The story is a parody of the authority in the capitalist society. The idea is that the authority of this society tends to be more concerned with creating surplus in everything that can be sold that they fail to realise that this has a good and a bad side to it. The worker who is central to the story is trying to intercept what we could call the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and ends up by creating a virus which changes the social order he inhabits into something misshapen.
The Respondents flocked into the showers, their flesh frittered away the chemicals to the tiles; the sun and the wind seeped through the open windows. The smell that was gobbled by the sun and the wind was that of overused rubber boots and sweat-soaked socks. When all finished they realised that Respondent 4 had left them behind.
Respondent 4 knew that he had to perform the experiment, he knew that the experiment had to use his son; can his son be transformed, if he became a gizmo he could not lose his handsomeness. He looked at his fob, which had a knoll of manganese, the fob looking as misshapen as his boots; he decided that if he allowed this time to lapse he may never have his chance again.
Respondent 4: do you know my wife that at work we use a lot of manganese to create our gizmos?
Wife: yes you told me that you also use calculus and conductivity.
Respondent 4: when we changed our names into respondents it was for the gizmos not to imitate us, now the whole theory of differential and integral calculus is destroyed, and now we use sawdust of manganese.
Wife: yes I know we are forbidden to call you by your first names, but tell me more about this new way of making gizmos through manganese.
Respondent 4 related the mystery to his wife: at the time the wife was feeding their son resins, which made Respondent 4 to focus on the mouth of the son; the son’s projectile nose was similar to the one of the mother. The son satiated, came to the father; the father had been waiting for this occasion, he must not waste more time, inside his heart was avoirdupois with elation.
Respondent 1: it feels light without Respondent 4. Respondent 2: and you are only noticing that now?
Respondent 3: it feels like I have to be the one who speaks last.
Respondent 1: I am sure of one thing: he went so quick because he was missing his wife.
Respondent 2: it is all your fault you teased him about his wife the other day.
Respondent 3: yes he said his son looks like a gizmo, and Respondent 4 said that even if that was the case his son would still look a lot better than the gizmos that came from his hands.
Respondent 4 knew what he was supposed to do next, he untied the rubber on the taper, and told himself that as soon as he was finished he would burn the fob and the rubber. He knew that what he was doing would become a success; a fleeting thought grazed his mind: the thought came along with the image of Respondent 1. He thought that his face would fall once he sees his masterpiece.
Respondent 4 told his son to smell the fob, he knew that the son would comply, but he was also weary of the son shrieking and the mother hearing the cry. He believed that she should be preoccupied with some things, he loved the fact that his wife was strangely obsessed with trivial things, and he knew that it was hard for her to come out of this obsession.
Respondent 4: your eyes will one day swell with such concentration.
Wife: you think so, where is our son? Respondent: our son… I sent him to sleep.
Wife: you can’t send a child that can’t even crawl to sleep.
Respondent 4 did not know what to do with his wife, because he knew that she would not stop thinking about their son. His wish was that she should defer such thoughts for hours, he could not wish that she should die, thinking about death made his heart to pulsate in milliseconds; even his instincts froze under the veil of death. He felt he understood his wife completely, that when she thought about something she made it harder to be moved from that thought.
The factory was created out of nickel and platinum; the palisades were of copper and brass, the facade was a tone of charcoal: the terracotta gave the impression of porcelain coins; the tiles were made of silver and gold.
Respondent 1: what, you arrived before us today? What happened?
Respondent 2: do tell us what made you to leave us behind yesterday?
Respondent 3: I too wish to know his actual reasons.
Respondent 4: I had a serious business to take care of at home.
Respondent 2 and 3 were shocked by this reply, they expected Respondent 4 to be deeply angered, yesterday’s events made him to be annoyed; he was almost wolfish, more like an assassin after assassinating an eminent person. Respondent 1 knew that Respondent 4 did not mean any word, he thought he could see this from his eyes; his suspicion was the more raised, because he wanted to be conscious of the hidden lie.
