Spot 032: The Tyranny of Things


by Gita M. Smith

The shootings continue.
Last night, they eliminated teenaged girls who had gone mad when they could no longer text. The night before, it had been 13-year-old boys who were berserk over the loss of video games.
Fuck the whiny-baby pissants, anyway. It’s time young people learned to fend.
I myself have been very careful to stay in the weeds, and when asked how I’m doing, I say, “It’s a great day for golf, sure is!”
Out in mid-town park, there is fear and chaos. People have gathered, and they are stoking each other’s panic.
“If the machines never restart,” people cry, “what of the future?”
Yes, when the machines first quit, the quiet was eerie. But without radios, TVs or internal combustion engines, the world is actually quite a lovely place.
Noise was just another form of tyranny, when you think about it, because you could never escape it.
Once, I’d been fishing in far northern Canada where you would think you could get away from man-made sounds. But every 15 minutes or so, jets would boom overhead.
No, it’s definitely best not to whine or complain about what’s missing. Best to come up with a plan, and mine is to get out the old Underwood with sticky keys from the attic and bang out as many copies as possible of a newsletter.
My daddy always said, “Better believe it, he who controls the press, controls the people.”
To which I’d like to add, “and controls the future.”

This week’s theme was suggested by Gita. See Authors page for her bio.



by Paul de Denus

My pen is dead, out of ink.
The word falls with a heavy thud from my quivering lips. It transfers to my hand – the cramped one, the one doing all the writing, the one that presses through the four-layered shipping label, pen tip carving the heavy paper veneer, initialing a jagged trench along the tabletop.
The air bill is torn. It shouts at me: Please print and press hard.
Ripe, it slips from between my teeth as I punctuate the air bill with spittle before crumpling it up, firing it across the room. If I have to write that FedEx account number one more time, I’ll…
I’m almost out of FedEx slips.

The FedEx system is down. How can that be? Hello? Press some buttons dudes and get it up again! You’re the world’s best delivery system, aren’t you? Please.
It took me two hours to find my print out copy with all these addresses. Sixty-one locations. I may kill myself.

I’ll show them. I’ll make them work for it. Here’s an initial in front of my surname, an abbreviation for Street, one for Drive, random digits for phone numbers, a scribble for a signature. Does this shipment contain dangerous goods? Oh, it will. I promise. My hand pounds the table. I make a fist. It’s all I can do to attempt a middle finger. The hands too cramped to open.

See Authors page for Paul’s bio.



by Bill Lapham

The day the machines freaked, the U.S. Defense Department felt the impact first and hardest. All its submarines, surface ships, fighters, bombers and drones, all the defense radars, missiles, guns and satellites were rendered useless.

The Pentagon requisitioned every sailboat in every marina on both coasts and Hawaii and dispatched them around the world to rescue stranded crews at sea. For months, convoys of sailboats brought the armed forces home.

With no means to generate power, everything that relied on electricity sat idle. Without pumps, production of petroleum products failed, and mechanized transportation ground to a halt.

Borders became indefensible. Governments, their laws and law enforcement became futile.

Populations migrated on foot to places that stayed warm and supported limited, organic farming. With the mass migrations, and the attendant bank failures, the architecture of religious organizations collapsed.

Competition for scarce resources became ferocious and homicide by blade and garrote proliferated. Blood ran in perilous streets and soaked the barren soil. The population of the world fell precipitously due to wide-spread famine, localized wars, and genocide. Viruses went viral.

With time, the population of Homo sapiens reached a sustainable equilibrium. Cells of families formed tribes. Those that found defensible cave complexes to live in, thrived by resorting to ancient hunting and gathering methods. With the evaporation of leadership, anarchy became the only workable political philosophy.

In the west, the most successful cells became known as Apaches; in the east they were called al-Qaeda. Separated by oceans, they lived peacefully for centuries.

See Authors page for Bill’s bio.



by Sandra Davies

I never would have continued without the Amstrad enabling me to type it up – my handwriting is so bad ¬– and although I was as willing as the rest to pay for pink and green certificates, to heave the slab-sized books around in dusty subterranean rooms, to scrabble away the ivy from the stones, I couldn’t help admitting it was easier when so much was made available on-line.
For convenience and cross-reference I pretty near abandoned multiple ring-binders of typed trees, pencilled annotations faded and photocopied documents taking space. Without the skills of Photoshop to zoom in and then compare the faces, the people in the photo albums would have remained unknown. Exchanging information with the similarly-minded from around the world would not have taken place.
But now my children tell me ‘If you really want us to know you will have to put our kin on Kindle’ I wonder whether when it all goes blank it will be as if I and my family’s history never was.

