· 1 ·
THE FOUR HEROES had done valiant battle with the master computers in their lair, and
emerged from the glassine tunnel victorious. The human race, declared Bil Kahn joyously
(vowing never to use the degrading term “humanariat”), was free to pursue its destiny,
wherever it might lead. But first the good news had to be delivered.
Jac Wel s was persuaded to transport them over the rough roads once again, though
the lanky farmer struck his usual bargain, the services of Dian Toffler, the sex champion. So
often did the old truck stop and shake from the activities in the cab that Bil rashly reiterated his
promise to make Jac Secretary of Agribusiness if only the hayseed would hurry on to their
Bil, Alce and ancient Ralp Nadir Nth perched in the rear, al in tattered sweatshirts. Bil
complained, “This isn’t exactly how I visualized the return of a hero–excuse me, heroes. When
I’m President, I must remember to build new trucks, with springs. While I’m at it, I’l
manufacture cars–not the top-heavy things twenty feet high that a few people have now but
cars like they had in yesterages, sleek, fast jobs that use fuel as if there’s no tomorrow.”
“I insist on speed limits,” warned the cautious codger, concerned as always with safety.
“Oh, sure–up to a point. But don’t you think a little excess would be beneficial, after a
mil ennium of outer0directed restraint? Human pride has taken a beating. Fast driving might
make people feel better about themselves. It’l mean new roads, tol s to pay for them, and
change for the tol s. Since there’s so little around, we have money to mint, unless we can
come up with a better flavor,” Bil bantered.
“Pockets,” said Alce.
“We should give inflation serious thought,” Ralp Nadir Nth declared. “It was among the
factors that brought Amerca to a halt a mil ennium ago.”
“Funny you should mention that , since your fussy forbears, with their worry about
pollution, were among the major reasons that the yen became Amerca’s currency for a while,”
Bil said. “You take charge of the banking system when we re-establish it? Money doesn’t
“I could handle that among my other responsibilities. They wil be many and various.”
“Pockets,” said Alce again.
“Real y, Alce,” Bil told her over the din made by the truck, “I don’t understand why you
return to a mundane matter like pockets.”
“For smal change. Our sweatsuits don’t have pockets because under the computers
we had so little to carry.”
“Pockets are a simple thing,” said Bil.
“Gonna fusb you al the way to New Yawk, my meaty darlin’,” shouted the rube from the
“A simple thing!” Alce scorned. “Pockets are central to civilization, and we don’t have
the slightest idea how to make them. Only the computers know, and they’re out of action.”
The truck ground to a stop and Dian cal ed weakly, “Help!”
“A pocket is a pocket,” Bil said. “Alce, you’re too easily discouraged. That wil be a
common failing because the computers lowered our self-esteem so that we lost al perspective
on ourselves. I must make a note on that.” He took a notebook from his pouch and scribbled,
on a fresh page, “THINGS TO DO,” writing under it. “Restore the nation’s self-confidence.”
Below that he put, “Build new cars and trucks.”
“Listen!” She flared. “We’ll have to learn to
design and manufacture pockets. We’l need cloth, thread, machines, skil ed workers. And
pockets require clothes to put them in, which means wholesalers, advertising, fashion shows,
stores, salespeople and customers, none of which we possess. Do you grasp the implications
of a seemingly trivial item like pockets?”
“Hmm,” Bil said absently, for, from a bluff, the startling metropolis across the West
River had sprung into view.
Spacescraper City: nine towers in a five-mile square, each tower a mile across and
three miles high, each housing a mil ion people (including them, once); the vast expanse of
wooden crates for unattached folk (including them, once); the business district where workers
toiled (including then, once), its long squat buildings topped by the concave dishes of the
computers’ communications system, now silent. “There it is!” Bil shouted. “The great city
whose interminable slumber makes Rip van Winkle seem like an insomniac! We’ll wake them
up! Wil they be happy? Yes–when they understand. I bet they give us a ticker-tape parade
down Broadway, like for yesterages’ heroes.”
The bridge to Manhattan had been destroyed, the tunnels sealed over, as part of the
computers’ policy of centralization and isolation for control. (Airplanes and seagoing ships no
longer existed either.) The old trucks that provided New York with its provender–such as it
was, since the principal sustenance came through chlorophyll injections that let people convert
light into food by photosynthesis–were carried on superannuated ferryboats.
Farmer Jac gave them the slip at the ferry. “Plantin’ time,” he said.
From his recol ection of photos in history books, Bil identified the boat that carried them
across the river. It had been cal ed a landing craft in an obscure regional conflict known as
World War II waged in the mists of time. Bil had an idea that brought a glow to his moon-
“An Amercan general Macsomething had a flair for public relations. Having been
trounced in the ocean cal ed Pacific by yellow people, he vowed to the media. ‘I shal return.’
Not ‘wil ’ but ‘shal ’! A real stickler. Return he did, under the flashbulbs’ bright glare–on a
vessel just like this. I, too, shal make a dramatic re-entry. Our cause needs publicity.”
“But people must have known about this Macperson,” Alce said in her practical way.
“Who’s heard of you?”
Bil said stubbornly, “They wil .”
Operating the ferry was a grizzled river rat with a pointed face and long sharp teeth
who cal ed himself Capn, though is real name was Chuc Charybdis. The man had crossed
and recrossed the West River in exactly the same place for so many years that he reversed
his neck for each passage instead of turning his body around. When Bil promised him the title
Secretary of the Navy (an extravagant offer, since without computers there was no
government, much less his), Capn agreed to cruise up and down blowing his horn to attract
crowds. As he neared the dock, the salt lowered the ramp of the landing craft and Bil, wearing
Capn’s jaunty hat, walked down the ramp and shouted, “I have returned!”
“Careful!” someone cautioned from the pier. “The water’s deep.”
Sure enough, as the dog barked in alarm, Bil stepped into the water and sank from
view until only the visored cap showed above the surface, moving away from shore. Alce
hauled her husbandie on board and Bil, who liked to put a good face on things, gasped, “Old
soldiers never die. They just wade away.”
Alce surveyed the tiny turnout. “We need a better gimmick to put across our message.”
