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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Heart of Lucy
by Loren Presley

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"Where were you last night?"

The voice was deep and hoarse, the words coming from a curious and astonished man. They were the first words she heard in her life, an awakening to her existence.

The sound of someone closing a door surprised her ears. The smell of rain gradually spread across the room. She felt herself sitting on something hard, with her arms rested on two hard surfaces. Other than that, she did not know the contents of her environment an awkward darkness was in her eyes, besides a strange red glow.

"Where were you last night?" the voice insisted. "Were you ill?"

"I was in the best health I've ever been, Ollie," a different voice replied. It was a nicer, softer voice. It spoke with a tone of handling great thrill very gently.

"How could you, Arthur?" the hoarse voice blamed. "A royal ceremony! Why didn't you come?"

"Do you know what it is to be God, Ollie?" the nicer voice said suspiciously.

There was an awkward pause.

"What are you getting at?" the hoarse voice asked quietly.

"Let me show you."

Two sets of foot steps two and fro approached her, one much heavier than the other. When they stopped she felt a warm, soft hand over her own. "Wake up, Lucy," the sweet voice said calmly. "We have company."

She had no vocabulary. Even sound itself was something new to her. These had been only her first seconds of consciousness. However, she felt, instinctively, that another life was communicating to her. She wasn't sure what was wanted of her. She slightly flexed her elastic brows in concentration and held her breath confusedly. After a moment, another soft, warm hand touched her eyelids, and opened them.

In front of her stood two men.

The one with the hands she liked was a tall, thin man he was about the age of thirty. His hair was a soft and rather untidy brunet, his passionate eyes a sky blue. He stood leaning toward her, looking as if he had been extremely busy with something. He wore a white, buttoned shirt, fine khaki-colored pants and a long, white coat. He was looking straight into her eyes.

The other man possessed a large build, and he stood from a distance with shortly trimmed hair and a small mustache. He wore a black waist coat. He looked puzzled in a peculiar way, but a moment later he groaned in frustration.

"Arthur?" the large man uttered disgustedly. He had the hoarse voice.

"Isn't she wonderful?" the other exclaimed.

"Preposterous! You did not hark to the queen's summon because you've been working on this toy?"

The other man lowered his hands and rose, looking insulted. "Oliver!" he exclaimed. "She's not a toy!"

The large man calmed himself and shook his head. "It seems to be quite a work of art Arthur," he said. "But how could you put it before the ceremony!"

The other man suddenly seemed even more hurt. "She's not an it Oliver!"

"Arthur, you're mad. Machines have no identity. Not even automatons." "She's not a machine, Oliver! You don't call her a machine!"

"What do you call it then?"

"She's real!"

She watched as the two men argued over her.

She looked down to examine her body. She was not like them.

As she looked up at them again she assimilated the anger of the two men into her own knowledge, and soon she began to feel anger too. It was no pleasant feeling and she hoped it would leave.

"Of course it's real!" the large man exclaimed. "There it is in front of you and I, but "

"No, Oliver!" the other man defended. "You don't understand! Just as we walked in the door our voices woke her for the first time! I arranged it that way because I wanted you to see her come to life. This night, a new, genuine consciousness has materialized into reality!"

Though she did not understand him, she began to receive several feelings: joy, glee, love. She easily kept them.

"You're not making any sense!" the large man exclaimed, surprised and disgusted.

"Look at her, Ollie! She's looking back and forth at us!"

"Enough of your games!" the larger man exploded. "Your tricks will not work on me, Arthur! I've had enough of this game!"

"This is not a trick!" the other man said. A tear accumulated in his eye. "This is not a trick. This is not a game! This is a real, thinking, feeling consciousness." He turned toward her and looked in her eyes again. "Lucy, this is Oliver. He's my friend. Please forgive him. He doesn't understand."

To her, what he said was a foreign language. But with her cunning wit she understood a rough idea of what was happening.

"You're mad, Arthur!" the large man said, putting his heavy hand on the other man's shoulder. "No man can do what you're trying to tell me you've done. Surely, you are sick! You're treating your automaton as if it were a real person. And it's not a real person, Arthur. You know that. Please come to your senses!"

She knew she was real.

The man in the white coat looked outraged. He made fists with his red hands, and looked at the large man with a flaming glare. He reached out and grabbed the large man's hands with his own. "Feel me Ollie!" he insisted. "Don't feel my hands with your hands, but feel me with your soul, with your instinct! Focus Ollie! You know I'm alive! Inside this body you can feel my existence!" When he was done, he pulled the large man's hands to hold hers. She felt the callused hands of the large man against the scarlet film that functioned as skin. "Now feel her!" the man in the white coat exclaimed. "Feel her new, innocent consciousness! Feel with your instinct! You know she is alive! There is no difference between what you feel with her and what you feel with me, or any other man. Or beast!"

