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A panic room is a kind of secure bunker that all reasonably well-off people construct in their homes for protection. If the homeowner can make it to the panic room of their dwelling when the inevitable attacks come, statistically they will be safe for an average of a full hour before the intruders break in. A well-built panic room will have thick, poorly ventilated walls and very small dimensions, giving enough protection to afford those inside a sweaty, claustrophobic, and dark, but thankfully torture-free end.
The panic room fad originated from the upsurge in violent home invasions following the apocalyptic madness of 2000. The major 24-hour news channels began reporting exclusively home invasions by dark individuals in hoods or masks, who by all accounts simply swelled from the depths of surrounding seemingly harmless bogs, dells, and sewers. The televisions rattled and screeched almost non-stop with telephone-call recordings consisting of nothing but faint cries for help, prayers, moans, gasping, screaming, and finally silence as the last, slender copper lifeline to the outside world was brutally sliced. The 24-hour-a-day frenzy ceased as fast as it began, as break-ins became so commonplace that the news stopped reporting them. In the confusion, the anarchist parties of several world superpowers rose to prominence, but even they, with their outback minutemen and click-load tyre guns on the fences, were forced to admit defeat. A heroic army of suicidals, organized into military-style platoons, "volunteered" to undertake the deadly task of erecting a rolling battery of barbed-wire fences to stem the sheer tide of homicidal street punks and beatboxers, base-bopping their bloody way to icy-eyed world domination one screaming single mother and stranded local biddy at a time.
They are typically fortified against as many attack routes as the homeowner can conceive of. The "Pauper Package" of one suburban security provider features a solid, plate-titanium door with cat-o-nine-tails deadbolt, Olympic forced-air ventilation systems, nine days worth of food, water, and medical supplies, and a life preserver, which serves as both an icon and a buoy for the shock-flooding tactics to come. Those wealthy enough to northern-nose the basic package always buy into the "Supreme Deluxe Stay-Alive" plan offered by Last Man Securities. The Lastman system adds an assortment of high-grade assault rifles, a satellite linkup, a tethered escape dirigible (brand names Widow Floater and Despair in the Air), and a series of connected escape tunnels. Consumer advocacy groups, after the fall populated largely by mole-men, refer to these underground escape systems derogatorily as "oubliettes," a conception their hardcore magma suction projects helped reinforce. The deluxe model also features radiation shielding and a heat dissipation network for those pesky nuclear holocausts. While perhaps formidable to the cat burglar trying to bust in with a wet noodle, a panic room will not stand up to determined invaders, but nevertheless can give the homeowner an ill-justified sense of safety.
Consumers of the continued fruits of life should take care not to be taken by the hucksters of the business. The especially skilled in shrewdly conning the innocent simply cart in a prefabricated panic room (with only two centimetres of steel, tops) and don't even bolt it down. What happens when one tranquil night an intruder takes a forklift to the bloody bone-box? What if the evil genius he's working for deigns to turn the house upside down and shake it? If the homeowner goes and pays for a simple concrete room, that scenario doesn't even bear thinking about. Rogue anti-burglar-measure firms cruelly beset the least fortunate customers; these rogues make false motions to install a panic room, then turn on the unsuspecting customer with a lead pipe and wham, the party's over. The only thing more dangerous than an unstoppable, faceless force of no-good youths is a caged contractor.
There are many tricks in the assassin's trade for getting at the occupants of a panic room. An adequately trained home invader will begin by using a micro-magnetic teleportation machine to deftly yank the terrified creatures of a panic room into the middle of a field, where a gaggle of otherworld-sponsored militants will give them and their crying children an Austrian 21-gun salute. More occasionally, they find the need to penetrate the casing of the panic room; for this the standard Home Hardware tool, a monstrous clamp-like object sold under the name Cheese Grater, does the job admirably. Some panic rooms are a little tougher but easily give way to the electric water pick, another standard item on the tool-belt. The approaches of welding, biting, and Star Trekking the stronghold open are taught in all homicidal home penetration and human pest extermination classes.
The most strongly built panic rooms will not give in so easily, and for these the murder artist must call upon some of the harder to come by weapons in her arsenal. Breaching the outer shell may be impossible, deflecting the invader to more delicate means. A screwdriver must be wielded to undo the bolts of the outer casing individually. The most supreme panic rooms require the burglar to resort to his most aggressive tactic ever: a light tap with a hammer. Once the invasion crisis is over, the relieved people inside the panic room can exhale gases and rest easy in their coffins.
The more touched and twisted of panic room owners take less standard advantage of their retreats. In fact, panic rooms are often refuges for goths and other cult members who need a dark place to apply eyeliner and necromance. Other ends of the modern panic room are less frivolous; a strained businessman may go to his panic room for a belt of orange juice, or to phone a business acquaintance about a new merger, or just to escape from the unfortified, paper-thin hellhole that is a modern joist-and-beam house built after the castle era of the great kings of Norway. A sad complex can develop around this, where the habit of going to the panic room more and more often comes back to bite the sufferer; they are carted off to a mental asylum where they are thrown in another dark dungeon with some creepy thugs they bagged in nets. Panic rooms are only for those escaping from literal, inescapable danger and of course those who enjoy the electric-shock-like fantasy of the former.
A panic room is also a technological metaphor for a device that an operating system can retreat to when a system is under attack. For example, when hostile executable data bangs at the hardware gates, the OS can hide in the panic room, while the malice and might of the data tears apart the unsuspecting computer's boot sector before moving onto the BIOS chip. The virtual viruses are more of a threat than ever before, breaking down firewalls and invading the CPU with ease. They send even the anti-virus software running to the panic room. Panic rooms are essential software services for commerce; security packages like Norton ColdSafe ironically secure the systems of the black markets where the invasion weapons for real panic rooms are sold.
A film was made in 2002 called Panic Room. It was a second-rate horror flick about a family which had to go to their panic room to escape burglars who were looking for some object of value or other. Come to think of it, it was relatively derivative.
What makes the film notable were its consequences. The film raised citizen's overall fear of their panic rooms, causing scores of deaths from violent assault that very week. Also, the ending had to be cut from the film; the crew was filming one of the last scenes when somebody broke into the set. The crew tried to hide in the panic room, but it was to no avail, the panic room being nothing but a prop. Playing a role in the director's downfall was the fact that he was spooked by an earlier occurrence, in which an extra playing an unthinking killing machine turned out to be one. The film made it into the Academy's list of nominees for Best film completed after the entire cast and crew were slaughtered during production. On its opening weekend, it received lukewarm reviews and a rating of PG13 for "minor real-life graphic chainsaw decapitations."
There is another intriguing cultural instance of the panic room, in which a person submits an article to a local newspaper via a secure Internet connection from a tomb-like encasement deep in the mansion of a serial killer. Sweat boils off his scarred, pale face, heated by the dim, singular bulb hanging above his face. A shuffling noise is heard and