by J. Thayne
I walked for a long time. A long, long time. Down the checkered path.
|((Author's note: Based on a vivid dream.))
The Checkered Path and the Machine Dream
Today I saw a thing. I think it was a man...or maybe not. His face was green, and flat. His body was box-shaped. He was talking to some woman on the radio. She called herself a fashionist. I don't know what that means, exactly. I saw him as I was leaving, and waved goodbye.
I followed the checkered path in the sand and fog. The white and black checkered path. Only the white squares had faces. The black ones were blank.
My dog followed me. Not a real dog. It was metal, too. Like the box-man. Black and silver. I had named him Ennui. I don't know why he followed me, but he always had. As far back as I can remember.
I walked for a long time. A long...long time. There was this thing I could do when I got bored of walking for awhile. I kept this bracelet on my wrist. Something I'd found years ago in an old building. If I touched the buttons just so, it would show me something. I think it was history. It showed a town that wasn't mine. It showed the machines as they rolled down the street, in the last moments. Everything they touched fell apart. Buildings, vehicles...people. That was the time before. Now the machines took care of us. They hid during the day, and the night. But they left us things. Food, water...clothes. What we needed.
I walked longer still, on the black and white checkered path. On either side was fog. Fog. Capital Fog. There was no reason to go to the right or the left. Just forward. Or backward, I suppose...but I'd already seen that. Ennui followed me.
Finally I came to a place. A place I hadn't seen, with hills. My town didn't have hills, but this one did. An old man, and his old friends, rolled around on them, between the buildings. They did it with funny-looking shoes with wheels on them. He said they were called roller-skates. I thought they looked pretty fun, and asked him if he had any more. He said this was all the caretakers had given them. I don't know why he called the machines that word.
I asked him what was further along the checkered path. He said he didn't know, so after getting more water and food, I kept walking.
I walked for a long time. Not as long as the first time. I saw a giant building. Black, with black pillars, and black smoke coming from them. The checkered path went into this building, so I went in too. When the path stopped, so did I, and looked down. For the first time I could remember, I was afraid. Not scared. I was terrified.
Below me, in rows upon rows upon rows, the machines sat. Alive. Many times many times my fingers. I had no idea. We thought there weren't many left. We were wrong.
I left quickly. Going backwards on the checkered path. Back to the town with the old man and his old friends, rolling, rolling around. This time I went up one of the hills, and I looked down upon the town. As I did, I saw them in the distance. Not the old man and his old friends. The machines. They rolled into town. Down the checkered path. Everything they touched fell apart. Buildings, vehicles...the old man and his old friends.
Ennui made a sound, and I turned to look. A lone machine was rolling up the hill. My hill. I turned and walked away. I slid down the far side of a sand dune and lay down. Hoping the machine wouldn't see me. I heard it stop on the other side, making noises. I was afraid again. Afraid it would touch me and I would fall apart. Bright sparks flew over the top of the sand dune. They flew, and sizzled. Flew, and sizzled. Ennui stood over me, protecting me with his shiny black body. The sparks didn't hurt him, but they still kept flying.
I laid there for a long time. A long, long time. I started to worry I would die of thirst. Or heatstroke. But they finally stopped. I didn't hear anything, so I walked back over the dune. The machine was dead. It had killed itself. Murdered itself. Suicide. I knew people did that sometimes, but not machines. I looked at it for awhile, thinking. Then I started walking. But not along the checkered path.
I walked in the sand for a long time, before I saw another building. I went inside, to get out of the sun. There was a radio there. I heard voices. The box-man and the fashionist. They were still talking.
I heard him ask if she believed in love. She said a fashionist's job was to sell you the image of love. The box-man said, "Let's meet." The fashionist said, "Okay."