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The Message


4 girls sat in the middle of the library, books of all sizes, colorings and coverings scattered all over the table. Ameera and Shah were reading a thick book of Physics each while Becka was screwing her mind out trying to memorize the names of all the chemicals in her Chemistry book. Jackie, on the other hand, was scribbling furiously on her SEMAI book.

“I hate studying! It makes me go insane!” yelled Ameera silently, despite the emptiness of the library.

“Then don’t! You’ll be even sicker,” Shah replied scornfully, unable to concentrate herself.

“Yeah. And we’ll book a ticket for you at a ‘hotel-suite’ room at Bukit Padang,” Jackie replied solemnly, not looking up from her SEMAI book. Ameera got annoyed and threw her eraser at Jackie, brushing slightly against her ear as she dodged.

The 4 became silent again, preoccupied with their own tasks. Becka was finally getting to remember all the chemicals’ names when suddenly, the lights went out. Jackie screamed at the top of her voice and zoomed underneath the table, for she was fret of the dark.

“AAGH! Help! Help! Call the fire department! Call the police! Help!!!”

“Shut up, Jackie! It’s only a blackout. It’ll come round,” Shah said, feeling her way around the darkness.

Becka, who was a librarian and used to the route of the library, went straight to the library door to let in some light for the phobic-of-the-dark Jackie to get out to the bright sunshine. But when she turned the knob, the door wouldn’t budge. No matter how much she pushed and pulled, it wouldn’t move an inch. It was locked.

“Come on, Becka! Open the door and let the light in!” Jackie yelled from underneath the table, still shivering with fright, “I’m getting a nervous breakdown here!”

“It won’t move! I think Makcik has locked us in when she left for the toilet,” Becka replied, giving up on the non-moving door. Everyone was astonished, especially Jackie, who finally came out the table and held Ameera’s arm tightly; so tight Ameera squealed, “Ouch!”

“Looks like we’ll have to wait for Makcik to come back from the loo then,” said Shah, sighing as she started packing her books, “let’s get out of here as soon as she opens the door. There’s nothing to do during a blackout, not to mention study.”

“Yes! Do let’s!” agreed Jackie at once, “I can’t stay a minute longer here! I’m sure something bad will happen. I can feel it!”

So the 4 started packing their books as soon their eyes adjusted to the darkness and sat at the table nearest to the door. While waiting, they chit-chatted about their latest gossips of who-and-who, where-and-where and when-and-when. There were so many goings-on between them when they are together. Slowly Jackie felt less afraid, but still kept a watchful eye over the surroundings.

Suddenly a familiar ‘Beep’ was heard, coming from the library computer. The 4 became silent and turned towards the direction of the computer, including the ‘terrified again’ Jackie.

“Did you hear that?” asked Jackie, panicking.

“Yeah, I think I did,” Ameera was quite nervous herself. She moved nearer to Shah.

“I think it came from the comp.,” said Becka, not taking her eyes away from the direction they were looking.

“Isn’t it supposed to be a blackout? What’s with the comp.?” Ameera asked.

“Look! There are words printed on the screen!” Shah exclaimed, pointing at it.

The 4 rushed towards the computer to see message was it. The message filled the screen in bold letters, writing only one sentence: ‘LET YOUR DOOMS BEGINS!’ Slowly the words began to separate into small specks of particles, forming a pair of sinister-looking eyes and an evil grin. The eyes glowed continuously from red to green and back again. The whole library was filled with the most bloodcurdling, eerie laughter that rang through the speakers of the computer.

The 4 were dumbfounded. None of them moved. They were too scared and shocked even to react. They just stood there like statues looking at the spooky face on the screen amidst the mocking laughter that grew louder by the minute. A few minutes later, which seemed like an hour just passed, the lights went on and everything was bright. The blackout was over. The laughter stopped and the only thing left on the screen was the sentence ‘It is now safe to turn off your computer’, blinking mockingly at them.

The door of the library office opened and the 4 screamed out loud, finding their voices again. There stood the Makcik who was taken aback by their sudden exclaims.

