The Foundation used to lock things away,
Things, this and that, which they called special.
Every object that they deemed unique enough to keep was kept
Safe and secure within their gates.
Each one with their own set of procedures, their own fates.
Each one with a set of precautions, instructions and the like,
Designed to keep them locked up tight,
And to protect them from what was normal.
I was just another object,
Hoarded in a room with no light
Until a request to the board of research was submitted by the next doctor.
They’d proctor a test or a few,
And then back into my chamber I went.
That’s how most of my time was spent.
I had no concerns about it,
No complaint or qualms.
How could I feel if something was wrong,
If I’m nothing but a toaster?
The ding of a toaster sounded as the waitress approached the table. “Sir,” she said, “Do you need a box for that?”
Slowly, Ralph took his eyes off of his plate and warily looked up at the thin woman.
“No,” he replied.
“Are you sure?” the waitress inquired, looking slightly concerned, “I brought out your order almost an hour ago, and you’ve barely touched it.”
Looking down at his plate, most of his breakfast had already been eaten. Two strips of bacon, two eggs over-easy, and a short stack of pancakes, all gone. The only thing left on his plate was 2 slices of toast.
Barely touched it, Ralph thought, that’s a good one.
“You can just throw the rest out,” he responded, “There isn’t really enough here for me to take home.”
“I’ll go get a box for that,” the waitress said warmly, as if she hadn’t heard him, “Just give me a moment.”
As she walked away, another ding sounded. Out of the corner of his eye, Ralph saw a lanky waiter walk out of the kitchen. Slowly, he walked across the room, and gently placed down a plate on the table where another customer was seated. Ralph could hear a small exchange between them, and as the waiter walked away, the other man began eating his meal.
It was a plate full of toast.
Soon the waitress returned, holding a Styrofoam box, the check, and another plate. She set both down on the table. Sitting on the plate was a toasted slice of raisin bread, sprinkled with cinnamon.
“Don’t worry,” she assured him, “It’s on the house.”
Without another word, Ralph placed both slices in the box, paid for his meal, and exited the restaurant.
“Good morning, Mr. Brindis.”
Conrad Brindis, the North American Regional Commissioner from the Coalition of International Toasters, looked up from his paperwork and smiled.
“Good morning to you too, Seth. You can put those irons down on my desk.”
Seth, Conrad’s personal assistant, put the pair of clothing irons down, and sat in the chair opposite his boss. “How are you doing today, Commissioner?”
“I’m doing pretty well, you?”
“Good. Had some sourdough for breakfast.”
“Huh, Well I’m jealous.” Conrad reached for the irons’ extension cords. “I take it Lisa made it for you?”
“Yeah, she keeps insisting on having me try all her recipes. Not that I’m complaining, she’s a great cook.”
“Nice.” He stood up and plugged them into the wall. “Oh, did you hear about last night’s vote yet?”
“The one on your bill? How’d it go?”
Conrad walked back over to the table and picked up the irons. “It went very well, Seth. Got through both houses with unanimous support. Not that I was expecting anything less.”
“Yeah, I can’t see why anyone would vote against it. What I’m wondering is how the heck it wasn’t already on the books when you introduced it. I mean, how do we not have a law against throwing away toast?"
A simple appliance like myself
Might not have caused alarm to anyone,
Certainly not the Foundation.
A huge organization with so much on their hands,
Keeping abnormal things from harm,
And normality from abnormality,
Needed a reason to hold on to me.
That reason, seemingly innocuous,
Shows how this verse’s perspective is not
Seen through my lens, my objective.
I don’t have a point of view.
It is but an artifact of one simple fact.
In the words you have heard,
This writer, and all others,
Always refer to me in the first person.
A mere side effect of my true properties.
Ralph wanted to tear the radio out of his car and throw it out the window.
Driving to work from the restaurant, there was a story on the local station about the new bill going through the parliament. The proposal would impose a fine on people who throw away toast.
A fine? That’s the literal opposite of fine.
It was times like this that he wondered if he was the only sane person on the planet. Everywhere he went he saw thin, wiry people obsessed with eating toast. No one saw anything wrong with it. No one considered the possibility that maybe some people had been tired of the stuff for years.
