Sunday, August 12, 2007

Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury (pt. 1)

So I tried uploading Mr. Mercury to the player, but the file is too big. Hmmm...coulda seen that coming, I guess. So we'll have to pass on the audio portion of the lecture. Also, I decided to do this one in two parts. Part one is about the story, and part two will be about the music. Enjoy!

Au Revoir, Mr. Mercury is essentially a rumination on the essence of purpose, hope, and personal security, and the implications of their absence, especially to those who rely on the fulfillment of such needs from outside sources. Balancing that "weightiness" is an absurd cast of steam-powered, nonthinking thinkers caught up in an absurd set of circumstances in which they must find a solution equally as absurd.

Not Mr. Quick, but looks a lot like him.

Following is a list of characters and how I envisioned them in my mind:

Mr. Mercury - A tall and slender steam robot with a cast iron frame and a monocle firmly bolted over one non-seeing eye. He was built by the illustrious patent team of Smythe and Tinker, esteemed inventors world-renowned for their major advancements in time and energy saving automatons for the modern home.

Mr. Quick - A short, fat mechanical courier with a body shape centered around an enormous forward wheel. An older model from an earlier day, Quick left a trail of oil wherever he went, and required frequent scheduled maintenance and repairs.

Mr. Arm - An assembly line robot with a giant arm-like appendage, no head, and an archaic tank tread assembly that allowed for his mobility. Mr. Arm had no mouth, but would instead communicate entirely through body language, and sometimes the use of signs and props.

Admiral Tom Gabardine - A retired rear admiral of the Merchant Marine Academy, and the owner of one of three existing Mr. Mercury Mechanical Manservants. Admiral Gabardine treated his servant very well and always brought him in for his scheduled tune-ups on time, if not early. He had a big white Hemingway beard and smoked a pipe that smelled like expensive sherry with a hint of apple.

Smythe and Tinker - The ingenious engineering duo responsible for the invention of the Mr. Mercury Mechanical Manservant, and possibly the other two automatons. They may or may not be the same Smythe and Tinker from The Land of Oz, though the former is actually spelled Smith. Both men have long since passed away, or disappeared, and if you believe L. Frank Baum, Tinker built and climbed a ladder so tall it reached the moon (then pulled the ladder up so no one could follow him), and Smith painted a river so lifelike he fell in a drowned.


No one knows what kind of cataclysm befell the planet that caused every living human to disappear. By all accounts, there was no destruction to property or landmarks, and everything appeared to be otherwise in order. Except there were no people.


Not Smythe and Tinker, but looks a lot like them.

Robots have an interesting life. Their existence is defined by the orders they receive from humans. Robots like to be told what to do. If this were not the case, they would not be robots, but furniture. If all the humans in the world disappeared, would the robots have a purpose? Would they be able to serve themselves? These are crucial questions, ladies and gentlemen, for you never know when you might find yourself in an existential crisis much like the ragtag gang of steam robots before you now.


Our timeline follows the trio from Mr. Mercury's last day in servitude, when he returns from an errand in town, probably to buy more baguettes or restring the Admiral's lacrosse crosse. He finds the car still running in the drive but no one there. Holding back his panic, he sets out to find others, namely Mr. Quick, whom he finds by following his trademark oily treadmark. Looking to Mercury for consolation and reassurance, Quick asks where all the people have gone, but Mercury is unable to answer.

After finding Mr. Quick, the two explore the city and hear a distant rattle that sounds like an alarm clock stuffed inside a pillow then dipped into a barrel of syrup. (This is the international distress signal for robots who believe themselves to be in danger.) After locating Mr. Arm, the threesome press on in search of hints of life. Looking to Mercury for consolation and reassurance, Arm asks where all the people have gone, but Mercury is unable to answer.

Not a young Admiral Gabardine, but looks a lot like him.

Mr. Mercury musters up his courage and declares that he will find the Admiral, hoping the Admiral will restore the stability of purpose he now finds of himself completely bereft. Amidst the pleading jeremiads of the others, he soldiers on purposefully, yet without purpose. Finally, Mr. Mercury succumbs to his panic and begins to appeal out loud for someone, anyone, who could use a few good robots.

Then, defeated, he lowers his head and utters, "We are alone."


The three walk dejectedly to a hill just outside the city overlooking the sea. Somber and grave, the three decide to simultaneously pull the switch on one another, each having lost the will to live. They form a circle, whisper a three-count, then shut themselves off.


Somewhere in a very quiet world, full of quiet cars and quiet houses, three quiet robots stand motionless on a hill by the sea still wearing their manufactured expressions, clear as the day they were made. They stand until the sea eventually swallows the city and the salt water eats away their metal skin until nothing remains but the ancient coals in their bellies, killed by the silence.

Next week: Part 2 (the music)

Quite the scrapper, arntcha lad...
Jonathon Christopher Newby of Brazil


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