The Fabulous Machine
This oneís rich.† I know youíll like it because it has a lot to do with Earthlings.† Earthlings and machines.† Earthlings make machines in their own image.† The problem is Earthlings only credit their reason and everything else gets pushed under the rug.† Thatís why when you talk about machines being made in the image of Earthlings, you can understand why their machines have no, I donít know -- pizzazz.† They have the most boring machines in the universe.† Methodical-plodding-no-sense-of-humor machines without a bit of binary finesse.† All this would have been different if Dr. Hugh Mann and his incredible machine hadnít disappeared.
††††††††††† Dr. Hugh Mann was a visionary.† He built the machines of his dreams.† He had a lot of dreams so he had a lot of machines to his credit.† One was nothing more than a better mouse trap, but the one dream he dreamed every night since childhood was of a machine so revolutionary it would have changed the course of history on that smallish globe called Earth, but it was never realized -- or so they say.
††††††††††† I know differently.† Not only was it realized, but it changed something fundamental to Earthling existence.† The amazing thing is nobody knew anything had even changed.† I mean, weíre talking fundamental here.† Gerbils were even wondering what the hell was going on.† Iím not going to tell you what the change was, youíll find out soon enough.† In the meantime, let me tell you the story with my proverbial tongue planted firmly in my misanthropic cheek.† Again, Iíll have the modulating nonsense anodes turned up to an absurd level, theyíll be fluctuating at about two hundred arrant-cycles per second.† If you have a problem with this and things begin to get a little out of hand, a warm beverage goes a long way in helping one regain solidity.
††††††††††† Dr. Hugh Mann was man with a vision. Being a genius and a man with a vision put Dr. Hugh Mann in with that select group of Earthlings whose membership included Einstein, Galileo, Daedalus, and Bernie, who worked on the fourth floor for Generally Superfluous Technology, Inc.† (Bernie is another story, but what another story it is.)† Being a genius and a man with a vision has its sacrifices, for Dr. Mann it was a complete lack of social grace.† They tried, the various labs and universities genuinely tried to cut the good Doctor some slack, but it was very difficult.† His reputation as a scientist was unsurpassed, but his lack of social etiquette was alarming.† At one faculty dinner an argument broke out between Dr. Mann and a visiting religo-biologist professor who was writing a book called, The Proteinaceous Prophet: Why We Havenít Heard From The Big Guy In A Couple Thousand Years. †After arguing the finer points of the role of lipid metabolism in the ecstatic experience, Dr. Mann declared the professorís theories as drivel.
††††††††††† The mechanics of protein folding have nothing to do with direct experience of Heaven.† Youíve obviously confused Divine intervention with too much dietary fiber.† If you ask me, your theories are nothing more than incompetent drivel.
††††††††††† And I suppose you, Dr. Mann, the noted and distinguished father of applied systems theory, think youíll simply build a machine that will allow you to talk with the Supreme Being?† That, Dr. Mann, is nothing more than glistening slug slime on a dewy morning.
††††††††††† Upon which, the good Doctor threw his glass of fermented grape juice in the face of the visiting professor.† Itís too bad the argument didnít take place later, after Dr. Mann had deduced that slug slime was exactly what was needed to build the aforementioned machine -- but not just any slug slime.† After calculating carefully, Dr. Mann discovered that the only material that could be used as a glue in the making of his fabulous machine was a material produced by a slug that lived deep in the hot, moist soil of† the Jungle of Unbelievers, so the material was, essentially, slug slime.† Unfortunately, their discussion took place much earlier when the machine was still only a dream.
††††††††††† Anyway, Dr. Mann eventually would have no place to go.† No one was willing to deal with his lack of social skills so he couldnít get a job much less backing for his wild schemes.† He became a scientific outcast, forced to live on the fringes.† So Dr. Mann† took over an abandoned machine shop and was never heard from again until the day he showed up, years later, a very old man, in the office of the local pastor.†
††††††††††† It was Tuesday.† Pastor Adam was in the middle of writing the sermon he would give the following Sunday, something he always did on Tuesday.† Dr. Mann was so old he had come in very slowly, and I mean slowly, about an inch per shuffle.† The Pastor, deeply involved with his writing, didnít notice Dr. Mann had entered.† When he looked up to see an emaciated skeleton with eyes of fire, all the pastor could do was think, He has been standing there since childhood.† This was quite a remarkable coincidence, because at that precise moment the church maintenance man came in dragging a little boy firmly by the elbow and said, We caught him in the bell tower trying to ring the bells.† Upon which a shriek went up from the playground behind the church.† Why were you trying to ring the bells, little boy?† The little boy, who was very sharp for his age and very deft at getting out of trouble replied, I wanted to talk to the Supreme Being -- the very reason Dr. Mann had come.† So Dr. Mann said to the little boy:† If you want to talk with the Supreme Being, be at my place tonight at seven-thirty, and he handed the little boy a card.† He turned to Pastor Adam, who motioned to the maintenance man to let the little boy go, and said:
††††††††††† My name is Dr. Hugh Mann.† I make things.† I make the machines of my dreams.† I have built a machine that allows the user to talk to the Supreme Being.†† If you want to talk with the Supreme Being, be at my place tonight at seven thirty.† And bring a clean pair of socks.
