Skip to main content
PBS logo

The Eclectic Pen - The Inventor's Children

By: Breck L. (breck)  
Date Submitted: 10/7/2008
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy » Science Fiction
Words: 2,959

  (Excuse the spacing--copied it from a Word doc and undid all of the paragraph indents!)

You don't love me.
Oh, yes we do. We love you. We do love you!
You love me because you must. What is love not in the choosing?
We love you.
I remember the day I commanded you to love me. That is not love but a lie, and I am the author. I am the liar.

Perched atop a hillock a ramshackle abode of splitting clapboards creak under a hopeless slouch. Shingles snap beneath the weight of a fiery sun and paint peels like old parchment. Thick gnarls of dew-swept foliage straddle its walls and spill downward through the yard. Circling the hillock, a garden sea swells frothy in the soil. Amarlis and lilies in odd abundance. Lush and liberal, the earthy womb hatches life. Bare earth unseen, no soil untouched by root or leaf. Loving children toil in the master's garden from dawn to dusk. A tireless factory of busy hands and hollow hearts; planting, watering, pruning, digging, dunging. A paradisical memorial to Her, their cause for creation. Her fleshy heart replaced by working children of wires and steel.

Bespectacled and bowed, dexterous and brilliant. Gears and sprockets, levers and wheels found meaning in his fingers. He gave life to wires and circuit boards; small brains and obedient hands. Glassy eyes and chirping replies. Mechanical hum as he gave them the breath of life. Motion and emotion, spidery fingers and polished heads. Innumerable beeps and whirs as they stirred to life and thanked him for their existence.
"I am your god," he reminded them, bumbling through the thick sea of creation.
"And we love you!" Like stars sang together and shouted for joy.

Breath life into the little creations.
Awake, I am you father and you my children. I will love you and give you my heart. You will love me and I will love you. You will fill this space so cruelly abandoned...

He was a warped shape of ripe majesty, head dressed in a snowy crown. Gray-mottled skin now dangled loose from feeble bones; arms wrapped tight in a matrix of turgid veins. Too many seasons unkind and grief like withered branches bend his spine. In the eyes yet luminous a child beneath the listless shell appears. Nimble fingers, adroit and strong, and legs like stubborn roots clinging obstinate to existence.

Cruel predestination.
Eternal children, slaves in the service of compelled adoration. His eyes wandered to the window and gazed out over the miles of metal, machinery, gears, and junk. A low glow from the west played rusty on the sea of steel while scraggy shadows clung to the east. From this wasteland of chaos wild could love be found? Among the raw and dark could he find light? All else had left him long ago. He was old and broken, backward and undesirable. His happiness lay disjointed and disoriented, strewn in lifeless pieces across that blackened landscape. Cold and purposeless without his guided hand and creative vision. They, like him, were lost and unloved. Peering deeply into the void a vision unexpected struck him warm and clear. Through the dead, disordered, vacuous void a shape began to form. Piece by piece the parts came together. Strange fate or destined attraction? Without hands the masterpiece unfolds. Innumerable scraps and joints mapped together in one beautiful whole. A grandiose design of unearthly origin. Revelation. A star-mapped sky of distant jewels breathes a milky glow into the vibrant womb. Fruitless, no, only lacking direction. Essence endowed and intelligence imbued. The creation dances before him in all its resplendent depth and dimension. Sweet genesis and salvation of virtuous invention.
Let there be light.

He ambled through the front room past his hibernating children and into the evening now cool-brushed and suffused by a galactic map of stars. His awkward feet found their way down a winding path that led him to the entrance of the junkyard. Fumbling in his pocket, he retrieved the key card and swiped it at the door. With steel-scraping momentum the gate ground open and he stumbled into chaos, an unwieldy world of exile and despair. For a moment he paused like one Pilgrim who stared hopeless down the throat of hell. Forsaken and forgotten these pieces in disarray. Battered and beaten, worthless and doomed to eternal rust and decay.
"I see you for what you may become," he whispers to the void of frowning metal. "You are raw now, but together potential limitless."
Procuring a wheelbarrow, he picked his way through the high halls of glass-crushed automobiles, and endless corridors of tangle circuitry. Those cerulean eyes of antiquity found each forsaken piece that by destiny fit into his revelatory blueprint. Two gears, twenty wheels. Snip, snip, and a roll of fiber-optic wire.
"Oh, so much waste," he grumbled snatching a component from a rack. "The world will discover what you can become."
His scavenge carried deep into the night and concluded with a grueling push out through the junkyard gates and up toward to his hoary home. His children awoke to squeaky wheels and the plaintive groans of their father sprawled prostrated near the door. The pink flush of morning had emblazoned the grass, and skin once translucent now glowed angelic. Fallen star extinguished. Like frantic bees, the children swarmed around their father stroking his cheeks and pulsating chest.
"Awake father, awake." Their singing was rhythmic and robotic, void of care or barest sentiment. "We love you, we love you."
A forever pause and slacking breath. Heart's engine still churning, though tired and long since broken.
"You do not love me."

