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The Anything Machine And Other Stories

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The Anything Machine

And Other Stories

Copyright © 2016 Simon Black

Published by Simon Black at Shakespir

Thank you for downloading my book

Copyright © 2016 Simon Black

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. 

ISBN: 

Author: Simon Black 

Publisher: Shakespir, Inc.

Shakespir Edition License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favourite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

CONTENTS

Abandoned House

The Anything Machine

Alien Zoo

Sunday

Abandoned House

BACK TO CONTENTS

The Offer

As Egan approaches the house, he looks down at his shoes. Both are torn with the one sole almost separated from the rest of the shoe. Every time he gives a step, it makes a very irritating flapping sound. It is very clear that he will not be able to wear these shoes for much longer any more. But they did last him a very long time and at least for that he should be grateful. Now it is cold and night is approaching fast, so he is glad he found the house. Now he will just have to make sure it is safe.

He pulls the old threadbare brown jacket tighter against his body as he approaches the front door of the derelict house. He gives a quick look around to make sure there is no living thing close by. These days one cannot be too careful. Not a soul in sight, just the whistling of the cold wind around the corners of the old house.

The house is a one-story building, in what would have been a middle class neighbourhood in its hey-day. It is clear that there were no people near it for a very long time. The paint is almost completely peeled off the walls, the garden is in total disarray and dry (how else). Some of the plaster is missing, leaving the red bricks exposed. However, he feels a rush of relieve when he sees that all entrances - all door- and window openings - seem to be closed up with some kind of plate - the material of which he cannot determine from this distance. If he can gain entry to this house, no one else will be able to enter it, once he closed that one opening. At least not without making a hell of a lot of noise and by that time, he will be awake and ready to defend himself.

Danger is all around and always present.

He walks up the ghost of a footpath to the front door, but sees that it is also covered by the same type of plate that covers the other entrances. He does not know how, but he instinctively knows that there will be an entrance to this house. He does not have much of a choice in any case, as darkness will soon fall over the land and then he does not want to be outside, no matter what. The world had become a dangerous place and for someone like him, there is no protection. He knows that very well. He will have to find entry to this house. He starts walking around the house. As he does this, he gets a faint chemical smell in his nostrils. It seems to be coming from the house itself. This is something he did not smell for a very long time. That smell comes from a time long ago. At a time when he was still employed, when he still had a good income. Now he was a nothing. He was only fodder for those who were more powerful than he was.

At the back of the house, he pushes at the only wooden board he finds there in front of a window. The board moves and he sees that he just has to use more power to push it inward. He does not want to break it, because he will have to use that board to cover that opening once he is inside the house. Because he is so careful, he has to give it several pushes before it falls inward. He is not eating, as he should, because he simply cannot afford the right food. That means he does not have his usual strength. Not anymore.

Then whatever is holding the board in place, gives and he pushes it in. The heavy board falls with a loud bang inside onto the floor. The man quickly looks around again to make sure the sound did not attract unwelcome attention. Then he climbs through the window opening into the house.

The chemical smell is stronger now, but not overwhelming. It is almost a clean smell. He looks around the place. This seems to have been a kitchen many years ago, but because it is abandoned, nothing is in a repaired state anymore. There are even pieces of brick and concrete lying everywhere on the floor, mixed with other garbage. He knows for sure, there will be nothing of value to him inside this house as it has been stripped long ago. He only needs the safety of the house for tonight.

All the floor-tiles are broken and in some places missing. There are two huge beams, which he can use to put that board back onto the window opening. Those beams, with some of the concrete blocks will prevent anyone else to gain entry into the house. He immediately starts to work on that. Nightfall is close and by then he wants to be done and quiet.

In quick time, the board is up, with the beams against it and two heavy concrete blocks to keep it in place. Now he must quickly explore the place before it gets dark. There are light coming through the gaps in the some of the plates and he can see well enough for the moment. He picks up a heavy plank that he finds on the floor and walks as quietly as possible as he starts searching the abandoned house for any other form of life. The man knows he will kill any other form of life he found in this house. No matter what. When he climbed through that window he took ownership of this house and any other living being here, is trespassing. That is just the way the world works. No morality, no rules, only survival.

He really does not know what happened in this house, but there is no other life in it. Although the place is dirty and clearly roughed up, it further seems to be in a decent state. At least for the purpose he wants to use it. That purpose will be for warmth and partial protection from the dangers out there. At least for a while. As he sits down in what could have been the lounge, when the house was still a house, he starts stacking up old bricks and piece of concrete in a neat circle and then he starts a fire with some old wooden planks lying all over the place. He noted that there are what seems like solid steel plates bolted over all the outside doors and window. No one from outside will be able to get through that. The only place of entrance seems to be where he came in by the kitchen window.

As the fire starts to light up the semi darkness of the room, he really wonders who stayed here before. The ones who bolted those steel-plates to all the outside openings. And why did they leave? Maybe they found something better, but he is thankful for that, because now he has something to keep him safe. At least for the night. In the morning he can continue his journey if he decides so.

He opens his bag and starts with his food for the night. Not much, but at least it is something. Tomorrow he will have to scavenge and see what he can find once again. How quickly things that you never thought you would do becomes a way of life. It must be very dark outside by now, although he does not know the time. He had to sell his watch a long time ago and time had become a fleeting subject to him. Luckily there is enough wood for the fire. In no time the room is warm and comfortable enough for him. For the first time in months, he feels safe. He will sleep comfortable tonight, knowing he is secure. The first time in a long time, as he is not used to this kind of life – but what else can one do after one has lost everything.

Go On With Life

He falls into an easy sleep. That is the one thing in this life, which he always enjoyed, his sleep. Most of his days consist of walking, which means by nightfall he is very tired and sleep comes easily. Sleep is the only thing that takes him out of this hell. During those sessions of sleep, he dreams of his old life when he still had everything that his heart desired. When life was but a dream and problems were easy to solve and at least not life threatening.

Then he hears the noise outside his dream world.

It is loud and wakes him almost instantly. He is ready to defend himself, but…too late.

The strange man stands above him, looking down at where he lies in the one corner of the room, close to the fire. He knows any movement he makes will be too slow, as the stranger has an advantage over him. The noise he heard must mean that more are entering the house now. He was too relaxed and he was too slow. Now he will have to pay for it. He expects no mercy. That is just the way life is.

The man looks like a homeless man too, rough beard on his face and yellow teeth in his mouth. It is like looking into a mirror. They all look the same nowadays. Well, he would have given no mercy if he found some other life in the house, earlier, when he inspected it, so he expects none.

“You can relax…,” the stranger says as he sits down on a slab of concrete near the fire. His voice is deep and he can hear it clearly, although the man is not talking loudly. In fact, the voice makes him feel calm. It also seems to be coming from everywhere in the room.

As the stranger sits down, he sees his trousers riding up, exposing what looks like brand new leather boots. Something that he would really like to have. He slowly lifts himself on one arm, so as not to startle the man.

“You worry too much, Egan. I mean you no harm at all. In fact, I have a proposal for you that you won’t be able to refuse. That is unless you want to, of course, but you will be foolish if you do.” The stranger looks about the room and smiles. “This is not a life for you, but circumstances drove you here.”

“What do you mean?” Egan asks, suddenly interested to hear what the man has to say. The stranger did know his name, a name that has not been used in a very long time, so he might have something interesting. He might be dead within a short time, so he might just as well listen.

“What you see around you is not what it seems. I am not what I seem to be.” The man says. “This might even be you dreaming.” He gives a soft laugh.

“What is not what it seems to be?”

“This house, for example. Didn’t you find it strange that this “abandoned” house is like this? Almost perfect with completely protection from the outside? With only one entrance, which you can then easily lock down from the inside.” The man looks at Egan with what seems to be a smile on his face.

“One can almost say this is a perfect trap.” He says as he gestures with his hand at the room.

Egan sits up straight. His back against the wall. He feels very uncomfortable now. He knew very well that his life style would lead to his death one day, but he wanted it to be quick. Why would they make a trap? What will they do with him?

“Don’t worry.” The man says as he looks at Egan. “It is not something bad. This house is much more than a house. You won’t believe it at first, but this derelict house is a time machine.”

Egan relaxes a bit. Maybe this guy is just crazy. He will be able to overpower him if he moves fast and unexpectedly

“Ah you don’t believe me. Don’t worry, nobody does at the beginning. But look at this.”

The man touches something in his pocket and suddenly the whole room is filled with bright light. Light that makes the fire seem like a candle. The homeless man had also changed. He is dressed in neat leather clothes now, but with the same shiny boots. Egan don’t know how it happened but he saw it with his own eyes.

What he assumed to be a lounge also looks different now. It looks more like some kind of control room like the one he used to see on the old television programs. A control room of a huge space ship or power-plant. He even hears a very low hum now. Or maybe he is dreaming, he doesn’t know anymore.

“With this house, Egan, you can go to any time that you wish. You can stay there for three months and then you will return. You can bring back anything that you think will help you in your current life. Anything.”

“What…why?” Egan says. Strangely, he believes this being in front of him. He rubs his eyes to make sure he is not still sleeping. However, this seems too real to be a mere dream. A hallucination maybe.

“The ‘what’ is what you see in front of you. For the ‘why’ I can only say, why not. Have you got anything better to do?” The creature almost laughs when he says this.

Egan realises it is true. Why not? But with his new life he had learn many lesson. One was that there was always a price to pay. This was something he never even realised with his old life. But in his new life, when he had nothing, he felt it every time there was a price to pay.

“And how much will this cost me?”

“That is true, Egan. There is a price and the price is very steep. But you don’t have to worry. When you return you would have paid the price already. Just remember to bring back that which you can use in this life. Anything on your person or in your hands will come with you when you return. The destination and the time that you want to go to is your free choice.”

Then Egan wakes and he sits up with a start. What an strange dream he just had.

He can smell it is morning. The fire is almost burned out, but he just needs to put on some more of the wood and it flames back on, so that he can boil some water for a quick cup. He is in a hurry now. The proposal he got is something that he must really think over. Is it worth it for the price he has to pay? The price is steep.

He thinks about this all the way as he walks back home. He feels the pangs of joy eating into his heart as Rex, his collie-dog, running towards him, barking as if he did not see Egan for a long time. He walks up to the door and takes the familiar key out of his pocket. It fits perfectly – how else – as he unlocks his front door.

As he sits in the kitchen drinking fresh tea, his wife apparently just made, he suddenly hears her behind him. She puts her arms around him from behind and kisses him in the neck.

“Are you alright, honey? Did you sleep all right last night? And what’s with the beard?”

He lightly touches her arms around him and smiles.

“Of course. You know very well I always enjoy my sleep. I got a proposal last night that I must discuss with you. But we can do that later on. Where is Jenny? I first want to make a mini proposal to her.

“Hey, daddy…you didn’t see me this morning.” His daughter suddenly laughs behind him as she locks her hands over his eyes. “Your face is so warm. And where is this beard coming from?” She says as she releases his eyes and comes around to give him a kiss on the cheeks.

Egan gives her a tight hug and then he says: “What are your plans for the day?”

“Oh, I’ll just be going to school and then back again…” The bright nine year old says.

Egan looks at his wife and then he says: “Well, today you can stay at home. I have other work for you to do, instead of boring school.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the way his wife looking at him. She knows for him this is something very unusual. Must be something to do with the proposal he has been talking about. An offer that cannot be refused as he called it.

He also sees the look on his daughter’s face.

“Uh, what did you say daddy?”

“You can stay at home today. With my permission. I’ll contact your teacher later on.”

The nine year old holds a mock hand out to his forehead as if to feel his temperature.

“Are you sure you are alright, Daddy.” She says as she smiles brightly, thinking of a school day not being at school. As far as she knows her father would never allow something like that, but here he is instructing it himself, without anyone asking for it.

“Yes, the two of us are going to be too busy for anything as boring as school today. Come let’s go to the garage and start.” He says as he gets up, taking the last sip of tea from the cup.

Jenny skips in front of him as they walk the few paces to the garage. He looks around at the neat neighbourhood with the morning sun shining warmly on everything. The fresh smell of the grass and the bird singing invisibly somewhere in the many trees in their neighbourhood. He is not going to a stuffy office today. He is going to be outside here with his daughter and they are going to build the swing that she has been nagging about for so long. While busy, he will think of the alien’s proposal. Is it worth the price he wants for it? What will happen if he does not accept?

He and Jenny bring the tool and some work-material from the garage. He allows the happy girl to choose the branch in the tree where she wants the swing to be.

