The Woman Machine

Up and up and around and around he went, higher and higher up the coiling marble stairs until eventually he reached the top, and climbed the last few steps into the clock-chamber of Big Ben, squinting against the sudden, dazzling light that streamed into the chamber, shining in through the pale glass of one of the four, gigantic-clock faces that were built into each wall, glinting over the whirring clockwork mechanisms that stood in the centre of the room and drove the colossal hands of the clocks. The air was stale, and tasted of metal and oil, and was silent save thetick, tick, ticking of Big Ben's clockwork innards.  

The Lord Mayor opened his mouth to speak. His old peeling lips curled up to reveal a mouthful of perfectly white, perfectly pointed teeth that glistened with strings of saliva in the bloodless light.  

"Mother," he said, his voice broken and ravaged by time. "Mother, are you there?"

It took a long time for Mother to reply. The Lord Mayor just stood there patiently, his expression blank, his metal legs reflected in the chequered marble floor as he listened to the endless ticking of the mechanisms, to the sound of the wind outside, hissing past Big Ben's pale faces.

"I am here my son…" said a voice. "I am always here…"

It was a voice as old and as miserable as the Earth itself, a voice that had forgotten sunlight, and happiness, and had grown as weak and as shrivelled as its speaker. You could be forgiven for not noticing her at first, for she was very small, and blackened with so much dust and oil that it was hard to see where her body stopped and the machine began, for like her son, she was half-human and half-machine. 

Well, to tell the truth, her body was a bit more than half machine. Her body filled the room. Her body was the clockwork of Big Ben, and all of it was her, and up, up at the very top of the screeching, clicking assemblage of clockwork was her human form, was the figure of a shrivelled, ancient woman, her upper body welded and sewn and built into the mechanism, pipes and wires emerging from the convulsing machinery and disappearing under her veiny skin, swelling and gurgling as they pumped her body full of the substances and chemicals that kept her alive. 

Her name was Mother, and she was the most advanced bio-mechanical computer ever created, and she was his, she was all his. 

"Have you complied them yet?" asked the Mayor.

Again, he had to wait a while as Mother processed his speech. A shiver seemed to pass through the machinery, the cogwheels all moving differently, chains rattling over pulleys and ratchets clicking over springs and then her blackened lips twitched.

"Yes my son…they…they are ready…"

"Good. And what of the girl herself?"

The End

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