21 Jun 98

January 1, 2000: The Millennium Bug

January 1, 2000: The Millennium Bug

I woke before dawn with a champagne hangover when a plane crashed into my apartment. The year 2000 bug. I pulled myself from bed just in time--the mattress ticking burst into flames, pillow melting into syrup.

The apartment was filled with fuselage and luggage. As I began to clean up, the toilet exploded, sewage reversing its flow. I dodged porcelain as my clock radio turned on and off, its readout blinking "11:60 PM." The clock radio said, "worldwide difficulties due to the computer bug known as the" and cut off as it evaporated into a fog of atomized black plastic.

I reached for the phone, even though I couldn't feel my fingers. The operator announced that all lines were down--and yes, from the window, you could see the phone lines snapping and curling. I watched as the few survivors struggling out of the plane were electrocuted by the falling wires. The streetlights strobed wildly, and my computer burst up from the floor through the ceiling, leaving a great hole and coming to land in the building's back yard.

I knocked on my neighbor's door. As the door fell in, he turned to yell something, but his skull began to waver and shrink. Unnerved, I turned back into my apartment. My refrigerator had lumbered across the floor and blocked the door. It strained and tugged, then finally unplugged itself and fell over the railing, down the stairs.

In the apartment, my credit cards were flying around the room, shredding the curtains. I wanted nothing more than to go back to bed, but the mattress was still glowing with embers, filthy black smoke pushing through the charred sheets. In the bathroom, the tub had fallen into the apartment below.

The air conditioner sent out licks of flames, and the radiators began to shake themselves into an iron blur. I ran quickly downstairs into the scene of the plane crash, hoping to make it to a place without appliances, away from computer systems. All I could think of was the East River, so I ran through the fires and debris to the harbor. When I reached the piers, the river had dried up. I spent the day picking through the sunken ships and skeletons, admiring the exposed muck of three urban centuries.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


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