"You're trying to humiliate me!" the large man boomed, withdrawing his hands and throwing them down. He began a heavy march toward the door.

"Ollie, please. I'm sorry, but you don't understand! Please, try to understand! You must believe me. What I'm saying is true!"

The large man put on a heavy, black coat and his hand grasped the door knob. "There is no fool who can possibly believe you! Good night, er- eh- fr- Frankenstein!" he insulted, bitterly. In a heartbeat he was out the door into the dark stormy night. The door shook the room with its slam.

She hated the larger man.

The man in the white coat bowed his head. "The queen will be pleased with my success," he said. "She'll understand why I didn't go to be knighted. Lucy is priceless... But how can I make them understand?"

Lucy was curious. What was the new word he said? Queen? The sound of the word "priceless" tickled her mind.

What did "understand" mean? He had said that strange word quite a few times, like it was something important.

She took some time to observe the room. A workshop, all white and filled with square tables and chairs and other complicated objects she didn't understand. Some of which looked a lot like what she was made of.

Lightning flashed outside. The man in the white coat slowly turned toward her. He held a long gaze at her, his lips slowly shifting into a smile. Thunder boomed from the lightning. "Yes," he thought to himself, "She is priceless," and approached her. He stood looking down at her for a moment and then took a knee.

"Hello, Lucy," he said, softly. "My name is Arthur. I'm your father. Do you understand?" Lucy's mind didn't understand, but her heart did. She gently moved her eyes to give him a soft look. Arthur grinned, elated, and his eyes twinkled. "Can you smile for me, Lucy?" he asked. Lucy didn't know what to do. What was it to smile?

Arthur looked down and put his hand on hers. Lightning from the storm flashed the instant his hand made contact. It was then that she smiled.

"Can you stand up, like this?" Arthur asked rising to his feet.

Lucy looked down at her legs, constructed with plastic stabilizers that foreshadowed bones, finely threaded muscles made from a baffling material that had a rubber feel to her, a thick, pinkish syrupy fluid that was her blood running through her transparent veins, covered with a hot pink, transparent, plastic shield, held together with the scarlet, translucent film.

Arthur took her hands. "Come on, I'll help you," he said.

Lucy tried to rise from her chair. Her legs felt a little clumsy, but her father's arms lifted her until she stood perfectly. Then, he gently let go, and she stood on her own. She trembled with giddiness a little. Putting what she'd learned to use, she tried to walk.

"Yes, that's right, Lucy." Arthur said, beaming. Lucy observed her father's lips carefully. Feeling a little proud of herself, she tried to talk.

"L-u-cy," she said softly.

Arthur trembled with a maddening joy. "Yes! That's your name! Lucy!"

Doctor Arthur Reuel sat in his chair, trying to write by the irregular pulsing of a dying lightbulb. The rain no longer poured. The thunder was distant. While he wrote, he couldn't help looking back at his previous diary entries. The look back on his work and his progress thrilled him as he thought what it had all given him tonight. He wrote:

"March 22, 1900. Lucy came to life tonight. The very instant I awoke her I finally received my lifelong dream to know what it is to be God. Surely, my Friend has given me this gift to create life because I can handle it. I am soon to change the world with it! Not once have I denied I always had this power in me. This night has surely proven that. Lucy not only thrills and amazes me in ways no man other than I can feel and I'll admit there does seem to be something frightening about her existence - but I love her with all my heart and soul. To know that an original consciousness is my creation, fills me with pride I cannot measure!"

He looked at his clock. It read 4:21. He was not tired. He glanced at his creation, resting peacefully in her bed for her first time. Arthur thought of every detail in which she functioned. He thought of her animation he'd conceived in his mind, which had put itself in motion tonight. He thought of the functions of her personality he'd engraved on her heart. He thought of her heart, ticking rapidly and beating with its bizarre construction in her chest. Then his amazement and pride weakened and darkened. Throughout the night he couldn't help feeling something was amiss.

He looked back at his diary and reluctantly added, "I feel guilty, but I don't know what for."

His light gave out.

A knock at the door awakened him.

Plenty of sunlight shone through the windows of his study room. He looked at his clock, which read 11:17. Physically he was drowsy, but his soul was wide awake.

Lucy awoke as the knocking became more insistent. She pulled her eyelids opened to see daylight for the first time. She smiled and opened her lips with awe.

