Today I’m sharing a short supernatural story that won an honorable mention at the 2009 Art/Work: Creativity from the Cube city-wide competition in Kansas City, Missouri. This is the first in a planned seven-part anthology dealing with the famous “Seven Deadly Sins” dating from medieval times. Each story will be limited to 1000 words. Enjoy!
Update: This story also won 1st place in the Young Peoples’ Fiction competition at the 2010 Liberty Arts Squared festival!
The Vending Machine
by Duane Porter
“This is so cool, Andy! Come look at this!” Mike marched down the alley to a large metal box.
Andy followed tentatively. “Hey, it’s an old vending machine! And it’s still got candy in it!”
Mike’s brown eyes glowed as he pushed his black hair out of his eyes. “Check out the prices! Twenty-five cents!”
Andy nodded. “How long do you think it’s been here? Why would they leave the candy in it? Stuff’s probably crawling with worms.”
“Chicken!” Mike drew a quarter from his pocket and jammed it into the slot. Quickly he punched in a code. “They have Butterfingers!”
“So do you, apparently,” Andy grinned. “The Butterfingers are on G1. The bag from G2 just dropped into the bin!”
“What? No way!” Mike pushed the door open and pulled out a red bag labeled ‘Lucy’s Red Hots.’ “Aw, geez, I know I pushed G1! Have you ever heard of this crap?” He shook the bag in Andy’s face.
“Never seen ‘em before.”
“Man, it doesn’t even feel like there’s anything in here.” He tore open the end and peered inside. “Holy Cow!”
Mike drew out a piece of paper the size of a business card and a ten dollar bill.
“Crap, no way! Anything else in there?”
“What does the card say?”
Mike stared for a minute. “It’s some kind of poem.”
“Greed is the downfall for seekers unwise.
Three times you may profit, but the fourth will surprise.”
They looked through the dirty glass. Sitting in row G2 were three more packages of Lucy’s Red Hots.
“Andy, you think those other bags have ten dollar bills in ‘em, too?”
Andy shook his head. “I don’t know, Mike. Why would anyone leave money in candy bags?”
Mike had already rolled another quarter into the slot and punched G2. The second bag of candy fell into the bin.
Andy shifted nervously as Mike ripped open the bag. “It’s a twenty! Geez, Andy, I got thirty dollars for fifty cents! This is freakin’ incredible!”
“It looks like there’s another card, too.”
“Yeah, big deal. This one says:
“Twice you have gained, so much more indeed!
Beware that you do not fall prey to your greed!”
“Who writes this crap?” Mike scowled. “I wonder how much is in the third bag?”
Andy felt a surge of panic. “Mike, don’t get any more bags, please! This is creepy!”
Mike merely laughed as he fished for another quarter. The boys listened as the money rolled down the pathway. The third bag dropped into the bin.
Rrripp! “Oh, man! This is freakin’ unbelievable!” Mike held up a crisp fifty dollar bill.
“That’s the third one, can we go now?” Andy pleaded.
“You’re kidding, right? Hey, don’t you want to read the card?”
Andy grabbed the card this time and read out loud.
“You are quite brave to buy more than two.
Now you have three; what will you do?”
Mike’s eyes dilated with anticipation. He fumbled in his pocket for a quarter.
“Mike, are you nuts? The card said bad things would happen if you took more than three! Let’s get out of here – Mike, noooo!”
Mike jammed the last quarter home and watched the final bag fall from the rack.
As his hand closed on the bag his eyes widened in shock.
“Mike? What’s wrong?”
Mike seemed to wither, as if all the fluids were being sucked out of him. He collapsed like a deflated balloon and was sucked inside the vending machine door. The red bag of Lucy’s Red Hots popped out onto the alley, and the vending machine door banged shut.
Andy moaned in disbelief. He looked inside the vending machine. A single green bag sat in row G2. It had a cartoon-like picture of a boy with black hair and brown eyes under the label ‘Mike’s Sour Apple Treats.’
“Oh, no, no, no, no…” Andy mumbled as he searched in his pocket. He pulled out a quarter, shoved it in the slot and punched G2.
He hit the coin return, fished his quarter out, and tried again.
He collapsed in front of the machine and put his hand out for support. He jumped as he touched the bag of Lucy’s Red Hots.
Slowly he ripped open the bag. Inside were another card and a bill with Benjamin Franklin’s picture on it. “A hundred dollars,” he whispered.
He turned the card over and read:
“My goodness gracious, your life’s at an end.
Unless this last note is being read by a friend?”
Andy gasped as he realized what he had missed before.
The price below G2 now read $100.
Andy didn’t even think about it. He fed the hundred dollar bill carefully into the machine and pressed G2. Slowly, agonizingly, the spiral rack rotated and the bag of Mike’s Sour Apple Treats dropped.
Andy jumped as his quarter clattered into the change return. Shaking, he put his hand into the bin and pulled out the bag. It felt empty.
He tore one end open and the bag puffed out like popcorn in a microwave. Glittering blue sparks shot out of the bag and formed the outline of a boy, quickly coalescing into Mike’s familiar form.
Andy grabbed Mike’s arm. “Mike! Is it really you?”
“God, what happened, Andy? I felt really strange for a second, and then I was back here with you – hey, what happened to my money? The ten, the twenty, the fifty – they’re all gone!”
“Forget about it, Mike. You won’t believe what I …” his voice trailed off.
“What is it, Andy? Why are you looking at the vending machine again …”
Both boys stared at the four bags of Lucy’s Red Hots sitting neatly in row G2.
Seconds later only the sound of running feet echoed down the deserted alley. A chill wind blew between the buildings, sucking a crumpled green candy wrapper into the air. The abandoned vending machine waited silently in the dark.