Inhabitants of the Italian village of Canneto di Caronia - previously evacuated after domestic appliances staged an inflammatory uprising - have made a fearful return to their homes.
The tiny hamlet earlier this year became the front line of the war of annihilation between man and machine when normally docile equipment - including TVs and fuse boxes - began to spontaneously combust.
To add to the terror, mobile phones rang without reason and electronic car door locks became self-aware. After several house fires, the residents moved out, and the scientists moved in.
Despite extensive investigations by bodies as diverse as the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the National Research Centre and power company Enel, no single plausible reason for the occurrences has been found. The theories include a burst of electro-magnetic energy, or supercharged ions released from a fault in the Earth's crust, or good old static electricity.
The head of Sicily's Civil Protection Agency, Tullio Martella, admitted to the NY Times: "The cause of the fires seems to have been static electric charges. What we don't understand is why there were these static electric charges." He further conceded that: "It is not certain that the fires are finished forever. They were episodic to begin with."
Some villagers, however, are certain they know the cause: mephistopholean intervention. Nino Pezzino, a 43-year-old insurance salesman who has just rather reluctantly moved back to his house of terror, said: "I'm Catholic. I believe in the Devil. I don't know why the Devil is here. If it happens again, I'm bringing in the exorcist."
Pezzino will not stop at exorcism to purge his village of this evil: "If we're going to do it, we have to do it right," he said. "In order to do it, you need a sacrifice for the immortal gods, like a black goat or a black sheep. You have to dig a hole into the ground, because this is serious."
It is indeed. And those of us who have been watching the inexorable rise of the machines with growing alarm know it will take more than a bottle of Holy water and sacrificial black goat to turn back the tide. ®
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