The Machines

November 20, 2009
The machines wander endlessly around the earth. They've been here since the first big blasts—since the infants were short of breath, since the cities began to waste away. They tower above the average human, each a bit different in their characteristics, but of the same mindless composure. I see them with bits of wire hanging off, brown stains running in and out of their metal plates, missing parts and chipped joints. They never seem to notice themselves deteriorating until the last moment, when they freeze rigid and crumble to the ground in pieces. But their number hasn't seemed to dwindle, not for a hundred years.

They never had a big effect on us humans. We sometimes wonder why they were put here. Perhaps to give an imitation of life to the earth after the people are gone. And we are indeed leaving, bit by bit. We see less of each other each day. The time to this moment is seven o'clock A.M., June fourth, and the spot is exactly where God-Blessed America's capital might have once stood. And here am I, standing before the broken altar to Abraham Lincoln himself.

A hardly adult girl sits on his knee, turned with her head tilted so that her long, unkempt hair flows onto the stony material of his leg. She stares at where Abe's head might have been, a long time ago, before the blasts crumbled it and half his arm away.

I haven't seen a woman in a long time. For a moment, the nature of her clean, shapely body averts my attention away from the huge statue. I shake my head to rid it of unpleasant memories, and step nearer to the statue's foot. She hears me and turns suddenly, breath catching in her throat.

“Do you remember his face?” I ask her.

The girl hesitates, but shakes her head slowly. “I'm sorry...I was young when it happened.”

My eyes travel away from her dark, slanted eyes a moment. I'm looking at Abe's thin fingers, straight posture, pressed clothing. It all seems to direct what his personality might have been like. But if I shut my eyes, I can't picture a face above it.

I open my eyes to see the girl turned to look at me. She looks well-kept, even in these times. Perhaps seventeen years old.
With a groan of gears, in the distance behind me can be heard a machine making its way to the steps of the great monument. The girl and I both freeze, and I step nearer to Lincoln's leg, as one of the colossal things begins to pick its way through the broken street. It groans right over the cracked steps to the memorial, unaware that there are humans staring at it from inside.
“Did they tell you what they were angry about before they destroyed it?” The girl asks me.
I pause, looking down at my own callused and bleeding hands.
She looks at me interestedly, waiting for me to continue.
“They were angry because they hated us. And they hated us because they were angry. It was just something done out of pure ignorance. There was no reason to fight, and only some of us realized it, and we tried to protest. And then they dropped the charges.”
It becomes silent as the girl stares up at Abraham Lincoln.
“Do you remember his words?”
“They're written on the wall,” I reply wearily, “but nobody remembers them at all.”

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fall_from_grace said...
Dec. 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm
This is incredible. I wish you would turn it into a novel, or at least a short story. Even in so little there is so much. Not just the message, which is invaluable, but the voice of this man, who seems so real. He is everyone who tried to stop something horrible and failed. He is us all.
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