Confessions of a People Watcher Issue #4: A Mass Hysteria

For someone who writes often, you wouldn’t think it’d be difficult to think of something new to write about. The only challenge with Confessions of a People Watcher is that, with the exception of finding stories within theses events, I would like it to be based somewhat in reality. I’m a fiction writer by nature, and granted, I could just make something completely up and not tell you. but what kind of message would that deliver; what challenge would it present.

If being a self-indulgent, yet frugal, asshole means telling you a good story on my end, then by God it’s what I intend on doing. God knows how bad it would look if I were a lying, self-indulgent asshole.

That’s bad for business.

Instead of talking about one, two, or even three specific people in particular this week, I intend on talking about what could happen collectively if a particular event were to take place.

This is an event that I feel I have the right to speculate upon. It isn’t because I’m a writer or an asshole, but because It’s actually the industry that provides my food and shelter; I’m referring to my forty-hour grind. My day job.

But what’s this event, you may be wondering, and what is it you do when you’re not writing?

 

Stick around and find out.

 

It’s amusing at the very least, and to make this event, we’ll give it a cool name like Nova, more sensible, I’ll have to explain a bit about what I do. Bear with me on this and let’s hope, for both of our sake, that I don’t start to ramble.

Although I’ve never been given a specific title at work, I’ve found it difficult to answer the question when asked, “What do you do for a living?” It’s not that I can’t specifically say what I do, but to me, answering back with, “I fix cellphones for a living” seems a bit lackluster.

Having worked in the industry for two years, I’ve slowly grown into the self-appointed title of Consumer Electronics Repair Technician.

Here’s why:

In lament, I fix anything that you might see anyone with in their hands, pockets, purses, or bags, and I do it for a living. Cellphones, tablets, computers, TVs, gaming consoles, the electronic equivalent of a skeleton key for hotels, Bluetooth speakers, key fobs, car diagnostic machines, WiFi boxes for police cruisers, walkie-talkies, and the list keeps going.

I could probably go on with more detail, but it would dilute the point of the topic for this week. To finish this off quickly, I fix what has enslaved the human race without them even knowing it, but let’s assume this event, this Nova, happens and wipes it all away.

The start of any good story for me in the past has always been to ask the question starting with “What if?” So, let’s pose the question:

What if the world lost all access to their electronics tomorrow?

I know for some, this sounds like the preface to a horror movie, but for others, it may very well be the dawn of a new era for mankind, a better, less superficial one. In order to keep it from sounding too horrific or nostalgic, I’m going to stick with what I, personally, think would happen based on rough evidence.

So, let’s pretend you’re living in day zero of the event. In the morning when you wake up, as the news had predicted the day prior, a massive solar flare known as Nova has struck the earth, a large solar flare producing a massive EMP that has not only destroyed electronics devices but has also destroyed all electronic components as well. This means we have to started everything from scratch, even batteries.

No internet, no cellphones, and no way of contacting ANYONE.

We’ll start with everyone that’s going to die.

Day 1, 0900 hrs

Population: Approx. 7,640,200,000

Situation: Massive EMP from the solar flare Nova has destroyed any and all electronic devices.

 

It’s harsh to say, and a lot  to take in, but a large number of people are going to die on day one, and we ain’t talking metaphorically.

Imagine everyone in an elevator, on a plane, beneath the ocean in a submarine, in a shark cage that’s hooked to a boat, on life support, reliant upon heat or air conditioning in extreme climates, or even the unlucky people who have just worked up the courage to get on a dangerous theme park ride for the first time in their life.

They’re all dead.

Taking in that most people would begin to panic due to the rapidity of change and lack of digital networks to provide our current way of life, let’s say a solid 20% of the earth’s population is expected to be gone on day one, almost in the blink of an eye.

Assuming that none of these planes crash into my apartment complex, I’m going to assess the situation. First, I’m going to pretend it may not be true and take a long, hot shower. For all I know, it may be the last one I’ll get to take for a long while; you have to be cautious when dealing with the possibility of a new world, and with my anxious nature, I’m always cautious.

