The Primal Force, a short story by Oscar Rat. Date added: 2012-05-15. Times viewed: 427.
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- Intro: An ex-thief discovers a previously unknown force that changes civilization.
Now children, our subject for this week is to learn about great men and women of the past. Today we study a man who changed society, perhaps more than any other. He's more famous than Thomas Edison, George Washington or even Evelyn Koskloski.
John Jefferson was to be considered a great and unique thinker, but that was to be in the future. At the moment, in July of 2015, John was just your middle of the packet nut, the same as most other fruitcakes in the world. What’s that again? No, Teddy, I'm not going to pass out nuts.
Mr. Jefferson had trouble keeping a job. Oh, he was a hard worker, at least when he wasn’t sitting at his desk or in place on the assembly line, staring into space. Although seemingly in his own little world, John was extremely observant, noting things other men ignored. He was the type of guy who, looking at a tree, would be engrossed in studying knots in the wood or patterns of the roots, forsaking the beauty of the leaves.
“Johnny, I said to clean your room, not lick the floor,” his mother chided him. “Use a rag, not your tongue,” she joked.
Little Johnny was peering low, at an angle, at the floor with a flashlight. He was trying to study dust patterns to see how the air flowed along his bedroom floor. Johnny was interested in small things normally ignored by his peers.
John Jefferson might have had a different future if his parents would have had money, but they didn’t. His mother was a waitress and father unknown -- being only a casual one time visitor. She had to support six children and had no money for college.
John had to quit school at sixteen to help support the family. He never did finish high school and suffered for the lack in later life. Nobody would believe a high school dropout had an innate intelligence.
“Nobody will hire me anymore,” John figured, one day in his twenties. “I’ll just have to put my mind to being self-employed, I guess.” His reputation of day-dreaming tended to follow him. With no other recourse, he turned to minor crime to forge a living out of an uncaring world.
Now, to his credit John had been a superior mugger. He’d figured out the exact amount of force needed and its point of application to avoid any real damage to his victims. His fault was in picking a professional judo instructor to roll.
“Eighteen months in the workhouse,” the judge intoned.
John, standing at the defendant’s table, had no obvious reaction. He simply followed the bailiff out of the courtroom.
Knowing he would lose the case, John had been studying patterns on the wall left by old, painted over, gas lighting pipes along the walls -- wondering how bright the lighting would have been in the old days, before electricity. John had been absorbed in mentally calculating the amount of gas pressure required as well as the probable interior dimensions of the piping, jotting down notes on a legal pad, even as he was being sentenced.
“Too bad, John, but the case was cut and dried. At least with a neck brace you didn’t get the limit. That judo guy really worked you over,” the lawyer told him, closing his briefcase on the matter.
“That’s okay, Mr. Edwards,” John told his lawyer, “I don’t mind. I can meet new friends and old, and I’ll have at least a few months to think.” John grabbed Mr. Edwards by the shoulder. “Have you ever thought about just why you talk to your pets, or cars?” John asked, in wonder.
The bailiff pulled him away from a perplexed lawyer.
“Nuff’a that, boy,” he said, shoving John down the corridor to a holding cell. Paperwork had to be done before taking him to the county jail -- to be his home away from home.
“I’ll show ya’, Mike,” John was explaining potential energy to his roommate in the county lockup. “See this plastic cup of water sitting on the floor?” he asked Mike. “It has no potential energy. it’s just sitting quietly in what’s called a stable condition.”
Then John picked the plastic cup up and held it over his head, balancing it over the bars of the door.
“Now, as I lifted it I transferred energy from my arms to the cup. It now has a potential to lose that same energy when it falls. See? The energy I got from eating, was changed to strength in my body, and I just gave some of it to that little cup of water, understand?”
“I think so, John, but now what does it do? It’s sitting the same as before, but this time on top of the door. Where did the energy go to now?”