“Woi, are you OK? You gave me a fright!” Makcik asked, patting her chest in shock.

“Mak……Makcik? Werem’t you at the loo?” Becka started the conversation, quite astonished.

“No, I was in the office room having a nap. I didn’t realize that there was a blackout until I woke up a few minutes ago. When I came out, I just saw the lights were on and you’re all here in front of the computer,” Makcik explained detail by detail, “by the way, why are you all here? You’re not playing with the Internet, are you?”

“Didn’t you hear that laugh? That spooky, pontianak-like laugh?” exclaimed Jackie, her face gaining color.

“Laugh? The only thing I heard is you girls laughing, that’s all,” Makcik replied, looking surprised, “Are you girls leaving? ‘Coz I have to leave now.”

So saying, she went to the library door and the knob. Like magic, the door opened, as if it was never locked at all. Becka felt like a sucker b’coz she was the first to try out the door. The other 3 were equally surprised. They couldn’t find the words to explain it all. Without even a peep, they gathered their things and went out of the library as silent as never before.

It was raining cats and dogs outside and not the bright sunshine Jackie expected. Becka saw her car down the parking lot and bid goodbye to the others. They decided not to touch the library topic as they don’t want to think they are going insane. Jackie went into her class to get her bag so that she can walk with Ameera home later. She took out her umbrella from her bag and opened it to test if it’s still OK. She got the shock of her life when dozens and dozens of wriggly worms, freshly red, poured down all over her from inside the umbrella when she opened it. The worms fell ‘plop’ onto the floor nineteen to the dozen and started to multiply. Within seconds, the whole classroom was filled with squidgy worms that began to team up to devour Jackie, starting from her feet. Jackie yelled and jumped up on a table, yelling even more.

Ameera and Shah heard her and rushed to her classroom. They were also totally shocked at the number of creepy crawlies dominating the classroom and were moving towards the direction of Jackie’s table. Jackie was on it, yelling her head off, not in fear, but of disgust.

“Come on! Jump from table to table towards the door and we’ll catch you!” yelled Shah, holding out her hand and kept her feet well away from Jackie’s classroom. Jackie did as she was told. One by one, she jumped, getting nearer to the door. The worms were also following her like a fox chasing its prey. Ameera and Shah got hold of her hands and supported her down.

“Run! And don’t look back!” Ameera yelled, heading for the stairs. Shah and Jackie followed suite. They did not stop until they were outside the school gates. When they looked back, the school looked a whole lot sinister and spooky than they had ever known.

“I always knew this school is keras!” Jackie panted, gulping down her bottle of water.

“It always had been keras throughout the years,” snorted Shah, panting like a runner who just finished running a marathon.

“Let’s go home. I don’t think I want to come to school tomorrow,” Ameera lamented, cowering away from the eerie building.

So the 3 walked until they reached a junction. Shah took the right while Ameera and Jackie took the left. They waved goodbye and went on their way under the increasing rain and loud bangs of thunder and flashes of lightning. Jackie couldn’t help feeling disgusted over the recent incident. Ameera tried to calm her down.

“Cool, man! It’s not so bad. You’ve finally got out of danger, haven’t you?”

“Well, I can’t help it! How would you feel if dozens of squiggly worms showered on you so suddenly? Now I know how my friend Evita feels.”

“It’ll be fine. Let’s just go back home, take a nice hot shower and everything will be fine. It’ll turn out alright in the end, you’ll see.”

“Hope you’re right.”

When they reached the sky-bridge to cross the road, another thing happened. Nothing occurred when they went up the stairs or walked along the bridge, but when they went down the stairs at the opposite road, they found out that it dragged longer and longer. No matter how fast they went down, they were always a few meters away from solid ground.

“What’s this?” Ameera exclaimed astonishingly, “When are we going to get down? It’s not ending anywhere!”

“Here we go again!” groaned Jackie, walking even faster down the stairs but in vain. They were still nowhere nearer the ground.

“It’s scaring me, Jackie,” Ameera whined as she shook Jackie’s arm, “how are we gonna get down?”

“I think we better jump.”

“Jump?!”

