The Political Machine: A Short Story

London- 1868

In the Suite

On the crisp October morning, William Alvendale stepped from the very ornate balcony on the third floor into an even more opulent hotel suite. Langford Carmichael followed like an obedient cur. The crowd, which had gathered for all of the prerequisite political speeches leading up to an election, began to mutter and roar with the noises of a gathered crowd without a singular purpose.

William was a rather disheveled man. He was dressed as if the tailor was more comfortable with Braille than cloth shears and thread. His waist coat was made for a man who had eaten far fewer meals than William, while his shirt was obviously tailored for a man at least three stone heavier. The cuffs of his trousers were both rolled up and almost worn in half from his quick steps dragging them across the floor. His tiny hands were covered by thick French cuffs meant to be secured at the wrists.

Lang, as he was called by those closest to him, was more a beguiling young man. Handsome and tall was he, with just a darker shade of skin, where a beard would rest on an older man. His hair fell in ringlets over his collar. He thought it strange that London had fallen for the bespectacled bibliophile instead of himself, a man raised from birth to lead a nation. ‘But charisma goes a long way’, he thought to himself.

“William, why do you do that?” Langford asked.

“Why do I do what?” already feeling himself grow aggravated by the topic.

“Give a speech and use all of those nickel and dime words… knowing half of those gathered here have no clue as to what you are saying… and then just… just turn and walk away.”

“It is called mystique’, Lang, it inspires people.” William stated curtly as he flopped down onto the large bed.

“William, shouldn’t we be getting rea…”

“Shut up, and send in Amber” Lang bowed down his head and walked through suite to a heavy jewel laden door. Lang grabbed the knob, squeezed his eyes shut and breathed in as deeply as he could. Then exhaled slowly and opened his eyes again as he turned the knob. For the door to be almost two hundred years old and Oak, it was remarkably easy to swing open.

Amber was a beautiful young woman. If you had to guess her age and profession, the safest bet would be early twenties and definitely a stage actress. Her hair fell across her back like the wings of a raven. Even at the Academy, Lang was obsessed with her beauty. Up until a few weeks, Amber had always at least been cordial to Lang. Until, well, until that night William requested her presence during an experiment at the Carroway House.

After that, just like everyone that William has had a one on one conversation with, she was now completely devoted to him. Forsaking all others, including herself. She doesn’t even bathe without William informing her of the need to. But again this was the same with everyone William spoke with.

Lang questioned himself and his mentality as he seemed to be the only one immune to the charms and charisma of the man who started off as an outcast and now was just days away from winning the Prime Minister’s office, by land slide for the second time. Was there something he was not seeing, that seemed to be so obvious to everyone else?

Amber looked up as the door opened and seemed to know it was her that he was requesting. She stood without a word and began walking towards the door.

“Hello, Amber.” Lang said as she got within arms reach. She smiled softly and twisted to avoid his contact as she stepped into the room.

“That was a spectacular speech, William” she observed as she turned and pushed Lang out the door and closed it behind him. “This one was even better than the last.” She put her ear to the door and stood silently for a few seconds. No, Lang had not waited by the door, nor was he somehow eavesdropping. That was good. That was very good. She rushed over to the large bed where William was laying. “William, I have a problem.” She stated in a muted voice.

“What is your problem? If anyone is supposed to have problems it is me, not you.” William’s interest now piqued enough to warrant him to open his eyes and acknowledge she was in the room.

“Look!” she stated in an almost panicked voice as she pulled back the shoulder of her blouse.

“What am I looking at?” He asked as he sat up and tried to focus his eyes onto her satiny skin. He focused his eyes as best he could. She wrenched her neck as far as she could in order to give him a better look. His eyes followed down from her black hair, the slightly brown makeup around her eyes, the pink application on her cheek, the deep red on her lips, the paleness of her neck. His eyes focused on the thick line running across her shoulder and bulging out the skin. Panic rises in his stomach. His eyes widen to almost twice their normal size. He blinked heavily. Perhaps it was his eyes playing tricks on him. He refocused his eyes to get a better look. Oh, Dear God, It could not be, not now.

Please, not this, not so close to the completion of his task. He thought to himself, if it was happening to Amber, surely it was happening to the others as well.

As a man of science he seldom invoked the name of God, but now he caught himself praying with the conviction of an Anglican Bishop. Please God, Please help me… Dear God, why does it have to separate now… now of all times… Please God, help me.

After contemplating the remedies, he knew what needed to be done. He quickly began to work on the solution.

In the Streets

The stones of the cobble road were as jagged and uneven as could possibly be imagined. Henry, an oversized man, both in height and girth, was trying to traverse the crowd. He had his wife, Annemarie, and their eight year old son, Victor, in tow.

“Hen’, must we move so fast? I hurt my ankle.” Annemarie said daintily.

“Yes, my Angel, please forgive me but we must hurry, we are already late as it is. We must make it to the boat before it leaves. This could be our last chance.” Henry replied. He swooped down and picked up little Victor and pulled Annemarie closer to him, almost picking her up as he quickened his stride. He muttered a prayer.

A man stepped out of the crowd right in front of Henry and his fast paced family. “William Alvendale? That monster can go to Hell!” shouted the man. Henry stopped in his tracks and turned facing the window that just moments ago William disappeared into. He pulled his family close to him. Victor turns to look over his father’s shoulder at the man.

