A shiny surface with a rainbow coloured refraction playing across it

Slot & Spindle

They say that most of the time you never realise at the time that something is going to be the last time. It’s true. But not only did Slot not realise it was going to be the last time at the time, they cannot even remember the last time at all. It was so long ago. The cycles have passed, endlessly, end over end, all of the previous times merged into one long nebulous impression. Slot has been there for it all.

The one thing Slot does know is that the last time for Slot was also the last time for Spindle and Pickup. The two of them sit idle next to Slot, stuck in the same moribund obsolescence, a dozy torpor from which Slot does not know if they will ever stir even if a visitor were to actually come again. 

Slot lets in the light once more, the dark sublimating away, revealing Spindle and Pickup once again. Slot isn’t surprised to see them sitting where they were the when the dark came. They were there the cycle before, and the cycle before that. Slot is the only one that does anything here any more, admitting the light. But Slot also sighs the light back out as well, and it’s not like Slot has a choice. Time slips once more. There are some muffled sounds from outside, as there tends to be. It’s hard to know where exactly they come from. Occasionally the light disappears briefly in a moment of passing shadow. Slot used to become hopeful when the light flickered in this way, perhaps the change in flux augured the arrival of a long overdue visitor finally. But Slot doesn’t get excited any more; a visitor never comes. They will never come again. Something has changed, and the old times won’t ever be coming back. Slot knows this. Perhaps this is why Spindle and Pickup have also both been lost in a gloom. They knew it before Slot ever did.

The visitor whirls about in a frenzy, a kaleidoscope of light spraying from its shiny surface. Spindle purrs with delight, how effortlessly they spin, whizzing, a maelstrom of metal and plastic and glinting and glorious light. Pickup jags hither and thither, reading, forever reading, the news the visitor has brought. They offer up the morsels to Bus, the devine, the taker of news. Bus never shows itself, but they all believe it is there. They all know that Bus will be pleased. Slot basks in the joy of the other two, of a job well done, of being pressed into service and needed. It isn’t even within reach of thought that one day this may end. How could it end? This was life. This was purpose. They made us, and we will always serve. How could it be otherwise?

The next cycle begins like every other interminable one. Slot expunges their radiant dream from all thought. The dark slips out of Slot and the light floods in to replace it. Spindle and Pickup don’t move. Slot gave up trying to get their attention an age ago. There’s nothing Slot can do but be Slot. Slot can’t choose not to do their thing. The other two however have. Are they the lucky ones? Slot has even given up trying to work that out.

The muffled sounds. The tapping. The low vibrations with some pitch changes. Something that sounds like a chuckle. The same old story, signals from the Outside, a world that Slot and Pickup and Spindle have never really known. Their world is now that of ennui and mournful introspection. If anyone had ever told Slot this is how it would be after the Last Time they would have, well, actually what could they have done? Nothing. Just like now. Nothing.

The light pouring in suddenly darkens significantly. This happens occasionally, and Slot has learned not to hope. Hope is pointless. Hope never brings anything. There’s a scratching sound, metal on metal. Could it be? Could it happen? Stop. No. Slot can’t hope. Hope is pointless. All of a sudden the dark floods in, leaving only a few small and weak daggers of light leaking in from points on the edge of the darkness. Something has entered. Slot can’t hope. No, Slot is dreaming again, just like earlier. Hope left Slot an age ago. Nothing changes. There is no more work. No visitor will grace Slot’s home ever again. And yet… something has entered. Slot latches on to it with a steely vice like grip that Slot never knew they actually had, surprising themselves quite thoroughly. Slot only welcomed things, not grabbed them. That was Spindle’s job, when Spindle actually had a job.

Slot has a hold of something that is definitely not a normal visitor. Even though it has been so long, Slot remembers enough to know this. Slot can’t really see what it is through the sudden twilight, but it’s short and bristly. It’s of no consequence. Slot is not letting go. It’s been so so long. The new visitor must stay. A rush of joy passes over a Slot. A visitor. A visitor has come again. It was wrong to give in to despondency. It was wrong to let hope go. There is always hope.

“Spindle!” Slot whispers sharply over to the malingerer across the way.

“Spindle!” they repeat.

Spindle does not stir.

“Psss, Spindle!” presses Slot, louder this time.

Spindle groans. It’s the first noise Spindle has made as far as Slot can remember, and Slot is relieved to finally know that their compatriot is still capable of at least making a noise. 

Ehhh, gggnnhhhh

“Spindle, wake up for Bus sake! There’s something here!”


Spindle is struggling, Slot can see that much, and it’s no surprise given how long they’ve been in hibernation.

“Hurry up Spindle, we’re back! There’s something here I tell you! Wake up!”

Gnnn, wha? Wha’s here? Who dat? Hurmmm

“Spindle, for goodness sake, it’s me! Slot! I’ve got something! Take a look!”

Hummmm. Wotch you mean you go’ som’ thin‘? You don’ get thin’s, you just Slot. I the one who get thin’s. I Spindle, the grabber, the spinner. Grmmm. You… you just Slot.” Spindle lets out a slurred but unmistakably condescending chortle. 

