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Change

The machine lights flicker with designed appeal. Vibrant colors flash on displays, enticing calls to lure bored or overconfident travelers. Those that can’t resist are drawn in wholly. With the deposit of a quarter, or the swipe of a card, they rouse the machine to life. Satisfying sounds accentuate every lumen. However, the entire scene takes place on an island floating in the middle of a tired and worn terminal. Like a bulb alight in a musty basement, it surges and illuminates in the dark. The only thing living amongst the machines is their caretaker, a woman. She paces through the few aisles of light as a somber guardian. Her eyes reflect the colors of the lights, but there is nothing inside them. Like an ancient punishment of exile, she’s been sentenced to dwell on the tiny island.

Every so often, one of the patrons wins. The machine alights in celebration, though it's not truly celebrating. It's merely executing code. The patron doesn’t know this, however. They don’t care. The sense of acknowledgement is why they sat there in the first place and the machine delivered. The woman, however, is hardly acknowledged. She moves unseen between the machines. She wears a drab, black sweater in stark to the radiant lights. Embroidered on the back reads one word: CHANGE. The type is set in all capitals, as if to assert the woman’s purpose. Change. It’s hard not to think she’s responsible for the word, that she’s using it as a silent call to anyone not absorbed in the machines lights. It’s a signal out to the horizon to anyone who can receive it. But the island is remote. The machines ensure that. They wouldn’t like it if they knew what ‘change’ implied.

For whom was this message for? The clientele or me? Was she protesting a silent protest or merely accepting her banishment and all that comes with it? The word rattles in my mind like the quarters falling in those machines.

Change. The patrons hardly notice. But even if they did, the lights and sounds would merely hypnotize them again with their lumiphonic brilliance. 

To the woman: I see the word you may pay no mind to. I see your emotionless eyes look, but not really see. This won’t be forever. You will change. Your shift will end. The lights and sounds in which you dwell will sink away like the bones of a marine creature swallowed by the silent heaviness of the deep ocean. There is change there, too. The distant horizon will be at your feet. You don’t even realize your incredible attempt to awaken those dreaming around you. You challenge everything with that word inscribed on your back. You demand this world be more than different. Difference is semantic and relative. No, you seek evolution. Transformation, even. The code that binds the machines does not bind you and you know it doesn’t have to bind anyone else.

Change. You call not on the island to be different. The machines know no better. They operate perfectly as intended. It’s us that must change, for our code is organic and transformable.

-A

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