Towering lean shadow of a man at his makeshift imaginary pulpit,a crowd of patrons blurred around.
He raised the thin length of his arms,draping black from armpit to wrists,like the moltings of moose antlers. "I am Dynamically Harmonized with all of you." He declared.
The Apathy Engine sputtered in the air before him as it rose, making a painful sad and weird noise. It had cancer of the gears from stopping and starting like this. The holograms it projected were transparent in spaces, the crowd wavered and some stopped and stared at the machine levitating above his bald skull. He could tell some feared it was some sort of aggressive device and he became uncomfortable.
"It's just for making art." He whimpered and dropped his arms.
An older lady in the crowd gave him a vague look,empty eyes and said, "I'll be watching you."
The Apathy Engine clanked hard on the ground and bounced off of one of his Australian mining boots. The bald shadow of a man dropped his head and dropped a knee,as if a tumbling topped off tree swinging down. With deeply caring fingers he was gathering a few stray pieces of the Apathy Engine, when he a small pair of feet were suddenly standing still before him.
"So I see you're still not painting, Egbert" Her voice said over him. He felt the rest of the eyes around floating away and the air grew more open. The female voice was suddenly closer and in his ear.
"It'll be okay,Egbert. Just gather your stuff up and go home." She was leaning next to him in a comforting way. Elisa Rechts always maintained a maternal mentor's arms length with him. She was 2 years younger , a teacher, and published as a novelist and poet.
Egbert pressed the jammed button on the Apathy Engine and it released, ending the weird grinding sound. Elisha's image wavered in the air and disappeared. He turned a knob on it to a more calm setting and a light bathed out of the entrance to the art gallery. The crowd let soft laughter ripple through them and someone seemed to wave at Egbert.
The waving person became more solid in the form of Jules Winningfield. He marched over with a huge smile and a handshake.
"Heeeeey. Egbert! Waadya say!" He shook his hand furiously and walked away, presenting an interest and animation equal to the quickness with which he had approached. Jules was already shaking somebody elses hand and gesturing towards the art gallery, no doubt spewing some convenient speech about the art inside.
Egbert smirked and turned to the entrance of the gallery. A couple of shaved eyebrow goth guys muttered low cool staring matches with a couple of black framed dreadlocks. They laughed together and smoked, either apathetic or proud of the incongruance their presence suggested in such a rich and cultured part of town. Egbert didn't like this part of town, even though he lived in it. He hid the fact that he was filthy rich, despising it as best he could.
The gallery hummed with the sounds accompanying the video installation. Machine workers manufactured butcher knives and placed them in repitition on cream colored placemats for photographs to be taken. An image of a naked man blindfolded and swinging a knife stomped around the room. Egbert laughed and hid the Apathy Engine behind his back. Overhead a massive rezor industrial air conditioner sized Engine silently rethreaded the reality of the walls and the gallery space. Wix Sampson had designed the machine.
Egbert's own Engine was built from almost 75 percent parts that Wix had given him 6 years ago. Wix was an attorney and former assistant to the mayor of Atlantis. They had been childhood friends,Wix and Egbert,both parents attending the same society gatherings. Until both children lost their parents in the same plane crash.
Wix was in the corner adjusting a setting when he noticed Egbert.He stood up quickly and smiled.
"Oh my." He said. "I almost programmed you into this one just as you appear, Egbert. My God! How long has it been? How's the painting going?"
Egbert stared around in fascination at the machine workers and the shining knives. The flashing of the photography made him wince in a rhythmic pattern. The scen shifted as he watched and the knives became small hairy things covered in some sortof dark oily substance. Fibrous patterns of black and white refracted all of the light in the room, momentarily producing all frequencies of light.
"Fuck!" Screamed Wix and hit a button. The lights reduced to primary colors and began to mix slowly again. He chuckled. "well, you get more when getting your teeth x-rayed,but i still feel bad. Sorry bout that."
In his hands behind his back,Egberts Apathy Engine shivered to life.
"Hey Wix....remember that idea I had for an Engine?"
"Yep" he responded apathetically and turned to fidget with some wires.
"Well....I did it."
Wix turned and looked at him to see how serious he thought he was. Egbert looked back at him with conviction. and fear. "It's sentient, Wix. I swear to God"
Wix walked over with worry and wiped a wet wash cloth once over his wide forehead.
"Lemme see it" He gestured to impatiently at Egbert to pull his hands from behind his back.
The Engine shivered in his hands and seemed to turn a dull low red color.
"What mode do you have it in right now?
"Stream of Consciousness and Fantasy" This made Wix laugh. "Egbert, you're never going to change." He reacxhed to take the rusting thing from his hands.
Egbert later felt he had deliberately said the words too late. He had always wondered about Wix's will,and felt this was the one way to be right with him once and for all.
Egbert watched as the man's fingers became letters of various typefaces and scattered into the air. His tongue gaped,becoming a giant Boldfaced Optima "Q". His hair lengthened into S's and L's and slithered down across his shoulders, acidicly carving his shoulders at strange angles through his torso. Body copy jumbled into swoops, greeking indications of words and ideas, his legs seemed to collapse and scatter across the floor like scrabble pieces. They evaporated and Wix was gone.
Egbert stuck the Apathy Engine in his coat pocket and it shrank and huddled in his dark smelly armpit. He could feel it licking the flakes of deodorant form his long hairs.
Egbert made his way out the backdoor of the gallery and into the woods behind it. He decided he would go home and build another Engine. He would go to Wix's studio first. In the gallery,an image of Wix was stuck in a loop, he fidgeted with wires and appeared to converse with Egbert.
Egbert panted his way through the trees. What would be the next Engine? Love? or Hate?
He decided that he did not care.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
If you think you think you should heed the warning of your mother and sister and not risk uncertain sorcery,turn to page 25
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