Hot. Flames singed at his flesh.
Pain. His arm ached when he tried to cover his eyes, and his side throbbed with constant, stinging pain.
Alfred whimpered and remained lying down. “Oh God,” he asked, “My God, why did you forget me?”
“Forget who?” asked a voice.
The light in the room changed as an old woman with wild, grey curls sticking from her messy bun pulled a curtain open. She placed a hand on Alfred’s head, taking the chance to examine him. She grabbed a pen light and tested his pupils’ dilation. “Hmph. That bootup was supposed to be a test.”
Alfred’s rapid heartbeat and breathing slowed. “Where am I?” he asked. “I take it I’m not in Hell?”
“Depends on how much and what kind of Hell you believe in.” She flipped a switch, and the gears behind Alfred slowed. The hot fire dimmed. “This is The Bone Forge.”
Alfred swallowed. “No.” He lifted his painful arm, mechanical gears whirring. His right side, down to the lung and diaphragm, had been replaced with computerized versions. His body stung where his nerves and blood intersected with the machine’s circuitry and pipes. “This can’t be happening – I said no resuscitation, no experiments!”
“Oh, get over that. I haven’t paid attention to paperwork in months.” The old lady tsked, then unhooked a few electrical cords from Alfred’s body.
“I fought for our freedom,” Alfred said. “I was supposed to die for it, too, not become a… a mechanical zombie!”
She kicked the brakes on the gurney and moved the IV bag such that it hung at his head. “I can still cut the power to your brain, if you want. You’re not able to survive on your own, not for long.”
“Will they let you do it?”
“‘They’ don’t have any say in it.” She pushed the gurney through a door into a cool, dark hallway. Some of the lights flickered, some remained dark. “General Applequist surrendered his army three days ago, and our glorious Revolution’s about to be downgraded to just another civil war. The only people who would care if I pull the plug on you are our enemies, and them only because they’re jealous of my tech.” She shrugged. “I don’t care. I expect they’ll find me guilty of war crimes at my trial, and I’ll let them take my life. Better than them taking my secrets.”
Alfred winced as she pushed his gurney over a threshhold. The room he entered had barred windows, and the morning light shined through a light dust that swirled in the room. He could still smell the smoke from the bombings, from when the front had raged just at the edge of Diamond City.
His lip quivered. Pain echoed through his cheek, so he lifted his left hand – still human, not machine – and felt the smooth mechanics. “Can I look at my face?”
The old woman sighed, but she turned the gurney to face the cracked mirror on the wall.
Alfred turned his head away from the mirror. “God didn’t forget me. He purposefully turned away.”
“Believe about God what you want, but don’t forget this.” The old lady put a hand to the bed, just next to Alfred’s mechanical arm. “Your country never gave up on you. Not when you were a fresh recruit, not when you fired your gun, not when half your body’d been blown apart on the field, and certainly not now. Now, do you want this new life your blessed, dying country gave you, or should I leave you on the gurney’s battery power for a few hours and let you make your final prayers?”
He swallowed some saliva. “Plug me in. I… I want my mom.”
She grabbed the man’s cords and transferred the power to the wall outlet. “We’ll try to reach her, sweetie. Let me get you a book to read in the meantime.”
This was written for D. Wallace Peach’s monthly Speculative Fiction Prompt. It’s looking to be a *hot* prompt, so join in before the deadline!
If you enjoyed my sci-fi tale of cyborgism, consider reading my novella, If I Only Had No Heart. It’s a horror tale about a robot cult that encourages cyborgism, and it has a lot of feelings and themes in common with this flash fiction.
Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner
24 thoughts on “The Bone Forge”
Nice read. I felt there was an entire backstory to this that would be worth knowing more about.
For the record I would quite happily become a cyborg, especially if they could replace parts of my skeleton with titanium or something stronger. I can even speak in a robotic voice if I have to 😀
I guess I shouldn’t make comments sometimes….
Why? I think you’re conpletely right – unless you’re one of those people who think glasses make you a cyborg!
You just seemed to ignore my comment and like and comment on everyone else’s. I thought I had annoyed you or something.
I think I just forgot to push enter. I remember typing up some witty nonsense about the glasses, but apparently I fucked something up. I’m sorry it caused you pain… 😦
All good. I’m an anxious person and when I get no response from people I think the worst, it’s nothing to do with you really…
It’s fine. I do, however, think I’m reaching a blog-point where I’m not able to keep up with everything as much as I should. When the blog was smaller, I used to run around, looking for other (often newer) blogs to follow. Now I don’t do that, and I’m realizing most of my *good* conversations are with people who’ve been blogging about the same length of time as me or longer (i.e. you, Tom, Crispina, Miriam, others). I’m trying to come up with strategies to deal with it – but damn, it’s just looking like I sit here and let things I don’t care about get in the way.
This is great, HRR. Wonderful character development and a complete story with a whole backstory implied. Thanks so much for taking up the prompt! Can’t wait to share. 🙂
Thank you! I wanted to make something a little shorter this time, but still complete and filled with political and psychological complexity.
You accomplished your goal!
Brilliant humanization of this mechanical man.
This really works. With just a few words, you feel you have an insight into this world, time and place.
Thank you! I am a setting person, I must say!
You certainly got that right here 🙂
a story that slowly tugs you in. Nice one.
Thanks! Glad it’s been enkoyable for folks.
Indeed. For me.
This is a great story. I want to know how he got there.
Maybe one day I’ll figure that out! Thanks for reading.
Reblogged this on Myths of the Mirror and commented:
A wonderful story from HRR. I hope you enjoy it. Have a great weekend!