It was a warm August morning. The leaves were just beginning to hint at the rich colors they would soon become. Finn examined his phone, rereading the directions given to him earlier. He avoided unnecessary costs whenever possible, even if it meant a little legwork and since the nice girl at the train station said his uncle’s infamous house was within walking distance, he didn’t bother with a cab.
“Oh, that old place?” she had said with surprise. “I didn’t think old man York had any family…”
Finn smiled. “He is a bit of a hermit, I admit, but he passed away recently and left me some things in his will.”
She gave her condolences and recited her directions, Finn dutifully tik-taking them into his phone.
I must be close, he thought, noticing the surrounding houses becoming increasingly dilapidated and the grass yellowing by the minute. He began checking the numbers on the houses.
108, 106, 104…. 102, here it is.
The great house loomed over him, seeming much larger than the rest of the neighborhood. You could tell it used to be a beautiful house, one of those houses people would go on tours to see, but without the proper upkeep it just seemed sad. It’s formerly white siding now some vague reminder of it’s former majesty. Finn marveled at the yard- he didn’t think yellow grass could get that overgrown. He was surprised there was no rusted creaky gate to walk through, but then again, his uncle would have had to take the time to have it installed.
Finn smiled to himself. Oh, Uncle, I suppose you really were a good-for-nothing after all, weren’t you?
Almost tripping on the uneven sidewalk, he approached the door. He raised his hand to knock, but then, realizing there would be no answer, simply braced himself and walked in.
It was about what he expected to see; stacks of books and research papers as far as the eye could see, which thanks to the aforementioned stacks was not that far. He reached into his bag and pulled out an envelope with “Do not Open until Inside” written on the front.
Finn sighed and set down his luggage. “Alright Uncle. I’m here. What do you want to show me?”
His uncle was always researching something and ALWAYS showed it to Finn when he thought he was onto a breakthrough. Of course he was always researching things like the key to immortality, proof of the afterlife, ancient “cursed” relics, and other equally ridiculous things. But those were their moments, and Finn wouldn’t trade them for anything.
He slipped his thumb under the lip of the envelope and tore it across, pulling out a yellowed piece of notebook paper folded neatly into a square. Carefully, he unfolded it and held it reverently in his hands.
‘Go to the Attic. Everything Inside is Yours… You’re the only one Bright enough to Carry on my Work.’
He took the steps slowly, one at a time, running his hand along the mahogany banister, and when it became covered in dust, he felt a pang of guilt for not coming sooner. Uncle had died months ago, but Finn had neither the time nor the resources to visit the home, instead pushing it to the back of his mind until more convenient.
The way to the attic was familiar to Finn, his uncle had shown him the entrance many times but never let him inside. That’s where she is, he would always say, that’s where the master project is. He would always beg to see it, but Uncle would only chuckle and say, One day lad, one day.
This day. This day he would learn of the master project.
Slowly, he turned the knob and gently pulled the door open, starting up the flight of stairs. The way was narrow, and the top seemed to get farther away as he ascended, but before he knew it, he had reached the top. He was surprised at what he saw.
A small window sat at the peak of the angular ceiling, letting in just enough light to see through the dust that puffed up with each step. Workbenches scattered the room, covered in tools and blueprints. Wire mesh trashcans were overflowing with apparently failed schematics. Gears and clocks littered the floor, but Finn did not notice any of this. All his eyes could seem to focus on was the table at the center of the room, and what was sitting at it.
It was slumped over in a chair, head on the table facing Finn. He approached the person-looking-thing with caution. It was, for lack of a better word, a robot. A very nicely sculpted robot with a face made of leather and limbs made of a pale looking wood. The chest had a thick wire frame covered in heavy cloth that had begun to rot away. Most distracting was the eyes. They seemed to be moving, twitching almost like they were trying to focus on something, and as he got closer, Finn could hear them make an odd clicking sound.
Finn gasped and jumped backwards, tripping over the clutter and falling backwards. He didn’t say anything. He could only stare at the thing that had just spoken to him. Part of it’s face was missing and he could see the gears and cogs inside it’s head.
“Hello?” the garbled voice said again. “Who is there? Mr. York?”
Finn swallowed hard and got back to his feet. “W-What are you?” he asked when his voice finally returned to him.
It was silent for a few moments. “I am an automaton as designed by Franklin York.”
He stepped forward cautiously. “Why don’t you… Why don’t you move?”
There was a small pause. “When Mr. York fell ill he was unable to return here to his workshop. I have fallen into disrepair.”
“Surely you could fix yourself up, you are practically a person!”
“I do not possess the knowledge to do such things.”
Finn was unsure of how to feel. The thing seemed innocent enough, and he did feel sorry for it… But man, it was rather creepy. He stepped closer, circling the table. There on the back of it’s neck! His uncle’s signature, in fancy calligraphy as per usual, sat between the shoulder blades in black ink. Just beneath that: Be kind to Amanda.
“Does the name Amanda mean anything to you?” he asked the robot.
Again a pause and then, “Yes, it is what Mr. York called me.”
He considered his options. It’s what his uncle would have wanted.
Finn placed a hand on Amanda’s shoulder. “Don’t worry Amanda. I’ll fix you right up.”
About the Author: Alexis 23 years old from a small town in Iowa. She grew up an avid reader and started writing her own stories when she was in fourth grade. Alexis spends her days writing, drawing and caring for the families 2 fur beasts.