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You probably don’t know about Vince Gilligan. It’s alright, nobody would expect you to. He was a wanted man back in the 1860’s, back when wanted men thought it would be funny to put a target on an innocent man, and frame him for a murder that he never committed. He had lived like everyone else in Steelspire Port, and had worked the docks. He ferried shipments of hardy metal ingots in cast bronze and pulled in crates from The East India Trading Co. which would contain exotic spices, animals and gemstones. This was until five men from a detective unit met with him on a snowy November evening whilst he was finishing up. You have to remember that this was a very long time ago. They didn’t have a Metropolitan police force. There was nobody who bought in thugs and killers, and no way to even restrain them. Vince had been having a good day up until that point. He’d bought coin to the dock and paid for a small teddy bear from one of the shipping containers to bring home. Sources do not indicate who the stuffed bear was for. No person, living or deceased has ever found out if he had a family. There’s rife speculation about a young daughter, sure, but it was never proven. And this is not a book about anything that was fucking “alleged.” I’m here to get facts straight. There isn’t anyone left to write about this. But it still must be written. So here I am with a beat up old typewriter, a broken ink ribbon and never enough words to describe this tragic story.
He’d turned around. He had a genuine smile on his face that was smeared with the sweat, steam and oil of a hard day’s work. The police officers didn’t say anything. They simply opened fire, unloading pistol rounds into his cadaver almost before he had time to register the shock. He dropped the blood-spattered teddy bear as he fell. It hit the ground and bounced gently before coming to a stop on the cold wooden pier planks. The five men walked over to his corpse, slowly exuding smoke from the cooling bullets in his body. Four of them picked him up and threw him into the sea, bubbling white frothy foam against the harbour side. The fifth man kicked the teddy bear in. Just for good measure.
Chapter 2 It is said that the ocean can cause a dead body to decompose slower than if it was left out in the open air. That is, as long as the fish don’t get to it. Unfortunately for Mr Gilligan, the ocean is largely populated with fish. Not only fish, but sharks too. There are lots of them. There are especially a lot of sharks around Cuttingham Point, a craggy cliff face that lies just off the bay and is coated with ancient vines and large sheer rocks that can slice a human palm clean open. Well of course it was, the scientist who lived in the laboratory at the top of the cliff had designed it that way. He’d grown the vines, sharpened the rocks with large knives and even populated the surrounding sea with sharks. Not just any sharks, mind you. Robot sharks. They looked a lot like regular sharks, but I can assure you that they were robot sharks. It was quite genius really. The scientist had recoated the shark in its own skin once he had put all the circuitry and wires in. It wasn’t a design thing. He just enjoyed mixing the biological and the mechanical. It was nature’s irony. The scientist’s name was Dr Lester, but that’s pretty much all the information that exists on him. He was definitely an eccentric from the yellowing and dated files I’ve found, and the local city folk prefer to pretend he’s not there. But I gathered that much when I found out that he filled up sharks with electrical equipment and then re-attached the skin. We would know more about Dr Lester, but his laboratory combusted in 1865. There was little evidence, safe for a small log. There was only a little leather-bound notebook lying amongst the ash and glowing tinder.
In it there was detailed a robot shark that came back with its group with an entire body inside it, unspoiled. Next, etchings of electrical re-animation with diagrams of complex chemical compounds that I won’t even pretend to understand. On the final page, mad ravings of joy, proclaiming to have created the first robot with human features with notes of potential uses which trail off into the asinine. The notebook was dismissed off hand by the city metropolitan, but I knew better. On the bottom corner of the final page, there is something small written. It’s the only bit of handwriting that’s perfectly clear. “Help.” Ten days later, under a bright and sunny June sky that was the colour of pressed denim, a new robot is seen in town. It wasn’t unusual to see robots in the city. The industrialisation of the city required more workers than the birth-rate provided. However, the robot with human hair was a new invention all together. Do not judge him harshly for what he did. Under the same circumstances, would you have done anything differently?
Chapter 3 Life wasn’t always fair to the robot with human hair. For all intents and purposes, he was considered a lower-class citizen and sent to work with the legions of mindless drones whilst he retained all his memories and emotions. Sometimes it was a quarry, other days it was a strip mine. Sometimes it hurt when crows tangled in his hair and pecked at his thick iron skull plate. Sometimes he felt sad when a landslide broke many of the robots he was working with, even if they couldn’t think, feel or communicate with him. They just felt like fellow sufferers. And when he ran away, all that the foreman did was yell and call him nonfunctional. After all, why shouldn’t he be buried and trashed like the rest of the robots, so his scrap could make new and improved robots? He was holding up a cycle, and a fine working system. He encouraged his flesh employees to try and break the robot. Ten copper pieces per limb salvaged. That was the night that the robot fled the city, but not before stealing a worker’s clothes to disguise himself with. As he took off out of the city, past the wrought iron gate with “STEEL” and “SPIRES” proclaimed proudly from the top in thick lettering, he hoped he’d find somewhere. Somewhere to call home? He didn’t know. He needed to get away. He stopped in his tracks and stared sadly down at a large grassy copse. Did it even matter? Could he really get away? No matter how far he ran, he was always going to bring himself along. Maybe he WAS the problem. Something steeled in his resolve. For some reason, one in which nobody knows, he continued running anyway.
