Friday, November 4

Chapter 35:

Ironman pt. 1

Long ago in the village of Ix there lived a blacksmith named George Meadweb. Everyone in the town looked up to him, because he was the greatest blacksmith who had ever lived. They used to say he could make anything out of metal.

But, although George was the greatest blacksmith, he had no friends, and was very lonely, only having anvils and hammers and a forge to keep him company, so one morning he went for a walk into the forest.

As he was on his journey he saw a man with very dark skin walking not too far away. The stranger was wearing a blue robe with a silver sash about his waist. George saw him and immediately went up to him to try and be friendly. The black man introduced himself as Jamal.

"I see you are a lonely fella," said Jamal, "but you are the best blacksmith in the world, and they say you can make anything out of metal: why not make a friend for yourself?"

"Fool," said George, "a metal man can’t speak or eat or be a friend." He kicked at the dirt. "You’re just being a fool."

"You are very angry," said Jamal.

"It is because I am always alone, "George replied. "I just need a friend."

"Then make one," said Jamal, and instantly, he vanished from sight. George stood in wonder at this, until Jamal’s voice came to him again, "make a metal man."

The next day found George in his workshop with hammer and anvil beating out an old cast-iron stove into the shape of a man’s body. He used stove-pipes for legs, and smaller ones for arms. He made joints for the shoulders, elbows, wrists; knees, ankles, and hips, and attached them all together. He made feet out of two irons, and hands out of an old rake and a pitchfork. Then he started on the head and neck: these he crafted with great care out of a bucket. He cut holes for the eyes, and made a jaw, and attached it to the body. He created two eyes out of lead, and two ears out of tin, and a nose out of an old funnel. The little metal man looked wonderful, but he did not live.

The next day George began making a steam engine to fit inside the stove-body, and gears to work the joints, and tubes to carry the steam to the head. He made a little heart that would pump the steam heated by the fires in the metal man’s stove stomach, and made steam driven parts for inside the head. The metal man was able to do things now, but still was not alive.
George placed the metal man in the corner of his home and stoked up his belly with coal and wood. He filled his boiler with water, and stood him in the corner. Out of one ear came smoke from the fire, and from the other came steam from the boiler. He looked magnificent, and was the most complicated thing the blacksmith had ever made, but he was still not alive. George went to bed, and closed his eyes, watching the metal man for any sign of movement, but he did not move, and George fell asleep.

That night, as the bell in the church struck twelve, there was a sound like ice breaking up in the spring, and, in the middle fo the room, Jamal stood wearing a red robe and a golden sash about his waist. The floor made no sound as he walked over to the metal man, but there was a sound like crackling fire all about him as he reached out his hand and touched the metal man. He began singing in a strange voice that sounded like steam hitting loose sand:

"You are metal, heart of metal
You are like the heart of stone
But before this night is over
You shall live, and I be gone."
On the instant, the metal man blinked his iron black eyes, and looked up at Jamal. The man smiled and whispered into the metal man’s ear, causing him to give a large metal smile, and then, Jamal vanished without a trace, and with only the sound of a gong left ringing in the home behind him.

The sound woke the blacksmith, who sat straight up in bed, and saw the metal man standing there in the corner where he had left him, but there was a difference. The metal man was smiling.

"Are you alive?" George asked, as he stood to his feet.

The metal man nodded, and George gave a little yell and leapt back on top of his bed. The metal man lifted his foot and took a step towards George, who was standing on top of his bed with his back against the farthest wall. The metal man took another step, and found that it wasn’t that difficult for him to walk, and soon, he was stomping across the room, scattering sparks across the floor from the fire in his belly.

"You are alive." George said incredulously. "Can you talk?"

The metal man stopped walking and looked at George. The thought had never occurred to him that he might be able to talk. The metal man opened his mouth and tried to say something, but all that came out was "toot toot" as a steam organ might sound. He tried again, and tooted three different notes. This so pleased him that he began to sing out a melody with his tooting.

"I suppose," said George, venturing down to the floor, "I ought to find you a name." And the metal man nodded. George went over to his table and pulled some charcoal and a piece of paper over. He couldn’t think of what to name the metal man, but then he thought that maybe the metal man already had a name, so he asked, "do you already have a name?" The metal man nodded again. "What is it?"

The metal man opened his mouth and tooted a few times, but then shook his head. He walked over to the man and looked at the paper. "How about this," George said, "I will write out the alphabet, and you stop me when I get to the right letters to spell your name." This suited the metal man fine, and he tooted his ascent.

George started with A, then went to B. C, D, E, F... still nothing. GHIJKLMNOP... the metal man tooted. The first letter was P. He started from the beginning for the second letter. ABCDE... E? Pe... Pepe? Pendergrass? Pentatonic? Peter? That was it, tooted the metal man. Peter.

