Sign In

Forgot your password? No account yet?

Big Troubleshooting by hukaulaba

Finally, after a long day at work, you're home. The door clicks shut behind you. As you kick your boots off, you remember why you dread winter.

It sucks. That's all it does. It sucks away the sun in the morning so the world can be nice and dreary when you leave for work, and in the evening so there's little daylight to enjoy on your way back. It sucks up color, leaving the ground as the whites and browns of cold death. It sucks life out of sight, holing animals in their burrows and sticking people in their cars and houses. And, worst of all, it sucked the warmth from your feet because you had no choice but to trek through the snow to get inside.

You slide the mittens off your sweaty hands and peel the soaked socks off your feet, amazed at how much heavier clothing can be when it's wet. Trapped heat radiates off your skin as you unzip your jacket. It's good to be home, where your whole body can be one temperature, as opposed to outside, where your face is freezing while your chest is burning.

You walk from the tile floor, though the hallway carpet that tickles the raisins that are your toes, to the hardwood floor of your room. Even though the floor saps the heat from your feet, you aren't going to be standing, so you put off putting socks on.

Although you own the whole house, most of your belongings are stuffed in here, creating a hybrid bedroom, office, and gaming area. You're no pack rat, though; the rest of the house is free for when guests come over. Mostly.

A hop into your chair, and you zoom across your room. Grabbing the edge of your desk prevents you from tasting the wall. You never understood why nearly all office chairs, yours included, have a large hole in the back; maybe it helps them stay upright. Once settled, you open your laptop, press the power button, and look out the window while it boots.

The orange sky is fading even though you've been in the house for only, what, two minutes? You push off the desk, slide across the floor, and shut the curtains. Color still seeps through the sides, but at least this cause of winter's sadness is now ignorable.

The tiredness isn't. You close your eyes and yawn, stretching your arms toward the ceiling. They feel heavy, as if they want no more than to hug the floor.

In the corner of your eye, the screen changes color. You scoot back over to log in and look for your controller on your desk, but everything is blurry. Rubbing your eyes -- creating patterns of light spots in the darkness -- doesn't help, so you stick out your hand and focus on it. That doesn't work either, but look at how pink your hand is! Strange how your fingers aren't burning, but you don't mind. Them warming was better than them boiling.

The desk shakes and rattles while you search its drawers, metal handles stealing the heat from your hands. Even though you clipped your fingernails yesterday, they clink against the metal. You can fix that later. Keeping yourself in order is something you pride yourself on, but right now, relaxing is important. You deserve it. That is, if you can ever find your controller.

There it is. After setting it on your desk, you shut the drawer, cover your mouth, and exhale, trying to return some of their warmth. Then, you hold down the controller's center button. The light blinks, then remains on.

You move your mouse to open your Games folder, but nothing happens, other than your nose starting to itch. You unplug, replug, and shake the mouse, but the cursor stays still. You sigh. Why wouldn't you have computer issues? Plugging the mouse into another port does nothing, either. You pick up the mouse, long fingers curling past the bottom edge, and blink a few times after blinding yourself with the tracking light. It's getting power; why isn't it working?

However, a trackpad works as well as a mouse, even if it really doesn't. You launch a random game. The hard disk spins up, imitating the sound of someone dumping a bunch of pebbles into a dump track idling at the end of the alley. While waiting, you scratch your nose. It's a bit fuzzy: a sign you've neglected shaving. Some of the hairs seem to be firm and as long as a finger. Probably your senses being weird; your nose and fingers were nearly numb before you got inside.

You move a stick on the controller, toggle your laptop's airplane mode, un-pair and re-pair the controller, reseat its batteries, and plug it in with a cord, but it does no more than light up. You exit the game and try another. Nothing. You shake the mouse again. Still unresponsive.

Frustrated, your face heats up, and with it comes a minor headache. Thankfully, instead of your eyes and forehead starting to pulse, it's the rest of your face: ears, nose, and mouth. You restart your laptop and lean back, clothes scrunching between you and the chair. Straightening them out doesn't make the rough feeling go away.

Sweat drips down your arms. It's just a software issue that rebooting will fix, right? Except, faulty hardware caused weird issues for you in the past, like the time when moving your laptop in the wrong direction froze it and caused green dots to take over the screen; moving it again sometimes made new dots. When that happened, reseating the memory fixed it, but you can't do the same for other parts without completely disassembling the laptop. You grind your teeth, drowning those thoughts with clicking.