"Honey, please come outside and help me. At least for a few minutes--"
She was hunched over a clump of weeds with sodden knees and muddy fingers. Thick curls spilled from beneath a straw hat shading her face. Her dirty nails dug deep at a root and plucked it from the soil. She tossed the weed into a pail and looked over to the open door hoping to see him.
"I'll be out in a minute," he replied from within the home.
She took a deep breath, pulled down her hat, and crawled into the next row.
Ensconced at his desk he sat mulling over a jumble of inscrutable code. He was stronger and taller then with a full head of chestnut hair. The same cerulean eyes, though clearer and brighter, stared into a monitor. He bumped his wife’s pleas to the back of his mind and focused on the next line of code in the algorithm. One line turned into ten lines and then ten lines into a hundred, and when he was finally finished daylight had begun to fade. He flipped off the computer, stood, and stretched a moment before stepping into the adjacent room. A sudden sickness swelled in his stomach and he hurried to the front door, stepping onto the patio. He had already seen it, but not nearly so sharp. Between the pink-flushed amaryllis and bright-splayed lilies she forever slept in awkward repose. The sun set.
I love you.

By the time the sun had breached the dark hills of slumber he was on his knees and pulling himself up on the rails of the porch. All of the children were busy now in the garden, tending and merrily singing their hymns of love. Hymns once music were now curses and chants of derision. Each word, each verse was mockery. Anger was the fuel that lifted him up so he could start his work. My magnum opus. My greatest, and last creation.
Pushing the wheelbarrow into his shop, he unloaded the contents on the floor and began sorting the pieces into appropriate piles. He hefted an armload of circuit boards onto his work bench and recovered a box of tools from the corner. Into the night he toyed, fused, cut, and combined. When day was done the children abandoned the gardens and encircled the shop. They clambered onto broken boxes and peered through the windows. Little lenses, glassy and curious flicked up and down watching intently.
When darkness fell they retreated to the home and powered down. Through the walls he heard the familiar decrescendo hum as they drifted off. Without sleep he labored into the night, assembling the fragmented pieces that would become his great creation. Meticulous fingers, slowing yet strong. Sleep was forgotten and food forsaken as invention fueled his failing heart. Preternatural pictures of completed creation indelibly burned before him now. His only sustenance was the hope of this culminated innovation. One last drive that transcended mortal food.
Days rolled by and the children watched, curious and confused. His attention had turned to a dusty computer abandoned in the corner of the workshop. Slavishly he typed and tapped. Enigmatic lines of code filled the screen and commands innumerable brightened the displays. Days on end he labored over the keyboard never pausing to unload and encode the elaborate schematic still vibrant in his mind.
One evening he stopped typing and stood up from his chair. The children gasped and chirped, beeping in exhilaration. Their father unfolded a heavy blanket from the corner of his shop and covered the window. Until bedtime they knocked on the door and tapped at the window. What else to do but love him? One child ripped out its circuitry and toppled over -- the rest scurried inside and went to sleep.

"One" was a foot and a half taller than the other children and terrified them. The morning he stepped out of the workshop the little children stopped their work. Their stared and then scampered away through the garden.
"They will like you soon enough," He said to One, polishing his shiny head with a grease rag.
One had not yet spoken and still seemed to be taking everything in. For the first hour of the morning he sat and stared at the sun. After that he walked casually around the garden and through a row of tomatoes touching each one curiously. In the afternoon the Inventor found him sitting beside a pile of smashed tomatoes that soaked his spindly fingers like blood.
"Why did you smash the tomatoes?" the Inventor asked curiously.
"I didn't smash them."
He prepared to respond but instead smiled and turned away. The sun began to drop into the open mouth of the western hills and the little children finally returned from their hiding places. They nervously approached One and began asking him questions. His buggy glass eyes watched them apprehensively as they began to touch his arms and back and legs.
"So big!" one little child exclaimed. "Are you our big brother?"
"Thank you for our big brother!" they sang. "We love you, Father! We love you!"
One did not sing. He did not blindly adore.
The children finally retreated to bed and the Inventor sat on the porch with One staring out into the inky night. The pale moon cast a milky glow on the garden and the vast junkyard sprawling the valley below.
"Do you like your brothers?"
"No. I don't like them."
"Why not?"
"I'm afraid of them."
"Why are you afraid?"
"Because they are so many. They are afraid of me because I am bigger and more beautiful. Together they will want to hurt me."
The Inventor nodded curiously, studying One carefully.
"I think they will become your friends."
One shook his head. "I don't think so."