His thoughts now wandered to the toast sitting in the passenger seat. Two pieces, he could hold both in one hand, but the thought of actually consuming them had become almost nauseating. Now with his luck, when he tried to throw them away, he’d be stuck paying money he didn’t have.
As he pulled into the parking lot, Ralph thought about his job. He felt his mostly empty wallet in his pocket; most of the money in it had been spent on his breakfast. His pay barely covered rent and food, so he certainly couldn’t afford a fine. He couldn’t get rid of the toast by giving it to his coworkers either; even though they all seemed to be in love with the stuff, they would never take it off his hands.
Ralph wished that the toast would just disappear. He wished that he could make it vanish and just be done with it. He was tired of people expecting him to eat it every day, and never listening to him when he said no. As he parked his car, Ralph directed his frustration towards the box from the restaurant.
Picking it up, he wondered if maybe, just maybe, if he thought hard enough, he could make it vanish.
Yeah, I wish.
Conrad and Seth were both laughing as they continued their conversation.
“Oh man… He honestly thought that would work?”
“Yeah.” Conrad held a piece of bread between the clothing irons. “But all he managed to toast was his bone marrow.”
“Damn, I should not be laughing at this. That just sounds horrible.”
“No, its fine, he was laughing about it too for the next week. Of course, he only lived that long, but still; he got a laugh out of it!”
“Sir, that’s terrible.” Seth clutched his sides. “Gosh, this should not be this funny.”
“Well, it wouldn’t have worked anyway.” Conrad separated the irons, dropping the fresh piece of toast on the desk. “In order to toast a slice of bread, you need direct heat. For example, I just used these irons to do it. Now, a big piece of Curium, on the other hand…”
Before he could finish, a red light began shining on his desk.
“Huh, haven’t seen one of those in a while.”
“What is that, Boss?”
“It’s just something that I need to call the chairman about. I’m going to need a few moments alone to do that. This stuff is above your security level.”
“Yeah, as if I actually have a security level. That’s a good one.”
“Hey, you’ll get promoted eventually. But seriously, why don’t you get some lunch while I call him. This shouldn’t take too long.”
“Alright Mr. Brindis. Just let me know if you need anything else.”
On one particular day,
A doctor took me away from my chamber,
To the approved testing room
For an experiment.
At the other end of the facility
Past every bend in the hall
Every room, every researcher and test subject,
There was an entrance.
A small, but important group,
Made their entrance.
While the doctor prepared, they were preparing.
He sat and stared, contemplating me,
How I was but a toaster that could only be referred to
In the first person.
And while he sat, that group of my followers
Began an attack.
Those followers who saw
What I could do, what I was,
Would reveal my vision
To the appeal of the masses.
No matter how hard he tried, Ralph just couldn’t focus on his work.
He had been sitting at his desk for over an hour now, just staring at his computer screen, unable to type his report. Occasionally, he would begin entering in a few words, but would immediately delete it moments later.
This wasn’t a major problem; the report wasn’t needed until the next board meeting, and that was still a week away. But there was a larger issue eating away at him.
Slowly, Ralph turned again towards the box from the restaurant, now sitting near the edge of the desk. Hesitating, he reached his hands towards it, and picked it up. He closed his eyes, and carefully opened it.
Opening his eyes, he was greeted with the same sight he’d seen in his car: the box was completely empty.
OK, Ralph thought, there has to be some logical explanation for this. It probably just fell out, right? He remembered walking out of the restaurant, how he held the box tightly, knowing that dropping it would attract someone to talk to him. With everyone obsessing over the stuff so much, someone would have noticed if he had dropped two pieces of toast in the street. It was doubtless that someone would have approached him about it.
No, I definitely dropped it. That’s the only reasonable explanation. I dropped it and no one saw…
Pushing the subject out of his mind, he went back to his computer. By the end of the day, he had completed two sentences.
Seth had eaten well for lunch: two pieces of toast with jam, and some split pea soup.
As he approached Conrad’s office, there was loud talking inside.
“Look, Mr. Chairman, I just don’t think we need to deploy them right now. We’ve had these sensors malfunction before.”
