Trash.exe Rules the World
© By Gary
Morton , 7,000 words
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looked up and found the gentle earth tones of his study room faded
to shades of dungeon gray. After hours of tapping away, he had no
answer. He'd been on-line so long his eyes felt hard and glassy,
spilling occasional tears like he'd become a stiff android that
could fake emotion.
He’d learned from the
search that Trash.exe didn’t exist as a program, virus, or malware.
It didn’t exist at all. Going back to his file manager, he hit the
delete button for a file. A message popped up – ARE YOU SURE YOU
WANT TRASH.EXE TO SELF-REPLICATE AND ADAPT TO NEW ENVIRONMENTS. He
clicked okay and as before Trash.exe scanned his system in seconds,
duplicated itself and then deleted the previous file it had
Thinking it over, he
decided he was going about it the wrong way. Switching back to his
browser he typed self-replicating into the advanced search and chose
the most comprehensive document, which turned out to be a file
posted by an artificial intelligence research lab in Toronto. A
science teacher, Professor James Morton intended to create new
artificial intelligence by releasing self-replicating programs on
the internet. His very optimistic expectations were that they would
eventually evolve to new life forms.
Clicking on Trash.exe,
Thomas studied the effect. It came up like a screen saver -- a pond
of soft light flowed with gentle patterns of flickering colors. It
certainly was odd, a display that put the idea of the primordial
soup into mind. The flickering played on his eyes and mood, soothing
him, giving rise to dreamy thoughts. He leaned back, letting his
heavy eyes slowly close -- just a blur of lights, and then he caught
something in peripheral vision. Shadows were creeping on the walls.
He shot up straight, his vision drawn to the wastebasket. The
garbage swirled inside; he was sure he saw a banana peel crawl
halfway over the edge before falling back.
seized the desk and pushed, rolling his chair back from the
computer. Was it madness or was Trash.exe invading his mind and
environment? Thoughts of the flickering pained him - if it really
was a program designed to evolve on its own, maybe it was taking the
next step - keying its info into the human brain, using light
signals as the input. What had this nutty Morton guy done? Didn't he
know enough to avoid playing with fire? An evolving computer program
would be inimical -- a virus that evolved like sharks evolved, by
devouring other things.
Thomas thought about
phoning the university, and then ruled it out. They'd check his
background and it would be game over. He might even be arrested
again. His personal history always did him in when it came to
dealing with educated people. He'd started his career on the net as
a Christian extremist, managing to harass thousands of people at
universities and other establishments before his faith faded,
leaving him stuck wondering why he’d done it all. Now he was known
as a former Christian lunatic and a mad hypochondriac -- a label he
found unfair. It certainly wasn't his fault that he was genetically
weak and prone to every sort of disease. Sure, he'd been wrong a few
times -- like last week when he'd e-mailed the university health
centre then jogged down to the lab claiming runaway microorganisms
were eating his feet. It turned out to be athlete's foot and not
deadly organisms and like always he got a lecture and the blame.
This time he was on
to something deadly, there was no doubt about it. Perhaps it had
already replicated other similar organisms. Thomas rolled the chair
back and typed Trash.com in the search engine, and to his amazement,
a page began to open. It was titled Trash.exe's Trash Compactor
Page, home of environmentally friendly computer organisms. His
breathing got heavy as a graphic of a trashcan appeared. He clicked
on it and a mail program popped up. Canceling it, he looked at the
list below, which named a number of mirror sites where Trash.exe was
available for download. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. He
feared the consequences of clicking anything on this page. He hit
the view source button and saw that the author of the page code
really was Trash.exe itself. “My God,” he said, “it's been done.
This lunatic, Professor James Morton, has created runaway computer
intelligence. Trash.exe has proven its intelligence by creating its
own web and download page.” Going back, he scrolled the page. The
design wasn't all that hot, and the graphics Trash.exe used were all
stolen from other pages. But it was still a pretty fancy web page,
and Thomas knew the purpose of the page -- it was a headquarters, a
site hosting a new Frankenstein monster computer intelligence that
intended to evolve by spreading trashy replications of itself across
He decided to power
down. His system was infected, which meant he'd likely have to
destroy it. He rolled his chair back as the hum dropped to silence,
then stared in amazement at the pattern still flickering on the
monitor. His eyes were so heavy from the long hours he thought that
maybe he was seeing patterns where there were none. He tried to
clear his thoughts, but found them getting odd -- a moment later
muddled pre-dream logic took over and he fell asleep in the chair.
