Ghost Machine, a short story by RichardBrown. Date added: 2006-05-16. Times viewed: 1392.
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- Intro: How important is working, conforming to the worlds values. Soul destroying labour...
- Jim stared at the job centre window for minutes that seemed like hours and
hours that seemed like days. Somehow his mind was still hopeful despite the
lack of jobs available and he just kept reading and re-reading the thing
again and again. It was spitting with rain and the sky was dull like worn
steel. Suddenly a set of hands appeared at the window and pinned a new job
to the tattered and violated cork board. Jim quickly scanned the advert.
"Machine operator required: Â£350 per week, great bonuses with incentives for
over time. Must be high of spirit and have previous experience. Phone
Jim took scrawled the number onto a beer mat he had in his pocket and made
his way home. He and his girlfriend rejoiced that night, Jim had got the
job. It was a strange conversation but he didn't care because he had finally
got a job. They drank a couple of bottles of cheap wine and retired upstairs
to make love. It was the best sex they'd had in a long time and they both
slept well that night. Jim had already mentally purchased the new drum kit
he had wanted and many other things that he could afford with this new job.
His mum and dad taught him that money was more important than enjoyment of
life and he understood this all too well. The little house on the rough
little estate slept with pride that night.
It was a dark and rainy day. Jim stared out of the grimy bus window at an
endless industrial estate. He got off at his new workplace, a toy factory.
It was a lot smaller than he had imagined it would be. He went inside and
found Mr. Danvers, his new foreman. He was a small, scrawny man who had no
real signs of life except for a faint green glow smoldering behind his eyes.
Jim immediately felt wary of him but put on his most polite and enthusiastic
mask. He was just thinking of the money and his new drum kit. "Mr Morrison,
shall we get started?" his voice was like a century old echo, crumbled
distorted and devoid of humanity. As they walked through the empty factory
he spoke again "You said you used to play in band Mr. Morrison?" Jim
answered in the affirmative, it shut him up. One of Jim's old science
teachers once told him that he never had to call anyone sir or Mr because we
live in a democracy, and he never had done until now. He didn't care, he was
thinking of the money.
Danvers showed him into his workshop. There it was, as if Jim already knew
it was here. The machine filled the room, it was cold and faceless. The dull
grey of worn steel, it seemed dead and lifeless. "Place your hand on the
scanner please will you Mr. Morrison, it's for security" he placed it
reluctantly on the cold and dusty scanner. Suddenly he felt a surge of life
rushing to his hand. His eyes flickered and he stood paralyzed for a second
that seemed like a lifetime. Suddenly he was slapped back into reality and
he found himself stood staring at the machine it looked different now. "I
think he likes you" Mr. Danvers showed a black and crooked smile. Jim was
shaken but composed himself and started working, all the while thinking
about his new car, drum kit and possibly furniture.
The machine was alive and throbbing with power, Jim couldn't quite determine
what it was that drove this thing but it was an amazing piece of technology
that he didn't know even existed. It was square, no interesting features or
clues as to how it worked. It was a giant square, steel machine with a
single exit but no apparent entrance. Toys were rolling out of a conveyor
belt at great speed, he just stood there watching and pressing pointless
buttons. If this were a cartoon he would have pound signs instead of eye
balls. He worked for four hours straight, operating his simple console and
always watching the huge faceless machine churn out endless streams of toys.
He went to the canteen for his dinner break, it was completely empty and
very dirty. A pale faced man slipped out of a side door and handed him a
plate of grey mush. He didn't know what it was exactly and couldn't
determine what kind of meat was in it but it tasted quite good and he gladly
ate it all up and returned to the machine.
He finished his shift and went home. "You look tired babe", his girlfriend
thought he looked exhausted and worn down, she was right. They went to bed
early and made love, but not to the usual standard. Jim rolled off her and
slept a deep, dark sleep. His soul was tired and didn't feel like talking to
his consciousness, he had no dreams at all. The next day Jim got up and
caught the bus to work. It seemed to be raining all the time and the sky was
grey like dull steel. Grey like Mr. Danvers, grey like the machine.
He operated his console for hours, lost in a part of his mind that still
buzzed with questions. The questions were silenced by Â£350 a week. As he
watched the machine he noticed a sound like crying, he pricked his ears and
listened hard but couldn't identify it as anything but machinery noise.
Suddenly the machine emitted a noise that was like every sound ever made in
the world put together, infinite frequencies. It stopped and out rolled an
ungodly creation from the machine. It was a cuddly toy, but not so much
cuddly as an embodiment of evil in low quality stitching. It was a bear with
a distorted and tormented face, as tormented as can be achieved through the
simple stitching. Jim walked over and picked it up; he held it and stared
into its tormented, foreboding plastic eyes. All of a sudden he dropped it
into the waste product bin and went back to work. His body was on autopilot.
The questions, suspicions and doubts were all bought by an attendance bonus
of fifty pounds. His dinner was good, today it was chicken.
Over the next few weeks Jim got his wages and volunteered for more hours. He
was now working a sixty hour week on four hundred pounds a week with a fifty
pound attendance bonus. All weekend his girlfriend complained and nagged at
him. He was lifeless and grey, he sat and watched TV all weekend. He sent
his girlfriend to go out and buy a selection of meats, trying to recreate
his delicious canteen meals. His relationship was being stretched; he could
not make love anymore. His girlfriend spent a hundred pounds on some
suspenders and a corset but it had no effect on him. All he ever talked
about was work and money, he never dreamt anymore.
Jim came home one day to find a brand new drum kit, the one he had wanted in
the living room. He slowly walked over and sat on the stool to play, he
couldn't. A single hit on the snare drum echoed through to his grey heart
but it couldn't get it moving. The bass drum echoed down to his very soul
but it was dormant, waiting for the inevitable. A week later Jim came home
to find his naked girlfriend bent over the settee with Dean, one of his old
friends. Jim just walked in, stared at her for a minute with his cold dead
eyes and then sat down and turned on the TV. He didn't say a thing. She
cried for hours and certainly didn't see Dean again; he was deeply
traumatised by that experience. Jim was working eighty hours a week, the
machine had him. His girlfriend moved out and took a lot of his money, he
The machine stared into him from its featureless cold face. Jim stood in awe
of it, his face grey like dull worn out steel. Mr. Danvers appeared behind
Jim, they were alone. The three of them stood quietly. The machines
featureless plating seemed to bulge with ambition and desire, hunger. It
stopped. Jim looked round confused and lost without his master but he was
too weak to even think of anything to say, do or think. "It's time to
increase production Mr. Morrison" A concealed door opened on the machine
casting a green glow on the workshop wall. The canteen worker appeared and
walked him into the machine door, it slammed shut. Jim did not struggle, he
just wanted to work.
The machine had been feeding on his soul, devouring his essence to fuel
itself. The door slammed shut behind him. A bright light flashed and a body
dropped. The pale faced old man from the canteen retrieved the body and
carried it off down to the meat locker. The machine roared and fired up yet
again, Danvers gave a crooked and blackened smile to the machine. They
seemed to understand each other. Trucks of toys were shipped out all over
the world and a month later an advert appeared for a machine operator.
By Richard Brown
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