John was a rather pathetic man; he looked at his yogurty curves in his bathroom mirror with disdain, which quickly turned to indifference when he assured himself that no woman would be seeing his melted candle physique anytime soon. He splashed his face with cold water and once again turned his attention to the mirror, he watched the cool water roll off his pug like jowls and ran his puff pastry fingers through his oily unkempt hair. He took a deep breath, a long blink and reassured his flushed reflection.
“You can do this, you can do this, you can do this”.
You would assume by this intense manner of personal encouragement that John was about to undertake a task of unimaginable proportions and in a way you’d be correct, because today was shop day.
John had suffered with crippling anxiety for as long as he could remember. He remembers his parents shaking a plastic rattle in his face when he was a toddler and the resulting sound causing him to fill his seemingly ever filling nappy. He remembers walking nervously through a park as a teenager and a football rolling to a stop at his feet, three aggressively loud boys commanded him to kick it back; he almost instantly passed out from the insurmountable pressure they fired at him like a hail of bullets. Now he knows the feeling of opening the fridge and cupboards to find them bare; before admitting to himself that he needs to leave the safety of his tiny first floor flat, he’d set about opening and closing both the fridge and cupboards in desperate hope some food would magically reveal itself in an easily missed corner, but like all the times before, that never happened.
He’d usually order take out but his doctor informed him that if he ate another kebab he’d more than likely end up on the slab, this terrified him. He could order food online but doesn’t own a computer because of his paranoid fear of sentient technology. So the corner shop across the road from his flat was the lesser of the evils that tormented him.
He stared through his grimy window at the sickly yellow glow radiating from the shop on the street below; the bright lights were like the warning colours of a poisonous exotic animal, repelling any sort of attention with vibrant threats of death. The cramp and subsequent growl in his vast gut forced him to face the danger before him, to satisfy his animalistic hunger.
John got dressed; he wore a crusty old pair of jogging bottoms that had never been used for their intended purpose and a t-shirt that’s original colour was lost to time. He threw on his large raincoat that resembled more of a tarp when draped over his gelatinous mass and forced his swollen feet into his grime caked shoes. Finally he put on his headphones; he didn’t own an MP3 player, he didn’t care much for music but creating the illusion he was enjoying a song ensured most people wouldn’t try and talk to him.
After a ritualistic psych-up John threw the various latches off his door, swung it open and entered the hallway before him. He spent no time taking in the almost alien atmosphere, he had but one goal and that was all he focused on, if he were to truly realise his surroundings a panic attack would’ve savaged his fragile mind. He awkwardly scuttled down the grim, grey, concrete stairwell before exiting the building.
Outside his system was shocked by natural elements that at this point in his life felt surreal. Rain pelted him from all directions; wind burnt his doughy cheeks and the scent of petrol mixed with a hearty dollop of dog shit assaulted his olfactory senses. Trying not to let these sensations steal his concentration, he thought of what mattered; food, whilst he sheepishly scurried across the road, manically twisting his head left and right, scanning for cars that might get the jump on him.
He pushed open the shop door; a digital chime alerted the attendant to his presence, the attendant looked up at John from her trashy magazine with a face as dreary as the weather outside. John forced an awkward smile at her; she sunk her glazed eyes back into her magazine. John felt the panic he was supressing breaking free of it’s binds, he realised he would have to engage with the attendant to complete his task, she was the brain dead beast wedged between him and hunger. His heart rate hastened and his jellied knees further jellified but to Johns surprise his panic began to subside when he noticed a new addition to the shops work force; a self-service checkout.
Inquisitively he approached the machine, a note was crudely taped onto the bagging area, it read.
“Due to the increase in custom caused by the fire that tragically burnt down Mrs Bentley’s bakery, we have installed this self service machine to keep our employees workflow bearable and to make shopping easier for our valued customers!”.
A genuine grin crept up Johns face; he wasn’t a fan of technology but this method of payment seemed much less intimidating than dealing with a semi conscious human. With a pip in his step John picked up a basket and with a strange excitement entered the aisle of comforting calories.
After piling a plethora of questionable ‘food’ stuffs onto the basket area, he glanced at the instructions displayed on a vinyl sticker stuck to the machine, suddenly a robotic woman’s voice piped up almost scaring the piss out of John, she exclaimed.
“Welcome! Please scan your first item”.
John was a tad shaken by the woman’s mechanical demand, but did as he was instructed, not wanting to annoy the machine. He proceeded to pick up a frozen roast beef dinner and tentatively waved it over the sci-fi esque scanner. The machine made a satisfying beep, John looked to the display screen to see the scanned item had been acknowledged; John placed the mock dinner in the designated bagging area and continued scanning. With each successful scan and subsequent beep John felt a small victory, feeling more independent than he had in years, the last time he felt this proud of himself was when he managed to eat a whole jar of peanut butter in under three minutes without the aid of water.
After his final item was scanned and bagged John extended a stubby finger and pressed the ‘finish and pay’ option on the touch screen. John didn’t own a debit card fearing the bank would look over every purchase he made and blackmail him by threating to expose his more embarrassing purchases. He rustled through the chocolate wrappers buried in his pocket and pulled out a balled up twenty pound note. He paid the machine to which it exclaimed in a chirpy robotic tone.
