Mesmerized

The bag of chips was all but empty, just a few crumbs left in the bottom. He shook the bag, bouncing it in his hand, so that the niblets would fall together in the corner. There were so few left – and he wasn’t one to waste anything – so he tilted the bag to look inside to see just how much of his snack remained. The chips in the bottom reflected off the bag’s silver interior, and he was torn between the decision to pinch out what was left with his fingers or to simply tip the bag back and dump the crumbs straight into his mouth. A seemingly simple decision, yet he felt his mind stutter, then freeze up as solidly as two pieces of metal welded together.

And there he remained.

* * *

The two programmers observed their immobile subject on the monitor.

“Brilliant bit of programming there, Bud. How exactly did you induce that response?” Thom asked.

Bud chuckled. “It was pretty simple, actually. The silver lining in the chip bag contains several thousand lines of scrolling code – invisible to the naked eye, of course,” he said with a wink. “The program running inside the bag forced our subject into a state of indecision, then compounded the response, effectively throwing his brain into an infinite loop. The program essentially prevents him from action because the decision-making process never ends.” He glanced at the monitor again. “By now the program’s subroutines have copied over to his brain and should be running all on their own there.”

Thom nodded and asked the next logical question. “So. How do we get him unstuck?”

There was no response from Bud. Thom looked at him and saw that his face had paled and his eyes were wide with shock. Thom felt his gut clench in a combination of panic and fear as he looked at the monitor again. The horrible truth of what they had done came to him suddenly.

There was no way to end the program because the program had no ‘kill’ command – let alone a way to execute it – and no way to ‘reboot’ the subject. Neither of them had thought of that when they started alpha testing their project.

Thom said the only thing that he could.

“Oh.”

Originally posted at 365 Tomorrows.

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