the machine

I donít know when the contraption made the transition from mind to matter. I only know that itsform was born within my midnight dreams, set to the soundtrack of the off-air TV station.Thousands of tiny electronic pixels swarming on the screen like some newly discovered microscopic life form, being studied for a kidís science project. Flickering inconsistently onto my eye lids while I lay, oblivious, a docile prey. Iíd wake in the morning with memories of being encased in a giant bell. Hanging by my feet, my head the ringer, striking out the passing of time with a dull thud. The sound wave crashing through my brain. Tuning me up for reception.

At first just a subtle hum that crept into the stillness of the early hours. Night after night, I lay awake, toiling over the source as it became louder and louder. Was it the clapped out heating system or maybe my overworked PC? I had to know.  So one night, stark naked, I scurried through the darkened house in a crazed frenzy. I put my head in the fridge and it let out a heavy sigh; I got hypnotised by the snow storm on my TV; I retuned the radio, whose programming drifted in and out with the weather; I dismantled my computer and when Iíd re-assembled it, had three screws left over.  Damn it I checked clocks. Clocks that ticked, beeped and chimed. Wound up those that were down. Switched the fuses, checked the switches. Christ, I even gave my electric toothbrush the once over. As a Finale, I woke the entire street   fiddling with the alarm system. Neighbours shouting obscenities at me as I told the Police I had intruders. Though  I now realised they were in my head, having grown out of every other creek and groan in the house.

Inevitably it would gain entry to my daytime life. I spend a substantial amount of the day pondering whether it was there in the background or did it existed only in the solitary space of home? I started to think that I was hearing it in-between snatches of conversation.  I became obsessed. Was that it just then? Or maybe Mr Francoes pace maker malfunctioning. Iíd be on the bus and be half scared out of my wits when someoneís mobile phone would spring into life.

By now, the din was intensifying at an alarming rate. The frequency of which shifted inconsistently over a whole spectrum of pitches. From high whistles to ground shaking subsidence. I began to tilt my head to one side, to the point that folks started thinking I was permanently curious. But my curiosity had long gone. Sure, for a while I amused by the invisible guests in my head and the strange music they made. But then the banging started. Like someone was hammering nails in my skull. Whoever it was, they were clumsy as hell, for every so often Iíd hear the clang and clutter of something dropped with a crash that sent my ears reeling.

I couldnít sleep. I couldnít eat. I couldnít hardly walk with my equilibrium thrown off balance down to my feet.  And still that racket never let up. I yelled out to my neighbours but they didnít come look. They were too busy playing video games and getting drunk.

I lost count of time. My grip was loosening, my nerves were frayed. With nothing to hang these phantom sounds my anger swelled and my frustration soared. I marched back and forth in the living room like a shell shocked soldier. Faster and faster. Moaning under my breath, ďPlease stop, make it stopĒ over and over.

What I needed was a distraction. I grabbed the nearest object, the TV, raised it aloft above my head and threw the damn thing out of the window. My deafness prevented me  from hearing the smash as it hit the glass and crashed down on the street.

But I did hear one almighty clang in my ears. A dubbed over sound FX from the library of many growing in my head. It was during the relief of this syncopated fluke that I had my idea.

I raced out of the house like some half crazed madman. My destination, McKenzies Hardware Store. Oblivious to the bell above my head as I entered I sped down the narrow isles franticly filling my arms with strange items. Then Iíd  unload on the  counter and start over. Old man McKenzie could do nothing but watch me with an inquisitive raised eyebrow.

Cogs and wheels, crankshafts and chain link. Lifts and levers. Buttons, sockets, dials, wires. Power relays and connectors.  Motors, meters, gauges and gears. Things that flashed, things that spun, that gripped, clanged, banged, weighed a tonne. Made of plastic, wood, copper, chrome and metal. Handfuls of nails, hooks, plugs and screws. Nuts, bolts, washers and fuses. On and on, a veritable handymanís dream, one of everything in no order or scheme.

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