randomMachine of Death short story: Justice

Some time ago, I wrote a short story for Machine of Death 2. For those of you who may not be familiar with Machine of Death, it's an expanding collection of stories that don't necessarily have a canon or a continuity, but all share a common plot element: in the story, there is a machine - called the Machine of Death - that takes a blood sample and spits out a strip of paper that predicts how you will die. The predictions are short, occasionally cryptic, and always correct.

My story was not accepted for the compilation, so I'm posting it here. Enjoy!


It was a small office, coloured in green and grey, lit with a single fluorescent tube. The bureaucrat's nameplate indicated that his name was Richard Gellen. He was a small white man with heavy glasses and a receding hairline. He had spent the last two minutes looking over my one-page application without saying anything.

I sat motionless in his plastic chair, trying desperately not to fidget. Finally, he spoke.

"Mister Carrol, you know why this was brought to my attention?"

I nodded. Gellen felt the need to elaborate anyway.

"People come in here all the time," he explained, "Looking to name themselves all sorts of crazy things. Brand endorsements, religious things, nonsense... and, with the exception of obscenities, I rubberstamp the vast majority of them. But this... well, there's nothing illegal, per se, about wanting to have an unusual name, Mister Carrol, but, well..."

Gellen gestured nebulously, evidently hoping that I'd fill in the silence myself. I didn't. Eventually, he sighed.

"Do you have any reason I shouldn't call the police right now?", he asked.

The clock on his wall ticked loudly. I looked down at my hands. "Are you married?" I asked. "Kids?"

Gellen said nothing. Obviously, I had already noticed the ring on his hand and the backs of little picture frames on his desk.

"The Machine of Death predictions" I continued, "They're public record. And they're infallible. I mean legally infallible, quantum inevitability... the jury had no choice but to rule that my wife had died of 'Old Age' at forty-seven, and that my daughter had died of 'Allergic Reaction', without having any allergies. Everything else was 'circumstantial evidence'. That's how I know it's possible for a man to manipulate the predictions, to tweak destiny, if..." I swallowed, "if he wants something."

There was another awkward, heavy silence. Gellen pursed his lips, appeared to be about to speak. I interrupted him.

"She was ten."

"You can't possibly think that you'll get away with it.", Gellen pointed out.

I looked back up, made eye contact with the man. "Oh, I happen to know for an indisputable fact that I won't get away with it.", I replied, "I just want it to be possible."

Gellen appeared to consider this for a few more moments, then, in one sudden impulsive movement, he grabbed his stamp and thumped my paperwork. "Pink copy's yours. Keep it with you, it's your ID now. Plastic card'll be mailed out to you in about thirty days, you'll be responsible for making the changes to your driver's license, financial accounts, anything else like that."

I took the flimsy pink sheet, folded it three times, and stuck it in my back pocket.

"It's official as of right now," Gellen stated, "but it won't be processed by the system until Friday. Whatever red flags there are to raise, they'll go up then. You've got three days, that's all I can give you. If anyone asks, I just thought you had a sick sense of humour."

I nodded my understanding.

Gellen reached out to shake my hand. "For what it's worth... I wish you luck, Mister Attack."

I smiled as I stood. "Please", I said, "Call me Heart."

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