The wife of Respondent 4 had fallen asleep while she was sowing, it was excessive sneezing that made her to wake up. She liked rubbing her nose
after waking, it was her habit to say that their nose ridges were the decorations of their family. She binged the cold water; then she closed the tap, the tap was connected to the freezer: at first this set-up filled her consciousness with bale. Then she went to her room and in her room she once more thought of her child, without the child the space was too wide: she became certain that the headache would come back again, because it was ironic that her room should be this empty; she started to believe that something was wrong with Respondent 4; he was the last to touch their son. She swore that she would not go to bed before he came back, but she had nothing to while away time with, it came to her mind that she could watch the interminable news broadcast: The All Hours of News channel.
A new discovery was made, a man named Respondent 4 is responsible for this golden discovery. This man has made a child-like gizmo, a gizmo that takes after him in looks. We are proud to have an interview with this remarkable man.
Respondent 4: I turned my son into a gizmo; he was transported into this state by smelling manganese motes, I then brought him to the workshop of the factory; when I got there my coworkers were not in their mica clothes, gloves and respirators; they forgot to put these and they started touching my child. After that they all started coughing; they coughed as if they were coming down with flu. I went to the chemist to get them some medicine, unfortunately when I came back they had all turned into gizmos.
Interviewer: there is something you said behind the scenes do you wish to disclose to the viewers?
Respondent 4: yes absolutely. I am afraid to report that the gizmos overpowered me, they could not turn me into their shape because I was wearing mica clothes, gloves and a respirator, but I realised that they managed to infect the cleaning class and the management class. In my factory I am the only one who is not turned into a gizmo, everyone from my factory is now a gizmo and they are disseminating themselves across the society; I adjure everyone to get themselves mica clothes,
gloves and respirators; they could also try spraying alcohol on the gizmos’ faces, but having done so they must constantly wash hands with soap and running water; and refrain from touching their lips and nose.
The wife was shocked by this, but soon after she realised that she could unpack this shock and see what lied beneath it. She discovered two things: people were going to rush to the stores and get themselves mica clothes, gloves and respirators; and that people were going to lock themselves inside their houses and refuse to go anywhere. She was certain that their son would run to their house, she could not go to the shop to get the recommended necessities because she had to wait for their son. She thought about how she will change him from a gizmo to a child again- her head revealed the answer squarely: she must breastfeed him.
Respondent 4 decided not to go home, because he knew that it was far too dangerous to go there; he could go if he was ready to read his own obituary. He could picture his wife waiting for him with boiling oil, or the society at his gate with projectiles. But he was starting to feel lonely, life was becoming burdensome; the material world was becoming a Fata Morgana. His vision of life was starting to be distorted. Within this distortion he felt a sharp spear piercing his conscience, he felt rickety in the head; this feeling could not be captured in words. There was a sense of fear within him, he thought about his colleagues who were now gizmos; he realised that what he has done is to decrease human population and increase the population of automata: he has heard it said that the world is transitioning to the domesticated robotics. This was said in relation to labour, for the force required to leach minerals was demanding to manpower. He realised that in changing his factory he has rewritten the principles of labour; it was hard to smile at this thought, now he was starting to see that his efforts had depauperated labour. Instead of creating labour he had made labour classless. He could not deem himself a hero; for a hero of labour is someone who turns everything into capital, into wealth; it was barbaric for someone to sell his labour but for no one to have abour it was the end of the world; it meant that goods and services would no longer have value, for a classless society has no use for such value. He was deeply annoyed with what he has done, for it showed that he lacked forethought and foresight: he did not realise that he was giving power to the authority; for the authority has always used flu to manufacture other sicknesses, and after manufacturing these sicknesses it always came back to claim that it has discovered their cure; the cure has always been to save lives of those the authority could exploit, has he not asked himself why the authority does not phone its dependents but the dependents requires the contacts of the authority! Now that he has created flu it was easier to believe that flu was manufactured, all deadly viruses had their own factories; those who were authorised to create these viruses also decided the power of these viruses.
About the author
Isaac Dumi is a literary writer, he holds a Masters degree in Translation from Wits and was a 2019 intern for SALB.