I spent the weekend at a games convention, Conception, at a holiday camp in New Milton, close to Christchurch on the south coast. I stayed over at the camp last night, with the idea of travelling in to work in London on an early train, leaving New Milton station at 6:14 am. A friend also attending the convention had kindly offered to come and knock on my chalet window at about 5:45 to wake me up, and to give me a lift to the station. Chris is used to being an early riser, and wouldn't hear of me ordering a taxi. Last night a whole group of us had a Chinese meal together, and spent a little time stargazing before turning in. Venus was high in the sky and vividly green - more so than any of us could remember seeing it.

At 5:45 this morning I woke up sharply, certain I'd heard a noise. I'd been having a nightmare, and it ended very suddenly. I couldn't see anything in the darkness outside my window, but I assumed Chris had nipped off for a smoke, and so I hurled on my clothes, closed my case and headed outside. Chris was nowhere to be seen. The sky was as dark and clear as it had been just before midnight, and Venus was still up, above the tops of the surrounding trees. It was bitterly cold, and there was a crust of frost on everything. I called out Chris's name, and had a quick scout around the chalet. Nothing. Feeling cold and a little nervous, I walked down to the chalet Chris and his girlfriend Jenny were sharing. The living room light was on, but there was no sign of anyone. Jenny would presumably be sleeping, and I didn't want to disturb her. The main room looked tidier than it had done the previous night - no doubt Chris had sorted things out when he got up this morning. Then I went down to the car park, where Chris had parked his van. He clearly hadn't been there at all - there was a coating of ice on all the windows. The birds started singing as I prowled around the deserted camp, quietly calling Chris's name. The grass was crisp with tiny ice crystals, and my breath steamed so hard it sometimes obscured my vision.

I remembered that Chris had mentioned the other night that if anyone ever needed to find him in a hurry, they should call his mobile phone. He had said that he always had his phone within a few feet of him, and switched on. I got out my mobile, fetched up his number, and dialled it. After a pause of a few seconds, the phone went dead. I tried again, and the same happened. Not even a ring tone. By now I was quite afraid, both in case something had happened to Chris, and because I felt very lonely. I re-visited all the places I'd already been to, and still didn't see anyone at all. At this point, the sky began to lighten slightly, and I noticed from my watch that it was 6:15. I'd missed the early train. I decided to take a chance, and knocked on the door of Chris and Jenny's chalet. After a moment, Chris came to the door, still in his pyjamas. He thought it was 5:15, and was very surprised to be got up. He must have turned his alarm clock off when it rang, without realising it. I was relieved to find he was OK, and he got dressed and duly gave me a lift to the station. I was left more than a little spooked by the experience, and bitterly cold. What had woken me at exactly 5:45, the time I had expected my friend to be outside the window?

On the train, I had a coffee, warmed up, and pulled myself together. Then, at Southampton, my nerves were given another slight jolt. A passenger sat down beside me who drew my attention. A turbaned Indian with a laptop computer, he seemed to be a systems professional of some sort - a hacker. He started his machine and started tinkering with his files, and after a little while I noticed something extremely curious. He wasn't touching the computer with his hands at all. It just sat on his lap, and he had his hands empty and his arms folded. Despite this, I could see from glancing at the screen that files were being opened and studied, and text was being typed and selected. I thought of possible hands-free mechanisms for operating a computer. My first idea was that he was controlling the cursor with his eyes, but I could see that he was staring straight at the machine almost without blinking, and in any case there was nowhere a camera could exist to monitor his eye movements. I considered voice control, as he seemed to be wearing a earphones like the sort that plug into mobile phones, and there was a small box on top of the laptop, next to the control pad, which might have been connected to the computer, the earphones, or both. The obvious problem with this idea was that just as he wasn't moving his eyes enough, he was also totally silent. Nevertheless, he kept on operating the machine by some unseen means. I got off the train at Waterloo, still baffled.