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[This smattering of about 1,500 words is inspired by the book Machine of Death, the initial premise of which will be explained in short order if you haven't already heard of it. This is not a intended to be a spoiler, as I've taken the concept on a bit of a different tangent. I am not attempting to help sell the book, though I do recommend reading it due to my own enjoyment of it. But enough of that, let's dive right in, shall we?]


I already know I wouldn't have my death fortune taken. I would have the expected dose of morbid curiosity in regards to what other people would get, but for myself? No. And that makes for a pretty poor story, in relation to keeping your eyes on this page, but I have a new thought that has jumped from the original inspiration. What if the Machine of Death didn't work on people... but on dolls? Asian ball-jointed dolls made of resin, to be specific, as in that hobby a doll is often considered precious in a status somewhat comparable to actual living beings. I'm not saying that it should or shouldn't be that way, I'm just saying that a huge amount of collectors really care about their dolls. These dolls are family, friends, figments of imagination in tangible form. They are ever so much more than expensive toys.

Perhaps it is the realness of the faces, even if they are sculpted in a way that no real face could ever form. The eyes, the hair, the clothing from any time period or one that doesn't exist yet, or is seen only in fictional works; choices made at every turn by each individual owner to create what becomes indeed a unique, singular entity. I pose to you now: what if the Machine of Death could tell you how your doll's "life" would end? I do not know how many doll owners share my own beliefs on the lives and deaths of dolls, but let us pose, for the sake of this specific discussion, that a doll's "death" occurs when it leaves its owner for good. The doll may still be quite intact, perhaps being sold or lost or stolen, but for the sake of argument let's say that is the moment, the "death" predicted with utmost certainty by the machine. The doll ceases to live for its owner, whatever has happened to bring that about.

The machine wouldn't tell you when, only how. This is the way the original machine concept works as posited by Ryan North's "Dinosaur Comics." The original version as mentioned is for people, and you can read about that in the book Machine of Death itself should you choose to partake in what I am finding a fascinating and often disturbing literary adventure. But getting back to this new doll version of the machine, all you would receive of your doll's fate would be a few words, or maybe just one, printed in big bold letters on a little slip of paper. FALL. DOG. RUN OVER. BOILED IN OIL. SQUASHED.

No doubt there would be a lot reading SOLD, just like for people there would be a lot of CANCER or HEART ATTACK. And yet, here in this doll-focused reworking, the machine would still have its inherent sense of irony. A big fear for doll owners already is FALL, but let's say you live several stories up in a highrise apartment building. FALL could actually mean that the entire structure collapses in an earthquake, and thus your relegating the doll to its box in a closet void entirely of shelving or other objects would, in the end, not prevent the prediction from coming true. Or perhaps you just sell the doll in autumn.

I can only imagine how it would be. Placing a little resin hand under the scanner, watching flickering red laser lights trail over it like some kind of glorified supermarket price-reader. Something tangible, something to tell you the machine is working. It would probably work on any body part, but it would be the hands that would be most symbolic. Palm readings, $20. Maybe that isn't even how it works, maybe the machine already knows how the doll is going to meet its demise. It just takes you giving in, coming close enough and stepping across that line, and then you have your little slip of paper.

Some results might seem fairly obvious as to the doll's literal ending, instead of a fancy trick of the wording. But what about something like BAD FACEUP? Would such a horrendous result to a doll's painted makeup force the owner's mind to reject the doll completely? Would the chemicals in the materials used for the faceup eat away at the resin in a way that could not be fixed? Perhaps it is you who does not think the faceup is bad, happily having created a sinister, gory work of art, and a relative instead finds it so frightening they do away with the doll to your ultimate dismay.

Here's another worry that faces doll owners: SUNSHINE. Oh my, how could that kill a doll? Yes, doll resin yellows over time, and that turn of shade is sped up dramatically by exposure to direct sunlight. But would this then mean that the doll would yellow so badly the owner can't stand to see it anymore? Perhaps a little brother finds a magnifying glass and... eep... or maybe a stranger's dog runs off with the doll in a park, and the dog's name is Sunshine.