. . . in dreams,
Thomas felt dizziness rush in and the feeling shook him with
confusion. It was like being a picture fading in and out of lines
and distortion. He couldn't quite get a handle on the trembling. In
everyday life, Thomas prided himself in being sharp, neat and clean
-- a crisp suit, skin always scrubbed pink, a self-image cut to
perfect glass. But now his vision was clearing, showing the frayed
cuffs of a blackened white shirt.
This dream hit with
power and he forgot himself, like an actor that gets involved and
thinks the play to be all that exists. It was shocking to find
himself ugly, and he knew it would happen again. He turned to the
mirror, feeling terror rise in his blood. A tramp Mr. Hyde showed in
the glass . . . hair wild, frayed, yellow-gray and unkempt. He had
blood-webbed eyes sunk in the ashen craters of a face gone leathery,
creased, and tar-stained. He wore a wrinkled white shirt with worn
dress trousers that looked all the sillier being held up by shabby
Nails in the
floorboards penetrated his paper-thin soles as he slowly turned to
the window. Horrible odors rose from rotting food in the corners of
the room. The sun was a silvery smear behind a shifting wall of gray
clouds, but the street looked to be clean. Hobbling over he slid the
glass up and took a breath of fresh air. The streets had been
scrubbed clean by spring rain -- walls steaming fresh, spotless
asphalt and brickwork leading off to a misted rainbow at the centre
of town. It was an irresistible sight that sent him out the door,
hobbling hurriedly down the rickety stairs, wiping his foul nose in
He heard nothing but
ghostly echoes of the wind and his footsteps on the way down, and he
was thankful for it. Bursting out the door, he took a deep breath,
then fell to his knees, choking. He’d swallowed something so bad he
felt a squirming fish in his lungs and withering poisons shooting
into his blood. It’d been a trick, a ghastly trick -- he looked
around, seeing trash spilled everywhere on the cobblestones, and not
a soul, unless some of the heaps of old clothing were people.
Thomas stood up, his
usually straight back irritatingly stooped. Covering his nose with
his ragged sleeve, he began to walk. Rounding the corner, he came to
some rusty autos and a view of the avenue. There was no end to the
garbage, and he saw rats scurrying on the rubbish heaps. Just the
thought of all the germs nearly knocked him down, and in that
unsteady moment he became aware of something malevolent watching
him. It existed in the garbage, a being or evil force. The thing
that had caused this mess. He knew it was ancient; it had always
been around - an evil force of filth . . . the unclean thing that
nature and God had fought for eternity.
Now it wanted his
body and soul. Panic-stricken he began to run. His gait crooked, the
mounds of garbage passing above like slow clouds, the cans and
swirling paper tripping him up below. Rats squealed, he saw vultures
circling and dogs began to howl. Ahead a mound of tar came to life,
twisting itself into a giant human form. Like an evil spirit made of
rubbish it spread its arms wide and was about to seize him, then he
The computer screen
was blank. He began to rise, but his legs were asleep and he fell
forward to the floor. The tingling subsided only to be replaced by a
terrible body itch. Thomas got up, scratching his balls like a
gorilla. Somehow, the trash in the dream had irritated his skin. His
clothes felt suddenly filthy so he took them off and headed for the
shower. Grime stained the walls; he'd been too busy to notice how
filthy the place was getting. Entertaining thoughts of bringing in a
fumigation and cleaning crew, he stepped into the shower.
