"Author's note: I think I got a little carried away with this one, and I don't know if there's much point to it. Hopefully it makes someone shudder, I guess. It's 2000 words long, vaguely sci-fi, and contains mildly graphic violence. There might be some tense mess-ups."
Mrs Swanson walked home as inconspicuously as she could manage. Of course, the black suitcase she carried made it nearly impossible to be entirely inconspicuous. The lousy things, she thought. No-one in their right-mind had used them in a century, and yet, that corporation insisted on them - even though the thing inside the suitcase was so miniscule that it could have fit in her pocket. She had considered opening it and taking out the package, leaving the suitcase behind, but felt that doing this might draw even more attention to herself, or damage the thing inside, so she simply attempted to get home as fast as she could.
It wouldn't be too difficult, for she lived quite near the corporation. Not that it had mattered to her before - she hadn't had to set foot in there before today. She did not work there. She had been asked to, once - her programming skills were relatively well-known in the industry - but of course, she would never have worked there. Not after what her husband had done. Fortunately, she'd had friend who did - her only friend - but now, she might have no friends left. It hadn't been easy to get the package. Mrs Swanson had begged her friend to give it to her. She'd refused, of course - it was not an item that should leave the corporation under any circumstances. Weeks of bartering and arguing had followed, until it was eventually replaced by outright blackmail. Mrs Swanson had then gotten what she'd wanted.
She made it to her home. Her hand shook as she held it up to the glowing touch-security-system on her door, so much so that she had to attempt it thrice before it allowed her in. She did not hesitate to boot up her computer system the minute she walked inside. She then opened the suitcase, revealing a miniature digital chip that looked far too delicate to be fully-developed. But she knew it would work. Her friend had been a relatively higher-up at the corporation, and she had told her so, once.
She slipped the microchip into her computer's scanning dock. It was simple enough, not unlike the USBs that had once been popular. She tingled with excitement, and perhaps a little fear, at what she was about to do.
The scan was successful. The computer asked her whether she wished to run the program. She replied "yes", more loudly than she needed to.
"Corporate Think-Tank; SWANSON," blared her computer, as it rendered the chip's program.
Mrs Swanson held her breath. The computer's announcement had triggered her sense of reality. It was finally happening. She had been fixated on this for months - there was no more room to change her mind. She was doing this.
The shape was beginning to forge itself on her computer screen. It was the shape of a man, in great detail, but more importantly than that - the shape would be accompanied by the man's consciousness. The cooperation's CEO's very existence would now be drawn inside her computer. It would be a perfect copy. It would be self-aware. It would quite literally be Mr Swanson himself.
It was almost sickening, what she was about to do. But frankly, she thought Mr Swanson had been entirely sickening too. And people had called his idea sickening, once. The idea to pour his consciousness into a computer program so that the corporation would never lose its CEO. His memories - his genius, as he would call it - preserved in whole. His being, ultimately simulated. Mrs Swanson would make the most of it.
The render was nearly complete. Her system was not nearly as powerful as the mainframe of the corporation - in fact, she had worried that she would not even be able to run the chip on her hardware - but it seemed to be functioning fine, albeit at a slower pace. She would just have to keep her... methods, relatively simple.
The man in the computer was surrounded by darkness. He was the only thing in his realm of existence, for now. He opened his eyes. He seemed to have been ready with a hearty greeting, but faltered upon recognizing Mrs Swanson as the user. All of Mr Swanson's memories were still perfectly intact.
"Hello dear," said Mrs Swanson, cruelly. She began to realise that insanity had festered in her middle-aged brain, but she found that she did not care in the slightest.
"M-Margaret?" said the man. "How did you..."
"Oh, never you mind. Perhaps you should have invested in more security using all the money you stole from me."
The man's expression was strange. Perhaps, if he had been entirely human, he would not have even been able to form the expression. There was a large quantity of tiredness in it - the expression of a man who had had this conversation far too many times, and did not look forward to repeating it in his technological eternity, but knew he no longer had any choice. There was also a notable dash of fear.
"Margaret, I know you think I've wronged you - "
"You stole everything from me! It was MY idea!"
"You wouldn't have known how to develop it properly! I turned your idea into a busniness! Into a corporation!"
"And that gives you the right how?"
"Look, I offered you a job!"
"Why would I work for a thief? Don't you remember how you took everything else we had and then left me?"
"You didn't want to use your idea properly! It would have been a waste. I only wanted to build a stable for future for us."
"You mean for you."
"For us. You just refused to participate."
The man in the computer had lost his chance. Perhaps, deep down, there would have been a shred of forgiveness buried in Mrs Swanson's otherwise broken heart that could have been brought out by the right words. But the man's words had been the same wrong words they'd always been, and Mrs Swanson was reminded of why she was even doing this.
"Right," she said cruelly. She rendered her holographic keyboard.
The digital man became visibly terrified. It seemed that he knew what was about to happen - he was about to meet a cruel God.
