Steadfast – part 7

Steadfast is a serial short fiction piece.

To start from the beginning, go to part 1.

Steadfast Cover 25% shrink copy Steadfast Kindle Ebook.
“Here he is. Now he’s awake!”

Bright light flooded my eyes, and when they were able to focus upon the bearded man standing over me, confusion set in. “Where am I?”

“You’re onboard the Jonah, the finest fishing boat in all the bay. You’ve been caught in our net, my heavy friend.” He helped me sit up and disengage the netting from my legs.

“And you were completely on empty, so I hooked you up to my engine to give you a charge.”

My eyes traveled upon his jacket and cap, recognizing the insignia I said: “Captain?”

“Aye that’s it. Captain Sol, that’s me. Do you have a name, my fine metal lad?”

“Ajax.”

“It’s a good strong name,” Sol growled out. “Soldier?”

I shook my head. “Not anymore. Toymaker now.”

“By the wind! You’re Eunice’s boy gone missing. She’s been mad about your disappearance…feared the worst!” Sol’s eyes were round and wide.

“How do you know Eunice?”

“She’s one of my regular customers. Let’s get back to shore and get you back to where you belong. I’ve finished my catch for the day anyhow. Why did you fancy going for a dip in the bay?”

“I didn’t. It’s a long story.”

“Well we’ve got time, Ajax,” he said and blasted the boat’s booming horn while turning the helm, steering the Jonah toward the distant docks. “Captain Sol loves a good yarn, so start spinning one.”

The boat chugged along as I conveyed my story to an astonished Captain Sol, who interjected occasionally with savory comments about the reverend and the rats. Once we were in port, I helped him tie off the boat dockside.

I stepped off the Jonah wearing a fresh set of clothes, albeit fisherman gear, as gifted by Captain Sol who clapped me on the back. “Mercies are pouring out on you Ajax. Look who’s here already.”

I glanced over and saw Eunice––frail sweet Eunice. She dropped her basket as tears welled in her eyes. I promptly came to her side and embraced her.

“You were lost,” she said.

“And now I’m found,” I said.

She held up my hands and examined my damaged pseudo-epidermis. “My stars, you’re a mess. Let’s get you home.”

Night fell and I sat in the chair, looking out the window at the vacant storefront across the street. Eunice spent the better part of the day mending me all the while sharing her account of the store’s closure due to pressure and vandalism. The shopkeeper couldn’t keep a profit and continue to mend the store each time a window shattered or graffiti appeared on the door. So he packed up and left town.

I asked Eunice what happened to the ballerina, but she simply shook her head. There was just no way to know. Eventually, I helped her to bed, tucking the covers deftly around her frail frame. She smiled at me and whispered: “Good night.”

I responded in kind and then returned to my chair, staring out the front window and eyeing the sharp, black holes in the broken pane across the street. The urge to power down and recharge came on strong, but something stronger urged otherwise. I stood up and walked out the front door, knowing that Eunice would object. I was the wayward son, leaving once again too soon after returning from exile.

A twinge of guilt itched my core, but the inexplicable draw of curiosity drew me forth from the safety of the toy shop. The need to investigate felt…supernatural. Yet if I have no soul, as the reverend suggests, then how could I feel this way?

The night air foamed with fog, coating me with minute droplets as I wafted through it across the street and stood in front of the vacant storefront. It used to be beautiful and full of lovely clothes, and now it was broken and full of holes. Yet the boarded front door and the shattered window were accompanied by the word SOULLESS spray painted upon it multiple times. The dereliction was real. So much had happened in the time of my brief exit and all I could describe was a feeling of tremendous weight pulling me down. Sadness.

I walked along the curb to the building’s edge and peered down the alley. It was a complete void absorbing all light, making it impossible to see anything. Then I turned to leave but halted as the sound of rustling trash emanated from the void. Standing at the entry, I adjusted my eyesight to maximize my nighttime ocular abilities. Yet I was never meant to be a sniper, just a simple foot soldier. My sight was still limited.

Just walk away. All I needed to do was walk away. After everything I’ve been through only to make it back home again. Just walk, Ajax.

Instead I allowed myself to be sucked into the dark void of the alley, approaching the pile of garbage. Caution held me at a distance, but curiosity drew me nearer. A small, slender hand stuck out from the rest of the rubbish. It was delicate and feminine.

Could it be? Was she to be discarded as trash? Why not? I had been filched and then discarded as trash. I reached out and touched the hand, which in turn grasped mine. I heaved and pulled out the chassis of my ballerina. Although damaged, she was just as lovely as the moment I first saw her.

I gathered her into my arms and turned her head to face me. Her eyes opened. Her mouth could not speak, so she simply mouthed the words: thank you. I nodded and carried her away from the dump site and into the toy shop, where I laid her upon the work station. I arranged the tools I would need and then I caressed her lovely hair and kissed her forehead. “You’re safe now.”

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