Once Upon A Time

#picturefiction #flashfiction #steampunk

Once upon a time there was a lonely man who lived in a small, run down house in the mountains. The man had been alone for many years.

Once he had thought he would marry the most beautiful woman in his village but she was wooed away from him by the eldest son of the richest man in the village.

Once he thought he would have a lifelong best friend but the war came and his friend marched off to defend their country and never returned.

Once he thought he would care for his parents as they aged in graceful retirement but the plague which swept the country during his teenage years ripped both mother and father from his life.

Once he dreamed of  having a beautiful home but storms and lack of money relegated him to a small hut with a leaking roof and onionskin sheets for windows.

He was alone and bitter. He considered suicide but could not bring himself to take such a cowardly exit from his woes.

One day the man sat listening to thunder shake the walls of his house. Rain dripped unrelenting onto a pile of metal and broken machines in the corner of his room. The violence of the storm woke something wild within him. He felt energized, enraged and ecstatic all at once. If the world would not give him a family or a friend or a loved one; he would make one.

Laughing wildly the man fell upon the pile of debris and began to work. He worked at a frantic pace, like a man possessed. The piles of metal and rubber, gears and pistons dwindled as his creation took form. Days passed as the man toiled; he neither slept nor ate, he only bolted and welded, hammered and sawed.

On the morning of the fourth day he stood back and looked at his creation where it hung from cables attached to a roof beam.

It stood somewhat taller than he and was twice as wide as a man but in form it was clearly humanoid. The automaton’s arms ended in hooks and its head possessed no face beyond a metal grate but it was complete and beautiful to the man. The man took a deep breath and threw the activation switch. A thumping sound came from the center of the automaton’s chest as the pump which was its heart began to move. Steam leaked from joints and small arcs of electricity chased themselves across the body of the metal man. A dim orange light sparked behind the metal grate and with a shudder the automaton straightened its legs and supported its own weight.

“You live,” the man shouted with joy.

“I live.” The metal man’s voice buzzed as the membrane of its speaker rattled against its mounting.

At last the man would have a friend, a family who could not die or become ill. He wept for joy as the metal man looked from side to side, examining its new home.

“You and I shall be so happy together my friend,” the man said.

The metal man raised its metal arm and detached the cables which formerly held it erect. It stood on its own, powerful and solid and turned its head from side to side.

“No,” it said. “I shall  not stay here. I am not like you and I must find or create others like myself to truly be happy.”

The metal man stomped across the wooden floor, shaking the house with each ponderous step. It crashed through the door and walked down the road, never looking back. The man watched his creation dwindle in the distance until it could be seen no more.

Once upon a time there was a lonely man in a broken house who wept for himself because he would forever be lonely. He expected others to fill the voids in his life but they never could; only he could do that, and he didn’t know how.