See Authors page for Sandra’s bio.



by Michael D. Brown

I wanted to sound clever and tell everyone present a story of some poor schlep who tried his damnedest to make things work, but who kept coming up against obstacles on which he had not counted, and then, you would all smile because you would see yourself in him and say oh, yes, well, it be that way sometimes, and really, what are you going to do about it? Unfortunately, the schlep turned out to be me, and I do not find the situation amusing enough to relate it in a way to evoke that smile. I am fucking pissed about where I find myself, if you want to know the truth. I never foresaw how being put in charge of friends and companions would place me in a different camp altogether nor how they would nod in agreement to everything and then proceed to follow their separate agendas. I never foresaw how being too busy to comply with an activity that brought me happiness would leave me sad all the time. I never thought I would have to beg off going to Kansas to be with other friends. I guess I just never thought ahead, period. The real tyranny is in how I trusted to fate, and it screwed me royally, and there isn’t much amusement in that. Things may yet be resolved in my favor, but at the moment, I’m feeling glum. I just wanted to share 250 words in an attempt to sidestep the malignancy. Everything sucks.

See Authors page for Michael’s bio.



by Kristine E Shmenco

The sun lit the face of the earth, time zone by time zone, as it had since before machines recorded time. There was no herald, no precursor, no sign that it would happen. People took to their holy books to see if they could divine the meaning, but there was no prophecy, no name given to understand why we lost our machines. What horseman had come in the night and took the power away? No answer was found, no prayer answered.
It was a mercy that simple machines like wedge or pulley did continue to work, and that is probably all that saved us. People’s dreams began to change, and they dreamed of candles and clean water. Clean water—suddenly everyone on the face of the earth felt the same way about it—understood what it really meant. Families living in remotest Brazil, China, India, would find our new lives unremarkable. We all now stood on the same ground, only we were astonished. Agonized at the loss of connection.
The words “rain barrel” were resurrected. Men with horses were kings, and for a time there were riots for bottled water and when that was gone, we learned to cry over spilled water. The face of the earth changed, forever, in one night. The changes I’m certain you can imagine. I don’t know why I feel the need to write down what happened, because right now no one cares about why. But on this ship with pen and ink, I must write.

See Authors page for Kristine’s bio.




7 Comments to “Spot 032: The Tyranny of Things”

  1. OK – the tyranny of WordPress has prevented me posting this under my Blogger account as before AND caused me, in fury, to accidentally comment on the previous MuDSpot, but this (after half an hour of cursing) was what I originally intended:

    Oh Michael – I admit to following my own agenda, especially here, but that doesn’t make me as sad or guilty as thinkng that you might not be at the camp in Kansas, and that you are being fucked about by fate – the goddess I also believe in, and will attempt to make sacrifice to in order to propitiate her and free the ties to let you be there too.
    And kudos to those who did comply, because the reason why I could not not do it too was that … I could not, so recognise their skill, and enjoyed, especially Gita, who has the Heinlein touch I remember from long ago.

  2. In 1977, there was a piece in The Times of London, a column by a humorist, titled “The Tyranny of Things.” In it, the writer spoke of his inability to run simple machines and the ways in which appliances would break down at his touch or malfunction and confound his life. For some weird reason (do other writers do this?) I stashed away that title in my mental rolodex and brought it out when Michael asked for themes. If we have learned anything at all by now, we have learned that we will always need a Plan B. One power failure throws us back into the 19th century. A manual typewriter may well be the survival tool of the future.

  3. Also, what does Michael Brown mean when he says “I never thought I would have to beg off going to Kansas” ????????

    • Sorry if it sounded as if I were whining about anyone here. What have I got to complain about when it comes to HoWitzers and MudSpotters? Only that I’m currently not finding enough time to be here. My rant was somewhat off-theme, and for that I apologize. I knew from the first what Gita was after, but after a frustrating week at school, and in my never-ending licensing course with hardly a half hour free to sit down and write something clever, I just started bitching about my co-workers until I reached 250 words. Then, posted without thinking how it might be taken by readers.
      I really need to have this tooth fixed!

  4. These were quite enjoyable (mostly)-Gita’s was great, a Twilight Zone with ‘the little guy shall rise again’ effect. Bill’s left me with a longing for simpler times. My own unfortunately too true. Sandra’s made me hope such tyranny never happens. And Michael, I don’t know you from a hole in the ground but hang in there. The effort that I see you putting out can’t keep you down. You inspire many of us, I believe.

  5. Very cool prompt, everyone! It would be a shock to the system, for sure. Sandra, the thought of losing family connection because we’re all locked in a kindle is sad, isn’t it? Gita will be our Queen of the Press! (she’s got her eye on you!) Michael, i don’t get here often enough, either, so we’ll both have to beat ourselves up in Kansas. (please.) Mr. Lapham, I believe it will happen that way. Thank heavens for sailing ships. Paul, I was laughing while reading this really would feel that way, wouldn’t it? Cramped hands and press to fill five copies. And lots of expletives.

  6. The humanity in Kristine’s ‘In the beginning’ is enormously insightful and compelling – very well done indeed.

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