“George Washington’s?” offered Ralp Nadir Nth. “Remember how many pictures he
got simply by crossing the Delaware in an open boat.”
“But that was paint coverage. Too slow for today’s world. No sense holding a press
conference, either. The laminated press would never believe us. It’s always the last to know
what’s going on. What attracts people?” Bil asked the air. “I’ve got it–secrets! Lat’s announce
that we have one, which we do!”
Dispute ensued over whether the sign should read “I” or “we.” Bil prevailed by pointing
out that if “we” had a secret, more than one shared it, in which case it wasn’t much of a secret.
So the boat carried up and down the river a banner that read, “I HAVE A SECRET,” and this
time, after a dozen passes, many were on hand when the ferry docked.
“What’s the secret?”
“The secret is–Bil hesitated for dramatic effect–“the secret is . . .”
“WHAT’S THE SECRET?” they screeched.
“Hurry! You’l lose them,” Alce urged.
Bil told the sweatsuited throng, “The secret is that the computers have been
overthrown! After one thousand years of opprobrious oppression, we have mastered the
Machiavel ian machines! Fel ow citizens, you are free!”
“FREE? FROM? TO?” asked timorous voices.
Bil flapped his arms like wings. “Free to be!”
“Free to be? What does he mean?” they jabbered.
“Free to be what you want to be!”
“Freebee? Frisbee? F.O.B.? Refugee from a loony bin. Fugitive from a funny farm,”
“They won’t listen,” Bil sobbed as he watched them disperse.
“I wish women could cry as easily as men. It must be such a relief,” lamented Alce. “Listen,
Rome, New York, wasn’t built in a day. We’ll have to fight to convince them, but please stop
saying things like ‘Machiavel ian machines’ and ‘op . . . oppo . . .’ I can’t even pronounce it.
You have to learn to talk the people’s language.”
Bil sais suddenly, “I’l try.”
“Good. Here comes a citizen now. Practice.”
“Uh-oh. She has a laminated press card.”
A young woman, with an intense square face and startled eyes, carrying a magic wand
camera (which looked like a slender baton and never failed to take a clear picture)
approached. “Barbar Tyding of Newsminute. You said you damaged the computers?”
“We overthrew them.”
“Did you damage them badly?”
“I didn’t mention damage. We put them out of business, which means that mankind is
free from their infernal yoke.”
“How bad did you damage them?”
Bil implored, “The important question isn’t whether we assaulted them, but that we
revolted against their authority. We succeeded.”
“How many computers did you harm?”
Bil said desperately, “Real y, Barbar, to repeat myself. I am trying very hard to indicate
that the physical condition of the computers is a completely minor matter, compared to the
central issue, which is–“
”Did you use a screwdriver or a crowbar?”
Refreshed by a good night’s sleep on a pile of rope furnished by the taciturn Capn, the
four stalwarts, having breakfasted at a sunfood clinic, set out to free the city from il usion’s icy
Bil said, “The problem is that people have been mesmerized by the computers to the
point where they don’t know what’s real and what’s not. The machines were certainly clever in
keeping a low profile, so in the popular mind they’re misty entities, like parents of babies.
Humans lacked models for development, and became quietistic, passive, terrified of change,
supporting the very system that exploited them. They’ll have to struggle to grow up, as we
Alce said, “Why must you be so complicated? People liked the computers for giving
them happiness, which was the absence of unhappiness. Our job is to convince them they
were real y slaves, and that they’re better off free. It won’t be easy, as I said.”
“Oh, we can do it. Time is what worries me. If humans don’t take over the operation of
society, it wil soon stop functioning. How wil people eat, when the sunfeeding clinics break
Bil, Alce, Ralp Nadir Nth and Dian stood on a vast street, waiting for the morning rush
hour (or “jog hour,” since everyone jogged). They talked to occupy themselves, listening to the
audioclocks–or “audioprompters” since their staccato chant had been intended to create a
furious pace–whispering the time to the decasecond. Automatic vacuum cleaners, mouths
open, prowled the streets, hungry for the slightest trash. The treacly smile of a wizened man
clad only in a loincloth, with the words “OLD IS SEXY” leered on the poster above them.
“. . .seven forty-two twenty-six onetwothree. . .”
“Here they come!” Alce said tensely.
A gray mass appeared in the distance, fil ing the street like a flood–untold thousands of
people in sweatsuits racing to work. After a while the tide would ebb until late afternoon. It
would run the other way as people returned to spacescraper or crate. Bil reached out to tap
the shoulder of a powerful y built young man carrying an attaché case. “A sec to spare?”
The guy recoiled in terror. “What? What? No! No! Be late.” He darted away like a
“Panhandling’s forbidden,” a woman snapped.
“Streetrunner this early? Try me on the way home,” a bald man chortled at Dian.
“Leggo my pouch!” a woman screamed at Ralp Nadir Nth.
“Hear!” cried Bil from the sidewalk as the stream grew thicker. “The computers are al
washed up! You’re the masters now!”
Heads bent, chanting their mantras, lips moving, people passed.
“Can’t you understand?” Bil wailed. “Technocracy has had it! Dictatorship’s dead!
Look at the sentinel eyes–they don’t blink at you! The rocops won’t arrest anybody! Believe
me! You must!”
People ran on.
A woman dropped a sheet of paper from her pouch. Bil brandished it. “I’l tear it into
bits and the rocops won’t arrest me for littering!”
He tugged. The paper refused to rip, being laminated with a thin layer of tough plastic.
Alce said excitedly, “There’s a picture of you on it.”
The sheet was the morning’s Newsminute, with article and photo by Barbar Tydings.
Bil stared at himself: black hair, high forehead, snub nose, slanted eyes–al typical of the
Amercan population, though Bil’s face was rounder than most and he looked young for his
forty years despite his long confinement as a political prisoner. “Not a bad likeness, actually,”
he said. “It captures the dynamic, galvanizing part of my personality, don’t you think? That
grin of mine wil be famous.”
“You haven’t galvanized anybody today,” said Alce. She perused the article. “Holy
fusb! Read it.”
