THE GRAND PRIZE
© By Gary L Morton
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Dudley stepped out of Miracle
Food Mart and saw a skinny black kid putting a coin in the new gumball
machine. Dropping his grocery bags, he watched the kid work the machine. He
didn't approve of the kid's earring or shorts-only attire, and he blushed as
he felt an unwanted erection rising. As he watched the kid twisting the
selection dial his inner conflict eased to a hypocritical frown. He grinned
as the lights became starbursts on the machine.
This gumball machine was
designed as a robot with a wide, squat, plasti-metal body. Its arms and legs
were made of big silver rings. Its head was a huge clear plastic bubble full
of gumballs and its clouded plastic chest held the prizes. It had a big dial
on its belly and it growled as the kid turned it; a series of beeps
followed, then it rocked with spacey sound-blast explosions and spun its
head of gumballs. It fell silent as a gumball and prize rolled out of the
The kid dashed away with his
gumball and beeping toy and Dudley jingled a pocket full of coins as he
stepped up to the machine. Now this was a machine he approved of - a nice
machine, and it looked like a real robot, not like one of those lousy
super-D video games with screens full of violence.
Popping in his coin, he
turned the dial and waited for his gumball. The friendly robot went through
its motions, only this time its chest lit up and the words GRAND PRIZE began
Dudley scooped out his
gumball, but the prize didn't show. He tried to shake the machine but it
wouldn't budge. The grand prize appeared to be a rip off. As he was about to
walk away, he heard something click in the slot. Like a greedy kid, he
quickly snatched it up.
Its size was amazing, about
as big as ten gumballs, but it didn't appear to be anything, just a plastic
bubble containing golden liquid with something silver at the centre. Turning
it over in his hand he looked at its bottom, which was dull silver with some
sort of code engraved on it.
Back at the car, he reached
in the glove compartment for his magnifier. It turned out that the silver
prize was sealed in a grainy sort of opaque plastic and golden liquid. He
tried to crack it open and to his surprise, it lit up.
Dudley was more than amazed
as he watched a movie scene appear in the bubble. It was like a tiny
holograph, with hypnotic effect. Some type of new video technology. He'd
seen nothing like it before. In the scene there were two cars; a strange and
spacey sort of police cruiser and a small red compact like his own stopped
in an alley. The cruiser's door opened and two officers with green faces got
out. They appeared more robot than human; their helmets like bubbles. One
officer had his gun out and the other had his club at ready. They looked
like something from a cartoon and not much of a threat.
With a wave of his hand, the
lead officer forced the driver to step out. He showed as a clownish little
man holding something behind his back.
Another wave of the cop's
hand and the man brought his hands forward. Something was in the guy's right
hand and the cop quickly snatched it and pocketed it.
Drugs, maybe a bag of
cocaine. Serves him right to be busted, Dudley thought as he adjusted the
big magnifier for a better look. Then he winced as the officer with the club
An electric charge came with
the blow, sending the man off his feet. He fell to the pavement and seemed
to be looking up into Dudley's eyes. But Dudley couldn't help some guy in a
gumball prize and he didn't want to help anyway. He watched with morbid
interest as the man was dragged clear of the car and deeper into the alley.
One cop unscrewed the top of
his club and removed what looked to be knives and tools of some sort.
Seconds later, they were cutting into the little man's body, performing some
sort of sick operation. A knowing grin appeared on the bigger cop's face as
he took a tool to the man's head. It was some kind of laser and it looked
like they were going to open his skull.
“My God, they're maniacs!”
Dudley exclaimed. The man's whole body was quivering like death after life
after death, but it was alive in some way, though without a brain. The cops
had their backs to Dudley and they appeared to be carefully placing the
brain in a transparent case. Then they turned and grinned with the bigger
cop patting the other robo-cop on the back.
moment passed then the scene vanished into golden liquid. He held the bubble
and it was only at this point that Dudley realized what he'd been watching
and became enraged.
“The rotten sickos!” he
Shaking like a leaf, he sat
behind the wheel mumbling, and then he started the engine and drove away.
Keeping the prize in his hand, he gave it an occasional knock against the
“They'll pay, the creeps
behind these evil robot gumball machines – trying to turn our neighbourhood
kids into sickos with despicable video technology. It's the work of Satan!
I'll get the word to my church group, and we'll smash these machines just
like we smashed that place that distributed abortion fact sheets and gay
marriage information booklets.”
The whole thing was so
disturbing Dudley forgot his destination was Jerry's place and a special
prayer meeting. He drove on, pursing his lips and ruminating as he thought
about the bizarre events. Slowly, his head cleared, and he suddenly noticed
that he had another unwanted erection. His face became fire-red with shame
and he took his hands off the wheel and covered his crotch.
A telephone pole loomed ahead
and he hit the wheel, swerving wildly as he continued down the narrow
one-way street. Once he'd regained control, he turned into an alley and
stopped partway down for a breather.
But he didn't get a breather;
a police cruiser pulled in behind him and parked. A minute passed. In the
rearview mirror, he saw the cops watching him and talking on the radio.
Shit! Maybe they saw me swerve and it's going to be a reckless driving
charge, Dudley thought as a cop with a gun drawn appeared at his window.
With a sheepish smile of surrender, he got out.
“What are you holding behind
your back?” the cop said.
“Just a prize I got in a gum
machine,” Dudley said, holding it up. Then it sank in that this green-faced
guy wasn't an ordinary cop.
“He's lying,” the second
green cop said as he stepped up. “We've got verification on our query. He's
in illegal possession of an intergalactic energy cell. It was passed to him
by the robot smuggler we've been chasing.”
Dudley tried to speak, to
deny it, but he choked, and before he could get a word out he was struck in
the face by a club and sent flying in the air.
As he landed, he heard the
boss cop talking. “Protocol in this case is slightly different from the
usual. We have to remove and package his brain, as it will be put on trial
at the nearest outpost. The body must be preserved for return in the case
he's found innocent.”
As they dragged him away from
the car and deeper into the alley, he looked up at the sky. Then it all went
black. When he awoke, he saw the words GRAND PRIZE flashing in two large
robot eyes. The eyes of the gumball robot. He'd escaped trial as his brain
had been stolen. Unfortunately, he was still on earth without a body and now
a prize in the robot's chest. Above, the sun was like another robot eye
watching, and then he heard a series of spacey sound-blaster explosions and
alien laughter ….
---The End –