Chapter 6.14 – Machine

Ben watches while Maria expertly gains entry into a locked car they had come across while running, and he finds himself contemplating how he managed to get into this situation.
 
Both Ben and Maria knew they were going to eventually get caught on foot. He couldn’t argue with her reasoning that it would be logical for them to take a car and leave town before anybody notices they are missing. But still, Ben could not condone stealing a car. Not only would it serve to compound their existing troubles, but it is plain and simply wrong. He only relents to the idea when she tells him that she will drive them back to his home in Sunset Valley, then return the car undamaged.
 
He sits in awkward silence after witnessing the ease with which she was able to break into and start the locked car. It forces him to wonder what other “talents” Maria might possess. The drive is tense, with both teens remaining silent and nervous as they travel through downtown on a busy expressway. Finally, after leaving the lights and sounds of the city behind, they use an old truck route to drive out of town, then connect with the coastal highway that leads to Sunset Valley.
 
They continue to drive for a long time in complete silence. Finally, Ben begins to hum one of his songs. When he finishes, Maria sighs contently, and comments that his music calms her. She knew that she wanted to be together with him because of the way he makes her feel. Most importantly, she believes him. She believes all that stuff about sims and places vanishing; and that nobody but him remembers they ever existed. She believes his feelings that the world is slowly disintegrating.
 
After another long stretch of road, Maria slows the car when she sees police lights up ahead. They both know immediately that the search is on for the missing teens. They park the car behind some thick bushes lining the road, and go the rest of the way on foot. Thankfully, they are already on the outskirts of Sunset Valley. But with the sun coming up, and both of them feeling completely exhausted, they agree to find a place to hide and sleep until they can move around after dark again.
 
Just up the side of a hill, is a small home overlooking the beach. It had, at one time, been converted into a cafe. But it has been closed for some time, and now just sits boarded up and unoccupied. The place appears to be nearly forgotten. Searching its perimeter, Ben locates the hood of a small storm cellar at the back of the building. He descends the steps to the door, with Maria quietly in tow, and wrestles with it until it opens.
 
He gently moves Maria a few steps into the cellar, then wrestles the door back into it’s “stuck” position. He turns around to find her standing very close to him. She says nothing when he moves his arms around her and draws her even closer. He cannot help but notice how good she feels pressed up against him this way. The kiss that follows sends sparks through both of them, and they remain lip-locked for several minutes.
 
She sits down on the cellar floor and invites Ben to sit next to her. Resting her head comfortably on his shoulder, she whispers to him about how much she hates the feeling of being boxed in by all the people and tall buildings. She admits she’d rather be dead than caged like a rat. It raises alarms in the back of Ben’s mind. He swallows the lump in his throat, and asks her pointedly if that is why she started the fire. Emotions play across Maria’s face in a manner he had never seen before, leading him to believe that she has been able to avoid her medication. But it is not the emotion he expects to see. Confusion and regret seem to win out, and she states plainly that she doesn’t know why she started the fire in her room. Maybe it was just desperation, or maybe she knew he would come to rescue her.
 
Ben allows the answer to sink in for a moment, then he asks another pointed question. This time about her paintings. At first she refuses to talk about them, acting as though she is insulted he had even asked. But he persists with a rebuttal she cannot refute. They talk about his music all of the time; and how he lets his feelings about “the problem” come out through it. Maria sighs, then reluctantly begins telling him about her own feelings. Like his, her thoughts are about the end of the world. But the perspective is quite a bit more “graphic”.
 
Tears begin to glisten in her eyes as she mentions her mother. She chokes on a sob, then manages to complete her thought. Her mother thinks she’s crazy. But the truth is that she would never think to harm another sim. Her thoughts are only dark fantasies that get transferred to canvas; and nothing more. Her last painting, a depiction of Ben, seemed to be the breaking point for her mother. Between the kleptomania, the paintings, and the lying; her mother had had enough. Then she chuckles to conceal another sob, telling Ben that he has been completely wrong about the entire situation. She sniffles and wipes tears away. It is obvious he believes that her mother and the doctors are all trying to protect her from him. But it’s not like that at all. It’s actually the other way around.
 
The revelation shocks Ben into silence. That night at the estate, when Dr. Kennedy called and freaked out over the phone. It wasn’t that she was afraid of Ben… she was afraid of how her daughter might influence Ben. As sleep comes calling, the two teens finally curl up into a corner and doze off together; each dreaming about the other.
 