“I don’t want to hurt the tree, Daddy…” She says, her face suddenly becoming serious. The thought of hurting another living thing is too ghastly for the girl to contemplate.

“Don’t worry, Darling. You will never be able to hurt a tree branch as thick as this with a piece of rope. I am also going to put some thick rubber where the rope will be tied to the branch. When we take it off one day, you will see there will not even be a mark on that branch. And the branch is strong enough to take even my weight.” He says as he pushes and pulls on the branch to demonstrate to her how strong it is.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees his wife looking at them from the porch. He knows that she can’t believe this is him. Staying away from work for the day and allowing Jenny to stay out of school. But he will surprise her yet. That proposal changed his life and made him think.

He and Jenny quickly prepare the plank that will be used as a seat for the swing. He wants to put on some rubber to make it nice and soft, but she refuses.

“A swing is not soft and comfy, Daddy…” she laughs brightly up at him.

They drill the holes in the plank and then she weaves the rope through it. She throws it up at him on the branch and he starts to tighten it. Once he is done, he comes down to test the safety of the swing himself. He pulls with all his might on the ropes. Then he sits on the swing himself and lifts his feet from the ground. The swing stays in place and he feels safe. It won’t break.

This is the most fun he had since he was a child himself, he thinks.

“Now, you test it.” He says as he helps her onto the swing. He stands behind his daughter and pushes the swing. Her laughter sounds like a bright bell as she goes higher and higher on the swing. All this while the morning sun shines warmly down on his bare arms. His wife stands up on the porch and laughs as she looks over at him and his daughter having the time of their lives.

Life is what you make of it. One should not be controlled by schedules and work goals. Do that which gives you pleasure. Everything else is just added fodder.

It is already early afternoon when they are done with the swing. She embraces him and says:

“Thank you, dad. I told you this would be easy to make. The others will be so jealous when I tell them tomorrow.”

They walk to the porch where his wife already set a table for them with light snacks.

“You know what; tomorrow I am going to start on that outside barbecue you have been asking me all this time.” He says as he drinks some Coke from a tall glass.

“Are you going to build it yourself?’ His wife asks with a question mark all over her face. “I didn’t know you could do masonry work.”

He looks over at Jenny where she plays with the cat.

“Yep. You know when I was younger we did many projects like these on our plot. My father was always busy with some project or another and we had to help him. Although one doesn’t think about it at the time, one actually learns a lot. Masonry work is only one of the things I can do.”

“And what about work? Your work…”

“They don’t need me there at the moment. Joshua is a capable manager and there is nothing serious that side that deserves my attention at the moment. I am the boss and can do as I please in any case…” He laughs as he takes a bite from a sausage roll. “Life is not only about making money and doing business. Life is also about the little things. I would even say these little things are more important than anything else.”

He looks out over his huge garden. That proposal of the alien is once again in front of his mind. Will he take it or not? Whatever he can bring with, is his. Life can be better. Life can be safer. He looks over to his tool cabinet under the tree. He and Jenny will have to take if back inside the garage later on. Those tools are exceptionally valuable, especially with some modification

That evening he phones Joshua Jones, the manager at his accounting firm and has a long conversation with him. He tells him that he is taking time off to be with his family. He can hear the long moment of silence on the other side as Joshua decides if this is really his boss or what. But he knows Joshua is capable of handling things as he trained him, himself. With Joshua in charge, it is the same as if he is in charge. Joshua also assures him that he can go on vacation with an assured heart and that he will only phone him in real emergencies.

That night he plays a game with Jenny on her Playstation. She always begged him to play a game with her, but he was always too busy. They play Need For Speed and he is surprised to see how realistic the game really is. It is as if he can feel the speed and he even gets dizzy as the car sometimes fly through the air, over bridges and highways. This is a joy he missed and that he will from now on always play, even without Jenny. It is the little things that make up life.

His wife kisses him on the cheek as they go to the bedroom.

“See I told you long ago you would enjoy it. You thought it was kid’s stuff and I told you it is not.”

“You’re right. And even kids’ stuff is okay. One discovers life by looking at it through the eyes of a child. There are certain bridges that once crossed, can never be uncrossed again. I think I have learned my lesson. Maybe I have learned it a bit too late, but I did learn it.”

That evening he and Brigitta discuss their vacation. It is all so sudden for her, but luckily, there is nothing important that she had to do around the house or the neighbourhood so they are free to go.

The Price

The next morning they all get up early and start packing his SUV with all the things they want to take with them on vacation.

“But what about school, Dad?” Jenny wants to know as she puts her bag into the back seat of the vehicle.

“Would you rather go stay with your aunt Mathilda and go to school while your mom and I go on vacation by the sea?” He asks with a smirk on his face, already knowing what her answer is going to be.

NOOOOOOO…” she frowns.

“Then get in so that we can be off.”

As he gets in behind the wheel, he thinks of the alien’s proposal again. It is a very difficult decision and he will put it off until they come back from the vacation. Maybe even discuss it with Brigitta and hears what she has to say of it. Throughout the years, he always trusted her opinion when he was in two minds about something.

As they drive on the long road to the beach, they sing all the family songs they know. He can actually feel the happiness in the vehicle as the black top slides in under them at great speed.

At the beach, they set up their caravan and make all the connections in quick time. He knows now how precious time really is. How one cannot waste even one second when you are having a good time.

Then the three of them jump into their beachwear and run down to the beach. The brilliant white of the soft sand. The bright blue of the ever-moving ocean. The light wind that blows fine grains of sand against his legs. All this is exciting to him and fills him with a bliss he never felt in his life before. This is all worth it. As he lay, out of breath, later on looking at his beautiful wife and daughter still playing in the water he feels blessed and knows that he made the right choice. This is now something that will be with him forever.

The tangy taste of the meat sandwich that he bites into, the sparkling freshness of the soft drink as it glides down his pharynx. The openness on the beach. The freshness of the sea. The total freedom and the hot sun are a blessing. The two people he loves the most right in front of him. This is life; this is how it is supposed to be.

They spent a glorious two weeks on the beach, just enjoying themselves. When they return home all three of them are well tanned which is the clear sign that they were on the beach every day. He took many photos and made many videos of their adventures on the beach.

They days goes on and every day he appreciates what he has more and more. He builds the barbecue outside in the garden. The smell of the fresh mortar now fills his soul with joy. The sound that the trowel makes against the bricks now sounds like music. He loves this.

He does everything on his own, where he would have gotten a contractor to do it before. It is much more fun this way in any case. He makes mistakes, but throughout his life he had learn that making mistakes is the only way to really learn something. It is also the quickest way.

When the barbecue is done, he, Brigitta, and Jenny get a friend to take a photo of them by the barbecue. They take several photos, some with funny poses. He stands there with his trowel and a barbecue fork. He wears an apron that says: Kiss the Cook or you don’t Eat. They invite the whole neighbourhood for a barbecue at their place to initiate the new barbecue.

Like this the summer continues. Pleasurable, joyful.

Then, one dark afternoon, he goes to his garage and picks up his tool chest. He is wearing a thick coat and a pair of brand new boots. All the clothes he is wearing are brand-new and tough.

“So how was it?” The alien asks.

“It’s better that I don’t talk about it.” The man says as he looks down at his new boots. He has another pair in the tool chest, with lots of tools.

“Ah, they never want to talk about it. We understand. It is something so personal, so close to you humans that talking about it would take the whole thing away from you. Was it worth the price, though?”

“Ten years off my life…it was more than worth it. I would have paid double for it. Why couldn’t you let me stay there forever?”

“That is not possible. It would in any case cause you to just go back to how you were before. A workaholic who do not have proper time for his family. The short time you had with your family will now stay with you forever. I hope you brought some mementos with, because this was it.” The Alien says as he changes back into a homeless man.

Josh looks at the photo of him and his family by the beach, just as a breaker explodes on the rocks behind them. He smiles as he looks at the bright sun lit sky on the photo.

“Yes, I did. This is all I have left of them…”

“Do you know what happened to them?”

“When the outbreak started, it was so sudden. I…I could not help them. If they are still alive, they might be amongst them on the outside now.”

“Oh, its daylight already. You will have to leave now. Remember, this house will not be here when you return. Find a safe place and stay there.”

He sees the light coming from the opening, what could have been the front door of the dilapidated house. It is day outside, but the thick clouds up in the sky; throw a kind of sick yellow darkness over the day.

However, he knows that because it is day, the crazy zombies will not come out. He cannot be sure of the giant rats, though, but he brought the tool chest with and there are some fine weapons there. Weapons that he will be able to use against them. He is one of the few survivors and he will have to move on to see if he can find other survivors. They will have to form a new society. If they can meet up, so he will have to keep moving.

After he had walked for an hour without incident, he looks down from the hill where he currently is. The house is still there. It is only now that he can see the shimmer around it.

That house gave him the best memories of his entire life. A life he should have led when he really had the chance to do it. At least he can now say that he led that life for three months. He looks at the photos again and smiles…

The Anything Machine

BACK TO CONTENTS

One

“Nothing is ever free. There is always a price to pay.”

Those are the words that his father likes to say and they now go through Blaze’s mind as he walks the windy street. He has been searching for work now for two years, without success. There were even a few times that he accepted a job, just out of desperation, but he never fitted in. If the work did not bore him to death, he could not do it to the standards expected of him. Therefore, he was on the street again within a short period. There was no way that he was going to stay in a place where he was unhappy in any case.

He knew since his schooldays that he was not created to work for someone else. He wanted to do things according to his own rules. In the way that the system has been designed, though, that is easier said than done. The system wanted each individual to be a slave to the system. The system gives the illusion of freedom; but after all is said and done, no one is free.

He always saw himself as an artist, but his father told him since high school that being a painter (as his father called it) is not lucrative.

“The most famous painters in the world didn’t make any money while they were alive.” His father would say with his deep voice across the table in the evening when they were having supper. “Their paintings are worth millions today, but now other people are making money from it – not the actual painter. It is much better to learn a trade and do that for a living. Then you can do painting in your off time. Remember what I’m telling you, Blaze: Nothing is ever free. There is always a price to pay.”

However, Blaze’s compulsion to be an artist was too strong and he decided that was what he was going to do. He inherited some money from his grandmother when she died and he got himself a nice flat. From there he started painting. His paintings were fantastic – at least he thought so – and he thought that he really made the right decision to start with this, instead of wasting his time to go to university or college. What can they teach him there, that is not already in his brain?

The problems started when he tried to sell the paintings. He quickly found out that people bought and did business with people whom they know or who are well known. He himself was a recluse – that was just his nature. Few people knew him and those who knew him were not people who were interested in buying art. Because he worked on his own and alone, no one in the local art world knew him. They were also not much interested in his paintings. To him these paintings were gold; to them it was mud.

So when the art community was not much interested, he tried selling his paintings on the street. That was even worse. The people saw the paintings as too expensive. Some were sold, but the money he made from it was not enough to live on. The people, who bought it, did not buy it for art’s sake. That was something he always dreamed of. They bought it purely as decoration for their houses. The art inside it had no meaning to them.

After a year of living like this, his money was used up. He knew that he would have to go out and look for work. He could get his old room back at home, but his father’s rule was that he must be looking for work every day and his father wanted proof of it.

“Nothing is ever free. There is always a price to pay, Blaze. That is something you must write on your forehead. You should have used your inheritance to do a course in something like Information Technology, or Library Science. Those industries are always hiring. Now you will have to take a job where you work with your hands because you don’t have qualifications.”

So now, he has to walk in this dirty street, in this boring industrial area, looking for work. There was nothing. The economy was down and the industries were rather putting people off, instead of taking new talent in. In addition, he did not have the qualifications they were looking for in any case. His feet were sore and he felt hungry. He drank some water from his bottle and then he walked on to the next factory in sight.

He sees some people having their lunch on the outside of a factory. He can talk to them. Maybe they can help him with some information. As he walks towards them, a dark cloud suddenly goes over the sun, taking most light away and leaving everything in a twilight tinted light. It also becomes much colder within seconds.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees something blowing in the wind past him. He turns his head towards the movement and sees it is a big manila envelope. He runs and quickly grabs it. The envelope has been opened already or it was not sealed in the first place, but he can see and feel that there is something inside it. There seems to be some documents inside and it looks too important to just allow blowing in the wind.

