The Lexmark Cult, by Justin Paulay, Stith Center, KSWith eyes glazed, they came out of the shadows in single file, each carrying a flaming torch. They doused all but one torch in printing ink, set the one lone torch in the middle of the darkened room and began to dance. The computer lab hummed with the rhythm of their chanting voices. The throbbing cadence seemed to say, "Oh mighty laser printer, we express our heartfelt disgrace for the many error messages we have printed. We are only imperfect humans, not the immortal IBMs. Take pity on our feeble mistakes and rudimentary attempts at perfection. We come to offer unworthy, humble sacrifices that you might take pity on us. Please grant us the favor of printing our English papers which we must sacrifice also to the Goddess and English Teacher Divine."The members of this eerie cult were adorned with their ceremonial attire of computer paper decorated with error messages. Their footsteps echoed as if they were encased in a giant tomb. They slowly circled the computer lab 13 times and took their appointed places in front of the crazily blinking faces of the machines that linked them to their god. Swiftly, their fingers deftly moving over the keyboard, they printed page after page of groveling praise to the printer, seeing who would be the first to print an error message and become the one to present the sacrifice to the Lexmark Laser Printer god.This group of deranged teenagers called themselves the Lexmark Cult. Disguised as a mild-mannered English II class, every two weeks they stripped this guise to perform their heathen printer worship in order to make sure the flood of English papers to the Goddess and English Teacher Divine's desk was not impeded. So as not to invoke the wrath of Joan, Goddess of the Computer Lab Divine, the ceremony had to be performed at 3: 13 a.m. on Mondays.The noise of the tractor fed printer began as abruptly as a spring thunderstorm. "Screee-eeeeeeeech, Screeeeeeeeeech," the printer shrieked as it printed the error message. Heads jerked up to determine who had printed the message and thus been chosen to offer the sacrifice. Their eyes fell on the peasant Mark. Mark slowly elevated his hands to acknowledge he was chosen.Next, he began to prepare himself for the sacrifice. Quickly entering Ainsworth Keyboard Trainer, Mark began to hurriedly type and spin around in his chair, working himself into a frenzy. When Mark became so dizzy he fell out of his chair, he was ready for the sacrifice.Mark slowly approached the laser printer god perched on its throne in the corner, bathed in flickering light. He knelt and began his prayer, "Holy Lexmark Laser Printer, I humbly approach your throne in order to feed you this unworthy sacrifice of paper. Please spare my life and allow me to complete this sacrifice so our tribe can continue turning in English II papers." Mark approached on hands and knees watching the blinking eye on the thrown that flashed the word "READY." He took a slab of paper from the sacred paper file and carefully inserted it into the altar below the throne. Backing away slowly, he then stood at attention.John, the head cult leader, printed the ceremonious first paper after the sacrifice. The rest of the cult hushed in anticipation. Would the printer god smile on them and print this paper, or would it engulf Mark in its wrath?The printer god's eye started blinking the word "BUSY." A low hum issued from the printer. The metallic arm on the throne clicked up and, with a "swish," the paper was printed. Mark had been spared and the sacrifice had been accepted. Papers would continue to compile on the Goddess and English Teacher Divine's desk. The cult hastily lit their torches and filed out of the room. The IBM spirits blinked their goodbyes. 1
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.