Orichalcum Slave

In the still and quiet in the town, ever this way since the water came, there are no voices crying out, and the bells have long since ceased ringing. But here, Heike waits, as asked to by his master. He has been waiting so long.

Over time, his bionic eyes have adopted to the change in light. So little of it filters down. Where once his master’s plants grew, undulating weed now rules. Heike has made some of the little fish his pets. They come to him now, their skins metallic like his own.

His joints grow less mobile and his skin is becoming marred with the scars of the barnacles that attempt to make his hull their home, discoloured by salts drawn to his orichalcum skin.

How he longs for his family; for their smiles and the gentle touches of inclusion.Sometimes a shadow in the ripple of the water makes him turn with joyful remembrance, the hope of a connection, only for the shark to swim over in strong, slow strokes. Their bedrooms stand empty, what remains of their curtains waft now in the current, a tragic reflection of before.

Standing now at the empty gable, he looks out at the city, the buildings in disrepair, the great pillars tumbled, blocks from the buildings offset from their foundations. Their home still stood; his master was the city’s Master Architect and he, the stalwart assistant. His master would be proud to see that all of his creations had stood the test of time; barely a crumble among them. 

He wanders through the hallways, the frescos painted by his mistress. Barely an echo of what they once were, he traces the brushstrokes that had pictographically told their story. Lingering in the corner, with reverent fingers he traces the outline she had painted, a soft-edged picture of their faithful man. Still, he waits.

Yes, he remembers the day the ground shook. People running around like ants, lost and confused. From the shelter of the house, he watched the water, bubbling, a maelstrom of belongings and currents. There were screams and sobbing. And Heike waited, like his master had asked.

“Heike,” his voice rough and face drawn, “stay. Look after our home. We will see you at the end.”

Heike had nodded in assent and watched them go, dressed in their finery, their cases apparently heavy. Even when he blinks, he can still see his little charge’s hand in her father’s, waving goodbye.

Why did they not take him? Heike was his master’s greatest achievement; his wealth and protection was wrapped up in Heike’s orichalcum hide. The names they had called his beloved master. Those voices are all gone now.

Did he mean that one day they would all be together in paradise? He knew the master believed that all life had souls. Were they beyond him in paradise now?

Heike looks upon his hearth under the shifting aquamarines and royal blues, highlighting the ruffled ridges of his cultivated coral.

He misses them so much. He knew that no one believed in his softly-glowing hydrogen heart, but he had loved them and did so still. Where were they now?

Beyond the city walls, Heike spots a change in the light density of the water. He changes his focal distance. There is a light, descending down toward the city. Hope surges through his heart. They’d remembered him!

With his heavy step, he bounds down the streets as fast as his mechanical legs allow, heart light as air on the current. At the city gates he waited, his hands pressed together in his customary greeting. The fierce beam of the craft’s spotlight swallows his subservient little frame beneath the richness of the semi-circular city gate.

They were finally coming home.

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