A couple years back, there was a software flaw in a few webcam brands. Whenever they were active, they could be accessed by scanning the Internet for a particular open port. Once the port was found, anyone could tune in without the user knowing they were being watched. And millions of people used these webcams.
The companies quickly released software hotfixes, but no one, aside from a few tech-savvy folks, updated their webcam software. So even today, they broadcast everything they do in front of their computer to anyone who’s voyeuristic enough to watch. People like me.
I’m not proud of my fascination, but I won’t pretend it isn’t there – and I won’t lie and claim I didn’t indulge it for a while. I watched thousands of people all over the world doing everything: laughing, sobbing, clipping toenails, masturbating, puking, doing homework, exercising, etc. It was all a thrill. None of them had any idea.
A few nights ago, I was snooping in on what looked like a greenhouse. The IP address was somewhere in North Carolina, but that’s never completely accurate. Either way, it looked like the camera was being used for security, as it overlooked the whole area.
There were two people working; on what, I couldn’t tell. But it became clear that one of them was in a bit of distress. Something on the table where they were working had latched onto his glove and they were both trying to brush it off.
The camera didn’t have a zoom feature, but I was able to use my browser to enhance the size. It didn’t do much; it just blurred and got even grainier. Still, I could make out what looked like a plant growing up the guy’s hand. Whatever I was seeing, it was infinitely more interesting than anything on any of the other cameras that night.
The two guys succeeded in getting the glove off. The wearer seemed fine, but he was pacing back and forth, as if he were excited or scared or anxious. Made sense to me; if a plant had latched onto my hand while I was working, I’d be a combination of all those things.
One of them used a pair of tongs to pick up the glove and placed it into what looked like a fish bowl or terrarium. Then he did something I didn’t expect: he turned around, reached into a cage I hadn’t noticed, and pulled out a large, white rat. He dropped it into the tank with the glove.
Even though the resolution was terrible, I could see whatever was on the glove grab the rat. The animal jumped and rolled around before going still. The plantlife crept over its body. It didn’t move.
The two guys were typing something on their respective computers. I couldn’t see any of it. It looked like they were taking notes.
All that went on for about five minutes. I assumed the rat was dead. Then something happened. At first, I thought it was just a line of distorted video. But the harder I looked, I saw it wasn’t. Something was growing out of the top of the rat’s head. And the rat was moving again.
One of the men picked up the cage and put it on a table much closer to the camera. Right then, I could see exactly what was happening.
More of the plant grew from the rat’s head until it was sticking up about a foot and a half. Its eyes bulged, and the plant emerged from the sockets. The rat started to walk. It would back up, walk in a straight line, bump into the side of the tank, then try again; over and over and over as more of the plant emerged from its skull. Then it shook itself. A cloud of something spread throughout the tank before settling.
One of the guys appeared in the frame again. This time, he was wearing a full-body protective suit. He picked up the rat and placed it on the floor, then opened the door to the greenhouse. The animal hesitated for a second, then ran outside.
Nothing else of note really happened after that. I don’t know what it was that I saw, but I’ve been checking on the camera every so often over the last couple days. The same things would happen; a rat would get put in a tank with a portion of plant life, and the plant would grow from it. Once it shook that particulate matter from itself, it would be let outside.
This morning, when I checked the camera, the two guys were there again. One of them, the one who had his glove covered, didn’t look particularly healthy. His skin was covered with blotches. The oversaturated color from the camera made them look bright red, almost like the skin was missing. Still, he did the same as he’d done each time: plant sample -> rat -> rat shakes -> release.
There was more light this morning, so I even got a chance to make out what was coming out of the rat’s head. It’s weird to think about, but I’m almost certain. Skinny, white mushrooms.
I fucking hate mushrooms.