I've built a Machine.
It's got many splendid wheels, busy gears, sparkling pieces and
other such things. It buzzes as a huge beetle when it moves forward; it rustles
like a butterfly while moving backwards. When it turns it crunches like a cricket.
"Separator Turbo" I wrote on its left side, "Clip-clip Tarantula"
on its right. And it really looks like a nimble daddylonglegs though it has much
in common with a scorpion. Anyway, it is beautiful, my Machine. The only thing
– Jill was frightened of it and said: "It is just another folly of yours, that
simply can't have a happy ending." I was pleased with her words and I also wrote
them on my Machine, at the front: "It is just another folly of mine, that simply
can't have a happy ending."
When I was a kid, I dreamt about Korea. But I wasn't lucky enough.
The Korean War was over when I was eight. To console me, my father bought me a
luxurious meccano ('Twony bucks, sir!'). Out of that stuff I've build a first
Machine in my life, a pitiful copy of a living ant that has kicked the bucket
within the first three minutes of its life.
But I didn't give up. I had been successfully saving my pocket
money and four years later had finally bought myself a second meccano, way more
luxurious ('Twony hundreds, sir!').
Six years have passed. Inspired with my progress in biomechanics
as well as my youthful insolence, I came to Boston to join Massachusetts Technological
Institute. Unfortunately, I entered it easily. It was there in Boston, that I
I sized her up and plunged into it. Three years were spent on the
contraceptive devices, "Pizza for lovers", psychotic postcards ("...that's why
thoughts of you are filled with desire and these wishes for you are filled with
despair") and all such loving spangles. Finally Helen became totally, extremely
fed up with me – she was bored to death with my despairs and desires.
Steady and always tactful Helen declared that she is unable to
love a man who is as rigid as a carabus and as psychotically fragmented as a meccano.
I didn't have a chance to be really upset about it cause The Vietnam
War has arrived on time. That year I got my Masters Degree in Applied Bionics.
Unlike Korea 1952, Vietnam 1969 wasn't my dream. Jogging in Bell UH-1 over a boring
green of jungles, I felt sorry for I was getting no satisfaction from all of that.
Moreover, I got no satisfaction even when a Viet Kong machine gunner had shaken
down our Bell over The Mekong Delta. We've hardly landed it and, up to our knees
in the crocodiles and marsh slush, accepted the battle.
I'm a bad soldier. If it wasn't for Buck Tailor, my roommate from
the MIT times, true ballplayer and true lady-killer, the only thing I would have
seen America through a crevice of a zinc coffin cover.
Thanks to Buck Tailor I survived and got back.
People say in Vietnam I grew ten years older. I don't know, I don't
At least I grew twenty years wiser. But it didn't help a bit. Helen
got married to a Vietnam War hero Buck Tailor and, in a long run, it was for good.
After all, he turned off helluva Viet Kong heads for my sake. And not taking any
offence at him (or, if nothing else, not parading with it) I appeared at their
At the height of celebration I stood up, established silence and
made a speech. I had proposed a drink to my evolution. Of course, it wasn't a
modest speech, though it had a certain sense (that was understood by no one at
"What damn revolution?"
"Who the hell is that talkative guy?"
In fact guests didn't fucking care what to drink to. They called
me 'gaga brother' and emptied their glasses.
Helen contemptuously shrugged her shoulders. Buck took me away
and stupidly giggling wished me to make a great progress in evolution with all
his heroic heart.
Bore Buck never knew, that when I was six I dreamt about Korea.
Even if he had known – he would have probably said nothing except
for a couple of good-humored, but unflattering remarks. He would be wrong if he'd
do it that way. Because I never dreamt to rush about damp stinking jungles for
slaking the thirst of blood, for playing heroic games. In fact I never wanted
to shoot anybody. The Korean War was just a plausible excuse to enter a fairyland
of beetles and butterflies from the "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Insects".
In the beginning insects attracted me with their beauty, then with
their multiplicity, finally they stunned me with their vitality. Moth agonizes
on a pin for about three days while a man would be dead in a moment because of
the one well-aimed bullet. Funny? It really made me laugh! I laughed so energetically,
that people around me felt embarrassed, they even averted their eyes...
But I didn't only laugh. Thousands of chitin souls and ten years
of life were sacrificed for my experiments. Some things worked well and some things
did not. I learned from my own mistakes. Then, in MIT, I fell in love for the
first time in my life. In a way, Helen was quite penetrating. When she compared
me to a carabus, it was very close to the truth. Once and for all I've understood
it in Vietnam. There were no beetles, no butterflies. Maybe they were just afraid
of war, but most likely I've simply overlooked them. I did not care. Leaving Saigon
I felt like I knew everything about insects, even more than insects knew about
Cause I myself became an insect, at least in a certain sense.