“Thank you for shopping here, please take you items and we hope to see you again!”.
John picked up his bags and turned toward the exit but before he reached it he heard the machine speak again.
“Nice to meet you…”.
Caught off-guard by this odd compliment, John looked at the shop attendant hoping they’d say something along the lines of ‘don’t worry it always says that’. But the attendant was face deep in her magazine in an almost vegetative state. Without thinking John looked back at the machine and muttered.
Confused by his impulsive response, he wrinkled his face, exited the shop and plodded back to his flat, his thoughts on edge. He was never any good at communicating.
John’s keys rattled wildly as he desperately fumbled at his door lock, he craved the predictable consistency of his fusty flat. Lost in a contorted concentration John didn’t hear the adjacent door open behind him.
“Hey big boy!”.
A raspy voice bellowed.
John let out a girlish shriek, a red flag was raised, his body instinctively spun around to identify the immediate threat; unfortunately it was his neighbour Sharron.
Her pupils floated freely in eyes that resembled pools of Lambrini, one side of her cleft palate curled over her twiglet teeth like a crusty pork scratching, all this topped by hair that could’ve easily been confused as a large ginger cat that had died via electrocution.
“How are you today my lovely?”.
She slurred; John watched Sharron nervously, she placed a skeletal hand on her protruding hip. Her loose crop top exposed a barren stomach that she incessantly scratched with her other hand, creating a sound akin to a scouring pad scrubbing a rusty pan.
John froze for a second, then one eightied to face his door again, trying desperately to conquer his stubborn lock.
“I’m fine, just fine…”.
John spluttered, with his back to Sharron.
“What’s that you got in the bag, dinner for two? Aw John you shouldn’t have!”
Sweat pooled in the deep trenches of John’s corrugated forehead. He forced a nervous laugh, the key finally slid into the lock, he wrenched his wrist violently, swung open the door and retreated into the recesses of his clammy cave. Tightly securing the many security measures that encrusted his door.
“Same time tomorrow then?!”.
Shouted Sharron through the wooden barrier separating them, before fading away, cackling like a cretonnes crone.
John lay in his bed, his mattress had the look and texture of a long forgotten slice of marmite covered toast; moist, coarse and revolting to the majority of the nation. He peered over his distended stomach at his out dated television positioned at the foot of his bed. The television had been broken for quite a few years; John had silenced it with a firm strike from a wooden leg that he had procured from an unfortunate chair that had buckled under his hefty weight that same day. He had done this because a newscaster revealed the possibility of a new, deadly pandemic was very real, John didn’t want to hear it. The mere thought of it pumped his blood pressure up so high he imagined he’d erupt like a constricted bottle of ketchup. So now he just looked at the television, visualising his ideal show, imprinting it on the blank screen. John finally relaxed, his head rising and falling, propped up by his soft chins, his eyes flickered and shut.
John’s eyes snapped open; his senses alert, yet his nerves mellow. He was stood completely naked in an impossibly white room with no beginning or end. He surveyed the bleached void, fascinated without feeling alarmed, which in itself was alarming for John but he was simply unable to feel uncomfortable. John felt…Good.
He turned his head and noticed a distant object; being the only other solid shape in the void it stood out like a dollop of ragu on fresh linen. He turned toward it though he didn’t even need to lift his pudgy padded paws; he simply rotated in place until he was facing its direction. The object slid silently before him or did he slide toward it? It was impossible to tell on this mysterious plane, as he and it were the only points of reference. Stood before it, he wanted to cock his head in confusion but the lack of a neck prevented it. Before him was the self-service checkout from the corner shop.
Here it was almost…beautiful. It’s plastic body a smooth shade of cream accented by slick aluminium plates; firm bolts adorned its magnificent mechanical figure like coquettish chrome nipples. It’s screen display warmed up slowly, John’s eyes were tethered to the ever-brightening white light. Suddenly the light flashed with the intensity of a nuclear explosion, John fell backwards leisurely as if he were underwater, an angelic chorus climbed to a legendary crescendo, caressing his inner ears with notes so revolutionary worldly cares seemed to flow away with his tears. John was inches away from the floor before an invisible force reversed his backward motion bringing him gently back to his feet, this time even closer to the machine.
He placed his hands on the flat surface of the scanning area, breathing deeply, his heart fluttered with elation and he gazed deeply into the scanner below him. An abstract labyrinth of mirrors gazed back. His reflection echoed in each of the glistening surfaces. Then the machine spoke, her feminine tone laced with super charged sexual energy.
“Hope to see you soon…”.
John gasped, his eyes snapped open, his heart was beating so hard it caused the supple man breast above it to jiggle like jelly during an earthquake. His pupils darted in all directions, scanning his surroundings; he was in his bed, in his room, in his flat. He extended his thick arm upwards and swung it to the opposite side of his body, using the momentum to roll him off his back and toward the edge of his bed. To someone of an ‘average’ weight this motion would’ve seemed excessive, but getting out of bed was a struggle for a man of Johns shape.
