Joe's Perfect Machine

by Robert John Miller


Cigarette tucked in the corner of his thin pink lips, a man sat on the floor of his ill-lit kitchen nursing two fingers of five dollar bourbon, sketching out his plan for the perfect machine. He was drawing straight lines mostly, curves for wings, a panel of microprocessors, a hydraulic lift, a block of knives, a series of syringes. The machine could fly, which was important to him because he liked to fly. The perfect machine would obviously need to fly. It wouldn't be a plane because planes are expressly built to fly, and this machine merely had flight as a capability, just one of the many things it was designed to do. It could also be his friend, and lift things, and stab things, and shoot things into him. He couldn't think of anything more perfect.

When he finished his sketch he pinned it on his corkboard hanging near his refrigerator and then walked to his mirror.  He hadn't seen himself all week.  No one else had seen him in months.  He had been perfecting his machine and outlining his Nobel acceptance speech.  If he didn't win a Nobel for his machine, he was sure that the machine would itself win a Nobel soon after it was produced. The machine would certainly use his Nobel speech, not because the machine couldn't write a better speech itself (because obviously it would be perfectly capable of doing so), but because it would be the perfect gesture of friendship which the machine would want to extend to its creator.

Nothing could possibly go wrong.


Thousands of labor-hours later, CAD designs mocked up and concepts proven by scale models, Joe flipped to the on-position the machine's power switch. It was beautiful, Joe thought, its metal body glistening in artificial light. Fans whirred, pumps pressed, indicator lights signaled that the startup process was following its planned course. The machine hopped into the air, spun, calibrated its GPS, and scanned Joe: mammalian; hyper-developed meat-brain; aesthetic-based, non-logical thought processes; fulfilled by the satiation of appetites and feelings of intimacy; agitated by desire and feelings of disconnection.

The machine flew through the kitchen collecting common household ingredients and began synthesizing compounds personalized to Joe's biochemistry.  What wasn't available in the kitchen was available nearby, and through a global data network the machine quickly located (and then acquired) the missing items.  It loaded its syringes and approached.

The first needle poke collapsed Joe and induced him to vomit, but he recovered momentarily and didn't notice any more injections.  Despite this general loss of tactile sensation Joe suddenly felt as though his mouth was filled with spicy nacho cheese and that his own limp member was instead hundreds of dicks climaxing simultaneously into a vat of pure eroticism.  Moments later, exhausted, he drifted to sleep while giggling uncontrollably at the thought that he, Joe, was able to eat cheese that was somehow "not Joe's cheese."  In dream-state Joe's synapses fired in such rapid succession that he reexperienced most of his life, reliving his positive memories as if for the first time and witnessing his regretful moments as if they weren't his alone but instead part of the necessary suffering of a universal oversoul.  He no longer understood himself as himself but as part of an invincible, reassuring, all-knowing third-party.  He awoke and found himself repeating the process again and again, will surrendered, each time lengthened by the memories of the previous times, the machine monitoring dosage and supply.  After an hour, Joe's neural pathways burnt out.

It was suicide, and murder, and something of an accident, but Joe no longer minded.

BIO: Robert John Miller's work has recently appeared in Writers' Bloc, Camroc Press Review, and poeticdiversity.  He lives in Indiana.  One day he spent the whole afternoon on a sailboat.  You can read more at