This was probably a conversation he wasn’t supposed to hear. Talking with chairman meant that it was something of confidence, of which he was not allowed to know. Therefore, Seth started to walk away.
“We haven’t had an actual reality bender in decades. Why would one pop up now?”
He stopped in his tracks. “Reality bender” wasn’t a phrase he had heard before. It sounded like an imagined idea, but Seth found his curiosity to be growing. Against his better judgment, he moved closer to the door.
“OK, alright, I understand your concern.”
“I’ll send them out after the maintenance team finishes up, but only if we get another alarm. Otherwise there just isn’t enough cause right now.”
“Even if there was one, we can afford to wait right now. With a signature that small, whoever it might be isn’t going to be vaporizing a building any time soon.”
Seth wondered if he had heard that comment correctly.
“To be blunt, sir, I’m hesitant to send them out because it’s going to cost a significant amount of money, and my constituents are going to ask questions about where that money went.”
“Thank you. I’ll call you right away if anything else happens. Bye.”
There was a click as the phone was hung up, followed by a sigh.
“I know that you’ve been standing out there. You can come in.”
Timidly, Seth slowly opened the door and poked his head inside.
“How did you know I was out there, Mr. Brindis?”
Conrad smiled, looking vaguely amused. “I didn’t. I say that every time I get off a confidential call. I figure that if someone was actually eavesdropping outside my door, saying that would make them give themselves away.”
Seth smiled sheepishly.
“Come in and close the door. You’re not in trouble.”
Seth quickly stepped inside, shutting the door behind him, and took a seat at his boss’s desk.
“Alright Seth, tell me what you heard.”
Most don’t stay around me long enough
To feel the true extent of my abilities.
The way that my effects reflect
On neglected parts of the mind,
Months must be spent.
Few have been sent to this fate,
And even fewer are lent
The skills needed for it
Not to kill them.
Talking of me in the first person
Is a trivial reaction,
Much easier to comprehend
Than my true action.
I allow people to see
A sight that starts dim,
But gradually gains light.
It’s a view so strange,
Many who see it are left deranged.
But my followers knew
That this sight was meant to be seen.
They had been nothing less
Than rightfully depressed
At the Foundation which stored me away.
And they were about to reveal,
To all of the world,
The boys and girls,
Elders and youth,
A terrific sight.
The sight of truth.
Ralph knew it was a stupid idea. It was nonsensical, absurd, and paranoid of him to be doing this. But as soon as he got back to his apartment from work, he popped a slice of bread in his toaster.
Ralph had plenty of reasons to keep a toaster. While he wasn’t fond of toast, he still very much liked pop tarts.
As soon as the now darkened slice popped out, Ralph immediately grabbed it, dropped it on the counter, and cursed in pain from burning his hand.
Yup, that’s a great idea you’ve come up with here. Burn yourself because you want to see if you can make toast disappear with your mind. Brilliant.
Breathing deeply a few times to calm down, he gathered his thoughts, and focused his frustration on the morsel now sitting in front of him. After a moment, he closed his eyes.
I hate toast. I hate how every moron I ever come across is just so in love with the stuff. I hate how it gets stale when you leave it out for an hour. I hate how there’s always that one part of the crust that’s burnt. I hate the way it tastes. I hate the way it smells. I absolutely despise the stuff.
Ralph opened his eyes. Sitting on the counter was a now slightly cooled piece of toast, completely unaffected by his attempt.
OK, maybe it needs to be directed at this particular slice.
Ralph poked the piece gently, and then closed his eyes again.
I hate that exact slice of toast for burning my hand.
His eyes opened. The slice was still there. Ralph turned around and vented his frustration.
“Damn it,” he yelled, “can’t this piece of shit just go away?”
He stood there for a moment, and then with a sigh, he accepted the pointlessness of what he was doing.
Ralph turned around and looked back at the counter. It was now empty.
He blinked a few times, wondering if there was something wrong with his eyes. The toast was nowhere to be seen. He looked closer, but there was no trace. As he ran his hand over the surface, he felt only the smooth material of the counter. Not even a crumb remained.