The truth is that after Helen's wedding my behavior was not original.
I teemed up with some school losers and, migrating from one pub to another, every
night I was getting tight like a sailor for the greater glory of my depression
and secretly cherished masochism. I was doing nothing deliberately. I was waiting
for events. Of course, I was unaware of one too bright general who for a long
time had been taking interest in my institute work "Insected Mechanics" where
I reviewed my knowledge about insects from the practical standpoint. I rated highly
the principle of waiting and this waiting looked like a short armistice between
me and warm-blooded. I never challenged them, I behaved like a dead cricket. But
they started the fight first.
One day an attractive brown-haired guy named X. Smith intruded
on our cheerful company. He talked nonsense. But very familiar nonsense. He admired
Nietzsche and praised Castaneda, he darkly abused the military, he defamed H-bomb
and American Values. In short, X. Smith emphatically exploited the themes, which,
according to the opinion of the FBI's hemorrhoid analyst, were common in our circle,
like smoke of a cigarette. The outpourings of his heart and head were accompanied
by lavish drinking – out of his own pocket. Once, when I got properly drunk, he'd
offered to give me a ride home.
"Jolly good idea!" – I said and dove in.
Next morning I came to a surface amongst the strange white walls.
I heard the tender voice:
– What a bad boy you are, Mr. Farewood! It's not good for you to
drink so much...
– Fuck off! – I groaned and started to examine the owner of the
tender voice. He wore a full-dress uniform, on the uniform I noticed epaulets,
on the epaulets there was a real constellation of general's stars. On his buttonholes
I noticed a tankman's badge.
– Two hundred thousand dollars a year and you will never say "fuck
off!" to me. Deal? – proposed general.
– Are those all your requirements? – I asked, trying to put as
much irony in my words as it was possible.
– Practically, – calmly answered the general. He preferred to ignore
"Practically" meant a lot of things like Smoky Desert (Nevada),
secret Area-107, cast-iron mugs of security officers and the project "Devil's
The Pentagon wanted everything and even more than everything.
What did I myself want... I still cannot say exactly. I just worked
hard, received my New Year presents in the form of Johnny Walker bottles and dreamt
about Helen. I prepared myself to meet her sooner or later.
It sucked working there. For three years running I had been quarreling
with the military, flirting with typists and arguing to distraction with Koch,
who was, so to speak, second-in-command. Koch rushed about the laboratory, called
me in the old fashion way "impostor", "ignoramus" and "milksop". He was angry
with me and he spluttered, but there was nothing to be done, cause I, a well-known
milksop, was a favorite of that tank general with a constellation of stars. I
was. He was not. General had ordered everybody to listen to me.
Poor kind general! He did not even notice, that I had stepped into
the next stage of my evolution...
Many people argue about how we vanished.
Some speak about a giant meteorite, some remember a global cold
snap, others blame a supernova flesh. Still being an insect, I've been thinking
about all of that a lot. But now I'm absolutely sure: it does not matter. Discussing
the reason of our dying out doesn't make any sense. What's more important is that
we really existed. Especially now, when the last of us has reappeared on Earth.
He keeps in mind everything we knew – the matrimonial ecstasy of spring nights,
and the moon-light shades on the damp skin, and the great split of the continents,
and the fuss of the first primates underfoot.
The warm-blooded would hardly be pleased to know, how easy, as
if it were by chance, we squeezed their distant ancestors. I felt that easiness
in my blood. I knew: I have nothing to do anymore in that military god-forsaken-hole.
It's time to go further.
One fine day everybody have died and I went missing.
The matter is that our work has been completed in the summer of
1973. We had finally built a thing the Pentagon dreamt about. It was absolutely
perfect with one small exception – it did not obey anyone, but me and its own
imbecile caprices. It simply did not recognize any other master.
Within the first five minutes of ground tests it had jammed all
the radio in the neighborhood, it had cut in pieces the army observers and had
shut Koch's trap up forever.
It politely proposed to the tank-general "to fuck off" and fusilladed
him with a shrapnel.
During the next two hours it clanked, rattled, spitted fire, fooled
around with chemicals in laboratory and launched the missiles to the guard's quarters.
Ultimately it reached the ammunition dumps and let off an outstanding fireworks
– I think all the Hollywood pyrotechnicians would have burst with envy.
When all the warm-blooded on a secret Area-107 were dead, I've
kindly thanked it for its help. It peacefully went aside. There was a flash, the
hot blush-wave rolled over the helipad and I felt better. That minute I was enjoying
Helicopters stood in rows as at a luxurious aeroshow, everyone
who tried to reach them was riddled with automatic gunfire by my fidgety offspring.