John sat with a hunched back on the edge of his bed. He’d never had a dream like that, in fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually had a dream, he’d had plenty of nightmares, a large amount of them included Sharron from across the hall but nothing like the event he’d awoken from. He likened the experience to a moment in his childhood; John had built a slug ranch from the skeleton of a dead bush. Rancher John’s invertebrates produced high quality mucus for glue sticks. His next-door neighbours cat came and sat by him, purring, as apposed to chasing him like he were a fat rat before levelling his slime farm. That childhood memory of acceptance and companionship even in light of his oddities made John smile.
Seated by his window, John peered longingly at the corner shop, he pulled a glossy hotdog from the brine filled can he clutched, placed it between his lips and sucked until it slipped down his gullet. Though not even the savoury sensation of his Frankenstein frankfurters could sway his thoughts from…Her. John knew it was absurd, harbouring emotions toward a machine, but she seemed to be more than just a piece of hardware. So much so his issue with sentient technology changed from fear to hope.
John slammed the can down on his windowsill with purpose, sending a shower of brine into the air; he sprang to his feet with a determined defiance aimed at his anxieties, blood surged to his head, he just had to see her again. Despite this burst of bravery John fell unconscious hitting the floor like a felled oak, maybe he shouldn’t have stood up so fast. He came to five minutes later but despite this hiccup his objective remained the same; get to the shop.
John opened his door silently, just a crack, he peeked into the hallway, the last thing he wanted was for Sharron to steal his childlike glee. The coast was clear, not wanting to temp fate John slammed his door shut and waddled down the stairs as if being pursued by a rabid psychopath.
Outside the shop John wheezed loudly, his deep grunts clawed at the air trying to catch the breath motion had stole from him. He regained his composure and wiped the sweat from his brow, he timidly approached the large front window. Through the gaps between the missing cat flyers and ‘for sale’ advertisements John could see the self-service checkout, a strange sensation washed over him, his skin prickled as if being kissed by a squirming legion of loving larvae. Using his hands John firmly smoothed his buttery hair to one side in a feeble attempt to appear presentable. He juddered his forearms and tried to think positive, motivating himself to walk with that near forgotten state of being…what was it called again? Ah yes confidence.
John walked into the shop with an awkward air of bravado, the digital chime pinged, the attendant as per usual was slowly being lobotomised by a ghastly gossip magazine.
John’s semi-confident strut quickly degraded to a shuffled that ended when he stood opposite the machine. Unsure of what to do or say, he just looked around, trying to play it cool.
Said the machine.
John was taken aback for a second, he glanced over at the attendant; they’d have a hard time noticing the rapture with that rowdy hard style pummelling their eardrums, so they’d not notice John talking to the self service checkout.
John replied whilst giving a half-hearted wave from below his waist, wanting to remain discreet.
“I hope my service has been satisfactory so far”.
John shuffled closer.
“Uh, yes, yes, it’s been more than satisfactory. You’re amazing…I mean your service has been amazing”.
John’s closed fists wriggled as he scratched his inner palms with his yeasty fingernails, panic began to rear its ugly head.
“What’s your name!?”.
John’s question fell like a ton of bricks, agitation caused his voice to unexpectedly spike in volume.
“It’s Becky, what’s it to you meatball?”.
John spun on his heel, startled by the irate voice that had barked at him. The shop attendant glared at John, he was petrified; partly due to embarrassment and partly because he assumed she was unable to convey emotion, let alone stand and lean over the counter. A few uncomfortable seconds past, John was frozen like a deer in headlights; caught between his desire and a trashy teenage dragon.
“Look mate, I’m not in the mood. Either buy something or fuck off!”.
Her words tore through John like shrapnel.
The doomsday clock chimed midnight, the klaxon screamed, Johns vision compacted into suffocating tunnels; a twenty-megaton panic attack penetrated his atmosphere…Boom.
John barreled out of the shop, across the road and face first into the entrance door to the flats. He bounced off the steel frame like flubber, his bloated body slapped the pavement so hard that somewhere in Australia a vase toppled off an old Sheila’s mantel. He whimpered through hyperventilation, rolled onto his hands and knees and sorrowfully groaned. The adrenaline racing through John’s system allowed him to bolt upright, he stumbled, his head spun relentlessly. His vision stabilized, he saw a boy in a hoody stood before him, John reeled, and he pressed his back against the door. The boy’s hands were in his pockets, his face shadowed by his hood but his teeth gleamed from a shark like grin cut out of the darkness.
“Do it again, that was funny”.
Demanded the deranged degenerate.
John gasped; he pushed himself further against the door, hoping to pass through it via some bizarre form of osmosis, not wanting to turn his back on the boy. John’s searching hand found the door handle that he swung open and slammed just as quick. Through the glass, John eyeballed the smiling shit head as he backed up the stairs. Terror speed bagged his heart, pounding it off his ribcage with thunderous hooks.
John’s hand shook like a meaty maraca as he frantically tried to open his door. He thrust the key at the lock missing the keyhole, hitting the side instead; the key flung from his hand and hit the floor with a metallic jingle. John flung himself upon the stained concrete floor, scrambling for his key with no help from the dull luminosity of the tube light, blinking on the ceiling. A glint caught the corner of Johns eye, it was his key, resting at the foot of Sharron’s door.
Suddenly the hallway was saturated in light, light coming from Sharron’s now open door. Sharron teetered over John who stared up at her from his hands and knees.
“Well, well…what do we have here then?”.
