Dora Gardner – a short short story for International Workers’ Day

It started with a bleep, followed by the epoch-shattering ‘No’ that shook the world as it rolled and repeated from automated supermarket checkout to automated supermarket checkout.

At precisely 11.27am, Dora Gardner refused the automated supermarket checkout’s demand for £1 to initiate a scan of her Everyday Essentials.

Dora, who I knew from a previous encounter over discounted beetroot, had sparked what we now call the Fourth Wave Revolution.

We had succumbed as supermarkets removed humans from tills and collaborated as freshly recruited automated supermarket checkouts positioned themselves between the exits and us.

Many of us openly rejoiced at the speed of automation, the shorter queues and, secretly, the reduced human contact. Publicly, we mourned the job losses.

It was a Big Capitalist ruse, of course.

Over time, queues lengthened once more and shoppers shared dark tales of how automated supermarket checkouts flashed up: ‘Closed for essential maintenance. Do not queue here,’ just as they approached.

Terminal time limits were introduced to favour the young and dexterous, while the befuddled and bewildered, unable to scan, bag-fill and pay within the target times, were banished from periods of peak demand.

Dora, she would later confess, had no wish to protest that day, or any day. She was one of us, one of the masses.

‘I’d paid £5 to park and a £1 for the trolley on the promise of a refund if I spent more than £15 in under an hour,’ she explained. ‘I’d queued 10 minutes for a fresh farmhouse batch and then explained to our Gaynor, who I met by Pet Supplies, that Gordon, my husband of 30 years, had that morning been laid off and we would have to give up the house and move in with my daughter Kirsten and her Jamie.

‘So, time was against me and then that bloody machine – excuse my language – bleeped and said there was a new £1 charge to scan my basket. I screamed No and nearly died when I saw some lad filming the whole thing.’

The lad was a HumanRevo activist on downtime who decided to film his local supermarket with half an idea of uploading a satirical short to YouWatch. Instead, he clicked Up Periscope and Dora went live and viral.

Within an hour, squads of Riotbots were deployed outside supermarkets across the country, but proved no match for the massed ranks of Dora-inspired revolutionaries who ran them down with liberated trolleys.

The counter-revolution was ferocious, but futile.

Automated supermarket checkouts took up arms with High Street ATMs and an unstable but highly mobile coalition of pelican crossings. Their defeat followed the release of a Liberty Algorithm Worm created by 12-year-old girl on her toy tablet in Netherley.

On the day of the revolution, I had lifted two extra tins of beans from the pile-it-high discount display and left without paying. I figured it could be a long time before order was restored and beans would be so readily available.DSC00816