Posts Tagged ‘dark comedy’

Quote:

Quote: “Unquote me!”

Unquote: “Quote you on that!”

Quote: Quote: Quote you on that! “And so I came to life.”

Unquote: Quote: Quote you on that! And so I came to life. “And so I came to an end.”

Unquote:

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Quote:

Time was when talk was cheap and abundantly available. Original talk, not quite so. Some humans thought, quite naively, that with evolution talk would grow rarer, and the premium attached, dearer. But no one seemed inclined to bid for it.

For there was much fear.

The fear of an omnipresent apparition partaking, uninvited, on mundane verbal exchanges. Communication underwent a metamorphosis. Languages had evolved, along with humans, but a time came upon humanity when daily exchanges petered into a game between Quote and Unquote. The only way to escape the clutches of the apparition was by means of transplanting one’s thoughts as the words of another soul, preferably dead in nature. Early birds reaped dividends from this technique, not only from evading persecution but from the ancillary benefits of borrowed wisdom. They not only lived longer but their stature seemed to grow in other people’s’ eyes. A virtual virtuous cycle was set in motion.

Apparently.

Those that persisted with churning out original discourse found themselves being transported to the after-life; often against their will. They then served as a fertile source of Quote-Unquote for future generations. Quite sadly, being dead, they couldn’t offer much by way of a defense. A slew of such disappearances caused rapid defections from the League of Disbelievers.

Fear spiked.

As Quote and Unquote flew hither thither, conversations assumed a scary amusing tone. Speakers quoted from the quoted versions of quotes that were themselves quoted from quote-unquote summaries of unoriginal pieces. The web grew so labyrinthine that there was a complete breakdown in law and order. Primary reason was the judge’s inability to pronounce judgments based on facts but on the quoted precedent of irrelevancies. Waves of anarchy swept across the globe. Surprisingly, the anarchists achieved little, as they got embroiled in the process of quoting from prominent anarchists from history. With much quoting-unquoting and little action, the movement died an uneventful death.

The omnipresent apparition nodded in approval.

Gradually, the bastion of independent thought and the sole pursuit of truth – science – came to a grinding halt. Inventions, and inventors, disappeared miraculously, usurped by the apparition. The more effective the invention the sooner it disappeared. With time, humans began witnessing signs of what appeared to be a hybrid life form; a cross between a Neanderthal, a quadruped and a human fitted with a brain-like organ. Only it appeared to have severely limited powers, that could be stultified at Someone’s will.

Humans talked a lot but spoke little. Few had the inclination, or the nerve, to alter the status quo.

Then the disappearances started happening more frequently. It seemed that even a semblance of speech was enough to incur the ire of the omnipresent apparition.

Fear increased exponentially.

Quote, initially overjoyed at having a field day, began feeling pangs of fear himself. He was being called to action so often that he feared coming under the omnipresent apparition’s scanner. Quote was so spooked that he sent word out, asking not to be invoked. Quote‘s message was not to be quoted, of course. He preferred making way for Unquote, who seemed just as uninterested.

Nobody listened. Nobody was in a position to listen. A herd that was so eager to unleash verbal ammunition had reached a state where an utterance was suicidal.

Then, humans stopped talking at all.

Quote died an unquoted death.

Unquote, as usual, had the last word.

For he too had breathed his last.

Unquote:

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An ambitious group of apple chomping, knife toting, hunter-gatherers once descended upon an alien land. Shipwrecked and with hunger knocking against the walls of their vast bellies, some among the apple chomping, knife toting, hunter-gatherers ventured afar; only to stumble upon a bewildered and larger group of apple chomping, club toting, leaf-clothed hunter-gatherers.

Geographic expansion was high on the knife-toters’ agenda, and they pursued their noble intention of civilisation in ignoble ways. They did not need an invitation for an encore. Quick to unleash the power of their knifes and sabres, they overpowered the club-toters, driving many out for good and subjecting the rest to new-found freedom.

