He found the place where old C-store technologies went to die. Problem was, they weren’t so willing.

Note: You won’t know what’s going on unless you first click here to read part one of this story.

It was hard for Joe to process the scene before him. Mr. Habib lay on the floor of his office, back propped up against a wall, surrounded by a semi-circle of old technology. The bigger pieces—tower computers, bulky CRTs, obsolete registers, a monolithic laser printer or two—looked like a mini-Stonehenge, or gravestones even, colored the sickly yellow of platinum cases left in the sun too long. A scattering of DOS-based hand-held devices and floppy disks were strewn around the owner’s body.

“Joe,” Mr. Habib rasped. “They’re closing in on me.” The floppies rattled when he tried to reposition his legs.

Was Mr. Habib losing it? Nothing moved, as far as Joe could see.

The owner shivered. Sweat poured off of him. Whatever fantasy he was having was certainly real to him. “The old computers don’t want to leave!” he exclaimed.

Joe did recall some talk of a technology overhaul at go-go’s, but he had paid little mind to it. Maybe that was a mistake.

“Mr. Habib, let me help you.”

Joe stepped forward to extend his hand, when one of the CRTs rolled over on his foot as if it had a mind of its own. He tried to pull his foot out from under its weight, but the terminal refused to move. Either it was exceptionally heavy or something unseen fastened it to the floor.

Joe crouched down. Using both hands, with some effort he managed to push CRT off his foot. The screen glass cracked. Joe might have heard a high-pitched scream.

“See!” came Mr. Habib’s rough cry. “They’re alive!”

The Apparition

The Apparition

Joe, more angry than scared, got ready to re-double his efforts to yank his boss up off the floor when something emerged from the shadows in the back of the room, an apparition in a long black gown and hood, with gleaming red eyes and a skull-like face the same faded yellow as the cases surrounding Mr. Habib.

It spoke with authority in a distinctive female voice. “I am the patron of old technology…the cast aside, the obsolete and unloved, the untrendy—those doomed to an eternal half-life in computer limbo.”

Joe looked down. Mr. Habib had closed his eyes. He was muttering.

“Oh, give me a break!” another voice rang out behind Joe. “Are you telling me this C-store owner is supposed to mortgage the future of his business just to spare a few old machines?!”

The Stranger

The Stranger

Joe turned around. A tall figure wearing a coat lined with red satin held out a wand with a glowing green tip. He pointed it toward the apparition. “You’re just a fear monger, spirit” he barked, “trying to convince independent business owners that making an investment in technology will doom them. The kind of inaction you would have them adopt is the real doom, a door to a slow death from which no business may recover.”

The glow at the end of the wand brightened. Joe watched in amazement as the apparition with the yellow face and glowing eyes faded away.

The stranger stepped forward and extended his hand, much as Joe had done earlier, toward Mr. Habib. “Get up friend,” he encouraged him. “You should not be penalized for making good business decisions.”

Mr. Habib looked down around his feet. “Time to take out the trash,” he said with a smile.

It was the last thing Joe heard before he lost consciousness.

♦ ♦ ♦

Joe woke up, his head on the copy of Supernatural Horror in Literature which in turn was on the front counter of go-go’s. He looked up at the store clock. It wasn’t quite four in the morning.

It had been one of those nights. Dead. Providing the opportunity for him to do a little background reading for his thesis. But he must have been more tired than he thought. In fact, he’d probably still be sleeping if it wasn’t for that nightmare.

He rolled the chair he had been sitting on into the back office—sitting down on the job was a big no-no—and not a moment too soon. Surprise! Mr. Habib was back.

“You’re here early,” Joe managed.

“Got to get everything set up for the SSCS team. They’re coming today to install our new back office software and hand-held devices. You didn’t forget did you?”

“Forget the technology upgrade? No, not even close.” He laughed, perhaps too long and too loud. Mr. Habib gave him a funny look.

Joe remained on edge until seven o’clock when the SSCS team showed up. No, they weren’t dressed in coats lined with red satin, and they certainly weren’t waving wands around in the air. But their manner and obvious competence as they went about their business created an air of confidence that filled the store.

Joe carried it with him on his walk back home, grateful for the peace of mind. He slept soundly when he got back to his apartment.