Machine World

The engine was a stone-cold slab of inert metal – all of its circuits fused solid. Fused solid into a single pointless unrecognizable mass of molecular chaos. Only the engine wasn’t really metal and the circuitry wasn’t really made of circuits. These are of course just convenient metaphors – metaphors are the only way I have of describing the catastrophe that has befallen me. Metaphors are all I have. If they don’t save me nothing can.


Maybe metaphors are easier to fix, I thought to myself. Maybe if I don’t lean on them quite so hard then they will spontaneously refine themselves and then the circuits will come back to life and the engine will work again. Then I wouldn’t be stuck here on this godforsaken planet any more. Serving time in the Machine World. Trapped in the Decay Realm.


The problem is that all of my metaphors have congealed. The gravity is too great here – everything becomes very literal very quickly. There’s no chance for anything to take off. The inhabitants of this world are an unhappy lot, subject as they are to the immense gravitational pull that prevails here. There’s no chance of skipping and jumping here – we all have to shuffle painfully along, as if our limbs are made of lead. Or indeed something heavier. Neutronium, perhaps. Life is bleakly literal on this wretchedly sad world – there’s nothing uplifting about it at all. We’re all very stuck.


That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Metaphors get you somewhere – literal constructs do not. Literal constructs can’t get you anywhere, that’s not in their job description. I am despairing of ever being able to breathe new life into my congealed metaphors. They have become old and ossified, they have turned to stone. My metaphors have turned into just so much junk at this stage. They’re old hat. They’re tired clichés. It’s not just that they’re useless – they’re worse than useless. They keep me prisoner – they are the chains around my neck.


Of course I’m despairing of ever being able to breathe new life into my metaphors – I don’t have any breathe left in me. Not real breathe, anyway.  Not breathe with any vitality in it. It’s not true breathe at all when I’m breathing – it’s just some rasping mechanical action. Like a pair of dusty old bellows. When I listen to my rasping breath as it goes in and out it is as if it no longer belongs to me. The machine is breathing through me – I’m on a life-support system. The machine is keeping me alive for reasons of its own. To do its mechanical work, probably. To labour away pointlessly…


My thoughts have become dark and heavy. I have forgotten all the finer things in life. I have forgotten what it’s like to feel life moving within me – instead, all there is is a grinding of gears. Metal moves on metal. My heart is heavy. My heart is a mill-stone. It’s only going one way and that way is down. All things point in the same direction here and that is the direction of decay.


My language has let me down, my language has failed me. It has decayed into a stinking sludge – it’s a decay product. My thoughts have decayed – they have turned into stones. They now lie heavy on the ground all around me. Strewn here and there, never to be moved again. I wish I had never thought them, even though I know that I never at any point had the freedom not to. The machine made me think them. My own words, my own thoughts, lie littered around me like so many granite boulders as I stand here all alone in this vast desolate plain. Alone in my misery, alone in my pain.


My thoughts have nowhere to go. The arc of their trajectory is short and brutal – they are not getting anywhere and neither am I. The arc of my trajectory is brutal and short. I’ve failed to reach escape velocity. I’m caught in a terminal nose-dive before I even start. A short and brutal nose-dive. The gravitational field here is immense and nothing gets away from it. The journey’s over before it has even begun. My life is over before it has even begun.


I try to make a joke but the joke falls flat. It pancakes. It goes down like a lead balloon. I’m in the leaden world, the world of toil and grey misery. I’m in the realm of the leaden homunculi – all around me I can see shadowy bodies moving, toiling, wielding their heavy neutronium pick-axes. Groaning with the effort. They are hard at work trying to please the machine, but the machine can never be pleased. Its malice is incalculable. The machine’s malice is never-ending, like our toil.


I know that I have fallen too low and there is never going to be any way out for me.




Art: Machine World taken from





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *