Heartbreak (Cont)

Reaching through hissing blasts of steam, Erys tentatively put his hand upon the door. It felt warm, humming with suppressed energy, barely constrained by plated steel. Oil dripped continuously from its face, snaking along the rivets in burnt sienna rivers, although flowing from no obvious source; pushed through its metal skin by immeasurable forces unknown. Clockwork gears and machinery ran along its border, visible beneath the metal plates of the front wall which turned opaque as it approached the ground, rendering its innards visible as the building struck deep into the concrete. Erys remained still, his hand motionless upon the door. He was weary of being seen, but felt strangely paralysed in the sight of his goal. A single unwanted observer, an alarm raised, and he would soon be disappearing into the black depths of the Gearmen’s sanctuary, on the far side of the City facing onto Sable Bay. No one returned from that place, so he was told. Stories were whispered about figures seen in windows, hands clenched despairingly on bars, cries emanating out and falling upon the crashing waves. Yet, he was not compelled to move. He was grappling with the unnerving feeling that he had seen this door before. This was impossible. ‘I would know if I had been here’, he reasoned with himself. But the feeling remained, splintered into his thoughts and refusing to be dismissed, an indistinct recognition – as if from a long-forgotten dream. He shook his head, clearing his vision. ‘Alisia once said that I never forgot anything, that I stored everything away, for what good it did. Maybe she knew more than I ever thought’. If he ever saw her again, he would tell her that she was right. With sudden bursts, lamps illuminated one by one into the distance, spreading their yellowed light onto the darkening street, shaking Erys from his introspection. The City had completed switching cycles, with the transition into night phase now fully complete. Raucous voices drifted from nearby entertainment complex, loosed by cheap spirits and the absence of worry. Oblivious and uncaring, free from burdens of larger purpose, he could have envied them. Then, impeccably timed footsteps began to echo from the distance. An approaching patrol. The mechanical eyes of the Gearmen were always watchful, and never missed much. Erys pushed himself close against the door, and frantically began searching for the release point. He had to get in. Now.

 

The footsteps grew louder. Erys could picture their cold, insensate eyes, mechanical and unblinking, immune to fear or reason. They simply stared, and took you. As he groped at the door, feeling for a catch or release, his searching hands felt a small cylinder of metal, protruding slightly from the doors face. It seemed like it could be turned, and above it read ‘TURN TO SYNC’ , burnt chrome into the metal. With the Gearmen approaching fast, he had no other option. He gripped the cylinder, and turned. A hiss of steam erupted, and the steel tube clicked fully around, before retreating into a chamber behind it. Erys stood close to the door, willing it to open. He wondered if he would soon be one of those unnamed faces, staring bleakly out from those immense barred windows, all hope sinking behind the black waves of Sable Bay. He would be lost. She would be lost. This fear sunk deep in his stomach, and shot shivers up his spine. That could not happen. He would not allow that to happen. As his panic mounted, a metal spike slick with a viscera of oil and grime, shot forth from the door, driving into his chest in one savage motion, the cold metal piercing through his flesh and into his heart. Electric bolts of pain drove the air from his lungs, as the spike connected with the machinery within, engaging the geartrains with a series of clicks. His vision dimmed as he slumped against the door, all thoughts expelled by the burning agony being driven into his chest. His heart laboured for a moment, straining within his chest wall, before resuming in rhythm with the invading machine, beating unnaturally quickly in time with the clockwork mechanisms of the door. The Gearmen were close now. The spike retracted from his chest, and retreated into the door, dripping a trail of blood and oil. Eyrs held his chest, as oil dripped from his nose. His vision flared and cleared, surroundings now visible in vivid detail, energy pumping through his veins, feeling a strength in his muscles he never thought possible. The door now opened, sliding upwards and revealing nothing save a faint light isolated at the end of gaping stretch of darkness. He staggered through the opening, the door slamming shut just as the Gearman marched past. Collecting himself, he squinted as murky lights flickered to life along the ceiling, revealing a vast corridor, narrow and suffocating. The smell of oil hung thickly, and condensation fell in a constant rain from above, the humidity oppressive. He was here. This is where he would find his retribution. As he pulled crumpled paper from his pocket, on which was scribbled all the information he received from his contact about this place, he became aware of an altogether new question. He had come for answers, for the truth. But for this question, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer. ‘What am I?’

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Heartbreak

Ok, so I’m starting something new. I’ll continue on with this as I write more. I’m not entirely sure where its headed, so hopefully I figure it out at some point. I also hope it doesn’t suck.