Showering was a bit
of a ritual. Thomas cleaned the stall with hospital disinfectant
each morning, and would never step in unless it was spotless. The
taps needed a touch of chrome polish, but considering the state of
the house, he decided to let it go. A smooth rush of steaming water
emerged from the tap, and he waited until it was nearly scalding hot
before popping on the showerhead. It was a special massage head that
cleaned with power, and he immediately aimed it at his genitals -
the area of his body that was usually the most unclean. As the head
pounded scalding water on his testicles, he fancied that he was
washing old Mr. Hyde down the drain. But not quite, that would
really take a brush. Taking down a stiff scrub brush, he went to
work. When his genitals had been scrubbed pink, he went to work on
the rest of his body. Breaking into song was his method of killing
the scrub-brush pain. It had been hymns a while ago. Now he sang old
Frank Sinatra tunes. “The summer wind!” he sang as he ripped the
brush across his ass.
The garbage strike
was endless and Thomas wiped his brow as bright sunlight sent black
ghosts skittering across his mind. Old as brass and as hot as a
magnifying glass, the sun melted the shadows and revealed the
twisted scrunge existing in every corner. He walked down Harbord
Street shaking his head. A good shower, a crisp suit, but just step
outside and you're ambushed by the filth. The rain and wind …
nothing is renewed any more. They only carry the filth, water it
down and stain the world with it. Halting, he picked up a Mars Bar
wrapper with his cane and flicked it away. As a boy, he'd stepped
over every crack. Now he was sure he'd survived because of it.
Somewhat satisfied, he watched the wrapper flutter into the gutter,
and land right in front of a rat - a stinking fat rat. Furious,
Thomas charged, breaking open a fallen garbage bag as a whip of his
cane missed the fleeing rodent.
Cheeks reddened, he
continued down the street, happy he'd missed and not fouled his cane
with rat crap. A mountain of trash was heaped against Angela's board
fence, and he saw it like a conspiracy. They knew he was coming and
put the trash wherever it would block him. Damn government had
promised an end to garbage strikes when they sold the services to
the private sector. Now the private companies were union and on
Odors of sweet rot
mingled with the fragrance from Angela's lilac hedge. The air was so
thick he could've spread garbage honey from it. Homeless tramps were
loafing out front of the drugstore, picking about in the trash
beneath a giant tampon marquee. A sight so sickening he had to grind
his teeth to keep from throwing up. Thomas had once thought cutting
people off welfare was a great idea, but now that the streets were
filled with the unwashed, he hated the government for doing it.
Jumping the fence at
a low spot, he got into Angela's back yard, and found himself
looking about a little slice of heaven - a blossoming cherry tree,
an apple tree, corner rock garden, lush grass and the lilacs. It all
ended at the fence where he could see a curtain of stink heat rising
above the boards.
Her house was cottage
style, and it looked homey and not out of place among the larger
structures. Thomas had lived here once and moving back would be nice
if Angela didn't come with the house. He knocked on the door,
pondering the situation, remembering that she was still angry about
the trouble he'd caused during his days of salvation.
She answered, fresh
out of the shower, her honey blond hair blow-dried and her robe
clean. It brought a smile to his face and he felt an erection rising
as he stepped inside.
“Thomas, I was about
to phone. I didn't think you’d go out in this.”
“I've not much
choice, do I,” he said as he took out his pocket book. He produced a
check. “The alimony,” he said. “Three months, so I'm up to date now.
But, er uh,” he cleared his throat.
She snatched the
check. “But what . . . but more excuses for next month. Is that it?”
She bit her lip, her large eyes and tiny nose giving her the look of
an angry doll.
“Well, sort of . . .
a terrible thing has happened. I might need money to hire a private
eye. There's this university professor, James Morton. He's released
deadly trash organisms onto the internet and …”
“The answer is no. No
money for more of your crazy conspiracy theories. I don't care if
the professor’s little bugs are straight from Hades.”
“They're using screen
savers to invade our minds. I'm sure they caused this garbage
strike. They sent me dreams of being Mr. Hyde.”
“You're nuts, Thomas.
And as far as I'm concerned, Mr. Hyde is what I need. Mr. Hyde would
at least know that his wife wants to get screwed once in while.”
“Please, Angela, you
make me feel so terrible when you use that word. And the way you
want to do it. It's unclean.”
“No money, Thomas. If
you want to know about this Morton guy go there and talk to him. And
be smart enough to avoid being put away.”
