|Image by John Uhri|
Edits by me
Pot holes line the road to the Vertigo City Yard of Scrap Metal. I bounce around inside the hand cart whenever the front wheel finds a rut. Jones whistles a mournful tune as he cajoles the cart along the pitted track. The servant begged his master not to dispose of me, but Mr Pickard was not to be prevailed upon. I am not entirely surprised. What master would allow a servant to keep a battered and broken automaton found in the street near a known lair of the Meat Beast? Indeed, Jones made several impassioned pleas on my behalf, promising Mr Pickard that he could repair the damage. Yet here I find myself, riding in the hand cart. I fancy I hear a funeral dirge nestled inside Jones' melody.
A portly man in an ill-fitting jacket sits in a small booth beside the gate. A tiny pork pie hat perches on his bald head. He clutches a newspaper more than a week old inside his beefy fist.
"What've yer got?" he asks.
"An automaton," replies Jones.
"What's wrong wi' it?" asks the guard. He sniffs the air, looking for all the world like an overweight yet suspicious rabbit.
"A few dents, some scrapes...mostly its internal damage to the mechanism. It looks like he was thrown against a wall, y'see, and-"
"Well, it. I've tried to repair it but Mr Pickard insisted I leave it here," says Jones. The threat of tears thickens his voice.
"Best place fer it then. In yer go," said the guard. He waved us past his booth with the ageing newspaper.
Jones leaves me lying in the cart as he opens the gate. The guard sits back in his booth, his bulk spilling over the waistband of his bulging trousers. Such a man is allowed to feast with impunity, and yet I am to be discarded through no fault of my own? Vertigo City was once a place of fairness, though this is no longer the case. I wonder when I developed the capacity to feel. My maker did not install such abilities.
The servant wheels the cart into the yard. Towering piles of rusting metal rise either side of us, threatening to blot out the sun. Forgotten machines of industry cluster near the gate, and piles of scrap rise and fall like rolling hills of twisted metal. Bronze arms and legs stick up among the junk, reaching for a saviour that will not come. I regard my own brass limbs with nostalgia. How long will it be before I too become buried, my arms the only part of me to witness the sun?
Jones pushes the cart a short way up a low pile. He pauses and tips me onto the slope. Toothless cogs grind against the metal of my torso, while rusting blades scrape my limbs. Jones looks down at my prone form and lets out a single sob. He turns and runs down the slope, hauling the cart behind him.
I lie on my bed of scrap, staring up at the sky. Bilious grey clouds loom above me, grumbling to one another in thundery tones. I longed to see the sky when I worked for the Resistance. I think of brick-lined tunnels far below the City, devoid of sunlight and air. I remember the savage attack of the Beast, and dragging myself above ground. I sought my maker, and salvation, yet I found only abandonment. A drop of oil wells up beneath the rim of my eye lamp.
A fat raindrop explodes against my exposed torso. Another hits my face, chasing the droplet of oil across my cheek. Raindrops hit my eye lamps and I curse the sky for her cruelty. The water will surely damage what circuits I have left, and I picture myself as an empty carcass, spotted with rust. I wish the Meat Beast had not so thoroughly destroyed my vocal mechanics. Without my voice box, I cannot beg for release.
A crash and a clatter disturb my silent prayer. I cannot turn my head to see but the splintering of glass and the rending of metal is enough. Something is coming for me, though I know not what. Is this to be the end of me? Oh, let it be so, for I cannot take this slow descent into decay and ruin.
Two figures lean over me, blocking the rain. One is a collection of scrap metal in the rough form of a man. Cogs stare at me in the place of eyes, and it stretches out fingers of pistons and spark plugs. The fading light streams through the other as it stretches multi-coloured wings of broken glass.
I do not know how much time passes but twilight streaks the sky when they finish their repairs. I sit up, and look around. The sea of scrap no longer looks as melancholy as it did. I flex my fingers, pistons hissing at my knuckles. Clockwork beats within my chest. My voice box is beyond repair, but I can move. I am myself again. I am Four.
The gates of the junkyard screech open. The angel of broken glass gestures to the freedom beyond. I shake my head, and delight in the new range of movement. I cannot leave. I will remain here, a guardian of the junkyard. I will protect the angels, and help others. I will save as I have been saved.
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