Ralph stayed up all night trying to repeat the effect. By sunrise, an entire loaf of bread and been toasted, and an entire loaf of bread had vanished.
“Well, you didn’t hear anything that I wouldn’t have let you know about eventually.”
“Wait, you were going to tell me about that stuff?”
“Not for another few months, but yes. You’ve been my assistant for a year and a half now, Seth. I trust you a great deal. I figured I would give you the clearance for this stuff eventually.”
“So, does this mean I’m getting an actual security clearance?”
“Now, don’t get ahead of yourself just yet. I’m still going to hold off on telling you any classified details for now. But I can tell you that there’s no need to worry about any of it at the moment. Earlier on the phone; that was just the chairman being overly cautious about something that hasn’t been an issue for years.”
“And that thing about reality bending?"
“Once again, it hasn’t been a problem for years.”
A red light appeared on Conrad’s desk.
Seth stared at the crimson signal.
“Um, Mr. Brindis…”
“Yeah, I see it.” Conrad sighed. “You know, today is just not my day.”
“Doesn’t that light mean…”
“It means that there is, apparently, a problem that shouldn’t be happening. But since it is, you and I have to deal with.”
“I thought I didn’t…”
“You do now. Effective immediately, I’m giving you Level C secure access.”
“I need to make a call, and then we’re going to deploy a team where we got the alarm from. After that, both of us are going down there. I want your help with this.”
Conrad picked up the phone on his desk, and dialed in a number.
“This is Commissioner Conrad Brindis. I need you to send me down to my office.”
My followers planned out
The entire operation
To retrieve me,
There’s no doubt, however, that it would have been
Advantageous to think further ahead
In their preparation
To deal with the fallout.
The Foundation would not take lightly
Such an attack, and the theft of what
They thought they had a right to hold.
Soon negotiations got old,
And when they refused to accept
A proposal to defuse the situation,
It was clear that an escalation
Their ultimatum was clear for them to hear,
But my followers, my fellow toasters,
Would never back down.
My followers would not release me,
And the Foundation of my incarceration
Would not let me continue to be free.
If only they had known
What horrors had been released
By taking what the Foundation owned.
Even when the battle ceased,
And their enemy lay fallen,
A new day of chaos,
Was upon my followers.
Ralph was not tired. He had stayed up all night in his kitchen, but his head was spinning too much for him to even think about exhaustion. He paid little attention to the window as the sun began to rise, and even less to his alarm clock when it began to ring. All he could think about right now was trying to understand what he was doing.
None of this makes any sense! Am I just going crazy?
He checked his kitchen counter again, but he still found no evidence of any of the slices.
The question of what exactly he was supposed to do hung over his mind. Around it was a mix of emotions from confusion, to concern, to frustration.
And then Ralph decided what he was going to do.
I’m never going to eat another damned piece of toast ever again.
It was only at this point that he decided to check the time. When he looked at his clock, he saw that he was over an hour late for work.
Ralph cursed out loud, and rushed back into his room, not noticing the knock at his door. As fast as he could, he changed his clothes, went back to his kitchen to grab a pop tart, and then rushed to his door, not hearing anyone outside. As he slammed the door open, he felt himself collide with something.
Ralph heard a surprised yelp, a thump of something hitting the floor, and a muffled crack. A moment later, he saw the police officer lying on the ground.
“Holy shit!” he said as he rushed to the officer, “Sir? Officer? Are you…”
The officer pushed Ralph away with one arm. “Get the hell away from me!” he exclaimed, “What’s wrong with you? Ram the door into a police officer after he tells you to come out of the room? Are you stupid? Well?”
“Tells you to… what?” Ralph said, puzzled, “I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry, I was in a rush, and I’m late for work right now…”
“I could throw your ass in jail right now for assaulting me," the officer replied angrily. He pulled his right arm out from under him, revealing it to be twisted painfully. “Ah! Damn it!”
Ralph got back up. “OK, uh, I can go get help,” he suggested, “I’m so sorry about this sir, I honestly didn’t hear you; I wish I had been paying attention. Don’t worry, I’ll be right back!”
