“Fear of Love” by Vanessa Jacinto Martinez ’25, Pencil Sketch

Love for the Rat Machine

by Aidan O'Connell '24

It’s dark. Past twilight, but not yet twelve, or else I would be able to see. It’s no matter though, as I already know the way. Not truly in the directions sense, the kind of path you follow after pulling out of a gas station in a town you wish you didn’t know the name, but know all too well all the same. It’s the way of the squelches and clomps of your shoes in the mud, the way the reeds and cattails feel on your legs and arms, the way to the riverside.

I’m there. I can hear it in the summer sounds of the rushing water, far away so that it blends in with the cacophony of the night, but still close enough that it lingers over me, reminding me why I’m here. Instead of the river, I picked a small pond that formed near, perhaps of the river, or its small tributary, or maybe just of rainwater and sun. The pond is stagnant, unmoving, perfect for my uses. You see, the river runs too fast to fully see him.

I kneel on the bank, just eight, ten, twelve inches from the water. However, my hands aren’t clasped, or pointed together, as he’s not that type. They are active, excited, teetering over the surface of the water. Soon, they can’t resist, and I splash and swirl around in the water, half of anticipation, half of frustration. I pull my hands back. “I’m making a new river” I think to myself. Better to keep it clear.

Soon, the smallest shard of light starts to cover the water, and looking into it, I see me. Sometimes I don’t like the way I look. Eyes, mouth, nose, teeth, ears, body, everything could be improved, could be like a dream. Of course, everyone doesn’t like the way they look, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Some people, though, spend their whole lives dreaming, wishing, praying away every minor blemish or detail. What a stupid thing to pray about. Doing so betrays all the pretense of following the rules and codes set up by their glorified wishing wells. That’s the kind of thing that repelled me from the old gods. People just can’t seem to grasp that not every moment is bathed in moonlight, and so neither can their gods. I mean, I know I can’t, but he sure knows I try.

And then there’s the results…


There are none!

I’m not a man of reason, or else I wouldn’t be out here at this hour, but there’s just no outcome, no impact! The old gods are dead, banished, or destroyed, depending on your source, and your need for them. Their messiahs? Dead, banished, or destroyed! Their morals, their values? You guessed it! They are dead, banished, or destroyed! All reasons they can’t do anything, or be anywhere! Excuses!

Well for him, they’re aren’t any excuses, only results. I say this with total knowledge and faith, for as the moon rises higher, he provides, he comes into view. Vertical slits for a mouth, blank white eyes with endless grooves of black surrounding, and a pale, mechanical covering I just can’t call skin makes up his face, as it takes the place of mine in the moonlight.

Fervor foments inside of me, as my body tenses and my stomach churns. I’m afraid, but he’s taught me how to deal with it, to find something past the fear, deeper within me. Love, thankful love for his understanding, his compassion, his careful watch from the dark. In every ominous shadow he’s there, a face of death and ruin to those unlearned, but to me, a close friend, an equal. He looks and acts as frightening as can be, according to the dogma of the old gods. The old gods craved order, separation, definites even thought they could never give any definite results to their followers. They craved the day and the safety that came with it. So when he came along, he who blurred the line from the omnipotent deity sipping his wine, sitting on the heavens, to the “sinners” a god is supposed to be serving, he who was in the dark, they couldn’t take it. They tried to ward him off with fear and hate, the tools of cowards. But it didn’t work, for as long as humanity stands, there will always be self-respect, a protest against being the cattle of some higher power, a yearning for the shadows. He is that protest, he is that self drive, that dark place we go to, where we are supreme, above all others. And trust me, he’s dangerous. But when compared to the old gods, he is a breath of fresh air. He is the new god, the echo chamber, and when I love him, I love myself.

As the moon stands above all else, shining down on even the old gods, Sneketh and Fox, sleeping away in distant lands, I get up from my place. I feel my shoulders, where there is a blindingly white cape that I see as I look down on my tall, metal scaffolding of a body. I feel my face, covered in a tomb, a cool, artificial shell. My mouth is slits. My eyes are blank, empty, yet I can see. I would smile, if my face could move.

I take one last look at the pond, where I see him reaching out to me in the shattered light of the night. But rather, it is me reaching. For I am him, and he is me, and we are the Rat Machine.