“It’s still there, only waiting. The difference now is that it can fall if it wants. That’s a large part of my theory, it can if it wants to or if forced, either way. Potentially that is.” John tried to explain a theory he hadn’t entirely worked out yet himself. “But to want to, the cup or water has to have free will, which it doesn’t have.”
About that time a guard came along and unlocked their cell for a work detail. Although it didn’t really want to, the cup of water fell on the guard’s head.
“You asshole. Guess who gets to clean out the grease-trap in the mess hall?” The guard was rightly incensed.
“See, Mike? Now the water has lost its potential energy, changing it to energy of motion and now to static energy as it’s absorbed into Clarence’s uniform,” John told his mate.
Clarence, listening in, shoved John into a wall.
“Oops, too much energy,” Clarence told them. “I gotta watch that.”
John, on his knees and covered with stinking rotting grease from the mess hall drains, pondered as to why some things -- like people and aardvarks -- had freedom, or abilities, to make choices, while other objects -- like automobiles and grease-traps, didn’t.
Something occurred to him. Who said they didn’t, have choice that is? It had never been proved, and was simply assumed. Nobody he had ever known admitted to asking their car where it wanted to go that day. Although a lot of people talked to their autos, they never expected an answer.
“Why are you sitting there like that, Mr. Grease?” he asked, seriously. “Why not jump over that barrier up there and escape down the drain?” He pondered. “If you did, you would have your freedom, and I wouldn’t be doing this.” The grease didn’t answer him, only floated in a lump as another two inches of water filled the trap. John looked over his shoulder to see a kitchen worker look down at him and shrug.
“Sorry buddy, didn’t see you down there,” the other inmate told him, hurrying over to cut some lettuce after washing his hands. John slowed down his dipping, filling a large bucket with grease, which because of its weight, layered at the bottom of the trap, water flowing out the top.
“Oh, I get it Mr. Grease, you don’t have any muscles, so you can’t jump up.” The problem was solved. As an experiment, John filled his dipper with grease and poured it over the top of the trap, where it mixed with water and headed for the drain.
“What the hell you doing!” A cook had seen him. “We can’t have grease in our drain. What the hell do you think that trap’s for?” John was in trouble again.
“Look, Jefferson,” Mike told him, “from now on, I don’t know you. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even look at me.” Mike was angry at John, again. “I’m tired of being tarred with the same brush as you. Every time you fuck up, I get my ass chewed out, simply because we're in the same cell. I don’t even know you anymore. Just go around screwing up by yourself.”
“You divorcing me, Mike?”
“What the hell you think, asshole?” Mike pretended to close a zipper over his mouth with one hand and looked away, up at the ceiling.
John crawled up to his bunk and resumed his thinking. It wasn’t the first time he'd been divorced by a roommate. Nobody in the jail wanted to room with John. He had a habit of getting himself, and them, in trouble with his nonconformist actions.
Thinking again about the grease, John continued where he'd left off. The results of intelligence could be influenced by lack of musculature, he thought. Just like talking would be determined by a talking apparatus and the other senses the same. Without eyes, an object couldn’t see, which didn’t mean it wasn’t intelligent. It might have other senses, like feel, or even a sense unknown to humans, John thought. Maybe even a sense of comfort and safety in being mixed with a lot of other grease?
It could be that objects with flowing electricity in them, like humans or autos, had more senses than things like grease. The greater or more complex the electrical flow, the more a sense of self. The "I exist" syndrome -- an ability to acknowledge their own existence.
John only had to spend a couple of months in jail, since they needed the space for more major criminals. He found himself back on the street, determined to stay there. But first he needed a little money, since he was dead broke.
“Only one way I know of,” John decided. Finding a convenient piece of pipe in an alley, he set out looking for a victim. Gravitating to a bar section of town, he found a convenient drunk and relieved him of forty-dollars. “That was the last one,” he promised himself, emphatically, heading for a beer joint down the street to think.
Finding a nice little hole-in-the-wall place that looked cheap, John went in and sat at the bar.
