It seemed a day like any other. Just another turn of this dreary earth about a dying sun. Little did I know that everything was about to change, that everything I had ever known was on the verge of being upended. All my preconceptions shattered and broken, all my complacency stripped away. For this was the day – and I think that it must have been fated – that I encountered the soda machine.
The soda machine.
I saw it and I was almost struck dumb from the sheer majesty of it. It was a special moment, radiating light, angelic chorus… I fell to my knees with my empty cup clutched in trembling hands, and lifted – no, make that offered – it up to the glorious wonder before me. My hands were shaking so hard I could scarcely make my selection.
Root Beer? Or perhaps I would prefer Vanilla Root Beer? Even that simple choice was so unexpected as to paralyze me. I stood there, slack jawed until the screen timed out and returned me to the main menu. I shook it off. “Come on, now! Get a hold of yourself, dammit!” Quite shaken by my initial failure, I decided to make an easier choice: Lemonade. Just plain lemonade. Yes, I could do this. I pushed the button. And oh what wonder did appear before me! Not one choice, no, here was an entire menu of lemonade, more types of lemonade than I scarcely dared to dream could co-mingle in this squalid world. The sight of it shattered my psyche into a million jagged pieces.
It was a broken husk of a creature that dully thumbed the Orange-Lemonade button and let its plastic cup dwell there beneath the twined yellow-orange stream. I staggered back to the table in the corner of the room. All the light and color and sound which had once seemed to be so vivid and alive now appeared faded to my enlightened eyes. Was I still alive? Or had I somehow passed through the vortex of my own mind, and arrived at a higher plane of consciousness?
I sat, feeling empty and alone on a ketchup-smeared bench which seemed to be the center axis of a universe thrown violently off-kilter, a galaxy swirling about me in a kaleidoscopic haze of soda-flavors. I took a sip, my motions those of an unfeeling automaton. It took no promptings of thought to lower my lips to the straw; I can only imagine that it was the simple desires of a mind sent reeling – effectively – back in time, back before the dawn of humanity, back to an era of simple biological cause and effect, stimulus and response. And then that holy nectar did caress my unworthy lips.
“Oh yeah, I can kinda taste the orange.” I said and – as though those words were a spell banishing the enchantment which had so befuddled me, or the alarm bell rousing me from the dream of another more perfect world – I was myself again.
I must then caution you, gentle reader, to go not unprepared into the realm of the soda machine. For there are such wonders there, horrible wonders, as to blind the eyes of the unsanctioned, strike dumb those unworthy, and cleave the hearts of the unsteady. What are we but hapless flotsam on a great soda tide of history, dashed upon the rocks of invention like some feeble offering to that mechanical god? We are but lips searching for a straw from which to suckle meaning, and what meaning can be found in a world of such carbonated variety? Beware the soda machine.