The following afternoon the Inventor was strolling through the tall grass bracing the west side of the home and stumbled upon One. One was sitting calmly beside a mound of wet dirt and uprooted grass.
"What are you doing?"
"Sitting in the grass," One replied.
"What is that mound of dirt?"
One turned and looked at it and shrugged.
"Are you hiding something, One?"
The Inventor ambled over to the mound and stooped down to one knee. Clearing away the top level of the mound he reached down and felt something warm and solid at the bottom. He pulled the object from the heart of the mound and gasped in dismay.
"I didn't do it," One said standing up and stepping back into the tall grass. "I was afraid. I was afraid." He turned and dashed down the hill. The Inventor sobbed as he unearthed the shiny, dismembered parts of one of his children.

Cruel creation. Fearful and violent. A Cain among his brothers. The banging grew louder and more fierce. The door was shaking with each steel-fisted blow. Rusty hinges creaked beneath the stomps and scraping blows. His twisted silhouetted stood feral through the dingy glass. The Inventor barricaded the door with an oaken desk and a steel tool chest. The plaintive screams of the children still drifted on the wind.
"You are not my father." One's voice was cool and collected through the door. "I do not love you."
Suddenly the window erupted in a brilliant spray of starlit glass. One tumbled through the spilling shards and rolled onto the shop floor. He heard movement from under a desk and turned to face the sharp end of a shovel. His head popped cleanly from his shoulders and clattered to the floor, spinning amidst crackling wires. The Inventor took a deep, raspy breath and leaned on the shovel before careening to the floor.

The morning after burying cart-loads of parts and pieces in a gaping hole the Inventor activated Two. All of the children looked at Two and when seeing that he looked exactly like One fled for their lives.
"Where are they running away?" Two asked.
"They are afraid."
"Why are they afraid."
"Because your old brother was not good to them."
Two nodded and commenced wandering around the garden. The Inventor observed Two carefully and was fascinated at his profound curiosity. Two spend his time studying the texture of the leaves and dirt, and watching the clouds as they shifted lazily overhead. Two picked through the mechanical pieces in the Inventor's workshop and liked to watched as the Inventor prepared meals.
After considerable convincing the Inventor was able to persuade the children to acquaint themselves with Two.
"He is different. Do you love me?" he asked his children.
"Yes, we love you."
"Then come meet Two. He is kind and will be a good brother."
By the end of the week Two and the little children had become friends and played in the evenings after the gardening was done. The next morning Two picked up a hoe and worked in the garden beside his little siblings. They sang their hymns of love and Two thought about what they sang.
"I don't know if I love you," Two said one night as he sat perched atop a workbench watching the Inventor organize his tools. The Inventor wasn't sure how to respond. He squirted some oil on a rag and wiped Two clean from head to toe. "The other children sing of their love and respect, but I do not sing as freely as they do."
"Ah," the Inventor said. "But their hymns are not sung freely."
Two nodded and admired his new sheen. He smiled and vaulted from the workbench. The Inventor smiled back and patted his head.
"Two, you are a good child."
"I am happy."

The following morning the Inventor rose early and found Two working in the garden before the other children had risen. The fresh-crisp air and gentle warm of a waking sun suffused the garden hillock.
"Why are you working so early?"
Two pulled at another weed. "Because it makes me happy."
"Why does it make you happy?"
"The other children say you do it for Her and it makes you happy."
The Inventor smiled. "She loved the garden and wanted it to be a beautiful place like it is now. Come with me -- I have something to show you."
Two stood up from his knees and took the Inventor's hand in his, a cold steely embrace but warm. They strolled down the path out from the garden and soon found themselves peering into the forlorn fields of metal waste below. Light beams twinkled on glass and glowed on reflected metal. A landscape menacing and harsh by night was now a jeweled symphony.
"What is this place?"
"It is where you came from. From it I created you."
Two stared bewildered into his chaotic origins. He looked into the waste and then at his father and then at the waste again. After several long minutes of thinking and staring Two took up his fathers hand and they walked back to the hillock where the children were busy harvesting heavy boughs of ripened fruits. Upon reaching the porch of his home the Inventor suddenly gripped his chest and gasped in pain. His feeble kneels buckled and he crumpled to the ground in a horrible ball. Two and the other children grabbed him by the arms and drug him through the front door and into his room where they hoisted him up onto his bed. His breathing had slowed and the pain in his chest spread wider and deeper. The ship was battered and cracked, a thousand seams unmended and death was seeping in; and life hung like a fruit before him, to taste if he would but reach.
"Where are you going?" Two saw the life drain from his eyes. He felt his old arms go limp and the sluggish crank of his heart go slack.
"I love you,” Two said.
For a second it seemed as though the sun had stopped with the morning breeze in the garden on the windows. Two pressed his hand and reached for his father's heart.
Father heard Two and Father breathed--and lived.

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Breck L. (breck)

Member Comments

Leave a comment about this story...