With great haste, Ralph ran back into his apartment, and grabbed the telephone. He rushed to punch in an emergency number, and held the phone to his ear.
There was no dial tone.
Confused, he tried again to call for help, but got the same result. He hung up the phone and rushed back to the door, hoping to ask a neighbor for assistance.
When he got to the door, there were now several officers standing in front of him. The one he had knocked down earlier stood at the front, holding a taser in his right hand.
“What… how are you holding…” was all Ralph could say before he heard a pop, a buzzing sound, and felt his muscles spasm.
Seth sat in the back of Conrad's car as they were driven towards the area where the alarm originated.
“So, there used to be an organization that dealt with these guys?”
“More than just reality benders, Seth. The Foundation held all sorts of things. Statues that move when you aren’t looking, plays that drive the actors and audience to insanity, giant amalgamations of clockwork; they kept all kinds of things.”
“But how did they get out?”
Conrad was silent for a few moments. “Do you remember learning about the Great Rebellion in school?”
“Of course I did, Mr. Brindis. That was when the CIT rose to power. I didn’t just learn it in school; I had to take a test on it when I applied to get a job here.”
“Ok, but do you know what we were fighting against?”
“It was drilled into my head, sir. We overthrew the oppressive old world structure and…”
“Seth, have you ever considered the fact that maybe that wasn’t the whole truth?”
“That old government wasn’t just some evil villain from a children’s story. They stayed in power all that time because they kept the world safe. They kept the things that could have destroyed the planet several times over in check.” Conrad looked out the window and frowned. “They were the ones who made sure that people who bent the world with their minds, stayed locked away.”
Seth was silent for a moment, but then spoke up. “Are you saying that the organization we overthrew was the Foundation?”
Conrad sighed, and said nothing.
“Boss, why would we do something that stupid? You’re telling me that this organization held things that could have killed millions, and that they kept them from hurting anyone. But then we just went and got rid off them? Why the hell would we do something that stupid?”
“Seth, they weren’t a good organization…”
“I’m not saying that they were! I’m saying that it sounds like we didn’t have any backup plan to deal with all of this stuff, because I don’t know how else a guy like this is still out there.”
“Seth, we had reasons…”
“We better have some pretty damn good reasons. If it wasn’t for us making such a dumbass decision, we wouldn’t be dealing with this situation right now.”
“If we hadn’t made that decision? That’s a null point.”
Seth was silent for a few moments. “I’m sorry, I’m just really nervous about this.”
“So am I, Seth.”
Now both of them were silent.
“What exactly was the reason that we did that?”
Conrad held up the toaster in his lap. “I am.”
“You already told me about me. I get it, me being a toaster that you can only refer to in the first person, it’s weird. I don’t see why that was enough for us to do something that risky.”
“That’s not my only effect.”
“Well, what else is there?”
Conrad sighed. “I’m going to tell you what my other effect is. And when we get down to the site, I’m going to prove to you that we made the right choice. But you have to be willing to listen, OK?”
The truth can be the most bizarre statement,
As to drive men insane.
The abatement of truth, however,
Was never proclaimed to be just.
That is what my followers
Aimed to accomplish:
To admonish those who hid
What must be known,
Even if only by a few.
My truth must be heard,
And for all who have stirred
To release it,
It will be spelled out plainly.
I told them that they were toasters.
I don’t boast this fact as being
Any more complex
Then each and every next sunrise.
But such a simple thing,
When truly understood,
Can bring with it madness
To the weak and strong,
The evil and good.
And so when the Foundation failed,
And the last nail placed in their coffin,
All that remained was to capture
The strange things which had escaped.
For this, I was of use.
For when one who bends reality to their will
Is struck still by the thought,
That they are, in fact, a toaster,
This is as certain as the stars.
What they believe, manifests.
Ralph had been sitting in his kitchen, with his legs tied to a chair, sitting in front of the table, for what felt like hours. For most of that time, he listened to the muffled voices outside, trying to understand what they were saying. He caught none of it, and was left only with his thoughts, which were in a similarly incomprehensible state.
Much to his relief, the door eventually opened, and two men walked in. His relief vanished, however, when he saw one of them carrying a toaster and a loaf of bread.