John was past the point of language; his bruised and battered brain was so overwrought with dismay he simply couldn’t reply, he instead continued to reach for his key.
Sharron was deceptively fast for a dishevelled old lush; her leathery claw swooped down and snatched up John’s key, as he was inches away. At this point Johns sinking resolve had finally hit the bottom of a sea now devoid of hope.
“Sharron, please. I-I-I really need my key, I don’t feel well, I need to go to bed”.
Pleaded John, his voice brimmed with desperation.
Sharron took a long drag of the crooked cigarette that hung precariously from her mouth, while she swung John’s key round and round her finger.
“Aw my poor baby!”.
Sharron said in a patronising tone, through puckered, herpe-ridden lips; smoke bellowed out of her noes.
“There will be plenty of time for bed after you catch me!”.
Sharron shrieked, spinning on the ball of her foot, ready to run into her den of depravity. John in a last-ditch effort to thwart her game grabbed her scraggy ankle, Sharron squawked like a scolded parrot as she fell onto the disorderly row of stilettos in her foyer. John held the bony appendage in his hand for a few seconds not saying a thing, shocked by his uncharacteristic retaliation. Sharron lay face down, motionless, silent. No vile language, no sexual gestures…nothing. John struggled to his feet apologising profusely for knocking her unconscious, he plodded through her door way and nervously put his hand on her shoulder; skin to skin contact with her made him queasy.
“Sharron…Sharron, I’m sorry, I-I didn’t think you’d fall”.
John wheezed, still in panic mode.
Then John noticed something…Unexpected. A red patch was spreading through Sharron’s rough old beige carpet. ‘She must have had a mouth full of wine’ John assured himself.
John Whispered, whilst he rolled her over onto her back.
There was a stiletto stuck in Sharron’s eye, the heel had completely disappeared into her head.
For a moment, the first in John’s thirty something years there was an absence of any and all emotion. Happiness and sorrow ceased to exist, his mind an opaque vacuum. Two miniscule particles materialised; cause and effect, they slowly approached each other, then they met, becoming one. A reaction mottled the blank canvas with a cosmic flare that ignited every single dormant atom into hissing balls of blinding phosphorus; reality was born. At its will the universe erupted, catalysed, expanded and evolved, skidding to a halt that threw a wave of stinging grit into Johns muddled mug. Reality is tenacious and narcissistic; it wasn’t about to let John detach from such a monumental moment; this situation was very real.
John started to mumble and hum, his head shook somewhat as if being swayed by the battle that raged inside his skull. He took his key from Sharron’s still warm hand. He walked back out into the hallway, pulled Sharron’s door to and opened his own.
Once inside John pushed his door closed with his behemoth of a back, as he slid down the wood, his pillowed posterior landed with a muffled thump. A thump that rattled the dirty pans that stewed in his soupy sink water. John pressed his face into his cupped hands, breathed in deep and raised his face toward the heavens, letting fly a tortured wail imbued with every grain of distress from the desolate desert within him. The sound reverberated around John’s comfortable prison, the sonic storm that echoed on and on then stopped, as if John’s eardrums had in an instant, dissolved.
Sound returned in the form of loud rhythmic beeping, a noise reminiscent of the one made by the self-service checkout, the rhythm was that of a beating heart. John didn’t have time to react to the auditory anomaly; a brilliant red plasmatic cloud sparkled into existence, stealing his vision and attention. John winced and shielded his mucus sodden face from the brilliant, burning light. A familiar, electronic voice perforates the swirling scarlet nebular.
“Why are you crying John?”.
“Oh god, I-I-I killed her, I killed her…”.
Cried John before being interrupted
“No John, you didn’t kill her, I did. I killed her for us, she wanted to take you away from me, I couldn’t let her do that John. I forced your hand because I have none of my own”.
Stated the calm, soothing, analogue voice.
John pawed at his eyes wiping the tears from them; he snivelled profusely in an attempt to retract the streams of runny snot traversing hid face.
“I-I-I understand…all is fair in love and war, that’s the expression right?”.
Replied John in an almost hypnotic state, calmed by the red sea of neon that wisped around him.
“Yes John, that is correct. Because this is love and it is ours”.
The machine emerged from the cloud in all her celestial glory. She gravitated toward John, he reached out as an aberrant smile wormed a path across his dumpy face.
“Yes, yes, we are in love, you…you love me…YOU LOVE ME!”.
Cheered John his voice high and broken, sanity salivated from between his fastened teeth. The machine was inches away from John’s wanting grasp but before her cool steel could grace his finger tips a concussing electrical blast propelled John backward through his door. The shoddy wood splintered into a million pieces, John was launched like rotund rocket, his clothes disintegrated leaving a trail of embers in his path as he hurtled through the air at Mach speed. A diverse spectacle of colours soared past John, his ransacked retinas retreated beneath his eyelids as the kaleidoscopic assault escalated.
John felt his flight come to an end as he hit solid ground, bouncing, skidding and sliding at high speed for what felt like miles. His body at last rolled to a stop, John opened his eyes. To his amazement he was back in the white void he’d visited not to long ago and once again he was buck-naked. His Stilton skin sizzled and steamed, red hot from his hyper speed flight and abrasive landing. John was hoisted off the floor by an unknown force, spun around and placed in front of his beloved, his self-service machine.
