Zero One Zero

Road trip

Okay, where should I start? I have an idea, something which might grab your attention. No doubt it’s something you’ve wondered about. The Day The Internet Broke. Let’s start with that day, that one event which shattered the crystal cage we built around ourselves and revealed just how decrepit our sense of security was in relation to the enormity of the risk we faced.

In my office, waiting for a PhD student who, in stark contrast to her usual precise punctuality, was more than half an hour late. God forbid I would be forced to eat lunch in the campus cafeteria, rather than strolling into town and visiting my favourite deli. But if she didn’t arrive soon, it seemed more and more certain that I would be forced to compromise in saving what little was left of my afternoon break.

“Professor!” Her voice shredded the calm aura of my office. You have to understand, I am a man of no small pretensions. It has always been my aim to affect an air of studious impenetrability, my corner of the crowded campus being an oasis of serenity where minds could come together in restrained discourse. All of my students understood this unspoken rule and she was no exception. In spite of this sacred trust, she burst in like the furies were at her back and shouted. “You won’t believe what happened!”

I neither wanted to believe nor know. Fixing her with my most crushing, disinterested look, I gave her a very impolite piece of my mind. “Whatever it is, I hope it explains why you’re more than thirty minutes late.”

Not even a hint of regret or guilt on her face. Trembling with excitement, she advanced further into the room. Eyes wider than I’d ever seen them. To tell the absolute truth, I was jealous. We’d first met when she was just a bright-eyed, braindead undergrad. Who knew how many hours of lectures and tutorials I’d given her and never, not once in all those years, had I seen her this excited.

“The internet’s broken,” she said, shifting from foot to foot in front of me.

“I’d hardly call that an excuse,” I sneered, dismissing her with a wave of my hand and turning back to my grading.

“No.” She leaned closer, putting her hand on my shoulder. All those years, so many hours spent together, and I’d never felt her hand tremble when she touched me. “The whole thing. It’s gone. It really happened…”

I struggled to comprehend what she was saying. It took me a few moments to understand, a few rapid breaths before I had calmed my nerves enough to take action. I’m not proud to say it, but the first thing I did was turn to my computer, ready to see if I could corroborate her story on any reputable news sites.

Fool, I scolded myself. Don’t you understand what she’s saying? There aren’t any sites. No internet. No power. You could hit that button and nothing would happen. It’s all gone.

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