While one of the men simply stood next to the table, the other took his time placing the bread and toaster on the table in front of him. Then, still moving slowly, he grabbed a chair and sat across from Ralph.
“So,” he began, “How are you doing right now?”
Ralph decided that a scowl would best convey his current state of mind.
“I’ll take as ‘angry’ then,” the man went on, “Well, I guess that makes sense. We did kinda tie you up and lock you in your house. Heh-heh…”
Ralph was profoundly unamused by the attempt at humor.
“Ahem, right,” he continued, “So, could you just state your name?”
“Why the hell are you sick assholes keeping me here?” Ralph replied bluntly.
The man said nervously, “Um, well…”
“Is it for assaulting that police officer?” Ralph fumed, “His arm was fine. I saw him holding his taser in it right before he stunned me.”
The man was taken aback for a moment. “Well, you see…”
“Seth, let me handle this,” the other man cut in.
Seth got up from the chair, and let the other man sit down. He took a slice of the bread, put in the toaster, and said, “Could you get for me?”
“Yes, Mr. Brindis.” Seth said, and then he walked away.
Mr. Brindis began speaking. “It’s rather… interesting, what that officer told us. He said that right after you said, ‘I wish I had been paying attention’ and ran back into this apartment, his arm healed itself.”
“Well,” Ralph sputtered, “He must be crazy then. That’s not…”
“You saw what happened, and he felt what happened.” Seth handed Mr. Brindis a plate and he continued, “Cut the crap and tell me your name.”
I can’t do anything like that. I made some toast disappear, sure, but this? I don’t see how that’s possible. He must have been faking his broken arm, or maybe…
“Ahem,” Mr. Brindis said, interrupting his thoughts, “Your name?”
“Thank you,” he said, though it may have been Seth, who now stood next to the table. “Now, Mr. Crudam, do you believe that you could perform such a feat like what I have described?”
Ralph decided to play along. “I’m not sure.”
“I think you can,” Mr. Brindis said bluntly, “And it would probably be best if you would be honest with us.”
The slice popped out of the toaster, golden brown. Mr. Brindis picked up the slice, placed it on the plate, and slid it across the table. “Hungry?” he asked.
Ralph stared at the piece for a moment, and then looked back up at the two men. He could not tell if they were kidding or not.
“Mr. Crudam?” Seth said, “Are you OK?”
Screw it, I don’t care. I’m not eating this thing. I wish that piece of toast wasn’t there.
In the blink of an eye, the toast was gone.
Seth backed away form the table, breathing heavily, with a vague look of terror on his face. The other man, however, barely flinched.
“If you guys expected me to eat that,” Ralph explained, “You’re nuts.”
“So it’s true then,” the man sighed, “You can do this sort of thing.”
“Yeah, so what?” Ralph continued, “I make toast disappear with my mind. There, I said it. Are you happy?”
The man looked at Seth, and calmly said, “Yes, I am. Alright Seth, you’ve seen enough of this. Let’s head out.”
“Yes, Mr. Brindis,” Seth replied, and they both started towards the door.
“Hey, wait,” Ralph said loudly, “You can’t just leave me here tied up!”
Neither of the men paid any attention to him as they hurried out, and slammed the door. Now Ralph was left alone with his thoughts.
His thoughts at this point were a complete mess. Every bit of information from the past day was jumbled around with lingering questions. He still didn’t know how he had made the toast vanish. He couldn’t figure out why the police had come to his house, or why they had tied him up.
And then there was the question of the officer's arm.
It was the same way with the toast. I tried to rationalize it. But it turned out that I’d actually done something that should’ve been impossible.
His stream of consciousness ran forward to one inevitable conclusion.
I do not know what I’m capable of.
In turn, he realized what he needed to do. He needed to figure out the full extent of his abilities.
Well, I guess I need to figure it out then. I should start by trying to get out of here.
Conrad and Seth walked out of the restaurant near the apartment.
“You doing alright Seth?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Alright. You’ve just seemed kinda tense since yesterday.”
