Jason glanced at his running shoes lying in the corner. They still looked new. They still were brand new. It had been a long time since he bought them. He hadn’t touched them since that fateful day.
Jason failed to realise that it had been 364 days, to be precise, since he confined himself to this room.
Jason Mitch had been a regular IT guy, who had climbed the ladder in his career until one day, he lost all his months’ of hard work to a computer hack. It was just before the most important client meeting and his company was counting on him to get them on board.
The deal would have made his career. It also had the power to destroy it.
And it had almost done the latter. He was in a soup.
What he thought as a nadir, turned out to be a turning point in his career. It gave birth to an idea that kept nagging at him.
He realised he had enough money to start working on developing a network system that cannot be hacked.
368 days ago, he had come home after quitting his job to pursue his dream.
367 days ago, his girlfriend had come home to end their nine-year long relationship.
366 days ago, his mother, who was visiting him, had suffered a major cardiac arrest and passed away on the spot.
365 days ago, he had fallen into a deep abyss.
364 days ago, he had forced himself out and delved into developing the system he had in mind. His higher purpose.
4 days later, he had realised that he had been surviving on water so he had finally ordered food. He had shut himself from the world, confined to his one bedroom apartment. With no family or friend left, he had no other distraction in his life. He could now devote all his time to his newfound goal.
He was nose deep in work and had failed to realise how often his phone rang. He picked up probably thrice a week. Most of the times, he didn’t even hear it ringing.
The only time he picked up his phone voluntarily, was to order food. That happened once a day, but not daily. On many days, he forgot to eat. Just like his phone, his grumbling stomach failed to catch his attention. He had cut off not only from the world, but also himself.
He had put up his four computer screens in the living room so he didn’t have to travel all the way from his bedroom to the main door to answer the doorbell. The only groceries he ordered once a month were cereal, bread and butter. He had set up a mini kitchen in his living room so he wouldn’t have to commute to and from the main kitchen every time his body revolted in hunger.
He never gave himself the time or the opportunity to grieve over his losses. He had put those emotions in a far corner of his mind and locked them up. He hadn’t left his living room ever since he took that pledge to create that unhackable system. The only time he stepped beyond was when he had to go to the bathroom, which was attached to his living room. He cleaned his dishes in the bathroom sink too.
It was like his address had changed to The Living Room, 206, Baxter Street. He had been surviving there and didn’t realise when days turned into months.
After working on his dream project for eight months, he had started trying to connect with the best hacking groups in the world to see how close he had come to developing an impenetrable system. For 40 days, there was no response. Still, he had kept at it, working like a maniac, challenging the world to try and hack his system. But no one took him seriously enough.
Then suddenly, one day, three well-known hacker groups in the US and Europe contacted him all at once. They had noticed his work and were ready to talk. As if, his work had suddenly taken centre stage and was now in the spotlight.
In the first hackathon, all three had been able to hack his system, although it took them ample time to do so. The American hacker group took 48:23 minutes to hack it, while the Europeans took 37:18 and 49:36 minutes each. He felt he was on the right path.
The excitement of being closer to his goal further took away his slumber and hunger. He looked emaciated, with darker circles underneath his green eyes and a gaunt look on his wheat complexioned face. It came to his notice only when he was visible digitally to the hackers and they remarked how weak he looked, very different from his pictures online.
“Dude, do you eat at all? You look like skin has been plastered on a skeleton!”
“Oh my God! Are you human?”
“Are you what can be called a digital-version of a human?”
Time had further slipped away. Jason kept working hard on fixing the issues, trying to create the unbeatable system that he had dreamt of.
A little over two months later, he contacted the hackers again. This time, seven hacking groups from across the world decided to run a hackathon on his system. The date for the run was finalised for ten days later.
The day arrived rather quickly. All the while, Jason had been immersed in his computer screens, as usual.
The hackathon started and the best hackers from around the world started their endeavours trying to penetrate Jason’s digital fortress.
Five hours later, a sudden distant ringing jolted him back to reality. Jason realised he had dozed off in front of the computer screens. The realisation surprised him
‘I can hear the phone ringing? That hasn’t happened in a long time!’
Wondering how was that possible, he got up and started shuffling the stuff in his living room, searching for the source. The sound came from his couch, which had been his bed for the past many months.
He figured out his phone was lying on the floor, underneath the couch. It was his distant cousin, Rudy.
He was making a video call to him
‘Oh no… Rudy will have more comments on how my life is turning out. ’
Since it had been a while that he spoke with a human who was not a delivery guy, Jason picked up the call.
With heavy curtains drawn, Jason’s living room was pretty dark. When he picked up the video call, his face appeared glowing like a poltergeist’s in a dark room. Rudy almost shrieked at the sight.
“What the hell?! Who the hell are you? Are you even human?”
“Hi Rudy, it is nice to see you too. I know its been a couple of days that we spoke…”
“Days? Dude, it’s been a year!”
“Are you serious? You don’t remember what day it is today? What happened to you?!”
Jason was shell-shocked.
‘It’s really been a year?’ the thought struck him like a lightening. He opened the calendar on one of his computer screens.
“Oh wow! So, it’s true!”
“Yes, that’s what I said. Are you even able to comprehend normal human language anymore? Looks like you had food a year ago. Or, are you dying?”
“No, Rudy, I am eating enough and not dying. I have just been busy.”
“With what? Trying to kill yourself?”
Jason chuckled at his brother’s humour. His own giggle sounded alien to him.
