A Town with No Cheer: Part 4

by jamesmerolla

The machine drew me in. I watched my dulled reflection in its metal body.  My arm, against my will, reached out to it the same way Ed had.  A blinking flash of Ed’s stretched out skin pressing against the metal played in my mind and caused me to recoil.

     What am I doing? This is crazy.

I gathered my jacket and rushed towards the door. I felt the first trickles of fear slide down my back.

When I heard the voice the waters broke free.

Every muscle stiffened and froze. My body was too indecisive, so my brain shut it down.

The voice said with all the snarl of a playground:

     Where are you going?

Its sex was unrecognizable. It had all the girth and abrasion of a man, but the flowery indignation of a woman.

It cleared its throat with a gruff drop of worry.

     Are you having a stroke, Glenn? Don’t have a stroke.

It gasped as if I had just ruined its day.

Having only the ability to move my eyes, I pointed them in the general direction of the voice and responded.

     H-Hello?

     Are you okay? You can turn around if you want.

I swung open my body like an old barn door.

     Who’s there?

     It’s me, the machine.

     How are you talking to me?

     I don’t know if I am. For all I know this could be in your head.

     How would I know that?

     I don’t know… I just got here.

     How did you get here?

     I’ve always been here.

     Yes, but how did you start talking?

     Damn it, I don’t know.

     Okay, I’m sorry. So, what do you want?

     I have to convince you to turn me on.

     Turn you…..on?

     Turn me on to make snow.

     That still sounds bad.

     I have to convince you to pull this big red lever on my side to shoot projectiles into the clouds that will subsequently make it snow.

     Somehow that sounds even worse. But anyway, I’ve decided I’m not doing that.

     Why not?

     At first I wanted to do it for Martha. But…

Who’s Martha?

A woman.

What’s so special about her?

Something I can’t understand.

The word ‘love’ l-o-v-e is in my head.

I don’t know what that means.

I gather it’s something no one understands?

That’s probably the case.

So you’ll make it snow for her.

Actually, I’m going to leave.

     No, you have to do this. You have to!

     Who says I have to?

There was a heavy pause, like a sleeping bear between us.

     I don’t know.

     Exactly.

     No, seriously, I don’t know why I need you to turn me on.

     Stop saying that!

     I was an inanimate object 5 minutes ago. There were no thoughts in my head. It was just blissful nothingness.

     You remember the nothingness?

     No, I have no memories at all, just ideas that seem to have been planted there.

     It sounds like you’re having a bit of an existential meltdown. Why don’t you…take a deep breath?

     You know what the crazy thing is? I bet you the same thing controlling me, is controlling you.

     Or maybe who or whatever is controlling you wants me to think that.

     Or maybe it just wants us to think exactly what we’re thinking now. Oh my god, hold my hand.

I approached it in a gentle, consoling manner. I instinctively reached out my hand to touch the frightened machine’s skin.

     Why do I want my hand held so bad?

     Because you’re alive and frightened.

     I just want my nothingness back.

I searched my mind for words to ease the machine’s suffering. When the words did not come, I thought of myself.

     Have you ever…..Have you ever had someone ask you what you do?

     No, but I would imagine I’d tell them I am a snow making machine.

I suddenly felt like I was slow dancing with the machine.

     I never know how to answer that question. What do I do?… Nothing.

     Hey, maybe that’s why you have to make it snow?

     Maybe that’s what I do now. I do whatever it is these people, whom I become, do.

     What? I’m not following you.

     It’s a long story, Machine.

     I think you were meant to turn me on. I think it will give you purpose, and it will return me back to nothingness.

     That is possible, but I don’t think I’m going to do that.

     I understand.

     Goodbye, Machine.

     Isn’t it strange the way we slip in and out each other’s lives? Faces become smudged memories, as if looking at them through dirty windows.

The silence digested what the machine had said.

     Is that one of the ideas floating through your head?

     Yes, is just keeps playing over and over again.

     It’ll pass soon, machine.

I stepped through the door and into the purple black of night. I thought I heard the machine whisper something to itself before I closed the door.

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