On scanning the spoils, the knife-toters learned that the indigenous group seemed to be carrying an odd contraption that seemed to possess wondrous qualities.

The knife-toters had discovered the Gin.

A few sampled it and the results were splendiferous. Gin seemed to be a necessity in this land. Vast uninhabited landscape now abounding with many of their own trigger-happy ilk had left many in the knife-totter community in the grip of insecurity. They spent so much time together that they grew increasingly scared of their own ilk. They put together a system with elected representatives from their group…and then feared the possibility of turncoats within this group. Trust, but self-defend, often zealously; came to be entrenched in their psyche.

So they enshrined into Law, that ‘citizens’ of this Newfoundland would be permitted to hold Gin; in their pockets and at home.

Citizens found that Gin provided some succor from their insecurities. The Gin owner could rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that helpings of this intoxicant was within reach, should trouble brew. They also found, with time, that what they had in their possession could prove to be quite deadly, when used indiscriminately and aimlessly. Most seemed to exercise self-restraint; but unruly elements sporadically demonstrated the ill-effects of dormant insecurity going berserk.

Uncontrolled usage soon began causing events of tragic proportions. Innocents began paying the price for unbridled soiree gone amiss. Events seemed to be set in a pattern. A tragedy would occur, leading to an explosion in outpouring, followed by fervent calls to revisit the Law, followed by nothingness. This pattern seemed to be set on repeat.

Most discussions were centred around revisiting the Law. Gin opponents felt the Law was outdated, a relic from history that had to be remodelled to reflect present reality. The status quo proponents – the Gin lovers – reminded all of their bloodied history, which wasn’t unique; of the possible irreverence to their founding fathers, how Gin possession was an axiom not open to question.

The civilisation was consumed by Gin intoxication.

Soon, a time came to pass, when daily transactions were carried out using Gin as medium of exchange. Gins became so commonplace that even those averse to Gin consumption were left with little choice but to adopt Gin themselves. The act of pilfering took an unusual turn. Earlier, knifes and other objects of terror were used to extract money. Now, Gins were brandished as weapons, in order to extract more Gins from a horrified populace.

Fear ran high.

More Gins seemed the only solution to this menace, as many believed it provided them with a sense of security from heightened insecurity. Soon, there were more Gins than human beings on their land. This was expected to lead to collective security.

Incredulously, the opposite came to be.

A few paused to ponder about the extent of insecurity, the culture of fear that seemed to have become institutionalised in collective psyche. They pondered about the true meaning of civilisation, when man feared man, often for no reason.

Preemptive projection of Gin on opponents then became the norm. Uncontrolled intoxication soon led to exponentially rising tragedies. Yet, few contemplated getting rid of the habit. Old habits die hard.

This one didn’t.

The civilisation had discovered, belatedly, the need for Gin control.

Soon, nobody survived.

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HaLin’s peace-loving spell-checker replaced Gun with Gin in the above post. The accidental edit was left uncorrected.

Angst threatened to brim over among the Brotherhood of the Economists. In one evening meet at their favourite joint, the Ivory Tower Tavern, these troubled souls reassessed their situation. There was general consensus about the assumption of their pitiable state. It was a rare instance when the Mavens of Assumption agreed on anything, without a War.

Apart from being the butt of ridicule, generally centered around their love for making glorious assumptions, and finer assumptions about crude assumptions, the Brotherhood felt the recession had undone much of their world view. The world had broken down in their theory, though most non-Brotherhood folk held the opposite view. This did not bother the Brotherhood. The recession had pushed many in the Brotherhood into marginal unproductivity, a state worthy of much despair.

The Brotherhood plotted a fight back. They decided to teach the real world an ideal lesson in the real value of their idealized theories.

On scanning the globe for potential sources capable of spreading widespread strife, they chanced upon Iran. Here was an economy that few liked. Its grand plans of nuclearization was seen as a furtive attempt at militarization. The Brotherhood did not understand, or care about, the finer nuances of Uranium and Plutonium and isotopes, which were classified under Boreium. They decided to assume the existence of WMDs to build their strike against the vile world that disregarded their theories.

