|Machine of Death: This Christmas
Author: Glenn J. Reisher PM
A single drop of blood and you death is printed out on a slip of paper. They say it's infallible; every prediction is right, one way or another. Trevor never used a machine before, but is about to find out that knowing the future isn't always a good thingRated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Supernatural - Words: 2,215 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 03-22-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2901266
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"THIS CHRISTMAS," the tiny piece of paper read in those apathetic, type-writer-esque, black letters that had made it so famous. He re-read it to himself, looking for something he had possibly missed. A disclaimer, a rebuttal, anything possibly that could have explained it more. But there was nothing, and despite the similarity in stationary, there wasn't even a "Lucky Number" like a fortune cookie.
Trevor Adams was exactly Twenty-one years, six months, one week, twenty-seven hours, forty-five minutes, and twelve seconds old when he set foot in the machine of death for the first time in his life. For years he had felt as though it was something so trivial—like seeing "The Goonies," or flying on an airplane—and yet he only now had gotten around to using a machine. Minutes later, he immediately regretted it.
It was December fourteenth already. He stepped back into the shopping mall, as holiday shoppers going about their pitiful and futile lives searching for the latest hot toy or fashionable pair of boots, frantically ran around him like lambs to the inevitable slaughter. Trevor wondered if ANY of these people were still ignorant to how they were going to die.
Perhaps he was the last one.
"Wait," Trevor blurted aloud, looking back to his little fortune cookie prize. The machine was supposed to tell you HOW you would die. The last time he had checked, "This Christmas" was a definite date, not a cause. It's a time, not a method. Sure, "Christmas" would allude to something more ironic, such as a decorated pine impounding him into the ground, or even some festive lights electrocuting him—he was aware of the sick irony the machine was notorious of. But no, he had a date. Not a scene, not an exact time, not even a cause, but a date.
"Excuse me," Trevor spoke into his phone moments later, "I'm calling about one of your machines." After examining the machine closely, he had found a manufacturer phone number on the machine.
"Oh really," the man on the other side of the line rudely began, "What seems to be the problem with it?" The man's sneeringly sarcastic voice pierced Trevor's ear like an ice-pick. But he held his breath; the slip of paper didn't say "SARCASTIC TECH SUPPORT," after all.
"Yeah, the thing didn't give me a cause of death," Trevor realized the irony in his complaint, "it gave me a date..."
"So?" The man on the line sneered, "You wanted to know about your death, and you found out."
"Well, I wanted to know how—"
"Here's how I see it kid," the man on the line said, agitated, "people call me complaining about how they are going to die all the fuckin' time—they aren't happy with what their slip says, they want to know more, they want to know how to stop it, they want to know WHEN. You know when. You may not know how, but you know exactly how much time you have LEFT here, on this planet. How do you think I'm going to die?"
Trevor was about to guess "Murdered by a pissed off caller," but the man continued.
"High blood pressure," the man laughed, "This fuckin' job is gonna' kill me. People calling and complaining—I'm going to die because of all these damn calls. I'd give anything to know when so I could live it up, but I have no clue when. You're lucky kid. You won't see how, but you can see when it's coming." And with that, the line went dead. Trevor looked at his phone, holding it for a second, and then, with a scream, smashed it on the floor.
"Shit." He needed that. He quickly looked around, and in big, concrete letters above him read a cellphone ad. "Get yourself what you really want this Christmas." With a sigh, Trevor continued shopping. He added a new phone to his list.
Sleep was never easy. Too many thoughts kept him awake every night. Abandoned diplomas, forgotten dreams, broken promises, and lonely hearts, made every night a battle to close his eyes. He was alone in a small, shitty apartment over a pizza parlor and his misery got the best of him at the worst of times. Not only that, but now he knew he had less than eleven days to live. At least it was reasonable insomnia.
Also, the streetlight six-feet from his window didn't help at all.
Regardless, it was this night that Trevor began to reevaluate his life. Getting out a pad of paper, he began to write out everything that he wanted to get done before he died. Filling the page, he then began to cross off everything that was too complicated, ridiculous, or just not possible to do until after Christmas. As sleep took him away from this world, even if only for a few hours, he had narrowed his list to twelve things he wanted to do so that he could die feeling as though he had actually accomplished something in his life.
It didn't help his goal that he woke up at five o'clock pm the next day. Swearing and rushing out of his apartment, he shoved his list clumsily in his pocket.
Taking the 5:30 train downtown, Trevor quickly realized he had no idea how he would accomplish anything on the list. Everything was to do something charitable, help out his fellow man, save a life, but he didn't know how to do any of that. He had no idea where the soup kitchen was, and, quite frankly, the homeless scared him. As he reached into his pocket to put away the list, he felt the train come to a stop. Without warning, he felt a sharp pain on the back of his head, and hit the ground. As he fell, his wallet flew out of his pocket, and a hooded man grabbed it, running off.
"Are you okay?" a voice pierced the darkness, and Trevor's eyes shot open. A girl, no older than he was, was bent down beside him. He didn't remember losing consciousness, but he quickly remembered what happened, "I saw everything."