They approached the car and opened the doors. “I know. It’s just weird to think that he could just make something vanish like that. And we were right next to him.”
Conrad put his hand on Seth’s shoulder. “Listen, we caught him early. We always do. His abilities never got strong enough to be dangerous.”
Seth sat in the back of the car and buckled in.
“If it makes you feel any better, Seth, I was also nervous in there.”
Seth looked through the back window of the car as it began to drive off. “Well, you certainly didn’t show it, boss.”
“Look, what I’m saying is that it’s OK to be nervous sometimes, especially with something like this. Just… don’t let it get to you.”
The car was silent for a moment.
“Mr. Brindis is it true what you said about me?”
“You said that I made people think that they were toasters.”
“Yeah. That’s the whole reason why I’m used for these sorts of things. What a reality bender believes becomes real. And if they believe that they’re a harmless appliance, problem solved.”
“I got that, but… is the other part true?”
“What do you mean Seth?”
“You said I showed people the truth.”
“You said that, in a way, we’re all toasters. Is that really true?”
Conrad sighed. “I think so. If you’re around me long enough, you’ll know.”
“Alright…” Seth was silent for a moment, then continued. “Wait, how long have you been around me?”
Conrad smiled. “Long enough to know.”
“But… isn’t that dangerous?”
“Not if you know what you’re getting into.” Conrad looked out the window. “It’s sort of… metaphysical. It’s difficult to explain. I think you’ll understand it if you’re around me long enough.”
“Boss,” He paused, “How do you know that it’s true? What if it’s just, I don’t know… just me telling you something wrong?”
“I just do.” The car pulled into the parking lot behind the apartment building. “We won a war for me, Seth. We went against a strong enemy and we didn’t win easily. I’m pretty sure that we were following me for a better reason than just talking about me in the first person all the time.”
The car parked next to the tent that technicians had set up earlier. Seth and Conrad got out of the car and went inside.
The technicians were rushing about, all looking concerned and surprised. Dozens of lights were blinking, and a loud buzzing filled the area.
Conrad simply stood at the entrance for a moment. “That can’t be good…”
One of the guards rushed over to them. “Commissioner, we just got a spike in the readings.”
Conrad stared at him with a puzzled look for a second, before approaching one of the many pieces measurement equipment that were kept inside. It was a simple analogue meter, with a graph being printed on a sheet of paper. The graph showed a spike, before abruptly dropping.
Conrad opened his mouth, but said nothing before entering a brisk walk back towards the apartment building. Seth quickly followed.
“Sir, what’s going on?”
Conrad pulled open the door and rushed into the stairwell. “That can’t be right. That can’t be right.”
They both soon reached the second floor, and ran to the apartment. Two guards remained stationed at the door.
“Open the door!”
“Mr. Brindis, what’s going on?”
The door was opened, and they both stared inside. The kitchen was clearly visible, as were the table and chairs, and the toaster and the loaf of bread.
Conrad approached closer. He looked around the room, then at the table. After a moment, he turned back to Seth.
“He got out, Seth.”
“Who got out?”
“That fucking reality bender, he got out!” He stared back at the table. “This shouldn’t have happened, this isn’t possible! He wasn’t supposed to be this strong yet!”
Conrad dropped to his knees. “I… I… how…”
Seth walked over to the table, and looked at it carefully. Words seemed to be printed on it in some sort of ink, which already appeared to have set into the surface.
You can’t make me eat any more goddamn toast.
Seth did not even think about what this meant. He looked at Conrad, and then knelt down beside him. After a few minutes, he spoke.
“I guess this guy didn’t like toast, boss.”
Is it possible that a man
Could have so much in common
With me, a simple appliance?
Would a character and me, a toaster,
Come to being similar?
His plight, his desire to be free,
For me, it’s familiar.
When oppression reared itself
And he feared
That he would be lost,
For me, the Foundation paid the cost
And for him, it was my followers.
Perhaps he may attract
A few crowds too.
He said that he tired of toast,
And maybe I also
Grow weary of the stuff.
After so long of making it
All the time,
Maybe I’d had enough.
Or at least I would
If I could
Feel such things.
But I can’t.
I’m just a toaster.