Friday 12th March
The keys opened every door in the house, except the small wooden door at the end of the hall…
The keys opened every door in the house, except the small wooden door at the end of the hall. It was a special door, opened on the rarest of occasions. Peter moved to the door, balancing a tray in his hand. The candle flickered in the draught as he entered and set it down. Methodically he arranged the various tools and canisters.
He looked towards the end of the bench to a carved wooden face, life-like in the shadows. The fine lines of a woman’s face were in sharp relief, but the eyes were closed. She sat on an elevated chair, dressed in simple clothing. The fine craftsmanship showed signs of decrepitude in the wood. Cracks had appeared like veins as the wood dried with no lacquer to replenish its moisture.
Peter brought the candle closer and began to undo the muslin blouse. Pulling a miniature skeleton key from his breast pocket he unlocked the chest cavity. With measured routine Peter began the process of reanimation. Drawing water from the basin he filled the small boiler. Dry tinder and kindling were nestled into the fireplace and ignited by the candle. While the steam built pressure in the boiler, Peter oiled, dropping precious blood onto seized joints and cogs. He shovelled coal with a hand trowel and monitored the valves. As the pressure increased he slowly opened valves and waited for the life to spark.
Wooden eyelids creaked open, revealing dark orbs like coal.
“Hello Marion,” said Peter.
“Hello great-grandfather,” said Marion.
“I suppose I really should call you my great-grandmother.”
“It is easier for you not to. When I do not age as you do, it does not really matter.”
“I remember watching you being made. I was but a boy, huddled behind the forge and the workbench as I watched wood transformed. The smell of the shaven oak and the young saplings of maple are always there when I wake you up.”
Peter monitored the valves and pressure, careful not to reanimate fully. He had achieved consciousness, but did not want to have Marion access her memories.
“Why was I made?” said Marion.
“You are the memory of my great-grandfather’s wife who died in the winter famine of 2126.”
“The winter has indeed set in. It has been far too many years that winter has closed its grip and appears to not to want to let go. You have awoken me for a purpose?”
Peter’s busyness with the tools prompted speculation.
“I am aware of my decay and that my legs have been removed for some reason that has not been explained. This is to be my decommissioning, is it not?”
Peter could not look her in the eyes. “Yes.
I took a very different tact with this prompt. I went post-apocalyptic, with an attempt at speculative fiction and steam punk.
There is a pun on Marion’s name, an abbreviation of Marionette, as she is an automaton, albeit, a wooden one, powered by steam.
In my head, this piece is about relationships, the impermanence of material possessions and a spiritual simplicity.
I will revisit this piece later and see if I can shape something out of it. I am also learning to leave things “unfinished” so to speak, rather than try to complete the narrative.
Don’t like to leave the shoelaces untied, but sometimes you have to fall over them to get a better perspective of where it is that you are going.
I really loved this. I think this is one of your best works. It leaves me wanting to know more about the winters and the shortage of fuel. Nuclear winter? You need to expand on this story.
I like the name pun. I’m a little saddened by this story.
Oh my, this is so many different kinds of amazing! But I want to see you expand it, much to be explored!
This piece made me think of the movie A.I. (2001, Steven Spielberg) and elements of the Pinocchio story. I was a little surprised when I read “winter famine of 2126” but I really enjoyed it.