This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a hum.
Alexis woke up to another migraine headache. She was becoming worried that something else might be going on, something more serious. She would get migraines periodically, but this one had been persistent for days now.
Her boyfriend Brian walked into the bathroom as she was taking some medicine for her headache.
“I think I need one of those too,” he said, taking the bottle from her and dropping a pill in his hand.
“You’re getting a migraine too?” she asked.
“God, I hope not,” he replied. “I can just feel a headache coming. Maybe we have a cold front coming through.”
Alexis’ headache had been going on for too long for it to be related to the weather, but she wasn’t mentally able to debate it.
They kissed each other and went their separate ways to work.
The day was hard for her. Her migraine was making it hard to concentrate and by the early afternoon, she told her boss she needed to head home early.
When Brian arrived home, he was surprised to see her car in the driveway. He was usually the first one home.
“Alexis?” he called out as he crossed the threshold. No answer.
He dropped his computer bag when he saw her lying unconscious on the kitchen floor, and ran to her.
“Alexis!” he cried out.
He tried to call 911, but kept getting a busy signal.
Not willing to sit there waiting on the call to go through, he scooped her up and carried her to his car. Once she was safely strapped in the back seat, he drove off towards the hospital.
The hospital was in total chaos. Cars where parked on curbs, and a platoon of nurses and doctors were moving quickly to gather up as many of the newly arriving patients as fast as they could.
Brian lifted Alexis out of the car and carried her to the hospital entrance.
“Help me! My wife collapsed!” he cried out, attracting the attention of a male nurse.
“This way,” The nurse told him.
As Brian followed the nurse, he asked, “What’s going on?”
“People have been complaining of headaches now for a couple of days, but those headaches have grown into migraines, and many are starting to collapse,” the nurse said, weaving through the crowd. “We don’t know what’s causing it, but we’re trying to find a solution as quickly as we can.”
He led Brian to an empty bed.
“Lay her here,” the nurse said. “I’ll get a doctor here as fast as I can.”
A few hours later, Brian exited the insanely crazy hospital, feeling like he had been stabbed in the heart.
The doctors had done the best they could, but in the end, Alexis slipped away. They were never able to give him a reasonable explanation, and it seemed to be happening to everyone.
Brian rubbed his temple. He could hear a constant hum, and he could feel his headache quickly building.
‘Maybe I’ll be seeing you sooner, rather than later, Alexis’ he thought.
He gave one last look back at the hospital, and knowing there was nothing they could do, he walked away.
Professor Donald Williams of the Science Institute held out his sonic measuring device as he walked the halls of the crowded hospital.
He was picking up the same resonating hum that seemed to be everywhere, and the level was constant.
He had hoped the signal would get stronger or weaker as he walked around, giving him an idea of where the source of the signal could be coming from.
Once he was sure he wasn’t going to find any answers at the hospital, he left and drove back to his lab.
He had already deduced that the hum was the cause of all the headaches people were experiencing. A few days before, he had detected the signal, though he couldn’t determine where it was coming from.
When he started seeing his peers around him complaining of headaches, he quickly connected the two, and then tried to find a way to block the signal.
He had informed the hospitals of what he had found, but without a solution, there was nothing any of them could do.
He had started with ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones, and even tried standing in a sound-proof room, but to no avail.
He tried to find the frequency so that he could use an opposite sound wave in an attempt to cancel out the signal, but he wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact frequency.
Though he wasn’t sure where the signal was coming from, one thing he was sure of, was that it was getting stronger, and the stronger it got, the more people it would affect.
He rubbed his hands through his hair, and then gently rubbed his temples.
‘Oh, great,’ he thought. ‘Now it’s happening to me.’
As the day gave way to night, he took aspirin as he continued to work. Anything he could do to keep the headache at bay. He knew the stronger the pain that was invading his head got, the harder it would be to concentrate.
Early in the morning, his phone rang.
“Dr. Williamson,” he answered.
“Donald,” his friend and colleague Dr. Tom Burton started.
“We’ve found the source of the signal.”
“What?” Donald said. “That’s great, Tom! How do we shut it off?”
“We don’t,” Tom replied.
“What do you mean, we don’t?” Donald asked.
“I mean, it’s out of our reach,” Tom replied.
Donald was confused.
“It’s coming from space,” Tom clarified.
Three hours later, Donald arrived at the university where Tom was a lab professor.
Upon his arrival, they shook hands and Tom lead him to the lab where they had been able to locate the direction the signal was coming from.
“We’re still scanning space to isolate the area from which the signal is coming from, but so far, we haven’t seen anything of note,” Tom explained.
He led Donald to a large machine with a number of displays. Almost all of them where showing the sine waves of the signal that was causing everyone to hear a hum and have headaches.
“The reason we haven’t been able to isolate the frequency, is because it’s being transmitted across all the known frequencies,” Tom explained.
“The signal is very advanced, and we haven’t been able to find a solution on how to stop it,” he continued. “Many of my lab techs are dealing with headaches, and a few have not been able to continue.
“I’ve started to pull as many personnel from other departments to replace them, but as of this morning, only a half dozen of us have yet to experience any headaches. Everyone who has been experiencing the headaches have complained of hearing a constant hum. We can only assume it’s the signal, but every effort to block the signal hasn’t worked.
“The only thing we know for sure is that the signal is getting stronger and that it’s affecting the entire planet. No country is safe, and every scientist in the world is working on a solution.
