When MegaCorp first rolled out their hum-activated bracelets, people flocked to buy them.
Both stylish and functional, the Buzzlet looked like a slim piece of jewelry and functioned like a portable computer. Set to recognize the pitch and tone of its owner, each Buzzlet could be operated with a series of buzzes and hums. Turn it on with a hum so soft no one but you could hear it! Call your mother with a quiet buzz! A range of notes to play music, to search the internet, to record a conversation, to add something to your grocery list, or even to turn up the heat on your thermostat or open your garage door!
Interacting wordlessly and handsfree with the device that runs your life seemed like an elegant solution to the conflict between convenience and privacy. The world was in love, and the object of its desire was a narrow metal cuff.
Soon everyone was walking the streets humming softly under his breath, driving along buzzing and chatting, issuing harsh bleats of wordless frustration in moments of stress. It became nothing to see children sitting next to one another chatting via texts in a series of vibrating tones. It was like a secret language had blossomed over night.
Just as the Buzzlet became so inexpensive that it had spread to every corner of the globe, the side effects began to appear.
At first it was a few isolated cases. The woman on the buzzing street corner who suddenly stepped out into traffic and was almost killed. The child who nearly burned his humming parents to death when he intentionally set fire to the house. The couple who smashed their Buzzlets right before completing their murder-suicide pact.
It was easy to dismiss these as fringe events. The world had always had crazies, people who seemed perfectly normal until the day they snapped. Those who tried to draw attention to the Buzzlet connection in each case were ridiculed as nay-sayers and Luddites.
The number of incidents increased over time. Soon anti-Buzzlet cults rose up and even the world-famous Church of the Silence, which became known for its sound-proofed meeting chambers and members who walked the streets wearing noise-cancelling headphones.
None of this stopped the popularity of the Buzzlet, however. If anything, these protests were a kind of free advertising, and there were rumors that MegaCorps encouraged some of its high-profile detractors to speak out. Anything to keep the world talking about the Buzzlet.
Scientists had taken notice of the upswing in violence and began to conduct studies. A few were well-funded, but many were condemned to obscurity until the Greenfield case brought them out of the woodwork.
George Greenfield was a respected senator from a wealthy New England family. He was an early adopter of the Buzzlet and became known for interrupting high-stress debates on the floor with loud buzzes, ostensibly for taking notes but also conveniently distracting for his opponents. Of course, others copied this strategy, necessitating new rules for Senate debates. But even once use of the Buzzlet was banned from the chamber, Senator Greenfield continued to wear and use his Buzzlet prominantly, right up until the day that he brought a homemade bomb to a meeting on the hill and blew up two senators, three lobyists, and an unknown number of aids.
Suddenly the media was flooded with scientists touting their studies that hums and buzzes activated more than a computer chip. Certain centers in the human brain were also agitated by these noises, they claimed, and over time this agitation built up into uncontrollable violent impulses. Studies were still in progress to understand exactly why or how it could be countered, but in the mean time, scientists cautioned against use of the Buzzlet until more data had been collected.
Of course, MegaCorps produced its own scientists to debunk these findings. They spoke at length about neurons and synapses and sound waves, muddying the waters just enough to keep public opinion divided. The majority of people, by now completely dependent on their Buzzlets, carried on as normal.
The world was full of buzzing.
As always happens, there came a tipping point. Naturally, it was in August, one of the hottest Augusts that North America had seen in decades. Some have argued that the heat contributed to what happened. Others say it was just coincidence. It scarcely matters now.
All that matters is that in a matter of weeks, forty percent of the population of the western world turned from average citizens into berserkers, full of violent rage. Homes were destroyed. People were slaughterd in their places of work. There were massacres in the streets.
When the violence had finished running its course, the population was decimated and the humming was silenced.
The world was full of silence.
Those that remained to rebuild found that they had very little to say.
And the bees, which had begun to die out in the world humans had created, thrived again and buzzing was left to their domain.