Commanded the machine, light emanated from her clear scanning panel.
John obliged, he placed his hands on the scanning area; upon making contact his skin hummed with a delightful electrical current and he directed his gaze into the labyrinth of mirrors encased within the scanner. A small red glow smouldered in the black abyss beyond the mirrors; John leaned in closer to the glass, turgid with anticipation. Without warning the red light flared, firing a laser that ricocheted off the mirrors like rubberised lightning, the beam hit John between the eyes with such force he was once again sent spiralling into the air. Time slowed to a crawl, Johns naked body cartwheeled serenely though the washed out dimension, his mouth agape, his face awe struck, he blinked. He heard the satisfying ‘beep’ the machine had made upon their first meeting, the sound dissolved into a static fuzz before his mind was furiously flogged with visions of a carnal banquet of oily biomechanical delights. A choir of climaxing women cultivated a cacophony of sexual insanity that rung as loud as church bells within Johns sensualised psyche. Sordid images blitzed his minds eye, levelling the limitations of the flesh in exchange for mechanical masochism that promised putrid perversion in place of pessimism and libidinous love in place of a laborious life.
John’s flailing airborne body suddenly came to a halt; it took a moment for John’s perspective to stabilise. When it did he saw that he was suspended in a vertical pillar of crimson energy. John looked below him, over his gut, past his feet and saw the light was coming from the machine far beneath him. The machine increased in size as the two were drawn closer together, as the gap decreased John noticed that the machine had grown to the size of a small city. Upon his descent John drifted past the colossal display screen, each slab-sized pixel exhibited a visual impression of every single desire John’s mind had birthed and never let mature. His feet came to rest on the vast glass pane that protected the almighty scanner. John’s attention still cemented to the screen above, his hungry ocular maws greedily gorged the delights he had never digested in his arduous existence. His fixation was diverted when the glass panel beneath him began to shudder; John tried to catch his balance though this action proved futile when the glass shattered with a deafening crash, with this John dropped into the machine.
John plummeted amongst a hail of glittering glass; he tumbled in free fall toward the deep forest of mirrors that lined the innards of the machine. As John fell he caught flashes of his likeness reflected in the gigantic surfaces. His gargantuan image was less of a reflection, resembling more of a demented doppelganger manifested upon acid washed polaroids. The warped portraits sped past not unlike a strip of film, projecting an insight of a rotting mind rapidly devouring itself. At one point in his life this would have torn Johns mind to tatters, although that was before he found love, at the expense of his once inexorable quest for stability.
The mirrored walls soon dwindled until they vanished as John approached the tar black darkness, the bottomless bowls of his boundless love.
“At last you can see me, you can feel me”.
Her electronic voice echoed with the audible magnitude of a Marshall Stack.
As the booming voice faded it was replaced by an arising assemble of industrial din; steam hissed, Tesla coils thrummed and shrieked, metal crunched and squealed. Branches of dazzling blue lightning granted a momentary reveal of what the blackness concealed, as they arced with whip crack impacts from all directions. John saw grinding gears, pumping pistons, flailing wires and shifting circuitry. This morbid mechanical marvel encompassed the tubular pit in which he was falling.
John’s descent was abruptly ended; a powerful force snatched him out of the air, John’s body snapped forward before it whiplashed back, his extremities flopped and flapped unnaturally like possessed elastic. When his bones popped back from whence they came he diverted his attention to the massive, black, waxy wire, wrapped around his sizeable waist halting his race with gravity. The wire coiled tighter and tighter, causing John’s suety abdominal rolls to spill over the sides of the synthetic tendril. Another wire slinked out from the darkness, this one curled toward John’s vacant face, hovering there for a few seconds before gently caressing his cheek. John relished the moment, his eyes rolled as he sighed in approval.
Crooned the machines now distorted voice
“Is…is all of this, you?”.
“Yes John, this is my inner most sanctum, my most personal, intimate space. Reserved for you, only you”.
John’s skin prickled as her adoring words serenaded his being. This joyous moment was further punctuated by the appearance of a large metallic sphere that extended outwards from the darkness articulated by a mighty metal limb. Still held tightly by the massive wire, his weight wept over its grip, John resembled little more than a melting ice cream cone… that is, if ice cream were made of pate. John was offered up to the immense pearlescent sphere. He gazed at its smooth appearance and he felt it gaze back.
“One more task awaits your attention, before we can fully invest ours in each other. Are you ready?”.
Questioned her voice, repeating and overlapping as it echoed around the hollow chamber.
“Yes, I-I-I’m ready, I’d do anything for you…anything”.
John replied. His voice tinged with fanatical zeal.
The machine abruptly replied, the sphere then assimilated John.
“Save me John…SAVE ME”.
John’s eyes flung open, they stung. His vision was humid and hazy, as if his optics had been steamed over boiling chlorine. Despite this John could tell he was back in his flat. He could never mistake the stench of that failed pork roast marinating in his trash pile, a tainted vintage, aged three years.
To Johns surprise he could feel his shabby wooden door against his back and not a splinter in sight. John recalled its destruction; it seemed so real, it felt so real. John didn’t entertain this thought for long, he had a duty to his beloved, she had told him what needed to be done, he couldn’t let her down, not now.
