Malware

He muted the volume and it stopped.

That sound.

He sat alone in his room with only the dim glow of the screen to ward off the dark. He unmuted it and it began again.  He couldn’t locate it’s source. He had a number of open browser tabs: facebook, twitter, the wikipedia page for famous unsolved murders, a streaming site paused on a video of copulating Russian teenagers, a message board discussion on the relative merits of the games in the Persona series and an unread article on a recent foreign election. Whatever purpose he’d had when, several hours prior, he’d set himself down before the endless vista of the internet had been washed away in the inexorable slurry of content. He had been wandering mindlessly with no real preference for what he would see. Or for what he was inviting into his home.

Before long it began. That sound. He assumed it was an advert that had started playing automatically on one of the web pages he had open. He trawled through the tabs for the source of this interruption to his fevered boredom, his wilful listlessness. He silently cursed his adblocker for failing him and letting this uninvited piece of brazen consumerism to ooze through the cracks. He investigated the possible sources, one by one, but couldn’t find any obvious candidates for its origin. He had no choice but to start closing tabs, clicking at the x’s like a trained sniper eliminating enemy forces. But still it remained, hissing and screeching with malevolent atonality. That sound.

He left the sites he trusted most to protect him from malware until last. The social media sites that enabled his idle voyeurism. A coldness washed over him as he started closing them and still it did not stop. He held his breath as the last window blinked itself closed. And yet it remained. That sound. He was left staring at his desktop background, a futuristic cityscape he’d downloaded from some website or another. He didn’t recall which one. He felt as if the floor had been torn away and left him to fall into the great void as he realised that he couldn’t remember whether or not the figures in the skyscraper windows had always been there.

He pressed mute again. But this time it remained. That sound. Were those voices he could hear burbling beneath that vicious static? Was that language? What could it mean? Who or what would speak a tongue so ripe with savage, unfocused hate? He had only one option left. He clicked to shut the machine down. Time seemed to stretch out, yawning into infinity, before the screen went black. Still it remained. That sound. As the words took shape in his mind he began to understand. His fingers went white as he gripped the edge of his desk like it were driftwood and he were alone in an endless ocean. He’d turned off the computer and nothing had changed.  And in the lonely dark of his room he realised that nothing would ever change.
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