You need to calm down. It makes sense having your relaxation time stolen by technical difficulties is stressing you out, but stress doesn't normally make your teeth feel like they're trying to escape your mouth -- or your nose convulse. The itchiness might be normal, though. You scratch your side. It's nice not running into your bones this time. It's like they've receded, leaving more muscle and fat for you to knead.

A loud chime plays. Your laptop is ready for another try. While logging in, you have trouble reaching the spacebar with your thumb, so you use your index finger instead.

The fan's noise changes, but you can't put your finger on what's different. You strain your ears, feeling them be tugged up your head by nothing. Ah; while you knew the fan speeds up and down in steps, you never noticed the speed fluctuates instead of staying constant. In fact, it's obvious now; you can't unhear it.

You play with the controller and mouse. Neither work. Of course.

Relax. You close your eyes and stretch your back, scratching it through your shirt, ruffling it again. It feels rougher than before, thicker, like a wool sweater. It's as warm as a wool sweater, at least. A bit too warm, but you'll change into lighter clothing later.

Hunching forward, you ambush your touchpad and launch the setting manager. Your arms are straight as sticks, yet they're almost too short. Funnily enough, your blurry vision makes them look like they have splotches of gray.

"Squeak!" A horrible whine, higher in frequency than an old television, comes from your laptop. Your hands shoot up to cover your ears, but even after finding them -- it's like they really did move earlier -- the noise drills into your brain. Grinding your teeth doesn't help. Shifting in your warm seat doesn't do much, either, other than hurting your tailbone and causing your shirt to roll up your chest. Your eyes continue to play tricks; now it looks like your skin are the splotches, being repelled by the gray fuzz.

The whining lightens as you get used to it -- thankfully, your other headache is gone, too -- and you back your hands away from your thick, soft facial hair. With its length, and the state of your nails, you really need to take better care of your hygiene. These things should not sneak up on you.

You open and scroll though a list of devices, wishing your touchpad let you scroll with two fingers in the center instead of dragging one along a knife-thin area at the edge. The text on the screen glows and mixes, so you rub your eyes again, scraping your palms with your fingernails. Your facial hair extends to your eyes, but maybe you won't shave it off; brushing against it makes you happy, and anyway, who doesn't want more protection from the cold?

Taking your hands away, your can read the text again, though your long-range sight is still blurry. A look at your arms and legs shows your eyes are still a little off; now, all your skin looks gray -- and a bit thicker too, larger. At least the color is consistent now. Turning on another light might help, but there are no more lights in your room to turn on.

The laptop recognizes your mouse and controller; it labels them as human interface devices. You grin, top incisors digging into your lower lip. In the future, when some alien race visits Earth and uses humanity's technology, what will they think of that term?

While waiting for the device list to close and the file browser to open, you realize your tailbone still hurts. Repositioning yourself lets up some of the pain. Good thing your chair does have the strange hole in the back; the thought of your sore tailbone being crammed against the back makes you shiver.

Keeping your eyes on the screen, you reach into a drawer and grab around for one of your flash drives. Or, at least try to. The bottom of the drawer is out of reach, and your stomach is in the way of you bending. But, your chair is so comfortable, and it would be a shame to have to get up...

After much groaning and straining, and the seat going down a notch under your flailing, your hand bumps into something: a flash drive. You can't feel your thumb, so you pull it out between two fingers and kick the drawer closed. The fabric of your pants is constrictive; they feel two or so sizes too small. You take a quick look at your feet, but they're too blurry to make out anything other than them being as pink as your hands.

You swap the mouse with the flash drive. Its files can be accessed just fine. Bending forward further -- squeezing your gut -- and craning your neck like a giraffe, seat threatening by creaking to go down more, you create some small files, unplug it, and plug it back in. They're still there and continue to be there after repeating what you did with the flash drive in another port.

Good; it isn't a hardware problem. You chirp through your teeth. Is it a driver issue? You huddle back over your keyboard, but your shirt constricts your chest, so you pull it over your head, help it along after it gets caught on your lower jaw -- you'd think it's sticking out of your face like an animal -- and toss it behind you onto your bed. Why do you feel like you just did a light workout?

