The Reality Machines

See the green door? The little green door like an entrance to a hobbit hole? Padlock, veins of lichen running up it like rust?


See the stones on the ground? The paving stones that look like broken toffee?

Stand on them. Stand on them, hold your breath and try to feel. With your feet, try to feel with your feet. It’s difficult at first, but just wait. It’s there, underneath. You can feel it. It being vibrations. Big, sticky, echoey vibrations, like the ground itself is kind of simmering. All the time. It’s like a kind of energy.

Don’t stand on it for too long, though. It’s no good for you. It’ll mess you up.

When I was younger I’d come up here with my Walkman and stand on the stones and listen to Riders On The Storm or Venus In Furs and yes yes all right I admit maybe drop a little something as well and just let the energies kind of thrum up my legs and into my body. Just bleed up them like melting fractals. When I was a teenager, this was, before all the things started happening and everything went bad. It was fun back then, to just stand there and feel the universe shattering and coalescing inside me. That was before I knew what the vibrations were all about, though. That was before I started feeling them all the time.

Dr Stevens asked me once what they do down there. I said that this is where they do it, this is where they run things from. What things, he said. Everything, I said. This is where they make sure that things go the right way, the way they’ve planned. The vibrations come from the machines that they use. Vast, massive machines, colossal, all valves and dials and polished brass, whirring and humming and hissing out little gouts of steam. Plugged into ley lines and geomantic nodes and all sorts of things like that. Whirring and humming and generating all this energy that sloshes up and out into the world and affects things. Influences things. Causes streams of reality to branch, and branch again. Influences you. Gets you to do what they want.

I’ve been watching it for a long time now. Years, probably. No-one ever goes in or comes out. I’m pretty sure it must be some kind of emergency escape hatch or something. There’s no point trying to get in. I’ve tried, and it’s locked up tight. One way. Exit only. They know exactly what they’re doing.

It’s the perfect place for it. Just a regular everyday park, right? Look around: the manicured formal garden, the sweeping grass banks, the café, the dusty, gritty pit that used to be a bandstand where the toddlers wobble about and fall over and skin their knees. Where I used to run around when I came here with Mum and Dad. Before the accident, that is, back when everything was okay and the world seemed like some kind of Land of Cockaigne brushed over by Disney colourists instead of the unbearable numbing monochrome of reality. Before they stopped being Mum and Dad, and everything went all…

Anyway, I know Dr Stevens doesn’t believe me. I can tell. He thinks it’s all in my mind. He says the door and the voices are part of the same thing. But it’s not like the voices, because I know they aren’t real and I’ve got them under control, even the worst ones. It’s not the same at all. I can live with the voices, but this? Constant vibrations hammering through your body, all day, every day? It’s intolerable, is what it is. I can’t take it any more.

Dr Stevens thinks I’m obsessed with it. The door, I mean. He doesn’t say as much, but you can tell by the way he raises his mean little white eyebrows and all the skin on his forehead crinkles like wet paper. But ‘obsessed’ implies that it’s irrational, that it’s like some mental aberration or something, and it isn’t. Just stand on the paving stones, for goodness’ sake; you’ll feel the vibrations. He says it’s all just a persecutory delusion, but I’ve read all about that, and it’s not that. They give you leaflets.

I don’t know who’s down there. No-one ever goes in or comes out. Might be Morlocks for all I know, ha ha. But I’ve seen the machines that they use. When I stand on the stones and close my eyes and feel the vibrations and the energy pools out all around me I can see the machines. I can see them running beneath my feet, huge brass things with thick bundled tubes like intestines and levers in dripping caverns and grimy brick tunnels that snake along for miles and miles. I know I’m not supposed to see them, so I assume it must be some kind of glitch in their system, some kind of unencrypted frequency band that my brain accidentally tuned into when I stood on the paving stones for too long. Accidentally tuned into and then couldn’t detune, and left me in this kind of buzzing static white-noise hell.

Okay. I don’t have long. I had to break out to get here, they don’t know I’m here. I mean, they do, them down there – they know everything – but I mean back at the home they don’t know. It’s lights out and lockdown at ten, no sense of humour about it at all. It was all I could do to slip the window and drop down into the bushes and get over the fence without smashing the dictaphone or the bottle of whisky or grinding all the tablets up into powder in my jeans.

So, if you’re listening to this and you’re stood here now – stood there, I mean – then you’ve found this tape and you know enough to do something. You can feel it, beneath your feet. Maybe. I can’t do anything about it – by tomorrow I’ll be long beyond it all – but you can. Take the tape and post it to the newspapers, type it up and put it on the internet…whatever. Just make sure people know. Spread it around. Tell people.

Otherwise I lose and they win.

Written for Wells Read.


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