“As the signal gets stronger, more begin to hear the hum and begin getting headaches. Those that have already been hearing the hum and have headaches, complain that it gets much worse, turning into full-blown migraines.
“Those with migraines don’t last long, as they all end up going to the hospital to seek help, but we have yet to have anyone return.
“Our only hope is, as the signal gets stronger, we can then isolate the source, and that will help us focus our efforts to block the signal, or even signal back, hoping whoever is sending it will stop.”
“Can’t we send a message in the direction we know it’s coming from?” Donald asked.
“We already did,” Tom replied. “But there has been no response. Our hope for now, is that as the signal becomes stronger, the better we’ll be able to find a way to block it.
“Of course, as time goes by, the headaches will only make it more difficult to concentrate, and eventually work at all.”
They both understood the gravity of the situation, and quickly resumed work in the desperate hope of finding a solution.
They both worked through the night, but by morning, Donald was unable to focus, and could only do minimal tasks.
He knew that going to the hospital to seek treatment wouldn’t help, so he decided the best course of action was to keep working until the end.
The end came at three in the afternoon.
Tom, who now had the makings of a pretty bad headache himself, could only spare a few moments to mourn his friend, and then it was back to work.
Tom was in constant contact with scientist from around the world, all working toward the common goal of locating the source of the code, and a way to block it, but as time passed with no new answers, their numbers began to dwindle.
Tom worked tirelessly, as he watched one by one of his colleagues collapse and die shortly thereafter.
His own headaches were getting worse, and he knew he didn’t have much longer.
‘I just wish I could get rid of this stupid hum for just a few minutes,’ he begged to no one in particular.
Taking a short break, he walked down the hall to the break room to grab some coffee. Because of the migraine, he was no longer able to sleep. All he could do was mainline coffee to keep himself as alert as possible.
There were several televisions on and all of them were running reports on the number of deaths the signal was causing.
They droned on about what the governments were working on, possible leads scientists were pursuing, and how much longer they expected the planet to survive.
Apparently, the constant hum was also affecting all the animals, and they were dying off as quickly as their human compatriots.
Tom sipped his coffee, hoping something someone would say would give a clue as to what was happening.
As he stood up to leave, before him stood a humanoid creature staring back at him.
‘Oh God, I’m losing my mind,’ he thought, keeping his gaze on the alien before him.
It looked like it was trying to communicate with him, but all he could hear was that constant hum that was beginning to block out all other sounds.
Tom used hand gestures to convey that he had no idea what the alien was trying to tell him. He felt slightly amused at the thought that he might be actually only talking to himself.
‘I’m about to die, and this is what my mind has defaulted to?’ he asked himself.
He carried on the confusing conversation, when suddenly, the hum grew enormously louder, causing him to drop to one knee in pain.
The alien approached him with a look of wanting to help, but Tom felt like his head was about to explode.
The world around him was becoming increasingly blurry, and with a final shot of pain, his world went black.
T’noch snapped his head back as his connection with the human was severed. He shook his head slowly. He couldn’t understand why he was having so much trouble keeping a connection to the creatures that inhabited the planet they were slowly approaching.
He turned around to face his captain and report in his own language.
“Sir, I’ve just lost another connection to another one of those creatures,” he said. “I don’t understand what the issue could be. We have not encountered this issue with any other planet we have visited.
“I began reaching out a cycle ago, and as we have gotten closer, I have been able to make contact with many of them, but after only moments of opening communications with them, the connection is severed, and I’m forced to start over.
“What are your orders?”
The captain looked at him as he contemplated their next move.
“Didn’t you say your connections were becoming easier and more frequent as we neared the planet?” the captain asked.
“Yes, sir,” T’noch replied. “I am able to connect to a being much faster, but the connection never last.”
The Captain nodded.
“Very well,” he said. “While we prefer to announce our arrival ahead of time, so they can better prepare themselves for our arrival, we may have to arrive unexpected and hope for the best.
“Continue your attempts until we arrive. Increase power if you need to.”
“Yes sir,” T’noch replied.
One cycle later, they arrived at the planet they had been attempting to communicate with through a telepathic connection.
“Sir,” T’noch started. “This is strange, but I’m not reading any lifeforms on the planet.”
The Captain stood up in surprise.
“Explain!” he demanded.
“Every living creature on the planet appears to be dead,” T’noch explained.
“The cause?” the Captain asked.
“Unknown, sir,” T’noch answered. “All I can tell is that it happened recently. That may explain why I have not been able to communicate with any of them in half a cycle.”
“Continue the scans,” the Captain instructed. “Once we are sure it wasn’t a virus, or poses a threat to us, we’ll land on the planet for further investigation. In the meantime, begin transmitting to the next planet on our charts. Once we complete our investigation here, we’ll continue on to them.”
“Yes, sir,” T’noch replied.
Two cycles later, T’noch reported from the surface back up to the Captain.
“Sir,” he began. “I’m afraid I’ve discovered the cause of their extinction.”
“What was the cause?” the Captain asked.
“I’m afraid it was us,” T’noch replied. “Apparently, their minds were not able to accept the telepathic link, and instead overwhelmed their minds. I’m afraid we inadvertently caused their extinction.”
The Captain, overwhelmed with remorse, shut of communications with T’noch and lowered his head into his hands, and asked, “What have we done?”