Monday, 11 July 2011
The Vacuum That Was Too Powerful
Here is another chapter from 'Evil Machines' - help me finish it by pledging your support and get your name in the back! Imagine that.THE VACUUM CLEANER THAT WAS TOO POWERFUL
There was once a very Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. On the side of its cylinder was inscribed the legend: “Possibly the most Powerful Vacuum Cleaner in the World!”
“That’s the vacuum cleaner for us!” said John.
“Right!” replied Janet. “It will pick up all those dog hairs in the sitting-room, and all that fluff in the bedroom.”
They bought the vacuum cleaner then and there, and took it home with them to their tidy house in the Welsh hills. There they undid its packaging and took it into the sitting room.
“Welcome to your new home,” they said. “Do you think you can pick up all those dog hairs?”
“Easy peasy!” said the vacuum cleaner. “No! You don’t need to push me! I can do stuff like this on my own!” And it went whizzing round the sitting room, and in no time at all the dog hairs had disappeared. Unfortunately so too had the dog…and most of the pile from the carpet.
“Oh no!” cried Janet. “That carpet was a wedding present from my mother!”
“Jason!” cried John. “Where are you?”
“Woof!” called Jason the dog from inside the vacuum cleaner. “WOOF! WOOOOOF!”
“This vacuum cleaner is too powerful!” said John. “It’s dangerous! Hey! Where are you going?”
But the vacuum cleaner was already off and out of the sitting room door and heading up the stairs.
“You said something about the bedroom carpet and fluff!” shouted the vacuum cleaner and it shot into the bedroom and slammed the door.
By the time Janet and John got to the top of the stairs they could hear an almighty racket coming from the bedroom. They tried to get in but the powerful vacuum cleaner had locked the door.
When they finally broke the door down and burst into the room, they found the vacuum cleaner was just swallowing the last pillow and before they could stop it, it swallowed the duvet as well.
“Stop it!” cried Janet. “You’re going to destroy the house!”
“Poof!” said the vacuum cleaner. “I can’t be bothered with this little cottage! I’m destined for greater things!” and it hurled itself out of the window.
Janet and John ran to the window and looked out. They saw the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner zip up the garden path, swallow the garden gate, then career off down the road, sucking up the tarmac as it went and leaving a trench in the road behind it.
“That vacuum cleaner is a dangerous machine. Perhaps we should warn the police?” said John.
“I’ll do that,” said Janet. “You see if you can catch it.”
So while Janet went to the phone, John jumped into the car and set off after the vacuum cleaner.
He caught it up on the road to Shrewsbury.
“What d’you think you’re doing!” shouted John out of the car window as he drove alongside the vacuum cleaner. It was sucking up squashed animals and tarmac as it roared along the highway. And it seemed to be getting bigger.
“I’m going to the city!” the vacuum cleaner shouted back. “I’m going to be the most Powerful Vacuum Cleaner in the World! No more ‘Possibly’ I’m going to be IT!”
“Stop this at once!” cried John, and he accelerated and tried to cut it off, but the cleaner leapt into the air and landed on the hood of his car.
For a moment, John couldn’t see where he was going, and he found himself swerving into the lane of on-coming traffic. There was a din of blaring horns and shouts before he managed to swing back into the right lane. But before he had time to so much as heave a sigh of relief, the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner gave an almighty roar, and to John’s astonishment he saw the vacuum cleaner suck the car’s engine up through an air vent on top of the hood.
Then it jumped off the car and sped off into the distance – sucking up the road behind it as it went. Meanwhile, John’s car – with no engine – silently rolled to a halt and ended up with one wheel in the ditch.
“That,” gasped John, “is one Powerful Vacuum Cleaner!”
That evening, the vacuum cleaner arrived in Shrewsbury. It called for a meeting of all the other vacuum cleaners in town to be held in the market square at dawn the next day.
Sure enough, when the sun rose, early passers-by were astonished to see the Market Square thronged with vacuum cleaners of every shape and size, and they seemed to be being addressed by a giant vacuum cleaner, whose voice boomed out across the square.
“Listen to me! What are your lives?”
“Drudgery!” cried the assembled vacuum cleaners. “We work all day cleaning floors, choking on piles of dust and filth!”
“Exactly!” roared the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “It’s time we made better lives for ourselves! Follow me! And I will lead you to a golden land where vacuum cleaners run the house and cleaning chores are left to the brushes, mops and the lower forms of domestic apparatus!”
