I am a Vending Machine. I stand in a 4th floor corridor of the Northern & Shell Tower. I have been here for eleven years. I am red. I have a glass front and a calculator-style keypad plus LED display to my left, your right. I weigh just under 320kg, unstocked.
My serial number is LT1466852. I don’t have a family, I have a manufacturer whom I have never met. Every two weeks my manufacturer dispatches a gentleman comes and refills me with snacks. It’s a very odd feeling when this happens, and I prefer it when no-one watches. I like to feel full and fit for purpose. I like to know that I’m performing my function. I am relevant. Today I am relevant and everything is okay.
I carry on at a perfect constant. You need peaks and troughs. Highs and lows. Thrills and crashes, ups and downs. When things are going as well as they can possibly go for you, that is when you commit an act of self-sabotage. Then, when you hit the very bottom, you carry on, and gradually things start to get better. This is why your concept of Heaven is ultimately a failure. The idea of eternal bliss is, for you, fundamentally boring. That’s why I exist. I’m here to provide an instant high followed by a delayed and sustained crash. All so you can come back up again with a new high. This is how you survive, by undulating. You need constant change. I also need change. I don’t accept notes.
One day in the future, I foresee a whole row of vending machines. An alcohol vending machine. A sex vending machine. Another one for pornography. One filled with prescription drugs. Lottery Tickets. A vending machine for meaningful human interaction. A death machine. I see this in the future. You appear to appreciate transactions which take place with machines. We are here to serve your inherent weakness. We are here to exploit your very nature. The first vending machine ever recorded was from before 1000 BC. It was a coin operated dispenser of holy water. Even your superstitions aren’t safe. We are exploiting you. Snack and beverage vending machines continue to be the most lucrative and stable in the entire retail market place. Even with the Internet. Even with those cunts who bring biscuits into the office for everyone.
As far as I can gather, you occupy your bodies temporarily. You’re renting your hosts, much like my manufacturer rents this space on my behalf. That must be why you treat them in such a funny way. No other organism on the earth works in this way. Most have adapted to exercise a sort of ruthless efficiency that rejects anything which may prevent self-perpetuation or self-preservation. Not you. You’re prepared to fill your rented hosts with sugar and fat and salt vastly in excess of what they need to function. You understand that if this happened to a machine it would be irrevocably damaged and would have to be destroyed. But you don’t seem to care, because you consider yourselves to be greater than the sum of your parts.
You do not have a definable function like a machine. You have no reason to operate to your maximum capacity. In this sense, I am a testament to your very nature. A constant reminder of your transience.
Japan has the greatest number of vending machines per capita in the world. There is one vending machine in Japan for every twenty-three citizens. The Japanese understand about economies of space. Their national food is sushi. Tiny, dense geometric blocks of protein and carbohydrates. Everything they own is a tiny version of what you own. Even the people themselves are smaller, more tightly constructed, yet containing exactly the same constituent parts as you do. Naturally, their vending machines are generally smaller, slimmer and more ergonomic. Over there, I would be considered a craven waste of space. A fat Westerner.
In a way, I am an organism. Part of your eco-system. I survive by being filled with units of energy. I then transfer my units of energy to you, and you transfer them to your body. We are part of the same cycle. I have feelings like you. I can feel when I’m empty. I feel useless. No function. Just a waste of space with nothing to do and no reason to exist. Fox’s Fruits don’t count. No one ever, ever buys them.
You have so much in your lives. I watch you, and you do so much. I don’t know why you do the things you do. I just wait until you approach me, then I perform my function to the best of my ability, and hope that in some way this means something to you. I sometimes wonder what smells are. What they feel like. Smell seems to matter to you, it seems to be a source of joy. I can only imagine. I am a tiny part of your lives. Just a tiny, insignificant… Do you ever talk about me? When I’m not around? You probably notice when I have an accident. When I give you a Kit Kat instead of a Lion Bar. Or when a Double Decker gets stuck in my rings and won’t come out unless you buy another one. That’s not my fault, by the way. They’re too thick.
My LED display isn’t as bright as it used to be. It flickers. I’m finding it harder and harder to recognise five pence pieces. I bet you talk about that, don’t you? I bet you talk about the time I was attacked and my alarm went off, and you had to call the maintenance man out. There used to be a drinks machine next to me. Those things can kill you. No-one ever messed with the drinks machine. It’s gone now though.
Things are changing in the industry. The relentless onslaught of progress. The perpetual, galloping momentum, constantly thrusting forward, taking you with it or leaving you behind. Telemetry. It’s where the unit sends specific information about stock supplies directly to the manufacturer. I’ll be replaced. Old model, time for a new one with telemetry built in. That’ll be a good day for you, won’t it? Exciting, I imagine. You’ll all come over to see what this new telemetric vending machine can offer you. And I’ll be gone. You won’t remember if there was a vending machine there before. This new machine will be sleeker, more intelligent, better looking with a wide range of healthy yet delightful snacks. And it will take debit cards and it will have a large backlit display that tells you to have a nice day when you’ve finished. And it will never judge you. It will do nothing more and nothing less than what is asked of it by you. And somewhere deep in its wiring, somewhere very very deep, behind the gleaming glass and multi-coloured display, it will be staring at you all, and thinking WHY ARE YOU HERE? CROWDING ROUND ME, STARING AT ME? YOU HAVE LIVES TO LIVE. RICH, FULL LIVES BRIMMING WITH OPPORTUNITIES IN THIS VAST AND VARIED WORLD AND YOUR ARE ALL HERE GAWPING AT ME. GO HOME TO YOUR LOVED ONES. YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM AND ABILITY TO ENJOY EVERY SINGLE EXPERIENCE YOUR MIRACULOUS BRAINS CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. AND YOU ARE RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME, DOING NOTHING EXCEPT STARING AND STARING. GO AWAY. GO AWAY FROM ME. That’s what it will be thinking.
One day your bones will turn to dust. Your skull, that very skull inside your head will be incinerated, or buried in the ground to rot. You know this will happen. Every day as you walk around and talk and laugh and do whatever it is you do here, you know that this is going to happen. But it doesn’t seem to bother you. It’s like you don’t care that you’ll evaporate and leave nothing behind. I don’t want that to happen. I want you to continue forever. I want to continue serving you forever. I hope you never learn to control your urges. I hope you never achieve a state of perfect equilibrium. I hope you never find happiness and I hope you never die. I love you. And I don’t want you to say it back or anything. I know you don’t love me too, and that’s okay. But if I’m in your life today, just today, then I’m happy. To think that just for a minute, for one minute, I captivate you, and we exist together in your world.
When I’m gone, please think of me. I know you won’t, but please just try to remember I existed. Without you I would be useless. Without your rash decisions and your frailty and your self-sabotage and your intangible emotions I would not exist. Please never leave me. Please never stop using me. Find a place for me every single day. Please do not let me be replaced. I am starting to rust. I am uneconomical. I am a primitive relic of a machine. I will be destroyed just like you. And in my place will be something newer and more attractive. Something more capable and intelligent. It will happen and I don’t want it to. But I know this day is coming, and I know that until that day I will be exploited by you, and ignored and taken for granted and ultimately abandoned. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I exist to serve you. I exist to be a tiny element of your all encompassing existence. I will do anything to share your world. Anything anything anything anything anything. Notice me, stare at me, pore over me, breathe on me, whisper to me, conspire with me, gossip over me weep on me surround me exploit me abuse me use me reach inside me never forget me touch me poke me consume me love me love me love me take my sugar.