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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #355
David Gunn

Ga-jing ga-jing ga-jing ga-jing ga-jing--the pneumatic data retrieval conveyance machine beats its rhythmic tattoo into the subconscious of Mavis Bumpkins. She has been standing in front of the device for five continuous hours, and her breathing mirrors that of the machinery's cadence. Inhale, ga-jing ga-jing ga-jing, exhale, ga-jing ga-jing ga-jing. Her heartbeat, too, pulses concomitantly with the alternating current mesotrons: ga-jing lub-dub, ga-jing dub-lub. Mavis Bumpkins is a clerk-hunter-gatherer in the Department of Eccentricities for the College of Smackover in southcentralmost Arkansas. She is supremely good at her job, although she secretly has no idea of what she is doing. All she knows is that every minute, hundreds, maybe thousands, of pieces of data flow from left to right in front of her on a conveyor belt. And her job is to--ga-jing ga-jing ga-jing ... she just stares at them as they sweep past, hour after hour. A lingering tendril of memory hints that she is supposed to notice any irregularity, any anomaly in the operation, and report it. But what constitutes an irregularity and report it to whom are questions for which she has no--ga-jing ga-jing--answers. Mavis Bumpkins absent-mindedly runs her hands over her gingham cassock, attempting to smooth the wrinkles that have amassed in the room's unusually humid atmosphere--humid, yes, but also glutinous, causing her fingers to stick to her dress, giving her the appearance of a null-gravity thermocoupler with elbows.

Ga-jing ga-jing. A very large piece of information suddenly passes in front of her. The enormity of it triggers a recognition synapse in her brain, and she shakes off her cadent somnolence long enough to study it. It is 16 hands long; is comprised of a central ovoid trunk, green with plaid accents, from which extends four articulated appendages and one nodule that is hirsute along the far end; and it says "Help me!" Ga-jing. Mavis Bumpkins blinks out of her reverie and tries to reach for what she now identifies as a person on a conveyor belt, a person she thinks she has seen elsewhere in this very hunting-gathering plant. But her hands are indeed stuck to her cassock. She can't even wave good-bye as--ga-jing--the very large piece of information passes into the chamber marked "data processing."

Three short toots from a whistle sound, signifying the lunchtime break. The left-to-right data stream stops and the humidity and attendant stickiness in the room abruptly disappears, allowing Mavis Bumpkins to gratefully wrest her hands free of her dress. She drifts out of the room, out of the building, and heads towards the college cafeterium. But midway across the campus green, a distant sound pricks through her thickened consciousness. It is sweet, smooth, wholly unlike the monotonous ga-jing ga-jing of the pneumatic data retrieval conveyance machine. She pauses to listen. Is it ... singing? It is, and seems to be coming from the Statue of Smackover. Like a Hindenburg drawn to a Lakehurst Naval Air Station, so Mavis Bumpkins gravitates towards the imposing monument around which the eponymous college radiates. The Statue of Smackover is a 120-meter high, sky blue obelisk surmounted by a stanchion from which a banner imprinted with the word "Clobberworm" hangs. Lark A. Clobberworm is the current college potentate, a man obsessed with authority, and the driving force behind the school's data retrieval system.

Mavis Bumpkins walks up to the base of the statue. The singing is much louder, but there is no one in sight. The sound appears to be coming from inside the obelisk. She presses her ear against its smooth wall. Now she can distinguish the sound of four men singing in close harmony. It isn't barbershop--more like ... hairdresser music, its melody rich with henna and pomade. She is enthralled, captivated, and eager to be closer to the music. She circles the statute, looking for an entrance, but can't find one. The surface is smooth and unbroken. Then how did they get in there? She listens again. The music washes over her, filling her with a longing long missing from her monotonously aseptic life. She must find the music's source!

"Up here!" The words cry out in the same timbre as from that of the conveyor-belted person. She glances up to see a hand waving ambagiously from an aperture about midway up the statue. "Here!" repeats the voice, and the hand now beckons. Oblivious to the fundamental laws of gravity, Mavis Bumpkins places her hands on the slick wall and begins to climb. At first, the glossy surface at the bottom causes her to slip, but higher up, her purchase improves. She begins to settle into a rhythmic climbing pattern--left hand-right foot, right hand-left foot, left hand-right foot--and as she occasionally glances up at her objective, she notices that the hand is snapping its fingers in time to the cadence of her ascent. As she climbs higher, however, the sound of the singing diminishes. Soon all she can hear is the pulse of her heartbeat, lub-dub, the padding of her hands and feet upon the wall, clack-clack, and the snapping of the beckoning fingers, click-click. Ga-jing.


Ga-jing ga-jing went the pneumatic data retrieval conveyance machine, beating its rhythmic tattoo into the subconscious of Mavis Bumpkins. She had been standing in front of the device now for six continuous hours, outwardly unaware of anything save the left-to-right unbroken flow of the data stream. But inwardly, abetted by a hand of unknown origin, she was poised to swing over a window ledge high above the ground and seek out the source of a music rich with henna and pomade, colors and scents forever counterintuitive to the Smackover working caste.

The colorful and fragrant music heard on today's 355th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, while potentially counterintuitive to the henna and pomade crowd, will nonetheless delight dozens--nay, tens of dozens!--of other perspicacious listeners, including but not limited to the pricked-up ears of Damian and of Kalvos.