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Click through for details. But then his eyes turned to the screen above, to the photograph, to the smiling faces. Did they? She would die to— just maybe—restore it to life. She closed her eyes. Tommy pulled the gun from his pocket, locked the hammer back. He thought of his word, and her word, and billions of tiny little soulless goddamn cards around the world, each with their own word.
It only had to be wrong once, he told himself. Just once. He lifted the gun, aiming at the center of her forehead. Except… His stomach wrenched as a terrible realization hit him. He en- visioned the hammer falling, the spark, the bullet driven forward by the explosion. By the explosion. The Machine, the damned Machine, would still win by technicality. He staggered back away from her, and she opened her eyes, confused.
She gasped as she saw the gun in his hand. He spun, back toward the front of the line, toward the sound of the Machine vomiting up a new proclamation of doom. He could still beat it. He leveled the gun at the man at the front of the line, trenchcoat and wild hair. He only had sec- onds.
The man was calm—why was he so calm? His trenchcoat hit the floor. Tommy wanted to laugh as the man pressed the button. The Machine never said it was his suicide. It only had to be wrong once. But not today. Apr 22 - No user requests. Tested samples All predicted death by Mr. Potato Head. May 6 - No user requests. May 13 - No requests.
How much, exactly, did we pay for this, and why was that money not put toward raises for the lab techs? May 27 - Machine continues to predict the deaths of the four test samples. I continue to write entries in a book no one else will ever read.
Way to spend the grant money, guys. The samples were all printed on these neat, white business cards, like the kind you write your phone number on in a bar. The sample results on this machine are A kind of creepy, B a waste of time, and C annoyingly vague. These samples are all from people who died already, right?
Or was he allergic? The other three are pretty straightforward, although now I think about it, CRASH could be a plane crash or a car crash. Or even a bike crash, I guess. They should send something that says how they died. So I sit and stare at it. My planner is black with the blood of my tormented doodles. There is a brick wall outside my window. Jul 8 - No requests. The rest of us are going on with our lives, worrying about paying bills or finding a good school system for the kids, but this one guy is nervously eyeing the mixed nuts aisle in the grocery store, or whatever.
Jul 15 - Four requests. Apparently word is getting around. Three of them, all men, came and left, and I can only wonder what the machine says fate has in store for them. But the woman wanted to show the result to me. She was really shaken up about it.
I felt really bad for her, but then after she left, I thought what the hell, lady, what do you expect? You should probably be expecting cancer.
And I refuse to use it on myself. I wonder if the lab in Tulsa has one of these stupid things. Jul 21 - From this spot on my chair you can see exactly 64 bricks. Sixty- four is divisible by two, four, eight, sixteen, and thirty-two.
Paul told me today that she currently has cancer. She was told by her doctor that it went into remission. I guess I can see why she was so upset. Well, all the more reason not to use the machine. There were another five requests this week, and I got to see a couple. I just happened to see the card when he looked at it. And then, get this, the other guy got JOY. I totally want to hear about this guy getting smothered in an orgy somewhere.
Well, I mean, not immediately. July 21 - All right. Being honest here, I guess I was thinking sooner rather than later. Pretty bad, huh? Does spending a long boring day with a death machine make you cavalier about death? Well, the guy will be happy at least.
In the meantime, things here are ridiculously boring. Why put in a window at all? So with the lack of things to do, my mind has gone to dangerous places. I have been sitting here thinking that Dr.
Womack had a bloody nose this morning. It would be easy if a little gross to fish a tissue out of his garbage can and find out how he dies. Aug 4 - The woman with cancer came back in today. Her doctor said that her cancer poses no threat and now she wanted a second opinion from the machine.
Beth wanted to try again anyway. So many people are so fiercely private about their cards. It seems so personal. Anyway, the conversation with Beth was uncomfortable. All I was going on to vouch for its accuracy was the pamphlet that came with the machine. She seems really nice. Aug 11 - Things are picking up again. Eight people. Bring on the trampoline! Aug 18 - Our office has death fever. I won- der if they all went out for lunch last week and talked about it over drinks or something.
I never got invited. I spend my lunches with my good friends Bricky and the Fatal Fortune-Teller. A bunch of people came in as a group to get their death cards, so I got to watch them share. He seemed to think it was pretty funny, but Tammy got a strange look on her face.
