Scrap Metal Mary

some woman who's like all metal and that?

The esteemed doctor- the only doctor- upon the Isle of Benbecula had finally retired. He had opened his practice thirty years previously, when his eyes had glittered with prospects and his hair had gleamed chestnut tones.

            When he turned the key in the lock for the last time and turned away from the battered oak door, his back was hunched beneath its grubby cloak and the sparse hairs that remained upon his flaking scalp were white.       

            But a doctor he was, and so upon returning to his comfortably cramped home, he found himself sitting in the armchair by the window, watching the townspeople pass to and fro, his fingers itching to be back among the sinews and muscles; desperate to dive into the old medicine chest with its warm, damp smell and offer a cure to any ailment.

            That was how his tinkering began. It was his interest in the people. He had studied how they moved, how their bones clanked together in the sack of skin that held them. For years he had bound them, fixed them, healed them. He knew the human physique better than any other, and he felt that the time had come for him to create his own companion. 

            The doctor spent months collecting scraps of tin, iron and copper. He wandered the scrap yards, where splintered carts and cogs sprawled over one another like ants tumbling out of the anthill. He jumped from mound to mound, examining the discarded scraps that lay before him, unfocused grey eyes darting over mud-smothered items. Occasionally one skinny arm would swing out and snatch some unseen treasure up, while he muttered its potential, cooing kind thoughts to the treasure.

            The townspeople watched him, and murmured of the devil’s sickness that took the air. 

            The doctor worked diligently, nimble fingers dancing over the metalwork. The days shortened, forcing him to work by candlelight. The nights grew colder, but the doctor did not care for the petty ways of the seasons; he would be greater than all that in the end.

            He did not notice that his fingers were turning grey, and that sometimes they jarred, refusing to work. He did not notice that his grease-blackened clothes enveloped his shrunken form like a baby’s swaddling cloth. He did not notice that his breaths had grown shallow. He was consumed by his work.

            When she was finished, she lay upon the workbench, as nerves and impulses explored their new home. Fingers twitched with life, as dreams and desires shimmered into form between a tin lattice of sights, sounds and smells. The doctor loved her; the love of a painter and his masterpiece, the careful affection of every brushstroke visible.

            The doctor’s hunched form fell into the chair beside the long, wooden bench where she lay, his back cushioned by the damp material. Two candles, fitted behind stained-glass shields stolen from the burned-out church, sputtered into life, throwing the room into shadow. She awoke and whispered for a name, for words lay ready upon her tongue. The doctor’s harsh whisper returned;


The End

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