She watched curiously as Arthur got up, covering the eyes of his tired head, and walked toward the door out of her sight. When she heard the door open a wild breeze blew, a pleasant, new sound to hear.

"Arthur! Don't you ever get any sleep?" the voice from the large man sounded. Immediately she wanted him to leave.

"Please, Ollie, come in," Arthur's voice said quietly, but with a roughly angry tone. Heavy footsteps entered the house, and the door shut.

She decided to get out of her bed. She stood up, turned around and carefully stepped toward the parlor. The voices became clearer as she made her approach.

"I discussed your issue with her majesty. She's reconsidered. Do you know what you're getting yourself into, Arthur? Do you want people to think you're mad? Or treasonous?" Ollie said seriously.

"I don't care," Arthur breathed. "Lucy is worth more to me than any treasure possible on this world."

As he finished his sentence, Lucy turned the corner to the grand entry chamber and they came in sight. Ollie looked at her with the same glare as he had when she'd first opened her eyes. She contracted her brows with anger.

"It walks, does it?" Ollie said, looking impressed yet unconvinced of Arthur's claims.

"She walks, she talks, she eats, she sleeps, she feels pain... she lives. She's a miracle." Arthur said bittersweetly.

Ollie's expression suddenly changed, like his eyes had been opened to something. Was he starting to understand? Lucy couldn't tell what he was thinking, but as long as he didn't respect her existence, she would continue to hate him.

"You're trying to tell me it she eats?" Ollie turned and asked Arthur in a nicer voice. "And sleeps, like a living thing?"

"She is living," Arthur said turning toward her with his tired, intelligent glare. He raised his arm. "Lucy, come here," he said with a friendly tone.

Lucy was reluctant, but perhaps she had no reason to fear Ollie. The puzzled look on his face showed that perhaps he was now frightened of her, but nevertheless it was a gaze she didn't trust to retain disrespect. Still, perhaps it was possible for her to read expressions falsely.

"Come, Lucy. Don't be afraid. Oliver is my friend. He just wants to see you," her father beckoned.

"...I'm... coming," she finally said with her alien voice. She did not hesitate to approach. She shifted her gaze from Arthur to Oliver, but she went straight to her father's side.

Oliver was looking more shocked by the moment. The large man looked into her eyes, and she returned the gaze. Her anger began to quench itself. "Say something to me," Oliver asked.

Lucy looked around the parlor, at the fine staircases and the marble floor and the large windows. Then she turned her wide, strange eyes to him. "This is my home," she said.

Oliver didn't change his gaze.

Arthur looked up. "I've been teaching her how to talk. She's a very fast learner. Truly brilliant..."

Ollie stiffened again. "No," he said. "It is impossible! Impossible! Doctor, what is wrong with you? What are you doing? Why are you doing it?"

Arthur scowled and raised a finger to silence him. "Do you know how someone acts if they see the outside world for the first time?" he exclaimed, and with that, his hand went straight to the doorknob.

Lucy was afraid of seeing the void and stormy weather that she guessed was all that was behind the door. However, as the door opened, a beautiful world shone into her eyes. Buildings, streets, a clouded sky overhead, people everywhere walking back and forth.

Her father's soft, warm hand holding her own awoke her, and she looked up brightly. "Do you want to see it, Lucy?" he asked enthusiastically.

Lucy's heart ticked and beat fast and hard. She took one step outside the door and stumbled over stone steps leading down. Her father caught her before she fell. "Easy, Lucy. Here, I'll help you." Arthur said, and taking her hands, he walked her down; Oliver followed puzzlingly behind, observing Lucy ever so keenly now.

Lucy received many surprised gazes from the people passing by. At first sight, Lucy appeared to be a four-foot young girl made of scarlet glass or gelatin. With Arthur holding her hand, he received many strange gazes too. Many were afraid to walk past her as she stood at the doorway next to her father. She heard them mumbling, "What is that?" and, "It moves!"

"Don't mind them, Lucy," Arthur said from over her head. "They've just never seen anyone like you before." He looked at the few who couldn't walk past them. "Don't be afraid of her," he bid. Hesitantly, the people walked past them wanting to stay away, and they were on there way again, but not without consistently having to look back, no matter how far they walked ahead.

Lucy didn't like them. She returned each of their gazes, not caring for the fact that she was outnumbered.

Apparently, her father wanted her to move on with things. "Come on, Lucy. I'll show you around," he said, walking her forward.

Lucy tried to focus on the sights that fascinated her, but she couldn't help but realize that she was attracting more and more attention. She could tell they were afraid of her. Likewise, however, she was afraid of them. So many unfamiliar faces, all looking afraid, like something terrible was happening. Only two familiar faces walked with her, the very first two faces she had seen. Even Oliver seemed like a friend to her now, though he continued to look at her, shocked.