After hopping out of the shower and hearing panic in the streets, I’m going to lock the bottom set of doors to the complex, lock my own doors on the second floor, pack my grandfather’s smoking pipe with cherry flavored tobacco, and enjoy a good long smoke, occasionally glancing out the window.

It should be known that I haven’t used any form of nicotine whatsoever this year, but I’d make the exception in this case. So much for my new year’s resolution. Maybe I could make a few New Age resolutions while I’m at it.

After packing a bag, playing a few long games of solitaire, and having a few more pipefuls of the good stuff, I’m going to sit in my chair for the rest of the day, and start writing letters to the people that matter most to me, placing each one in an envelope with their names on it, occasionally stopping to read a book.

Don’t ask me why.

Truth be told, this will take a day or two. We’ll travel forward in time for such events.

Day 3, 1300 hrs

Population: Approx. 6,112,160,000

Situation: Death counts rise worldwide. Most have turned to religion, calling the event the start of the apocalypse. Mass rioting and civil unrest continue.

 

It’s anyone’s guess what the real death toll would be in a situation like this. But again, this is just based on my scratched surface understanding of how people are when they go for too long without their phones, or really anything that fires off a shot of dopamine for that matter.

By Day three, I should have all of the important letters written, stowed in my pack, and ready to be given if and when the time comes. After this, assuming someone hasn’t raided my apartment, it’s off to the road with me. You can’t be a hermit forever, and just so I can’t look back, I’m going to torch my apartment building.

The rest of the world will still be in complete dismay. This is coming from someone who has literally watched people get twitchy and start panicking when you take their phones away in order to work on them. Imagine realizing that you’ll never see that little inanimate object again.

It’s fun to watch, but it leaves no hope for humanity, especially in a situation like this.

On day three, the world’s online personalities –Youtube stars, big time instagrammers, professional Snapchat filter applicators, or basically anyone who was given stardom for doing nothing– will be lucky to have made it to day three. They will have started to lose hope that the internet will come back. Sorry, Youtuber, but your videos won’t help me catch and skin a cat for dinner.

Your worth is non-existent anymore.

That being said, there’s exception for those who make content designed to help you survive in such a circumstance. They’re thriving to say the least, and probably more or less happy that such a thing has happened.

On that note, it’d be cool to see someone famous along the way who was smart and tactful enough to use their fame to their advantage. Let’s face it, you’re less likely to pull the trigger on a known star than you are fat Joe, the owner of the deli that’s being looted down the street.

All in all, the riots, suicides, senseless death, and all the other trimmings that  one could expect to come along with such an event would probably bring the population size down another 30% from the original count.

Day 366, 0630 hrs

Population: Approx. 3,820,100,000

Situation: Survivors of Nova have started to make peace without electronic devices. Rioting and general chaos have been brought to a minimum.

 

I’ve enjoyed my vacation from work. Not much in the way of jobs if you can’t fix someone’s stuff. I wouldn’t want to fix someone’s stuff even if paid to after such an event. To me, that’s like challenging a god’s will to do away with our handheld pieces of garbage.

A year and a single day have gone by since the world ended, slowly for some and almost immediately for others. For the rest of us the world is pretty good at this point. Everyone looks everyone else in the eyes when they speak, no one is really worried about the superficial mask they used to wear, and best of all, no one is hiding behind the internet name BiGdIcK2000 anymore.

The world smells a little better, and the ozone isn’t as clogged.

Things are starting to look up, until one day–and you know some asshole will just have to ruin it– someone remembers how to charge batteries, making cars run again, and before you know it, we’re shackled once more to our computers.

The human race is a strange mass of people, but at the end of the day, all we can do is speculate what might be. Until that time comes, and even after, I’ll be her to tell a story.

In all seriousness, if something like this actually happened tomorrow, I would start questioning my luck, perhaps even my sanity.

Speaking of sanity, if you want me to keep mine, like what you’re reading, and/or want to see more in the future, support my writing by donating to the Patreon page.

Remember, each tier is given varying amounts of submissions to The Think Tank, the source for a bimonthly prompt that YOU enter to be pulled at random and have a short story (1k-10k words) written about it, but you can only give the submissions if you’re a patron, so go check it out.

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