Story 2: The Watchwomen

Elef tinkered with the gears of her watch. They were the gears of craftsmanship. Each golden tooth carefully molded and etched by specialized tools. She had been a watchmaker for quite some time. And now she was a master. A quick second with tweezers and Elef always had a mended watch.

Mastery comes with acclaim and status, but not with novelty. And so Elef, upon moving into a new workshop of her own, abandoned all of her watchmaking. Her wheelwork would no longer drive time, but something totally unheard of, life. To do this, she required the assistance of her daughter, Eles, an accomplished apprentice watchwoman in her own right.

First, they set about making tools of the finest ceramic. They were so small, that a microscope was needed to observe their manipulation. And after many trials, the proper metals were found for the gearwork itself. The first gear spun to life on a sleepless morning, and Elef and Eles were as they say, off to the races.

A few custom springs and wheels turned into a manufacturing frenzy. From this mechanical froth grew the first finger, so tantalizingly human it could not be denied motion and spirit. The rest was soon to come, and in a fortnight the body lay on an oak table, a pillow under its head. Only the face and heart were incomplete. Elef and Eles rubbed their eyes in sleepy anticipation. Tomorrow would bring the finish.

But Elef could not wait for tomorrow. Her creation cried out to her. This was the pinnacle of her life. Beyond this she could not imagine greater fulfillment. She ran her hand down its arm. Not an it anymore, but a her. It was warm to the touch, just like her daughter’s.

She looked across to her Eles, sleeping on the opposite workbench. Her daughter lay similar to the creature, but clutching her diamond cutter and tweezers. Elef admired her daughter’s face, languishing over the curves, and marveling over her child. Here was part of her life, in this breathing body. She kissed her daughter on the forehead and slowly drew measuring strings over her nose and eye brows.

The next day, Eles awoke to gaze upon her animated simulacrum. It walked around the room in slight disorientation. Her mother clapped happily and hugged Eles, hopping up on the table next to her daughter.

“What is this?” Eles asked in slight shock.

“I couldn’t see a more perfect face for this young woman we have made,” Eles’ mother responded.

“But her heart? We hadn’t figured that part out yet,” Eles asked, “What did you use?”

“On this part I have cheated,” Eles said in chagrin, “Months ago I figured that we could not complete her by clockwork alone. Her heart would not beat in proper time, or her mind in rhythm.”

Eles gasped, imagining a real heart in the clockwork woman, like Frankenstein’s monster.

Elef laughed at her daughters horrified composure. She quickly explained, “I have done no such thing. We’ve gone mad with toil, but not that mad. When I realized that the heart would not pump or the mind contemplate, I devised two pills containing the most complex magnetic clockwork. I swallowed these pills last night. In my heart and brain there are now two devices that drive what you see before you. As I live, so does she.”

“As I live, so does she.”

Elef and Eles both grabbed each other in total shock. The creature, it, she, had spoken.

That first day was a very long one. Their creation emerged into the next day with a name. Eledos. Elef and Eles both agreed that Eledos was a part of their family.

After this triumph, the trio decided to turn back to watchmaking. The ease at which their tempered hands and minds worked, turned their occupation into a vacation. Eledos learned their trade, and helped as much as she could. They revealed Eledos’ origin to no one, lest others mark her as abomination.

For many years, their routine was the same. Elef expanded the business and her two daughters ran the day-to-day operations. As time went on, it became obvious that Eles was bad with money. The workshop bought things it did not need, and debts would go overdue. Eledos attempted to repair her sister’s deficincies by taking on the financial responsibilities, but much damage was already done to the business.

Eles was shamed by this and spent more time away from home. At one point, she returned with a boyfriend whom Elef had not been aware of. Elef disproved immensely of the boy. Though he and Eles were very much in love, the boy was inadequate in Elef’s eyes. Over him, Elef and Eles could not agree. In a bitter argument, unmendable words were spoken, and Eles ran from the house in tears. Elef and Eledos did not see Eles the next day or the morrow after. And Elef refused to pursue her.

One night, as they prepared dinner, Eledos saw her mother looking at a knife dangerously. On impulse, Eledos placed herself in Eles’ vacant seat when they sat to dine.

Elef served her daughter soup, saying, “You’ve always been so good to me. You run the shop with such expertise. So good with your tools. So much business sense. Thank you, Eles.”

Eledos accepted the kiss on the head and said nothing to contradict.

Nothing was heard from Eles for seven years. And for those years, Eledos would sit in her sister’s seat and her mother would always acknowledge her as Eles. But one day, a letter arrived in the mail which confused Elef greatly. It announced the marriage of her daughter to a man she had never heard of. Eles could not have had time for a courtship. Eles was with her every night at dinner, and every day in the workshop.

She barged into Eles’ room. “What is this about?” she asked and handed the letter to Eledos.

“I do not know, we must go and see,” Eledos replied, “This must be some cruel trick.”

The wedding was in two days, in the town of Leto. The day after receiving the letter, they departed for the wedding. Elef was in a terrible huff that someone would claim such a thing. She expected there to be no wedding in Leto. Perhaps a note with more mockery.

As they approached the city, Elef could see a celebration in the town square. Someone was having a wedding. Elef whipped the reigns of their carriage, sending the horses into a gallop. She put the wedding straight in her sites and charged forward with great anger. At the last minute she stopped the cart. She leaped from the carriage even as it was skidding to a halt. Elef drilled through the crowd with her eyes, looking for the perpetrator of the sham wedding.

She found her daughter, standing in white, with the boy of her dreams. He was not really a boy, but a man. And her daughter was no child either. This was immensely confusing for Elef. If her daughter was at this wedding, who was in the carriage? She turned and looked at Eledos emerging from the cart.

It was all too terrible. This was not her daughter. It was not her daughter. Eledos loved her. It cared for her. But it was not her daughter. Elef wondered how her daughter had tolerated the doppelganger so long, or how Elef could have made her in the first place. It was so unforgivable.

Elef reached into her pocket for a magnet she carried. She touched it to her heart and head, and Eledos sprawled onto the ground, collapsing into a dust-cloud of microscopic gears.

Elef felt so ashamed. She hopped into the cart, not looking at her daughter or the other guests. She looked for the reigns to beckon the horses to leave. As Elef looked between the horses, she saw her daughter standing with the reigns.

Eles’ husband stepped to the side of the cart and extended his hand.

Eles spoke, “Mother. You’re invited.”

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