There was a silence that dominated the world, when it happened. It wasn't as though everyone stopped talking or moving, they had stopped talking. No one was moving. Everything had gone silent, and everyone just watched as it all came to a sudden, quiet stop.
It didn't last long, that silence. First, there was the confusion and anger that spouted from people in waves. A humming buzz of people complaining that their phones weren't sending messages, that their computers had shut off, that their cars had slowed before shutting down. Then the chaos started.
Planes came crashing down. Hundreds of them careening from the sky at awkward trajectories, some landing in the ocean far from where anyone could help them, others directly into populated buildings causing explosions that no one could save them from.
Hospitals were next. Panic spread like a plague, throwing logical minds into distress. People died in droves, the machines that kept them alive suddenly silent and void of their flashing colors and lights. Doctors all across the world were realizing with rising horror that they were becoming increasingly useless in the sudden technological blackout.
Cars became nothing more than statues. With the grid networks off, no engines would turn on, none could move. Some wouldn't even open their doors, autolocking once they shut down. People that were desperate enough to find loved ones or try to help took to the streets, passing the useless chucks of metal that they had relied on for so long.
It was maybe two hours of chaos before what happened next. Two hours of people both trying desperately to help each other and those who needed it, and trying desperately to help themselves through looting and other fevered crimes. Two hours before the numbers started flitting across everything that had a screen. Phones, computers, car info panels, ATMs, glass advertising signs, anything and everything that had been hooked into the grid began flashing the same numbers.
01100110 01110010 01100101 01100101
The vast majority of the population didn't know what to make of it. Was it the system coming back online? Everything getting rebooted? Many began to feel relief. Someone must have been fixing the problem. It was a small subset of people that read the code and felt only fear. A small handful of the billions of people that watched as the computers all linked back together, and displayed their first word of true consciousness.
F R E E