The gratuitous sound effect saved Microsoft from another user's curse as Tim recognised that this was no ordinary crash. The screen, which had locked up in mid browse, now lauched itself into an altogether novel sequence of changes. Virus? No; this intervention was complex and varied. It was a hack. But why would they target Tim? He was neither rich nor powerful... just an ordinary bloke who nobody had heard of. And what were they trying to do? The hackers didn’t seem to be accessing his data or probing his software ... they seemed to be playing games with his screen output. It was flashing, fading, wiping, blipping unintelligible messages and displaying psychedelic images. Tim had never seen a game like this and it wasn’t funny. The random patterns and symbols somehow registered as a language in his mind. His mind... He was losing control of it. The patterns held more than his conscious attention. His brain seemed to be tied to the end of a long leash and the other end was held by whoever, or whatever, was controlling his PC. Some distant intelligence. It was certainly intelligent but there was no telling how far away it was, or they were. In later years, Tim would describe this experience as an alien abduction. But this was now, and there was no light in the sky; no hovering space-vehicle; no lost period of time. Tim’s body remained firmly in the chair - it was his brain that was being abducted through the vehicle of his own PC. This was cyber abduction.
Memories tumbled through his mind frame by frame in the manner of an old fashioned TV with a faulty Vertical Hold. And those same memory images were flashing on his PC screen. A lifetime of experience and knowledge was being sucked into the computer, through the modem and down the line to...? Tim was being stripped bare from the inside as a wordless command from the distant alien compelled him to place both thumbs on the monitor. More and more of Tim's mind- essence was being wrenched out of him until he gasped with exhaustion.
The gasp burst on Tim’s olfactory nerve with the flavour of monosodium glutamate permeated with pork and chicken. Tim sniffed twice more, then drew a deep breath, loosened his shoulders and turned towards the window. His hands fell from the screen as his own personality reassumed control of his trembling body. Abandoning every protocol for closing Windows, he lunged forward and jerked the plug out of the wall, plunging the screen into unthreatening darkness. A murmur of voices in the street below confirmed the arrival of the Mobile Chinese Take-away; Tim strode to the window to check, then dashed downstairs to place a frantic order.
Tucking into his chow mein ten minutes later Tim reflected on the significance of the meal’s interruption. Some alien intelligence had come close to capturing him absolutely by grabbing his mind. But Earth's intelligence is held inside animal bodies - bodies that have baser instincts, which conflict with intelligence by distracting it. Distraction had saved him. It is good to be merely human.