Steadfast is a serial short fiction piece.
To start from the beginning, go to part 1.
In the morning, I walked through the city park. It grew unkempt and wild as the fields of my battle memories. My hands glided as spread wings over the hairy tips of the tall grass, scratching against my palms. The morning mist enveloped me as a womb around the unborn, moving wherever I went and never departing. I cast my eyes about, raking the untamed surroundings and vigilant as ever. There were things about myself that could not change, steadfast and always the soldier.
The growth of decay in the city spread like a fungal infection and most of the once proud, tall buildings remained uninhabited and desolate. They were the monuments of our war, consumed and choked by the ever-reaching vines of nature’s green wrath seeking to return the vacant habitations of dead men back into her care.
I left the park and ventured through the streets of the city jungle, constantly shadowed by the overhanging canopy of broad, emerald leaves. The scent of woody, lush decay surrounded me as a reminder of its pleasant peace. I turned a corner and entered the true heart of my city jungle. It was the only place fully populated by the surviving, law-abiding citizens. Yet there were those who refused to abide by any reason of common law and they resided in the outskirts of civilization like the medieval outlaws of history. Eunice called them rats.
Upon turning the corner to my own street where the toy shop resided, it was then my eyes caught sight of her. In a store window she stood, perfectly poised on one leg in the graceful statuesque tableau of a dancer caught in motion. I stepped toward the glass, wide and full of wonder about the beautiful, single-legged woman. She blinked and then gazed directly upon me. Her mouth curled mildly at the corners as she relaxed her pose, and then I saw her other leg descend from behind and stand flat with the first. She was like me, albeit a newer model and she showcased the store’s clothing as something of a sentient mannequin. Her eyes traveled down toward my own prosthetic leg and somehow I knew the magic evaporated. I stepped back, preparing to turn away forever but her hand reached outward, touching the glass. She then resumed the humanly impossible ballerina pose on one leg and smiled fully. I brushed the pane with my fingers where hers met mine and returned her smile.
“Ajax, is it?” spoke a voice from behind.
I turned to face the city’s only civic leader and remaining faith authority, Rev. Harquinn. I nodded.
“What are you doing here on your own?” she stated.
“I have permission to venture out,” I said.
The reverend’s sharp upper lip curled into the shape of a horn, sneering. She knew my owner and I could read her puckered disapproval of what I was: a bucket of bolts. Her dark eyes cast upon the beautiful store model, who stood poised again and paid no attention to us. Then she looked back at me with a look that told me everything. She knew the tender moment that transpired between the dancer and I.
“Your mimicry doesn’t fool me, tin man. How can you express the desires of a soul when you clearly have none?” she said.
I remained silent. There was no satisfactory answer. She turned and stalked around the next corner, cheerfully singing a hymn.
Glancing at the window once more, I could see the dancer again looking at me with concern upon her face. It was apparent that she too had some emotional modifications. I shrugged my shoulders and crossed the street to the toy shop. Once inside I sat in a chair, gazing out the only storefront window at the graceful splendor poised across the way. I did not move all night.