My body turned to jelly as the paralysis spread, as my eyes scanned the headline. A deadly intruder to the human race was incoming.
According to The Sun newspaper, a monstrous beast was heading to implode the earth. It was going to strike the planet, blow up electrical grids, destroy transport links, and end the world as we knew it. Utter chaos was about to arrive as the money system would be crushed by this monster. The Millennium Bug was the name, and it was on course to Earth for the turn of the millennium.
This was 1999, and I’d just turned 9 years old.
Rushing home from school, heading straight for the kitchen table to burst open The Sun, I would rummage through until I found the latest article regarding my upcoming death. Wrecking my brain, helpless, but unable to take my eyes away from the terrifying, yet admittedly entertaining updates about The Millennium Bug.
Nothing was the same after this as this became my routine, spellbound by this new storm about the unprecedented future. Constantly, my mind erupted with the different potential terrible situations that could unfold as I was taken on a journey into an apocalyptic future.
As it got closer to the millennium, the story seemed to get more elaborate in my head and the tabloids at the time, which meant this felt more threatening. Planes were going to fall from the sky, objects from space would plummet through the earth’s ozone layer, and I thought, my brother’s Gameboy was going to be a casualty too.
In the weeks leading up to the new year, the fear kept intensifying. Unable to concentrate on anything else, the vicious villain engulfed my brain.
Admittedly difficult to close my eyes without imagining the worst, I would try to fall asleep amidst the fear of possibly not being able to open my eyes again. Many late nights were spent pondering what happened after death. Hoping I'd get to go somewhere nice, even though I knew I was a mischievous kid. Pondering whether I would reincarnate and get to live forever even if there was no planet left. Or would everything just go pitch black? Debating whether I would become a spirit and if that meant I could fly. I decided that would be the optimal outcome. Whatever lay ahead of me, I just hoped it wouldn’t be painful, and that it would be over with quickly.
If I couldn’t drift off, I would count down the days, I would try and work out how many of these 24-hour thingys I had left.
As time went on, I thought it was best to just accept and prepare for death, as I couldn’t handle the intensifying terrifying thoughts. Considering the fact that everyone was doomed, it didn’t make sense why nobody was openly freaking out about this. Approaching the turn of the millennium, I played along, kept my cool, and tried my best to mentally prepare for the end. Deciding around Christmas to stop reading the newspaper, I concluded that The Sun didn’t help me take my mind off what was coming.
In spite of the fact that I was trying to forget about it, sometimes I would still get overwhelmed by the fear, regularly popping to the bathroom to cry. Actually, and pray. I wasn’t quite sure who I was talking to, possibly God or the universe, but whoever made the rules basically. Nonetheless, I would beg whoever listened to help out with changing the course of the creature, and promised to be good if they came through.
New Year's Eve eventually arrived, and everything felt a bit surreal.
To celebrate the turn of the millennium, me and my family went over to a neighbours house in our area. As the countdown to the year 2000 approached, excitement built for the celebrations. Surrounded by everyone seemingly preparing for a good time, I went along with it as I didn’t want to be a grumpy party pooper.
As the turn of the century got closer, my knotted stomach digested the hastily panic-eaten party food. Counting down to the start of the new century, I avoided conversation at all costs. Choking on the fear of the future, the capacity for stringing together sentences was not available.
Everyone gathered for the countdown, I could feel my hands sweating and my whole body increasing in temperature as a waterfall of anxiety and nausea drowned me in disorientation. Yet my mouth felt so dry as I felt exhausted from my heart traveling expeditiously. Here goes.
Drawing in breath silently.
I braced myself.
Too frightened to scream.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Covered in rainbow-coloured party popper string, my brain blurred. But very much remained intact, alive and kicking! Forcing a smile onto my face, I wished everyone well for the new year.
Whilst relief crept over me following that, the underlying anxiety and bewilderment didn’t leave. My mind darted to different possibilities, “Ok, maybe the savage got delayed and it couldn’t make it yet. How stupid of me to think it would be here on the turn of midnight?”
So we stayed at the party. Super relieved, I spent the rest of the night dancing. Having a blast, feeling gratitude for being alive! Then we walked home. I went to bed bewildered but feeling ok. However, I felt reassured as I knew the trusty newspaper would be able to help me tomorrow.
