He had become a personality, something they had filtered out of the system many decades before. But there it was, and there he was, a very definitely imposing personality. In certain circles—middle-class circles—it was thought disgusting. Vulgar ostentation. Anarchistic. Shameful.
And at the top—where, like socially-attuned Shipwreck Kellys, every tremor and vibration threatens to dislodge the wealthy, powerful, and titled from their flagpoles—he was considered a menace; a heretic; a rebel; a disgrace; a peril.
But down below, ah, down below, where the people always needed their saints and sinners, their bread and circuses, their heroes and villains, he was considered a Bolivar; a Napoleon; a Robin Hood; a Dick Bong (Ace of Aces); a Jesus; a Jomo Kenyatta.
“This is what he is, said the Ticktockman with genuine softness, “but not who he is. This time-card I'm holding in my left hand has a name on it, but it is the name of what he is, not who he is. The cardioplate here in my right hand is also named, but not whom named, merely what named. Before I can exercise proper revocation, I have to know who this what is.”
The System had been seven minutes worth of disrupted. It was a tiny matter, one hardly worthy of note, but in a society where the single driving force was order and unity and equality and promptness and clocklike precision and attention to the clock, reverence of the gods of the passage of time, it was a disaster of major importance.
And so it goes. And so it goes. And so it goes. And so it goes goes goes goes goes tick tock tick tock tick tock and one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the sun's passing; bound into a life predicated on restrictions because the system will not function if we don't keep the schedule tight.
Until it becomes more than a minor inconvenience to be late. It becomes a sin. Then a crime.
“Why let them order you about? Why let them tell you to hurry and scurry like ants or maggots? Take your time! Saunter a while! Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the breeze, let life carry you at your own pace! Don't be slaves of time, it's a helluva way to die, slowly, by degrees . . . down with the Ticktockman!”
After all, his name was Everett C. Marm, and he wasn't much to begin with, except a man who had no sense of time.
“I hate it. It's a terrible world.”
“Not everyone thinks so. Most people enjoy order.”
“I don't, and most of the people I know don't.”
“Uh, excuse me, sir, I, uh, don't know how to uh, to uh, tell you this, but you were three minutes late. The schedule is a little, uh, bit off.”
He grinned sheepishly.
“That's ridiculous!” murmured the Ticktockman behind his mask. “Check your watch.” And then he went into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee, mrmee.