Smoke drifted on the
street, fingers of a giant hand formed and it was like a monstrous
hand of filth that would molest him when he passed the fence. The
bums were drifting south, and a few guys in university computer
science jackets were out front of the drugstore. Two of them went
inside and the rest walked away. Perhaps they’d know where to find
Professor Morton. Thinking it as good a place as any to begin his
investigation, he crossed and went inside.
An attempt to be
decorative had failed, making the place cheesy. A tiny restaurant
area was at the back and the university guys were there ordering.
Thomas slid into a booth beside them and picked up a menu. Peeking
over it, he studied their behavior, finding them to be classic nerds
… pimpled litterbugs, already making a mess with pop and napkins.
These were the dipstick propeller heads of yesterday, suddenly made
cool by the popularity of sexy pseudo science and the internet. They
were naturals for the new Trash.exe army; members of a fraternity
that stank with college-boy sweat gathered in close rooms and
apartments that were dumps full of candy wrappers, pizza boxes and
The waitress was
young and a pleasant-faced blond, busty and attractive and no doubt
these fat brained nerds came here to ogle her. Thomas tipped her as
she put down his milk. He took a sip, thinking how much he'd hate it
if he saw her on a date with one of the slimy nerd balls. Giving
them another glance, he saw one of them spill ketchup on a dirty
part of the table, nonchalantly wipe it up with a fry and swallow
Thomas grunted then
grimaced in disgust. “Looking at something, pal,” the guy said,
ketchup foaming at his lips.
“Don't be offended,”
Thomas said. “I admire you university boys. I couldn't help but
notice your computer science jackets.”
“A loser,” ketchup
lips said to his friend, who was likely nicknamed stretch dick or
“You got work for
us?” Stretch said.
“Ah, no. As it
happens, I’ve been reading about the university and Professor
Morton’s new life forms. What do you know about this exciting new
said as he took a bite of his hotdog. Then he swallowed and burped
loudly. “He's one of my teachers. I can't tell you anything about
him. His project is top secret.”
said. “Well, what would you say if I told you his experiment has
gone awry? And that I happen to know that those intelligent bugs of
his have built their own web site?”
“I would say that you
look like the type of guy who thinks bugs are building their own
“Wait a second,”
ketchup face said. “If this is true, genuine computer intelligence
has been created.”
“Not really,” Stretch
said. “One of Morton's bugs could've attached itself to a web design
program and built a page without being intelligent.”
skeptical,” Thomas said. “Aren't you afraid of what might happen?”
Professor Morton’s idea can't work. He's released his artificial
intelligence into a pond that's too big and has no control handles.
The internet won't aid it in forming a new kind of intelligence.
It's like releasing bacteria in a pond and getting a formation of
green scum. There has to be a centre for intelligence, an
intelligent life form needs a brain. His critters can't evolve, they
can only do freak things. Like create a web page, or screw up some
“I'd like to talk to
Professor Morton about it,” Thomas said. “Know where I can find
“For some cash I do.
But don't tell him I sent you. I want to get more than an F this
Stretch played a
couple raunchy tunes on his laptop then the boys got up and left.
Thomas pondered Morton and pond scum. He studied the mess the
college boys had made -- ketchup, mustard, crumbs, pop, and
wrappers. They'd even got coffee stains on his table. Kids today
were definitely dirtier. Some kind of bug had already infected them.
They were a ready host for new trash intelligence. Once it found a
way, it would spread out of control and the whole world would be
garbage-strike pond scum.
He watched the
waitress bend over to clean the table, her rising dress revealing
clean pink skin that soothed his mind. It occurred to him that if
Stretch knew the pond scum theory, Morton had to know it too. A
fanatic like Professor Morton wouldn't let his plans be blocked by
that so what would he do? “Hum,” Thomas thought. “What he'd do is
have a human host prepared for the new intelligence.” No one would
volunteer for it so that meant he’d probably use himself. That was
it - of course . . . Professor Morton intended to open his own brain
to them. That was why Trash.exe had been set to use screen saver
flashes to code into the human brain. It was possible that Professor
Morton was already infected and breeding a new Trash.exe super
organism of disease. Thomas' eyes opened wide at the realization,
and as they did, the waitress looked back and caught him staring
open mouthed at her ass. “Creep,” she said as she carried the tray
Red-faced, Thomas put
a generous tip down and left, nearly running to the door. He stepped
out into blinding sunshine and found himself surrounded by
panhandlers. Their appeals for cash might as well have been blows.
