For me, a trip to the company's server room was exciting. The cold air, the hum of the servers, and the rows of servers with fun blinking lights would make me feel like I was Harrison Ford in Firewall, ready to download confidential data on a MacGuyver-ified iPod. The sad reality, though, was that trips to the server room generally meant I needed one of the administrator's signatures on some stupid paperwork.

John Smith (which I think is his real name) was luckier than me. His duties often required him to be in the server room, though he didn't go into detail about his daily responsibilities in his submission. He was probably in charge of keeping Harrison Ford and iPods out of the server room.

The server room in question was split into two areas. One contained the parent company's servers, the other contained servers assembled and maintained by John's company. The section belonging to the parent company was beautiful; plenty of space to walk, organized columns of rackmounted server equipment, and cables neatly tucked away.

The server room John was in wasn't kept to the same standard. The shelves were filled with desktop tower cabinets, rackmountable servers (that were not actually mounted on anything), switches dangling from thick systems of entangled wires, and servers stacked and balanced in horrifying house-of-cards formations.

The room resembled a jungle. Network cables and power cords spilled off the servers like vines, with the odd piece of hardware reaching out from underneath. It'd be 90°F on a cool day since there was no air conditioning. The room grew organically: when projects required new servers, they'd be added anywhere they could be balanced and cables could fit, eventually absorbing other systems under the dense cable vegetation. One day the new guy, Gary, was sent down to find FCDEVSRV1 for a hard reboot and was never heard from again, probably now mummified by cabling (OK, I made that up).

John eventually took ill and was on sick leave for a few months. Possibly from some strange disease contracted by prolonged exposure to the server room, but I'm not sure. While the thought of the server room would make his stomach turn, he held on to a faint iota of hope that things might improve in his absence. He certainly didn't expect things to be better, but he wanted to believe.

Of course, upon his return to work, fate crapped on his hope and served him up a big, steaming slice of shattered dream pie. The familiar stench of hot computers and death descended on him while he tried to shut out the familiar fear of dying in the room and having the network absorb nutrients from his decaying body. He futilely planned an escape route in case a fire broke out, but knew he'd be toast if that happened. Walking through the room, cursing himself for forgetting his machete to carve out a path through the dense cabling, he moved past some familiar servers. FCSRV1, FCPROJ001, FCCVSSRV01, FCSQLSRV01, and others that made a stab at following some sort of FooCorp naming convention.

It was then that John noticed a new server in the room, teetering on the edge of one of the cabinets. He moved closer, remaining careful not to displace air fast enough to knock it over, and squinted to read the label. FCSRVUNKNOWN01. He turned white as though he'd seen a ghost. Was this server even placed here by a human? Maybe it was all that was left of Gary. John was relieved to get out without being swallowed up by the room.