A short story, by Tiernan Douieb aged 33 and a half.

Then suddenly, the comments sections were turned off. On every news site, every blog page, every hotel recommendation, porn video and home-care zines alike. Nowhere, on the entirety of the internet could a thought be listed underneath, explaining what the average Joe or Joanne wanted to say about it. Was it a glitch, or a simulated plan? Surely the former as why would anyone want to do this on purpose? Search Engine Optimisation across the board would be down, which in turn would make sites lose advertising revenue and ultimately people across the world may turn to other areas for entertainment, like the theatre or outside. No one wanted that, did they?

At first there was silence. The usual sound of tapping on the keyboard was absent from the skies. Instead it was replaced by more subtle sound of the twiddling of thumbs, the gnawing of teeth, the biting of lips. The incredible quiet of things that needed to be said, absolutely imperatively needed to be cried out, not being relayed to anyone. An entire absence of opinion.

Then there was noise. The sighing and tutting of dismay. They had read a headline and opposed it. They had seen the thumbnail of a video and knew, in their heart of hearts that people must know that this did not comply with the correct way of life. The sighing and tutting grew into mumbling. Small rumblings of half thoughts escaping irritated brains. Mutterings of blame, of notions that something somewhere must be someone’s fault other than their own. Prejudices brought on through centuries of misunderstandings and ignorance falling out of lips like Chinese whispers to no one.

Then after only a few hours, quiet again. With no one to hear it, all the noise just stopped. There was now free time. Filling the world with annoyances, irritations, vexes and irks was incredibly consuming, and now that this could not happen, life was freed up. It felt…confusing. Slowly, very very slowly, articles were read. Videos were watched. Thoughts were actually mulled over and researched. Then people grew tired of their rooms which no longer had windows into the world that could be shouted through. So they went outside. In the stark cold air of reality, many people stood, quietly uncertain of their surroundings. After taking in the skies and the trees and the grass, they finally saw each other. One of them walked up to another. Like them but not quite. They stared at each other for a while. Was this the person that was to blame? What if this person doesn’t think like I do? What if they don’t like that bag or think that film wasn’t shit or occasionally forget a comma? What will I do if this is them, the culprit of blame?

‘Hello?’ One said. ‘Hello.’ The other replied. And conversation started. Small things at first. Names, ages, origin, the weather, food, and then gradually questions on taste and opinions on a piece of music they’d heard or a picture of a dog in a hat that they’d seen or a joke someone had written. One would say a thought and the other would listen before giving their thought on that thought, and over and over, until they realised they were all more alike than they could have ever imagined. Hours passed. Eventually the air grew too cold and the sky grew too dark. The people went inside, back to their tiny rooms, satiated. Someone had listened, and it was nice. And they had listened too, and it was nicer. Heads lay on pillows and satisfied smiles spread on faces content with the world and humanity for the first time in forever. The deepest sleep occurred globally in many years.

Then the next day the comments sections were back up again and everyone stayed indoors and anonymously called each other cunts for hours because it was easier.