Some psychics claim to have a connection to the Earth, I have one to the internet. I suppose that it all began when I realised that I could tell whether the wi-fi was down or not. I didn’t even have to look at my phone or my computer, I just knew.
Of course, it was really useful at first. Whilst all of my friends waved their phones around like magic wands or tapped away at menus, I could just sit there with a smug grin. The instant the wi-fi went live again, I’d just casually pull my phone out and send a text or whatever. Not to mention that I could have a few funny moments with the tech support guy at the office too. Good times.
But then, the adverts started appearing. At first, I didn’t even notice. For the first time in weeks, I’d had a good dream. It was one about a tropical beach somewhere. The perfect blue sea smelled of chlorine and the white sand smelled of styrofoam. It looked brilliant though. In fact, I didn’t even notice that it wasn’t exactly my dream until I happened to notice that there weren’t any men on the beach. Not even a single cute surfer dude or anything like that.
When I woke up, I had a strong urge to Google a travel company I’d never heard of before. Seeing your own dream in a Youtube video is both the coolest and creepiest thing in the world. Of course, I thought, there had to be a logical explanation for it. Maybe I’d seen a banner ad on my phone before I’d drifted off? Maybe I’d seen the ad before a video two days ago and it had got stuck in my memory? But, as much as I put on my Dana Scully act, I knew the truth. I’d never seen the advert before in my life.
Once adverts start appearing in your dreams, you suddenly develop a whole new appreciation for the Advertising Standards Agency. Back when I was younger, I’d always laugh at the silly news stories about miserable old people who had nothing better to do than scrawl angry complaints about the ads they’d seen in the middle of Celebrity Ice Skating. But, now, I love them. The eerily wholesome world of the adverts isn’t exactly the worst place to spend time. My bank manager probably disagrees though.
But, then, I started to notice the comments. I’d be sitting in the middle of a trendy London garden party filled with perfectly-dressed sober twentysomethings drinking dyed water from wine glasses when I’d glance down at the table and see something scratched into the wood. Or I’d be sitting in a futuristic lawyer’s office and, when she held up her shiny new Ulta Mega Pro Edge tablet, I’d notice something embossed on the back of it.
For a couple of days, it really freaked me out until I remembered that they were just comments. And, the first rule of the internet is never read the comments. Even when they’re seared onto designer sunglasses or printed in gold on the spines of antique books.
Then, after a particularly exhausting day, the advert finished. For a while, I floated in a dark void. Then a swirling green ouroboros appeared before my eyes for a few seconds. Before I could get too used to it, I found myself in a dingy bedsit somewhere listening to a middle-aged guy ramble enthusiastically about WW2 tanks. At first, it seemed vaguely interesting, like a documentary that appears on TV when you can’t be bothered to change the channel. But then I realised that he hadn’t even mentioned the Allied tanks once. Needless to say, it got creepier from that point onwards.
Over the next couple of weeks, the adverts got shorter and I was on first name terms with the ouroboros. But, apart from finding myself in the middle of a few rock concerts, learning some random trivia or quite literally being a videogame, most of the videos were either boring or creepy. Needless to say, the results of local and general elections no longer seemed quite as mysterious to me.
Then, one day, the videos stopped. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a crowd. Every few seconds, one of the people would shout out a short sentence. Then another one would. Then another. Most of them were really really angry. When you hear some lanky teenager bark out a death threat because the costumes in a superhero movie aren’t perfectly accurate, you’re never quite sure whether to laugh or scream.
Back at the office, Joan from accounts was telling me about some old ’90s sci-fi movie she’d caught on the telly. When she started talking enthusiastically about how the leather-clad computer hackers had connected their brains to the computer and quite literally entered another world and how cool it would be if we could actually do this in real life, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh quietly or loudly.