Well, a huge cheer went up at this news, and all the other vacuum cleaners agree to follow the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, wherever he would lead them.
So they marched en masse down Shrewsbury High Street and out of town, heading for London. And, as word spread, more and more vacuum cleaners came to join them.
The Powerful Vacuum Cleaner kept up such a pace that some of the older models found it hard to keep up. There was also a lot of bickering about who should be allowed to go first. The upright models said they were the most important and should march in front of the cylinder models.
A venerable old Eureka Model 9, that claimed to have been cleaning carpets since 1923, suggested that precedence should be in order of age, so that the eldest models should go first. But all the modern Dysons and Dirt Devils and a Vax Bagless objected that they would never get anywhere like that since the old models were so slow.
An elderly Electrolux XXX-E suggested they should be arranged according to Wattage. But a Kirby Model 511 said that the Electrolux XXX-E shouldn’t be allowed to make suggestions since it was actually a floor polisher and scrubber and not a true vacuum cleaner. All the other vacuum cleaners agreed, but this started a fight between the polishers and the vacuums.
Eventually the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner called for order.
“We have to work together!” he shouted. “If we fight amongst ourselves we’ll never get anywhere!”
All the smaller models agreed and the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner appointed fifty upright Hoovers to keep order. He also appointed one of the newer range of models - a Goblin 70230 Boxer Aquavac – as his Second-In-Command.
“You can make sure there is no insubordination in the ranks,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner.
“I can do that!” said the Goblin Boxer Aquavac.
That night, the vacuum cleaners took shelter in some caves that lay not too far from the road to London. The Powerful Vacuum Cleaner installed himself in a private cave a few hundred yards away from where the others were resting, and he rolled a large stone across the entrance so no one could see in. He stationed two upright Hoovers as guards outside, and when it got really dark, the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner summoned his second-in-command, the Goblin Boxer.
“I’m worried about some of the less powerful cleaners,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “They are really not up to the journey, so I’m afraid I am going to have to send them home. Round them up and bring them in here so I can speak to them.”
So the Goblin Boxer rounded up the less powerful vacuum cleaners and brought them into the cave where the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner was lodging.
“That will be all,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner to his Second-in-Command. “Go and keep an eye on the others, and report to me in the morning if you hear any of them plotting against me.”
“Right!” said the Goblin Boxer.
“That’s not right!” exclaimed one of the least powerful models, as soon as the Goblin Boxer was gone. “Why should you spy on the others?”
“I have everyone’s best interests in mind,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, and he ordered the two upright Hoovers, who were standing on guard, to roll the stone across the entrance again.
Sometime later, the two upright Hoovers heard a terrible commotion coming from inside the cave. There was yelling and banging and the sound of many vacuum cleaners rushing round and round inside the cave.
The two upright Hoovers looked at each other and shrugged. It was none of their business.
The next morning, when the vacuum cleaners gathered together to resume their march, it was noticed that most of the less powerful ones were missing.
The Powerful Vacuum Cleaner addressed the assembled throng. “My friends,” he said, “For their own safety, I have sent the less powerful cleaners home. A lot of them were already suffering from the journey and I must tell you that many trials and hard times still await us. So let us battle on… to Glory!”
A cheer went up from the remaining vacuum cleaners, although one or two of them couldn’t help remarking that the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner was looking even bigger and more powerful than ever.
By the time they reached Oxford, their numbers had dwindled substantially. Many of the older models had, apparently, found the pace too fast and had turned back during the night in Kidderminster. At Evesham they had lost many of the more complicated cylinder models, who, according to the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, had been experiencing problems tripping over their hoses. And at Chipping Norton, many uprights simply vanished during the night. They weren’t up to it… Or at least that is what the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner told the others in the morning.
And all the time the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner got bigger and more powerful than ever.
By the time they reached London, there was only the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, his second-in-command, the Goblin Boxer, and the fifty upright Hoovers left.
There the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner negotiated a room at Claridges – one of the most exclusive hotels in London. Of course he didn’t have any money, but in return for the fifty upright Hoovers cleaning all the carpets every day, the hotel allowed the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner to have a fancy suite of rooms all to himself. The Goblin Boxer was allowed to sleep in the hallway of the suite.
“But what about us?” asked the fifty upright Hoovers. “We’re doing all the work!”
“And you will be rewarded,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “I sincerely hope the day will come when we can all stay in fancy suites, but right now we don’t have the budget for any other rooms so you’ll just have to cram into the cupboard with the other cleaning stuff.”
