There lived on Actinuria a young inventor by the name of Pyron, who learned to pull wires out of platinum so thin, you could make nets with them for catching clouds. Pyron invented the wire telegraph, and then he pulled the wire out so fine, it wasn’t there, and in this fashion he obtained the wireless. Hope entered the hearts of the inhabitants of Actinuria, for they thought it would now be possible to establish a conspiracy. But the cunning Archithorius monitored their conversations, holding in each of his six hundred hands a platinum conductor, whereby he knew what his subjects were saying, and at the first mention of the word “revolt” or “coup” he instantly dispatched ball lightening, which reduced the conspirators to a flaming puddle.
Pyron decided to outwit the wicked ruler. When he spoke to his friends, instead of “rebelling” he said “reheeling,” instead of “insurrection”–”instep,” and in this way he planned the overthrow. Archithorius meanwhile was puzzled why his subjects had taken such a sudden interest in shoe repair, for he did not know that when they said “thread the laces,” by this they meant “run him through and through,” and boots too tight signified his tyranny.
- Stanislaw Lem, “Uranium Earpieces,” 1972, published in Mortal Engines, Michael Kandel (trans.)