Skip navigation.
Home
Write - Share - Read - Respond

Machine of Death Entry: CAR ACCIDENT

Dameon's picture

Introduction: This is for the same anthology, surprisingly, somebody else on here posted a story for. The premise can be found here:
http://machineofdeath.net/

I still plan to flesh it out a bit more, but this is the basic story. I'm looking for any critique or comments that might help me with the story, especially on my characterization. I don't feel I'm giving my characters enough depth.

***

On the video, a man holds a gun to his temple, sitting on a couch. His hand is shaking visibly, and he grabs a flask of whiskey off the coffee table. He takes a long swig, never moving the gun away from his head, and coughs loudly. The only light comes from a desk lamp on a nearby end table, crawling across his face and leaving it a sickly shade of yellow.

The man is young, mid twenties maybe, his hair short and dark. His eyes are blank; his face is stiff enough to be a mask. The pistol is death black.

"Why don't you just stop, Aidan?" The voice comes from off camera, sounding stressed. "You could really do it this time."

The man's finger tightens visibly on the trigger; his hand abruptly stops trembling.

"Aidan!" This time it's a shout.

Click.

***

A week earlier, the death machine had been all over the news. Hell, it was the news; anything else took second fiddle. The immaculate, fake news anchors couldn't speak about anything else. They smiled their shark's smiles and resolutely ignored imminent war, murder, and heart warming stories about homeless puppies.

Aidan was lying on the couch in his lonely apartment, clicking through the channels cyclically in a vain effort to find something besides the death machine. On channel four, a famous author was relating his book to the revelations of the machine. Channel five was a documentary on the machine's creator. Channel six was an infomercial showing how YOU could get rich from your own home using the machine. Aidan wanted to pick up the table lamp and throw it through the television.

That was when he turned off the thing and resolved to prove the machine was a hoax. It wasn't going to be easy. He picked up the phone and called George over.

***

"You're fucking nuts," George said, taking a beer from the case he'd brought and twisting the top off. "I'm not going to help you kill yourself."

They sat on the old brown couch in Aidan's living room. The lights were turned on for George's benefit; Aidan preferred it dark. On the coffee table sat a half-eaten pizza, getting cold fast.

"Look," Aidan said. "You won't be helping, just watching. Somebody has to record the experiment, or it won't be valid. It can't be me, because I'm the subject."

"Experiment? We're talking about killing you. Dead. Wasted. If you're right, you're not going to care because you'll be dead. If you're wrong..." He trailed off, swigging his beer and looking thoughtful.

"If you don't help me, I'll do it anyway, but I'll probably screw up and the whole thing will be pointless."

"If I do, I'll watch my best friend die."

"Least you can tell me I'm an idiot while I die."

"I can tell you you're an idiot now."

"I need you for this, George. If you're my friend, if you care about me at all, you'll help me with this."

George leaned back and, drinking long, tossed his bottle on the floor and opened another. "You fucking owe me big," he said.

***

The camera opens up on Aidan, standing in a bedroom with clothes strewn everywhere. He's wearing a scarf around his neck, incongruous with his black t-shirt and blue jeans. He's smiling nervously.

"Test number one," he says. "Strangulation." Aidan steps aside to reveal a rope dangling from the ceiling, hanging from a hook. He turns around and takes a step toward the rope.

"Hold up," George's voice comes from behind the camera. It sounds strained. "You got the results, right?"

"Oh...yeah." Aidan digs around in his pocket, pulling out a strip of paper. He turns around and holds it up to the camera.

It reads "CAR ACCIDENT."

"Here goes," Aidan says, heading over to the rope. Getting on his knees, he slips the noose over his head, tightening it over the scarf. He turns a cold grin on the camera.

"Scarf keeps the rope from chafing." He closes his eyes, then puts his weight on the rope, putting himself on a prone position.

You can hear George breathing heavily. A minute goes by, and Aidan's face is bright red. His eyes haven't opened.

"Shit," George says.

The hook comes out of the ceiling, showering Aidan with white powder as he slams onto his face. When he looks up at the camera, his eyes are opened again, and dark blood is dripping from his nose. He slips the noose off his neck and begins coughing.

The camera turns off.

***

"That's gotta be serendipity, or whatever the word is. C'mon, cut this crap out." George and Aidan sit at a table in an empty Denny's, pale moonlight streaming in through the window. George has a plate of pancakes; Aidan just has a cup of coffee.

"Just bad luck-"

"Good luck," George corrects him.

"Luck," Aidan continues. "Doesn't prove anything. I didn't get the hook in right."

"What's it matter?" Aidan doesn't answer until the waitress, passing by, refills his coffee and is out of earshot.

"If you don't want to help, that's fine. I'm trying again." His face is hard as he takes a sip of coffee, but his hand trembles the smallest bit.