Mrs Swanson furiously typed into her keyboard with all the skill of a programmer, and all the haste of a madwoman. The chip had rendered the man, but everything around the man? Well, that was her playground.
The first few lines of code she typed were simple enough: she flooded the entire scene. Tectonic amounts of water suddenly appeared on the screen, and the digital man found himself at the bottom of a digital ocean. He gasped and struggled, precious bubbles of air having already escaped from his mouth the second that the water had appeared. He failed and floated, rotating about, instinctively trying to look for the surface of the water, but of course, no surface had been designed.
Looking at the mortally-terrified man who already seemed to be on the verge of suffocation in the great blue expanse, Mrs Swanson lost any remaining doubt. This was exactly what she'd wanted. The ocean had been a passive threat - she would no longer hesitate to use more active ones.
It was true, of course, that the man - being digital - would not be inherently capable of drowning. Not unless Mrs Swanson added her own code to the mix. But his consciousness, being an exact replica of his human brain - instincts and all - fully believed that he could. And that was the horror that Mrs Swanson enjoyed inflicting - the terror of being in mortal danger, only to survive and go through more. It would be, in her eyes, valid retribution. Of course, it would eventually turn to actual pain as well, but there was no rush.
The man had given up. He had yielded himself to the thought of drowning in the great ocean as the deranged woman looked on. But he was not so lucky. Just as the water was about to flow into his lungs - or just as he thought this was about to happen - the keyboard flashed, and the ocean disappeared. Mrs Swanson was delighted with her timing.
Mr Swanson, now on all fours, desperately coughed and splintered as he gasped for air. He was instantly dry, of course, because the computer did not try to render any remnant of the ocean anymore. But the remnants of terror in his psyche lingered. Mr Swason was also an intelligent man, and he definitely understood what was happening, technically speaking, but logic couldn't overrule instinctual fear. He looked up at Mrs Swanson, as if to beg, but said nothing.
Mrs Swanson began typing again. This was now a fully-fledged torture session, and she had no second-thoughts. She had no plans - she would use whatever method came into her head.
She removed the digital floor. She made the man fall from an unimaginable height, at speeds that would not have even been possible. She wanted to drive terror into him. It was the purest form of torture. And just before the man hit the ground - just before his very being screamed at the coming of a painful death, and perhaps on some deep level welcomed the release - she saved him. He stood, fine - but traumatised.
The fear was now permanently visible in the man's eyes. Perhaps this was only because he was digital; perhaps it was just the extent of the terror. But it was there, and Mrs Swanson was satisfied.
With the joys of fear-infliction finished, she decided to move on to pain. And it would be well-deserved pain.
As the man whimpered, she coated the floor in fire. The flames burned orange, as far the computer could handle, which was much too far for the digital man to see. To him, it was an infinite hell. To her, it was temporary enjoyment.
This time, Mrs Swanson took care to define what the fires would do the man. She made them scorch his skin, burn into his limbs, boil his muscles into the wrong shade and make his central nervous system explode. But he would not die.
The man screamed the loudest he had screamed so far. Mrs Swanson lowered the volume, but not all the way. She wanted to hear the screams.
Mrs Swanson did not bother to turn off the fire. The flames were working perfectly; the man was being entirely engulfed and burnt alive. She let them continue to burn as she typed in her next step. In the middle of the ifire, she coded in various digital blades, and began slicing away at the man's now fire-scorched skin. At times, she simply stabbed. A normal man may not have been able to differentiate between all the intense pains at this stage, but the digital man's brain calculated them perfectly.
Mrs Swanson smiled as she watched her creations work. They were all functioning better than she could have hoped for, and she wanted this pain to be the man's penultimate memory, so she did not turn off the fire or the blades. She instead immediately delved deeper into the digital man's own code. As he screamed, and cried, and tried to peel off his own blackened skin before the blades got to it, Mrs Swanson attacked his mind. She injected pain into his psyche's code. She ripped out vital areas. She programmed in new areas to experience absolute pain when she felt the original areas were grossly lacking. The digital man's entire existence became defined by pain. And then - in no rush whatsoever - she deconstructed him. She made sure he could feel each step; each shred of his consciousness being ripped away from him viciously, until eventually, he was silent. The digital man vanished into the fires of Mrs Swanson's computer.
Mrs Swanson blinked. She had been immersed in the experience, and felt as if she'd just noticed the room she sat in. Her computer whirred from the all the hard work it had done. She breathed a sigh of relief.
She had done it; and if you'd asked her, she would have told you that it had been completely therapeutic, and she wouldn't have hesitated to recommend it to anyone. Was it murder? Perhaps, yes. But the murder of a digital man would never be final. While this chip had been protected so well that she would never be able to duplicate the man again, she had no doubt that they would have another copy of Mr Swanson backed-up somewhere. Another digital man existed. The same digital man. But this one had gotten what he'd deserved - he'd suffered; he'd died. Maybe, if she could find another one...