I'm looking for a short story I read recently, probably in a sci-fi anthology. It is about a group of schoolchildren who form a secret club in a disused classroom, and membership in this club is dependant on their ability to look at a picture on a piece of paper for more than 10 seconds. They hold competitions to find out who can stand to look at it the longest.

The image in question is a kind of computer virus for the human brain, entering through the optic nerve. Terrorists are using a different version of this image to kill people. The one the children have causes intense discomfort physically and psychologically.

The children think that certain areas of their school are in permanent darkness, but that is in fact their perception being altered by a surgical implant to protect them from these images in uncontrolled areas.

If this sounds familiar to anyone I'd love to know the author or what it was called! I hope I've remembered the details correctly, don't want to write the ending because of spoilers!

1 Answer 1


"Different Kinds of Darkness" by Dave Langford. There are other stories in the same series.

A number of Langford's stories are set in a future containing images, colloquially called "basilisks", which crash the human mind by triggering thoughts that the mind is physically or logically incapable of thinking

  • Thank you so much! I will have to read the others as well. For those who may be interested, I believe I read this story in "New Skies: an anthology of today's science fiction" Apr 12, 2012 at 12:04

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