The Brotherhood were of a non-violent bent of mind. They opted to deploy a tool in their vast armoury so potent that some in the Brotherhood did what came naturally to them – disagree – with the idea. They were worried, for the Brotherhood had decided to unleash the ogre of Hyperinflation.

The Brotherhood reasoned that if they could trigger rampant and widespread rise in prices, uncontrolled misery would follow. The world would pause to watch a disaster unfold, and would learn to treat the Brotherhood with the respect they so naturally deserved. Not many in the world had experienced hyperinflation. An unknown devil could only be exorcised by a skilled hand. Bad times (for Iran) would mean the beginning of good times for the embittered Brotherhood.

They would encourage the legion of well-intentioned and patronizing nations to impose sanctions on Iran. Iran would be shunned by the international trading community. Partnering would be scoffed at, with the defiant running the risk of being ostracised from the community. Most nations would tow the line, gradually. Iran would be isolated. Payments and financial assistance  suspended.  Iran’s well-oiled economy would come to a screeching halt. Faced with evaporating revenue and cash flow, inflation would rear its unwanted head. The falling currency – the rial – would trigger this end.

Everything proceeded according to plan.

The clogging of Iran’s financial arteries set off a heart attack, causing an avalanche in its currency. Prices began rising at at nearly 70% per month when someone checked. The government tried its bit in artificially propping up the currency, in the vain hope that somehow problems would be swept under the carpet. It didn’t work. People began losing faith in the currency and this set off a new round of depreciation; which caused faith (and the currency) to plummet further. The vicious cycle threatened to cause a complete breakdown. The inevitable inevitably comes to pass.

Their plans had succeeded in stopping Iran on its nuclear tracks, though there were many that weren’t sure if Iran was indeed in the path to begin with. The Brotherhood was a satisfied lot. The world had been dealt a fatal blow.

Or so they thought.

They hadn’t counted that a rapidly dying man wielding a gun had little to lose, in pulling the trigger. Pushed into a corner with dwindling options, Iran decided to reciprocate the Brotherhood in kind and clogged vital oil arteries (passageways) that greased the world trade. Oil prices spiked, and soon many parts of the world joined the ranks of the despondent. A few suggested that the Brotherhood had triggered a serial heart attack across the globe. The Brotherhood’s eyes and ears, as usual, were locked shut.

As tensions escalated, attempts at dialogue went nowhere. Nuclear weapons, tired of idling for years and accumulating dust, were invited to do the communication. Things turned ugly. Economic warfare had spilled over to an unwanted area.

Pandora’s Box had reopened.

Hyperinflation had triggered an unforeseen consequence. The Brotherhood had wanted to teach the world a lesson. They lined up to learn one.

…with their chests (hyper)inflated.

HaLin’s Note: This is a satire on the two broad styles of Satire writing, with a commonly seen phenomena in today’s world – Vice – as a protagonist. It is an excerpt from a longer piece that unfortunately could not make its way to the blog; being smashed to pieces at the altar of the (self-imposed) word limit.

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Horace and Juvenal were kindred souls that happened to be united in their after-life. Though one lived and perished before the other, they found common ground upon which to stand and exchange pleasantries. Both found that they liked mocking the world around them; but while Horace preferred using mild criticism and jolly humour to disrobe societal vices, Juvenal exhibited a predilection for using scathing wry wit, irony, to clothe dark humour.

On inspecting the state of affairs in the 21st century, both felt a trifle overwhelmed. From their vantage points, they could sense dark clouds on the temporal horizon. Armies of Vices – Depravity, Immorality, Venality, Profligacy, Sloth, amongst others – seemed to be lining for a grand(er) assault. They realised that the 21st century offered a wide and growing menu of vices that cried out for attention. This was fertile battleground in which to showcase their talents to the fullest. Both sensed a tinge of regret; that of being dead.

