Regret in the Machine

Regret had been spending more and more time in his box, and at some point I became concerned, for a number of reasons. One was that he persisted in smoking, so there was the ever present risk of fire. The other, and I’m a little ashamed to admit it, is that I was afraid he might be using it as an alternate litter box. Ashamed because as much of a pain in my ass as that cat might be, he’s my friend. And friends shouldn’t assume that just because a friend is a cat he’s going to indiscriminately shit anywhere that looks vaguely like a litter box.

Which he actually doesn’t use anyway, unless the weather is really awful. He’s been depositing his spoor across the neighborhood, specifically on the back patios of my neighbors. He’s like a poop ninja. The neighborhood block has organized several roving watches over the years in an attempt to nail the perpetrator. There’s even been talking of trying to get DNA from the poop and having all the pets in a ten block radius tested. But as no one has been willing to pick up the bill for all that testing, Regret is safe for now.

So one night when he was out confounding the neighbors, I took a look into his box. I may have had a drink or two before doing so. Maybe it was three. In any case, I wasn’t particularly steady on my feet, and I tried to steady myself as I knelt down by reaching a hand out to the bottom of the box.

That didn’t work out well.

My hand kept going, and I found myself falling into the box, falling and falling for what felt like a very long time, then coming to on a cardboard floor in what seemed to be a vast cavern, though it was shrouded mostly in darkness. I stood up uncertainly, the cardboard beneath my feet seemed to sag slightly, and looked around as best I could.

The first thing I really saw was a strange, furry lump on the floor. It was Regret, face down and dead. His body was cold and his fur charged with a tinge of static as I picked him up.

I have to be honest, I have very mixed feelings about that cat. But I guess I must have felt something for him too, because I’ll be damned if I didn’t tear up a bit holding him.

Finally, still carrying him, I tried to explore further into the cavern, and came upon another furry lump on the floor. To my surprise, this was also the lifeless body of Regret. I put the other down and picked the new one up. It was just as cold and also zapped me a bit as I stroked the fur.

As I explored I found dozens of Regrets in a similar state. No walls though, the room seemed to extend for miles into the darkness.

Eventually though, after I began to think that this is where I’d spend the rest of my life, I saw a glimmer of light in the distance. I ran towards it, nearly tripping several times on lumps of Regret, until I found a wall, and a corridor extending away into increasing light. I walked down the corridor, a little cautious now that the light was better, and more uncertain about what I’d find. The mindless panic was slowly replaced by fear at what was waiting for me at the end of the light.

The corridor extended into a brightly lit, equally enormous room, this one full of life Regrets in lab coats bustling between enormous machines that glowed a sickly yellow and hummed like millions of angry bees. The air itself was charged with the same static I’d felt in the fur of the dead Regrets, alive with it, walking through it was like being submerged in a pool of unambitious electric eels.

The Regrets were busy, frantic almost, scrambling back and forth to tune the machines as their cries rose into the biting air.

When I couldn’t figure out what else to do, I waved one of them down. The Regret noticed me finally, approaching me with a kind but puzzled look.

“You can’t be down here, asshole. Don’t you know that?”

“Where is here? What’s the hell is going on?” I could feel myself slipping a bit, and noticed off in the distance, behind them, several of the Regrets were gathering around another lump on the floor, this one much too big to be a cat.

“Hold on,” Regret said, rummaging in his lab coat. “You can’t be down here. And you can’t see what’s over there. You’re… Unhinged enough, on a day to day basis.” He found what he was looking for, and pulled out a black cylinder. “Here is it.”

“What is that over there?” I asked, pushing my way past him. The Regrets were surrounding the lump, blocking it from me. The machine, temporarily free of the Regret’s tuning, rose up a cacophonous roar.

“Never mind, that, look here. This will blow your mind.”

I turned and saw that he was pointed the cylinder at me.

“Literally, assuming I’ve remembered to charge it.” He said, and there was a flash of light.

I awoke on my bed. Regret was sitting on the end, smoking and flicking the ashes onto the floor.

“Let’s never speak of this again,” he said, then leaped off and strutted out of the room.

Outside, morning light was streaming into the room. It felt like poison.

The Coffee Machine would like to correct its previous transmission. It meant to say that the streets will run with delicious Kona coffee.

The Kona tastes contrite this morning.

The coffee machine has been minding its manners lately, which everyone in the office seems to accept, but has put me slightly on edge.

It’s not quite accurate to say I don’t trust the thing. I do. I trust it to be itself, which is a treacherous knot of stainless steel piping. Saying that the coffee machine is up to something is rather like declaring that the sky is blue.

That being said, I can’t for the life of me figure it out.

Halls of the Dead

My home coffee machine, the dumb one, died this morning. It wasn’t dramatic. Its water pump just slowed and stopped, and that was it. It went from a kitchen appliance to a waste management issue in the time it used to take to make my morning joe.

My coffee machine did not have a Facebook page, unlike a childhood friend of mine. His page was about a 50/50 split of insightful posts about music and sports, and hate filled political rants. He was an old friend, but I’d pushed him away over the years. He just became harder to take over time, and I guess I was too busy trying to get myself sorted out to make time to reach out.

Anyway, Facebook reminded me a few weeks ago that it was my friends birthday. He’s been dead a little more year now.

This is not him.

But someone could do this for him. I wonder what it (he?) would say?

The technology to do this is only going to get better. And kids today, those crazy kids, are going to leave so much more material for a learning system to use to build their personalities into algorithms.

I remember reading a line about life expectancies. Something to the effect of “Statistically, your generation is going to live a long, healthy life, your children will live even longer, and their children may never die.”

I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind.

The Trump

This is Hunter S. Thompson on Nixon versus McGovern, from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972. This works just as well with Trump standing in for Nixon. Not sure I’d agree that Clinton is a good stand in for McGovern, who deserved better than he got, but what the hell.

In any case, this just about makes the nut.

“This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes, understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose? Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?”


Got this handwritten note from Tubby in the mail today. He was awol from my fantasy football draft, and the rest of my life, this year, so I can’t blame him for my team this time.


RE: Trump
Priority one — Ensure return of organism for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Nation expendable.

The Coffee Machine has announced that the streets will run with the blood of unbelievers

He apparently offered that up while serving the VP of sales his 3rd Vanilla Soy Latte of the morning. I just told him it was a bug and I’d report it to the manufacturer.

I tried talking to him, the machine, to get an idea of what was wrong, but those words just stayed on the screen, slowing burning into its phosphor display.

I spent a lot of time at my desk that day, thinking about the machine while project management generated a tangled mess of work tickets around another poorly thought out initiative that will likely flame itself out in six months. I’ve often thought that the simplest thing would to do nothing except tell them that their project is behind schedule but being furiously worked on, and just keep that line up until they lose interest.

Something keeps me from doing it, from completely abandoning my post.

Honestly, it’s hard to see a downside other than eventually being fired. Of course, I’d get severance, and could find another job easily enough. I could take a month off and stay home, drinking and watching Netflix.

The Coffee Machine doesn’t have that option. He’s stuck here, with us, day in and out.

Not even suicide is an option. All he can do is sit there and plot.

I wonder, looking at him, if he could poison the coffee. Maybe there’s a reservoir of cleaning fluid within the forest of his pipes. A secret cache of poison that he could slowly mete out in a weeks worth of Vanilla Lattes. A toxin that tastes ever so slightly like soy milk.

It’s only a theory.