By David R Casto
Lightning. It always starts that way, with lightning on a stormy night. Maybe that aesthetic aids in the spell crafting, but it’s always like this. The maker throws the lever, lightning becomes power that makes something made of many different parts into one sentient thing, for however long that may be.
Or at least that is how that usually goes. I was once a thing made of other things, and I remain, generally speaking, the same as I was when my storm had come. I help make the things from other things, for no other reason that he requires me to. I don’t want to be a party to this, not really. I don’t think I want anything, but I do what he asks, whatever that is, whenever it is asked of me.
Other than that, I stand just outside the workshop, in a shed filled with rusting metal bits and jars of preserved not metal bits. For some of the time that I am physically here, I am not here, or anywhere, but I cease to be until he comes and tells me something. Other times, I am very much here, alone with these parts of what could be siblings if I thought of them as such. He thinks of them that way, I don’t really think about them at all.
I know exactly how many siblings I have, how many I worked on for him, and that all of them failed. Sometimes it only was awake for a small amount of time, minutes or hours. Sometimes a few days. A small number of times they lasted a few weeks, but all failed, other than me. I am the only one to have been going for exactly three years, six months, seventeen days, nine hours, forty-two minutes. Forty-three minutes.
Today has been a day where I wasn’t for most of it. Even when I’m not me, when I am no longer myself, I still know how long it’s been since I was created, and thus how long it’s been since I was last myself. Forty-four minutes.
I wake strapped to the slab, where I was the first time I woke, the day my storm brought me to this awakening. Three years, six months, seventeen days, nine hours, forty-four minutes ago. I look down to my body, metal tarnished but utterly functional, perfect in a way that clearly my maker wanted to find in flesh as well as metal.
To my left is flesh, lifeless and grey. Male, above the torso appears in it’s mid to late twenties, but who knows what the maker did to it below that, he is so fond of changing things around. I, myself, have several parts that are younger than the rest of me. I flex my right hand, some of those digits are only one year, two months, four days, thirty minutes old.
There is a storm brewing. I can always feel the storm coming, the static on the air feeling almost like potential, smelling like possibilities. I don’t know where these thoughts, emotions, come from, but I have them.
The runes have been drawn on the walls of the workshop, in blood and oil, the former dried brown and the latter still glistening. Copper wires cover pillars that lead up to the glass dome on the roof of this tower. Far away from everyone and everything, surrounded by woods, no one has even stumbled onto this place. At least no one I am aware of.
There’s a ding, and the sound of metal scraping slightly on metal. I can’t move enough to look, but I know what it is, the maker leaving the freight elevator from the basement. He sings to himself.
“Backe, backe Kuchen, Der Bäcker hat gerufen! Wer will gute Kuchen backen, Der muss haben sieben Sachen: Eier und Schmalz, Butter und Salz, Milch und Mehl, Safran macht den Kuchen gel’!”
The maker has a thing for nursery rhymes. He says it has something to do with the creation of things. I don’t understand him, but it’s not for me to understand, I think. Well, I understand him, I understand all the languages that the maker does, all four of them, but not the reason why he’s currently singing about baking a cake.
“…gelb. Schieb in den Ofen ‘rein.” In a slightly different tone, “Morgen muss er fertig sein.”
He goes to work attaching electrodes to the body, singing to himself. He pulls a pole forward, hanging two bags filled with yellow liquids. I know every chemical in those bags, but I don’t know why they are used, and more to the point, I don’t know why they don’t work.
Thunder booms, and I can tell the maker is getting excited by the pitch in his voice. “Backe, backe Kuchen, der Bäcker hat gerufen, hat gerufen die ganze Nacht, Anton hat Keinen Teig gebracht, kriegt er auch kein’ Kuchen.”
I pay attention now. The maker names all his creations, everything he makes, even if it doesn’t work, is named before he throws the switch. Each thing gets a different name alphabetically, going through the roman alphabet then starting again at the beginning. I’m Anton. He was singing about me. I think. The only time he uses my name is to get my attention, to issue an order.
He began his song again, turning to me and pulling out cables, attaching them to the various contact points on my chassis. Now the hum I felt in the air was so much more intense. It’s been two months, eight days, twenty hours, eight minutes since the last time I felt a storm like this, and another seventeen days, two hours, forty-seven minutes since I got to feel it directly on my contacts. It was almost too enjoyable, if such a thing existed.
“Soon, my dear Anton, you will be my dream made flesh, you will feel and breathe and know what it is to be alive.”
I don’t have anything to say to this. I can talk, there are parts in me that vibrate to create sounds, but I only ever use them to report information that is asked of me, and I think this is only because the maker dislikes the quiet of the workshop.
“Soon, you will be real and alive, you will be the son that I have made, alone, and I will be made as God.”
Thunder again, closer, louder. The energy is slowly rising in the air, not enough for anything biological to feel but I can notice the most minute changes in the weather and I start to feel emotions again.
