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| The Machine
A Short Story by Alexander Tomov Junior
Somewhere in the future…
Endless queue of people winds before a monstrous metal machine with a strange form. It is many meters high. There is a long ladder in the middle and each person climbs it alone and goes through a small door. It closes behind them. After one minute exactly, the person in question goes out from the other side of the machine.
The queue is so long that people have to wait for days or months. Huge sacks of provisions lie beside them. By the thousands of waiting people trucks pass which supply them with water.
A small group of people full of hope is drawing closer. There is only one kilometer left.
“Excuse me, what exactly is this machine?” asks one.
“I can’t believe you don’t know! You must be the only person here who doesn’t know,” the one before him is amazed.
“I often lose my memory. That is why I don’t remember.”
“This is the sin purification machine! The greatest discovery of civilization. You don’t remember, and you are still allowed to wait here?”
“Of course. I suffer from amnesia only recently,” produces a document the other.
“Has the commission proved beyond doubt that you have committed a heavy crime?”
“What did you do?”
“I killed my wife. And you?”
“I raped and beheaded two children. The one before me in the queue blew up two hotels. And the one over there… don’t ask about him. And it doesn’t matter any more.”
“What is in the machine?”
“There are only rumors. What is known with certainty is that people walk separately into a small empty room. It’s pitch dark inside. The person stays there for 60 seconds exactly and then goes out from the other side with a completely purified soul. There is a warrant by the producer, whoever he is, that the purified person won’t do any, even the smallest crime as long as he lives, and will be integrated adequately in the social order.”
“Do you believe in this?”
“It’s a fact, sir. We live in a unique time. There was never such a humane state system in human history before. Just think about it. All of us are cruel criminals. We all deserve the death penalty. But a genius invents the purification machine instead. In just one minute it turns us into angels with crystal soils.”
“What can this give us, in your opinion?”
“What do you mean, what? Just think where our crimes come from! From our crippled personalities and the pain we can’t overcome. Rage, aggression, a sense of guilt, and the ghosts of the ones we have liquidated. We are wanted by the police and run like animals. This is a nightmare of a life. But it is all past now. If one goes through the machine one forgets about that nightmare. I have seen purified people. Sometimes they pass by the queue, in big buses. They all smile and shine with happiness. People say that after the purification you discover unexpected abilities in yourself. You feel extremely happy when you do good things. And you get rich and fall in love with a woman. That is paradise. This is why everybody stands in the queue voluntarily. No one forces them to pass through the machine. It’s full of criminals here that haven’t been caught. In fact, I personally don’t know a murderer being still on the run instead of standing in the queue! The machine is more that a fashion, my friend. It is a religion!” the explaining man gets exalted.
“But how is it possible? If you have tortured and killed twenty people, for example! What happens in this room in these sixty seconds, so that you can go out as clean as a whistle? This seems incredible to me.”
“No one knows for sure. They say the ones who go out don’t remember what has happened inside. They remember only the moments of entering and leaving. Some insist that during this minute you feel all the pain you have inflicted on your victims. Cruel and intense. Others say you are injected a narcotic which destroys the crime centers in your brain. And some swear they have seen Christ, who carries his divine suffering on the cross onto them. But these are all fantasies. Since no one remembers this minute, no one knows what happens, except for the people who have invented the machine.”
“Who is Christ?” a voice from the queue was heard.
“Some sort of a sectarian,” another cried.
“You, ignorant people. Christ is the image of a thousand-year-old religion,” said the one who was explaining.
“Who cares,” said a sinisterly looking man with glassy eyes. And continued: “There is something wrong with this machine. Something illegal, I am telling you. You all wait like calves, like children in blind hope, but my intuition tells me that nothing is what it seems.”
“And what is it, in your opinion?” asked someone.
“You all know about the monster from the capital. The one who was blowing up kindergartens. He and I are close friends. Or, to be more precise, were. He passed through the machine recently. I recognized him the other day, in one of the buses passing by the queue. Our eyes met and it was as if he didn’t recognize me. And we have grown up together. There was something very different about him. As if it was him and, at the same time, not him.”
“Don’t listen to him. He is a maniac. He imagines things. The sin purification machine is an invention of a genius,” the explaining one turned to the one with the amnesia.
Another man was climbing up the ladder. He walked through the door. It closed. The room was one by one meter. Inside – pitch dark.
“Good day,” the metal voice said. “You are already purified of all sins!”
“How is that?” asked the criminal.
“The very faith that such machine is possible and the long waiting in the queue purified you entirely. You are an angel! Congratulations. This is not a machine for sin purification. This is a trap of death. Farewell,” said the voice and the metal blades cut the man into pieces. The floor opened and the remains of his body fell into a huge basement for dead bodies.
On the other side of the machine a different person emerged, who slightly resembled of him, and waved at the kilometers long queue.
It really was a death trap! And all the rest: a cruel fraud.
The machine, which was invented when criminals became so many that it was impossible to catch and punish them all.
The faith in it was really purifying them. Each one of them, deep inside, without realizing it, knew what the machine was like…
Translated from the Bulgarian by Margarita Dogramadzhyan
, Short Story
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