“Do you want to keep walking down for the rest of your life?”

Ameera didn’t need to be asked twice. They both shut their eyes tight and jumped. It wasn’t a long drop and they were thankful after their feet finally touched the ground at the bottom of the stairs. Funny how it felt like eternity when they walked down the stairs but took seconds to jump down.

Ameera and Jackie stared at each other in silence. They shrugged and went again in their separate ways; Jackie to the bus stop and Ameera back to her flat. None of them said goodbye for fearing that it would be the last time they’ll ever meet.

*************************

Becka was still on the way home in her car. She was the only one to fetch because her brother was ill and didn’t go to kindergarten that day. She sat at the back seat, reading her Chemistry book and trying to re-memorize the chemicals’ names to keep her mind off the recent incident. She couldn’t help thinking about the message on the computer and the library door opening so easily whereas she failed to do so. All the thinking made her quite hungry.

“Becka, you’re unusually quiet today,” her mother broke the silence, bringing her back to reality.

“Sorry, Mom. I was just preoccupied with things in my head. Makes me hungry though.”

“You should keep your mind off school for a while. I like a smart daughter but I don’t like her turning into Einstein the 2nd.”

“Thank, Mom. Are we going out to eat tonight? I’m sure Boy Boy is better now; his cough was getting better. He can come with us.”

“I think you’re stressed out. Let me help you release your tension,” replied Becka’s mother, her answer contradicting with Becka’s question.

“Mom, I asked if we’re going out for dinner,” Becka laughed, “don’t worry about me!”

“You wanna have some fun? I’ll teach you a good trick to relax.”

“Mom, aren’t you listening to me?”

“Let’s have some fun, Becka, let’s have some fun!” Her mother’s voice began to sound eerie.

“Mom, you’re scaring me!”

“Here we go!”

“Mom!!”

She shut her eyes, pressed down the accelerator and let go of the steering wheel. Becka was horrified. She shot up and tried to turn the steering wheel to put the car back in control. Her mother laughed and cackled and pressed the accelerator even harder. She even pushed Becka’s hands away and held them so that she can’t get back to the steering wheel. The car was moving 80km per hour and was going faster. Becka yelled for help and begged her to stop but her mother pulled her close to her face and spoke coldly, “Let your dooms begin!”

Becka widen her eyes in horror, the message of the computer ringing in her ears. Then suddenly a deafening bang exploded in her eardrums and slowly, darkness enclosed her ………

*************************

Ameera walked up the stairs towards her side of the flat on the 2nd floor. She was afraid that the stairs would go up for eternity again just like the stairs of the sky-bridge, but fortunately, nothing happened. She reached her home and was greeted by her cat Salem. Ameera was pooped out with all the goings-on and decided to take a nap before getting ready for her tuition class. Salem followed suite. She fell plop on the bed with her school clothes on and started snoring within minutes.

No sooner she fell asleep than she felt something on her. It weighed a tonne and she couldn’t move. She forced herself to wake up and saw Salem sleeping peacefully beside her. She thought maybe it was her imagination and went back to sleep. Before she dozed off, she felt the pressuring weight again. She woke up and saw Salem looking at her unblinkingly with its blue eyes. She felt weird. The 3rd time she felt the weight, she opened her eyes immediately and saw Salem sitting on her chest, staring at her spookily with his eyes blue but cold. Cold as ice.

“Salem, get off me!” Ameera ordered. Salem didn’t budge.

“Salem, stop staring at me!” Ameera ordered again. Salem suddenly grinned from ear to ear.

“Salem ……?”

“Let your dooms begin!”

Ameera screamed and forced herself to get up. Salem jumped down and started laughing (yes, laughing) at its mistress. Ameera then realized that her whole home was empty and bare, as if she was living in a deserted house. She went outside to her supposed-to-be living room and saw it was empty as well. 2 tall dark figures were looming about in the empty space. They noticed her and came nearer to her. She shrieked and ran out of the front door into the corridor, yelling for help. She was even shocked when all the doors were opened by more dark spooky figures and the inside of the houses were empty as well. It seemed as if she was the only one alive in the flat. The 2 dark figures from her house came out and gave chase. She screamed in fright and started running for her life. But the more she ran, the more slowly she went, as if a force was stopping her from moving. The dark figures were gaining on her every minute.