He looks for an address on the envelope, but there is nothing, except for a strange symbol in the one corner. Must be the emblem of the relevant company. He is sure it is just nonsense that somebody threw away and he just wants to let it go so that it can continue on its course, blowing down the street. However, the compulsion to look what is inside is too strong. He reaches inside the envelope and pulls out some papers. He immediately recognises the top ones as blueprints. Very elaborate. He did a course in Industrial Drafting and he immediately understands the drawings. He pulls out another paper and gives it a quick scan.

This paper gives the instruction of how to assemble the machine as per the blueprints.

It is typed very neatly and the top part gives the name of the thing that one can build from the blue print. The Anything Machine.

The Anything Machine?

Ah, he immediately thinks. This is some trick machine. There must be a factory around here that build machines for arcades, casinos and so forth and this envelope must have ‘escaped’ from there. He decides to hold onto the envelope and to go study it at home. He puts it in his backpack and walks straight to the men sitting eating in front of the factory and starts chatting with them.

Later that afternoon back in his room he throws all the papers out of the envelope and onto his bed. He spreads it out and then he puts the blue prints in its correct order. He can see that everything is printed on very expensive paper, so this is not just some nonsense. He really wonders who lost this and how. He cannot even understand how it could have been blowing in the wind. It is relative heavy.

The blueprints are very easy to understand, because it is clearly marked from one to four. The symbol on the envelope is printed on all the pages. He sees that the machine has been designed to be made by anyone and one does not need anything expensive to build it with. It can be built with stuff you have at home or can pick up at any scrap yard. Old computer parts, parts of old TV’s and then off course wiring. It needs a new projector-globe – that would be about the most expensive part – but he knows where to get one for next to nothing. As he looks over the blue prints and reads the instruction, the compulsion to build the machine becomes stronger in him.

He can do this.

He can clearly see how easy it is and he knows that he will be able to build it. He has nothing else to do and he wants to build it, just to see what it can do. Why not. Maybe he can even learn something from building the machine.

He takes the blue prints and instructions to the garage and puts it up on the board. There is an old computer amongst his stuff in the garage. A Pentium, still with motherboard, memory sticks and everything else. He will use this as his base around which he will build the rest of the machine. He immediately starts working on the machine. He works as far as he can get with the stuff that he has available. Then he makes a list of the outstanding items that he still needs.

The next morning he goes out, not to look for work like all the previous days, but to get the rest of the parts he needs to complete the machine. The more he thinks about it, the more excited he gets about the machine. The previous night he even dreamt of the symbol that was on the blueprints. He really wonders what company that is, as there is no name anywhere on the papers or the envelope and he never saw a company with that symbol. In fact, he never saw that symbol before.

But in any case, it doesn’t matter. He arrives late that afternoon with the rest of the items that he needs for the machine. He even got the projector lamp. This is a very expensive item, but he got it for a few Rands and the promise to come and work in the old lady’s garden when the summer starts.

As he opens the garage door to start the final phase of the project, he looks over at his paintings stacked neatly on top of each other, due to the little space that is left in the garage. This is not how paintings are supposed to be, but at the moment he can do nothing about it. He will have to think of trying to sell the paintings on weekends on the flee-market. That is if his father would lend him his pickup truck. That is a fight for another day, though. Now he wants to finish his machine. The Anything Machine – as the blueprints call it.

He works until late that night, blessing his father for having all the tools that he needs for his project. He was now using tools he did not even knew existed, but his father had them all. The soldering was fine and difficult sometimes, but he completed it. It was nice doing something practical again for a change. He knows for sure the machine will not work, but he can use it as an exhibition and maybe even call it a work of art. It does looks a bit futuristic with its two flat screens, keyboard, the feeder (as it is called on the blueprint) and the lamp positioned at the forty five degree angle towards the floor.

At one minute past twelve that night, he is done with the machine. He even watches as his mobile phone changes the date to 6 June 2016. The machine is completed.

It gets its power from four car batteries. This power provided by the batteries; four times twelve volts are increased two-hundred fold by a high frequency transformer. He sits on the little workshop stool and put the patches on his arms and on his forehead as indicated by the instructions.

He had already put the raw material into the feeder. That is a cup of sand, some old plastic spoons, other bits of plastic and some foil. Now that he is connected to the machine, he types on the keyboard what he wants. He does this all as a joke, knowing very well what the instructions say the machine can do, is not physically possible.

DELL XPS 15 TOUCH LAPTOPCOLOUR BLACK

Then he presses enter. There is some soft whirring inside the machine and then the projector globe glows as it comes on. A golden beam shoots towards the white spot on the floor and he sees it happening. A laptop is slowly formed right in front of his eyes. He immediately thinks it is just a projection brought forth by the machine, but he cannot see how it makes such a projection, unless it is connected to the Internet, which it is not.

He really cannot believe that this is happening. How on earth is this possible? He thought the whole thing was a joke. He blinks his eyes several times. Within sixty seconds, the laptop is right there on the white spot on his father’s garage floor. The words: COMPLETED, flashes on the one screen and then the machine switches itself off with a soft whine.

Blaze stays on the stool for a moment. His knees feel weak. He cannot believe this really happened. The light is off, but the laptop is still there, which means it is not a projection from the machine. And it looks real. He is too scared to get up, but he knows that he has to.

He gets up from the stool and walks towards the white spot where the laptop waits on him.

The only way he will know if the Dell is real, is to touch it.

To say he is scared to do it, is putting it lightly…

Two

At first, he gives the laptop a quick touch and jerks his hand away. Yes, it is solid. He picks it up. This is a laptop. No doubt about it. He takes it to the workbench in the garage and puts it down there. Then he opens the laptop.

This is a genuine, brand new Dell XPS 15 Touch Laptop. The exact item he ordered through the keyboard. Here it is, as solid as can be right in front of him. It is not an illusion. However, does it work?

He opens the laptop. He presses the power button and the machine goes on immediately. It sports Windows 10 Professional. The battery is on 100%. 16 gigabyte of memory. Intel Core i7 Central Processing Unit. Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M graphics. Plus every program he will ever need. Can anything be better than this? This is one of the most modern, most expensive laptops on the market. Something he would not even be able to afford, even if he had a job, let alone without a job.

The Anything Machine can really make stuff. This is the most fantastic thing that ever happened to him. Can it even be true? His mind is suddenly ablaze with new ideas. He gets a bit dizzy in the head, because the possibilities are endless.

With this machine, he can make anything that his heart desires. He will never in his life need money again. Why, he can even make real money with this machine if he wants to, but who needs money if you can have anything that you desire? People only need money to buy what they want, nothing else. So if you have a machine that can make anything, then you definitely don’t need money.

However, all this good comes with a problem. He will not be able to use the machine here. His parents will want to know where he gets all the stuff that he has, as they all know that he does not work. And he is not going to tell anybody about the machine. He will help everybody who helped him through the years, no doubt about that, but they do not have to know where the stuff is coming from. This machine is his secret. Other people will not be able to keep it a secret, especially his mother.

He quickly dissembles everything and then he takes it to his room. Once it is disassembled, it really looks like nothing. Once he is inside his room, he looks at the machine again. How is this possible? Is this possible? A machine that can make anything and he is the owner of it. He quietly reassembles it in his room despite the late hour. He will not be able to sleep in any case, because he will be thinking about the machine the whole time.

He put some old cardboard and wood pieces into the feeder. Then he throws some powder paint and a bit of cooking oil in there. It disappears down the chute to the insides of the machine. Then he connects his forehead and arm to the machine with the patches.

He types in: OIL PAINTING OF A HOUSE IN A DESOLATED LANDSCAPE. MASTERPIECE BY ME.

This is the type of paintings that he loves to paint, but it seems to have no impact on people. It cannot be that he does not have any talent, but he just cannot pinpoint what the problem is. However, with this machine, that problem is solved.

REALISTIC

IMPRESSIONIST

Suddenly flashes on the other screen.

He chooses IMPRESSIONIST and the soft whirring starts inside the machine. A slight sensation streams through his body. The globe starts to glow and then the painting lies on the floor. Just like that.

He is already looking at the painting as he unclips himself from the machine. He almost cannot believe his eyes.

He picks up the one point five meter by point five meter painting and looks at it. He cannot believe his eyes. He would never have been able to paint something like this. Maybe after painting a thousand paintings, he don’t know, but this is impressive. Even his signature is at the bottom where he always puts his sign. This is the most beautiful painting he saw in his life. Anybody who is not impressed by it must have the coldest heart on earth and have absolutely no appreciation of art.

The house is quiet as everybody else is sound asleep. He quickly unhooks the painting of a clown from the wall in the passage and puts his new painting there.

Then he goes the sleep. He feels satisfied and knows that he will now have everything that he ever wanted. Nothing will be off limits to him from now on. He falls into a very nice slumber.

Later that morning, much earlier than usual, he wakes to some glass breaking and an almost scream. He rushes out of his room, to find his mother in the passage. She was going to water the plants in the lounge and when she saw the painting, the glass water beaker fell out of her hand onto the floor tiles.

She holds her hand to her bosom.

“God, Blaze, when did you paint this?” She asks.

“I’ve been busy with it for a while, but I completed it early this morning. I just decided to hang it up, because I had enough of the clown.” He laughs. “Do you like it?”

“This is the most beautiful painting I ever saw.” His mother says, almost with tears in her eyes. She gives him a tight hug. “All that practising must have done you a lot of good and now your real talent had come to the fore…”

His sister is also in the passage now, attracted by the noise. Blaze sees that she looks with big eyes at the painting.

“Did you paint this?” She asks with a smile on her face now.

“Yip.” He lies.

“Truly, this is beautiful. You mustn’t hang it here, you must sell it.” She says. “I am sure it is worth a lot of money.

Everybody in the house is impressed with the painting. Yes, even his father.

“Blaze, with this painting you had proved to me that you are a painter…,” his father says as they eat breakfast in the sun room. It was always hard to get a compliment out of his father. His father always said that people should be complimented when they do something extra, something great, not when they do what is expected of them in any case.

“Artist.” He corrects his father as he always does.

“Artist…whatever.” His father smiles with him.

Later that morning he sends an email to the director of the National Art Gallery, via his brand new Dell laptop. They know each other very well. Blaze tried to get the director to exhibit his paintings in the art gallery many times, but was always refused. The director was never negative towards him, though. They had some nice chats, where the man gave him some nice advice. At that time, he knew that he would be able to approach him in future. It was just something that he was missing that held him back, because he knew that he had the talent to be a great artist. He thinks the director also saw it that way.

With the email, he sends a nice photo of the painting. It is not even an hour before he gets a reply.

THIS LOOKS EXCELLENT. BRING IT IN SO THAT WE CAN SEE.

He knows the painting is too big to take via the public transport that he usually uses when he goes to the city. A thought comes up to make a car for himself with the machine.

Two problems. He will have to take the machine to the garage again and he does not want to do that. The garage is a free for all and it can easily be discovered there. If he makes himself a car, how will he explain it, him being without an income? This is a problem he will have to solve very soon, because here at home, he will not be able to use the machine as he wants to.

But maybe he can get his mother to give him a lift to town. He wants to reach the director, while the going is still good. If he waits until Monday, it might be too late.

“Mom, will you give me a lift to town.” He asks her where she drinks tea in the sunroom. “Mr Devon is interested to see the painting.” He says as he sits down on the sofa.

“Mr Devon himself? The director of the art gallery. I knew you could do it, Blaze. This painting is going to make you famous. I can tell you that I don’t appreciate art much… really…but despite that, I am really impressed with this painting. It has a certain magic to it that I just can’t explain. Whatever the case may be, this painting proves that you have lots of talent.”

She takes a sip of tea.

“When would you like to go?”

“As soon as we can, if you are going to take me.”

“Of course I will take you. Let me just finish my tea and then we can go.

Later that evening he sits in his room working on his Dell laptop. The machine stands in the one corner, partly disassembled. If someone enters his room, he will just tell them it is a project he is busy with. The meeting with Mr Devon went very well. He was clearly very impressed with the painting and had it put on display immediately. He gave the usual, can't- make-any-promises-but-as-soon-as-there-is-something-he-will-let-Blaze-know speech.

Blaze knows that the weekend lies ahead and that all the top art lovers will visit the gallery. He is sure he will have a buyer by Monday.

He does not know exactly how the machine works and how it is possible that it can make the things that it makes. He just need to put in small amounts of the basic material of the item that he wants and the machine can make the whole item that he inputs through the keyboard. How is that possible? The instructions do not give any indication how the machine does what it does. He searched throughout the Internet since they returned from town, but nothing. There are many videos that show joke machines that can supposedly produce anything, but none of them is for real.

