Writing Prompt: Whenever you get chills, you just died in an alternate universe.

Originally posted as a response to a Reddit writing prompt.

• • •

I was tapping away, excited. Finally I’d cracked this algorithm, and now my code was flowing freely from my fingers into the editor. The moments of breakthrough really made being a programmer a joy.

Save. Commit. Now I just wait for the compiler, and…

That’s when it happened. A shudder ran through my body, starting in my chest and shaking my whole being.

I looked to my left. My cubicle-mate was just looking at me. “Woo,” he said.


“Just got the chills.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. Then the guy on the other side of the cloth half-wall of the cubicle stood up, with a pretty similar expression on his face. “Me, too.”

“I felt it, too,” I admitted. And one by one, like prairie dogs, my coworkers began poking their heads up, pulling out earbuds, agreeing that they had felt the same thing. It had started with me at 1:24 PM, and by 1:35 everybody in my building had felt it. Some had just thought the heat had been turned off, but we all soon realized that this was something different.

We evacuated the building, assuming that something was in the ventilation system or something. But as we started talking to people in neighboring buildings, we realized that this had happened to everyone. Every single person in the city. Bus passengers, line cooks, taxi drivers, investment bankers, tourists, professional athletes.

Someone near me showed me their Facebook feed on their phone. People were freaking out on the social network, as they realized that everyone they knew had experienced the same thing at the same time. It wasn’t just in our city, either; people on the other side of the planet were posting about the phenomenon. Everybody had gotten the chills around 1:30 PM EST. The earliest time reported was like me, at 1:24. The latest, 1:37.

By 3:00 it was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. All of our local news stations had posted something about it. I caught a bus home, because there was no way in any universe that I was going to get anything else done today. The bus was packed, unusual for being so early. Everybody wanted to get home to their families. Everybody had felt the same chills at the same time.

A post in /r/science by a doctor talking about the phenomenon hit the front page, but he didn’t have much to say that really answered the problem. I tried to text my wife, but she didn’t answer. Not unusual. Probably left her phone upstairs again.

When I finally got home, I saw her happily playing with our toddler in the living room. She looked at me, confused. “You’re home early.”

“Yeah, well, when that thing happened this afternoon, I just wanted to be here with you.”

Her eyes searched mine. “What thing?”

“Didn’t you see? Everybody got the chills at once.”

She looked even more confused.

“Not me.”

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