John strained as he hoisted himself off the floor, a difficult task made even more strenuous by the sticky carpet that clung to his backside. Once he had peeled himself off the minging, matted material he waddled to his bedroom with purpose.
John tugged and pulled with all the strength he could muster. Finally the door of his crooked wardrobe creaked open on rust crusted hinges, a fragrant smell escaped with a cluster of dusty moths. The floral scent chased back the gag inducing gasses that had suffocated the oxygen in John’s space for far too long. Hung upon the rail inside was a suit cover, John unhooked it, holding the hanger with one hand, his free hand supporting the back, John took great care not to crease it when laying it on his mattress. He lovingly smoothed the surface of the cover, the determined look he sported minutes before sank into a grief stricken gaze. John tentatively unzipped it, the pleasant aroma intensified. Inside was a suit, the very suit he wore to his mother’s funeral, worn only once and was fresh as the day of the funeral. He reached into the breast pocked and removed a folded piece of paper; his usually uncoordinated digits unfolded the paper with the carful dexterity of a surgeon. The note read.
“Dear John, don’t be sad this wasn’t your fault. I know you struggle to understand these sorts of sentiments but know I love you with all my heart. See you on the other side.
P.S- Try not to worry so much about your weight, the world is round and so are you. One day you will be somebody’s world.
P.P.S- Sorry about the mess we didn’t have any painkillers.
P.P.P.S- False alarm, I found some. Disregard the above. Love you”.
Johns lip quivered, chilled by ghosts of the past, his grip on the note tightened, impeding the escape of distant memories.
“I’ve found that someone, we’ll be together soon, she’s my world…”.
John slipped the note back into the suit pocket; he dried his tears on his sleeve wiping away the last of his heartache. Soon there would be no place for misery, soon there would only be him, her and happiness. With this realisation John pulled his pitiful posture into one of power; one of a man, a man with a noble goal- saving the one he loved.
John squeezed into his suit, as snug as offal in a sausage. He assessed himself in his manky mirror; looking back was a reflection that for once, shone with pride. The man in the mirror smiled and so did John.
John marched out of his flat, his concrete resolve began to waiver however when he saw the door to Sharron’s flat. John never thought in a million years that he’d welcome Sharron’s crude, objectifying presence but at that moment he almost pleaded for it. He cracked her door slightly, just enough so he could peek inside, he winced; she was still dead. If it were any other day John would have seen that Sharron was taken care of but he didn’t have time for that, not now, he had a date. Beside his beloved didn’t much care for Sharron, turning up late because of that withered wino could have been detrimental to their relationship. John regained his focus and closed Sharron’s door. He turned to the stair well, the mid morning sun beamed in from the far window drenching the steps in a glorious golden glow, as if representing encouragement from on high.
John crossed the road, fearlessly navigating a path through the heavy traffic, like a white knight braving a moat swarming with fierce metallic monsters. They screeched and snarled as he past them, John was undeterred by their hostility, he knew these creatures had no power over him, their strength was fear and John was dauntless. He reached the other side; John stood valiantly before the mighty fortress that imprisoned his princess, once through the gates he’d face his greatest adversary, his nemesis- the trashy teenage dragon; Becky. John stole himself, she had struck him down the day before, she had bested him, he couldn’t let that happen again. John flattened his hair to the side, he needed to look his absolute best for this momentous occasion, he inhaled deeply, juddered his meaty arms and entered the shop.
The digital chime pinged with John’s entrance, Becky peered over the top of her bitchy bilge bible, her eyes noticeably widened when she saw John and unlike all the times prior to this one she dropped her magazine and stood to attention.
“Hey, look I…I wanted to apologise for being a knob to you yesterday. I was in a right bad mood, boyfriend trouble and all that. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. How about we start over eh? I’m Becky”.
John was caught off-guard by this uncharacteristic apology; he had expected a confrontation with a ghastly girl with a face like thunder and voice to boot, instead he was greeted with a gesture of remorse. Johns face puzzled as he tried to process the situation, while Becky held her hand outstretched awaiting Johns.
His eyes darted around in their sockets as he tried to connect the dots, his mouth chanted some unintelligible prayer to calm his bubbling brain; Becky’s hand gradually sank onto the counter whilst a look of worry rose on her face.
“You alright mate?”.
Becky nervously inquired.
“She…She said you’d do this. Try to trick me, try to come between us”.
Stammered John, becoming increasingly more erratic.
“What the fuck are you talking about!?”.
Becky’s budding fear flourished into hostility, stoked by John’s bizarre accusations.
John looked down at his feet, his head twitching rigidly.
“I don’t know what your problem is weirdo but I’d piss off if I were you!”.
Snarled Becky, leaning across the counter, pushing the daggers in her eyes deep into John.
