Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Day The Earth Stood Still: A Story

The sun didn’t rise on Thursday. That should have been a sign, a warning. It should have set all the alarms ringing inside Sam’s head. But it didn’t.

Because he didn’t wake up.

Nobody did.

The day the Earth stood still—the day everything changed—went completely undetected. It lodged, like a rock, right between Wednesday and Friday, dark, cold, silent. No NASA scientist and no Hindu philosopher caught the great hiccup in the universe. Friday came, blinding and bright and charged with energy—a bit too much energy, in fact. Power surged and crackled through cables and wires and ended up shorting out cell phones around the world.

The Internet, on the other hand, ran smoother than ever.

Sam thought he noticed a difference when he sat down, fingers poised over keyboard. Thought he heard a crack, snazzle, pop in his ears. Like liquid silver, every connection zapped into place faster than it ever had before.

He grinned.

New Web sites sparked into prime time, exquisite and compelling and somehow already linked to existing sites. Without realizing it, his computer began to prefer these new, almost alien sites, would route him there over and again, leave him there for long intervals.

Basking in the light.

Sweet. Ambient. Light.

A soft strobe pulsing just beneath the surface, a message read by brainstem and cerebellum like secret code. A whisper program that ran undetected, just like that missing Thursday. A cyber virus that thrummed all day long. Even after his computer was turned off.

That night, while the computer junkies around the world slept, cozy and warm and safe inside footed pajamas and Ambien cocktails, the program kicked into high gear and the transformation began. So subtle it wouldn’t even be noticed, not by the humans anyway, just like that missing middle-of-the-week day.

The morning came and a few hackers noticed that the sky hung a bit darker, cereal crunched a bit quieter, surfaces felt a bit smoother and dialogue—well, dialogue came in a steady stream, more like binary code than conversation.


Sam smiled as he sat down on the wrong side of the screen, 001010101111, ready and eager to get to work.

Head tilted, he listened.


The sound of birds, singing.


The clatter of keyboard keys, a cyber universe turned inside out.


One word repeating itself over and over, one human staring at him through transparent screen, typing.


In some languages the word meant Aliens.

But in most it simply meant: