came across it again this morning. It’s this term, spontaneous collective…”
Zelula looked the giant oak tree over as she jogged past it. Her three mile marker. Two more to go.
“…Now, I’m not certain of its origin but it’s beginning to make the rounds on the Plex. At least, in the circles I frequent. And if you’re listening to this show then the odds are pretty good you frequent some of those same circles. So I think it’s a safe bet at least a few of you out there have encountered the term as well…”
She stared down at her shadow on the asphalt. Why was she letting it bother her? Her mother had never approved of the boys she brought home. So why did her opinion suddenly matter?
“…The spontaneous collective, as I interpret it, is a phenomenon of the Plexus. It’s…a byproduct of this global interrelation we now find ourselves living in. This burgeoning reality of instant communication with anyone, anywhere on the planet. Well, so long as they’re plugged in, right?...”
Zelula wiped a sheet of sweat from her forehead. It was hot. Really hot. She’d wanted to wait until evening to go running, but convinced herself to go now in case she decided to attend that HOA meeting at 7:00.
“…I first ran into this term a few months ago. I wish I could remember the gridsite but I can’t. I was way out in the boonies, man. Exploring. Like I do. And I just can’t recall…”
She turned onto Kholson Street and saw a man she vaguely recognized firing up a lawnmower twenty yards ahead. She moved her thumb to the volume button of her datacell in preparation.
“…But I do remember that the guy who wrote the article referred to the spontaneous collective as if it were a preexisting concept. So the term is more than a few months old. Not much older, is my feeling, but we’re talking about an idea here. One that, if I’m reading the terrain correctly, is starting to take root…”
The man spotted Zelula as she neared him. He smiled, nodded. She smiled, nodded back as she raised the volume of her show so as to hear it over the lawnmower. That’s the dad, she told herself. The dad of that kid who’s always shooting past her house on a soarboard.
“…So this article was talking about the situation that happened with Guvi Fihtal about six or seven months ago. If you aren’t familiar with Guvi, she’s an activist, an entrepreneur. She also happens to be cuter than a basket of kittens. Just a doll, this girl. And it was obvious to anyone who followed her ordeal that it was her looks that set the events in motion…”
Well, her mother was just going to have to get used to the idea. That, or learn to mind her tongue. Either way, the old prude’s opinion didn’t matter. Because this one was a keeper. She’d known it from the first date.
“…If you don’t know the details, about half a year ago Guvi Fihtal was pulled over near her home in upsector Agastogia. Nothing serious, traffic violation. But the officer—and you can see it clearly in the cer’s own dashcam recording which was leaked a few weeks after this all went down—the officer started putting the moves on her. It’s right there, plain as day. He’d pulled himself over a little hottie and wasn’t about to let that go to waste. And so…he made the conscious decision to exercise the privileges of his so-called authority…”
As she neared Waber Lane, Zelula studied the freshly-cut lawn of a two-story job with gray brick. A few days before that same lawn had been overrun with weeds. There was a lot of that going around. Word was the HOA board was starting to threaten residents with fines. Seemed to be the case.
“…Problem is—for the officer anyway—is that while Guvi might be cuter than a basket of kittens she’s also tougher than a two dollar steak. And she wasn’t havin’ it. Told’m to get lost. Cer didn’t like that and arrested her. I don’t remember all the charges. One of them was resisting arrest or something insane like that. Doesn’t even matter. Because it’s this next part that relates to our discussion today…”
That was, in fact, one of the issues to be discussed at the HOA meeting that evening. Complaints had been pouring in for months about shoddy lawn care. The old board never took action. But it seems this new board was looking to make a statement right out of the gate.
“…In jail she gets her phone call. She calls a friend of hers, Honnem Dihuce, another activist whom many of you may be familiar with. Honnem immediately dumps the story onto social media, but with a call to action. He wants to organize a…I believe it’s called a yak attack…for the following morning. It’s this thing where hundreds or even thousands of people call the same place at the same time, and just keep calling until they get a desired result. In this case it was the jail holding Guvi Fihtal with the desired result being her immediate release…”
Zelula was conflicted about the whole thing. Sure, she wished people would take the initiative and maintain their lawns. She didn’t want to live in a neighborhood of eyesores. But at the same time, she certainly didn’t feel it just to coerce people into action with financial threats.
“…It’s important to note that these calls weren’t threatening. That was vital to the strategy. You start making threatening calls, especially to the cers, and you’re looking at a slew of additional charges for a slew of additional people. The goal of a yak attack—or the goal of this one, anyway—was to clog up the lines. To bring the operation to a halt, as it were. And certainly, to let them know that you know an injustice was done…”
Soon after turning onto Waber Lane she passed her friend Aci’s house. Aci was a nurse, worked nights. She’s in there now, thought Zelula, fast asleep between nice cool sheets. Aci would probably be at the meeting. She was off tonight, and had no qualms about airing her grievances.
