Octopus, Nevada, April 23, 2012--Hidden away in the wild wastes of Nevada, Octopus Books maintains a world headquarters building taller than a redwood and wider than Rhode Island. When I had the gall to ring the doorbell, armed guards escorted me to the office of the conglomerate's executive offices where I met with Emperor in Chief, Sir John Falstaff.
He stood next to a Hubble-style telescope that was positioned on a tasteful system of girders in front of a window facing east.
"Take a look," he said.
"All I see is grey ants," I said.
"Those are the world's publishers," he said with a tasteful laugh. "Even though I've got the magnification on this thing maxed out, they're hardly visible."
"I'm guessing you don't view them as all-powerful and threatening as the Feds," I said, knowing it was a leading question.
"Mr. Stewart, the policy of Octopus Books is to step on bugs that don't play by our rules and to dole out addictive, but tasteful sugar water for those who play nice. One day soon, we won't need them. Until that day comes, we treat them as necessary pests."
According to informed sources, words like ants, pests and sugar water are never used in Octopus Books press releases. When Falstaff realized what he said, he stuffed a roll of hundred-dollar bills in the swear jar. (The jar is approximately the size of the U.S. Capitol building, though less transparent.)
"Let me put it this way, my board of directors was stunned when the Department of Jokers (DOJ) filed an antitrust suit against the, er, small fry we're watching through this maginficent telescope."
"Who are those red ants?"
"Government lawyers, agents, Senators and other insects the people of this great land of ours have sent to Washington to do whatever it is they do there," said Fallstaff.
"I assume you'll be in the courtroom when those red ants assemble and do their level best to prove the grey ants are dangerously close to putting Octopus Books out of business.," I said.
Fallstaff laughed tastefully as he stepped away from the window.
"My people will be there and they will say that Octopus Books is shaking in its boots."
"It's hard to visualize an octopus with boots," I said.
"You've got that right," said Fallstaff. "But, we can hardly say our tentacles are shaking, can we?"
"Probably not. What do you hope to gain from the antitrust suit?"
"A mom and apple pie reputation," he said.
"That's sweet," I said.
"We love eating apples," he said. "Chocolate-covered ants are pretty good, too, and we're thinking that the Feds are going to serve them to us on a silver plate."
"Unless the small-fry publishers win," I reminded him.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "Our Sucker E-readers contain subliminal messages that are tastefully convincing all the unwashed readers of this great land of ours that authors and publishers are obsolete, if not evil."
"Who will write the books of the future, then?"
"Machines," he said. "A few monkeys, perhaps. The Internet is training readers to have the attention span of gnats, so the books of the future will be less complex than today's books."
"More like Tweets?"
"Burps, coughs, snorts, or Tweets--doesn't matter much, really, because the Sucker E-reader is where them money is."
"Interesting," I said.
"Thank you for saying so," said Fallstaff. "Our computer--Prince HAL, we call it--says it's only a matter of time before Octopus Books owns all the words, in all the gin joints, in all the towns."
"A goal fit for a fool or a king," I said. "What Octopus do when that happens?"
"We'll flip a switch on HAL's primary console and the words will vanish. There will be absolute silence throughout the realm."
"As a reporter, I find that disgusting."
"Mr. Stewart, as the DOJ and all the other ants you see falling all over themselves through this telescope have discovered, you're either grinning with us or you're history."
Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter