I’ll never understand why people put their lives and the lives of their children in the hands of machines, on a daily basis. They rely on nothing but the odds that something won’t go terribly wrong, just so that their lives can be a touch more convenient.

There are over 250,851,833 registered drivers in the United States of America alone. Of them, 4,000 people are driving drunk in the USA, at this very minute. There are more than 5,000 planes in the air at any given moment. Five thousand. All of them waiting to plummet to the earth in a plume of flame. Trust me when I say that all forms of transportation are just accidents waiting to happen.

But the fact that there are so many machines, all of them ready to slip up because of improper use or just bad luck, is not the reason that I refuse to board an airplane or drive in a car. It is not the reason I live in a small town in Illinois. It’s not the reason that I don’t take buses and have never set foot on a train. Those are not the reasons this computer is the only piece of technology that I use. After all, washing machines and dishwashers can explode. Or break and flood, and if any water reached the electrical circuit, I could be fried.

I know that those things can kill me, so I don’t own any of them, and I never use any of them. I walk to work, I climb the stairs. No one lives with me, I can’t imagine that anyone would. But being lonely is better than being dead.

What you may ask, is the origin of my paranoia? What is responsible for a lifestyle most people in my country would call extreme? There is a menagerie of answers; fate, superstition, self-preservation, etc. But the root of my fear, the crux of my problem, is most undoubtedly my grandfather.

My father would often take me and my brother Mike to the resting home, to visit my grandfather. And, of course, to sneak in alcohol. My father was a great man, he didn't like leaving my grandfather there, but my mother said it was too small in our house to accommodate his presence. I know that she detested his drinking, and considered him a poor influence on me and my brother.

Maybe he was.

I miss him all the same.

But whenever we smuggled in the liquor, he would be so happy. Laughing and jostling us, up until his third or fourth swig of course. Right around then, he would start to go quiet, staring off into nothingness, as his eyes grew moist. Then he would start to tell me and Mike a story. It was always a story about our family. He would always begin the same way. “Our family’s cursed…” Then he would tell us a story which explained why we were cursed.

Sometimes he would describe the wreckage of his mother, how her body had been squashed by the sheer force of the elevator crash. How she had been almost entirely turned to a bloody paste by the snapping of a simple wire.

He would go on to describe how at the funeral, his father had begun screaming like a lunatic. Telling his wife's pallbearers that "the little men" had caused this atrocity and that they had to be stopped at all costs. That they had infiltrated the nation.

I never met my great-grandfather, he died in an institution as far as I know.

Sometimes it would be about what happened to my uncle, who was on a 747 flight that crashed into the sea. He explained that they were so far from land, that any passengers and crew who survived the initial crash, would die of exhaustion, attempting to swim to safety. I had a nightmare not long after, about being there at the crash. I was buckled into one of the plane seats, unable to get out as the plane filled with water and people began to asphyxiate around me.

I pissed the bed because of that nightmare.

On one of our later visits he reached under his pillow and brought out a photo of our grandmother. He cradled the vintage photo, as though he could truly protect her from the world. I only ever got one good look at that photo, but I can remember it perfectly.

She was a beautiful woman. Soft cheeks, and lovely brown locks; I would have loved to meet her. He didn't tell us her story that time. He waited a couple years.

When he finally did tell us, I found it to be the saddest story I knew. She had been about to give birth when the taxi which was supposed to take her to the hospital popped a tire and slammed into a shop. It exploded, setting the building on fire. My grandmother had been pregnant with my aunt at the time, she had been going through labor. He told us that he had rushed out of work as soon as he heard the news. But had been mortified when he arrived at the hospital, and she wasn't there. He would stay perfectly stoic as he described his terror and confusion turning to grief and sorrow when he finally heard the news. How he had taken our father from class and explained what had happened.

The second time he recounted his wife's the story, he included the detail that the driver of the taxi had survived, albeit half blind and crippled. And that when he spoke to the driver, the handicapped man had raved about hearing giggling while trying to pull himself out of the wreck. The taxi driver had blamed The Devil for the giggling. My grandfather had known better but no said.

And then, once in a blue moon, he would tell us about his father. He blamed it all on his father, called him a bastard and worse, saying that he was to blame for the “family curse.” He said that my great grandfather, who had flown planes in WWII, had fired upon Japanese civilians. He called his father a ruthless gunner and claimed that he had deserved to fate he was rewarded. Apparently, my great-grandfather's plane had malfunctioned while coming in for a landing and crashed. This malfunction caused my great-grandfather to be stranded behind enemy lines and be driven near mad by the labor and hunger enforced by his captors. So when he returned home, the veteran was a changed man.

My father rarely allowed his to become more than tipsy in our presence. But when my grandfather grew drunk, he would tell entirely different kinds of stories. He would mesmerize me and my brother with tales of "gremlins", little buggers which his father told him about in the years following his career with the US air force.

A pilot in WWI, my great-great-grandfather had sparked the obsession in my grandfather, and by proxy helped instill the fear into me. My great-grandfather relayed that they were responsible for most mechanical failures, to his son. He described gremlins as tiny buggers who could hide in the tightest places, due to their small and slender frame. He claimed that they enjoyed gnawing on wires, rupturing pipes, and snapping cords. The worst part was that they did it just so that they could watch as humans were injured and murdered by their sabotage.

The creatures rarely tracked a particular person or group, but if a human showed incredible brutality, they honed in on it and followed their bloodline. Oh and occasionally, their family as well. This explains why they were most often seen near battlefields and became less widespread after the atrocities of the First and Second World Wars.

My grandfather always grew sullen when he described how they viewed humans as playthings. His descriptions of their huge, black eyes, was enough to keep me awake long after I should have been asleep. However, for all their ingenious cruelty, my grandfather didn't seem to blame the gremlins for the misery in his life. He was much more adamant that the death which followed our family around like a hungry dog, was in fact, a result of his father's slaughtering.

Unlike me, my brother never believed in the creatures or the curse. He said it was a load of crap, created by our, “crazy old grandfather.”

He called me mad when I approached him following our father’s funeral and tried to convince him that the truck which crashing into our father’s house had been orchestrated by the gremlins. I must admit that I could have phrased the theory in a way that sounded less ludicrous, but my brother would have brushed it aside either way.

He didn't respect the old powers. The creatures which lurk around every corner and have evolved since we worshiped them in our caves. He thought that we humans are the dominant race, that we rule the planet with infallible technology.

Despite his refusal to accept the truth, Mike was a good man. He was an orderly and tried to work his way up the ranks, with ambitions of one day being a doctor. I was very saddened when the ambulance he was driving was in crashed, killing him, and the two orderlies with him. The crash helped justify my paranoia, but not as much as the patient in the back of the ambulance. Through some twist of fate, he survived the crash. According to the nurse who attended him, he muttered something about “Little men” before falling unconscious. He hasn't woken up since, trapped in a trauma-induced coma.

Written by Beetle bub
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