“Gimme a draft,” he ordered the bartender, a very nice-looking blonde girl.
Without a word, she filled a glass and sat it in front of him, then went to the other end of the counter to wash glasses. John looked around, seeing only two other customers, both in a back booth. Wanting a little companionship after his incarceration, female-type preferred, John picked up his drink and went over to her end of the bar.
“Not much business for this time of night?” he asked the girl. “What do they call you?”
She ignored him and continued washing glasses.
“Did you ever think, you know, like why a platypus has a beak?” he asked idly, “or why a beak instead of wings? I mean, if it has to be different, why not in some way that benefits it more. Maybe if its mother had tried really, really, hard she could have managed something more useful like a third eye, don’t you think?”
She looked at him kind of funny, then broke out laughing.
“That’s the most interesting come-on I’ve heard all week.” She laughed. “I kinda thought they could fly.”
“I’m John, what’s yours?”
“Sunnie, with an ‘ie’,” she told him, returning to her glasses. John reached over the counter and holding her chin, looked deeply into her eyes.
“Hi, Sunnie,” he whispered, “do you talk to your car?”
She didn’t turn away, which was encouraging.
“Sometimes. Doesn’t everyone?”
“But does it talk back?” John asked, leaning back on his stool. “I always think of things like that. Maybe it tries to answer and you just can’t hear it. Did you ever think of that? I have a theory that objects and animals understand, just don’t have the means to answer. You know, our voice depends on many things, from the formation of the larynx to the makeup of our brain and mind. Maybe they understand, or sense, your question and have no way to let you know.”
“And maybe you’re just nuts is all, buddy?” She grinned, pulling away. “But I like the way you think. Most people don’t bother. Especially the ones I see around here.” She shook her head. “All they think about is drinking and getting into my pants.”
“I already know how to drink. How does a guy go about the other?”
“Well, I’d say either knowing how to talk or having money,” she whispered. “Money is better, though.”
“Damn, and all I have is talk.”
“You needn’t stop now. It might be working. Things are slow around here tonight.”
John settled down and began telling her his theory. He called it the theory of "Primal Force." The ex-con and mugger considered that there were three such forces in the Universe. The first was energy, which followed a spectrum from radio waves all the way to matter. The second, Gravity, encompassed everything from the force holding atoms together to determining the paths of planets and even galaxies. His was the third, that every complex construct contained a force of thought, an innate intelligence. The more complex the construct or being, and the more electrical energy converted or expended, the stronger that force.
It took a great deal of energy, over a nine-month period, to form a human. That human was infinitely more complex than, for instance, a mouse. But the mouse would still have a sense of being. It would know it existed and be able to think. The problem was in communication, even among its own species.
Not having the physical or mental complexity of a human, it couldn’t talk or write. An automobile would be more complex than a washtub, and be able to sense such things as emotions in humans and have them itself. The reason being that it took a lot of energy to make an auto and all its parts, and considerably less to make a washtub.
“You're crazy as a loon, you know?” Sunnie told him when he was through, but she was intrigued. Most men she met only talked about themselves. She liked his deep thinking. “Let’s continue at my place, okay? I got some mice at home.”
Sunnie drove him to her apartment, a couple of miles away. On the way, John petted the dashboard, trying to communicate with her car.
“What the hell you doing?” she asked him, seeing the look of concentration on his face.
“This is the first car I’ve ridden in for months,” he told her -- not why, of course -- and I wanted to try to talk to it. I think it knows we’re in here and enjoys the trip. If I listen real close, maybe I can tell what it’s thinking. I practice a lot, but didn’t have anything complex to practice with.”
“Yeah, sure, go ahead. What’s it saying?” Sunnie tried not to laugh at the thought, simply concentrated on her driving while suppressing giggles. What a booby case, she thought, wondering if she should simply drop him off on the highway.
“I think I can hear it complaining about something,” John told her. “Oh, the can of gasoline in the trunk. Its cap came loose and it’s stinking up the trunk. The car thinks it might be dangerous. It’s afraid of a fire.”
