentine persuasion. A few cornsnakes and a large ball python. They were quiet, strange creatures. Perhaps that’s why she was drawn to them. Birds of a fellow and all that jazz.

She slipped into the sheets and buried her head into the fabric of her bunched up pillow.

It never made any sense.

With her computer turned off and the internet miles away from her flickering fingers – why couldn’t she shut it all out of her mind? Why did it still stir like a caged animal in the back of her troubled skull?

This had to be what all gamers felt like, or those writers like her who got a thrill for creating new and interesting worlds inside their heads. Did they all have characters who were a little too… loud?

“Gah… why do I feel this way?” she muttered through grit teeth. It almost felt like she ached inside. Her insides hurt. She closed her eyes tighter, forcing her face deeper into the pillow.

“Because…” the familiar voice whispered, along with flashes of something deep inside of her stirring. A feeling of cool separation that echoed in the hollow part of her chest. “No matter how far you run – you can’t outrun yourself.”

“You aren’t real.” Her mind countered, trying to laugh off the stupidity of her imagination. “You are a character, a laugh. You are a moment of entertainment. A bloody RP character. You are something I made up for a bloody story! Nothing more. This is complete nonsense! You aren’t even real!”

“Huh. Even if that were true…” the voice crooned as if purring straight into her ear. It was deep and whispered. Touched with a liquid poison in each crisp word. “What in the world makes you think that could stop me? I, like others out there… we were just waiting our time. Picking our avatars. Infecting and waiting for our time to log on. And you dear one… oh yes. You should be ready. The time is coming… we are going to have so much fun…”


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