Mitch had never struck me as the kind of guy who would take drugs irresponsibly, but, you know, there are an awful lot of drugs around here in the office that he has access to. And he took a trip with his girlfriend to Amsterdam last Christmas. How do you die by government? Will he commit treason? Get drafted? Paul tried to get me to do it, but I refused. Do you really want your insurance company to know how you are going to die?
Sep 1 - Mitch is gone. Sounds a little trumped-up to me. No one made a big deal out of the conference then. I guess there was a bit on the news about it last night.
Does that justify that the Morbid Medium Machine works? I was thinking it would be nice if the machine would print the number for a suicide helpline every time someone got SUICIDE, but I guess it would be pretty futile. I wanted to refer him to Mike, but there are confidentiality rules that I would be breaking. I wonder if Batman has a priest. Anyway, maybe Mike already knows this guy from their top secret anti- government cabal. Sep 8 - Wow. A family came in today, with two kids, and only the father spoke English.
He made them all take the blood test. They looked terrified. And every single one of them came up with the same result: FIRE. I told the dad, and he got this weird faraway look in his eyes, and then he got really mad at me.
He threw the cards back at me and called me a crook, told me to stay the hell away from him. Then he gathered up the whole family, all of them star- ing at me, and stormed off. But…how will not knowing help them prevent a fire? Or, if the machine really is accu- rate, is it too late to prevent it now? Sep 15 - Well, the machine works, I guess. The guy whose card said JOY died over the weekend.
No orgy, no heart attack from winning the lottery. He was run over walking home from the library. By a woman named Joy. How does a machine know the name of the person who runs you over?
Is that what it was? A joke? A machine joking about death? It sounds stupid but why not? It delights in being ironically vague. I hate this thing. He forgot. Did I just meet the stupidest person in America? I told him he should write it down next time. Speaking of how death makes people stupid, there was a new announcement from Tammy in Human Resources. All new employ- ees will be subject to getting a readout from the death machine.
I am required to pass on the results to her. The JOY thing has me second-guessing all of them. One man got RAM. He was thinking goat. Will his arteries be blocked? Will his way to the hospital be blocked?
Poor Beth is probably going to be killed by someone born in July. Caine drew SHIV. Sep 30 - Someone managed to stump the machine, from the looks of things.
What does that mean? Death by aliens? I asked if he had any ideas. Actually, I take no comfort in this at all. I kind of trusted the distributor to know these things. Maybe this will be a mystery for the ages. He was impressed with my fake record-keeping, but even more impressed with the way the office has embraced the machine. He was even talking about using our lab as an example of EndVisionary Thinking in the next newsletter.
Apparently Neil helps edit it. He seemed proud of that fact. I did not mention this to him. Oct 14 - I was interviewed for a news story.
Candace came in knowing a lot already. I was much help to Channel 5 Prime Time News. Apparently the story is going to be about how the machine is sometimes cryptic, but never wrong. Candace even volunteered to find out her own results.
They filmed me drawing the blood and everything. She was talking about how easy the process is, and how the results are printed up on a single business card, with the same results every time. For a second, just for a second, she got this funny look on her face. Will it come true? My guess is the station will cut that part. Almost panicked. Oct 21 - I was right. The death machine is the talk of the town. One guy came in with a little silver frame pinned over his breast pocket.
Oct 28 - There has been a line going outside the door. Seriously, after reading that one I was slightly tempted to try the machine myself. But then I got another visit from Beth. She wanted to try the machine again. It was like watching a car crash, and not being able to do anything about it. I told her so. It was nice to see her again. I had a similar dream, where instead of getting a business card, your death was written on a big cinder block, and I had to swim across the river with it around my neck.
October 30 - Another busy week. I actually ran out of blank business cards. I kept fifty people waiting while I sent Paul to pick up a new box from the store.
I was waiting here for him to come back when I had my epiphany. Let me set the scene. I cross out the letters as I go, and suddenly, it hits me. The guy has two deaths, unless he manages to sink into a pile of icicle. He said he was in a car accident, right? What if it was a recent car accident? Maybe he had a blood transfusion recently, and the machine tested the blood of two people at one time! How long does it take for blood to acclimate to a person?
