The Machine

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Blood Like Water

"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day."

-the Joker

Last week, Max didn’t know anything about machines whirring in people’s brains. Max was just a regular child in a regular city. He could be happy, sad, afraid, excited, just like you or me. Last week, he was very afraid.

You see, Max had been cursed with an uncle. That’s not to say that all uncles are curses; this uncle was a twisted man. Max saw him most often when he was at his grandparent’s home. It was rather often, since both his parents worked during the day. And on that day, his grandparents decided to leave his uncle to babysit for a quick hour.

His grandfather was a nice old man with a curled moustache. Every afternoon, he would take a drive to the toy shop just to keep it running. He was fully capable of retiring, but he didn’t want to retire the shop. He said that he didn’t trust anyone else to run the shop. Not yet, at least.

However, today he decided to close the shop for a small while and take Max’s grandmother out to dinner. He told Max to obey and listen to his uncle before he drove out the door.

But they didn’t know.

Oh, they didn’t know what their son was. How he had kept it from them, Max didn’t know. But Max did know the things that his uncle did to him when no one else saw. He would always remember being afraid.

His uncle watched his grandparents drive out the driveway. As they turned around, his uncle grinned his demonic smile. He reached for Max’s pants and began to slip them off.

Max had stopped fighting by this point. He had fought his uncle the first few times, but his uncle was bigger than he was. All he did to retaliate was cry.

“Don’t cry, stupid,” his uncle said, “I hate when kids cry.”

But Max cried anyway.

“Remember what Grampa said,” his uncle said, “obey me. Stop crying.”

Max didn’t listen to his Grampa this time.

“Oh, what the heck.” His uncle continued his demonic little work in spite of Max’s tears.

But he hadn’t planned for his Gramma to forget her purse.

Max saw the car pull up, but his uncle wasn’t paying attention. He tried to be as loud as he could so that his uncle wouldn’t hear the engine.

“Good,” his uncle said with a laugh, “I like that.”

The door opened to the bedroom. His Grampa stood there. “I don’t.”

His uncle shot from his spot on top of Max. Max ran to his Grampa and hugged him, not even caring that he wasn’t clothed.

“Help me, sir!” he screamed.

“It’s not what it looks like!” his uncle lied.

Max’s grandfather walked angrily toward his uncle. “My own son?! You were there with me every day. Every day!”

His uncle suddenly became more alert and ran into the corner. “No, papa, no!”

“You know what I have to do.” He grabbed Max’s uncle by the collar as he struggled. But Max’s grandfather was far stronger than his uncle was. He dragged him along towards the car as his uncle screamed like a banshee. He smashed his head into the side of the car and tossed him into the trunk.

“Harry,” his grandmother screamed, “he’s our child!” She ran to the trunk and attempted to open it.

He pushed her away. “I know,” his grandfather replied. “But I can’t let him keep doing this! Do you see your grandson? He’s hurting your grandson, and he’s not even sorry. You know he’s not!”

Max saw his father’s eyes well up. It was odd. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He turned to Max. “Come with me. You need to see something.”

He watched his grandmother crying on the steps as they drove off.

Max’s uncle awoke surrounded by walls. He was groggy at first, but suddenly realized where he was.

“Father!” he shouted. He crawled over to the edge of the room. “Please let me out. Please let me go.”

Max’s grandfather shook his head. “You know I can’t do that. You can’t hurt Max again.”

“I’m your child! I’m your boy!”

“Funny, your mother said something similar.” Grampa grabbed a lever and flung it down. “You’d better start looking for an off switch, Jack.”

“There is no switch!” his uncle shrieked. “It’s glass!” He crawled around in a crazed fury as the walls closed in on him. “Let me out! Let me out!”

“Are you sure?” His phrased his words as though he had spoken these lines many times. “Today could be your lucky day.” He took a seat.

Max watched as his uncle crawled around the ever-decreasing space, spitting forth the foulest

“Sir,” Max said, “Let him out.”

“I can’t.” He put his head in his hands. “No matter how close they are, I can’t.”

“I’m sorry!” Max’s uncle screamed. “I’ll never do it again, I promise!”

Max flailed his arms. “See? He won’t. He’s scared, sir! Please!”

“Using the word ‘never’ is a near-surety that a statement isn’t true.” He got up off the chair. “But…” He walked up to the lever and pulled it back. “You say you’re sorry?”

“Yes, sir! Never again!” he said in not much more than a whimper. “I can get fixed, I promise you I can. You know me, Dad. Please.”

“I do.” Grampa nodded. He smiled at his son just before he flung the lever back. The walls began to close again. “Get fixed in Hell.”

“No!” His uncle Jack began to scream hysterically. “No!” He turned his face to Max and unleashed the filthiest words he could muster, giving very intensive description as to how he would have molested him if Grampa had just let him go. He blew one last curse as his skull was crushed between the walls.

Max watched as something began running through the glass tube that ran along the room. Gears whirred about in random places, and steam puffed through vents. Blue and pink lights shone in a few spots. It looked absolutely magical.

“He wasn’t telling the truth, you know,” Grampa said.

“Yes, sir.” He walked over to a box at the end of the chute and watched as little dolls plopped inside, filling up the box with tiny little dolls. They looked like very masculine dolls. Ironic, he thought.

“Nobody ever is.” Red liquid flowed through another tube and down into a drain in the ground. “They just say they’ll change. I tried it with the first one. He didn’t change.”

“Yes, sir.” He turned to his grandfather. “Sir?” he asked.

“Yes, Max?”

“Can I… can I help you? I don’t want anyone to get hurt like me.”

Grampa chuckled. “Well, I could always use a little help in this place. It’s hard to run sometimes. Not always a lot of materials to use.”

The two shook hands.

Grampa smiled. “Welcome to the family business, Max.”

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