Hum is a drama in two acts with four characters: VAN (male, thirties), EVA (female, thirties), GUARD (male, thirties), and STRANGER/GUARD2 (male, forties).
The world is filled by a ubiquitous Hum that prevents its inhabitants from hearing one another. The Hum changes in pitch and volume, but it is omnipresent, monolithic, and oddly comforting. People are forced to communicate with gestures, facial expressions, and written notes that often use shorthand (“i ♥ u,” our hero flashes to his wife every morning; “i ♥ u 2,” she flashes back).
Everyone is content. More or less. Our couple, Van and Eva, wake every morning and go through their routine with well-rehearsed precision. Make bed, coffee, breakfast, dress, kiss, leave for work, clean the dishes. Van doesn’t even notice the armed guard he passes every morning on his way to his very important job: servicing the Box, the mysterious source of the Hum. And yet, something isn’t quite right. Van has always thought so, but he could never put his finger on it.
One night on the train ride home, Van meets the Stranger, who asks him a simple question, written on a simple note, “do u no wot the hum is?” The question turns Van’s life upside-down. Nothing changes, but Van perceives everything differently. The armed guard seems more menacing, the Hum seems less comforting, and his life with Eva grows less “reliable” and more “stagnant.” Running into the Stranger on the train again, he has his sign ready, “wot is the hum?” The Stranger replies by placing a set of headphones on Van’s head that blocks out the Hum. He speaks into a microphone—the first spoken words that Van has heard in his life, “The Hum is the opposite of thought.”
Van plots with the Stranger to destroy the Box and the Hum. At the end of the first Act, the Stranger sacrifices himself to accomplish his mission, and Van and Eva and everyone else in the world are forced to face—for the first time in their lives—silence.
During the second act, Van and Eva must relearn to communicate. Slowly, they drift toward disparate strategies: Eva expresses herself through speech and art; Van expresses himself through silence, meditation, and minimalism. It’s a rocky start, but slowly, the two strategies dovetail into a loving relationship, one that is ominously threatened when the regime returns to ask Van some questions.