‘Wow, so it has been quite long that I connected with a fellow human being.’ the thought made Jason smile. Listening to his cousin’s voice after long made him happy.
“Jason, I am worried about you. It’s Aunt Catherine’s first death anniversary. I thought you would remember. She was your mother!”
The reminder brought forth memories and feelings that Jason had locked up in his mind a while ago. He felt his eyes well up, another emotion that felt alien to him.
“I…I don’t know…”
“Brother, you know you still have a family, right? I am worried about you. Are you still living in Baxter Street? I am coming right away.”
Rudy coming in would interrupt Jason’s hackathon. He was not ready to share his project with anyone yet.
“No…umm…no need. I am fine. I will meet you next week.”
“Really? And then a year later, I will again have to call and remind you to eat. I don’t care. I am coming right now.”
Rudy hung up and Jason was left speechless, wondering how will he argue with his stubborn brother.
Thirty minutes later, Jason heard the doorbell. The hackathon was still on. It had been almost six hours. Jason felt good about it.
The doorbell rang again and Jason had to force himself up from the seat in front of his screens. He didn’t even need to look through the peephole to know who it was.
He opened the door to his six foot tall brother, who had clearly grown larger in every sense since the last time they met.
“Oh. My. God. You look worse in person!”
“Hi Rudy, good to see you too, brother.”
Rudy stepped in and grimaced, hiding his contorted face with both his hands.
“What is that smell?! Are you hiding dead bodies in here? It smells like the place where life comes to die.”
Jason rolled his eyes at him.
“Anyways, what are you doing with so many computer screens?”
“I am working on a project.”
“The one I started working on right after mom died.”
“Okay…so is that what’s been keeping you busy for twelve months, twenty four hours a day?”
“Yes, kind of..”
“What is it about?” Rudy started walking towards Jason’s workstation. Jason slid right in front of his brother to halt him in his path.
“I am not ready to share it with you…..with anyone yet. You need to give me some time.”
“Alright” Rudy held up his hands in surrender.
“Jason, I am not concerned about what are you working on. I am concerned about you, brother. Look at you. It seems life has been sucked out of you. Did you forget you still had a family after Aunt Catherine died?”
“No, Rudy. I didn’t forget, I just wanted a distraction. And I found the perfect one in this project.”
“What did you want a distraction from? Life itself? I bet you didn’t even grieve properly. When was the last time you spoke with Samaira?”
The mention of his former girlfriend’s name unlocked a million memories that Jason had shoved further away, a year back.
Rudy read his face expression and went sombre.
“Hey, Jason, are you okay? Don’t tell me you haven’t spoken with Samaira either all these months.”
“We broke up a day before mom died.”
Rudy could hardly believe it. Samaira had been an integral part of Jason’s life for nine years. She was the only one that made him truly happy. The only person who helped him face the numerous storms that came in his life.
And she was not there when his mother had died.
“Is that why you created this deep abyss for yourself and are sliding down further?”
Jason’s brows furrowed at his brother’s conclusive remark. He could feel the flood of emotions threatening to break him down. He wasn’t sure what really caused him more pain. The crashing of his dreams due to that ransomware, his one true love, Samaira leaving him, or his mother’s death. In any case, he couldn’t afford any distractions, yet.
He couldn’t let the efforts of the past one year go down the drain.
Before Jason could utter another word, one of his computers started pinging. By the time he came back to his seat, all his computers had started pinging.
Chat windows had emerged on all screens. Every chat said just one thing.
“We give up. We can’t break this thing.”
Jason couldn’t believe it. He started responding on all chat windows, asking what had happened. Six of the seven hacking groups had given up. They couldn’t penetrate his network. The last one, from Germany, was still working at it.
Rudy came over to glance at his screens.
“What’s happening, Jason?”
“Ummm…I can’t say yet. Will have to wait for some more time.” he couldn’t draw the final conclusion until his fort had defeated all seven of them.
“Do you want to eat something, Rudy?”
His brother talking about eating surprised Rudy.
“Oh so you do remember food! Sure, let me order some pepperoni pizza for you…” he eyed his brother from head to toe and continued “…with extra cheese, of course.”
Jason chuckled again and came to the conclusion ‘Hmmm…it isn’t bad connecting with other humans again.”
Forty minutes later, Jason was hogging on pizza like he truly hadn’t eaten in a year. The extra large pizza was over in less than seven minutes and Rudy could grab only a slice of it. Although, it was majorly because Rudy could hardly keep his mouth open in his brother’s awfully smelling living room.
Jason put the empty pizza box on top of the pile of empty boxes in the corner of his living room. The sight made him realise he hadn’t taken out the garbage in probably weeks now. It had become his own leaning tower, but of trash.
“God, I need to clean up. Soon!”
“Yes, Jason. I am glad you finally realised it.”
A sudden ping drew their attention to one of the computer screens. Jason felt his heartbeat pace up.
Slowly, he went to sit in front of it and opened the chatbot. It was from the seventh hacking group. They had been at it for eight hours.
“Jason Mitch, take a bow. We think you have created an unhackable system. We can’t break this system fortress either.”
Jason suddenly felt his mouth go dry. He couldn’t believe it. He had given up everything in order to make his dream a reality.
He had been imagining this day for the past many months, which he now realised had been a year. What he hadn’t imagined was what he would do once he had created the unhackable.
He turned to Rudy, and saw him watching him with a worried expression.
“Do you want to order something more?”
Rudy grinned at his brother’s odd request. “Sure thing, brother. What made you realise you’re still hungry?”
“The fact that my hunger to create The Unhackable is now satiated.”