He also cannot find the principles on which such a machine should work, because really what the machine is doing is just impossible. In the real world, one cannot create something from nothing. Many people devoted their lives to discover such principles and ways to bring it to reality, but they all failed.

For example the Dell laptop that he is currently using. An engineer designed it according to the standards given to him. Then all the different parts of the laptop were made according to the relevant blueprints. Everything was assembled on a conveyor belt and the motherboard and CPU was added. Thousand such laptops are made this way every day.

However, his machine created it through a light coming from a projector lamp. Physically it should be impossible, but he saw with his own eyes how the machine created the laptop as well as the painting. He gives the instructions another quick scan to see if he might have missed something, but there is nowhere explaining how the machine actually makes the things that it makes.

But in any case, he thinks to himself, why should he really care. The machine is making the things that he wants and he will soon have what he always wanted from life. What more can he ask for.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Three

The next morning is Saturday. He knows that everybody is out and he is alone at home. In fact, he will be home alone the whole day. He quickly starts carrying the Anything Machine parts to the garage where he re-assembles it. He puts the machine right at the one corner of the garage. All the cars are out, so there is more than enough space for what he plans to create today with the Anything Machine.

He feeds in some old rags and paper into the machine. Then some paint powder and even a cap full of oil. Then he connects himself to the machine and types in R100 000 on the keyboard. He presses the enter button. The machine whirs softly. A list of denomination appears on the other screen that he has to tick off.

R10

R20

R50

R100

R200

R500

He chooses some fifties and then some R500’s, so that he don’t have too many notes to carry. He will have to keep that money on his person, because he will not be able to pay it into his bank account, as he will have to give an explanation where it comes from and it will be taxable. So keeping it he can buy something here and something there and no one will be the wiser.

The machine whirs softly and the lamp starts to shine. Soon the money is in neat stacks on the floor. He unhooks himself from the machine. He checks the money. All real, genuine notes. He holds it against the light and, yes, the watermark is there. All the security strips are also in place. Everything is exactly as it should be. He quickly puts the money into a box he brought for that purpose.

Then he goes back to the machine and hooks himself up again. This time he types in FULLY LICENCED MAZDA 626 2010 MODEL. He chooses an older model to make it less visible. This would also be the car that people will think someone like him can afford.

The machine whirs, the globes light up and there is a glow on the floor. The sensation that runs through his body when he is hooked up to the machine feels stronger now. He did feel this same sensation before, when the machine worked, but not as heavily as this. It is not unpleasant though. The instructions did say there may be some discomfort. But if that sensation is what the instructions call discomfort, then he has no problem with it. Out of nothing, the car starts to appear. It takes a bit longer than the other stuff he asks for, but within ten minutes, the car stands before him. He can even smell it from where he sits.

He opens the door. The key is hanging in the ignition and the tank is full. He has no doubt that the car is hundred percent. On the outside, he walks around the car to the licence disk. Fully legal and up to date. He wonders if the machine also registered it on the Traffic computer system. He knows that the system has never been working correctly, so even if the police stop him, they won’t find it strange if they don’t find the car on the system. The police are highly bribable in any case, so it will not be a problem at all.

So there he has a lot of money and he has a nice drivable car. He quickly goes to his room to pack a bag. He stores some of the money in his cupboard and takes an amount with him for shopping. If there is one thing he likes then it is shopping. Now he has all the money he could ever want. Unlimited. Then he is off in his car.

The first thing he does is to hire a garage where he can park his car. Nobody at home must know about the car for now. He hires a garage not too far from home, so that he can walk there when he needs to. Then he is off shopping to buy himself some things that he needs.

It is very nice to walk in the shops and buy now, because he knows that he has an unlimited amount of money. When he used the money that he has on him, he can just create some more with his machine into infinity. The instructions did say that the machine last forever and once it is made; it can be used to create other Anything Machines.

Maybe this is the reason that he was never interested in working. He knew instinctively that he was going to do something like this. This machine is just an end to a means. It will give him the resources to paint like he wants to paint and as much as he wants to. And he is not going to let the machine do the paintings for him. That first painting was just to test the machine and also to get the right people’s attention on him. He is sure that he has talent enough to support himself through his paintings.

He drives back home with his purchases and puts it in his room. Then he takes his car to the hired garage and walks back home. The sun is starting to set by that time and it colours the whole area a dark red. Great. This gives him an idea for another painting. He will start with it tonight.

Throughout the weekend, he stays at home and paints. He has everything that he needs right there in his room and he really do not even need to go out. He prefers it that way, because as an introvert he would rather be in his own room than anywhere else. He helps his father in the garden and further he works on his painting in the garage. It is a struggle to get the colours just right, but he was able to buy all the paints that he could never afford before. He likes the feeling knowing that he now had no more restrictions. No more excuses. He will now be able to live the life that he wants to live. And even if he don’t succeed as a painter, he still has the machine and will be able to make anything that he can think of.

At the back of his mind he wonders where those plans came from. Who in his right mind would lose plans like these?

Was it coincidence that it blew against him or was it destiny? Or did someone or something do it on purpose? When he started with the machine a few days ago, he did not think about that. However, he cannot see any disadvantages in using the machine. It makes things out of nothing. What more can one ask for.

Early Monday morning he gets a call from the director of the National Art Gallery. This is unusual. Usually the director only communicate with him through emails.

“Hi, Blaze. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, Mr Devon. Is anyone interested in the painting?”

“Interested?” Mr Devon almost shouts over the phone. “They nearly killed each other for that painting. And these guys are hard core art lovers, heh. They have seen all the great art ever produced and they became almost uncontrollable when they saw your painting. And yes, I have a buyer for you.”

Blaze feels his heart opening up as he hears those words.

“A buyer?”

“Yes. It is Clive Rockchild himself.”

“Rockchild?” Blaze nearly let the phone fall from his hands. The shock is almost too much.

“You’ve heard of him, I assume?” Mr Devon asks on the other side.

“Of course I’ve heard of Clive Rockchild. When is he going to buy it?”

“He bought it already. I just phoned to tell you. The gallery took its three percent presentation fee and the rest had been paid into your account.”

Blaze sits down on his bed. This is a new phone he bought on Saturday. His bank account is not connected to it yet. However, he never worried much about the bank account before, because there were just a few hundred in it that he left there to keep the account open.

He takes out his old phone. As it powers up the buzz goes off immediately to show there is a message.

64020 PAID INTO ACCOUNT FROM NATARTGAL. BALANCE: 64143.

By god, he has Sixty four thousand rand in his account. Can this be true? Now he will not have to hide anything, because he made some real money. He suddenly feels a gladness on a completely different level.

For the first time in his life, he had proven his father wrong…

Four

That afternoon he shows his parents his bank balance on his mobile phone. His mother immediately embraces him to congratulate him. He can feel how her body shivers with excitement.

“I am so glad for you, Blaze. A famous artist in our family. Who would have guessed?” She laughs happily.

His father also takes his hand and gives him a firm handshake.

“This is fantastic, Blaze. Something I never expected. As you always said, maybe I am too pragmatic. But here you really proved me wrong. An artist can make something of himself in his lifetime. It is true what you always said: Only an artist can make something out of nothing.”

Blaze can just smile. This is the most fantastic thing that ever happened to him and he can see that his parents are very proud of him. It is an emotion he did not see in a very long time on their faces and he is glad that he did something that put that look back on their faces. His sister is not home yet. She will get the good news later on. He can now also help her to buy a better car than that old rubbish with which she has to struggle every morning.

Within a week life is exactly like Blaze always wanted it to be. He now has the best clothes, fashionable haircut, he can drive his car openly, and he helped his sister by buying her a proper small car for commuting between work and home. That Monday night after he received that phone call, was the last time he used the machine. On that evening, he made a special set of paintbrushes with the machine. It was actually a test, because nothing in the instruction said if the machine could make something like what he wanted at that moment.

He wanted a set of magical paintbrushes if there was something like that and if the machine could produce it.

After he typed in FULL SET OF MAGICAL PAINTBRUSHES, the machine was softly whirring for a long time. Longer than with the other items. He immediately assumed that the machine could not produce magical items. Magic is not real, so how could he expect the machine to produce something that was not real in the first place. Then the menu appeared on the other screen, where the machine wanted him to input the sizes of the brushes he wanted. He entered the sizes. Then it put out:

ANCIENT MAGIC BRUSHES

DRUIDISH MAGIC BRUSHES.

Wow, magic exists and this blessed machine can produce it, was the thought that immediately rushed through his mind. He chose Ancient Magic brushes. He did not know what any of this was, but just chose Ancient, as it sounded more logical to him. He was never interested in magic, so he knew nothing about it.

The machine was working for a long time. He could feel sensation upon sensation running through him as it worked. The light shining brightly on the floor. Then the box was there.

Beautiful, glossy mahogany. He opened it and there were the brushes as he ordered. This really woke up the artist in him and he could not wait. He rushed to his corner of the garage and immediately started painting. He felt inspired and he just could not stop. He painted until early morning. The painting was only half finished when he stopped, but he felt satisfied and could already see it was going to be a masterpiece. A masterpiece created by his own hand.

He was painting the sunset he saw that evening when he walked home. He called it Apocalyptic Neighbourhood. He was bringing that same reddish colour over the area as he saw that night. It was not easy, but it seemed the brushes could read his mind and soon it was the exact colour that he wanted.

He fell into an easy sleep and dreamed about the painting and what he still has to do to increase its artistic value.

Life was good.

The next morning he did not wake up like usual. He woke up, but just did not feel like getting out of bed. It was almost like a kind of lameness that was spread through his whole body. He thought that he was just tired, because he has been working much more than before he had the machine. The machine kept him busy, with stuff that he really wanted to do. He could afford to lie a bit longer in bed, because he didn’t need to go look for work. He already had money in the bank and more was on its way. And then there was the box of money in his cupboard. He didn’t even need that anymore, but it was still there.

When he got out of bed, a pain shocked through his left leg. It felt like a bullet running through his leg, up the side of his body and then exploding inside his head like a nuclear bomb. He fell down to the floor very hard. Then some fresh energy rushed through him and he got up. The fall was so hard, though, that his mother heard it. She was now in his bedroom door, watching him with concerned eyes.

“Are you alright, Blaze? Did you fall?”

“Yes, thanks, Mom. I am all right. I must have slipped when I got out of bed.”

He rushes to the bathroom to start his morning toilet. After that, he just grabs a cup of coffee from the coffee maker and then he goes to his painting in the garage.

As he paints, he thinks about building a small studio for himself in the backyard. He can easily afford it now. There is enough space in the yard and it will be easy. Once he has his own little studio, he can make it much more comfortable than this cold garage, goes through his mind as he works on his masterpiece.

“You look a bit gaunt in the face, Blaze.” His sister says that evening while they eat supper. “You must get out of the garage and into the sun some time. We know you are a famous artist now, but you still need your exercise.” She laughs.

“Leave Blaze alone. He must just eat some more. He is starting to look on the thin side to me.” His mother says as she brushes with her soft hand over his arm.

This put Blaze athinking. He did notice that morning that his jean was sitting a bit lose on him, but he just thought the pants stretched in the wash and because it was very old. He did not see any changes in his face, though. He wonders what his sister is talking about.

However, two weeks later as he looks in his mirror, he sees it for himself. He looks almost skeletal now, with his eyes big in his face and dark linings around his eyes. What is happening? And he is feeling continuously unwell now. Not sick, just not himself. He went to the doctor the previous week, but the doctor declared him fit as a fiddle.

He completed Apocalyptic Neighbourhood two days after starting it and sold it almost immediately. Once again to Clive Rockchild. Rockchild paid him fifty thousand rand in cash on the spot. He is sure that Rockchild will sell it for double that price, but what does he care. For the first time in his life, he has more than a hundred thousand rand in his bank account. In addition, he knows, without any doubt, that more of that is coming. With the Anything Machine he does not even need any money in any case.

However, he cannot understand why he is feeling like he is feeling. It is only when he picks up his brushes and starts painting that he feels a bit better, but not as good as he usually felt before. The doctor declared him fit, so he really cannot understand what it could be.

This makes him worried. Can it be the machine that has this effect on him? He did not see anything about it in the instructions, but still.

He goes back to the instructions of the Anything Machine and reads it again. There is nothing he can see that refers to the way he is feeling and the fact that he is getting thinner. As he turns the paper around, he sees there is some more stuff printed on the back. It is typed very small and in a colour ink that is one shade away from the colour of the paper, making it nearly invisible. He scans it into his Dell and then he enlarges it on the screen. He sees immediately what the cause of his sickness and gauntness is.