"Yeah," Trevor pulled himself to his feet just as the train started up again, knocking him to the floor, "Just... you know... lyin' around."
"Here, I'll get someone," the girl said as the train stopped. As she looked around, he looked at the piece of paper in his hand. Four lines down on the list were the words "go on a date."
"Wait. Forget it," Trevor said, pulling himself up, "I had no money anyway." Trevor looked at the girl. Long red hair, freckles, and pale blue eyes stared back at him, looking concerned.
"Are you sure?" her voice was like a chorus of angels, "I don't need to be anywhere until later tonight."
"How about a date?"
"What?" The girl looked at him confused, "You get mugged and then immediately ask the first girl you see out?"
"Well, I the next stop is mine... I can do something on Friday..."
Success! Trevor thought, excited. However, this became somewhat sour when he realized it was Tuesday now. He'll only have a week left by the time he sees her again. Taking a stab to his ego, he closed his eyes and said, "Friday sounds lovely."
"This Christmas," Trevor said aloud to himself. He had found out he would die in less than two weeks, ending with the day children around the world looked forward. It seemed as though everyone in the world seemed to want the day to come sooner except him. Two days left before everything disappeared. Ended.
Emily was her name. Number four on his list, and the only thing he had managed to accomplish in about eight days. She liked public transportation, and was obsessed, despite her more elegant appearance, with nerdy things like comic books and science fiction television. Needless to say, it was only near the end of his story that he found the person he wanted to spend the rest of it with. The irony of the machine, I guess. To end on a happy day, at the happiest point of his life.
She was going to come over that night, but something came up and she wouldn't be able to make it until the next night. "Well, we can spend Christmas Eve together," she had assured him, but it just made everything harder for him.
He couldn't sleep. He didn't want to. He wanted to spend every moment he had left alive, not asleep in whatever dream land he would end up in that night. He refused. Eleven tasks left. They weren't going to be accomplished. No tasks ever were. It's why he lived here. It's why he wasn't going to school anymore. It's why he refused to see his family.
It's why he was going to die on Christmas.
"At least you know when it's coming," Emily told him, "You're lucky you didn't get something weird and ambiguous. I got 'CAT-BOX ARGUMENT'."
"What the fuck is a 'cat-box argument?'" Trevor asked aloud, realizing how rude his reaction was. The oddity of her cause-of-death overwhelmed any surprise he had that she wasn't bothered by his demise the next day.
"How should I know? I've never had an argument over a cat-box in my life. I don't even have a cat," Emily laughed, "And it seems even better that you won't know HOW. You're not living in fear. You know exactly when it's going to happen."
"I thought you'd be mad about me, you know," he hesitated, "not telling you that I was about to die."
"Hey, it's the society we live in. I feel honored being the one you want to be with. I don't know, my ex left because he knew he would die and 'refused to put me through it.' I feel more loved knowing I want to be a part of your life than being excluded from your death."
It was morbid, but it made sense to Trevor. It eased him. He took his list from his pocket and looked it down. He crossed the fourth line off. He was about to put the list away when he saw something he crossed off on the same line on the page.
"Live past Christmas." He began to cry.
The day came. Trevor refused to leave his bed. He was safe there. Emily kept him warm and caressed him.
Acceptance. Nothingness. Emptiness. He breathed his last breath and disappeared.
"You're still breathing," Emily said to Trevor.
"No, I'm dead," He said.
"Trevor, wake up. It's the morning of the 26th. You're alive."
"No. The machine is infallible. I've passed," Trevor argued, his eyes closed.
"Well, I need to go home, babe," Emily laughed, "Please don't kill yourself when you realize you're still here."
The door closed and Trevor's eyes shot open. He WAS alive.
Rushing outside, ignoring the dirty clothes he was still wearing from the days before, he made his way through the city, to the mall. The people rushed to make After-Christmas sales in stores all over. He stared in amazement at the world around him, still there, still going, and yet, he shouldn't be. "It was wrong," he said aloud. He ran to the machine.
"It only had to be wrong once to know it's not infallible," someone once told him. He put in all the money he had salvaged from his apartment in, sat down, and inserted his finger. It stung for a moment and the machine began to hum. "THIS CHRISTMAS," the machine once again predicted.
Trevor ran out of the machine, spinning and laughing. "It was wrong!" he shouted. The crowds stopped and looked at him. "It said I'd die this Christmas, but it's not Christmas anymore! I made it! I win!" There was silence for a moment before a man began to clap. One clap turned to a thousand, and soon, everyone was cheering. Hearts began to ease, as suicides were lifted and cancers were cured, as Trevor looked to see the sign above him.
"Get yourself what you really want this Christmas," the cement letters on the banister read, and he smiled.
"Don't have to," he said, under his breath. As he looked up proudly, he heard an alarm above him and to his left go off.
"STOP! THEIF!" a security guard shouted, chasing a shoplifter out of a CD store. Trevor watched as the shoplifter threw a drink at the feet of the guard.
As though clockwork, the security guard crashed into the banister, shaking the text above Trevor. His jaw dropped, and the glass cracked shattering around the cement words "this Christmas."
Trevor closed his eyes and accepted fate as the words that had haunted him for the past eleven days came crashing down around him.