The Sisyphean Machine
rating: +12+x

The Player stood there, overlooking the vast complexities of the Machine. His dark eyes panned across the dully gleaming bronze, his mind calculating the different routes out of this hellhole.

Why am I here? The question resonated from somewhere deep within himself, the part that hated this Game, the part that hated the Machine.

I'm here now, best get on with it. And with that thought, he selected his route. There were several that seemed promising, each one leading in a different direction, each one offering various options in difficulty and overall stability.

That won't last. He thought as he began the arduous climb up a nearly vertical face, his climbing shoes somehow finding traction on the smooth metal. It never is this easy.

As if on queue, a sonorous groan filled the air as the huge gears began to turn, shifting the path ahead into a network of branching pathways. Which one now? Each one is so… different. Sweat began to bead on his brow as he continued, stretching, climbing, leaping. Each step took him further along his choice among the myriad of different options. Sure, certain, confident in his decision, somehow knowing that this was the right way.

themachine

The Machine

The Machine opened before him, each way becoming more and more distinct as he chose path after path. At each choice, the gears and pistons moved slowly around him, eternally shifting the maze into a different configuration, each change threatening to crush him beneath the inexorable change enfolding around him. Almost there. I think I can feel the heat lessening.

Suddenly, the walls seemed to drop away from him, and he stood alone upon a small square of gleaming bronze within a huge room, the walls rising around him into the shadows, the floor dropping away to…. The Grinder. The place of Failure.

A trickle of sweat rolled down his cheek as he gazed down into that ruinous maw. The great cogs of the Machine churned endlessly far beneath him, their massive and punishing weight held in perfect balance, each spoke of the wheel falling perfectly into place with the next.

He took a deep breath, glancing around him, searching for his path. There must be a way out of here…

Then a bell tolled somewhere far off, and a window slowly slid open in the wall opposite him. A man and a woman stood there, each dressed in austere robes of some ancient and decrepit religious order.

"You have been judged." His voice was quiet and deep, full of resonant power, a judge proclaiming the verdict upon the Condemned.

"We have made our decision, and you must abide by it." He sounds reasonable, a man of logic, a man of Faith without question, but one who sounds as if he carefully thought things through before pronouncing sentence.

"We have decided tha-" His voice was suddenly cut off as the woman next to him shrieked in apparent rage.

"YOU MUST DIE!" Her keening screech hit him like a hammer blow, completely unexpected, her voice more the sound of tortured gears grinding against each other than the voice of something human. The Player on the platform swayed slightly under the force of such an unexpected assault . "You can never measure up! All of your feeble workings pale in comparison to the mighty crafting of the One True God!"

The robed man just looked on in silence, a slightly pained look upon his wizened features. Slowly, he nodded, and the platform upon which the Player stood slowly began to retract into the wall. He sighed and looked up at them, his eyes growing colder.

"You have changed me forever, and proven yourself unfit to be called Followers of the Builder." His voice was soft, barely above a whisper, but he knew they could hear him as they watched his condemnation. He moved slightly, staying within the remaining space of his vanishing platform, his eyes never leaving the two watching him.

Then it was gone and he was falling, the dark maw of the Machine opening for him, embracing him, pulling him down and into agony.

Pain, crushing and endless. Mindless spirals of bone shattering agony. Then… nothing.


The Player stood there, overlooking the vast complexities of the Machine. His dark eyes panned across the dully gleaming bronze, his mind calculating the different routes out of this hellhole.

Why am I here? The question resonated from somewhere deep within himself, the part that hated this Game, the part that hated the Machine.

He started, shaking his head in confusion, glancing about with a wary eye. I have been here before. Flashes of memory erupt through his mind, hours of climbing and running and sweating… and dying. I survived. Good, I knew that couldn't be the end of it. A bit of a shock, dying.

A slight grin curved across his lips as he selected his pathway and moved out into the dull heat of the Machine. I must try something different this time. He decided, taking each turn and branching with deliberate care. He turned up where he went down, left where he went right, always selecting the second option that came to his mind, each step once again confident, sure.

He moved forward, a gleam of white catching his eye. Hmm. Bones. That isn't very reassuring. It looked as if they'd been there a while, and with the constant change of the Machine… Who knows how long they've been there.