He ducked back in the entrance, not wanting to be touched by them.
He could phone a cab, but that wouldn't get him past the scum.
Getting an idea, he hurried to the washroom. He looked approvingly
at the clean tile floor then crossed to the window. It opened on a
broad alley. He could see dented dumpsters, auto wrecks, trashcans,
rotted clothing and the usual muddy carpeting of flattened litter.
There were no bums or rats. It appeared to be a clear avenue of
escape. Jumping to the sill, he climbed out and dropped, landing in
something squishy. Looking down he saw that he was standing in a
huge pile of dog crap. As he grimaced, he saw a tramp moving at the
far end. Jolted, he took a step, slipped, and banged his head on the
side of a dumpster. Then the scene exploded like a rotten melon as
he blacked out.
His tongue was thick
and sour, feeling foreign like moldy beef instead of flesh. Gloom
whirled in his head, and then a lead sky faded in. The air hung
heavy, thick with a reek that sealed his lungs . . . atmosphere so
oppressive it was like being squeezed in a trash compactor. The tiny
bit of light stabbed at his eyes with the power of something unholy.
Blood pounded in his
heart, some type of adrenaline rush buzzed through him. Arteries
pulsed explosively. The reek of urine and feces aroused him like
ether, and then he felt something crawling on his leg.
It moved to his
genitals. Releasing a hoarse breath, Thomas tilted his head and
watched a dim form shift into focus - a shabby tramp, picking his
pocket with one hand and molesting him with the other.
Thomas pushed up and
punched him in the face. He groaned and staggered back as Thomas got
to his feet. Without hesitation, Thomas charged, seized the man, and
threw him into some garbage cans.
Tin clattered, rotten
meat and peelings were spilled, the bum rolled, arms flailing.
Thomas howled and held his hands up in strangler's pose. Unearthly
rage burned in his throat. He saw that his hands were crooked,
strong, and grotesque. Muscles and hair bulged from his torn sleeves
- he'd become Mr. Hyde again.
Yellow miasma rose
from a sewer grate, he saw crumbling bricks and decay, felt rancid
water flowing over his toes - the reek of refuse and his hatred of
the human refuse, it all added up to strange fury.
He stepped toward the
tramp, finding his right leg to be as stiff as wood. It made him
growl, irritated that even as Mr. Hyde he was handicapped. Grabbing
a heavy bin of trash, he hoisted it and tossed it fifteen feet down
the alley. A rat squealed as it crashed, moldy bread hit the wall
and stuck. He turned back to the tramp, bloodlust fueling him now.
The man was on hands and knees, so he stepped over, picked him up,
and bounced him off the brick wall with such force he heard his
bones break. Then he watched, huffing quietly as the body tumbled
across a heap of discarded tires. It split in the middle - mattress
stuffing, straw and marbles popped out, then it turned to red
sawdust and collapsed in a heap.
Thomas grunted with
satisfaction. Hunger ached in his belly. Smelling pizza he went to a
trashcan, lifted the lid and was suddenly blinded by sunbeams.
He awoke in the
alley, his head aching, the smell of dog crap and garbage turning
his stomach. Brushing himself fiercely, he rose. He had to get the
shit off his shoes so he stepped over to an oily puddle. His
reflection showed in the water, a purple goose egg by his eye. He
grimaced, bothered more by the Hyde dream than anything else. It
should’ve been a nightmare, but in it he’d been about to eat garbage
and enjoy the act. It was proof that his brain had been infected and
it meant that he was deteriorating mentally and would soon be trash
or Mr. Hyde. The trash man was a better description. He was becoming
a trash man, and Professor Morton's evolving internet bugs were the
root cause of it. Somehow, they'd got their pattern of decay into
Fumbling in his
pocket, he found the note with Professor Morton's university address
- 548 Madison Way. It was within walking distance so he strolled out
of the alley and headed down Sheridan Boulevard in the direction of
the campus. The unhealthy environment had worked like disease,
wearing him down, his usual snappy walk and erect posture now the
shambling gait of a defeated loser. He grimaced as a damp wind rose,
the gusts kicking up the lighter debris. Foil, cellophane, yellowed
flyers and newsprint slid and flew like colored rain, taking his
thoughts back to Trash.exe and his fear of it. As a self-replicating
internet entity, Trash.exe couldn't survive as anything meaningful.
