Ask this gentleman more about the machine.

"The machine, eh?" you ask casually. A bit too casually perhaps. They all eye you funny.

"Uh, yeah... EH?" is the tall one's response. What would be a chorus of chuckling sounds like a line-up of snort-sighs, one following another disgustingly and obediently. The tall one grins. "You Canadian, eh?"

You smile and nod. "Born and raised North Vancouver." The tall one smiles snidely, or perhaps courteously? in response.

"Well, in Canada you might not have the machine yet, you all might be too busy shovelling snow or whatever to get caught up in it, so I guess we'd better fill you in."

He motioned for a much shorter but even skinnier kid with glasses (whose frame was as skinny as the kid's) to explain. The kid seemed intelligent but unhappy, a proud possessor of the sort of intelligence you find hard to value. He cleared his throat and began.

"You see, the masses-" he motioned nonchalantly towards everyone else in the cafeteria with disrespectful disregard "-are mindless. Utterly. Whether this is because of the machine or if this is what caused the machine to come into being in the first place is a question that we cannot answer and doesn't really matter anyways. Because they are mindless, however, they are happy to obey all of the rules that are given to them and conform to all the values and styles that surround them. They are unquestioning and unintelligent brutes that serve the machine by reproducing its ideas - the way sheep always say bah, you know? - and participating in its economy. They go to school, they get jobs, they make money and then they spend their money on SH-T..." he said sh-t as loudly as he could to draw attention to himself, "... THAT THEY DON'T F-CKING NEED." He sat silently in his chair, arms folded across his chest. You notice that the cafeteria is completely silent.

You turn and look around, 360 degrees. Slowly. Painfully. Nobody in the room is talking. Everyone is looking towards your table. Everyone is looking at you. Oh no. You're being judged!

Everything changed back to normal quite quickly, the clamour of lunchtime socializing resumed as if it had never been interrupted. You turn back to the skinny slacker. Goth. You correct yourself. You realize now that you are not at the slacker table but the Goth table. Your old school was much smaller and the cliques weren't so well defined.

"You scared?" He asked.

"Of what?" You said calmly. But in your mind you weren't calm.

A chorus of snorts signals your approval. For better or for worse, you're in. Or are you?

He continued to speak. "This is what the masses do because they are followers and they lack the will to do anything else. They are a part of the machine. The machine enslaves the masses and destroys anything that rebels in any way, including nature itself. Not that we are hippies and we care about nature. But we aren't the masses. We are not a part of the machine. We are individuals."

In a manner that seemed rather rehearsed he twice tapped the table in front of the tall one and went back to his perpetual state of unmoving hunched over silence. Like a gargoyle returning to stone form, you think, noticing for the first time his warped nose.

"Are you an individual, or are you a conformist follower piece of SH-T?" It is the tall one speaking again, with more enthusiasm than before, and a great deal of emphasis and rage suddenly placed on the last word.

"I am an individual." That's one thing you know for sure, and your response is quick - but not too quick - and confident - but not too confident. Now you are in for sure... if you want.

"Then why aren't you wearing all black like us?" The tall skinny one looked smug and dominant, the short skinny one looked hostile yet patient, and the rest looked very much ready to follow the lead of the first two.

The End

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