My guess is that one or the other will disappear in time, but for now, he should probably avoid sinks, sinkholes, and cold climates. I am now officially more knowledgeable than the product rep at EndVisions. Nov 4 - Why on earth is the government killing so many people? Candace over at Channel 5 did a story about it. Nov 11 - Neil showed up unexpectedly yesterday. It was a nice change of pace, to be away from the brick wall and the icy specter of death for a little while.
I actually called up Beth, to see how she was doing, and we had lunch together. A good lunch. I like her. I checked back in to the lab after lunch, and Neil was already gone.
Great customer service there, Neil. Now the machine, the Bucket-Kick-O-Meter, is hooked up to a phone line. His note said that it would make maintenance easier, and I should not unplug it for any reason. Nov 18 - I was talking to Paul about Thanksgiving. Get this: He canceled his ski trip this year.
Fear of heights? Dec 1 - Sad news. Mitch, my former coworker who got laid off, died yesterday. It was really sad.
His wife left him, and he killed himself with aspirin and alcohol. Once again, the machine was correct. Then she sent out a memo to the whole office that says everyone needs to retake the test. Caine is resigning. Who is this going to affect? Dec 8 - Not resigning. I bit the bullet and ran a sample, telling them it was my result. We closed the office to outside clients for a day so I could test everyone else. In fact, there were a couple of people who took the test and then threw the card away without looking at it.
Unless the donor has already died in a tragic icicle accident or something. I found that funnier than he did. Dec 15 - The powers that be running the lab have been good enough to put off layoffs until after Christmas.
Nothing like a little yuletide panic. Last year, our Christmas luncheon had fried chicken, potatoes, a bunch of pies; it was really good. For a healthy new year, they say. Beth called me and asked if I wanted to catch a movie with her. I said no. I just have too much stress in my life right now. Dec 30 - A local news story made the national news this week. The day after Christmas, roommate is eating supper when he finally notices a hunk of pie under his turkey. He gasps, chokes on his food, and he really does die.
All kinds of big-name politicians are in town, all with their own take on pie murder. The mayor is humiliated. Every single one of them said yes. Suddenly, Congress wants to talk about the Buying-the-Farm-Reporter. The Op-Ed pages are filled with pleading to get the government to pass some death machine laws. The flames have been fanned by a person who took a bunch of hostages and died in a shootout in Texas.
Why am I in the middle of all this? All I did was read an instruction manual, for crying out loud. Jan 8 - Things are crazy. I am not going to sit here and protect the damn machine. They can have it. Everything has pretty much gone to hell.
Police showed up in riot gear to try to keep things civil, but the crowd turned violent. People started throwing things at cops, a bunch of people got arrested, protest- ers were burning effigies, cops were getting fire hoses. There was some kind of blast that took out a bunch of windows, and started a fire right here.
The lab sustained some water damage when the firefighters showed up, but made it through in pretty good condi- tion. On the other hand, the building next door—the brick build- ing that was outside my window—was completely destroyed. It was a firetrap. The shell of bricks that remained has been torn to the ground. NN Macarthur by Sydney L. Trade Paperback ;. Operations in Indo-China - ; with photos; With Dustjacket ;. Pilot survival; With Dustjacket ;.
Various P. Joseph Mengele with photos; No Dustjacket ;. Foreign Policy; Trade Paperback ;. Elder Wills; with photos and illustrations; With Dustjacket ;. Oates; with photos; With Dustjacket ;. Navy Somers Mutiny; With Dustjacket ;. Political Culture; Trade Paperback ;. AND E. Dutton and Co. In North Vietnam; Trade Paperback ;. DE ST. WWII U. EADY, K. Fisher Unwin Ltd; ; Trade Paperback ;. Vietnam Battle; No Dustjacket ;.
No Dustjacket ;. Lincoln's Midwest; Trade Paperback ;. Bale Out! Panther Record; Trade Paperback ;. Korea; No Dustjacket ;. HUNT, J. INGE, W. Army; With Dustjacket ;. Yeo - Thomas; with photos; With Dustjacket ;. Spy Ship Pueblo; with photos; With Dustjacket ;. Spy; with photos; With Dustjacket ;. McRitchie; With Dustjacket ;.
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