Christopher Benkley was a thirty-seven year old self-proclaimed mad scientist, but the townsfolk of Craslow, on the east coast of California, thought he was just anti-social.
In his spare time at the Craslow University he had poured over books in the library and at the end of his six-year studies, had read and absorbed a total of one-thousand-and-twenty-three novels, text and reference books.
Now, years later, he had finally created it. A machine, Christopher proclaimed, able to reduce stress in the user.
'But,' he said, 'It does work! I've tried it myself!'
Finally, he managed to convince the town-folk to meet him outside the Craslow University where he had completed his PH.D in Physics, Biology, Psychology and Mechanical Engineering. That's what he said anyway.
On that night, in 2011, he stood in the white-laboratory uniform he had bought for this specific occasion at 8:30 PM EST time on July 21, his arms out side, his lightly wrinkled skin taut into a broad grin, his blond hair with a few choice gray hairs flattened (with little success) upon his forehead. He would fit well in a science-fiction convention, his bulging eyes bloodshot as if he had not slept for many nights.
The crowd gathered and a few cameras buzzed into life, audio recorders held towards him.
He stood at the top of the cream-cement steps which had eroded and crumbled away, a large shape the size of a telephone box propped next to him, covered in a white sheet with dull coffee-stains which looked as if he had tried to bleach it away, but it hadn't worked properly.
'Towns people of Craslow, California!' Christopher boomed and the crowd silenced. 'I have brought you all here today – this evening – this night! To show you – to introduce to you my marvelous invention –' his hand grasped the stained fabric and his eyes glinted towards his audience, 'The VH-Box!'
He whipped off the fabric and cameras flashed, the blanket fluttering to the steps. Christopher Benkley smirked and his face shone with triumph.
'The VH-Box,' he repeated 'Vibration-Healing Box to be precise!'
It was a box. In fact, its exterior looked like an old English telephone box, the red painted over, quite clumsily, with dark and fluoro green paint. On the top of the box was a large metal chamber with blinking lights and buttons and levers. It had been made as an extension of the telephone box.
It was impossible to see into the telephone box. It was pitch-black.
'What's that?' a lady screeched suddenly, pointing to the metal extension.
'This,' Christopher motioned upwards, 'is the control box where you control everything from power, vibration frequency, number of functioning poles-'
'So what does it do? What's Vibration-Healing?'
'As the name suggests,' Christopher explained, ignoring the interruption, 'it uses vibrations and sound frequencies to relieve stress of the user.'
There was a collective murmuring of approval.
'So,' exclaimed a man, holding a camera and jumping up the steps next to the machine. 'How does it work?'
'Well,' Christopher began, 'first I'll need to turn on its power,' he pulled a remote out of his pocket and pressed the red button.
'But that's a television remote!' somebody shouted and Christopher gave the audience a toothy grin and held out the remote for all to see. It did look like an ordinary television remote, only a few buttons had been painted over in white and written over in pen. There were also extra attachments to the remote; at the base, making it longer, and a lever stuck into the side (with a hold switch).
As soon as he pressed the red-button the lights on the green telephone box flickered to life, then the self-proclaimed mad scientist pushed another button on the remote and there was a collective, 'ooooh!'
The lights inside the machine flickered to life and it hummed cheerfully.
The telephone had been removed and on along the walls was a black sound-proofing material except the front wall facing them.
'I have temporarily removed the font sound-proofing for your viewing enjoyment,' said the scientist. 'Now.' He pointed to the side walls. The back and sides were around twelve to fourteen different sized metal poles fastened horizontally roughly a few inches off the sound wall, the thinnest at the top and the widest at the bottom. 'my research – and those of many others, show that certain sound frequencies can help silence the mind – this, I feel, is a large step towards removing stress as the user, upon hearing a particular frequency, will receive a peaceful silence of mind,' he beams and points to both the remote and the control box, showing the level on the side of the remote, 'This controls volume! One must start from the lowest volume, and then move up until one reaches the desired volume-limit.'
There was a murmuring and Christopher rose and eyebrow.
'Is something the matter?'
'Yes,' a lady spoke up. 'What if you get the wrong volume?'
Christopher bit his lip, 'At the very least, they'll get a mild headache.'
'And the worst?' asked the camera man next to him.
'A migrane,' Christopher murmured, 'Or possible death – how ever!' he ignored the sudden uproar from the crowd, 'The user will normally give mention to the correct volume before hand,' he waved away at the crowd as if to remove the disturbance, 'Anyway – that's the sound volume, and you can fix the frequency and the particular or multiple poles you use will vibrate once you choose the pitch, ' he points to the poles and how they change width, then he motions to the chair in the middle 'Now, this,' the crowd goes silent again, 'chair,' it was a dark-brown leather sofa, sitting in the middle of the box. 'This is a vibrating chair.'
There was a load groan from the audience.
'Those were made over five years ago!' yelled a teenage boy who sounded like he'd been drinking.
