Tell A Tale in 500 Words
The Machine By Jason Jackson
Hector watched the clouds reworking themselves, and he waited. The field was empty save for himself and the machine. He stood next to the thing - he could feel its presence - but he only had eyes for the sky.
Soon, they would be here.
Everyone had scoffed. Penelope, her friends. They had looked at the machine on its wooden board - the wheels from the old perambulator supporting it, the gramophone sat atop the tower of glued books, the funnel altered so it pointed skywards - and they had laughed.
Only his little Clarissa had supported him.
“It’ll work, Father, won’t it?” she’d said, and the defiance, the utter trust of those widened eyes, had bolstered him.
He’d had to carry it down the stairs from his study - an oversight, beginning construction in a first-floor room - and Clarissa had watched him from the window as he’d pushed the machine carefully down the street. She’d wanted to come, but he’d refused. Too dangerous. Who knew whether the creatures would be friendly? No, the field would be no place for a young child. So he’d felt her tearful eyes on him as he pushed his machine down the street. Penelope and her friends were nowhere to be seen. He’d told them. If you cannot be civil, be invisible.
And so, alone in the field with the machine, he had wound the handle. He had played the thing. He had used his own specially-modified cylinder, with the grooves and the scratches he had etched through long, lonely nights. He had listened to the sounds it made, and he had watched the shifting clouds.
But he knew that he would stay all day. He would take the handle again, wind it, play the otherworldly sounds. He had seen the creatures - the aliens – in his dreams. They were as real to him as Clarissa. He knew he could contact them. He knew it would work.
Without taking his eyes from the sky, he reached over and took the handle of the machine in his hand, and as the sound - distorted and disturbed - spilled across the field, he closed his eyes. He saw Clarissa beaming as the Mayor hung a medal around his neck, the townsfolk with their faces full of admiration and gratitude for his service, watching on.
Everything would change. There would be no more mocking laughter, and his Clarissa would have to shed no more tears.
He opened his eyes once again, and he watched as the clouds reworked themselves into what he could almost swear was the semblance of a spacecraft.
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