With a shrug, he continued on, climbing up a series of advancing ramparts of a cog in the unknowable complexity of the Machine. Sweat began to pour from him, stinging his eyes and making his hands slick. The oppressive heat seemed only to build, and slowly he began to be forced deeper and lower into the Machine. More and more bones began to appear along his path, each one newer and… fresher.

The corridor suddenly branched off, and the Player skidded to a halt, an apparition appearing before him. "You're…. real." His voice stuttered, unsure of how to proceed. "I mean, you're a Player, trapped in this Machine."

The man looked up at him, his bearded face streaked with sweat and caked in grime. "Yeah…" his voice was soft, cracked from long periods of silence. They stared into each other's eyes for a time, silently sharing a moment, the camaraderie that forms from having been dead. "How many times?" He asked again, his voice still choked with emotion.

"Four? Five?" The Player's voice was also soft, though not nearly as beaten as this man's. "I've been through the grinder several times at least. Hard to keep count."

They both chuckle, extending the moment of peace as long as possible. The Machine responded to their need to pause, to reflect, the great cogs turning and grinding out another sonorous groan. "Well, time is up, time to move along. Together?"

The Other Player nodded, and they continued forward, finding a bit of ease in their companionship. Hours passed in silence, but it is a silence punctuated by the shared breathing and grunts of their labour, together finding obstacles less obstructive, less…. arduous.

But the Machine is a treacherous bitch, and their newfound ease wasn't to last. With a heave and a jolt, the companions are knocked off their feet, the floor to either side of them falling away to nothing, steep slopes sliding down into…. The Grinder. This will not end well.

They struggled to their feet, their eyes meeting as they balance precariously on the edge of oblivion. A moment, a place to catch their breath, to decide what next.

The Other Player shifts to glance directly behind the first Player, and his eyes widen. "Daylight. It must be!"

Suddenly, he rushed forward, heedless of the narrow ledge, and with a mighty shove, the Player is pushed off the walkway to begin the long slide into oblivion. He looked up at the causeway and watched as the Other reached the open doorway, his cruel eyes flitting dowered towards him for just a minute. "Thank you mate, for helping me get out. Too bad the door only opens for one, and that one will be me!"

His laughter, the last thing the Player hears, it resonating through his entire being as the awful grinding gears close in around him.

Pain, crushing and endless. Mindless spirals of bone shattering agony. Then… nothing.


The Player stood there, overlooking the vast complexities of the Machine. His dark eyes panned across the dully gleaming bronze, his mind calculating the different routes out of this hellhole.

Why am I here? The question resonated from somewhere deep within himself, the part that hated this Game, the part that hated the Machine.

Again, he started, his body groaning from another resurrection. Already, the memories of his previous routes were fading, becoming a part of the background noise in his tired mind. Not another one. When can I get peace?

He sighed, and continued to glance around, reveling in the momentary peace of the start. I am dreading this run. The soft voice inside of him spoke into him, tinged with regret, sadness, and an emptiness that scared him.

What am I becoming in here? What has the Machine done to me? He sighed to himself, and took a step forward, halting suddenly as a noise drew his attention upward.

Oh, the goddess has blessed me, the SKY! His inner voice quailed deep within, and a shudder ran through his whole body. The night sky twinkled serenely above him, dark blue with pinpricks shining upon him in a radiance that bespoke clarity and wonder.

"HERE!" A voice called down from far above, a melodious and beautiful voice. "Please take this, I can use it to help pull you out!" An angel sang from the heavens, and his entire being responded like a harp thrummed by a maestro. A long rope ladder fell into place before him, and he could barely make out the woman tying the ladder in place far above.

Tentatively, he placed his foot upon the lowest rung, his hands running lightly over the higher ones, incredulity forcing a pause. This can't be this easy. A step, then another. Upward and upward he climbed, the task not easy, but a far cry from the crazed scrambling through the Machine that marked his earlier attempts.

"Come on, my beloved! I'm here, just a bit longer. You can make it!" Her constant encouragement called to him, pulling him upward, lending strength to his tired body, giving rise to a wellspring deep within him that he had thought long dead. Further and further he climbed, finally pausing for a moment to catch his breath.

"Heya, dude." A voice called from somewhere, to the right? Yes, that's it. There's another Player, a different one. He looks like shit.

