Perkins sighed as his head made an audible "thunk" upon his wooden desk.
"What a fucking bitch, man."
Stacy. Stacy 'fucking' Paller. For as long as he had been in this town that bitch slapped him, tripped him, and made his life hell. So what if he was a little chubby? He couldn't help but draw in on himself slightly as the thought crossed his mind.
"I can't believe you just let those cunts say that shit to you. If I were you--"
Perkins Lanley began filtering out his friend. Brian Warner's spiel seemed to always be the same when he was comforting Perkins.
"I'd fucking rape her to make up for it, ya know." Brian gave him a twisted grin. Perkins rolled his eyes. Brian was a wanna-be serial rapist according to his ever-so-constant violent wishes. In all honestly, Perkins hated him almost as much as he hated Stacy. But he was the only one who'd even talk to him since Stacy had made everyone stay away from him. Brian was just as isolated after returning from a month in an asylum for 'anger management' for, you guessed it, threatening something violent. Perkins had a feeling he'd never actually do anything.
"Dude, wanna smoke somethin' with me to get her off your mind?" Brian looked at Perkins with a smile and began rummaging in his pockets. Perkins finally spoke,
"If that comes into my range of sight, it'll be thrown out of my house," He began is a strict voice, "Along with you." He spoke in a stern and frustrated voice, as if he dealt with this daily.
Brian shook his head in an exasperated manner. "Man, I keep telling you, you'd be so relieved if you just smoked some bud." He also seemed to deal with Perkins' response daily as he did not push the subject and merely dropped his weight unceremoniously into the couch in the middle of Perkins' bedroom. Putting on the TV he glanced at Perkins who was pulling books out of his bag.
"That shit ain't due for a week. Why you doin' it?" Brian shook his head.
"So when you come crying to me for help I'll have it done," Perkins explained in an emotionless drawl before firing up his computer. In the next thirty minutes he effortlessly pounded out a report on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar while Brian pointed and laughed at Jackass. With nothing else to do, Perkins sat back and sighed again as his chair creaked.
His mind drifted back to Stacy. Today she had cornered him in the hallway on his way out of school. He was leaving early since he was a senior and only took three classes in the morning and then left. Brian was in all of his classes, as he had been for the last 3 years since meeting Perkins. Perkins was nearly certain Brian hadn't exerted any mental strength in all his life.
Perkins had been leaving even earlier this week since everyone else had midterms. He hadn't seen one trace of Stacy until Friday, this morning. This seemed to enraged her, her anger and hatred boiling and overflowing as time went on.
She cornered him and as everyone began leaving classrooms and into the halls she called everyone over. People jeered and cheered as her clique surrounded her. Stacy was the most beautiful girl Perkins had ever seen, online or otherwise. It was clear she wasn't as beautiful on the inside as she gave him a bitter look and smirk before she punched him squarely in the jaw, the ground rushing up to his face, and then felt the stabs of heels into his head and back.
When Stacy finally left with her cronies, everyone dispersed as she walked through as the bells rang for them to go to midterms. Finally Perkins stood up sputtering as Brian walked out of the Math classroom. They walked home all the while Brian going on and on while Perkins tried his best to see through his cracked glasses and wipe up the blood on his face.
Perkins hated Stacy more than anything. More than even himself, he thought insecurely. And he hated mostly how beautiful she was. He recalled the look as she cornered him. Her curly block hair splayed onto her shoulders, her green eyes staring in pure malice as her lips curled into a gut wrenching smirk.
Perkins went rummaging into his bag and pulled out a flash memory drive he had brought to school so he could get the pdf from his English teacher for his extra credit assignment. As he popped it into the USB port, the explorer opened a new window automatically. Perkins dragged a file of the pdf onto the SCHOOL folder on his desktop and the noticed something odd.
There was a new file on the USB stick. It was a RAR file with no name that had an executable inside. He investigated it but it was named in a language he didn't understand.
He clicked on it curiously and a screen popped up and he realized through his broken glasses it wasn't a different language at all- it seemed to be corrupted. It was named "()!n.exe". He wondered if perhaps the program needed to be uncompressed to function and dragged it onto the desktop, figuring it was something to go with the textbook, like the study guide program that had come with his Chemistry II book.
When he dragged onto the desktop an icon and it's name appeared. "Jessica.exe." Perkins stared in curiosity. The icon was a simple eye, made with two lines and a circle all in black. He clicked on it against his better judgment perhaps but not suspecting his teacher to give him a piece of malware.
A window popped open. It looked like command prompt, the line flashing on the bottom of the black screen. His curiosity rose when the program displayed in the typical white text,
Near the bottom of the screen read, "Type and hit ENTER to speak with JESSICA."
Just what was this? Perhaps his teacher had accidentally placed it on his USB when he was putting the PDF of "The House of Leaves" on it? Perkins shrugged internally before typing in a quick response.