I did not notice any scratches on the cockpits, though. For my own use I choose
a deep-green Bell helicopter – I had fallen in love with it in Vietnam. Two minutes
later I was heading south-east.
"As a matter of fact, it's all their fault" – I murmured, gaining
altitude. "They'd never let me stray one step away from their damn Area 107 without
this Devil's Puppet. And Koch... He alone is to blame... What did he pick on me
with his idiotic remarks for? And, besides, what did I wade through the mud in
Vietnam for? And, by the way, why did they not let me go to fucking Korea though
I dreamt about it days on end?!"
I was too excited, but finally I said to myself "Never mind!" It
was a wrong time to be nervous cause in front of me I saw a green grass. I was
flying towards the south edge of the Smoky Desert.
I landed my helicopter near the first comer town.
It was cut by a highway into two parts, equally dull and boring.
Hot air trembled over the housetops. The streets were uninhabited. No evidences
of any human activity. Nevertheless, I knew it for a fact that the primary type
of human activity in the places like that was mass consumption of cold "Budweiser",
resembling a urine sample by sight and even more so by taste.
The landscape was decorated with a huge billboard: "Welcome to
Warm-Springs! Good old Warm-Springs!" Frankly speaking, I've spent about an hour
in Warm-Springs and did not find anything good down there. The sandwiches in an
empty roadhouse were stale, the whisky was too warm and even the waiter was too
– I see, you are a bigwig, ha? – asked he, looking me over with
– I certainly am, – I answered jauntily.
– Then you should know what's happened to TV? Seems like something
had jammed it...
– I know, of course.
– It is an invasion.
– That couldn't be! – the waiter was really horrified. – And now...
– Wait and see... But the situation is critical...
– Do you think we are unable to deal with some foolish red snoots,
with the Martians?
– It's easy to deal with the Martians. But this is not Martians.
– Then who? – the waiter seemed surprised.
I bought a used "Buick" in a local auto shop and, abandoning the
lost and confused waiter, have left good old Warm-Springs.
Some hours later Warm-Springs was flooded with army cordons, state
troops and gloomy FBI marshals. While they were trying to decide what's what,
while they were investigating who exactly they should look for, I've crossed the
state border. It turned out that the "Buick" was quite a thing, at least, in the
class of $200 dollar cars. I whisked from the unlucky Area-107 at a speed of 80
miles per hour.
It was dark when I'd spotted an immobile "Ford" on a roadside.
A woman was smoking near the car. It was all that I was able to make out on that
speed – in fact, I rolled by her like a pocket tornado. But three seconds later
I realized, that it would have been really nice to get back, it would have been
really, really nice. And I got back.
Her name was Jill. I called myself Rex, T. Rex.
She had a cold skin, nice cold skin, like all of us always had.
The very same night we danced our first rock-n-roll on the spacious
back seat of her "Ford".
I was hiding myself from FBI; Jill was escaping from her husband.
And so we decided to play some hide-and-seek together.
A terribly furnished room for the newly weds in "Holiday Inn" with
an airfield size depressed bed, was not only a proper place for our exotic dances,
but also a great shelter from the sleek guys in brand-new gray suits. Those guys
looked for a certain Farewood, who supposedly has been a witness or even maybe
a principal initiator of the Nevada Catastrophe. Each of them had an FBI credentials,
an automatic weapon and was ready to shoot an important witness (or even maybe
the Catastrophe's initiator) Mr. Farewood at the first opportunity. Sooner of
later one of us was bound to face bad luck.
The August has vanished in the past very quickly.
The sun galloped through the point of the autumnal equinox. Ash-red
and ash-yellow took the place of ash-green in the usual palette of our summers.
Each night was now getting longer than the previous, each rain was getting more
enduring, it pelted at the window much more emphatically and it seemed sometimes
– with malicious intent. Less and less time was separating Jill and me from parting.
This feeling transparent and unsteady at first has gradually dressed in calendar
sheets, became firm and started to shape up in gestures, premonitions. Fate had
granted me a respite and I'd relaxed extremely well. I became fresh again, I was
cocked as a pistol, I was ready to change my cold pre-historic skin for a lovely
human skin. And a cold October night had finally proved that I was really ready.
That night I woke up and understood – I'm dying out.
The horror of extinction has been embedded into our souls even
when the first pangolin, wheezing and snorting, got on the coast of a secondary
sea, savoring the sweetness of the pure air of the Age of Reptiles. Even when
this pangolin became aware of itself as something separate from whatever was around.
At the beginning there were rapture and satisfaction in it. There
were also the play of sun and waves, the crackle of delicious shellfish, the expectation
of meeting with siblings – they all have so many things to tell!
