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August 22, 2016 / hbrowne4

The Contraption by Andrew McFarland Campbell

[Prompt: Two sausages don’t make a rasher]

“And this is?” I asked cautiously.

“This,” said Arthur, “this is the Machine!”

“The machine?” I hesitated.

“Yes, sir, this is the Machine!” Arthur seemed pleased.

“I thought I just saw the machine, in the other room?”

“Oh, no sir, that wasn’t the Machine. That was the Device. This is the Machine.”

When he explained it like that I wondered how I got them mixed up. The Device, which I had seen in the other room, was roughly cube shaped, about three feet on each edge. It had a large hopper on top, a dial on the front, and a lever on the side. You put the ingredients into the hopper, set the dial, and pulled the lever. After some huffing, puffing, and groaning, the device produced the product. At least I had thought the device produced the product. Apparently not. The device produced a precursor.

The Machine was much larger. It was at least eleven feet on each side, and where the Device had been made of shiny chrome, the Machine was apparently made of everything. Wood. Brass. Brick. Glass. Gold. Silver. Pipes. Corrugated Iron. It didn’t have a hopper on top, but it did have a conveyor belt that led into it, through some black rubber curtains like the x-ray machines they used to have at airports.

Airports, I thought. I used to like airports.

No, not really. I used to hate airports. But I liked the way I hated them. It was a hatred of the familiar. Back when things had been different. Back when Terminal 4 at Heathrow was a thing. A painful, dirty, and stressful thing, but still a thing. Of all the things to miss. I was missing going through Terminal 4 as quickly as I could because once I was out of it I’d no longer be in Terminal 4.

Now I thought if I was in Terminal 4 I might just linger for a while. Soak up the ambience. Look at the shops. Maybe even buy something from that awful Harrods shop. Then I might make a spirited attempt to get onto one of the planes. One of the ones that never came back.

“And that’s how the machine works, sir.” Arthur stopped talking. Evidently I had missed something.

You don’t get to my station in life without being able to cover up when you haven’t been listening. I do regret being able to cover up when I haven’t been listening.

“There is something that just doesn’t seem right,” I said. “Could you go through that one more time?”

Arthur almost managed to cover his frustration. You don’t get to his station in life without realising when someone senior has been covering up that they haven’t been listening.

“You take the output from the Device,” he began. He really shouldn’t be so frustrated with me, I thought. I nearly didn’t come at all. “And you put it on the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt starts automatically, and takes the output from the device and puts it into the Machine. The Machine holds onto it.”

“Holds onto it?” I asked.

“Holds onto it, sir, until it has enough.”

“Enough for what?” I asked.

“It is nearly ready now. Just one more will do the trick,” he said. He blew on his whistle. Three short and sharp but loud blasts. All of the other workmen stopped what they were doing and quickly left the room. Strange, I thought. Only workmen. No workwomen.

“Hard hat, sir? Goggles, ear muffs?” asked Arthur.

I told him I’d be OK.

Arthur shrugged his shoulders, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, dark cube. It was the precursor that the Device had made earlier, when he demonstrated it. He put it on the conveyor belt, which slowly started moving. He put his own ear muffs and goggles on. Then he put goggles, ear muffs, and a hard hat onto me.

The little cube was swallowed up by the big cube.

Nothing happened.

Ah well, I thought. I suppose it keeps them happy.

Then the Machine did its job. The was noise that shook my body like I was being attacked by a giant dentist’s drill. There was light that was so bright I swear I could see my own skeleton. As it all calmed down I could see that the goggles and ear muffs were needed, but not the hard hat.  Then I was hit on the head by a single 2 inch bolt.

As the smoke cleared, I saw what the Machine had produced as it slowly came out on the conveyor belt on the other side.

I didn’t know what to say.

“This changes everything,” I said.

“Yes,” said Arthur. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”


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