It definitely wanted to evolve to more than on-line pond scum, so it
had to pattern its code into the human brain, using light flashes
from screen saver programs. No doubt Morton had arranged it so the
most evolved replication of Trash.exe would return to his brain and
enter to retrieve implanted instructions. Once in the brain,
Trash.exe would be in a hostile environment, always fending off
disobedient brain systems that would want to clean it up. Eventually
it would have to take a new form and escape.
Chunks of wet
cardboard whirled into his eyes; a potato chip bag hit his face and
stuck. As he brushed it away, it occurred to him that in the outside
world the safest and simplest form for Trash.exe to take was that of
real trash - gum wads, wrappers, plastic bottles, discarded personal
items . . . things people see as innocuous.
If it were true, if
it had already happened, any piece of refuse could be a copy of
Trash.exe. An old boot, a cereal box, nearly anything could be a
piece of hostile trash intelligence - part of a monster web of
neurons in a brain taking over the planet. As a conspiracy, it was
the cleverest ever devised. Self-replicating, evolving trash - he
chewed on the idea and it brought back a memory of his black sheep
brother Jacky, saying, “The world is the junk heap.” Jacky had
killed himself with junk - on the needle.
Now the world really
was the junk heap; Mr. Hyde's junk heap and trash was appearing
everywhere. Professor Morton's sloppy hopes of getting in Nature or
winning a Nobel Prize had killed the planet. It was all but over
now, and not only had the dream gone sour, it was garbage that stank
like hell. The only hope left was that he might be able to confront
Morton and reverse the process.
turned out to be an eight-story concrete structure with neat rows of
windows in embossed vertical slits. It had a few marble faces and
some decorative sculpture. Mainly it was a product of the functional
fortress style of architecture. A style that brought budget cuts to
mind. Thomas preferred memories, nostalgia - the ivied towers and
quads of yesteryear.
The building did have
grounds but would have been more attractive without them. Rather
than mowed lawns, flowerbeds and bushes, it had fields of colored
stones and sickly evergreen scrub.
Fields of stones are
at their most appealing during garbage strikes, so much so that only
a few patches of colored gravel still showed. Trash dunes covered
most of the area; the garbage rotting and releasing smelly
hydrocarbons. Waves of potent gas rose, blurring the higher ledges
like heat distortion. Gulls wheeled through the oily smoke from the
incinerator chimney, and a few hundred more were perched on the
Thomas' eyes went
from the stack down to the rows of sawhorses holding the trash back
from the walks at the front and side of the building. A few men in
drab navy uniforms and a security guard were near the entrance.
Placing his hands on his hips, he pursed his lips. His expression
soured. This place was more like the guard tower of a new city dump.
The smoke from the incinerator was probably from animal corpses
those crazy professors were burning. Visiting Morton wasn't going to
be fun or at all appetizing.
revulsion, he concluded that entering at the front wasn't a good
idea. Security would stop him and they might refuse him entry.
Following the perimeter of the dunes, he got to the side of the
building, jumped a sawhorse, pushed aside some evergreen scrub, and
walked toward the rear. The lower windows were all barred so there
was no way he could break in. Cupping his hands, he looked in at eye
level and saw lab equipment and a dead rabbit on its back on a
table. Dogs snarled, Thomas jumped back, and then realized the sound
had come from the rear.
It wasn't a good
omen. He took quiet footsteps to the back. A fence topped with
barbwire protected the back parking lot, but few cars were parked in
it. The dogs were louder now, their barking dangerously vicious. A
quick glance showed three stray dogs beneath a guard post. Two
guards were inside, under siege from the dogs.