MAN MENACES MACHINES
By Barbar Tydings
Bil Cahn, a self-styled adventurer, attacked a computer bank. “The damage we
caused was unbelievable,” he bragged. “I used both a screwbar and a
It is unclear how much destruction was wrought by Mr. Cahn and his cohorts. It
is equal y unclear whether charges will be brought, since this computer
bank has apparently been ut of commission for at least five centuries
and is not listed as a national benchmark.
Some sources questioned both Mr. Cahn’s veracity and mental health.
Mr. Cahn, who is 29 years old, was joined in his enterprise by his wifette, Alc,
who is 41, Ralp Nadir Third, 176, and Dian Toffler, 50.
“It’s al wrong!” Bil sputtered.
“She didn’t even spel our names right, and I’m thirty-five, not forty-one,” Alce shouted.
“I never tel my age,” complained Dian, “which is not what it says.”
“I’m only one hundred and forty,” objected Ralp Nadir Nth.
“So? The vital part is that this Tydings dame has messed up the story. What rotten
luck! Nobody wil believe us now.”
Alce watched the departing backs. “They weren’t listening anyway,” she said.
Ralp thought of a storefront. Alce of leaflets, Bil of an available mimeograph machine.
Hefty Dian Toffler, the former Sex Olympics champ, said she would handle the volunteers
personal y, as soon as they found some.
A notice on a bulletin board led them to an empty store not far from the CITICOMP (City
Computer) Building. The old gentleman observed, “The location is good. It’s central, and a
plate-glass window is a must. When it comes to campaigning, I am the most knowledgeable
among us, due to my long heritage in politics, stemming from my ancient forebear, Ralp Nadir
“Whose desire to live forever caused him to sel humanity down the river in the first
place,” said Bil.
Ralp pretended Bil hadn’t spoken. “In a campaign, the appearance of activity must be
created even when none exists. That we can be seen from the street through the glass
window may attract volunteers. I only wish we had telephones in this day and age. In olden
times, nothing conveyed purposeful political progress better than the spectacle of myriad
campaign workers talking on the two-way, even if they were only cal ing each other.” Bil wrote
in his notebook under “THINGS TO DO,” “Get phones.” We’d better find other activities for the
volunteers, like canvassing the neighborhoods and passing out buttons.”
“You’re so wise, Ralp Nadir Nth!” Alce cried. “Why don’t you be campaign manager?”
“If you insist.”
“Not that we have any buttons or volunteers,” Bil growled, sensing a struggle for power
impending. “We must decide on thrust of the new government after we have popular support.”
“I’m for sexocracy,” argued Dian hotly. “The government must be dedicated to the
proposition of free-for-al fusbing.”
“Ecology, safety, cleanliness and fiscal responsibility is my credo,” said Ralp.
“I want a government dedicated to good human relationships,” said Alce.
Bil was, he had come to se, a heavy-industry, big-organization kind of man. The ideas
of his companions sounded frivolous. “What’s in back of the storefront?” he asked.
“Living and fusbing space.” reported Dian, who had prowled the premises.
“So we have a home as wel as a headquarters. But how did we pay for the joint? Tel
me that, Ralp Nadir Nth, since you seem to have appointed yourself campaign manager.”
Nadir pondered briefly, “We don’t. We merely move in. When and if the landlord shows
up, we direct him to send us a bil . If we win the election, no problem settling–we give the
landlord a plum. If we fail, we’re bankrupt and can’t pay. Al campaigns were run like that
“Before Computers,” Bil said. “Then came A.C.–After Computers. Now it’s P.C.–Post
Computers. We must not fail. That is why my leadership is crucial.”
“My leadership, too,” insisted the bony old fel ow. “Two heads are better than one.”
“Three are better than two,” said Alce. “I’l do some decision-making.”
“Four are better than three,” Dian told them in her husky voice.
The poodle, left on the ferry, dogs having been outlawed by the computers, had found
them, slinking down side streets. Ralp signaled his desire to participate with loud barks. “Et
tu, brute,” Bil complained. “The new government wil have more heads than a mythical
monster. Wel , let’s start. People must be told of the need to restore confidence in the state,
revive the spirit of participation, reorganize the economy, raise the standard of living, revamp
the agricultural sector, reproduce reproduction. . . .” As he spoke, Bil wrote on the page
marked ‘THINGS TO DO.” “Anything else?”
“Pockets,” said Alce.
The mimeograph machine wad in a museum in the CITICOMP Building where, a
decade before, Bil had worked as a guide. Words by the entrance stil said, “HAVE A GOOD
DAY,” but the curved line with dots at the ends that was meant to simulate a smile seemed to
have sagged into a frown.
Disconsolate tourists mil ed outside the locked portals, wondering why they denied
access to their beloved masters, the machines. Bil remembered a side door and led his
companions inside. The great ExecuComp hal was unchanged. Sunlight shone through the
translucent roof on the soft organic shapes designed to please human sensibilities. He tried
the one that supposedly ran the postal service, another that conducted telepsychiatry, a third
that pretended to constantly re-examine history but only related the computers’ falsified
version of the past. With their voices, flashing lights and whirling disks, these cybernetic
shams had represented real computers to the foolish tourists, though they were only moch-
ups. But al were shut down. Bil was relieved.
It had occurred to him that the computer chieftains might have survived somehow. In
their hast to leave the glassine tunnel, the victors had not stopped to ascertain whether the
machines were truly nonoperational, and Bil had wondered whether the supercalculators, in
their endless duplicity, could have faked their defeat. But the failure of the showpiece
ExecuComp machines, which the computers had used to bamboozle the public into accepting
their authority, left no further doubt that the digital dictators had real y had it.
The foursome proceeded down a paralyzed escalator to the floor below. The museum
exhibition had been in tended to demonstrate how hapless humans were before computer rule.
“None of you have ever been here?” Bil asked. “People who live in a place never see what
the tourists do, I guess.”
He went to a rear-end projector marked “Aircraft” and pressed a button. On the lighted
screen, words said, “The first century B.C. used aircraft extensively.” A picture of a single-
engined plane appeared. Words returned” “Americans were preoccupied by size and speed.”
