Actuate

by Pierce Nahigyan

Farnham’s machine was a box. It was big and black, with a plastic input cubby like a doggy door in its side. You put the secret inside, Farnham would tap the typewriter keys, and then you’d wait. Sometimes a few minutes. I know one woman in Idaho who had to wait two hours for the box to complete her order.

Farnham’s typewriter was plugged in to the top of the machine. There was a console on the side with volume knobs and AV sockets. I asked Farnham if the machine could be hooked up to the television and he said yes, that was what the sockets were for. I asked him if he’d show me and he said no. He’d looked inside the machine once when it was working and he wouldn’t do it again.

Farnham was a conman. He’d sold cheap jewelry, pornography, knockoff cash. There was no reason to believe people’s secrets, written in pencil on notebook paper and crumpled into balls and fed through the doggy door, actuated the box. The box ate the secret and told the customer a secret in turn. Something that saved them, Farnham would say.

No one ever looked like they’d been saved after reading the box’s secret, but no one ever asked for their money back. No one ever came back.