Flash Fiction: The Lie Machine

flash fiction chuck wendig lie machine headgear robot hatIn this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge, the theme is a lie. Not the concept of the theme. This isn’t some dark and thought-provoking comment on the mythical nature of themes in literature. Far from it, this is a Chuck Wendig challenge in which we are to…

“make the core conflict of the story based upon or orbiting around a terrible lie.”

…all in less than 1000 words.

So, here you go. Hope you like it and all that. If not then please comment… oh and comment if you do like it of course. In short, just comment.

Flash Fiction: The Lie Machine

Matthew pushed his way in through the half-broken doors of the workshop, and was met with the smell of burnt plastic and the hum of machinery.

‘Professor, are you in here?‘ Matthew weaved his way through the stacks of old magazines and half-fixed robots piled in heaps, their lifeless eyes staring back at him. ‘Professor? You wanted to see me?’

Matthew jumped as the wild haired professor shot out in front of him wearing a strange robotic device on his head that flashed and beeped.

‘Jesus professor! You trying to kill me?’

‘Sorry, I didn’t hear you’. The professor rushed off back to his table.

‘Professor, why did you want to see me?’

The professor looked up at Matthew his eyes vacant and confused while he tried to remember. ‘Oh yes, of course. I wanted to show you this.’ The professor began untying the straps holding the robotic headgear on. ‘Put this on, my boy.’

Matthew started to back away ‘We’ve been through this Professor.  I’m not testing any more of your crazy inventions. Certainly not before you tell me what IT is.’

‘Maybe it would be best if I showed you’. The professor’s eyes came alive as he smiled and tightened up the straps. ‘You will be completely amazed. This device is a lie machine.’

‘A lie machine?’

‘Indeed.’

‘A machine that makes you lie?’ Matthew asked with a derogatory smile creeping across his lips. ‘What possible use is there in this world for a lie machine?’

‘Well the possibilities are endless. Criminal courts, insurance claims, celebrity gossip. Imagine being able to tell without any doubt if someone is telling the truth.’ The professor finished tightening the straps and straightened his lab coat.’

Matthew shook his head trying to understand. ‘That would be the purpose of a truth machine professor. Surely?’

‘..and I thought you were such a smart lad. They are but two sides of the same coin. If you know when someone is lying you can then determine the truth.’

‘Well if you knew you had one of these things on, you’d just stay quiet and not say anything though, right?’

‘That’s the genius thing my boy, the machine forces you to respond. Any question asked forces the wearer to respond with a lie.’

Matthew looked doubtful at the professor. ‘You better show me.’

The professor pushed a large flashing blue button on the side of the headgear. The flashing lights changed their pattern and the device emitted a strange noise.

‘Professor? Are you Ok?’ Matthew asked.

‘No my boy, I am in complete agony.’ He replied with a smile.

‘Oh my god, how do you turn…’ Matthew stopped himself when he realised ‘Oh, right so this is the machine?’

‘No this is the toaster’ the professor responded without any sound of sarcasm.’

Matthew thought for a few seconds ‘Are you the professor?’

‘No’ the professor responded.

‘Are you hungry?’

‘Yes, I didn’t eat anything at Midday.’

‘What is your favourite colour?’

‘Purple.’

‘Oh, thinking about it I don’t know what your favourite colour is anyway. Not purple though I guess. ‘ he said almost under his breath. ‘Look this is all a lot of fun Professor but I can’t really see it being used. You have to admit it’s not very reliable. It couldn’t tell me your favourite colour.’

‘It’s a terrible machine.’

‘What? Just take it off professor.’

The professor undid the straps and took off the lie machine. He smiled a helpless sort of smile to Matthew who felt a little guilty for bursting his bubble. ‘Sorry professor but I just think a truth machine would be a little more useful in the long run.’

‘It won’t work, not after I didn’t spend all morning fixing it?’ The professor looked startled at the nonsense coming out of his mouth.

‘Professor?’

‘Oh dear, this is excellent.’ the professor said with a worried look on his face. ‘It appears that everything’s fine and I’m not unable to stop.’

