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FLASH FICTION: Spell Checker, Come Here

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I was determined to beat the living snot out of my spell checker. It couldn't go on this way. "He" interrupted or interfered with every document I wrote, finding fault with nothing, or missing obvious spelling errors that a child copy editor would have caught and that an old spell checker would have pounced on. If I typed "prescient," meaning foreknowledge, "he" changed it to present, as in a shoe full of coal under the Christmas tree, have a merry. I like to dabble in wordplay (all we true lefties do -- in fact, you can often tell who's undercover because the narcs are way too literal and make your forehead squinch, you thinking, Is "he" pulling my chain?) and I come up with the" occasional neologism, such as Peppershnippel, which made it into the Urban Dictionary, so you know it's legit. The word refers to Lacanian psychoanalytic babble that spices up a critique with the word play needs a well-educated postmod whitey academic has come to expect in a performance read. But my spell checker ain't truckin'. No, "he" thinks I might mean peppermint schnapps, which I've tried only once. WTF? In America, we double a consonant, but "he" excises the" "extra" one. Willfulness becomes wilfulness -- against my will. If I write their instead of they're, which you can see from the context is what I meant, "he" blithely lets the error stand.

At work, colleagues have started nagging me about my language habits, pointing to poor spelling and grammar collapses and word choices that suggest insanity. My office mate at The Blog Factory, the buxom and comely Rose, said the other day, "What are you in sane? Are you losing your grip? Have the wheels come off? Are you mad and f*cking un glued?" But that was because I asked her out for a date. Still, Rose reminded me of the spell checker somehow. I began to suspect that my spell checker was intentionally trying to undermine my oeuvre by amplifying my poor command of English fundamentals -- but, of course, it was a set-up. And when I got chastised, it seemed, for turning a noun into a verb, bong (as in the water pipe) became bongulate -- to chill and inhale some groovy green smoke, with bubble sounds and Marley, I was feisty and wanting to go to war. I began to have fantasies that I didn't write about in a Google doc, lest I alert my persecutor, about searching, finding, replacing the tyrant of my typing or beating "him" into obeissance or is it obeisance. That was the net effect I began to suffer: I was losing my confidence in wordplay and that was, for a lefty, just as devastating as losing your confidence with gunplay if you were a rightwing enforcer.

In prison, we'd been made to watch The Godfather as part of our re-education, the film being an inferential reminder of how the world really works. I didn't feel that the authorities had really put their heart into it. It wasn't exactly A Clockwork Orange and nobody that I knew was going around yodelling yodeling "Singing in the Rain" and kicking the teeth out of old poets or the like. Probably it was more like Chinese re-education; this, our capitalist answer to the Commies and their mindless brainwashing of dicky Tao types. Confucian reins, they'd say. American re-education was different. Phantasmagorical contradictions prevailed. God help you if you thought you were some kind of funny guy, some Harpo Marx who could tame the feral and ferocious with token gestures of resistance. Next thing you know you're flying through the air and landing more absurded than when you began, courtesy of social Darwinists. You can't hurry love, you just have to wait.

On the last day at the Dissident Re-Education Center we'd been told by the warden, in a long rolling speech that had you wanting to take off your shoes to throw them (I knew then that I'd be a recidivist), that our AI supervisors or overseers (if we preferred) would be brutlly banal presences in our lives, designed to leaven our twelve o'clock highs driven by cheek and stale Marxist tropes.

"Remember, men and women," the warden went, "you started out as rank single files, and went from that to multippages and sound bites collected into the Fusion from utility companies who recorded "for training purposes," and images that may or may not have been you engaged in Kundalini or war protests or godawful busker poetry, and grew and grew until you became folks of interest, then dossier types, then targets, then Here."

And here we are, in the darkest dystopia that Frank Church envisioned and that Edward Snowden warned us about in his revelatory memoir Permanent Record that most folks didn't read because it was suppressed when its profits were seized by Say Uncle Sam or because we've turned into "progressive" dipshits who complain all the time in tweets but do nothing about our collective plight. Ed Snowden was asked in Oliver Stone's Snowden if he subscribed to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy; he did; be a wrench in the works, mofo.

Oh, it's dark. And when they started rounding up dissidents, explicitly vocal public critics of the regime machine, then potential dissidents (i.e., loan lepers and credit card dead beats), and now they were just beginning to round up everybody who knew more than they did, to quote the Bard from Duluth, who they discovered beneath a truck in Fargo, North Dakota. A Wells Fargo truck in fact that was later rumored to contain his pay out after selling off his full catalogue. It was the chilling fields of Pol Pot (some said poor pot) all over again. But no one knew what to make of it really. We Lefties looked at each other, scared, like meerkats, stunned; or like meerkats f*cking with us by playing freeze frame; you on bad dope, in no mood. Very funny a**holes.

"Each of you dissidents will now be released on parole. But your writing will now be scritinized by AIs. Think of them as supervisors or spell checkers looking over your shoulder to maximize your homogeneity and role in the hive mind. No more straying, bah bah bah, going on about losing your way. Think of them as personalized drone operators there to keep in line, occasionally needing to shoot a hellfire over your bow, as it were.You'll all be fitted with devices, and the truly unreformable or pointlessly radicaliuzed will face a Gitmo by Gizmo future, prison in the mind, guards taunting them for years, making fun of their socialism and teeny weenies, on a loop"Now go forward and for chrissakes don't multiply," saud the well-fed warden.

"Morbid" did not do justice to his obesity. The few Lefties left who wanted, like Snowden, to throw a wrench into the works of the Machine, referred to him as The Fat f*ck, who clearly had introjected the notion of economic growth. We needed the release of pressure. Wanking, too, had been banned at the risk of unthinkable thinks. It was a valve and a salve during our years in the hoosegow, our gulag archipelago, each man truly an island unto himself (f*ck John Donne's bougeois isms). So we were chastised, admonished and released back into the wilds of late stage capitalism. "Good luck," were Fat f*ck's last words to us.

I won't say because there are still dissidents out there, but I ethically hacked and found the address of my tormentor, my AI overseer, who lived in the a**hole neighborhood of Rockville, Ivy League Lane, cul de sac, drove to work down the road on Segway. I knocked at his door and the second gen opened it with a creeping smile. Tony Perkins in Fear Strikes Out or wearing his mother's dead mother's dress and looking at you with peephole eyes. I wasted no time, merely ascertaining that he was my intended puppetmaster. And when he assented I invited myself in -- bin bang boom -- and, channeling Sonny Corleone beating the snot out of his domestic abusive brother in law, dragged the grammar whammer to the kitchen and stuffed into the trash bin and proceed to beat him over the head with the plastic bin cover. I dusted my hands, halas, and left. Broke that spell, mofo.

But the next day, while working on a document, suddenly it totally disappeared shortly after I typed in a neologism, quimbrim. Then the Knock came. I was shot with a tranquilizer gun by my spell checker and dragged away, back to the remedial education center and the Fat f*ck, who looked at me like Strother Martin's Captain from Cool Hand Luke, What we got here is a failure to communicate. This time the System was the man with no eyes. I got fitted with a gizmo. Scared straight. Languish problems.

You believe me, don't you?

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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