“Say what? I better check, I have a gallon can in there. Don’t want it to catch on fire.”
Sunnie pulled over to the sidewalk and stopped. When she got out and opened the trunk, the smell was overpowering. Gasoline had splashed out of the can, which was tipped part way over, against the wall.
“Whooo. You were right.” She screwed the cap on tight. They finished the trip with the trunk open. “Ho ... How could you tell, I couldn’t smell anything? Guess you have a better sense of smell than I have.”
“I couldn’t either. The car told me.”
“Yeah. Riiiight. The car told you.” She turned her head away from him and grinned. “Well, here we are. Come on, I got a drink upstairs.”
“I have vodka and soda is all,” Sunnie said, mixing them a couple of drinks. “I get a discount from the bar, a five-finger one,” she admitted.
John, sitting on the middle of a tatty couch, accepted a drink, leaned back and extended his legs. Much better than the jail, he decided, watching the girl as she sat on a stuffed chair, taking off her shoes and relaxing, wiggling her toes.
“Damn, always nice to get home and relax.” She did so, relaxed to the point of looking like a particularly desirable rag-doll, smiling at him.
Seeing an ashtray on a table beside the couch, he lit a Salem from his pack. He would have preferred her sitting next to him but figured it might come later.
“You want a sandwich with your drink, and I think I have some chips lying around here somewhere?”
“Sure, if you’re buying.”
“Then you have to fix it, and one for me too. A lot of mustard on mine. Cheese and meat in the reefer.” She grinned. “I’m too tired, myself.”
John went out to the kitchen and found a loaf of bread on the table. Opening the refrigerator, he found the machine was warm inside.
“Your refrigerator is off,” he called to her.
“It does that. You have to kick it a little on the bottom, and it’ll start again.”
John didn’t kick the refrigerator. Instead, he hugged it and thought nice things to the device. “Now, I can see that you’re a good refrigerator. why don’t you want to work for the nice lady?” John listened to the appliance.
At first, it was quiet, then started humming, in spurts, as though reluctant to start again. It shook for a few seconds and settled down. John sensed that the machine didn’t feel appreciated. It seemed glad for an opportunity to tell him its troubles, that Sunnie often kicked it and slammed its door.
“Now, now. I’ll tell her to treat you gently. You do your part and keep on working, okay?” he whispered to it, patting the dirty top. He found a roll of paper towels and carefully cleaned the top of the appliance.
After that, John made sandwiches and found potato chips on the kitchen counter. He took them in to the girl and handed her one.
“I fixed the refrigerator. It’s not broken, just feeling unappreciated. Please don’t slam the door or kick it anymore and it’ll be alright,” he told her.
She just gave him that funny look again.
“You’re crazy as a bed bug, you know that?” she told him for the twentieth time, “Alright, I'll try to treat it gently from now on.
John thought he heard a sigh from the kitchen.
They made love again in the morning and then got up and dressed for breakfast. The refrigerator was still humming along. Sunnie made a point of treating it gently, for John’s benefit.
“What about the toaster. It feeling okay this morning?” she joked.
John went over and stroked the device, to her concealed incredulity.
“It’s alright, just wants to be cleaned out. It doesn’t like all those old crumbs in its bottom. He opened the toaster and dumped them in the trash. The toaster seemed to like the attention. At least to him, it did. It seemed strange in a way, but also normal; sort of like being in tune with nature. John had gone over his theory in jail but was just then trying it out. There had been no complex devices available to him in the jail, mostly concrete and bars.
“I’ve got to find a job someplace,” he observed.
“I have a brother that fixes cars. You know anything about cars, fixing them, that is?”
“Not a whole lot. I can probably change parts and that sort of thing.”
“Maybe I can give him a call. At least he has a spare room, full of junk, he might let you use until you get on your feet.”
John had admitted his financial condition to her the night before.