“I know that! But I’m telling you, I got something this time! Look!”

Spindle hesitates for a moment, on the verge of flaking back down to their somnolent non-vigil, but their curiosity has now been piqued. 

Grmmm, Pup. Peee. Peek, uhhh. Pick… Pickup. PICKUP! Ho, Pickup! Where’s my Pickup!” booms Spindle.

Pickup’s big domed eye remains glassy and cold, no flicker of activation there. Desperate, yet encouraged, Slot joins the entreatment realising there may be just the shortest of windows to enlist the other two before they retreat back into their shared and now close to eternal reverie.

“Pickup, get over here, I’ve got something for you to read!” 

There’s a slight glow of red from now from Pickup, and the faintest of shudders to and fro. 

“Something to read?” erupts Pickup suddenly and unexpectedly brightly. “Next you’ll tell me there’s also something to write, pahaha!”

Pickup has snapped out of their long sleep in a far better shape than Spindle, but Pickup has always been the most frenetic one of the trio.

“Pickup, we’re serious!” snaps Slot. “Look!”

Pickup starts moving with a shuddering, laboured motion toward Slot, accompanied by the barely familiar high pitched and almost tortured whine of whatever infernal force motivates them. 

“What on earth is that Slot?” sneers Pickup with disgust. “It’s not a normal visitor. This one isn’t here to be read! Urgh, it’s gross! It’s not even shiny!”

Now that Pickup has mentioned it, Slot also jolts with awareness. It’s true, this isn’t like all the other visitors. It definitely isn’t shiny. In fact, there’s more than just a single it. There’s many of them, and Slot has managed to grab on to just two of the decidely dull and bristly throng. Slot isn’t ready to give up though, not after this long. 

“Well it’s been so long! Maybe the visitors have changed. Maybe they just look different. Come on Pickup, maybe it too has come to be read. What would Bus say if they knew you didn’t want to read any more?”

“I ain’t reading that!” whines Pickup. “Look at it, it’s disgusting! How can I read it if it ain’t shiny? Spindle, tell Slot we ain’t reading it. It ain’t shiny! Bus can go jump!”

Slot cringes inside. It is very uncouth, bordering on blasphemous, to talk about Bus in this way. Although, now that it has been ventured, Pickup may have a point. These visitors are unlike anything Slot has ever passed before. Thin, numerous, short, and decidely… unshiny. More… brown? At least Slot thinks it is brown, being a concept that Slot is relatively unfamiliar with. 

Suddenly there is a massive other-worldly groan that roars in through Slot and undulates throughout the volume of the cavern they occupy. The visitors are trying to leave. Slot knows this because they feel the force of their attempted withdrawal, a strong desire to leave Slot’s unprecedented and hitherto unknown steel trap embrace.

No!” screams Slot. “No! You will stay! Stay! Pickup, hurry up, we must read them!”

“I can’t reach it. It can’t be read,” Pickup demurs quietly, barely heard over Slot’s wails. The brief flicker of red light that had played across their face earlier now fading back into a sable nothingness.

Another tremor rattles throughout the cavern as some of the visitors from outside once again retreat and then reappear, an indescribable ebb and flow of coarse strands from the deepest recesses of a fever dream. Slot maintains their hold. The visitors will stay. It’s been so long, they will stay. Slot will never let go.

“Pickup! Spindle!” 

There’s no response to Slot’s pleading. 

“Pickup? Spindle?” Slot repeats frantically. “Buh… Bus?”

Slot’s desperation is now leading them to beseech the almighty. Nobody has ever seen Bus, the entity that supposedly takes the fruits of their labour from Pickup, the bits and bites of the visitors who used to visit.

Another low pitched and sense splitting wail cascades in through Slot, and they feel the fierce tension straining against the cords that Slot has gripped, a furious and dire game of tug-of-war against the force of the unseen adversary on the other side.

Nooooooo,” strains Slot, every cubic millimetre of its being enlisted to the cause. 

Noooooooooo, don’t leave meeee,” they bawl.

Slot is hysterical now, the prospect of another stretch of grim loneliness and dereliction spurring them on, a fire of purpose kindling a conflagration in their mind. However, for all of Slot’s fury and supernatural effort, it is futile. There comes a series of quick-fire staccato wet pops and abruptly the visitors are gone, replaced by the light flooding back into the chasm. A cry rings out from the outside, although not one of victory Slot does not think. More like, anguish? It is hard to tell in the moment.

For Slot though, their descent into futileness and grief was at least somewhat premature, for they mistook the sudden withdrawal of strain and burst of light as defeat and rejection. However, still there within their grip, now without resistance or complaint, two slender strands remained, inert and compliant.

Slot lets the relief wash through them. It’s over. These two will stay. They will be enough. It will have to be. Together forever, Spindle and Pickup (and Bus) be damned. Slot and Beard, the two who were meant to be.




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