Another photo: a wide-bodied eight-engined jet. “A plane like this could fly from New York to
Los Angeles in less than one hour.” A picture of the jet with a ramp, down which came an
enormous procession. “It could carry eleven hundred passengers.” Photo of pieces of metal
strewn over the countryside with corpses everywhere. “Airplanes crashed frequently.” More
wrecks, one after the next, involving every sort of airplane. “In a single year the number of
fatalities from plane crashes reached 1,213,546.” Blue sky appeared. “You are better off
without airplanes.” The screen went blank.
“Can’t you just hear the tourists? ‘Oh, Mommy, I never want to go up in a plane! I’m so
glad we don’t have them.’” Bil snorted. “Fusbing nonsense. Planes crashed al right, but if a
thousand people died in plane wrecks in five years or even ten it was a lot. Note how cleverly
the computers or even ten it was a lot. Note how cleverly the computers leave out the real
reasons for abolishing aircraft once and for al –to keep people from traveling and becoming
too independent. Well, we’l fly again.” He wrote in his pad, “Build airplanes, landing fields,
control towers, et cetera.”
Alce went to the box that said “Roads.” “Before computer leadership,” the screen said,
“Amercans liked roads.” There was a photo of an empty two-lane road. “Perhaps they liked
them a little too much.” The road became a four-lane expressway, clogged with traffic.
“Roads became wider and wider.” A highway expanded in size on the screen until it reached
twenty-four lanes. “Scenes like this were not uncommon.” The mammoth accident depicted
involved many hundreds of cars and mangled bodies. “That is why you have safe roads
today.” The picture of the two-lane road returned and vanished.
“More hype. That pileup is a photo montage,” said Bil. He scribbled, “Construct
Dian had wandered to a row of cases that lined one wal . “What are these? ” she asked
in a shocked voice.
Each case was a room with people in it. Alce said, with a gasp, “They look so real.”
“They are–or were. They’re stuffed,” Bil told them. Earphones stood before each
display. They first chamber contained ten males and females–white, black, yellow, red,
brown–in a different pose and style of dress. An authoritative woman’s voice explained,
“Perfectly preserved in a vacuum stand representatives of the races existing B.C. Observe the
differences in skin tone, which made for color clashes and disharmony. Today, we are al light
tan, thanks to genetic engineering. The racial animosities of the past no longer exist. As you
can see, features varied widely. Appearance preselection has greatly reduced this once
constant source of irritation, since the extremes between physical beauty and ugliness have
been greatly and democratically reduced. Note also that the females are shorter than the
males. That this is no longer the case in our society can be attributed to natural adaptation to
the change in roles. Ever since babyseeds freed women from reproduction, they have
become part of the work force, and engage extensively in manual labor, which requires
“The wide variety in apparel recreates faithful y the wastefulness and status orientation
of the period. Today, of course, the emphasis on unique styles of dress has been eliminated,
and clothing has become uniform, sparing the time and expense of shopping. Move to the
next we window.”
They did, and the voice continued over the earphones, “here you see a typical
American family at a somewhat later date, when the nation had become poor because of bad
governance, political parties, mismanagement, labor unions and other factors.”
“Propaganda,” Bil said. “The computers deliberately subverted the economy to gain
“The clothing is old and worn. People of this time tried to pretend they had created a
style cal ed ‘radical punk’ but increasing poverty was responsible. At the next case, you wil
see what human relations were like.”
Man slugging woman in the jaw as she sliced his scalp with a knife. Kid of ten or so
with a swollen lip puffing on a smal hand-rol ed cigarette. Pregnant adolescent pouring amber
liquid from a bottle marked with a skul and crossbones. Boy in late teens cleaning a pistol.
Young woman sniffing white powder. Thin man in his mid-twenties in putting needle in his arm.
No one looked at anyone else. In a corner a TV set flashed meaningless images.
“Many problems existed for the average American family. Child and mate were the
rules rather than the exception. The majority had incurable venereal disease. Drug addiction
cost the country six hundred bil ion dollars a year. Seventy-five percent of the population was
alcoholic. Six out of every ten individuals were on welfare. Forty percent of the people were in
jail. The most common cause of death was murder–“
”Enough!” Bil dropped his earphones. “As if there wasn’t an alternative to computer
rule. There is–us!”
Alce said, “It’s true, though, that sickness is rare because the computers prevented
inherited disease and cured communicable il ness. There’s hardly any such thing as cancer or
heart ailments; people usually die of old age, which is very old because of the stuff up to the
end due to painless computerized dentistry. Without machines, how wil people stay in perfect
“So they’l catch a cold or two, have a couple of fil ings and die a little sooner,” said Bil
They found the mimeograph among various kinds of equipment no longer in private use
because it was al supposed to have contributed to the deterioration of society. The TV set,
when turned on, showed only violence; obscenities spewed from the telephone; the rock and
rol on the hi-fi was deafening; from the radio came only mindless commercials; pornography
tumbled from the printing press; the photocopier produced directions for making Molotov
cocktails. Bil tried the mimeo to be sure it worked–literature promoting rape and theft poured
“You women carry the mimeo. Don’t forget the portable typewriter, Ralp Nadir
Nth. I’l find paper, ink and stencils. You know, the more I think, the more I’m convinced we
can build a society that’s real y new. We’re not fettered by the actions of our political
predecessors, since there haven’t been any for centuries. There’s no deep-seated tradition or
culture to contend with, either. If we don’t rely too much on machines as our forebears did, we
can create a utopia! A golden age! Anything’s possible now that we’re free!”
· 2 ·
Heroes’ Return (cont’d)
Alce and Dian mimeographed the leaflet while Bil and Ralp rustled up materials for a sign
which, declared the campaign manager, had to be hung in the window. After many arguments
the two men agreed on the wording.
WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
“Nice ring, hasn’t it? We’ll attract volunteers in droves,” said Bil. “Why, here’s one already.”
A wispy woman edged into the room and said nervously, “What’s that ?”
Answered Bil with pride, “Our campaign slogan, by which we mean–“
”I meant that.” She pointed at the poodle, which stood before the window. “What is ti?”
“I thought as much! I’ve only seen photos, never a real-life one. Is it dangerous?”
“The cur’s perfectly harmless, I assure you. Now, perhaps I can interest you–“
”What’s its name?”
“Ralp,” Bil said crossly. “How about–“
”Is it a boy or a girl?”