'Yes, yes,' muttered Christopher, his eyebrows furrowing, and a hand running over his hair, 'But this chair is different! It vibrates to relax to the physical muscles – and!'
He flung open the door and the door slammed shut as Christopher sat in the chair and started talking. Nobody could hear him, only his wild motions and mouth moving. It was an awkward silence outside the box and car passed and honked at the crowd. The drunk teenager threw their empty beer bottle at them and it crashed and shattered on the pavement.
The scientists lifted up the chair arm – it had been severed in half and a number of electrical pads were pulled out and placed on his arms, and chest, and neck. Then, from on the left he picked a metal band which fastened around his forehead, a wire leading into the left arm-rest. He motioned to a few buttons on the left arm rest and those on the right, and then he pulled the pads off his body and then sat back to rest in the chair. He let himself out.
'So the electrodes help calm and monitor your heart rate and brain-waves. If there's a problem the main control will alert you of that with an alarm bell located at the top of the control panel,' Christopher nodded, brushing off his hands. 'Any questions? Oh, and don't ask about the remote- if it breaks you can buy a small ladder and use that to access the control at the top of the VH-Box.'
He stared expectantly and eagerly at the crowd.
'Does it work?' somebody asked.
Christopher growled at the audience, 'Who asked that? Of course it works or I wouldn't be showing it! I wouldn't spend the last ten years of my life making something that wouldn't work for Christ sakes! I've tested it myself!'
There was a pause.
'Can you show us?'
'Yes, yes,' he sighed, exasperatingly, 'Yes, yes. Does anybody want to go in?'
'Why don't you?' yelled a voice.
'Because!' he yelled in faint irritation, 'you won't believe it works if I do it. It'd be an incredibly bias and selfish practise!'
'I'll do it,' said a voice from Christopher's left.
It was the camera-man. He hauled the camera into Christopher's arms and scratched the back of his neck before waving at the crowd. He could have been no more than twenty-five years old. His camera and shirt had MTV printed on it in bold red letters.
'Film me, won't you?' he said.
'Wait! Wait!' Christopher exclaimed, readjusting the hold on the camera and positioning it over his shoulder. 'What's your name, kiddo?'
The man patted his hair down and his forehead knitted. 'It's Max.'
'Nice to meet you, Max. Now, in you go,' he held open the door to the green box and Max clambered inside, sinking into the chair and smiling.
'This is pretty comfortable.'
'Yes,' said Christopher gruffly, trying to hold the camera up as he motioned around the tiny box. 'You remember what I did? The electrode pads? The helmet? Put them on and then we'll start figuring out a volume and frequency for you, okay? Cool!'
He slammed the door shut and gave Max a thumb up, fumbling in his pockets for the remote. Finding it, he waited until Max had the pads positioned on his chest and neck, the helmet around his head. Then Christopher pressed a few buttons and Max looked startled for a moment.
'I'm going to turn on the sound!' Christopher yelled. 'You can adjust the vibration frequency on the board on your right.'
Max nodded and sat back in his seat. With a few whirring and beeping noises the VH-Box buzzed to action and a high-pitched ringing could be heard through the doors as the thinnest pole vibrated high above their heads. The crowd waited patiently and eagerly. Then Christopher tried to move the volume lever, but it was stuck.
His eyes widened in fear and he tried with all his might to move the volume lever, to budge the metal. He pressed a few button in vain. But it was stuck.
The ringing was now excruciatingly loud and he could hear Max's muffled yelling from inside the machine. The crowd got louder and a few people screamed in horror, pointing inside the VH-Box. Christopher jumped and tried to change the volume or even the pitch on the control above the telephone box but he couldn't reach. He even tried opening the door but when he did, there was a loud bang and a small explosion. Smoke shot from the machine and engulfed the scientist in toxic fumes. As he waved the smoke away, coughing and spluttering, the humming from the VH-Box stopped abruptly and there was a buzz and whir as the machine shut down, the lights shutting off.
The sudden quiet was uneasy and it was broken by a scream from the crowd.
Christopher Benkley dropped the camera to the ground as the smoke cleared and he forced open the door, the street lights lighting the inside.
The silence deepened and shuddered as Christopher took Max's pulse.
From inside the tiny space and little light, Christopher could see that Max's eyes were shut and blood dribbled out of his nose. He gulped and pulled his head out of the box. The crowd exploded.
'He's dead, isn't he?'
And before the audience could rush forehead and attack, he spoke again and silence fell for the final time, Christopher's eyes bulging out of his sockets in great fear.
A/N: I love that last line... Anyway! If nobody's noticed already, the character Christopher Benkley is named after Christopher Lloyd's character Doc Brown from Back To The Future. That's where inspiration for the character Benkley came from, and it's also why his name is Christopher. I wrote a sequel for this which I'll put up as its second chapter, because it's a continuation of this story, but it's not absolutely necessary to read.