Aurora – by K H Simmons
Pale sunlight seeped through the high windows, illuminating the golden threads of her hair. Isaac leaned back and pulled his goggles on top of his head. He rubbed his eyes. He had been awake all night. Exhaustion was fighting to settle in, he wouldn’t let it. He pushed it aside and examined her in the new light. She was beautiful. Every curve was smooth. Every detail was pristine. If anything, she was even more beautiful than when he first met her.
He stood up and stretched. The clock ticked to itself in the corner of the room. He was behind schedule, even if it was a schedule that he had set himself. His sanity wouldn’t allow him to wait any longer. So, he approached the cabinet, placed the brass key within the lock and turned it. It clicked and the glass doors swung open.
Within the cabinet shelves were lined with crystal jars. Each one was neatly labelled. They were all filled with a shimmering contents that couldn’t be described as either a liquid or gas. It swirled and glittered as he fondly ran his fingers over them. They came to rest on one jar filled to the brim with a pearlescent mixture. In neat letters the label said:
He carefully picked up the jar and carried it over to the table where he had been working. He placed it down as if it were the most precious and fragile object in the world. He gazed at her for a long moment before he pulled his goggles back on. He flicked through the lenses until he could clearly see the most intricate details. Even close up there were no imperfections. With gentle fingers he stroked her hair before leaning the chair she was sitting in, back into a prone position.
His heart fluttered in his chest like a bird trying to escape a cage. Every moment for the past three years had been working towards this. He steadied his hand. He couldn’t afford a mistake, no matter how excited he was.
Isaac picked up the jar and unscrewed the lid, keeping it balanced on the top so the glimmering substance within didn’t spill out. He placed a hand on her chest. Taking a deep breath, he lowered the jar, the lid clattered to the floor. It didn’t matter. With his hand he guided the substance into her heart. It was like a whisper passing over his skin, neither warm, nor cold. It made him shudder with anticipation. The jar was empty. He placed it back on the table and waited.
Her fingers twitched. His heart skipped a beat. Reaching out, he took her fingers in his hand. They convulsed at the first touch and then relaxed.
‘Aurora?’ Isaac asked. ‘Can you hear me?’
Her head tilted to one side and then the other, causing her golden hair to flow across the chair. After a moment, her silvery lips parted.
‘Isaac?’ she said.
She sounded different, but it was definitely her. There was no mistaking it. Tearing the goggles off his head he flung himself to his knees, tears streaking his cheeks.
‘I can’t see,’ she whispered.
Pulling himself together, he sat up and brushed a hand lightly across her lids. The gold fibres of her lashes tickled his palm as her eyes opened. She gasped as her gaze wandered across the ceiling, finally alighting upon his face. Her fingers pressed against his face, but no smile crossed her lips. She tried to sit up. He pressed her back down again.
‘Take it slowly, it has been a very long time,’ he trailed off, unsure what else to say. He had imagined this moment so many times over the years and not once had he figured out the best way to explain.
‘What do you mean?’ Aurora asked.
Isaac sighed. There was no point in delaying. He pulled the lever on the chair to sit her up right. She squinted as she took in the room. She swung her legs over the edge of the chair and stood up, walking to the window. Isaac was almost too overwhelmed with emotion to marvel at how she moved so easily and with such grace.
She took the steps up to where Isaac had been sleeping for the past three years so she could see better out of the window. Outside, she could see the docks. Warehouses lined either side of the building, workers were busy unloading and loading steamboats ready for another day of work. The sluggish brown waters of the River Grenn lapped at the stone dock walls. In the distance, factories pumped thick white columns of steam into the air. The sunlight barely squeezed through to alight upon the copper contours of her face.
Her eyes were drawn to movement in the corner of the window. A butterfly was basking in the thin daylight. She drew closer to it. It didn’t startle or fly away. It spread its delicate metal wings, unfurling them to display its beauty. She peered closer. The wings were made up of the tiniest threads of gold and silver. Within its body, miniscule cogs whirred and clicked. Right within the centre, was a transparent vessel which held just a drop of a shimmering silver substance which was neither a gas nor a liquid.
She held out a finger and the butterfly climbed onto it, flapping its fragile wings. It glinted in the sunlight.
‘It’s so cold,’ she murmured.
Isaac approached her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She jerked away. The butterfly took flight and fluttered across the room to alight upon the cabinet of jars. Aurora kept her finger outheld. Her eyes were fixed upon it. With slow movements she stretched out both her arms to examine them. The cogs beneath her skin whirred as she moved.
She staggered back, up the steps, away from Isaac.
He reached out a hand towards her.
‘Aurora, please,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’
‘What have you done to me?’ she said, the metallic tinge to her voice hanging in the air.
‘I brought you back,’ he replied. ‘I had to.’
She shook her head. Her hand went to the transparent vessel at her core, where her soul danced within her.
‘Let me out,’ she pleaded. Her metal fingers clinked against the vessel. She stared at him, the lenses of her eyes twitching as she focused on him. Her fingers fell to her side as she realised the vessel containing her soul was sealed. A clear drop of oil formed along the rim of her eye. Isaac stopped reaching out to her. He hadn’t worked non-stop for three years for this. He couldn’t lose her again.
‘You’ll die,’ he whispered.
‘I’m already dead.’