When they finally grabbed her with their icy, cold hands, she knew she was done for.

***********************

Jackie, on the other hand, was taking the bus home as usual. She took out the novel ‘The Edge of War’ she borrowed from the library and was determined to finish all the leftover chapters. She paid the conductor her fare and opened the page she left her bookmark on.

When she found the page, she was shocked to see the book all covered with blood. It began to drip on her palms and onto her pinafore. The metallic smell of it shot up to her nose and made her want to puke. On all the pages were only written the words ‘Let your dooms begin!’ and nothing more. She looked up and saw all the passengers, including the conductor and the driver, was bloodstained from head to toe and was gazing at her with bloodshot eyes. They began to circle around her, baring their fangs.

Jackie stumbled for her bag and rang the bell to get off, but the driver paid no heed. She had no choice but to jump out of the bus. She landed with a thump on the solid ground and a loud crack was heard somewhere near her chest. She realized that she had broken her ribs but she struggled to get up and called for help. The ground below her feet began to rumble and crack, making openings here and there. Steam came out of the openings and hot molten lava spluttered out. More and more zombie-like people came to her, unaware of the sudden happenings around them.

Jackie could do nothing but scream.

**************************

Meanwhile, Shah was gradually forgetting the scary library incident. She took her hot shower peacefully and was ready to lay her hands and mouth on her dinner. Then she remembered that her mother was out on a theatre practice and won’t be back until well after midnight. Shah expected that her dinner will be laid on the kitchen table and her mother will leave a note saying ‘I’m gone’, ‘Do your homework’, so on and so on.

Surprisingly, there was no note and no dinner as she expected on the table. She was surprised because her mother seldom did these things, unless she was very, very busy with Committee Meetings and such. Shah shrugged and went to rummage the refrigerator for something, just anything leftover, to eat. Fortunately, she found some leftover chicken which she got from one of her relatives’ kenduri a few days ago. She took it out and popped it into the microwave oven.

“Only the upper part of the chicken left, but that’ll just do,” Shah said to herself, satisfied with her find. She decided to boil an egg or two and cook curry-flavored Maggi to go with the chicken.

While she was cooking the lot, she heard a muffled sound coming from the microwave oven. At first she thought it was the humming of the machine but when she listened carefully, it actually came from the inside; the place where she reheated the cold chicken.

Shah couldn’t help feeling curious and stopped the microwave oven. She opened the microwave oven door and a foul smell of burnt flesh emitted out, making her eyes water. When she was finally done flapping away the smell, she took a look at her chicken. The chicken was perfectly fine. Nothing was spoilt. The head of the chicken, which she had no intention of eating, was also in one piece. Shah scratched her head, puzzled and confused.

All of a sudden, the chicken head looked up and opened its dead eyes, staring at her eerily. Shah let go of the plate of chicken in shock and it shattered into pieces. Still the chicken head stared at her. Slowly it said out the words, one by one, “Let your dooms begin!”

Shah kicked out at the chicken and backed away to the kitchen cupboard to get a knife to eliminate it. But the chicken head was smarter. It rose from the floor and started pecking at Shah. Shah grabbed a table knife nearby and swished at the chicken head for all its worth. The water she was boiling for her eggs and Maggi rose out of the pot like luminous, boiling arms reaching out to get her. Though she knew that the knife couldn’t penetrate water, she slashed at it all the same. The scalding heat burned her immensely and the chicken head’s pecking was painful yet irritating. But she didn’t stop slashing, not even when she began to lose strength due to fatigue and hunger.

She knew that if she ever stopped, it would be the end of her.

****************************

The E.R. light turned off, signaling that the operation was over. The parents of the 4 girls stood up, waiting anxiously for their daughters to come out. Finally the E.R. door opened and out pushed 4 medical beds, each laid Becka, Jackie, Ameera and Shah, unconscious and in bandages. The doctor-in-charge came out the last.