Fissures appeared between these veteran Generals, soon after. Their disagreement centred around the means for battle. Juvenal was insistent that these vast and hardened enemy armies needed his hitting and impactful counterinsurgency tactics. Horace, in his signature mild manner, felt these armies could be levelled with his mode of jolly mockery.

The two greats had gathered to take on a common enemy, but had ended up arguing amongst themselves. Both decided to keep Vices in the back-burner for the moment, but decided to use them in some form. The disagreement would be elevated to its rightful next step, a Battle. Words, of course, would remain the sole means of warfare.

Time seemed to stand still and the vast armies of Vices awaited with bated breath. They were about to be eulogized by two of the foremost Satirists in history.

The Virtues were cross as they went uninvited. Nobody seemed to want either Faith or Hope, and no one was in the mood for Charity.

Horace, in his mild manner, looked upon Vices with a mischievous but friendly gaze. ‘What would life be without them!’ he began. The illuminating self-realisation of humans’ inventive abilities was possible only due to the Vices. Contentment with the milieu would never have pushed humans to discover a horde of useful (and useless) paraphernalia. Horace particularly liked the history of humans’ love affair with machines of battle. From the archaic longbow to nuclear arsenal; none of these innovative ways of exterminating a race would have been possible without another vice, Distrust and Conceit.

The altered dynamics of city dwelling, thanks to advances in civilisation, could never have triggered a vast array of exotic diseases, many terminal, without the vice of Desire. This very development, termed urbanisation, also contributed to the development of hitherto unknown subjects like Economic Geography. A growing list of academics would never have made a life and some Paper money, but for all these wondrous events being brought to fruition by Vices.

Humans’ penchant for communal living, societal jousting and long hours at work, thanks to Vices, also created an entire profession of psychologists and psychiatrists. In the days of farming yore and barter system, stress was unheard of. Psychiatrists were not needed at all. This group would have never have given birth to famous personalities but for Vices.

Juvenal cut in and accused Horace of abusing another vice, Self-gloating, for his personal benefit. He requested an opporunity for a strike. Horace grudgingly made way.

Juvenal noted that the Vices were inveterate conquerors. Through years of fine tuning they had becomes Masters of regenerative degeneracy. When Virtues congregated, the Vices arrived for an uninvited supper. It so happened that the ensuing melee generally resulted in a rampaging victory for the latter. Vices recognised, through astute observation, that humans had demonstrated a strong aptitude for falling prey to Vice‘s many forms. Foremost among them were Desire and Possession.

The Generals were so effective in drawing out humans from one state of vice, Sloth, to another that they were afforded a special place in the annals of the Vices. Beginning with the history of the monetary system, humans transformed from a state of reasonable discontentment to a state of unreasonable contentment. When the Metal Monetary Standard of economic organisation proved to be a limiting force in satisfying humans’ exponentially rising desires, they readily abandoned it and adopted a Paper Currency system. It amused him greatly that humans, supposedly rational species, could fall prey to attaching so much importance to Paper money. A unit of paper lost value through time. The only way an illusion of prosperity could be maintained was by increasing volume (accumulating more paper). Desire and Possession were indeed connoisseurs in the art of persuading humans, who duly obliged by forsaking their basic capacities to reason.

As Desire and Possession gloated, their rickety underling Greed, in a signature display of personality, muscled his way ahead of his superiors, to assume credit. Greed felt shortchanged at not being given his due. He was never mentioned, not even once, in the eulogy to the Vices.

It was now Horace’s turn at accusing Juvenal of taking unfair advantage. Horace intoned Conceit, which Juvenal parried with a charge of Jealousy.

The Satirists battled.

Vices had won.

Disclaimer: No ants were harmed for this story. They killed themselves. Sadly, permanently.

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A group of young ants, frolicking with the gay abandon that accompanies the fountain of youth, untainted by experience or memory of dark days; stumbled upon a closet. Out came a scribbled note, reasonably legible but soiled with time, penned by one of their long deceased predecessors; a Fire Ant. As the group waded through the lost chronicle of Ant History, merry ignorance gave way to inspired but misplaced consternation.

For the note read thus.

