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There once was a witch named Ashcan who had a blasphemy box.

The witch would adjust the knobs just so, set the handle turning, and with a “Blaspheme, Box!” and a clap of her hands, she would set it going. The box would then gleefully say obscenities, perversions, and shock words to the amusement and delight of the witch’s guests. In order to keep the amusement going, it was subtly designed to start in small ways, perhaps with a few minor personal insults to the guests, or with the minor sort of transgressiveness that can pass as heroic–“true lovers don’t need marriage vows” for instance–and then to gradually up the level of shock once its subtle engines detected the company was in a rollicking mood.

Once the witch had had her feel, which was usually past the point where her guests had their feel and were starting to feel uncomfortable–indeed, it was their growing nervousness that seemed to delight her most, and some suspected her of only shutting off the box when she thought her audience was on the point of revolt–the witch would give the command to shut off the box.

One day the witch Ashcan took a journey into a far country.

Her apprentice decided it would be grand thing to entertain some friends while the witch was away.  He invited them over and after feeding them the witch’s food and serving them the witch’s wine, with a flourish he brought out the witch’s blasphemy box.  He shouted “Blaspheme, Box,” and clapped his hands.  The box started in and the apprentice’s friends started to congratulate themselves on what daring, free-spirited fellows they were.  Some of the choicer blasphemies sent them laughing hard.  What a thrill!

After a while,  the laughs were forced.  And after that, they noticed that the box had blasphemed as much as it could and was only shouting the same obscenities and perversions in an ever louder voice.  Over its din they yelled at the apprentice to turn it off.  But he could not.  He had carefully marked the command to begin; he did not know the command to end.

His friends fled the room.  After a while, he fled to.  The box only grew louder and louder.  Soon that whole neighborhood was overtaken by booming blasphemies, growing louder.  They grow louder still.

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