137 word horror stories about software

June 6 2021

A little while ago I had grandiose plans to write a book of short horror stories, set in the world of Software Engineering. I had a list of 40ish absurd plots, before getting imposter syndrome and giving up on the ludicrious idea.

I'm publishing nine of them as 137 word microfictions so that I can abandon all hope of taking them further.

Content Warning: some of these are pretty dark and may be of sensitive subject matter.

The Incident

URGENT: BitterVerse.com isn't working.

Strange. Everything looks okay.

"Team, I need everyone looking at the website. Sign-ups are down 40% since this morning."

This morning. She did a release this morning, but there was no way...

Another message, from the Head of Ad Sales:

Guys, has something changed with the website? I've had two clients threatening to pull out, potentially costing us millions.

Quietly, she checked her changes. The curtain dropped. Suddenly her entire career flashed before her eyes. "I did everything right!" she thought to herself. She checked her changes on staging. Her manager approved them. She triple checked in production.

"I've got a fix ready, will deploy it now" she said, praying this act of heroism will mask her failure.

She refreshed the page, and inspected the code, relieved:

	.subscribe-button {
		background-color: ##f2fa28;

The Incident II: Retrospective

Sara: We all know the severity of last week's subscribe button incident. I've called this retro so we can stop it happening again.

Bob: It's quite obvious isn't it? Anna's change broke it, clearly she can't code.

Anna: You approved my PR!

Bob: Well if Pedro had given us some specs I'd have been able to spot the mistake!

Pedro: I have 8 ongoing design projects. Maybe if Product could prioritise better I can put in the attention to detail.

Sara: You have no idea what pressures we're under from The Business. If our CEO didn't ask for the world then maybe I could prioritise.

CEO: I've decided to let your team go, and offshore the project. Please pack your desks by the end of the day.


A4L-001: First date. Amit booked a table at the Sky Garden, in a pretentious attempt to look good. They didn't even order a drink before unanimously deciding to go to the Wetherspoons down the road. A match made in hell.

A4L-023: Meet the friends. They were 25 when they went to Glastonbury with 4 other friends in 2008. Not many couples could say they had "99 problems" as their song.

A4L-103: Meet Lucy's parents He had only met her parent's twice, and it seemed like this ticket was in progress a long time. Maybe she knew...

A4L-123: Propose. He had this all planned out in his head. Her favourite place. Her favourite song. Just the two of them. Plans don't always work out.

A4L-137: Have kids. Priority: High. Amit added the label: WONTFIX.

Naughty or Nice

Twas the night before Year End and Santa sat waiting with the Naughty or Nice list.

"Ho ho ho! Your OKR for this year was to be a better student. Now you've done all your homework, so I'll give that a 0.7. You only put your hand up twice, much below the average. That'll be a 0.2."

I've also gotten some feedback from your peers, who say you are "nice", but also "icky" and "has cooties". This is quite worrying, we'll have the elves look further into that.

Overall, I think you deserve a 2 this year - which means a PIP and some coal. I want you to write to the North Pole explaining how you'll do better next year.

Right, I have another meeting to get to. Merry Christmas!!"


"Come on kids, hurry!". There must have been 40 people in the supermarket. He wasn't supposed to be here.

9:45. The sirens started blazing. Everyone froze.

He turned around to a lady in her 40s.

"What did you do yesterday?" I was at work at the bank. "What are you doing today?" "Buying groceries, then going to work later".

"Do you have any blockers?" "I don't think so"

Andre paced through the aisles. A group of teenagers - easy. A few pensioners, they could talk, but Andre took them offline. Not many blockers thankfully - book an Uber and fill out someone's taxes. In 12 years as a Scrum Master nobody had vanished on his watch.

10:00, he just asked the last store assistant. It was over.

"Let's go kids."


Imposter Syndrome

I tapped the card and stepped through the security barrier, taking a deep breath.

"Welcome back Arnav! You look different."

The manager turned to me "Naturally it was a bit of a surprise to us when you stopped coming into work. Do you want to talk about it?"

I had prepared for this. "I'm sorry, boss. I think I just felt like I wasn't good enough. Like I wasn't a good engineer."

The manager smiled. "Look, everyone goes through imposter sydrome sometimes. I have myself."

At standup, I volunteered to take a backup of the BitterVerse database, to "get back into the swing of things."

While the backup downloaded onto USB, I looked at the picture of Arnav's wife and kids.

The database downloaded. I slipped out.

They didn't suspect a thing.

Bus Factor

I'm afraid I have some bad news. Charlie was hit by a bus last night and died. I understand how hard this will be, so please take whatever time you need, and my door is always open to talk.

"Oh my god, that's terrible"

"They were so young as well!"

"I hate to be that person. But what do we do about the Data pipeline?"

"Charlie was meant to help me with my ticket, I can't do it without them"

"Does anybody else in the team know Go??"

"Erm....we just got an alert about memory pressure something something in one of his modules"

Later that week at the funeral.

"I'm so sorry for your loss."

"Charlie didn't happen to talk about the algorithm they used to filter incoming data did they?"

Continuous Deployment

"Good morning ma'am, we're here to deploy a new feature to your shower"

"Oh? I didn't order anything"

"We like to ensure our customers are continually getting value from BitterVerse Appliances. This new release contains two brand new pressure settings!"

"Erm, okay, it's upstairs on the right"

Two hours later:

"Good afternoon ma'am. Some of your neighbours told us the new setting was too powerful, so we'd like to tweak that. Also we're AB testing a new rim colour."

The next day:

"Good morning ma'am! We were just wondering if you had any feedback on our new feature?"ew

"Yes actually, I haven't used it yet but today the water was cold!"

"Oh I'm terribly sorry ma'am. We'll get a hotfix for that right now".

The AB test

Dear All,

I'm pleased to announce the latest results of our homepage redesign A/B.

Unfortunately, the variant saw an overall drop in clickthrough rate of 18%, compared to the current design.

However, when we looked further into the data, we saw that for users in the Middle East that are 18-30, and were visiting the homepage during the hours of 9am-11am on a Apple iPhone 6, 7 or 8plus, clickthroughs to articles where the headline started with a vowel increased by 0.2%.

After much discussion, we decided that as this clearly represents a future growth market for BitterVerse Commerce, the data supports our decision to roll out this new homepage to 100% of our users.

Thanks to everyone for their hard work building this new design over the last 18 months.

Yours Sincerely,

Data McDataface