Daily Challenge Check-in: January 4, 2015

Words: 1089 written. Nothing story-related, just some writing practice using a prompt.

I have not had the proper energy level or focus needed to get back to revising, but tomorrow will be the first day back from Christmas break and a normal work week for my husband, and hopefully just normal everything. So hopefully I’ll be able to get back to normal writing work too.

Meanwhile, I downloaded an e-book that was free on Amazon today titled 1000 Awesome Writing Prompts and picked a random prompt to write from. I don’t usually do this, but since it wasn’t related to my series of stories in any way (and therefore contains no spoilers or confusing out-of-context references), in case anyone wants to read the resulting writing, I’m posting it here:

Prompt: Your webcam turns on, there’s a person you’ve never met before on the screen that seems equally surprised to see you.

I was washing dishes in the kitchen, and the kids were playing upstairs. The thumping and yelling was par for the course. I did my best to ignore it, because the yelling was usually followed by laughing. I decided that it would help both in ignoring the kids and in not being so bored washing the dishes to listen to something. I didn’t want to bother getting out the wireless headset, so I figured I’d just listen to something out loud on the computer closest to the kitchen. That would be the kids’ computer.

I walked over and clicked the mouse. The computer always goes to sleep after a few minutes, so I had to wait for it to come back alive. While I waited, I noticed that the webcam was open. It’s a small, stand-alone camera that we keep on the kids’ monitor when we’re not using the camera, because our kids like to play with the video recording program, making episodes of a show that only they ever watch. The camera has a cover that slides on and off of the lens, and we prefer to keep it closed when it’s not in use.

I reached up to close the cover just as the computer came back to life. I noticed then that the light on the camera was on. That meant it was in use.

“Hello?”

I didn’t know where the voice had come from at first. I spun around to look behind me, even though it didn’t sound like one of my kids. I thought maybe someone had come into the house.

“Over here. In front of you,” the voice said.

I turned back around and let out a yelp when I saw someone in the computer screen looking back at me.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“Who are you?” I shot back. “You’re on my computer!”

“No, you’re on my computer.”

“How…how is this even working?” I tried to find out what program was being used, but there was no indication. There was no title bar, no menus, nothing that would indicate a program name, or a way to close it.

“I don’t know; I don’t see an x to close the program,” the man said, looking down at his own monitor too.

I instinctively reached out and turned the monitor off. I know it was stupid, but somehow I felt it would make it all go away. If I couldn’t see him anymore, he wouldn’t be able to see me.

“Well, who are you? Where are you?” he asked.

I turned the monitor back on. Before his face had even popped up on my screen again, I answered, “I’m not going to tell you that! How stupid do you think I am?”

“What, you think I did this?” he asked incredulously. “You think I hack into strangers’ computers and find out where they live, and then go hunt them down?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

I said nothing more and pressed the “Ctrl”, “Alt”, and “Delete” buttons on the keyboard. I tried to find the program in the list of processes, but nothing stuck out. Still, I closed a few that I couldn’t identify just in case. He was still there in the background.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m trying to make this go away. I’m going to shut down the computer now.”

“Okay, go ahead. I guess I should do that too.”

“Sure.” I was already at the start menu and quickly told the computer to shut down. It started going through the process, then said there was a program that was holding it up. It said the program was called “Randomize.” And it wouldn’t shut down.

“Did yours work?” I asked after a few more seconds of waiting.

“I’m still here, aren’t I?”

I sighed and looked around. I could unplug the computer from the wall, or even turn off the power strip. I decided to call that a last resort. There was one more thing I could think of. I reached up and shut the cover on the camera.

“Oh, thank God,” I heard him say. I could still see him, but he was backing away from his computer as if it was over.

“What?” I asked, wondering what he knew that I didn’t.

“What? You’re still there?”

“Yes, I’m still here. Can’t you see me?”

“No, the screen went black. I thought it was over.”

“I closed the cover on the web cam. I thought that also turned it off. Apparently it doesn’t.” Still, I felt no need to open the cover again. I was much less uncomfortable when I knew he couldn’t see me.

“I’m going to unplug my computer now,” he said.

“I was thinking the same thing. That should work.”

“Unless we plug them back in and turn them back on, and this is still here.”

“Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen.”

“Well, I guess…bye,” he said. “And fyi, I’m in Georgia. I understand why you don’t want to tell me where you are, but I’m not really concerned about you being a serial killer.”

“I guess telling you my state won’t tell you much anyway,” I said with a shrug. “I’m in Indiana.”

“Oh, is it cold there?”

“Very. We have a snow storm coming in a few days. It’s supposed to be a big one. Or it could be nothing. You never really know until they come.”

He laughed. “Well, keep safe. I suppose I’ll never see you again.”

I chuckled too. “Here’s hoping.”

I went over to the wall and turned off the power strip, unplugged all of the cords from it, and unplugged the strip itself from the wall for good measure. Then I waited a full five minutes before plugging it all back in again. I turned on the computer and did a few more dishes while waiting for it to boot up.

When I went back to the screen a few minutes later, I immediately lost all ability to think or move. There on the screen was the same room I had seen before with the stranger in it. But he wasn’t there. Instead, the walls and furniture behind the camera were sprayed with blood.

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