I wrote “Vacuum” from The Onion, November 15, 1988
Under the byline Mike Evans, because we used a lot of fake names back in those days instead of the current “no bylines” policy. The first year of The Onion had a lot more “creative writing” in it. Only the front page story was a “fake news” article. Inside, the stories varied stylistically, and sometimes not even “funny”, but often just plain weird, and occasionally unsettling. Important caveat: I’m 90% certain I wrote this, but my memory of things from thirty years ago isn’t perfect and we used fake names for our bylines, which in retrospect seems to have been a bad idea.
When I’d finished with work that night, I headed home to cook myself dinner, toting the shop’s vacuum cleaner with me. It was an Eureka Deluxe Vibra-beat, model number 842, built low to the ground and saucer shaped with wheels and a metallic extension hose four feet long. The main body of the machine was turquoise. It was a majestic beast, and just what I needed to sweep up my dusty studio.
I walked home briskly, with a spring in my step, tilted just slightly to the left under the weight of my borrowed burden. The sun, just beginning to set, painted the sky ablaze in autumn splendor.
Turning up State Street towards the capitol, I felt a surge of fear, as if all eyes were upon me. I looked around. They were. Everyone had stopped going about their business and had turned to stare at me and my borrowed turquoise Eureka.
I flipped the selector to Dusting/Upholstery and held the extension hose like a weapon, tightly gripped in my hand, held ready to strike. The crowd in front of me moved backwards, keeping just out of my reach.
Behind me I heard, “He won’t do it. Let’s rush him.”
I swung around in time to glare at the heckler. I flipped the selectgor to Curtains/Draperies and engaged the Vibra-beat. He turned pale, spun, and disappeared into the crowd.
“Let’s not anyone try any heroics,” I said loudly to the gathering throng. “I’m gonna pass through, now, so keep your distance and no one gets hurt.” I made sure that everyone close enough saw the Dust Bag Indicator and knew I meant business.
The crowd parted and I made my way up the street, slowly, keeping my eyes on any potential assailants. The crowd was made up of gawkers who shrank away at first sight of my fearsome weapon. No one here actually meant any harm. I was feeling safer and safer.
The crowd opened up on Gorham Street to reveal a lone man — a behemoth — standing in the intersection. Traffic had stopped. The lights changed from red to green to yellow to red, subserviently, recursively, unaware they were no longer being regarded. More important events were afoot here.
The stranger was tall and heavy. Most of his frame was made up of ages of American beer, dorm living and meatball sandwiches. His arms were like tree trunks. His neck was the symptom of some horrible thyroid disease: thick and bulging. It came up from a torso of sickening proportions.
He looked down at me and my Eureka, model number 842, with that horrible visage, slandering my character ina number of different ways and describing the things he’d do with my severed limbs. I could see he’d never eaten a good breakfast in his entire life; it showed in his attitude. He looked like a combination of every person who had ever beaten me up in high school.
This was it. This was the final confrontation.
I checked the settings on my Eureka. I notched the selector up to Rugs/Floors and sent maximum power to the Vibra-beat. I took a deep breath and tightened the fittings on the extension rod. I took a step forward.
“I’m gonna rip your head off, pull out your throat and blow smoke into your lungs, you hippy!” he screamed. Each step he took mauled the street; cracks exploded out from his feet as they bludgeoned the ground beneath him.
I held my ground. Tightly gripping the extension rod with one hand, I waited for him to come a little bit closer.
When he reached the end of my shadow, I threw the Eureka’s switch. I let him have it. The deadly beam of energy hit him full in the chest. He screamed agonizingly and melted horribly into the pavement, clawing at my shadow, reaching for me, still trying to rip my kidneys out through my ears.
I powered down the Eureka. I took a deep breath to settle my adrenaline level to something that resembled normal.
The crowd was beginning to disperse as the sun went down behind me.
I went home and fed the cats.