The Nothing Machine
By M. E. Riddle
I gazed up at the sight of the nothing machine feverishly working,
tethered to limbo by the strings of humanity-
and realized it was me.
Johnas never heard the sound. The entire panoramic mountainside outside the cave opening whitewashed instantaneously into brilliance. Utter chaos erupted. The atmosphere went into a vacuum state as mangled equipment, vehicles, rocks and debris flashed across the opening of the cave in tornadic fashion. It was wing without wind. It was the raw power of nuclear fission re-arranging all matter in a chaotic turmoil of unrelenting rage. The world about him phase shifted in slow motion. His body cart wheeled backwards pinning him upside down against the rear wall of the cave. A deafening heat blast filled the cave bringing with it ruptured pieces of pipe, oil equipment parts, dirt, dust, rocks and every form of desert fauna. Falling back down off the face of the wall his hair was on fire. A rockslide erupted outside the cave opening in full progress. Gaining some awareness he scrambled deeper into the cave to a pool of water to protect his body from the heat. He lost consciousness.
Earth tremors awakened him. The ceiling of the cave had partially collapsed blanketing him in rocks, dust and debris. Fire tornadoes continually paraded past the opening of the cave. He painfully raised his body out of the water and carefully, cautiously, crawled towards the light.
Outside, the mountainsides had liquidfacted leaving sheer, denuded faces. The area was grey and smoldering, devoid of life. The heat was intense. Johnas crawled back to the safety of the water where he curled up and lay, trembling.
The heat began to subside and the earth's trembling ceased. There continued a distant rumble throughout the valley outside the cave. Johnas was certain the event had already notified the United States Government that a small thermonuclear explosion had just occurred in a non-descript area of the Imperial Valley just outside of Coalinga, California.
World leaders were at this very moment were getting that 'middle-of-the-night' telephone call by excited technicians having difficulty explaining that their sensors had just registered a one-kiloton explosion occurring in Central California.
Johnas inwardly chuckled at this notion.
Carefully pulling himself up he again ventured to the opening of the cave.
"My God, I blew up the sky!" he muttered in disbelief through bleeding, chapped lips.
Mutely stunned, he observed the dynamic, roiling remains of the dark grey mushroom cloud being carried aloft by the jet stream in the direction of Bakersfield.
Outside, all had become eerily quiet. No birds singing. No sound of hawks screeching. No crows. No sound of oil equipment operating.
He lay his head down and slept.
"He's breathing!" was the frantic shout that awakened him.
Johnas had been falling in and out of consciousness in the company of lunatic clowns madly swinging and playing loudly their oversized brass circus instruments directly in his face.
"What the hell happened here!" a silver suited spaceman screamed directly into his face, startling him.
In an attempt at raising his arms Johnas realized they were shackled to cold, hard steel.
"Your gonna take a little ride!" another alien screamed in his face.
Sensing motion, silver forms all about him were falling in and out of view. In an instant the bright sky appeared, blinding his eyes. Another silver suited creature remained by his side as the cold steel basket ascended upwards to a helicopter hovering directly above, its blades seemingly barely moving.
Oh yea, I just detonated an atom bomb, Johnas idly thought. And why does everyone have to scream?
The basket was manhandled into the helicopter and in a sweeping turn he was able to get a bird's eye view of the destruction. In a snapshot view he observed silver suited people scattered about like so many astronauts walking on the moon. He recognized the epicenter the bomb had created.
God I was close, he thought.
Rolling his head his eyes made eye contact with the person who rode with him in the basket. His protective headgear had been removed and the man had a look on his face of utter distain
The pressure in Johnas' head became so unbearable that he started screaming into the oxygen mask filling it with saliva and pink blood. His midsection felt as though someone had repeatedly struck blows to it with their fist. A firm hand was placed on his chest. He was awakened by a woman wearing a mask enhancing her pretty eyes.
"What is your name?" she kept screaming.
Screaming again. What's up with that?
A collection of white robed figures stripped his clothes inflicting more pain. Hands grappled his body from all directions. The woman with pretty eyes reappeared and placed her hands on his forehead. A sense of warmth began to flood his body. Muscles relaxed and Johnas began to focus on her pretty eyes and gentle touch.
The drugs began to take effect.
Sitting alone on a beach at sunset Johnas marveled at its beauty and magnificence. A lone gull cried out overhead. The san running through his fingers appeared like tiny silver fishes. The sounds and silhouettes of children playing momentarily blocked the sun and consciousness faded into nothingness.