the blisters on the palm of his hand had already burst and were suppurating, but he could not relinquish his grip upon the handle – he had to keep throttling the machine at regular intervals or the reality cascade would erase him and everyone else in the building. smythe was bringing him the occasional cockroach omelette, but nothing beyond that.
this machine had been automatic for a long time but that mechanism had rusted out – the rest of it seemed to be much more resilient and for that they gave thanks, but time distortions put strange stresses on the metal and its aging pattern was more than irregular.
they had drawn straws and seneschal had got the job – it meant he also suffered the same fate as the machine. some days he felt really good and other days he knew he was pressed up close to death’s door. they all knew they had sentenced him to a long and painful death so they tried to make his life as pleasant as they could.
rachel would come and sing to him. bentley would draw. fiens would tell stories. all of these things were great, but sometimes he didn’t have the heart to tell them that some times he couldn’t see through the filters his predicament placed between him and them. he was amazed that through all these reality waves which had crashed over him the machine had survived the re-write but some of the people hadn’t, and even he had changed.
what if the machine’s persistence meant that it was at root the cause of everything that was going wrong? was that even possible? at the thought his grip relaxed. what if he didn’t need to die painfully over a long period of time? what if all his sitting here with this machine did was promise pain for everyone for ever? and he let go.
he studied his hand – it was calloused and blistered. it was the hand of an old man he did not remember becoming. outside the universe span chaotically – a random choice was made by someone somewhere at some point. and click – there was no bang – seneschal’s world blinked out of existence.