W. C. Dowden
Here is a bit of unknown truth for you. A history lesson from the lawless west in the 1880’s. A tale of wonder and astonishment. The Tale of Doctoro Schrodeger and his Magic Duplication Machine.
The whole country was aghast with the shockingly beautiful and incredible items Doctoro Schrodeger could create with his machine duplication machine. Even more incredible? His duplications did not break, fail, or ever need repair. They were perfect machines – if built for that purpose – and would never need any maintenance. Once he built an axle for a towns grain grinder and even after seasons and seasons of grain poured through it looks as clean and new as the day he made it.
He traveled from town to town only taking one consignment per town. The whole town would gather around his horse-drawn wagon and plead their cases to him. He’d only travel to the towns that paid his reservation fee of 10,000 gold pieces. A tidy sum in the harsh old west. Towns desperate for the fruits of his Magic Duplication Machine would send the promise of the payment to his attention at every telegraph station across the dusty plains with the dim hope that he might find the message and grant their pleas. And when he would send word that he was coming to the towns along his route would nearly set themselves ablaze with excitement.
Everytown needed things. Things that if broken might end the existence of these sparse little towns. Doctoro Schrodeger would visit these towns for sometimes a whole week. To listen to their needs.
He’d take petitions from the mayor on the need for new machines to help make a road or dig a well and pleas from the school teacher for new copies of the readers had worn themselves teaching those ungrateful children. Her words.
Even the blacksmith asked for new bellows because with two he could make the fire hotter and make shinier and harder things. The Sherrif begged for a copy of his best rifle because he once shot a coyote from a half mile with it and has never been able to repeat the trick.
All of these petitions would take almost the whole first day after Doctoro Schrodeger pitched his lean-to against his massive horse-drawn wagon.
His horse; a magnificent beast. Rippled with long muscles. A coat as black as night. And eight feet tall at the shoulder. And with this beast, he only needed one horse drew his metal wagon. So strange to think that just one animal could pull such a hulk.
A Metal wagon. Nobody had ever seen a metal wagon unless it carried some prisoner and that was only if the military had to round up that varmit for a meeting with the hangman.
But Doctoro Schrodeger’s Metal Wagon appeared to be a simple box when folded and on the move. But once parked and staked to the ground it unfolded and unpacked itself into a massive structure completely encasing the wheels and axles of its former self.
Once parked in a small three street town called Paradise, Doctoro Schrodeger took it upon himself to walk the town rather than force the local to form a queue outside his camp. He actually left his wagon-camp unguarded as he took his walking cane in hand, topped his hat on the crown of his head, and took to his feet first left then spinning on his heels back to the right.
He’d stop and talk to every person and see every store and townsfolk as they pleaded for what they needed duplicating. Then he would take to his workshop and produce in a weeks time exactly the single item the town needed and in exchange, he took the gold and his leave.
But one young boy caught an evil idea between his ears. Young Francis barely through the sixth grade and cock-sure he’d never have to take another spelling lesson from that old hag school teacher again if he simply took the Duplication Machine from Doctoro Schrodeger and used it for himself! He’d steal away as the Doctor left it unattended and young Francis fancied himself the new recipient of all the gold the towns across the west kept giving freely to this man.
How hard could it be this duplication machine, Young Francis thought to himself as he set up a metal shutter with a latch left unlatched. A quick lift and hop and Young Francis dove through the window and into the strange metal structure.
Inside. The expanse of the room froze Young Francis in awe. From the outside, the wagon looked like a small prairie house, but made of all metal and constructed by the unfolding mechanizations of that strange metal wagon. He scrambled from table to chair to cupboard to the desk. Nothing. No machine that appeared to be for duplicating. Then the bookshelves caught his ignorant eyes. Rows and rows of bookshelves filled with tomes of text and knowledge. Young Francis hated having to carry the three school books bound by an old belt that the school teacher made him much less all of these. He muttered to himself, “those ‘il be the first t’go.”
“Already redecorating?” Doctoro Schrodeger said with an echo as he slammed the entry door behind him.
Young Francis frozen in fear locked eyes with Doctoro Schrodeger from across the expanse of the metal room with all the things that should be able to fit inside.
