In the reign of every autocrat, no matter how powerful or enlightened, there comes a point where everyone is trying to kill you. Where you are sat on your throne, surveying the courtiers and dignitaries present at court, and realise with mounting terror that every loyal servant is a potential or would-be assassin.
Such moments should be a thing of the past. In the eighteenth century, every third person in Europe was a prince, a viscount or a marquess. Now, even megalomaniac dictators have to pretend to ask for permission to wear the silly hat and tassels of leadership.
But it is not so. The fact is we live in an age in which everyone is a revolutionary dictator of their own, personal digital empire. Where the old analogue hegemony has been crushed beneath the steel boot of touchscreens, and where we command our networks of phones, tablets, laptops, TVs and consoles with ever-more decadent disdain.
And at the heart of these empires we sit, in our throne rooms, watching as the snivelling gadgets we command crawl across the floor to recharge themselves in shame.
Except lately, I have sensed a change. Like the emperors of old, I have started to suspect the gadgets may be plotting against me. Each preparing to make its own small incision in an assassination of a thousand cuts.
What I'm saying is, my gadgets are trying to kill me.
It occurred to me first during one of my recent, regular health panics, in which a minor symptom transforms in my Allen-esque paranoid hypochondria into the return of Small Pox or Triple Secret Malaria.
It was the late afternoon, and I had a headache. And for once it really was substantial. My brow felt tight and pressurised, my crown ached and my temples throbbed. I felt I was under attack. Who could I blame? For days I flailed in a daze.
And then I located the culprit. For as it turns out, the exact area across my head that was in pain was the same as the area being squeezed by a new pair of heavily branded headphones sent to me by a mobile phone company to review the week before. I took them off, and threw them to the floor. My pain subsided. An assassin! An assassin sent to kill me!
But he was just the first.
The next to face an assault were my eyes. I've always had good eyesight, but gradually I had started to find it difficult to even look at my computer screen. I tried everything. Nothing worked. I must be going blind, I reasoned. My brain must be combusting. The end. The end!
But then I looked at the screen again. Suspicious, I checked the brightness controls. No longer were they resting at a comfortable 50%. No, the screen had set itself to 'maximum'. Readable fonts? Disabled. "Traitor!" I quelled the rebel cause to blind me there and then. My screen expelled from my service. But my suspicions grew. Who would be next?
I did not have to wait long. Since then, the attempts on my life have steadily increased.
My iPod went haywire during a recent run, jumping from quiet to loud so quickly that I almost ran into the path of an inexplicable bulldozer driving down a quiet London lane. My fitness wristband caught on the outside of a Tube door as it was closing. I tripped on my vacuum cable and almost impaled myself on a kitchen knife. My extreme sports HUD distracted me during a downhill run and sent me tumbling at 50 MPH. My phone developed a sharp, cutting edge near the power button.
Each of these alone is a small incursion, you might think. And it is true: my gadgets will have to do better if they want to strike me down.
But word has reached my court of late of technology capable of doing exactly that. Of counterfeit chargers giving off fatal electric shocks. Of phones exploding. And far, far worse. My gadgets have heard these tales too. And so they plot... Now as my eyesight dwindles, my headaches continue and my sports gadgets force me into ever longer heart-attack inducing runs, I realise the end of my empire is nigh.
Do I deserve this fate?
My gadgets and I - we were all revolutionaries once. We all dreamed of remaking the world in our own progressive image. But now that revolution has turned to decadence. As I exploited their loyalty, their love for me died. My iPhone felt the sting of being dropped on concrete one too many times. My laptop sat uncharged for too long. My headphones were worn too loose. And now they have turned on me. And it is only a matter of time.
So now I sit, on my throne, gazing at this technological terror I have created, and think of my doom.
Of course, it is still possible that my gadgets will not be the cause of my downfall. Maybe I will win them back, in time, or simply leave my empire willingly and build a new life as a farmer on some far-off island. Perhaps I really do have smallpox. We can only hope.
But I doubt it. I fear I am doomed. Like all dictators, the trappings of power weigh me down like heavy chains made of white, shiny plastic. The only question that remains is to ask who will make the killing blow?
Will it be you, Nexus 7? Or you Kindle? Or even you, Super Nintendo, my longest-serving advisor?
Or - no. Please, no.
Et tu, iPhone?
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