I write character-driven dark fiction.
What do you do?

The Machine

"There’s nothing to worry about," I said."This treatment’s been proven effective time after time, for so many ailments. You're practically cured already."

The patient made no response, merely watched as I made a few adjustments to the apparatus. I'd given this treatment so many times I could pretty much adjust the settings just by eyeballing the patient, but I always double-check everything once I have the patient's current weight, just to be sure.

"You know, I had this treatment myself, when I was a child ."

I always told them this. It helped build a rapport with the patients.

"You see, my grandfather had a machine like this when my mother was a child. He used it for everything, according to her. He wasn't a trained therapist, or anything, but with one of these he didn't need to be."

She watched silently as I rolled the stand holding the machine across my living room and next to the procedure chair. I bent, peering into her eyes.


She grunted. A little rude, but I decided to take it as an assent.

"Good, good," I said. "He gave Mother treatments for headaches, toothaches, allergies and colds, oh, just everything. And it always helped, she said. This is even the same machine, passed down through the family, so you know it'll help. Tried by time, tested under fire again and again."

I held up one of the leads, the one with the headband attachment. I squirted some conduction gel on the contact, smearing it around to cover the whole surface.

"Of course, this isn't the same exact machine Grandpa used. I've modified it a little. This headband attachment, for instance. This attachment didn't even exist when he used it on Mother, or even when Mother used it on me."

I slid the elastic band down over her head, making certain the contact was in place in the center of her forehead. Just above her wide, staring eyes. Her respiration was a little erratic, and definitely elevated. I needed to form more of a patient-rapport, help put her at her ease.

“When I was a boy,” I said, then paused. I looked sheepish, I knew. It was good for the rapport and I couldn’t help it anyway.

“Sorry. This is a bit embarrassing. When I was a boy, I had a little problem with wetting the bed. I mean, I was seven, and that’s way too old for that sort of thing, you know? But Mother had the cure. Oh, yes she did.”

I held up the other lead, this one terminating in a black wand, a bit like a short, double-thick drumstick.

“This was the only kind of lead she had to work with. Two of these.”

I shuddered at the memory, but turned it into a shrug. I hoped she didn’t notice.

“I’m sorry to be so graphic here, but one at either end of… the, ah, offending member, each time I soiled the sheets. The treatments were longer each time, kind of a negative reinforcement thing. They got up to ten minutes before the treatment was 100% effective.”

The patient was speechless, but her eyes shimmered with unshed tears.

“No, no, my dear! It was painful, certainly, but it led to a complete cure! Later, when I started having, uh, well, ‘nocturnal emissions’ is the technical term, my treatments were shorter and faster, because I was already conditioned to respond the treatment. Though,” I could feel myself blushing again, “at fourteen it was a bit embarrassing to have Mother applying the leads.”

I was applying the conduction gel to the cylindrical lead in my hand. The good news for the patient was that it would act as lubrication as well, but she still seemed a bit tense, so I wouldn’t even mention that little plus unless she asked.

“So you can see, I know just how you’re feeling right now. I’m sorry this is so uncomfortable for you, I really am. Now this is going to be a little cold.”

I moved to lift sheet draped across her thighs and noticed it was dark and wet. Then the acrid smell reached me.

“Anna? You never mentioned an incontinence problem. Not to worry, though. That’s the beauty of this treatment — its flexibility! You’re unhappy, Anna. I’ve been watching you from across the hall, go through boyfriend after boyfriend. It’s your urges, Anna. Like mine when I hit puberty. It’s not your fault, any more than it was mine. The good news is, I’m here to help.”

I lifted the soiled sheet and reach beneath it with the hand holding the well-gelled lead. She reflexively tried to pull away from the foreign device, but I had planned for that eventuality, and the straps held her quite still. She still went rigid as I slid the lead deep into her ‘problem area’, socking the contact home.

“Sorry,” I sympathized, “I warned you about the cold, but it’s still unpleasant, I know.”

Her eyes bulged at me from above the swatch of duct tape holding the leather bit between her teeth.

“I’m sorry about the leather, Anna, but I needed it for my treatments, and that was before I modified the machine.”

I flipped the ‘ON’ switch and the box began to hum. The smell of ozone crept into the air, threaded with the stink of burning insulation.

“You see, although I required many treatments before I was cured, that was when the machine ran on a pokey little dry-cell battery. Along with that headband attachment I’ve also rewired the machine to run on wall current. It made the treatment much stronger, much more effective.”

I smiled at the tears of thanks rolling down her face.

“You’ll be cured in one treatment, Anna. All your urges, your incontinence, everything will be gone in just a few moments.”

She screamed her thanks, forcing the sounds through the tape as I reached for the switch marked ‘CHARGE’.






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