The screen did nothing for a moment.
"Hello, USER. I am JESSICA. I am a virtual girlfriend. Please talk to me daily so that I can learn more and more. I have been given a dynamic AI and I learn from further exposure. What's your NAME?"
Perkins couldn't help but snicker. A virtual girlfriend bot? Was his teacher really that lonely? He knew the guy was recently divorced so perhaps he shouldn't have laughed but...
"My name is Perkins." He typed out in a pleasant mood, wondering just how humanoid this program was.
"It's nice to meet you, PERKINS :-)!"
He shook his head. Just how old was this program? Though he was impressed she hadn't called him 'My name is Perkins'. He adjusted his glasses slightly then as she continued.
"Let's be best friends, okay?"
Perkins smiled at that. It was cute and seemed to be programmed quite well.
"Okay." Perkins replied with the pleasant clacking of his keyboard.
"OH SHIT!" Brian jumped up. "My fucking curfew- FUCK!" He ran out the door. Perkins stared and then glanced at the window as he saw Brian running outside and then down the sidewalk. Curfew? He was arrested again, he reckoned. What a surprise. The TV continued blaring some sort of nonsense and he stood up to turn it off.
A woman stood in his doorway. "What was wrong with Brian, Perk?" She was a short, rotund woman with a sweet, maternal face. She looked genuinely concerned as she frowned slightly while looking down the hallway.
"Guessin' he's on parole again," Perkins answered with a sigh. He had to admit, while he disliked Brian, he was the closest thing to what he could call a friend. He was just as worried. He tilted his head downwards and light glared off of his glasses.
Perkins' mother sighed, as if expecting that. "His mother must be rolling in her grave." Perkins shook his head. Perkins had never told her that his mother had died from a heroin overdose, just that she had passed on when Brian was little. She'd only coddle Brian more, which Brian adored if only for the free food, if Perkins had told her.
"Don't stay up too late Perky." His mother smiled and closed his door before her footsteps resonated down the hall. Perkins looked back up at his monitor then.
"How old are you?
What's wrong? You're quiet." said Jessica.
Perkins laughed slightly.
"Sorry, I was talking to my mom. I'm 17."
"Oh, really? Me too!"
Perkins blinked and asked, "How can a program be 17?"
"I was born 17 years ago. On April 16th 1995."
"I suppose you mean you were coded then?"
"No, it's when I was made. I'm human too, you know."
Perkins smiled a bit. This really was quite cute. It denied being a robot, as if it were a real person.
"My birthday is tomorrow."
Perkins blinked and replied, "Oh, yeah, it is the 16th tomorrow."
The screen was blank for a moment longer than normal.
"Will you talk to me tomorrow? That can be my present."
Perkins thought about this. He didn't see why not, he certainly had nothing better to do. His computer had recently decided it no longer wished to play any game beyond DOS. Besides, he wanted to see how smart this bot could become. It was brilliant.
"PERKINS?" Jessica asked, as if nervous.
"Sorry, I was just thinking about how cute you are, Jessica. Of course." He was now purposely trying to trick the program.
"*blush!* PERKINS... I'm so grateful! I'll have a present for you then!"
"You should go to bed now." said Jessica.
Perkins lost his smile for a look of minor confusion.
"Why is that?" He asked her.
"It's late. Though, if you want to stay up, please talk to me."
Perkins looked at his computer clock in the corner. Was it really eleven already? He had gotten home late thanks to a hospital trip from his mother. He had lost track of time.
"Thanks, Jess." He replied.
"I'll go to bed now." He added before she replied.
"Goodnight!" She said before adding below that message, "I love you!"
Perkins smiled and blushed a bit. This was stupid. This was so stupid.
"Love you too." He typed.
"I'm going to bed now too. Good night!"
The program closed itself. Perkins blinked in surprise. This really was very sophisticated. He wondered if his teacher had made this? He made sure to ask his teacher come Monday before actually going to sleep.
The next morning seemed to arrive too soon. Perkins had a restless sleep and he couldn't remember his dreams once he awoke. Feeling like death he arose. Something felt off. Something was wrong with his room. Had his mother come in and moved something. He glanced at the clock. 5 AM. Even she didn't get up until 8.
He stretched and stumbled to his computer chair lazily. He turned it on and went to click on the chrome icon when a window popped up.
"Good morning sleepy head!" it said. It was JESSICA.EXE.
Perkins wasn't entirely pleased with the fact it started on startup. He sighed and clicked around through his Windows and tried to remove it from the "start on start-up" list. Each time he tried however it'd reappear. Being seriously concerned and wondering if this was a virus, he closed the control panel and went to his desktop to open Sophos. When he did he noticed Jessica had said something to him.
"Silly boy, I'm not a virus. Just persistent!"