Later, Lucy looked up to see an enormous tower with a clock. It caught her interest so strongly she lost track of where she was walking.

"Be careful Lucy," Arthur said, pulling her out of the street. "Stay close to me." Lucy missed the loving tone in her father's voice. Even Arthur was probably too excited to be walking her in front of so many people who watched and pulled away from her.

Suddenly, a terrible, terrible sound she'd never heard before shrilled. A vehicle was cruising aimlessly toward her direction. Its wheels were screeching, like someone was screaming, but Lucy couldn't tell who. People dashed out of its way. She felt her father's hand let go of her. Time stopped in her mind before she felt the metal vehicle ram her. She felt the film of her skin break. A clear, glue-like fluid sprayed onto the vehicle's windows, the street, and Arthur's clothing. As soon as the car stopped and the screeching of the wheels silenced she fell from the front of the vehicle on her back, her head hitting the stone floor. Never before had she imagined such agony.

Crying and screaming she trembled on the street. The outside world was reacting dramatically over her head. She opened her eyes and looked around frantically, but her body continued to shiver. She felt the pool of glue-blood she was lying in.

"Lucy! Lucy!" Arthur's voice exclaimed over her screaming.

"I'm scared! I'm scared!" she cried. Immediately, she felt Arthur's arms lifting her from the ground frantically. He held her against his chest and began running with her. Lucy heard him crying.

"Doctor, wait! I'm coming! I want to help!" Oliver's voice called from behind.

Arthur did not stop running. "No! No!" he cried. "No, God! please, no!"

Lucy felt him running up the stairs. His hand opened the door as fast as lightning. Besides her own screaming, and Arthur's moaning, the surroundings were silent.

Arthur laid her on a table and examined the damage, but he could hardly see past his tears.

"Arthur! Arthur! Is there anything I can do?" Oliver asked coming up the stairs into the doorway. Lucy's heart ceased to tick and beat. She let out a scream so genuine as a living thing.

"She won't die! Why isn't she dying?" Arthur screamed.

"Can you can you stop the pain? Put her to sleep, somehow? Is there some way to do that?"

Arthur began looking around frantically for something. He soon a grabbed a large syringe he'd created should anything happen to his creation.

Lucy's eyes were wide opened. She tried to talk, but she could barely. "I'm scared! I'm scared!" she breathed.

Arthur stabbed her with the syringe and Lucy felt his loving hand on her cheek. "You'll be fine, Lucy," he sobbed. "I'll make it stop." She felt herself drifting to a sleep, and her mind stopped. She blacked out.

"The driver was shocked when he saw her, he forgot everything!" Arthur cried. He was kneeling on the floor by his bed. "It's my fault! I let go of her! I don't know why! Why did I let go? Why... why did I let go!"

"I understand Arthur. Human beings are not perfect," Oliver consoled, "...but they have the power to correct their mistakes. Now go, go to her, Arthur. Help her."

"Thank you," Arthur breathed, slowly rising.

It pained him to see the smashed body of his creation lying alive and in a sleep of agony on the table. Sweat laid underneath his hair. His face was full of dirt and tears. His clothing was stained with the bitter syrup of his creation's blood.

As he walked toward her, he put his hand over hers. "She's still alive," he sobbed. "Why isn't she dead?"

A traumatic pause lingered in the room.

"Doctor," Oliver said softly, after what felt like half an hour. "Now, I'm not a man of science of your caliber... But my I ask, how does Lucy work? How did you create her consciousness? How does her soul work? She has a soul, doesn't she?"

"Every function of her personality and spirit is held in special banks in her heart. Different parts of her heart do different things. I labeled them, look," Arthur said, presenting the engravings on of wooden-shelled heart through her transparent chest. The pump was still under the red glow in Lucy's chest, sitting in the red fluid-filling, pipes connected to it.

Both Arthur and Oliver gazed at the masterpiece of art. Then, Oliver slowly turned toward his friend. "Arthur," he said calmly. "Her heart holds all her functions," he said. "You tried to tell me earlier that Lucy... walked, talked, ate, slept, felt pain... and lived," he explained. Arthur looked at him with interest. "Correct me if I guess wrong, and I don't know what you know about how you made Lucy. Tell me something, Doctor... does she die?"

Arthur looked horrified. He hadn't set death as a function for Lucy. Nowhere on her heart was there an engraving that said die, or a bank with the very function interwoven with the other elements of the soul. Only live, and stay alive. What he had told Lucy's body and soul to do was exactly what it was going to do.

