An error of type 1 has occurred.
There it was. Small, unthreatening black Times New on plain white in the otherwise empty browser window.
He had experienced, as we all have, a lot of error 404s in his time. A few 403s. A smattering of various numbers in the two or three hundreds. But never anything this low. He refreshed a few times, to no avail. Still the single sentence in small, unpretentious Roman.
‘An error of type one’ sounded familiar, so digging out a long-neglected paper encyclopaedia he looked it up, to find that type I errors generally lead to one mistakenly thinking a supposed effect or relationship exists, when it doesn’t.
Still, that probably bore no relation to what Microsoft – or whoever it was assigned numbers to computer errors – had designated error one. Bringing up the offline help he began to type, then stopped. Could there be, he wondered, an even lower error? An error zero? He doubted there were negative errors. That would just be silly. Surely negative errors would be something unexpectedly going right, or at least going better than expected. ‘Serendipity 404’, ‘Boon 307’ and so on.
Emending his search to ‘error 0’, he clicked go. The computer went, as instructed, and the pixels formed his answer: “Error 0: Universe in which internet is situated has ceased to exist.”
Honestly, Mike thought, if the universe in which the internet is situated has ceased to exist then surely there wouldn’t be a computer on which to display the error message. Another ridiculous oversight on the part of Microsoft.
Re-searching, he found Error 1 was apparently this – “Host internet continues to exist in world which has expired.”
“Well what does that mean?” Mike said out loud in exasperation.
Then the text changed.
Not the offline help, but the browser window. It was the same small black Times New, but the former message had deleted itself character by character, and digit by digit a new sentence had taken its place. Times New Roman was suddenly a lot more threatening.
It means the world is to be destroyed, the Text read.
“Why would that affect the internet?” Mike typed back. He knew from the previous emendation that The Text could apparently hear him despite no microphone being attached, but somehow typing felt more appropriate.
Look, I don’t know the ins and outs of it, The Text said(?), it just does somehow.
Now; it continued, YOU must choose the form of the destructor.
Seriously, don’t tell me you’ve never seen Ghostbusters? Everyone’s seen that film. It’s a beloved classic for a reason.
“I think I’ve more justification to be surprised that you, some sort of inhuman entity who’s herald to the world’s destruction, have seen Ghostbusters, than you do to be surprised that I haven’t.”
Look The Text said again, somehow sounding irate without a voice, something’s got to destroy the world, and you have to choose its avatar. Its form.
“But why me?” Mike asked, justifiably.
You were just in the right place at the right time. Or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on perspe-
“You don’t have to condescend.” Mike interrupted, starting to type before The Text had finished laying itself out, “I might be a mere mortal rather than a pan-dimensional omnistroyer with an impeccable knowledge of Dan Aykroyd’s filmography, but I understand the concept of perspective.”
There’s no need to get pissy, The Text sulked.
“My world’s about to be destroyed, I’ve every right to get pissy.”
Look, choose a fucking form already.
“I just won’t think of anything.”
If you’d seen Ghostbusters, like most normal people, you’d know that doesn’t work for long.
Mike rose and went over to the window, hoping that the entity had been having him on and that he wouldn’t see a hundred metre high Holly Willoughby laying waste to the city. Unfortunately that’s exactly what he saw, just as she brought the heel of her Louboutins down on a mother and child.
“What a show we’ve got for you today. Lovely show today.” boomed Holly, as she picked up an elderly couple and hurled them into the upper atmosphere. “My co-host for today will be Eamonn Holmes.”
“I can tell you Holly, this country is full of perverts.” said an equally giant Eamonn Holmes that had hove into view, knocking down the Shard with a swing of his paunch.
Mike watched in slack-jawed horror as the colossal Willoughby loomed nearer. “I’ve seen Blues Brothers.” he added.
Great film, but that’s not really relevant The Text replied.