Then, out of the blue, someone called me, this time from a number I - or at least the phone's address book - did recognise. It was someone called Dave who was a colleague at work a year or two ago, a distant acquaintances I rarely spoke to and, to be honest, barely even remember. When Dave called, I was surprised to hear from him although, somehow, less startled by the topic of his conversation.

"This joke message you sent me," he said angrily, "It's a bit tasteless, isn't it?"

I spluttered for a moment, then swore blind I had not sent him a message of any kind. Frankly, he did not believe me, and seemed to become even more angered by my denials. I felt I was required to apologise abjectly, even though I am certain I had done nothing, and promise that it would not happen again. Not that I was in a position to ensure that promise, of course, although I have not yet had another call.

I was forced to the conclusion that, somehow, the senders of these messages had a way of spoofing the "From" phone number. Whoever - or whatever - is creating these messages is capable of fraudulently inserting a fake number to replace the actual originating one.

I found the timeliness of these texts most curious, too. I noted that these mysterious messages offered immediate comment on the news of the day; indeed, they could be construed as defusing the current calamity - whatever today's crisis is: the collapse of further part of the banking system, another war in the Middle East, a 14-year boy becomes a father again.

You may well have noticed the effect yourself, when a major item of news comes close to home, when it strikes the man in the street where he will feel it - in the wallet: in increased interest payments, or threats to savings or pensions, or the imminent re-possession of over-mortgaged homes.

When something like this happens, it's all very tense for a day or two. Then the jokes start to fly, everyone just relaxes and gets on with it. These messages provoke a cathartic physiological reaction, social tensions are purged and released, and life simply gets back to normal.

After a few weeks, I noticed that a few of the jokes referred to events I had no knowledge of. At first, I thought it was because I was failing to keep up with current events. Increasingly curious, I made a conscious effort to read more of the newspapers and the Internet news sites, and watch additional TV reports. Soon, I was convinced that I was getting jokes about an event, an item of news, which had not yet been reported publicly, which had not made it into the online newspapers and the "breaking news" sections of the television reports.

Somehow, it seemed I had managed to get in the first hop of the delivery chain. No doubt, most recipients of these messages got lots of joke texts, from real friends and acquaintances, and simply did not notice that a few extra had been snuck in. But why me? Perhaps it was just some random selection from a trawl of a database of mobile phone numbers, or some automated system algorithmically profiling and selecting likely candidates for receiving messages. Whatever the mechanism, it had been unable to detect my oft-expressed but never recorded dislike of text message jokes.

I am now convinced that these messages are carefully contrived, the result of considerable expert analysis by people with a deep knowledge of applied sociology and practical psychology. These texts are exquisitely designed to influence the psyche of the entire nation, to modify public opinion and private mood, to act as a calming, moderating influence over a large fraction of the population, for those for whom the mobile phone is an essential part of their everyday lives.

I have no doubt the entire process is overseen by some shadowy arm of Government, loosely - and untraceably - linked to Whitehall, and supported by their Establishment chums in the telco companies.

I have finally realised that SMS does not stand for Short Message Service at all. I am absolutely certain that it is really a Social Management System, acting as social glue, or lubrication or perhaps sedative, for the turmoil that is modern life in this country.

It is a system designed to keep us all under control.

Part 3

...Then a Miracle Occurs Book Cover If you have enjoyed this story, then why not take a look at the others in this collection? An eclectic mixture of science fiction and mystery/ghost stories under the title ...Then a Miracle Occurs.

Four Square Less One Book Cover You may also enjoy my earlier collection of fifteen interlinked short stories under the title Four Square Less One. Can you work out the hidden connections between all of the stories?

New Bridge to Lyndesfarne Book Cover Bridge at War Book Cover Death on the New Bridge Book Cover Bridge of Stone and Magic Book Cover Why not take a look at my Lyndesfarne Bridge series of novels: New Bridge to Lyndesfarne, Bridge at War, Death on the New Bridge and Bridge of Stone and Magic.

Findo Gask - Goblin Detective Book Cover I am now working on a new series of Private Eye fantasy novels. The first is called Findo Gask - Goblin Detective, featuring the eponymous Private Eye, Findo Gask himself.