“A male. The reason we’re here is–“
”How old is it?”
“For fusb’s sake, lady! Who cares how old it is! I’m trying to tel you about . . .”
But the woman had vanished. “Be more patient,” Ralp counseled.
“Ralp, you’re a distraction. Go to the back room.” The god departed dejectedly.
The next potential volunteer said mincingly. “I wonder if you have–“
”Need of campaign workers? We sure do!”
“I meant a bathroom.”
“Can I leave some packages for a few hours?” inquired another.
“Why don’t you check your head?”
“Bil!” the campaign manager said sharply. “That is not the way to deal with the public.
You’ve got to be polite.”
“It’s hard,” Bil grumbled. “Are the leaflets ready?”
“Al set,” sang Alce. “Though why you chose purple paper is beyond me.”
“It was al there was.” Bil had written the leaflet and wanted to hear how it sounded.
“Read it out loud, wil you?”
“ ‘PEOPLE OF THE UNITED SENSE OF AMERCA, AWAKE! Tyranny has been
ended! Freedom is here! A new day dawns!’. . . . So many exclamation marks.”
“That’s my style. Continue. No, start from the beginning again.”
“‘PEOPLE OF THE UNITED SENSE OF AMERCA, AWAKE! Tyranny has been ended!
Freedom is here ! A new day dawns! The computers which enslaved us for one thousand
years have been vanquished at last! But the hour is late and time is short! Fel ow Amercans,
unite! We must pul ourselves up by our bootstraps! Let us join together and begin anew!’ “
Alce sais after a long silence, “Ugh, it stinks.”
Stung, Bil protested, “I wouldn’t say that.”
“She did, however,” Ralp Nadir replied, “and I quite agree. It’s rhetorical and
amateurish. A professional should have composed it, meaning me.”
“Bil’s about to cry,” Alce observed. “If he can’t take our criticism, what wil he be like if
he becomes President? Well. We’re stuck with the leaflet because there’s no more paper.
Let’s hit the street.”
The four companions tried to pass the purple leaflets to the throng heading home in the
evening rush hour. Most merely jogged faster when approached, but a few comments came.
“Soliciting for a massage parlor! Disgusting.”
“I don’t like purple prose.”
“I haven’t been living for a thousand years.”
“What’s a ‘bootstrap’?”
“Hey, baby, stil at it?” Chortled the bald man to Dian. “Ready when you are.”
“Hopeless,” Bil complained. “People fail to understand their plight.
Without new leadership, society wil col apse.”
“We’l col apse, too, if we don’t get some sunlamp chow at the clinic,” Alce said. With
Dian and Ralp, she trotted away.
Anger at his countrymen prevented Bil from noticing the little band of citizens in
sweatsuits who stared and talked with animation across the street. They held purple leaflets.
The next day, the four zealots stumped the city. Standing on a box, Bil harangued a
smal crowd which had gathered out of curiosity, since nobody had made a political speech in
Amerca for a mil ennium.
“My friends, we are gathered together–“
”This isn’t a funeral!” Ralp Nadir hissed in his ear.
“Fel ow Amercans, listen–“
“When in the course of human events . . .”
“Corny!” said Ralp.
“Let a thousand flowers bloom . . .”
“They don’t want poetry!” Ralp said.
“Workers of the world, unite.”
“Wrong. They perceive themselves as members of the middle class!”
“Comrades . . .”
“Watch out, sounds pinko,” Ralp whispered.
“Folks . . .”
“Better. You can’t go wrong with a folksy approach.”
“Folks, you are the stuff that made Amerca great.”
“Good! Butter ‘em up!” Ralp said.
“Folks, this is your land and this is my land.”
“What so proudly we hailed . . . or used to, anyhow. The fact is, for a hundred decades
we have been opprobriously oppressed.”
“Watch it!” Ralp said.
“. . . we must be the captains of our fate, the masters of our souls . . .”
Some children were less conditioned than others, though al were made docile
eventual y. A swaggering suburban ten-year-old in a sweatsuit two sizes smal said to his
buddies, “Let’s kick the box from under him.”
“Yeah! Throw something , too.”
“Boys,” warned the first one’s mother. “The rocops wil come.”
“. . . Machiavel ian machines . . .”
Bil stared bleakly from the ground while Alce stroked the bump on the back of his head.
“I’l do the talking,” declared Ralp Nadir Nth.
None of them saw, but several excited people carried the purple leaflets away.
They tried a different location and again a crowd gathered, mostly to see the dog.
Teetering on the box, Ralp’s hundred-and-forty-year-old voice croaked inaudibly.
“What’d he say?”
Ralp repeated his words.
The crowd dispersed, but a number of people seemed sorry, as if they wanted to know
what the old man said.
“I address my remarks to the women in the audience,” bellowed Alce. “Instead of
growing babyseeds, why can’t we give birth to real children like women used to? Why can’t we
be legal y married if we want? Why must adultery be compulsory? Women of Amerca, tear up
your AS-cards! If we choose to be adulterous, that’s one thing, but we must make our own
“What about men? Don’t we get a choice, too?” someone asked cautiously.
“I hadn’t thought about the men,” Alce admitted.
Many males walked out in protest, complaining about equal rights, but some people
took out their adultery cards and stared at them thoughtful y.
Dian Toffler decided to address the Sex Olympics. In her last appearance there, a
decade before, the champion had brought tears to the eyes of thousands when she
announced that, as an athlete, she had done her last lap. She returned from the Feel Forum,
where the Sex Olympics were in session, furious, “They wouldn’t let me talk! They said they
were there for sex, not politics. They told me to come back on Old Fusbers’ Day. I’m quitting
“But there’s a crowd here, Dian. We’ve been tel ing them a celebrity’s coming. That’s
“Oh, al right.” Dian clambered on top of the box. “As you folks must know, you’re
looking at a former Sex Olympics queen. I was the greatest! I could be again, but, my friends,
there is an urgent matter–“
”Hey, wait a minute,” challenged a zoftik young woman. “What makes you so great?”
“Wanna take me on in the breaststroke?” snarled Dian.
The crowd broke up in confusion but, unnoticed by the campaigners, there were those
who seemed ready to come forward, as if curious about what was so al -fired urgent.
