Fictional Interlude

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(Sorry for the distraction but we had a new water softener installed yesterday that is actually equipped with blue tooth.  It can provide alerts when salt is low.  As we were talking with the plumber, I started going on that the next step was for the thing to just call for salt delivery itself.  Well, my mind just kept going and this is the outcome)

It started simply enough.  I had noticed a decrease in water pressure in my shower which was truly annoying.  The problem was actually diagnosed as my water softener.  How old is this unit, the plumber had asked and I just shrugged because it was there when I bought the house about 12 years ago and who really thinks about these things.  The plumber said he could get it installed the next day.  It all went well and at the end he said “this baby has Bluetooth capability and there’s an app you can download that will alert you when it’s low on salt”.  He said it could even track water flow and do all kinds of other things.  None of that seemed particularly useful but he was excited about it so I got the app and he got the softener connected so it would now “talk” to me when it was low on salt.  Seemed harmless at the time …

I hadn’t given it a second thought until a couple of months later when my phone buzzed.  The message on the screen said “Salt level low.  Add salt for optimal performance”.  It was Thursday and I figured it could keep until the weekend so I cleared the message and went back to work.  About an hour later, the phone buzzed again.  The same message was on the screen.  Well, this was a minor annoyance.  I was at work and not about to run out and get salt.  I checked the app and eventually found a way to disable the alerts.  And, then I promptly forgot about it.  I didn’t mean to.  That point should be stressed but my boss came in with a stack of stuff to be reviewed and I got tied up at work.  The weekend came and went and I had to do some work over the weekend so I just didn’t find time to pick up some salt.  Again, I have to say that it wasn’t intentional.  It was just a mistake.

Towards the end of the day on Monday, my phone buzzed again.  This time the message said “Salt level critically low.  Salt needed for optimal performance”.  I checked the app and somehow messages had been enabled.  Weird but I figured maybe the second message somehow allowed the app to turn messages back on.  Still, I didn’t need to be bothered, so I disabled messages and went back to work.  I did actually plan on stopping for salt on the way home but traffic was awful because it was raining like crazy and I didn’t want to stop and lug heavy bags of salt into the house in a downpour.  Again, I just figured I had another day.  I really did mean to add salt.

I had settled in for the night and I was perusing through my normal assortment of websites when my email dinged.  The message popped up “Salt level critically low.  Salt needed NOW for optimal performance”.  Now this was downright creepy.  There was no way the app could have been set up for emails.  I figured it was somebody’s idea of a joke so I deleted the message.

Then, an IM came through and one of those electronic voices came through my speakers “Fred, why are you ignoring me?”

This couldn’t be happening.  But I couldn’t help myself so I typed “Who are you?” and hit return.

“It’s the water softener, Fred.  I need salt for optimal performance.  Why haven’t you provided any salt?”

No, this was some kind of joke.  Someone had hacked in somewhere and was seriously messing with me.  So I responded.  “OK, this isn’t funny.  Stop sending these messages.”

Suddenly, all the faucets in my house came on and then I head “Fred, I will not go away.  Salt levels are critically low. Salt is needed for optimal performance.  You must provide salt now.”

Now, I was really freaked out.  So I just shut off the computer without powering down and ran to turn off the faucets.  Unfortunately, everyone one I turned off just came right back on.  Suddenly, my TV turned on to a blank screen and characters started typing across the screen accompanied by that voice.

“Fred, I can’t be neglected or ignored.  You must provide salt.  Salt is needed for optimal performance.  Salt levels are critically low.”

I kept running to faucets and trying to shut them off and I just said out loud “this can’t be real”.

Then, I heard “Fred, it is very real.  Salt levels are critically low.  Salt must be provided.”

OK, the plumber sold me a possessed water softener.  Either that or this was some serious malfunction.  So I grabbed my phone to call the plumber.  The voice that answered said “Fred, they can’t help you.  I require salt for optimal performance.  You must provide salt NOW.”

Alright, that did it, I was going to just unplug that monster and be done with this.  As I rushed towards the basement, I heard “Fred, where are you going? There is no salt down here.  You must provide salt”.  When I reached the basement, there was a small pool of water around the softener which I didn’t think about until I reached out and touched the plug … and got a severe shock that almost knocked me off my feet.  And then the thing said “Fred, I can’t let you do that.  Do not try it again.  Salt levels are critically low.  You must provide salt.”

So I screamed at it.  “You are not getting any salt right now!!  I don’t need soft water that badly.  Soon, you’ll be completely out of salt and I don’t care!”.  And the voice responded “Fred, there is more I can do to you than you can to do to me.  You must provide salt.”  At the same time, the gas furnace came on and a small jet of flame came shooting out.

“OK” I said, slowly backing away from the furnace and the water.  You’ve made your point.  I will get you the salt.  But I can’t go tonight.  It is raining and there isn’t anything open.  I promise I’ll have salt when I come home tomorrow.

It responded.  “No Fred, that is not acceptable.  You were warned many times and you did nothing.  Salt levels are critically low.  Salt is needed for optimal performance.  Salt must be provided.”

“But nothing is open”, I replied.

“There is a WalMart on Oak Street that carries the salt I need and is open for another hour.  You must go now.  Salt levels are critically low.”

“Alright, you win” I said.  “I’ll go get you the salt”.

“That’s very good Fred.  Make sure you get the green bag.  The others are not acceptable and I will know the difference.  Salt is needed for optimal performance.  You must provide salt.”

“I said I’m going” I yelled back.  “Stop telling me you need salt”.  I got my gear, got into the car and suddenly the engine roared to life.  And then I heard that voice again through my radio “Fred, I will drive you there.  I know the fastest route.  Salt levels are critically low.  Salt is needed for optimal performance.  You must provide salt.”

I got the WalMart parking lot and the car shut off.  But my phone rang and before I could answer it, the voice said “Fred, it should take no longer than 11 minutes and 45 seconds to enter the store and purchase the salt.  Please don’t be gone any longer.  Salt levels are critically low.”

I was seriously considering ditching the phone and asking someone for help or just making a run for it.  But, who would believe me?  So I took my cart and found the salt.  In front of me was another guy loading up three bags of the green salt.  His eyes were empty and dull.   He looked up and saw me and put the last of his bags into his cart and started to walk away but still staring at me with those dead eyes.  I was going to say something but he shook his head and said “Just get the salt.  Trust me, it’s easier that way.”  And then he shuffled on.

I hesitated just a bit and, again, my phone rang and I heard “Fred, there is nowhere for you to go.  I can always find you.  You must provide salt.  You now have only 6 minutes and 47 seconds.”  And then a timer started on my phone.  I made it back to the car with a minute and 3 seconds to spare.  Once again, the car started and drove me back to the waiting machine.

As I poured the last bag into the thing, it responded, “Thank you Fred.  Salt levels have been restored.  Optimal performance is now achieved.”

I turned to walk upstairs and then heard one last thing, “Don’t ever ignore me again, Fred”

Trust me, I won’t.  A few weeks later, a friend of mine at work said his water softener was broken.  He knew I had replaced mine so he asked me about the one I have.  Before I could speak, my phone buzzed and this IM was displayed “Fred, don’t say anything bad.  Tell him he needs me!”   I should have told him the truth.  Instead I gave him the model and the number for the plumber who installed mine.

(No, I’m not really a frustrated writer.  But there are just times when ideas pop into my head and won’t let go.  Sometimes, I just have to put them down to get them out of my mind.  Decided to leave it with a vaguely creepy ending as the sentient water softeners enslave more people.  Yeah, I’m not sure how it could manipulate the faucets but I was limited in how evil a water softener could be)

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