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Silikits & Ripov
by Albert Russo

After years of hesitation, Ripov who was sinking dangerously into the doldrums, decided one morning that enough was enough and that he wouldn't let his life slip away like those silly cows that watched the express train zip by for the umpteenth time, asking themselves the same silly question over and over again: "Was it a bird, was it a snake, or maybe the ghost of my lover bull?" and mooed their hearts out until their jaws ached, reminding them to continue to graze in their silly old fashion.

Thus did Ripov take the plunge and in less than a month he became conversant with the most arcane aspects of computerdom, leap frogging from kwic to kwoc, juggling with bits, bytes and gigaflops and unmasking every tom dick and pixel that cluttered the screen when the system froze after a thrashing bout.

He soon learned that if you showed excessive shyness before the machine, it would make you sweat profusely, turning you into a hot fountain such as one encounters in watering holes, and that, worse even, it could reduce your gray matter to a pitifully soft ware.

Intent on reaching for the very soul of the .machine and to prove who was the master - he'd seen the dramatic effect computitis had over so many humans who, no longer able to cope, were joining the Pinocchio Club in droves - Ripov attended the International CompuFair for the two full weeks that it lasted. Not only did he visit every stand during the day, but having managed to put the electronic alarm under temporary hypnosis after the last charwoman had left the premises, he also spent his nights there, disassembling the more sophisticated equipment piece by piece, in order to acquaint himself with the field's latest innovations. In one of the systems which was endowed with superconductivity, he even detected the presence of a virus. "Holy cow !" Ripov exclaimed upon discovering the little bugger, "you must have been introduced here by a whizz kid from the competition. Good thing I snooped in to prevent the great snafu, the entire program would have gone berserk and fouled up years of research worth millions of dollars. This company will never know how blessed they are that I have crossed their path", he remarked with a smirk.

At dawn everything would be back in place and nobody would have the faintest clue about the dealings of the CompuPrince of Darkness. But reckoning that one could never be cautious enough, Ripov began to wear smoked glasses to conceal the feverish redness of his eyes.

It was after the virus incident that the idea of creating programs and devising silikits sprouted in his mind. His aim was to improve the lot of mankind by letting people benefit from the phenomenal advances of artificial intelligence and not be subjugated by it, as was alas too often the case.

His heart bled to see the cohorts of humans queuing behind the Pinocchio Gates at the four corners of the earth while attendances at the Disney Parks were depleting in an alarming fashion, leaving Walt's ghosts more space to roam about than they needed. Ripov thus set up his personal campaign against ASS (Artificial stupidity syndrom) and began producing silikits by the dozens. But soon these became so popular, demand soaring to such peaks, that Ripov was faced with the toughest and most pressing decision of his life; it was either choke under the avalanche of orders or expand. And so, before the end of fiscal year 1, the backyard workshop had evolved into a multinational corporation with branches as far flung as Tibet, Botswana and the Antarctic. Strangely enough, during the same period, an impressive number of UFO sightings were being reported and subsequently registered by local and state authorities, for entire warehouses of silikits were disappearing ... into thin air, literally.

What was all the rage about? Boxes of candy and chocolate-coated silicon chips. These silikits consisted of independent units whose effect upon the moment of ingestion lasted 24 hours. In other words, each chip corresponded to a day's treatment. Anyone, anywhere could as a consequence be enlightened in any field of his or her choice for the duration of the treatment. A bum could thus attend the International Gynecological Convention, provided of course he shed his stinking rags, sprinkled himself with Eau de Cologne and wore decent clothes, and he'd have absolutely no difficulty following Dr. Twatowski's dissertation. The same applied to a Midwestern farmer who, concerned about the erratic behavior of his cows, and having sucked a VETEX chip, could instantly diagnose it as the postwinter blahs. A bored housewife, to while away her time, had the factilty of playing the ventriloquist as she ran her errands or sat at a coffeeshop. The professionals at first were outraged. Doctors, teachers and scientists feared for their jobs and so did the conjurers and the Olympic athletes. As for the psychiatrists, who suffered the worst fits of nostalgia (and refused to call it melancholy), they revived the now almost defunct Pinocchio Club. Silikitmania spread like an epidemic and was hailed by One-day journalists as the ultimate revolution. Class distinction and snobbery were passť. Money, inherited, hard earned or acquired through illegal channels, had lost its lustre and was no longer considered a status symbol. Anyone with a B&S chip under the tongue who spent a few hours at the Stock Exchange was assured to amass a fortune. What Ripov failed to take into account though was human greed and the thirst for power. Dog and cat owners would incite their pets to talk like parrots while serving them in specific tasks. Prurient priests would have their parishioners confess their lewdest fantasies and thus enjoy free pornography. Witchcraft workshops became amazingly popular and churned out battalions of SS (Scientific Sorcerers) graduates among whom the president of the United States was sure to be elected. Some politicians went as far as using cosmetikits to change the color of their skin to confuse their opponents.

When Ripov realized that his silikits were spawning such horror tales, it was unfortunately too late. Desperate, he locked himself in his lab and cried his eyes out. He then took an overdose of silichips and fell into a deep slumber. When Ripov woke up several days later, he felt so happy and carefree that he knocked the door of his lab open with a head thrust. As he walked downtown, people stared at him and he repeatedly heard them say "what is this thing doing in our midst?” Thus had the inventor of the silichip turned into a silly amnesic cow whose sole intellectual exercise was to watch the express trains pass, asking itself the same silly question over and over again : "Was it a bird, was it a snake, or maybe the ghost of my lover bull?”