The Machine

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

The Machine’s skin was hard, harder than any crocodile’s, tougher even than stone. Irgul stared at it. Today, after reaching manhood, he would become one of the four Bearers. After the feasting, they would parade the Machine round the village, like their fathers before them.

Irgul reached out and caressed the Wheel. It turned. An idea glimmered just beyond his grasp.

Sp’andor, the old shaman, watched the boy and smiled, remembering when he also had that seductive idea for transportation. Irgul would discover for himself, he thought indulgently, how easily clay pots smashed when jolted along the forest paths.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

76 thoughts on “The Machine

  1. Dear Neil,

    I’ve read this piece no less than four times. Perhaps you could shed some light on what’s happening here. Have they made a god out of the machine? I was confused at the smashing clay pots. Intriguing nonetheless.




    1. Oops. I did wonder if it would be clear, and obviously it’s not. The have a cult of the machine. Irgul is wondering if inventing the wheel would be a good idea. Sp’andor knows from his own experience that wheels are no use, because they don’t have roads. When you try to transport stuff inside clay pots using a wheeled vehicle they just bounce against each other and smash. The next step will be for them to need to buy plastic pots from the outside world, but then they’ll need something to trade. And you can guess where that leads. Sorry it was so obscure, but at least I didn’t write the Signature, Part 3


  2. I read it as an abstract interpretation of the prompt involving the word machine and the wheel. Whilst the invention of the wheel for transportation is still in its early stages, things will really take off when someone invents polystyrene chippings to pack the clay pots in for transportaion. I’m probably wrong – it has been known – all too often. Good take.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I definitely got the first part, and loved it – that they had made a mystical thing out of the machine. And I love the idea of looking at something we know so well with new eyes, but I wasn’t too sure about the clay pots thing until you explained it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah ha! Much clearer. That’s one of the hardest bits of writing, I find – I want to be subtle and make the reader work, but when I know what’s happening in the story it’s difficult to know how subtle to be.


  4. I thought I understood it right up to the clay pots where I got lost. I thought he got the idea about some mechanical device by turning the wheel. I wonder what the term machine means to them, just a name probably. In any case, intriguing story, it drew me in.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Neil. First, I enjoy so much how you see prosaic things (an ordinary sewing machine) from a new angle. I took the whole thing as an apocalyptic parable. I saw the boy reaching for the wheel as a symbolic act, a desire to set a revolution in motion, not as an inventing (or reinventing) of a literal wheel for a vehicle. As for the shaman’s comment about the clay pots, I thought this was a metaphor about how humanity’s cosmic plans can easily be smashed like clay pots, or how the older generation thinks that’s what will happen when the younger generation challenges the social order. I didn’t think it was meant to be taken literally, and as such, I loved it.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I kind of read it as ‘strong ideas can still be fragile.’
    Now that i have read the other comments I still enjoyed the story and it’s message. Wrong use of an item no matter how strong it is can still lead to it’s destruction

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love the idea they deified the machine – an easy thing to do when you don’t understand the technology. Perhaps and extended version, so we can feel your full intentions? Great take on the prompt, though Neil

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ll admit to getting lost, but several lines did stand out to me. “an idea glimmered just beyond his grasp.” And the old shaman remembering when he had the same idea. There’s something generational there–a right of passage. A very intriguing story.


  9. As a child I was kind of fascinated by how unlike the act of sewing a sewing machine looks (as well as in a related way, how unlike a pair of trousers the pattern for a pair of trousers looks!). These old black and gold machines were also rather beautiful, so the whole idea of this mysterious but potent object totally resonated with me. Great sideways look at the prompt.
    (Clay pots and wheels not so sure about, but what the heck!)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very interesting–I loved the relationship between the two characters and the tradition you included–all very clear. I was a bit confused about the pots and how they figured in until I read the comments, though I understood he was imagining wheels. I like that you took a chance, giving us an entire cult(ure) as well as a story in 100 words. Risks are good.


  11. Hmmmm. Different, but it IS a good read whether I understood it or not. I did follow the comments to find the answer, yes, but I like a good read whether I understand it or not. I figure its answers will come out eventually. Don’t hesitate to write stuff no one would understand. Authors do it a lot. Sometimes it’s good to have something a little more intellectually demanding to read anyway. Challenges the mind.

    Well done, Neil! Five out of five clay pots. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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