Off The Grid

What started it all off was me realising I couldn’t double-tap the most recent Kylie Jenner Instagram post. There she was, wearing a tight nude dress with sky-high stilettos posing perfectly in front of her mansion—and here I am, sitting in my day-old pyjamas, munching on a half-empty can of pringles, wondering if I’ve forgotten to pay the Wi-Fi bill again. I reload the app—now the post isn’t even loading. I try opening WhatsApp to text my roommate if the WiFi is down again (I am too lazy to walk over to the other room). The message doesn’t even go through. Defeated, I push myself off the bed and knock on my roommate’s door, armed with my can of Pringles. She opens the door and the buffering episode of ‘Death Note’ on Netflix on her laptop screen is enough to tell me my suspicions were on point. 

“WiFi’s down again, huh?” I ask. 

“We just paid the bill though,” she justifies.

Both equally mystified, we try to use mobile data, with no luck. 

“This is odd,” I mutter.

We both had different carriers and both of them being down together is entirely new to us. Just then I get a call from my sister, who lives all the way across the country.

“Is your YouTube down too?” she asks in a panic. 

She goes on about some Livestream by some has-been boyband member she was going to attend but I have already stopped listening. The gears in my brain are turning (granted they don’t do that often, it takes a while). The only logical explanation is scary and one I am not ready to entertain. I switch the TV on to the first news channel, thanking myself internally for still having a seemingly useless DTH subscription. So I am right, the internet has stopped working.

My roommate and I try to wrap our heads around this development. 

“I’m sure it’ll be back up in a few minutes, an hour max,” she convinces herself.

The news channels are saying no one knows what caused this, just that the internet has simply stopped working; it’s inaccessible. Experts are frantically trying to determine the cause of this interruption but they knew this: it isn’t just us, the whole world has gone offline.

It wasn’t long before the chaos reigned in. I guess it is only natural. Humans are programmed to panic on cue. With surveillance systems down and whatnot, the robberies start pretty quick. I go outside, only to see a scene out of The Joker unfold. Is that the sweet old lady who runs the corner bookstore I see with a gun? Sure enough, it is her, trying to protect herself and the kids in the bookstore from robbers. I stand there in disbelief until a silver car pulls up dangerously near me and the front window unrolls.

“Get in now. We’re leaving,” says a voice.

I recognized him immediately; he is the quiet unsuspecting guy from work. I remember buying him a drink once at an office party because he was standing all alone. I cannot quite remember his name, but here he is. He looks like a doomsday packer. From the looks of it, he had emergency supplies stocked and ready to go in his backseat. 

“It’s getting too violent in the building, get in.” He eyes me suspiciously but slides open the door for me. Don’t ask me what made me do it, but I get in.

“Pringles?” I offer.

He does not look amused.I open my mouth to tell him my name but he holds up a hand to silence me.

He probably already knows me. I anxiously look around and see a woman with a toddler in her hand running past a group of people. I feel helpless and am just about to ask if we could stop to help the poor mother when he takes a violent turn. My entire body jolts sideways as I try to steady myself using the handgrip. He makes a low grunt and asks me to wear my seatbelt.

“What is going on?” I finally ask

His mouth is set in a grim line, and he looks around as if people on the streets could listen to us. We pull over at a pharmacy just before the highway leading outstate. 

There’s a concerned look on his face. ‘In about 10 hours from now, all banks will stop working. They will restrict withdrawals, and the chaos would only be just beginning.’

“So that means no groceries or medicines,” I think out loud. 

“Yes, Captain Obvious,” he remarks.

We quickly scan the area and lock the car before I head to the ATM and withdraw some of the money I have saved up. He comes back from the pharmacy with some over the counter supplies that we might need. The truth is, none of us knew how long it could take for the internet to be restored. Without GPS and communications, all supplies are bound to run out sooner than we’d imagine.

We silently shop for canned goods, batteries, and other essentials. Twice during the trip, my fingers, out of habit and adaptation, open WhatsApp and Instagram. No luck. Nyet. Nada. 

I try to think of how many languages I could say ‘no’ in when I notice it’s starting to get dark. I am surely not looking forward to sleeping in that car.

The noises are getting louder. Is that a rumble coming from the ground? The temperature in the car drops for a minute, but rises without warning in the next few seconds. I start sweating profusely and roll down the window, but he yells at me to close it. I hear a deafening boom— an ear-rupturing quake that shook the ground. It cannot be a gunshot. It is way louder. I turn around to see a giant beam of light coming from what I assume caused the boom. The beam seemed to be getting closer. I barely have time to react when it comes right at me and I— 

I woke up with a jolt. Wait! what? There’s no way that was a dream. It couldn’t have been. I look out the window. Everything seems fine. I open my phone and scroll through Instagram for what seems like ages. Huh, that’s odd, did Kylie post a picture in the same dress twice? A wave of deja vu washes over me. I decide to double tap it either way when my roommate walks in.

“Did we forget to pay the WiFi bill again?”

Written by Aishwarya Sabarinath and Rajika Ghose for MTTN

Edited by Sriya Mistry for MTTN

Featured Image from WeeTracker


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