The Murderer
The psychiatrist said: "Shall we start?"

"Fine. The first victim, or one of the first, was my telephone. Murder most foul. I shoved it in the kitchen Insinkerator! Stopped the disposal unit in mid-swallow. Poor thing strangled to death. After that I shot the television set."

The psychiatrist said, "Mmmm."

"Fired six shots right through the cathode. Made a beautiful tinkling crash, like a dropped chandelier."

"Suppose you tell me when you first began to hate the telephone."

"It frightened me as a child. Uncle of mine called it the Ghost Machine. Voices without bodies. Then, of course, the telephone's such a convenient thing; it just sits there and demands you call someone who doesn't want to be called. Friends were always calling , calling, calling me. Hell, I hadn't any time of my own. When it wasn't the telephone it was the television, the radio, the phonograph. It was music by Mozzek in every restaurant; music and commercials on the buses I rode to work. When it wasn't music, it was inter-office communications, and my horror chamber of a radio wrist watch on which my friends and my wife phoned every five minutes."

Brock rubbed his hands together. "Why didn't I start a solitary revolution, deliver man from certain 'conveniences?' 'Convenient for who?' I cried. Convenient for friends: 'Hey Al, thought I'd call you from the locker room out here at Green Hills. Just made a sockolager hole-in-one. A hole-in-one, Al!' Convenient for my office, so when I'm in the field with my radio car there's no moment when I'm not in touch. In touch! You can't leave your car without checking in: 'Have stopped to visit gas station men's room.' 'Okay, Brock, step on it.' 'Brock, what took you so long?' ''Sorry, sir.' 'Watch it next time, Brock.' 'Yes, sir.' So, do you know what I did, Doctor? I bought a pint of French chocolate ice cream and spooned it into the car radio transmitter."

The doctor paused. "And what happened next?"

"Silence happened next. God, it was beautiful. That car radio cacking all day, Brock go here, Brock go there, Brock check in, Brock check out, hour lunch, Brock, lunch over, Brock, Brock, Brock. Well, that silence was like ice cream in my ears. I felt drunk with freedom."

"Go on."

"Then I got the idea of the portable diathermy machine. I rented one, took it on the bus going home that night. There sat all the tired commuters with their wrist radios, talking to their wives, saying 'Now I'm at Forty-third, now I'm at Forty-fourth, here I am at Forty-ninth, now turning at Sixty-first.' One husband cursing, 'Well, get out of that bar, damn it, and get home and get dinner started, I'm at Seventieth!.' And the transit-system radio playing 'Tales from the Vienna Woods,' a canary singing words about a first-rate wheat cereal. Then --- I switched on my diathermy! Static! Interference! All wives cut off from husbands grousing about a hard day at the office. All husbands cut off from wives who had just seen their children break a window. The 'Vienna Woods' chopped down, the canary mangled. Silence. A terrible, unexpected silence. The bus inhabitants faced with having to converse with each other. Panic! Sheer, animal panic!"

"The police seized you?"

"The bus had to stop. After all, the music was being scrambled, husbands and wives were out of touch with reality. Pandemonium, riot, and chaos. Squirrels chattering in cages. A trouble unit arrived, triangulated on me instantly, had me reprimanded, fined, and home, minus my diathermy machine, in jig time."

"Mr. Brock, may I suggest that so far your whole pattern here is not very --- practical?"

"I went wild. I got home to find my wife hysterical. Why? Because she had been completely out of touch with me for half a day. Remember, I did a dance on my wrist radio? Well, that night I laid plans to murder my house."

"Are you sure that's how you want me to write it down?"

"That's semantically accurate. Then, I went in and shot the televisor, that insidious beast, that Medusa, which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little, but myself always going back, going back , hoping and waiting until ---bang! ...The police came. Here I am. "

He sat back happily and lit a cigarette.

"I see," said the psychiatrist.

"Can I go back to my nice private cell now, where I can be alone and quiet for six months?"

"Yes," said the psychiatrist quietly.

"Don't worry about me," said Mr. Brock, rising.

--- From The Golden Apples of the Sun
Ray Bradbury
©1953 Bantam Books, Inc.
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