Like his father said: There is always a price to pay.

Nothing is free.

Five

As he reads the fine print, the print that he didn’t notice before, because it was almost the same colour as the paper, he gets more and more scared. He stepped right into a trap and there is no escape from it. There is always free cheese in a mousetrap.

It is stated very clearly and unambiguously in the fine print that the Anything Machine has an asking price for the work it is doing. A very expensive price.

The Anything Machine does not create objects from nothing, as it apparently seems to do. Neither does it use magic. It works on pure physical principles, but on a much higher level than any other man-made object. When it is switched on, it immediately connects with a higher dimension. The instructions call it Dimension six-six-five. It connects with a dimension where there are no intelligent or even living beings and take from there what is needed by the input of the keyboard. In doing so, it needs a very high form of energy. Energy that only a human being can provide. That is why he has to connect himself to the machine in the way as instructed. A connection to his head and a connection to his arm to complete the circuit. Once that is done, he is the ‘battery’ that the machine uses as a power source to connect to Dimension six-six-five. The other power sources are only there to make the feeder, the globe, etc. work.

To produce the objects is easy for the machine. Anyone can do it. The difficult part is getting the energy and that is the reason why the machine has to be build. The machine uses the life force of the person connected to it, it gain access to the higher dimension, from where it get the material to build the object requested. So each time he connects to the machine, a bit of his life force is used to power it. The bigger or more complicated the object is, the more life force is needed. Hence the stronger sensations he felt when he made the car. In addition, the life force is something that can never be replaced, which means the human will die bit by bit as everything in his body depends on the invisible and unmeasurable life force.

But he didn’t use the machine for a long time now.

That does not matter. The objects thus created needs his life force to keep on functioning, as they are not from this dimension. He gets more and more despondent as he reads the stuff that he should have read right at the beginning. But the question is, if he read it before using the machine, wouldn’t he still have used the machine in any case to see of it works. When the machine is used once, you have to use it continuously to gain advantage from it. And where did those blueprints come from?

As all these thoughts rush through his mind, his mobile phone rings.

It is Clive Rockchild.

“Blaze, I just want to inform you that your painting, Desolated House, has been stolen from my client.”

“Stolen?” Blaze says as he looks over at himself in the mirror.

“They don’t know how it happened. It was in a room that cannot be accessed without the relevant codes, unbreakable windows, etc. There are no signs of forced entry in any case. No alarm went off and nothing was broken. But the painting is missing.”

Another set of shocks now go through him. What is happening here?

“Do they have any clues what happened?”

“No, even the detectives he hired to investigate are baffled.”

“Am I a suspect?” Blaze asks

Clive Rockchild laughs: “No, of course not, why would you be a suspect? I’m just phoning to bring you up to date and if someone maybe contact you, then you know what happened. How far are you with your current painting?”

“I will let you know as soon as it is done. It is coming on grand.”

“Okay then. Keep well.” He says and breaks the connection.

Blaze immediately knows that this is another manifestation of the working of the Anything Machine. If he is not close to the objects made by the machine it will simply disappear back into the dimension where they were made, because they have no power to stay here.

He will have to destroy everything that was made by the machine. Then he will have to destroy the machine itself. Damn. This will mean that he will be back at square one. He will have nothing once again and now he has a sickly body in addition. This is something he never thought would happen to him. He is in a predicament now from which there is no escape.

Nothing is ever free.

He lies down on his bed and thinks. The one thing that he knows is that he has an uncanny ability to make plans during an emergency. He will have to find a way to destroy everything he made with the machine. That is anything that is in his vicinity.

The car is easy; he will just take it close to a squatter camp. The blacks living there will steal it and break it up into parts so that it is unrecognisable and no one will be the wiser. All these parts will disappear after a while, of course, but what does he care. He will also have to throw the magic brushes away. God, while he has been painting so joyfully, they have been sucking his life force out of him, without remorse. And he didn’t even realise it. It was only when the machine was making something huge and complicated, like the car, when he felt it taking the life force from him, hence the sensation he felt.

The painting Apocalyptic Neighbourhood is safe, because it was not made by the machine. He painted it himself, although he used the magic brushes. Despite that, it is still his own work. And the brushes ‘taught’ him some good techniques, so he don’t need them anymore in any case.

The money in the bank is his and was not created by the machine.

He gets up from the bed and goes over to his cupboard. He takes out the box with money he created with the machine and starts counting it. There is still forty five thousand rand left. He puts it in two bags and immediately drives off to his bank, where he pays it into his account. He knows that the money will disappear, but it will not matter, because it will already be in his account.

Before he drives off, he throws the box with magic paintbrushes in a bin next to the road. He then drives the Mazda onto a beach road, which is deserted most of the time. Inside the bushes, there is a squatter camp and he knows that by nightfall, that car will be gone.

He quickly gets a ride back home.

In the garage, he systematically disassembles the Anything Machine. He makes sure that he crushes all the parts that can be crushed. The rest he throws in the garbage bin, to be taken away the next morning. He feels a sadness going over him. Why couldn’t the damn machine just work, without asking anything from him? But he knows that he has to get rid of it.

With the machine destroyed completely now, he goes outside with the blueprints and instructions as he found it in that industrial area. He throws it in the bin, where the rest of the Anything Machine parts are.

In the garage, he sees that the painting that he was busy with is very close to completion. He just needs to put a final coat over it all so that it can have the particular colour that he wants it to be. He doesn’t have his magic brushes anymore to do it automatically for him, but he still have his own hands. He knows that he is artist enough to complete it. He mixes the paint and first has to stand away from it as he goes into a fit of severe coughing. As he wipes his mouth with a rag, he sees there is blood on it. Damn.

Luckily the fit of coughing ends after a while and he can go on with his painting.

The painting is called THE MIRACLE MACHINE. It shows a huge blue and white machine slowly moving through a partially destroyed apocalyptic landscape giving food parcels to the devastated people.

He feels the weakness moving down from his back to his legs, but he knows that he will complete this painting and that he will sell if for a lot of money.

He sits down in a chair now, knowing he does not have the ability to stand for hours anymore. But it doesn’t matter. The machine put him on the map and at the moment that is all that counts for him.

And after that he will really start painting and show the world what a good artist he is.

Nothing is ever for free and there is always a price to pay. But sometimes the price is worth it.

Six

Outside, the flap of the garbage bin suddenly bursts open as if by a great force. It seems that a strong wind did this as the brown manila envelope flies from the bin out into the street. It starts blowing down the streets with some late winter leaves.

This would have been just a normal occurrence…if there were a wind blowing.

[
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Alien Zoo

BACK TO CONTENTS

Alien Zoo

As Alice walks down the passage to her classroom, she is full of plans for the day. She is going to do gymnastics this afternoon after school, which means anything else that she wants to do; she will have to do during the day. She will have to do something in class to get Ted to ask her out for this weekend. She really wants to go on that camping trip, but she wants to go with him. Unfortunately, he can be sooooo slow with everything he does.

As she walks with a spring in her step down the passage, she takes out her Samsung Galaxy mobile phone and gives the screen a quick check. Yes, there it is. It must have come through just now. A text message from Ted.

I’LL SEE YOU LATER IN ENGLISH CLASS. BRING SOMETHING NICE.

She smiles as she text back.

I’VE ONLY GOT MYSELF.

Then she and Ronda will have to make their final plans for tomorrow afternoon. She wants to go to the mall straight after school. If it weren’t gym, she would have gone today, because she really-really need to buy her that cool and very sexy bikini set. That is exactly what she needs for the camping trip.

Then she is by the classroom door. Although class didn’t start yet, everybody seems to be there already. Even old Mrs Van Halen. This is English class and she simply loves to listen to the proper way that Mrs Van Halen pronounces the words. She pushes the door open.

As she walks into the classroom, everything around her seems to flicker out. Like an old TV set being switched off. For a moment, she does not even believe that what her eyes show her is happening and looks at Mrs Van Halen. It happens so fast that she is still busy walking and then everything that was in front of her moments ago are gone. She walks straight into what seems like a type of see-through, all white…nothingness. She turns back to see what this is all about. It is of no use, though. The passage she was just in is gone. Where the passage was is now the same white as in front of her. In addition, it seems to stretch into infinity. She is not in her school anymore.

What the hell is going on here?

What seems like a white wall, made of the same translucent material that is everywhere now, is close to her. It seems as if she can walk right through it. This is what she does immediately. It will be like walking into the mist. She walks into the wall and extreme pain immediately shoots through her whole body as she is thrown back by a very powerful force. She doesn’t even feel herself flying across the translucent floor as she blacks out.

She is young and very fit and it doesn’t take long before she gains consciousness again, though. She doesn’t know what is inside and outside, because everything around her seems to be stretching on forever. It looks exactly the same everywhere. However, she does hear noises, but can’t see what makes it. It sounds like grunts and squeaks, but not any sound that she ever heard before. At least not any animal she came into contact with, during her young life. The noises are definitely not human.

Reality seems to slip away from her, as what seems to be an infinite environment as big as the whole planet, seems to be moving now. After the extreme pain she felt when she touched that wall – if that is what it is – she stays in the middle, away from the ‘walls’. She doesn’t know how this environment can move, but that is what it feels like. This is something she never saw before, never experienced before. Not even in her wildest dreams. This is what a bad LSD trip must be like.

The grunts and squeaks now only come from the one side of the environment. It is also getting hotter inside. Very hot. She starts taking off her jacket and even the jersey she had on underneath.

She really doesn’t know what this is or how it could be happening. She knows that most of her friends, just like herself, like to play pranks on whomever they can. There is no way that any of them would be able to pull a prank like this, though. It is far too elaborate, unless they drugged her.

The heat inside is also still increasing. She has nothing more to take off. She sits down in the middle of the translucent floor if that is what it is. Her schoolbag next to her. As the environment moves along, she feels the heat stabilising. Still very hot, but at least not increasing any more. She is sweating in her T-shirt and jeans. She even took her boots and socks off.

She sees the other ‘walls’ now, but after that pain she felt, she is too scared to go near any of them.

What is happening here? She tried several times to see if she is dreaming, but she is a hundred percent sure that she is not asleep. Something like this is only possible in a dream. A very weird dream. This is definitely not reality. There is nothing around her, on the sides, up at the roof and down on the floor, but pure white translucence. Where she sits, it seems to go on into infinity on all sides, but if she moves closer, the ‘wall’ becomes visible. This alone totally disorientates her, as she had never seen anything like it. Like holding two mirrors up to each other and whatever is in the mirror then goes on forever and ever.

What she calls ‘walls’ are definitely not walls in the ordinary sense of the word. It seems more like clouds or something that is not defined. When she walked into the first one, it proved that it is very real…and dangerous.

She uses her bag as a reference point and walks to each side, now measuring her forward movement. She meets the walls on all sides after she had walked about twenty paces. This is a cage. A cage from which she cannot escape as she is held in by what can only be called a force field. A very painful force field.

As she turns around to return to where her bag and other clothes are she discovers that it is gone. How the hell could it disappear just like that? There is nothing around her, but a translucent whiteness. Almost like one would expect heaven to be. She can already tell, though, that this is definitely not heaven.

Then the movement of her environment suddenly stops. Very smoothly actually. There are more grunts and squeaks now and then there is a slight shaking of her cage. It seems that her cage is being pushed powerfully into a place and as it is pushed the walls on the left and right hand sides seems to open. On both sides, she sees a man in the same predicament as herself, with one major difference.

The man on her left hand side is young, she would say about twenty-five years old, while the one on her right hand side looks a bit older, perhaps in his middle forties. Both are looking at her now.

The difference is that both are stark naked and she can see that the younger one immediately shows that he is very happy to see a girl…

We Are Humans

“Oh, my darling little chickie…you are one hell of a beauty. A young schoolgirl. Our masters couldn’t have given us a better gift than this. I really hope you are still a virgin…” He smiles cruelly as he looks at her.

Alice is immediately scared. A different type of fear. This is unadulterated fear that she never felt before in her life. Since she was born, she was always protected. What is this guy talking about… masters? In addition to it all, the partition between them seems to be open. Why doesn’t one of them approach her when they can clearly see it is open?

“Behave yourself, Terrel.” The older man on the right hand side says. “I am really sorry for Terrel’s behaviour, missy. But some of us turn into animals in no time, it seems.” The older man says in a nice deep voice, which she immediately likes. She automatically moves a bit closer to his side. He seems like protection and that voice sounds so nice.