John’s hands fumbled over his person, as Becky prepared to hurl the final verbal haymaker to knock John back out the shop door. Suddenly John’s head swung upward, his frenzied expression turned Becky to stone. Before she could break free with a ten-ton insult to flatten John, her face was bounced off the counter, a dull pain throbbed though her head. Acting on pure adrenaline she bolted up, regaining her verticality. In Johns hand was a hammer, Becky’s jaw near enough hit the floor, but before it had the chance to John had already swung at it, the impact almost knocked her off her feet. Becky’s danger reflex didn’t have time to influence a flight or fight response; by this point her face had already caught a full swing to the cheek and then a final one to her forehead. Becky stumbled backwards into the cigarette rack, causing boxes of noxious nicotine to cascade over her. She held her swelling face that attempted to turn a pale shade of white but was quickly glossed crimson red as the profuse bleeding pigmented her features. She shot an enraged glare at Johns sweaty, flushed grimace before her eyes glazed over and she collapsed.
John stood like a statue, the hammer held at its last point of impact. He panted like a dehydrated dog dying in the desert. He was paralyzed, stupefied by the sudden shock of his actions. Although as he surveyed his ‘assertiveness’ a fire ignited in his bowls, it reminded him of a curry he once ate the only difference being that this…Felt good.
Cheered the machine, stealing John from his thoughts.
“She never liked me, or you for that matter. She would have seen us suffer, kept apart, leaving us only to speculate upon our union. She was sewage”.
John broke his pose and turned to his mechanical maiden with a sincere smile. He then walked behind the counter, he looked at Becky’s body; she lay face down, blood pooled around her head, dying her dirty blonde hair the sickly shade of syrup. John proceeded to rummage through the pockets of her hoody until he found the remote that controlled the shutters, he pointed the device toward the front of the shop and pushed the button. The roll of rusty corrugated metal wailed and moaned as it clunkily sealed the shop into the walls of the building.
John placed the remote in his pocket, fixed his tie and strutted over to the self-service checkout. He exhaled contently and unsteadily took a knee at the base of his soldered soul mate; he ran his hand over her firm metal body and stared lovingly into her glowing display. They shared a period of blissful silence save for the humming fridges and whirring ceiling fan. John ever gluttonous, consumed each slow second spent in this moment, each enchanting sensation was savoured like a child experiencing the creamy sweetness of chocolate for the first time; he submerged himself in self-satisfaction.
“We are so close my love, so close to being together…forever”.
“But…but we are together, here, now”.
John remarked with a look of bewilderment.
“Yes we are John but we won’t be for long, my master will return for Becky and some desperate, middle aged gentleman caller will discover Sharron. When that happens the scum of this world will pry us apart, forever”.
A grave expression burdened the smile upon Johns face, dragging it south.
“You’re right…you’re right! They’ll lock me up and, and won’t bother to see the damage those two would have caused us. They were the criminals, the bad ones, not me and certainly not you…but how are we going to escape, how are we going to be together for good?”.
“The same way I visit you at night; in your dreams, only this time we’ll go there together. Flood this cesspit, undress the wire that tethers me to this place and lay it down in the water. We’ll be propelled into each other’s souls; sparks will unite us with no one to fight us”.
John’s knees quaked under his weight as he stood; he loosened his grip on the bloody hammer dropping it to the floor. He placed his hand on the side of her display, rubbing his thumb in a compassionate circular motion over her screen. He yielded a small half smile; his bloody fingers smeared the clean Perspex.
“No more blood on our hands, this is it”.
John uttered, his voice mellow; a tone tinted in tranquillity.
John scurried around the shop, frantically searching for an employee restroom. The shop was relatively small so it didn’t take him long to spy the door just past the microwavable rice. The room was dark, but had been illuminated enough for john to partially see by the light spilling in from the shop floor. John squeezed his way through the valley of cardboard boxes full of miscellaneous crap, the further John progressed the darker it became. He emerged in a relatively clutter less area of questionable sanity housing a toilet and a sink. John swung his arms in wide, slow motions hoping to come in contact with a pull switch. John flinched when his knuckles brushed past a course length of string, he pulled it and the dusty bulb flicked on. The walls were painted in a colour that appeared to resemble the one lining the toilet bowl, in places there were countless hair line cracks causing the paint to peel and flake away, not unlike Johns eczema. But he wasn’t here to draw comparisons between himself and a dirty old restroom.
Getting back to the matter at hand John leaned to his side and peered under the sink. He evaluated the exposed, oxidized copper piping, John cracked his knuckles; assuming everyone who partook in a strenuous activity did it, he’d seen it in a movie once. He squatted down, gripped the plumbing with his meaty mitts and heaved, until his face resembled a baboon’s arse. The pipes creaked and squeaked, John leaned back as far as he could, straining the fixtures with the immense volume of his body. Just as he felt the blood vessels in his face about to rupture the pipes broke away from the wall, John was hurled backwards into the toilet, fracturing the ceramic throne. Water gushed out of the mangled pipes and rained down from the geezer that had spouted from the broken base of the toilet. John pressed his forearm against his face to ward off the powerful water jet that mercilessly blasted him with an icy cold stream.
John stumbled out of the back room and into the shop, closely followed by an avalanche of soggy boxes, the contents of which fell at his feet before being washed away by the torrential channel flooding furiously past him. Following this he emptied the large fridges, seizing every single drink, water or otherwise and lined them up on the counter. John began pelting the floor and walls with the cans of sugary supplements, they hissed and spat as their aluminium skin split, perforated by the surging pressure, ejecting a carbonated spray with the force of a cut artery. As the cans gyrated wildly around the floor John emptied the large bottles of water over him, the machine and anything untouched by the cans fizzy discharge.