"Hell, I didn't want to help in the first place." George lights a cigarette, leaning back and blowing a perfect smoke ring. Silence hangs between the two. Aidan sulks into his coffee.

"It's a matter of fate," he says.

"What, it's your fate to do this?"

"Sort of. If this machine isn't some sort of hoax, then that means fate is real. There's no choice. Everything we do is decided ahead of time."

George crushes his cigarette out in the remains of his food.

***

The camera opens up in a dimly lit garage. Aidan sits inside a yellow, beat up VW Beetle. A garden hose is duct taped to the exhaust, running to the driver's side window, which is rolled down. One of Aidan's hands grips the steering wheel; the other is on the key in the ignition.

"I don't think this counts," George says from behind the camera.

"It said 'car ACCIDENT'," Aidan says. "If it's on purpose it counts." Aidan takes a deep breath, and rolls up the window. The car starts, rumbling hungrily. The inside of the car begins to get hazy with fumes.

"Going to get arrested for doing this in my garage." George can be faintly heard over the engine. Within minutes, Aidan can hardly be seen through the fumes, slumped against the wheel.

With a sharp crack, the window shatters, scattering glass. Smoke pours from the car into the garage, and George begins coughing. The camera moves to the car, and George's disembodied hand enters the shot, reaching through the window and turning off the engine.

Aidan stirs, giving the camera the finger. "What the hell was that?"

"Dunno. Temperature difference?"

"Bullshit," Aidan mutters groggily.

***

George and Aidan are relaxing inside George's house, lounging on the couch in front of his television. They each hold a cold beer; George drinks his in swigs, while Aidan takes casual sips. Ren & Stimpy is on.

"Look, if there is such a thing as fate, you're tempting it," George says after a long silence.

"So?"

"So next time maybe you really die."

"Maybe I really want to die," Aidan finishes his beer and grabs another from the fridge. "You ever heard of dysthymia?"

"The hell is that?"

"Imagine seeing everything in black and white, not getting pleasure out of anything. I can't remember the last time I was happy. That's dysthymia."

"Haven't you seen a doctor?"

"Sure, get some drugs. You know that gram for gram, Prozac is more expensive than cocaine? I haven't got insurance. Think I can afford that?" Aidan chugs the rest of his beer down.

"There's gotta be some sort of financial assistance."

"Let's say there is. Ever seen somebody on antidepressants? They live their lives like zombies. It drains their creativity. I'd rather be dead."

George doesn't know what to say. He drinks some more and they watch the television in silence.

***

Click.

Aidan slowly opens his eyes and looks at the gun in disbelief. He pops the clip out and checks it; it's full. He puts the gun to his temple again and pulls the trigger repeatedly. Click, click, click.

"Aidan," George says. Click, click, click.

"Aidan, it's not working. Cut it the fuck out." The clicks stop. "Let's go to the bar, have a few beers, and forget this bullshit." Despite his language, George's voice is almost pleading.

Aidan throws the gun on the floor in disgust and just sits there looking down for a minute. He takes his keys out of his pocket and jingles them thoughtfully, his eyes looking through them. A slow smile spreads across his face.

"I'll drive," he says.

"Alright, man."

The camera turns off.

Your last three lines really

Your last three lines really bring the whole story home. Great job.

I do think, though, that the narration is just slightly too serious, too dispassionate, given what's happening in the story. A narrative voice that had commentary as well as description might help sell the dark humor. And it would also give us a better sense of both characters.

Of course, that narrative stance could express itself in various ways. It could play up how crazy the two men are, or it could take what they're doing as perfectly natural (which would make the narration part of the morbid humor itself).

I hope the story ends up in the anthology because the collection will need something like this. It's just the sort of insane thing you'd expect someone somewhere to do if this kind of machine was actually invented.

Some Stylistic Comments

I'd like to "see" more. The writing is very dialog heavy, and I'd like to see more of what the characters are doing while they talk. Set the scene for me, otherwise it feels like they're standing still and robotically delivering their lines.

I like the premise, there's a cartoony Wile E. Coyote feel to it that's charming. Sadly, none of the characters are as memorable as the Coyote. They're doing something very strange by any estimation- there must be something more that drives them to it. People don't try and kill themselves because they're annoyed- unless they're not terribly stable to begin with. In that case, we need to see some of that. And the friend- again, it'd take a lot to convince someone. Dwell on that, make the characters more real and solid.

-----

Not Responsible

George: Agent of Fate

In reference to both of the above comments, I'd suggest making George a more forceful advocate of the opposing viewpoint: that his friend's fate is determined & this is all just a childish tantrum. It would 1) explain why he's willing to help and 2) give the story's philosophical foundation a more active voice.

In fact, have him taunt Aidan in a good-natured way, thereby lending some humor to the piece.

Personally, I'd injest a little ambiguity, too... is George sabotaging the experiments to save his friend's life?

--Dan
www.Bayn.org