Some stories require us to create our own ‘Big Bang’, so to speak. In fiction, it’s your world and your rules, but it’s always interesting to make these rules viable. A book can be potent and meaningful if it displays a believable reality, or resembles one. Resonation is an important word. If my novella Screams The Machine connects with a single person and speaks to her or him, it would be a great honor.
Screams The Machine probably started brewing whilst reading about some mind-expanding quantum physics, socioeconomic concerns, technological advancements, existentialism, and the figurative blender of the human condition. I began wondering about the ebb and flow of progress. There’s plenty of material there to pull from, which made me feel all sorts of strange ways about the ‘powers that be,’ and some organizations that have sway over humanity’s future. I came to understand a certain mindset for what it was, ‘Own the resources, own the people.’
Various books kept me busy to the point of cerebral overload. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski blew my mind. The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot, was intensely interesting. The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker. The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural, by Will Storr. Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. The list could obnoxiously go on during that time period.
Playing an older video game called FEAR helped influence Screams The Machine. The game is a great mixture of horror and science fiction. It’s a first-person shooter, and the world is dark, ominous, and you feel the direness of its plot. The game engine might be outdated now, but playing and beating FEAR amplified some internal noise to accomplish some writing goals.
There were also some raw, basic facts I began realizing about existing. I wanted Screams The Machine to display these facts either directly or symbolically. For example, some realizations were as simple as eating. Whether anyone is vegan, vegetarian, paleo, omnivorous, or whatever they choose to be, we destroy things and consume them—table manners and silverware are very nice, but they don’t change the fact we’re eating the death of something. Then again, I just might be unconsciously repeating what I learned in Humanities class, years ago. For the record, I love a good medium-rare steak—I’m not attempting to take any moral high-ground.
A psychological sense should haunt Screams The Machine as well, an aspect pertaining to incorporeal matters. It’s important to figure out who we are as individuals. What if an advanced organization figures you out first? They know everything, even your thought process. What if they monitored your darkest secrets, dreams, and fetishes? What if we live in a self-aware universe?
I’d completed a few tales before, but Screams The Machine was the first one that felt imperative to write. It seemed like the story was actually happening, and I was a reporter telling you about a perilous reality. I felt visited by a muse, if you will, in all of her badass glory, and she cranked up the mental tunes like a rock ‘n roll champ. A primal fire sparked, and it became impossible to prevent Screams The Machine from happening, for better or worse.
Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.
Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.
The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.
Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.