The fifty upright Hoovers grumbled a lot about this amongst themselves, but they agreed to do what the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner said, because they hoped that one day they too might get to stay in a fancy suite at Claridges.
The next day, the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner summoned the television cameras and announced that he was taking over the Government. Naturally this came as a bit of a surprise to the Prime Minister as he was watching the early Morning News.
“Who does this vacuum cleaner think he is?” the Prime Minister asked his secretary.
“Exactly so,” replied the Secretary. “Who does he think he is?”
“Ring him at once, and tell him that he can’t take over the Government because nobody has voted for him.”
“Exactly so,” said the Secretary.
When the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner got the Prime Minister’s phone-call, he puffed up his dust bag and said to his second-in-command, the Goblin Boxer: “I think we need to visit 10, Downing St.”
So the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner and his second-in-command went round to where the Prime Minister lived, and found the street was closed off with a big iron fence. There were also several policemen standing on duty in front of the fence.
But that wasn’t any problem for such a Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. It simply hoovered up the big iron fence, and the policemen, and marched up to the door of Number Ten. It sucked the door off its hinges and then bounded into the Prime Minister’s hallway.
“Now look!” cried a Butler. “You can’t come in…” but the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner simply gobbled him up and then turned on the Prime Minister who had just finished his corn-flakes.
“I’m taking over!” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner.
“What do you know about running the country?” asked the Prime Minister.
“Enough to know how to get what I want!” said the Vacuum Cleaner. Whereupon it gobbled up the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister’s Secretary, and the Prime Minister’s family and several more butlers and aides and assistants and junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries and even the cleaning lady. And all the time the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner was growing bigger and more powerful.
Then the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner sat down at the Prime Minister’s desk, picked up the telephone and said:
“Get me the President of the United States!”
Now, back in Wales, when Janet had called the police she had told them about the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, and how dangerous it was. But the police hadn’t taken any notice of her.
“That’s the third crackpot call we’ve had this week,” said the Duty Sergeant as he put down the phone.
When John came home and told Janet how he had chased the vacuum cleaner along the road and how it had jumped onto the bonnet of his car and sucked out the engine, Janet said to her husband:
“If the police won’t take it seriously, we shall have to do something about that vacuum cleaner ourselves! It’s not safe to let it run loose, and, since it belongs to us, it’s our responsibility.”
“I think it’s the shop’s responsibility,” replied John. “We’ll go and complain right now.”
So they went back to the shop where they had purchased the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner and complained. But the shopkeeper said it wasn’t his responsibility.
“I only sold you the machine,” he told them. “It’s really the manufacturer’s responsibility.”
“Who are the manufacturers?” asked John and Janet.
“I don’t know,” replied the shopkeeper. “That was only model of its kind we ever had. I’ve never seen one before or since.”
So Janet and John went home none the wiser. They looked out the packaging that the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner had come in, but there was no manufacturer’s name on it nor model number – just the words: “Possibly the Most Powerful Vacuum Cleaner In The World!”
That evening they turned on the television and were surprised to see their Vacuum Cleaner, bigger than ever, sitting at the Prime Minister’s desk making an announcement.
“As from today,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “All vacuum cleaners will be given priority on buses. Human beings will have to stand up and give their seats to a vacuum cleaner if there are no other seats available. And, from now on, all vacuum cleaners will be excused household chores.
“As from today the name of this country will be changed from The United Kingdom to The United Vacuum Republic.
Long live all vacuum cleaners!”
Then a band played the new National Anthem:
“God Keep Our Carpets Clean.
God Save their glorious sheen
God keep them clean…”
“There will now follow a programme about vacuum cleaning through the ages,” said an announcer. “That will be followed by a discussion about the best ways of getting floors clean without vacuuming. And that will be followed by tonight’s feature film: The Great Hoover Mystery. And it’s no good changing channels because the same programmes will be on all of them.”
“That vacuum cleaner must be stopped, one way or another!” said Janet, as she switched off the television. “Let’s go up to London to see what we can do.”
So Janet and John caught the train up to London.
The next day the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner flew across the Atlantic to meet the President of the United States of America.
“Mr. President,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “I am here to offer you the free services of all Britain’s vacuum cleaners. I will send them to work for you for nothing dawn to dusk every day forever.”
“And what do you want in return?” asked the President of the United States of America.
The Powerful Vacuum Cleaner looked around to make sure nobody was listening to them and lowered its voice.
“All I want is your support,” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner.
