You Don't Belong
by Sarah Hendrix
Winner of the 2010 Halloween themed contest edition of With Painted Words, as judged by Chris Howard (author of 'Seaborn' and 'Saltwater Witch') and Jay Faulkner (editor of 'With Painted Words').
“You should not be here,” the voice echoed in the slap of waves against the sides of the boat.
He ignored the voice, same as he had for the past three days while he trimmed the sails and tightened the lines but today those words seemed to have knives attached to them. Josh shivered despite the warmth of the sun overhead.
Five days out at sea, alone for the first time in his life and he was hearing a phantom voice. Josh chuckled at himself as he stretched out along the deck. The gentle rocking was soothing and almost made him want to sleep but he didn't dare. Once he closed his eyes he would start dreaming, things no normal clockwork should ever do.
Josh knew he was different. Other clockworks were put together in factories where no part was different than any others but he was put together in the home of an old man. Piece by piece, old Mr. Touse brought home the cogs and wheels and bits and parts so that he could put his creation together. Josh remembered being conscious even before most of his body was put together. Mr. Touse told stories as he worked opening up a world to his creation most other clockworks never had the opportunity to hear.
Maybe that was why he was different, never satisfied with the proper role of a machine in a human world. Josh chafed at the restraining life he was supposed to lead. Care for the humans, make them safe and happy. What about him? Shouldn't he be happy?
So when Mr. Touse breathed his last breath, Josh stowed supplies on the small sailboat and set it adrift in the tide. Since he had been assisting Mr. Touse on the water since he had been completed, Josh knew how to tend the sails and navigate but he had never heard the angry voice before.
It started out as a whisper something he could barely hear. Over the next few days it became clear along with the hatred that flavored the voice.
“Who's there,” he asked.
Nothing answered except for a lone gull that floated in the slight breeze.
Josh rolled over and watched the sun as it crept to the west.
Ten days had passed and Josh moved stiffly across the deck. Mr. Touse had not explained the effect of the sea on his parts. The few quick excursions had not included rough seas that tossed water high in the air, nor did it give him experience with storms. While he had kept the boat afloat, the sails were torn and he had no way of getting back to shore.
The voice was everywhere now. It echoed in the waves, it shrieked in the wind, it pounded in the rain and even though he tried not to ignore it he could not deny its truth. He didn't belong here and he had no way of ever going home. But now he was seeing things too, a faint outline, a glimpse of the hem of a dress, or dark eyes peering at him from the window. He knew there was no one here, yet he always felt as though he was being followed.
Five more days passed and Josh could hear the grinding of rust in the gears. Even though he oiled what he could and sealed crevices, the brine in the air still found its way into his body. He sat stiffly on the deck as it rocked and threatened to dump him into the sea. He didn't care anymore. The ocean stretched out on either side of him a long stretch of blue and gray unbroken except for when it met the sky.
“You don't belong here,” a voice said behind him.
Josh didn't move; he couldn't turn his neck and he feared he would break something if he tried. “I know.”
The wind sighed. Footsteps creaked on the wooden deck behind him coming closer. Josh opened his eyes and watched a flash of blue and white fabric swirl around pale feet. She squatted down beside him, face round and hair long. Her dark eyes stared unblinkingly at him. She placed a hand on where his heart would be if he were human.
“You should not have come,” she hissed as she pulled her hand away.
He closed his eyes relishing the sun on his face. No he should not have come, but he was glad he had. He was more than just a clockwork, he had felt almost human.
The pain as her fist slammed through his chest was a relief. He felt the spasm of electricity as wires snapped. He never imagined death actually hurt.
Sarah is a workaholic mom of two teenage boys. Finding peace of mind in the stories she tells is her goal.
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'The Natural End of a Clockwork Boy'
'Phenakistoscopes and House Tocks'