“You behave yourself, Plato. When I get out of his cage, I will come for you first. This time I will kill you without remorse.” The younger one screams at the older man as he struggles to look over to him.

“You do that; just remember what happened last time you tried it.” The older man says. Then he looks over at Alice. “I am Ewart Pipes, but everyone around here calls me Plato. That animal on your other side is Terrel Williams. We are all in the same damn predicament here, but that stupid became a real animal and is now playing the game the aliens want us to play. Remember this; whatever happens, do your best to stay human.” He speaks in his calm voice. She immediately has an idea why they call him Plato.

“I am Alice. Did you say aliens? What is happening here? Where is this and what are they doing to us? This is all just too…unreal?”

“Unfortunately it is much-much worse than that. Before I tell you let me ask you one thing: Did you kiss your mother and father this morning when you left home?”

“As a matter of fact I did. I do it every morning…,” she says as she thinks about home. Although it happened only about an hour ago, all that suddenly seems to be so far away and so long ago. She also instinctively knows she is not going to like what Plato is going to tell her.

“Well, that was the last time you’ve seen them. You will never see your parents or any of your friends ever again. This is your new home. Get used to it as quickly as possible.”

“What the hell do you mean…?” she says as she starts to cry. She does not want to cry, but she just cannot help herself. She suddenly feels like a little girl again. Helpless, powerless. She is completely on her own, with no one to help her. She is in an environment that is completely strange to her and she does not even know where she is.

“Firstly, you are not on Earth anymore. But even worse than that, you are not even in your own universe anymore. I really couldn’t figure out what the name of this planet is, but we are on another planet in a completely different universe. I really don’t know if this is a parallel universe, but it is not something to our liking.”

“What?”

“Yes. All of us – and there are ten of us at the moment – you can’t see the others from where you are. All of us have been kidnapped from earth and brought to this planet by an unknown means. Remember that white cloud you walked into, wherever you were when they trapped you, that was the one-way door you walk through. You will never find that door again. It must be some kind of dimension-hopping device. It was created especially for you and it dissipated once you appeared in this universe. In addition, the aliens designed it in such a way, that you walk straight into one of these cages as you step out of your own dimension. According to how I figured it out, these cages are going to be our homes for life.”

“How do you know all this?” She asks as she sits down and looks over at him with tearful eyes.

“Let me answer it in this way, Alice. I see that you stay away from whatever you perceive as a wall. Therefore, you have learned one thing already, although it would be but only a bit more than an hour that you are here. I have been here for what I think is a year and have learned many things. On this planet, we are nothing but animals. We are here in a zoo. Call it an alien zoo, if you want to, but here we are the aliens. Alien-animals. The aliens are looking at us even now as I talk to you. They are looking at us, not to study us, but just for recreation. As we gaze at wild animals in the zoo.”

She looks around fearfully now, but everywhere she just sees the translucent white. Left, right, up, down.

“Where? Are the aliens invisible?” She asks as she touches in front of her with her hand.

He gives a slight laugh at this.

“No, they are on the other side of the force fields. From their side they can look right through it and see us. We are like animals in the cages in a human zoo. Difference is that there the animals can also see us, but here we can’t see the aliens looking at us. They make the partitions one way for the aliens. On the other hand, the partitions between the cages are see through on both sides so that we can see each other. I think the aliens realised that seeing each other and being able to communicate will keep us calmer as we are social animals.”

“Oh, my god, what do we do to get out of here?” She asks as she looks intensely over at Plato.

“That is what I told you at the beginning. There is no way to escape. This is your new home forever.”

“Did you try to escape?”

“Of course. All of us have. There is no way to escape.” He says

She hears the cruel laughter from the other side of her cage as Terrel looks on upon the two of them.

“And soon it will be the mating sessions.” Terrel adds. His voice and the way he says it drives needles of pure fear through her heart.

“Do the aliens know we are intelligent?”

“I really don’t know. They don’t interact with us at all. They are like psychopaths are on our planet. They don’t seem to have any feeling towards us. They don’t care if we are hurt or anything like that.” He says as he sits down in his cage. “The things that they do care about, you won’t like. That is the mating and the fighting.”

“Mating and fighting?”

“Yes, those two draw huge audiences, it seems. I only guess that, because at the time that happens, there are much more noises outside than usual. By the way, that grunting you hear outside, is the aliens communicating with each other. I don’t know if they use money on this planet, but if they do, then I think there is some of that also involved.” He looks away and then over at Terrel.

“But you still didn’t tell me what mating and fighting means.” She now almost begs him.

“It is exactly what you think it is. For mating four males are going to be allowed entry into your cage. The men can fight if they want to, or they can all have their way with you – it is up to them. The wilder it is, the more the aliens like it. Fighting is simply a bunch of males in a cage, who will then have to fight until only one man is standing. I don’t know what the aliens’ plans are with Earth, because I don’t even think our fellow humans know anything about these kidnappings. As I see it, you will simply be reported as missing and you will never be found, no matter how hard they look for you. But no one will think that you have been kidnapped by dimension jumping aliens. Anyone who even suggests something like that, will simply be seen as crazy. And even if they knew, what can they do, humans don’t have this kind of technology.”

“By god, Plato, is all this true?”

“Every word of it, chickie…, and you are all mine. I can already feel it. Maybe the aliens will set me free, when they see what I am going to do to you.” Terrel screams with laughter from his cage.

Alice can see now that although it seems that there is nothing between them, the forcefield is still there. The one will not be able to go to the other’s cage, without walking into the force field. This is the worst thing that could happen to her. With all this, she is not even on Earth anymore.

“Do they give us food?”

“Does any of us look like we’re starving, Alice…?” Plato laughs. “They give us very rich nourishment, but not something we will call food back on earth. They must have studied our physiology to the last drop, because they give us exactly what our bodies need and in the exact correct amount. But unfortunately it is absolutely tasteless.”

“My god. And where does one…you know.” She asks, as she blushes a bit.

“Any place in the cage, doesn’t matter where. It disappears almost immediately, how I don’t know. These cages are totally empty, but also totally clean. They must have some unknown technology to do it with.”

She remembers her jacket and bag…how that disappeared.

“They are going to strip you now.” Plato suddenly says as he stands up and walks to the middle of his cage. “Remember they are much more intelligent and faster than us. And they have better technology. Like the squares used to say back on earth, resistance is futile.”

She hears what he says. And she understands. But she was never on a losing side. She has most of the information that she needs and she had already decided that she was going to dedicate her life to escape from this hellhole – a place where she did not ask to be. No man, no alien – no matter how powerful, is going to keep her in a cage her whole life long.

She is still busy standing up when there is suddenly an incredible loud noise. Then everything goes pitch black in an instant.

No Way Out

As suddenly as the pitch-blackness appeared, it is gone again. She sees the alien standing in front of her. It is much smaller than a human is. Its arms and legs are so thin that one can only describe it as spidery. Leathery looking grey skin, with a face that can only be compared to that of a hippopotamus on earth. Its eyes are cold and unmoving. Why could the men not beat this…this creature down? Even she will be able to do it.

She sees that the alien does not even take much notice of her. At least not like one intelligent being would take notice of another intelligent being. Almost like one would be when you walk into a stable full of cows. You will give attention to the cows, but not individual attention.

“Why are you keeping us here in a zoo?” She asks the alien as she looks down at him. “We are intelligent beings like you…”

The alien pushes her back in no uncertain terms and takes out something, which she suddenly feels on her body as it starts disintegrating the clothes from her.

She looks to the left and to the right for Terrel and Ewart, but there sides have been locked off and she cannot see them.

“Don’t do this.” She screams out as a sudden rush of anger fills her. She feels the shirt and bra falling from her. It falls to the floor from where it disappears almost instantly in front of her eyes. It is not as if its falling through a hole, it seems to disintegrates and just disappear without leaving a trace. The anger makes her grab out at the alien, as her jeans starts to disintegrate.

This sudden movement makes that huge straps appears seemingly out of nowhere and at such a great speed, that it is around her legs and ties her arms to her body, before she can scream out. When she screams out, the alien had already pushed her helpless body down to the floor. His instrument is still working on her, slowly disintegrating her clothes, without harming her body. But even so, she can feel the force coming from it and she knows that if he should aim that at her body, she would be dead in seconds. These aliens have some serious technology. They should have if they could abduct her and other humans from another dimension. That is serious energy expenditure, which means serious technology.

That does not make them invincible, though.

“Don’t you understand what I am saying to you?” She screams out. No reaction from the alien, but the straps wraps themselves tighter around her, almost driving the air from her lungs. The tightening of the straps is all she can think of now and she doesn’t concentrate on the alien zoo keeper anymore. She is struggling to breathe as the straps go tighter. She cannot hold out any longer and she falls away into a deep well of darkness.

When she comes to, everything is as it was before. The straps are gone. Ewart and Terrel are visible again. Only difference. She is also stark naked now. She automatically puts her arm over her breasts as she sits down so that her privates are not visible.

Terrel is now even more excited. She can clearly see it and he does not try to hide it at all. Even Ewart now seems a bit excited. Well they are full-blooded men and she is a beautiful young girl. What else did she expect? Is this what the aliens want? To humiliate them like this? The aliens will not understand that this is not human behaviour at all. Or is it?

She feels absolutely powerless. Like a sheep must feel inside an abattoir. Nothing she can do here, can safe her from a faith worse than anything on earth. She starts to cry again.

“It’s okay, Alice. I hope that things will get better. You will get used to it in no time. Don’t worry…” Ewart says in that beautiful voice of his.

“It’s no use, Plato. Everyone knows you are just warming her up for yourself. The reality is, however, that all of us will be in that cage with her, and we will first come for you. After that, we are going to decimate her. The masters like that kind of violence. There will be nothing left of her. Haha…” Terrel laughs cruelly as he looks at the helpless girl.

This brings a new kind of anger into Alice.

Then there is that loud, very ugly sound again. She prepares for the light to go out, but a pipe suddenly appears in the one wall.

“That is our food, Alice.” Ewart tells her. “You go there and you suck on it until you had enough. The pipe stays there for about an hour if my time keeping is still up to date. It is not nice, but it is nourishing so take in as much as possible.” He explains as he starts sucking on his own pipe.

She feels hungry. After all this excitement, she had forgotten all about eating. She doesn’t know what time it is currently on earth, but she is sure by this time she and her friends would have been sitting in the cafeteria eating and chatting. How far away that life seems now.

She approaches the pipe cautiously and puts her mouth to it. She sucks carefully. God…she spits it out immediately and without thinking. He said it was tasteless. It is not tasteless, it is awful. Cornflower mixed with grass. Yech. It is smooth and consistent. Like the food, one would make for a pig on a professional pig farm.

She knows, though, that she will have to keep herself nourished if she is going to resist her incarceration. The food is nourishing, so she will have to get it inside her. She goes back to the pipe and starts sucking until she feels full. Then she goes sit in the one corner.

“You enjoy it, while you’re alone in that cage, little chickie…” Terrel mocks her from the one side. “Soon it will be only hell for you.”

“When did you become such an awful person?” She asks him as she looks at him where he stands with his obvious erection leering at her.

“I was always an awful person – even on Earth. You know all of us were kidnapped here straight from jail. Even old Plato over there…” he laughs evilly.

God, that on top of everything else, she thinks to herself. This mating sounds like the most evil thing ever. In addition, she is the only female here. She heard there are ten of them. The problem is that each one can just see the cages on his two sides and not those further away. This is not how she expected it to be at all. She has been saving herself all these years for this? Convicts who have been kidnapped into another dimension. Life can play cruel tricks.

“What happened to the other females?” She asks Plato. Immediately after she asked that question she can clearly see that he does not want to answer that question. He tries to look away

“I don’t know…I…”

Terrel starts laughing in a very rough and rude manner.

“Guess you will have to wait and find out…haha…nobody around here is going to tell you…”

Alice feels how the cold fingers of absolute fear moves through her whole body like long, cold needles. Why did this have to happen to her? How could this happen to her? What did she do to deserve this?

Alas, she was always a determined girl. She sits in the middle of her cage and starts making her plans. In her old life, she was a top gymnast. She has been practising gymnastics since she was nine years old. She is very fit and strong. She did some martial arts training, although she is not good. She knows that she will fight much better than usual, because she will be fighting for her life this time.

She starts crying softly, when she thinks about all this. However, she sees that Terrel loves that and she quickly dries her tears and looks at him with a determined face.

“You will not get me…,” she tells him in a defiant manner. “You are going to find me a very hard target.”