It's safe to say the next day, itching to get my hands on the next paper, I volunteered for my mum to go and buy it. Dashing into the shop and grabbing the newspaper, at first glance, on the front page, I couldn't see anything. I hurried the money in the hands of the shopkeeper then dashed outside and laid the newspaper down on a nearby bench. Frantically flicking through the pages, I could see no trace of any destruction like the images I had in my brain. Carefully, I scanned each page to be sure I hadn’t missed it. Maybe a small passage? And the next day. Zilch. Not a twitch from the bug.
Not long after, forgetting about that troublemaker, I got on with my life.
So what actually happened?
When the millennium arrived, some computers automatically programmed to the wrong date, phones were deleting old messages, but actually, nothing really happened.
Before the turn of the millennium, reports came in that this emergency was under control thanks to intuitive tech staff and controversially, my prayers. The fear-provoking, end-of-the-world style narrative had calmed down, but apparently you could tell that people were nervous. Not that I knew, I’d stopped reading the newspaper.
In actual fact, that was evidently not the end of the world, but plausibly the beginning of the tech era as we know it now. Y2K, the turn of the millennium, The Millennium Bug, or whatever you want to call it, launched tech firmly into humanity. Schools and businesses all around the world invested money in technology and updated equipment at a rapid speed.
Funnily enough, The Millennium Bug got forgotten about and it’s kind of a joke now. If mentioned, it is discussed in a mocking manner similar to how 'conspiracy theorists' are painted these days. Sometimes, I’m like hmm did I imagine that? No. But, just like the allegedly unnecessarily locking everyone up for 2 years, this has been tidied away to make space for the next news storm.
It is only as the years went on and I understood the integrity of the media, and with the help of technology, I see, I didn't conjure this up in my head. Honestly, whilst my story is from the perspective of an anxious 9-year-old who read The Sun, people were actually freaking out!
Now shrugged off as a conspiracy theory, The Millennium Bug had people undoubtedly losing it. The US arguably took this the most seriously, rapidly hiring tech staff and engineers to get devices up to scratch before the turn of the millennium. Companies were spending big bucks on IT professionals to figure out what needed to happen to prevent disaster.
Crisis resource centers and government departments were initiated and assembled in the battle to stop this virus from destroying everything. Apparently, an unprecedented digital meltdown was going to send businesses and homes into chaos. Some were claiming this was the return of Jesus, and others were paranoid that hackers were going to take over. This was the time when people realised that humans were pretty dependent on technology and that it could be very powerful. At one point, people were genuinely confused about how we would function and what was going to happen if technology stopped now.
To be honest, The Millenium Bug memory does make me chuckle now. Common in British thinking and humor, I have been trained to laugh at the crappy things that happen like this involving the media in a beautiful humorous sarcastic insanity sort of way.
But, is it actually funny?
A clear example of the sort of mind games that the media purposely or intentionally played on us with sensationalised, fear-loaded headlines. Our emotions, anxiety, doubts, insecurities, and conscience are taken on a ride fuelling whatever narrative is selected. Meanwhile, we are all shitting ourselves about the latest pandemic, supposed catastrophe, or unprecedented emergency, that allows entities to introduce new products, laws, and restrictions. Directing our anger at each other, getting riled up about the latest culture war trend mindlessly distracted from the shitshow that is going on underneath.
Even though articles online about The Millennium Bug are so boring to read about that I don't care before I get to the end, this was actually a really interesting time in humanity. Definitely taking its toll mentally on at least the western world. For example, look at this Youtube clip from the BBC programming from New Year's Eve 1999. The guy at the end looks completely shook.
The way it all works has always fascinated me, I’ve always been super interested by reality TV too. Watching people act out real-life whilst getting manipulated by production teams for entertainment is bizarre and enthralling in my opinion. However, it has also always weirded me out too. Everything, whether a book, film, song, is often designed to provoke something in you. Therefore, sometimes it seems that the news and stories are manipulated to achieve the desired feeling and reaction. Similarly to reality shows, people lurk in the background and wonder how they can alter the collective illusion. Arguably, this is humanity and it plays out in so many ways, and from so many perspectives all around the world.
For me, I try not to over-examine every possible angle with everything I ever encounter in the world. I have to remind myself to enjoy life for the silliness sometimes, but also to be a bit switched on to not get floored my the media circus.
Here’s to the future! Personally, I will spend it trying to ignore the dramatic headlines delivered in riddles and confusion. Keep your kids away from the news!
About the Creator
Writing helps me dump the art that lives amongst the party of my mind.
Writing helps me share the lessons I've learned from being a human.
Writing helps me try and make sense of life which I am finding to be an endless adventure!