A flesh body. I don’t know what that would be like. Not as myself anyway. I know what it is like to have a flesh body, as I have spent so much time looking over, dissecting, and stitching back together the flesh form that I know exactly how biology works. But I figure there is more to it, to have a form that blinks and breathes and thinks, and I don’t know why anyone would want, for themselves and much less still to curse someone else with it.Yet, the maker wishes me to take on mortal form, and it is mine to do as the maker wants, but I can’t stop myself from feeling something new. Fear.
Everything about me, the copper sphere that has acid etched runes that make my power conduit, the square pyramid that makes a head, steel with sensory formulae in silver filigree allowing me to see at all four cardinal directions at once, everything doesn’t want to be made flesh, doesn’t want to live as the maker does, to dies as he will. I, however, do not resist, I can not, as much as magic brought me from storm and things into what I am, magic makes me be whatever the maker wishes me to be. I try to cease to be, but cannot.
“No Anton,” the maker says absentmindedly. “It is not yet time for sleep, we are busy and working. Soon you will know the truth of sleep, though, soon enough.”
The maker misunderstands why I wish to no longer be. I don’t want to rest, I never require it. I wish to not feel what I feel, to feel any of it, I want to just, be still until it is time for me to serve once more. I do not want this.
Lightning can be seen flashing in the sky over the glass dome, and the pitter patter of rain begins to fall onto it. Even over the ruckus of the workshop, of the gears and the machine of the ritual, I can feel the vibrations of the glass, each rain drop. Soon, the storm would be close enough for the maker the let fly the rods and catch the lightning that will power all this once more.
I consider my end, in that moment, as the maker pulls up a machine I have never seen together but know all the parts to have been cannibalized from other failed projects like myself. I never considered that one moment I will cease to be permanently. I knew that all of the makers other creations have failed, and there have been ones that were older than myself, but I know that in the way that I know my own construction, and if I had to, I could make another like myself, though it would be prohibitively difficult to do the fine creation with my current level of dexterity. But now I think about the end of myself as the end of my existence, and fear that as well.
Cables are plugged into ports all over my chassis, connected to a helmet of copper that the maker pushes down onto the head of the corpse. His seventh rendition of his song ends, and he smiles down at me. The room darkens, the light from the moon covered completely now by clouds, lightning and thunder coming at such a quick session that the storm must be directly above the tower at this point.
“Dear Anton, how long have you been operational?”
“Three years, six months, seventeen days, ten hours, twenty-six minutes.” I say before thinking about it. The sound that is my voice is cold and rings and airless.
“And after today, you will not just be operational, you will live!” With that, the maker runs to switchboard and pushes buttons and flips a switch. The dome above pens, rain falling down onto all of us. With a muffled thud, a trio of spring loaded rods fire nearly a hundred feet up into the air. I felt the energy come to a head, then lightning struck, energy charged the machines, and another switch was thrown.
Three years, six months, seventeen days, ten hours, twenty-seven minutes, fifteen seconds.
That’s how long I’ve been what I am.
I can feel that changing.
I can feel what I am becoming less.
The corpse jolts, shakes, and spasms.
It’s eyes open, and mouth gapes, gasping.
I can see what it sees.
I can see through his eyes, I am seeing through his eyes and I am seeing through my visual arrays.
I can feel his feelings. The coldness of the slab, the restraints cutting into it’s….his…my skin. Fear, it fills my mind and I’m not sure what is going on, what is happening to me, why am I here, oh god it hurts.
I lose track of time. For the first time in my existence, I have lost track of time, and I fade to black.
I wake up in my bed, sheets a damp tangle around myself. I shake, and it takes me a moment to figure out why. I had a nightmare, something I’ve had before. The table and the mad scientist. I can see dawn just beyond the storm clouds, it had rained last night, one of those sudden things that crop up in summer. Throwing my hand over to the bedside table, I knock over the used Asimov anthology I was reading before bed last night as I blindly look for and find my glasses. I look at the time, and see that I have class in two hours, “Mechanics of Manipulation”.
My first few weeks in my robotics courses seem to be going well, when I’m not strung out on parties and weird dreams. I shower, and when I get to class, my friends are hanging out in front of the hall.
“Congratulations Anton!” Lisa says, throwing confetti up into the air. It lands all over my hair and in the grass around, earning an ire filled look from a nearby groundskeeper. The others circle around me, hugging me.
“What, what? Why? What happened?”
“Silly man, it’s your anniversary of your first day of high school when you came over from Germany, when we all met. How’d you forget the trip over from Das Vaterland?”
“Ha, I don’t know, must have slipped my mind. So how long ago was that?”
Cory, a slight little guy with a brain like a computer pipes up. “If my memory serves, and it always does, it’s been three years, six months, seventeen days, ten hours, and twenty-six minutes.” He checks his watch, one of those old calculator ones. “Ah, wait, twenty-seven minutes.”
I shiver, and somewhere far off, thunder rolls. They pull me over the the coffee kiosk and shower me with baked good gifts, and an old nursery rhyme my father used to sing to me finds it’s way into my mind.
“Backe, backe Kuchen, Der Bäcker hat gerufen…..”