A brief spurt of laughter escaped his lips. The pot calling the kettle black. He waved at the other man, noticing with a pause that the other Player is climbing a steel ladder. How did he get a steel one? I'm making do with this crummy rope one.

He shrugged, silently crushing the tiny pinprick of jealousy welling within him. "Heya, mate. Finally getting out?" The Other Player shrugged, not really certain. "Yeah, maybe. I kinda like it in here though. The Crusher is exciting!"

The Player shook his head in wonder, confused by this strange man. "Dying can be interesting, yes. Exciting? Not so much."

The Other shrugged again. "I guess so. But that's what this Machine is all about. Suffering and pain." He climbed a few rungs down his ladder, looking below towards the gaping maw of the Machine. "Perhaps I'll go back…"

Whatever, friend. The Player turned his attention back to his task and continued to climb. This time, however, his travel is further hampered by the deteriorating condition of his ladder. Each rung seems to be more rough than the last, until he's finally crawling up a ladder covered in spines and splinters, each grasped rung caused a gasp of pain as the sharp points dig and tear into his skin.

The entire time, however, his Angel called to him, beckoning him forward, guiding him, strengthening him, helping him stay on target, urging him on. Her voice calmed him, gave him a sense of purpose, and so he continued, step after grueling step, the pain only heartbeats away from overwhelming him, his muscles screaming for relief.

He paused for a moment, breathing deeply, and he noticed the Other on his steel ladder. As his has become more and more difficult, the other's has seemed to become even easier, each rung broad and comfortable for the person climbing. Little handholds and foot grips wrapped in velvet and cushions. How lucky for him.

Then he noticed that as his Angel paused in her encouragement of him, she was sending similar words down to the Other.

What the hell…? He paused, again confused by what was happening. The Other seemed to be beckoning HER to come to HIM! To join him within this cursed Machine, to revel in the agony and torture that had become so intricately marked onto their lives. At first, she seemed to ignore his invitations, but more and more he seemed to be having some sort of effect on her.

Suddenly, the Player knew what he must do, and with a burst of strength, he began to climb faster and faster, desperately trying to reach his Angel before she made a terrible choice.

Then his world shifted and whirled, and he desperately grabbed hold of the rope as the rungs fell away. With a grunt as the effort sapped what was left of his strength, and he clung precariously to the coarse strands. His Angel was only a few feet away from him, he can clearly see her beauty, smell her scent, even taste her desire. "Come to me, my beloved." She whispered to him, her voice soft and loving. "Come to me, so I may give you rest."

The trip is horrid, blinding horrendous agony coursed through his veins with each slow pull on the rope. Reach and pull, reach and pull. Slowly, ever so slowly, he continued to pull himself up, each breath came with a gasp, each lungful of air infinitely precious. And the entire time, She stood there, her hand extended to him.

He looked over, pausing again, and the Other has already reached the top. Shock ripples through him as he sees the man that has somehow become a rival for Her reach over and casually begin cutting at the top of his rope.

"NOOOOOOOO!" He screamed, his agony rippling through his single anguished plea. He begged his Angel with his eyes, agony lacing everything, blurring the edges of his vision with a fine black mist.

"No….."He whispers, his voice ragged and broken as still he tries to climb to her, to save her. Don't do it, he is a poison…

He was simply too tired to warn her, his shame welling deep within him as he watched her take a step over the edge and onto his ladder. He will destroy you, trap you in this madness…. don't. My love, don't.

Anguish welled up in his soul more terrible than the agony of his body. The pain of the flesh melted away as an overwhelming sadness reached for him, blackness enveloping his entire being. The last few strands of his rope parted with a sigh, and the Player barely noticed as he began to fall, his eyes locked on his beloved Angel.

"I love you…" his last words, torn from him as he fell, once more, into the waiting embrace of the Machine.

Pain, crushing and endless. Mindless spirals of bone shattering agony. Then… nothing.


The Player, a man once named Bumaro, stood there, overlooking the vast complexities of the Machine. His dark eyes panned across the dully gleaming bronze, his mind calculating the different routes out of this hellhole.

Why am I here? The question resonated from somewhere deep within himself, the part that hated this Game, the part that hated the Machine……

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