“Young man, your name, please.”
“Frank.” Young Francis answered trying to make himself sound older than he was.
“Dear Francis.” Doctoro Schrodeger already knew who this young boy was and his intentions. He knew from the moment his wagon alerted him with a gentle vibration to a radio transmitter in th ehandle of his walking cane to an intruder mere moments after he left for his stroll through town. “Young man, you have delayed my work by your intrusion.”
Francis began edging his way back toward the metal hatch he burgled through just moments ago.
“That won’t do you any good. Already locked.”
Francis turned to see the hatch sealed and the latch unmovable under his young, tender hands.
“No one is allowed to see inside my wagon. No one. That is part of the contract I sent to your mayor, the barber, the blacksmith, the preacher, even the schoolmistress. Ah, Chloie. She’s such a magnificent woman. I’ll miss her and her love of French poetry. You likely will in due time, but I’ll miss her in a more immediate sense.”
“Why can’t they see inside?” Francis dared to ask the obvious.
“Because this is simply too much for them to bear. They wouldn’t be able to keep their minds from popping like little corn kernels if they saw the wonders in my wagon. They only need to know the results of the magic, not the mystery.”
Francis tried to calculate another means of escape but his ignorant little head couldn’t think of the numbers and logic. Stall for time!
“But you have a week to make what you need to make! Let me go home and I’ll promise to come back then I’ll go with you!”
“Too late, young man.” Doctoro Schordeger checked his pocket watch. “It’s already been a full week and the item has been duplicated. We are just about to leave. No time.”
“But you just got here…” Francis trailed off in thought.
“Yes, and I’m late! Late! Late for very important date!” Doctoro Schrodeger said with a tap of his cane against the hard metal floor, the wagon began to fold into itself around Young Francis and Doctoro Schrodeger.
“You see Young Francis. My services do not come cheap, affordable, or on a payment plan. My time is valuable and in this room my time is endless. While the gold gathered by your townsmen have paid for my mortal means there remains one last piece of the bargain that they never seem to deliever…at least willingly.”
The walls began to creep closer toward both of them. Eyes locked on each other.
“All of these mechanizations require fuel, good boy.” Doctoro Schrodeger pointed all around the room at the moving walls and cupboards and tables and chairs all folding themselves into themselves and packing itself away. “But it’s not any fuel that you are used to. No, this fine machine couldn’t run on timber, sod, or even cow-chips! No, it requires something a little more alive to properly produce any useful work.”
Doctoro Schrodeger stepped backward. He flipped his cane to set his grip on it like a sword trained against Young Francis as he backed out of the collapsing room and into the stark sunlight. Twirlling the tip of his cane in circles as he backed away.
“Goodbye, Young Francis. I do hope you enjoy your stay.”
Then the door slammed shut and green and blue lights glowed alive inside the wagon-room. Still crawling closer and smaller still Young Francis began to panic and ran toward the door Doctoro Schrodeger escaped through. The room was now barren, no tables, chairs, or bookshelves around him. Just Young Francis in a room slowly growing smaller.
Now just a small bedroom. Young Francis was crying and clamoring at the walls. His screams for his mother and father never penetrated the cold metal room.
Now just a small closet. Young Francis wet himself and sobbed as the green and blue light around him began to flicker and switch off.
Now just a coffin and inky blackness all around him. Young Francis was soon to be known and also unknown…no more.
Outside. Doctoro Schrodeger unveiled the magnificent reproduction of the towns newest water pump. It would soon and miraculously keep this town from whithering and drying up in the worst drought in years that would force so many other towns to die, abandoned and dry. Many would marvel at this water pump, it never rusted, broke or dried up…even when the aquifer it drew from was bone dry for so many other wells.
As Doctoro Schrodeger waved his goodbyes to the cheers and thanks for his weeks worth of toil on this wonderful new water pump he paused to notice a woman sobbing into her hands with her husband trying to comfort her in his arms.
With a click of his tongue, Doctoro Schrodeger commanded his horse to pull his magnificent metal wagon away from the town toward the next one. On to the next.
W. C. Dowden gets some of his best ideas by just waking up in the morning. He used to be a journalist. Now, he’s a lawyer. But he’s always been a writer.