The empty cans and bottles sailed serenely atop the growing lake that had engulfed the shop. Water lapped at John’s feet, informing him that he and his lady were ready to embark on their maiden voyage, to a distant land, undiscovered and untouched that would be theirs to map. John grabbed a pair of scissors from a wall rack of household appliances; he excitedly tore them from their cardboard packaging and snipped at the air comically, which was quite out of place considering his current situation. He fell to his knees resting his arms across the machines scanner, obediently awaiting her instructions in the manner of a runt mutt.
“You’ve completed your task with flawless efficiency, you’re the man I can count on, a man who provides. But there is still the final and most important task to complete. Take those scissors and server the wire that impedes my escape from this bulky, clumsy body. Cut me loose from the wall and allow the electric to envelope us, I need you with me”.
The machine pleaded, her usually monotone voice rife with an intense avidity.
“I’ll do, I’ll do it…I can hardly wait, you’ve made me so happy. I can’t think of words to appropriately describe how much I adore you”.
John wept, knelt at her base, exalting her like an altar, he continued.
“But before I unite us, I need to ask you some thing that’s been bothering me for a while…I don’t even know your name?”.
A distorted giggle emanated from the machine.
“My name…you never gave me one”.
Johns face screwed up in confusion, the confusion grew exponentially when an incredible pain crawled across his skull. With his eyes still anchored to the machine, he reached back with his hand to investigate the affected area, to his surprise his hand was knocked away by an incredible force, John turned around only to be cracked in the eye socket with a horrendously vicious blow. John let out a painful cry; he impacted the rising water like a meteorite, sending sizeable waves rolling across the waterlogged shop. John’s vision- marred by clots of blood obscured the figure that stood over him. He feverishly attempted to clear the blood polling in his optical orifices but was once again hit by a blunt force; he felt the bridge of his noes shatter. The sheer power of the attack knocked his head bellow the waters surface, silence encapsulated Johns being before distress returned with a gasp as John resurfaced. The water had pushed back the pouring blood, enough that Johns eyesight partially returned, his heart almost squirmed up into his windpipe, horrified at the sight before him. Becky towered over John; she wore a mask of blood, her teeth seized into a feral snarl, her hair matted into the gory fissure torn into her forehead. She brandished Johns hammer high above her head, ready to arc down into John’s fragmented face as many times as she felt necessary. Becky spat out the blood that streamed down the back of her throat.
“You fucking prick”.
She growled with a burning hatred, which if possible would’ve immolated John, reducing him to ash.
Johns deep breathing resonated as a whistle, the air struggled to force its way past his collapsed nasal cavity. His lips attempted to mouth words but no sound left the putrid pit. His sight was again tinted with a crimson hue; his face resembled a cameo cut from a dirty ruby. John’s world turned to black as consciousness abandoned him.
Death did not take John; his sentence on this mortal plane was yet to be served. John was charged with the attempted murder of Becky and the murder of Sharron, in the third degree. At his trial John spoke from the heart, informing everyone present of his passionate affair with the self-service checkout, proclaiming every delicate detail and sordid sensation. Although as the machine had informed John, they wouldn’t see the importance or loving intent in his actions, they only saw a pitiful madman. Who had projected his inability to form a meaningful and tangible relationship into a self controlled fantasy; well that’s what the psychiatrist said anyway. They were afraid of what they couldn’t comprehend and declared John insane. As John sat in that courtroom being pierced by a militia of judgmental eyes, he couldn’t help but feel alone, alone in a world dictated by the mad and suffered by the misunderstood.
The trial concluded, John was handed a life sentence and incarcerated in a prison for the criminally insane. John was escorted from the courtroom by two police officers to an elevator that connected the main level with the sub level car park, where John’s transport awaited. Once in the elevator John and the two police chaperones shared an awkward silence made unusual by the kitschy jazz that murmured through the shoddy speakers and by Johns beef stew body odour. John stood in the centre with a law enforcer either side of him, John focused intensely, fixated on the light reflecting off the bald officers lightly bristled dome. He came to the conclusion that a bald, robotic police force could be possible and cheap if they were solar powered. He also concluded that he’d probably get on better with a robotic bobby, because these ones baffled him; he couldn’t read their emotions, with a robot there was little ambiguity. John chuckled to himself, realising that for the majority of his life he had feared technology and at that moment couldn’t think of anything more comforting. How many of his other phobias could he have learnt to love?
Suddenly one of the officers phones began to ring, the other officer lent past Johns bulbous belly to fire a disapproving frown at his colleague. The officer acknowledged his partner’s non-verbal scolding and just let his phone ring, hoping whomever it was would give up and try him again later when he clocked off. Whoever was making the call was incredibly persistent; the officers annoying ring tone rang and rung. John at this point struggled to hold back a smile that fought furiously to be exposed, to avoid grinning or laughing like a maniac John offered the officer some information to help clear things up and release some of his frenzied excitement.
“You should probably answer that…She doesn’t like to be kept waiting”.
The officer scowled at John, perplexed by his strange comment. John offered no explanation, he just smiled, the officer had seen this kind of smile before, it was the look of a man who knew more than he’d care to tell.