Erys stood on the corner of a busy city street, idly drawing upon a cigarette as the crowds hurried past, scurrying about in chaotic patterns before disappearing into the maw of the creeping grey smog. Blank, flat-effect faces pushed past him, scarves wrapped over their mouths in futile opposition to the oppressive smoke. He didn’t mind the smog, inescapable as it was. It pressed its back against the dirty panes of the giant downtown buildings and crept its way down your lungs with dusty fingers, but to him, it was the warm cloak of anonymity. In a world of industry gone mad, where the machine of the city constantly churned and devoured the identities of those who composed it, it was easy to hide. He liked that. It sprawled black and wide, steel and concrete fingers reaching deep into the sky, obliterating the sun with cold indifference. Plenty of shadows in which to remain unnoticed. This would soon be a valuable commodity. However, standing amongst it, he realised that one felt small, preyed upon. At street level, sections where the exterior of the buildings had begun to wear and drop away revealed the clockwork innards of gears and pistons, a reminder that the city was alive, watching. Hungry. He lit another cigarette. ‘Those things will kill you, Erys’ he remembered his wife used to say to him, scolding gently, her mouth suppressing the beginnings of a smile. He could smell her hair, hear her voice. The memory stung inside his head. She was gone now. He instinctively put his hand to his heart, and felt the clicking of machinery beneath. Taken from him. Agents of the city, the Gearmen, took anyone they deemed necessary and they had come for them one night, kicking the door to splinters and proclaiming in their icy monotone that this was for the greater good. Bound and stunned, a syringe had been jammed in his neck, full of an oozing cocktail that thickened his blood and stopped his heart. He had heard stories like this, of people vanishing in the deepest of night, before returning a few days later, always different. Their minds were altered, chemicals having dug their roots deep into their brain, and their bodies twisted into metal nightmares, limbs or organs replaced with a jumbled mess of cogs and camshafts. They never lived long. ┬áHe had never believed it could be true. Erys had awoken, alone and disorientated, his wife now taken to a fate unknown, a burning spike of pain in his chest where his heart once resided. He dropped the cigarette, stomping it to embers beneath his feet. He was not a man prone to letting go of things easily, and too much had been taken to not demand retribution. And he knew just where to start. It all starts with the city. ‘A lot of things can kill you,’ he recalled he answered his wife one morning. ‘It just makes it easier to find the things worth living for.’

 

The shadows grew long, and Erys glanced at his watch. It would be night soon. With the sun mostly hidden it was hard to tell, such was life here, but the punctuality of the system was one thing that could be relied upon. He moved away from the corner, taking up position on the other side of the street. Erys knew he needed to watch carefully. If he missed the right building, he was unsure whether he would get another chance, as some took months to reappear, and others not at all. His heart clicked briefly, metal snagging inside his chest, before an aberrant rhythm began to labour, geartrains grinding and threatening to cease. ‘Please, not now’ he whispered to himself. Darkness began to dance around the corners of his vision, calling on him to succumb, to give in to the malfunction within. Staggering, he clawed desperately at his heart, begging it to continue. He had to go on. For her. Finally, his heart began to resume its normal rhythm. The shadows dissipated as he gasped for breath, willing the life back into his chest. Slowly, he stood upright. Crimson spots of blood lay scattered around his feet. Feeling at his nose, he hand came away smeared with red and oil. He was running out of time.

 

Crunching of gears signalled the beginning of the next cycle, as the buildings began moving to life. The crowds dispersed off the street, heading swiftly for their residential complexes, or the nearest entertainment centre, painted gaudily and spotted with lights to attract the attention of those passing by. They had never really been his scene, serving cheap spirits to assuage the heartless. Cogs began to move achingly, as steam poured from the outlet pipes above each floor. The interiors began to shift, reassembling itself to suit a new nightly purpose. Yellow light crept from within, spreading out upon the street in smears. One floor rotated inwards, guided along strained metal rails, throwing coppery rust like polluted snow, before it disappeared into the buildings entrails, and vanished from sight. Another began to work down into its place, a night cycle facility, waiting to accept its workers and maintainers. All over the city this was happening, the nightly re-purposing of itself, a monster shedding its skin. But, he was looking for one building in particular, and he had been given information that it would appear tonight, in this sector. This information had not been easy to attain, and had cost him more than he cared to remember, but it would be worth it by the end. It had to be worth it. Then, he saw it. A dark, metal-veined building came sliding out to the streetfront, revealing itself through coils of steam. It dripped oil, pooling upon the street in industrial lakes, as gears clicked through its metal plated skin. Possessing a solitary riveted door, it did not look inviting. A grime covered plate above the door read ‘INTERNAL’. This was it. He was sure of it. Erys clutched his heart, and approached the door.