But the sun little by little stretched to the horizon. Twilight
wind brought the smell of the withering horsetails and carrion tree-ferns. And
the pangolin, accustomed to the salty freshness of seawater and to happy-go-lucky-life,
grew gloomy, raised his head and roared, appealing to the distant forest.
It was Halloween, year 100,000,000 BC.
It was then that I've built the Machine.
There was an eddy wind at the dinosaur cemetery.
The sand was rustling amongst the bones and green lizards were
hiding in the skull's empty eye-sockets. Ancient horsetails and ferns were slowly
turning into oil and coal. Gymnospermous trees, or, so to speak, firs, were coming
to take their place...
There were lots of mammals (or, so to speak, squirrels) on those
firs. They perched on the branches and only God knows what the hell they were
doing there... Soon afterwards came the wolves, they chased the hares and squirrels,
hares and squirrels squealed, wolves howled... It was very funny and so I began
to laugh carelessly and happily like a child...
– Suppose it is going to be a nice day, – I said to Jill when we
sat down to breakfast.
– Sure, it will... But, it seems, you will spend it without me...– she answered darkly, rummaging in the omelet.
– No, Jill. With you. I propose a farewell party. With dancing.
I bought a bottle of "Beefeater". It seems to be your favorite...
-Wow! – she cried and became a little softer. – And so... let's
become sozzled... at parting – she added with a smile.
– At parting... – echoed I.
So, the Halloween.
It was getting dark on the streets. Dressed like the Satan warriors,
fire fighters from the nearest station crawled under the hotel windows. They bawled
"Long way to Tipperary".
Jill and I were in our room. We were having our supper slowly;
we were dranking easy; we were speaking about various things. The Machine slumbered
in the corner by the door.
I was comfortable. What a pity, I thought, that so very soon this
biblical peace and quietness are going to be shattered. At the same time, I was
waiting impatiently for it...
Eventually, I heard the brakes creaking outside. Then again and
Jill did not seem to notice that noise. She had been carried away
with our chatter. But my Machine has began to revive. "How clever it is!" – I
thought with approval when someone knocked at our door.
"Open the door! It's FBI!" – said a dispassionate voice on the
Jill looked confused. I smiled and said: "Welcome! It is not locked!"
The door went open. In our room entered special agent X. Smith.
He had huge automatic .45 in his right hand and his face beamed
with joy, that was the joy of a hound trained to seek blood. He was too excited
to notice the Machine, which appeared straight behind his back.
– Good evening, dear Mr. Farewood! Or... maybe dear Mr. Rex? – He said politely. – Or maybe I'm wrong again?
– You are wrong, – nodded I. – From this moment on my name is Miln.
Tony Miln. Not bad, I think... Isn't it?
– Not bad, yeah. I remember a writer with that name. He'd written
a poem about Pooh the bear and about a stupid pig, his best friend, – X. Smith
smiled nervously. He didn't seem to be in his right mind because of the hunting
exultation. – But one way or the other, you are under arrest, Mr. Farewood. And
let me inform you that the hotel is cordoned off.
– Ha! Cordoned off?! It is not a problem, – said I.
– Really? – said X. Smith.
– Clip-clip, – said the Machine.
– D-damn... – said Jill and I remained in the company of two corpses.
Falling down, X. Smith has pulled the trigger and a short burst of fire strolled
over the room. The bullets knocked to pieces a windowpane, tore up the thin bottle
of "Beefeater", one of them had got into Jill. Well, at least she did not suffer.
Searchlights struck the windows and megaphonic voice, ordinary
in such circumstances, offered me to surrender.
I looked out and understood that step by step, minute by minute
I've become the hero of a spy thriller with a budget that sounded flattering to
my self-esteem. The whole block was completely surrounded. The waggons winked
at me with their flash-lights. Rushing from one car to another, cops in helmets
were bustling around. There were also lots of searchlights and lots of machine-guns
on the roofs of adjoining buildings. An assault helicopter was in the air. It
was an AH-1 Cobra, I knew it by its snake-like eyes.
I looked at all that; I meditated on it. And I thought – what a
stupid boys they are! Among other things I thought about Boston. At that time,
over there in Boston, shortsighted Helen was probably serving supper one meter
away from the TV screen.
Machine impatiently buzzed behind my back. But I did not hurry,
I had time.
I knew that on our way to Boston it would have a lot of possibilities
to entertain itself with bloody games. But I did not want to think about bloody
games, I was in a romantic mood.
I thought about Helen. I will enter her room and take her away,
to Finland. There are no insects in Finland, even no flies, not to mention carabuses.
Instead, they got crystal vodka, reindeers and lots of snow, just as it should
be at the top of the world.
I was sure – Helen would not resist me.
Because she will like me.
Because I'm an attractive guy and I'm not that old.
Because now I'm a real mammal, like her.