“I WILL get you. What will you be able to do? We are four and all four of us are bigger than you. No one will help you, as I will see to it that old Plato over there is out for the count. If I were you I wouldn’t trust him at all.”

She was always one of the popular girls in school. She always kept herself fit and she is still fit as she sits there in that alien cage. She knows there will have to be something that she can do. In the first place, it is a pity that they cannot see the aliens. In that way she would have been able to learn more about them. In fact, she only saw the one zookeeper who came into her cage. The fact that he came alone into her cage, she who is much bigger and stronger than he is, means that they are very sure about their technology. It is clear, though, that without that technology they are nothing in comparison to almost any human. Even a ten year old child will be able to destroy anyone of these aliens, if they all look like the zookeeper. If she can get her hands on their technology, things are going to be much more equal than what it currently is.

She stands up and looks to the side where she assumes the aliens are staring at her as they visit the zoo.

Then she suddenly collapses to the floor as half-digested food comes out of her mouth.

“Alice…” Ewart screams as he automatically runs towards the wall. There is a loud sound as the wall kicks him back to the centre of the cage. He is also out for the count.

When he gets up, he sees that Alice is still lying dead still on the floor of her cage. They poisoned her. Why did they poison her?

Even Terrel looks a bit worried and disappointed now. This never happened before.

There Will Be Hell To Pay

Ewart looks over at Alice’s cage, where she still lies on the floor. It seems that she is dead. The aliens also think so and he sees one of them rushing into the cage via a part of the ‘wall’ that suddenly dissipates to leave an opening.

They call him The Vet. The men know him very well. He wears a different uniform than the others and in addition has a different smell to them. He is the one who always comes to give them that special injection.

Ewart sees The Vet lifting Alice’s head and looking at it through an instrument he holds in his hand. Then he sees something he never saw a human do since he arrived here.

The girl comes into motion. Smooth and lightning fast. He had never seen a human move that fast. She tries to grab the alien, but despite her great speed, the alien is still faster. He jumps back and Ewart sees the bands appearing as if out of thin air.

However, it seems she has anticipated that and she is suddenly not where the bands are. She moves like lighting towards the one side of the cage, making sure that she stays well away from the wall. When she looks again, the alien-vet is gone. The cage must have opened for him where he was standing.

The very loud din of alien noises is now heard on the outside of their cages. This little show of Alice must have excited the alien onlookers to the extreme. He really wonders what she was trying to do. She is out of breath and her muscles shows tight and strong through her perfect skin.

“Gosh, Alice. What was that all about?” He asks

“I just wanted to show them we are not as powerless as they think we are.” She says as she moves closer to his side of the cage, showing him with her eyes to come closer.

She shows him what is in her hand and which she afterwards hide in her long hair. He gives a gasp of shock, but says nothing.

“When is it lights out?” She asks him later on. She looks much happier now than before.

“It is never lights out. It always stays exactly like it is.” He tells her. “I don’t know if they have a twenty-four hour zoo – or whatever goes for time around here or what. However, you can sleep anytime you want. Maybe you didn’t notice it, but the temperature always stays the same. It makes our cages very comfortable, despite our nakedness. However, when you go to sleep it gets a little bit warmer. You can’t accuse these aliens of not taking good care of us. It must cost them a pretty penny to acquire us, so… In any case, you sleep on the floor, but it is not so bad. You don’t even have to get used to it.”

She just nods with her head. Her eyes are almost glowing.

This is another sort of girl. The aliens made a mistake messing with her. The situation is totally hopeless, but still she tried something. That is more than any of the other girls did before. Most of them sat there crying all the time. All of the men tried one or the other method to escape, but none of them tried something like this.

“I really wonder if they know we are intelligent beings. I mean with the technology they have, they are supposed to know that, don’t they?”

“I really don’t know.” Ewart says.

“When is this mating thing starting?”

“I have lost all concepts of time. You will know beforehand. That guy who came into your cage just now, he will come into ours and give us what seems like an injection. This must be something to make us aggressive, because that is how we feel afterwards. The opening between your cage and the adjacent four cages are then opened so that we can move freely between them. That will be four males coming into your cage. We fight each other and then we mate with you.”

“Mate with me?”

“God, I have been here so long. That is what we came to call it after a while. I guess one becomes an animal when you are treated like one for so long. The one who overpowers the others then attacks you and have sex with you. As much as he wants. The others, who can still move can join in once he is done.”

“Does this kill the female?”

“I really don’t want to talk about it, Alice. The one thing that you must know about me is that I am not like that at all…but…”

“…what they inject him with will change him into a raging animal. Even old softhearted Plato is going to rip your guts from your body. That is after he had his way with you, of course. Only this time, he will be last. He will only be able to do it with your carcass. What they inject us with, fills us with such rage that we rip the body into bloody tatters once our sexual urges are met. I am sure they feed the girl to us afterwards, because our food always tastes better and meatier after such a session.”

“God, Terrel…you didn’t have to tell her that…”

Alice listens and absorbs. She finds that she is suddenly not scared anymore. She is only getting more and more determined to show these aliens that she is a human and not to be messed with.

“Is there any way we can talk, without mister violent hearing us?” She asks Plato quietly.

“Yes, over in that corner. Meet me there later on so that he don’t suspect.”

About an hour later, the two of them have a quick conference in the corner. Alice’s temperament gets better and better as time goes by. She knows that death awaits her, but what can be sweeter than death when you have to live in an environment like this? Locked up in a cage for the rest of your life and not being able to see the outside world. That is not good enough for her and that will never be the way that she lives her life.

She is not going out without a hell of a fight. She had four fights while she was still on earth and she won every one of them.

Forever Mine

Alice goes to sleep in the middle of the cage. At the moment she sees herself alone, with no one she can trust. She knows humans very well and it is very clear that the aliens see them purely as animals. She considers herself as on her own. Ewart might be an ally, but she can never be sure of that. She knows, though, that at the end nobody is going to help her, but herself.

If she dies in the process, so be it. Death is better than living in this hellhole.

She is actually surprised that she almost immediately falls into what seems like a deep sleep. She thought it would be difficult to get to sleep under the circumstances.

She immediately sees her father shaking her as she wakes up in her own bed.

“God, girl…you must have had a terrible dream. You were screaming and kicking your blankets from you the whole night. What is wrong?” He says as he smiles warmly at her. She sees her mother standing behind him, with her arms on her father’s shoulders. Her mother is also smiling warmly down on her.

Was it all but a terrible dream? Is she going to get up now and prepare to go to school? She is scared to go to school. What if the dream becomes true? She…

Then that harsh noise again. She wakes up instantly and is on her feet in no time. When the cages become pitch black, she comes into motion immediately.

She was never the best student in her kung-fu class. Although she never took her martial arts training seriously, she memorised all the moves and can do it without even thinking about it. She knows that is not going to help her much here, but she will at least try.

As the light returns to her cage, she sees that the force fields between her cage and the other cages are gone. The ones at the back and in front are still there, though. She sees the men already in the middle of her cage where they expected her, but she moved too fast for them. Then she comes into motion again. She knows that no movement can be wasted now. This is either life or painful death.

She grabs the man closes to her and brings him down to the floor. Her bare foot kicks out hard into his face and she knocks him into unconsciousness. She is already on the move again. With four cages open, she knows she has much more space to manoeuvre in.

She can hear the excited grunts and squeaks on the outside of their prison. There is a new sound; something that almost sounds like applause and cheers.

As she runs at top speed to the other cage, she feels the men following her. Three left. She turns around unexpectedly and brings the one closes to her down with a sudden movement of her one arm. She punches an artery in his neck with her bunched fingers, very hard. The attacker’s body becomes limp as it falls down to the floor.

Boy, her body can remember all those boring moves. She runs and suddenly she is trapped close to the front wall. Here the noise coming from the aliens are loudest. Terrel is one of the men still standing. She sees now that the first one she knocked down was Ewart. The one she knock down last and the other one she do not know. Terrel approaches her unafraid now.

“Tired, huh and I know your moves now…” he laughs cruelly. She can see he is very excited and ready to bring her down violently. He did say that he was prepared to have sex with her carcass if necessary. And she sees what almost seem like a red glow of rage in his eyes now. He is determined to bring her down, but he knows now it is not going to be easy.

He jumps at her – suddenly and unexpectedly. As he makes contact with her, she opens her hand and holds out the alien’s instrument, which she swipe from the vet when she pushed him backwards. This sinks away into Ewart’s face now. He falls down squirming with pain to the translucent floor. She brings her fist down hard in his face, helping him into the darkness where he belongs.

Then the danger really increases. Her cage suddenly opens from the back as two black clad guards comes in to subdue her.

She has been waiting on this moment.

Ewart now jumps up like a bat out of hell. He learned a few things by watching Alice. Move as fast as you can and never stop moving.

They worked it out that the guards would enter there, because that was the place where the zookeeper disappeared when she attacked him earlier. Therefore, the entrance had to be there. The technology is unknown to them, but nothing that cannot be figured out with a little brainpower. That is what humans are known for.

An entrance is also an exit.

Ewart now brings the first guard down, takes his weapon, which looks rather familiar and throws it to her. Ewart is still moving at great speed and sees to it that he does not stay for too long in one spot. He moves with haste away from the second guard now.

Alice shoots the second guard with the weapon without any hesitation. As he falls down, Ewart grabs his weapon, still on the move. They both move without thinking now. There is no other choice.

Ewart is out the opening within seconds. He just hopes that she makes it, but he did see her moving towards it at great speed.

As Alice approaches, she sees the opening starting to close, with the force field flickering back into life. She slides over the floor right through, feeling some pain and having the top of her hair singed, as the force comes back full force, but she is outside with Ewart. They both made it.

All this happened in one or two seconds. Anything less would have been disastrous.

For the first time they both see what the planet looks like. It looks like a strange city, with strange and very high buildings. There are even roads with almost recognisable vehicles moving on them at great speed. The zoo seems to be in a quieter part of the city, if that is what it is. Further away they both can see mountains and what looks like huge plants. Maybe this is what counts as the wild out here. Whatever the case may be, they both know that is where they want to be. First get out of the city and then regroup to plan.

They are at the back of the cages, but they can hear the loud noise coming from the other side. Therefore, the other side must be open to the public, while this side is more for the personnel. That is if other dimensional aliens arrange their things exactly as earth-humans do. Whatever the case may be, there are not a lot of aliens this side. But the ones who are there, are the unlucky ones.

Alice and Ewart fire their weapons now at any alien they see in front of them as they just keep on running. The weapon fires some sort of force field that simply disintegrates its target. Very close to playing a video game, something that Alice as a teen and Ewart as a convict did a lot on Earth.

Alice is just glad that they did not fall down dead immediately when they arrived on the outside. That was one of the things that she thought about when she worked out her plans. It nearly made her abandon her escape plan completely, but she still decided that she preferred death to being a prisoner her whole life long.

She figured out that the aliens might breathe in some completely different gas than humans to stay alive. If that was so, then they are providing them with the exact combination of oxygen and nitrogen that humans need to stay alive. Being outside the cage on the other hand might be an immediate death sentence.

Luckily, for them it seems that all living beings breathe in oxygen mixed with nitrogen, no matter in what universe they are. The air that they breathe in, taste nice and fresh. Unfortunately, it is cold outside. Alice knows that they will not last long with their naked bodies in this temperature.

Alice is surprised to see there are no other guards in the vicinity. The aliens became too complacent and thought that two guards would be enough. Maybe she should have worked out a plan that would also have allowed for the others to escape. That would have created real chaos. Unfortunately then, on the other hand, she and Ewart would then have been hunted by two parties.

“This way…” Ewart says as they see a vehicle approaching.

It is clear that the aliens in the vehicle do not know of the escape at the zoo yet. These look like ordinary citizens if one can call it that on this alien world.

Ewart points his weapon at the driver. The driver immediately brings the vehicle to a stop. Alice pulls the driver out and throws him hard down on the road. She is much bigger than he is. Obviously also much stronger. In hand to hand fighting these aliens will not even stand a chance against a ten year old human child, let alone an enraged adult.

She points her weapon at the second alien, who immediately jumps out the other door after seeing what Alice did to the driver. Ewart jumps in and Alice drives them quickly off. The vehicle is much smaller than what they are used to. They sit hunched up and thus fit in a way inside the alien vehicle. The vehicle makes almost no sound but feels powerful and like something that can put on speed when needed. There is also enough heat on the inside to keep them comfortable, despite their nakedness.