“Oh dear,” said Ralp Nadir Nth. “I fear we’re getting nowhere. Something is definitely
“And I know what, too–the humanariat! Sorry. The people are empty, smug, self-
satisfied. A better way awaits, just for the taking, yet they pretend they’re happy, just as the
computers told them. Get up, go to the sunfood clinic, jog to work, work, jog home”–in his
frustration, Bil began to jog in place–“work in the evenings, sleep, get up, go to the sunfood
clinic, jog to work, work, jog home, work in the evenings, sleep, get up, go to the sunfood
”Enough!” said Alce.
“What kind of life is that? And yet they refuse to listen. I almost wish I hadn’t risked my
neck for them.”
“Ahem. You were not alone in risking your neck,” said Ralp.
“Look out the window,” Alce said.
A gray-suited jogger streaked by, then another and another, returning again and again,
like birds afraid to light. “Holy fusb!” Bil shouted. “Volunteers! We must catch them. Quick!”
The campaigners raced from the storefront to col ar the potential volunteers, who fled.
“They’re too quick,” Dian panted.
“Because they’re scared. Maybe we could rig up a trap for them–a snare, or
something,” Alce suggested.
Bil sighed in despair. “I have been ignored, misquoted, knocked to the ground, unable
to capture a single volunteer in a city of mil ions. We have failed. Shal we go back to the
“Dat’s what I’d do was I in youse sneakers,” said a heavy voice that belonged to a dark
squat man who marched into the storefront.
“A volunteer! Dian, don’t let him get away.”
“Never fear,” Dian seized the man.
“Unloose me, chick,” the man said warningly. “I’m de landlord.”
“The landlord! Let go, for fusb’s sake, Dian,” ordered Ralp.
The man careful y inspected the pants of his sweatsuit, then said, “Rent,”
“Rent? Did she tear your clothing?” Ralp asked anxiously.
“Rent! Gelt! Cash on de barrelhead,” the man said brusquely. He stared at his
polished fingernails with smal , close-set eyes. “I’m Rober Baronio. You musta hoid ob me.”
“We’re in the midst of an epochal effort and you have the gal to mention dough!” Bil
cried. He say Barbar Tydings standing in the doorway, and said in a lower tone,
Besides, we don’t have any.”
“Dey al say dat, which is why dis store ain’t been rented for fifty years. But policy is
policy. Mine is pay.”
“Yeah.” Rober Baronio slowly twisted the bright rings on his pale, pudgy fingers. “Out.
If you don’ go, I’l make you.”
“You and who else?” Bil sneered.
The man pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “Her.”
“Her?” Bil looked out the window, which must have been ten feet high. So tal was the
figure standing outside that the head could not be seen. “Her? ”
Alce’s almond eyes blanched. “A gooness!”
“Rent,” said Rober.
The man placed two plump fingers between his lips and whistled. The columnar object
moved toward the doorway.
“Just a sec,” said Bil hurriedly. “I’m sure we can reach an understanding. Robert
Baronio. If we succeed, we’ll be the new government, you know. Maybe the government
could lease the premises.”
The heavy-voiced man said unpleasantly, “Me and de govmint don’t get along.”
“But you could be part of the new government,” urged Bil. “How about a Cabinet post?
Secretary of MAFIA, standing for Motherhood, Altruism, Finesse, Innocence and Art, say.”
“We mustn’t compromise,” Alce muttered.
“I get paid for dat?” asked Baronio. Bil nodded vigorously. “Okay, you get to stay a
few more days.”
“My turn,” said Ralp. He winked at Baronio. “She’s from the laminated press. Order us
to leave right away.”
Rober Baronio winked back, “Leave,” he said loudly. “Right now!”
“You’d do that to us? ” cried Ralp piteously. “The cruelty! The fairness of it! But we
have no choice.”
Rober strode from the room. Outside, he and the huge gooness ambled off with
“Thrown out in the cold,” Nadir sniveled, seeming to see the reporter for the first time.
“If it isn’t Barbar Tydings of Newsminute! How can we help you, my dear? Perhaps you’d like
“Interview!” Bil yel ed. “I wouldn’t talk to Barbar Tydings if she were the last reporter
alive. She gets everything wrong. Maybe if I tel the opposite from the truth, she’l get the
“In a political campaign you have to cozen up the press, laminated or not,” Ralp
rebuked him. “I’m delighted that Barbar is interested in our little movement.”
“I have a couple of inches to fil ,” said Barbar. “I was thinking in terms of local color.
After al , what you’re up to is a little offbeat.”
“Local color! Offbeat!” Bil exclaimed. “This is only the most important development in
a hundred decades.”
“You used that figure in your speeches,” said Barbar, sounding bored.
“At least you heard my speeches. But what guarantee do we have that you’ll report the
“Facts?” Asked Barbar.
“Your attitude toward truth is barbaric!” Bil punned.
“Accuracy doesn’t matter in a campaign. Exposure does,” Ralp whispered. “Speaking
of exposure, I hope it doesn’t rain, since we’ve just been evicted.” He sighed from the bottom
of his old being. “This is the end of our hopes and dreams.”
“The end!” cried Alce and Dian together, catching on.
“Yes,” said the old man sadly, “and after what we’ve been through–our suffering and
tribulations. . . . Incidentally, Barbar Tydings, you made a slight mistake about my name. It’s
Ralp Nadir Nth, not Third.”
The campaign continued to attract smal and seemingly indifferent audiences. Barbar
Tydings failed to give them space because, Ralp opined, of Bil’s intemperate remarks. Worst
of al , Rober Baronio, the gooness in tow, was knocking at the door again.
“How foolish I feel,” said Bil, “thinking that people would flock to our banner. Do you
know, in yesterages there were white-bearded men who carried signs that proclaimed ‘Beware!
The end is near.’ They were oddbal s, kooks, eccentrics, which is exactly the image we
convey.” He added. “I’d grow a beard, too, if I hadn’t been genetically depilated.”
Into the storefront sailed Capn, the grizzled ferryboat operator, an expectant look on his
rodentlike face. “What’s the poop?” Bil asked when Capn stood dumbly, balancing his cap on
“Up and down river,” Capn said.