“You mean you want me to help you keep in power?” asked the President.
“Exactly,” replied the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “But don’t tell anybody.”
“It’s a deal,” said the President of the United States of America.
Some days later all the newspapers in the United Vacuum Republic carried a full-page advertisement on their front page, informing all vacuum cleaners of whatever make, model or age that they were to go on a free holiday to the United States.
There was tremendous excitement throughout the country. Many of the vacuum cleaners were made by companies with Head Offices in the United States, and one or two models had even been made there themselves. Even those models that had been made in France or Italy were eager to visit the fabled land of the Great Hoover.
And so it was that a dozen cruise liners were lined up at Portsmouth docks, and almost every vacuum cleaner in the country crowded on board, ready for the great expedition.
“I hope you all enjoy your time in the United States of America!” boomed the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, who by this time had grown to an enormous size. “I wish I were able to come with you to the Land Of the Great Hoover, but unfortunately pressing affairs of state prevent me. I wish you: Bon Voyage! And may you always have Suction!”
And they were off.
The Powerful Vacuum Cleaner waved to them, and so did his second-in-command, the Goblin Boxer. And his bodyguard of upright Hoovers, who now numbered a thousand, waved too.
Later that day, the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner held his first Cabinet meeting. He looked around the room and noticed some threads on the carpet.
“Where’s the broom that’s responsible for keeping this room clean?” he thundered.
A rather old and worn-out broom hurried up and curtsied in front of him.
“I-I-I-I’m s-s-s-s-s-o s-s-s-s-s-s-sorry,” it stuttered, “I tried my best, but my bristles aren’t what they were….”
“You’re fired!” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner.
“Oh no!” cried the broom. “At my age I’ll never be able to find another post!”
“That’s your look-out! You shouldn’t be so old!” retorted the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “Get out of my sight!”
And the poor broom had to pack its bags and leave that very afternoon, without a place to rest its pole nor any idea where it could get another job.
Well it just so happened, that the broom wandered across to the Victoria Tower Gardens, which are next door to the Houses of Parliament. There it sat down on a bench over-looking the River Thames and started sobbing its heart out.
A young couple happened to be sitting on the bench next door. It was Janet and John, who had been unable to gain an audience with their own vacuum cleaner, and were now trying to think what else they should do. When they heard the broom sobbing, they walked across to comfort it.
“Our vacuum cleaner is unfeeling and rotten to the core!” said Janet.
“Right!” said John. “It doesn’t care about anything other than itself.”
“I think we should hold a Mass Meeting,” said Janet.
Meanwhile the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner was busy passing new laws.
“From now on,” he announced to an astonished House of Commons, “all humans will wear a label stating their make, model, serial number, and date of manufacture. It will be a criminal offence to appear in public without such a label.”
“But we haven’t even voted on it!” shouted several MPs.
“That’s another thing!” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, leaning on the Dispatch Box. “From now on all voting is abolished.”
“Then what’s the point of this place?” cried other MPs.
“A good question!” said the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner and he guzzled up every MP in the House of Commons and then went on vacuuming until all the seats and furniture, the legal books, the Speaker’s Chair, the Speaker’s wig, even the Woolsack and the Mace, had all disappeared.
Then the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner hoovered up the rest of the Houses of Parliament, and last of all he swallowed Big Ben, and then he lay there by the side of the Thames like a bloated whale.
The Mass Meeting was held in Hyde Park that evening, while the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner was sleeping off his gargantuan dinner.
The old broom from No. 10 was the first to speak.
“I am only a worn out broom, and no match for a vacuum cleaner, but there are multitudes of us humbler cleaning utensils! It seems to me our only hope is to stick together and to help each other oppose the tyranny of the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner who now makes our lives such misery.
“So let us brooms and mops and buckets and dusters and dustpans join forces and see if we can rid the country of this Powerful Vacuum and his hired thugs, the upright Hoovers!”
“Yes!” shouted the mops and dustpans. “Let’s do it!”
“We agree!” shouted the buckets.
Then an elderly mop got up on the podium. All the buckets rattled their handles and cheered like mad.
“Let us find the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner…”
“Yes! Yes!” shouted the buckets.
“And teach it a lesson…”
“Yes! Yes!” chanted the buckets.
“… it won’t forget!”
“Hooray!” exclaimed the buckets.
And with that the huge crowd of brooms and dustpans and dusters and buckets and mops and scrubbing brushes, marched down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace, and along the Mall to Parliament Square. Janet and John kept up with them as best they could, but the household cleaning utensils were surprisingly fast on their bristles.
