The Instant Karma Vending Machine

Ian C Douglas

Wyld FLASH April 2nd, 2021

I spied him in the distance. Rumbling towards me like a two-ton tank. Lardie Hughes. My worst nightmare. The school’s most legendary bully. I hated him. His massive quivering body. Those huge fatty arms. The stink of cheese and onion crisps on his breath. I owed him this week’s pocket money. A pocketful of coins I was hoping to save. Had he seen me?

I dived into the train station. Waving my pass at the ticket collector, I pelted down the steps, onto the last platform. I kept running, past the guards’ office, the waiting room and the loos, until I reached the building at the far end. No idea what that was, just a half-forgotten brick shed.

But I could hide around the back. Out of sight. Hidden from Lardie’s bulging, gobstopper eyes.

And that’s where I found it. I thought it was a Speak-Your-Weight machine for a second. It was about my height, with this big circular top. The name was embossed around its edge. The Instant Karma Vending Machine. A large bulb sat in the centre of a dial. A needle pointed to the top of the dial, where it said; Enter A Coin. There were more words written around the dial. A row of smaller coloured bulbs lined the edge.

“Why not?” I said to myself and slid a ten-penny piece into the slot. The machine whirred into life, like a robot waking up. The outer bulbs flashed in sequence, blues, greens and yellows. The needle spun. There was a ping and it came to rest. You’ve been good, said the dial.

“Scam,” I muttered.

“Oi, you piece of dog muck,” bellowed a voice.

My stomach churned. It was Lardie.

“Think you could skip your dues, mate?” he said in his growling voice. He grabbed my shirt collar and lifted me off my feet.

“N—n—no,” I stammered.

“You need a lesson, matey,” he said, lifting his fist high. My brain raced, looking for an escape.

“Wanna try this machine, Lardie? It’s on me,” I said, terrified.

“What is it? Some sort of game?” he asked, peering at the dial.

I nodded, fumbling for change in my pocket. I handed him another silver coin and pointed to the slot.

Lardie Hughes popped in the coin. The machine lit up again. The needle whizzed around. He looked closer. The needle slowed to a full stop, pointing at its ten-penny judgement; ‘Tsk, tsk. You’ve been a bad boy.’  

The Instant Karma Vending Machine pinged. And the central bulb, the big white one, flashed. So bright it hurt.

Lardie copped the flare close up.

“Can’t see,” he screeched, staggering backwards, frantically rubbing his eyes. Back and back he stepped.

“Look out!” I cried.

Too late, Lardie grasped the danger, teetering on the platform’s edge. Still blinded, his arms waved in a desperate attempt to regain balance. And failed. He toppled from the platform and into the embrace of the half-past-three express.

Author Bio: Ian C Douglas is from Nottingham and works in the genres of science-fiction and fantasy. As well as several published novels and shorts, Ian teaches creative writing and mentors emerging writers. He is a founder of the Nottingham Writers Studio.

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