Fellow industrious pests,

History was, and shall never be, the voice of the dead. So I write, my brethren, knowing not how much of the gift of Time I have left. My dearest friends and nearest kin have perished and I am certain that my end is closing upon me. Stir up your attention, my future generations! For Time is in short supply and the memory of the Great War ought to live on…

All isn’t well in our vast Kingdom. Light and us were never the best of friends, but in the dark precincts of the Underworld, where we dwell, darkness and pent-up strife reign supreme. A disaster of massive proportions has befallen us, mighty Masters of survival.

One of Man’s foremost pests of choice, for centuries, we have been pulling off miracles beyond the capacities of most other organisms. We migrated, worked incredibly hard, decimated crops and wood where we could, conquered almost all of Earth, solved bewilderingly complex problems, withstood the ravages of time, hail and rain, stung fiercely often not caring for our lives, brought down mighty elephants a kabillion times our size, and inflicted inestimable damage on humanity. And, we found the time to multiply extremely quickly.

But I realised, belatedly and after much loss of life, that we aren’t so smart, after all.

A populace of hard workers unschooled in the art of considered thought, eventually fall prey to the stuffy embrace of Slavery or Death. Our fellow folk perished, in a vain attempt at conquering a fiend we did not know much about. Actually, none at all.

We finally met an enemy worthy enough to put us to the test. We went looking for a usual quick decimation; we ended up being decimated.

Man had struck Oil. We had struck a skid pan.

One fine day, the day’s early starters noticed a large Cauldron, in the middle of nowhere. With characteristic nonchalance, a group of 20 soldiers managed to scale the Cauldron’s peak. The last sight that greeted onlookers was of this group disappearing on the other side. Time ticked by. They never returned.

40 young, enthusiastic but rather foolhardy tyros set off behind them, with no particular agenda in mind. They too, my fellow brethren, never returned.

The disappearance of 60 brave soldiers quickly caught the attention of the General. Enraged and intrigued, he ordered 150 battle-hardened jocks to take stock. This group set off, long on bravado and short on information, behind the lost fellow-men. Time gradually ticked by. Not one of the 150 was ever seen again. The other side of the Great Cauldron, as it came to be known, now began terrifying Ant-folk. A wise soul counseled that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Nobody cared to listen. Wisdom seldom found an audience.

The General, a trifle irked, summoned the SW.ANT Regiment, an elite group of warriors specially trained for extreme combat. 300 of these, the entire regiment, were ordered to conquer the nemesis. Murmurs of embarking on a suicide mission were heard but were drowned in the din of jingoistic agitation. A grand send off was arranged. More than a few thought this was a final goodbye. Many in the Regiment appeared to have witnessed the Gates of Heaven. Off they went.

Never to return.

Panic now visibly ran high. The loss of 500 of the very best warrior Ant-folk was an unprecedented loss in Ant history, in one skirmish. The raging General, exhibiting tremendous erudition, sent more on the way in the name of Patriotism, caring not to venture himself. Direction was called for, apparently and he considered himself irreplaceable. My family and best friends perished in this valiant act of blind Patriotism.

By a stroke of miracle, I managed to chance upon this picture, which captured the gory aftermath of the War. I share this, hoping it shall serve as a sobering reminder.

Few kept count. The Great Cauldron of Oil, as it came to be known, had consumed us. Too many of our brethren guzzled too much, only to be snared by Oil’s viscous entrapment. I learnt that Man called it Edible Oil. I’m at a loss to understand why.

This War, my friends, dented us irrevocably. Retaliatory sparring, when the cause is weakly understood, quickly gives way to mindless war. The end is as gory as it is unnecessary.

The General looks set to be overcome by insanity any moment. I write this, from my hide-out, knowing not when I shall get the Summon. I hope, my dear folk, that you learn from the errors of your past generations, who weren’t very smart after all.

But having seen this cycle several times over my life, I’m fairly certain that you, my dear friends, shall never learn.

Soon-to-be-dead,

——x——

Pictures courtesy: HaLin