"What are you waiting for, Doctor? Fix your mistake!" Oliver said, beaming.

"It won't work," Arthur said, breathing his terror. "It had to be from her beginning. Within the formation of her soul... What is made cannot be unmade... Her beginning has come and gone. It just... wouldn't work..."

Oliver began to look terrified. "Doctor... you don't mean..."

"Lucy... can't die," Arthur said. "You and I, Ollie, were created with the ability to live, and the ability to die when our bodies are ruined... I... I haven't given Lucy that ability."

The least Arthur Reuel could do was repair the damage. Night came and night left. His love, and horror, prodded him.

"Wake up, Lucy," Arthur beckoned, but he saw that Lucy was too faint to move on her own. Like before, he opened her eyes himself. His creation looked straight at him. Her arms trembled and her lip quivered. In a flash she sobbed his name, leaned up and embraced him hard, still expressing her trauma and confusion. They cried together the whole afternoon.

Oliver couldn't help shedding a tear or two for himself.

Oliver cleaned the table while Lucy sat in a robe, listening to the wind outside. Arthur was making the next entry in his diary. He almost didn't want to write yesterday down, but a strange guilt he didn't understand motivated him.

A soothing peace lingered in the fine house for hours.

Outside, Big Ben struck six o'clock. Lucy was walking to go see her father...

When suddenly, without warning, it happened again. The ticking stopped, and the beating failed. Lucy screamed with terror.

Arthur immediately rose from his seat, to see what had happened. Oliver turned and dropped the cloth he'd been working with. Arthur found his creation stepping and shaking uncontrollably as she stood over the marble floor.

"Lucy! What's wrong!" he asked, horrified. Lucy gritted her teeth, her eyes glowing red. The response Arthur received was a blow to his jaw. Lucy ran toward the door, opened it, and fell down the stone stairs.

"Lucy wait!" Arthur cried. He dashed outside, Oliver following close behind him. Lucy had struck several unexpected people on the streets and was running off faintly down the street.

"What's gotten into her!" Oliver asked.

"She can't die! She's in agony. She's confused!" Arthur replied and ran with all his guilt and grief after his creation. The wind blew in his face. Rain began to fall.

Arthur sprinted down the street, while his creation slowed down. People were running from her, and from him as well.

Lucy ran sluggishly into a clearing in the street.

As Arthur chased her, brilliant white like from a tremendous thunder bolt struck very close, blinding him. The ground shook under his feet. Immense sound deafened him. Lucy fell to her knees, and hit the ground, silent and motionless.

Arthur ran up to her, took a knee and examined her. Her eyes were closed. He took her hands in his own. He focused. He felt with his instinct. No, he felt nothing. Lucy was dead.

Arthur knelt over his creation, and eventually cried. He didn't know whether it was for guilt or relief.

"...God," Arthur addressed, sobbing, "...I'm so sorry... I'm sorry I gave you Lucy as a burden. You and I have always been good friends. I know you are hard at work as it is. I never meant to... to..."

Arthur sat in his chair in his room, staring. It was very dark. Nearly pitch dark.

Footsteps approached his doorway. Oliver came in and put down his pipe on Arthur's desk. "Arthur," he said.

"What have I done, Ollie?" Arthur said, staring. "What have I done. I feel so... inhuman."

"Why did you create Lucy, Arthur?" Oliver asked. "Was it because you wanted responsibility? Was it because you wanted to love someone?" He paused. "Or was it perhaps... you wanted to feel like God?"

Arthur now knew his guilt. He had created life in his own image, but he could not handle it. A soul could not belong to him. He'd created her because he loved her, but his attention was also on fame and pride. No, he'd never do anything to betray his Friend... would he?

"Doctor Arthur Reuel," Oliver said. "Do you know the story of the Sorcerer's apprentice?"

"No," Arthur replied staring at the dark wall.

"It's an old story. It dates back close to two-thousand years. In the story, a sorcerer has an apprentice who tries to use some of his master's greatest powers, but he could not control them. In the end, his master had to come to his rescue," Oliver explained.

Arthur realized the similarities.

"Don't take it too hard on yourself, Doctor. You are a good man, and you are designed in great proportions... I know with your genius you will work wonders in our new century... Good night," he said, taking his pipe and marching heavily out the door.

"Good night," Arthur called back. He had turned his attention away from the wall.

"Lucy's in good hands now, Arthur. When you see her again, then she will be perfect. She'll be all right, Arthur," Oliver said, as he walked out the door.

Arthur smiled, stood in the darkness for a while, and then headed outside the door... to purchase a new light.

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