"Okay then, Peter it is." George looked down at the short metal man there before him, and smiled. "Welcome to my home Peter." Peter smiled, then patted his stomach and looked hopefully at George. "Do you need more coal?" Peter nodded, and George lead him to the pile of coal in the corner. "Just help yourself, but don’t overstuff yourself, or the fire may go out. The water is outside in the well." He lead Peter out and showed him how to draw up water, and where to fill his pump. Peter smiled and George smiled, then they both went back inside and slept the rest of the night.

The next morning George woke up to find his metal man Peter was gone. George leapt from his bed and sprinted to put his trousers on to go find Peter before he got into trouble, but as he was pulling on his boots, Peter came in through the door with a plate of coal. He set it down before George as if offering him breakfast. George sighed, and pulled his boots off again. "I don’t eat coal," he told Peter. "I’m a human." Peter looked a bit confused, so George explained further: "you are made of metal with a stove for a belly and run on water, but I am not made of metal. I am made of... of... hair and skin and meat and bone and blood. I eat things like eggs and ham." Peter scratched the top of his head with his rake hand, and strolled back outside to wait while George washed himself up.

It was a beautiful day out, and Peter took in a load of fresh air, making the fire in his belly roar. He watched the birds flit through the trees and land lightly on branches. He wondered what they were made of. He heard a dog back, and he turned to see it walking towards him. It came up right beside him and lifted its leg, urinating all over Peter’s left leg. Peter was aghast, and kicked at the dog, sending it a good twenty-feet into the side of a tree, knocking the dog unconscious. Peter went up and picked up the dog. He began looking at what it was made of. He felt the soft hair, then tore that away to reveal the flesh beneath. Beneath that, had said George, there was meat. He tore the skin away and saw the meat below. Next came the bone. Peter was surprised to see how much red liquid this dog contained. He wondered what it was, then he remembered his own water hold, and guessed it was rusty water from the dog’s internal tank. He thought he would refill the dog, and took him to the well and drew up a bucket, pouring the contents into the dog’s open wound.

George walked out of the house to see Peter standing over the dead dog with a second bucket of water, washing the blood off his legs and arms and feet. George looked at Peter’s blood covered claws and went back into the house and locked the door.

Peter was worried because the dog was getting cold, so he took a burning coal out of his own stomach and placed it in the dog’s mouth. There was a horrid scent and a sizzling sound that accompanied it. Peter thought he should get George’s help, so he went to the door of the cottage, but it was locked. Peter banged on the door and tooted, but George wasn’t letting him in. Peter went to the window and looked in: George was not there. He had gone out the other door. So Peter began tooting a tune he made up, and walked around the cottage to the main road.

There was an entire village there with people walking along the streets, and horses pulling cartloads of hay and vegetables to the market. It smelled of harvest, and Peter took a good look around for George, but did not see him. Since he did not know anything about the town, he began to explore.

The nearest hut was a bath house where people were soaking in tubs of water. They all had pink skin, and, below that, said Peter to himself, muscle and bone; and they don’t eat coal. He walked into the next hut followed by the sounds of screaming women in the bath-house. This hut was like George’s, but there was a small square thing in the corner that was slowly rocking back and forth. Peter walked over and looked in. There was a small thing in there sleeping. Peter picked it up. It looked like a small person. He looked at it closer and saw that it was flesh like George was with hair on the top. But it didn’t look like any of the people he had seen before that day. Peter supposed the only way to find out was to see if there was meat beneath the flesh, and bone beneath that.

A woman entered the hut and screamed. Peter turned, still holding the screaming child in his hands. The child had a large gash in its arm clear to the bone, and blood was everywhere. Peter set the child back in its bed and walked towards the woman. The woman screamed and started to back away putting up her arm to protect her face, then rushed past Peter to her baby, grabbing the screaming child and running out of the hut as fast as she could with Peter watching curiously.

He walked out of the hut and tooted to the woman waving his pitchfork hand. The villagers were beginning to congregate around him carrying torches and pitchforks and rocks. Peter was unsure of what they were up to, but, since they carried fire, he guessed they must want to befriend him – bringing him something to burn in his fires. Then the first rock was thrown. Others began throwing stones at him, hitting against his iron sides and bouncing away. Peter put up his hands to stop them, but the rocks kept coming. He backed into the hut as the villagers pushed at him with the pitchforks and torches. They closed the door after him and lit the walls of the small hut. The entire house was soon engulfed in flames, and pieces of the roof began to fall on him. He lifted his arm to protect himself, and remembered this as the action of the woman. She had been trying to protect herself. From what? he wondered.

Then something clicked, and he realized that she was trying to protect herself and her child from him. He looked at his hands and saw them covered in the red liquid. This was blood. This was what kept them alive. He had taken it out of the dog, then out of the child. Their life was on his hands. A large beam fell from the ceiling and crashed across his legs, pinning him to the floor. He began to lift it, then stopped and let it lay there as the rest of the building burned and fell in about him. They were trying to kill him now for what he had done. He would just lay still and let himself run dry. It was right that he too should die. He closed his eyes and tried to think about the beauty of the morning and the birds singing as the building colapsed on him engulfed in flames.


At 11:15 AM, Blogger Sbyllek said...

Strange story Josh. Very creative but kinda gross!!


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