††††††††††† The pastor arrived to find he wasnít the only one there.† As we said, Dr. Mannís scientific ability was unsurpassed, so when the leaders of the scientific community had been notified by Dr. Mann of his machine, everybody managed to drop what they were doing to go to its unveiling.† Even the visiting religo-biologist was there.† The enigmatic Doctor was a mystery to them and the room tingled with excitement.† (I still think it was skepticism, but for whatever reason the room was tingling.)† Dr. Mann had everybody sit in front of the machine which was covered by large tarp.† Then, with a melodramatic flourish that was ruined by his old age, he stripped the cover from its place and revealed the machine.
††††††††††† This is my machine.† It is unlike any machine ever built.†† My machine allows the user to talk with the Supreme Being.† It is based on principles I have elucidated since I was so rudely ostracized from the scientific community.† I have spent my life dreaming of this machine and now it is a reality.†† Allow me to explain itís features.† Like most machines, it has for a brain a computer.† This computer is unrivaled on Earth because it has for a central processing unit, an ant colony from the Petrified Forest of Logic.† Its input/output system is a parallel series of cocoons of the Moth of Misinterpretation.† Its memory is a collection of the oldest rocks in the universe and its operating system is written in the language of Fear.† But its most important component, the one that allows the machine to realize the full potential of the dream is, of course, the oscillating pixie testicle.† Where this is found is the only part of my machine whoís origin I cannot discuss -- then, looking directly at the visiting religo-biologist -- but as you can see it has nothing whatsoever to do with lipid metabolism or protein folding.† Now, if you will allow† me to demonstrate this wonderful machine, I think you will all be in for a momentous moment.
††††††††††† Dr. Mann started flipping switches and dials which were made of clams and the sexual organs of certain flowers.† Gauges of ripened fruit began sputtering.† Whistles and static, then a very clear connection to a voice that was intimated by the Myna bird from the Realm of Repetition that sat perched at the summit of the machine.
††††††††††† Front Gate.
††††††††††† Yes, I wanted to talk with the Supreme Being.
††††††††††† How did you get this number?
††††††††††† My name is Dr. Mann.† I make things.
††††††††††† I know who you are!† Donít you think we know? †For crying out loud, man, this is Heaven!
††††††††††† You donít understand, I have built a machine . . .
††††††††††† A Machine!† Donít hustle me, Hugh baby.† You think a machineís going to save you?† And donít talk to me about understanding.† Just who called whom here, anyway?
††††††††††† Well, I . . .
††††††††††† And how did you ever get a hold of an oscillating pixie testicle?
††††††††††† Uh . . . it wasnít easy, but once I got that, the rest of the machine fell into place.
††††††††††† Well you just canít call here any time you please!† What do you think weíre running up here, a cabaret?† If you know whatís good for you and the rest of the Human race, donít call here again.† Sheesh!† Some people think itís all so easy.
††††††††††† The connection was severed and static filled the Myna birdís throat.†† Dr. Mann turned back to his guests who were beginning to fidget and gave them a gesture that said, Be patient, Iíll get through in a minute.† After playing with a few dials he managed to once again contact the gate keeper to Heaven.
††††††††††† Look, just issue the bum a harp, I canít take care of everything!
††††††††††† Who is this?†
††††††††††† This is Doctor Mann again . . .
††††††††††† Way to go, Hugh, you just cut off Ed in stores.† Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a hold of Ed in stores?
††††††††††† I just have a quick question for the Supreme Being.† I wonít take much of His time.
††††††††††† Time?† You think the Supreme Beingís a clock watcher?† Youíre way off base here, pal.† Youí re a bevy of fools.†† I mean, you get your hands on an oscillating pixie testicle and suddenly you think your the catís pajamas!
††††††††††† I swear Iíll just be a moment.† Iíve got the whole scientific community here, all I need is a demonstration, a quick hello would suffice --
††††††††††† No can do, Hughie.† The Supreme Being doesnít take just anyoneís call, you have to earn it.†††††††††††
††††††††††† What must we do?
††††††††††† You gotta go to Hell first!† Everybody knows that.† Thatís how itís always been!† Sheeesh!† Get it together.
††††††††††† Very well.† Can you give us Hellís approximate coordinates?
††††††††††† Coordinates?† Try Sin City, compadre.† And donít bother calling here again.† We got your number, boys.† Now beat it.
††††††††††† †Whereupon the machine blew a crisis capacitor lodged in the tentacle of a South Seas octopus that essentially acted as the machineís relay system.† The capacitor, on the other hand, wasnít some exotic animal as you might think.† It was of the garden variety found in any do-it-yourself electronics outlet.† What it was doing lodged in the tentacle of a South Seas octopus only Dr. Mann knew.
††††††††††† The elite of the scientific community rose to their feet, and filed out in a huff as if some horrible prank had just been played on them.†
††††††††††† A machine that allows the user to talk with the Supreme Being, indeed!
††††††††††† Youíre a quack, Dr. Mann!† You should be banned from practicing science altogether.
