The calming white star on my VPN had turned a venomous, disconcerting scarlet. Whatever electronic magic connected me to the outside world and the glorious outside internet had suddenly been snuffed out. As someone who has grown up with the internet, like a close friend or a long-term umbilical cord, this loss usually feels like being thrown into a well and trying to see the world from the miniscule circle of light above.
More disconcertingly, all attempts to access the regular Chinese internet, as constrained and manipulated and tightened as that is, were thwarted by a blue screen swirling in Chinese text. Upon clicking to investigate, I was whisked away to a page with “recharge” in the url. I blinked.
My internet had run out of money. Like a vibrating bed or an arcade game.