Fastbinder's Dream

Voice Card  -  Volume 10  -  John Card Number 2  -  Wed, Oct 25, 1989 9:00 PM

This is a response to Vol 9 John 11 ("Indefinite Sabbatical")...

[This is part 2 of story one of THE FICTION PROJECT; See Vol 9 John 10]

Imagine an attic. Big black pipes appear from nowhere. They snake about the room clinging mostly to the ceiling, and return from whence they came. A desk, a furnace. A charcoal sketch of Plato about to be hit on the head with one of his perfect forms. On one side a dozen vending machines. On the other side Professor Fastbinder asleep in his chair.

Imagine the attic completely unhinged. Lost. Blind. Surrounded on all sides by perfect buoyant darkness. Outside, in the pressing void, gases coalesce. A world rises up and slowly fills with canyons and amoebas, oceans and elephants, fills with cold starlight, fills even with classrooms full of children, ebb and tide, flowing to the sound of bells. And Fastbinder sleeps on, upstairs, forgotten.

* * *

When Emil awoke he found a rope around his neck. He was no longer tied to the chair, but his leash was taut. The other end of it was attached to a large machine, a contraption in fact. And atop the contraption a sign: COIN OPERATED TETHER.

Just within reach on his left, another machine. This one a huge clock which, once every fifteen minutes, dropped a single coin into a metallic bucket.

Emil experimented. The more coins one fed the C. O. T., the more rope was released. Another coin, another yard of freedom. But within seconds the rope would begin to retract. Every moment away from the chair had to be planned in advance and purchased with hours of precious time.

Emil's first journey, an expensive one, was out the door of the attic and into an adjoining bathroom where he found, to his horror, a pay toilet. He spent his last coin to open the door of the stall and was pulled away sooner than he would have liked.

His chair was quite comfortable, a padded recliner. But great gaping rents had been opened in the fabric and bits of fluff and stuffing hung out haphazardly. It was as if some animal had gnawed repeatedly at the chair, a patient animal, an animal willing to spend a lifetime devouring its prey.

Emil sat back and surveyed the attic. Silently he calculated. It would take a small fortune to get out the door, past the bathroom, down the stairs. And then what? Still, it would have to be attempted sooner or later. He resolved to set aside one coin a day.

The desk could be reached in less than an hour and it held seven drawers! If he was quick enough he could pull them out before the C. O. T. recalled him. And then the happy hours searching every corner of every drawer, building a great mound of loot! Emil strained at his leash.

But the real treasure, the motherlode, lay waiting on the other side, a journey of at least five hours. There were nine machines altogether:

  • A Pepsi Machine. He licked his lips.
  • A Book Dispenser. Even better.
  • A Pay Phone. "But who would I call?"
  • A Soup and Sandwich Machine. Sustenance!
  • A Candy Machine. Decisions, decisions!
  • A Mechanical Tailor. Ah! To wear pants again!
  • A Slot Machine. Diabolical!
The ninth machine was in the farthest corner. It was heavy with apples. And above, in fiery letters, "Insert Exact Change Only."

Clunk. Another coin in the bucket.