The Machine

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Maniacal Laughter

"The monster was the best friend I ever had."

-Boris Karloff

Anyway, that all happened last week. This week was going by well so far. His parents were confused as to why he was so eager to see his grandparents so constantly. They didn’t mind too much, it seemed.

Max and Grampa made a good team, it seemed. Max had decided to do a bit of a game of hide and seek to catch the pedophiles. He would walk into their vicinity, gain their attention, and bring them over to the machine. Grampa wasn’t a big fan of it, but it worked well, so he let Max do it as long as he was being supervised. And he would be very closely supervised.

But they didn’t get many materials this week. Max would later come to hear that his introduction to the team made nearly 200% more inventory in the shop, and as it turned out, pedophiles were not that common in this city. The ones in this city stayed close to the park. Thankfully it wasn’t too far from the shop. Supply and demand was becoming more and more of an issue. Little boys wanted action figures. But there were now fewer little boy chasers to become action figures.

A short while later, Grampa decided to join Max on a run to find more materials. Perhaps they could not find pedophiles, but there were other criminals that needed punishment. There were many others, according to Grampa.

They walked up and down the alleyways of the town. Eventually they heard a noise from deep in the darkness of one of the alleys. They sat and listened closely.

“Come on, you know you want to do it.”

“I don’t want anything! Get away from me!”

“Playin’ hard to get, are we? I can take that.”

“Leave me alone! I’ll…”

They heard a muffled scream before she could finish her sentence.

“You’ll what?”

Grampa rushed around the corner, clutching hard the metal pipe in his hand. He rushed toward the fiend, landing a very accurate hit towards his shoulder. The man howled in pain as Grampa whacked him again. And again. And again. Eventually the man lost consciousness and the lady ran away as fast as she could.

As they drove his unconscious body back to the machine, Grampa sighed.

“It’s tough dealings here, Max. We’ve got a big job if we’re going to keep this machine going.”

“Sir, why aren’t the police getting them?”

“They aren’t as thorough as we are. They’re not bad people,” he clarified, “they just aren’t as thorough. See, in a jail, they can get out. Someone busts them out and they just do it again. We’re making sure that doesn’t happen. Bad people, somebody’s got to do something about them. We’ve got to do something real, you know? The police, they do it because it’s their job. We do it because we should. And because the machine asks us to.”

The hair raised on Max’s arms. He hadn’t heard his Grampa talk like that before. “It talks to you, sir?”

“It’s talked to everyone who works for it. It’s magical. Really. When one worker dies, another one takes its place and the machine talks to them, too. It’s a family business - a cycle, really. We’ve had it for about a hundred years. You can’t break the cycle, and we don’t need to.”

“No, sir?”

“If there’s a bad person in the world, the machine is there. And there’re lots of bad people.”

“So why do we kill… rapists… sir?”

“They’re the easiest to find. I mean, if we find a murderer, we can remove them, too. We just haven’t found one.”

“Yes, sir.”

The man woke up. He felt cold, and there was metal all around him. He looked for some kind of light. He remembered that he was trying to convince that girl to have sex with him. Really, she was asking for it, being so pretty and all. And that dress… it was just too much. It was like she was walking with a giant neon “FREE SEX” sign. And then she played hard to get, and that was just too much. He had to have her. And then there was a big old angry man. Maybe he was her grandfather or something. But he would have understood if he had just seen what she was dressed like. If that old geezer were younger, he would know. He should have remembered what it felt like. It wasn’t his fault.

It was hormones.

Just hormones.

It wasn’t his fault.

He suddenly saw a light flicker in front of him. He was in a giant metal box, and there was an opening in one of the walls. He groaned. He went to walk out of it, and saw the old man there. He crawled back to the edge of the box.

What was this? Where was he?

The old man walked up to the opening and smiled. “Welcome.”

“Awright, where am I, ya old fart? I got some business to get to.”

“Bodies aren’t toys,” a younger voice said. “You can’t force them to play.”

Behind the old man was a little boy. He was grinning sardonically. The old man looked to the boy, and the boy stopped smiling. As the grandfather turned back, the boy grinned again.

“Aw, buddy,” he told the boy, “She wanted me to play. Girls don’t know what they want sometimes, ya know what I mean? I was just doing what she really wanted. Don’t ‘cha get it?”

“Didn’t look that way to us,” the old man said.

What did he know? He was one old and ugly bugger anyway.

The old man nodded to the boy, who then pulled a lever.

The walls began to move.

He rushed around to try to find an exit, but the walls came crushing in. He scurried as fast as he could, looking to see if there was a way to stop them.

He looked at the boy. The boy looked at him.

“Please let me out,” he said, “I get it. Don’t screw with the ladies if they don’t want to. Ok? Please let me out.”

The boy stared.

The walls came closer.

“Let me out!”

The boy stared, and the walls closed in. He didn’t respond.

The man started to cry. “Please! I’ll do anything.”

“Max,” the old man said in a questioning tone. Was that the boy’s name? Max?

“Max,” he said, “listen to your old guy. Let me out of here!”

“Max!” the old man repeated.

The boy’s grin widened.

He could feel the heat of his own breath.

The walls came closer and closer.

He could feel the stress on his bones.

“MAX!” the old man yelled.

He tried to breathe slowly, but he couldn’t. He was running out of breath but he was too scared to stop.

The walls moved downward as he howled in pain.

His shoulder snapped.

Then his leg shattered under him. He screamed.

The lever stopped. He was in excruciating pain. He felt like every part of his body was broken, yet he wasn’t dead. Why wasn’t he dead?

He heard the boy chuckle, then laugh. The boy laughed with a high-pitched squeal.

“How’s it feel, huh?” the boy yelled. “How’s it feel? Is that fun? Is that funny? It’s funny to me!”

“Let me die!” he screamed.

“No! It’s so funny!” The boy howled with laughter.

“What are you doing?” the old man asked. He heard the lever swoosh again and he screamed again as his face was crushed between cement walls.

“You didn’t say the words!” Grampa said in a voice so low it almost sounded like a growl. “You didn’t tell him about the lever!”

Max turned to his grandfather, a freakish grin on his face. “There is no lever!”

“There is no lever, sir. And there IS a lever!” Toys rushed down the chute. “I don’t lie to them! It’s just hard to find.”

“Ok, sir.”

Max came towards the box and looked inside. The toys looked different this time. It was a lady doll this time. It was wearing a short skirt.

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