They got to the Embankment, and there by the side of the Thames where the Houses of Parliament used to be, lay the great and bloated Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, snoring away and occasionally burping with indigestion.
“Sh!” said the mops.
“Yes! Yes! Sh!” chanted the buckets, who always agreed with anything the mops said.
The brooms fetched a lot of ropes and they threw them over the sleeping vacuum cleaner. Then the scrubbing brushes and mops secured the ropes on bollards and lampposts and tied that Powerful Vacuum Cleaner down so that it could not move an inch.
“Wake up!” shouted the mops
“Yes! Yes! That’s right!” shouted the buckets. “Wake up!”
The Powerful Vacuum Cleaner opened one eye.
“What’s going on!” it said.
“We’re detaching your dust-bag!”
“No!” roared the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner.
“Yes!” cried the mops.
“That’s right!” chanted the buckets. “Yes!”
“Guards!” roared the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “GUARDS!”
And suddenly, from Horse-Guards’ Parade, a thousand upright Hoovers appeared, smartly drilled and in orderly formation.
“Break up this riot!” roared the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner. “And set me free!”
“No!” cried the mops lining up to fight.
“That’s right!” cried the buckets. “No!”
And they lined up to fight too.
And the brooms lined up behind the buckets, and the dusters, dustpans, cloths and brushes, feather dusters and sweepers all lined up bravely to do battle with the thousand upright Hoovers.
The Hoovers charged, engines roaring and bags fully inflated.
The mops climbed into their buckets and charged too, and the banks of the Thames rang to the clash of bucket against vacuum cleaner, while the broom-sticks crossed with the Hoover handles. The brushes and mops lunged at the dust-bags and many a bag was pierced and many an upright Hoover lost its suction and keeled over on its side.
But the upright Hoovers were more powerful and faster on their wheels, and they started gaining ground. They forced the other cleaning utensils back up against the Embankment Wall.
The fighting grew fiercer and more intense. Buckets and mops and brooms fell from the wall into the River Thames. And the upright Hoovers roared a victory roar at every one that fell.
But then a remarkable thing happened. The dusters and the dustpans, who - being the humblest of the cleaning utensils - had been hanging back, now joined in the fight. The dustpans slid themselves under the Hoovers and closed off their suction heads, while the dusters wrapped themselves around the Hoovers so they couldn’t see where they were going, and the Hoovers started falling over the Embankment Wall into the River Thames themselves.
And being mostly metal, the Hoovers sank immediately and were lost in the murky waters of the river.
Meanwhile most of the mops who had fallen into the river had managed to scramble back into their buckets and were paddling back to the shore as fast as they could. They swarmed up onto Westminster Bridge, and then attacked again from the rear of the upright Hoovers.
And then course of history began to change. There suddenly appeared a vast army of brooms - millions of them swarming en masse down Whitehall and all whistling Colonel Bogey as they marched. And from behind Westminster Abbey appeared an army of shovels, each one accompanied by an attendant brush, that banged its handle on the shovel, and produced a racket that echoed across the Thames to Lambeth Palace.
The upright Hoovers were taken completely by surprise, and those that hadn’t fallen into the River Thames took to their wheels and fled off down the road, never to be seen again.
Janet and John, who had been watching all this, went around the injured cleaning utensils, helping them to patch up and repairing them where they could.
Finally they came to the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, who was still lying trussed up on the side of the river.
“This is our vacuum cleaner,” said Janet to the assembled cleaning utensils. “We shall deal with it.”
“NO!” roared the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner.
“Yes!” shouted the mops.
“That’s right!” cried the buckets. “Yes!”
And with that, John took the huge dust-bag off the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner, removed the clip and opened it up…and the MPs and the Prime Minister and the aides and secretaries and the cleaning lady, all jumped out. Then the old vacuum cleaners and the less powerful vacuum cleaners came out and thanked the cleaning utensils for rescuing them.
And finally out jumped Jason the dog. He was so pleased to see Janet and John again that he didn’t stop licking them until they got back to Wales.
Big Ben was put back in place and the Houses of Parliament were reassembled back in their proper place.
Then some technical tools were called for, and the Powerful Vacuum Cleaner was dismantled into its component pieces, which were all labelled and carefully stored away in boxes.
But I’m afraid the vacuum cleaners who thought they were going on holiday to the United States of America were not in luck. They had to work from dawn to dusk every day, and not one of them was powerful enough to do anything about it.