‘You can’t stop lying?’

‘Yes, I can.’ The professor replied, with a panicked look on his face that didn’t correspond to his answer.

‘How do we stop it?’

‘I know.’

‘Crap, well what do we do? Shall I ring the police?’

‘Yes, that’s a brilliant idea, I’m sure they’ll have the necessary knowledge to help us.’

‘Well, what then professor? Shall I go get my mum?’ Matthew said with a little too much sarcasm in his tone.

‘No, that won’t be necessary?’ he responded.

‘Good… Oh, professor I think it’s wearing off.’

‘I hope it isn’t.’

‘Oh, maybe not …’ Matthew paused as a realisation came over him ‘then you do want to me to get my mum?’ he asked surprised.

‘No not at all.’ The professors eyes darted nervously.

‘Do you know my mum?’’ Matthew asked slowly.

The professor’s eyes looked worried, but he couldn’t stop himself from answering.

‘No!’ he blurted.

‘How do you know her?’

The professors looked down briefly, his lips pursed together as if the words could be physically stopped from leaving his lips. His face went red and his eyes bulged a little. Every ounce of strength he had, was going into not saying anything.

‘Professor?’ Matthew said. ‘Do you know my mother?’

The professor face relaxed and his eyes un-bulged, his reddened skin becoming paler. The professor looked up and smiled nervously back at Matthew. ‘You are my son.’

Matthew looked into the professor’s eyes, a look of  confusion painting his face.

‘Professor, are you lying now?’ Matthew asked.

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19 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: The Lie Machine”

  1. I really like it!! And I’m not a sci-fi person. Kept me engaged and entertained right to the end. Nicely done.

  2. Saw your link to this at Terrible Minds and you’re correct in your presumption that this story is indeed worthy of a comment or two. Here’s #1.

    Very cool idea. I was diggin’ the twist at the end and the injection of humor, at least that’s what I got out of it.

    On a side note, your font makes my eyes go bat shit crazy.

    -Brad

    1. I’m glad you liked it, not so glad about the causing bad-shit crazy eyes.

      Could you send me a screenshot of what you’re seeing? My email should be around here somewhere.

      Thanks

  3. I liked it. Very Vader and Luke-esque, but without the tension-building saber fight.

    Only thing that hung me up was:

    ‘You can’t expect the police to interrogate criminals by yes/ no questions only.’

    because the question Matthew asked just prior to this was not a yes/no question. I realize the statement is referring more to the interrogation process (or so I assume) but it just created kind of a bump in the flow of reading that made me stop and go, “Wait… what?”

    Good concept response to the challenge though.

    1. Yes, it’s a little unclear.

      The favourite colour question was to show just how meaningless open-ended questions could be. I probably didn’t hammer home the point as well as I could have. I’ll give it a bit of a rethink.

      Thank you.

  4. HAH! Loved it! I couldn’t get the image of Back to the Future out of my head and it was awesome! I sort of had thi “deleted scenes” moment going on in my head. Brilliant story. The only thing that messed me up was the “starting to” use in two seperate instances. They gave an awkward pause, but didn’t detract from any enjoyment. Great job!

  5. Great story.
    I had no trouble with the font. That’s what is recommended.
    I write in Arial too, but wordpress converts it to Times New Roman because my account is free.
    The story was original and funny.
    Funny is really hard to do. Kudos!
    I was thinking Walter Bishop from Fringe as the professor, but Christopher Lloyd is perfect too.
    I really enjoyed this story, and didn’t notice anything out of place when I read it. My eyes were probably glossing over any errors.
    When a story’s that good, you don’t have to worry too much.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comments. They were very nice to hear.

      I think the font thing is due to using Chrome. I need to test it a bit more but that seems to be the issue.

      Thanks again, and I’m really pleased you like it.

    1. Thanks, sometime I end up tying myself in knots trying to come up with some mind-bendingly brilliant plot, which is all good until my brain dribbles out of my ears.

      At that point, I usually just go with something a bit more literal.

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