What about WIG? Okay, it's easy enough to envision a cat finding curly locks a fun plaything, claws ruining resin or the doll perhaps indeed dying of what might have been FALL but for the ironic twist. This fate is still not quite so easy a call to make ahead of time. A jealous boyfriend might see someone they recognize in the doll because of its hair, someone unintended by the owner, and the poor thing would find its end at the hands of rage.

This is all rather morbid, I think to myself. Yes, that is inherent with the subject matter, and seems to steal as easily into the doll world just as it does when thinking about real people. Once again, I can say for myself that I would rather not know what those slips of paper would read for my little resin buddies. My dolls would not get their hands scanned, they would continue to live their dolly lives with me while I am free of tearing my hair out over ACID or BOWL OF POPCORN. (I don't really even want to follow the thought trail on that last one, and yet my mind is already working on it.)

I have to wonder if it would be possible to get a blank slip of paper. Not a printing error but actually something as eerily plain as a similar option, NOTHING. Does this mean the doll will never find an unkind fate, never be sold, lost or stolen? Does this mean you will have the doll your entire life, and die first? In that case, would the machine instead print your own fate by proxy? OLD AGE? That could also mean the doll itself simply falls apart from being so old, but it is a curious question all by itself. If nothing were truly going to part you from your doll, are the two of you miraculously going to live forever? Or will you, in the end, be buried with your doll and thus in truth never lose him or her.

I wonder how many doll owners would choose to use the machine, either out of fear or curiosity or perhaps even to know in what ways their dolls are most likely not to die. SOLD would at least mean the doll would find a new home where they would hopefully be happy, granted a new life... which would thus change any future readings of the machine, once they were in the hands of their new owner. On the other hand, it could be just as devastating as a more dire prediction, if the person thinks they could never in a million years sell their doll.

EXPLODED brings with it an even greater fear, not just the more obvious that it's doubtful there will be anything recognizable left of the poor dear, but perhaps the prediction hints at danger to the real people around the doll. In such special cases, perhaps the machine would inadvertently work as a predictor for humans as well... unless the doll owner freaks out, straps the doll to a pipe bomb in the middle of a blast pit, and fulfills the prophesy themselves.

What if you didn't want to use the machine, but someone else took your dolls and did it against your wishes? Came back with the poor things and proclaimed defiantly to your face where their fate lay? Would you ever be able to trust anyone near your dolls again? Relationships might fall apart, the doll world known so much for its wish that more people would accept the hobby could suddenly collapse upon itself. And the less stable... would people kill, over their dolls? I cannot know. None of us could... unless we're the unstable ones. EVIDENCE ROOM just might hint at why an owner would lose a doll in this case. Did I mention this was morbid? Yes, yes I did.

For my own conclusion, I am glad that neither the doll nor the real version of the machine actually exists. It is amusing to follow tangents through less-expected interpretations of the little slips of paper, but this is safe to do in a reality where such a thing isn't actually possible. There is also a lesson to be learned, that all dolls and of course all people will meet some final fate in one form or another. Obsessing over it only causes undue pain and stress, perhaps speeding that fate along sooner than it should have occurred.

And thus it ends, my take on these thoughts at least. I cannot stop the spread of such thoughts from the words I have written as soon as I make them public, just as that first dinosaur in a webcomic could not stop readers from picking up on the idea and writing hundreds of short stories about the good and bad of people knowing how they will die. Do what you wish with the inspiration and bounce off my own ideas if you find it amusing, or, if you are curious, go read the selection of the people-related short stories in Machine of Death. I hope at least to have entertained, and I think it is now time to play with my dollies whose fates are sealed away in a future that will arrive when it arrives.
My project for the day, I'm roughly half way through the book. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation has an entry and it's epic. :laughing:


Machine of Death (cc) various authors and can be purchased on Amazon: [link]

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|Karl [Dollzone Leo] / Aster [Bobobie Elfkin]|
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