In time, the robot travelled the small towns and country lanes, dimly lit with flickering flames on porches or the new-fangled sodium lights that were being plugged into pillars on every lane to illuminate the world at night as he travelled around the winding road. There were small hamlets and bigger, more interesting country villages. It was in one such village that he found a brothel. He walked in, fascinated. Such feeling in the place. What was it? Aggression? No, something else was making these people move like that. They weren’t trying to hurt each other. Or were they? He couldn’t be sure. Suddenly, he spotted an elderly gent sporting a cigar and wearing a large beret, covered in pins denoting a high ranking commanding officer. He must have been fifty, but looked similar to a fourty year old that the robot could not quite place. He was talking to a prostitute. He might not be, but maybe he was. He mentioned four officers he’s worked with, who he didn’t work with anymore. They’d passed away. “Awful shame.” When his whiskery beard twitched and the robot saw, in his mind’s eye, that same twitch. In another body, in another life, he leapt upon him. His old coat fell off of his cold metal body as he gripped the man in a vice life grip and squeezed the life out of him. So this was his calling. This is why he was in this place, at this time. The reason for a second chance. Revenge. The officer did not die immediately. He choked for some time. Enough time to yell and scream and shout and kick. And most importantly, alert two other officers during their relaxation time. They shot quickly. The robot ran off into the evening twilight, with stars blinking awake on the purple horizon with a small hood of orange that had yet to die. About an hour later, he heard noise and turned around.
Several horses were after him and the chase lasted until morning with the robot hearing all sorts of angry cursing, loud banging, hooves pounding and shots ricocheting. Finally, the robot eluded them behind a large oak tree in an unmarked wheat field. The robot continued his journey for a short while, holding his chest. It is said that he came to a forest clearing when he finally fell down and his hand fell free of the several bullet holes lined up neatly on his abdomen. Black mess was spilling out, and fast. Just then, the forest appeared brighter in the mid-morning haze and the dewy fog lifted. He spotted a small girl walking towards him. He desperately tried to get up, but the pain was too great. She embraced him, not even flinching as the oil soaked out all over her red dress. Several woodland animals appeared. A squirrel removed the robot’s foot. A deer nuzzled his arm until it came clean off. A couple of small evergreen tree branches wrapped around him, slowly taking off bits of his body. It didn’t hurt. At all. The robot was deconstructed until only the body and a head remained. Vince Gilligan’s daughter removed his hair, whilst slowly hushing him and telling him that everything would be just fine, before disappearing. It was unlikely she was ever there. It was probably the result of the robot’s mind failing as he slowly died and fell to pieces, in an empty and uncaring forest.
Chapter 4 I was on the beach yesterday. I like to go to the beach. It relaxes my mind. As a struggling writer, I need all the relaxation I can get. It’s a short walk from the pier, where ships still make routine deliveries every so often. I don’t collect shells or anything. It hasn’t gotten to that stage yet, although there’ll probably come a time. I must have spotted the teddy bear a mile off. It was a sodden and messy thing on the wet crust of coast. I picked it up and looked at it. It had seen thousands of better days. One of the eyes had fallen out and the other was threatening to. Just then, I got tapped on the back by a small girl who looked about five. She didn’t say anything, but giggled and took the teddy bear from me, hugging it fiercely to her chest. I asked her where her mummy and daddy were. She pointed to the pier, where two silhouettes stood waiting. The male silhouette looked as if he was wearing an odd kind of sunscreen. His skin was white as a sheet. She began running back to them. I didn’t take my eyes of the little running girl as she ran back to her parents and I smiled, waving. She eventually caught up to them. I have never been drunk on the beach. I do not suffer from sunspots and the sun was directly behind me anyway. As the small family stood on the walkway, they began to fade out. Several seconds later, they had simply gone. And that’s why I’m here. With a typewriter that’s finally packed up and an ink ribbon I’m surprised hasn’t run out yet.
As I finish this, I know that I’m very likely going to die not fully knowing what I saw during that day on that beach. I’m not in any doubt that I will not see it again. But maybe you will, if you’re walking down a sandy beach and looking out onto the misty pier of Steelspire’s finest boats. So readers, beware, and have a care. For the robot with the human hair.
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