The Dark and Shadowy Places

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Twisted Love

We were too different. We were two different species, to be truthful. I should have known it could never have worked. In fact, I must have, deep down. Of course I saw the looks we got walking down the street together - when people got close enough to see that she was different. To see that her skin wasn’t like mine, wasn’t like most of ours. Sometimes people didn’t notice at first the strange lack of humanity to her skin, the bland, featureless-ness of it. It was smooth, like stone, like marble. But it was pliant at the same time. A strange substance, but I didn’t mind it. If others didn’t see her skin, they almost immediately saw her eyes, once they got close enough. You can never miss meccha’s eyes. They are literally windows to their insides. Every meccha’s eyes are gold. Bright copper, reflecting their inner workings through their clear irises.

And Eve’s eyes were beautiful and always reminded me of summer – of golden wheat or dried grass. Or a nice tall glass of amber ale at the local public house. Whatever they reminded me of, it was always something good.

Eve, as her name implies, was the first meccha made by her creator. Of course there are many New Alchemists around the Empire who build mecchas, and there are quite a few here in this city alone. But I remember the day I walked past the workshop. It was barely visible, where it was located in the narrow twisting alley way of Regents Street, where the sun never seems to reach. The buildings are crammed together like sardines; tall, almost angling across the street towards each other, like tree branches. It’s in perpetual shadow, and the few people who find themselves wandering up it pull their coats tighter and their collars higher to frighten away the chill. I’d walked down Regents a million times, avoiding catching others’ gazes, just using it as the quickest route from one part of the city to another. That’s what people do here. No one acknowledges anyone else, trapped in their own personal worlds going on inside themselves. And most of the shops crammed into the lower parts of Regents Street’s buildings seemed to change on an almost weekly basis, so I never took much notice. It is mainly filled with frippery such as selling women’s hat’s and ridiculous corsets in a rainbow of colours. Which is what made Eve stand out, more than anything. At first I thought she was just a window mannequin. I blame that mistaken identity on the state of the windows of her creators shop, so thickly caked with grime and soot as they were, just like the rest of the storefronts along the cobbled street.

I swore the last time I had happened to glance into the store, to avoid the particularly stern look of a man rushing somewhere rather importantly, it was a rather sad looking glove shop. But I saw Eve’s dress in the window like a ghost. It was a pale pearl-coloured thing and shone dimly through the darkened window. I drew my eyes away from what I thought was simply a store dummy to the sign above the door. It was a hastily painted sign that proclaimed the space was occupied by a Mr. Van der Veen, New Alchemist. I stopped short and glanced again at the ghostly form of Eve in the window. I moved towards the pane and rubbed my sleeve against it. I looked up into the most beautiful, peaceful face I had ever seen. And that face looked back at me with sparkling golden eyes the colour of the exquisite brass and copper of her insides – the cogs and gears that are small and intricate and struts that are as fine as filaments that make up every meccha. The corners of her mouth turned up slightly in a smile and her hand moved with the strange smooth-yet-jerky grace that mecchas had. And then the oddly bespectacled face of Mr Van der Veen appeared from behind her, glaring at me through the window. He had an array of tools including magnifying glasses, jutting off the corners of his eyeglasses.

I put my hand to the rim of my hat and dipped my head in acknowledgement. I pushed open the door to his shop with a discordant jingle of tiny bells.

Before I set a single foot over the threshold, he was in my face, shaking a finger. “Why are you looking at my meccha?”

“I just noticed her, sir. I was caught off guard. I’ve never seen anything like her before.”

The inventor’s eyes widened. “You have never seen a meccha before?”

“Oh, yes! Of course. Just never one so…exquisite,” I said, not sure if I referred to her beauty or the quality of her craftsmanship. “I was wondering if she is…,” I paused, unsure how to proceed without offending. “If she is available?”

Van der Veen’s thick white caterpillar eyebrows rose in understanding. “Ah, I see. What sort of business do you run that you require my meccha for?” He glanced over his shoulder at Eve who stood still as a statue in the window. “A public house server? A brothel perhaps?”

“No!” I almost shouted, shocked and appalled at the assumption that something so perfect could be used for such unattractive purposes. I composed myself. “No, not at all. I was just…” I stopped. I didn’t know what I was wanting, all I knew is that I needed her in my life. “What is her name?” I changed the subject.

“Name?” This time it was the New Alchemist’s turn to look caught off guard. “She doesn’t have a name any more than any of my other inventions,” he said, gesturing to a jumbled pile of objects and gadgets that hunkered further on in the darkening depths of the shop.

“Well, could you tell me a bit about her?” I asked, as a prospective…own-, buyer.

“She is my pride and joy. She is my very first ever meccha. I mean to say successful one.” Again the man gestured back behind him into his shop. I could just barely make out humanoid bits and pieces - an arm here, a leg or torso there, in various states of construction, or deconstruction.

“So she is your Eve, then?” I said, throwing a look to the dark haired woman in the window who I could tell was listening to our conversation by the slight tilt of her head, even though her copper eyes looked out onto the street at the people avoiding each other.

The man laughed at that. “Well, yes, I guess she could be considered to be my Eve. I have yet to make an Adam.”

“Well, is Eve for sale?” I asked, knowing that even as I said it, it sounded hard and callous. People shouldn’t be able to be bought, or sold. Even people who were not a real, which is how people often referred to the distinction between those who have been man-made, and those who were, well, man, like myself.

Van der Veen tapped his bearded chin thoughtfully with a finger. “Hmmm. Well, I was using her more as something to entice customers through my doors, but for the right price I guess we could make a deal.”

I smiled and removed my pocketbook. A few moments later and I was walking the remainder of Regents Street, arm in arm with my beautiful Eve. Like most mecchas she moved with a ethereal gliding motion that was so different from us – something else that people would pick up on. But I ignored the stares and slack jaws as we walked companionably through the crowded city. If you didn’t listen too closely to her voice she sounded just like any other woman did. It was easy for me to block out the slight whir of her voice box gears.

On a daily basis people reprimanded me for being with her, but I laughed it off. I was happy, and so was she. Our love was strange, different. Some might even say twisted. But I’ll remember it as the best times of my life.

Alas, it seems not even machinery can last forever. After the first accident I took her back to Van der Veen to get repaired, and he gladly did so, for a fee. The second accident I finally realized wasn’t accidental at all. People were trying to destroy her – destroy us – and they were succeeding. She lost one of her arms, and even though Van der Veen replaced it, she still bore the scars that I thought made her more beautiful. More human. We had been getting more threats. People just didn’t understand, and it was too much for them. I still have her clockwork heart on my mantle.

In the end we were too different. We were two different species, to be truthful. I should have known it could never have worked.

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