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Happy Sysadmin Day: Or, IT Horror Story Contest Announces Final Winners!


Like in the popular Matrix movie series, the stories submitted to our IT Horror Stories Contest revealed that humans, not the machines, were the true monsters. Unlike the Matrix movie series, these stories won’t be grossing $1.6 billion (USD). However, the second best overall story does earn a HyperX Cloud headset Quickfire XT keyboard. The best overall story wins the aforementioned prize, as well as a Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader.

In honor of Sysadmin Day, and IT professionals around the world, we’re publishing these stories below as a testament to the hard work and ingenuity these employees bring to the job. We hope you enjoy.

Second Place Winner


I glanced up from my screen, then sighed as I returned to work. “Hello, Reaper.”

The grim specter of death sat cross-legged on the desk a few feet away from me, his head tilted, his skinless jaw resting in the bones of his palm, his sightless gaze locked onto my monitor.

“Watcha doing?” he asked.

“Patching and rebooting some development servers,” I said through my teeth. “I’m kind of busy. Can we talk later?”

The robed skeleton scooched closer to me, and I shied away from the scent of his torn and ratty cloak.

“Show me,” he said.

“What? No.”

“Show me!”

“Death, I’m super busy right now, can you…”

“SHOW ME!” The sound of his yell was the screech of a thousand failing backup batteries, and his breath on my cheek was colder than an optimally air-conditioned datacenter.

“Fine! Jeez!” I turned my monitor towards him. “Look, here’s the tool, and here are the servers I’m working on. So I just finished up with WEB_APP_PROD_6, and now…” My voice trailed off. At first, I was confused. There was something just WRONG with the list of machines I had been working on. And as my mind started piecing things together, I felt the first rivulets of icy fear trickling down my spine.

“Oh no,” I whispered. My shaking fingers fought to confirm what I already knew was true in my heart. “Oh no, oh no…these aren’t DEVELOPMENT servers, they’re-”

“Production,” Death tutted. “And in the middle of business hours, too.” He got down from the table, picked up his scythe, and smoothed out his robe.

“I’ll be waiting for you in your manager’s office,” he said with an obscene curl of his fingers. “Ta!” That’s when he disappeared, leaving me to cower beneath the horror of my digital sins…

First Place Winner

There he stood, a Major General of the Air Force, next to him was a very tired looking Chief Master Sergeant. The time was shortly past midnight, and I had already been on shift for nine hours, and exhaustion was slowly creeping in, three hours to go until I could clock out. Ever since leaving the military, rank no longer intimidated me, I was nearly untouchable if they decided to lose their cool. The General was impatient and baffled by my stubbornness, what he wanted was specialized access to a sensitive folder on the government shared drive. Something about him made me uneasy, my background in cyber security was unconsciously invoking a skeptical reaction to his firm demands.

The whole situation was irregular, I could understand a late night worker, I could understand why the gentleman would need access, but what was strange was why he was at the front desk in the first place. Usually general officers had aides to do this sort of grunt work, and they would provide some sort of documentation. This man showed no physical ID, but did give an accurate identification number, no paperwork and was starting to get belligerent. My heart raced, but I stood fast, as he named dropped my head boss’s name, demanded my name, and information, and as his voice raised to inconsolable heights.

“No.” I repeated, “Sir, with all due respect, I need some form of identification, your Chiefs is not enough. I also need documentation from your security officer with reasoning why you need the access. I cannot help you unless you provide me with this information.” My tone was clear and calm, I was not playing his game tonight. “Let me get my boss.”

My shift lead, also a contractor, came out of his office, clearly struggling to stay awake through his double shift. The General explained, in a very direct, and harsh tone what he needed from him that instance. He nodded, and then scolded me on why I should de escalate situations such as this in front of the customer. He said he would personally grant the General access. The General smiled abruptly.

“Are you sure Sir, this will not be a problem?” “All it takes is a few clicks of the button, what is your number so I can find you.” The General chuckled quietly, and gave him a number that was not the same as the one given to me.

A few moments went by, and I watched my supervisors face go white. The General was not a Major General, he was a civilian inspector, and had given the identification number to an account whose first name was “You Failed,” last name “The Inspection.”

The man apologized for his rudeness to me, and needless to say, my supervisor, was no longer my supervisor shortly after that. Ever since then, I have always trusted my instincts, and I can thank my wonderful teachers and mentors over the years for that ingrained behavior.


We hope you’ve gained some valuable insight from these tales from the encrypt. After all, isn’t that why we share stories? For others to learn, to enjoy, and to understand?

We, at CBT Nuggets, were ecstatic about the enthusiasm and entertainment found in every submission to our contest. Picking these winners was not a simple task, requiring a lot of deliberation from quite a few team members. We hope to see this level of passion and creativity again from you!

Stay tuned for further contests.


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