While searching for possible updates online, your shoulders and hips start to hurt, like they're continually trying to contract. The only way to appease them is bringing your feet onto the edge of your chair, pressing your thighs into your stomach, and locking your upper arms against the sides of your chest.


There is a tear down the middle of your pants. Ah, whatever; they were too small anyway. At least your tailbone feels a bit better. You finish the job with your hands, glad your legs can now breathe, then toss the pieces behind you. Maybe they landed next to your shirt, maybe not.

The chair falls down another notch; the jostle sends a ripple through your skin. You're curled into an approximation of a ball, and your nose lies inches away from the screen, but the position is comfortable; your eyes aren't seeking escape from their sockets. Everything's up to date on your laptop. And, you haven't installed anything recently.

Maybe you need a break to think about the problem. Playing a game is out of the question, but watching television isn't -- if the remote didn't disappear like it always does -- or eating food. Come to think of it, you haven't eaten since lunch! How are you supposed to troubleshoot without a full stomach? It doesn't matter if it's a salad or a pizza -- everything sounds good.

Your legs are locked up and won't extend, so you start to slide out of your chair. It's more like shimmying yourself out; the armrests fight to keep you in every inch of the way. Something light trails from your tailbone; must be a piece of your pants you didn't grab.

As you grunt and shove yourself toward the edge, the seat starts to tip, and the tug of gravity tries persuading your limbs to come down to the floor. One last push -- the effort quickens your breath -- and you're free! But, the momentum of your gut continues sending you forward before you can stand. You swing your arms for balance, but it's like they've been sucked halfway into your shoulders. You tumble forward, reaching as far out as possible with your stubby arms, and flop with a splat. It's such a short fall, yet the whole front of your body feels punched.

After giving yourself a few moments to recover, you move your hands and feet, smothered underneath you, and push. You fail to even get your stomach off the ground, and it isn't for lack of strength -- your arms are as straight as they can go. You try again, now with shaky limbs, and the floor pleads for you to stop. Finally, your arms let out, and you drop back down, panting. Your lungs aren't nearly big enough.

Rolling onto your back -- which means rocking back and forth, again and again, until you flip -- you stare at the ceiling, poor spine bearing your weight. Everything is indistinct except for the hairs on your nose. You raise an arm to swat it away, but the whisker sticks. Plucking it makes you wince. Focusing on your nose blurs everything else further, but you can see the end of it without hurting your eyes.

You look down at the rest of your body.

Your feet are hidden, blocked by a round, gray, furry blob, with pathetic arms that look more like mounds of fur with pink hands attached resting on your chest. The thumbs have shrunk and moved toward your wrists. Beyond them, your wall is impossible to make out.

You open your mouth and laugh, sounding more like squeaking than anything human, stopping for breath every few seconds. No wonder why your mouse and controller aren't working. Human interface devices are for humans -- and you're a rat! You wiggle your bottom, and sense something drag on the floor between your legs. A limb. A tail. You can't see it, but you know it's there.

The laughter leaves a swelling feeling in your chest. Tilting your head backwards, you think you see a deep blue, almost black, bleeding out the edges of your curtains. How long ago did the sun finish setting? Normally, you're ready to fall asleep, but you can't do that just yet; there's food to eat and a laptop to fix.

You grunt and reach for your pudgy belly with your heavy arms, but collapse. Best to rest until you have enough strength to get up. Silly work, making you burn most of your energy so that you could only move a little at home before being anchored to the floor.

There's a feeling you should be worrying about something. Something about... about... what is it? Turning into a rat -- a fat rat? Why should you waste energy worrying about it? Maybe you could use it as an excuse to get out of work; there's no way you could toil there if merely getting out of a chair is a challenge. Then, you could stay at home all day, having the energy you need to go get food whenever you run out...

As your think up a feast, your breathing slows, and your eyelids slide shut. Lying here, doing nothing, feels wonderful. There's no need to worry about tomorrow, or how to get your laptop to work properly. The only thing that matters is food, and with each second, that too can wait until after a nap...

Big Troubleshooting


[you -> fat rat]

Originally written 2019-08-23

Sometimes, there's a good reason behind a weird term.

Submission Information

Literary / Story