“How are our daughters? Are they OK?” They all asked at the same time.

“They are fine. Their conditions are now stable. They’ll soon come round in a week or two. They need all the slumber they can get,” said the doctor, smiling a weary smile. “What happened to them? I mean, how did they turn out this way?”

“I wasn’t so sure,” replied Becka’s mother. She was lucky to suffer only a few minor bruises and a deep cut on her forehead. “She suddenly went bezerke. I told her to keep her mind off school for a while ‘coz she looked so stressed out. When she asked me if we were eating out, I said yes, but she didn’t seem to hear me. She kept repeating her question and said I was scaring her. Then she just stood up and turned the steering wheel. When I told her to stop, she looked at me as if she saw a ghost.”

“So was our daughter,” exclaimed Ameera’s father, joining in the conversation, “We heard her suddenly screaming in her room when we got back home from work. When we were about to investigate, she suddenly shot out of her room and looked around like she had never seen the house before. Then she saw us and widened her eyes, like we were monsters or some sort.”

“She suddenly just blasted out of the house and screamed at every neighbor she saw. When we caught up with her, she screamed and struggled, then slipped and fell down the stairs. We were so worried when her head started bleeding………She kept saying the words ‘Let your dooms begin’………” Ameera’s mother burst into tears. Her husband comforted her.

“My daughter said the same thing too!” Jackie’s father’s sudden voice made everyone jump. “It was raining this evening and I knew that it would be dangerous for her to go home alone. So I decided to fetch her, b’coz my wife is still at K.L. doing business. When I got stuck in a traffic jam, a bus conductor suddenly approached my car and asked me if I knew my dear lil’ Jackie, and told me she was screaming wild in the middle of the road and that he knew me by my license plate number written in her address book. She continued screaming when I held her and said the same words your daughter said over and over again.”

“You’re not the only ones with daughters to worry,” said Shah’s mother, near to tears but held them back, “my daughter was even worse. I rushed home briefly to drop her her KFC meal I bought for her, b’coz I forgot to fix dinner. When I got home, I saw her sprawled on the floor waving a table knife in the air, as if she was trying to slash at something. Her whole body was smeared red and she was lying in her own pool of blood. The kitchen table was a mess too; a smashed plate of chicken, with a chicken head, on the floor and the pot began to smell of burnt metal b’coz the water she was boiling were all evaporated. Even when I rang for the ambulance, she didn’t stop slashing. I don’t know why……”

“Neither do we,” replied the other 3 girls’ parents.

“Have you ever heard of the ‘Doom’ virus?” said the doctor after being silent for so long.

“Yes, I think so,” replied Jackie’s father, who was a computing executive, “They always appear during black-outs on the computer screen and send a weird message reading ‘Let your dooms begin’……”

He suddenly stopped, looking at the doctor. The doctor nodded and said, “Yes, I believe that virus is the cause of it.”

“But how? How did they…?” Ameera’s father was so fumed, he couldn’t continue.

“When I checked your daughters, I found out that their brainwaves were abnormal and when I scanned their brains, I noticed some particles of radioactive rays somewhere inside them. I believe that besides destroying a computer, the ‘Doom’ virus also gives out radioactive beams through the screen which triggered their brains to hallucinate. I think your daughters were somehow exposed to it because from what I heard, this virus is only sent out to school computers.”

“Then… then will my Becka be OK?” Becka’s father voiced out anxiously.

“When they come round in a week or two, they will still have the tendency to hallucinate,” replied the doctor with an assured tone, “but don’t worry. I’ll get the paramedics specializing in radioactive engineering from Colorado by then. I’m sure they will be most interested and willing to come after learning my story about your girls. Don’t fret. It’s only a mild radioactive exposure, not a serious one. We’ll fix them up in no time.”

The 4 girls’ parents were restful then, after knowing their daughters are in good hands. Silently, they pray for their girls’ safety and wished that the culprits who caused their misery to be put to justice A.S.A.P.

One rainy day, in another school, a few students were trapped in the Computer Room during a blackout. Suddenly, the familiar ‘Beep’ came from one of the computer……

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