“…And it worked. The cers felt the pressure and released her. All charges dropped. They played it off to the press, of course. ‘After further review…’ and all that jazz. But it was clear. They saw the brewing PR nightmare and they caved. And there it is. The spontaneous collective…”
Then again, they signed a contract. Everyone knew the terms, and agreed to them in writing, before they moved in. And if you break contract you should be subject to penalties, right? That was standard.
“…And in case you somehow missed it, the two key words in that story were social media. The Plexus. An event occurs, a consensus is reached, and action follows. And all in an amount of time that would’ve been unfathomable before the Plex…”
But where does it end? Zelula knew for a fact that one family was fined last week for having too many cars in the driveway.
“…Now…for any of you sitting there thinking this only sounds good for long distance, phone-it-in type activism, let me tell ya…that just ain’t so…”
She’d heard of another man who was threatened for leaving his garbage cans at the curb too long.
“...Take a look at what happened at the Wahzel Ranch. Talk about a spontaneous collective, man! I mean as soon as the first headlines broke about the absolute tyrannical overreach that was being attempted out there in the desert, word spread like wildfire across the Plex. Again, through social media. Through OwnZone, through Chirper, through citizen journalism. And what was the result? Hundreds of people from all over the realm—from all over the world—converging on the Wahzel Ranch to stand as one united front and say ‘You, government goon, step back!’…”
And then there was the dog poop. Zelula had heard that people were getting notices about picking up after their pets. Actually, she was okay with that one.
“…And wouldn’tcha know…it worked. Those costumed thugs took a good hard look at the angry mob starting them down—many of whom were armed, trained and prepared—then they looked at each other, then they said no ma’am, no thanks, and went home. It was truly a beautiful thing to behold…”
Zelula wasn’t surprised to find the old couple at the end of Waber sitting in their garage. They’d turned it into a sort of den, complete with recliners and a telebeam, and there they sat most days. Depending upon her mood, Zelula found the scene to be either sweet or depressing.
“…And speaking of beautiful things…Look what’ s happening right now, as we speak, in this world of ours. How many regions are looking to break away from their realms? How many sectors here, in Zamerida, are trying to form their own realms? How many peoples around the planet are crying out for independence? I’m speaking, of course, of the secession movement now being highlighted by the referendum in Losclind…”
Zelula swung around the cul-de-sac and started back up Waber on the opposite sidewalk.
“…Here we are on the doorstep of the Third Great Conflict and it seems like half the planet is refusing to participate. Why? This didn’t happen in the First Great Conflict and it sure as hell didn’t happen in the second. So why now?...”
She’d probably end up going, she knew. She had nothing else planned and was more than a little curious as to what the new board had to say.
“…The answer, of course, is awareness. Since the inception of the Plexus the global level of awareness has risen exponentially. Now we have the means to see through the propaganda, the lies, the deceptions. Now we have access to information and with information we can discover the truth. For ourselves…”
Maybe she’d hook up with Aci and they could grab a drink after.
“…The spontaneous collective, ladies and gentlemen, is an allergic reaction. It’s a direct response to a hostile element being introduced into the system. It’s a spike…”
Wona Bredkel materialized up the street. She was getting into her car and, unfortunately, spotted Zelula first.
“…And for those of you thinking this is nothing new, that people throughout history have risen up against a common foe. That different regions, different groups have always come together. That revolution is a constant. I would say…yes, you’re right. And you’re also very wrong…”
The older woman stepped toward the sidewalk and waited. Zelula wiped more sweat from her face and prepared herself. Wona could be absolutely insufferable.
“…Uprisings are a part of history, yes, and sometimes those uprisings spread to surrounding regions. But there was always a focal point around which the dissention centered. What we’re seeing today is something new. This isn’t a Phlelohrean movement. Or a Zameridan movement. Or a South Zameridan movement or a Neh-eaushan movement or a movement confined to any other region. This is a human movement. Decentralized and demanding freedom. And a direct result of awareness. An awareness unique to our time. We’re the first, ladies and gentlemen. The first to—“
Zelula removed her earbuds as she came to a halt near Wona Bredkel. She remained jogging in place, though. She wasn’t about to let the old bag ruin her workout. “Hello, Wona,” she said through heavier-than-usual breath. The sun was a killer today.
“Zelula,” Wona said, nodding. “Are you going tonight? I should think everyone would have something to say.”
Zelula shrugged. “Maybe. We’ll see. I don’t know.”
Wona raised her eyebrows, clasped her hands together. “We have a chance to make a real difference here, Zelula. Who knows when such an opportunity will present itself again.”
The younger woman nodded. “Yeah, you’re right.”
Wona waited for more. When she saw no more was coming she smiled. “Well I’ll let you get back to it, then.”
The words were barely out of Wona’s mouth when Zelula started forward. “Great, nice talkin’ to you.”
When she found her stride she popped the earbuds back in. Her show was on a break, though, and so she muted the volume. She was in the mood for a little silence, anyway.
The spontaneous collective, she thought, staring down into her shadow once more. Yeah. It fit. She’d been looking for something to call what she was seeing.
The silence was shattered a moment later when a car alarm went off somewhere on the next street over. This was, of course, immediately followed by the barking dogs and the