Sunday, February 15, 2009

another 'nuther 'nuther piece...

this is from a chapter without a name, really. the title of the document is 'busy machines,' and so that might end up being what it is called. happy sunday!

The machines were busy today. The candidate smiled, watching them from his window, way up high, high in the hotel. They scrambled around on the plaza outside, on the ground. On the ground, they were, and far away from him. They were mindless creatures, intent on their own busy business, on their hopeless tasks. They were far, far below him. He could barely see them, but he liked watching anyway. He watched as they erected colorful tents and hung banners that flapped proudly in the breeze. Others built tiny rows of benches that rose up one past the other, forming a sort of bowl. These faced yet another group of tiny machines that constructed a platform hung with posters and banners and all manner of flapping paper and cloth festooned with red, white and blue. Some of them hung pictures of a man looking proudly off into the middle distance.

The man in the pictures was the candidate, though in his current condition he wouldn’t have been able to recognize himself, even if he had been closer.

He wasn’t sure what they were doing down there, but the little machines made him smile nonetheless. They were so earnest and sweet and full of energetic comings and goings. He wanted so badly to help them, to raise them up, to make them see. Such busy little machines. Such hopeful, blind creatures. When he remembered the many times he had seen them up close, their smiling moon faces and blank adoration, all blending into one mass of machine-crowd--waving their little festive flags, hooting and howling, calling out to him--it made him feel warm inside, protective. The happy machine-crowds were almost enough to make him forget the other ones, the bad machines. For there were also hateful, cold machines that used to hurt him--and maybe still did sometimes. He suspected, but he couldn’t remember. He started to think other thoughts about those ones, the bad ones. Darker, less forgiving thoughts…

Then…soon, as it always did, a warm, gauzy veil descended between his mind and what he had been thinking about. A comforting peace oozed through him as though he had honey for blood. He was elsewhere. And nowhere at the same time. He idly watched the cruel summer light sparkling off the fat river below. He had no idea how blistering hot the sun was; to him it just looked pretty, hypnotizing. That was out there, and he was in here, where it was cool and comfortable.

And so that was what he knew.

He liked watching the big boats grind their slow way down the shimmering, deep-green water, like plump insects plodding along on legs too tiny to be seen beneath their bulk. They were machines too, the boats, good machines, solid machines that went out and did what they were supposed to do. They were lumbering, optimistic machines, straightforward as a golden retriever. They didn’t doubt or question or scheme, they didn’t say one thing and then do another. They simply trudged along their way, downriver or up, and dropped off their load and picked up another one, before heading off to do the same thing again. They didn’t smile to your face and then turn around and whisper secret orders and false stories behind you. You never had to worry about them stabbing you in the back. Those boats…

And then, that thought also slipped easily, too easily down the sinkhole of the candidate’s mind. He felt a fleeting moment of loss, a sadness at something missed, something stolen, and for a moment he felt a red blossoming, a hot feeling like his head was in a molten vise--but then it too dissipated, and was gone. He smiled and blinked wide-eyed at the spectacle outside his window, at the busy, busy world of machines that trundled past on the tiny river and the sidewalks next to it, far below.

The candidate stood naked on the burgundy carpet of the hotel room looking out over the edge of the city. He scratched himself absently and squished the carpet between his toes, heedless of his nudity, as unashamed as an infant. It just didn’t matter to him one way or the other. He had been standing there for two hours or more. Soon the machines would come to prepare him, and he would wear clothes. And that would be fine, too. Neither state mattered to him one bit. He smiled the smile of an idiot or madman, but he was neither, not really.

Not really, and not quite.

He was a tall, solid man of fifty-some years, the small paunch at his middle and tracery of salt among the dark pepper of his neat hair the only indications he had reached middle age. His upper arms and thighs showed cords of muscle yet, betraying the football player he had been in college, despite a life since that had been too soft. The skin of his fine-boned face was mostly smooth, punctuated with piercing, bright blue eyes that were for the moment devoid of anything more complicated than a simple delight at the images that danced on the plaza below him. He had an aquiline jaw and cheekbone structure, the sharp chin of WASP genes--just delicate enough to be almost pretty, just hard enough to still be firmly masculine.

It was the kind of face that middle-aged women in dying marriages found irresistible.

Just now, his face was completely free of worry, smooth as a shark’s skin, simple as blood.

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