“A Machine for Removing Unwanted Minds”

content warnings: medicalization, institutional xenophobia, genocidal and carceral logic, child abuse, the project of upholding whiteness and the horror implicit within it.

It squats spider-like over the building which was meant to contain it, vast legs cutting the sky to pieces as soon as you step within its outermost extents. Only its teeth (its drill? its proboscis? it's unclear) are hidden from view.

Every year it's easier to find yourself inside it. They keep on having to move the plaque marking its limits and pull back the barricades another few painful blocks.

At first they tried to have a little ceremony each time, a memorial, but that tradition never really took off.

The machine is swollen with the mass of everything it takes. Its legs grow in waves of glass beads painted black, its vast hydraulics ooze with the pressure of what it was built to contain. It's so hungry.

Access to its maw is controlled by a council of elder doctors, dignified men and women who would never even consider feeding themselves to it. Not all of them are white, but they are all immersed in the project of upholding Whiteness against the villainous and unwanted Other.

The machine was not built as part of that project, of course. It is simply a necessary component of civilization. Some minds are not wanted, that's all. There's no need to examine why.

(It must be noted that not everyone agrees with this assessment. When the machine was first built, protests were common. Many of the protestors were simply misguided. Most were unwanted. It's easy to tell the difference when you know how to look.)

Access to the council proceeds through all the usual channels. They hear between 12 and 240 cases each day, with the precise number depending on how many of them have had fights with their spouses in the previous week. Outlier days become more likely when the most senior of them has been deprived of his usual victims (his wife takes the kids on every vacation. She knows the price the world pays for their safety. In less than a year she'll die from an overdose of the medication he prescribed her).

Between 56% and 92% of cases are allowed to continue. The exact number varies for much the same reasons.

Sometimes in the night, as the machine squats unsleeping over the pedestal where unwanted minds and unwilling bodies are brought to feed it, it dreams. Its legs twitch with the false-memories of what it could become. Its feet lift from their concrete pedestals (from the hastily annexed ruins that it makes every time it grows) for just long enough to kick the decaying husks that still dare to live beside its feet.

The rent in those doomed buildings is very cheap.

The people who live in them had a choice, you see, and they chose risk. Many of them will die in their beds as their homes collapse. This was a choice they made. They could have moved away.

But they're not the point.

They hardly matter.

The machine dreams, and its vast body twitches in its sleep, and the bodies of its servants twitch in sympathy in their hill-top mansions and buried bunkers; it is hungry and it shares its hunger. It dreams of a world where it will eat without waiting to be fed and it shares its dreams.

Every dawn a line of the potentially unwanted waits at the base of the building which was never large enough to contain it.

Some of them have to come back day after day. The line is always too long for the council to properly ingest it. They are the lucky ones, to feel their fate stretch like hot rubber beneath the cruel sun; to spend another few days or weeks feeling before their minds are taken away.

To feel just a bit more.

Everyone agrees that they're lucky.

(No one asks them how they feel.)

You, who will never be permitted to pass into the machine's innermost sanctum, might be tempted to ask what it does. What, exactly, does its name mean? What happens there?

What the machine does doesn't matter.

Even the plaque that marks its boundary is an afterthought.

Just know that the machine is necessary. Society would fall without it. Each person it consumes means that you—you, the innocent, the valued, the wanted!—will sleep a bit better in your bed.

It keeps you safe.

Don't question it.