Moving behind a mound
of stones, Thomas got a better look. Two huge mongrels and a
shepherd had the guards at bay. Red-eyed, frothing, and rabid the
beasts leapt at the Plexiglas, nearly knocking it out with the force
of their blows.
Keeping down, he
thought it over, guessing the rear to be another dead end. There was
a storage door, but it required magnetic access, and if he went for
it, he'd get his butt chewed while the guards watched from the
safety of the booth. He couldn't give up so he waited then took
another look, seeing a slot in the guards' access window open. The
snarling shepherd muzzled up to it - and exploded. Thomas saw the
head pop – like a Roman candle, leaving a torn neck stump spilling
crimson as the quivering body fell to the stones. “Hollow-point
bullet,” Thomas muttered, completely sickened as he watched the
other two mongrels howl and flee, blood dripping from their coats as
they leapt the fence to the garbage heaps.
The dogs didn't
return and the guards never left the safety of the post. “Cowards,”
Thomas thought, “can't even clean up their own mess.” Bushes rustled
to his rear. Spinning to look, he saw one of the dogs creeping up on
him. The beast stared, whined and whimpered. Snapping his fingers,
Thomas drew it to him and it rubbed his legs then sat as he
scratched its head. It didn't appear rabid now, and that meant that
animals could sniff out the infected. He'd suspected it from the
first moment; the guards and likely everyone else in the building
had been contaminated by Professor Morton and an advanced version of
“This calls for
strategy,” he thought, and a moment later, he had a plan. He picked
up a stick and threw it, sending the dog into the bushes to fetch
it, and then he ran out, waving as he headed for the guard post. A
whip thin, gray-haired guard trained a Glock on him, but he lowered
it, confused by Thomas' distressed approach.
Thomas pounded on the
safety window. “Let me in quick! The dogs are coming!”
They saw the dog
running for him and opened up immediately. A burly, fat-faced guard
pulled him in and slammed the door. “Got ID?” the guard said.
“No, I've been
robbed,” Thomas said. “Tramps got me and put the dogs on me. I'm a
friend of Professor Morton's. I have to see him. It's important
“It's okay, Joe,” the
thin guard said, “so long as he's a friend of the Professor.”
“Oh-oh, here come the
dogs,” Thomas said, wiping his brow. “Shit, there are three of them
said the thin guard. “They've gone so loco we can't kill them fast
enough. I better shoot before that big one breaks the window.”
“Watch you don't
shoot it out,” his partner said.
“I have a better
idea,” Thomas said. “I'm a crack shot. I was a sniper in the forces.
Give me the gun. I can open the door real fast and pick the devils
The guards looked at
each other and nodded. “Okay, we'll try it,” Joe said.
Thomas took the Glock
and motioned for them to keep back. He watched as they got tight to
the wall, then he flung the door open and rolled out, the dogs
tearing over and past him as he hit the dirt. As he expected, they
didn't go for him, but went straight for the guards - turning the
booth into a screamer's butcher-shop . . . the guards yowling like a
couple more crazy dogs as they went down.
Getting to his feet,
he dusted himself off. He suddenly realized he'd forgot about the
access card. He could hear the dogs ripping at the corpses and
likely chewing the card. Walking up to the service door, he fired a
shot at the lock. It winged back into the gun, the force nearly
spraining his wrist. “Bulletproof, damn,” he muttered. There was one
other option. Biting his lip, he moved a pile of the garbage bags
that'd spilled over the fence with the leaping dogs, leaving them
against the guard post. Dashing up them, he jumped, caught the
ledge, and swung up. Another hop and he was looking in a second
floor window. Darkness was all he could see so he kicked out the
glass and stepped in fanning the gun.
