The insistent beeping echoed through the hallow halls, abandoned by people to the fate of time. It blared for a week, an obnoxious metronome perfectly synchronized with a tiny flashing red light, warning the empty building that there was a malfunction in the system.
(more) The copier wanted the world to know of its troubles. Problem was, all the world was far away from the office. The sirens sounded, screeching louder than the copier could hope to reach, and told everyone to evacuate. Their coffee mugs filled with mold while dust accumulated each day. Eventually things would rot and sag, the roof would cave and the walls fill with rain water.
The copier would be long gone by then, the power would fail before the building did. Each day its calls for help faded little by little, the dying cry of a broken machine losing hope. (less)
The guy on the side of the road had on a black knit cap and smiled against the onslaught of the cold, flurry-laden wind. His leather jacket looked like meager protection, so when he held out his thumb, I took pity on him and stopped to give him a ride. He(more) put his green nylon bag in the back seat and asked me if I was going to Duluth, but said that any distance I could take him would be fine. I'd be driving through Duluth and told him so, which brought a smile to his weather chapped face. He said that his name was Nate and that he was mighty grateful for me picking him up, since no one picks up hitchhikers like they used to. Too many crazies.
I laughed a little. Of course, I joked, we could both be crazy. That got Nate laughing, too, and I thought how funny it would be if, at that very moment, I swung the hatchet I kept under my seat hard into the side of his lean, whisker-specked throat. Sluck!
My brain manufactures horrible little vignettes like this a hundred times a day, most of which I can ignore. But the broken machine keeps making its defective mental pictures anyway. Going on a long drive helps clear the mind some, and I can always take a pill if things threaten to escalate, but the hatchet stays under the seat all the same. It's prescence there is comforting, like a fire axe mounted on the wall: In case of emergency, break glass(less)
Afterwards, she goes down to the garage.
Outside, the skies pour and thunder and storm, maybe for her she thinks, as she makes her way down the steps, a flashlight in one hand, her toolbox in the other. She holds her face in a tight scowl, holding her breath(more) and her tears as she races down the steps. Her foot slips on the last step, and she catches herself with a heavy hand on the stair railing, dropping the toolbox and letting it spill all over the concrete floor. They fall with a clang, and she curses under her breath. She rests the flashlight on the ground, then scoops up the screws and hammers and throws them back into her box.
When she rises again, she gropes at the wall and switches on the lights. They click on and reveal the rows of machines, all rusty and rejected and broken down. She fixes her eyes on one, her latest project: a large copper figure supported on two legs, a steering wheel set with an array of buttons. On the underbelly, various cut and open wires stick out threateningly like snakes. She hasn't gone down to see the hunk of junk in ages--since her father's sacrifice, since she started dating her last spring.
And she peers into it and sees herself in the dusty reflection, at her red face and runny makeup and tears that were shed already. Now her father's gone, and she's broken up. Maybe she and this machine have more in common than she thought: they're both broken inside. How depressing.(less)