“Up and down river?”
“People,” the triverfarer said laconical y.
“Getting information out of you is like pulling taffy. People what? ”
“Talk,” Capn responded.
“That’s what I’m hoping you’l do! Talk about what? ”
“About you talk people up and down the river.”
“Up and down the river people talk about you.”
“I get it! He says something and then reverses it, just like his ferryboat. I’m surprised
he doesn’t twist his head on the second go-round. It’s almost as bad as dealing with that
As if on cue, Barbar Tydings entered the room. “Did you see my piece?” She asked,
waving that day’s issue of Newsminute.
Ralp Nadir Nth grabbed it.
By Barbar Tydings
After waging the most determined campaign fought in this city in almost a decade, Bil Kuhn, his
wifette Alc, Ralp Nadir Second and Dian Toffler had been evicted from their storefront on lower
“It’s barbaric,” Mr. Kuhn said.
The issue they have been campaigning for is 6yg32/½ffxzaaqaa.
“Sorry about the typos,” murmured Barbar.
“I wish you could get my name right,” Ralp scolded as he showed the others. “I come
from a long and important line, which is hardly reflected by ‘Second.’ ‘Nth’ connotes infinity,
after al .”
“What was your father’s name?” asked the reporter.
“Why Ralp Nadir Nth, too”
“How about Ralp Nadir Nth, Jr., then?”
Bil said irritably. “Thanks for the coverage. Barbar Tydings, but the fact is that we’ve
lost our final chance to get our message across.” He glanced up as a jogger flew by the
window, fol owed by others. “If only people would volunteer to help, but nobody has the
“There’s quite a crowd outside, however,” said Alce.
Ralp went to the doorway and looked out. “It’s becoming a mob,” he cal ed.
The old man was shoved aside as people in sweatsuits pushed into the room. “We’re
volunteers! What do volunteers do?”
“Find volunteers!” Ralp commanded. “That’s what volunteers do.”
Soon so many volunteers packed the storefront that the campaigners took refuge on
the empty sidewalk. “Whew! If I ever become President, my first act wil be to require
deodorants. In any case, we’re alone as ever,” said Bil.
“Don’t pique too early,” Ralp advised. “Look!” A smal army of sweatsuits poured down
the street. “It’s a ground swell!”
Suddenly the city went crazy. Thousands of joggers thronged around, waving their
arms and shouting, “We want Bil! Hooray for Bil!”
“We’l be trampled to death!” screamed Ralp Nadir Nth.
Fol owed by Rober Baronio, the huge gooness parted the throng with her thick arms
and hoisted Bil onto her burly shoulders. Others lifted Alce, Diam and Ralp Nadir, and a
procession down Broadway began. A blizzard of white paper streamed from the windows
Bil shouted ecstatical y, “Do you know how Broadway got its name, Alce? There was
this girl . . .”
But his voice was lost in the massive chorus of “Bil for President! Bil for President! Bil
· 3 ·
The Campaign Trail
Although it was obvious that he could become President by acclamation, Bil wanted to be
elected fair and square. “The public must be educated in the political process, and it has to
learn what the issues are,” he insisted, adding, “Besides it’l give folks a chance to know me.”
“Exactly what we’re afraid of,” said his sarcastic wifette.
Bil wished the campaign to resemble those of the Before Computer period as much as
possible, which wasn’t much, given the virtual absence of TV and radio, and the impossibility
of reaching other cities except by truck-filled tow-lane toads, which were too slow. “We’l have
to campaign in the city and pretend it’s the whole country, which is what New Yorkers have
always done anyway,” said the candidate.
“People wil actual y vote?” Alce asked.
Bil nodded. “We don’t have voting machines like we used to–we’l have them, sooner
or later–so we’l use paper bal ots. Everybody gets to vote, including the suburban kids. It’l be
good practice for them. Say, how about letting children live in the central cities again? That
ought to make a wonderful issue. So much to remember!” He jotted another note to himself in
“BILL FOR PRESIDENT,” said a big banner over the store-front, before which long lines
of volunteers begged for a chance to work. Having also requested a task, Barbar Tydings was
given the job of preparing the campaign buttons in the place that printed her newspaper. She
showed the result with pride” “ERECT BIL.”
“What am I, a statue already? Can’t you get anything right, Barbar Tydings?”
Alce taunted, “Everything around here says Bil. Bil, Bil, Bil. I fought the computers as
hard as you did. I also want to run for office.
“Me too,” said Ralp Nadir Nth.
“Me three,” echoed Dian.
“Well, I suppose al of you could run for Vice-President and let the voters decide.”
“I have no interest in that job. Dibs on Prime Minister,” said Ralp sternly.
“So run for Prime Minister if you must. It won’t be exactly the system the Founding
Fathers had in mind, but so much time has passed I guessed they won’t care. There’s a
megaphone I the museum. You’l need it, Ralp Nadir Nth. What about you, Alce?”
“Vice-President sounds okay. It’s a stepping-stone at least.”
“To what? Surely you don’t want to compete with me, darling.”
“Mmm. What’s left for Dian? I’d suggest the Senate or the House of Representatives,
but they don’t exist. I know! How about Secretary General? There’s a great title if there ever
“Secretary General for what? ” Dian inquired.
“How about Amusements? That’s your forte. Well, it’s time to hit the long campaign
trail. But how are we supposed to get around the city? Jogging is too undignified for the high
office I aspire to.”
“Jac Wel s’s truck,” said Alce.
The farmer, located at the square of the city to which he brought his produce, was
persuaded to cart them around for his usual fee–Dian Toffler, who groaned–and the campaign
Advance joggers sped before them to assemble crowds at strategic locations. “They’re
coming! They’re coming!” the volunteers shouted as the rattling vehicle, festooned with
bunting, approached, the candidates in back.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” cried Ralp Nadir Nth, audible because of the megaphone, “the
future President of the United Sense of Amerca!”
Bil raised his arms to subdue the clamor. “Thank you, Mr. Future Prime Minister. My
fal ow Amercans . . . I meant ‘fal ow,’ too. Countrymen, for centuries–“
”Always mention the women,” ordered the campaign manager from behind him. “That’s
vital in politics, and don’t forget it.”
