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A Story of True Happening
by Daniel J. Durand
It had been a fairly normal morning. I had woken up, taken a shower, got dressed- the usual morning routine. Or so I had thought, at the time. But there was one fatal flaw... I had forgotten to eat my Wheaties. This one, seemingly unimportant morning ritual, in itself not exactly enough to alter the course of history, could only mean a bad day ahead.
I left the house and began my walk to work. I only live a few blocks away, and rather than pay for the fuel, I chose to lessen my dependency on work-sponsored gym memberships. Cars passed by me, some drivers talking on phones, others singing with the radio, all oblivious to the world beyond the metal skins of their vehicles. Who could blame them? We all get into our routines, we all forget the world at times, become entrenched in the day-to-day so far that it masks who we really are for those minutes between points A and B.
Left foot, right foot, left foot. Soon enough, I was standing outside the office building where I worked. Minutes later, I was in the elevator, going up to my floor. Finally, I came to my cubicle, resting in my chair and powering on the computer terminal. Before I knew it, the boss was giving out workloads, and I was typing away, making calls, taking names, and having a generally good time at it.
A few hours passed, and lunch time arrived. I usually work through lunch, but today was a lighter shift, so I decided to go to a nearby take-out restaurant, Generic Joe's Second-Hand Cafe. I don't go here often, even when I have the chance, as I can never figure out what the “Second-Hand” part of the name is for. The line wasn't too long, so I was able to place my order fairly quickly, a simple sub sandwich and a regular sized soft-drink. I ate in peace near the window, and all was right with the world.
I finished my lunch, throwing away my garbage as I walked out the door, back to work, up the elevator and to the employee break room. Seated around a small table in the center of the room were some of my coworkers, breathing air and disturbing particles of dust only briefly as they chatted. They were rather dull folk, numbed over the years by the perpetual grind of repetitive office work. I was still fairly new, and not planning on making a life out of my job.
Vending machines lined the east wall of the room, just opposite a large, floor-to-cieling window overlooking the building entrance plaza and the parking lot. I glanced at my watch and saw I still had about ten minutes left of my lunch hour. Still somewhat thirsty from my recent meal, I decided to get a can of lemonade from one of the machines. All I had was bills, no coins, so I was forced to try my luck at flattening them out enough to not be rejected.
Unfortunately, fate had decided to jab me in the eye today.
The lemonade was (unbelievably) only a buck, and my nearly-pristine dollar bill, wrinkle free and ready to roll, was spit out before I could even put it in the slot all the way. I tried again, more slowly this time, flattening the edge of the bill repetitively before gently sliding it in. This time the machine allowed my bit of currency only halfway through, before sputtering twice and shooting it onto the floor. Not to be outdone, I kept trying. Back and forth we went, the machine rejecting me harder than any girl in high school ever could, my hands moving in a blur to shove that dollar into that slot over and over and over again!
I would not lose! I would not be denied! I would not be broken!
Finally, the machine took the dollar, the sound of bitter defeat just audible over the whirring of the intake gears. Success! I reached towards the button with the fancy picture of a lemon on it, eager to claim my prize...
Only to have my hopes dashed as the machine spit out my dollar once more. Screaming in fury, I grabbed the dollar, checking it over for any hint of damage, wrinkle or tear, observing every detail, from the phone number scrawled on the upper left by a woman I had met the other night, to the slight, mocking smirk of Washington. Not a single thing to keep me from my delicious beverage, and yet my battle must continue!
Sighing, I let go of my anger. It would only serve to cloud my judgment, and I would need all of my mental capabilities to outsmart this Satan's child of a machine. Taking a step back, I gazed at the front of the machine, emblazoned with the image of a smiling woman of fair complexion, holding a can of lemonade. I took a deep breath, and held up my dollar to it.
“Robot!” I said, “I have faced evils in many forms across many lands, defeating them all as they rose to oppose me. I am the master of my cubicle, the champion of all those oppressed by unreliable electronic devices, and I am here to quench the thirst of a thousand generations of unsatisfied customers! You will capitulate to my demands, or be destroyed!”
Coworkers, suddenly aware of the energy in the room, began to huddle closer together, staring at my enemy and I as though they could see the crackling electricity of my words filling the air. The lights dimmed for some unexplained reason.
The vending machine only stood there, glaring back at me and what it considered a vain and pathetic attempt to challenge it.
I stood my ground. It was too late to back down. Holding the dollar bill up even higher, for all in the room to see, I took another breath and said aloud those fateful words, handed down through the centuries as a weapon of choice for all fiat-currency based economic systems: “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private!”
Lightning crashed down from the heavens, striking all around me. A ball of fire formed in midair and exploded as the ground shook. Onlookers cried out in fright and alarm.
The vending machine shook and rattled, screeching and buckling as it was touched by the Forces of Righteousness! A shrill scream filled the room as a black mist began to flow from the dispenser tray on the front of the vending machine, coming towards me as it coalesced into a demonic figure of sheer terror. The monster opened it's mouth, crying out in rage and agony as my power tore through it.
Suddenly, it was over, the room settling and the black demon vanishing in a cloud of smoke.
I lowered my outstretched arms as the lights came back on. The dollar felt warm in my hands, glowing with golden energy. The room seemed to fall even more silent as I took a step towards the machine, now sterilized of all evil. The machine, expressionlessly, took my money into the cash slot. I once more viewed the smiling woman on the front, who seemed to smile more broadly than before. Calmly, I reached out and pressed the lemon button.
The room burst into cheers as the can fell into the dispenser tray. I smiled, my mission complete, coworkers clapping me on the back before going back out to their cubicles, lunch break now over. Alone in the room, I stooped down and grabbed the can, popping open the top and taking a long, sweet sip...
The lemonade was expired.