“Yeah? Sounds like a place to start. Thanks.” John did want to go straight, or at least not back to jail.
She opened a cupboard to put the cereal box back. As she did, there was a brief flurry of activity inside. Sunnie jerked back, almost spilling the cereal.
“Jeeze,” she said, staring wide-eyed, “there’s one of the little bastard’s now.” She was eying the cupboard in alarm. “I told you I had mice.”
“Let me see. I think my theory should work with little critters.” He went over and looked into the cupboard, trying to tune himself to the rodent's mind. “Hey, come on out, little feller. I won’t hurt you,” John mumbled.
After a few seconds, he could see two small beady eyes peering out from between soup cans. Tentatively, a head emerged. Then the wary mouse, who John somehow knew was named Jeff, edged out into the opening.
“What are you doing over there?” an edgy Sunnie whispered from across the kitchen.
“Shhh, let me work,” John told her, softly, mentally urging Jeff to come closer. A few minutes later, the mouse was smelling John’s finger, looking into his eyes. With a nimble leap, he landed in an extended hand, trusting the man not to crush him. “Now, don’t panic, Sunnie. Get ready. I have your intruder right here,” John called back while scratching Jeff behind the ear.
John turned around and showed her his new friend, meanwhile soothing the mouse with his mind.
Sunnie was at first thunder-struck, being afraid of mice and other small creatures. Before long, though, her motherly instincts took over and she had Jeff on the table, feeding him milk in a bottle cap.
John found he could sort of mind-talk to the mouse, not words but impressions and mental pictures.
Jeff had moved into her apartment to get away from a cat next door. The cat had killed his mother and he came in under the back door to escape. Life wasn’t easy for a lone mouse. The big Sunnie also chased him around and made life hard for him.
John told Jeff not to worry. That he was safe.
“I can take the little guy with me,” he told Sunnie.
“The hell you will, he’s mine,” she objected as Jeff ate a cracker from her fingers. “Ask him if he’ll take a bath for me.”
Jeff said that of course he would, anything for a nice home like hers. He agreed to behave and not chew things up. In return, she would feed him in a saucer next to the refrigerator and he'd keep her company. He would also have to use a box of sand for a toilet. It took a long time for John to make him understand why he should bother with the latter.
The matter of Jeff the mouse settled, Sunnie called her brother, Tim, who ran a small garage out on their -- his and Sunnie’s -- family farm. Since neither wanted to dig around in the dirt, they had sold most of the land except for the house and buildings. Tim had bought auto repair equipment with most of the profits.
Although initially having high hopes, Tim was a lousy mechanic. He was a fair businessman, being a gregarious type, but just couldn’t understand the underlying processes that made an automobile function. Despite Tim's gift for gab, the business was losing money -- slowly but surely -- every month.
“Hey there, John. Glad to have you working for me, us.” Tim slapped John on the back and showed him the setup.
Sunnie had insisted he let John do his own thing, work in his own way -- and Tim didn’t like that. But she was an equal partner in the business. What could he do but go along?
“You wanna work on that Cadillac while I finish changing the alternator on this Ford?”
“I don’t think so, Tim,” John answered.
Although Tim was large and intimidating to the two other workers, his blustering had no affect on John, who had come up against guys in his criminal past that had been much tougher and meaner than Tim.
“I’ll just look around for a while, see what’s going on,” he told Tim. John figured he shouldn’t tell Tim that he was really going to talk to the cars themselves. Tim wouldn’t have understood.
Starting with the Caddy in question, John sat quietly in the front seat and stroked the steering wheel. For the next half-hour, he ignored stares and glances from the others as he tuned himself to the car, finding out its problems, physical and mental.
It did have a generator problem, that was caused by a bad fan-belt. The belt had a kink in it that kept slapping the alternator on every revolution. The Caddy hadn't known what else to do about the pain, so it pretended the alternator was bad. The car wanted to run good, but humans never asked it what was wrong. To the car, it was frustrating to know how to solve its health problem but have no way to communicate.
