UPDATE: Within 24 hours of posting this I can’t quite stop thinking about its warts and wrinkles. So while I’m doing a rewrite, I’ve retitled this as a draft. From here down it’s exactly the same:
I’ve gotten to the point where I’m only here one day a week and tend to have another agenda in my head for most of the afternoon/evening.
The blank page and the predictibility of the writing playlist gives me the illusion of sameness. I’ve left the cruft grow overmuch through distractions and laziness.
Even sitting here, 62 words in I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between Q10, Twitter, and Reddit no less than 3 or 4 times.
And again here I am, having put “pen to paper” and finally at about 100 words, started feeling the energy coming, summoned by activity.
Activity begets interest. Always has it been thus.
Combatting “I’m not in the mood” always goes the same way.
“Well, at LEAST open a new blank document and title it. Then just write that you have nothing to write about.”
“No.” Came the flat answer.
“But has anyone ever tried to start it?” The youth asked as they walked through the halls containing The Great Machine in the deep place under the mountains where they lived their lives.
“It’s not really a machine. It’s just a grand sculpture. Gears and rods and other things we’ve never been able to explain going on through chambers we’ve never seen. It has no purpose other than its grandeur. We study the pieces as we can, to see how they built it.” The scholar looked up at the giant rusted thing that stretched into the darkness above and beyond them. “Surely they must have been giants who walked these halls, to create such a thing.”
“No. It’s fine to wonder, son. But it doesn’t really do anything.” The scholar looked at the youth, remembering his first time in the hall of The Machine. He brought the kids through once a year to show them and to keep an eye open for some who may some day be a keeper of the machine, like himself.
But this child wanted too much. If he’d been made a scholar he wouldn’t be able to handle the disappointment. Better to come to terms with a normal life.
There was no candidate among these.
They would gasp at the size of it all but grow quickly bored. A couple questions about what it did, then they’d usually just retreat just as rapidly in to their day to day teasings, glad only to be what they thought of as being a day away from their studies.
Surely it must not be disturbed so it can be studied. What better way to understand the greatness of the past but to leave The Great Machine alone that we may walk among its seized gears and wonder? It is a museum to the past, to be sanctified and preserved, as knowledge lost.
In the dead of night a man unsatisfied sneaks in, laden heavily with the tools he’d been hiding along the way for weeks, to the forbidden bowels of the machine, deemed too dangerous by scholars of generations past. How many of them even knew these rooms were down here any more? The answer had been “No” for so many generations that it was questioned no longer.
Pfft. Scholars. What is a scholar with no wonder? With no hope? With no QUESTIONS? They were no more than curators, living ghosts, carrying on traditions with no underpinnings.
He spends days walking among its controls and dials, buttons and levers, nipping sparingly at his provisions which had seemed so bountiful when he’d packed them.
At first he fiddles and scrawls down notes in his long blank scrolls. He tears off pieces with little notes and sets them in place with stones or slips them between cracks where he can go back to them.
He checks his notes, tears them up.
He goes back again to the beginning. Again. And again. Slowly some secrets are revealed. Back to the beginning.
Time gone, water gone, food long gone he speeds back and forth between the rooms in those forbidden catacombs, fearing more that he’d forget what he’d learned than being caught.
How many times, in the beginning, had he been caught, escorted back home and warned, then punished. “You are forbidden from The Machine.”
At first he was frustrated, then heartbroken, then resolved. Tell ME no?
It was impossible that anything could move it, he reflected. It’s too far gone. The whole thing will collapse in a Great Catastrophe in the face of what he sought to attempt.
But how many generations have done nothing but stare at it, curated it as an impossible dead thing? How could they go on thus? What would ever change?
He would never be forgiven.
But it was not for his breatheren to forgive him. Nor was it even for the ancients who built this thing.
Only The Great Machine could forgive him. He laughed out loud at that thought, wondering if a madness had taken him. Was this why they had warned him away?
He forgot himself and grabbed the lever. Pulling on it he achieved nothing. His sledge rang, the machine laughing at his screaming hands.
Rope and pullies. Levers and fulcrums.
Again he tore at the lever, through the mechanism he’d created to amplify his strength.
His hands bloody with his fevered attempts he pulled, feet on the wall against his rope and pullies, the levers and fulcrums he built up. Even if it snapped off it would be a success of a sort. But it didn’t bend.
The machine cared not for his attempts. It mocked him openly.
One final scream as he felt something inside him tear and give under the effort and he fell to the ground and smacked his head on the stone floor, spent.
The rope hadn’t been fastened tightly enough, it had slipped or snapped against a knot tied too tightly.
He got to his hands and knees, his side in shooting pain he felt the blood on his head running down into his face. A moment to catch his breath as his hands and knees felt as though they were vibrating from the effort. Just…so much pain.
He spit blood from his ruptured insides, his head swimming in pain.
He heard it and snapped his head upright. It was a moment before he dared look over his shoulder.
The rope had held.
The chamber rumbled. The very ground on which he now crawled was shaking underneath him. A quake. Now?
The lever had been thrown.
He was going to be buried alive under the wreckage of The Great Machine.
He rolled on to his back and laughed as he coughed…more blood.
Above him the great halls of impossibly seized gears and wheels, pipes and vents whine and scream their resistance as the corrosion and rust and years fought against the force of The Great Machine.
It seemed forever, the deafening roar of the war between the past and the present. The Machine was going to rip itself apart in its drive for life.
He thought about the pain in his side, the blood on his face, his ruined hands, and laughed some more.
In the higher halls the scholars screamed. Some stood in wonder. Most ran. Not this.
A great crack deafened them as one of the great gears, standing ten times the height of any man…turned one tooth and stopped.
Rust cascaded on to their heads. Dust and sheets of the stuff began coming down as the machine screamed again at them through ages of anger.
And in that moment more than one of them was overcome by the judgement of the past.
Again the gear turned a tooth and they saw, through the dust, that the rest of the machine turned with it.
Through all of their studies, in all of their books they had never determined the machine’s purpose. But the books had been written by their predecessors, men of past ages, as clueless then as they were now. Dimensions of the pieces they could see, guesses as to how and where they were made, since no workshop or forge or smelting ovens existed that could create such wonders. There was no lost knowledge. There was no knowledge at all.
Nobody, as near as could be told, had ever even seen the ends of The Great Machine. It disappeared into the heights of the rock and the depths of the halls. Expeditions into the deep tunnels found traces of the machine coming out of the stone miles away.
The gear turned…not freely, but suredly. The rumbling of the halls deafened them.
One by one they left, fearing for their lives or for their worlds, until there was only one left, staring upwards, his hand shielding his eyes from the falling neglect, determined to hold his ground to witness awakening of The Great Machine.
“It’s going to kill us all!” One had screamed as he’d run from the halls.
The one scholar remained, tears forming in his eyes, and he smiled, “No.”
The volume and tempo just kept increasing. What they’d come to think of as the grand gear had turned a half revolution now.
Finally a great vent expelled a gasp and the last scholar swore to the end of his days that with it came a word.
Deep below a man lay on his back, bloodied by himself, smiling. Dead.
A man sat at a table and smoked a cigar. Reading what he’d written he found his palms sweating. His heart raced and he felt his eyes dampen.