The Widgetmaker

"Gah, it doesn’t work!" he cried, tossing the piece of equipment into the corner.  He instantly regretted his decision, and was relieved to find that it had landed among a collection of blankets lying there.  "I guess not doing laundry can pay off." mused the male, slumping back into the couch.  The clock on the table shone 3:48 am, a sure sign that his late-night frustration would lead to an equally encumbering morning at work.  If the green numbers could speak they’d have laughed at his plight, pointing out the failure of his efforts thus far and reminding him of the long day ahead.

Reluctantly, he sighed and reached for the widget that had caused him so much trouble that evening.  The worst part about not being able to fix something is knowing that the answer exists, that the problem is simply a misaligned combination of parts that make the piece what it is.  Problems and struggles qualify existence – they make you remember you are alive and force you to examine your processes to solve them.  He was usually quite good at approaching these things, taking multiple routes from various lines of thought to appreciate the issue, however his efforts seemed to only look back at him and mock his feeble attempts.  Much like the widget that now sat in his hands once again.

The young man sighed and reached for a wrench on his table.  As he prepared to remove the outer shell on his creation, he felt the piece shudder in his hand.  He stopped and stared at the object, wondering if what he had just felt truly occurred.  After a moment he attributed the motion to his shaking hands and brought the tool near the object once more.  Again he felt the piece quiver, this time so noticeably that he leapt from his seat and flung the object across the room again.  The invention landed among the scattered shirts and sweatpants, it’s motionless form taunting the young man who stood staring at it in disbelief.

"Not good, already hallucinating." thought the man, beads of nervous sweat forming on his forehead.  It was silly of course, that the item he cobbled together from scratch could move without him allowing it to.  His logic began to shift from whether or not it were possible, to finding reason for how it might have occurred with the lack of moving parts he had assembled up to that point.  Shaking his head to clear the late-night fogginess, he slowly approached the pile of clothing to retrieve his creation.  He didn’t see it on the top of the pile, and thinking it may have rolled off he pulled the first few items from the top of the stack and tossed them into another part of the room.  Still not seeing the widget made him frustrated all the more, so he began to tear through the pile until nothing but the smooth wooden floor remained at his feet.  "Great, first I was seeing things, now I can’t find what I didn’t see in the first place!" he exclaimed, the long hours of his work taking toll on his patience and restraint.  The sense of loss he initially felt turned to loneliness – he had such great hopes for that widget, the things they would have accomplished together a fading notion in the corner of his mind.  Perhaps it was the fatigue, he mused, maybe he was taking it too personally.

As he considered pausing for the night and searching later, he head a faint scratching noise behind him.  He whirled around, not sure what he expected to see in the vacant room.  There, on his desk, sat the item he had been working on.  It seemed to be in the same state as when he last touched it, nothing had moved or been altered.  He wasn’t sure how to respond, so he stood in place for a moment considering the events of the evening.  Did he actually throw the widget or had he imagined it?  The scattered clothing made him believe he really had been looking for it, so he must have thrown it before that.  If that were true, however, why was it sitting on his desk?

"Hello?" he whispered, unsure how to address the item he crafted.  He wasn’t even sure it could respond – at least not with the pieces he had used to make it.  If that were the case, however, could it even hear him talking?  And how did it manage to move back to the table?  It made sense to him that if it possessed one of these abilities it would have multiple ones, though the very idea of his creation doing something other than what he planned was still a bit hard to grasp anyway.

His thoughts were interrupted by the widget slowly rolling toward the front of the table.  The man’s eyes widened and he stepped back several feet, quite certain that he was indeed not dreaming this time.  The small piece of equipment reached the end of the table, paused for a moment, then spun in a circle and held still.  Perplexed, the man tilted his head slightly and looked around the room, certain that he was the target of some cruel joke.  As his eyes landed on the widget once more, he swallowed nervously and took a step forward.  His creation stayed in place this time, so he continued walking until he was within arm’s reach of the object.  "What, eh, how did you…" his words trailed off as the widget rolled backwards slowly, as though the movement would answer the question the man posed.  The man cautiously maneuvered into his chair, taking care not to let the item out of his sight.

He sat there for several moments, staring blankly at the widget while his mind searched for possible explanations.  There simply was no good theory for how this had come about – shaking his head yet again he extended his hand towards his creation, the reality of the phenomenon finally sinking in.  The object shifted slightly as his fingers ran over the protective casing, but after a brief hesitation it moved against the palm of its master’s hand and held still.  Understanding the object’s intentions, the man grasped the item and lifted it off of the surface, holding it out in front of him.  For several minutes he stared at the motionless form, then his brow wrinkled in a confused look as it twitched slightly in his hand.  "What do you want me to do?" he asked, unsure how the widget would answer but certain it would try.  Sure enough, the object rolled around the edge of his hand, gradually picking up speed.  Just when the man thought it would fly off, it halted suddenly and spun in a circle.  The man interpreted this movement as playful, so he gently tossed the widget into the air and caught it again.  This made it all the more excited, and it began to spin around his hand once more.

The man set his invention down onto the table and watched it race back and forth.  A sort of childlike innocence was reflected in the object, and he wondered if it knew he was its maker – he smiled slightly at the thought.  "What am I supposed to do with you, I didn’t make you with this purpose in mind."  Just as he said those words the widget stopped moving, as though it had been stung by his words.  It rolled over to him slowly, coming to a halt inches from the edge of the surface.  "Well," said the man, unsure what to say next "I didn’t mean you should stop rolling around, just that it was not my intention for you."  This seemed to upset the object even more, for it backed away from the man quickly and rolled sideways into one of his tools, knocking it from the table.  The man was puzzled at first, but the less he said or did with made the object become more violent.  It smashed into various objects on his table, knocking over half-full glasses of water and pushing books into their remains.

"Stop it, you’re ruining my work!" the man exclaimed, reaching for a book that was quickly becoming soaked by the mess.  The object whirled and slammed into his hand, then continued to race around the table once more.  As pain shot through his fingers the man jumped back from the table, his chair clattering to the floor behind him.  He stood watching in a stupor, again unsure how to handle the situation.  Finally he decided that he must stop the object before it destroyed everything in the room, so he reached for one of his sweaters on the floor and threw it over the table.  This made the widget move much faster as it attempted to locate an escape from the trap.  The man decided drastic measures must be taken.  He picked up the wooden chair from the floor and slammed it into the table, the sound of splintering wood and crunching metal filling the small room.

Several moments passed as the man stood holding part of his chair, he studied the motionless lump under his sweater and made sure it would not move again.  He sighed heavily and dropped what was left of his chair onto the floor, then carefully lifted the sweater and surveyed the damage.  Pieces of his creation were scattered all over the surface, smashed and bent parts littering his former workspace.  The man shook his head and leaned heavily on the table, stress and fatigue combining to form a sense of profound loss at the destruction of his project.  With great effort he tore himself from the scene and slumped towards this bed.  Another day would come, and he’d have another idea to work on soon, but for now all he wanted to do was sleep.

By CK Hicks

Greetings! I'm a life-long innovator and "heartful technologist" with 13+ years professional experience as a Developer. My primary passion is crafting experiences that enable compelling, human-first storytelling.

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