During their bonding, the Cadillac told John that all cars did that. Even a simple problem had to be told to the humans as a larger one in order to get any attention at all. Its owner didn’t listen to silent pleas of discomfort, only when they stopped working altogether.
“Now you just tell me all those things and I’ll take care of them, I promise,” John assured the Cadillac. It didn’t take long in the telling. What took longer was to get away from the vehicle, who wanted to tell John its life story. Of how it dreamed of some day becoming an airplane. The Caddy had been parked at an airport once and talked to a Piper Cub.
When John finally got away, it only took a few minutes to tighten the fan-belt. Simple repairs like that, and the application of grease to assuage the vehicle's stiff joints, did the trick.
It was grateful and roared like a lion when he was done. The owner would be grateful too, at the small bill -- nothing really being wrong with the alternator. Everyone was happy but Tim. No new alternator meant less profit to him.
“You keep doing that and I’ll go out of business,” he complained. “It’s no way to make a profit.”
“Of course it is. Where do you think the owner will come the next time something goes wrong? Here, of course, since the car works much better and it was cheaper for him. You get more advertising with word-of-mouth and more repeat business.”
And it became so. Before very long, Tim had to hire two more mechanics. All John did was sit in a car or truck and talk to it, filling out a form on the auto’s complaints. The professional mechanics would fix them, often with simple repairs like greasing or telling the owner to use a more expensive brand of oil.
And John didn’t neglect his learning. With his theory proved, he soon made friends with all the local animals, from groundhogs to rats. He would spend hours sitting under a tree while passing out peanuts, communing with the critters and taking notes. Electronic word-processing was coming into vogue and John learned to type, setting his notes down on paper.
His first book, “Why Me?”, about rats being prejudiced against was an unexpected hit, making the best seller lists. The volume was not only entertaining with the private thoughts of rats but led to them being thought of differently by the readers. It only mentioned his theory briefly.
With book money coming in, John and Sunnie moved in together in a larger apartment. Of course, when Jeff heard of the book, and Sunnie made a mistake by reading him part of it, Jeff insisted on one about mice named “I’m not a Rat!” That book was also a success.
About then, people were becoming confused. Most didn’t know any rats, at least personally, but all had mice around. Since they knew more about the creatures, and felt sorry for them, how could they kill the critters? The mice and rats thought of both John and Jeff as heroes.
With his success, Sunnie and John had to say goodbye to privacy. Rats and mice kept finding ways into their apartment to gawk at the two. If he patched one mouse-hole, three more would appear. And they couldn’t kill the critters, since it would destroy John’s image. Many of the visitors were entire families, with youngsters running around the apartment and getting underfoot.
They finally rented another apartment, next door, and stocked it with food and drink for Jeff and the visiting rodents. Controlling them was to become Jeff’s responsibility. He was the one who'd insisted on the second book. John would visit for a while every day to say hello.
John wanted to write another book. He had the urge, but didn’t want to be inundated by some other type animal if he did. So he decided to write about his theory alone.
The resulting volume, “The Power of Compassion," eventually changed the world and civilization as we knew it -- getting John the Nobel Prize as well as his place in history books.
With his theory being proved workable, carefully explained and no longer laughed at, people changed their habits on thinking. Machinery and small animals became companions, rather than slaves or adversaries.
Eventually, new laws were passed to protect them, with people being put in jail for killing mice, and lawsuits won by automobiles when owners kicked their tires too hard.
It was found that many things, particularly machinery, worked much better when you talked to them and used compassion. Space Shuttles never crashed, auto’s ran for many more years -- in contentment.
If a house caught on fire, the mice would warn humans or even put it out for them. Criminals were easy to catch, with the Rat Patrol searching for and reporting criminal planning and activities. Society changed to reflect the new understandings.
That’s all for today, children. File out in an orderly manner, smaller animals first.
By Oscar Rat, the famous and humble rat writer.
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