A Clockwork Universe

 PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/
PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

For the twenty-fifth time, Calhoun watched the universe he created destroy itself. The stages were so predictable that boredom was a constant struggle.

Given Eden, the society would flourish, peak, then self destruct. Every requirement was catered for. Without competition or restrictions, overpopulation resulted.

Freed of hurdles, subjects were free of purpose. Without reason to strive, many withdrew into listlessness.

Freed of the need to search outwards, subjects stared inwards. Subjects became ‘Beautiful Ones’, incapable of anything but preening.

Freed of predators, subjects preyed on each other. Eruptions of pointless violence became commonplace.

Then… collapse. Death.

Predictable. Like clockwork.

(word count 100).

A Friday Fictioneers 100 word challenge from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Blog (click here to check out all the stories). The aim is to look at the photo prompt, and write a piece of flash fiction inspired by the photo using only 100 words.

I realise my take on this might need a bit of explaining… Its a combination of an unpleasant trip on public transport, The Rats of NIMH, and Kim Kardashian’s widely publicised arse.

When I saw the picture, the first thing I noticed with distaste was the crowd (I’m not agoraphobic at all, I was just fresh from an awfully crowded bus ride into work). This negative association I had with the crowd triggered a memory I had of some research I read about a year or so ago – great article here. John B Calhoun created a Rat utopia (actually, he created 25 of them) – where the rats would want for nothing, clean water, good food, everything was provided – the only restriction was space (it was research into population density).

The outcome of this research was pretty much as I wrote – once they became overpopulated, rat society began to collapse, eventually hitting the point of no return – the ‘behavioural sink’ – where the population decline was unstoppable, because even though rats were capable of breeding, they had lost the societal skills to do so.

I don’t make a practice out of reading obscure research from the 1970’s, rather I stumbled across this when reading up on some of my favourite books and movies. It turns out, Calhoun’s Universe 25 could can be seen in the movie Soylent Green, the ultra violent novel A Clockwork Orange, and was somewhat responsible for inspiring a childhood favourite – The Rats of NIMH.

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Oh. You want an explanation for the Kardashian reference…? The Cabinet article I liked earlier provides:

Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection.

A pointless individual, contributing nothing, always grooming…?




Published by: wildbilbo

My name is Kristian Thoroughgood, alternately known as KT to my friends, or @WildBilbo on twitter. As of August 2015, I am forty years old. Australian. My blog is intended to be both a place for me to polish my creative writing muscles (not a double entendre) and for others to read and comment on my musings. Expect short stories, articles, essays and other brain dumps. My opinions are my own, and whilst I take care to be at least moderately informed about any topic I speak or write about, these opinions are subject to rapid change in the face of passionate arguments and greater evidence. Please note - on my blog, Evidence beats Passion.

Categories Fiction, Flash Fiction, Writing, WritingTags, , , , , , , 28 Comments

28 thoughts on “A Clockwork Universe”

  1. This is just too close to reality to make comfortable reading. But it was a stunning piece of work. As is the infamous KK backside. 😦 I’m off to look for the pills now. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with Sandra on this. I remember a thousand years ago when I was in college and one of my anthropology teachers said at some point the world would be overpopulated and we would begin killing each other. MMmmmm……. Nicely done, KT

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alicia 🙂
      If I put my pessimist hat on, I wonder if the internet is accelerating this problem. The problem in Calhoun’s universe was lack of space – the rats didn’t have an opportunity to get away from each other. Now, not only are we all physically proximate, but even in our downtime we cannot escape other people.

      Of course, I say this while sitting on my Blog, with facebook and twitter open…
      Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear KT,

    That was a lot to digest and I thank you for the education. Not too impressed with KK or her celebrated hind end. I never read A Clockwork Orange but I did see the movie with Malcolm McDowell and Soylent Green. Your story also made me think of Lord of the Flies, both book and movie.

    Your story was pitch perfect with or without the explanation.



    Liked by 1 person

  4. Without the need to struggle and a purpose to struggle for, people stagnate and deteriorate and turn on each other as the last gasp of a pointless society. Would have happened in the Garden of Eden if nobody ever ate that apple. Very unique piece.


  5. Dear KT,

    Mark this down as your best so far (I have no doubt that more lurks where this one came from) and pease accept my thanks for writing both the story and the explanation. Brilliant work. Others should take note.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Margaret – I’m very pleased this piece seems to have hit the right spot 🙂
      I envisaged Calhoun as the dispassionate researcher + disinterested god figure when I started writing it, so I’m very glad you liked the device.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I read that rat research yonks ago – scary stuff. I liked your story – mini matrix. It reminded me of when I briefly worked in a computer section 30 years ago, when computers were black and white tv’s and the only people who could do anything with them were intense, young Dr Who sidekicks who spoke in obscure mathematical languages. They lightened their day with a black and white nation modelling game. All about balancing population with economy with natural resources, manufacturing and migration. The usual result the political class went down in flames when the game player failed to balance all the variables . If there was a commercial version I would buy it but I’ve never seen anything like it. Changing one factor altered all the others. Few nations lasted more than 10 “years”.
    Good story. Ok if I reblog?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually it was fun – and compulsive for such a simple model. None of the nerds mastered it. You needed the money from manufacturing, people to do the manufacturing, and that destroyed the environment.
        Many thanks for permission. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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