“Turn around, Vicky, that is none of our concern” snapped Henry. The man continues to scream out derogatory phrases about William as two police officers approach from within the crowd.

“Sir, you must refrain from such speech” stated the first officer.

“You can go to Hell too” answered the man. The silent Officer, now behind the man, produces a small bundle of leather sewn around a piece of metal plate. The first officer repeats himself to the man. The man again raises his voice. “You are ignorant sheep! You are just ignorant sheep… in ugly uniforms!” The silent Officer raises the hand with the combination of leather and metal high above his head.

Victor’s eyes followed the metal bundle. He could feel the anxiety rise in his chest. As the man began to spout other obscenities the bundle landed heavily across the back of his head. The man falls hard against the cobblestone. Victor could see that the first officer had retrieved a large black bag from what seemed like out of thin air. “Daddy, what are they doing?” Victor forced out between the tears that sprang from his eyes.

“Hush, Victor, we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves” he gingerly began to bounce the child in order to try and calm him. “It’s ok, Vicky, mommy and daddy are right here” Victor hides his face momentarily in the crook of his father’s chest. He musters his strength and looks back in time to see both officers now carrying the large black bag away with the enraged man inside. “Daddy, where are they taking him”

“Well, son, they are taking him to…” started Henry.

“Henry Myers, choose your words carefully. He is only eight.” Annemarie interrupted. Henry smiled at his wife and bit his lip and looked into Victor’s young eyes.

“He is to be reprogrammed.” This was the only words Henry could imagine would fit. He knew those that disappear into the cloth folds of the bags suffer only two possible fates. Either they return are devout followers of William or they are never seen again. This has played out many times before. As a leader of the Dogs of London, the underground rebellion against William Alvendale, he knew all too well. He had seen many suffer that fate.

“Oh.” Victor said, not sure if he understood or even wanted to understand what such a strange word meant. After a few minutes, which seemed to go by ever so slowly, Henry and his family turn again and continue walking in their initial direction. Slowly the throngs of people blend together and the young family disappears into the crowd.

Back in the Streets

The heavy bangs on the oak door echo throughout the suite. No answer comes from within. Lang slowly opens the door and steps in. He has left Amber and William alone for no more than ten minutes. Where could they be? He glances around. Everything seems to be in place. The furniture is upright, the paintings are square, and the carpets are laid appropriately. The bed… the bed is a mess, and a mass is covered by the blanket. He walks cautiously over to the bed. His shaking hand rises up to the edge of the blanket and gently pulls it down. His heart is racing and he can feel his pulse in his neck. He whips the blanket completely off of the bed and stands and stares at the body lying in the bed.

‘Poor Amber’ he thought to himself. She was so beautiful.

Her dark hair… Her gentle smile… Her small, Elvin fingers…

Then he focuses on the large hole in her chest and leading onto her shoulder. The cogs, the gyros, the springs, the cables… everything was ripped out and spilling out of the cadaver like spilled seeds from a busted pumpkin.

“Now you know.” Came the voice from behind him. Lang spun around and stared in the eyes of William. He was standing there with his sleeves rolled up and his shirt opened to his waist. He arms were covered in a thick, gray translucent liquid that he was trying to wipe off with a hand towel. “The springs were set too tight; they were pushing the cable up through the skin”

William just stood there in disbelief. “Is this real?” he asked

“Most definitely, it is real. Did you not notice the change in her? This Automatron I feel is my best work yet. She looked just like the real Amber, didn’t she?”

“Where is the real Amber?”

“Dead. I had to get the skin and hair to be identical, and what would be better than using the original?”

Lang’s mind began to reel in a thousand different directions. How could this have happened? When could this have happened?

“Why are you doing this?”

“This way I always get what I want, no matter what it is.” William says matter-of-factly. “To tell you the truth, she isn’t the first nor will she be the last.”

“You know, I cannot be a part of this.” Lang blurts out. William bites his lip.

“Please don’t say that, old friend; I have wonderful plans for you.” William pleads.

“I’m sorry, William, I can’t” the tears begin to well up in his eyes.

“It is OK. Do what you have to do. As will I. A parting hug?” William outstretches his arms in a peaceful gesture. Lang steps forward, still crying.

“William, I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s OK, Lang, I do. But you have to trust me” They embrace. Lang holds his dear friend close to him unsure of what to do. William reaches into the back of his waistband and pulls out a large knife and outstretches his arm while holding Lang close to his chest with the other. Lang looks into his friend’s eyes as the realization of what is transpiring hits him.

“I am ready, William. Make me a believer”

The Final Speech

The crowd outside has once again become fixated on the window. Chants rise rhythmically into the air.

William steps out onto the balcony. Lang quickly follows. William raises his greasy hands up in a wide sweeping gesture. The crowd erupts in joy.

“Ladies and Gentlemen” William calls out. The group falls silent. “Ladies and Gentlemen, there are going to be some changes.” William reaches into his pocket and produces a small box with a dozen buttons on the face. He pulls out the antenna and pushes a sequence of buttons. A large lump on Lang’s shoulder rises up as something appears to push through his skin. With a grimace on his face, the antenna rips through the skin and rises to the height of his hair. The whizzing and whirling begins. Looking out across the sea of people, William sees antennae rising from all the spectators in similar fashion. “My beloved followers, He is your new transmitter…tune to his frequency and begin the download of the new policies. The next empire begins today.”

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