The vehicle is also very easy to drive. Due to playing video games since she was born, the girl immediately and instinctively knows how to drive the vehicle as it only has a joystick with which to steer. Pushing the stick forward makes it go forward. The further you push it forward, the faster it goes. For turning left you turn the joystick left, etc.

“Head towards those mountains over there.” Ewardt urges her. “I think the big guns will be here soon now. I don’t think it will be easy against them.”

She knows what he means. They have been fighting against the equivalent of zoo-security guards so far. Now the police or even army would have been called in and if they are like Earth police or army, the will not play with what they see as extremely dangerous animals.

Ewardt is still shooting aliens through the window as they drive along. This must be his revenge for being locked up for ten years.

She feels glad that he is doing it. Just like him, she has no love for these vermin who abducted her. This escape of hers is only the start of what she plans. Once she is relative safe, she is going to plan and then she will come down and kill every last one of them. She is not an animal. She will show them that they messed with the wrong specie.

She moves the vehicle down the road at speed. Strangely, they meet no other resistance. Then she sees a place where she can turn off between two huge buildings towards the open mountains. Soon the city gets smaller and smaller behind them.

It is strange that no one or nothing is following them, unless the aliens have other plans with them.

An hour later, they are deep inside the mountains, which seem totally devoid of life. The vehicle seems to move like a hovercraft, they don’t know how, but one can travel anywhere with it, even over the water.

“It will be difficult for them to find us here. I think we are free for now. These weapons are going to keep us free for very long. Any alien we see, we shoot.”

“Yes,” Ewardt says. “These guns seem to generate their own power, which means we will be able to have other uses for them too…after some conversion, of course.”

“That’s good. We must check out their technology and adapt it to our own needs. After that we can almost say that we have a planet of our own.” She smiles as she says this, thinking back to how scared she was at the beginning. “These aliens just never realised who they were messing with.”

They come around a bush and then they see the girl. She looks about ten years old. When she sees the alien vehicle, she runs immediately. Then she sees it is humans. She stops and turns around. She looks at them and smiles. Alice smiles back.

This place is even stranger than she thought it was. It seems the adventure had just begun.

Sunday

BACK TO CONTENTS

It is Sunday morning and I have a well-deserved sleep in. I can even feel how the tiredness is drawn from my body, like poison from a wound. New energy is released in my body to rebuild and restore after a wild Saturday night…

Icy cold water on my face. It shocks me awake. Woody smelling soap gives it freshness as I look in the mirror. As slippery as soap. As smooth as a girl’s skin. I know a boy who slipped on a piece of soap in the shower and broke his leg.

I slip into a black jean. Then a soft, grey and black top over the nakedness of my torso. I am dressed and the day is mine.

My day to laugh and play once again.

But I can’t. I can’t, because I had already lost too much.

It is Sunday morning and I eat a soft bread roll with thick butter on. I drink strong black coffee. Dark like the night and sweet like a dream. I like it that way. They say it is like acid for your intestines, but at the moment I don’t care. I will care about it when I am old.

It is Sunday morning and I know that I had a great lost. That, which I fought for and worked hard to get, I lost just like that. Like a gambler who took a chance, I had a big lost and will have to start from square one. My arrogance made me a failure. I lost that which I will never be able to replace. At least not with the same value.

It is Sunday morning and the sky is light blue. Light clouds, like fluorescent cotton wool drifts in the heavens. The sun is a sharp, white eye in the clear blue.

My thoughts return to…

…Saturday afternoon and she and I walk into the club. Inside the club my eyes takes moments to get used to the semi-darkness that rules the place. Inside these walls, everything is artificial. There is no place for the sharpness of the sun here. The grey-blueness of the strong smoke hangs over everything on the inside. The smell of cigarette smoke and strong liquor causes a strong funk.

People. Weekend people. They laugh and talk noisily. Like bees making honey for the queen. Immediately I can see how all the men’s eyes go over her. I see it focus to see her even better. They change it to x-ray vision to undress her with their eyes. The anger pushes up in me as the pigs look at my girl.

But she is mine. And she is with me.

I do not blame them, though. She is the most beautiful girl here. She will be the most beautiful girl in any place that we enter. I created her and I made her exactly as I wanted her to be. That is why she is with me. That is why she is mine. Her grey-green eyes look as if it can see right through anyone and anything. Her dark blond hair hangs halfway over her eyes, making her even more mysterious and sexy. I made it especially so that she can flick it away from her face now and again. Giving her movement, giving her style.

Her body is Twiggy thin and as sexy as all the fires of hell.

With her tight fitting white jean and black top, she looks like someone who just stepped straight out of a fashion magazine. And I know that she is mine.

We sit down at the high table on the high stools provided and she smiles white and beautiful with me. We are well known here and Gerry is already on his way with our drinks. We are just bringing the glasses to our lips when she appears…

…the other girl. Glowing dark skin. Light brown eyes that seems to be glowing in the semi-darkness. Strings of shiny, wet looking hair that hangs down her shoulders and over her face. Her body is cat-like and enticing. When she speaks, her words are slippery and smooth and covered with honey. Sweet and dangerous. She can’t be trusted.

Slippery words. Like soap. I know of a boy that broke his leg when he slipped on a piece of soap in his shower. Slippery. Smooth. Liqueur.

As the other girl starts to talk, my girl says…

…she has to go somewhere. As she stands up, she looks over her shoulder at the other girl. Like a young lioness, eyes ablaze and life threatening. Aglow with cautioning. “Do something that I don’t like and you will see what happens…”

I watch her smooth rolling super-body as she disappears amongst the crowd of dancing people.

“Give me some Stimorol.” The other girl says as her eyes glow into mine.

“Have some. That was just to show you that I can be rude if I want to be.”

She smiles.

“You have many admirers around here in the club.” She laughs as she gets onto the high chair next to me.

“Who says they are admiring me. Maybe they want to fuck me up.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t want to fuck you up. At least not in the way you mean. Why do you think I was watching you the whole time?”

I suddenly start to wonder why my girl is taking so long. She would not have gone if it wasn’t important. Where did she go, by the way – she didn’t even say.

“We can put our heads together and work something out.” The other girl says as she moves her mouth towards my face. She tries to mesmerise me with her glowing eyes, but I look into the smoke of the crowd.

I am getting worried now.

Where is she? Why is she staying so long?

She has been gone for too long. She won’t survive on her own. I will have to go and look where she is.

Then the fool arrives. Long eared yokel. Stupid idiot. The clown of the club.

He stands next to our table and smiles with us. The evil in his smile makes me more worried now.

“Why are you two sitting here in the dark, whispering to each other? Do you know each other?” He gives a deep laugh out of his stomach for his own bad joke.

I can see how his teeth are getting bigger and bigger the more he laughs. It becomes bigger and yellower. His mouth and ugly teeth grows until it fills the whole club and covers everything. His evil laughter can be heard even above the loud music. The patrons move fearfully to the sidewalls of the club, until he is done laughing.

Their eyes show how worried they are. I know what type of place this is. I know what is going on here. I come here for the stimulation of the hundreds of people who come here to dance and make out. But if something happened to her here, there will be hell to pay.

She didn’t want to come here, but I insisted.

Not in this place…not in THIS place.

The evil clown.

A guy goes into a bar and walks up to a girl with the intention of picking her up, but she tells him that she’s married.

“But you’re wearing your wedding band on the wrong finger,” he says.

She replies, “That’s because I married the wrong guy.”

The jokes slide from the clown’s mouth and he laughs. Once again, his laughter becomes louder than the club music. Deep and growling. He overpowers even the loud thumping of the powerful disco sub-woofers.

Laughter. Isn’t everyone in the world like that? Are we not all living inside a joke? It is all a joke. Maybe the mighty universe is making a joke of all of us. The planets, the stars, the cosmos are all laughing at us. Long bumpkin face.

I realise that the clown is keeping me busy. Something happened to her. And where is the other girl?

Why is the other girl suddenly missing?

I never even saw her get up and disappear into the crowd.

The bar, the high table, and all the weekend people suddenly disappear in front of me. I jump from the high chair and suddenly it too is not there anymore. I am dressed all in white and the whole club is now suddenly white.

Do I still exist? With all this whiteness around me.

…and what happened to the girl?

“Do you taste as good as this drink?” The string haired girl asks me as she smiles beautifully. She is looking a bit funny at me now. I see that the clown left our table. He is chatting to some girls in the one corner of the club.

It is funny, but is it seems as if they are enjoying his unending jokes. Funny girls. Funny?

Then two well-built teenage transvestites enter the club. The whole club comes to a standstill and first takes a deep breath. There is quiet over everything for a few long seconds. And then there is a hell of a noise as people start whistling and making cat calls at the transvestites. The TV’s take a seat by the bar. They are almost immediately inundated with admirers – both guys and girls.

These bloody transvestites must be very interesting to cause everybody to go so crazy over them, I think to myself.

And I wonder where my girl is. Why is she not coming back? I will have to go and look where she is. What if she was kidnapped?

Me/I and the other girl are now watching the transvestites and all the attention they are drawing. One of the admirers starts groping the TV. He/she pushes the admirer away from him/her. They look uncomfortable now. They are still teens. Like leopards trapped in a bamboo cage.

The one transvestite turns around and looks straight at me. I look at the transvestite. His/her eyes tempt me with sin. My eyes tempt the transvestite. Our eyes are tempting each other. And then the transvestite looks away…

…and she is gone. I don’t know where she went. When the other girl arrived, she left in such a hurry…

But she never returned. I start looking for her everywhere now. I will be a detective in a few years’ time and this is good practice.

“Did she come pass you?” I ask Philida who puts the stamp on your arm when you enter the club. You can’t enter or exit without her knowing it.

“No,” she says as she smiles up at me. “I would have seen her. I was here the whole evening.” She shows me the chains. “But I will go home with you if you can’t find her and need company.” She says as she looks from under her eyelashes up at me. She holds her well-manicured hand out to me.

I walk back into the club.

Somebody abducted her. I don’t know how they got her out of the club, but they abducted her.

The other girl, the evil clown and the transvestites must all be accomplices. All there to get my attention off her so that they could do their evil deed.

Maybe she is already on a slave ship on her way to that island in the middle of the ocean. Unending torture. They will rape her day and night until she is dead. Because of my inattention, I might have lost her forever. Anger ripples through me like a hot salty stream.

Back to Sunday morning. Without her. Loud classical music on the mini stereo on my hip.

Sunday slowly sinks away into infinity. It will be days and nights without the heat of her warm arms around me, her warm body against me. Her smooth face that I can caress with my fingers. The smooth heat of her tongue inside my mouth. The firmness of her strong tummy. A body to love me. A body to love.

She is lost to me.

The whiteness of the sun moves over the blue of the heavens.

In the end the Sunday is lost forever. It is gone now and part of the past for always. All that is left is the future. The future lies like a misty dark tunnel in front of us. I know I will survive. But I won’t like it. Not without her.

The sun sinks away and the heavens are coloured red and orange.

I am going to sleep now and sink away into heavenly bliss. I want to wander amongst the stars.

And then I want to dream of her.

I want to think of her. And I want her to think of me. And I want to dream. Dream of her.

Dream of Catherine and Charlene and Louise and Linda and Sharon.

And inside the dream she must love me. Like I love her.

In the dream, she must open my shirt, while she looks deeply into my eyes. Then her cool hand must caress softly over the nakedness of my chest. Down to the strength of my stomach. Lower and lower…

It is Sunday morning and I wake up with…

…her in my arms.

Her grey-green eyes laugh at me, where she looks down on me, while supporting herself on one arm.

“Why are you trembling like that when you sleep?” She wants to know.

Thanks for reading my book.


The Anything Machine And Other Stories

Visit an ABANDONED HOUSE that Egan quickly finds out is actually a camouflaged time machine. He gets an offer to use the machine and go to any time that he chooses. How long will he contemplate this proposal? Help to build the ANYTHING MACHINE with Blaze and see the results. Just type it in on the keyboard and the machine makes it for you. Whether it is the latest laptop or a set of magic paintbrushes. However, is anything really ever free? Then a young girl is abducted into another dimension, where she is kept in an ALIEN ZOO as an exotic animal. She quickly learns that this is her home for life and any attempts at escape are futile. Finally, we move right into dream on a SUNDAY morning. Strange things can happen and usually does in a morning-dream.

  • ISBN: 9781370513635
  • Author: Simon Black, Sr
  • Published: 2016-07-27 15:05:12
  • Words: 24852
The Anything Machine And Other Stories The Anything Machine And Other Stories