“Countrymen and countrywomen, for centuries our spirits have been idle–“
”Too complicated,” Ralp Nadir Nth said.
“. . . perceived life as if in a dream, from which we must perforce awake . . .”
“Poetry again,” Alce complained.
“. . . march toward new horizons where our destiny beckons . . .”
“Get some sex into it,” Dian urged.
“How can I speak when you’re chattering?” Bil said crossly over his shoulder. He
began again, earnestly: “Folks, for forty generations we humans have been tricked. People
were told that computers made them happy, which was false! We weren’t happy, even though
the machines bamboozled us into believing we were. Did the computers care about us? No!
What the desired was power to the machines–the power to push people around, to force us to
kowtow, to intimidate us into signing a Declaration of Dependence. Why? Because the canny
calculators were out to prove that they were superior, people inferior, and we bought it. They
fusbed us over!” Bil screamed.
“THEY FUSBED US OVER!”
“They told us we were too helpless, incapable, incompetent, foolish, lazy, dim-witted,
dumb and foolish to survive without them. Fusbing lies!”
“Get ready for the finale,” Bil told Alce and Dian, who slipped from the truck. Again he
turned his round visage to the assemblage. “The computers were wrong. We’ll not only
survive, but we’l do better without them! Their power is gone, and we’re the masters. I stand
here today to ask you a question. How does it feel to be free?”
“Terrific!” shil ed Alce and Dian.
“Once and for al , what are we?”
“Glad to be here,” claqued Dian and Alce.
“Tel me again!”
“GLAD TO BE HERE!”
“GLAD TO BE HERE! GLAD TO BE HERE! GLAD TO BE HERE!” boomed the
The candidate said to his running mates, “It’s be okay.”
At another stop on the campaign trail Bil exhorted, “Amerca’s an underdeveloped
country! We need an infrastructure. . . .”
“Huh?” said Alce.
“We’ve got to rebuild the country from the ground up. We must have factories,
consumer goods, bridges, modern farming, good schools, scientists, teachers, lawyers,
managers, technicians, workers–can we do it?”
“You said it!” yel ed Alce and Dian.
“YOU SAID IT!”
“What are we?”
“GLAD TO BE HERE!”
POLITICIAN CALLS FOR CHANGE
By Barbar Tydings
Bil Kunh, candidate for President, today outlined his proposals.
He wants a school lunch program and better jogging shoes. . . .
“Fusb! I didn’t say a word about school lunches or jogging shoes.”
“We need a philosophy. Computers didn’t make this country great, people did!
Computers didn’t invent people, people invented computers! We must throw off the burden of
a thousand years and reclaim our birthright! Mechanism–no! Humanism–yes!”
“GLAD TO . . .”
CHAN WANTS PHILOSOPHY
By Barbar Tydings
Bil Cahn, Presidential candidate, speaking to a crowd estimated at five
million, said that this country is walking on eggs.
“Slippery going,” he stated. . . .
“. . . need to learn to enjoy ourselves. Having fun is fundamental to human nature,
even if our former masters lacked humor. Let’s bring laughter back from a long vacation!”
BILL ASKS PURPOSE
By Barbar Tydings
Presidential candidate Chun believes that this nation fails to take its
mission with sufficient seriousness. . . .
“I want to introduce my running mates. My wifette, Alce, who has a few ideas of her
“Glad to be here, folks.”
“Ralp Nadir Nth, who’s standing for Prime Minister.”
“Glad to be here, my good people.”
“Ralp’s got some bones to pick. And who’s this? Why, it’s Dian Toffler, former Sex
Olympics champion, who’s jogging for Secretary General. Take a bow, Dian!”
“Glad to be here, fel ow fusbers.” Dian clasped her hands above her head and the
crowd chuckled. “We sure hope you’ll vote for us.”
“There’s no one else to vote for,” Bil said apologetical y, “Because we haven’t had time
to organize an opposition party. But a great turnout would be super. How about sixty percent
of you voting?”
“SIXTY!” roared the multitude.
“Do I hear seventy?”
“SEVENTY!” the ebullient audience responded.
“Shal er try for eighty?”
“Why stop there? Who wants ninety?”
“We’re so close! Let’s go al the way! How about a turnout of one hundred percent?”
“ONE HUNDRED!” they bellowed.
POL WARNS OF APATHY
By Barbar Tydings
Bil Knah predicted victory by a narrow margin in his long campaign for
He told a small gathering at a rally on Wal St., “We’re afraid that people
will sit on their hands on Election Day, which would be
fatal to our chances.”
“That Barbar Tydings is a menace. She ought to be bound and gagged,” raged Bil.
“But what about freedom of the laminated press?” asked Alce.
“Fusb that. We’re running the most critical election in the history of mankind, with an
overwhelming response, and the Tydings dame reports apathy. She could hurt us badly, you
“Stil ,” said Ralp, “people might feel sorry for us and become even more enthusiastic
than they are already. Politics is a tough game to figure out.”
“What’s your position on city dogs, since you have one?” said a voice from the throng.
“They used to be il egal.”
“I’m in favor of city dogs if they can pass a literacy test. What do you think, Ralp?” Bil
asked the poodle, who barked eagerly.
Alce objected, “I’m opposed to city dogs. They’re dirty things to have around.”
The poodle whined.
“In response to that question, yes, I believe we should have national defense. While
it’s true that computers apparently stamped out al other nations long ago, sooner or later we’ll
repopulate the planet and then we’ll need a military. We’d better get started if we’re to
maintain superiority–as a deterrent, of course.”
“I disagree,” remonstrated the skeletal contender for Prime Minister. “I’m unequivocably
opposed to the armed forces because they lead to war, and war is unsafe because it causes
“Asked to define my political views, I am a Communist Capitalist, and proud of it. I
believe both in Socialism and individual autonomy. I’m for equality plus the right to get rich. I’,
for the security of Communism and the excitement of Capitalism. We must be Communists
and Capitalists at once. The dirty work wil be given to machines, under Communist
dictatorship, of course. The jobs people want wil be placed in the private sector, under the
management of Capitalists, of course. Risk-taking must be rewarded: therefore Comcaps hold