Flash Fiction: Cog Work

The man’s metal arm moved in twitches. Picking up the pen and placing it on the paper’s surface. Rather than a smooth drag, it was a jerky motion, but each line came out well enough.

A different man, wearing goggles and a smock with more of its surface stained with oil than not, watched the first man work away at his craft. After a few stuttering passes, a picture of a tree appeared on the paper.

“Good, good, Mur, that looks lovely.”

Mur moved with a good ten second time lag and turned his head in segments of motion. Like the clicking of a clock hand around to the next hour.

“Does it?” Mur asked, his lips not moving in connection to his words.

“I think so.”

“Well…that’s good.”

The head swiveled and went back to what it was doing: looking. The hands also did what they had been doing: drawing. If you could call such a stiff motion that.

The pen snapped and Mur threw the two halves off into the corner of the room; the other man’s gaze followed the motion, seeing it land among the other hundreds of pens lost.

The man with goggles reached for his belt and handed another pen to Mur. Mur continued with his project.

“Thank you, Master Goren.”

“You’re welcome,” Master Goren said, staring over Mur’s shoulder as he continued. After a moment, Goren frowned and pursed his lips.

“Why did you decide to make that line there? Is it for some sort of perspective trick?”

“Does Master not like it?”

“No, no, it’s just–”

Goren stopped talking when the paper crumbled in Mur’s hand. The palm shook before dropping the paper down Mur’s lap and he took out another piece.

“I will begin again,” Mur said.

“You didn’t have to,” Goren whispered, but walked away muttering to himself about the silliness of some of them.

“It was kind of good,” Goren added as he made it to the door.

“I will copy it exactly then Master,” Mur said back to him in a voice just the right volume to carry across the room.

“You do that then,” Goren said and closed the door. He sighed and walked up to the next man at a table. This one scribbling in just as stilted, if more gyroscopic, motion. He was making a poem.

“And how is this going?”

“Rum is proud of what he is making.”

“Good, good. And how are the cogs fairing?”

The shoulders come up and then down with a hammer strike style thud.

“I see,” Goren said, “Alright. You do what you’re doing. I’ll do a little tinkering, okay?”

“That is always fine with me.”

Goren rolled his eyes and leaned down, yanking open the back of the spine, and pulling the great copper bulk out to the air. Layered in racks were wires and tubes and all sorts of industrial devices.

Sitting at the back of the creation though was a brain, floating in a jar. With a length of wire wrapping around the stem, and several needles punctured halfway into the frontal lobe.

“How is the creativity process going for you?” Goren said from behind, his voice echoing in the hollow shell of the metal man’s body.

“Going fine. I haven’t been blocked in a year I believe.”

“Wonderful. Well, keep at it.”

The metal man nodded and kept writing. “Would you like to read it?”

“No, no, I’m fine. But thank you for the offer.”

“You’re welcome,” Rum said, stretching out the syllables. “I really wish you’d look sometime though.”

“What was that?” Goren said, knowing full well what Rum had said.

“Nothing Master.”

“Must have been my ears then.”

“Must have been.”

Goren stood up, sealed Rum, and left the room through another door, before going up a staircase. The steps were tall, and narrow, and too numerous. He knew one day he would be too old to climb them, but until then he would climb.

And he did so.

He emerged with the trickle of the sun available to look at above him, and a woman sitting in a chair with controls on the armrest.

She rose when she saw him, and the chair snapped to the center of the room. The floor glowed briefly, illuminating a grid of tracks.

“So, how did it go?”

“It went well, I think,” Goren said and rather than walk to her, discarded his smock to the floor, marched over to one side of the glass wall, and looked down at the sea of one-way glass roofs. He gazed at the jerking robot people below them.

“I worry sometimes though if what we did was ethical.”

“Now, now, you worry about this? Goren…they did agree beforehand you know?”

He placed his hand on the glass, tapped it with his nails, and turned to his female companion.

“Yes. Well. When they said they wanted to create forever, I wonder if they knew this is what it would take.”

“Who cares,” the woman said, and placed her hands on her hips. “What’s done is done, and they get to do what they love. The rest of the world even gets something to do with all their time.”

“A win-win,” Goren said, echoing quite a few arguments. Press releases too.

“Exactly, so don’t worry about it.”

“Fine,” the man said, and sat down on the chair. It sunk down from his weight, before floating an inch off the ground. He jerked the control and the chair spun hard for a second. He leveled it back out and eyed his female companion with a bored bent.

“So, what do you want to do until the next check?” Gore said.

“Is there anything good coming out of quadrant twelve today?”

“You answered your own question,” Goren said, “it’s quadrant twelve.”

“Alright, well pull it up then.”

“Sure, sure,” he said and pressed a button on the seat. And the woman summoned another such chair from a hole in the floor, sat next to him, and the two remained still for the next few hours.

Without even a stuttering, mechanical motion. Except maybe breathing. And even that was slow.

Special thanks to: Bob GerkinCollin PearmanDylan AlexanderJerry BanfieldMichael The Comic Nerd,  and Pulsatilla Pratensis. 

Did you like the article? Dislike? Tell me about it in the comments. I would love to hear your opinions! If interested in specific articles, or want to write as a guest, you can message me at scifibrandonscott@gmail.com. If you want to help keep this blog going, consider becoming my patron at https://www.patreon.com/coolerbs. Thanks for reading!


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