Freedom and the Word Machine

Fearing the 60s and the riots, when everyone from academics to assholes were in the streets protesting against the CIA and their machine that could kill words, and wanting to keep their seats in the House, the Republicans in charge of the Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology focused their budget on the antithesis of a dictionary-demolishing weapon: a thing designed to promote and propagate words important to the American people, specifically the Republican party.

A test-run on the word "Recognition" (randomly selected from a Thesaurus) yielded funny results. Peering into a basketball-sized biosphere, the Subcommittee watched an army of ants retire from service and sweep across the fauna, examine every leaf, touch softly the heads of aphids, squint at flowers, knead antennae diplomatically, before they turned rust-red eyes up toward their observers, making the Subcommittee very uncomfortable.

Next the Subcommittee fired "Limited, Representative Government" into a vacuum-sealed glass of bickering Syrian hamsters, and watched the rodents form a Republic of little Ciceros and Caesars, with great orations delivered from the wheel, and mobs of bites behind the green igloo. "Technology" led to spiderspun cities of silver, dung cars, silkworm sweaters and sweatpants. A lobbyist suggested "Consumer," and all recoiled as the experiment's population decreased from 19 cats to a groaning one.

I'm not sure what happened next. Possibly there was a leak in the biodome or a fingerprint. Or the machine, in materializing the abstraction, was affected, along with anyone who touched it. But "Freedom" found itself spilling over the planet like an endless, invisible acid, and the Republicans in charge of the Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology found themselves the careless architects of humanity's dissolution.

First, the effects were tolerable. Free from law, we did what we wanted. Free from daily schedule, we enjoined the chaos of self-pleasure. We stayed home, we made love, we took the kids to the park. But soon the acid touched the bonds of family, and we found ourselves wandering away from connections, apathetic to distance. People cried bitterly as they walked, until they were free from emotions as well; free, free, free from logic and madness, from vices and virtues. We ceased speaking the languages. Wild calls, babbling. We ceased needing to breathe, or eat, and our hearts made their own rhythms or crawled from our chests. Some people floated into the sky; others fell through the Earth.

The chair of the Subcommittee tried to turn off the machine, but her interest waned, and free of ration she began to lick the floor before her tongue fell out and she curled up into a spider-like obscenity and screamed in strange bursts. I, free of perspective, or present-ness, of my own life's narrative in Hyderabad, never having met any of these people, watched her.

Our atoms stretched like cigars and detached. We became plasma clouds of skin tones and white gaseous eyes and an internal dispersing pink mist – and then we dispersed.


Free of death, the people persisted in their unraveling.

Free of time, the people unravel.