 
The sound of someone pounding at the stuck door wakes them both up abruptly. The low sun is shining through the gaps between the door and frame, letting them know it is sometime late in the afternoon. Ben and Maria get up quickly and silently move deeper into the “cellar”. Noticing the high-voltage power lines and communications cable lining the ceiling, Ben begins to think that this is more than a simple storm shelter. The cables and wires all lead to a spot part way down the hall.
 
 —
 
Ben tries the door to the room where the cables lead. What he finds, is some kind of weird workshop. Blueprints and plans for all kinds of odd things have been hung haphazardly around the room. The place seems to have been converted to storage, however. Equipment from the cafe is being stored here in large crates. A strange object stands in the far corner of the old lab. Ben had mistaken it for another crate, at first. But upon closer inspection, it looks to be some kind of fantastic machine. Maria has also noticed the thing, and asks Ben what it is.
 
Before he can warn her to leave it alone, Maria has already pushed randomly at buttons protruding from a panel on the front. It immediately growls to life, glowing with some kind of unnatural energy. They look at each other with uncertainty and slowly back away from it.
 
Once back out in the corridor, Maria pushes herself close to Ben again and kisses him tenderly. Since he’s gone along with two of her crazy ideas already, she asks him to indulge her with one more. She mentions how they will both be adults soon, then asks if he will run away with her. They can find a small town, somewhere they can be invisible, and raise a small family together. The thought if it makes butterflies in his stomach go crazy. But not in a bad way. He looks deep into her eyes, which are clear and lucid for the first time since he has known her. He kisses her again, and begins to lead her back to the car. Then he hears the “stuck” door being forced open.
 
Ben curses to himself and waves Maria back, while peeking around the corner to see what they are going up against. If it is the police, they are as good as caught. But if it is just the property owner, maybe coming to investigate the machine being turned on, then they may still have a chance. He hears more than one voice echoing through the hallway and turns slightly back toward Maria.
 
It happens just like he says it does. Sims and locations fade into nothing, as though they had never existed. Ben had never known any of them personally; until now. It happens with very little warning, and is over in the blink of an eye. She is standing right beside him one moment. And then the next, she is not. He will play this moment in his mind countless times over his lifetime. But he will  never resolve for certain whether, during that instant, he imagined her calling out his name or not.
 
The thought of somebody close to him “vanishing” had often pervaded his thoughts, and he has long contemplated how he might react. Surely, he would have thrown an epic fit eclipsing the one at the estate. But the shock of it simply stuns Ben. He is motionless as the police descend into the cellar’s corridor. He moves like a rag doll as they lead him up the steps and into the early evening sunlight.
 
The police take him home. Truancy and trespassing; they’ll let him off with a warning this time. Mom and Dad are angry, but it doesn’t matter to him. Ben demands to know about the fire at the hospital, about Dr. Kennedy, and Maria. But all he gets from them is that same disappointed look. They don’t say a word, but they don’t have to.
 
Because he is crazy. And none of it has ever existed; not Dr. Kennedy, not the hospital, and not Maria. None of it.
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7 thoughts on “Chapter 6.14 – Machine

    • I’m glad you caught that! I really did want to portray the situation as becoming dire. But with Sunset Valley being such a sunny and cheery place, it’s a bit difficult to represent visually, heh. 🙂

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  1. Oh, that workroom beneath the cafe seems familiar!
    I can’t believe that Maria is gone; I hadn’t thought that we’d actively witness a disappearance from Ben’s point of view. That must have been terribly traumatizing for him.

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    • Good eye! I tried to rebuild he workshop as it was seen in chap 5 (5.8 – Loop) when Doc discovered the “loop”. I got pretty close, I think.
      And I agree, Ben will never be free of that visual. I hate to admit it, but both Dr. Kennedy and Maria were designed to be “vanished” from the very start. 😛

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  2. I’m so saddened for Ben, the only actual friend he’d made is gone, just like that. I can only imagine what something like this would do to his psyche, especially considering he was already so fragile to begin with.

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  3. Oh no, I cant believe Ben’s world is literally falling apart, disappearing. Now they believe him to be even more so crazy…but what he is witnessing…
    I feel awful for Maria, I saw them as a cute couple..for someone for Ben to finally find peace and understanding with.
    I cant read fast enough. XD Must find out what happens!

    PS. Never really noticed until now how handsome Ben is. I look forward to him aging up..unless something gets in the way of that.

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