††††††††††† Guess, itís back to the drawing board, eh Hugh?† Better luck next time.
††††††††††† The remark that stung the most was the one made by the visiting religo-biologist as he filed past Dr. Mann.† The professor gave him a smirk of self satisfaction and said, Perhaps youíre just a bit rusty on bile enzymes and their role in enlightenment.† Ouch.
††††††††††† After everyone left, Dr. Mann gave the machine a kick and slumped into his chair.† Then he picked up the titanium orchid that he had found on the Continent of Confabulation, the one that basically served as the machineís microphone, and dialed up the Gate to Heaven again.
††††††††††† Front gate.
††††††††††† I want to talk with the Supreme Being.
††††††††††† One moment.
††††††††††† Supreme Being here.
††††††††††† Wait a minute.† How come I got through to you so easy?† Why didnít you take my call earlier?
††††††††††† Well, Hugh, I only to talk to mortals one on one.† You had all those science guys there before so I didnít think it would be a good time to say hi.
††††††††††† But how am I going to prove my machine works?
††††††††††† Kind of a paradox, I know, but itís better than nothing, right?† Could you hold a minute?
††††††††††† While he was on hold there was some pleasant harp playing to listen to as well as a pretty accomplished choir doing its thing.† Dr. Mann thought about his problem of proving he could talk to the Supreme Being.† Maybe a slight alignment of the oscillating pixie testicle, or a quarter turn to the right of the adjustment screw that governed the Variable Gyroscopic Wombat he had found lounging beneath the arctic sun in a dream.† But wouldnít the Supreme Being know?† Hmmm . . . it was a problem he hadnít foreseen.† So he hung up and decided to think about it.† The Supreme Being came back on the line and was a little surprised to find the Doctor had hung up on him.
††††††††††† Hugh? . . . Are you there, Hugh?† I donít know . . . he hung up . . .
††††††††††† For two weeks the Doctor worked on the problem of shielding the fact that he would have more than one person in the room when he talked to the Supreme Being.† It took long hours, but he finally thought he solved the problem.† By allowing the user friendly Three-toed Shrew he had picked up on the Island of Secrecy to access the main control panel, a shroud of mystery would encircle the room and might, just might, shield the others from the Supreme Beingís all-knowing eyes.
††††††††††† He decided to first test his machine using a small group of laymen, a motley crew that would be a little more forgiving if the machine should fail again; a drunken poet, a shifty gambler, and a Mexican housekeeper.† Then he dialed up the Gate to Heaven..
††††††††††† Front gate.
††††††††††† Yes, Iíd like to talk with the Supreme Being.
††††††††††† One moment.
††††††††††† Supreme Being here.
††††††††††† The Mexican housekeeper cried, Santa Maria! then fainted straight away.† The shifty gambler grabbed the titanium orchid from the Doctorís hand.
††††††††††† Whoís going to win the in the fifth race tomorrow?† Blackie?† Knows no Bounds?† Who?
††††††††††† The Doctor grabbed the titanium orchid back from the shifty gambler.
††††††††††† Itís me, Dr. Mann.
††††††††††† Whatís going on down there?† Youíre not trying to pull a fast one are you?
††††††††††† No, no.† Just thought Iíd say, Hi.
††††††††††† Donít lie to me, Hugh.† You sure thereís no one else there?
††††††††††† The drunken poet, who had passed out in the back of the room, suddenly awoke.
††††††††††† Is that Mr. Numero Uno?† Gimmee that.† Listen, fella, how come we havenít heard from you for so long.† I mean, things are pretty screwed up down here and you donít seem to care. †What do we gotta do, a little jig or something?
††††††††††† Dr. Mann grabbed the titanium orchid back, but it was too late.† The Supreme Being was very upset.
††††††††††† Okay, that does it.† Your tried to pull a fast one.† You tried to trick me.† The Supreme Being! †Boy, does that make me angry.† No more mister nice guy.† From now on things are going to be different.† Starting right now, Iím going to destroy all the oscillating pixie testicles on Earth.† Sure, thatís going to upset a few pixies, but Iím not going to stand for this!† From now on your silly little machines will be incapable of bringing you happiness.† From now on the only thing your machines will produce is a lot things you donít need.† And Iíll be seeing you in Hades, Hugh baby!
††††††††††† Dr. Mann and his fabulous machine went Ďpoofí and disappeared for good.† As did the shifty gambler and the drunken poet.† The Mexican housekeeper, who was an unwitting observer, didnít go Ďpoofí but went back home instead with her memory of the machine no longer in place.† The only remnants of the whole charade were some very angry and disconcerted pixies, not to mention a lot of gerbils who were now checking themselves regularly.
© 2000 Dan McCann
Dan McCann grew up in Southern California and now lives in Northern
California where he works in web site design. He has had stories and poems published in Pangolin Magazine, Elk River Review, and Magic Realism. In addition to fiction and poetry, he has also done some screen writing including an adaptation of Dante's Inferno. In the vein of the Alchemical artwork of old, he is currently at work making what he calls "philosophical diagrams" illustrating the cosmology of the Rosicrucians.