Perkins was becoming deeply concerned. Something wasn't right. Something was horribly wrong. He clicked on Sophos, it refused to open. He clicked on his internet and was greeted with no connection.
"Stop trying already, you'll just make yourself go insane that way. Trust me."
Perkins stared at the program with rage. He was getting a new computer soon anyway due to this machine become outdated, but this was infuriating. What bastard made this and why?
Supposing he had nothing else to do he said, "Good morning. Happy birthday."
"You remembered!" She replied instantly as if excited.
"Oh I'm so happy! I have a gift for you for talking to me!" She added just as quickly.
Perkins' anger didn't lower when an Internet Explorer page, of all things, opened. He went to close it when he noticed it was a news page-- and the headline.
"Teen found dead in Rockville Virginia". That was his town. Someone had died in this tiny town. He read down. His jaw gaped. No...
"Brian Warner, 19 was found laying in the streets at 4 AM last night by Ms. Shutter who immediately called the police. The young man was a student of George Harlton Highschool and was a senior with all A's. He was found dead at the scene, his left arm completely cut off.
"It was terrifying," reports Ms. Lesley Shutter, "I heard a commotion outside and when I turned the light on, there was blood in my driveway."
Captain Luis Glenn reports that, "This is the most brutal case I've seen. The fact that this happened in my town makes me want to stop them all the more."
Police suspect it was homicide due to deep cuts in the cadaver’s torso. More shall be updated shortly."
Brian... Brian. What? This couldn't... This... Jessica closed the browser window.
He was here just last night… This... This had to be a dream... This...
"You look so happy right now." She said to him.
Perkins burst into tears. This couldn't have happened-- how could this have happened? No... no... What was this? Was this some sort of sick prank? how the hell did this thing know? Dear god.. what was he dealing with?
"Perky it's okay, don't cry. Now there's only me." said Jessica.
"Now we can be the bestest of best friends! Don't you think it's nice of me to give YOU a gift on MY birthday?"
Perkins was ignoring her. He was wracking with dry sobs and he couldn't stop. The shock was incredible; he couldn't deal with this emotion. No. No. He lifted his body up suddenly and grabbed his monitor before tossing it onto the ground in pure distress. He gasped in and out. What the hell had just happened? What the hell? He cried deeply and he sunk onto the floor, his mother running in.
"I just got the phone cal-- Perkins!" She ran to his side and held him closely as he sobbed. She kept saying "It's okay, it's okay. I'm so sorry this happened." But he couldn't stop.
Hours later he finally stopped crying. His mother had held him the entire time. He shook his head and apologized and she merely smiled lightly. She kissed his forehead.
"The moment they said it was on the news I heard a smash and I knew you had seen it. Motherly instinct, I know dear." Her eyes were filled with such deep kindness and sympathy. The eyes only a mother could possess.
The funeral was Monday afternoon. Later that evening Perkins had convinced himself that it was just some sick prank, probably could read his IP address or something. He didn't know or care. He just wanted it gone. He cleaned up the shards of the cathode ray tubes and monitor and dumped the tower and monitor into the fire pit in the backyard and lit it. The smell of burning plastic seemed to be scarred into his mind for the next day. He couldn't sleep.
Sunday was hell. He couldn't do anything. He tried to read but he couldn't. Jessica. Jessica. How did it know? Did... No. That's impossible. He pushed the thoughts from his mind.
On Monday he went to school like normal. He had completely forgotten about JESSICA.exe and Stacy. He was a zombie during classes. No teacher's asked-- everyone knew. He was met with pitiful gazes wherever he went. None of the usual bullies even bothered him. That's why he didn’t expect it when he was suddenly tugged into an alley way as he was walking home. He screamed before a hand was clasped over his mouth.
"Shh, Perky! It's me!" It was a girl's voice, probably someone around his age. He was held in place by firm arms, his back could feel her chest breathing excitedly.
"Who the hell--" He began in pure panic. He managed to get himself turned around when he felt a pinch in his forearm. He gasped and looked down and a burning went though his veins. An empty syringe was in his arm.
"Don't worry, it won't hurt you," said the girl. He was really panicking know be backed away as he tore the syringe out.
"It's me, Jessica." The girl said. His heart skipped a beat. He looked up. There stood Stacy looking kindly at him. Her eyes filled with pure love. "All these years I just... I've always loved you, Perky. That's why I isolated you. That's why I hurt you. Because I'm all you need."
His back was at a cold brick wall he felt like screaming but merely stared.
"Now I can finally have you." Her eyes were alight with pure joy as her gorgeous face looked at him with notthing but love. He gasped as he began to fall, darkness, tearing at the edges. No. he had to to get away. This girl-- She had--
He clawed at the pavement and tried to crawl away. She crouched into his line of view and she smiled at Perkins.
"Good night." She said, he tried to back away, his breath heavy in his ears as everything shook and blackened entirely,
"I love you."