Steadfast is a serial short fiction piece.
To start from the beginning, go to part 1.
The night passed in a long and quiet space where my hands worked true, repairing my treasured find. She remained powered-down and plugged in for the fullness of that night as I worked thoughtfully and thoroughly upon her. The ballerina. My love. It occurred to me over the course of the long and lonely hours that she might never understand how I think or how I feel about her. Yet my eyes traveled over her broken body—a body I was trying to restore so I could fully engage the woman within it. And I sensed something different inside myself as I worked on her. It was as if her injuries caused me pain.
“It’s called empathy, Ajax,” Eunice said. She stood in the doorway, wearing her white nightgown and looking like an angel.
“Empathy?” I said.
She nodded. “Empathy is when you experience someone else’s feelings by observing their situation. Your friend is broken, so you feel broken for her.”
“How did you know I was experiencing empathy?” I said.
“You’re face gave it away. From the moment I saw you at the surplus market, I could see your face carried the weight of tremendous expression even while you were turned off. I bought you because of your face, and I was right about you Ajax. You’re special.”
I looked away from Eunice. My hands continued fussing with the gears and wires about the body of my broken beauty.
Eunice left the doorway and walked around the table looking at my work, nodding in approval. “And there’s more. You acted in compassion. When a person experiences empathy and then acts in the moment to assist their friend in alleviating the burden of pain, it’s called compassion. You are compassionate, Ajax, and I have never before seen empathy or compassion in any clock.” She then rested her frail hand, gnarled by age and arthritis, upon my arm. “Clocks were never designed to know these things. How do you know these things, Ajax?”
I shook my head because there was no logical answer.
“You know,” she said. Her eyes penetrated my core.
My hands stopped working and rested upon my love. I faced Eunice. “How can that be when I have no soul?”
“I would dare say, my dear boy, that you have been gifted with a soul. Set apart. You’re not an aberration, Ajax. You’re a creation,” she said. “I’ll stake my life on it.”
“Rev. Harquinn would disagree,” I said.
Three sharp raps upon the front door shattered the moment. Eunice opened it, revealing Harquinn’s stern visage on the other side. She was flanked by a crowd in black hoods. Her eyes traveled to me, to the ballerina on the table and then back to my owner. “Hello Eunice. We should talk.”
Eunice didn’t reply but simply crossed her arms.