His eyes adjusted to
the florescent gloom. This was an empty lab - gray gunmetal cabinets
and desks, a computer with a bank of dials. A flat screen hung on
Nothing really stood
out, and then white flashed in the corner of his eye - a rabbit
running on the sill. He aimed, took a step toward it, and nearly
jumped out of his skin. A body was slumped on the desk in front of
him. Painful throbbing in his sore hand stopped him from pulling the
trigger, then the odor hit him and he choked. It was a rank corpse;
he tapped its shoulder with the gun and it moved, causing the chair
to creak. It rocked then collapsed, throwing the body backward to
The face was female,
the neck torn open and the gashed flesh swollen to a giant welt. His
eyes flashed back to the rabbit and he saw blood on its fur. Without
a doubt, it had ripped the woman's throat out. Its present timidity
meant that he wasn't in as advanced a state of infection as the
woman, or more likely, he was infected by a more benign replication
of Trash.exe that animals didn't detect.
version would be the one on the loose here, and it’d likely caught
everyone by surprise. Clearly, Morton had moved his office here for
security and maybe the chance to do some illegal experiments on
animals. But he couldn't have known that animals would turn on his
His eyes drifted back
to the corpse. If Professor Morton's superior form could get killed
off by mad animals, maybe it was possible to exterminate all
varieties of Trash.exe. This woman's corpse could be bagged and
He wondered where he
could get a bag or blanket, and then he noticed something moving in
the corpse's throat. Folds of rot parted in the welt and something
yellow appeared, moving like a slimy insect, cutting its way with a
mandible. Caked blood crumbled, he saw letters on its back. “Holy
shit, its back is a chocolate bar wrapper,” he said, then his hand
began trembling uncontrollably and he opened fire, the shots flying
wild as he emptied the entire clip.
The entire head and
upper body of the corpse splattered and the trash bug flew to the
ceiling and then dropped to the floor. He'd missed it of course and
the thing was now crawling towards his foot. Dropping the gun, he
turned and ran.
Crashing through the
stairwell doors, terror lifting his hair, he realized that it was
too late. There was no use even looking for Professor Morton. It had
really been over when the genie got out of the bottle. Insanity
swept his mind, like maybe he could survive by escaping into the
bowels of the earth. Stumbling, staggering, he ran down and burst
through a door into basement 3, the lowest level - the incinerator
The level was
enormous, like a gloomy cavern. He came to a halt, leaned against a
concrete post, and caught his breath. Faint odors of smoke and
corpses and the hissing of the furnace caught his attention. The
furnace base of the huge stack stood on the far side of the room.
Thomas passed another post, drawn by the heat. Then he saw someone
sitting in the shadows and heard paper rustling.
Slow careful steps
took him to the man and his eyes began to adjust to the bluish
florescent light. The chest rose and fell, so it wasn't a corpse.
Then the face came clear and Thomas knew it was Professor Morton.
The man's eyes were gone, pouring with blood lava. His ears also
bled and that meant that beyond a doubt Trash.exe had exited his
brain, leaving him nothing but a vegetable.
“You've really done
it now, you madman,” Thomas said. And he became as surprised as he
was angry when Professor Morton lifted his face to him, appearing to
“Ah, Thomas, you're
here,” the Professor said. “Your wife called. She told me to call
the police if you get violent. She thinks you're mad, Thomas.”
Rage boiled in
Thomas' brain. It infuriated him that even his wife had betrayed
him. The professor was giggling like a lunatic now, and it was more
than he could bear. He lifted his hands and firmed them to claws.
“You monster, I'll kill you,” he said. Then he heard his shirt rip.
He saw his chest expand to barrel size and his arms grow muscled and
hairy. Behind Morton, a chute suddenly opened and yellow wrappers
began pour down. After that, Thomas' vision went red and he saw no
Some people believe
the world will end with a bang. And the poet said not a bang but a
whimper. But there has to be order, even in decay and the end. So
the world began its ending with Thomas, or was it Mr. Hyde? Howling
like a devil, running down an alley, banging the dumpsters with his
fists, the baying pack following at his heels. Overhead, two million
gulls wheeled and began an angry swoop toward city hall. In other
alleys the trash rustled, popped bags, bins and can lids and rolled
in waves, pouring for the main streets as it itched for life and
fresh blood. At police headquarters, the chief wondered why his men
were watching strange patterns, and then he saw his computer screen
start to bleed. Professor Morton laughed his last mad laugh and fell
dead on the floor as thousands of Trash.exe chocolate bar wrappers
fluttered up the incinerator chimney and floated off on the wind.
---The End ---