A Town with No Cheer: Part 3

by jamesmerolla

Martha took my hand on our way down from the mountains.  Stillness fell over us like a sudden fog, and every other step our bodies collided with the gentle enormity of stars. Somewhere through the thick red of her gaze a warmth I had never felt began to radiate from under my feet. It scaled my body like ivy until it cradled me and rocked me into weightlessness and blinding pleasure. I slept as if I were under a stone. I dreamt of nothing.

When I burst back into the grey air of Glowersville, my eyes were searing with determination. My knuckles looked like bloody stones, and my hair felt like a heavy mop smothering my head. My whole body ached with the sweaty prickles of exhaustion. 

I was comforted for a moment when I realized I was in the shop. But, when I lifted my heavy eyes to see the monstrosity before me I stumbled backwards and fell against the work bench.

An indistinguishable collection of molded metal, plastic tubing and wires stood half hidden in shadow. It reached up into the dark like a swollen thumb.

     That is quite a sight.

The sound of his voice sent a shock of cold electricity through me. I bit my tongue and smiled through my surprise.

     Ed, you snuck up on me there.

     I didn’t mean to scare you.

     No, it’s okay. What time is it?

I slowly picked my bruised and exhausted body off the cold floor.

     Almost one A.M.

     I guess I lost track of time.

     Yeah, I thought you might have.

He wandered toward the machine with a glint of admiration in his eye. He leaned in his stance, the old man, one leg longer than the other, and reached out to touch it. He hesitated, as if he was about to flirt with the temptations of a wild beast. His gnarly hand touched the metal and he held still. He could feel the awakened life in it.

     You did it. I don’t know how, but you did it.

     What did I do?

He leaned into the machine, pressed his face against the warming metal, and listened.

     It’s just waiting for one of us to turn it on now.

     What are you waiting for?

     I’m not going to do it.

     Then I’ll do it.

     You might not want to do that.

     Why not?

     Because of what will happen.

   Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll turn the machine on, everyone will be happy and Glowersville will be saved.

     I’m trying to warn you Glenn.

     What’s the worst that can happen?

     I can’t predict that exactly.

     It’s just snow.

    Glenn, have you ever seen what happens when a place not used to getting snow suddenly gets a few inches of it?

     Well, yeah, but…

     Chaos. ‘It was never meant to snow in Glowersville.’ Those were Howie Petersen’s last words. He and I designed, and built this machine.

     He looked at the machine as if 50 years of his life was passing through the cold grey of his memories like a slow moving train.

     He was the Town Scientist before me. I was his apprentice. I had never seen a man more possessed with the fascination of making it snow in Glowersville.

     What happened to him?

     Well, by the time we finished the machine, our research and models gave us a pretty clear idea of just how dangerous and unpredictable the snow could be.

     But you kept going.

     I urged him not to, but he just had to see it. I can’t blame him either, because I felt the same way. I can’t recall exactly what happened after. I only remember violent flashes. What I do remember clearly is the look on Howie’s face just before he killed himself. I have never seen a man look more satisfied in my life. I’ve been haunted by that look every day since, and I see it reflected back at me whenever I look at that machine.

     This place is insane.

     To a guy with a bump on his head who can’t remember where he is, it might seem that way.

     So why does Martha want to see it snow so badly?

     She is a mystery to all of us. No one knows what she’s thinking, and no one dares to ask.

     What about Ms. Lancy?

     What about her?

     I don’t know. I feel like I should ask about her.

     Well, other than being the unfortunate mother of Martha, she’s the reason why there’s a Town Scientist. Her father funded Howie and myself, and she funds us.

     And she knows we don’t do anything?

     Everybody knows.

     I feel like I’m in a bad movie.

     This place is a living, breathing entity. It’s just like all of us. Actions don’t always make sense, but we do what we have to in order to keep our fears, our sadness, and our reality at bay.

     Well, then maybe someone should make it snow.

     I can’t stop you. I’m just an old man. You have to decide if that’s the right thing to do or     not. But, I warned you.

He walked back towards the machine, his old feet nearly shuffling across the floor.  

     How did you put this together without me?

     I don’t remember.

He lowered his head in thought. His eyes closed, and a half smile creased his cheeks, as if a memory had drifted close enough to touch him.

     I’m going to leave now. You should too.

     Yeah, I’ll be right behind you.

He gave me one last look before he stepped out the door. The blue light of the night crept over his shoulder.

     Don’t stay too long.

When the door closed my eyes were drawn to the machine. It looked like a wasted thought of a 50’s Sci-Fi film. It would have been comical if there wasn’t a distinct presence that seemed to hum lowly from it. It was watching me.