There is a new virus on the web. You might as well call it the last virus. Nobody knows who is behind it. Nobody knows how it first spread. But the one thing we do know, beyond a doubt, is that once this devious little piece of code works its way into your technological universe, your life is irrevocably fucked, from that day until your last.

Take it from someone who knows. There is no going back. There is no wiping the slate clean. Once He gets inside, the infection is incurable, irreversible, and insatiable. Like cancer overtaking a cell. Like a disease that eats from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Your goose is cooked. Your life is void. He has you, for all intents and purposes, hence the awful name.

I just wanted to warn you. All of you. Anybody who will bother to read my story. Any one of you could be the next victim. Any one of you could be the next ‘me’. Even if this is the last thing I ever actually do, if I can spare a single family from my mistake, it will be worth it. All of this will be worth it.

But you’ll have to trust me. Trust is an important part of the equation. Listen to me carefully. If you ever get a phone call similar to the following, for your own sake, for humanity’s sake, just hang up the fucking thing. Hang up and hope it’s enough. Don’t listen. Don’t talk. Don’t follow. Just hang up and accept that the alternative will almost certainly be worse than the threat.

I was three sheets to the wind on a stormy late night when this motherfucker decided to ruin my life.

You have two minutes to get out of the house.

The call came just after eleven. I checked the number and found it blocked. My wife was out at work. I just returned from work. After a twelve hour shift of shit and misery in front of a boiling hot stove, the only thing that felt good to me was a cold glass of whiskey, then another. And another. And so forth. My senses were dulled and my paranoia stood at full tilt. That’s probably the only thing that kept me on the line.

“Who the fuck is this?”

The caller had a robotic tone to his voice. Almost like the old voicemail messages you used to hear back in the day. I thought it might be automated. I thought it could be a robocall. But the warning itself grabbed my attention.

You have one minute and fifty seconds to get out of the house.

What if there was an emergency? What if something happened? My wife would be driving home soon. What if she crashed?

You have one minute and forty seconds to get out of the house.

The caller didn’t answer my question. He didn’t even seem to hear it. A clap of thunder echoed in the distance. Halloween decorations slapped up against the door. I looked out the bay window and noticed an eerie shade of purple painted into clouds in the distance. Almost like a tornado brewing, but we rarely saw tornadoes in Jersey, certainly not in November. The thunder in particular made me worry. Every few seconds came a new burst. I got up out of my chair and continued the conversation. I wasn’t ready to listen to the caller. I just wanted to keep my options open.

“Who is this?” I demanded. “Are you threatening me?”

The line beeped. Then it clicked. Then he laughed.

You have one minute to get out of the house.

A dull sort of panic took hold. I found my loafers in the kitchen by the dog bowl. I grabbed our puppy, Abigail. A branch from somewhere above fell and landed on our roof. The quake echoed through our cavernous living room. Abby cried and turned over into my arms. I realized then that we needed to move.

You have thirty seconds to get out of the house.

We went for the door. The handle jammed from the rust. One of ten things to fix on my ‘honey do’ list. I rammed it with my shoulder, cracking the frame, not caring as the remains fell to the porch beneath me, grateful for the cool blast of rain and wind that smacked against my bare cheek.

You have twenty seconds to get out of the house.

The backyard looked torn apart from the storm. Thick streams of water raced down the sidewalks. Heavy gusts ripped the remaining trees and leaves. I could barely see a thing in the shades of mist and spit and shit clinging to my glasses. I felt like Newman trying to steal the dinosaur DNA in Jurassic Park.

You have ten seconds to get out of the house.

My feet hit the wet grass. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. My clothes were soaked in moments. Abigail whined piteously behind me. She was shivering. I tugged on the leash and thankfully she followed.

You have five seconds to get out of the house.

I didn’t have time to grab anything. I didn’t have my wallet. I didn’t have my keys. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. The entire adrenaline rush left me gobsmacked, and the whole time, this nagging feeling that this could all be some sort of sick prank clung to the back of my mind like a ray of hope.

“What do you want? What is happening? Who is this?”

I heard an explosion but didn’t see one. The next thing I remember, I was lying on my stomach in the backyard, with Abigail licking the side of my face, and a plume of smoke arcing behind her. The phone was still in my hand.

“What did you do?” I screamed. “What the fuck did you do?”

My home was on fire.

Upload complete.

As ambulances and fire trucks raced to the scene from somewhere in the distance, I could hear somebody breathing in the background, listening to me struggle.

“Hello?” I asked in a daze. “How? How did you know?”

The line beeped. Then it clicked. Then he laughed.

We’ll be in touch.