I’ve been having a lot of issues with my internet lately — but it’s 2020. The world fell apart in March. My grandmother, who was my best friend in the entire world, died in June. I didn’t find anything unusual about my computer going to shit. It was just another complaint to add to my long list of problems.
Besides, it wasn’t like the internet stopped working for days on end. Basically, every few hours, websites would stop running. Videos would buffer and buffer without ever actually loading. The bars in the corner of my laptop would blink down to zero. But the inconvenience would only last for five or ten minutes at a time. Then everything would go back to normal.
Honestly, those miniature blackouts were helpful at first. They reminded me to grab a drink of water, to walk around the house, to take my eyes off the screen for a few minutes. By the time I returned to my desk, everything would be okay again, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
But then, the other day, the situation got worse. My internet refused to connect for twenty minutes. Then thirty. Forty. I kept trying to join the network, but my name wasn’t on the list. However, other network names appeared. They all had creepy names like deathisnotpainful, itsbeautifulhere, mysoulstillflies.
I assumed the whole neighborhood was in on a joke that I hadn’t picked up on until then. One person probably created a funny name. Then another noticed and copied the idea. And so on and so forth. I’d seen similar memes online before. The names gave me a laugh, but then I stopped thinking about them.
When my internet returned, I tried calling up my internet provider to complain. I could handle a few minutes without internet, but I worked from home. Having it down for a half-hour (multiple times per day!) wasn’t acceptable. I was paying more than enough for a working service.
I got into a bit of an argument with the woman on the phone. She insisted everything was fine and that the company hadn’t had any other outages reported in my area code. I assumed it was bullshit, but who knew? Maybe I was the asshole in the situation.
I looked through public forums to see whether anyone else was in the same boat as me. Maybe I had downloaded a virus. Maybe I had my setting programmed incorrectly. Maybe someone could help me solve my problem.
I came across a Reddit thread that talked about weird internet outages. The people posting experienced the same exact problems as me. However, they were a bit better at playing detective.
“The outages occur three times per day,” one person wrote. “And they occur at the same time every single day. Two of those times are 1:20 and 5:46. What do those numbers add up to?”
“666,” someone else replied. “Then what does the last number mean? Scroll up and read. Apparently the last time is different for everyone.”
“This is going to sound nuts but… mine happens at 3:17. That’s the date my brother passed away earlier this year.”
I rolled my eyes, feeling sorry for these people who were trying to find meaningful patterns in random internet outages. But they got me curious. Just for the hell of it, I tracked the times myself. I knew around what time they happened every day, but I never paid attention to the exact minute.
The first outage occurred at 1:20. Like they said.
The next occurred at 5:46. Like they said.
It could be a coincidence, or a common bug in our computers, but I still spent the next hour biting my nails, terrified about what was coming. My grandmother had died on June 10. That would be 6:10.
And that was when the next outage occurred.
Trembling from head to toe, I returned to the forum. Some of the posters believed a work of evil was involved with the blackouts. Others believed a guardian angel was involved. Most believed their loved one was involved.
Me? I’m not sure. But I keep returning to network names and rereading the messages.